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Open Thread 138.25

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1,258 Responses to Open Thread 138.25

  1. jermo sapiens says:

    I havent been following everything extremely closely, but my understanding is that the Dems intend to impeach Trump without having a formal vote to open an impeachment inquiry in the House. How irregular is this? Is this done to avoid giving House Republicans subpoena powers and the like? Yesterday my phone started giving me notifications from the Ministry of Truth (i.e. Apple News and Twitter News) saying that Trump said he wont cooperate with the impeachment. Did he say he wont cooperate unless an impeachment inquiry is voted on in the House, or that he wont cooperate in any circumstances?

    • Aftagley says:

      A couple of things:

      1. The impeachment is the final step in the process; you don’t vote to impeach and then have an inquiry, you have an inquiry and then vote to impeach. Once it comes time for impeachment, a vote in the House is constitutionally required.

      2. The house is currently in recess and has been during the whole course of this mess. If Speaker Pelosi had wanted to call for an official vote, she would have had to wait until next Tuesday to do so. I’m not sure if there are added benefits with regards to not letting republicans have subpoena powers (IMO you can do that with simple committee majority).

      3. His lawyer released a letter explaining why Trump won’t cooperate with the process. It’s legal reasoning is sketchy, and unlikely to hold up if this goes to court, however. The Constitution is pretty vague on what exactly the House can do before impeaching.

      4. Yesterday. his lawyers refused to answer if Trump would cooperate with the impeachment process if the House voted on it. Just a gut call here, but it seems unlikely that in a week he’ll be happy to comply with these proceedings. Speaker Pelosi can easily force the issue, and everyone involves knows it.

      • RamblinDash says:

        The Constitution is pretty vague on what exactly the House can do before impeaching.

        It actually isn’t.

        Article 1, section 2 (in part):

        The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

        Article 1, section 5 (in part):

        Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings

        I don’t really see any other reading of this than that the House itself is the sole arbiter of how the House may proceed on impeachment inquiries.

        • Aftagley says:

          By vague I mean that the constitution doesn’t explicitly list the steps the house has to follow when it is planning an impeachment. I agree that it gives the house the sole arbiter and endows them with the responsibility to decide the matter, but you’ll agree that isn’t quite a road map, right?

          • Drew says:

            The House of Representatives has unilateral authority to set their own procedures. They could demand that Trump submit to a Trial-by-Ordeal if they wanted, and it would be perfectly constitutional.

            NB: They don’t have the power to force anyone to participate in their process. So the demand letter is constitutional, but there’s nothing backing it except a threat that Trump will be impeached for not-complying with their impeachment process.

            But Constitutionality / Legality isn’t really the big concern here. Instead, this is a pure political question. Both sides want to seem reasonable to voters.

            Pelosi knows that Trump won’t get convicted by 2/3rds of the Senate. So, her “Victory Condition” is an investigation that drags out for several months and makes Trump look bad, followed by a bunch of attack ads against Republican Senators who voted for acquittal.

            Trump’s “Victory Condition” is to make Pelosi’s process seem abusive, and force the Dems into either failing-to-impeach (and looking foolish), or sending a weak bill-of-impeachment to the Senate that lets McConnell spend a few weeks grandstanding about how the Dems are political.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Pelosi knows that Trump won’t get convicted by 2/3rds of the Senate.

            Something of a quibble, but Pelosi knows this in the same way that we “knew” Donald Trump couldn’t win a general election. It assumes a great deal about future events being like current ones.

            I would hardly say it’s a good bet that the Senate convicts, but depending on what comes out and when … nothing is set in stone.

          • quanta413 says:

            They could demand that Trump submit to a Trial-by-Ordeal if they wanted, and it would be perfectly constitutional.

            I feel putting that on TV would really round out the experience of having former Reality TV star Donald Trump as President.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            We’ve definitely entered Black Swan times. In 2015, “Will the Senate Republican majority impeach a Republican President?” would have been as obvious a “no” as “Will Mitch McConnell’s pubescent son sprout wings and fly to upstate New York?”

            @Drew:

            The House of Representatives has unilateral authority to set their own procedures. They could demand that Trump submit to a Trial-by-Ordeal if they wanted, and it would be perfectly constitutional.

            I’d like to propose the House demand Trial by Combat instead. The Democrats can choose any 73-year-old fighter in President Trump’s weight class.

          • Lambert says:

            Don’t forget that trial by cake is a legitimate form of Ordeal.

          • honoredb says:

            We’ve definitely entered Black Swan times.

            Hopefully, the anomaly now is the possibility that they might acquit on partisan grounds. Republican Nixon resigned in anticipation of being convicted by a Republican majority Senate, and it’s worrisome to think the norms responsible there could be permanently dead.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Hopefully, the anomaly now is the possibility that they might acquit on partisan grounds.

            As opposed to the fully bipartisan, unbiased, and fair way the Democrats have behaved since January 2017?

          • cassander says:

            @honoredb says:

            Hopefully, the anomaly now is the possibility that they might acquit on partisan grounds.

            Anomaly? Isn’t that exactly what they did with a Clinton who was unquestionably guilty of perjury?

          • honoredb says:

            Y’all seem to be in violent agreement with my thesis that norms have shifted between Nixon and Trump.

          • quanta413 says:

            Y’all seem to be in violent agreement with my thesis that norms have shifted between Nixon and Trump.

            I sure am. I hear that politicians of different parties hardly drink together with each other any more.

          • aristides says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            I insist that only the Speaker of the House should compete in the Challenge by Combat. If that happens, I won’t even care who wins.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Except we all know that Pelosi would promptly summon her champion, Dutch “The Mountain” Ruppersberger.

            Then again, Trump would just bring in Gianforte, so who knows.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Thanks for that. Very informative.

  2. DragonMilk says:

    What will the future US workforce look like if only 1% of the labor force needs to produce the food, and the manufacturing base is 8.5% now and let’s say declining to 5% through capital (robots) and outsourcing.

    What the the other 94% do?

    Edit, BLS link for reference. What do these “services” consist of?

    • jermo sapiens says:

      They cash in their yang bucks and write poetry.

      Just kidding. I reject the premise that we will ever be in a situation where 94% of people have nothing to do to ensure prosperity. But in the unlikely event that this happens, I predict a return to personal servants. Yes, this is crazy, but in my defense I did watch Downton Abbey this weekend.

      • DragonMilk says:

        94% may be a bit too high, but 90% may not be. It is not infeasible to think that automation allows for humans to be but supervisors from farming to mining to manufacturing, with self-driving trucks and drones doing the transportation.

        Owners of the machines can then safely retire, but what about the common man? Luddites unite?

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Consider the amount of people right now whose job consists of shuffling papers and discussing ideas, and that most of those jobs wont be eliminated. Anyone with an average IQ will find a job in some bureaucracy. I also expect construction/renovation to have a large workforce that will not be replaced and will hire alot of the displaced truck drivers and factory workers. In the event that there would be a large underclass receiving crumbs from the upper class, alot of the underclass will be hired as security forces for the upper class.

          In summary, this is a non-linear chaotic system and any prediction is likely to be wrong.

          • Randy M says:

            Consider the amount of people right now whose job consists of shuffling papers and discussing ideas, and that most of those jobs wont be eliminated

            Do you think that is because the papers need shuffling, or because other people will react negatively to workers of sound mind and body on the dole?
            Think of the DMV. How many people there could be replaced with a touchscreen and an algorithm? Likewise, say, an insurance agency?

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah, I don’t understand why that would be a safe career type. It seems one that is highly likely to be automated and human personnel significantly scaled down or eliminated.

            To the second point, who is buying the new houses or driving construction demand if the only people working are building houses?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Obviously there are ways to improve bureaucratic efficiency, and especially so at the DMV. What’s more, they dont involve robots and artificial intelligence. The reason this is not currently practiced more widely is a combination of factors, ranging from everyone playing CYA, union political pressure, and inertia, among others.

          • acymetric says:

            Yes, you can improve bureaucracy without AI, but you can improve it more (and reduce human personnel by a larger amount) with it. Not even AI really, but just a well designed…dumb system. Is there a proper industry term for that instead of “dumb system”?

        • salvorhardin says:

          To the general question: coaching, caring, and creating.

          Coaching means everything from traditional schoolteachers to instructors of all sorts to life coaches to therapists. Caring means doctors, nurses, health aides, child care workers, elder care workers, animal care workers etc. Creating means not just poetry, but any sort of artistic or performance effort.

          None of these are likely to be automated, because people will pay for the human touch in itself. And there are plenty of opportunities for the demand for these kinds of services to increase as people need less labor to provide other goods and services.

          There will be a shift in who qualifies for these jobs versus the jobs of previous generations– for example, absent a shift in how boys are socialized, I would anticipate an increase in the employability of women relative to men– and there may be a large chunk who are unqualified for them regardless; but I doubt it’ll be anywhere close to a majority.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            +1 to this.

            Theoretically, automation could create bots that could simulate human touch well enough to satisfy this class of demand, but I expect that’s much further off, even if we suppose we’ve automated the improvement of bots.

          • Plumber says:

            @salvorhardin >

            “…I would anticipate an increase in the employability of women relative to men…”

            Hasn’t that already been happening?

      • whale says:

        In a world where everything is done by robots, it will be a sign of wealth/class to be able to hire a real live human to do your bidding.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          precisely. and it will be some time before a robot servant is anywhere close to the equivalent of a human servant.

        • acymetric says:

          Of course, a lot of people will not consider this path to be a positive development.

        • LesHapablap says:

          Today it is a sign of wealth and class to:
          -own handmade furniture
          -drink good wine / craft beer
          -eat food with ingredients made with as much extra work as possible
          -own original pieces of art

          It is also well respected and dignified to be an artisan who:
          -farms heritage breed pigs
          -does high-end carpentry and cabinetry
          -makes bespoke anything

          So while ‘hire a real live human to do your bidding,’ makes it sound like a negative development, in practice people now have a lot more options to make a living making cool stuff. The whole job of ‘craft brewer’ didn’t exist 30 years ago.

      • Randy M says:

        They cash in their yang bucks and write poetry.

        In a best case scenario, this, but unironically. Imagine most people using computer aided game development, or film production, or, yes, poetry, passing them around to little more than personal fulfillment while robots do the gruntwork.

        Of course, there might be a bit of ennui when it is discovered that all the members of you micro-niche Sci-fi Poetry club are in fact bots designed to keep you placated with fake social connections–and yet still write better Star Trek Slam Poetry than you. Ah well, c’est le vie.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      What will the future US workforce look like if only 1% of the labor force needs to produce the food, and the manufacturing base is 8.5% now and let’s say declining to 5% through capital (robots) and outsourcing.

      I don’t know, but I have a request: as manufacturing is taken over by robots, can we make some of them feminine and call them Rosie the Riveted?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Per your BLS Link:
      Utilities: Plumber
      Wholesale Trade: Buyers and sellers on a B2B level plus support staff, I suppose. The person at Costco who buys from P&G.
      Retail Trade: the person who takes your money at the GAP
      Transportation: Truck drivers and people who drive forklifts in Warehouses
      Information: The Geek Squad.
      Financial activities: Your banker and bank teller
      Professional and business services: everyone who works in HR
      Educational Services: teachers
      Health Care: doctors, nurses, etc.
      Leisure and hospitality: The guy who teaches you how to ski and the lady at the front desk who checks you in to your hotel, plus everyone who cleans your room

      Lots and lots and lots and lots of service jobs exist. What’s the service economy of tomorrow that’s 80.7% services look like? A lot like the service economy of today, that’s 80.2% services.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Role by role:

        Utilities: Agree – plumbers and electricians and also skilled trades are going to stick around for a while.
        Wholesale Trade – algorithm plus automated logistics
        Retail Trade: Have you seen the kiosks being introduced to fast food and the phone-pay system that China uses?
        Transportation: For now, last mile local delivery is still needed, but cross-country highway routes can be automated soon, which will kill off small towns that rely on truckers to eat/lodge at the moment. Same for rail.
        Information: Fewer and fewer geeks needed as “AI” improves
        Financial activities: ATM locations don’t require too much staffing, brick & mortar branches transition to online banking
        Pro & Business: HR is part of regulatory/bureaucracy so I’ll give you that
        Educational Services: Ok, but teaching is notoriously undervalued in the US
        Health Care: Med students already fleeing radiology, but for now sure, health care requires humans
        Leisure & Hospitality: Ok

        So the overall question is, if food and things come cheap and automated, what’s everyone up to? Ideally 10 hour work weeks, but the division of income is unlikely to work that way.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Retail Trade: automated fast food might exist, but that’s all so far. That still leaves selling everything from cars to home improvement parts to food that isn’t quite fast.

          Also, we don’t yet have anything automated that carries stuff from the truck to the storage room, and then from the storage room to the auto-kiosk. (We do have Amazon warehousebots, but someone will still need to design them to insert the impossiburger pod into the correct slot on the McServer.

          Also, expect the utilities industry to expand immensely to fix all those auto-kiosks and loaderbots when they break down.

          Last mile delivery is one facet of a general reason why I think full automation is at least four generations away. There is a lot of last miles, and they vary from small towns in Texas to fishing communities in Alaska, rustic bungalows in the Shenandoah, dead-end communities around military outposts, and high-crime neighborhoods in Chicago. Automating these is the difference between clearing blockage in a major artery, and clearing blockage in every single capillary in the human body. Which is not to say it’s impossible, but that it will take at least a century, either to install everything by hand (hello, installation as an economic sector) or to automate automation itself.

          The myriad problems surrounding last mile delivery, not to mention fixing a hundred thousand different types of bots, will grow the information industry, not shrink it. By extension, this will grow education as well. And since education is just mental last mile delivery, it will grow disproportionately as well.

          If information labor doesn’t grow, that will be a bottleneck on automation. So will resource extraction, for that matter. Robots don’t grow on trees. Which means labor will likely shift toward those two as key sectors, and other sectors will follow along, and everything will be automated on gradually. I think it won’t feel particularly transformative relative to, say, the last twenty years.

    • John Schilling says:

      As others have noted, we’re already pretty much there because your reduction of the productively useful economy to “agriculture and manufacturing” is a grossly misleading oversimplification. But if you meant to ask what happens when all of that plus the useful services get compressed to 6% of the population:

      47% work for the various government bureaucracies that will put in jail anyone who tries to provide any useful good or service without completing their paperwork, less that good or service be in some way unsafe or environmentally damaging or it be in any way discriminatory to anyone, because we shall have ZERO TOLERANCE for any of that badness.

      The other 47% will work for the various corporate bureaucracies that fill out the paperwork that may hopefully allow the 6% to do something useful without getting thrown in jail.

      • Randy M says:

        If you want a picture of the future, imagine carpal tunnel syndrome from filling out compliance forms to avoid an audit–forever.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Yes, I think I framed it poorly. The last (edited) line laid out the core question: what will future services look like since many existing services can be automated as well?

      • bean says:

        I think you vastly underrate how efficient government bureaucracies are at generating paperwork for the corporate bureaucrats to fill out. I’m guessing you’ll see 20% government and 74% corporate, max.

        • John Schilling says:

          You’re forgetting that the government bureaucracies aren’t exempt from the requirement to fill out paperwork to get permission from other government bureaucracies before doing anything. In fact, I was sort of forgetting that to, so I’m going to update to 74% government, 20% corporate.

    • AG says:

      Dependent on the total population remaining the same.

      With this technology making demographic transition more accessible, I expect sufficient wireheading-ish behavior that required labor force will increase from 1% via decrease in overall population.

  3. Nick says:

    So, let’s talk for real about the NBA and China.

    Is what China did defensible, and on what grounds? Is the NBA’s response defensible, and if so how? Is the NBA hypocritical, given its usual costless public wokeness? Should America stand by while China uses our companies’ profit motives to distort and censor our public square—and if not, what exactly should we be doing about it?

    • Ttar says:

      If the situation were reversed, and a foreign power’s international media began supporting a seriously disruptive protest movement in our country, and the US government said “no intervening” and banned that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil, I think most people would find that reasonable. So generally I think both China and the NBA acted reasonably — it’s China’s prerogative to determine what foreign actors can do in its country, and it’s the NBA’s business decision to manage relations with governments and viewers and players. China isn’t censoring our public square. If the NBA doesn’t want its members taking globally controversial stands, then fine. Iranian politicians and business people get sanctioned for expressing themselves on Israel and the US, so is the US distorting their freedom of speech? We should do nothing because everyone in the story is acting pretty reasonably and symmetrically according to their incentives and what is legal and culturally appropriate in the various regions concerned.

      • Nick says:

        If the situation were reversed, and a foreign power’s international media began supporting a seriously disruptive protest movement in our country, and the US government said “no intervening” and banned that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil, I think most people would find that reasonable.

        Would people find that reasonable because they think the US is generally pretty reasonable, or because they think any action of that sort is reasonable? I’d be surprised if anyone seriously held the latter view, and while the former is understandable, there are reasons to think the US and China are not analogous.

        • Ttar says:

          What if China is the reasonable one and the US is a dangerously bellicose and unstable empire that careens from Obamas to Trumps every few years?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Objection. That’s not an Empire, that’s the Roman Republic at the height of its international power.

          • jml says:

            Then we suspect that the reasonable one is committing lots of UN-defined human rights violations (e.g. breaching freedom of press, freedom of belief, the detention and abuse of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang)

            EDIT: looking at the context of this particular comment thread, I think the parent comment is the wrong place for me to be making my point, because it sounds like I’m trying to say the US is totally reasonable and China is not. Instead, how about we condemn all human rights violations including those perpetrated by the US?

          • Ttar says:

            >pretending “UN Defined” isn’t the same as “Euro-US defined”
            Shig dig

            If we’re just trying to prove one country is worse than the other, the US has its own history of interning its citizens…

          • quanta413 says:

            Then we suspect that the reasonable one is committing lots of UN-defined human rights violations (e.g. breaching freedom of press, freedom of belief, the detention and abuse of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang)

            Those things are bad, but I think invading Iraq and Afghanistan were both arguably worse. Libya and Syria aren’t exactly great either.

            The U.S. suddenly screws shit up half the world away, sometimes with little warning. At least if you don’t want the Chinese government to screw you, it’s relatively clear how you can get along. And it’s possible to exit. Not always easy, but possible. Getting away from U.S. influence is a lot tougher.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ttar:

            Can you point to anything the US is currently doing to its own people, or has done in the last 50 years, that looks like what China is doing to the Uighurs right now? Because I certainly can’t.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Ttar
            I’m not claiming that the US is without sin, but:

            pretending “UN Defined” isn’t the same as “Euro-US defined”

            Setting aside who defined the term, are you disputing that e.g. breaching freedom of press, freedom of belief, the detention and abuse of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang are bad things?

            If we’re just trying to prove one country is worse than the other, the US has its own history of interning its citizens…

            A country that did something bad over 70 years ago might be a cause for mild concern, and scrutiny of the mechanisms that led to that action and of whether it’s possible or likely to happen again. However, a country actively doing something bad right now is a cause for far greater concern.

            (also I have no idea what you mean by “Shig dig”)

          • Ttar says:

            Setting aside who defined the term, are you disputing that e.g. breaching freedom of press, freedom of belief, the detention and abuse of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang are bad things?

            Basically. I dispute that these things are necessarily unjustified (that they couldn’t be justified as serving a larger goal of social cohesion, stability, safety from terrorism, etc.).

            Personally, I feel I and most others are better off in a world where China remains stable and doesn’t experience massive instability and lots of terrorism. China’s authoritarian policies lead to a worldstate I feel is preferable to so many other likely outcomes that it’s hard for me to say they should change. Do I want to live in China? No. But I don’t. I don’t mind if others disagree but I challenge the notion that we are worse off in America because China is restrictive of these rights, and that our culturally sacred rights have objective moral weight that all humans should have to respect and which all humans deserve. The concepts of “rights” and “freedom” are, like free will, illusions anyway.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Ttar:
            I don’t think that human rights necessarily have fundamental weight. I tend to Scott’s moral theory described here: higher-level theories of ethics/axiology should be consequentialist, but in a world where our moral reasoning evolved to justify whatever action we wanted to take, deontological rules like “don’t murder” and “don’t censor the press” are good strategies given our limited knowledge.

            As for enforcing them on others…I understand that other cultures value freedom of speech/press/thought less than we do. I’ll even assume for sake of argument that China’s authoritarian policies result in greater stability and social cohesion. But I think that suppressing dissident ideas buys that short-term stability at the cost of stifling long-term intellectual progress. Freedom of thought is fundamental in that it allows society to correct its mistakes.

            And when you have hundreds of thousands of people imprisoned in extra-legal camps…you don’t have to break out the 1984-esque hypotheticals to see the negative consequences of authoritarianism.

          • Laukhi says:

            @Ttar:

            What if China is the reasonable one and the US is a dangerously bellicose and unstable empire that careens from Obamas to Trumps every few years?

            What if evil things were actually good and good things were actually evil? This is the sort of thing that will convince no one who wasn’t already convinced.

