SELF-RECOMMENDING!

Open Thread 137.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread, but I’m making it visible today so I can make announcements:

1. There’s a new effective altruism survey up by Peter Hurford and Rethink Charity. If you consider yourself interested in or affiliated with EA, please take a look.

2. Sorry I’ve been spamming you all with meetup announcements. I plan to continue to do this for another two weeks or so. Next up are Ann Arbor, Chicago, Austin, Portland, and Seattle. Organizers in these cities, please be prepared for 50 to 100 or more people (if you’re not, let me know and we’ll figure something out). Some groups have had good luck starting at a public place and then having a house/apartment to go to when the public place is closing and the people have thinned out a little. Also please remember to bring a clipboard, paper, and a pen so people interested in future meetups can sign up for a mailing list.

3. Related: the Seoul, South Korea meetup has changed times to Saturday, September 28, 12:30 PM.

4. New advertisement up for the Charter Cities Institute, which is working with developing countries to create special economic zones encouraging innovation and good governance.

5. Comments of the week: CPlusPlusDeveloper explains the case for skepticism in the War on Opiates (I don’t know enough to endorse or deny, but I’m glad to see it put so lucidly). And Theodidactus and AshLael have worked in politics and give insider impressions of how money in politics works (or doesn’t work).

6. SSC-adjacent culture war subreddit r/TheMotte now has its own podcast, The Bailey. Latest episode is on issues surrounding discussing politics at work, with nods to some new Google policy; download it here.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

1,836 Responses to Open Thread 137.25

  1. erenold says:

    After one of the most CW OTs in recent times, I propose a predictions contest! Seems to me we have a higher number than usual of CW topics that are expressly falsifiable in nature and that it would be a good chance to test the robustness of our respective worldviews.

    You can make predictions and explain your reasoning (not more than two lines per prediction, if possible). I also request that there be no normative discussion, if possible, to prevent derail.

    Please input your predictions on any or all of the following events in percentage terms. All predictions are independent of each other. A null response on the basis that premises of the question are rejected, with a two-line explanation, is also permitted.

    President Donald Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives: [ ]%
    President Donald Trump is convicted by the Senate: [ ]%
    President Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020 and takes office in 2021: [ ]%
    [Person of your choice] wins the Democratic primary and the general election respectively: [ ]% and [ ]% respectively
    A “No Deal” Brexit (defined as a departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union without any agreed terms of withdrawal in place) takes place on Oct 31: [ ]%
    The United Kingdom departs from the European Union on Oct 31 with any deal (however transitional or vague its provisions): [ ]%
    The United Kingdom has not left the European Union by October and December 31 respectively: [ ]% and [ ]%
    Boris Johnson continues to be Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): [ ]%
    Jeremy Corbyn is the next Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): [ ]%
    There will be a legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election: [ ]%
    There will be no legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election, but at least one Iranian military or paramilitary personnel will be deliberately and openly killed by US military or paramilitary personnel (whether by missile strike, air attack, direct action operation etc): [ ]%
    The United States will be in a technical recession before the next US election: [ ]%
    Lastly, and for control purposes: Lizard persons of extraterrestrial or intraterrestrial origin invade Earth prior to the next US election : [ ]%.

    Please feel free to respond to this thread by proposing additional items on which to make predictions as well – the CWier, the better!

    • broblawsky says:

      Here’s mine:
      President Donald Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives: 75%
      – Pelosi wouldn’t be doing this if she wasn’t pretty confident of getting this vote through the House.
      President Donald Trump is convicted by the Senate: 10%
      – 10% is my “it’s possible, but things would have to change radically” probability. It’s not inconceivable that Democrats could get nearly 20 Republicans to sign on for removing Trump, but it’d require something like a Trump-Putin transcript to get released where Trump openly asks Putin for support in return for lifting sanctions or not acting against Iran.
      President Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020 and takes office in 2021: 30%
      – PredictIt puts this at ~40%; I think it’ll be a bit worse because I expect the economy to slow further next year, possibly to the extent of an actual recession, which will weigh substantially on Trump’s campaign.
      Elizabeth Warren wins the Democratic primary and the general election respectively: 60% and 70% respectively
      – Warren seems to be the best compromise candidate. I think she has a substantially better chance against Trump than Biden or Sanders do; my probability of her winning the G.E. is preconditioned on her winning the primary.
      A “No Deal” Brexit (defined as a departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union without any agreed terms of withdrawal in place) takes place on Oct 31: 50%
      – I actually have no idea what’s going to happen. 50% is me hedging my bets, admitting that I don’t know what’s going to happen.
      The United Kingdom departs from the European Union on Oct 31 with any deal (however transitional or vague its provisions): [ ]%
      The United Kingdom has not left the European Union by October and December 31 respectively: 50% and 40%
      – Again, mostly just not having any idea. There’s enough Labor support for some kind of Brexit that I’m willing to say it’s slightly more likely that a negotiated Brexit will occur.
      Boris Johnson continues to be Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): 50%
      Jeremy Corbyn is the next Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): 25%
      There will be a legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election: 30%
      There will be no legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election, but at least one Iranian military or paramilitary personnel will be deliberately and openly killed by US military or paramilitary personnel (whether by missile strike, air attack, direct action operation etc): 65%
      The United States will be in a technical recession before the next US election: 70%
      Lastly, and for control purposes: Lizard persons of extraterrestrial or intraterrestrial origin invade Earth prior to the next US election : 0%.

      • albatross11 says:

        When is the last time we declared a war? Maybe Iran will formally declare war on us, but we won’t declare war on them even if we’ve just nuked Tehran.

        • erenold says:

          Yes, the fact that America rarely declares a legal state of war is a very good point which I ought to have taken into account. On the basis that a good forecasting exercise ought to be precise in its drafting to avoid quibbling on the details, I had wanted to avoid any technical dispute as to whether a state of military conflict was in effect, but I’ve only just realised that “legal state of war” is obviously inadequate for this purpose because it undercounts actions like the GWOT and even Vietnam for solely procedural reasons. Silly.

        • John Schilling says:

          For all practical and legal purposes, we’ve replaced “Declaration of War” with “Authorization for Use of Military Force”. If Congress unlocks the War Powers Act against Iran, I’d assume that satisfies the requirement here.

        • broblawsky says:

          That’s fair; I was considering “Trump extends the AUMF to cover Iran by fiat” as a declaration of war.

      • erenold says:

        I agree with almost all of these but was quite surprised re: the possibility of Iranian military/paramilitary personnel being killed openly by US forces at almost 2 in 3. Can I ask why?

        For my own part, as a matter of forecasting principle, I think one should generally assume that there is a strong bias to the status quo. No Iranian personnel have been killed openly by US forces in recent times notwithstanding their actions against merchant shipping and their actions in Iraq/Yemen etc. (The ‘openly’ caveat is meant to exclude things like the Stuxnet attack and the not insubstantial possibility that the US played a larger role than reported in incidents like this). So I think the default presumption ought to be that the probability of such an event taking place before November 2020 should be quite low – I would put it perhaps at 20% at most. Then we also have to take into account that Trump has several times now stepped back (my neutral term) at the moment of decisive action even under fairly strong provocation and appears to have a strong prior against actual military action, so perhaps 15% would be closer to the mark.

        • cassander says:

          I agree with almost all of these but was quite surprised re: the possibility of Iranian military/paramilitary personnel being killed openly by US forces at almost 2 in 3. Can I ask why?

          they’re currently being killed fairly openly by saudi arabia, for one.

          • erenold says:

            Right, but my query had specified “openly, by US forces”. I think such an act would be fairly unprecedented escalation.

          • cassander says:

            @erenold

            Once the shooting starts there’s always a reasonable chance of escalation, especially if (as is likely) the Saudis prove less competent than we like. While I think 2/3 is a bit high, the odds of it happening are a lot better than they were a month ago.

          • erenold says:

            Yeah, fair enough. I do wonder if there is sufficient American public appetite for open armed intervention on Saudi Arabia’s behalf, though.

        • broblawsky says:

          I don’t think he has a strong prior against military action; I think he just doesn’t want to start a war against Iran. That doesn’t mean he won’t get persuaded into a drone strike in either Syria, Yemen, or against Iran itself that kills Iranians.

          • Gerry Quinn says:

            A war against Iran would be pretty stupid. Probably all you’d do is unite the progressives and the mullahs against you. It would be good for Iranian social cohesion, but otherwise I can think of few benefits for anyone.

            Strikes against Iran to deter meddling are conceivable. Trump seems to prefer trade wars to shooting wars, though. He’s not wrong, in my opinion. When you think about it… which type more upsets our thought leaders in the Media, and in the Great and the Good (if there is now considered to be any distinction)? And why?

    • bullseye says:

      Things have gotten so weird that for most of these I have no idea.

      There will be a legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election: 1%. This is not a thing we do anymore. Even Vietnam was not legally declared.

      Lizard persons of extraterrestrial or intraterrestrial origin invade Earth prior to the next US election: Less than 1%. They have already taken over, obviously.

      I did not use contractions in this post because I accidentally set my keyboard to German and I cannot figure out how to type an apostrophe.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Heh, there is no apostrophe on my Czech keyboard.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Noriega’s Panama did declare war on the United States; that may be the last declared war the US was involved in. But I don’t think the US reciprocated the declaration.

      • Lambert says:

        *kezboard

        Using QWERTY at home and QWERTZ at work was a nightmare.
        As was the game of guessing whether 10,000 was ten thousand or ten to 5 significant figures.

        • bullseye says:

          Fixed now. Why in the world did they switch Y and Z? I guess Germans use Z more and we use Y more, but surely that would also apply to some other pairs of letters.

          • Tuna-Fish says:

            In German, TZ is a reasonably common sequence.

            In old mechanical typewriters, writing TZ quickly with qwerty layout can very easily cause a jam. Moving Z to the other hand so it strikes from the right fixed this, and Y is a letter that is much more common in English than in German, so it was sacrificed.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      President Donald Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives: [50]%
      :- Could go either way.

      President Donald Trump is convicted by the Senate: [ ]%
      :- 5%. The Republican leadership have completely given up on meta-level principles; the only reason they would even contemplating impeaching Trump is if they thought that would help them win an election, and I can’t see how it would.

      President Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020 and takes office in 2021: [60]%
      :-Factors in favour:
      The thermostatic nature of American presidential elections (the presidency has only changed party twice in 4 years once since 1900); the weakness of the Democratic frontrunners (Biden is uncharismatic; Warren looks to me to be playing too much to her core vote); the current strength of the economy.
      Factors against:
      Trump’s personal unpopularity; signs that that economic strength may possibly not last.
      [Person of your choice] wins the Democratic primary and the general election respectively: [ ]% and [ ]% respectively
      A “No Deal” Brexit (defined as a departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union without any agreed terms of withdrawal in place) takes place on Oct 31: [ 60]%
      :-I think Johnson will probably wriggle around or simply ignore the Benn act. But if that happens, I reckon there’s a 15% chance that it’s successfully challenged in court and subsequently “reversed”, and I have no idea what would follow.

      The United Kingdom departs from the European Union on Oct 31 with any deal (however transitional or vague its provisions): [10 ]%
      I don’t see much chance of a deal being agreed.

      The United Kingdom has not left the European Union by October and December 31 respectively: [30]% and [25]%
      I think the odds of departure in that period are slim, and they’re offset by a chance of declaring departure in October and having the courts step in.

      Boris Johnson continues to be Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): [65 ]%
      I think it will be soon, and he’s well ahead in the polls, but Labour surged shortly before the last election.

      Jeremy Corbyn is the next Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): [30 ]%
      :- See above.

      There will be a legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election: [15]%
      :- I think both sides will want to avoid this.

      There will be no legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election, but at least one Iranian military or paramilitary personnel will be deliberately and openly killed by US military or paramilitary personnel (whether by missile strike, air attack, direct action operation etc): [ 40]%
      :- The naval tensions make this a possibility, I think.

      The United States will be in a technical recession before the next US election: [25]%
      :-I’m told the yield curve inverting sometimes implies this.

      Lastly, and for control purposes: Lizard persons of extraterrestrial or intraterrestrial origin invade Earth prior to the next US election : [100]%.
      :- They’re just landing on my back lawn.

    • Byrel Mitchell says:

      President Donald Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives: 80%
      – Pretty sure dems have to votes for this. I don’t think voting in favor of impeachment is going to hurt a red state Dem’s odds of reelection: Trump is highly polarizing.

      President Donald Trump is convicted by the Senate: 5%
      – Short of blatant extreme misconduct, Trumpt is too much a symbol of the culture war for Republicans to impeach him and grant a huge symbolic victory to the other side. 5% is about how likely I think it is for blatant extreme misconduct to come to light.

      President Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020 and takes office in 2021: 20%
      – Odds seem against it, but… I’m the most epistemically uncertain about this estimate (aside from the control question).

      There will be a legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election: 5%
      – We don’t do legally declared states of war against non-peer states.

      There will be no legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election, but at least one Iranian military or paramilitary personnel will be deliberately and openly killed by US military or paramilitary personnel (whether by missile strike, air attack, direct action operation etc): 80%
      -But we do do air strikes and special forces raids and whatnot all the time vs percieved nonpeer threats. Iran is clearly in that category, and reasonably high profile at the moment.

      The United States will be in a technical recession before the next US election: 20%
      – I wonder what the base rate on this is. I’m answering blind, but I’m guessing it’s around 20% per year, and I don’t see current trends impacting this much off of base rate.

      Lastly, and for control purposes: Lizard persons of extraterrestrial or intraterrestrial origin invade Earth prior to the next US election : 0.01%.
      – This would be higher (maybe up to 0.2% or so) if it didn’t specify lizard-people. That seems much less likely than ET invasions in general.

      I skipped the UK and democratic questions because I’m not following the relevant news at all.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I don’t have percentages in mind, but

      Trump is forced out of the presidency by illness or death.

      Pence becomes president.

      By the end of 2020, there’s a chance of antifa killing someone, whether by accident or because its become a less careful sub-culture.

      • DinoNerd says:

        *sigh* I’m frankly appalled that my supposed political allies want to impeach Trump, given the existence and proclivities of Pence. My sister says it’s simple – they are basically all on the side of the elites, and don’t care what kind of side show they give us, whether it’s enforcement of maximally intolerant Christian norms(*), enforcement of maximally woke norms, a self-contradicting bully that tweets a lot, or a nice patriotic war.

    • JayT says:

      President Donald Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives: [ 90]%
      President Donald Trump is convicted by the Senate: [10 ]%
      President Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020 and takes office in 2021: [ 35]%
      [Person of your choice] wins the Democratic primary and the general election respectively: [ 1]% and [65 ]% respectively
      A “No Deal” Brexit (defined as a departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union without any agreed terms of withdrawal in place) takes place on Oct 31: [15 ]%
      The United Kingdom departs from the European Union on Oct 31 with any deal (however transitional or vague its provisions): [ 20]%
      The United Kingdom has not left the European Union by October and December 31 respectively: [20 ]% and [20 ]%
      Boris Johnson continues to be Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): [ NA]%
      Jeremy Corbyn is the next Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): [NA ]%
      There will be a legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election: [ >1]%
      There will be no legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election, but at least one Iranian military or paramilitary personnel will be deliberately and openly killed by US military or paramilitary personnel (whether by missile strike, air attack, direct action operation etc): [5 ]%
      The United States will be in a technical recession before the next US election: [25 ]%
      Lastly, and for control purposes: Lizard persons of extraterrestrial or intraterrestrial origin invade Earth prior to the next US election : [They’re already here, obviously ]%.

    • honoredb says:

      President Donald Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives: 80%
      President Donald Trump is convicted by the Senate: 10%
      President Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020 and takes office in 2021: 40%
      Warren wins the Democratic primary and the general election respectively: 50% * 60% = 30%
      A “No Deal” Brexit (defined as a departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union without any agreed terms of withdrawal in place) takes place on Oct 31: 20%
      The United Kingdom departs from the European Union on Oct 31 with any deal (however transitional or vague its provisions): 50%
      The United Kingdom has not left the European Union by October and December 31 respectively: 30% and 20%
      Boris Johnson continues to be Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): 15%
      Jeremy Corbyn is the next Prime Minister after the next election (whensoever it shall take place): 30%
      There will be a legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election: 10%
      There will be no legally-declared state of war between the United States and Iran before the next US election, but at least one Iranian military or paramilitary personnel will be deliberately and openly killed by US military or paramilitary personnel (whether by missile strike, air attack, direct action operation etc): 40%
      The United States will be in a technical recession before the next US election: 40%
      Lastly, and for control purposes: Lizard persons of extraterrestrial or intraterrestrial origin invade Earth prior to the next US election : 0.000001%.

  2. albatross11 says:

    I thought this tweet captured a lot of my reaction to the current Trump scandal. But it’s more general. For both ideological and financial/clickbait reasons, every news source every day has an outrage story centered on Trump. Most of these are for pretty trivial/dumb outrages–even when the Trump administration is doing some awful stuff, that stuff is usually not the outrage story. Many of those stories are amping up the outrage over stuff that every president does (let’s all be shocked that Trump is friendly with dictators–*that*’s never happened before), or over stuff that any Republican president would have done.

    The result of all that is that when Trump does really bad things (which he does), the news is either too busy chasing some offensive tweets down a rathole to report on it, or has no way to signal to its readers that unlike the last 20 Trump outrage stories, this one is legit.

    • broblawsky says:

      Trump was doing something genuinely awful on at least a weekly basis back when he was just Candidate Trump, and his supporters still mostly ignored it. Whether it was bragging about getting away with sexual assault, mocking the disabled, or asking for the electoral assistance of foreign intelligence agencies, his supporters continued to either ignore or actively promote his behavior. How is this different?

      • albatross11 says:

        Saying offensive things is very different from doing awful things with your power.

        As best I can tell, George W Bush is a pretty good man, but he presided over programs in which we tortured helpless captives, some of whom we kidnapped off the streets of foreign cities in friendly countries. He probably hasn’t said anything as bad as what Trump saus every day since he was a college kid, but that doesn’t change how I morally evaluate the difference between someone who’s a big asshole on Twitter and someone who’s a war criminal.

        Aside from a general desire for the world to be full of nice people, I don’t actually care that much whether politicians are good human beings. It’s much more important to know what they’re doing and what they’ve done with the power we’ve granted them. I’d like my news sources to spend a lot less time telling me what an outrageous thing Trump has recently said on Twitter, and instead focusing on what he’s doing and done with his power. This isn’t even hard–since coming to power, Trump has done a lot of bad things of real substance. But so, so much of the coverage is still clickbait outrage stuff for offensive tweets.

        • broblawsky says:

          Saying offensive things is very different from doing awful things with your power.

          That’s not the point I’m trying to make. What I’m saying is that Trump did a bunch of awful things within the limited power he had as a candidate, and it didn’t stop him from getting close to a majority of the popular vote and an adequate majority of the Electoral College. That was before the media was fully saturated with “Orange Man Bad” stories, too, as they had Hilary to bash. Oversaturation isn’t the problem; polarization is the problem.

          • onyomi says:

            But then wouldn’t Trump have failed to win the nomination? That is, he didn’t start acting like Trump only after there were no other Republicans to chose from.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        In addition to what albatross11 rightly says, it is obvious that Trump´s hardcore supporters will continue to support him no matter what. Democrats need to appeal not to them, but to the people who voted for Trump as a lesser of two evils.

        • blipnickels says:

          Democrats need to appeal not to them, but to the people who voted for Trump as a lesser of two evils.

          I think this comment is exactly right but I see no evidence that the Democrats will do this. In fact, if the Democrats do try this, I don’t think they’re even capable of it.

          The only conservative I’ve seen voice a “lesser of two evils” opinion is Rod Drehrer, whose current stance on Trump is literally “Vote For The Crook, It’s Important”. It should not be difficult to get the Christian Right, who’s held their nose for Trump since day one, to flip on him, but I can’t see the Democrats understanding Drehrer’s position, much less be able to appeal to him.

          The Democrats might be hoping there’s a large contingent of “blue-ish” Republicans who will flip to them but I think that greatly underestimates how far partisanship has infected both parties. To win impeachment, the Democrats need to flip Drehrer or someone like him and I don’t see any such recognition or ability.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            The electorial bid of the D contingent is mostly “Lets get people off the damn couch”. That is, they dont need to appeal to anyone who voted Trump, as long as they can convert some non-voters to D. This is a MUCH larger target group than wavering republicans.

            This is likely also why this is the hill Pelosi launched impeachment proceedings on. The prospect of various foreign intelligence orgs being bullied into ginning up fake democrat scandals is a dire, dire threat to that strategy, because it relies on killing both-siderism. That is, the democrats absolutely need to persuade the american people that the democrats are more ethical than the republicans.

            Which is hard to do if nation state level resources is making up shit about you.

            It also means Biden is never, ever going to get the nomination. He is far too conciliatory towards the republican party.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            The electorial bid of the D contingent is mostly “Lets get people off the damn couch”. That is, they dont need to appeal to anyone who voted Trump, as long as they can convert some non-voters to D.

            That is technically true, but as I am sure you know, in the US presidential elections voting system is of such a nature that non-voters are mostly people in deep red or deep blue states, whose voting behavior does not matter for purposes of presidential elections. It does matter for congressional elections, but the US is clearly similar to my country in that there is a substantial group of people who vote only in what is considered the “main” elections and don’t bother to show up for less hyped stuff.

            So, strategy of relying only on non-voters who live in contested states and who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats is rather hazardous one. Also there is likely nontrivial overlap between what would those people found appealing and what would “Trump as a lesser evil” voters from last elections found appealing.

          • blipnickels says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            That’s an interesting strategy, and since 2018 looks like it had above average voter turnout and was a Democratic win, it makes sense.

            Where would I go to see evidence of this mobilizing non-voters? I’m presuming there’s no ad buys, and all the news media I’m familiar is already densely partisan.

            Also, is the impeachment basically political then? You don’t need to flip the Republican base to win the presidency but you do need it to get the Republican Senate to impeach. Therefore, the Democratic’s are hoping not to successfully impeach Trump but to get non-voters engaged to win in 2020?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            I think (I cant read minds) the point of the impeachment is to document as much of Trumps shit as they can, get it in front of the public, and then label the GOP the party of Treason when they acquit anyway. Also, note that voter participation in the US is so very low that there is no such thing as a safe seat if the couch potatoes leave the couch in any major way.

          • bullseye says:

            Non-voters are everywhere, include contested states. If everyone who didn’t vote had voted for me instead, I would have defeated both Trump and Clinton.

            https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/5oegsd/if_did_not_vote_was_a_candidate_in_2016_an/

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        All the things you refer to are highly defensible, if you listen to what he says with some sympathy:

        “bragging about getting away with sexual assault”
        “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p***y”
        – his boasted assaults refer to kisses. The rest is theory, though not entirely unbelievable.

        “mocking the disabled”
        He waggled his arms miming the confusion of a reporter who attacked him. By all accounts he had done the same previously with regard to individuals without any disability.

        “asking for the electoral assistance of foreign intelligence agencies”
        “Hey Russia, maybe you can find Hilary’s emails because she sure can’t” (paraphrase, but that was basically it). This accusation is laughable – I can’t understand how anyone could seriously understand it as anything but a joke, and I personally would be embarrassed to use such an accusation as a partisan attack, but it seems a lot of Democrats aren’t.

        A lot of us dislike Trump somewhat less than we dislike such blatant and ubiquitous propaganda.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I honestly don’t know what to think about the Ukraine business. I can see the view of never-Trumpers like French who say the quid-pro-quo was so obvious it didn’t have to be stated. But I also think that some aspect of what the Bidens were up to smells to high heaven, even if it’s just the business of Hunter taking a [ETA: highly lucrative] job for which he had no particular background except being the son of the Vice President.

      If a President everybody loved thought that situation should be looked into, and threw a little weight around to make it happen, I think a lot of people up in arms now would view it as a measured and responsible action.

      One might have hoped he would wait until Warren had washed Biden out of the race, as seems more likely every day. And one might wish he had left it in Barr’s hands and not brought Giuliani into the picture. But you don’t always have a choice about when the iron is hot for extracting things from foreign powers, and it’s far from the first time that a President has made use of a trusted but unappointed intermediary.

      If the worst possible construction of Trump’s actions is in fact the right one, the tweet albatross11 cites is right on the money. I read about all the groundwork that seems to have been laid for this — Pelosi casting impeachment as committee work rather than going straight to a House vote, the recent change to the rules for whistleblowers to admit hearsay (!) — and I think this would seem like much larger beer if they hadn’t spent two years foaming at the mouth.

      • broblawsky says:

        But I also think that some aspect of what the Bidens were up to smells to high heaven, even if it’s just the business of Hunter taking a [ETA: highly lucrative] job for which he had no particular background except being the son of the Vice President.

        I’m just going to keep this permanently stickied whenever anyone says anything like this in one of these threads, because I suspect a lot of people here have media bubbles that will exclude it:

        Former Ukraine prosecutor says he saw no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden

        • Controls Freak says:

          I can’t imagine how someone could have a media bubble that prevents that from getting in. It’s everywhere. In other news, “The guy who got the job after Biden forced the other guy out says that Biden’s a cool dude,” is pretty easily dismissed by folks who are motivated to think Biden did something wrong.

          …does your media bubble let you see articles like this? (There are trivial reasons why someone motivated to think Biden did nothing wrong would discount this… but have you even seen it?)

          • Protagoras says:

            The article cites no evidence of wrongdoing, and quotes someone who says he has no evidence of wrongdoing but thinks the matter deserves to be investigated. I’m not going to dispute that the quoted figure probably has a point, that it’s the sort of thing that deserves careful scrutiny, but exactly how outraged do you think people should be on the basis of that report? What does it add that wasn’t already part of the conversation?

          • Controls Freak says:

            Were you replying to me or broblawsky? Did you have the same immediate skepticism for the article broblawsky linked? More importantly, were you aware of both/neither/one of the articles before we linked them?

          • broblawsky says:

            @Controls Freak Yes, I read that one the day it came out. Both that article and the one I posted agree: there’s no evidence anyone named Biden did anything wrong.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Clarify what you mean a little. I see at least four possible points in evidence-space that you could be talking about. (1) There is no evidence whatsoever, (2) There is not sufficient evidence to predicate an investigation, (3) There is not sufficient evidence to sustain an indictment, or (4) There is not sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

      • brad says:

        If a President everybody loved thought that situation should be looked into, and threw a little weight around to make it happen, I think a lot of people up in arms now would view it as a measured and responsible action.

        It’s hard to know for sure, but I think I would have thought it was at least petty if Bill Clinton circa 1996 was personally invested in investigating the possibility that Dan Quayle’s son had traded on his father’s position to make money years earlier.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        the business of Hunter taking a [ETA: highly lucrative] job for which he had no particular background except being the son of the Vice President

        It is bullshit, but it is legal. The families of prominent politicians get shitloads of money for no other reason than being related to prominent politicians.

        I would like it to end, but I do not see a legal route to end it. Hunter is an adult and cannot be ordered around by his dad.

  3. BBA says:

    There’s no place for sentiment in business, and yet I’m always a bit sad when a very old company shuts down, especially one that pioneered its field. Such was the case for A&P (1859-2015), the original supermarket and my neighborhood grocery store as a kid. There are of course newer stores with better selections and lower prices, not to mention that many of the old A&P locations were sold to competitors in bankruptcy and are still open under different names, but I still feel like we’ve lost something, you know?

    So this past week saw the sudden closure of Thomas Cook, a British travel agency founded in 1841, barely a decade after the first railroad opened and made a tourism industry possible. Apparently they specialized in package tours to beach resorts, and couldn’t make the adjustment to the travel habits of younger generations who prefer urban vacations and are in the habit of booking flights and hotels a la carte. Also, the company made the baffling decision to expand its brick-and-mortar storefront operations in the face of increased competition from the internet. So it’s not surprising that they’re gone, a little surprising that it took this long, but a connection between today’s travelers and those of 150 years ago has just gone away overnight.

    • m.alex.matt says:

      I feel like 1841 is rather young for British business. Sure, probably the great majority of British businesses these days are much younger than that, but the truly venerable would see 1841 as a brisk middle age, rather than the obscure beginnings of their life.

      They made some bad decisions and they paid the price. Oh well.

    • Lambert says:

      And by sudden, they mean some folks out there are working really hard right now to repatriate hundreds of stranded brits on package holidays that just collapsed.
      Though I suppose you get the ‘beauty contest’ situation. As soon as people are worried the firm is a bit shaky and they’ll get stranded, it pushes things from shaky to a downright nosedive. You don’t want to take a chance on your hotel demanding thousands of pounds of extra money, for example.

    • albatross11 says:

      It’s striking how often major players in an industry miss the boat on changes and die off as a result. I kind-of wonder how much longer AAA will be around–their roadside assistance is nice (but many car manufacturers offer roadside assistance for N years with a new car), but their travel agent and trip-tix (triptych?) benefits are basically useless in the modern world. (Would you rather have a hand-marked map of your trip with planned construction marked, or just turn on Waze so you’ll get warned about everything?)

      • ana53294 says:

        In Spain, we have an automobile club that I guess is similar, and they are far from dying. Other than roadside assistance, they help find insurance to many people who are still not good with the internet. They also help fight fines and advocate for drivers. It’s not that expensive, and it’s a service that’s worth it for many people.

        They recently helped my mom with the paperwork to import a second hand car from Germany, for example. It’s not as easy as it may seem to handle everything.

      • LesHapablap says:

        I remember that for some DMV tasks you could go to AAA instead and save a ton of time. They’d take the paperwork for you and file it on your behalf, and you’d be done in five minutes instead of an hour. Don’t know if that is still the case.

        • quanta413 says:

          Still a thing. It’s a godsend. Used it last month.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I remember that for some DMV tasks you could go to AAA instead and save a ton of time.

            I went to AAA to renew my driver’s license a few months ago and it was totally packed. I realized I forgot something so I did it another day, this time at the DMV. Also packed, but not any worse than AAA. It seems so many people have heard of the AAA option that it isn’t faster anymore.

          • quanta413 says:

            It depends where you are I imagine. Where I am, it is way faster to go to AAA. The line is less than 5 minutes. The DMV line is on the order of an hour.

      • Randy M says:

        AAA also offers auto insurance, and the services LesHapablap mentions, although hopefully the DMV itself will modernize and reduce the need to come into the office.

      • John Schilling says:

        It’s striking how often major players in an industry miss the boat on changes and die off as a result.

        See also Sears, Roebuck and Company, the corporation that invented and for a century utterly dominated the business of “Advertise a huge inventory of every possible consumer good, delivered by mail to the customers’ home with a minimum of fuss”.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Sears lasted a long time and re-invented itself a few times. That it finally encountered market conditions that killed it isn’t a mark against it. It is impressive to last so long that people point when you finally fail.

  4. MissingNo says:

    Ok. Does anyone else think the bid to pay college athletes 100,000-200,000 a year can possibly have negative cultural effects?

    Officially, colleges are profiting off of students, thus some mental heuristics are getting people to say “Wait this isn’t right”.

    But doesn’t this have the incredibly obvious push for a borderline HS/college athlete to roid up just in time for junior/senior year in HS. This could make nearly *every* parent of a talented HS athlete point a blind eye towards anabolics and just say “You could save up enough for retirement in just 4 years, it makes sense”

    And it would!

    So what’s the push for payment? How many steps ahead are we thinking here?

    • cassander says:

      I don’t see a good way to deal with the fact that college sports has become a multi-billion dollar industry.

    • Cliff says:

      How is this any different than the incentives for the many pro athletes who are college age already? As in soccer, tennis, etc.

      • MissingNo says:

        Its a matter of scale and filtering.

        Only 2% of high school athletes end up playing at a NCAA 1 school.

        And then only 2% of NCAA athletes end up playing in the pros.

        (comparisons are slightly off since its NCAA 1 and NCAA general, but I think it still holds well).

        But IDK. I guess almost every cause is a little bit arbitrary.

        This looks like a weird case where “good intentions” will end up eating itself.

        • albatross11 says:

          What fraction of college athletes could make any substantial money on their sport? My sense is that most college basketball/football/baseball/soccer players would have a hard time making it even in minor league/semipro teams. That’s not true for competitive colleges in the NCAA championships, but lots of small colleges have football teams and give football scholarships. The guy playing tight end for Central Methodist College isn’t giving up a whole lot of semipro football pay by being in college.

          ISTM that a simple solution would be to allow colleges to offer a stipend in addition to scholarships. That is, if Duke wants to bring the best high school player in America to play for them, maybe they have to offer him a $100K salary along with the scholarship. Just allow that and it seems like the market should sort out who needs to be paid and who doesn’t.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      The push is dignity of labor. Basically, if you want unpaid workers, fuck off, die in a fire. That is a heuristic, but it is a very generally applicable one, and college sports is not one of the rare corner cases where it does not apply. It is not a charity.

      That said, colleges ought also to ban american handegg. And, I guess, on general principles, mma and boxing. Sports that have a well documented effect of causing outright brain damage really, really have no place on a college campus.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Regular students are also ‘unpaid workers,’ in fact most of them are paying to go to university. Is it fair to make them pay for salaries for athletically gifted students? Along with athletic scholarships, sports departments etc?

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Well, for one thing, I live in a country which does, in fact, pay students. (just shy of a thousand dollars a month) so.. Yes? However, more universally, Students which contribute to the college bottom line – that is, TAs, graduate students and so on damn well are paid. College athletes are a profit center, ergo..

        • LesHapablap says:

          Sorry I wasn’t quite clear there: I meant ‘is it fair for regular students to have to pay the salaries of athletic students?’ the point being that paying these athletes would not be free and that this would contribute to the ever rising tuition costs.

          I don’t have enough knowledge of the economics of college sports to really comment on your second point there. I suspect a lot of these athletic programs are not really paying for themselves and are just entrenched vanity projects, and that most universities would be better off without them. But I don’t know.

          I would say that athletes know they aren’t going to be paid beyond free university and living stipends, and they still sign up to the deal, so it can’t be all that bad. They are certainly more privileged than your average college student without genetic gifts.

          • Chalid says:

            The athletes in popular sports are profitable for the university (in terms of increased revenue from ticket sales and merchandising, increased alumni donations, etc) so if anything the athletic students are subsidizing the non-athletes, often at the cost of their long-term health.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The vast majority of programs are money losers and survive based on school funding. The ones that are money makers are not very profitable, because they have huge expense structures. Texas transfers $10mm to the university, which is about 5% of its revenue.

            These expense structures are inflated, and someone is making away with more money than they deserve. But the villains in this story are probably not the other students: likely, they are coaches and bloated coaching staffs, over expensive facility contracts, subsidized seats for student fans, and non-major athletics programs (including women’s basketball).

            There just isn’t anywhere near information out there to conclude that everyone is making billions off football players, at least from my POV.

          • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

            The concept of “athletic students” seems pretty perverse to me. How comes an otherwise sport-unrelated institution recruits athletes for the purpose of athleting and now even pays them money.

          • johan_larson says:

            @ARabbiAndAFrog, I think it started with the notion that a college education wasn’t just an intellectual process. It was also about character formation, and part of that was physical training. You may have heard about a sound mind in a sound body and how the battle of something or other was won on the playing fields of Eton. That’s the tradition that college sports came from.

            Now, generations later, it has turned into something quite different. The most successful part of college sports has turned into a couple of minor leagues with fat budgets and big-time TV contracts, with a workforce that is composed of young people who are students in name only.

            It seems to me the very best thing that could happen here is for a couple of groups with deep pockets to start minor leagues in football and basketball. These leagues could actually pay young players, and would accordingly draw away most of the high school graduates who are just in it for the game. The colleges could keep offering scholarships, but they’d probably get the ones who may be capable players but are actually in it for an education. I expect this would suck most of the big money and big stink out of college sports.

            Wonder why that hasn’t happened?

          • albatross11 says:

            The nature of college has changed a lot in the US over the last few decades. In 1919, going to college usually meant your parents had money, or occasionally that you were super-bright and people found a way to send you. Think “finishing school,” but with a side order of having some really smart knowledgeable people there in case you were capable of learning a lot from them.

            In 2019, spots in good colleges are largely assigned by merit (as approximated by SAT scores, grades, etc.), and also by US racial/ethnic politics (affirmative action), various influence networks (formal and informal versions of what all those well-off parents got busted for doing–nobody goes to jail for getting their kid into Elite U by endowing a new chemistry building), and internal goals of universities surrounding both continuity and fundraising (legacies, athletic admissions). Also, for middle-class-and-below kids, college is not a finishing school, so much as a combination of trade school and union card. For better-off kids, it’s often a kind of justification for supporting them–the parents say their kid can stay in the house as long as he’s working on his education somehow.

            All that means that the whole point and nature of college has changed a lot. If you’re running a finishing school for wealthy kids to grow up a bit and make connections before they take over Dad’s bank, amateur quality collegiate sports make some sense–it’s good bonding and a chance to make close friendships and have a lot of fun social outings. If it’s a trade school where you need to get out in four years with a nursing degree so you can make a living, then they don’t make so much sense anymore.

          • John Schilling says:

            It was also about character formation, and part of that was physical training. You may have heard about a sound mind in a sound body and how the battle of something or other was won on the playing fields of Eton. That’s the tradition that college sports came from.

            This. And note that even Stephen Hawking, possibly the un-soundest body ever to host a sound mind, was a college athlete in his (pre-ALS) undergraduate days. And was probably a better man for it, though more for social than physical reasons.

            A sound mind, in a sound body, with the mental and physical discipline to make best use of both, genuinely is better than just knowing lots of stuff. And athletic scholarships for the athletically excellent but academically middling are no more unreasonable than academic scholarships for the reverse – in both cases, you’re finding people who can benefit from the university’s efforts to round out their weaknesses, while bringing their own strengths to the rest of the student body. If you want people to play sports instead of turning into lardbutts, you want them to have some friends who are really into and good at sports.

            Now, at the level of Division I football where you are offering scholarships to the athletically excellent but academically incompetent and then pretty much isolating them from the rest of the student body, this principle has been wholly abandoned. But it wasn’t a bad idea to begin with.

          • Theodoric says:

            @johan_larson
            I thought the NBA D-league was supposed to be minor league basketball, and that some XFL players hoped to go on to the NFL?

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        Isn’t MMA more about broken bones than brain damage?

        • Aapje says:

          Boxing’s 10 second count is a really bad idea, because it allows concussed fighters to get back into the fight, even though the evidence is now quite strong that blows after a concussion are way worse than the initial blow.

    • For me it’s simple: colleges have colluded to limit the compensation offered to athletes. Such collusion is ordinarily illegal, as it is in the pros. So the burden of argument should be on those who want to say that in this case the rules should not apply. Why shouldn’t they apply? The argument that athletes already get a lot of benefits such as scholarships, popularity, ect. would just as easily apply to any high-earner. Another argument is that the colleges are non-profits. But this doesn’t always apply, I don’t think colleges would be allowed to collude to fix salaries for researchers. Nor can a soup kitchen pay its workers 3$ an hour on the justification that any money saved is reinvested in the charity.* And what ultimately are “non-profits?” They aren’t always utopian institutions where everyone involved is selfless and where no one involved is ever polluted by “greed.” In the case of college athletics, here’s a modest proposal: establish a cap on how much anyone involved, be they a player, coach, the college president, or a consultant, is allowed to make. If they refuse to abide by this, they will lose their protection from standard labor law.** I’d think they’d forget all the crap about “amateurism” pretty quickly.

      As to why the push for payment, it’s pure CW, if the athletes all looked like Haven Monahan they wouldn’t care.

      *It can pay them nothing if they are true volunteers, but it’s pretty obvious that almost none of the college athletes are playing in order to make money to support the college.

      **In an alternative universe where Donald Trump had the interest and inclination to match his fighting words with action, he’d instruct the IRS to strip tax-exempt status from any non-profit where employees earned a salary above a certain level.

      • MissingNo says:

        Is this collusion though? I have heard of cases of medical professionals in a major city agreeing to increase/possibly double their prices over time well beyond inflation, knowing that most people had no good way of checking prices until after the bill. I mean that’s obvious collusion.

        But i’m not sure that not paying student athletes counts as collusion. I thought student athletes were not paid almost by definition of what it means to be a student athlete! Battle of definitions?

        And it looks like I agree ultimately. Because it looks partly like a battle of definitions that’s where culture-war aspects come into play, where you get these weird political party splits.

        Doesn’t this just….eat alive the supposed liberal-education link I was supposed to believe in the Bush-era though? So its also the party of paying football players(brain damage players) 150,000 to go to college?

        My stereotypes are getting really mixed up here.

        • It’s collusion because the NCAA will expel teams which pay their athletes. In essence, the colleges all got together and agreed to collude to set wages for their athletes to zero and punish any which defects. Imagine all the tech companies got together and agreed to refuse to do business with any which paid their engineers more than 150K a year. Under my proposal it wouldn’t be illegal to not pay athletes, just to collude not to pay them. Supply and demand would end up determining wage levels; high in the popular sports and zero in the truly “amateur” sports.

    • meh says:

      You could save up enough for retirement in just 4 years

      At just 100k gross a year for 4 years, given the life expectancy of a 21 year old, this is almost certainly not enough to retire on.

      • TheContinentalOp says:

        It’s not 100k spread out over 4 years. From the article:

        FBS football player is $137,357 per year, and the fair market value for the average men’s basketball player is $289,031 per year.

        Paying college athletes seems to be a blue tribe thing. The red tribe mostly responds “They are getting paid. They’re getting a scholarship.”

        But the blue tribe also likes Title IX, and I don’t see how they are going to square paying male football and basketball players six figures while the women’s crew team gets squat.

        I wouldn’t expect Betsy DeVos to really care about that. But I think Secy of Education “Dr.” Jill Biden would be inclined to issue a few “Dear Colleague” letters.

        • BBA says:

          If the end result is that Div I football and men’s basketball get moved out of the auspices of their sponsoring colleges and become de jure professional minor leagues (which they already are de facto), I’m all for it. Maybe while we’re at it we can work on the rest of the NCAA becoming more of a recreational league instead of a front for admissions fraud. Come on, nobody should be getting a scholarship for fencing or water polo, these should all be club sports.

        • meh says:

          It’s not 100k spread out over 4 years.

          Not sure where I assumed that. 100k a year for 4 years is not enough to retire on, especially since a 21 year old has about 40 more years to retire for than a 61 year old.

          male football and basketball players six figures while the women’s crew team gets squat.

          Male crew would probably also get squat. Probably every male sport other than basketball and football.

          • Malarious says:

            $400k is absolutely enough to retire on; assuming the stock market yields an average of 10% per year (as it has for the last century), then as long as you keep your expenses below $30k/year you’ll probably be fine. If you’re going to dispute that $30k/year isn’t enough to live on, fair enough, but most of the people I know have somehow managed to live off of minimum wage or a little more for their entire working lives, so…

            Obviously, there’s risk involved and ideally you want your expenses to be *well below* $30k, but even $20k/year is very easy to live off of, especially for a young single male in his early-mid 20s, and through the wonders of compound interest every dollar you save is going to yield returns for, well, the rest of your life.

            There’s an argument to be made that the typical person who’s capable of becoming a college athlete that gets paid $100k/year has most likely been raised in an environment where a “mere” $20k/year isn’t enough to provide a satisfactory lifestyle. Doesn’t change the fact that for a huge percentage of the country $20k/year is eminently livable.

          • meh says:

            @Malarious
            400k is gross, so knock your number down by taxes. You are also 21 at retirement, so your returns are getting taxed. You can then run the numbers through any online retirement calculator, which will get you an even lower figure, and sure lots of people can live off of very little, but nobody is entering the roid lottery for that.

          • Malarious says:

            @meh
            The figure from the article for a college football player is $137,357 per year. Obviously take-home depends on state; somewhere with no state income tax, take-home would be around $100k. Then you’d need to deduct your living expenses (though, I suppose athletes might be getting room and board for free?). Your returns aren’t going to be taxed until you actually realize some gain (and even then, if your income is below $40k as a single filer, your long term capital gains tax rate is… 0%.)

            It seems like a good deal to me, dependent on how likely your chances of “making it” in college sports is, I guess. There aren’t really many other “jobs” you can get that pay that well at age 18; even if you have the chops to hack it as a Google engineer, you’re still going to need four years of college (+ tuition) before you start earning, and then another few years to save enough to pay off debts + retire. So it’s the difference between retiring at 21/22 and retiring at 25/26. Whether 4 extra years in the prime of your life to do whatever you want (backpack through SEA/Europe on pennies while your nest egg grows?) is worth risking the roid lottery, well, who can say.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Ok. Does anyone else think the bid to pay college athletes 100,000-200,000 a year can possibly have negative cultural effects?

      Ok, this seems to be yet another American weirdness that as an European I can’t understand. Why do American colleges operate professional sports teams, employing professional athletes on the pretense that they are students?

      In any other country I know of, academic sports are merely recreational amateur activities while professional sports are a completely unrelated industry. How did they become entangled in the US?

      • BBA says:

        American football and basketball developed into their modern forms as college sports. (Football traces itself back to a rugby game between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869; basketball was invented in a physical education class at Springfield College in 1891.) By the time the NFL and NBA came around, the NCAA was already well-established. I’m not sure when it became the norm to have teams made up of ringer “students” admitted solely for their athletic abilities, but it had to have been very early on.

        In contrast, baseball was a professional sport first and has an extensive system of developmental (“minor”) leagues of paid players. College baseball exists but doesn’t attract nearly the attention that football and basketball do.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’m not sure when it became the norm to have teams made up of ringer “students” admitted solely for their athletic abilities, but it had to have been very early on.

          This seems like the sort of thing it’s easy to slowly slide into. At the first step, you’re just letting someone in who’s a little less qualified/connected/able to pay to get a better football player. Gradually, everyone does that, and there’s a benefit to being willing to lower your academic standards a little more than the other guys to get the dumb-but-talented. Keep iterating, and eventually you’ve raced to the bottom until you’re admitting students into college who could barely graduate high school. Somewhere in that race to the bottom, you’re admitting students who can’t reasonably keep up with the rest of the kids in your college. Athletes start getting lousy grades and people complain, so you have to come up with all kinds of academic support for them (which evolves from extra help and tutors to people writing papers and taking tests for the athletes), just to keep them from being blown away by the competition.

          Most of those steps probably seemed like either a perfectly reasonable small accomodation or a small, harmless bending of the rules. Iterate enough times, and you get to today.

    • bullseye says:

      They don’t play the players, but they pay the coaches. In most states, the highest-paid state employee is a coach:

      http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/19019077/highest-paid-us-employees-dominated-college-football-college-basketball-coaches

  5. aexl says:

    “Why do you think foods containing drugs are better than pure drugs?”

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Can you elaborate on this?

      It seems like you’re assuming that we all know what you’re alluding to here but that’s not a safe assumption.

    • Lambert says:

      Coca-cola were giving out free samples of ‘coke energy’ today. The stall was packed. Rubbish bins were full of empty cans.
      Starbucks is a giant multinational.

      Not many people take caffiene pills.

      • silver_swift says:

        I suspect for most people it’s just that it’s more normalized and feels less like doing drugs, but there are fairly rational reasons to prefer coffee and energy drinks over caffeine pills. It’s tastier, easier to get/more socially acceptable (not to mention free in a lot of office buildings) and harder to overdose on.

        Any particular reason you feel we should prefer caffeine pills over caffeine drinks?

        • gettin_schwifty says:

          You get the caffeine without the sugar or artificial sweeteners that are so common in caffeinated beverages. You have no temptation to take caffeine pills because they taste good, so you can control your intake independent of other considerations, whereas someone who enjoys sweetened coffee or soda for the taste will often get more than they’d want separate from the beverage. I’m describing myself, here, I do love my coffee, black or sweet as heaven, and I sometimes end up over-caffeinated by the end of the workday.

          The above argument could be taken as favoring a caffeine powder over pills, due to yet finer control.

          • A1987dM says:

            I do love my coffee, black or sweet as heaven, and I sometimes end up over-caffeinated by the end of the workday.

            Decaf exists.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          Back in my 20s I once experimented with coffee, drinking four very strong mugs with about two heaped teaspoonfuls of instant in each. For an hour or so I was running up and down the stairs – after that it wore off and I didn’t feel all that great.

      • b_jonas says:

        Firstly, the sweetener or sugar and the carbon dioxide is pleasant, and addictive to some amount, so why would I separate the caffeine from it?

        Secondly, consuming pure caffeine (whether orally or intravenous) is something that students in medicine do, and we pride ourselves on earning decent wages from working only 40 hours a week rather than 100 hours like the medics. Taking caffeine pills would signal that I’m as low status as the medics.

    • Aapje says:

      @aexl

      “Dosing?”

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Because I also like food?

    • onyomi says:

      May be like how high fructose corn syrup is bad for you but fruit (which has fructose but also fiber, antioxidants, etc.) is good for you?

      Related example: tea leaves naturally have caffeine but also have l-theanine, an amino acid many find has a calming effect. This natural combination (“natural” here may be partially result from centuries of selective breeding, in addition to the choice to drink the leaves from this particular plant as opposed to some other) may be both more psychologically pleasant overall and possibly better for you than simply drinking a beverage to which caffeine has been artificially added.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      A form of Chesterton’s fence, probably. Reminds me of that recent experiment where a few subjects were given by mistake something like 30 grams of pure caffeine instead of 30 mg (they lived. barely). A bunch of pills look, feel and actually are riskier.

      Plus, breaking the psychoactive substance (if that’s what you’re talking about) from the social context is a bit … dry. Taking an alcohol-equivalent dose has almost nothing in common with a night at the pub, except possibly the hangover. A nicotine patch is not the same as a cigarette break. A coffee date is more than the 60 mg of caffeine in your latte.

      In each of these context the drug is reinforcing and enriching the experience in a way you’re not likely to get with any single part.

      • nkurz says:

        Caffeine is 1.25 grams per cubic centimeter. 30 grams of caffeine would thus be 24 cubic centimeters. A sugar cube is 1 cubic centimeter. Accidentally having someone consume the equivalent volume as 24 sugar cubes of pure caffeine seems very unlikely.

        Which is to say that I doubted your anecdote. But before posting, I decided I should search the web, and found that you are absolutely right: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/01/26/northumbria_uni_caffeine/.

      • John Schilling says:

        A form of Chesterton’s fence, probably. Reminds me of that recent experiment where a few subjects were given by mistake something like 30 grams of pure caffeine instead of 30 mg (they lived. barely). A bunch of pills look, feel and actually are riskier.

        As nkurz notes, it is absurdly implausible that anyone would ever mistakenly consume thirty grams of pure caffeine. And in the cited incident, they didn’t consume thirty grams of pure caffeine. They consumed much larger quantities of a beverage containing a small percentage of caffeine, which they misbelieved to contain a very very very small percentage of caffeine and so didn’t balk at drinking hundreds of grams of the stuff. What would have been an absurdly implausible mishap with pills, became a simple math error with caffeinated beverages,

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I don’t like to reply just to say that I think I’m right, but…

          Nobody in their right mind would be ok with drinking 300 coffees, or even 30. It just feels wrong. You probably would balk at drinking 30 orange juices as well, it just doesn’t sit right with you. That incident was possible only because at some point the caffeine was refined powder and somebody used their system 2 to estimate the dose, and it is vulnerable to mistakes in a way “300 coffees” isn’t. That’s what I mean by chesterton’s fence – system 2 is flying right over it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is anybody in their right mind ever going to take 150 maximum-dose caffeine pills? That’s solidly in the “just feels wrong” category.

            This sort of overdosing pretty much requires that someone be rolling their own(*) meds. And of all the drug deliver systems out there, pills are the form least likely to be hand-made by the end users. Pills, get mass-produced in some therapeutically appropriate dose, and the only question is “how many of these should I take and how often?”

            The answer to which is pretty much never going to be “hundreds”, except possibly in suicide attempts.

            * Or their patients or test subjects

    • aexl says:

      Thank you all for helping me answering this question.
      Sorry if there was no context but all your replies helped me.

  6. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/25/health/prehistoric-baby-bottles-scn/index.html

    I’m a bit unclear on whether these would work for infants or whether some help from the child is needed.

    Also, when I first half-heard the news story, I wasn’t clear that pottery was involved, so I was wondering about animal bladders, which I believe are the lowest tech waterproof containers. Could they have been used safely for milk? They presumably wouldn’t have left any remains.

  7. brad says:

    Since the great resorting the halfback life of a the 95th percentile thread (by replies) seems way shorter. The workaround of someone posting a random reply as a new root thread is not especially satisfactory.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I am not parsing what this means…

      • blipnickels says:

        Um,

        “Since new threads appear at the top, the most replied to threads are much shorter/get less replies. People get around this by posting new threads higher up, which I don’t like.”

        So, like, in the old days there’d just be one massive Ukrainegate thread? Now there’s like four because people want their take/issue near the top of the thread?

        I dunno, I tried. *shrug*

        • sharper13 says:

          I think part of the problem is also that when people see the most recent Ukrainegate thread, they post their reply to that one, and then keep reading and find another one to reply to, and so on…

          But it’s tough to say “Read all the comments before replying to anything/starting anything new” because someone may have just come by to post something, or else they may even forget what they wanted to say in their reply/post by the time they spend a couple of hours reading.

          Hmmm… bears further consideration.

    • brad says:

      Damn autocorrect. That should be half-life, not halfback life.

    • Lambert says:

      Seconded about new top-level threads.
      It’s not hard to type C-f impeachment and jump directly to the relevant thread.

    • FLWAB says:

      The comment threads are shorter, but it also seems like we get more interesting threads. In the old system it seemed like people would stop posting new threads after a bit because fewer people would see them. As a reader it also makes it a lot easier to see what’s new.

      • brad says:

        I disagree that the threads are more interesting, but then I think I’m less novelty-seeking than many in this community.

        I do think there something of real value lost when there is almost never an ongoing conversation with the occasional exception of two dogged posters going back and forth with each other.

        Even before the change the cadence of the open threads meant that conversations were never more than 3-4 days long. All other things being equal I’d rather that was longer but I can see the benefits in not making new commers wade into a giant thread. But to go from 72 hours to 8 hours is a big drop.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          I agree with Brad. I’ve always been against having new threads on top because it shortens the length of time that people talk about one subject before it falls out of notice. It seems to me that it is becoming more like Facebook. One reason I don’t use Facebook is that any thread longer than a day or so falls so low on people’s list that no one sees it anymore. So you can never discuss anything in depth. SSC has become harder to discuss stuff in depth.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Is that a surprise? Is that not the intended effect? Were you expecting or hoping that the 50th percentile thread would get shorter, but the 95th percentile thread wouldn’t get shorter?

  8. albatross11 says:

    Very CW comment:

    Many years ago, I knew a lot of people who were libertarian-aligned Republicans. Some subset of those were very into slogans like “I love my country but fear my government,” particularly under the Clinton administration. And then, Bush got in, 9/11 happened, and a whole lot of that set became very vocal supporters of Bush and the war on terror. There were also a fair number of libertarians and some part of the conservative movement who opposed those things, even when done by “their side.” I inferred from this that the folks who stayed opposed to unaccountable government power even when their side was grabbing it actually had some principles, whereas the others simply had a side.

    Some years later, Obama came into office. Despite some promising rhetoric, his war on terror policies were basically Bush with less torture and more murder, and (as I mentioned elsethread) his administration was particularly harsh toward whistleblowers, and claimed (and used) the power to assassinate American citizens on the president’s authority alone, with no oversight or review. Mass surveillance continued, and while our torture program that was ended in the Bush administration seems to have stayed shut down, absolutely nobody involved faced any consequences[1][2], despite the fact that torturing prisoners is against US and international laws, and treaties we have signed.

    And then, I watched as a lot of people on the left, with whom I’d strongly agreed about the horrors of the Bush administration war on terror, suddenly found that the Obama administration doing the same stuff was not so bad, somehow. I had those conversations online and in person, and I watched people I’d considered principled lose interest when it was their own side doing it. And once again, there were also people who stuck to their principles even when their own side was guilty. Once again, I inferred from this that many people who’d opposed the Bush war on terror simply saw it as a useful club with which to bash the other side, but some actually disagreed on principle.

    Somehow, watching both of those was a significant political education for me. And since then, watching some prominent Republicans utterly abandon what I thought were their principles to follow Trump is yet another iteration of the same thing. I assume that after Trump implodes and we get a Democrat in office, we’ll once again see a lot of people normalizing whatever horrible stuff he does, even when it was an intolerable violation of decency when Trump did it.

    Most people don’t have principles, so much as they have a side.

    For my part, I think at least the last three presidents should have been impeached and removed from office, but I think the case against Trump (obstructing justice, influence peddling, possibly using diplomatic pressure to get other countries to investigate his opponents) is actually weaker than against Obama (violating the war powers act, unconstitutional and illegal wiretapping, murder of American citizens) and Bush (crimes against humanity, unconstitutional and illegal wiretapping). And I figure it’s at least a 90% probability that the next president will continue this trend, with his supporters justifying whatever he does even when they thought it was criminal when done by the other side.

    [1] Except for one CIA whistleblower, who got some prison time for talking about waterboarding on TV.

    [2] We decided to “look forward, not backward.”

    • EchoChaos says:

      Most people don’t have principles, so much as they have a side.

      Welcome to conflict theory! Here’s your seat.

      I agree with almost all of your points, and they are well written.

      In terms of “bad stuff Presidents did”, Trump is probably the least bad since… Carter? Probably Carter.

    • Eigengrau says:

      Unfortunately, congress apparently abandoned its oversight of presidential war crimes long ago. There was actually a fourth article of impeachment proposed for Nixon, but it was ultimately voted down in the Judiciary Committee: his illegal bombing of Cambodia.

    • John Schilling says:

      All of this, with the caveat that people of pretty much every political ideology legitimately have principles of the form, “X except in time of war, in which case Y”. War is almost by definition the state when you have to apply a relaxed set of principles for a time lest you soon be unable to apply any principles at all.

      And because of this, lots of people who want to relax the hell out of other people’s principles will misuse the W-word, e.g. “war on drugs”, “war on poverty”, and yes “war on terror”. And at the same time, pretty much everybody decided in 1945 to stop using the W-word to (officially) describe their own actual wars. But in the immediate aftermath of a mass-casualty terror attack at least tacitly supported by a foreign state and with Congress passing a resolution authorizing military force, I wouldn’t call people hypocrites for shifting to their wartime principles.

      • BBA says:

        This is why I’m an aspiring pacifist. Someday I hope to be on the level of Jeannette Rankin refusing to declare war on Japan the day after Pearl Harbor. I’m not there yet, but someday.

        • Atlas says:

          This is why I’m an aspiring pacifist. Someday I hope to be on the level of Jeannette Rankin refusing to declare war on Japan the day after Pearl Harbor. I’m not there yet, but someday.

          If you’re genuinely interested in this, you can start by reading critical accounts of American diplomacy in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor, such as chapters 4 and 6 of this book.

          I’ve always been struck by something that an admiral (I think) said in Studs Terkel’s great book The Good War. He said that Pearl Harbor was the US’ greatest victory in World War 2. The US industrial machine was easily capable of rebuilding the ships destroyed in the attacks. However, prior to the attack there had been a very serious anti-war movement in the US, which inhibited in various ways the Roosevelt administration’s foreign policy through such nefarious tactics as “freedom of speech” and “use of a democratically-elected Congress’ powers.” After Pearl Harbor, and the perception by Americans that the US had been randomly attacked, unprovoked, out of a clear blue sky, that movement was completely discredited, and the US government had complete public support in carrying out the war.

          • BBA says:

            *hovers over link, sees URL* No thanks, I know what angle I’m going to get there, and I’m not interested.

          • Atlas says:

            *hovers over link, sees URL* No thanks, I know what angle I’m going to get there, and I’m not interested.

            Unz archives old books (like the one I linked) and articles from a variety of perspectives. (HG Wells, IF Stone, Mark Twain, etc.)

            I’ll add as a general comment that, if people are really opposed to certain perspectives, it would be more effective to substantively rebut the core tenets of those perspectives rather than to assert without elucidation that those perspectives are wrong.

            Not that it’s your individual responsibility in this particular case to do a deep dive on the long link I posted, just that I’ve now seen a few cases where particular viewpoints are asserted to be so obviously wrong/hateful/odious that it’s not worth performing any modicum of impartial analysis of them or even allowing them to be publicly voiced…and then those viewpoints slowly keep growing and growing in popularity, because their proponents make arguments and provide evidence while their opponents don’t. There are cases where this really, really worries me.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            @Atlas

            if people are really opposed to certain perspectives, it would be more effective to substantively rebut the core tenets of those perspectives

            If someone has been already caught once using false data to support a highly controversial claim, does it make sense to keep arguing with that person’s other controversial claims? Perhaps it was different in the past, but at present Unz is mostly read by people who like his agenda, rather than the quality of his research. Logic and better data will not change their mind.

          • BBA says:

            To sidestep the question of whether I should read fascist sympathizers – I don’t care whether FDR lied us into war. Rankin had no way of knowing that, and even if the popular narrative had been true and Japan really did attack Pearl Harbor out of the blue, she still would have been against the war. And that’s the ideal I’m striving towards.

          • cassander says:

            It’s very true that the Roosevelt Administration was trying to maneuver the US into a war. It’s also true that the consequences of it not doing that would have been pretty dire for a whole lot of people from a pacifist point of view. It’s one of the many reasons why absolutist pacifism is a position that is the luxury of someone who is physically pretty secure fro harm.

          • albatross11 says:

            As best I can tell, Sailer is the only reason to read anything from Unz’ site–last I was paying attention, Unz himself seemed to have fallen into a bizarre rabbithole, and earlier tended to convince himself of various theories/claims after some very careless analysis of data.

          • Atlas says:

            @WarOnReasons

            If someone has been already caught once using false data to support a highly controversial claim, does it make sense to keep arguing with that person’s other controversial claims? Perhaps it was different in the past, but at present Unz is mostly read by people who like his agenda, rather than the quality of his research. Logic and better data will not change their mind.

            I would say yes, if the other claims are sufficiently popular and/or alarming. Unz claims that UR is now getting notably more traffic than The Nation and The New Republic. On the possibility of changing minds with facts and logic:

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/24/guided-by-the-beauty-of-our-weapons/

            @BBA

            To sidestep the question of whether I should read fascist sympathizers – I don’t care whether FDR lied us into war. Rankin had no way of knowing that, and even if the popular narrative had been true and Japan really did attack Pearl Harbor out of the blue, she still would have been against the war. And that’s the ideal I’m striving towards.

            Like I said, there was a strong anti-war movement prior to Pearl Harbor, so it’s not impossible that prior skepticism about the Roosevelt administration’s intentions influenced her vote; Wikipedia, at least, suggests that she opposed prior moves by the administration to better situate the US to enter the war.

            Also, as a sort-of pacifist myself, I’ll add some recommendations from less controversial sources: the writings of Lord Bertrand Russell and Professor Erica Chenoweth have both inclined me to a more pacific world view.

            @Cassander

            It’s very true that the Roosevelt Administration was trying to maneuver the US into a war. It’s also true that the consequences of it not doing that would have been pretty dire for a whole lot of people from a pacifist point of view. It’s one of the many reasons why absolutist pacifism is a position that is the luxury of someone who is physically pretty secure fro harm.

            Many non-pacifists also hold their views while being insulated from the harm that people acting on those beliefs cause, so I’m not sure that this scores any points against pacifists. Likewise, I personally try to avoid the “chickenhawk” line of argument against war, because my opposition to (certain) wars isn’t conditional on the individual virtue of their proponents.

          • “If someone has been already caught once using false data to support a highly controversial claim, does it make sense to keep arguing with that person’s other controversial claims”

            Where did Unz use false data? He used some questionable data and assumptions in the Myth of American Meritocracy, but I don’t know of any data that has been shown to be outright false.

        • WarOnReasons says:

          @BBA

          that’s the ideal I’m striving towards.

          Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you – are you saying that in a situation when a foreign country attacks your own with the goal of exterminating or enslaving its population an ideal person should strive to prevent any attempts of retaliation that involve violence?

        • Laukhi says:

          I’m a little curious about the exact extent of the pacifism you aspire to. Should we have left the Phillippines to Japan? How about China?

          In fact, should China have just conceded to whatever Japan demanded after the Marco Polo Bridge incident?

      • jgr314 says:

        Doesn’t this modification only excuse the changes for people under Bush II (taking the 9/11 attacks as the moment when Americans shifted from preferring “normal policy package X” to “wartime policy package Y”)?

      • albatross11 says:

        John Schilling:

        Fair enough. Right after 9/11, lots of people were scared, and felt like the nation was under attack (as indeed it was). Being willing to relax some principles in wartime isn’t totally crazy, which is exactly why every president ever wants to talk about a war on X, for some X.

        I think this is a more convincing explanation in 2002 than in 2005 or 2007, though. I mean, we were at war (and still are–we’ve got troops in Afghanistan today), but the fright had mostly worn off by then.

        I remember hearing a fair number of people (including me) arguing that the “war on terror” seemed like an eternal open-ended war that would justify relaxing those principles forever, and while I didn’t write this down anywhere other than maybe a post on Making Light somewhere, this seems like a prediction that’s been borne out. As I understand it, the AUMF is still in force, and keeps getting used as justification for whatever place the president wants to bomb next. When do you suppose a president is going to volunteer to end that? I’m guessing that’ll happen a week after Hell freezes over.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I remember hearing a fair number of people (including me) arguing that the “war on terror” seemed like an eternal open-ended war that would justify relaxing those principles forever, and while I didn’t write this down anywhere other than maybe a post on Making Light somewhere, this seems like a prediction that’s been borne out.

          Oh, it was a _very_ popular opinion at the time. Turns out a sizable vocal minority doesn’t matter as long as the majority goes its own way. Also turns out mistakes don’t have to be subtle or hidden, and historically probably few were. It’s just that overall zeitgeist plus conflict theory push things toward the bad choice, even when people scream their lungs out that, for example, nuclear is cleaner than coal or homeland security was created to stay.

          God, I still don’t understand how people with even of smattering of historical sense can think that creating a department called “Homeland security” is a good idea. I kept mentally translating it to Vaterland.

      • Atlas says:

        But in the immediate aftermath of a mass-casualty terror attack at least tacitly supported by a foreign state and with Congress passing a resolution authorizing military force, I wouldn’t call people hypocrites for shifting to their wartime principles.

        This reminds me of how impressively principled and prescient Noam Chomsky’s comments in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 were. Quite a contrast with e.g. the humiliating lunacy of the late Christopher Hitchens’ post-9/11 reinvention as a neoconservative.

        • albatross11 says:

          Fear and anger jam up your brain, and the way the media reported 9/11 massively amplified the fear and anger.

        • cassander says:

          You think that blaming 9/11 on Israeli is an impressive and principled stance?

          • Atlas says:

            Certainly the US’s relationship to Israel was one factor, considering e.g. the 1998 fatwa signed by bin Laden and Zawahiri and the post-9/11 statement bin Laden recorded.

            However, I would say that Chomsky’s central point wasn’t that the US role in the Israeli/Arab conflicts inspired the attacks, but rather that US foreign policy more broadly, including that role, did. If we wish to reduce terrorism, we must first understand it. (For that matter, if we wish to make progress on any problem, we must first understand it.)

            Chomsky wrote:

            As to how to react, we have a choice. We can express justified horror; we can seek to understand what may have led to the crimes, which means making an effort to enter the minds of the likely perpetrators. If we choose the latter course, we can do no better, I think, than to listen to the words of Robert Fisk, whose direct knowledge and insight into affairs of the region is unmatched after many years of distinguished reporting. Describing “The wickedness and awesome cruelty of a crushed and humiliated people,” he writes that “this is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia – paid and uniformed by America’s Israeli ally – hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps.” And much more [My emphasis].

            Again, we have a choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.

          • Enkidum says:

            You think Chomsky blamed 9-11 on Israel? Do you think a more steelmanned interpretation might be better?

          • cassander says:

            However, I would say that Chomsky’s central point wasn’t that the US role in the Israeli/Arab conflicts inspired the attacks, but rather that US foreign policy more broadly, including that role, did.

            this is called blowback theory. It’s basically nonsense except at the most superficial level. And it would be more convincing coming from Chomsky were he not obsessed with (A) proving that the US is responsible for everything bad in the world in general and (B) the israeli palestinian issue in particular.

            If we wish to reduce terrorism, we must first understand it. (For that matter, if we wish to make progress on any problem, we must first understand it.)

            I agree. I just wish Chomsky would contribute to that effort rather than apologizing for tyrants and blaming everything on the US, regardless of how much sense it makes. It makes very little sense for Bin Laden in particular, who first got upset with the US when it defended saudi arabia against Iraq and then liberating the Kuwaitis.

            @Enkidum says

            You think Chomsky blamed 9-11 on Israel? Do you think a more steelmanned interpretation might be better?

            I’m familiar enough with chomsky’s arguments to know there’s not much steel there. I suppose I could phrase it as “america’s relationship with Israel (which he constantly characterizes) and the policies the two countries pursue (which he cherry picks)” but that’s hardly any better for him.

          • Atlas says:

            this is called blowback theory. It’s basically nonsense except at the most superficial level.

            Why is it nonsensical to observe that terrorists are often motivated by opposition to state policies?

            And it would be more convincing coming from Chomsky were he not obsessed with (A) proving that the US is responsible for everything bad in the world in general

            Perhaps there are valid criticisms of Chomsky’s position, but that’s not a fair representation of it. This is his usual formulation of why he criticizes American foreign policy in particular:

            My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.

            (B) the israeli palestinian issue in particular.

            I don’t think that Chomsky is particularly obsessed with Israel/Palestine; he writes about a wide variety of other issues, and it’s a frequent topic of discussion in American news media.

            I agree. I just wish Chomsky would contribute to that effort rather than apologizing for tyrants and blaming everything on the US, regardless of how much sense it makes. It makes very little sense for Bin Laden in particular, who first got upset with the US when it defended saudi arabia against Iraq and then liberating the Kuwaitis.

            Chomsky, in an interview a couple days after 9/11, notes the role that US policies toward Iraq played in generating anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.

          • cassander says:

            @Atlas says:

            Why is it nonsensical to observe that terrorists are often motivated by opposition to state policies?

            Less of this, please.

            For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence.

            This is, to put it mildly, nonsense on stilts, and it’s particularly egregious coming from someone who openly celebrated Mao during the cultural revolution. What comes after is merely an excuse for this, which is his primary, and demonstrably false, claim.

            Chomsky, in an interview a couple days after 9/11, notes the role that US policies toward Iraq play

            ed in generating anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.