            Personally, I feel I and most others are better off in a world where China remains stable and doesn’t experience massive instability and lots of terrorism. China’s authoritarian policies lead to a worldstate I feel is preferable to so many other likely outcomes that it’s hard for me to say they should change.

            I’m having difficulty imagining how instability in China could possibly have such deleterious effects on a person living in America to justify such a strong statement. It could be reasonably said to make us somewhat poorer, but I’m doubtful about how beneficial it is to have a major power capable of challenging U.S. dominance.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Laukhi

            I’m having difficulty imagining how instability in China could possibly have such deleterious effects on a person living in America to justify such a strong statement.

            I suspect we import enough from China that its destabilization could severely impact that trade and have pretty bad effects on our economy. Worst-case scenario, imagine not being able to import anything manufactured in China.

          • Laukhi says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid:
            If the USA was capable of enforcing its business interests during the height of the warlord era, it doesn’t seem too likely that there would be something that disastrous.

            Edit: I mean to say, I could reasonably see “pretty bad effects on the economy”, but any event in which China is so destablilized that we could import close to nothing is an event in which China is weak enough that we could easily do something about it, I think.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        f the situation were reversed, and a foreign power’s international media began supporting a seriously disruptive protest movement in our country, and the US government said “no intervening” and banned that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil, I think most people would find that reasonable.

        Strongly disagree. At best you’d have half the country emphatically supporting and half emphatically condemning. Free Speech culture is (for now) still strong enough that active censorship isn’t gonna get cross-party support.

        • Ttar says:

          Really? I didn’t see many people emphatically supporting Maria Butina. You can argue it was different from a legal perspective, but from a de facto perspective, I’m not sure it was.

          • acymetric says:

            Individual acting as a foreign agent with support from [at least some people in] the Russian Government != foreign media (more accurately, a lone individual that is part of a foreign media) expressing support for a protest movement.

            There is barely any resemblance here, basically a non-sequitur.

          • Ttar says:

            Why is the Russian government fundamentally different from the NBA? If Maria can’t come here and support gun rights (she seems to legitimately believe in guns rights) just because she gets support from a foreign government, why can members of the NBA expect to broadcast support for HK in China without their broadcasts being shut down? What’s the difference to China between their retaliation against the NBA because a member of the NBA used their position of notoriety to express something they didn’t provide prior approval to, and the US retaliation against the Russian government and its agents because those agents expressed their views in a way we didn’t provide prior approval to?

          • acymetric says:

            I never said, suggested, or implied that China can’t do that, for one (it certainly goes against my values, but China’s values are different from mine on this issue as I noted).

            Other than that, if you don’t see a difference “agent acting on behalf of foreign government” from “private actor” where agent and actor can refer to individuals or businesses we’re probably too far apart to have a productive discussion on the topic.

            **Edited to (I hope) remove overly negative tone

          • Aftagley says:

            If Maria can’t come here and support gun rights (she seems to legitimately believe in guns rights) just because she gets support from a foreign government, why can members of the NBA expect to broadcast support for HK in China without their broadcasts being shut down?

            Wait, wait, wait. Do you legitimately believe Maria Butina’s purpose in coming to America was to promote gun rights?

          • John Schilling says:

            If Maria Butina had come to the United States and gone on television saying “Vladimir Putin and I enthusiastically support gun rights in America and we think you should too!”, she would not be in jail today. And it wouldn’t matter if s/gun rights/Russia’s geopolitical agenda, or if she’d done it in RT’s New York studio.

            Maria Butina is in prison, briefly, because she A: walked into a high-profile narrative that looked an awful lot like “Foreign femme fatale trades sexual favors for political ones, in the service of a nefarious foreign power!”, and B: when that turned out to be probably not true, was nonetheless privately engaged in lobbying activities that are legal within limits but which the law does require people to register before doing so that we can watch to make sure they stay within those limits.

            And yes, from an absolute purist perspective, making lobbyists register would be an offense against the 1st amendment’s “petition the government for a redress of grievances” clause. But to assume that because we require foreign agents to register as lobbyists before engaging in lobbying, that we will also shut down foreign newspapers or TV stations if they e.g. show some gamer making anti-American references during a championship, is a rather large and unsupported leap.

      • Two McMillion says:

        If the situation were reversed, and a foreign power’s international media began supporting a seriously disruptive protest movement in our country, and the US government said “no intervening” and banned that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil, I think most people would find that reasonable.

        This would depend entirely on if the protest movement was in the right or in the wrong.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This would depend entirely on if the protest movement was in the right or in the wrong.

          Where left is right and right is wrong?

        • acymetric says:

          I don’t think it matters, honestly. Who gets to be the arbiter of whether the movement is right or wrong anyway?

          • Ttar says:

            Personally I don’t see much daylight between BLM and the HK protests. And thankfully as we saw a few years ago, the US population was easily able to discern and come to agreement on whether BLM was right or wrong. The only difference is that people who didn’t support BLM now are supporting HK because they don’t care about the damage the protests do to an Outgroup country and they are told by their own side’s media that China is the Big Bad.

          • acymetric says:

            Personally I don’t see much daylight between BLM and the HK protests.

            I don’t know enough about the details of the HK protests to comment on specifics but this seems reasonable at face value.

            And thankfully as we saw a few years ago, the US population was easily able to discern and come to agreement on whether BLM was right or wrong.

            I’m pretty sure this isn’t true. There was never agreement and still isn’t.

            Regardless, I stand by the point that it just doesn’t matter whether the protest is “right” or “wrong”.

          • Ttar says:

            Sorry @ascymetric, I should have sarcasm tagged the second half of my comment. We are in agreement that protest movements like HK and BLM are not vulnerable to easy categorization as right or wrong.

          • acymetric says:

            Ha, sorry for missing the sarcasm. That comment reads much different with that in mind…we are certainly in agreement on that topic at least!

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Personally I don’t see much daylight between BLM and the HK protests.

            And if the US Government banned the Premier League from broadcasting here due to a UK manager expressing support for BLM, people would howl.

          • Ttar says:

            @Gobbobobble That’s a really good point, and I think it’s one @ascymetric was also making and maybe I was missing. I agree that people would oppose at high rates any attempt by the US to get an organization from a geopolitical ally to censor its members. But would people be upset if we censored an Iranian sports league, or a North Korean media company, for their members saying (even on their own time) “death to America?”

      • acymetric says:

        If the situation were reversed, and a foreign power’s international media began supporting a seriously disruptive protest movement in our country, and the US government said “no intervening” and banned that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil, I think most people would find that reasonable.

        I’ll join @Nick and @Gobbobobble in dissenting pretty strongly here. I don’t think it would be surprising to see US politicians condemning that foreign media (and that would be fine), but actually censoring the media would not be reasonable and would see a substantial backlash.

        • Ttar says:

          We censored communist propaganda pretty hard during the Cold War, at least whenever we could prove it was being supported by an international actor. That had reasonably broad support. Why did Congress haul Zuck in, if not to pressure him to censor expression by the “Russian bots” etc.?

          • acymetric says:

            There is a difference (which I have also noted elsewhere) between “State action” and action of individuals or businesses (that are not state-run either de jure or de facto). Russian interference, and Cold War propaganda fall under the former. The NBA, Blizzard, and South Park issues fall under the latter.

            I think this is obvious enough that it doesn’t need to be explicitly stated in every comment, so from this point on just assume that this distinction is important and that this conversation is focused on the private action side, not state action.

          • Ttar says:

            Can we discuss why that distinction is meaningful? Governments and companies are both just organizations of people responding to market pressures, right? I’m struggling to understand where/how distinguishing them cuts reality at the joints.

          • acymetric says:

            I said in another post in this thread that we were probably too far apart, but I’ll try to bite on this. I don’t feel prepared to have a full on philosophical conversation but here’s what I can offer for now at least.

            The difference between a State and a Private Entity (person/business) lies in things like:

            Authority/power: Yes, the USA and the NBA are both “organizations”, but the difference between the USA and the NBA is about as clear as the difference between the NBA and a high-school chess club.

            Threat of force: The NBA has no military.

            Those aren’t perfect or sufficient on their own and don’t hold up for edge cases (like nations with no military although I would argue that is a distinct type of entity from a State like the USA or China) or private companies with “security forces” seen on some parts of the world, but are two important and relevant components that come to mind.

      • jgr314 says:

        Iranian politicians and business people get sanctioned for expressing themselves on Israel and the US

        I’m not familiar with these sanctions. What are some examples?

        • Ttar says:

          If Iran”s leadership were pro-US and pro-Israel, do you think Trump would have unilaterally backed out of the nuclear deal and put sanctions on them?

      • “If the NBA doesn’t want its members taking globally controversial stands, then fine.”

        It depends on to what extent you think workers’ speech outside the workplace should be under management’s control. The libertarians see the situation as “freedom,” I think most people have a different definition of what “freedom” means.(And if you’re gonna ask what Trump or the Republican Party are going to do about it, the answer is nothing and that’s one reason why I left the party and stopped supporting Trump.)

        • I’d also like to point out that this is an area with an especially severe need for regulation because the NBA is a monopsony from the point of view of the players, who can’t just switch to football mid-career.

          • Ttar says:

            A good point, but then shouldn’t Tim Cook be protected if he posts “homosexuality is a sin and its practitioners will go to hell” (as a ridiculous toy example) on Twitter, during his non working hours and using his personal account? Do you think the board should be able to fire him?

          • He’s already protected (at least in theory) by religious discrimination laws.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            The situation is complicated when a worker’s job includes being a public spokesperson for their employer under their own name. I think whoever runs the @NBA twitter account (assuming it’s a random employee whose name I’ve never heard) should be able to freely express their political views on their personal account, where it’s clear the opinions are their own. For someone like Tim Cook or Daryl Morey, whose name is publicly associated with their company, their twitter feed tends to be a blurry mix of personal statements and statements on behalf of their employer. I’m not sure to what extent they should be allowed to state their personal opinions in that space.

      • RamblinDash says:

        banned that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil

        What people are objecting to, IMO, is that China is exporting its authoritarianism. So, if China wanted to control what NBA players/managers said in China, people might react differently. But neither the NBA incident nor the Hearthstone incident actually took place in China, nor did it involve Chinese people. It’s a lot easier to live and let live with regard to government systems, if China would stay in its lane.

        People really don’t like the idea of American companies imposing consequences on Americans for statements critical of Chinese policy.

        • acymetric says:

          The Hearthstone incident did involve a Hong Kong citizen (the player) unless I have misunderstood.

        • Ttar says:

          China banned NBA broadcasts in China. They didn’t ban it anywhere else. Don’t they have the right to determine what foreign organizations broadcast in their country?

          • Aftagley says:

            Yes, I don’t care about what they do in their country.

            I care if American companies are willing to compromise their values to not run afoul of Chinese state interests.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        If the situation were reversed, and a foreign power’s international media began supporting a seriously disruptive protest movement in our country, and the US government said “no intervening” and banned that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil, I think most people would find that reasonable.

        I wouldn’t, I’d find it abhorrent. The Russiagate nonsense is bad enough but outright bans on foreign media (let alone foreign private citizens) are a whole new level of authoritarian. I don’t think this kind of nationalism where no foreigners are supposed to express political opinions on another country’s politics is compatible with democracy, especially in the internet age.

      • albatross11 says:

        I would expect a lot of people to protest an action like that from the USG.

      • ana53294 says:

        I think an action like that by the federal government would not need to go to the Supreme court, as it would be stopped in the first federal court it was appealed to.

        The US is, at the moment, the country that takes freedom of speech most seriously.

      • John Schilling says:

        If the situation were reversed, and a foreign power’s international media began supporting a seriously disruptive protest movement in our country, and the US government said “no intervening” and banned that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil, I think most people would find that reasonable.

        Add me to the chorus of people saying this is absolutely wrong. I mean, it isn’t even a hypothetical. Al Jazeera is basically a subsidiary of the Qatari government, its coverage of e.g. the Occupy Wall Street protests has been quite supportive even unto describing the response to same as a “brutal crackdown by state authorities”, and there was never any serious proposal to block them from broadcasting to or in the United States. Sure, the far right would be on board with blatant censorship, on “If scary Muslims do it, we’re against it” grounds, but so what? More generally, given any domestic protest on the leftright, the Far RightLeft will be in favor of censoring anyone, foreign or domestic, who speaks out in favor of the protesters. And the remaining 90+% of the population will fall back on a popular mythology of Free Speech that has deep fuzzy borders around the Bailey but a solidly defensible Motte of “we have to let anybody who is plausibly a reporter say whatever they want about politics”.

        I’m not even sure you are imagining “banning that foreign company from expressing its views on our soil” would even work. How is that supposed to be implemented, in your imagination? We don’t have a censors’ office with the power to ban speech by government demand, we don’t have any law enforcement agencies or government bureaucracies whose mandate normally includes e.g. pulling the plug on printing presses. There’s nobody who could be tasked with implementing such a ban that wouldn’t respond with “That’s really weird and way outside what we normally do; I’m not going to risk getting in trouble over this until I get the OK from Legal”. Which kicks it up to the courts, where it would die slowly.

        If anyone were to actually try that, it would fail harder than even Trump’s “Muslim ban”, and Trump did have access to a bureaucracy whose normal mandate includes blocking unwanted people from entering the united states.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        It’s reasonable for a parent to tell another adult to “butt out” when the parent is disciplining her child and the adult is trying to intervene. However, it is unreasonable for the parent to discipline her child by, say, hitting her with a hammer.

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          Hitting a kid with a hammer is frowned upon by the authorities. In international relations, there are no authorities, so speaking up if you think hammer blows are imminent is entirely right and proper. Also, in this particular case the parent has only recently obtained custody, and their past treatment of their other children is extremely concerning.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I agree with you on the object level. However, on the meta level:

            Hitting a kid with a hammer is frowned upon by nearly everyone. (Obviously not that parent, but almost certainly that kid.) Meanwhile, nearly everyone also frowns upon meddling with others’ families by default. This matters here insofar as people seem to be criticizing China for telling the US to butt out. Telling us to butt out isn’t what we think China is doing wrong; rather, it’s cracking down on Hong Kong protestors.

            There exists a custom among some Americans of not using authority to determine what’s reasonable, but rather to use widely shared principles. When those principles aren’t universal, conflict can of course arise. In this case, everyone respects sovereignty, and only some also respect nonviolent protest.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Paul Brinkley
            While pretty much everyone agrees with the concept of sovereignty in general, there’s some disagreement regarding who exactly should be sovereign over whom.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Well, do you think China should be sovereign over Hong Kong? Is your thinking the same if we’re in a timeline where there was no protest?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            Well, do you think China should be sovereign over Hong Kong? Is your thinking the same if we’re in a timeline where there was no protest?

            In a timeline with no protest, I wouldn’t even be thinking about it and thus wouldn’t have much opinion either way. Even as it stands, I don’t think I have enough information on the protester’s particular demands and the populace’s opinion on them to make a sensible judgement in this case. (I do however lean in support of the Honk Kong protesters due to my distaste for China’s authoritarianism.)

            But my core point is that there is a large number of people with each of the following contradictory opinions:

            1. China should have sovereignty over its territory of Hong Kong.

            2. Hong Kong should have sovereignty as an independent nation.

            Your purported principle of “respecting sovereignty” doesn’t help us in this dilemma. And to the extent that you use it to mean “the government that has historically controlled an area should continue to control it, human rights violations be damned”, it’s far less universally agreed-upon.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            But my core point is that there is a large number of people with each of the following contradictory opinions:

            1. China should have sovereignty over its territory of Hong Kong.

            2. Hong Kong should have sovereignty as an independent nation.

            Hong Kong was promised a degree of autonomy in the treaty which ceded ultimate sovereignty to China, and China is reneging.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        Iranian politicians and business people get sanctioned for expressing themselves on Israel and the US

        Plenty of foreign politicians “express themselves” on Israel and the US without any sanctions. Just a few days ago the PM of Malaysia (according to whom “hook-nosed Jews rule the world by proxy”) was an invited speaker at the Columbia University. The difference between Iranian and Malaysian governments is that the former is actively involved in killing civilians across the globe.

      • Garrett says:

        That’s basically the role of RT, and the US hasn’t banned that organization, other than (last time I checked) press passes for eg. White House reporting.

    • DragonMilk says:

      I will start by saying I like playing devil’s advocate – pro-West to Chinese people and pro-China to Western audiences.

      First, there’s a fundamental difference in values. Self-determination and free speech are not universal values. There are those who prioritize safety and stability as the foundation for pursuing prosperity over individual “freedoms”.

      So when the spoils of the Opium wars is finally returned in 1997, and some twenty odd years later experiences economic unrest due to youth being priced out by mainlanders etc., it may well be that China treats this as a domestic affair and would rather not have foreign powers (again) butt in, nor foreign corporations endorse pro-protester causes.

      And so China, being autocratic as it is, is fully within their rights to utilize its censors and discourage those who wish to do business with it from fomenting revolt.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        The functional constituency system (which Beijing preserves, and which the protestors want abolished) isn’t just incompatible with democracy, it’s incompatible with communism, which is supposedly a Chinese value. The CPC needs to change it’s name and drop “people’s” from the name of the state if they’re going to be propping up a quite literal form of bourgeois rule.

        • DragonMilk says:

          They’ve long ago recast their system as socialism with Chinese characteristics!

          De jure and de facto differ here. Now just as before, the social contract is defer to authorities in exchange for safety and stability

      • Laukhi says:

        If safety and stabiity were really fundamental “Chinese values”, then who’s doing the protesting? I’ve always felt that cultural relativism was a strange thing to assert. Maybe we can say that HKers are actually not Chinese, but it’s not like China doesn’t have a long history of revolts and rebellion.

        Also, your argument seems to suggest that the NBA is wrong in engaging in self-censorship – hardly the most accordant with “American values”. Would you disagree?

        • DragonMilk says:

          I’m only answering the first question, on whether what China did was defensible – which was to say in light of the GM’s tweet, they will end the Rockets partnership and not broadcast their games.

          And I think it’s fine for them to tow a hard line when it comes to outsiders butting into internal affairs. The narrative there is that restless ungrateful youth are using any excuse to try to declare independence, in what was initially a guise of withdrawing the extradition bill, which was finally done.

          If Jack Ma advocated for a part of the US to have an authoritarian government form, would it be ok for media to not give him a platform and the government to scrutinize deals with Alibaba?

          Unless you think HK being a full democracy is a realistic goal given the integration timeline, an authoritarian government will do as authoritarians do and limit business of outsiders supporting dissent.

          • Laukhi says:

            And I think it’s fine for them to tow a hard line when it comes to outsiders butting into internal affairs. The narrative there is that restless ungrateful youth are using any excuse to try to declare independence, in what was initially a guise of withdrawing the extradition bill, which was finally done.

            It is perhaps permissible, if a neighbor comes to your door and asks you to stop making that infernal racket, to tell them to get off of your property and slam the door in their face. But it sure ain’t right.

            I don’t believe that the PRC should be doing what it’s doing, and so I certainly don’t mind people informing them of that.

            If Jack Ma advocated for a part of the US to have an authoritarian government form, would it be ok for media to not give him a platform and the government to scrutinize deals with Alibaba?

            It’s perfectly reasonable for the US to be suspicious of companies from the PRC for reasons other than political advocacy. Aside from that, I don’t think either the US or the media should treat Ma differently (in regards to meta-level principles) than they do, say, Moldbug.

            Unless you think HK being a full democracy is a realistic goal given the integration timeline, an authoritarian government will do as authoritarians do and limit business of outsiders supporting dissent.

            It’s true that I’d like for China to be united under a liberal democracy, but I’m certainly capable of recognizing reality. Still, I’m not certain what this has to do with what’s right for the PRC to do.

    • acymetric says:

      Let’s go ahead and port over the whole conversation from the last open thread since there are multiple events related to China and free speech/international business recently. Aftagley’s post nicely summarized the recent issues.

      Interesting confluence of stories regarding China in the news right now:

      Following an episode poking fun at China’s practice of banning media they don’t agree with, China bans South Park.

      An NBA team’s GM tweeted support for Hong Kong. In response, the NBA tried to come down against the GM, then following backlash, walked back their position and tried to walk a wimpy middle line of “everyone has a right to say what they believe.” China has responded by halting NBA broadcasts.

      A popular Hearthstone player from Hong Kong who won a tournament ended his victory interview by expressing support for the people of Hong Kong. In response, the company that owns the game, Blizzard, suspended the player, took back his tournament prize winnings and fired the two casters who were interviewing him. Response has been so negative that the company switched it’s subreddit to private.

      I’m not sure the question of whether China’s actions are defensible. Under our societal norms/rules/concept of rights? No. Under theirs? Yes. It is pretty much as simple as that.

      The NBA’s initial response (against the GM) was indefensible (or at least wrong, there are plausible defenses that can be offered but I think they all fall flat). Their later waffling/fence sitting stance was tolerable, but fails to satisfy due to the initial reaction (if they had used their current position as their starting position it would have come off better). The NBA has based a large part of its brand on allowing players/coaches/etc. to voice their opinions openly and supported them when they do. The walk back here was pretty weak. If a US based business wants to base their policies for US based employees on rules or expectations of foreign governments I suppose that is their right, but they should be prepared for blowback domestically (and in other International markets that share our values) when they do so, and if they aren’t careful they may wind up falling afoul of US laws.