            I know he claimed this, him claiming it doesn’t mean he’s adding knowledge to the discussion. It’s the same answer he’s given to almost every foreign policy question he’s ever been asked going back decades.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            One thing that would really convince me of Chomsky’s deep principles would be if he’s also been using blowback theory to explain away US policy since 9/11. Has he been calling on people in the Islamic world, who might be sore about torture or drone assassinations, to understand how sore we in the US are about terrorism, and how they need to reconsider their support for it if they want to have peace? (I don’t pay the guy that much attention; for all I know, he might have been.)

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Less of this, please.

            Less of this, please. When the phrase comes out in response to a perfectly reasonable question, I start thinking it’s maybe overdue for retirement.

          • Atlas says:

            @Cassander

            Why is it nonsensical to observe that terrorists are often motivated by opposition to state policies?

            Less of this, please.

            I was genuinely asking what your reasoning for describing what you call blowback theory as nonsense is, because you didn’t expand on your claim that it was. I apologize if it came off as rude or untoward, because if so that wasn’t my intention.

            This is, to put it mildly, nonsense on stilts, and it’s particularly egregious coming from someone who openly celebrated Mao during the cultural revolution.

            Chomsky was talking about “international violence;” the violence of the Cultural Revolution was largely intranational. I’m not sure that it’s correct to describe the US as responsible for the plurality of international violence (say) post-WW2, but certainly it has been responsible for enough of it that it’s perfectly reasonable for an American to focus on analyzing and critiquing errors made/crimes committed by the US. (And for Soviet dissidents in the 1980s to focus on critiquing the invasion of Afghanistan and and suppression of Solidarity rather than US support for the Contras, etc.)

            What comes after is merely an excuse for this, which is his primary, and demonstrably false, claim.

            Chomsky claims that the second reason (which he discusses at greater length than the first reason in the quote) is the much more important reason. Perhaps you think that he’s flatly lying about his publicly-stated beliefs and is actually acting on the basis of secret, hidden beliefs; if so, you should carefully establish that before pronouncing his openly avowed positions to be insincerely held.

            I know he claimed this, him claiming it doesn’t mean he’s adding knowledge to the discussion. It’s the same answer he’s given to almost every foreign policy question he’s ever been asked going back decades.

            I think it added a lot of value to the discussion, considering e.g. President Bush’s speech in the aftermath of the attacks, which naturally and justly condemns the attacks, but fails to suggest that US foreign policy might play a role in motivating terrorist attacks against American targets, and thus deserves renewed scrutiny in their wake.

            @Paul Zrimsek

            One thing that would really convince me of Chomsky’s deep principles would be if he’s also been using blowback theory to explain away US policy since 9/11. Has he been calling on people in the Islamic world, who might be sore about torture or drone assassinations, to understand how sore we in the US are about terrorism, and how they need to reconsider their support for it if they want to have peace? (I don’t pay the guy that much attention; for all I know, he might have been.)

            The first part—that blowback theory explains at least part of post-9/11 US policy—is something that I think Chomsky would agree with, considering that he often referred to “cycles of escalating violence” in interviews discussing the attacks. The second part—that he should therefore attempt to persuade people in the Muslim world—I think he would disagree with, for reasons explicated above.

          • cassander says:

            I was genuinely asking what your reasoning for describing what you call blowback theory as nonsense is, because you didn’t expand on your claim that it was. I apologize if it came off as rude or untoward, because if so that wasn’t my intention.

            It came off to me as snark, but if that wasn’t the intent I withdraw the complaint.

            Blowback theory is superficially true in the sense that people respond to things that other people do. It’s nonsense in that beyond this axiom, it has no predictive power. Why do some people respond in certain ways and others respond in different ways? Why are so many middle eastern terrorists and so few latin american or asian? Blowback theory has no answers to these questions, and as Paul Zrimsek pointed out, it can equally used to defend american actions as condemn them, because ultimately it’s just an obvious truth taken past the point of sense.

            I’m not sure that it’s correct to describe the US as responsible for the plurality of international violence (say) post-WW2,

            It’s not even close to true.

            but certainly it has been responsible for enough of it that it’s perfectly reasonable for an American to focus on analyzing and critiquing errors made/crimes committed by the US.

            And if that’s what chomsky actually did, I wouldn’t have a problem with him. but he doesn’t do that. he runs around blaming every bad thing that happens on the US regardless of context, logic, or reason.

            Perhaps you think that he’s flatly lying about his publicly-stated beliefs and is actually acting on the basis of secret, hidden beliefs; if so, you should carefully establish that before pronouncing his openly avowed positions to be insincerely held.

            There’s a difference between lying and bullshit. I have no doubt that Chomsky is sincere. But his answer is also bullshit motivated reasoning.

            I think it added a lot of value to the discussion,

            Again, it’s how he explained vietnam, the cold war, various latin american issues (including blaming the current crisis in Venezuela on the US), every other question about foreign policy that he’s been asked for something like 50 years now. A monocausal explanation for the entire history of american foreign policy isn’t adding to the discussion, it’s squawking like a parrot.

          • albatross11 says:

            Cassander:

            What do you mean by “blowback theory” here. If it’s just some dumbass claim that Osama would have loved us but for our evil foreign policy, yes, that’s pretty silly. On the other hand, it’s clear to me that we can and often do carry out overt and covert operations (invasions, buying off friendly dictators, assassinations, bombings, funding insurgents, etc) that blow back on us.

            The whole premise of our foreign policy, the whole *point* of it, is that we think we can have an affect on the behavior of people like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, various Taliban leaders, etc., by our policies. We think we can convince countries not to sponsor terrorist attacks against us by blowing things up in their country till they knock it off, we think we can convince dictatorships to ease up on the torture chambers and death squads by threatening some kind of action or sanctions or cutoff of aid, we think we can convince Taliban leaders to negotiate with us and keep their promises by some mix of bribery and threats, etc.

            ISTM that the core idea of blowback is that we can also screw this up. (The definition I found for blowback was specific to covert operations, though I always think of it in terms of foreign policy in general.) We can choose foreign policies that thoroughly alienate some people we’d rather influence, or that provide the wrong incentives and get people to do what we don’t want done. Just as it’s possible for US policies to win some hearts and minds, it’s also possible for them to lose some hearts and minds. We can make enemies at least as easily as we can make friends. We can destabilize places we’d rather were stable, or trigger a civil war along ethnic lines we’d rather have forestalled.

            As an example, our bad relations with Iran are partly because of the needs of US domestic politics, and heavily because the Iranians do some bad things in the world, but you can’t really understand those relations without knowing about our support for the Shah, and then the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis. I think it’s plausible to argue that supporting the Shah set the stage for a huge anti-US backlash and lasting hostility toward us after the revolution.

            Similarly, a hell of a lot of what we’ve done in the War on Terror, particularly in Iraq and Libya, probably set the stage for more problems for us later. I don’t know whether we recruit more people for terrorists by drone assassinations than we kill off/deter, but it’s pretty clearly possible to do drone assassinations badly enough that we increase the forces arrayed against us. (I wouldn’t be surprised if we screwed this up, given the rest of our track record in the middle east.)

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11 says:

            What do you mean by “blowback theory” here. If it’s just some dumbass claim that Osama would have loved us but for our evil foreign policy, yes, that’s pretty silly. On the other hand, it’s clear to me that we can and often do carry out overt and covert operations (invasions, buying off friendly dictators, assassinations, bombings, funding insurgents, etc) that blow back on us.

            As commonly articulated, somewhere in between. I’d describe the theory, as usually presented, as something like “most bad foreign policy situations (particularly in the middle east) are the result of bad US actions taken there years ago and we have no one but ourselves to blame.” It’s the IR theory version of original sin, which is why it’s popular with the more extreme elements of blue tribe who never stopped being puritans.

            I think it’s plausible to argue that supporting the Shah set the stage for a huge anti-US backlash and lasting hostility toward us after the revolution.

            this argument gets made a lot. the trouble is that it’s overly simplistic and ignores context. First, it ignores the actual history of mossadegh and the shah’s rule. Second, it implies that the nature of the iranian regime is entirely the result of US action and not the natural consequence of revolutions everywhere. Third, it implies that really no decision the US has made since has had any real impact on the flow of events, and that once we decided to overthrow mossadegh we were doomed to wind up with ayatollahs. Fourth, it totally denies the agency of any actors in the system besides the US. Fifth, it implicitly assumes that not overthrowing mossadegh would have resulted in better circumstances (ignoring the benefits that were accrued) without even trying to do the work to establish that.

            Note, I’m not accusing you of making these arguments, just saying that they are what tends to get made, often explicitly, alongside the one you did make.

            Similarly, a hell of a lot of what we’ve done in the War on Terror, particularly in Iraq and Libya, probably set the stage for more problems for us later.

            I would not group those together. Libya and Iraq were very different projects launched with very different methods and level of commitment and reached very different goals. I won’t deny that libya was a particular disaster, but that blowback sometimes happens is not an endorsement of blowback theory as the ur-explanation of all foreign policy events.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I agree with cass here about Chomsky. Years ago I kept hearing all this great stuff about Chomsky. Even though I wasn’t impressed with him based on various essays of his I had read, I finally bought a book of his (Failed States), to find out what was so great about his writing.

            I didn’t find out. It was one of the worst books I ever read. I had the impression that he just cited everything he read over some period of time, spinning each one to indicate how it showed that the US was making evil foreign policy decisions in every possible instance. There was zero nuance; just Chomsky telling us every time how the US is the big bad player in the international field. As cass said, he advanced knowledge by zero with this book. And this matches whatever else I’ve read by him, although admittedly I now mostly avoid reading anything he has written.

          • Atlas says:

            @Cassander

            It came off to me as snark, but if that wasn’t the intent I withdraw the complaint.

            Understood, much appreciated.

            Blowback theory is superficially true in the sense that people respond to things that other people do. It’s nonsense in that beyond this axiom, it has no predictive power.

            Firstly, the observation that terrorists’ actions are partly responses to states’ actions is supposed to be a starting point for further analysis, not a complete guide to every relevant surrounding issue.

            Secondly, I’m not sure what theory of terrorism isn’t guided by this assumption. The theory that terrorists are motivated by hatred of democratic governance likewise posits that terrorists act in response to our actions, only it argues that the relevant actions are free elections, freedom of the press, etc. The Chomsky et al. version differs in arguing that it is actions that cause material harm like bombing campaigns, sanctions and occupations that inspire hatred of the perpetrators.

            Thirdly, it does in fact have predictive power, especially compared to competing theories of terrorism. It predicts, for instance, that countries who take actions that directly negatively affect Muslims are more likely to suffer Muslim terrorist attacks than countries who don’t. Matt Yglesias said it well in Heads in the Sand:

            The evidence for this proposition [that weakness invites terrorism] was remarkably flimsy. The two main Islamist terrorist organizations—Shiite Hezbollah and Sunni al-Qaeda—were both formed in direct response to foreign invasions of Muslim territory, Israel’s incursion into Lebanon in the first instance and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the latter. What’s more, Islamist terrorist attacks had overwhelmingly been concentrated against countries like Israel, the United States, Russia, and India that were unusually aggressive by world standards. Were the principle “Weakness invites aggression” genuinely the appropriate dictum for understanding international terrorism, one would expect countries like Iceland and Portugal to become the main targets of freedom-hating terror-mongers. In fact, something close to the reverse is true. As the Defense Science Board’s 1997 Summer Task Force study of responses to transnational threats concluded, “historical data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.”

            Why do some people respond in certain ways and others respond in different ways? Why are so many middle eastern terrorists and so few latin american or asian?

            Very interesting ancillary questions that don’t negate the simple, correct and valuable observation (which was nonetheless ignored by e.g. the powerful officials of the Bush administration) that much/most terrorism is motivated by opposition to state policies, particularly ones that cause material harm.

            Incidentally, on the subject of terrorism in Latin America consider these remarks from Thomas C. Wright:

            Urban guerrilla warfare, an adaptation of Che’s approach to the seizure of power, was in full swing in Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina by 1969 and was commencing in Chile. Even in Brazil, where the urban guerrillas achieved little success, they were more effective than most of the rural focos of the 1960s had been. Urban guerrilla warfare was far more threatening to the governments of Uruguay and Argentina than rural focos had been anywhere outside of Cuba. Thus the rise of urban guerrilla warfare and its early successes in some of Latin America’s largest and most developed countries breathed new life into the faltering Latin American revolution.

            Blowback theory has no answers to these questions, and as Paul Zrimsek pointed out, it can equally used to defend american actions as condemn them, because ultimately it’s just an obvious truth taken past the point of sense.

            It could be logically consistently used to defend both American crimes and terrorist attacks (an extremely rare but I suppose conceptually possible view). It could also be logically consistently used to condemn both American crimes and terrorist attacks, which is the view of Chomsky and many others.

            I do indeed think that it is an obvious truth, and I fail to see from your comments how it is generally or by Chomsky or myself specifically taken past the point of common sense. Especially, again, considering that many powerful public officials, academics and journalists ignored this simple observation and acted on the basis of far more obviously ludicrous theories.

            And if that’s what chomsky actually did, I wouldn’t have a problem with him. but he doesn’t do that. he runs around blaming every bad thing that happens on the US regardless of context, logic, or reason.

            I don’t think that this is true. For instance, I’ve never seen Chomsky blame the US for the Rwandan genocide, the Nigerian Civil War or Japanese war crimes in China. I’d also add that blaming every bad thing in the world that the US has some role in wholly on the US, while erroneous, is less consequentially and more justifiably erroneous that outright denying or ignoring the US’ role in atrocities that it enables or perpetrates, a much more common stance among American intellectuals and public officials.

            There’s a difference between lying and bullshit. I have no doubt that Chomsky is sincere. But his answer is also bullshit motivated reasoning.

            Fair enough; I’ll note that I personally find Chomsky’s stated views in the above quote to be an accurate description of the perspective he adopts in his writings, (and furthermore a correct position on its own merits), and readers can judge for themselves whose belief is more compelling.

            Again, it’s how he explained vietnam, the cold war, various latin american issues (including blaming the current crisis in Venezuela on the US), every other question about foreign policy that he’s been asked for something like 50 years now. A monocausal explanation for the entire history of american foreign policy isn’t adding to the discussion, it’s squawking like a parrot.

            I would say that, in most/all these cases, your description of Chomsky’s views as monocausal and solely blaming one party to a conflict would much better describe the views of such mainstream luminaries as Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Samuel Huntington, Elliot Abrams, Ronald Reagan, etc., who monocausally attribute responsibility for all conflicts the US enters to its enemies in the unified communist bloc. Consider e.g. this speech of Nixon’s on the situation in Southeast Asia, which constantly makes reference to the aggression, perfidy, intransigence, etc. of Indochinese communists, without ever suggesting that the United States might have itself displayed less than perfect wisdom or virtue in its actions. (Except, of course, for perhaps being too generous and trusting towards its enemies.)

            So, if your description of Chomsky’s views here is accurate, I would say that he is at worst the mirror of many influential mainstream American politicians and academics. I believe he would still have had a very salutary impact on American discourse in this case, because his erroneous alleged position would be less damaging for Americans to move to than the comparably erroneous positions of the powerful figures whom he criticizes.

            However, I don’t believe that this is the case; rather, I think that Chomsky has considerably more sophisticated and nuanced, if still imperfect, assessments of the responsibility of various parties for conflicts than e.g. most American presidents in their public speeches do. For instance, consider his comments on Khrushchev’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis in Hegemony or Survival:

            Whatever one’s judgment about the actions of Khrushchev and Kennedy, there should be universal
            agreement that Khrushchev’s decision to dispatch the missiles to Cuba was an act of criminal
            lunacy, in the light of the possible consequences. It would pass beyond lunacy to condemn those
            who warned of the dangers and criticized Khrushchev bitterly for proceeding despite the risks.

          • cassander says:

            @Atlas

            I do indeed think that it is an obvious truth, and I fail to see from your comments how it is generally or by Chomsky or myself specifically taken past the point of common sense. Especially, again, considering that many powerful public officials, academics and journalists ignored this simple observation and acted on the basis of far more obviously ludicrous theories.

            Chomsky elevates blowback to a monocausal explanation for virtually all of geopolitical history, which is far past the point of sense.

            I don’t think that this is true. For instance, I’ve never seen Chomsky blame the US for the Rwandan genocide, the Nigerian Civil War or Japanese war crimes in China.

            Chomsky wrote a forward to a book that substantially did that, arguing that it was a civil war egged on to support western interests with casualties far more evenly divided between hutus and tutsis than is usually claimed. And as far as I know he hasn’t commented on the Nigeria civil war one way or the other.

            as Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Samuel Huntington, Elliot Abrams, Ronald Reagan, etc., who monocausally attribute responsibility for all conflicts the US enters to its enemies in the unified communist bloc. Consider e.g. this speech of Nixon’s on the situation in Southeast Asia,

            Politician’s speeches, of course, will blame the other tribe and praise the home tribe, but they should not be taken as proof of simplistic views, especially when several of the people who mention wrote academic books on their views of international relations that are not so simplistic. Try reading Kissinger’s Diplomacy, then comparing it to Chomsky’s analysis and seeing which one is more nuanced.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The first part—that blowback theory explains at least part of post-9/11 US policy

            The verb I’d used was explain away, not just explain; the difference between the two is exactly what I’m complaining about.

            Chomsky’s proffered reason for focusing mainly on the misdeeds of his own country is well enough if used to justify a mere difference in emphasis and effort, but it won’t serve to justify a difference in standard of judgment; it’s not much use talking about a “cycle of violence” if you’re only going to hold one side responsible for stopping it, while granting the other side about as much moral agency as a falling rock.

          • Aapje says:

            @Atlas

            I don’t think that blowback theory necessarily requires the response to hit the countries that do something to others.

            Many terrorists seem to blame ‘the West’ or ‘Christians,’ so what is revenge in their eyes can then look like hitting an innocent bystander in ours. For example, attacking France for what America did.

            This is especially true if France is easier to hit than America, so there is a strong incentive to switch targets.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not interested in defending Chomsky’s view of foreign policy[1]. I am interested in thinking about US foreign policy successes and failures in terms, not only of what little the current reporters know or remember about the subject, but also in terms of stuff we’ve done in the past and how that has worked out for us.

            It seems to me that the common objection to the idea of the 9/11 attack as blowback is a moral one–how dare you justify the 9/11 terrorists’ actions in terms of our foreign policy! But just like everywhere else, you can’t use moral reasoning to decide whether a factual statement is right, and trying is a good way to sabotage your brain.

            [1] I find that when I read an essay or listen to an interview/talk from Chomsky, I usually learn something, despite the fact that I think he’s often wrong on both factual and moral grounds.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, once a terrorist organization exists, it has its own internal incentives, and so does each decisionmaker within it. If periodic attacks against Western countries are necessary to keep getting recruits, then the terrorist organizations that survive will find a way to do that from time to time. If the path to power within the terrorist movement is to be more extreme and violent than everyone else, then the most successful people in those organizations will be waaaay off to the right of the bell curve in terms of violence and extremism.

        • Evelyn Q. Greene says:

          For instance, I’ve never seen Chomsky blame the US for the Rwandan genocide, the Nigerian Civil War or Japanese war crimes in China.

          Well of course not, Chomsky only likes people who are either A) murderous communists or B) Killing Americans, in which case it’s our fault and we deserve it.
          (And in the case of the Rwandan genocide, it was used by hawks as an example of people dying due to a lack of U.S intervention, so Chomsky denied that it ever happened.)

          • brad says:

            @EchoChaos

            Where’s your concern for true, kind, and necessary here? Is it all about whose ox is being gored?

          • Enkidum says:

            Chomsky denied that the Rwandan genocide ever occurred?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @brad

            I agree, this comment is bad.

            Given that this is the first time I’ve seen it, your accusative tone towards me sounds like it’s ALSO not true, kind or necessary either.

            Edit:

            To expand on this, I think Scott’s excellent article about weakmen is the right way to look at this.

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/12/weak-men-are-superweapons/

            It can be tough to tell from the outside what is a weakman and what is a fair analysis of your opponents. When you make an obviously inflammatory statement, we can all pick up on it and should criticize it, but it can be tough to tell when it’s foreign to you. It’s easy to tell for me when someone is criticizing an adjacent group, so that is when you see it it jumps out.

            This is why I listen (and I feel other should), when someone says that you aren’t being kind towards your outgroup.

    • Atlas says:

      A very well-reasoned post that I largely strongly agree with.

      And then, I watched as a lot of people on the left, with whom I’d strongly agreed about the horrors of the Bush administration war on terror, suddenly found that the Obama administration doing the same stuff was not so bad, somehow. I had those conversations online and in person, and I watched people I’d considered principled lose interest when it was their own side doing it. And once again, there were also people who stuck to their principles even when their own side was guilty. Once again, I inferred from this that many people who’d opposed the Bush war on terror simply saw it as a useful club with which to bash the other side, but some actually disagreed on principle.

      One notable and honorable exception, though likely of a different left-wing tribe than the people you’re referring to, is Glenn Greenwald, who adamantly criticized both the Bush and Obama administrations’ abuses of civil liberties. If you haven’t already read it, you might be interested in his book With Liberty and Justice for Some, which persuasively savages the “looking forward, not backward” line of argument for exoneration of powerful criminals.

      • albatross11 says:

        Many principled people are out there, on both sides–please don’t take my post as “my outgroup isn’t really sincere in their beliefs and needs to fall in status relative to my ingroup.” I’m noting that there are a lot of people claiming to be upset about X at any given time who are only upset about it because it’s the other side doing it.

        • Atlas says:

          Yeah, I agree—I think we’re both mistake theorists, and my comment wasn’t meant to have any particular partisan valence. It’s just important to me to point out that it’s possible for people to have sincere, consistent positions, because I feel that conflict theory but-what-about-your-hypocrisy-on-issue-x-checkmateoutgroup-ism is frequently used not just to discredit individuals but also ideas that they espouse.

    • People do have principles, but only on a few issues and who cares about what varies. Some people are consistent Republicans because of abortion but they couldn’t care less about trade. And very few people care about “impeachable conduct” from their side. The trick is that you don’t really know what they care about based on their rhetoric.

    • Enkidum says:

      +1, with some caveats that are so minor I don’t care to bring them up.

      As you say in some replies, there were plenty of principled people on both sides. It’s probably useful to remember that the anti Iraq war protests were, I believe, the largest worldwide protests that had ever occurred.

      I do think as @Atlas says, Chomsky has been one of the most consistently principled critics out there, and Glenn Greenwald has been a consistent voice ever since Snowden (he is basically persona non grata with many of the Wikileaks crowd because he admitted that Assange is kind of a fuckhead, and definitely with the mainstream Democrat crowd because he was very explicit that the evidence for Russian collusion was extremely weak, and it was a serious mistake for Democrats to place their faith in former head of the secret police). I don’t know of any equivalent voices on the right, but that’s presumably because I don’t spend enough time reading them. George Will, maybe?

      EDIT: One thing I remember being particularly disappointed by was how radically people, especially New Yorkers, suddenly fell in love with Giuliani, who had been largely regarded by leftists as a vicious hack up until then (I think largely correctly, as recent years have borne out). George Carlin, of all people, devoted a good chunk of his special recorded shortly after 9-11 to what I considered a pretty disgusting display of fealty to the man who a month prior he would have been savaging. Not that I don’t think there’s anything admirable about what Giuliani did after 9-11.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I inferred from this that the folks who stayed opposed to unaccountable government power even when their side was grabbing it actually had some principles, whereas the others simply had a side.

      A harsh characterization. There’s nothing like the death of 3000 innocents to turn a sincere mistake theorist into a sincere conflict theorist. No hypocrisy is required.

      I was a long-standing libertarian whose response to 9/11 was, “Nail the bastards.” That phrase was in the letter I wrote to my senator; “my side” was the side of America, not the GOP. As 9/11 receded into the past, I became more jaundiced about whether the steps we were taking were an effective implementation of “Nail the bastards”. If you look at the timing you might attribute the change to the change in administrations, but that would be incorrect: for instance, I thought TSA was a terrible idea from its inception.

      • m.alex.matt says:

        A harsh characterization. There’s nothing like the death of 3000 innocents to turn a sincere mistake theorist into a sincere conflict theorist. No hypocrisy is required.

        It is perfectly possible to be a hypocrite and a decent person.

        9/11 was awful. Our reaction to it hasn’t exactly been covered in glory.

      • albatross11 says:

        In 2002, I can see this. (Though I note that many people didn’t go along–they just didn’t get much airtime.). In 2006, it’s quite a bit harder. By then the nature of the threat and our response were both pretty clear.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Agreed. I think. But of course the first attack on the WTC was eight years before the successful one, and in 2006 Bin Laden was still at large and we had had several more (mostly unsuccessful) Islamic terrorist attacks. The nature of our response was much clearer, but if you mean to say that by 2006 the threat had been shown to be much less important than we felt in the year after 9/11, I’m not sure I agree.

          But I will agree that 2006 or so was about the time frame I was talking about, and my point is that somebody not watching me carefully might well imagine that my mind changed in 2008.

    • Walter says:

      You are correct. The odds of us nominating only the worst possible people for the last 2 decades, and basically virtuous people before that, are insane.

      Rather, we are nominating essentially the same kind of people that we always have, but the news cycle/internet means that now a lot of people’s rent depends on their ability to get you to hate your leaders. They are good at that job, and so people duly throw principles over time and again.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Eh… There were some cultural changes that probably did considerably worsen the quality of leadership available to the USG. Specifically, the rise of “Government is the problem” rhetoric. Consider exactly who would seek office as a member of a party which has that as its unofficial motto.

    • tossrock says:

      Oh sweet, I provably have principles!

    • meh says:

      I feel this way whenever I hear ideological argument for/against our representative and electoral system. Somehow these ideological/principal based arguments always line up with giving the preferred side an advantage. There is somewhat less of this on SSC, where people will default to argue a contrarian position, regardless of sides.

    • BBA says:

      Liberty and democracy are incompatible, as a particularly amoral military contractor once observed.

      When Obama tried to close Gitmo, his own fellow Democrats in Congress voted to overrule him and keep it open. [Whether or not Obama’s intentions were sincere, or a ploy to keep us good progressives on his side by setting himself up to fail, is an open question, but irrelevant to what I’m talking about here.] That spelled the end of any hope for reforming the War on Terror, no progress has been made since – and the thing is, although I disagreed with Congress’s decision, the vast majority of the American people supported it. And the same with the ongoing, never-ending war in Afghanistan. It’s faded from the headlines but pulling out and letting the Taliban regain power would be a tremendously unpopular move and a sure election loser.

      If we’re to remain something resembling a democracy (we probably should) and the people are bloodthirsty psychos (unquestionably true, at least as far as how we treat Muslims in far-off countries is concerned), then what do we do? What can we do?

      • albatross11 says:

        BBA:

        [slightly off-topic pushback]

        I can’t know what was going on inside the Obama administration beyond what was reported in the news, but that administration took a lot of actions on its own to continue and expand the war on terror. The Obama administration’s policies toward leakers/whistleblowers, the expansion of drone assassinations, the “kinetic humanitarian intervention” in Libya, the program of assassinating US citizens with no review or oversight–those were all initiatives of the Obama administration, not something forced on them by Bush, and not obviously forced on them by congressional Democrats either.

        Mass surveillance programs were continued under Obama, and it seems to me that Obama had the authority to close them down or limit them substantially if he wanted to–the director of NSA is ultimately under the president’s orders, and while I hope he’d refuse an illegal order like “spy on my opponents and give me the data,” I don’t see how he’d refuse one like “shut down programs X, Y, and Z.” The decision to “look forward, not backward” and not to declassify the congressional report on the CIA torture program, that’s all on Obama.

        I think Obama carries the blame for his administration’s actions in much the same way that Trump carries the blame for *his* administration’s actions. I think it’s entirely too convenient to make excuses for Obama. And like you with the MIT/Minsky stuff, I feel like it’s extra important for me to not make excuses for Obama, because I actually want to–his image and style appealed to me in many of the same ways Trump’s repels me.

    • salvorhardin says:

      In my social circle there are a fair number of people who not only supported Obama but actually went to work for his campaign and/or his administration. In 2014-2015 I asked a couple of them

      (a) why they were comfortable working for an administration that assassinated American citizens without even a pretense of due process
      (b) why they supported executive orders that were plainly beyond the powers any reasonable executive should have because they agreed with the aims; didn’t they ever think about how some much worse future president could use that precedent for aims they hated?

      The response was basically “that ship has sailed,” i.e. any plausible alternative president would be at least as bad as Obama on those issues, and also worse on other issues that they cared about, so they might as well support him in order to get progress on the other issues. I didn’t (and don’t) agree, but I can see why decent, well-informed people might reason that way.

      • albatross11 says:

        I see their point, but it’s kind-of a universal answer. I mean, if I ask a Republican how he can continue to support Trump despite his awful behavior on Twitter and clusterf–k-laden management of his administration and mistreatment of immigrants’ kids, surely he will give me the same answer. “He may be a bastard, but at least he’s our bastard.”

        Obama had a chance to reverse this stuff. If he’d actually reversed a lot of Bush’s war on terror policies, then they’d either have gone away or become in-play political issues. (Think about “enhanced interrogation,” which Bush ended and Obama left dead.) As best I can tell, he had the authority and power to do that, but he chose not to. And by not reversing those policies, he’s established a precedent that now makes it likely they’ll stick around forever.

      • John Schilling says:

        The response was basically “that ship has sailed,”

        But that’s the best time to sink a ship, of either the literal or figurative variety. And for about the same reason in both cases – if you sink it “at sea”, it’s much more likely to stay sunk.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      In general I can agree that the last two Presidents abused their war powers.

      But the remedy is for Congress to take back its war power authority, not for the same Congress to cowardly impeach the President for using the tool they gave POTUS to use because they do not want to.

  9. Eigengrau says:

    For no reason in particular, the articles of impeachment against Nixon were

    1) Obstruction of Justice
    –He attempted, on numerous occasions, to cover up or impede the investigation surrounding Watergate.

    2) Abuse of Power
    –No underlying crime was committed here, but he used the power of his presidency to improperly attack his political enemies. He also failed to act on his knowledge of the illegal actions of his allies.

    3) Contempt of Congress
    –Nixon’s White House defied congressional subpoenas and otherwise stonewalled congressional oversight to a degree that was considered particularly egregious.

    Note that there was no article of impeachment for anything like “ordering the break in at the DNC”.

    • ECD says:

      I do wonder about the President’s treatment of the, still unknown whistleblower, thus far and once they’re revealed, as seems inevitable. The whole:

      “But basically that person never saw the report, never saw the call. Never saw the call. Heard something, and decided that he or she or whoever the hell it is – sort of like almost a spy. I want to know who’s the person that gave the whistle-blower, who’s the person that gave the whistleblower the information, because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right?”

      I have a hard time reading as anything but a ‘these people* should be executed’ statement.

      *It’s not entirely clear if he means the whistleblower, or the people who told the whistleblower, but since it’s my understanding the whistleblower was told because he needed the information for his official duties…the people who told him would simply have been doing their job.

      • albatross11 says:

        ECD:

        I agree Trump’s comments are nasty and irresponsible–nor is that new. But let’s not pretend that a desire to hammer whistleblowers into silence is some kind of unique Trumpian horror, or a policy only of evil Republican regimes. The Obama administration was *very* interested in hammering whistleblowers, as a matter of policy. So was the Bush administration.

        As usual, the shocking thing isn’t that Trump is trying to terrify potential whistleblowers into silence, it’s that he’s crude and classless and inelegant about it. Proper politicians just make sure the whistleblower gets a life-wrecking multi-year fucking over, or gets sent to prison and put on suicide watch and woken up every 15 minutes for a few months, while speaking in terms of the importance of proper procedures and national security.

        • ECD says:

          I think we need to distinguish whistleblower from leaker. These are two different things. A whistleblower uses the defined internal legal process to report suspected wrongdoing internally. A leaker goes to the press. Either of these may be moral/legal, depending on the situation. However, the party being reported on can legitimately draw a distinction between the two because of the existence of the whistleblower process (ie ‘you shouldn’t have gone to the press, you should have reported it to the IG,’).

          If you want to point me to the President Obama, or President Bush administrations coming down on whistleblowers, as opposed to leakers, I’d be interested. Note, their treatment of leakers may still be inappropriate/immoral/illegal, but that doesn’t address the question.

          • albatross11 says:

            EGD:

            I don’t agree with your definition. In common usage, “whistleblower” means someone who alerts either the authorities or the public to wrongdoing. Trying to restrict that definition down to only people who inform the IG or something is changing the definition in a way that favors hammering whistleblowers.

            Though if you think going through proper channels and being careful not to leak any classified information is protection against being hammered, you might want to ask Thomas Drake how that works out. For awhile, I think he was working at an Apple store, since he lost his life’s savings and his job and his retirement for doing exactly what you’d want such a person to do.

          • albatross11 says:

            ACLU article on whistleblower/leaker prosecutions under Obama

            CIA officer hammered for disclosing some of the torture program. Note he was charged and imprisoned only during the Obama administration, after the Justice dept had previously decided not to charge him.

            Guardian story on how some leakers got treated much more gently than others under Obama.

            Op ed in the NYT.

            And so on.

            Note that the people who ran illegal programs[1] basically never faced any legal consequences, but people who reported them often got hammered. This is intentional–it’s an effective way of getting future would-be whistleblowers to think “well, yes this program is illegal and immoral and violates the constitution and basic human decency, but on the other hand, I don’t actually want to find myself bankrupt with no pension working some shitty retail job after they finally let me out of prison. So I guess I’ll just stay quiet about it.”

            [1] Illegal only in the narrow technical sense of violating the written law, not in the broader and more important sense of pissing off the powerful.

          • ECD says:

            Yep, that’s a good set of examples of presidential administrations treating moral leakers like shit. Not relevant to my point, but okay.

            As for Thomas Drake, yeah that’s a fucked up story (though it’s hilarious to me that you begin with the 2010 charges, not anything before, say 2008), except, no, he was a main source for the IG complaint, which investigated, substantiated his concerns and produced negative reports, which hastened the program being shut down as a gigantic waste of money. While that last step was in process (allegedly, maybe this wouldn’t have happened without his subsequent action) he went to the press. None of that makes what subsequently happened to him okay.

            However, the whistleblower/leaker distinction is crucial because otherwise people on the inside of classified issues have no method of reporting malfeasance which does not lead to criminal charges. You may want leakers to be treated better. So do I. But treating whistleblowers the same as leakers will not accomplish that end.

            Also, it’s ECD, I honestly don’t know how you could have gotten EGD out of that…

          • Clutzy says:

            If we are talking about the current case, we absolutely should not. This is a whistle intended to be leaked from day 1. It was given to the newly appointed DNI within hours of his appointment. It was filed in a ridiculously legalistic fashion (despite the multiple actual factual inaccuracies). And the whistleblowing forms typically mandated first hand knowledge at all times up until around the time this one came into being. Plus, Shiff and other Democrats had spoken about the key claims (including false ones) of the complaint before the IG reported it to them.

            This document is a leak. It may be in the form of a whistleblowing form, but its purpose is to be leaked. Like when Comey briefed Trump on the Steele dossier. The whole point was the leak of the briefing.

          • albatross11 says:

            ECD (who doesn’t have a G in there anywhere):

            By your definition, you’re a whistleblower if you go through channels and then don’t leak outside those channels. I understand why the distinction is important, but it’s got an important nuance: a whistleblower (in your terminology–the big wide world uses the word more broadly) informs higher government authority about bad behavior. They mostly help the executive branch police its own operations–someone’s wasting money or sexually harassing interns, and a whistleblower informs higher management or the GAO or someone, and they can bring the hammer down.

            But this does no good at all with bad behavior that’s the top-down policy. Mass surveillance and torture were both policies supported from the top, so whistleblowing in that sense wasn’t going to help. I mean, the CIA hierarchy knew they were running a network of secret prisons and kidnapping and torturing people, so a CIA employee could report those things up the chain all year and not have any impact. The NSA hierarchy knew they were carrying out mass-surveillance on Americans, so reporting that up the chain wasn’t going to do any good. Getting the New York Times to run a story about it, on the other hand, actually brought the matter before the American people. (Often even that doesn’t matter–nobody you could elect for president was going to be eager to take on the intelligence agencies, because those guys make bad enemies. Even when you elect people who seem to want to roll back the WOT, it turns out they don’t ever quite get around to it.)

          • ECD says:

            @Clutzy

            If we are talking about the current case, we absolutely should not. This is a whistle intended to be leaked from day 1.

            Now, see, if I was a mind reader, I wouldn’t be spending my time online. That’s a good way to make yourself crazy.

            And the whistleblowing forms typically mandated first hand knowledge at all times up until around the time this one came into being.

            I’m going to ask for a citation for this. It seems extremely unlikely to be true. If I hear that a colleague is stealing money, I’m not required launch my own private investigation to determine if that’s true before reporting it. The IG is the relevant investigatory agency. Reporting hearsay is entirely within the bounds of every police/investigatory reporting system I’m aware of.

            Plus, Shiff and other Democrats had spoken about the key claims (including false ones) of the complaint before the IG reported it to them.

            I was going to ask for a source, but even if true, this is hardly relevant to the claim made. The whistleblower was gathering the information you believe to be false through official channels, their complaint was being discussed inside the DNI’s office, the IG’s office, the OLC and the Whitehouse itself. Any of those might have leaked, though, given the history, I’d be inclined to guess the Whitehouse also, a lot of this was happening out in the open.

            This document is a leak. It may be in the form of a whistleblowing form, but its purpose is to be leaked.

            I don’t actually care bout the intent that you have magicallly discerned in a person about whom we have no actual knowledge beyond what’s in the document (and that President Trump’s own appointees deemed it credible), I care that the whistleblower has, as far as anyone has any evidence, followed all the steps necessary to be protected by law and to suggest that he is a ‘spy’ and “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right?” seems an awful lot like illegal threats of retaliation to me.

            @albatross11

            By your definition, you’re a whistleblower if you go through channels and then don’t leak outside those channels. I understand why the distinction is important, but it’s got an important nuance: a whistleblower… informs higher government authority about bad behavior. They mostly help the executive branch police its own operations–someone’s wasting money or sexually harassing interns, and a whistleblower informs higher management or the GAO or someone, and they can bring the hammer down.

            But this does no good at all with bad behavior that’s the top-down policy.

            Very true. Which is why in some cases the whistleblower report is required to be forwarded to some external body (e.g. congressional committees). I’d be happier if that was more common and even more happy if the result of those reports could be investigated in a somewhat less partisan fashion, but cynicism isn’t always wrong and I can’t think of any legal and democratic way to cause that result. It’s pretty unconstitutional, but giving authority to charge ‘leakers’ to a prosecutor jointly appointed by the house and senate might be effective, or not…

            Another alternative might be to require release of IG reports with limited redactions, ala FOIA, and allow litigation over whether those redactions were appropriate. Now, this would be difficult as the government tends to win classification arguments, but I tend to think that more judges should be authorized to review classified information. Might simply result in their being coopted, but maybe not.

            ETA: Typo correction and removal of unwarranted statement.

          • ECD says:

            @Echochaos

            Interesting. Assuming the accuracy of those documents, I was wrong about how the IC IG reporting process worked. That’s a stupid way for it to have historically worked and I’m glad they made that change.

          • Clutzy says:

            The reason it was the way it was before is to stop stupid speculation and Steele dossier rumors from taking over the time of inspectors general. This is an intelligence community rule. This whistleblower does have first hand knowledge of bad acts: people illegally divulging classified information to him/her.

          • ECD says:

            Bit late on this, but on the question of the whistleblower reporting process, the IC IG has released a statement addressing this issue.

            If I’m understanding correctly, the issue is that the previous instructions were in error:

            In fact, by law the Complainant
            – or any individual in the Intelligence Community who wants to report information with respect
            to an urgent concern to the congressional intelligence committees – need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern.

            In summary, regarding the instant matter, the whistleblower submitted the appropriate Disclosure of Urgent Concern form that was in effect as of August 12, 2019, and had been used by the ICIG since May 24, 2018. The whistleblower stated on the form that he or she possessed both first-hand and other information. The ICIG reviewed the information provided as well as other information gathered and determined that the complaint was both urgent and that it appeared credible. From the moment the ICIG received the whistleblower’s filing, the ICIG has worked to effectuate Congress’s intent, and the whistleblower’s intent, within the rule of law. The ICIG will continue in those efforts on behalf of all whistleblowers in the Intelligence Community.

            This looks an awful lot like what happened was previous IC IG’s had taken the position that it would be hard to determine something was a credible urgent concern without first hand knowledge and that morphed into, you shouldn’t file if you don’t have first hand knowledge. Which, as I discussed earlier, is a stupid standard. This was realized in May of last year and the form was updated, with supporting documentation updated more slowly.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            No, you are not reporting this correctly.

            No, they do not claim that this is a coincidence. I wouldn’t believe them if they did. Why did you?

            No, they do not claim that this is a coincidence, that the change was made last May. They explicitly admit that the change was caused by the current whistleblower complaint.

            Was it realized that the previous standard was “stupid” or illegal? Sure, they say that, but why should I believe them? Why do you claim to believe them? The original standard was to discourage whistleblower complaints. When they finally got a complaint that they didn’t want to discourage, they changed the standard.

        • DocKaon says:

          So you don’t see any difference between legal process, however much you disagree with it, and the 21st century equivalent of “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”

      • Radu Floricica says:

        To be honest, that’s pretty much the first thing I thought of. How on earth are you supposed to do your job with this level of disloyalty in the white house staff?

        My understanding of the whole whistleblower concept is that it’s meant to reveal egregiously illegal behavior while protecting the identity of the source. In this case… hearsay, rumor, electoral material… that’s not whistleblowing, that’s pure old politics.

        • ECD says:

          Okay, I radically disagree with your description of the reported events, but, again, an IG report is meant to report apparent wrongdoing for investigation and action. To pretend the complaint ought to be essentially a motion for summary judgment for guilt is ridiculous.

          And given the response from the President of the United States, I can’t imagine why anonymity might be appropriate…

        • savebandit says:

          Part of every new CEO or world leader’s job is to inspire some loyalty. It’s not a given. If you stink at it, you might stink at your job, regardless of what other qualities you bring to the table

          • cassander says:

            Most CEOs don’t have an organization full of people who (A) hate his guts (B) voted and gave money to the other guy running for CEO, (C) who the CEO isn’t allowed to fire, promote, or demote, (D) who are theoretically sworn to not take out their hated on the new CEO in exchange for the right not to get fired, even if they hate his guts and voted for the other guy.

            Now, you can argue that’s just part and parcel of being a Republican president, but that doesn’t remove the inherent difficulty.

  10. How long should I continue ignoring the Trump Ukraine story while waiting for everyone to get their narratives straight?

    • blipnickels says:

      If I understand the process right, until the Judiciary Committee in the House submits formal articles of impeachment for a vote. You want to wait until someone has to spend an expensive signal of what exactly Trump will be impeached for and why; the Judiciary Committee report is my best bet and I’d be surprised at that point if there were still factual claims under major dispute. I mean, everybody will have their own spin on fact X but we should at least have some agreement that fact X occurred.

      I mean, I’m certainly incapable I’m following this advice but realistically this is all just cheap talk and propaganda until the paper starts getting pushed.

      • Oh, god. How long is that going to take?

        • Eigengrau says:

          It’s been reported that they want to wrap it up definitely before the end of the year, aiming specifically for around Thanksgiving.

          • blipnickels says:

            First, let me preregister my skepticism it will be finished that quickly.

            Second, seriously, they want the impeachment sent to the senate around Thanksgiving! I have to eat dinner with family on Thanksgiving, why would they do this to me!?

            I’d like to propose a weeklong national holiday to get everyone out of Washington the week before Thanksgiving so I can eat with my family in peace.

    • albatross11 says:

      I dunno. On one side, this all looks sketchy as hell and like yet another knocking down of Chesterton’s fence of the kind Trump’s famous for. On the other side, the opposition has been screaming about treason and fascism and such every day since Trump got elected, usually for stuff that’s maybe bad policy or bad management (and often is bog standard stuff every president or every Republican does), but nowhere near treason or fascism, so it’s hard to have any faith that this time it’s serious. And on the gripping hand, I thought Trump was a pretty terrible choice for president when he was running and when he got elected, and nothing that he’s done since has altered that belief, so it’s not like this latest scandal is going to change my vote or anything.

      • sharper13 says:

        The fascinating part for me is to wonder why the Democrats would choose this of all issues to go all in on again. Were they really just trying to sink Biden’s chance at the Dem nomination by turning this into a major on-going news story?

        Like with many things Trump does/says, I wonder if this is stupidity on their part or next-level political game to achieve their true objective (assuming that’s Warren vs. Biden).

        • Protagoras says:

          Biden’s campaign was already sinking. He keeps reminding people of how old he is, and while Warren isn’t much younger, she still seems sharp in comparison to Biden’s doddering. I think Biden would run poorly against Trump, and wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity even if there weren’t a confusing maybe scandal* attracting public attention.

          * Joe talking to the Ukraineans about their investigations while Hunter’s being investigated looks bad, but pro-Biden reports say Joe was pressuring for more investigations, not less, and in particular the investigation of Hunter’s company continued, and was focused on things Hunter’s company did before Hunter worked for them anyway. At least this is report from the pro-Biden side, but I haven’t heard anything detailed from the anti-Biden side refuting the pro-Biden account.

          • John Schilling says:

            but I haven’t heard anything detailed from the anti-Biden side refuting the pro-Biden account.

            What, you haven’t heard Donald Trump tweeting about how corrupt Joe Biden is?

            Yeah, OK, not “detailed”. And not anywhere you’re paying attention. Nor will you. To just about everyone other than Donald Trump and Fox News, the narrative is “Donald Trump is attacking Joe Biden’s son over old news nobody cares about, because that’s the only way he can get at Biden”. If there is any evidence of real corruption there, then it was ignored and/or buried in 2016 and Team Trump using it as a weapon against Joe Biden isn’t going to make anyone else say “Hey, let’s dig up that old un-newsworthy story and see if it can now help Donald Trump take down Joe Biden!”

            As you note, Biden has been having issues with his campaign, and there’s plenty of room for him to self-destruct or just plain lose ground to Warren. He can lose in spite of this new thing. But he won’t lose because of it; a narrative of “Donald Trump is attacking Joe Biden’s son over old news nobody cares about, because that’s the only way he can get at Biden”, isn’t going to hurt Joe Biden.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I assume Protagoras was talking about the Democratic anti-Biden side, i.e. the Warren and Sanders and Harris camps, which you might expect to be capitalizing on this. (But maybe not, if they can get Trump to do their dirty work. And maybe not, if it makes them seem to say something nice about Trump.)

          • Protagoras says:

            No, by the anti-Biden side I meant the Trump people, who have indeed loudly insisted that Biden is corrupt, but haven’t specifically addressed the pro-Biden side’s evidence regarding the particular situation.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Why would Trump address the evidence? Trump isn’t interested in building a case for either Biden being corrupt; he just wants the accusation out there for use in the campaign and to deflect accusations of misconduct on his part. Any effort spent building a real case is wasted effort that won’t garner any votes.

            (I’m pretty sure Hunter’s position IS corrupt. Sure, you could come up with a story justifying his position, but plausible deniability is not actual deniability. As for Joe, I don’t know; he’s a canny enough politician to let the Ukranians hire his son for a sinecure and then do whatever he was going to anyway.)

    • BBA says:

      Until January 21, 2025, at the very earliest. Only when the Orange Man is out of office will anyone be able to look at the present conflicts with any degree of rationality.

  11. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Related to another conversation:

    Has anyone tried to undelete the Nixon tapes using modern technology?

  12. blipnickels says:

    Does anybody have any information on any of the NeighborWorks LIFT programs?

    There doesn’t appear to be a national page but here’s one for Chicago.

    The basic info is:
    Take a $60 class,
    Meet relatively generous income limits
    Get $10,000-$20,000 in interest-free loans for a down-payment on a house, closing costs, etc
    20% of the loan is forgiven each year, presuming you’re still living in the house, ie if you got $15,000, then each year $3,000 of that loan is forgiven

    This is relevant to my interests. I’m concerned because this sounds a little too good to be true and because Wells Fargo is associated with it.

    So has anybody taken one of these loan/grants or known anyone who has and what was your/their experience?

    • zoozoc says:

      I haven’t done this particular program, but there was a local non-profit in my town that provided down-payment interest free loans for homebuyers who met the income limits. We were able to get it for our current house. There is no forgiveness (I wish), but I don’t have to pay off the loan until (a) sell the house or (b) mortgage is payed off. It shows up as an extra lien on the house.

      The only issue was that when we were closing, there was some issue with the documentation for our income limit that was causing the non-profit to say we didn’t qualify. Basically, it was including in my income the money I put into an HSA (when in person I confirmed that they wouldn’t count that money). The mortgage company did include that money for my income and so the official documentation had that too-high income. But I was able to get it figured with the non-profit with a phone call and closing went forward as expected.

      Only other thing that came up was I needed to updated the non-profit with my new mortgage company when the loan was sold to another company after about a year.

    • Erusian says:

      They’re legitimate but keep in mind ‘qualified properties’ are going to be ‘modest homes in not great areas’. I mean, they’re not necessarily going to be war zones but you’re talking about lower-middle-class neighborhoods.

      Basically, it’s a goverment funded non-profit that partners with banks to do what you describe. It’s meant to boost homeownership (from the government’s perspective) and to access neighborhoods/communities that generally are loan deserts (from the bank’s perspective). As with all home loans, make sure it’s fixed rate and is a mortgage and not something like a rent to own scheme where you have no claim on the long term equity.

  13. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve seen a common claim that capitalism is bad because it requires constant growth and this isn’t feasible on a finite planet.

    Does capitalism actually require constant growth? It seems to me that it could settle down to improving quality rather than using more matter and energy. And if it becomes clear that investment in growth doesn’t pay off, then people would seek to have a good steady state.

    The other piece to dispute would be “finite planet”, but it seems fair to say that there will (given current basic physics) some sort of resource limits.

    • LesHapablap says:

      The planet might be finite technically, but there is so much room for growth that it might as well be infinite. We have access to orders of magnitude more energy and space than we are using: we just don’t have the knowledge to access it (yet).

      • viVI_IViv says:

        We have access to orders of magnitude more energy and space than we are using: we just don’t have the knowledge to access it (yet).

        If we don’t know how to access it, how do you know that it’s actually accessible?

        • LesHapablap says:

          Because it isn’t against the laws of physics. I’m cribbing this point from David Deutch’s Beginning of Infinity. He takes the point much further by claiming that even in intergalactic space there is enough matter, energy and information to ‘flourish’ if you have the right knowledge of how to transform it all.

          He also makes the point that knowledge will keep increasing infinitely for the human race as long as certain conditions are met, which we are currently fulfilling. I’m not smart enough to argue or even paraphrase that though.

          • beleester says:

            If you have the right knowledge of how to transform it… and if transforming that matter and energy into useful forms doesn’t cost more than it gains, and if you start out with sufficient resources that you can build the infrastructure needed to tap that energy.

            Disassembling the Earth and turning it into solar panels would probably get you quite a lot of energy, but only if you already have the tools needed to disassemble a planet.

          • LesHapablap says:

            beleester,

            Growth can be thought of as our civilization building its resources, infrastructure and knowledge so that we can accomplish these things. Capitalism seems to do pretty well on the growth front, so if we stick with it, and keep the rent-seekers from skimming too much off the top, we just might get the fusion plants or whatever we have coming.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Because it isn’t against the laws of physics.

            The fact that there isn’t a proof that something is impossible doesn’t imply that it is possible, especially, because what matters here is not just physics (*) but also, biology, geology, economics, and so on.

            (* but muh everything is physics. No. Unless you can’t write the equation of a bacterium, much less a ecosystem, it’s not physics for all practical purposes.)

          • LesHapablap says:

            Deutch provides a proof that in his book on page 60, but I was not able to understand it.

            But if you mean that just because something is allowed by the laws of physics doesn’t mean that it is at all practical given our resources, then yes obviously. But the line of what is possible given our resources if we had perfect knowledge is way beyond our current state.

            There are people out there that would stop technological progress to impede growth, or impede growth and technological progress as a side effect of other goals like income equality. I’m sympathetic to the views of the former, particularly the way Plumber expresses it.

            But to me this time in history seems like a dangerous stopping point. Like crossing a highway and deciding to sit down half way across. There are levels of technology that we need to reach, like better nuclear, other energy sources, carbon-free aviation, geoengineering. There’s knowledge we need as well: how can we reverse the atomization of our society? How can we have constant technological change without causing widespread anxiety? How do we improve the function of our states and large organizations so they don’t become lumbering parasites on our economy? How to solve the endless variety of coordination problems? How do people’s brains malfunction? What’s the best way to manage housing infrastructure and land? Should we have a UBI?

            In 100 years we could all be living on self-sufficient luxury yachts or electric dirigibles. Or some could decide that village-style living, and use small, cheap, abundant power sources to develop rural areas (of which there are an incredibly vast amount untouched) into real communities.

            Or we could have frozen ourselves in the year of our lord 2019, still squabbling over slices of the pie while the climate heats up just enough for mass panic to turn to war and destroy the infrastructure and capital built up over the centuries.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Not sure what relevance this has to the next hundred years or so. We aren’t likely to stop growing any time soon, nor do we want to. And if somebody says we should… I’m going to send him to a hospital to see that people still get sick and die.

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      It’s possible to have growth without using more resources. People can only eat so much bread, but loaves could in principle get fancier and more expensive indefinitely.

      See also biological life on Earth – that has grown and grown without making the planet any smaller.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        People can only eat so much bread, but loaves could in principle get fancier and more expensive indefinitely.

        But won’t the fancier loaves require more resources to make?

        See also biological life on Earth – that has grown and grown without making the planet any smaller.

        Has total biomass and biomass primary production increased compared to, say, the end of the Cambrian explosion?

        • Matt says:

          But won’t the fancier loaves require more resources to make?

          Keep in mind that one of our resources is ingenuity, which may be for all intents and purposes, unlimited. Some systems encourage it, and some systems stifle it.

          Just look at the history of bread-making. If we still made bread like people from 1000 years ago, most of us would be eating porridge instead.

          Finally, it’s probably true that a basic loaf of bread at wal-mart is fancier and less expensive (but still more valuable!) than typical bread from any time in history.

          • noyann says:

            > Finally, it’s probably true that a basic loaf of bread at wal-mart is fancier and less expensive (but still more valuable!) than typical bread from any time in history.

            Let me cast a shadow of doubt on fanciness, and maybe value.

            “Describing the look and taste of it, Blackley noted that the crumb “is light and airy,” particularly for a 100 percent ancient grain loaf. “The aroma and flavor are incredible,” he added.”

          • acymetric says:

            I’ll second that objection. Cheaper, yes, but not of higher quality (more valuable). For “fancier” it probably depends on what you mean. More consistent (we can assume more appealing) shape, sure. Better flavor or texture? I’m skeptical. Heck, depending on which type of bread you get it might well be less nutritious as well.

          • noyann says:

            Another point: If ‘any time in history’ includes now, Wal-Mart is no match for German bread.

            “According to the bread register of the German Institute for Bread (of course there is such a thing), there are now more than 3,200 officially recognized types of bread in the country. And German bread culture was officially added by UNESCO to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2015.”

            (source)

          • Matt says:

            noyann: That guy’s definitely got no reason to exaggerate. No doubt he’ll begin marketing his ancient yeast and ancient grain bread and it’ll become very popular. Or perhaps not.

            I was (I think) obviously not including ‘now’ as a time in history. I apologize if I was not obvious enough – today’s bread (from wherever, but I intentionally chose what I thought we could agree to be generally not a high-quality supplier) vs the breads of the past, prior to various innovations.

            acymetric: Today’s cheap white bread is practically cake compared to the breads of yesteryear. It’s soft and light. Bread varieties come pre-sliced, or not, as one prefers. It stays fresh longer*, and MOST mass-produced bread is vitamin fortified, which is responsible for significant gains in health outcomes.

            In comes in various forms and is made with various grains – whatever you prefer.

            *some people prefer fewer or different preservatives, and options are available for that, too. But you know, even bread with no added preservatives is made more valuable by encasing it in a cheap plastic bag so you can finish it in a couple of days instead of today or tomorrow.

          • Matt says:

            Just to be clear – are you guys trying to dispute my point by nitpicking my example?

            Or do you agree with my primary point that ingenuity can increase wealth without a matching increase in resource usage?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Matt

            Getting lost in an irrelevant side discussion is basically our brand.

          • souleater says:

            As long as we’re derailing, can I just call attention to what a weird idea “amateur gastroegyptologist” is? I mean… gastro-egyptologist is a weird idea from the start, but they’re specifying amateur? as in there are professional gastro-egyptologists?

            Maybe this is just a weird way to refer to Goa’uld culinary experts.

          • Lambert says:

            Yeah, the anglophone world has nothing on Germany.
            But a modern Roggenmischbrot is still better and cheaper than most bread from history.

            Speaking of, does anybody know where to buy food-grade lye for prezels?

            Of course there are professional gastroegyptologists? Who else would research what the ancient Egyptians ate? It was the bread-basket of Rome. And most people were farmers. What people ate back then is incredibly relevant to history.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            Capitalism doesn’t always mean ever-increasing quality. Often it means a transition from “good but expensive” to “shitty but cheap”. Bread is a perfect example: the corn-syrup-flavored cotton fluff that passes for a “basic loaf of bread at Wal-Mart” is absolutely not fit for human consumption, no matter what bullshit it’s “””fortified””” with. The idea that it’s responsible for improved health outcomes is one of the more ludicrous claims I’ve seen on this site.

          • achenx says:

            Speaking of, does anybody know where to buy food-grade lye for prezels?

            I figured King Arthur Flour would have it, but while their site has a blog post and recipe for pretzels in a lye bath, the store doesn’t sell it.

            Looks like it’s on Amazon, if you want to go with that. Also apparently it’s used for cleaning home beer brewing equipment, so a store that sells brewing supplies may be a good source.

          • Aftagley says:

            Weird. Every homebrewer I know just uses StarSan. Lye seems like a lot of work for minimal benefit.

          • Matt says:

            Pachyderminator:

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK208880/

            As I said before, even if the specific supporting example is wrong, the core point is correct, but which two of the three pillars of discourse of this site do you think your post meets?

            Bread is a perfect example: the corn-syrup-flavored cotton fluff that passes for a “basic loaf of bread at Wal-Mart” is absolutely not fit for human consumption, no matter what bullshit it’s “””fortified””” with.

            I would argue this is neither necessary, true, nor kind.

            The idea that it’s responsible for improved health outcomes is one of the more ludicrous claims I’ve seen on this site.

            I look forward to your argument that fortified foods have not contributed to the amazing decrease in nutritional difficiency diseases in the world over the last 100 years or so.

          • Lambert says:

            ‘Good but expensive’ never went away.
            I can still buy wholemeal bread and heavy-duty tools and indestructible phones and 24oz tweed suits and veg-tanned leather boots and extra legroom on a plane.
            It’s just that a lot of people would prefer the ‘crap but cheap’ option, so the expensive ones don’t get as much airtime or ‘mindshare’.

            (tip: look for places that sell to both regular people and Trades.)

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            @Matt

            My comment was no more or less necessary than yours, which it responded to. As for “kind,” while my tone was a bit salty, it’s not clear to me who I was unkind to. Bread doesn’t have feelings.

            Back to the object level:

            I’m not denying that artificially adding vitamins to flour that has already had the most nutritious part of the grain removed, in order to repair some of the damage that’s already been done, might be better than not doing so, other things being equal. Nor would I claim that cheap bread is worse than starving to death.

            Nevertheless, you said it yourself: “Today’s cheap white bread is practically cake.” Good bread includes fiber and protein, not just sugar and starch. You shouldn’t expect frequent consumption of bread consisting mainly of the latter to improve people’s health, and indeed many studies have shown a link between white bread and obesity.

          • Aapje says:

            The main advances in bread seem to be:
            – preservatives (bread takes longer to age and get moldy)
            – better milling (teeth last longer due to a lack of sand & stones in the flour)
            – fewer fungi (fungi in grain was a serious risk)

            I’m not convinced that other changes to bread were an improvement.

            @Matt

            I agree with Pachyderminator that your statement seems to be an indictment of the most common American bread:

            Today’s cheap white bread is practically cake compared to the breads of yesteryear.

            Marie Antoinette was not a dietist 😛

          • Matt says:

            As for “kind,” while my tone was a bit salty, it’s not clear to me who I was unkind to. Bread doesn’t have feelings.

            Let me help you out:

            The idea that it’s responsible for improved health outcomes is one of the more ludicrous claims I’ve seen on this site.

            This is a comment about my claim. Perhaps you don’t consider it unkind, but it looks like a personal attack aimed at me. Whatever.

            Aapje:

            I’m not convinced that other changes to bread were an improvement.

            Ummm…. ok?

            Marie Antoinette was not a dietist

            She also almost certainly didn’t say what you think she said. Rousseau’s propaganda notwithstanding.

            On the gripping hand, your argument picks nits and misses the point. You agree with most of my argument, add additional support I had not mentioned, pick nits on one or two points, but even the nits you pick are weak. My point is the texture is like cake, not that it has the same nutritional value. Steam-baking bread makes it softer and more enjoyable to eat without appreciably changing the nutritional value. I wish I had the capability of doing that so effectively when I make my own bread. Another innovation that makes it more valuable, without making it appreciably more costly.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt

            She also almost certainly didn’t say what you think she said. Rousseau’s propaganda notwithstanding.

            I know, it was a joke. The untruth of the statement actually provides a deeper layer to the joke.

            Anyway, I don’t agree that softness is necessarily a good thing. I’m not a baby. I have teeth. So then at most, I think that your preference for softer bread is just that, personal preference.

            However, I think that soft bread may actually be less good, as fibers seem to be beneficial in various ways.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          Well, you all went off on a bit of a tangent here…

          What I was saying about bread was not really about bread details (there are decent breads to be bought at a reasonable price, or you can bake your own – I’ve done that a bit recently). Just that the economy grows by people doing things for each other, and they might do increasingly complicated things, not necessarily loaves of bread but anything basically.

          As for life on Earth, I think biomass probably has increased since the Cambrian Explosion, and certainly it increased before that. But even if it didn’t, I’ll bet its share price increased!

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            This is a little late, but I assume great bread doesn’t necessarily take a lot more resources in the short run to make than good bread, it needs a more skilled baker.

            This could be viewed as more resources– there’s a longer period of learning and possibly better tools.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Does capitalism actually require constant growth? It seems to me that it could settle down to improving quality rather than using more matter and energy. And if it becomes clear that investment in growth doesn’t pay off, then people would seek to have a good steady state.

      Capitalism in the strict sense of “private ownership of the means of production” doesn’t require constant growth, or at least it’s not part of its definition.

      Capitalism as currently practiced seems based on investment generating consistently positive returns, which requires constant growth. Whether capitalism in a steady-state economy is possible, or rather it would revert to some sort of manorialism, is unknown.

      • Eponymous says:

        Capitalism as currently practiced seems based on investment generating consistently positive returns, which requires constant growth.

        Not true. There’s no particular reason an economy with a zero growth rate would have zero return to investment, nor is a positive return necessary for capitalism.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Capitalism as currently practiced seems based on investment generating consistently positive returns, which requires constant growth.

        I’m not sure about the latter part of that. In medieval and renaissance Europe, economic growth was slow and inconsistent, but “investments” (mainly land) generally produced significant positive “returns” (land rents). source

        In a steady-state capitalist society, the overall capital stock would remain constant, but there would still be a significant stock of capital, and more capital would be regularly being produced, but it would be replacing old capital wearing out or otherwise leaving service. And the capital would still be producing a positive return, so long as it’s being put to productive use. There’d be some resemblance to manorialism, in the sense that returns on capital would resemble land rents in many respects, but I don’t think it would need to be a complete return to manorialism.

        I would expect returns on investment to be lower than today. The higher return rates in medieval times were the product of a bunch of other factors (insecure property rights, undeveloped financial institutions, high time preferences, etc) that probably won’t be repeated in a future steady-state capitalist society. Today, returns on capital represent both opportunity cost (investing in a steady-state investment is discounted because it means passing up an opportunity to buy a growing investment) and time preference (the more you prefer present consumption over future consumption, the higher a return on investment is needed to induce you to invest), while in this steady-state society there wouldn’t be the same opportunity cost driving up investment returns.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          If total wealth doesn’t grow, then where do the positive returns of investment come from? They can come only from wealth concentration: my gain is your loss, but you can’t concentrate wealth past a certain point.

          • Aapje says:

            @viVI_IViv

            Only in a static system, but we live in a dynamic system due to mortality.

            It is typical for people to accumulate wealth during their working years and then lose it again during their pensioner years.

            The crucial bit is that the return on labor* has to be (substantially) higher than return on investment*, to prevent wealth concentration lasting generations. Piketty tried to show that this is false, but IMO he failed to do so, thereby ironically making the case that we currently have the opposite**.

            * Note that taxation impacts those returns

            ** With the observed correlation between parental and children’s wealth/incomes being primarily due to a combination of rich people have better genes and them investing more in their children, so the children of rich people get more of a return on their labor.

          • If total wealth doesn’t grow, then where do the positive returns of investment come from?

            Some people invest, some disinvest. I build a factory, my son lets it wear out. Investment yields a positive return, but total capital stock remains constant.

    • Jaskologist says:

      It doesn’t require growth, it just has such a strong tendency to create growth that we associate the two in our minds.

      It is certainly possible to improve things without growth. For example, better crop techniques in the middle ages enabled Europeans to grow more food for less work on the same amount of land. This was a growth in production, but a reduction in resources used. Of course, that led to a growth in the population which was dependent on the new farming techniques, but I think it’s getting things backwards to say three-field crop rotation required growth. It just enabled it.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      How are we defining “Capitalism” and “Require” <- I know this seems petty but depending on what definitions you insert, this statement could be 1. true 2. trivially true 3. false 4. not even wrong

      I'll try and steelman this: The modern economy to assume some rate of growth and arranges itself accordingly. A failure to meet that assumption would be highly disruptive.

      I'm not convinced you can't have an economy that strictly assumes either per capita growth or no growth at all that also involves people other than the state owning property and making decisions with said property, but that's a trivial [hence useless] definition of capitalism anyway.

      • Viliam says:

        I wanted to write the same thing as your first paragraph. If we can’t agree what are we talking about, at least approximately, we can hardly agree on whether it “requires” something or not.

        A narrow definition could be something like: economical system as currently practiced by most of the developed countries. Of course, if the growth stops, it won’t be the same anymore. Many things will change, not just for entrepreneurs per, but also e.g. pension funds. (On the other hand, even if the growth won’t stop, the system might gradually evolve into something else.)

        A wide definition could be: a system where people can own and trade things, including entire factories. (In other words, not a system where you only own what you can strongly hold in your hand; and where not only nobles — or Party politicians — but also commoners are allowed to own stuff.) That doesn’t seem to require growth, at least not obviously.

        However, there is the Marxist argument (yes I know I am simplifying stuff) that even in capitalism in the wider sense, rich will get richer and poor will get poorer… so if the entire cake is growing, the poor may still survive, but without growth they are doomed to starve… at which point they will revolt because they have nothing to lose, and the system will collapse. So to argue that capitalism (in the wider sense) is sustainable in long term without growth, you need to address this.

        From my perspective, in countries without social safety net, the effect will be countered by rich people having many kids (thus diluting their money, if the interest rate is smaller than their reproductive rate) and the poorest people will literally starve to death (because people usually have kids even if they are unable to feed them). With safety net, there will be mixed economy, so without growth the taxes may be so high that most entrepreneurs may be unable to generate profit, i.e. the rich won’t get predictably richer anymore. (Though, without growth, even the most egalitarian country would ultimately starve if the population keeps growing.)

        Either way, without growth, the population has to stabilize, regardless of the system. But how? You will always have someone who is too stupid to get a job, and also too stupid to use contraception properly. Do you want a dystopia where people starve to death, or a dystopia where the government dictates how many kids you can have? But now we are no longer debating capitalism per se — you could also have a system where kids are regulated but business is not. (Idea for sci-fi: population is kept constant, people have to buy kid permits in auction, otherwise pregnancy is either made physically impossible by technology, or aborted China-style.)

    • John Schilling says:

      Capitalism at least weakly assumes that all active capitalists will be trying to grow, so a steady-state capitalist society would have to have at least as many losers as winners. Egalitarian capitalism at least weakly assumes that middle-class actors will be joining the ranks of active capitalists in the hope of winning big, which means that there will have to be far more losers than winners. That’s not what the present mythology of capitalism promises.

      The existence and profitability of lotteries and casinos is an existence proof that lots of people are willing to join the game even if the most likely outcome is having some fun and losing, so long as there is a chance of winning big. So capitalism need not die out from a lack of willing capitalists in a zero-growth society, and so long as motivated capitalists are the best managers of discrete subunits of the economy, let’s keep doing that. But it’s going to be a capitalism that looks rather different than our own. Maybe someone should write an SF story about that.

      Crony capitalism, where all the players are trying to grow but insisting that the state backstop them against any loss, isn’t going to work in a zero-growth society.

      Also, it isn’t required that the winners and losers be uniformly distributed in time. Cyclic theories of history can allow for net zero growth over the long term while allowing for e.g. six generations of capitalists at a time trying to build a better world while the seventh tries to preserve their team’s wealth through the collapse, lather rinse repeat.

      • Watchman says:

        Capitalism at least weakly assumes that all active capitalists will be trying to grow, so a steady-state capitalist society would have to have at least as many losers as winners.

        Capitalism does not particullarly require growth in any sort of significant fashion. The observation that it does seems to be a very partial observation that manages to miss the fact that every other economic system seems to require growth as well, when not failing, and that therefore the basic idea that growth is required is a universal of human economic systems.

        A basic expectation of growth is contained within socialism for example, or even in primitive hunter-gatherer economies. That capitalism is unusually good at providing growth is a feature; it is not an unusual requirement though.

        • acymetric says:

          Are we talking about absolute growth or per-capita growth? I think I would agree that any system is going to require absolute growth unless (as @Viliam notes slightly further up) you stop population growth. I think per-capita growth is probably more important in a capitalist economic system than in other systems (I suspect any system is going to suffer without per-capita growth but I think capitalism is especially susceptible to catastrophic failure without it).

          • Watchman says:

            Good question. Probably both.

            Note though that we have evidence that capitalism survives negative per capita growth far better than its major recent competitor, socialism.

      • Anthony says:

        The drive for growth is biological, not economic. Human beings want more, regardless of economic system. Capitalism has been more successful at allowing growth in material production to outpace population growth over the long term than any other system, but even highly ideological communists want there to be more, they’re just less successful at it.