      The same pretty much applies to Blizzard, except that since the people involved do not to be based in the US things are a little different (but they still expose themselves to backlash in the US).

      Ultimately this is a bit of a coordination issue I think. US companies ought to just stand up to China and say “we will comply with your laws and policies within your borders, but will not hold our non-China based employees or business practices to your restrictive/draconian standards”.

      • Ttar says:

        So, are we holding China accountable to our own standard and conception of free speech right? Would you accept China holding us accountable to their own standards and conceptions?

        EtA: to clarify I guess I don’t see why if companies can fire people for supporting Nazis on social media why they can’t fire people or censor them or whatever for supporting some other thing that the company finds unacceptable to support. Sure, markets will react but they react to everything, and honestly I doubt the NBA or Blizzard will lose much money over their policy of appeasing China. Hollywood sure isn’t.

        • acymetric says:

          Reread my post. The very first line (after the block quote) says that China’s actions are defensible under their standards. I don’t take issue with China applying their own standards (except in the sense that I take issue with their standards at the top level, but granting that they have those standards I don’t take issue with their authority to apply them on their soil). I take issue with US companies applying Chinese standards on speech to US employees, especially when it becomes a trend, and prefer that they not do that.

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          That’s…how standards work? It’s my understanding that Western films/media are frequently censored/blocked from entering Chinese markets in the first place. I don’t think Chinese theaters should be opened to our films at gunpoint, but I can certainly criticize their decision to ban or censor in the first place.

          The NBA is competing with HBO and Netflix and this blog for my attention. Their actions impact my willingness to watch their show. Sure, Morey’s tweet Zugzwang’d the NBA, but how they reacted was still how they reacted.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        I’m sort of in agreement. My main concern is a country using access to its markets to force international companies to shut out non-nationals from it’s serviecs for failing to engage in the same self-censorship that would be expected of a chinese national.

        • acymetric says:

          This is more or less my concern, or at least in the same general vicinity.

          I’m sure inevitably comparisons are going to be made with Facebook/Twitter/cancel-culture stuff while we have this discussion, but I think the fact that this is coming from a foreign state and not “the public” makes it a distinct and (IMO) more concerning problem.

          We can argue among ourselves about what people should and shouldn’t be able to say and what social repercussions are/aren’t acceptable, but I’ll be damned if the Chinese government gets a say.

          • Nick says:

            We can argue among ourselves about what people should and shouldn’t be able to say and what social repercussions are/aren’t acceptable, but I’ll be damned if the Chinese government gets a say.

            I hope a lesson is learned here that we should be careful ever setting a norm of firing people for momentary outrages, which as several folks have already pointed out is part of what got us in this mess. Unfortunately, I think it’s likelier we just get more of both in the future—more woke firings and more China-appeasing firings.

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah. I guess where I land is that the whole “firing over having/expressing the wrong views thing” is fraught and difficult. I don’t have easy answers or anything that could be described as a consistent and solid position.

            China-appeasing seems much more clear-cut than “US citizen outrage appeasing”.

          • Aftagley says:

            I hope a lesson is learned here that we should be careful ever setting a norm of firing people for momentary outrages

            I sort of disagree.

            if a company decides that they have standards and one of their employees acts in such a way (or posts in such a way) that violates their standards, I’m a little bit supportive of them to terminate that employee. (My support for those companies decreases when it becomes clear that they only terminate that employee in response to a twitter hate mob, however)

            The thing is, you can’t support an ethical position to one part of your consumer base and opposite positions when you don’t think the public is watching. That’s where these companies lose me.

          • quanta413 says:

            I’m sure inevitably comparisons are going to be made with Facebook/Twitter/cancel-culture stuff while we have this discussion, but I think the fact that this is coming from a foreign state and not “the public” makes it a distinct and (IMO) more concerning problem.

            Americans pushing back against not just legal but also moral free speech norms are a disease of the heart; the Chinese government trying to apply leverage to corporations is a disease of the skin.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Skin cancer can kill you far more quickly than a heart defect.

          • quanta413 says:

            A more typical skin disease is roundworm. Irritating but not only survivable but usually goes away on its own.

            Most heart diseases are pretty bad though!

          • quanta413 says:

            Note about above post. I am stupid. Mind switched “ringworm” with “roundworm”.

            Roundworm not even a skin infection and is actually pretty nasty intestine infection. While ringworm is a skin infection but not actually a worm.

          • acymetric says:

            the Chinese government trying to apply leverage to corporations

            Should be:

            The Chinese government applying leverage over US citizens by pressuring their US employers.

            Which is a little bit different.

          • quanta413 says:

            The Chinese government applying leverage over US citizens by pressuring their US employers.

            Which is a little bit different.

            More layers makes the effect weaker and less relevant not more. They have to rely on the behavior of an intermediary they don’t control having an effect on employees speech in their favor, when employees can get another job or choose not to work there.

          • Nick says:

            @Aftagley

            if a company decides that they have standards and one of their employees acts in such a way (or posts in such a way) that violates their standards, I’m a little bit supportive of them to terminate that employee. (My support for those companies decreases when it becomes clear that they only terminate that employee in response to a twitter hate mob, however)

            I’m not against that in principle. When I said momentary outrages, the twitter hate mobs were what I had in mind.

          • Aapje says:

            @Machine Interface

            Skin cancer is one of the least lethal cancers (in part because it tends to be obvious when you have a growing tumor in your skin).

      • “Ultimately this is a bit of a coordination issue I think. US companies ought to just stand up to China and say “we will comply with your laws and policies within your borders, but will not hold our non-China based employees or business practices to your restrictive/draconian standards”.”

        That won’t happen unless the government steps in and forces them to do so, the way it forced companies to stop boycotting Israel to appease the Arabs.*

        *Notice almost none of the “free-market” Republicans see any problem with that particular infringement on the rights of private companies. What’s that tell you?

      • Machine Interface says:

        I largely agree with this stance. If we take the amoral view that sovereignty stands first and that each country is free to establish the speech norms it wishes within its territory, then China has as much an obligation to respect US speech norms in the US than the US have an obligation to respect Chinese speech norms in China.

        China telling foreign companies what their US-based employees can and cannot say is not acceptable and both US companies should take a strong stance against this. If China won’t accept that, then its claim to freedom from foreign interference is void.

        • Laukhi says:

          That’s not an amoral view, that’s just a bizarro-deontology. “Sovereignty stands first” is something that needs to be argued for; it’s not any more amoral than any other normative statement.

          • Machine Interface says:

            It’s a pragmatic view: if everyone respects sovereignty we have less wars, and so less of all the bad things associated with wars, and so everyone is a little bit better off.

          • Lambert says:

            My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.

          • DeWitt says:

            It’s a pragmatic view: if everyone respects sovereignty we have less wars, and so less of all the bad things associated with wars, and so everyone is a little bit better off.

            This is still very much a moral rather than a purely factual claim.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Pain is not a moral construct, and “this action reduces pain, and therefore should be pursued if reducing pain is the goal” is a factual claim that requires no moral theory behind it.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Helping totalitarian powers suppress internal dissent seems a funny way of avoiding wars, but maybe that’s just me.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Wait, who’s helping who?

            My point is, respecting China’s sovereignty to edict the speech norms they want in their country has to have a reciprocal. China telling Chinese companies what their employees in China are allowed to say in public about China is China’s problem. China telling western companies what their employees in the west are allowed to say about China is a casus belli.

          • Laukhi says:

            @Machine Interface:
            I’m a little unclear on what you’re trying to say, so if I misinterpret you please feel free to correct me!

            Pain is not a moral construct, and “this action reduces pain, and therefore should be pursued if reducing pain is the goal” is a factual claim that requires no moral theory behind it.

            If you are going to make claims like “…and so everyone is a little bit better off”, then you cannot assert that you are making purely factual statements.

            My point is, respecting China’s sovereignty to edict the speech norms they want in their country has to have a reciprocal. China telling Chinese companies what their employees in China are allowed to say in public about China is China’s problem. China telling western companies what their employees in the west are allowed to say about China is a casus belli.

            Once again, this is a moral claim of the sort made by deontologists, and furthermore it places special privileges on state actors besides. Why should there be any reciprocal? Why shouldn’t we freely run roughshod over the PRC’s “speech norms” while enforcing whatever we like?

            Basically my issue is:
            1. If you are saying that something the PRC has done is a casus belli, then you really can’t make a utilitarian argument about respecting sovereignty since you’ve already agreed that the US would be justified in declaring war. Additionally, US hegemony is long-run better than PRC hegemony.
            2. If you are making a deontologist argument, I think it is very strange to assume both that state actors are themselves individual moral actors (rather than being institutions comprised of moral actors) and even more so that they are automatically legitimate.
            3. I cannot see any way in which your arguments are purely factual or amoral.

          • Machine Interface says:

            The respect of sovereignty means less war, less war means less global suffering. Less suffering is something any mentally healthy person desires. Acting out that desire thus involves (among other things) preserving and enforcing sovereignty. Enforcing sovereignty implies reacting firmly, up to and including with violence, when sovereignty is breached. It’s not moral, it’s not even utilitarian, it’s just a causal chain.

          • China telling western companies what their employees in the west are allowed to say about China is a casus belli.

            I haven’t been following the thread, but this statement struck me. It might be casus belli if they enforced their orders by assassinating employees in the west who disobeyed. But telling companies that if they let their employees say things the Chinese government doesn’t like the Chinese government will not allow those companies to do business in China is well within normal rules of sovereignty.

        • If China won’t accept that, then its claim to freedom from foreign interference is void.

          Forget “freedom” in the abstract sense; China has freedom from most significant foreign interference because it has the power to make any other kinds of interference absolutely disastrous for both parties. Businesses will ultimately continue to do business with China because it has gigantic economic power that cannot be resisted, and the US government will continue to do nothing more than complain because China has gigantic military power. A smaller but still significantly dangerous power, Russia, can get away with assassinating dissidents on the soil of Western countries, so absolutely nothing will happen to China other than the phrase “strained relations between the two countries” appearing in several Wikipedia articles.

          Power is the only real freedom.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Is the NBA hypocritical, given its usual costless public wokeness?

      Obviously

      Should America stand by while China uses our companies’ profit motives to distort and censor our public square—and if not, what exactly should we be doing about it?

      This is really a good question, and I don’t have a good answer on this. This is likely going to be a low-level tit-for-tat. For instance, we pretty much always have legal authority to put sanctions on some Chinese company or person somewhere: see the Uighur crisis. I’m sure, if we really wanted to, we could find a few more companies tangentially related to the enterprise that we could sanction.
      But is that really going to be effective enough? Honestly, I don’t think so. You hit diminishing returns pretty quickly, meanwhile Corporate America can be much, MUCH more effective in policing its employee’s speech than it currently is.

      • Aftagley says:

        Which is why we as consumers have a moral duty (if we find these company’s actions reprehensible) to firmly vote with our wallet.

        If you look at the companies that are behaving like this, they are all ones that have effectively established a monopoly in the US (NBA) or are operating from a position of absolute dominance (Blizzard). They clearly feel like their position in the US is so secure that they can afford to compromise on American values abroad and face no significant financial repercussions here.

        I think we should prove them wrong.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          That sounds like collective action hell. I don’t know how bad it gets before we get a sufficient mass of people to boycott Blizzard or the NBA.

          • acymetric says:

            This is why some saber rattling directed at China (to stop policing actions of American citizens or else) or at American businesses (to not try to enforce foreign policies on US soil or else) is useful (as I think you’re alluding to a couple comments down).

            I don’t think I actually want the government to regulate US businesses in that way (for a lot of reasons, including that it would be implemented and enforced terribly), but I don’t mind the threat of it to encourage American companies to change behavior to avoid said terrible regulation being proposed.

      • Why punish random Chinese companies for the behavior of the Chinese government and our companies?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          We do not want China using its political weight to police speech on US soil. US government actions can disincentive China from doing so.
          Note: I am using the term “China” and not “Chinese citizens” or “Chinese government” or “Chinese sailors” or any other specific category. We do not want any foreign actor attempting to police speech on US soil, and the US government is sufficiently powerful to inflict consequences on any foreign actor that does so. We should do so within the bounds of reason and our international agreements.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            Note: I am using the term “China” and not “Chinese citizens” or “Chinese government” or “Chinese sailors” or any other specific category.

            I question whether your grouping of all those categories into a single entity accurately reflects the way that they will react to the sanctions we’re discussing.

            Possibly the Chinese government would interpret a sanction on a random Chinese company as deserved retaliation for their actions that hurts the Chinese economy, and stop trying to police US speech. Or possibly, they would regard it as a strange attack on an unrelated party and not react at all. Your suggestion may or may not be a valid plan, but you can’t explain it just by pretending an entire country’s government, citizens, and companies are the same thing.

          • acymetric says:

            Possibly the Chinese government would interpret a sanction on a random Chinese company as deserved retaliation for their actions that hurts the Chinese economy, and stop trying to police US speech. Or possibly, they would regard it as a strange attack on an unrelated party and not react at all.

            I don’t think “how would China be able to tell if sanctions were in retaliation to this issue?” is a reasonable argument against. They would know, whether we openly announced it or made it clear through less public channels.

          • Sure, but the first step here is an anti-boycott law similar to our laws against companies boycotting Israel. If China wants to then retaliate against the NBA despite knowing its hands are tied, that would be the time to retaliate. For now it makes no sense to complain about the action of an American company and then punish Chinese companies.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            For now it makes no sense to complain about the action of an American company and then punish Chinese companies.

            The American companies are taken actions under pressure by the Chinese government. Sanctions on Chinese companies to counter-pressure the Chinese government is basically de rigueur.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the point of this kind of policy is that the company can then say to China “Hey, guys, sorry, we’d really love to impose those restrictions on our employees’ speech, but that’s against US law and those mean ole guys at the FTC will bust us for it if we try.”

    • quanta413 says:

      Is what China did defensible, and on what grounds?

      I think it’s likely defensible on sovereignty grounds. If the Chinese government is the legitimate ruler of Hong Kong, then the best the Hong Kong protesters can hope for is to delay full integration with the mainland as much as possible until the agreed upon date.

      Reports I’ve read seem to indicate that mainland Chinese sentiment aligns well with the government, so it’s not like you can just blame the Chinese government for its stance either.

      Is the NBA’s response defensible, and if so how?

      I don’t think I care about the NBA response either way.

      Should America stand by while China uses our companies’ profit motives to distort and censor our public square—and if not, what exactly should we be doing about it

      America is unlikely to do much about it besides complain because real action would have serious costs. It’s also unlikely that our public square can be distorted enough that we should care. American citizens’ individual speech rights are probably under less danger from this than they are from internal challenges. It’s best to accept this and move on.

      If one really wants to do something, then one needs to make an effort to minimize consumption of things made by Chinese companies. Which would hurt. Or stop consuming stuff from companies complicit in toeing the Chinese party line. Which will also hurt.

      Personally, I’m not going to do anything like the first thing because it would hurt, and because it seems like it’s a bit late now to move away from the path of greater economic engagement. My hope is that U.S. ideals corrupt China more than Chinese ideals corrupt the U.S.

      At the margins, I might not use a product from a U.S. corporation that seems to be licking boots too much, but it’s a very low priority for me. Product price and quality is usually going to be way more important.

      • Aftagley says:

        I think it’s likely defensible on sovereignty grounds. If the Chinese government is the legitimate ruler of Hong Kong, then the best the Hong Kong protesters can hope for is to delay full integration with the mainland as much as possible until the agreed upon date.

        Well, no. The best they can hope for is whatever they can hope for. They can hope that they get independence, they can hope their special status is preserved, they can hope for anything they want.

        Reports I’ve read seem to indicate that mainland Chinese sentiment aligns well with the government, so it’s not like you can just blame the Chinese government for its stance either.

        Maybe, but the media is state controlled and public discourse is tightly censored. If you control what people learn and what they can say, you don’t get the benefit of banking of public support.

        If one really wants to do something, then one needs to make an effort to minimize consumption of things made by Chinese companies. Which would hurt.

        Doing the right thing sometimes does.

        • quanta413 says:

          Well, no. The best they can hope for is whatever they can hope for. They can hope that they get independence, they can hope their special status is preserved, they can hope for anything they want.

          I mean realistic hopes obviously. Use context.

          Maybe, but the media is state controlled and public discourse is tightly censored. If you control what people learn and what they can say, you don’t get the benefit of banking of public support.

          True that the media is state controlled, but I don’t think it matters in this case. I think this post pretty much sums it up.

          American media is relatively uncensored, and yet a large number of the most politically engaged Americans believe that a few Russian facebook ads had a deep affect on the 2016 elections. Congress dragged Mark Zuckerberg before it under this and other stupid pretenses. Other Americans previously spent about a decade convinced Obama was a secret Muslim Kenyan. The Chinese government doesn’t need much propaganda or censorship machinery in this case.

          Doing the right thing sometimes does.

          Right in what sense? Trade helped lift about a billion Chinese to a much higher standard of living. There are very real tradeoffs involved, and it’s not at all obvious that suddenly swinging towards isolationism would actually be the right thing to do.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Right in what sense? Trade helped lift about a billion Chinese to a much higher standard of living. There are very real tradeoffs involved, and it’s not at all obvious that suddenly swinging towards isolationism would actually be the right thing to do.

            It need not be isolationist. We could buy all our cheap garbage from India instead. The difference is they aren’t an autocratic dystopia.

          • quanta413 says:

            It need not be isolationist. We could buy all our cheap garbage from India instead. The difference is they aren’t an autocratic dystopia.

            Sure, but under standard arguments of the benefits of specialization and trade, cutting off 1/6 of the earth’s population from trading with us will make both us and them poorer. Or maybe some other country will serve a middleman skimming profits in disguised China-U.S. trade.

            And no one has outlined why I should expect this to result in China becoming any freer. Maybe their reaction will to become less free and more oppressive. Like North Korea.

            Also, we trade with China in things like manufacturing parts of computers. How well is India going to be able to replace that?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Sure, but under standard arguments of the benefits of specialization and trade, cutting off 1/6 of the earth’s population from trading with us will make both us and them poorer.

            Frankly, when the alternative is CCP leveraging Western corporate greed incentives to erode our civil liberties, I do not care. Let us be poorer. We can take our money to developing nations that don’t mandate we build altars to Moloch-with-Chinese-characteristics, and lift their standard of living.

          • Aftagley says:

            +1

            Globalism doesn’t mean Chinaism; there would be a cost to backing up our ideals with economic action but it’s not an insurmountable one.

          • John Schilling says:

            Sure, but under standard arguments of the benefits of specialization and trade, cutting off 1/6 of the earth’s population from trading with us will make both us and them poorer.

            What Gobbobobble and Aftagley said. And Beijing doesn’t care that it makes the Chinese people poorer, so long as it makes Beijing more powerful. And they know that you care so very, very much about being made even a tiny bit poorer, that you’ll let them amass absolute power one step at a time so long as they hand you some cheap trinkets at every step. That they are, for the moment, wielding that power against people far away, doesn’t make this a good deal.

          • Nick says:

            +1 to Gobbobobble et al.

          • quanta413 says:

            I’d have an easier time taking the talk about “it’s no big deal to stop trading with China; they just make trinkets” seriously if I saw people throwing their smartphones in the trash.

            Little new information on the ideas and behavior of the CPC has been revealed in the last few months.

            I want to be clear whether you all are arguing it was always morally wrong to trade with China, or if somehow the last few months have changed the balance before we continue.

          • quanta413 says:

            that you’ll let them amass absolute power one step at a time so long as they hand you some cheap trinkets at every step.

            Also, this is nonsense. What the CPC did was what they’ve done in China for several decades except they used to be much worse back in the 50s and 60s. What they did to the U.S. was pull some NBA broadcasts, and say they were mad.

            This doesn’t scream a goal of “absolute power”. That’s ridiculous. There are no signs they have goals beyond regional hegemony and “more stuff for us”.

          • Aftagley says:

            This doesn’t scream a goal of “absolute power”. That’s ridiculous. There are no signs they have goals beyond regional hegemony and “more stuff for us”.

            Right, but crucially – I don’t really care about what their goals are. I care about US company’s selling out US values outside of China in order to not offend the Chinese government.

            If China’s system inevitably results in their values being forced globally, that’s where I draw the line, that’s when I have a problem.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            +1

          • quanta413 says:

            If China’s system inevitably results in their values being forced globally, that’s where I draw the line, that’s when I have a problem.

            I highly doubt pulling NBA broadcasts will result in their values inevitably being forced globally. Hong Kong itself is part of China, so ramping up censorship and control there is little different than what the CPC has been doing on the mainland since it took over. Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 with an expiration date of 2047 for “two systems”. China is over 100x as big as Hong Kong in population and area, so we could’ve guessed which system was likely to be on top at the end of that.

            I repeat my earlier question

            I want to be clear whether you all are arguing it was always morally wrong to trade with China, or if somehow the last few months have changed the balance before we continue.

            Because we’re just going round and round the fundamental issue. Was the economic engagement of the past few decades a mistake? I think probably not, but I could be convinced that it was. It would have been a lot easier if the mistake hadn’t been made, but the U.S. is still ahead of China militarily. U.S. allies in the region are adjacent to China in the East, and the U.S. could apply pressure on Europe to stop trading with China as well.

            Or have the last few months changed the balance of what is the correct course? I have difficulty coming up with an argument for this considering the CPC mass censorship of the mainland, the repression of Christianity, the persecution the Falun Gong, Chinese control of Tibet, times before that China has leaned on U.S. companies to not categorize Taiwan as a separate country, etc. This has been common knowledge for a while, and I don’t see how current CPC behavior doesn’t fit the pattern of past CPC behavior like a glove.

            Or maybe it’s just important to ding Chinese prestige in return to prove that the U.S. is paying attention and irritated, but not important enough to cut off trade. This strikes me as a somewhat cynical calculation, but not wrong.

          • Aftagley says:

            I highly doubt pulling NBA broadcasts will result in their values inevitably being forced globally.

            Wait a second, that’s literally almost exactly what happened! Up until the NBA faced significant backlash in the USA, they were on track to fire the GM who made that statement. That is 100% an example of China attempting to force their values, and the pulling of broadcasts is the Chinese Government’s way of punishing the NBA for not enforcing the values.

            You’re getting your causality mixed here; the broadcasts being pulled are the punishment for violating the plan, not a part of the plan.

            Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 with an expiration date of 2047 for “two systems”. China is over 100x as big as Hong Kong in population and area, so we could’ve guessed which system was likely to be on top at the end of that.

            *checks calendar* ok, I’ll check back in 27 and 1/2 years when this point becomes relevant.

            Because we’re just going round and round the fundamental issue. Was the economic engagement of the past few decades a mistake? I think probably not, but I could be convinced that it was.

            In retrospect, probably yes. Increasingly so as it became obvious they weren’t willing to play ball on a level field. Maybe at the beginning when we thought it could lead to improvements in their system it was justifiable, but when it became clear we were a: being taken advantage of and b: helping to prop up the autocratic regime, yes it was unethical. I can’t tell you exactly when the switch flipped.

            This has been common knowledge for a while, and I don’t see how current CPC behavior doesn’t fit the pattern of past CPC behavior like a glove.

            Because it’s starting to cross over their borders and affect us here at home, and not in a “hmm, something feels off about the global economy way” but in a “hey, my favorite hearthstone player just got kicked off the air because Activision/Blizzard is afraid of getting kicked out of their next developing market.”

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I want to be clear whether you all are arguing it was always morally wrong to trade with China, or if somehow the last few months have changed the balance before we continue.

            I’ll at least partially bite this bullet. I would dispute “always” – it made sense to open up trade relations when it was believed that engaging in free(r) trade would have the knockon effect of liberalizing China in other ways. We’ve been slowly realizing that this did not happen. The CCP is just too powerful. I can’t point to an inflection date but at some point along the way trading with China morphed from plausibly being an anti-totalitarian influence to one that further entrenches state control.

            Probably somewhere around when everyone realized China was a proper geopolitical rival and not a poor dictatorship in need of uplifting? Maybe WinnieXi’s reign in particular?

            I think the past few months have just been some comparatively sharp examples that catalyze the realization that the frog’s water has been heating up.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Aftagley

            Wait a second, that’s literally almost exactly what happened! Up until the NBA faced significant backlash in the USA, they were on track to fire the GM who made that statement. That is 100% an example of China attempting to force their values, and the pulling of broadcasts is the Chinese Government’s way of punishing the NBA for not enforcing the values.

            They almost managed the minor gain of showing they could get a rich guy fired on a single value. Not all their values. Not globally. Just in the NBA. They’ve succeeded at that before with the Marriott employee who got fired for liking a pro-Tibet tweet. Yet there was no collapse of U.S. values then towards Chinese values. Why should I be more worried because the NBA almost fired someone higher on the totem pole than Marriott did?

            China has banned Western companies from entering China before, and now another one of them had a choice and almost wimped out before the backlash doesn’t seem very dangerous to me. Companies have fully wimped out before and apologized, and few were worried. I think the not very worried were right.

            *checks calendar* ok, I’ll check back in 27 and 1/2 years when this point becomes relevant.

            The point is relevant now, because unless you want to argue it is or was clear the CPC would fall and be replaced by a democracy by 2047, then the smart bet would’ve been Hong Kong looks a lot more like the mainland not the mainland looks a lot more like Hong Kong. But now maybe we only will need to wait 5 or 10 years before the outcome becomes clearer.

            The CPC falling on its own wouldn’t be enough. The Soviet Union fell and was largely replaced by more autocrats. And Hong Kong is a lot tinier and closer in culture and ties to China than those Soviet states were to Russia.

            Yeah, no one knows for certain, but it would take a lot of optimism or ignorance to bet on the dominant player in that game being the mainland.

            @ Aftagley @Gobbobobble

            In retrospect, probably yes. Increasingly so as it became obvious they weren’t willing to play ball on a level field. Maybe at the beginning when we thought it could lead to improvements in their system it was justifiable, but when it became clear we were a: being taken advantage of and b: helping to prop up the autocratic regime, yes it was unethical. I can’t tell you exactly when the switch flipped.

            I’ll at least partially bite this bullet. I would dispute “always” – it made sense to open up trade relations when it was believed that engaging in free(r) trade would have the knockon effect of liberalizing China in other ways. We’ve been slowly realizing that this did not happen. The CCP is just too powerful. I can’t point to an inflection date but at some point along the way trading with China morphed from plausibly being an anti-totalitarian influence to one that further entrenches state control.

            I agree it’s likely that some reevaluation about what exactly has been and should be traded is necessary. But how sure are you the liberalization plan failed? North Korea and Cuba have been cut off by the U.S. for a very long time. What do you think lack of engagement was more likely to do, make China be more like the U.S. or make it be more like North Korea or the China of 1960?

            I’d rather we up’d the war of ideas so to speak before giving up on the engagement idea. Especially by corrupting the youth. Foreign students come to the U.S. for college? Welcome to your mandatory Civics and Western Civilization classes. May as well make it mandatory for Americans too; it can’t hurt much.

            Ideally, the best case scenario is U.S. citizens gets China to ban our media and maybe other random nice things from their country without making any obvious centrally coordinated effort. This will make us look better from the perspective of Chinese citizens who are only on board with the CPC as much as it can deliver nice stuff.

            I admit it would likely help for U.S. consumers to harshly react towards U.S. companies that kowtow too much. I don’t care about the NBA, but a lot of people obviously do, so if they want to force the NBA to not punish its employees for what they say by threatening to boycott it if it doesn’t show that’s no skin off my back. That forces the ball into the Chinese court to ban stuff their own citizens like and they previously gave them access too.

            But it would have been pretty hypocritical of me to be like “Boycott any entertainment corporations who cave” since I consume so little of that. I wasn’t gonna throw my computer or shoes in the trash or confirm they were sourced from everywhere but China. Maybe when I replace them a year or two down the road the choice will have been made for me, or I can reconsider out of the heat of the moment. But at the moment, I’m not nearly as bothered as most people seem to be.

            I’m not imaging this engagement and an upscaled propaganda war leads to a full fledged Chinese democracy any time soon. But it may lead to something like significantly less authoritarian one party rule or in the long run pseudo one-party rule. If we’re really lucky, Chinese politics look more like a much larger Singapore after 100 years.

      • “America is unlikely to do much about it besides complain because real action would have serious costs.

        If one really wants to do something, then one needs to make an effort to minimize consumption of things made by Chinese companies. Which would hurt.”

        America’s government could easily force American companies not to comply with Chinese “recommendations” to boycott companies or discipline employees. Look at the Israeli anti-boycott laws. There’s no need to punish China, I can’t really blame it for taking advantage of our weakness.

        • quanta413 says:

          America’s government could easily force American companies not to comply with Chinese “recommendations” to boycott companies or discipline employees. Look at the Israeli anti-boycott laws. There’s no need to punish China, I can’t really blame it for taking advantage of our weakness.

          In theory if the American government operated as a unified front, I agree they’d have the power.

          But I think your last sentence pretty much sums it up. In practice, the American government is not going to risk economic damage to America for the sake of maybe causing some changes halfway across the world.

          EDIT: I don’t think that’s strictly a weakness though. It’s also a strength but in a more subtle way.

          EDIT EDIT: Except for the American government’s famous penchant to spend vast amounts (thus causing less obvious but incredibly large economic costs) by invading other countries for poor reasons. But the point is that forcing companies to deal with the U.S. or China would be a pretty obvious cost, so it’s less likely.

    • hls2003 says:

      Yes, the NBA is hypocritical. Very much so, and usually its hypocrisy runs down the fault line of cultural Right-Left in the U.S., which is not surprising given the demographics of its players and primary set of domestic consumers.

      That being established, one thing I’m not seeing discussed is what price the Chinese government pays for this type of stance. On the one hand, obviously they can just snap their fingers and presto, NBA preseason games are off Chinese TV, and in so doing affect what NBA players/personnel say in the U.S. On the other hand, the reason China is a huge market for NBA basketball is that Chinese people really like NBA basketball. At some point, if the CCP pushed this to the brink, their “ammunition” involves cutting off their own people from a product they want very much. The CCP becomes marginally more the “won’t let you watch basketball” party for Chinese who want that. Yes, in the short term speech on Hong Kong protests gets censored. But if it’s a lot of younger people in HK doing the protesting, and if it’s a lot of younger people in the PRC who like basketball, in the long term perhaps the CCP nudges a younger generation towards more sympathy and respect for the protesters.

      I’m not saying it works out necessarily in this case, or in any near future case. U.S. folks should feel free to counter-boycott the NBA if they kowtow to the Commies. But it’s not entirely cost-free for China to attempt this kind of maneuver, and I’m not sure doing so is even in their own long-term interest (then again, in the long run we’re all dead).

      • quanta413 says:

        But it’s not entirely cost-free for China to attempt this kind of maneuver, and I’m not sure doing so is even in their own long-term interest

        I actually suspect this too even though I think the American response will most likely be sound and fury signifying nothing. I don’t think the CPC gains much from pulling basketball broadcasts. The CPC already blocked Twitter with their firewall anyways.

        The CPC needs to remember Americans are likely to get bored if you just wait for things to blow over. American public opinion would have to be incredibly negative to materially hurt them. If the CPC were wise, they would just totally ignore it. If the CPC keeps poking like this, they’ll risk keeping themselves in American minds too much.

    • Tenacious D says:

      I see some parallels with the Muhammad cartoon issue that was all the rage last decade: in a globalized world, which takes priority: the norms of the society where speech takes place or those of the society most closely associated with the subject matter of the speech/expression? Going back further, I’m reminded of the Cold War joke that the Soviet Union had as much protection of free speech as the USA since no one would arrest you for saying “President Reagan is an idiot” in Red Square.

      • acymetric says:

        I do see the similarities, but will note a difference between “offending” a specific foreign state with political speech and offending a religion (practiced worldwide) with “speech” considered offensive by that religion. I probably still would have preferred the episode not be censored, but am much more understanding of the decision to do so in that case.

    • albatross11 says:

      If there’s a strong norm against punishing employees for off-the-clock political activity, then I think it’s relatively easy for US companies to refuse Chinese (Russian, Saudi, German, Israeli, etc.) demands to punish some off-the-clock political activity by firing the person who engages in it. You can say “we just don’t do that, we never have, it would be a PR disaster and probably get us sued, no way.”

      But once you’ve established the norm that corporations punish employees for off-the-clock political activity all the time, based on who is offended (the management of the corporation, its high-value employees, its advertisers, its customers, its shareholders, its regulators, etc.), then it’s very hard to refuse Chinese (Russian, Saudi, etc.) demands to punish offensive off-the-clock political activity. When China says “Fire this guy who tweeted some offensive stuff about Chinese politics,” and you just got done firing someone else last week for tweeting some offensive stuff supporting Trump and attacking AOC, and firing someone a couple months ago for online posts claiming that transwomen were just men with a weird sexual fetish, and firing someone a year ago for having an insufficiently feminist type of BDSM relationship going on, it’s just going to be really hard to argue “no, we don’t do that sort of thing.” You’ve already declared yourself to be a prostitute, and now we’re dickering over the price.

      This is why free-speech norms are important, and that XKCD comic is terribly wrongheaded.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        You’ve already declared yourself to be a prostitute, and now we’re dickering over the price.

        This is why free-speech norms are important, and that XKCD comic is terribly wrongheaded.

        +1

    • brad says:

      I think it would be acceptable if China used propaganda and resulting unpopularity among Chinese consumers to do it. The fact that they went a step beyond that and used hard power (e.g. cancelling broadcasts on state tv) is illegitimate. I draw the line in terms of something akin to, if not exactly, free trade. I don’t expect China to act like a western democracy but it’s when they don’t act like a reasonable trading partner that I think it’s reasonable for the anarchic international system to draw a line (using the state for commercial espionage is another example.)

    • acymetric says:

      So, there have been several letters sent to the NBA/Adam Silver by members of congress, including a joint letter from 8 representatives signed by, among others, Ted Cruz and AOC.

      They’re basically encouraging the NBA to more strongly support the free speech of their employees and also encourage them to go ahead and pull out of China (they’re still holding training camps/preseason games there now) until China backs down.

      • Nick says:

        I was glad to see members of Congress take notice, and especially glad the letter was bipartisan. Would have liked to see more signatures, though.

  4. johan_larson says:

    You are in a Magic draft. When you have almost finished building your deck, you realize that you really need to add one more creature in the CMC 2 slot. Under typical conditions, which of these would you prefer?

    – a 2/2 with reach
    – a 2/2 with trample
    – a 2/2 with haste
    – a 2/2 with lifelink
    – a 2/2 with deathtouch
    – a 2/2 with flying
    – a 2/2 with hexproof
    – a 2/2 with first strike
    – a 2/2 with unblockable
    – a 2/2 with flash
    – a 3/2 with no keyword abilities
    – a 2/3 with no keyword abilities

    To begin with, I’m guessing a 3/2 is preferable to a 2/3, because offence is more important than defence. So which of the others come before the 3/2, which fall between the two, and which are worse than a 2/3?

    My estimate for better than a 3/2:
    – haste
    – deathtouch
    – flying
    – first strike
    – unblockable

    Between a 3/2 and a 2/3:
    – trample
    – hexproof
    – flash

    Worse than a 2/3:
    – reach
    – lifelink

    • Randy M says:

      It depends on how you plan to win and what the format is like. If there are a lot of 2/2s and the format is kind of aggro, a 2 cmc 2/3 could be great. If you want to win via beat down quickly, the 3/2 is better than everything but unblockable, flying, first strike, and maybe haste (in that order).
      Death touch is only sometimes better than a 3/2, and those times are if want or expect to be defensive.

      You left off vigilance, but vigilance and trample are both pretty lousy on a 2/2, maybe reach as well–unless the format has lots of 1/1 flying tokens or something. Hexproof only matters on a weak creature if there are good auras in the set.

      My biggest disagreement with you is lifelink. I would rather have lifelink than haste. It’s right about on par with the extra point of power, because if you end up racing an opponent who also has small creatures you’ll come out ahead. I think you also underestimate flash. A flash creature can often fill the role of a removal spell, even if small; if you have a 2/2 and they have a 3/3, you can flash in the 2/2 and double block, trading up. And it is great if you plan on holding up mana for counter spells or defensive tricks (which, yeah, aren’t great in limited, but part of that is because it’s usually so costly to spend a turn holding mana up).

    • Kindly says:

      Synergy with your other picks seems more important than almost all of these, and possibly more important than filling a CMC 2 slot.

    • Aftagley says:

      Flying or unblockable; pretty much always. Maybe I’d lean into deathtouch of one of the other defensive keywords if I’m playing control, but even then getting to drop something that says “You will die in (lifetotal / creature power) turns” is pretty good.

    • sidereal says:

      Trample is weak on a 2/2, as is haste (imo) and hexproof unless I have auras. I’m a bit of a contrarian on lifegain, I think it’s underrated by many veterans.

      My order is like
      Unblockable, Deathtouch, Flying, 3/2, first strike, 2/3, lifelink, haste, flash, reach, hexproof, trample

      2/3 can be better than 3/2 in a format full of grizzly bear.

      • ManyCookies says:

        I’m a bit of a contrarian on lifegain, I think it’s underrated by many veterans.

        Veterans tend not to like cards that only gain life or delay/chump, but they’re totally down for some incidental lifegain. I would play an extra land over Gain 6 Life, but would happily play a 2/2 Gain 3 Life.

    • helloo says:

      If it’s not important to your deck (as it hopefully shouldn’t be if it’s your last pick), and a “matches with other cards/strategy in this deck” is too much of a copout, then generally deathtouch for removal or flash for tricks, then possibly first strike for raw muscle.

      A lot of these are really only meaningful in numbers/strategy. A lone 2 coster won’t do much.

    • ManyCookies says:

      The defensive strength of a 2/3 is very dependent on the format’s “magic toughness”. <4 CMC creatures tend to cluster at a certain power in formats, whether that's from a frequently used token or a mechanic that requires a certain body size, and if your defensive creature can no-sell those creatures it looks way better. In Return to Ravnica most of the good cards were 3/Xs and so the magic toughness was 4, so mister 1/4 reach was an obnoxiously good defender even without the regenerate ability. If the magic toughness is 3 a 2/3 can be way better than a 3/2, but if the magic toughness is 4 then you’d want the 3/2 (or even a 3/1) so it can at least trade up.

      ————

      Flying and Unblockable are great on a bear, that’s a one mana discount from the 3cmc where they’re already pretty good. Deathtouch is also very nice, 1/1 deathtouchers are already quite annoying and a 2/2 would have an even better nickel-and-dime “God I don’t want to block the 1/1 with my 3/4 but…” mode. All three are relevant bodies in late game stalls, which is super nice to have on your 2 drops.

      Haste is great in aggro but kinda meh in more controlly-midrange and control, and unlike the three above it’s not super relevant late game. I’d take the 3/2 in a vacuum.

      First Strike varies from decent to bonkers depending on the format’s magic toughness (magic power?). There’s some formats where all the good 3 drops and half the 4 drops are X/2s and this totally owns the board, and there’s formats where everything above 2 mana is a 1/3 or 2/3. It’s hard for first strike to be outright bad though, it plays nicely with any sort of pants (+1/+1 counters, auras or equipment) or combat tricks.

      Reach is format and deck dependent. Sometimes fliers go wide and blocking 1/1 spirits are super important (Ravnica Allegiance), sometimes the fliers are all X/3s at 4 mana and white/blue isn’t that good anyway.

      Hexproof is great if the pants (counters+auras+equipment) in the format are great. Otherwise people tend not to aim kill spells at vanilla 2/2s, though it’s a nice perk.

      Lifelink has traditionally been alright on 2/X 2 drops. Again, sometimes the magic toughness is 3 and the 2/3 is way better, sometimes that doesn’t matter and the 2-6 life. Nice in aggro racing situations.

      Flash is fine for futzing with combat math or punting on decisions. Again, magic toughness dependent.

      Trample is mostly irrelevant on a 2/2, they’re just not getting chumped by 1/1s that often and the extra point from trading w/ an X/1 tends to be marginal.

      —–

      In summary: I’d almost always want the flying+unblockable+deathtouch over the 3/2, first strike is format dependent and may or may not beat out the 3/2. Haste is good in aggro and meh outside, hexproof+flash+lifelink+reach vary wildly on format and may or may not be better than the 2/3, trample is pretty close to a vanilla 2/2.

      • Randy M says:

        If the magic toughness

        For clarity’s sake, by magic toughness you mean 1 point above the typical common and uncommon creature’s power, right?

        • ManyCookies says:

          Correct, it’s the toughness that blocks most of the “relevant” creatures.

          • Aftagley says:

            I’d also factor in the most common red removal (if it’s a set with cheap red removal) into the “magic toughness” as well.

            IE, in a set with lightning bolt, you want 4 toughness creatures. In a set with shock, you want 3.

          • Randy M says:

            Another example of this is Dragon’s Maze, which was made to integrate into RtR & the very fast Gatecrash sets, and in an effort to slow the format down had a common cycle of common 4 cmc 2/4 creatures that benefited from having gates in play.

  5. Radu Floricica says:

    Ah yes, CW thread. Was wondering why it’s so much less interesting.

    Anyways, to be a bit more constructive. Something that’s been churning in the back of my head, what with Scott’s almond post and Lord Voldemort’s recent article and other comments here. I’ve had to make the choice this year if I want to get involved in politics. It was going to be a “no”, the main reason being that my business is in a sensitive-but-good period and I can’t afford the distraction, and also in a couple of years I may actually afford both the time and a little money. But recently I’m starting to go with “no, because that’s not where the power is”.