      • “steady-state capitalist society would have to have at least as many losers as winners”

        Only in the sense that the pile of capital doesn’t grow, but this doesn’t necessitate as many capitalists earning negative returns as earn positive returns. That would only be the case if all only ever held onto capital and none ever cashed it out. But of course many do cash it out. This is why the rate or return was significantly north of 0 during the middle ages, when growth rates were ~0.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        R.A.Lafferty: “Slow Tuesday Night”

        Forget the brain-block part. Look at the macro-concept.

    • DinoNerd says:

      What I notice is that in practice, a lack of growth is treated as a bad thing. In particular, the economy is regarded as being in trouble if it isn’t growing. Part of the reason for that seems to be to preserve employment rates – in a presumed atmosphere of ever-increasing working age population. (I’m unclear how that works out in a context where people are also freaking out about negative population growth, but truisms don’t have to be consistent.)

      OTOH, growth is a strange thing. It’s generally measured by GDP – and GDP simply measures the formal economy. (If I pay my teenager to do chores, and charge her an exactly equal amount of rent, GDP goes up… If I grow food in my garden and eat it, instead of buying equivalent produce, GDP goes down.)

    • broblawsky says:

      The primary contributors to growth, in terms of GDP, are:
      1) Personal consumption,
      2) Business investment,
      3) Government spending,
      4) Net exports.

      Let’s ignore government spending, for now, so we don’t get into a monetary theory argument. From this perspective, the “finite resources” concept sort-of limits net exports (because there are only so many resources that can be dug out of the ground, improved via labor, and exported) and personal consumption (because there are only so many resources that can be consumed instead of being exported). It doesn’t limit business investment, as long as there are things that businesses can usefully invest in – the obvious candidate being new technologies, which do not require the exploitation of new resources to promote growth, and can in fact make the exploitation of new resources possible.

    • onyomi says:

      It seems like there wouldn’t be much overlap between the sort of person who complains about “fairy tales of eternal economic growth” and the sort of person who’d be okay with accepting the idea that the third world either needs to drastically reduce its population or else be poor forever (or at least never enjoy anything like what we now consider first-world standards of living), yet it seems like the one follows from the other?

    • mendax says:

      I thought this was a good argument for limits of economic growth, required or not.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz >

      “…Does capitalism actually require constant growth?…”

      My view (based mostly on projection and a couple of wild guesses) is that capitalism doesn’t require growth to continue, but broad-based public support for capitalism does.

      Relative placement on an economic ladder is important to folks, but how likely one perceives that their children will do better in a system is more important in folks support of a system.

      If you think it likely that your kids will always get a smaller than median share of wealth but you perceive that total wealth will increase and your kids will have more even if their portion is still smaller than the median, you may go with the system that you perceive will deliver the most growth, but with no growth fighting over the pie share becomes more likely.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Relative placement on an economic ladder is important to folks, but how likely one perceives that their children will do better in a system is more important in folks support of a system.

        Thanks. This is a good insight and explains support for economic politics pretty well.

      • brad says:

        That requires growth per capita not absolute growth. Maybe the same thing over a long enough time frame, but not in the short run.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think I agree with Plumber’s conclusion, but not his reasoning. I’d say:

        a. Capitalism doesn’t require continuous growth, but we’ve experienced continuous economic growth and technological improvement with capitalism for a couple centuries now.

        b. This means that political structures, the way we structure and manage companies, etc., are all built around that assumption of growth–they’ve evolved in a world where the pie keeps getting bigger and it seems almost certain that they rely on it.

        c. Capitalism as we know it involves onging “creative destruction”–most ofthe dominant companies and industries of 50-100 years ago are no longer dominant, and many have ceased to exist. I suspect that this is a major force in our society against permanent concentration of power–the most powerful companies and industries get very powerful, but then eventually they lose power, and so they can’t lock down the rules in their favor forever.

        d. An ever-growing pie means it’s possible to let the current winners of the rent-seeking sweepstakes keep their gains, but those gains become increasingly small as a fraction of the total pie. We can keep buying off the currently-powerful or the currently-disadvantaged, without ending up with no pie left over for the people doing the work.

        e. An ever growing pie means that we can afford a lot of terrible ineffiiciencies in our society (politics, corporate governance, laws, customs, etc.) without wrecking things. I think you could make a good argument that the places that work worse in US society are the ones where it’s harder to grow the pie, perhaps because the rent-seeking and featherbedding and ever-growing inefficiencies remain a smallish part of the total pie.

      • salvorhardin says:

        This is part of the thesis of Benjamin Friedman’s _The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth_ which is very worthwhile reading.

    • Urstoff says:

      I’m not sure I can even parse the statement “capitalism requires constant growth”, because pretty much all of those terms need much more explicit definitions (particularly “requires” and “growth”).

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      My uneducated understanding is that capitalism requires growth because any venture under capitalism is risky, and without growth the best outcome would be breaking even, any other would be loss. Which means the best strategy would be no playing, and thus nothing would be done.

      My understanding is also that elimination of poor managers and investors is what makes capitalism great. State-controlled economy would not have such problems, but there will be nowhere to escape from accumulation of errors.

      • cassander says:

        under circumstances of 0 overall no economic growth, you can still have some areas that are thriving and some that are are failing. Such circumstances would almost certainly result in a higher level of consumption vs. investment, but you can still get returns.

        • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

          How exactly does “One area thriving and another failing” works? Is it like having 3 cars and no food or something to this effect? Different areas do not substitute one another, do they?

          • cassander says:

            GM is losing money and market share hand over fist, but BMW is doing gangbusters.

          • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

            This makes sense, although it doesn’t seem quite desirable since people’s employment would become much more precarious. Not all jobs would be transferred. Car manufacturer probably won’t need twice as much engineers after destroying one competitor for example.

    • Capitalism does not require constant growth. There is nothing in the underlying logic of the system that is inconsistent with a steady state solution.

    • abystander says:

      There is the example of a world war 2 prison camp in essentially steady state economy which had state owned store and a private coffee shop which required an accumulation of capital to start so capitalism can exist.
      http://icm.clsbe.lisboa.ucp.pt/docentes/url/jcn/ie2/0POWCamp.pdf

    • LadyJane says:

      Quite frankly, it’s just a bad argument, to the point where it basically just falls apart on its face. It’s also a hypocritical argument when used by anyone who isn’t a primitivist or Luddite of some sort; socialists and communists believe in “endless growth” too, just not directed in the same way or toward the same ends as capitalism, so it’s downright bizarre when I hear Marxists making that claim. I suppose it’s a result of the uneasy synthesis between traditional leftism and the environmental movement, along with the fact that anti-capitalists just like using it as a cudgel against capitalism.

      The claim that we live on a finite planet is technically true, but for practical human purposes, it’s false in every way that matters. As LesHapablap says, the planet is large enough and bountiful enough to allow for effectively unlimited growth and prosperity from the perspective of tiny creatures like us.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Thanks, everyone. It’s surprising, though, that there’s no one supporting what seems to be a fairly common belief– probably believed by many more than young earth creationism, which was Scott’s example of a common belief which doesn’t seem to be represented in his social circle.

      My tentative explanation for why people believe capitalism requires growth is depressions– the economy stops growing– in fact, it shrinks– and it’s a disaster for a lot of people.

      It’s possible that getting to an economy that doesn’t grow (if this is people) needs to be done gradually. A sudden stop would be ruinous. Or would it?

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I agree that people are making the old Malthusian argument “finite planet, ergo capitalism must end”. And then they explain backwards from depressions and recessions when they happen.

        But I think depressions don’t happen simply because resources ran out; they seem to happen because people change their minds about how valuable something will be in the future, possibly because the herd mentality is strong in people. Wells and mines and farms don’t just run out overnight; they get gradually more expensive to run instead. But people speculate out too far, and that end prediction tail sweeps a very large area.

        The disaster is typically spread among millions of people, mostly among hedge managers that no one cares about, elderly pensioners who were expected not to last much longer, and lone investors who quietly tighten their belts and resume saving until they can afford previous consumption.

        Also, as you imply, a great deal of wealth is grown in quality, not quantity. It is not the case that the population simply grows exponentially, requiring exponentially greater tonnage of foodstuffs, until one day we strip the last layer of the earth’s crust off and fall into the mantle. Rather, the atoms of food grow more valuable by being rearranged into free-trade tilapia grilled in extra virgin olive oil with fresh capers, instead of canned tuna, butter, and green beans. Or by having a greater number of atoms rearranged into machines to convert stored solar energy into just enough additional tuna to feed pop growth at a slowing rate. And in the end, we get all that matter back; it’s just returned to the chaotic nature of the crust from which it came. We then dig it back up and repeat the process. The catch there is that this demands higher energy consumption, but most of that energy was already hitting the earth anyway, and at the rate we’re going, we’ll figure out new sources billions of years before the current one runs out.

        In short, I think capitalism as we’re used to does require exponentially more resources, but the exponent is very, very close to one, and the resource supply is astronomical by comparison.

  14. Chalid says:

    From Scott’s melatonin article:

    What if you want to go to sleep (and wake up) later? Our understanding of the melatonin cycle strongly suggests melatonin taken first thing upon waking up would work for this, but as far as I know this has never been formally investigated. The best I can find is researchers saying that they think it would happen and being confused why no other researcher has investigated this.

    That was over a year ago. Anyone aware of anyone who’s tried this, even if it’s just an N=1 self-study?

  15. BBA says:

    Noted anti-racism activist Ibram X. Kendi has proposed a constitutional amendment to create a Department of Antiracism, staffed by like-minded scholars and fully independent of the elected branches of the government, with the power to veto any governmental policy or censure any public official they find to be racist.

    The abbreviation is appropriate – this “DOA” is DOA. But it is telling that the ultimate vision of how today’s activists expect to achieve victory isn’t through direct action, democracy, or the courts, but through bureaucracy. Imagine being reported to HR for not paying enough attention to your mandatory daily diversity-and-inclusion seminar, forever. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Iranian religious authorities and their powers over the country’s “elected” government. Or, more benignly (?), the EU.

    Lest you think I’ve gone soft on being the token leftie around here, I assure you: I do agree with Kendi’s assessment of America as fundamentally racist and with his consequentialist views of what constitutes racism. I just don’t know if there’s anything that can actually accomplish an end to racism, and this DOA proposal certainly isn’t it.

    This is a pattern I find myself facing on a lot of issues: there’s a plan that will cause a lot of discomfort and probably won’t work, but every other option certainly won’t work, so might as well go with the plan, right? I guess there are other possibilities – maybe the status quo isn’t so bad or maybe I should change my goal to something achievable. But isn’t this just being greedy, trying to spare myself the discomfort?

    Anyway, it’s not every day that you see an activist perform a reductio ad absurdum of their own position.

    • Aapje says:

      This is a pattern I find myself facing on a lot of issues: there’s a plan that will cause a lot of discomfort and probably won’t work, but every other option certainly won’t work, so might as well go with the plan, right?

      This suggests that you/they operate with a model where things can’t get any worse, but either stay just as bad or get better. IMO, this shows an immense lack of historic knowledge and/or appreciation of how much worse things can truly get; as well as a lack of respect for how privileged modern people are (including modern black Americans, who from a historic perspective, are only a tiny bit less privileged than modern white Americans)

      The suggestion means sacrificing democracy and checks & balances, which is more than a little risky, when it comes to having wars, very bad policy or general mayhem.

      But isn’t this just being greedy, trying to spare myself the discomfort?

      Instead of activism, why don’t you try studying history a bit and really imagine going back to those times. I’m not even talking about actual war, but growing your own food, preserving it for winter, making your own clothes, etc. The stuff my grandparents did, because they had to.

      To get a sniff, turn the heating very low during the upcoming winter and warm yourself with lots of (wool) clothes, a warm water bottle in your bed, etc. Simulate the outhouse experience by walking outside in the cold for a minute or two before every pee and shit you take.

      As a bonus, you will reduce your CO2 footprint, so you’ll be making a small difference.

      PS. You can’t end racism with a consequentialist view on racism, unless you completely eradicate racial cultural differences, which pretty much all lefties seem to not want to do.

      • DeWitt says:

        Instead of activism, why don’t you try studying history a bit and really imagine going back to those times. I’m not even talking about actual war, but growing your own food, preserving it for winter, making your own clothes, etc. The stuff my grandparents did, because they had to.

        To get a sniff, turn the heating very low during the upcoming winter and warm yourself with lots of (wool) clothes, a warm water bottle in your bed, etc. Simulate the outhouse experience by walking outside in the cold for a minute or two before every pee and shit you take.

        As a bonus, you will reduce your CO2 footprint, so you’ll be making a small difference.

        This bit, however pithy, can be said to anyone who’s upset with the current state of affairs.

        Why do anything? Why change anything? Things are much better than a century or two ago so you have no right to complain.

        There’s arguments to be made against BBA’s position, but this isn’t a very good one.

        • Aapje says:

          My argument isn’t that the current state has to be considered acceptable, but that as things can get so much worse, it is irresponsible to not consider the risks of things getting worse.

          This is not an argument against change, but against ignoring risk.

          Things are much better than a century or two ago so you have no right to complain.

          No, my argument is that it is important to recognize that an intended fix for
          a slightly higher than average risk of death and/or slightly lower quality of life than average can actually result in a much higher risk of death and much lower quality of life.

          Now, it is true that this means that people who are incompetent at making change responsibly should not get their way. They can still complain, but they should be kept out of power.

        • cassander says:

          >This bit, however pithy, can be said to anyone who’s upset with the current state of affairs.

          No, only to people who say “things can’t get worse”, or “we have to do something, this is something, so we must do this”, which implicitly claims the same thing.

      • broblawsky says:

        Instead of activism, why don’t you try studying history a bit and really imagine going back to those times. I’m not even talking about actual war, but growing your own food, preserving it for winter, making your own clothes, etc. The stuff my grandparents did, because they had to.

        This is an insulting and deeply unkind characterization of BBA’s position, from my point of view. Do you apply it to your own political positions?

        • Clutzy says:

          I would like a further characterization in this light, because to me it seemed like a poorly fleshed out position from the start, to which the historical critique was very apt. He basically said he just feels like throwing his hands up and going for something.

          First, that is a bias towards action, which is silly. You go along with all sorts of insane plans with this bias. Like the Iraq war, or nuking North Korea tomorrow.

          Second, sometimes institutions exist for a reason. Spelling tests have biased outcomes. They favor better spellers, but this is necessary otherwise kids won’t ever have a reason to learn how to spell early on, then they get hit with a harder reality later on when they can’t fill out a job application. This applies just as strongly on the national stage. That’s why Grant tried so hard to implement Reconstruction (he failed, but more importantly those who followed didn’t even try), and we implemented the Marshall plan. Its also why certain people insisted on the Bill of Rights, and they seem pretty well vindicated at this point. Without the 4-6 & 8 I think we would already live in a police state, and without 1 & 2 I think our courts on those two ideas would look like England, but even more prudish, and that is exactly what the Founders would not have wanted.

      • onyomi says:

        To be fair, I think BBA’s post reflects an awareness of the possibility that the impulse that says “doing something,” even if it may be a bad idea, is better than doing nothing at all may be a mistaken impulse.

        Somewhat related, I notice a bipartisan trend, in myself and others, to become conflict theorists more as they get older/spend more time paying attention to politics. I attribute this to getting frustrated at how impossible it is to convince anyone of anything and at seeing all the dirty lowdown tricks the other side is willing to play to get their way and how their base will always turn a blind eye if they think it advances their interests. I saw Jon Stewart go through this during his tenure at the Daily Show, as just one example.

        This is related to BBA’s post in the sense that I think that anyone who watches politics long enough will almost by definition start to feel extremely frustrated and being in a frustrated mindset makes you more willing to “try something, anything,” or believe ends justifies means, etc., I’d guess.

        • souleater says:

          To be fair, I think BBA’s post reflects an awareness of the possibility that the impulse that says “doing something,” even if it may be a bad idea, is better than doing nothing at all may be a mistaken impulse.

          I agree with this, but as BBA themself mentioned, they’re our token leftist. which I think we can all agree makes them a very valuable resource/perspective. I think we should be extra careful to avoid making our most valuable voices feel demeaned or talked down to.

          Somewhat related, I notice a bipartisan trend, in myself and others, to become conflict theorists more as they get older/spend more time paying attention to politics. I attribute this to getting frustrated at how impossible it is to convince anyone of anything and at seeing all the dirty lowdown tricks the other side is willing to play to get their way and how their base will always turn a blind eye if they think it advances their interests.

          I don’t have anything to add to this, but I thought it was very insightful, and deserves a top level post. The fundamental change in conservative principles since trump arrived makes me wonder if we ever had any principles at all. I know for myself my options were to join team “own the libtards“, or embrace political nihilism.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I know for myself my options were to join team “own the libtards“, or embrace political nihilism.

            See, I feel like this is an error in the same category as “we must do something; this is something; we must do this” – there’s always options. In politics, only a Sith deals in dichotomies.

            You may not have a lot of allies taking a more principled position, but you can still take it.

          • souleater says:

            Well, sure.

            I do (try to) take a principled position, but I’m also more mindful that individuals don’t control the flow of countries. and that America’s long term success or failure is out of my hands. I try not to worry about it, any more than I worry about the heat death of the universe.

        • BBA says:

          You hit the nail on the head there.

          And I think this is Kendi’s way of throwing his hands up and admitting he doesn’t have the answer either. “Just make me dictator, that’ll fix it!” I’m not sure if he recognizes that his proposal is tantamount to making himself dictator or just thinks it’s the logical conclusion of his premises. I just think it’s interesting that this is what the dictatorship he imagines himself running looks like. (Clearly the rest of the comments section does not, they’re more interested in psychoanalyzing me… folks, I already have a therapist, I don’t need any more.)

    • Yair says:

      For a clear, short, and comprehensive summary of the Ukraine thing check this.

      For podcast to keep up to date with the main news maybe The Daily by the NYT or Today Explained by Vox.

    • “This is a pattern I find myself facing on a lot of issues: there’s a plan that will cause a lot of discomfort and probably won’t work, but every other option certainly won’t work, so might as well go with the plan, right?”

      This sounds like action bias. It explains a lot of human behavior, why people shrug at evidence that anti-poverty programs or education subsidies or medicine or anti-terrorism efforts are wasteful and ineffective. You have to “do something” to combat poverty or fight terrorism or save the life of your elderly relative, in order to prove that you care about the issue.

    • Zephalinda says:

      A question I’ve been trying to work up the courage to ask on here: for a capital-A-Antiracist, what would “ending racism” look like?

      That is, supposing one could be put into a coma and awaken in 10 years to find that the state of affairs had been so satisfactorily resolved that there was no longer any need for activism on that front– what would that world look like, and what would be the specific elements that would press one’s “Sweet, not racist anymore!” button?

      It seems like the classic colorblind/ “content of their character” model of racial justice is not the preferred one, at least in the thinkpieces I’ve read. Would a nonracist society instead still have very clear racial categories, but with exactly proportional racial composition in every endeavor and walk of life?
      Would various races have to be balanced in numbers to avoid the demoralizing psychic effect of some people perceiving themselves to be a minority?
      Would races in a racially just society mix freely, or would they self-segregate so that everyone could benefit equally from the privilege of consorting with others who look like them (as in “Invisible Backpack”)?
      Would it be enough if every single group was returned to arithmetical equality of resources/opportunities in the present, or would there have to be compensatory boosts above the mean for historically disadvantaged groups, in justice to the ancestors who worked harder to get them to this place at all?
      Given the strong sense of history undergirding antiracism, could a racially just future ever be produced by making everybody better off (letting the culprits get away scott free, as it were), or would it have to involve some element of punishment by way of balancing patterns of historical exploitation?

      I feel like “justice” as a concept is, weirdly, both constantly appealed to and extremely underinterrogated these days, so it’d be interesting to hear more about the background vision motivating a proposal like the DOA.

      • BBA says:

        I’m sure if you’ll ask Kendi, he’d say it’ll never be solved, and that’s why we’ll always need his permanent supra-governmental bureaucracy to root out and punish ever more subtle and insidious forms of racism as they are discovered. (Or more cynically, to ensure permanent full employment for him and his colleagues.)

      • I was arguing with some of my Lefty friends about it and one said that in the antiracist vision, people would still notice someone’s race, but would not use it to draw any inferences about their behavior, just as people note, but do not draw inferences from, hair or eye color today . I asked if this was not a call to eliminate Black and other minority cultures. He said that no, culture could remain, but there would be no stereotypes. I asked him to name a single cultural group where there were no stereotypes about said group; he couldn’t think of any.

        You might be thinking that by engaging in hypotheticals such as these I’m missing the “real concerns” about racism such as economic disparities or police shootings and that no one would much care about residual cultural stereotypes if equality in these areas was achieved. But look at the example of Asian-Americans, even the positive stereotypes are said to be harmful. The antiracists want to preserve Asian culture, encourage Asian identity, but don’t want non-Asians to have any stereotypes about them.

        • Aapje says:

          You’d still have inequality of outcomes with different cultures, so this would still be a racist outcome according to Kendi and BBA.

        • Leafhopper says:

          My (admittedly very cynical) interpretation of the antiracist position is that they want to preserve cultural differences between different races, and they realize that this will inevitably perpetuate certain stereotypes, but they want to severely censor the language we use to talk about these stereotypes in order to “protect” nonwhite groups.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Not just the language. Actually completely reconstruct government and society so whatever the differences between different races, they do not provide any observable disadvantage to non-white races. That’s the implication of “would make unconstitutional racial inequity over a certain threshold” (though I admit the idea that it would be OK for whites to get the short end is my assumption; I think it is safe given recent history)

            He also proposes literal thoughtcrimes, at least that apply to public officials.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I have, very carefully, asked a few anti-racists/SJWs whether they’ve ever been in a social group which satisfied their standards, and the answer was always no.

        • aristides says:

          Hair color is an interesting comparison, because there are stereotypes about hair color. There are dumb blonde, serious brunettes, and sexy redheads. It’s currently more socially acceptable to joke about this than race. However, even without stereotypes, I don’t know anyone who intentionally discriminates based on hair color, with dating being the exception. It’s not like you wouldn’t hire someone because they are blonde and all blondes are dumb. I think that’s the best we can hope for with race, short of getting enough mixed children that racial categories become meaningless

          • acymetric says:

            It’s not like you wouldn’t hire someone because they are blonde and all blondes are dumb.

            I think you are probably a little too confident in this. Not saying it is some widespread problem (and it is true that I wouldn’t make personnel decisions that way, and probably neither would you or most people on this blog), but it is almost certainly a thing that happens.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            This falls short as a comparison because there aren’t cultural differences between different hair colors in America. African Americans are culturally distinct so you can’t avoid making assumptions about them.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        For now, representation at least as good as proportional to population in all prestigious domains, and representation at no greater than proportional to population in all anti-prestigious domains.

        In the former case we mean everything ranging from HS graduation rates, test scores, college attendance [elite and down], STEM employment, doctor employment, academic employment, income, life expectancy, perceived happiness, perceived positive social interactions, and so on.

        In the latter case we mean things like traffic violations, incarcerations, fatal counters with polite, homicide victims, etc.

        A bureuacracy with the power to merely veto laws wouldn’t be capable of achieving this, I imagine.
        ____________

        I say ‘for now’ because, well, the goal posts can be shifted, although what i just described is already ambitious to say the least.

        • John Schilling says:

          “At least as good” and “all”, make this in fact a demand for Persons of Color to hold a superior position in society. And that’s the goal “for now”.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            make this in fact a demand for Persons of Color to hold a superior position in society

            I thought that this was obvious since affirmative action.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Yes. I’m going by how gender gaps work, under representation in STEM is an issue but over-representation in psychology is not. Once Gap X has been closed you move to the next gap but if you overshoot your target it’s not a big deal.

            It’s also a matter of mentality. Activists are by nature in the business of making demands, they’re not well suited to embody beneficence.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @RalMirrorAd-

            Yes.

            Is that your assessment of what a capital-A-Antiracist would accept? Or is it your own criterion?

            If the former, I think you are being unfair to the capital-A-Antiracist.

            If the latter, then wow, I’m totally wrong, and I thank you for your frankness.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @DoctorMist

            I don’t consider it uncharitable or unfair. The objective of Affirmative action and Equal Opportunity employment is essentially representative gap closing. Prison Reform / BLM is essentially closing the gap in the other direction as it relates to the criminal justice system. Forced busing [which some people have recently come back to proposing] tries to equalize the geographic representation of minorities in schools [and possibly also academic performance]

            Maybe I’ve described it in a way that sounds so unrealistic or unattainable that it comes across as insulting. I could adjust and say ‘All domains *on average*’ since an unbiased randomness would make absolute parity impossible.

            ________

            Also i apologize for accidentially double-posting my original comment.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            RalMirrorAd-

            I still think it’s something of a strawman, but I’m relieved that’s what it was.

            I think the capital-A-Antiracist we are imagining has never formed that clear an idea of the consequences — more of a vague “Imagine all the people, living life in peace” — and if you described your endpoint to him, he would not only deny it to you but would deny it in his heart.

            But maybe we are just imagining different capital-A-Antiracists.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @DoctorMist

            The rhetoric thrown at whites by the strongest anti-racists strikes me as far too confrontational for it to merely be a matter of ‘let’s just get along’ — and again i think the emphasis on representation is evidenced by the laws and policies we observe in practice.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @RalMirrorAd-

            Fair enough. For the capital-A-Antiracist I’m imagining, that stuff is the necessary if regrettable action that must be taken to get us to the end state — the means rather than the end. You are completely correct that there is a step missing between the former and the latter. When there is a choice between a concrete means and a vague end, the means usually has more saliency.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            As I understand the harsher anti-racists (and I’ll leave it to others to decide how typical they are), they don’t care what happens to white people. This isn’t mind-reading on my part, this is what they say.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Which rather gives lie to the “anti-” part of “anti-racist”.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think this is a common mode of thinking for activists. An activist naturally talks (and sometimes thinks) as though his issue is the only one in the world that matters. In some sense, you can think of this as a negotiation, and activist are usually trying to make the “first offer” pretty extreme so they can be negotiated down to something acceptable to them by the end. It’s a lot harder to be convincing and to make stirring rhetoric if you’re openly discussing tradeoffs. “We must stop global warming at all costs” is easier to say than “We must set the CO2 taxes based on balancing between economic hardship and getting closer to our CO2 emissions targets.”

            I think you can see this with many of the loudest advocates of #MeToo–often they’ll say stuff like “men should be afraid every time they have sex with a woman” or “wrecking the careers of a few innocent men is well worth it to address this issue.” These comments are hard to swallow as a policy, but they make total sense as a statement from an activist who wants to ignore or minimize any unpleasant tradeoffs being made.

            By contrast, people trying to actually govern or negotiate a law have to think about tradeoffs all the time. But it’s a lot less fun to justify your tradeoffs than to make stirring speeches about how X is the only thing that matters and only the villains and wreckers of the other side are keeping us from X.

            When a large chunk of the media and public get into moral panic mode about some issue, then the decisionmakers tend to discard worrying about tradeoffs in favor of being seen to take decisive action about the panic of the day. This usually works out pretty badly. We’re currently doing this short-term about vaping (so we’ll probably make vaping harder and more expensive and less fun, and maybe drive some people back to smoking instead) and long-term about opioids (so expect lots of chronic pain patients to commit suicide over the next decade or so). Many of these moral-panic policies never go away–we still have the TSA and heavy sentences for crack distribution.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        For now, representation at least as good as proportional to population in all prestigious domains, and representation at no greater than proportional to population in all anti-prestigious domains.

        In the former case we mean everything ranging from HS graduation rates, test scores, college attendance [elite and down], STEM employment, doctor employment, academic employment, income, life expectancy, perceived happiness, perceived positive social interactions, and so on.

        In the latter case we mean things like traffic violations, incarcerations, fatal counters with polite, homicide victims, etc.

        A bureuacracy with the power to merely veto laws wouldn’t be capable of achieving this, I imagine.
        ____________

        I say ‘for now’ because, well, the goal posts can be shifted, although what i just described is already ambitious to say the least.

    • John Schilling says:

      This is a pattern I find myself facing on a lot of issues: there’s a plan that will cause a lot of discomfort and probably won’t work, but every other option certainly won’t work, so might as well go with the plan, right?

      Thus consuming resources that might have been spent in some more productive endeavor, even if it addresses a problem other than this one. And destroying your credibility. And making potential allies not want to stand anywhere near you. And hurting innocent people. And making the people who care more about the innocent people you are actually hurting than the innocent people you are failing to help, want to retaliate.

      Better to do nothing, than to do worse than nothing just because it is something.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      It’s a bit reminiscent of the Iranian religious authorities and their powers over the country’s “elected” government.

      It’s much more than a bit reminiscent of the USSR with the Party watching every move of every official to make sure they stay “ideologically correct”.

    • blipnickels says:

      This is a pattern I find myself facing on a lot of issues: there’s a plan that will cause a lot of discomfort and probably won’t work, but every other option certainly won’t work, so might as well go with the plan, right?

      My apologies if this comes off as overly hostile.

      Why are you so certain the conservative solution wouldn’t work? Why would you never consider focusing on the black family, Moynihan Report, etc?

      Because if you tried a bunch of different policies and they’ve all failed and now you’re reduced to this “DOA” thing that you don’t even think would work and certainly would never get passed, is the conservative plan really that bad in your eyes, so completely without merit, that you won’t consider it? Especially since the implementation of such a “bipartisan” policy would be trivial compared to any other “solution” to racism.

      I don’t want to argue this right or wrong, I just want to understand why, in your mind or the left’s mind, the conservative solution will not be considered even as a last resort in desperation.

      • DinoNerd says:

        What is The conservative solution? I’d have thought that right wing people collectively favour many different things, often mutually incompatible – just as left wing people do.

        • Clutzy says:

          The conservative solution is to do very little. The right wing solution is to do a lot, but in a different direction than leftists.

          Basically, you would say conservative would be Mitt Romney, while right wing would be Ted Cruz.

      • Zephalinda says:

        Why would you never consider focusing on the black family, Moynihan Report, etc?

        Sexual liberty, normalized single motherhood, weak social norms/ latitudinarian approach to individual conduct, and a diminished leadership role for fathers seem pretty central to the white Left’s social platform.

        It’s not hard to imagine how a plan that equates to “consider that our own core values may have harmed this population/ promote the values of our hated outgroup!” could fail to gain widespread support.

        Also, as Clutzy notes, it’s not clear that the conservative solution would entail anyone doing much outside the Black community. The Irish pulled it off in the 19th century, but that was an internal movement, not an externally imposed one.

      • Jesse E says:

        The Moynihan Report, as much as it’s been hailed by social conservatives in years afterward, also supported massive welfare programs for African Americans (and everyone else) and full employment. After all, Moynihan opposed Clinton’s larger welfare reforms during the mid-90’s.

        • Randy M says:

          “supported full employment”
          Is there anyone at large (rationalist utopians possibly withstanding) that doesn’t support full employment?

          • JPNunez says:

            I don’t think anybody has really argued against full employment, the problem is that sometimes people accept a p high natural rate of unemployment, like 5% o something, which is probably too much in most of today’s economies. Of course Central Banks don’t normally say so but when they rise interest rates they are accepting some extra unemployment to curb some inflation. Of course they also think this unemployment will be temporal (as they believe the Phillips curve only holds in short terms) so it’s fine for them.

    • Murphy says:

      As someone who’s fairly left….

      That seems a tad worrying as an idea. I mean in principle a body with tightly enough tied hands could have some value if “racism” was basically limited to “serious threat of impending genocide of an unpopular minority”

      But if it was based on the twitter definition of racism whereby everything and everyone is always racist all of the time… it basically sounds like a body that’s EY’s “negative dictator”

      https://twitter.com/ESYudkowsky/status/1175460656897675264

      Also, if it applies to itself then it sounds like a body that would be eternally riven by internal strife until the most ruthless individuals take it over with a reign of terror.

      Because no matter what, no matter what there are always 2 or more reasonable-sounding ways to interpert data where at least one will be able to classify the observation as racist.

      It’s like the probation thing from a while back. On a measure of whether it treated black and white prisoners with the same record the same it did basically perfectly. On the measure of whether it was accurate to relality in it’s forecasts it did extremely well. But people kept publishing statements about it claiming it was racist because a disprotportionate number of the black prisoners it blindly assessed had longer criminal records.

      And if they somehow “fixed” that then it would, by the nature of numbers, mean it failing under the other 2 views.

      Hence it could always be classified as racist no matter what.

      And the same applies to all of reality and the entirity of human civilisation because there’s always a way of getting the result you want if you p-hack enough.

      Hell, it’s easy enough to rile up a crowd with cries of “-ism” based on litterally nothing.

      Reddit went crazy a while back over that “no girls born in 127 indian villiages” bullshit. Simply because it’s easy to rile up a crowd by simply stating true facts without mentioning relevant details like “and no boys born in 120 villiages, gender ratio actually pretty much matching, most villiages so small only one birth recorded”

      • gbdub says:

        “And if they somehow “fixed” that then it would, by the nature of numbers, mean it failing under the other 2 views.

        Hence it could always be classified as racist no matter what”

        I agree! The “antiracist” solution to this seems to be to formally declare that negative racial bias directed toward certain racial groups is not “racism” per se, because “racism requires power and oppression” (which expands to a bailey of “people of color can’t be racist”). Or to equivalently but more euphemistically label positive racial bias “affirmative action”.

        That neatly solves the biased AI issue – putting a hand on the scale to make the black and white populations have equivalent outcomes despite distinct histories is the correct “antiracist” solution. It can’t be racist, because it helps people of color.

        I’m very very scared of entrenching a powerful bureaucracy with that mandate and way of thinking and giving them actual power (they do enough mischief in the academy) but that seems to be the logic they apply to get out of the paradox you note.

    • EchoChaos says:

      every other option certainly won’t work

      What do you think the other options are?

    • Aftagley says:

      From Kendi’s propsal:

      The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas.

      Wait, what? A single government agency responsible for pre-clearing every action undertaken by the entire rest of government? From county zoning boards up through the president? Noble aims aside, people know this is not feasible, right? There literally aren’t enough trained racial scholars in the world to take on that kind of responsibility.

      The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.

      Ok, so the DOA reviews everything done by the rest of the government AND has the power to punish people they think are committing thoughtcrime. The members of the DOA are also unelected and therefore unaccountable to voters. His policy is essentially “give up being a democracy in favor of a race-influenced oligarchy.”

      This is clearly non serious policy. Politico shouldn’t have published it, and if Kendi advocates for it, people should push back on him. IMO this reminds me why BLM failed as a movement, they didn’t unite behind serious, actionable political goals.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        It looks a little less singular if you browse some of the other articles Politico published along with it.

        • Aftagley says:

          Hmm, looks like you’re correct. I did a random sampling of around 20 other proposals and they all seemed to be either the kind vague, pie in the sky claims you’d hear from a 17 year old leaving his first civics course OR detailed, but completely unworkable.

          I’ll adjust my overall opinion of Politico down slightly. This entire collection was clearly clickbait.

    • lvlln says:

      When I was reading this article yesterday, I was in disbelief, thinking that this looks exactly like what a right-winger would write as a left-wing false flag in order to discredit our side as being kooks with a hard-on for authoritarianism and a loose grasp on reality. The explicit use of “DOA” as the acronym of a department that this amendment would create made me lean more in that direction. But everything I’ve read about the author Kendi tells me that he’s being completely serious and unironic on this (and everything I’ve read about Politico indicates that they wouldn’t fraudulently attach his name to this essay), akin to if Jonathan Swift had a long history of supporting cannibalism before his modest proposal.