    Follow me here for a bit. So, I’m an entity that wants to effect a change. I’m ideologically agnostic, I don’t have big ideals or goals – I just want my itch scratched. Does it really make sense to get involved in elections? Thinking about it with a practical focus, it kinda feels like planting a tree to get the wood to make the pen I need to write a couple of pages. Investing (time, money, influence) in a non-incumbent candidate means 1. waiting a long time 2. taking a chance he won’t get elected 3. take a chance he’ll remember my help 4. take a chance he’ll be able to help – and whatever is left gets divided between his/her other supporters and whatever’s left of his principles. Not a bright investment, if you ask me.

    To this I contrast the question (again from here, I think) of who actually writes legislation. The letter of the law. Not legislators, they’re too busy and non-juridically educated to do it. Technically their aids, but can they really afford top help? In practice at least the rough draft is written by … the industry. Who give it to the aids, who give it to the legislators, who negotiate it in committees usually by comparing with the drafts from the other guy’s aids etc.

    What follows here is that we have demand and – probably – supply, so there’s bound to be a market somewhere. I don’t expect anybody to just tell me where it is – it probably varies a lot by country anyways, after all there are pretty clear differences in how well things work based on general corruption level. But after the whole Thiel-Gawker thing, I don’t consider Conspiration a taboo word anymore. In any case, my guess is that if/when I’ll feel like Getting Involved, politics won’t be the most effective use of my time.

    • Drew says:

      Start small. Join a couple community orgs. After a year of active participation, it should be extremely easy to get on the board of something.

      That will be valuable because you’ll get a change to direct impact in your community AND you’ll get a leaders-eye-view of the decision making process. I think the big realization is that most decisions aren’t about high-pressure lobbying. Instead, they’re a handful of basically people trying to muddle their way to a reasonable solution to some problem.

      I suspect the big way to have impact (with individual-level-resources) is to identify some small-ish problem, construct a complete solution, and have the community connections to be able to present it to your local city council or town planner.

    • cassander says:

      In practice at least the rough draft is written by … the industry. Who give it to the aids, who give it to the legislators, who negotiate it in committees usually by comparing with the drafts from the other guy’s aids etc.

      Sometimes, but I’ll bet executive branch agencies write a lot more of it. And “industry” in this case should include activist groups of all kinds. So the demand is being met by a lot of groups already.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Yeah, that’s my point. Well, actually that’s the reverse of my point – the politicians make up the demand and the industry-in-the-larger-sense supplies the law writing services. Sounds a lot cleaner when you put it this way. But anyways, it’s still a market, and for an actor that wants to make a change it’s much better to tap into it than get involved in elections.

        And the thing is, compared to regular politics, it’s incredibly opaque. I don’t think it’s necessarily on purpose, it’s just that navigating any moderately complex environment requires a small amount of skill, and this kind of skill is really not widespread. While politics is discussed at every bar and on every corner, and pretty much everybody (claims) to have at least some expertise.

    • Erusian says:

      “Getting involved in politics” means basically one of three things:
      1.) Run for office
      2.) Get involved in government (lobby your Senator, serve as a surrogate, etc etc)
      3.) Join or create a political organization

      3 is generally the lowest impact because you get to set your terms and you don’t have to compromise. However, it’s also the hardest to do successfully. You’re basically creating a new company but instead of making money it organizes voters and pays people to communicate their wishes. If you want to get involved, I’d pick an issue you care about and see if you can get a popular newsletter going around it. If you can, then start trying to organize the demographic the newsletter reaches with donations etc and start communicating with government entities about their desires.

    • aristides says:

      If you want power and are ideologically agnostic, the bureaucracy is the place to be. For the US, if you become a member of the Senior Executive Service, you have tremendous power to make changes within your domain with very little oversight. You would report to a political, but that political usually has 0 interest in anything you do that is not ideological, and only orders you to implement their ideology, while letting you choose the methods.

      The big disadvantages are that you won’t be able to change law, and it’s a full time career that is moderately difficult to get. It works best for someone that wants to exercise their power through countless small actions every day, that concretely effect a few people, rather than through one big action. If you want to make a few big changes, than industry or lobbying is probably more effective.

    • albatross11 says:

      My intuition is that for almost everyone, getting involved in national-level politics is about the least efficient way possible to make the world a better place. Doing some kind of local volunteer work, building something useful in your work/career, being part of a community, even just helping that one friendless crazy little old lady down the street now and then, all make the world a better place with high probability and low effort. National level politics is the opposite–vast efforts on your part are a tiny drop in the ocean and will almost certainly have no impact on the outcome.

  6. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    I have come to see concept of “free will” as a moralistic and not factual concept. Functionally, there are no qualifiers to sort your personality, decisions, actions or outcomes into “by choice” and “not by choice” – anything can be traced to factors beyond one’s control, or denied this trace, but in a world where eugenics and scientific racism has fallen out of favour, you can only judge people, both positively and negatively by the former, and discard the later. If you want someone punished for their shortcomings, such as being poor, lonely and depressed, (Or at least don’t want to be burdened to help them) you will proclaim that they are this way by choice, while excuse this coming from in-group because it would let you claim sympathy and assistance. The reverse for positive qualities – outgroup got there by luck, you got there by choice – people tend to attribute their success to simple, obvious choices and imply that everyone could get there if only they chose this way quite a lot.

    I’m curious who else thought this way, but can’t come up with key words that would let me search this kind of discussions.

    • Ttar says:

      This is my view on determinism as well. Everything is the way it is because it couldn’t be any other way; concepts like “deservingness” are therefore meaningless. But this is almost a special case of not being able to derive an ought from an is. Moral ideas like justice, fairness, right, wrong, etc are all meaningless unless used in their sense as referential frame specific preferences regarding world states (e.g. I can say x is evil to mean x worldstate is low on my preference meter, but not to say anything beyond that or imply that others have any duty regarding x). I think this is called amoralism and/or error theory. Morality could mean the study of human instincts and norms surrounding our shared illusion of free will and right vs wrong, but trying to systematize or delve deeply into an illusion just exposes its immateriality.

      • isotropy says:

        I feel like I have a mental block understanding why this type of determinism appeals to some people. The idea that everything only happens the way it must happen seems like it implies that the universe has some kind of built-in function that takes a physical state in the past and gives you back the present and the future. By function I mean in the math sense: given the same inputs you have to get the same outputs every time.

        That bugs me in three ways:
        1) how is this philosophically better than the idea that there’s an mechanism that couples mental states and goals now to physical states in the future?
        2) how does it even contradict the idea of such a coupling?
        3) Doesn’t the idea of such a function “existing” raise a whole bunch of even more unanswerable questions that directly affect physics? Like, how is it enforced by the universe? Is it actually defined for every possible distribution of matter and energy? If not, what would happen to the universe if you could arrange a “bad” distribution?

        I can’t get past the possibility that it’s actually more physically reasonable to say that the relationship between the past, the present, and the future is not described by a function. That idea rejects the hardest forms of determinism, even if it isn’t enough to prove free will is real.

        It sounds like your primary concern is that some “pro-free-will” arguments seem to be aimed at ultimately justifying mistreatment, retaliation or punishment, particularly against disfavored groups. That’s probably a fair assessment for how “free will” can sometimes get deployed in bad faith as an assumption. But for me, that consideration doesn’t push me away from believing “free will” is physically sensible and possible.

        • randallsquared says:

          1) It’s the same; not sure what you mean by “better”.
          2) it doesn’t.
          3) I don’t really understand this question. If you have two gears which are interleaved such that one rotates when the other rotates, would you ask how the rotation of the second gear was “enforced by the universe” upon the rotation of the first?

          One thing that I believe is necessary for this view is quantum superdeterminism, but the absence of superdeterminism merely substitutes randomness at the bottom for it, so it doesn’t really enable choice as a physical fundamental.

          Either way, believing in the responsibility of a person for their own actions is a means to the end of reducing the quantity of unfriendly actions.

          • isotropy says:

            > I don’t really understand this question. If you have two gears which are interleaved such that one rotates when the other > rotates, would you ask how the rotation of the second gear was “enforced by the universe” upon the rotation of the first?

            It depends on the level of explanation I wanted. If I’m just thinking about the theory of abstract gears, then I would say there’s no “how” to explain. If I am considering a set of metal or plastic gears, now I can ask “how does gear A actually move gear B?” My explanation maybe doesn’t have to be finer grained than the properties of solids and classical physics and I can work in primitive notions like vectors and abstract forces. If instead I want to go down to fundamental particles, fields, and forces, there’s a whole bunch of questions I need answered before I can really say that I have a working theory of how one gear turns another at that level of description. What do I mean by “solid”? Why don’t teeth stick together and merge into a single piece of metal when they touch? What does “touching” mean in this setup?

            I’m interpreting one system (“gears”) within another (“classical mechanics of solids”), and that one within another (“quantum field theory”). If I know all the intermediate steps, and how each intermediate layer is realized within the world of the underlying layer, then I would say we’ve got an explanation of the top layer in terms of the bottom layer. If we are missing big parts of some of the layers, or of the mapping between two layers, then we don’t have an explanation, and, more importantly, we likely don’t have a genuinely tight argument that there isn’t any explanation possible.

            Probably the fairest way to describe what bugs me is this: when I try to wrap my head around “deterministic” and “random”, I don’t end up feeling like I understand them well enough to say “there is absolutely no way these lower-level concepts can contain a model of my intuition about free will.” When I hear something that sounds (forgive the strawman) like “free will is too vague to reason about, and it’s clear there’s no room between determinism and randomness for it anyway”, I’m unclear what intuition the other person is trying to express.

        • the absence of superdeterminism merely substitutes randomness at the bottom for it

          Those are really the only two conceivable options. It’s impossible to think beyond something either being caused to happen one way by previous things or simply happening that way for no particular reason at all, or at least it’s impossible to express anything else in English.

          The problem with free will is that it’s not well defined to begin with. It’s more of a vague feeling human beings have than even a moral tool. We feel like we’re the definite author of our actions, unless we look close enough to realize that at some point things just pop into our head out of the blackbox of the unconscious mind.

        • sidereal says:

          > the universe has some kind of built-in function that takes a physical state in the past and gives you back the present and the future.

          Isn’t that function definitionally physics?

          > how is this philosophically better than the idea that there’s an mechanism that couples mental states and goals now to physical states in the future?

          The former subsumes the latter? Part of that function entails mental states and goals and thereby couples them to the future

    • Machine Interface says:

      I largely agree as well.

      The idea of free will always seems to be put to contribution to justify the notion of punishment, that is, not merely fixing and compensating damages and ensuring that the damaging action is prevented from reoccuring in the future, but specifically inflincting pain on the perpetrator, because “they deserved it”. It’s a thinly veiled excuse for the practice of cruelty.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Or for the practice of restraint.

        If you take notions of dessert out of punishment, then there’s no reason not to inflict horrifically disproportionate punishments for minor offences if doing so would benefit society.

    • uau says:

      Yes, you can always trace any quality of an individual back to something they have no control over. Did they achieve something by talent? They must have good genes. Did they work exceptionally hard? Either their genes or environment must have given them motivation for hard work. And so on.

      A lot of the relevant social pressure comes down to possibilities for manipulating people. Consider an idiot and a smart but very lazy person, both of whom currently achieve very little. By their achievements, both could deserve the same level of society’s support. However, it’s obvious that the idiot will be useless no matter how hard he tries, while it’s more plausible that the lazy person could do something. Thus society will condemn the lazy person a lot more strongly, because it might be possible to manipulate him into being useful, but there’s little to gain by manipulating a worthless idiot.

      Where a person is unquestionably bad, I agree that defenses like “he only became that way due to circumstances/environment” are wrong. Consider the following narrative:

      He was born in a poor family. They lived in a racist community that treated him badly due to his skin color. The government gave all the school money to other districts, and he was thus very badly educated. Bigoted employers never gave him a real chance to get a job. In these circumstances, he grew up into a criminal and a horrible human being who fully deserves to rot in jail for the rest of his life.

      I think there’s a fairly large portion of people who’d protest that “deserves to rot in jail” is unfair, somehow excusing any badness if the person in question was a “victim”. But as above, anything can always ultimately be traced to some environmental influence. You can condemn other people for making someone bad (to the degree it can be said he’d have grown into a different person in different circumstances), but that doesn’t make the person himself any less bad. If you’re running a eugenics program, then it might make sense to say that he wouldn’t necessarily be genetically bad and there’s less need to stop him from having children, but I don’t think there’s any less reason to throw a genuinely bad person in jail if he became bad due to a particular environment.

      • mtl1882 says:

        If you’re running a eugenics program, then it might make sense to say that he wouldn’t necessarily be genetically bad and there’s less need to stop him from having children, but I don’t think there’s any less reason to throw a genuinely bad person in jail if he became bad due to a particular environment.

        I think the issue is less that the person should not go to jail than that we should realize that there is something more systemic going on in general. As your eugenics comment illustrates, we should recognize that it didn’t *have* to go that way, and that people who did not make such choices were not necessarily inherently better. And many people recognize this, but many don’t. It’s against human nature to dispense with blame altogether, but I do think awareness in this area is key to understanding the world and making constructive choices.

        For example, when I was in college, the Michael Vick controversy arose. I remember sitting in class, listening to others go off on Vick. Now, I am really sensitive to the issue of animal cruelty—no one who knew me would ever question my concern in this area. Had trigger warnings been a thing then, I would have kept an eye out for that one. But I simply could not sit there and bask in superiority—if I’d grown up in a situation where I was “desensitized,” like Vick, would I still be that way? *Possibly.* There are definitely people who just find that stuff revolting, and I can’t even take watching people suffer practical jokes. But I’ve had the luxury of being able to avoid those things, too. Things like pure torture of living things are probably different, and I don’t think Vick did that–if he did, don’t tell me about it! I know most of my classmates must have been less sensitive on this issue, and hearing them go off on him just made me uncomfortable. They were way too certain that they would never have made that choice in any circumstances—which means they have other blind spots that might manifest. You can believe something is terrible, and also realize that the person didn’t really choose it among an array of options equally available to everyone. And also that maybe this can be addressed, to prevent it from happening. It’s not an issue that gets solved by going after individual people after the fact, regardless of whether the individual should be jailed.

        • albatross11 says:

          I just kept thinking that if Vick had instead turned out to have a history of beating girlfriends senseless and terrorizing his ex wife, he would have served far less jail time and would not have become a pariah.

    • Atlas says:

      I have quite similar beliefs. There was a discussion of these issues here a couple weeks ago, if you missed it.

      One idle conjecture I’ve had recently is that a problem with the concept of “free will” might be that “freedom” is only meaningful as a term/concept of relation. However, the lay philosophical concept of “free will” seems to me to often be deployed “free standing.” That is, it is not clear to me what our allegedly “free” wills are free of or from. They might be free of certain causes and restrictions, and that might be an important fact, but they are nonetheless completely subject to other causes and restrictions that pre-date their own conception and lie outside their control.

    • Protagoras says:

      Nietzsche was well known for the “free will is an excuse to blame people” theory.

    • rahien.din says:

      Determinism does not mean powerlessness – it is the source of power.

      Determinism simply means that every action is entirely the result of causes – and the most important cause is you. You have a biology, a personality, and an environment – these determine your actions.

      If free will is opposed to determinism, then “free will” declares that an action is not entirely the result of causes – that there is some aspect of a decision that is not responsive to biology, personality, or environment. But this “free” aspect, being so unresponsive, is arbitrary.

      So, if “I” did something, this can only mean that my biology, personality, and/or environment determined that action. If I took an action in an undetermined and “free” manner, it was not dependent upon my biology, personality, or environment, and therefore “I” did not do it.

      In this way, we can see that blame and credit depend not on free will but on determinism, for it only makes sense to attribute an action to a person if they actually did it. If our wills are free, then we cannot receive blame or credit because our actions are essentially arbitrary.

      This does not need to alter our systems of praise and punishment. If a method works – even retributive justice can work – then it is worthwhile.

      • albatross11 says:

        All models lie, some models are useful. People having free will is a useful model for influencing and predicting and understanding their behavior. This is true, even if there are some frames of reference in which people don’t really seem to have a lot of free will.

        Peoples’ actions being mostly determined by their circumstances is also a useful model for influencing and predicting and understanding peoples’ behavior. This is true, even if there are some frames of reference in which people really do seem to exhibit something like free will.

        • rahien.din says:

          When is it useful to model people’s actions as arbitrary?

        • rahien.din says:

          Determinism isn’t a model.

          • quanta413 says:

            I thought it was one of my favorite models, and I think reasonably close to true or likely to be true!

            Please explain what you mean by “Determinism isn’t a model”. I am intrigued.

          • rahien.din says:

            Me too!

            Models are descriptions of reality – maps – and as such, every model is incomplete. We have various ways of stating that : think of Goedel’s incompleteness theorems, or Goodhart’s law, or Hoelmstrom’s theorem, or our shibboleth that “the map is not the territory.” These laws (and others like them) are restatements of one fact : no system of axioms can completely describe a natural reality. As such, axiomatic systems can be challenged and even defeated.

            In contrast, determinism at its heart is simply “the natural world is sufficient to account for its actions.” So, though the various flavors of determinism are axiomatic systems, determinism itself is not – instead, determinism designates the natural world as the subject or target of valid axiomatic systems. It represents an organizing discipline.

            So saying that determinism competes with free will is like saying that phlogiston theory competes with physics. It is not that phlogiston theory is simply incorrect – it is that when axiomatic systems within physics are successfully challenged, physics is illuminated and refined, and is therefore strengthened as incorporates challenges, not weakened. You can’t posit something parallel to of physics and yet prevent physics from claiming that thing as its own.

            tl;dr : models describe subjects, disciplines designate the subject to be described ; determinism is a discipline.

            (Also “all models are wrong, some models are useful” in this context is a trumped-up way of saying, “Well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” Which is dumb, and a capitulation, and deserved to be clapped back at.)

            ETA: this may deserve a better description than I can muster on a first attempt.

          • quanta413 says:

            In contrast, determinism at its heart is simply “the natural world is sufficient to account for its actions.” So, though the various flavors of determinism are axiomatic systems, determinism itself is not – instead, determinism designates the natural world as the subject or target of valid axiomatic systems. It represents an organizing discipline.

            That just sounds like a metamodel to me. It’s a model for studying other models or generating other models. I think metamodels are still models.

            tl;dr : models describe subjects, disciplines designate the subject to be described ; determinism is a discipline.

            I don’t see that enough is gained by this separation of models and disciplines. Models may model other sets of models or serve as as strategy for generating other models. It is not uncommon to stack models.

            Although from a logical point of view, there are probably paradoxes if you’re careless about how you set up axioms for metamodels. The same way dealing with sets logically is messier than just dealing with predicate logic.

          • rahien.din says:

            Ehh… that’s not really it. Meta-models do help select between models, but, meta-models still need organizing disciplines.

            Another example : the discipline is “we will cross the river.” The models are “swim,” “canoe,” “ferry,” “bridge,” “hang glide.” The meta-models are “go through the water” and “go over the water.”

            Any or all of the models could be effective or ineffective and the discipline would remain.

            The discipline is what organizes the models and ultimately what selects among them.

      • Protagoras says:

        Van Inwagen calls this the Mind argument, due to the number of times it has appeared in that journal.

        • rahien.din says:

          That’s intriguing!

          I am merely an amateur. There must be better descriptions of the argument than mine, and there must be good critiques of it, too. You seem familiar – can you point me to some of those? It would be great to learn more.

          I’ll search for Van Inwagen , too.

          • Protagoras says:

            Honestly, I think surprisingly little has been added to what Hume had in his chapter “Of Liberty and Necessity” in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. But Nietzsche was on to something with his allusion to the “hundred times refuted” theory of free will, that there is always someone new who thinks he is strong enough to refute it (not that the previous refutations failed, either in truth or in Nietzsche’s opinion; it’s kind of strange the way it nonetheless keeps attracting new refutations). In any event, for a complicated discussion, van Inwagen thinks there are strong reasons to believe 1) free will exists, 2) determinism is incompatible with free will, and 3) indeterminism is incompatible with free will. He’s not the kind of weasel who thinks there’s some third way apart from determinism or indeterminism, either; he recognizes that 1-3 can’t all be true. And he is personally least confident of 3, and so remains one of the most prominent advocates of a libertarian position, but he refreshingly admits that he has no argument that 3 is false, nor even much of a response to the arguments that 3 is true. He just believes that the cases for 1 and 2 are stronger, so if one has to be given up, it should be 3 (I disagree; I have little difficulty rejecting 2). In any event, van Inwagen seems to have a relatively recent new book about the subject (just came out in 2017) which I haven’t read.

          • rahien.din says:

            Thanks Protagoras!

  7. DragonMilk says:

    Let’s talk rice cookers and rice.

    What do you like to mix it up from just varying proportions of water + white rice?

    Coconut milk? regular milk? salt? spices? oils? beans? sweet potatoes?

    I’ve only ever seen success with sweet potatoes

    • Lambert says:

      Never used a rice cooker but:
      Yes, add salt to rice.
      Brown rice
      Basmati
      Thai sticky rice
      Cardamom pods

      But I tend to let rice just be rice. The flavour comes from whatever I’m cooking the rice to go with.

      • DragonMilk says:

        How are you cooking rice without a rice cooker?

        • acymetric says:

          You can cook rice in a regular pot on the stove which would by my assumption. (You can even just do it in the microwave although I wouldn’t expect it to turn out as good as properly cooked rice).

          • Lambert says:

            Yeah, normal pot.
            You can speed things up by starting with boiling water. (unlike with pasta)
            Drain it into a seive. Rinse with a bit more boiling water if you’re feeling fancy.
            Put a reasonable amount of salt into the water so it soaks into the rice.

            Microwavable instant rice is a thing, but it costs more and has a worse texture.

          • acymetric says:

            You can do regular rice in the microwave as well, it just takes longer than instant rice (but still has a worse texture than properly cooked rice). Same with pasta.

        • Drew says:

          Use a pot in your oven. The instructions – via Binging with Babish are:

          Start by bringing some water to a boil in a pot. Rinse your rice to remove excess starch and then add it to boiling water with a little salt. Cover and place in the oven at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.

          I’ve found that this works great. Just fill the pot with whatever rice:water ratio is recommended for your variety of rice.

          • beleester says:

            I’ve never heard of putting it in the oven. It sounds unwieldy – heating up both the stove and the oven for one pot?

        • The way I have cooked rice for the past fifty years or so is in a pot on the stove. I combine 3 cups of rice with about 5 cups of water (my daughter thinks better with a little more), bring it to a boil, turn it down to a low simmer, and give it twenty minutes or so to cook.

          The one potential problem is rice sticking to the bottom and burning. The solution is to make sure the temperature is not too high.

          For very large quantities of rice, done for SCA feasts, you bring the water to a boil, add the rice, bring it back to a boil, cover it, turn off the heat. That eliminates the burning problem, which is more serious for large quantities, and an eight gallon pot of rice retains heat well enough to cook without additional heating.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Let me join the chorus of people saying: “rice cooker?” I’ve always used a simple pot and stove and find the idea of a special gadget for cooking rice a bit odd.

      With that out of the way, here’s a quick and easy method I use to cook rice that I’ve found to give good results with little effort:

      1. Measure out the quantity of rice you want to cook, dump it in a sieve and rinse thoroughly (to get rid of excess starch),

      2. Boil up some water in a kettle (I use an electric one, which saves time),

      3. Just as the water is coming to a boil, melt a small quantity of butter (unsalted, for preference) in the pot you’ll be using to cook the rice, add the rice and stir it up for a really short time (you don’t want to fry the rice, just seal it up a bit and not have it too sticky),

      4. Measure out the water you’ve just boiled in a proportion of 1 part rice, 2 parts + a bit water and pour into the pot. Keep the flame pretty high, so the water starts boiling again,

      5. When the rice comes to a boil, add salt. Rice soaks up salt like a sponge, so it’s probably best to be really conservative. If you used salted butter in step 3, you can probably do without salt altogether. Stir the rice thoroughly.

      6. Bring the flame down and let the rice simmer and the water evaporate. Do not cover the pot. This is a great time to work on whatever it is you’ll be serving the rice with. You may want to stir it a couple of times, to make sure it isn’t sticking to the pot.

      7. Once the top layer of rice is above water level and holes have formed where the water bubbled up, take the pot off the cooker, cover it and let it steam for a bit.

      Using this method, I am able to consistently get rice that is neither under nor overcooked, typically within fifteen minutes or so.

    • b_jonas says:

      I don’t use a rice cooker either. I rinse the rice in a metal sieve before cooking, put it in a shallow heat-resistant glass cooking vessel. I add spices, most importantly lovage. I boil water in an electric kettle and add it to the rice. I cook in the microwave for 8 minutes as first pass, then quickly stir the rice and add some more water, then cook for 10 more minutes. No water remains in the container by the end, all of it is either absorbed by the rice or gets off the vessel to the microwave floor. This makes something of a mess in the microwave that I have to clean up afterwards, but also results in cooked rice. Optionally mix in green peas cooked separately before serving.

      No, I’m not saying that this is a sensible method, it’s just what I do.

      • Aftagley says:

        No, I’m not saying that this is a sensible method, it’s just what I do.

        Does microwaving it produce higher final product that stove cooking?

        • b_jonas says:

          No. Stove cooking also makes good rice. I find the microwave easier because I cook it until no water remains on the rice, so I don’t have to remove the excess water in the end. It’d be harder to do that on the stove without risking to burn the rice.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I defer to the only acceptable authority here the late film critic Roger Elbert.

    • AG says:

      I’ve had azuki and/or mung beans, pearl barley, and oatmeal with my rice before. And you can probably throw any kind of grain in there, too, like millet, quinoa, cream wheat/grits, etc.

      There’s also the entire congee family of recipes. The basic additives I’ve grown up with are green onion, preserved egg (pidan), and ground meat.

      “In Korean, it’s called “Japgokbap” meaning mixed grain rice. There is no one formula for what grains you have to use, but Koreans usually mix 5-10 different grains. Brown rice, brown sweet rice, black rice, barley, black pea, white pea, red bean, sorghum, millet, Job’s tears, buckwheat, kidney bean, white cowpea and wild sweet rice are all examples of grains Koreans enjoy. Often they mix these grains with plain white rice, because white rice gives a nice smooth texture and has a stickiness that other grains lack.”

      My rice cooker also comes with a steamer accessory, which works great with veggies or fish.

    • sfoil says:

      I’m about to add squid ink to rice in a rice cooker. I’m concerned about it vaporizing and getting all over everything. I will see how it goes.

    • broblawsky says:

      I cook rice in my instant pot.

    • onyomi says:

      A caveat: most of the methods and ratios described here for cooking rice on a stove are only applicable to long grain rice (which includes jasmine, basmati, and most rice grown in the US).

      For short or medium grain rice (the kind you get with sushi and which Japanese people eat every day) the ratios are different and getting good results without a rice cooker a lot harder in my experience.

      (I use a rice cooker for short and medium grain rice while cooking long grain rice on the stove).

      One yummy addition for rice in a cooker or on the stove top and which goes well with many sorts of meal, from Indian to Cajun: add a few bay leaves to the pot.

      • Rebecca Friedman says:

        Ah… that doesn’t match my experience? My household uses medium-grain sticky rice as our default. Tastiest kind I’ve found yet, at least in my opinion, works just fine on the stove. Just under twice as much water as rice, get it to a boil stirring as needed (once or twice) to keep it from burning and then turn it off (or to low if you’re cooking way too little, but usually its own heat does it). Texture is fine without any sort of draining or rinsing, all the water gets absorbed. But it certainly doesn’t need a rice cooker; I don’t think I’ve used one yet.

        You do need to know what the water/rice ratio is for your variety of rice, but I’ve had pretty good luck just consulting the quantities on the bag. And rice is pretty flexible – Dad’s 3-to-5 ratio is for the same medium-grain sticky rice, and while I like mine better (his dries out a bit faster in the refrigerator) I’m not at all sure I could tell the difference on a blind taste test.

        Not quite an addition to rice, but one thing a friend of mine does with her rice cooker is to steam chinese sausage or smoked duck leg on top of the rice. This sometimes gets cut up into it, sometimes served separately, and seems to come out quite well either way.

        (She also does steamed eggs, but those are in a bowl on top of the rice and are really a separate dish she’s taking advantage of having an already-running steamer for.)

        • onyomi says:

          Funny, based on your description I would have guessed it was too much water, especially if you turn off the heat once it reaches a boil, but there are so many factors, including the type of rice, that it’s hard to figure out how the difference in our experiences arises. It has been a long time since I cooked short to medium grain rice on the stovetop because I found it difficult to achieve the kind of fluffy texture I liked without a rice cooker. I do recall that the general principle was less water for short and medium grain as compared to long. Do you ever cook long grain rice like basmati, and if so, do you adjust your ratios or method at all for that?

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            If you don’t turn off the heat – or at least turn it way down and keep the lid on – it comes out crunchy, which I don’t like in my rice. Ditto if you get distracted and let it boil over, for what it’s worth.

            The texture I get is – I’m not sure if I’d say fluffy, as much as definitely sticky rice? If you picked up a grain you’d get many of the nearby grains as well. I like it that way, but it may be the sticky element that’s throwing the ratios off?

            I do cook basmati occasionally – I like it, though I’m not an expert at it and have never gotten it really fluffy – but it’s pretty rare and half the time it’s as part of a larger recipe, in which case I usually follow that.* I feel as if I have sometimes seen 3-1 ratios (as opposed to my 2-1 for sticky rice), adding salt, and adding butter (which is delicious but probably not wise on a regular basis). That said basmati often needs to be drained and/or rinsed, so you aren’t actually putting all that water into the rice, you’re just not letting it sit on the bottom, maybe as an alternate way of keeping it from burning.

            *The other half I’m checking what’s on the package; I’d check one now but we haven’t got one. I think I’ve cooked basmati with my normal method, and if I’m remembering the time correctly it came out mostly fine, maybe a little moist but not much, but I was pretty busy that weekend and may be misremembering. I’ve definitely cooked standard American either medium- or long-grain rice with my normal method; it wasn’t great, but I never like standard American white rice anyway, and it was definitely better than when I see it in restaurants/college dining halls.

    • AG says:

      I have a family friend who buys milk in bulk and makes yogurt with her rice cooker. She optimized the process sufficiently to decide that yogurt via Instant Pot was inferior.

    • onyomi says:

      Has anyone had any success replacing their rice cooker with a countertop (electric) pressure cooker? I’d like to get a pressure cooker to make it faster and more convenient to cook my own beans/lentils, but since space is at a premium where I live, I’d rather replace a kitchen appliance than add one. Also would be nice if it could steam vegetables like potatoes in addition to pressure cooking beans and making good rice of the quality I’d expect using one of the “smarter” rice cookers (like Zojirushi, etc.).

      I see many such all-in-one products on Amazon, but don’t know if they’re any good/which brand or features to look for. Thanks for any ideas.

      • AG says:

        The consensus is that Instant Pot really is the best deal for that. So you should find a friend who already has one and ask if you can sample some of its results.

        I don’t have one, but that’s because I got the Aroma multicooker before Instant Pot got cheaper. I don’t know if it’s any faster, but it does rice quite well, and I’ve also had success with its steamer accessory and slow cooking function. Besides, speed really isn’t an issue, because it has timer+keep warm functions so that you can load up the rice and water way early and program so that it finishes cooking whenever you need it.

        In the long run, I likely will upgrade to Instant Pot.

      • zoozoc says:

        The instant pot works great for rice. We have a smaller one that mostly just cooks rice. It seems to be slightly faster than our old rice cooker.

    • achenx says:

      I love my rice cooker.

      Toast the uncooked rice in butter/oil and garlic/onion first in the rice cooker, then cook the rice in chicken stock instead of water.

      (I.e., melt butter in rice cooker, add garlic or onion or shallot and cook briefly, add rice for a few minutes, then reset the rice cooker, fill with chicken stock, and use the rice cooker normally.)

      • Sounds tasty. But the odds of persuading my wife and daughter that we should crowd the kitchen counters with another gadget are low.

        There is a reason only half the burners on our stove are induction.

        • Rebecca Friedman says:

          There is no reason at all that I can see that that method wouldn’t work in a pot, Daddy dear. You are welcome to try it! It does sound tasty.

  8. hash872 says:

    Investment talk- so, all I really do with my personal funds is toggle them between a Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund, and a money market fund. (This is not retirement, which is in a Vanguard Target whatever fund, and I don’t really think about it). My personal cash has been in the money market fund for a bit now, I’m leery of a recession, and more leery of political risks. If Things Crash Bigly, I’d probably switch everything back to the index fund that day. My overall goal with personal funds is just to grow my net worth, and my risk tolerance is either average or slightly above average. But really, my money is always just in S&P 500 Index fund or the money market.

    My question is- instead of the money market, should I be putting cash into various ETFs or index funds (or bond funds??) to try to get more yield? For example utilities & real estate are supposed to do well in recessions- should I aiming for higher than the 2% or whatever MM yield I get now by investing in some of those ETFs? Put some % in a gold ETF? I read say the Bloomberg ‘What To Do With $10,000 Now’ articles where various investment advisers recommend to buy this or that ETF to play the market. Should I be doing this? And just reading the business press to guess which ETFs are going to be good? I personally lack the risk tolerance for more exotic stuff like Chinese or Indian equities say, but should I be aiming for a 3-4% yield through conservative ETFs (or bonds?)

    (You can presume that I fully understand EMH, passive vs. active, have read A Random Walk Down Wall Street, I don’t buy individual equities, etc.)

    • DragonMilk says:

      With the caveat that I don’t follow my own advice (at cost to myself), the traditional rule of thumb is to have 80% equity (index funds), 20% cash/bonds.

      The 20% is what allows you to rebalance during a downturn.

      If you were to make my mistake, is to go 50/50 equity/cash in anticipation of a downturn since 2015, you’d be a fool as well and lose out on a lot of equity gains!

      You should ask yourself why you would make a better investment than people who do it full-time – there’s a reason a lot of institutional investors have shifted more and more to passive investing (well multiple, like CYA, but I digress), and there are valid reasons such as having a dissenting macro view from consensus on countries and sectors. And again, you’d be like me and have individual stocks in Turkey, China, and Argentina newly invested last year after a pro-PIGS portfolio after the second Greek bailout in 2011/2012.

      Oh, and you can also try your luck as I did with preferred stock. Or QQQ (I avoided this one to my detriment because I’m irrationally bearish on tech) or try catching falling knives. These ideas have not panned out well in the post 2009 bull market 🙁

      • hash872 says:

        the traditional rule of thumb is to have 80% equity (index funds), 20% cash/bonds

        But which index funds, is my point. There’s no One Index Fund That Covers Every Asset On Earth. To choose one index is to snub many others.

        You should ask yourself why you would make a better investment than people who do it full-time – there’s a reason a lot of institutional investors have shifted more and more to passive investing

        Well, Warren Buffett and many other professional investors are supposedly in cash these days, so I am doing what the pros do at the moment. But I’m pro-passive investing- the question is, which index. Should I be in a conservative index/ETF as we wait out the end of the cycle/inevitable political insanity in 2020, vs. cash…. That’s the question

        • DragonMilk says:

          anyone that mimics the S&P 500 is good to go, like VOO.

          Mix up CDs, VOO, and possibly QQQ and specialty funds if you’re adventurous.

          I tell all my friends to keep enough liquidity to make expenses, then 20% cash/CDs, 80% VOO

    • cassander says:

      The question you need to ask is how much of that money do you think that you might have an immediate need for? Because if you’re keeping it to make a house down payment or something, then you want to be more conservative. But if you’re just socking it away to make it grow, then your best bet is probably to park it in equities and ride the next recession, whenever it happens. Remember that time in market usually beats timing the market.

      Also, I’d check the fees on the target date funds. Last time I looked at mine, they were .75%, about 50x what the various funds that made it up were. That’s a very high fee, enough that you might just buying one share of the target date fund and re-balance your portfolio once a year to follow it.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Agreed, but rule of thumb even for that “socking it away” money is to do the 80/20 split. No one will stop you from doing 100/0, but supposing your 100 becomes 90, your 80 would have become 72, and you can use some of your 20 to re-establish the 80/20 (buy another 1.6).

        Similarly, when your 100 becomes 110, do you sell any of it? when it becomes 88/20, you again sell 1.6 of it. Think of it as a powder reserve

        Edit: tax-wise, you’d just defer from investing more income in equity rather than actually sell.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          I invest 100% in equities for exactly the reason cassander states. I did indeed ride out the Great Recession, and I have a lot more money because I kept all my money in equities. I am going to retire in a few years, so I may change my split so I have a year or two of living expenses in bonds or something, because a deep drop in the market could be expensive if I need to liquidate. In the meantime, 100% equities is the way to go.

        • sidereal says:

          You sell it when you need to spend it. And this idea that re-balancing allows you to automatically buy low and sell high is nonsensical. (Not saying you are arguing that, but I do see it a lot).

      • J Mann says:

        The OP is holding Vanguard target funds.

        From what I read, Vanguard’s targer funds fees are just the weighted average of the underlying fund fees. Looking at the 2040 fund, the fee is currently 0.14%

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I did the 90% equity/10% bonds thing with Fidelity. I have a few picked stocks (all Dividend Aristocrats), but mostly FXAIX (the 500 index). LQD (iShares iBoxx Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF) has been beating the pants off FXAIX, growing 7.22% while FXAIX now stands at only 14 cents a share higher than when I opened my account in March (0.14%).
      Is there any reason not to make LQD 20% of my portfolio instead, other than tomorrow being bad timing to sell the 500?

    • brad says:

      Are you looking for diversification or are you still committed fundamentally to a barbell strategy and are just looking for a slightly better yielding (=riskier) barbell on the low risk side? It wasn’t clear.

      • hash872 says:

        I guess just better than a 2% MM yield, even if it’s just 3%

        • brad says:

          Cool, so the latter. Forget gold or foreign bonds. What you want a government bond fund. For that yield you’ll need to buy a long term fund.

    • Depends on your time horizon, how soon will you need the money? If it’s short, bonds might be your best bet, if it’s long, stocks will unless you foresee an imminent recession. See:

      https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/03/20060302_stocks.html

      I personally have my money in the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund due to my concerns about an imminent popping of the stock market bubble:

      https://investor.vanguard.com/mutual-funds/profile/VBMFX

      • brad says:

        I don’t really get corporate bonds. They move with the health of the company, so it’s no real additional diversification. I’d rather have equities and treasuries to the desired risk profile than corporate bonds. What am I missing?

    • sidereal says:

      There’s really no difference between personal and retirement investing, it’s the same thing (and imo target date is unnecessary because it’s so easily to replicate without incurring the 12 basis point surcharge). Also it’s stupid to get into and out of the market like that, you are pointlessly trying to play day-trader, and possibly getting raked in some small way buy bid-ask spread. Pick an asset allocation, buy according to that allocation and rebalance intermittently. (google “boglehead lazy portfolio” for some ideas)

      My current strategy is this: 100% VTSAX for both retirement and personal investments, into the fund as soon as possible. I have ~12-24 months expenses liquid that doubles as emergency fund and to accrue bank bonuses.

      • hash872 says:

        Well, um, there are a few significant differences between personal and retirement investing- like tax treatment, say? But overall I’m getting bored with this personal finance 101ism advice that’s becoming more widespread- Just Put 100% In Equities And Don’t Think About Anything Ever. It’s obviously not ‘day trading’ (more like 1-2 year trading). And I’m pretty comfortable with my decision so far as the S&P 500 has been virtually flat over a 2 year span (up a lot this year, but only because it fell a lot at the end of last year).

        The reason to play ‘year trader’ is that the losses are worse than the gains- if I lost 33% I’d need a 50% gain to get back to where I was, etc. This incentivizes being cautious and pulling my funds when we seem to be at the top of the market, and the world’s most powerful country has a clearly unstable demagogue in charge. It’s better to miss some extra return at the end of a bull run than to suffer a big loss and need a bigger return to get back…. Being conservative makes more financial sense. I think it’s OK to use our brains a bit and not just put everything into 100% equities and never think about it

        • blipnickels says:

          But overall I’m getting bored with this personal finance 101ism advice

          I would beware making financial decision because you’re bored or excited by something.

        • sidereal says:

          I didn’t say 100% equities is for everyone, I said to “pick an asset allocation and stick with it”. And frankly I stand by that advice, “naive” as it may be, trying to time the market just isn’t a good idea unless you are a professional investor.

        • cassander says:

          The S&P is up about 8% since december 29, 2017.

          But sidereal is making a more important point. The right answer is pick something you’re comfortable and sticking with it, making change as much as possible with new new cash, not selling old assets.

    • broblawsky says:

      Just because utilities and REITs do better than the broader market during a recession, it doesn’t mean that they’re a better investment than cash. The Vanguard Utilities ETF declined about 45% from market top to bottom in 2007, only marginally less than the Vanguard 500 ETF. Inverse ETFs are the only thing that might yield more than cash, but if you’re going to invest in one of those, you had better be damn sure the crash is going to happen exactly when you think it is.

    • Chalid says:

      I read say the Bloomberg ‘What To Do With $10,000 Now’ articles where various investment advisers recommend to buy this or that ETF to play the market. Should I be doing this? And just reading the business press to guess which ETFs are going to be good?

      You understand the argument for why you shouldn’t pick individual equities. That argument applies equally well to trying to guess which ETF will outperform in the near future.

    • blipnickels says:

      Yes, you can and should, although I’m unsure your reasons are the right ones.

      Look at VBTLX, Vanguard’s Total Bond Market Fund. You’ll get ~3.5% annual returns with little risk. It turns out that like 66% of the bond market is US government debt, so there’s little risk the underlying asset will crash (if it does, the only worthwhile investments are cans and lead). It’s also exposed to inflation risk if the ’70’s come back but so would cash or money market funds. It’s biggest crash on record was -5%.