      As it is now, I still find it difficult not to consider this a Poe, because it so perfectly fits the right-wing stereotype of left-wingers that all the evidence showing me that it’s a genuine article is only just enough to match my sheer incredulity of a real left-winger writing this.

      I really hope there’s a “gotcha!” post coming later from Politico laughing at us for falling for this parody which they telegraphed with that DOA acronym. I wouldn’t bet on it, though, and that depresses me.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        Experience with Polish politics has caused me to essentially throw Poe out the window; yes, people advocate for crazy and/or horrifying things with all seriousness, all of the time.

        Having any sort of success with such proposals is a different matter, however, which is why I find looking at where the voices of support are coming from to be much more important.

        Also, while on the subject of outlandish political proposals: “if someone tells you he’s gonna kill you, believe him” are words to live by. Literally.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          yes, people advocate for crazy and/or horrifying things with all seriousness, all of the time.

          Well of course, there are 7 billion people in the world, some are gonna be crazy.

          I haven’t read the underlying article, but based on what others have said, it sounds like the author is one of those crazies. To me the issue is to ask what kind of gate keeper is Politico. I do think of it as a serious site. Maybe I shouldn’t, when it publishes stuff for clicks instead of seriousness..

    • eightieshair says:

      staffed by like-minded scholars and fully independent of the elected branches of the government, with the power to veto any governmental policy or censure any public official

      It’s been striking how quickly antidemocratic sentiment has taken hold on the left since the 2016 election. Apparently people are so frustrated by the loss to Trump that they’ve retreated into fantasies of omnipotence and some imaginary future where politics won’t involve the troublesome business of convincing people to vote for you.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        It’s been striking how quickly antidemocratic sentiment has taken hold on the left since the 2016 election.

        What’s the phrase?

        “Projection like an IMAX”

      • lvlln says:

        I recall around 2014 noticing how the same people who mocked and criticized George W. Bush for saying “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” were explicitly condoning that exact same line just with “terrorists” replaced with another context-dependent boo-word.

        Now I’m reminded of his famous “If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier… …just so long as I’m the dictator” line.

      • cassander says:

        I believe the term is the Awokening and you can start seeing attitudes shift before 2016. The anti-democratic attitudes seem to be part and parcel of the increased stridency and salience of these issues combined with the craziness that always comes with being out of power.

        I’m pretty sure the term awokening was coined by the right I’ve seen people on the left use it unabashedly.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        In general people are not indifferent to the outcome of an election and will say that something is or isn’t democratic if it results in outcomes they oppose. Sort of like Imperial Germany invading neutral belgium and using poison gas but then complaining about American Shotguns and claiming they were stabbed in the back; a very biased conception of what is and isn’t fair in a conflict.

        If you’re a hillary supporter you’ll point out that she won the popular vote. So any method of exercising political power that resists the will of the current elected president and imposes the kind of policies. Your conception of a fair democracy [since democracy is by definition fair] doesn’t involve the electoral college or gerrymandering. If you take things like climate change or refugees as seriously as is often demonstrated, the enemy camp has end goals that are so odious that one wouldn’t be too upset if ‘democracy’ was suspended to prevent them.

        If you’re a trump supporter you imagine yourself surrounded by a couple billion people who would, if given the chance, humiliate and disposess you. Your conception of a fair democracy [since democracy is by definition fair] doesn’t involve relying on imported voters. So the enemy camp consists of cheaters who have end-goals so odious and undesirable that one wouldn’t be too upset if ‘democracy’ itself was suspended or abolished to prevent them.

        The intensity-of-belief component is somewhat separate, and the shift in rhetoric began after ’13.

    • Viliam says:

      Well, seems like you disagree with an idea, and everyone else disagrees with it, too. Proposal “make me the philosopher-king that will rule above the elected government” is a very obvious attempt to grab unlimited power. And yes, these attempts are usually accompanied by a promise to solve some big problem (racism, trains being late, etc.).

      From my perspective, the problem with ending racism is that even the people who want to end racism don’t agree on what should be the final outcome. (Therefore, even people who want essentially the same thing, are unable to cooperate.) For some of them, “colorblindness” is the obvious desired state. For others, it is a system of quotas, supervised by people sending the correct political signals. These two things obviously cannot coexist together; you can’t ignore a trait as irrelevant, and at the same time obsess about it all the time.

      I suppose that in SSC crowd the colorblind solution will be preferable, because it is more logically consistent. — If you start making quotas, where would you stop? You would need quotas by ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, what else? Who will define what ethnicities / genders / sexual orientations are there? (Are Irish a separate group deserving their own quota? What about demisexuals?) How will people be sorted into the categories? If it’s all about how you feel, what would prevent all kinds of fraud, in order to get/keep a job or a government position? Do we also need quotas for left-handed people, or people on autistic spectrum? (Psychopaths? Pedophiles?) The decision to make quotas for some, and deny them to others, is itself a potentially controversial political decision. Thus the system would grow in complexity without limits. — Saying instead that people should be treated equally by literally treating them equally, solves all these problems. Except for the problem of how to get from “here” to “there”, of course.

      Another problem is the expanding definition of “racism”. Originally it seemed to refer to biology, but (presumably because biology is just a social construct) now it also refers to culture, which is the opposite. Now saying “regardless of their color of skin, people can be either nice or nasty, hardworking or lazy” is not enough, but rather it became problematic, because who am I to make the value judgment that niceness is better than nastiness?

      etc.

      I suppose the problem is that we allowed crazy people to give us crazy definitions of racism, and then of course the problem became even more difficult to solve. Now it’s not enough to find good people willing to do the good thing, because their energy will be wasted on doing stupid things.

    • AG says:

      The content of this post seems to have thrown most of the replies here off a little bit, but I think that the solution is much the same as your previous threads expressing hopelessness: get way less Online.

      Take a step back in your social group to observe the actual lives of your POC friends and acquaintances. Notice that, for your class, and a good margin on either side, racism is actually all but negligible in the day-to-day. And if it isn’t negligible, then work on that first. Make your garden grow. Your POC friends and acquaintances’ lives will be better off for their local surrounding improving, even if that doesn’t topple an ephemeral broader institution. And you’ll be happier, because the people around you will be happier.

      Then, if you still need to Do Something, find an Effective charity that has forgone ultimate Effectiveness to focus on the plight of the American poor. Antiracism will be materialist or it will be bullshit.

    • albatross11 says:

      BBA said (among many other things):

      This is a pattern I find myself facing on a lot of issues: there’s a plan that will cause a lot of discomfort and probably won’t work, but every other option certainly won’t work, so might as well go with the plan, right? I guess there are other possibilities – maybe the status quo isn’t so bad or maybe I should change my goal to something achievable. But isn’t this just being greedy, trying to spare myself the discomfort?

      It seems like another good option would be to try to come up with a workable plan. Doing nothing and doing something utterly ineffectual will have the same effect on the world, right?

      I mean, if someone proposes addressing global warming by banning the use of fossil fuels 100% next week, they’re not going to have any impact at all on global warming, and joining their movement won’t help anything. A movement of people demanding that stuff is wasting their time and breath, whereas there are plausible things we could do to address AGW (build nuclear plants and phase out coal power, impose a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, put significant resources into sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere, etc.).

      These proposals seem about as politically impossible (and nearly as disastrous, in terms of actual impact if they were enacted) as banning fossil fuels overnight.

      Sometimes, it works to make an extreme demand up front to force the other side to make concessions. But other times, you just convince the other side you’re nuts, and there’s no point trying to negotiate with you.

    • Eponymous says:

      I do agree with Kendi’s assessment of America as fundamentally racist

      What do you mean by “fundamentally” here? If anything I might argue the opposite, given our founding principles.

      and with his consequentialist views of what constitutes racism.

      What “consequentialist” view is this? Sorry, I’m confused. Do you mean his claim that inequality of outcome is prima facie evidence of racism?

      This is a pattern I find myself facing on a lot of issues: there’s a plan that will cause a lot of discomfort and probably won’t work, but every other option certainly won’t work, so might as well go with the plan, right? I guess there are other possibilities – maybe the status quo isn’t so bad or maybe I should change my goal to something achievable. But isn’t this just being greedy, trying to spare myself the discomfort?

      This take seems strange to me, and strangely defeatist. As far as I can tell, recent history is one of great success in reducing racism. Focusing on the case of black Americans, we’ve gone from slavery to Jim Crow to equality before the law; there has been a huge reduction in racist attitudes as measured by surveys; there are many blacks succeeding in public life — a recent president, many people on TV, etc.

      So maybe the path forward should be to keep doing what we’ve been doing, since it’s working? (But I guess you would dispute that it’s not working, maybe in line with your “racism is fundamental” view above that I don’t understand?)

      • blipnickels says:

        This take seems strange to me, and strangely defeatist. As far as I can tell, recent history is one of great success in reducing racism. Focusing on the case of black Americans, we’ve gone from slavery to Jim Crow to equality before the law; there has been a huge reduction in racist attitudes as measured by surveys; there are many blacks succeeding in public life — a recent president, many people on TV, etc.

        I think the argument revolves around the continued impoverishment of African Americans. In terms of income, debt/savings/assets, population in prison, etc, African Americans still lag far behind other groups. All the legal changes you point to have not significantly improved this situation. The daily life of many African Americans, it terms of poverty, safety, etc are still bad despite all the legal changes you point to.

        It’s worth contrasting the Wire and the election of Obama. At the same time the legal and political emancipation of African Americans reached its zenith, the election of Obama, the most popular “intelligentsia” show revolved around an African American population entrenched in drugs, poverty, and violence. It’s difficult to argue that after ~50 years of legal/political liberation without any socioeconomic equalization that further legal/political liberation will suddenly lead to socioeconomic equalization, especially since there isn’t much legal/political liberation left.

        • albatross11 says:

          There’s a whole big set of outcomes which we can measure or observe, and on most of them, blacks are statistically doing worse than whites.

          ISTM that for a lot of people, “racism” is that which causes those worse outcomes. ISTM that the definition of racism gets stretched and compressed as needed to fit that role. Some of those different outcomes might fit something like what most normal people mean by racism–for example, if the police rough blacks up more often than they rough nonblacks up. Others can sort-of be explained by historical racism (though often that’s a stretch and requires a lot of selective reading of the evidence)–an example would be the wealth gap.

          But a lot of those outcome differences just can’t plausibly be attributed to anything that any normal person would think of as racism. The large number of black murder victims (about 90% murdered by other blacks) is pretty hard to attribute to racism of any kind. The large number of black kids growing up with no dad in the picture is even harder to attribute to racism in any sense most people would recognize the term. Black kids do worse in school than white kids, even in schools where the teachers and administrators are mostly black–once again, this gets explained by some kind of racism, but it’s very hard to see how that makes any sense.

          For each of these, you can spin up complicated explanations for how it’s all some kind of racism, how the evils of white racism transferred through the deeply racist culture is somehow making the black murderer pull the trigger on the black victim, or making the black dad abandon his black kid. But those explanations seem like a huge stretch to me.

          I don’t think governmental policies of the kind we could plausibly enact will do anything for this stuff. A lot of the differences in outcomes are rooted in statistically different choices and values and inclinations, and are mostly outside the reach of laws to fix. Some are probably rooted in biological differences, or deep-seated cultural differences, and are similarly outside the reach of the laws.

          The most painful thing about all this rhetoric is that it can’t solve most of the problem that its advocates want solved. I imagine that also encourages ever-more-extreme demands. It’s like some group of people convinced that some terrible plague is being caused by some kind of curse, rather than by a virus. Every measure that should remove the curse (prayers, sacrifices, rituals, witch burnings) fails, because the cause of the plague is a virus, not a curse. It’s natural for people who think it’s somehow a curse to demand *even more* measures against the horrible curse that’s causing the plague, even though it won’t do a damned thing to help.

        • John Schilling says:

          There’s a whole big set of outcomes which we can measure or observe, and on most of them, blacks are statistically doing worse than whites.

          Right. Now get back to me when you can measure happiness. And when you can distinguish between worse outcomes caused by racism and worse outcomes caused by not-racism.

          Otherwise, culture matters. Culture can be dysfunctional in ways that result in globally worse outcomes. Culture can also make trades between outcomes that are better in some respects and worse in others, and it doesn’t always chose the measurable outcomes to be better at.

          Plausibly, “Don’t be a Wage Slave to the Man, with his Rule and his Schedules”, results in reduced material wealth but increased happiness. Very plausibly it results in increased happiness normalized to wealth. Same with, e.g., nepotism and tribalism.

          So if you’re going to attribute deficits in the measurable outcomes to racism, while defining “racism” as a thing to be fought until it doesn’t exist any more, then you are implicitly demanding cross-cultural leveling of (just) the measurable outcomes. And the only rational response to that, if it’s going to happen, is for every culture to seek every possible adaptation for increasing happiness at the expense of wealth, and not even bother fixing the absolutely-dysfunctional, reduce-wealth-for-no benefit cultural adaptations. Repeat until everyone is as happy as they can be given that they are all desperately poor. Ditto for all the other measurable outcomes that sometimes trade against happiness.

          Or until people decide to stop doing that any more, and along the way stop listening to people who cry “racism”.

          • mtl1882 says:

            Culture can also make trades between outcomes that are better in some respects and worse in others, and it doesn’t always chose the measurable outcomes to be better at.

            Plausibly, “Don’t be a Wage Slave to the Man, with his Rule and his Schedules”, results in reduced material wealth but increased happiness. Very plausibly it results in increased happiness normalized to wealth. Same with, e.g., nepotism and tribalism.

            Exactly. I’ve noticed the certainty with which the term “dysfunctional” is applied to an ever-larger group of people, without qualification. Quite often, functional is being used to mean “orderly” and in specific ways, within certain current systems. Such an approach can easily become dysfunctional with a change in circumstances, even a minor one. In any case, there are always tradeoffs going on, optimizing for one thing and not another. A lot of these things seem a lot less dysfunctional if you go back in time even a little bit. And there is definitely way too much equating wealth and happiness–wealth matters, but it isn’t linear, and relates to expectations. There is a lot to be said for living a rougher life, but one in which you don’t have to agonize and plan and weigh options all the time. The same thing happens with declaring most human personalities as dysfunctional because they wouldn’t be successful giving power-point presentations. Something doesn’t have to be appealing and totally stable to be functional. And in cases where a culture developed in an oppressed, manipulative, or just in any way not-stable/organized situation, a rush to follow the explicitly stated, step-by-step rules in pursuit of reward is pretty likely to be a dysfunctional behavior. It is largely an issue of trust. I’m not saying it is wrong to point out or address dysfunctional behavior, but so many people seem to view it as stubborn irrationality, and I usually see that as far from the case. A refusal to jump through hoops can be very functional outside of a hoop-jumping competition, and an obsession with it can become very dysfunctional depending on the system.

          • albatross11 says:

            mtl1882:

            I’m on board with accepting different choices and preferences, probably more so than most people. (Were it up to me, every drug in the pharmacy except possibly the more potent antibiotics would be available without a prescription.) I’ll note, though, that explaining differences in outcomes as a result of statistically different preferences doesn’t always go well–think of James Damore. It certainly would not be very convincing or satisfying to the antiracism movement in the US.

            And despite my support for individual liberty and cultural diversity, some element in your culture that makes its members commit murder at 7x the rate of everyone else seems kinda broken to me. Similarly, some element in your culture that makes its members inclined to have kids without a dad in their lives/abandon their kids–that just seems like a bad thing that makes your culture and its members and neighbors worse off.

          • albatross11 says:

            I agree you can be misled by only looking at metrics, but I also think that overall, blacks are doing worse than whites in the US. I don’t think this is remotely a matter of people happily making different choices and living a life that’s more rewarding to them. I think you can explain much of the male/female gap in jobs and income that way, but not all that much of the black/white gap in jobs and income.

            I do think this is often a matter of blacks statistically making worse choices, particularly w.r.t. crime and unwed motherhood. But this isn’t people making choices that are better for them given their values, it’s people making bad choices that screw up their lives and many other peoples’ lives.

          • Lambert says:

            Is this another of those times when america pretends class doesn’t exist then tries to make sense of things that are heavily tied up with socioeconomic status?

            To what extent are these things driven by African Americans tending to be working class urbanites?

          • mtl1882 says:

            @albatross11

            I’ll note, though, that explaining differences in outcomes as a result of statistically different preferences doesn’t always go well

            Yeah, I understand that the struggles facing different communities will become a topic of discussion, and efforts to modify conditions will be made. This will inevitably raise questions of culture, and result in judgments being applied. The conversation, when applied to issues like race or gender, often gets ugly, quick. While I don’t expect most people to do much nuanced thinking, my point is that I think we often miss the point in our desire to moralize about obvious issues. This is hard to avoid, but it saddens me that legitimate debates get twisted into simplistic blame games.

            It is reasonable to say that cultural change is needed in many situations, some of them being uncontroversial ones referring to niche or professional cultures–actually, I still dislike that wording, because the question is why is it needed–relative to what? There is never a permanent “right way,” even from a common sense view (“get married” or “get a college education” looks unobjectionable as a standard, but we’re really getting into *class* here, as Lambert brought up–which is its own sort of culture, really, but is a small slice of people that may have different needs and options and as a model is simply unfeasible).

            Rather, it is reasonable to say, in many situations, that cultural change is advisable to align with the current society’s conventional “success path.” It is fine to make “judgments” along those lines. But if you want to understand what is going on, whether you want to assist or simply leave it to the community to figure out, you have to look at why those behaviors developed and control for the dynamic, not the surface level behavior. The dynamic causing it may not be what causes it in your own culture, and so “fixing” it may not fix as much as you think. There are also trade-offs that are good to be aware of, not just a “duh, get with the program!” I’m not saying you should never question anything or point out reality–but that you need to actually look at the reality. And this goes beyond socioeconomic things to other types of cultures–even when there is no real controversy, there is a lot of ignorance. And, one should always be aware that maybe the conventional success path is not the only or best one. I’m just saying people should take the time to assess the situation, and not end up in too narrow a conception of possibility or in an attitude of pure condescension.

            And despite my support for individual liberty and cultural diversity, some element in your culture that makes its members commit murder at 7x the rate of everyone else seems kinda broken to me.

            Yes, I mean, that’s a problem, though I think if you are committing murder, say, within a gang context, it is part of a larger dynamic that needs to be addressed, and not just about a culture that maximizes violence. Certain types of violence (as opposed to rather impulsive, random violence like that which arises in high crime/drug areas, which definitely just makes things worse) keep an equilibrium that is functional within the system. It isn’t a sign it is “broken,” necessarily (I think that depends on the type of violence), but it is worth pointing out that there are other systems worth considering if you want to decrease violence. The problem is that there have to be opportunities to take the place of the gang’s function. Just dropping the violence part will probably only destabilize the community by prolonging disputes. It’s hard to transition. People end up giving “learn to code!” type commands, and that just isn’t how it works.

        • sharper13 says:

          When during the last century did African-American outcomes stop improving faster than the population as a whole and instead turn negative on those measurements you probably care about?

          There was a turning point. Pinpoint it and then consider if you’re willing to reverse the events which caused it. Blacks in America once improved on their family stability and educational measurements faster than others did.

          (Yes, I’m deliberately not specifying what the details are, because you might decide to reject the view out of hand, without even considering it. If you actually do the research into economic and social indicators and then look for potential cuases, maybe you’ll believe your own research over a random internet commentator. It’s easily found.)

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Most of us have probably been around here long enough to know what you’re referring to, but I wanted to note the elegance of this post.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Lest you think I’ve gone soft on being the token leftie around here, I assure you

      You’re not the only one, but anyways: much appreciated.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I’m pleased to report that this guy (who I had never heard of before) must be well outside the Overton window for most – none of my news sources have produced any reference to this proposal.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      Man as a leftist this plan is horrifying even as a consideration. Kendi has a lot of issues though so I’m not shocked to see something like this from him.

  16. sty_silver says:

    I don’t consume any real news source these days, and consequently, I’ve only heard about the recent Trump stuff on the side. My question is: is there any good, quick way to read up on what happened? Most news outlets assume that you consume them regularly. Is there any way I can find a good summary of, say, US politics of the past month?

    I’m interested both in answers for the current moment and in general.

    And somewhat separately, I’m also interested in recommendations about how to consume news. Podcast would probably be the preferred medium. I both don’t like to read news that much and have very little tolerance for short information snippets.

    • Aftagley says:

      Lawfare’s timeline of the Ukraine thing is good and detailed, but not quick.

      In general Axios probably has the best overall wordcount efficiency. If you want maximum return on your time investment, I’d read them.

      Monthly summaries, not sure.

      And somewhat separately, I’m also interested in recommendations about how to consume news. Podcast would probably be the preferred medium. I both don’t like to read news that much and have very little tolerance for short information snippets.

      A bunch of new sources do daily 10-15 minute “here’s what you need to know today” podcasts. I listen to NPR Up First which I quite enjoy, it picks the most important stories in the news and gives you around 3-5 minutes of background on them. Then I also read 2-3 newspapers a day, so YMMV.

      • albatross11 says:

        NPR News Now is a five minute podcast updated once per hour that does the headlines. This has no depth at all, but it’s good for catching up on what a reasonably decent news service thinks are the important stories of the day.

        I’m still looking for someone who covers important-instead-of-urgent news. Some podcasts manage something like that, but they’re not so much doing “here are the important things going on you should know about” but rather “here’s some interesting stuff I’d like to talk about.” But Making Sense, Conversations with Tyler, and Econ Talk all seem to do a reasonable job talking about serious stuff that matters in an intelligent way.

    • jgr314 says:

      I’d suggest something like The Week to get a brief summary once a week.

    • John Schilling says:

      I generally use the BBC as my primary news site, as their distance from the American news ecosystem allows for a more comfortably detached style of reporting better suited to my tastes. Among other things, they don’t assume their audience consists of American news junkies. The top story on an issue may be “here’s what happened in the last day or so, we assume you’ve been keeping up”, but it will almost always have a clear link to an overview article in the first page.

      W/re the Trump/Ukraine stuff, here’s their current overview.

    • blipnickels says:

      is there any good, quick way to read up on what happened?

      No, all news is consumed by culture war, down this path lies only madness, and if you read outside accounts, like Xinhua’s reporting, you’ll be hopelessly behind whatever hellscape the current discourse is.

      You should not do this. All the people involved in current events are much worse and more persuasive than you’re currently imagining and they all want you to be angry. There is no upside to this besides temporarily quieting your curiosity and a major risk/cost that you will spend years being very angry about throwing milkshakes and decorating cakes.

      • broblawsky says:

        If people who are informed are angry, couldn’t it be because their well-informed grievances are appropriate?

        • blipnickels says:

          No, in fact it’s incredibly unlikely any of our current grievances, no matter how appropriate, are well-informed.

          The Ukraine…gate(?) is a week old. Not only is 95% of the final information we’ll have not available, we don’t even have proper context yet for what has occurred. Not only do I not know what Giuliani did or did not do in the Ukraine, I haven’t listened to enough conversations between the US president and foreign powers/clients to put that in a proper context. Compare what we knew in the summer of 2016 about Russiagate with what we got in the Mueller report.

          Lot’s of people are angry, I’m certainly angry, but intense emotions and limited knowledge are a really bad combination. And I know that Fox/Vox are pushing that, they’re pushing instant judgment and rage, and I don’t even blame them for it because the media economy is brutal and if they don’t push the worst memes they’ll go out of business.

          • broblawsky says:

            Maybe some issues aren’t that complicated. If a political figure shot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, would you recommend people sit back and not get angry, and wait for further information before demanding justice?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Maybe some issues aren’t that complicated. If a political figure shot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, would you recommend people sit back and not get angry, and wait for further information before demanding justice?

            I’d at least want to know if it was self-defense

          • broblawsky says:

            Even if it was, it’s an unprecedented action and shock and anger are appropriate.

          • CatCube says:

            @broblawsky

            I think it’s exactly the opposite: “shock and anger” are absolutely inappropriate until you’re in possession of the facts. People haring off into emotional incontinence based on the first reports have caused immense amounts of evil. For example, this is the failure mode that resulted in the literal lynch mobs dragging black people out of jails and to a nearby lamppost without bothering to wait for all of the facts to be laid out at a trial.

          • Randy M says:

            If I can wade in where I’m not needed and find a hair-splitting pedantic middle position, shock is perfectly appropriate upon learning an unlikely fact, but anger should be held at bay until the context is made more clear.

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M
            Correction: that’s not hair-splittingly pedantic, that’s just the reasonable position. And one which I agree with.

          • albatross11 says:

            The point isn’t that anger or fear are never appropriate reactions to current news, the point is that anger and fear and outrage all shut down your brain. And various people/algorithms have discovered that keeping their consumers in an anger/fear/outrage cycle all the time is really good for business. It makes their sites stickier, it keeps attention on them, it drives up usage statistics and ad revenue. But this also means that it’s extra-hard to think clearly about whatever object-level question is being discussed. And it leaves the consumers of these media scared or angry or outraged, and drives them to unhealthy behavior like getting into dumb arguments with friends/coworkers over tribal issues.

        • Murphy says:

          Most of the time people who think they’re informed aren’t particlarly informed.

          You can read dozens of news articles about a story but as long as the reporters are all going for maximum clickbait you can end up missing important key info that would dial down the outrage. Because dialing down the outrage would be boring.

          Actually, would you mind participating in a minor experiment (anyone else welcome to as well) though it will take a little time.

          I’d appreciate if people tried to avoid arguing the specific issue in this subthread. (perhaps start another)

          Could you write out a few guesses before reading the link:

          1: “How outragous was Judge Persky’s choices the Brock Turner case?”

          1-10 where 1 is not at all and 10 is “so-bad-they-should-kick-him-off-the-bench!”

          2: How informed do you consider yourself about the case: 1-10

          3: How well do you believe the media has informed the public about the case: 1-10

          4: How many articles do you think you’ve read about it?

          Now read this, it’ll take a little while.

          https://www.quora.com/In-light-of-the-evidence-was-justice-served-by-recalling-Judge-Persky-for-the-sentence-he-gave-Brock-Turner/answer/Jeremy-Arnold-4

          And if you could now repeat the 1-10 assesment for the outrage-level assesment and how well you think the media has informed people in general about the case.

          • Randy M says:

            1. 4
            2. 1
            3. 2
            4. 0

            Best part of that article were the defense attorney and judges statements regarding the nature of an adversarial trial vs what the victim wants. Good examples of clear reasoning.
            1.2
            2.4
            3.1
            4.1

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I can’t number anything, and as befits my name I skimmed that Quora answer. My informedness has increased, as has my article skimming.

            I can’t say my opinion is really changed. I had initially a bit of resistance to changing that opinion, but back it up with the following:
            1) The Quora commenter mentions Persky following the probation officers’ recommendations to the letter, but doesn’t mention the prosecution’s recommendations.
            2) “Then note what Emily says in her letter (emphasis mine): “I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison. I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars.” ”
            – Given that Turner was facing up to 14 years in prison, the definition of “rot away” has a lot of leeway. A year or three wouldn’t meet my personal definition of “rotting away”, and I doubt it would meet Emily’s either.
            3) Comment of a juror: ” “After the guilty verdict I expected that this case would serve as a very strong deterrent to on-campus assaults, but with the ridiculously lenient sentence that Brock Turner received, I am afraid that it makes a mockery of the whole trial and the ability of the justice system to protect victims of assault and rape,” the juror wrote to Persky. “Clearly there are few to no consequences for a rapist even if they are caught in the act of assaulting a defenseless, unconscious person.”

            “It seems to me that you really did not accept the jury’s findings. We were unanimous in our finding of the defendant’s guilt and our verdicts were marginalized based on your own personal opinion,” the letter said. ”
            4) Liberal though I am, I firmly believe that if the courts are going to legally monopolize vengeance, then they must include retribution in their sentencing, or they leave the victims (and those of society invested in the issue) to simmer in their anger.

          • Aftagley says:

            Liberal though I am, I firmly believe that if the courts are going to legally monopolize vengeance, then they must include retribution in their sentencing, or they leave the victims (and those of society invested in the issue) to simmer in their anger.

            Weird, I’ve got the exact opposite reaction – I think that worrying about the victims simmering in anger will only make our system worse. We don’t have a legal system in order to make victims feel better, we have a legal system to uphold a certain vision of society.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you’ve got a bunch of people simmering in anger, and you’re not worried about that, you’re going to be blindsided when they get together in their anger and do something about it. Current examples too obvious to cite.

            If the theory is “we, the right-thinking elite, will decide how criminal justice (or whatever) is to be properly done, and those simmering angry people will have to go along with whatever we say so we shouldn’t compromise out of worry for what they think”, then yeah, that’s how we got the current examples too obvious to cite.

          • Aftagley says:

            If the theory is “we, the right-thinking elite, will decide how criminal justice (or whatever) is to be properly done, and those simmering angry people will have to go along with whatever we say so we shouldn’t compromise out of worry for what they think”, then yeah, that’s how we got the current examples too obvious to cite.

            I’m not advocating for a theory where the faceless elite are running it, I’m advocating for one that won’t be dominated by the angriest person in the room.

            Here’s my theory – everybody as a society comes together now, before any of us are the victims of a crime and think of how we want our justice system to work. We make some standards on how we want it to run, what we think just punishments are and what the outcomes we desire should be. Then we commit to them, commit to them to such a degree that even in your depths of outrage and despair, you can’t push for any exceptions to the system.

            Then again, I’m biased. I have someone in my life who is a judge and deals with literally this issue on a nearly daily basis.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m advocating for one that won’t be dominated by the angriest person in the room.

            Basically all political systems, especially democratic ones, are dominated by the ensemble of people angry enough to get involved. If you’re advocating something other than that, you need a really good elevator pitch as to why you shouldn’t be dismissed as a fuzzy useless utopian.

            And, angry as some people are about the abuses of a vengeance-focused criminal justice system, crime victims and their families and fellow travellers are angrier still. You’re living in a world where CNN has found it profitable to devote a majority of the airtime on their “Headline News” channel to outrage-promoting True Crime stories. If you manage to win the sort of political victory that for a time frees you of the need to compromise with those people, that will just make them angrier until they can win the sort of victory that means they don’t need to compromise with you.

            Here’s my theory … then we commit to them, commit to them to such a degree that even in your depths of outrage and despair, you can’t push for any exceptions to the system.

            So, either this utopia is not a democracy, or it does not have freedom of speech. Otherwise, yes they damn well can push for exceptions. Really, even if it’s a non-democracy, if it has freedom of speech they can push for exceptions and you’re down to hoping that your antidemocratic measures will keep them in line.

            I’m not feeling terribly optimistic about this theory.

          • Aftagley says:

            If you’re advocating something other than that, you need a really good elevator pitch as to why you shouldn’t be dismissed as a fuzzy useless utopian.

            Sure, I’ll take a crack at it. People are angry and emotional on both sides – victims want maximum punishment. People who care about defendants want minimum punishment; a system dominated on making people feel as good as possible fails because there is not single outcome which makes everyone feel good.

            Can you imagine looking a mother in the eye and telling her that her 17 year-old-son son will be going to jail for the rest of his life? Do you think that mother’s emotional pain is substantially different than the mother of the boy that 17 year old killed?

            There is no outcome in this situation that will not leave one of those two women devastated. There can’t be. Trying to arrange the system to account for their emotional needs will result in a broken, system.

            Instead, like I said, we precommit. Here are the rules, here are the punishments. If you don’t like them, work to change the system and our overall punishment structure; but don’t push for specific exemptions to the system just because its suddenly gotten real for you.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            Do you think that mother’s emotional pain is substantially different than the mother of the boy that 17 year old killed?

            I am registering a vote for “yes”. Everyone recognizes that losing people different ways is differently impacting.

            A mother losing a soldier who died defending his country is different from a mother who lost a son to cancer is different from a mother who lost her son to being shot by police in a strong-arm robbery.

            We should socially encourage that exact difference as strongly as possible.

          • John Schilling says:

            Can you imagine looking a mother in the eye and telling her that her 17 year-old-son son will be going to jail for the rest of his life?

            In addition to EchoChaos’s point about different kinds of grief, there’s also the numbers. The seventeen-year-old killer facing life in prison, has a grieving mother. His victim probabky has a grieving mother standing shoulder to shoulder with a grieving father, and family and friends and a generally larger and more supportive community possibly up to and including a million Nancy Grace viewers. If the killer had all that, or even just the father, he probably wouldn’t be a killer. If the victim didn’t have all that, the police probably wouldn’t have tried very hard to find the killer.

            Not always, of course, but that’s the way to bet. So both in kind and in degree, your proposal’s implication of symmetry between grieving mothers is going to fail when integrated across society as a whole. The predominance of grief, and anger, is going to be on the “lock them up and throw away the key” side.

            Instead, like I said, we precommit.

            Or “we” precommit to locking them up and throwing away the key, which is going to be a much more popular position.

            More importantly, you still haven’t said how people are supposed to precommit, in a democracy. Assume you somehow do get a temporary majority for mercy. How do you bind the next generation. or even the next election cycle? We’ve tried the bit with the constitutional amendment against cruel and unusual punishment; what else have you got?

            Still not seeing a viable plan here.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            “Simmering in Anger” — My two cents:

            A legal system can ‘fail’ if it fails to achieve it’s stated objectives (which depending on your POV is some combination of 1. deter crime [utilitarian] 2. punish offenders [justice] 3. restitute victims [utilitirian/social justice])

            It can also fail if it lacks proper support and is thereby abolished.

            The latter failure might happen because of a failure to achieve the former but it could also happen in spite of achieving the former, if people are not properly informed and their expectations are properly anchored.

          • Plumber says:

            @Murphy > “…Could you write out a few guesses before reading the link:”

            Sure

            1: “How outragous was Judge Persky’s choices the Brock Turner case?”

            I don’t know who Persky or Brock are.

            1-10 where 1 is not at all and 10 is “so-bad-they-should-kick-him-off-the-bench!”

            No idea.

            2: How informed do you consider yourself about the case: 1-10

            I consider myself as not informed at all.

            3: How well do you believe the media has informed the public about the case: 1-10

            If the case is important than terribly, if un-important than them not wasting my time with the details is great! 

            4: How many articles do you think you’ve read about it?

            None.

            “Now read this, it’ll take a little while.

            https://www.quora.com/In-light-of-the-evidence-was-justice-served-by-recalling-Judge-Persky-for-the-sentence-he-gave-Brock-Turner/answer/Jeremy-Arnold-4

            And if you could now repeat the 1-10 assesment for the outrage-level assesment and how well you think the media has informed people in general about the case”

            Oh, after quickly reading the link I realize that I did read and hear of the case after all, so I’ll say overall from 1 to 10 I give a 7 for your questions @Murphy, but I want to respond to something in the link:

            “If we want culture to change, we have to roll up our sleeves and do the messier, much harder work…”

            While I’ve read Ovid, The Canterbury Tales, novels from the 1920’s and ’30’s, and have seen enough movies that were made from 1930 to 1934 to strongly suspect that the 1960’s-’70’s “sexual revolution” was just a return to pre-war normality (and the reason for 1950’s mores was due to the birth dearth of the Great Depression and second world war, and so few unmarried teens and twenty-something adults until the boomers came of age), none-the-less the current counter revolution seems a worthy goal, young men should assume that fornication leads to imprisonment and/or child support payments, as if enough young men are so in fear that they wait until marriage then young women will get married because they don’t want to wait (unfortunately divorce and “serial monogamy” are still options, so no counter-revolution is likely yet, but “me-too” is a start at least), which seems good things to me.