      I moved my 3-6 month salary safety fund from cash to VBTLX and have been satisfied. My primary reason was I didn’t want inflation to eat a couple hundred dollars in value every year. VBTLX gives me 99% of the safety of a cash reserve for emergencies and I gain in real dollars instead of losing money to small annual inflation. My only big concern is that it takes 3-5 days for a sell order to go through, so if you have an instant need for $10,000 you might have some complications. I think it’s worth that issue.

      • DinoNerd says:

        Now that’s interesting. I guess I’m old fashioned – I keep my emergency funds instant-access liquid, as in “can write checks on them”. But OTOH, my emergency fund is a lot smaller than my total investments, or even my total non-tax-sheltered investments.

        I’ve recently had to top up my emergency fund from longer term investments, and because I left it a bit late, I’m finding it a real PITA. (When the money from the stocks I sold on Monday finally arrives in my chequing account, I can pay several large bills that recently arrived …)

        I guess I’m spolied, and this is very much a “first world problem” ;-(

        • I keep only about 500$ in cash. I figure I can pay for anything I have an immediate need for with my credit card, and if there’s a sudden bill I can’t pay for with a credit card, I’ll just wait a few days to pay it.

    • sunnydestroy says:

      First a disclaimer that I just do this as a hobbyist, not an expert. I did some analysis a few months ago for my own personal investment fun.

      On my shortlist of funds/ETFs going by 10 year average return net expenses considering Sortino/Treynor ratios (they’re all Vanguard funds):

      Health Care VGHCX
      International Explorer VINEX
      Explorer VEXPX
      Wellington VWELX
      Utilities VUIAX / VPU
      Consumer Staples VCSAX / VDC

      If considering slowing future economic growth or stagnation, Health Care, Utilities, and Consumer Staples would probably be decent.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I pulled the last 25% of our retirement account that was in equities this past week and am 100% in US treasuries for that account. Giving an accurate breakdown of our ‘wealth’ is difficult since a lot of it is tied to our rental property which we can’t sell without selling our house (which makes it both hard to realize but also gives few comps in the area so even hard to estimate a sale value). Ball park current sale price of our house+rental minus mortgage remaining is 50-70% of our assets, with our retirement fund and gold the rest, at current values the retirement fund is ~1.4x the size of the gold position.

      The rental situation gives us a substantially different risk profile than your average person. If we retire with the house paid off and still living in our half we will have only repairs as housing expenses plus (in today’s dollars) ~ $10,000 in income which is roughly equal to ~$30,000 a year in pre tax income, which is about halfway to our baseline retirement income. However this gives us a ton of local exposure, a rise in property taxes, crime etc would be really bad for us.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Mind me asking whether you were able to get a regular mortgage for your rentals, or if it’s at a higher rate because you don’t live there?

    • Bamboozle says:

      A few points:

      instead of the money market, should I be putting cash into various ETFs or index funds (or bond funds??) to try to get more yield?

      sure if you’re happy to accept more risk. Are you really asking how can i have the same risk as money markets but get more income, as in how can I have my cake and eat it too? Worth nothing bonds can often go down or wipe out in recessions, and moneymarket funds can gate outflows. So both are still risky in event of recession.

      For example utilities and real estate are supposed to do well in recessions- should I aiming for higher than the 2% or whatever MM yield I get now by investing in some of those ETFs?

      yes they do better relative to the overall market. They will still go down during a recession and you will still suffer losses. Just not as much as tech stocks or biotech or other riskier options.

      Put some % in a gold ETF?

      what kind of gold ETF? investing in gold is a bit of a mine field, especially for people with a little knowledge vs no knowledge. Are you going to buy one that physically holds the gold and so has to pay for carry and insurance etc. with no income being derived from the actual asset itself? Or just an ETF that synthetically matches the price of gold, in which case during a recession it’s likely to not behave like Gold at all. Why not just hold a gold miner, as in a successful company that produces some yield but who’s prospects are directly tied to gold? There’s many in the US that I know about as a UK investor. But then you’re doing companies analysis and holding an individual stock, so you’ve got specific risks there. just some things to consider.

      I read say the Bloomberg ‘What To Do With $10,000 Now’ articles where various investment advisers recommend to buy this or that ETF to play the market. Should I be doing this? And just reading the business press to guess which ETFs are going to be good?

      this depends, do you think you have an edge over people who do this full time? For example, do you think healthcare and drugs in general are going to be more important in future than they are today? Great buy a biotech ETF, or possibly even an active fund since biotech is one of those sectors where companies are small and illiquid enough that you often can’t get some of the best ones investing passively. But then you’re paying more fees, having to take a more active approach reading on the biotech sector every week to make sure you’re up to date with changes etc. Sounds like a lot of work compared to your initial strategy.

      Full disclosure: this is not specific advice, just posing some questions for you to consider. These are the kinds of questions I ask my friends when they ask me as an investment manager what they should do with their pensions etc. Also I’m UK based so what i would do for clients is very different to what you’ve done or are considering. To me, 100% full index S&P 500 sounds like madness.

      Happy to discuss further.

      • Chalid says:

        Lots of people have stories about why they might have an edge over professional investors. Which ones do you find believable?

        Speaking for myself, I’d say I find it believable that someone who’s reasonably highly placed in a corporation might have an edge while investing within his industry (even not counting the quasi-insider trading that I strongly suspect is common, e.g. trading in the stock of your suppliers or customers based on your firm’s information about them). I also find it plausible that doctors or scientists might be better at evaluating things like small biotech companies.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Lots of people have stories about why they might have an edge over professional investors. Which ones do you find believable?

          The ones told by people who got rich investing in the market.

          • Enkidum says:

            Only worth doing if the number of people who do so is greater than you’d expect by chance (which is difficult to determine, as the chance distribution is difficult to specify).

          • Chalid says:

            Of people who tell you they got rich by investing, probably the biggest subgroup is people who are mistaken (they don’t correctly benchmark, they just forgot about their losses or their losses “don’t count” for some reason). Then the next biggest group is people who were lucky. So trying to understand the source of someone’s edge is useful.

        • My view is that you should start with the efficient markets theory as your first approximation, assume that all information that everyone knows is already priced into the stock. Then look for somewhere you have an opinion you are fairly confident of that it is clear that most people do not share, and where, if that opinion is correct, it will have a large effect on a company’s value.

          My standard example is Apple, just after the Mac came out. I mentioned to one of my colleagues at Tulane Business School that I was getting a Mac, and he asked why I didn’t get a PC Junior instead. I concluded that his view of the subject, based on ignorance of graphic interfaces—I had seen a video of the early Xerox PARC work—and chips (there was a reason the Mac used a CPU previously used mostly for multiuser machines—the graphic interface required horsepower the then standard machines didn’t have), would be typical of most investors.

          So I bought Apple stock.

  9. Aftagley says:

    Are we in a Constitutional Crisis?

    Let’s take Trump and the whole current situation out of it for a minute. If a neutral congress sent subpoenas relate to impeachment to a neutral presidency and the president refused to comply, do you think that would be obstruction? If so, would that obstruction be impeachable?

    Bringing Trump back into the picture: is there anything about the current situation that changes either of your two answers above?

    Projecting forward: how do you think this whole thing ends?

    • cassander says:

      If a neutral congress sent subpoenas relate to impeachment to a neutral presidency and the president refused to comply, do you think that would be obstruction? If so, would that obstruction be impeachable?

      My understanding of the argument currently on the table is that there hasn’t been an actual impeachment yet, and so there are no subpoenas related to an impeachment to comply with, just a fishing expedition with no legal basis.

      Projecting forward: how do you think this whole thing ends?

      The worse the 2020 election looks for the democrats, the higher the likelihood of an impeachment.

      • hls2003 says:

        the argument currently on the table is that there hasn’t been an actual impeachment yet

        Not quite, if “actual impeachment” refers to formal articles of impeachment actually passed by the House. That is the possible final result, not the process. The process argument currently on the table is that there has been no House vote to open a formal impeachment inquiry. That would be a separate vote from the actual up-or-down vote on articles of impeachment. Theoretically one could vote in favor of the investigation, then decide it didn’t turn up impeachable offenses and vote against impeachment. The question is whether there needs to be that “impeachment inquiry” vote in order for the House to gain its allegedly greater powers of investigation. On the one hand, I believe prior impeachments have begun with such a preliminary vote to open a formal inquiry prior to the final vote, and it makes some sense – if the House doesn’t formally vote that it’s doing this, then what’s to stop every committee from claiming any subpoena “could lead to impeachable offenses” and then you’ve obliterated the category. On the other hand, the counter is that the Speaker declared it, and perhaps the Speaker has the power to do that. It’s never been litigated that I’m aware of. In practice, of course, it’s pretty clear that Pelosi just doesn’t want to put any of her members on the hook to actually vote for something that swing-district ads can unambiguously cite as “Member ____ voted with Pelosi to impeach Donald Trump.”

        ETA: I referred to “allegedly” greater subpoena powers – I tend to agree with brad below that it is, at least, legally unclear whether using the magic word “impeachment” unlocks greater subpoena powers or defeats executive privilege or not.

    • brad says:

      I don’t think “related to impeachment” is particularly relevant to the question of whether or not we are in a constitutional crisis. It’s not clear that an “impeachment inquiry” or impeachment proper unlocks special powers as opposed to just providing an opportunity to use preexisting powers.

      Anyway, given the ongoing back and forth over congressional subpoenas addressed to executive branch officials we’ve had in the last few decades I wouldn’t say this episode counts as a crisis until there’s a dramatic escalation over those prior tussles. The two that would qualify I can think of are: Congress attempting to utilize its inherent contempt power and on the other side the executive branch continuing to defy subpoenas if the judicial branch came down on Congress’ side.

    • John Schilling says:

      If a neutral congress sent subpoenas relate to impeachment to a neutral presidency and the president refused to comply, do you think that would be obstruction?

      Very likely, but it would have to be Congress that issues those subpoenas. If it’s just Nancy Pelosi and the House Judiciary Committee or whatever, then no.

      If Nancy calls a floor vote and a majority of Congressmen vote to issue subpoenas, or to empower committees X, Y, and Z to issue subpoenas, then Trump’s refusal will rise to the level of a constitutional crisis. If she conspicuously does not put it to the whole of Congress, even though the alleged purpose is to prepare for an impeachment that would have to go to the whole of Congress anyway, then Trump can probably stonewall forever and get away with it. Even if technically legal, the latter sort of subpoena would look incredibly weak, and this is a political rather than legal process.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        or to empower committees X, Y, and Z to issue subpoenas,

        Uhhhh, isn’t this what they did at the beginning of the term?

        As I understand it, the first day of the term includes a formal vote to adopt the rules that will govern that congress. The current rules grant subpoena power to the committee chairs. The previous congress changed these rules and the new congress kept them. This is all “IIRC”.

        • Aftagley says:

          +1

          The house doesn’t need to be in impeachment proceedings to issue subpoenas.

          The only difference I can see is that ignoring a subpoena while in impeachment proceedings is obviously obstructing justice, while ignoring the other ones is just likely obstructing justice, but that’s a pretty unsteady hat rack to hang your cap on.

        • John Schilling says:

          @Aftagley: Executive Privilege has actually been holding pretty steady these past few decades. Meanwhile, generic “obstructing justice” is weaksauce at best and completely useless against POTUS unless you’re willing and able to impeach him over it. So these subpoenas are going to be correctly seen as utterly ineffectual and unenforceable unless backed by the willingness of 51% of the House to vote otherwise.

          Not getting that 51% up front, even for “OK, this is just to issue impeachment-grade subpoenas”, makes it look even more like a fishing expedition to do an end run around executive privilege under cover of a phony impeachment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            There hasn’t been a claim of executive privilege.

            That has been pretty clearly established because the DNI went to the White House to ask if they were making a claim of executive privilege and they did not make that claim.

            In addition, executive privilege isn’t a blanket immunity to oversight. It applies in specific circumstances, not whenever the POTUS asserts it.

            It would be nice of you to acknowledge that your statement about the House not voting to give subpoena powers was incorrect. I don’t know what “impeachment grade subpoenas” are, but I think you mean something different than you originally stated.

    • We’ve been in a Constitutional crisis for a while. It ends whenever the President assumes full power and Congress becomes a ceremonial body.

      • Lambert says:

        Did this in Trump seem ambitious?

        • I meant a generic US president, not Trump. We’re probably at least another 10 years from Congress losing its power.

          • Aftagley says:

            So, I originally read you post as being a claim that we’re 10 years away from no longer being a democracy.

            Rereading it, it seems like your saying we’ll still vote for President, just he or she won’t have to share power with anyone. Do you mind clarifying?

          • Pretty much what you said. The US constitution is unambiguous on the President serving more than two terms. It can’t happen. It’s also clear on electoral procedure. We have to have an election every four years, and everybody is going to be vigilant about anyone trying to rig it for themselves. But the lines between Presidential powers and Congressional powers have been purposely blurred for whoever happens to be President. For example, only Congress is allowed to declare war, so the president will initiate “police action”. Since our government is dysfunctional and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change, the President is going to take more and more powers for themselves. It seems only a matter of time before they take nearly all of it. The Supreme Court may or may not be subsumed in this process, but it’s losing its perceived legitimacy every day.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I think we’re far from a Constitutional crisis. The USC is clear: the House can set whatever rules it wants to determine impeachment, as discussed downthread.

      What we’re in is a Democratic Party crisis. I think Pelosi sees her job as getting a Democrat elected President, while looking like she’s doing her duty under the USC. The latter means holding a vote (the only recognized way to have the House exercise its power to impeach), but the former means holding it only if it will weaken Trump in a way that gets a Democrat elected.

      Fortunately, Pelosi has the following superpowers: one, she can rely on most of the press to spin anything her way short of a formal vote; two, she’s Speaker, so she can set whatever rules she likes before that vote; three, she’s personally very good at knowing where the votes are, and how many weeks the House will take to get any given thing done. Given this, we can infer that she probably doesn’t have the votes yet; if she did, it would have happened by now.

      However, an impeachment this early would fail her first objective, as it would lead to a Senate vote to remove with probably negative consequences: it either looks like a no vote, slapping the Democratic House down for its insolence, or a yes vote, but giving Pence over a year to build support. Pelosi is smart enough to know this.

      So it’s tricky. The time to remove Trump is right before the election, but convincingly. But that’s where setting the rules comes in. Pelosi can write the rules to make the process take just long enough that that House vote happens just in time for the Senate to take its vote. It has to look legit, but that’s what the press is for. What exactly to do is up to her; “vote for an inquiry” has some nice features. The inquiry can take as long as she wants. The vote to have it lends it weight. The catch: if she doesn’t have the votes to impeach, she might also not have the votes for an inquiry. It’s easier, but not necessarily assured. Which is why that vote hasn’t happened yet, either.

      When Pelosi says “we’re going to hold a vote on opening an inquiry”, the subtext I read is “as soon as I talk enough Representatives into voting ‘yes'”.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I am kind of curious. If Trump got impeached and the Senate confirms, removing him from office in Sept 2020, does that mean he can’t run for office again? My intuition is that conviction would have no effect on his next election, so he’d just take office again in 2021 if he won the election. In which case it seems to me that impeaching Trump near the point of the election would be a bad strategy, since it would energize his supporters and might bring more pro-Trump voters to the polls? Am I wrong?

        Not that there is any chance whatsoever of conviction by the Senate without some incredible bombshell evidence.

        • sharper13 says:

          Both the Constitution and the Senate’s procedures treat removal and disqualification from holding future office as separate punishments upon a conviction of impeachment. Article I, section 3, clause 7 of the Constitution states: “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.

          As a result, the two punishments available to the Senate while acting as a court for impeachment are:
          1. Removal from office
          2. Disqualification from future office

          Normal Senate procedure is to have a separate vote on each available remedy. Only three times in history has the Senate applied the second one.

          • nkurz says:

            The constitution says: “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

            Is it constitutionally clear the Presidency is an “Office of honor, Trust or Profit”? In your link, the three people who were disqualified from holding future office were all judges who were appointed to their position rather than elected. I’ve seen some online argument that this distinction is important, and that one cannot be disqualified from future elected positions, but I don’t know whether there is actually a legal basis for this. For example, has there ever been a vote to disqualify an elected official that failed to pass?

          • John Schilling says:

            Is it constitutionally clear the Presidency is an “Office of honor, Trust or Profit”

            It has a salary, so yes.

          • baconbits9 says:

            To clairify:

            is there a world where the Senate leaves Trump in office but bans him from running for any future office?

          • sharper13 says:

            @baconbits9,

            The rules of the Senate are that the first vote combines conviction and removal (the first is treated as automatically removing)and that they only vote on disqualification if the Senate desires to after the person is convicted.

            So they’d have to seriously rewrite the rules to somehow convict and disqualify, but not remove from office.

            @nkurz,
            Here’s a discussion of your point. The Senate hasn’t ever convicted an elected official and attempted to disqualify them from future office (Two acquitted Presidents, one Senator they expelled prior to being impeached), so ultimately it’d be up to them and the USSC, but the historical record from State constitutions with similar provisions and impeached governors seems to indicate they could.

        • Evan Þ says:

          It depends on the Senate. The Constitution specifies:

          Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

          The Senate has historically (when impeaching lower officials) interpreted this as meaning that it can optionally, after removing an official from office, impose the additional punishment of disqualifying him from holding future office. If they chose to do that after convicting Trump, then he could not run in 2020.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            If convicted, the senate would be overwhelmingly likely to disbar him too. The democrats because “Fuck that guy, never dealing with him again” and the republicans to preclude him running as a third party candidate.

      • cassander says:

        I endorse this reading, with perhaps the caveat of re-phrasing that last bit as “as soon as I think it will help get a democrat elected president, assuming I’ve talk enough Representatives into voting ‘yes’”.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        What we’re in is a Democratic Party crisis. I think Pelosi sees her job as getting a Democrat elected President, while looking like she’s doing her duty under the USC.

        I’d try to point how this framing is inherently biased and simply accepts right-wing conservative talking head talking points, and that framing it this way in your analysis clouds your thinking …

        But what would be the point?

        This kind of stuff being broadly accepted here is why I’ve basically stopped posting.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’ll admit I don’t see how the quoted phrase is particularly biased. Pelosi’s goal as a Democratic speaker of the house is to see the Democratic party gain and hold power. McConnel’s goal as a Republican majority leader in the senate is to see the Republican party gain and hold power. Both will do what they can to further that goal within the constraints of the law. Both have many other goals they’d like to carry out, but as leaders of their parties they’re going to be heavily focused on getting their parties into power. Similarly, I assume most Republicans will vote against impeachment even if they think Trump’s behavior deserves impeachment, because they don’t want their party to lose power. That’s not 100%–if Trump is babbling about little green men and voices in his head or gets caught trying to assassinate a member of congress, they’ll go along with impeachment. But not for the stuff that’s currently come out.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The question was about a constitutional crisis, predicated by the current admin officially stating that they will not comply with any requests for testimony or documents.

            And the statement is that this is a crisis …for the Democratic Party.

            This moment, right now, is a crisis … for the Democratic Party.

            That is some classic argumentative pivot.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And while we are on it …

            Pelosi’s goal as a Democratic speaker of the house is to see the Democratic party gain and hold power. McConnel’s goal as a Republican majority leader in the senate is to see the Republican party gain and hold power.

            This too, while having some elements of truth, is an acceptance of a frame that biases analysis. It’s the kind of framing that ignores that governance is consequential. There are actually principals involved here, not just a cynical “Power is the only thing that matters” might-makes-right worldview.

          • matthewravery says:

            This too, while having some elements of truth, is an acceptance of a frame that biases analysis. It’s the kind of framing that ignores that governance is consequential. There are actually principals involved here, not just a cynical “Power is the only thing that matters” might-makes-right worldview.

            I think I’ve been struggling for months to articulate in my own mind why I find so much of the discussion here frustratingly off-base. Thank you for this.

            I find this view most frustrating when applied to folks that aren’t political actors or at least don’t think of themselves that way.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The OP’s question was “Are we in a Constitutional Crisis?” I can’t see why “No, it’s something else” shouldn’t be an acceptable answer.

          • Aftagley says:

            Because he basically ignored my question to try and spin yarn about the democratic party.

            I mean, I don’t mind; there’s no rule you have to stay on topic around here, but the original post laid out the current state of play and then asked “does this rise to the level of being a constitutional crisis?”

            The answer he gave kind of hand waved that question and started talking about his impression of what Nancy Pelosi was doing from a maximally right and maximally cynical perspective. This looks like he’s trying to refrain the question, so HBC called him out for it.

            Seriously – my question was “Is the President ignoring legally-issued Subpoena’s a constitutional crisis?” to which his response was a nonsensical “I think we’re far from a Constitutional crisis. The USC is clear: the House can set whatever rules it wants to determine impeachment”

          • quanta413 says:

            This too, while having some elements of truth, is an acceptance of a frame that biases analysis. It’s the kind of framing that ignores that governance is consequential. There are actually principals involved here, not just a cynical “Power is the only thing that matters” might-makes-right worldview.