            Unfortunately harsh sentences are less of a deterrent than more certain arrest (criminals are less dissuaded from how bad punishment will be than they are of how likely they think they are to be caught), but with enough publicity a perception of a deluge of consent being retroactively denied (in this case the accused claims consent was given and the victim doesn’t remember the crime)  causing more young men to wait seems almost possible, and a worthy goal, which ironically enough will make men better off as they do less well on average when unmarried than women do, and a culture of long-term commitment will benefit men more as women seem to thrive more in our more autonomous culture (except in levels of self-reported happiness) than men have judging by the increased poverty and early deaths due to alcohol, drugs, and suicide among men lately (yes a minority of men are incredibly more wealthy and with more partners than was the case in the pre-revolution ’50’s, but I judge total welfare by the least not the luckiest).

          • mdet says:

            I think John Schilling is being way too cynical by reading Aftagley’s proposal at the level of a formal law rather than at the level of principle.

            I agree with Aftagley. Looking at the world, it’s easy to notice that victims of crime seek much harsher punishments than non-victims who are considering crime and punishment in the abstract. I also notice that seeking harsh revenge and retribution often creates a cycle of violence that ends up worse than the initial wrong. Mercy is good because it can break that cycle and give people a chance to change themselves. The victim-perspective isn’t all bad, but everyone’s made impulsive decisions in an angry moment that they partially back down from later.

            So on the level of principle, not law, I want to commit myself to being merciful. If I am ever the victim of some egregious wrong, I want some calm, levelheaded people to remind me of my reasoning now and prevent me from being as harsh on the perpetrators as I might want to be. Even if I try to say “But this is an exception!”, don’t let me. I think we’d be better off if we all took this approach, as a society.

            This is still plenty utopian and idealistic, but no more so than any declaration of principles.

          • ECD says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Thank you. I was planning to write something fairly similar, but now I don’t have to.

            @Aftagley

            I think you’ve just reinvented mandatory sentencing guidelines. Which are unconstitutional in the US federal system.

            More generally, all of these can be true at once:

            1) Our legal system is overly punitive.
            2) Rape is an underprosecuted crime.
            3) Even when prosecuted, rape is an underpunished crime.
            4) This particular case was not outside the norms, given 1-3.
            5) This particular judge acted within those norms.
            6) Those norms are, themselves, a problem for a lot of people.

            I think jumping to this will reinforce (1), rather than undermine (3) requires some proof, which isn’t given in the linked piece (that I noticed).

            Now, it’s certainly possible it will just increase (2), as victims may be less likely to complain the more aware they are of (3), or police may be less willing to bother, or judges may seal court-rooms to avoid press, or…any number of potentially bad consequences. But none of that answers the question, are the present (or proposed) norms good/acceptable.

          • John Schilling says:

            So on the level of principle, not law, I want to commit myself to being merciful.

            Good for you. That’s the right thing to do.

            But until now, the principle under discussion was basically “I want to commit myself to being merciful, and I want everyone else to commit to being merciful, and we shouldn’t worry about the people simmering with vengeful anger”. And I don’t think I am being excessively cynical in saying that if you want that principle to be anything more than a pious irrelevance, you kind of do need to worry about the people simmering with vengeful anger. If you’re just going to imagine everyone implausibly joining your commitment to mercy, you don’t need to ponder what a proper criminal justice system would look like because you’re imagining there won’t be any crime.

          • mdet says:

            Saying “Well, we have to give this shoplifter 10 years in prison because the shopowner will simmer with rage if we don’t” would obviously be absurd. At some point you have to say, “No, we need sentences to be reasonable and fit the crime. The harshness of this sentence far exceeds what’s necessary to teach the perpetrator a lesson and to prevent future offenses. The shoplifter’s getting six weeks.”

            On the other end, you’re right that if the public doesn’t feel like the justice system is handing down satisfying results, then they’re going to vote in harsher penalties and/or resort to extra-legal enforcement.

            Currently, I think we’re most likely erring on the side of too harsh. It’s pretty easy for a couple scary news stories to terrify the public into overreacting and demanding that Something Be Done! But it’s hard to advocate for criminals, who are rarely sympathetic and often lose their right to vote and speak for their own interests. So if I’m going to pick which of the two above cases I think we should try to lean towards, it’s the one that says “Despite the fact that victims are demanding harsher punishment and that sympathy for the offenders is not a popular position, we’re going to try being less punitive in our sentencing.”

          • ana53294 says:

            At the moment, the shoplifter gets 0, not even a fine, because nobody bothers catching/prosecuting them. How is that too harsh?

          • beleester says:

            That’s an enforcement issue, not a punishment issue. A system that almost never catches shoplifters, but when it does, it puts them in jail for 10 years, would be the worst of both worlds – unjust and cruel, but so unreliably so that it can’t even serve as a deterrent.

      • sty_silver says:

        I’m aware of the arguments against reading news and even agree with them, I just don’t think they apply to me. Consuming news tends to evoke very little emotion in me relative to other people, so I don’t really get angry or depressed.

    • broblawsky says:

      I read Vox. They have a once per day Vox Sentences newsletter/article that aggregates the two biggest stories of the day, plus a few other side pieces.

    • aristides says:

      Maybe subscribe to a monthly news magazine? The Economist and the Atlantic might be good options, though it’s been years since I read hard copy versions of them.

    • JPNunez says:

      Well, in this particular case you can read the summary of the call that the White House released, and the whistleblower complaint by yourself. They are not long documents.

    • Well... says:

      Just curious: why do you want to consume news? Does it boil down to “So I know what other people are talking about at the water cooler”?

      • Aftagley says:

        The framework of this question doesn’t make sense to me.

        I have a desire to know everything that’s going on in the world. I want to be maximally aware of world events. I enjoy learning about what’s going on and thinking about/discussing the potential effects of these changes. If I could know everything going on, I would. This isn’t possible, so I instead try to learn as much as I can.

        Is this not an urge you have?

        • Randy M says:

          I have a desire to know everything that’s going on in the world

          Man, asserting people don’t mean what they say is a shtick already claimed by another poster, but I wonder if revealed preference might tell a different story. No offense.
          I desire to know enough to make reasonable and effective decisions. I want my knowledge to be in proportion to my influence–and then some more over some specific interests, of course, but that leaves vast swathes of human events that are of no concern to me in any meaning of the term. (Which is okay, so long as I also keep my opinions limited by my knowledge.)

          • Oscar Sebastian says:

            Which is okay, so long as I also keep my opinions limited by my knowledge.

            I’m sorry to tell you that you haven’t done so here. You’ve got an opinion that someone else’s description of their own personality is wrong when you have no relevant facts to bolster your case. Your being different from Aftagley’s self-description is not proof that Aftagley is in fact wrong, nor grounds to speculate as such.

            I myself am like Aftagley, at least to a point (everything is a bit hyperbolic, though). Humanity is a vibrant affair of seven billion stories unfolding simultaneously. Hearing about the triumphs and defeats, even if they have nothing to do with me nor I with them, only expands my ability to make reasonable and effective decisions. Every success story is another clue to help me make mine. Every loss a warning sign of what not to do. Even if it turns out meaningless, if it was a tale told well and truthfully, I only gave up my time for knowledge and entertainment. Quite the bargain.

          • Randy M says:

            Your being different from Aftagley’s self-description is not proof that Aftagley is in fact wrong, nor grounds to speculate as such.

            No proof was asserted, merely wonderment.

            Hearing about the triumphs and defeats, even if they have nothing to do with me nor I with them, only expands my ability to make reasonable and effective decisions. Every success story is another clue to help me make mine. Every loss a warning sign of what not to do. Even if it turns out meaningless, if it was a tale told well and truthfully, I only gave up my time for knowledge and entertainment. Quite the bargain.

            Quite poetic.

          • John Schilling says:

            No proof was asserted, merely wonderment.

            “I wonder if you are being honest about what you say you believe/desire”, is most often a faux-polite way of saying “I think you are lying about that”. And “No offense” is most often a faux-polite way of demanding that someone not complain about the offensive thing.

            If that’s not what you mean, you probably ought to be extra careful with the phrasing and understand that people are likely to be offended anyway.

          • Randy M says:

            Fair enough, man. I thought putting two qualifiers, a pretty neutral economic term, and a preemptive sort-of apology in there was enough to get me past faux and into genuine politeness, but if you feel I was being a jerk, I unreservedly apologize to Aftagley and any other curious person similarly insulted by my cavalier posting.

        • Well... says:

          Is this not an urge you have?

          No. When people are discussing soap operas I don’t think “Dang, I need to start watching soap operas so I can join in on these discussions.” Same goes for which team beat which other team in whatever sport, which celebrity is dating whom, and most stuff that gets reported in the news.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Yes but I think what we are talking about is substantial news; that is news beyond just being entertainment. I think that is what the original post is about. I agree with you that most news about sports, entertainment, celebrities (and most political news fits this category) isn’t inherently valuable and should only be read for fun.

            But there is important news out there. What is the latest Supreme Court decision, which countries are fighting wars or facing famines, what new laws have been passed or politicians elected, what new scientific studies have been done. It is true that to find out most of this stuff can be difficult in all the media dross, but I think that is kind of the point of this thread.

      • sty_silver says:

        Good question. Basically, I just feel a desire to know what’s up with Trump. It’s like I’m invested in a story and want to know about important plot points.

    • sharper13 says:

      Ignoring domestic politics and going to world news instead, I’d recommend Strategy Page. It’s military/strategic focused (which is my interest), but their method is to report on the status of a country which is a hotspot and then to add a newer update about every few days or week. See their article on Yemen for an example.

  17. drunkfish says:

    I don’t find CPlusPlusDeveloper’s case that compelling. In particular, they never respond to this question, which is exactly the same one I had.

    They make two separate claims, which combined would lead to their conclusion:

    1) Prescription opiate prescriptions don’t lead to opiate abuse

    2) Opiate abusers don’t die from prescription opiates

    These together do in fact suggest that prescription opiates aren’t the problem, but their support for 1) is woefully lacking. They show evidence that “long-term chronic pain patients” don’t tend to switch to abusing opiates, which is not evidence that people prescribed opiates in general don’t start abusing them. Specifically, the group I generally hear concern about is a totally different group of people, those who get an opiate prescription which ends, and when it ends they start abusing opiates that they get from other sources.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Here is an article that Scott has linked in the past that argues against a lot of claims. I remember that he makes one attack on (1) saying that people who admit to abusing opioid pills haven’t gone up as the number of people prescribed has gone up.

  18. souleater says:

    I have a question about open relationships, and I know that there are some people here who have experience with that.

    I have a good friend who I’ve know for maybe 6 years.. and it was recently revealed to our social group that he and his wife have an open relationship, and that she’s dating one of the guys in out social circle. He didn’t want me in particular to know because he was afraid I wouldn’t want to be friends with him anymore. I knew for a while but didn’t say anything out of respect for his privacy before his wife specifically told me over his objections at a party (At the boyfriends house).

    I was driving my buddy home afterwards, and he told me that they didn’t always have an open relationship but its just something he has to live with now…

    This was about 6 months ago, but it’s really bothering me. I think his wife pressured him into a situation he is unhappy about. (something she has a history of) Since then, I’ve kinda taken the position that he didn’t want me to know in the first place, I should still respect that and basically pretend I don’t know. We see each other every day at work, and he comes over to my house a few times a month for game night.. but he seems really unhappy.

    This is definitely none of my business right? I should continue to respect his privacy with the assumption he will let me know if he needs anything?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My 2¢ is that it depends on how close friends you guys are.

      He’s getting taken advantage of here. He knows it, as his comment in the car indicated, and now you know it. A good friend would remind him that he doesn’t actually have to just passively accept this and that he has options to reclaim at least some of his lost dignity.

      At the same time, he probably also really doesn’t want to hear that right now. He’s been able to pretend up until now that everything is normal and would probably prefer to keep pretending it over making the hard choices that he needs to make. If you’re not close, confronting him is probably going to be the end of your friendship.

      You shouldn’t feel too bad if you’re not close enough to snap him out of this. The fact that he hasn’t done anything yet is a sign of serious weakness on his part, and it’s not on you to carry this guy through life if he can’t stand up on his own feet. It sucks but sometimes you need to keep walking even if someone falls down.

    • Plumber says:

      @souleater >

      “I have a question about open relationships, and I know that there are some people here who have experience with that..

      My experience in the ’80’s was that almost every women in her teens and early to mid 20’s preferred that they’d be “open”, eventually they grow out of it enough to at least pretend they want exclusivity, but only they really know, and I’m guessing that the couple you describe aren’t even in their 40’s yet.

      “…This is definitely none of my business right? I should continue to respect his privacy with the assumption he will let me know if he needs anything?”

      I suppose so, and I presume you enjoy your “game nights” together so you spend time with these people, but my initial instinct is this is an obvious train-wreck-a-coming and you should stay well away.

      • souleater says:

        We are all in our mid to late 20s

        I’ve never liked the wife or boyfriend, and luckily, they don’t come to game night (I DM a D&D campaign). I really only have to see them once every couple of months for social occasions.. I suspect this will be a train wreck, but I think the worst result for me is that it will make my social group toxic and I’ll need to find a new way to occupy my time.

    • Randy M says:

      This is definitely none of my business right?

      That’s the difference between a buddy and a friend.
      Not meaning to imply anything about your course of action. I’m not sure I have any friends in this sense. Friends are the ones you risk friendship for. Buddies are the ones whose privacy you respect ’cause it’s none of your business, even as they are miserable.

      edit: beaten too it by NaD.

    • Ohforfs says:

      He didn’t want me in particular to know because he was afraid I wouldn’t want to be friends with him anymore.

      Well, it’s right there, the reason. I guess the reason was false, as in the fear was unfounded. Add to it the fact the cat is out of the bag (since you talked about it), and the message you’re giving by not mentioning it for these 6 months is that you yourself have a problem with that arrangement (as in not accepting him). Well, that’s something untrue from what i gathered so in the end i would say your behavior is actually producing opposite effect to what you’d like. Perhaps.

      But regardless, since it’s already out of the closet why not ask him what he prefers, if he would still like you not mentioning after you found out?

      Now, since people already commented about the thing you didn’t ask about (the matter itself), let me say what is a basic conclusion in these situation.

      It might be that he is pressured by his wife into this arrangement and is unhappy because of that.
      It might be that his wife was previously unhappy in a closed arrangement.
      It might be that they would be unhappy with splitting up.

      Sometimes there is no easy way out.

      (oh, also, talking about what you think about the situation, that he’s unhappy and so on, is very bad idea. It certainly is much better idea to listen first, or ask questions, as you don’t seem to have enough information)

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      He and Thomas Middleditch’s wife should have coffee.

    • broblawsky says:

      Intervention is appropriate if your friend is unhappy, but both of you might be better off if you helped him find a good therapist.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Do they have kids?
      How did you find out originally?
      How many other people know in your estimation?
      Is he making an effort to exercise his own options so to speak?
      Why did he think you wouldn’t want to be friends with him if you found out? That is a very odd and pathetic thing to think, and a strange thing to admit. Is this guy naturally pity-seeking?

      • souleater says:

        Do they have kids?

        No they do not want kids

        How did you find out originally?

        His wife posted pictures of her on vacation, and one of my friends pointed out to me that
        A) my friend wasn’t in the pictures
        B) our other friend post very similar pictures
        at that point, it just got more and more obvious.

        How many other people know in your estimation?

        Everyone in out friend group except possibly his boss. Maybe a dozen people?
        He doesn’t want our job to find out.

        Is he making an effort to exercise his own options so to speak?

        It came up at one point that he was looking, but I’m not sure how seriously. I know he isn’t going on any dates.

        Why did he think you wouldn’t want to be friends with him if you found out? That is a very odd and pathetic thing to think, and a strange thing to admit. Is this guy naturally pity-seeking?

        He is a bit of an emotional guy, so its not out of character. but part of it is my fault. I’m embarrassed to say it, but have a reputation for being judgmental (not just on CW, but on financial and life decisions).
        I think its reasonable to sometimes disagree with my friends decisions, and from my perspective, I can disagree with someone’s choices without looking down on them for it. But think sometimes my inner monologue shows on my face, and gets misinterpreted. Its something I’m working on.

        • Viliam says:

          There is nothing bad about having opinions, don’t ever let anyone guilt-trip you into believing otherwise. The question is, of course, how will you act upon those opinions. Also, caring about your friend is kinda what friendship means, but again, the question is how specifically will you do it.

          If I understand it correctly, you seem to believe that your friend was pressured into a situation he does not want and that makes him unhappy.

          The first thing is to make sure you understand the situation right. It would be a mistake trying to “fix” something your friend is actually okay with. Or perhaps not perfectly okay, but it still could be the best choice he has, according to his values.

          Gathering information is what being “non-judgmental” is good for. People are less likely to provide you true information, if they feel they will be rewarded or punished depending on what they say.

          There are different ways to do this… for example in therapy, a Freudian therapist would recommend that you shut up and hide your face (put your friend in a comfortable position where he cannot see your face), a Rogerian therapist would recommend that you keep a neutral face and repeat what your friend told you using your own words, and I suppose a rational therapist would recommend to… uhm… provide a rational feedback where you say things you feel certain about and admit your ignorance elsewhere. I suppose different things work for different people.

          In ideal case, you want your friend to come up with a conclusion reflecting his values and his best judgment. Your role is to facilitate the reflection, by bringing up the topic, giving feedback if you suspect he is avoiding a thought, and asking additional questions (such as “you said X, and you also said Y; how can both be true at the same time?”). If he is truly unhappy with the situation, he should be the one to admit it.

        • Ttar says:

          If your boss is part of your social group I’d stay out of it unless you don’t care much about the quality of your work life.

          Your friend sounds like he has internalized low social status. Since you DM and your friend is afraid of losing your approval, I’m guessing you’re higher status in your group than he is. Doing or saying anything that anyone could interpret as you trying to puppetmaster your friend to happiness (even gently reminding him he could stand up for himself) can VERY easily turn into a rumor that you are trying to manipulate him, ruin relationships, etc. That’s the kind of toxic drama you want to avoid. The fact that you are obviously someone he looks up to at least in some ways means people are going to blame you for any poor decisions he makes if you try to get involved. Do nothing before you’ve accepted this.

        • LesHapablap says:

          his wife specifically told me over his objections at a party (At the boyfriends house)

          Just out of curiosity can you describe this conversation? Was he trying to interrupt her and she just kept talking? Or he said don’t tell him and she just said it anyway?

          And also this one:

          I think his wife pressured him into a situation he is unhappy about. (something she has a history of)

          What other situations has she pressured him into?

          Like Nabil, I would tell him that his bad feelings about it are normal and valid, and that he doesn’t need to put up with this. I would be curious about why he is putting up with it, so I’d ask him that as well. I wouldn’t expect much good to come from talking to him about it, but it might give the guy a push in the right direction.

          The brazen cruelty of the wife and boyfriend is just galling. To go on a holiday together, posting pictures online. Why has the social group not shunned them already? Have you talked to anyone else in the group about it?

          • Ohforfs says:

            How would shunning him help him in any way?

          • LesHapablap says:

            The wife and boyfriend ought to be shunned, not him. If this affair wasn’t labeled with ‘open relationship,’ they would be shunned by most social groups I would think.

            Why the guy agreed to an open relationship in the first place I would like to know. If the answer is she pressured him into it, then why does this guy lack any sort of backbone? And did she start dating the boyfriend immediately after she got permission, or later on? Or before?

  19. souleater says:

    I have a question about open relationships, and I know that there are some people here who have experience with that.

    I have a good friend who I’ve know for maybe 6 years.. and it was recently revealed to our social group that he and his wife have an open relationship, and that she’s dating one of the guys in out social circle. He didn’t want me in particular to know because he was afraid I wouldn’t want to be friends with him anymore. I knew for a while but didn’t say anything out of respect for his privacy before his wife specifically told me over his objections at a party (At the boyfriends house).

    I was driving my buddy home afterwards, and he told me that they didn’t always have an open relationship but its just something he has to live with now…

    This was about 6 months ago, but it’s really bothering me. I think his wife pressured him into a situation he is unhappy about. (something she has a history of) Since then, I’ve kinda taken the position that he didn’t want me to know in the first place, I should still respect that and basically pretend I don’t know. We see each other every day at work, and he comes over to my house a few times a month for game night.. but he seems really unhappy.

    This is definitely none of my business right? I should continue to respect his privacy with the assumption he will let me know if he needs anything?

  20. jermo sapiens says:

    The thread on the UK Supreme Court deciding that Boris Johnson’s prorogation was null and void is getting a bit unwieldy. I was hoping to resurrect it here with a focus on the following points discussed in this conversation of UK experts: here.

    1. The justification the court used to give itself the power to decide over the propriety of the prorogation was a 1611 precedent in which the crown had tried to enact laws without Parliament.

    2. This is entirely new law, which disturbs the equilibrium of political forces in the British political system, by a body that is only 10 years old.

    3. If the prorogation was an abuse of power by the Prime Minister, and therefore the decision was the right thing to do, is it ever proper to sanction courts when they abuse their power?

    • erenold says:

      Much appreciated, the downstream thread was becoming hard to follow. By the way – could I check if there’s anyone here with a background in English law? Would be very helpful for present purposes, I think.

      Anyway, asserted for the sake of argument with varying degrees of confidence.

      1. No, with confidence to the point of moral certainty. This point completely misunderstands the point being made at [32] of the judgment and anyone seriously asserting otherwise is trying to mislead you and/or has no business commentating on English law. A plain reading of that section is that the Case of Proclamations is not being used as a “justification”, or a source, of legal power. It’s simply being proffered as an example of how ancient the trite and well-settled point that common-law courts are not deprived of the power to settle issues simply because they happen to be matters of political controversy.

      To the extent that the Court has authority to settle this point, the source of this power is the GCHQ decision referred to at [35]. You need to start reading from there onwards if you want to understand the basis on which the Supreme Court considered that the matter was justiciable (though I confess I still struggle with that notion and was surprised by the result).

      2. Agreed… to an extent. The principle is that Courts don’t create new law – they ‘discover’ the true position. That it ‘disturbs the equilibrium of political forces in the British political system’ is true (hence my normative disagreement with the decision), but I think the extent matters. As in, it introduces centrifugal forces into the Union that will inexorably tear it apart? Or it changes the British constitution in a gradual manner?

      I think the point about the body being only ’10 years old’ is somewhat over-egged, by the way, but this is where I think the conversation would really benefit from the expertise of an English-trained legal professional. Is there really much (if any) substantive difference between the UKSC and the old House of Lords? If not (as I understand to be the case), then the 10 year old point is a mere red herring.

      3. What is meant by the phrase ‘abuse of power’? As in, they in good faith grotesquely over-estimate their rightful powers and role in the British constitution a la Speaker Bercow? Then no. If they are jailing people for private profit , then yes – I would literally and unironically support the death penalty in such cases.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        @erenold: Thank you for your comment.

        1. The only decision I see discussed at paragraph 35 is Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985] AC 374, which stands for the proposition that whether an exercise of a crown prerogative is challengeable in courts “depend[s] on the nature and subject matter of the particular prerogative power being exercised. In that regard, Lord Roskill mentioned at p 418 the dissolution of Parliament as one of a number of powers whose exercise was in his view non-justiciable”. Maybe you had a different paragraph in mind?

        2. Lawyers speak of courts “making new law” all the time. The “discover the true law” bit is a distinction without a difference, except that it gives a false idea that there exists a True Law beyond what has been decided before. It’s not necessarily wrong for courts to make new law, they often dont have the choice. Here, they had a choice, and they found themselves a valuable new power, and missed a great opportunity to exercise judicial restraint. I doubt the House of Lords would have been so cavalier with their exercise of power.

        3. That is exactly my point. Whether something is an abuse of power is subjective. The court’s decision has been supported by some here on the basis that the PM had abused his power. And the court didnt use those words but definitely suggested them. So you have one branch of government usurping a power for themselves on what they view as an abuse of power. Maybe another branch of government should consider this decision to be an abuse of power also, and take it back. If one is ok, so should the other. In fact, the UK Supreme Court is created by an act of parliament, and what parliament can create it can also destroy.

        • erenold says:

          1. I’ve clarified the reference downthread.

          2. While I’m not sure I agree it is a distinction without a difference, and I agree it can be easy to be cynical especially to those disappointed by the latest decision, my personal view is that, as you say, judicial restraint would have been more appropriate here.

          Your reference to the UKHL being less cavalier is opaque to me unless, as mentioned, there is some reason for thinking the UKSC is actually substantively different therefrom. Is there some basis for this claim? That is not my understanding and when I do this professionally I don’t distinguish the two institutions in any meaningful way. But – again, this is a point I think we would all benefit from an English lawyer’s viewpoint.

          3. Fair point.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            1. Yes, I saw that, thanks. I was not aware.

            2. I’ve never seen your formulation before, “discover the true law”. Here in Canada anyways, we use “make new law” without any negative connotations. Is “discover the true law” an expression that is commonly used in the US or the UK (or wherever you are)? I think any lawyer is well aware that old settled law sometimes gets overturned for something more modern. For example, here in Canada the law of judicial review has changed significantly, with the court creating 4 different standards of review, than changing it back to 2, and there is pending decision that is expected to change it again, all within 30 years. It’s not controversial, they create a regime, find that it has issues, and try to fix those issues as they come up. I think the term “discover” for this is wrong. They discover the issues, but then they dont discover the solutions, they come up with potential solutions and try them out.

            My comment with respect to the House of Lords may be completely wrong. It’s based on a stereotype of them as old white guys with wigs who dont like change, specially to the fundamentals of the UK political system. I couldnt tell you the distinction between the Supreme Court and the House of Lords, except the latter is a cooler name.

          • Fitzroy says:

            The UK Supreme Court is, functionally, a continuation of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. Indeed the 10 existing Lords of Appeal in Ordinary became the first Judges of the Supreme Court. The whole “only 10 years old” thing is a canard.

            As for the House of Lords being less cavalier, I’m not at all sure that’s true. Baron Diplock was a strong force for change and the current position on judicial review owes itself largely to him (indeed he was one of the Judges on the GCHQ case which decided that Prerogative powers were subject to judicial review at all).

            Likewise Lord Denning, whose judgments are always a joy to read and always left me with the distinct impression that he took an approach of: “This is the right answer, now let me find some way to make the law support it.”

          • jermo sapiens says:

            As for the House of Lords being less cavalier, I’m not at all sure that’s true. Baron Diplock was a strong force for change and the current position on judicial review owes itself largely to him (indeed he was one of the Judges on the GCHQ case which decided that Prerogative powers were subject to judicial review at all).

            Thanks, I stand corrected.

            If you’re familiar with the GCHQ case, can you please explain what the legal standard was used in that case to decide whether a prerogative was subject to judicial review. It seems that dissolution was not subject to judicial review according to that decision.

          • Fitzroy says:

            @jermo sapiens

            My understanding of that case is similar to yours. The relevant part of Diplock’s ratio is:

            “To qualify as a subject for judicial review the decision must have consequences which affect some person (or body of persons) other than the decision-maker, although it may affect him too. It must affect such other person either (a) by altering rights or obligations of that person which are enforceable by or against him in private law; or (b) by depriving him of some benefit or advantage which either (i) he had in the past been permitted by the decision – maker to enjoy and which he can legitimately expect to be permitted to continue to do until there has been committed to him some rational grounds for withdrawing it on which he has been given an opportunity to comment; or (ii) he has received assurance from the decision-maker that it will not be withdrawn without giving him first an opportunity of advancing reasons for contending that they should not be withdrawn.”

            He stated that such Prerogative powers could be reviewed on grounds or illegality, irrationality (Wednesbury unreasonableness) and procedural impropriety, though he did also suggest that ‘proportionality’ might also be imported in the future.

            The argument in the instant case is presumably that Parliament as a body has had its rights and obligations curtailed by prorogation and the use of the power is therefore open to review.

            It feels like a stretch to me as I am not convinced that Parliament’s obligation to hold the executive to account is enforceable in private law.

            And yes, you are absolutely right that Lord Roskill stated that he believed there were a number of uses of prerogative powers which were not subject to judicial review:

            “Prerogative powers such as those relating to the making of treaties, the defence of the realm, the prerogative of mercy, the grant of honours, the dissolution of Parliament and the appointment of ministers as well as others are not, I think, susceptible to judicial review because their nature and subject matter are such as not to be amenable to the judicial process.”

        • AlphaGamma says:

          @Fitzroy:

          Indeed the 10 existing Lords of Appeal in Ordinary became the first Judges of the Supreme Court.

          In fact, two of them (Lady Hale, the President, and Lord Kerr) are still there- though Lady Hale will retire in January 2020.

      • erenold says:

        I think I should clarify point 1 somewhat to explain why I’ve taken such a strong position on it. I’ve seen this argument elsewhere, and it is an utterly disingenuous one made in pure bad faith. This is the section of the judgment dealing with the “1611 case” in its proper context:

        Secondly, although the courts cannot decide political questions, the fact that a legal dispute concerns the conduct of politicians, or arises from a matter of political controversy, has never been sufficient reason for the courts to refuse to consider it. As the Divisional Court observed in para 47 of its judgment, almost all important decisions made by the executive have a political hue to them. Nevertheless, the courts have exercised a supervisory jurisdiction over the decisions of the executive for centuries. Many if not most of the constitutional cases in our legal history have been concerned with politics in that sense.

        Two examples will suffice to illustrate the point. The 17th century was a period of turmoil over the relationship between the Stuart kings and Parliament, which culminated in civil war. That political controversy did not deter the courts from holding, in the Case of Proclamations (1611) 12 Co Rep 74, that an attempt to alter the law of the land by the use of the Crown’s prerogative powers was unlawful…

        Having made those introductory points, we turn to the question whether the issue raised by these appeals is justiciable. How is that question to be answered? In the case of prerogative powers, it is necessary to distinguish between two different issues. The first is whether a prerogative power exists, and if it does exist, its extent. The second is whether, granted that a prerogative power exists, and that it has been exercised within its limits, the exercise of the power is open to legal challenge on some other basis. The first of these issues undoubtedly lies within the jurisdiction of the courts and is justiciable, as all the parties to these proceedings accept. If authority is required, it can be found in the decision of the House of Lords in the case of Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985] AC 374.

        Anyone purporting to be a commentator who comes to the conclusion from the above passage that the Case of Proclamations is the justification of the present decision has not read the judgment, is incapable of understanding it, and/or is lying to you.

        – sorry, ninja-ed almost immediately. I’ll try to respond more fully to your other points when I’ve had the chance to consider them for a while. Also apologies, I should also have clarified this: Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service is almost universally referred to as the GCHQ decision.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Anyone coming to the conclusion that the Case on Proclamations is the justification of the present decision has not read the judgment, is incapable of understanding it, and/or is lying to you.

          This is way off base.

          Paragraph 41:

          Two fundamental principles of our constitutional law are relevant to the present case. The first is the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty: that laws
          enacted by the Crown in Parliament are the supreme form of law in our legal system, with which everyone, including the Government, must comply. However, the effect which the courts have given to Parliamentary sovereignty is not confined to recognising the status of the legislation enacted by the Crown in Parliament as our highest form of law. Time and again, in a series of cases since the 17th century, the courts have protected Parliamentary sovereignty from threats posed to it by the use of prerogative powers, and in doing so have demonstrated that prerogative powers are limited by the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty. To give only a few examples, in the Case of Proclamations the court protected Parliamentary sovereignty directly, by holding that prerogative powers could not be used to alter the law of the land.

          [Emphasis added.]

          Paragraph 49:

          However, a prerogative power is only effective to the extent that it is recognised by the common law: as was said in the Case of Proclamations, “the King hath no prerogative, but that which the law of the land allows him”. A prerogative power is therefore limited by statute and the common law, including, in the present context, the constitutional principles with which it would otherwise conflict.

          [Emphasis added.]

          Let me ask you, before you accused people of not reading, not being capable of understanding, and lying, did you read the entire judgment, or did you stop after the first time they mentioned the Case on Proclamations? And do you think that Dr. David Starkey is lying, has not read the judgment, or is he incapable of understanding it?

          • erenold says:

            First, let me walk back my language if it caused offence. To be candid I have never in my life heard of Dr Starkey. He does not appear (based on your link) to be a legal academic, to have legal qualifications, or to have at least a legal background. A Lexis search I just did of his name produces literally no results, i.e. he has never once been cited in a reported decision or an academic article (as far as I can tell). That’s absolutely not to suggest that he isn’t entitled to a view or that his viewpoint is held in bad faith, but (again, so far as I am aware) he is someone whose views have never once been cited in a common-law legal authority. And yes, I have read the judgment – as mentioned, it took me by complete surprise and wanted to understand it, since I had been moderately confident the result would have gone the other way, much less be an 11-0 walkover.

            Respectfully, however, I still think the point is disingenuous. As you described it: “The justification the court used to give itself the power to decide over the propriety of the prorogation was a 1611 precedent in which the crown had tried to enact laws without Parliament.” The clear implication is that there existed a dusty old case somewhere, long forgotten by the common law, which the UKSC conveniently unearthed to provide itself with a fig leaf here. That’s simply not true. The principle referred to is trite and ample other examples are given of the same principle. To provide the rest of [41], for example:

            To give only a few
            examples, in the Case of Proclamations the court protected Parliamentary sovereignty directly, by holding that prerogative powers could not be used to alter the law of the land. Three centuries later, in the case of Attorney General v De Keyser’s Royal Hotel Ltd [1920] AC 508, the court prevented the Government of
            the day from seeking by indirect means to bypass Parliament, in circumventing a
            statute through the use of the prerogative. More recently, in the Fire Brigades Union case, the court again prevented the Government from rendering a statute nugatory through recourse to the prerogative, and was not deflected by the fact that the Government had failed to bring the statute into effect. As Lord Browne-Wilkinson
            observed in that case at p 552, “the constitutional history of this country is the history of the prerogative powers of the Crown being made subject to the overriding powers
            of the democratically elected legislature as the sovereign body”.

            And as for [49]:

            Unless the terms of the statute indicate a contrary intention, the courts have set a limit to the lawful exercise of the power by holding that the extent to which the measure impedes or frustrates the operation of the relevant principle must have a reasonable justification. That approach can be seen, for example, in R (UNISON) v Lord Chancellor [2017] UKSC 51; [2017] 3 WLR 409, paras 80-82 and 88-89, where earlier authorities were discussed. A prerogative power is, of course, different from a statutory power: since it is not derived from statute, its limitations cannot be derived from a process of statutory interpretation. However, a prerogative power is only effective to the extent that it is recognised by the common law: as was said in the Case of Proclamations, “the King hath no prerogative, but that which the law of the land allows him”. A prerogative power is therefore limited by statute and the common law”

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Right, so the court quotes the Case on Proclamations, and follows it with “A prerogative power is therefore limited by statute and the common law.”

            I believe that characterizing the above as a justification for its decision is more than reasonable. You could argue that the court used other cases also, to strengthen its point, but it did rely on the Case of Proclamations quite heavily.

          • erenold says:

            I apologise for being technical but it is really not, and it the distinction is important for our purposes because I really do think it shows a fundamental lack of understanding or a lack of integrity in those pushing the claim. (I hope it goes without saying that that is not a personal attack whatsoever).

            I can’t really be bothered to dig up the citations right now but you can take it from me that, for instance, the concept of consideration likewise stems from around the 17th century if not earlier in English contract law. If I cite the progenitor case and say “To give only a few examples, in [progenitor case] in 1611 the court held that a peppercorn rent at least must be given for a lease to be valid at law, and recently in XYZ decision a contract was voided for want of consideration”, it would be deeply wrong – and frankly misleading to the point of being offensive, if it came from a practitioner – to say that I was ‘relying on a 17th century decision’ to justify my decision on some point of the law on consideration. The obvious implication of ‘relying on a 17th century decision’, as I’ve said, is that I cynically dug up an ancient decision to provide myself a judicial fig leaf. But really I’m doing no more than using a rhetorical flourish to illustrate just how trite and well-settled the point is.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I am afraid you are both wrong. Case of proclamations is an important precedent cited by the court as a justification of its decision, but not the only one.

            Basically they said that established case law gives them authority to nullify unlawful use of “royal prerogative” (I admit that I am not super familiar what that term means in English law), and that unlawful exercise of royal prerogative is, according to established case law, also when on its surface lawful exercise is used to “the effect of frustrating or preventing the constitutional role of Parliament in holding the Government to account.” (point 55), because constitutional doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty.

            Whether this was wise decision or not I am honestly not sure.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I apologise for being technical but it is really not, and it the distinction is important for our purposes because I really do think it shows a lack of understanding or a lack of integrity in those pushing the claim. (I hope it goes without saying that that is not a personal attack whatsoever).

            No need to apologize. I can handle technical details, and I appreciate the substantive points you are making. However, instead of a lack of understanding or integrity, you should always assume a reasonable difference of opinion.

            I’m no expert in UK constitutional law. But I am a Canadian lawyer with an interest in Canadian constitutional law and Canadian politics (my actual practice is in intellectual property, fwiw). A few years ago, there was a controversial prorogation of the Canadian parliament, which I followed closely. As you may know, Canadian constitutional law inherits many of its principles from the UK, including prorogation. So I’m no expert, but no novice either.

            At paragraph 27 of this case, the UKSC names the issues to be decided. The first one is “is the [prorogation] justiciable?” The court then spends paragraphs 28 to 52 answering that question. This is no mere rhetorical flourish about trite law. Show me a recent case where the issues to be decided include “Is consideration required for a contract to be enforceable?” , and the discussion on that point takes up 24 paragraphs and 1/3 of the entire decision.

            I think what you mean to say, is that it is settled law that in some cases, royal prerogatives can be challenged in courts. Which is what apparently what GCHQ stands for. But, it also stands for the proposition that some royal prerogatives are not challengeable.

            However, the court did not decide the case based on GCHQ, which states that dissolution is not challengeable. The case does distinguish prorogation from dissolution but not on the basis of whatever legal test was used in GCHQ to find that dissolution was not challengeable.

            In my reading, the court identifies two constitutional principles: parliamentary sovereignty and parliamentary accountability. In support of the sovereignty principle, the court cites the Case on Proclamations (par. 41). Then, on determining how the principle of accountability operates to restrict the power of prorogation, the court once again cites the Case on Proclamations (par. 49).

            So, to summarize:
            -this is not trite law
            -the court relies on the Case on Proclamations to establish:
            a) the principle of parliamentary sovereignty; and
            b) why the principle of parliamentary accountability limits the power of prorogation.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I am afraid you are both wrong. Case of proclamations is an important precedent cited by the court as a justification of its decision, but not the only one.

            This is what I’ve been saying.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @jermo sapiens

            Ups, I missed that, sorry.

          • erenold says:

            I chuckled when I read your response. You should have said from the beginning that you’re a practitioner with at least a background or practice interest in public law, and we could have proceeded on the basis that your command of the substantive public law issues is going to be infinitely greater than mine: I’ll do whatever walks through the door and as it happens I’ve actually won a judicial review before, but I’m really just going off half-remembered snippets of Public Law from school.

            Anyway, I’m not particularly fussed, and I don’t really think it’s relevant, whether the 1611 case per se played a small or moderate or significant role in the decision. Like I said, I was responding to your original claim which was:

            [blockquote] The justification the court used to give itself the power to decide over the propriety of the prorogation was a 1611 precedent in which the crown had tried to enact laws without Parliament.[/blockquote]

            I took and still take the natural and ordinary meaning of that sentence (and I’ve seen this point made elsewhere in plainly misleading contexts) to mean that the reference to the 1611 case is a pure and simple sham to create a judicial fig leaf; that the 1611 decision is a standalone decision, not cited anywhere else and not widely considered to be good law, resurrected solely for the purposes of a cynical decision. If you accept, as I think you must, that the case is good law and the reference to it does no more than set out a well-settled and trite principle – or if that’s not what was meant or if I’ve misunderstood something somewhere – happy to move on.

          • erenold says:

            I should clarify my response further.

            It is obviously not trite law that prorogation is justiciable. Nor is the Proclamations’ Case direct authority that it is. No one is making either of those two points. The case is cited to support the two other points you correctly refer, which in turn are secondary premises leading to the UKSC’s ultimate decision that prorogation is justiciable. As an authority for these two secondary points, the Proclamation’s Case is eminently correct law and has been cited over 35 times in England alone by my quick count and furthermore in very many eminent and leading public law cases – Belize, GCHQ, Hamed, the works. You can verify this for yourself in less than 2 minutes on Lexis (or whichever engine you’re on – is it mostly Westlaw in Canada?)

            You know as well as I do how stare decisis works – one might as well speak of a modern negligence action being based on the “one hundred year old case” of Donoghue v Stevenson. No, it’s based on principles first enumerated therein, but subsequently accepted as clearly setting the true principle of law in very many other and more recent decisions.

            I thus conclude it is fundamentally and obviously misleading, especially when seeking to communicate to a lay audience, to say that R (ex parte Miller) v Prime Minister is “based on a 1611 case”. It is based on an extremely trite and well-established principle that does emanate from a 1611 case, but is nonetheless an unimpeachable principle of public law repeated and accepted many times since, and never (as far as I can tell) doubted. Its vintage adds to its provenance, not the other way around.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The case is cited to support the two other points you correctly refer, which in turn are secondary premises leading to the UKSC’s ultimate decision that prorogation is justiciable.

            Yes, exactly. And that makes my original point of:

            The justification the court used to give itself the power to decide over the propriety of the prorogation was a 1611 precedent in which the crown had tried to enact laws without Parliament.

            correct.

            I thus conclude it is fundamentally and obviously misleading, especially when seeking to communicate to a lay audience, to say that R (ex parte Miller) v Prime Minister is “based on a 1611 case”.

            It absolutely is based on a 1611 case. The problem with the 1611 case is not that it’s from 1611, it’s that the case’s ratio decidendi doesnt logically lead to the court’s decision in the case at bar. The court’s legal reasoning is quite poor, and given that these people are clearly very competent jurists, the parsimonious explanation for why they ruled the way they did is that they wanted to frustrate Brexit. Maybe this view is incorrect, but so far nothing I’ve seen has convinced me otherwise.

            The court actually cites a case that seems very relevant to the issue they are deciding, but they go on to ignore it, which I find strange. Since you’re familiar with the case, maybe you can explain why they did that. Specifically, the court says:

            In the Council of Civil Service Unions case, the House of Lords concluded that the answer to that question would depend on the nature and subject matter of the particular prerogative power being exercised. In that regard, Lord Roskill mentioned at p 418 the dissolution of Parliament as one of a number of powers whose exercise was in his view non-justiciable.

            What test did Lord Roskill use to determine that dissolution was not justiciable? I would expect that there is one, but I dont know for sure. This is a very strange omission on the part of the court.

            Instead, the court declares that the parliamentary principles of accountability and sovereignty determine the limit of royal prerogatives. Ok fine, but that skipped the step of determining whether this particular prerogative is justiciable in the first place.

            It would appear to me that when a prerogative is justiciable, it is limited by the principles of parliamentary accountability and sovereignty. But a non-justiciable prerogative is not limited by these same principles. If it was limited by these principles, that would make it justiciable by definition.

            At par. 52 the court states:

            As we have explained, it is well established, and is accepted by counsel
            for the Prime Minister, that the courts can rule on the extent of prerogative powers. That is what the court will be doing in this case by applying the legal standard which we have described. That standard is not concerned with the mode of exercise of the prerogative power within its lawful limits. On the contrary, it is a standard which determines the limits of the power, marking the boundary between the prerogative on the one hand and the operation of the constitutional principles of the sovereignty of Parliament and responsible government on the other hand. An issue which can be resolved by the application of that standard is by definition one which concerns the extent of the power to prorogue, and is therefore justiciable.

            This is saying, we can decide where the boundary between constitutional principles and the prerogative lies, therefore it’s justiciable. That makes no sense to me. If it makes sense to you, please let me know how.

            In my mind, something is justiciable or not. If it is, go ahead and determine the legal limits of it. If it’s not, you can perform the same exercise, but the results wont matter because it’s not the court’s business.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The court’s legal reasoning is quite poor, and given that these people are clearly very competent jurists, the parsimonious explanation for why they ruled the way they did is that they wanted to frustrate Brexit. Maybe this view is incorrect, but so far nothing I’ve seen has convinced me otherwise.

            It might also just be the intoxicating effect of (the opportunity to gain more) power.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      The “Only 10 years old” point is getting made a lot, but it’s not clear to me how the Supreme Court differs from the Law Lords. My understanding was that it was partly because of a lack of space that the Supreme Court was spun off, and not to birth a new wing of government. I thought the justices were just the Law Lords reskinned.

      The name certainly brings to mind the American court system and all its baggage, but I’m not clear how the SCOTUK has changed its behavior since ceasing to be a walled off subcommittee of the House of Lords.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The biggest difference I can think of is that the Law Lords were a part of Parliament, not a separate institution like the Supreme Court is. As for what difference this makes, I suppose you could make the case that a separate institution is more likely to develop delusions of grandeur and seek to arrogate more power to itself than a mere Parliamentary committee is. And of course, considering the case of prorogation specifically, the Law Lords would be prorogued along with the rest of Parliament, and hence unable to overrule the prorogation. Though I’m not sure what would have happened after the English and Irish courts ruled prorogation legal and the Scottish one ruled the other way; would it be possible to recall just the Law Lords and not the rest of Parliament?

        • Gobbobobble says:

          So who does have the ability to deny prorogation? One of these threads mentioned that no one would consider calling a 5-year prorogation legitimate – who has the power to turn such down if an executive were to try it? Does Parliament itself have the option to vote to say “nuh uh we’re staying”?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The Queen if she wanted to, but if she ever did that it would open up a whole new can of worms.

            Also, if a government were to prorogue Parliament for 5 years, it would be shooting itself in the foot. It wouldnt even have funds to maintain normal operations during those 5 years.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            So who does have the ability to deny prorogation? One of these threads mentioned that no one would consider calling a 5-year prorogation legitimate – who has the power to turn such down if an executive were to try it? Does Parliament itself have the option to vote to say “nuh uh we’re staying”?

            It’s impossible to pass new laws or raise new taxes without Parliament. Also, the existence of the British army needs to be renewed by an Act of Parliament every five years, or else it will legally cease to exist. So whilst in theory a government could prorogue Parliament for as long as it liked, it wouldn’t be able to do much in the way of actual governing if it did so.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          And of course, considering the case of prorogation specifically, the Law Lords would be prorogued along with the rest of Parliament, and hence unable to overrule the prorogation

          This is incorrect. The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 specifically gave the Law Lords the right to hear appeals while Parliament was prorogued.

    • ECD says:

      I have no relevant knowledge on British law. But on (3), the way you handle that issue is by passing a law to override them (this is relatively common, at least in the US system). Of course, this requires you to be able to get a majority to support the notion that they abused their authority.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        That’s not always possible, especially in the US. What do you do when SCOTUS decides that it can read between the lines of the constitution that there is a hidden right to abortion and gay marriage in there (dont want to get to the object level discussion on these topics, they’re just the examples where the court made something up that i’m most familiar with)?

        Nevermind the difficulty of amending the constitution, but assuming you could, what do you amend it to, if the courts dont even base their decision on the text of the constitution?

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    It’s Pat the doll!

    Scientists have debunked the idea that boys are simply born wanting to play with trucks and girls wanting to nurture dolls. A study by psychologists Lisa Dinella and Erica Weisgram, co-editors of Gender Typing of Children’s Toys: How Early Play Experiences Impact Development, found that when wheeled toys were painted white — and thus deprived of all color signaling whether they were “boys’ toys” or “girls’ toys” — girls and boys chose to play with the wheeled toys equally often.

    They seem to be pointedly ignoring the studies showing that while boy and girl monkeys will play with trucks equally often, the boy monkeys don’t want dolls.

    • Enkidum says:

      Studies or studY?

      For all the skepticism about social psychology I find here (frequently justified), I’m always surprised by how happy people are to treat studies as gospel when they match their beliefs.

      Of course the previous studies don’t match my beliefs, so I’m happy to admit some mea culpa here as well.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Well you’re trying to design a study that can somehow do what previous studies didn’t.

        If the idea is that toy preferences are actually about the color rather than type of the toy then the next step would be to test different combinations of colors and types.

      • DeWitt says:

        Agreed. The replication crisis’ lesson should be to dismiss all psychology-adjacent research until it’s very clear the studies point one way.

        • Enkidum says:

          That’s a terrible lesson, especially for a place as Bayes-oriented as this.

          • Randy M says:

            If dismiss is shorthand for “take as no more than weak evidence” and the studies is shorthand for “a the majority of studies, at least containing three independent” is it still terrible?

          • DeWitt says:

            Why? Given how easy it is to fall for confirmation bias and given the weak correlation to the truth these studies have, I don’t think they’re very valuable.

          • Enkidum says:

            If dismiss is shorthand for “take as no more than weak evidence” and the studies is shorthand for “a the majority of studies, at least containing three independent” is it still terrible?

            Something like this sounds about right.

          • Enkidum says:

            Another way of putting it is that dismissing psychology studies is very similar to dismissing election polling on the grounds of Trump’s election. 538 has been very, very clear about the mistake people are making when they do that.

      • lvlln says:

        For all the skepticism about social psychology I find here (frequently justified), I’m always surprised by how happy people are to treat studies as gospel when they match their beliefs.

        Do you have any examples of this happening?

        • Enkidum says:

          I think the majority of the responses to this post are leaning in that direction.

          • lvlln says:

            There aren’t that many responses to the top-level post, so I read through all of them, but I couldn’t find a single one that I thought treated any study as gospel or even leaned in the direction of treating one as gospel, much less a majority. Could you point to a specific example?

          • Enkidum says:

            There seems to be a very strong belief that the previous studies showing macaques having toy preferences are accurate, whereas there is something wrong with either the methodology or interpretation of the new studies.

            This is not a useful way to approach scientific findings.

            I do think I probably overstated the original claim, however.

    • AG says:

      How are they defining doll vs. action figure? Straw figure vs. stick figure? I wonder if the gender component is more about soft vs. hard material toys? Do boys and girls still play with a car plushie with the same frequency?

      (Something something boys aren’t as into n e o t e n y at that age :P. When they play with a puppy, it’s because of the puppy’s behavior, not appearance.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I think the definition of an action figure, as established in 1964, is having a weapon. A GI Joe can be Barbie-scale with removable clothing, but even just PT tee and sweatpants not so different from Ken, the weapon makes it Not-Doll.

        • JayT says:

          The “action” in “action figure” was two things.
          1) (Most importantly) It was to name it something other than a “doll” since a doll was a girl’s toy.
          2) It had far more articulation. Barbie and Ken moved forward and backward at their shoulders, hips, and neck. GI Joe had points of articulation at all the major human joints. Since it had so much more “action” that’s where they came up with the name.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            2) is a good point. But then the 1978 Star Wars figures (there were no 1977 Star Wars toys) had only shoulder, hip and neck swivels.

            @AG: Superman is an example of where such a definition breaks down. Mattel has made DC character Barbies – if Supergirl Barbie is paired with a male Superman doll, he’s a doll, while a Superman action figure could also be 12″ and have cloth clothing. At that point it’s just branding.

          • albatross11 says:

            “Action figure” is what you call a doll when you want to sell it to boys and their parents.

          • JayT says:

            Le Maistre, I’m just referring to what Donald Levine, the creator of GI Joe and creator of the term, said “action figure” meant. Since then, it’s basically just meant “human-shaped toy for boys”.

        • AG says:

          Hrm, I don’t think this squares with, say, Superman. Certainly, some Superman action figures come with some sort of accessory to denote heat vision or freeze breathe, but not all. Not to mention how we would delineate animal toys under this system. Or weaponless Lego figures.

    • Urstoff says:

      Once we removed all defining characteristics of the toy, it turns out all children are equally likely to play with them.

      • Watchman says:

        Actually an important point. Children don’t play with toys because children like toys. Children play with toys because children are practising to be adults. Removing the contextual information from a car makes it a less interesting toy, as it isn’t a car but a white object that looks like a car. I’d suggest that this study shows children don’t just base their preferences on object shape, which is not news to any parent who has struggled to find one particular favourite toy that only differs from several others by its paint job. I could well be wrong, but I bet the study doesn’t compare quality of play with the defeatured toys with that with coloured equivalents, and that if they had the children (probably both genders) would have more imaginative and complex play with the coloured ones, because they’d be playing with toys that they can more easily categorise.

        I am guessing this doesn’t work in reverse with dolls since a lack of colour here would be less notable: children are not differentiated by colours, so a preference for playing with dolls is probably more conditioned on the human shape.

      • Ttar says:

        “After controlling for the rate of cell mutation, we found smokers were no more or less likely to get cancer than nonsmokers.”

        So many social science papers.

    • Sometimes, you have to stick with common sense. There’s obviously something wrong with this study or the conclusion is unduly extrapolated from the empirical data. Boys and girls are obviously biologically different and anyone who thinks otherwise is either kidding themselves or doesn’t know what they are talking about.

      • Enkidum says:

        “Plays with a truck/doll” is not necessarily a good operationalization of “obviously biologically different”.

        • AG says:

          Yep, and it’s more about the ridiculous personality extrapolations that get pulled from this that are the issue, if indeed boys like trucks and girls like dolls, besides the part where trucks vs. dolls is a ridiculous binary in the first place. Since when have toy cars with a person-shaped figure inside ceased to exist?

          Have y’all read the stories of the Watsonian-horrendous thing-oriented scenarios that girls have put their dolls through?

          We already went through a baby clothing color switch, so I have no trust that toy norms aren’t also so socially constructed.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I can’t locate the exact study (or i can’t identify it), but google scholar turns up several papers authored by those the two and the study sizes are tiny. The largest is n=82, and the smallest is n=42 that come from both authors since 2015 (unless I missed one), the idea that ‘scientists have debunked x’ based on studies of this size would be laughable if it wasn’t published in Time.

      • Enkidum says:

        What do you suppose the sample sizes for the papers they are ostensibly refuting are? (Answer: at least one of them is in the 40s).

        • baconbits9 says:

          Does this relate to anything I wrote?

          • Enkidum says:

            If the evidence for X is a study using a sample which you consider laughably small, you should be very suspicious of X. However I apologize because I think I read your comment in context of the surrounding ones, which actually mention those previous studies, whereas you did not.

            FWIW, I’m not sure why you think 82 (or 42 for that matter) are ridiculously small sample sizes. It would depend on what kind of stats are being computed.

    • Aapje says:

      @Le Maistre Chat

      They seem to be pointedly ignoring the studies showing that while boy and girl monkeys will play with trucks equally often, the boy monkeys don’t want dolls.

      The new study doesn’t actually contradict that. They just found that by themselves, wheels don’t do anything. That is not really surprising. Imagine a doll with wheels or a truck without wheels. Why would that have a gendered effect?

      Arguably, this study tells us a lot more about the researchers than about reality: that they have no understanding of gender.

      • Watchman says:

        In itself the finding, albeit probably using too small a sample, is interesting. But to discuss it as part of an attempt to understand gender identity rather than simply play preferences would seem ill-advised (note we don’t have the authors’ framing but that of a journalist probably via the relative university PR and perhaps a toy company’s scientific advisors (!)). It took me 2 minutes to identify an explanation for the reported observation that reinforces gender roles.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @Aapje: yeah, it doesn’t contradict the earlier human and rhesus studies, because it’s testing a different variable. And the researchers are clueless about gender.

      • Enkidum says:

        I really, really wish people saying “the researchers are clueless about gender” would have some evidence for that statement beyond an article written by some journalist unconnected to the studies.

        It’s not a good way of improving your beliefs about reality.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @Enkidum: That’s fair. We always need to check what the scientists say to be sure a journalist isn’t putting lwords in their mouths.

        • Aapje says:

          @Enkidum

          I looked at the abstract of the paper. I stand by my claim.

          • Enkidum says:

            I’m legitimately confused as to what you might find objectionable or ignorant there.

          • Aapje says:

            There are various (sometimes non-exclusive) theories to what gender differences exist and when they occur. To test an existing theory, research should try to figure out whether reality changes at the places that those theories suggest it will, or a new theory should be presented and tested. They don’t seem to do the latter, nor the former (as I’m not aware of a theory that would suggest that wheels would make a difference), so that makes for ignorant science.

            The outcome of their study is completely unsurprising, as no matter what current theory is correct, you’d expect an outcome like that, if the study is done correctly.

            Arguably, the main value, low as it is, in a study like this is to expose those with strong bias; as they draw unwarranted conclusions from nigh-zero value studies like this.

            Then again, for replication crisis reasons, as well as because many people are very biased, doing mediocre studies arguably has larger downsides than upsides.

          • Enkidum says:

            What theory do you think they’re trying to test?

            I really think you’re coming to this study with a huge amount of preconceptions (possibly stemming from the fairly cruddy Time article that was originally linked) about what they are and aren’t trying to say and do.

          • Aapje says:

            Yes, I have preconceptions towards the dominant science and other evidence that already exists. This is not an error, IMO.

            Anyway, I found the actual paper and my criticism was incorrect, although the paper has significant issues in a different way. There seems to be a theory that boys are more interested in “propulsive motion,” and therefor prefer wheeled toys that allow more propulsive motion.

            However, a study they refer to (Benenson et al), to argue that boys may like “propulsive motion” more, didn’t actually measure propulsive toy play, but hitting a balloon. Balloons are not wheeled toys and calling hitting a balloon “propulsive motion” is extremely questionable. Other explanations, like a higher level of aggression, seem quite plausible, so I think that other studies should investigate this finding much better before more research is done that accepts such a disputable explanation. Note that this lack of rigor is extremely common, especially in social sciences, which is why so much of it is a house of cards, with very questionably conclusions being used as premises for new research.

            Also, Benenson measured time hitting a balloon, which is very different from the wheeled toy study, which didn’t measure actual play time, but asked children about their level of interest. This difference in study setup can itself cause various differences (like stated preferences being different from revealed preferences). Again, this is a lack of rigor. Rigorous scientists would either redo the first study with a sufficiently similar methodology or would use a matching methodology.

            So while this study does have a theory that it tests, it is a very flimsy theory. Significant differences in study setup are disguised behind the abstraction of “propulsive motion,” which can be interpreted as fraudulent, if one has a sufficiently high opinion of social scientists and thinks that they comprehend their errors and made them intentionally (I don’t).

      • b_jonas says:

        > Imagine a doll with wheels or a truck without wheels.

        The first one is called a Transformer, and it’s considered a boy’s toy. The second one is just a usual toy truck a few days after your small child got their hands on it, and neither boys nor girls want to pay with it, they just demand you to buy a new toy because this one is broken.

    • aristides says:

      I want to see a follow up study where they paint dolls white and see who plays with them. Possibly no one, since they will look creepy as hell, but I’d still bet girls play more.

      • AG says:

        I want to see a follow up study where the dolls have sword accessories and see who plays with them.

        I saw an elementary school field trip to Vaux le Vicomte, where they set out baskets of foam swords and princess dresses during freeplay time. Girls went for the swords just as much as the boys, whether they donned the dresses or not, and there wasn’t any significant “girls only fought girls, boys only fought boys” segregation. It was equal opportunity boffering all around.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Seems like privileging girls, because they get to cosplay as Noble medieval warriors in pretty dresses while the boys only get to boff them with the toy swords!

          • AG says:

            But that part is definitely socially constructed norms, considering that for most of history, the one-piece dress form of clothing wasn’t a gendered one. Clothing was gendered in other ways.

            This is precisely why I question what sort of implications a constructed dolls vs. trucks binary is supposed to have. People vs. things makes no sense in the context of more historically universal toys, such as tops, jump rope, or marbles.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @AG:

            But that part is definitely socially constructed norms, considering that for most of history, the one-piece dress form of clothing wasn’t a gendered one. Clothing was gendered in other ways.

            This is precisely why I question what sort of implications a constructed dolls vs. trucks binary is supposed to have.

            Well, dolls are nurturing toys (at least the kind used in the monkey studies – they weren’t giving Reese the rhesus a Barbie), so that’s obvious, but the binary with trucks is surprising, because they’re a human construct. Why the toy preference study replicates is actually a strange fact to explain.

          • AG says:

            But “trucks vs. X” could go so many different ways. If there is no other toy alternative, does one group choose to just talk amongst themselves, or play without toys, instead? Do we see the same relationship when other things are on wheels, such as animal or human figures? What about when the truck is a cart instead, a tool to put other things in it, rather than just a solid block on wheels? Do dolls not have car accessories anymore (synthesis!)?

            And as my comment above, is it really about nurturing, or is it about texture? What happens when the toys are a truck-shaped plushie and a hard-material humanoid figure?
            Do boys notably play less with toys based on Pixar’s Cars (or Thomas the Tank Engine), as their anthropomorphized nature and neotenous designs put them under people more than things? For what of object do girls stop nurturing an anthropomorphized form of said object?

            “Trucks vs. dolls” is just one of the most arbitrary things to compare, ever. There are millions of axes upon which the preferences could be acting, even if they replicate.

    • INH5 says:

      About that monkey study. Under the “Data Analysis” section:

      Subjects with fewer than 5 total behaviors (3 males and 14 females) were excluded from analyses, producing a final n of 23 females and 11 males.

      So they threw out a third of their sample based on apparently arbitrary criteria. I really, really want to know why they did that before I’m confident that they didn’t just turn the statistical knobs until they got a “correct” statistically significant result.

      • Enkidum says:

        They just told you why they threw out the subjects.

        Any criteria is somewhat arbitrary, you have to pick a value.

        A general rule of thumb for human data is that less than 12 samples per subject per condition results in data that is too noisy to be trustworthy. They’re clearly being a lot more liberal than that, presumably because collecting these data is difficult.

        • INH5 says:

          Here’s my problem: if they had instead picked a minimum of 4 total behaviors, or 6, or anything else, would anyone have noticed? If not, then how do we know that they didn’t try those other thresholds, and picked the one with the “correct” result for publication?

  22. Enkidum says:

    Continuing a conversation from the previous OT, which had become mostly me and @Hoopdawg (please feel free to correct my inevitable misunderstandings or ignoring of others’ positions):

    It began with @arch1 giving a quotation from the Economist that I really, really like:

    A dictum among linguists is that languages differ not in what they can express, but in what they must

    So all languages can say pretty much anything, but they require you to say it in particular ways.

    I turned to examples of weird requirements of different languages that are completely transparent to native speakers, but madness to outsiders.

    One example is the countable/uncountable distinction in English and many other languages. It simply doesn’t exist in most Asian languages, for example, whereas in English you have to use an article (“a” or “the”) for countable things (but only if there’s one of them!), and not for uncountable ones. This is a huge pain in the ass for many EFL learners, and many essentially never learn it correctly even after many years of practice.

    Similarly, in Chinese and Japanese (among others), you have different words for numbers, depending on the shape and/or metaphysical status of the things you are counting. Thus you would use different numbers for flat things like paper, long thin things like sticks, large animals like cows, small animals like cats, etc. This is also a huge pain in the ass for people coming from languages like English, and many essentially never learn it correctly.

    What I was trying to argue is that these are fairly important parts of the respective languages (you sound like a fool if you don’t use them), but they are not important (or at least almost completely unimportant) for communication. So if you leave them out (just don’t use articles in English, or use generic counters in Japanese), there is, in almost any realistic set of circumstances, no ambiguity introduced into your sentence. And in the vanishingly rare cases in which there might be ambiguity, you could eliminate it with a handful of extra words. Nevertheless in English we simply must express the countability of objects, and in Japanese you simply must express the metaphysical status of any objects you happen to be counting. Because that’s just how language works.

    @Hooddawg’s response was essentially that these features must serve a useful communicative purpose because language is for communication, and non-communicative features would die out (I mean, you said a lot of other things but I think that’s a fair summary of the point of disagreement?).

    So in essence I think my response is that language is “for” communication, but that there are a number of things which encourage the creation and maintenance of novel linguistic features. One of them is surely that there is something you are trying to say which lots of people are trying to say, and this feature allows you to do it efficiently and accurately. So point to hoopdawg there. But another is that the existing structure of the language is such that it is a relatively small move in linguistic space to say the thing you want to say this way, rather than some other way. That is, the language itself becomes part of the environment in which it evolves. And then this novel innovation becomes part of the context under which new linguistic innovations must succeed.

    Now you do this many, many times for hundreds of years, and you end up with a language that is full of crap that, while there may be myriad historical reasons for why it is the way it is, these reasons are not good reasons in the sense of logical or principled argumentation. And these structures, which all native speakers grow up mastering, end up canalizing future development even more.

    And I would argue that that is one of the sources, perhaps the main one, for things like countability and counting words.

    (I think much the same line of argument applies to the evolution of DNA, which is why I’m not particularly impressed by eco-psych, but that’s a separate topic.)

    Douglas Hofstadter somewhere gives the example of Mandarin having a very strong pressure to have two-syllable noun structures. Thus you would rarely say “cat”, you would say “small cat”. But if it was an old cat, you wouldn’t say “small old cat”, you would just say “old cat”. (I’m likely screwing up the example.)

    I will go out on a limb here, despite having no expertise in Mandarin at all, and say that this is a completely useless feature of the language. It adds nothing in terms of communicative utility. But there are certainly interesting historical reasons for why it developed that way (I have no idea what they are). And I would say that English’s articles and Asian languages’ counting words are much closer to that than they might appear to a native speaker.

    • nkurz says:

      > So all languages can say pretty much anything, but they require you to say it in particular ways.

      In some edge cases, though, these particular ways are particularly clumsy. I studied Russian in college, and one of my professors was interested in things that were grammatically very difficult to say in Russian. Since there are some Russian speakers here, it might be interesting to see their reaction to one of his examples. As succinctly as possible, please translate the following sentence into grammatically correct Russian:

      “I have 23 watches” (where watches means the sort timepiece that one wears on one’s wrist).

      Surprisingly to English speakers, this isn’t easy to do. I tested this question on some native speakers while in Russia, and the even more surprising part to me was that most Russians didn’t seem to have precognition that this will be difficult. So they start the sentence, then stumble, and go back and eventually come up with something close to the clumsy pair of sentences “I have 23 things. They are watches”. My favorite answer was “Maybe in America you can have that many watches, but not here.”

      The issue is that in Russian, the case used for nouns is different based on the number that precedes them. For numbers 2 through 4 (and for multiples of 10 plus these numbers other than the teens), the noun needs to be in the genitive singular case, while numbers 5-9 are in the genitive plural. But the word “watch” though is already a plural word, coming from “hours”.

      So to be grammatically correct, one needs to come up with the genitive singular of a plural word, which does not exist. For small numbers, there are some standard work arounds. For even numbers, there are some other work arounds (such as counting in pairs). But for the rare case of larger numbers that are 3 away from a multiple of 10, there doesn’t seem to be any real standard.

      • Enkidum says:

        That’s pretty hilarious, actually, and I think gives a strong case for languages not being always, or even primarily, about effective communication. These structures build up over time and you get weird conflict situations like this.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        What are some examples of this for English?

        • Machine Interface says:

          Model verbs that lack an infinitive form.

          Eg: what is the future tense of “He should do this”?

          • Oscar Sebastian says:

            He should do this later.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Not the same thing, I think. I took Machine Interface’s challenge to be to express the claim that at some point in the future, he will be obliged to do this, not that he currently is obliged to do it at some point in the future. Something like “He will have to do this.” But I’m not sure if that completely addresses MI’s requirement. Are there other languages where this is substantially less awkward?

          • Eric Rall says:

            I’m pretty sure “shall” is the future form of “should”, but it’s problematic here because it has connotations of certainty in addition to the denotation of obligation.

          • Machine Interface says:

            “shall” is the correct morphology, but the meaning has shifted, so that “he shall do this” is generally just synonymous with “he will do this.”

            “He should do this.” Means “there’s probably a requirement that he does this”. Contrasted with “He must do this”, meaning “there’s definitely a requirement that he does this”. “He will have to do this” is basically how you express the future of “he must do this”. The future of “he should do this” has then to be approximated as something “he will probably have to do this”. (Or maybe “he would have to do this”?)

            The more general point is that “can”, “could”, “should”, “must” and other similar verbs do not have infinitive forms and so can not to be directly used with forms that require the infinitives (such as future constructions with “will” or “going to”).

            That doesn’t mean the concept is out of reach, but a different construction has to be used (such as “will have to” to translate the notion of “must” into the future).

          • Don P. says:

            Better, the future version of “must” (unless it’s the same “shall” answer).

          • A1987dM says:

            It will be better for him to do this.

          • Viliam says:

            Not a native English speaker, but my guess would be: “He will be obliged to do this.”

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            “He will should do this.”

          • Auric Ulvin says:

            He ought to do this.

        • smocc says:

          I have read that certain Indian languages have a question word akin to “which” or “who” for “which number in an ordered series is the object.” This is used mainly for questioning family structure, so you can ask where line someone is in their family in a small number of words. I correct answer is a number or ordinal.

          I’m still not sure I have a good English equivalent in a single sentence. “Which number are you in the order of your siblings?” or “Which number child are you in your family?”

          Also: communicating which zippered section of a large backpack or bag something is in. Is there any language that can do this efficiently?

          • A1987dM says:

            IIRC so do German and Latin.

          • a real dog says:

            Can you elaborate on the last example? In English you can just ask “in which section”, and get an answer like “third from the left”. That sounds pretty efficient to me.

          • smocc says:

            @a real dog

            That which is the left side of a backpack? The side that is on the wearer’s left when wearing it, or the left of someone standing on the side the straps are on, which is often how the pockets are accessed. Similarly, what is the back of a backpack? Is it the side closest to wearer’s back, or is it the side furthest from the back? In practice I find no one has a clear answer to that in their heads.

            The only practical solutions I know are to use directions relative to the person you are talking to (which is inconsistent and usually requires everyone to stop and think) and to use visual descriptors of the pockets (the largest one, the small one with a toggle on the zipper, etc.)

          • CatCube says:

            @a real dog

            That sounds an awful lot like a specific subset of English: the marine/naval industry.

            “Port” and “starboard” are used for “left” and “right” for this exact reason. “Port” always refers to the left side of the ship when you’re facing towards the bow, and “starboard” the right. There’s no confusion using those compared to using “left” and “right” which may be interpreted as relative to the speaker, relative to the listener, or relative to the ship.

            Of course, in dams we always use “left” and “right” with the convention that they refer to those directions when facing downstream. Left abutment, left gate, etc. It’s usually not