            Governance can be consequential, and it can simultaneously be true that most politicians are primarily amoral creatures of power.

            Although I don’t see how Brinkley’s claim that

            while looking like she’s doing her duty under the USC.

            holds water which makes the rest of it moot. She doesn’t currently have any duty to impeach or not impeach, so she’s free to follow other considerations.

            There’s no duty she fails by taking time. It would be stupid not to take some time right now. She has months to burn if needed.

            The Democrats have an opportunity, not a crisis.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Seriously – my question was “Is the President ignoring legally-issued Subpoena’s a constitutional crisis?” to which his response was a nonsensical “I think we’re far from a Constitutional crisis. The USC is clear: the House can set whatever rules it wants to determine impeachment”

            Asked and answered, I’d say. A “constitutional crisis” is a conflict where it’s unclear what the Constitution requires, or where there’s reason to believe that it might not be followed. To be sure, Brinkley is still guilty of Posting While Conservative, but I’m told they haven’t enforced that law in years.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I read HBC’s initial complaint as that I was operating from the premise that Pelosi was just being some sneaky Democratic apparatchik, instead of being a faithful servant of the the nation as a whole. In that light, I agree that it colors my analysis; I’ve ruled out an entire class of scenarios.

            I never meant to imply that this was some sort of existential crisis for the Democratic Party, and so I’ll cheerfully back off from that phrasing. I think the Dems are alive and well; I see this more as just a tough political conundrum for them. I don’t even see it as a make or break for Pelosi; at worst, she makes a non-optimal call, Trump becomes a two-term president, but she’s still Speaker, easily. This is just an opportunity for her and the Democrats to build more support, at the risk of losing some. (Maybe a lot, if they bungle it, but I doubt that’ll happen.)

            There are actually principals involved here

            I’m guessing from context you meant principles. Sure, I like principles. I love principles. And I think there exist no principles clearly at stake here. Check it out. Trump’s discussion with Ukraine isn’t clearly impeachable. Pelosi knows this. Trump’s discussion might relate to something that is. Pelosi knows this, too. The Democrats have been beating the impeachment drum for most of Trump’s term. Pelosi knows this as well. She’s no idiot. So, let’s expand that part of the game terrain a little:

            Pelosi knows there might be something impeachable somewhere in there, and if so, the question of whether to move on it is moot; it ought to be, nearly everyone agrees, left, right, swing, insiders, voters. So the real question is “is there?”. She doesn’t know for sure (let’s suppose there’s no secret information here), but she does know that impeachment has an unmistakable political component. Which is to say, technically, she could impeach Trump for leaving his zipper open, but that wouldn’t fly in the court of public opinion.

            So she’s back to square one, estimating probabilities, and even the act of publically estimating probabilities is political. Which is why I said she has to look like she’s doing her duty to the USC. Just doing it isn’t enough, and just doing it goes without saying; again, if Trump tried to, say, ignore the 22nd Amendment, she’d have no trouble knowing what to do. The vagueness here, along with her known bias as a party member, is what requires her to not only do the right thing, but also have the appearance of doing so.

            When every action has such gray shades of risks and rewards, I think the power component does indeed become dominant. @HBC, Aftagley: if it makes you feel better, I agree with albatross11: this calculus isn’t limited to Democrats in general. I expect Republicans to be every bit as sneaky and conniving. It’s just that in this turn of the game, it’s the Democrats’ move. That’s all.

            To people outside the DC beltway: welcome to life near the DC beltway. This is how the game works, even if you reason idealistically from first principles.

            @Aftagley: it’s simply not a Constitutional crisis, and I strongly believe that anyone who says it is is getting too worked up, or is a talking head on TV trying to get more ad revenue. To the extent that it’s interesting, it’s a puzzle for Pelosi to work out. As you say, it’s an opportunity, albeit a risky one.

        • EchoChaos says:

          @HeelBearCub

          I strongly hope you don’t stop posting. Despite my base level disagreements, I enjoy your contributions.

          Pushback against built-in assumptions that I have is valuable in an “iron sharpens iron” way to me and I hope to others.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Kind words.

            But, basically the wrong tense.

            I’m not flouncing, I’m noting what’s already happened.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I understand that. I am commenting hoping for a change that causes you to post more.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’ll join the EchoChamber and echo EchoChaos.

            For instance, I would be very interested to see you expand on the other possibilities the Democrats have, and what your starting premises are. I might push back (as time permits), but I mostly just want to view as much of the terrain as I can.

        • albatross11 says:

          DeWitt:

          How about: Left woman bad, orange man even worse.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @albatross11:
          I don’t particularly like the phrasing DeWitt put on it, but …
          not many posts here espousing your restatement of the position.

          As to why? I’d guess that the phrase “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the Occam appropriate answer.

        • The Nybbler says:

          To use an annoying local idiom: Less of this.

          Specifically, “less of” trying to impose your point of view by hinting it is required by discussion norms and implicitly nudging our host to sanction others.

          That view is only right-wing as applied. It’s just cynicism. If we’re dropping that, we should also drop the idea that Trump’s desire to investigate Biden stems from anything but a sincere desire to root out public corruption.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If you believe that Trump’s actions in Ukraine are clearly and obviously motivated by a desire for personal political gain, then you should see this as a crisis for Republicans. If it’s that obvious, then my statement makes even more sense.

            This whole “less of this” thing tends to get applied in one direction. Sorry it offends you that I’m pointing it out.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s not a “crisis” for anyone for politicians to be motivated by a desire for personal political gain. It’s business as usual. I think Trump has enough cover in the Ukraine thing in that the Bidens’ actions are rather suspicious on their face, thus giving Trump a plausible legitimate motive. That doesn’t mean I believe that’s his actual motive. The same goes for the Democrats wanting to impeach him over it.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Orange man good. Left woman bad.

          Cut it out. If there’s a worthy criticism here (and I think there is), it deserves more effort.

        • John Schilling says:

          It also deserves more worthy criticism than basically “You are all stupid people repeating right-wing talking points, and will never learn better”. If we’re going to have that level of “effort”, I kind of do prefer the simplicity and honesty of DeWitt’s phrasing.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          It also deserves more worthy criticism than basically “You are all stupid people repeating right-wing talking points, and will never learn better”.

          Hrmph. To be fair, yes, this too.

        • cassander says:

          I fail to see what exactly you are objecting to here on a factual level. Is your conjecture that Pelosi isn’t concerned about the prospects of a 2020 election? That some of her caucus is much more gung ho for impeachment than the rest?

    • broblawsky says:

      Yes, if Congress gets some kind of favorable judgment and Trump still ignores it.

      I predict that he will ignore any kind of judgment requiring him to give documents to Congress, at which point we will, in fact, be in a full-blown constitutional crisis.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I predict that he will ignore any kind of judgment requiring him to give documents to Congress, at which point we will, in fact, be in a full-blown constitutional crisis.

        Do you think the Supreme Court is going to side with Congress?

        My impression is they are currently pretty deferential to the Executive.

        • broblawsky says:

          I don’t know. If the SC says that the White House doesn’t have to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry, they’re basically defanging the entire idea of impeachment. I guess at that point we don’t have a constitutional crisis, but only because the SC has ruled that the executive branch has no checks on its power at all. I hope they aren’t that partisan.

          • EchoChaos says:

            If the SC says that the White House doesn’t have to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry, they’re basically defanging the entire idea of impeachment.

            They could rule that an actual “impeachment inquiry” needs to be formally voted on by the House, as it was for Clinton and Nixon in order to get those powers, which would thread the needle nicely.

          • quanta413 says:

            I guess at that point we don’t have a constitutional crisis, but only because the SC has ruled that the executive branch has no checks on its power at all.

            Can’t congress still impeach anyways by just going to a vote?

          • broblawsky says:

            They could rule that an actual “impeachment inquiry” needs to be formally voted on by the House, as it was for Clinton and Nixon in order to get those powers, which would thread the needle nicely.

            Trump will still ignore subpoenas if this happens. He’ll find some justification for it.

            Can’t congress still impeach anyways by just going to a vote?

            Getting evidence for impeachment will be much harder if the Executive branch can just ignore subpoenas. It functionally makes impeachment impossible.

          • hls2003 says:

            Getting evidence for impeachment will be much harder if the Executive branch can just ignore subpoenas. It functionally makes impeachment impossible.

            I’m not an expert on this area of law, but in a non-legal more general sense, this seems incorrect. If the legislature suspects impeachable offenses, and the executive tells them to pound sand, then the legislature can take that refusal to cooperate as its evidentiary basis for impeachment. In other words, there is no Constitutional requirement of a “presumption of innocence” that Congress needs to overcome. It “functionally makes impeachment impossible” only because Congress is not united in its desire to impeach – it might functionally make this particular attempt at impeachment impossible, but not in general. If anything, it suggests that mostly-partisan impeachment where there is not significant public pressure may be infeasible; but that strikes me as mostly a good thing, not a bad thing, or at least an “expected by the system” thing.

            It kind of reminds me of Deflate-Gate in the NFL. Tom Brady was accused of deliberately deflating balls to make them easier to grip. The NFL demanded to see his text messages with the ballboys. Tom Brady said “Nope, sorry, I disposed of every one of those devices permanently about three days ago, no texts for you.” The NFL suspended Brady four games for refusing to cooperate with the investigation. (Incidentally, the overall fan split on which party was in the wrong on that suspension shows that it is hard to get unanimity on a controversial situation like that).

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            They could rule that an actual “impeachment inquiry” needs to be formally voted on by the House

            If they can cite something in the House rules requiring that, sure. Otherwise, they can only rule that way if they want to rip up Article I, Section 5 and jump up and down on the pieces.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Getting evidence for impeachment will be much harder if the Executive branch can just ignore subpoenas. It functionally makes impeachment impossible.

            ???
            Just say that justice and the Constitution require impeachment not being impossible, so for any X that “functionally makes impeachment impossible”, X is obstruction of justice. So make OoJ your article of impeachment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Look, I know and you know what happens when the House votes for impeachment solely on the grounds that the President didn’t produce the documents they subpoenaed.

            The conversation becomes about what a terrible overreach of power this is by the Democrats and how they wanted him gone from the start, they have no evidence of anything wrong, etc. etc.

            C’mon, people. I was born at night, but not last night. This claim of “No, no. This is totally a valid reason to impeach and remove” rings hollow.

            Yes, it’s a valid reason to impeach. No, it doesn’t resolve the underlying issue.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I don’t see a lot of angst here for the SC. As I said in my second-level post, the House can set whatever rules it wants. I think that’s been understood precedent since, I dunno, Andrew Johnson. House rules can very easily include “ignored our formal subpoenas”, watch Trump do that, hold their vote, the ayes have it, and in the eyes of the SC, Wikipedia, and history, Trump has now been impeached. The House can even issue formal subpoenas, watch Trump sort of half-ignore them in a deniable way, decide this is sketchy, vote, ayes have it, Trump is impeached.

            Whether this will look “good” in the eyes of the people is an interesting question, in the sense that we can expect historians to be debating it for the next 150 years, using evidence such as what happened in job approval polls, Congress approval polls, how high ranking an official got scapegoated, the fact that Trump got re-elected, the fact that he didn’t, the fact that the House flipped, the fact that it didn’t, etc. And that’s probably a more weighty concern to Pelosi than whether Wikipedia adds another row to its list-of article.

            If you want to argue in a more ideal sense, I’d start by asking whether obstruction of justice can stand as a test for decades to come. Suppose we have Warren in 2021, but the House flips in the 2022 midterms, and the Republicans promptly find something plausibly sketchy about Warren at the same time that she’s in the middle of pushing landmark legislation. They issue subpoenas. She refuses. They impeach. Will it stick?

            If it would, then we’re done; OoJ becomes one of the go-to terms for impeachment, right under lying under oath to a grand jury, and woe unto the Executive who even looks like they are. If it won’t stick, then OoJ is a subjective, political term, and if we suspect it might fail like that, then it’s better to find something stickier.

            Regardless, I think the SC gets to sit back and tell the House it’s their problem.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The House can even issue formal subpoenas, watch Trump sort of half-ignore them in a deniable way, decide this is sketchy, vote, ayes have it, Trump is impeached.

            That wasn’t the original question, as has been repeated multiple times.

            The question was about a blanket refusal to comply with subpoenas, which Trump is claiming. He isn’t half-ignoring them, nor in a deniable way. He is making up broad, new, ludicrous legal claims.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            That wasn’t the original question, as has been repeated multiple times.

            And as I repeated multiple times, this presents a non-problem for the SC. I invite you to check my comment again. I answered the question, and even headed off what I think is a plausible hypothetical (that of Trump suddenly deciding to heed part of the subpoena in some way, like he did with the pseudo-transcripts of the Ukraine talks).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Brinkley:
            You keep couching the issue of congresses subpoena power as if it is intimately tied to the power to impeach:

            House rules can very easily include “ignored our formal subpoenas”, watch Trump do that, hold their vote, the ayes have it, and in the eyes of the SC, Wikipedia, and history, Trump has now been impeached.

            Congresses subpoena power is not dependent on, nor subordinate to, its impeachment power. They are wholly separate, being linked only in that they both spring from the legislative function of congress. The administration is refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas and inventing new quasi-legal arguments to maintain they don’t have to comply with these subpoenas. Those quasi-legal arguments include a rejection of what you have already stated, that congress has the right to an impeachment process entirely of its own choosing.

            The hypothetical you continue to reject is that the administration continues to maintain this stance, the stance that it has no requirement to comply with subpoenas.

            Would SCOTUS (which what I assume you mean with the initialization SC) rule that the administration must comply? Or would they rule that this is a matter for Congress to resolve? What happens if the Congress attempts to actually enforce a contempt ruling with imprisonment?

            If SCOTUS were to rule that the remedy for congress in the case of an executive branch failure to comply with a subpoena is reduced to impeachment and removal, then the subpoena power would be effectively neutered.

          • FormerRanger says:

            If the SC rules that the White House doesn’t have to cooperate with an impeachment “inquiry” doesn’t that just mean that someone has to introduce a formal measure of impeachment, charges to be filed later, and then the WH does have to cooperate with the resulting hearings.

            What’s happening now is quibbling over whether an “inquiry” counts as the same. It’s clearly an attempt by the WH to kick the can down the road or force the Democrats to initiate actual impeachment. The fact that Pelosi did not call a vote to set up the “inquiry” indicates that she is afraid of the consequences, as all previous impeachments have started with inquiries voted by the entire House.

            (Just guessing about “fear.” Alternatively she hopes to drive Trump out without an impeachment, or push the whole process closer to the election if that fails, before formally introducing articles of impeachment. For some reason, many seem to believe that if impeachment is started but fails relatively soon, people will have forgotten about it by November 2020. Seems implausible to me.)

            An impeachment “inquiry” without a formal connection to an actual impeachment resolution or whatever can’t be construed as a “legislative purpose,” no legislation being involved. This is clearly a legal stretch but it’s not utterly implausible. If the SC agrees, then all the House has to do is formally call for impeachment and begin the process, then the rules of getting information change. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the actual impeachment charges can be determined while the process is going on.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @FormerRanger:
            Legislation doesn’t start with a vote of the full House. The idea that somehow the House has to vote to start an inquiry to somehow have legislative purpose is a canard, in my eyes.

            And again, the subpoena power of Congress is not limited to impeachment inquiries. Legislative committees regularly issue subpoenas without any bill being under formal consideration, AFAIK.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            You keep couching the issue of congresses subpoena power as if it is intimately tied to the power to impeach:

            I’m not. I’m saying the House is permitted to tie them together. Or leave them independent. I don’t see why you think this is so fraught. To repeat: the House has the power to set whatever rules it wishes to declare impeachment. The White House can argue against this all it likes. SCOTUS barely has to weigh in. It’s cut and dried. The House would need SCOTUS to come over and rule it has impeachment power about as badly as it would need SCOTUS to come over and affirm that there are seven Articles.

            The hypothetical you continue to reject is that the administration continues to maintain this stance, the stance that it has no requirement to comply with subpoenas.

            Huh?? I don’t care what the Trump administration says in this case. They could call “no touchbacks” as their argument for all I care. It doesn’t matter. If the House says he’s impeached, he’s impeached.

            Would SCOTUS (which what I assume you mean with the initialization SC) rule that the administration must comply? Or would they rule that this is a matter for Congress to resolve? What happens if the Congress attempts to actually enforce a contempt ruling with imprisonment?

            Yes, by SC I mean SCOTUS. SCOTUS would rule that the President has to comply with impeachment, but see above. SCOTUS might rule that the President has to comply with a subpoena, and I suppose that’s an interesting question, but it wasn’t the one I was answering, which was whether ignoring a subpoena is an impeachable offense. It is, but so is Trump chucking a tomato at the Speaker. The House gets to set that rule, if it wants. If Congress attempts enforce a contempt ruling with imprisonment, I suppose that’s an academically interesting question, too, but why would Congress bother, when it has impeachment power?

            What is imprisonment to you, if not effectively impeachment / removal? Do you envision the Chief Executive continuing to execute his duties from a minimum security cell? Meet with heads of state there? Negotiate trade deals from a prison laptop? Attend war game exercises with the Joint Chiefs? Do you envision the people seeing him as effective in that situation? A modern day Eugene Debs?

            The idea that somehow the House has to vote to start an inquiry to somehow have legislative purpose is a canard, in my eyes.

            FWIW, in my eyes as well. If Pelosi wants to inquire, she can. And she knows that. Indeed, she probably already has staffers inquiring, looking for enough evidence to persuade actual voting House members that they should vote to inquire even more.

            My guess is that she wants the inquiry to have weight in the eyes of the people, by being able to produce a list of how many Representatives put their formal name on the inquiry list. That in turn will lend weight in other House members’ minds that they should vote to impeach, if or when that impeachment vote happens, or lend weight in the people’s minds that their representatives should have voted to impeach, which means they should not vote for Trump in an actual general election. Which accomplishes one of her primary goals, without having to rely on the Republican-controlled Senate.

          • John Schilling says:

            The idea that somehow the House has to vote to start an inquiry to somehow have legislative purpose is a canard, in my eyes.

            I missed the part where you were a lawyer, but I’m pretty certain you’re not a Senator, so it isn’t your eyes that matter. And I don’t think you’re doing a terribly good job of looking at this through Senatorial eyes.

            Which are the only ones that matter. If Trump ignores the subpoenas and tells his people to ignore the subpoenas and tells the AG not to prosecute the people who ignore the subpoenas, then this is all a bunch of hot air and we don’t need your extra dose of that. Unless the Senate is willing to impeach Donald Trump for ignoring subpoenas. It is not implausible that the Senate might do this.

            But the twenty Republican Senators they’ll need for that, will be looking real hard for excuses not to. The House will have to hand them an, er, unimpeachable case for impeachment, for that to happen. Letting Trump say “…but I’d have complied with the subpoenas if they were part of a legitimate impeachment process, only they weren’t because mumble something process matters”, gives GOP Senators the excuse they need to blame everything on Nancy Pelosi and satisfy both their Trumpist and NeveTrump constituents by doing nothing.

          • albatross11 says:

            Seems like the underlying issue is just that impeachment is ultimately about votes in the House and Senate. IMO, Trump is the third successive president to deserve impeachment and removal from office (and the previous two were much less ambiguous), but that didn’t matter, because there weren’t the votes in Congress to impeach, let alone remove from office. Bush oversaw an illegal mass-surveillance program that eventually got reported in the NYT; Obama had US citizens assassinated on no authority but his own. Didn’t matter–what mattered was the vote counts. Enough Congressmen were on board with that stuff that impeachment wasn’t possible.

            Probably most presidents do some things that are impeachable in the sense that they’d pass the smell test for plausible reasons to impeach and wouldn’t look like a joke. But very few do things that actually cause the impeachment vote to take place.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If the House says he’s impeached, he’s impeached.

            That

            is

            not

            the question.

            The question is what happens when the House issues a subpoena.

            Why do you keep answering the question “Can the House impeach someone?” when the actual thing that is happening right now is that the White House is is positing a general right to refuse to respond to subpoenas.

            I swear.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Unless the Senate is willing to impeach Donald Trump for ignoring subpoenas.

            Well, at least John is now getting to the crux of the matter.

            The Trump administration is currently in the process of potentially nullifying the ability of the legislature to subpoena the executive. That’s where the potential crisis lies.

            This new, this is novel. It’s potentially a big issue.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            That … is … not … the question.

            There were two questions. I’ve helpfully repeated them below. Bolded is the one I answered.

            If a neutral congress sent subpoenas relate to impeachment to a neutral presidency and the president refused to comply, do you think that would be obstruction? If so, would that obstruction be impeachable?

            Stop saying it’s not the question. It is one of them. It’s just not the question you want to be important.

            I swear.

            Perhaps you’ve let this get to you unduly?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, you have said it is impeachable.

            But you also answered that as if it were the the “constitutional crisis” question. Which it was not.

            The fact that Congress can impeach doesn’t answer the question as to whether the Congressional power of subpoena is under threat.

            As John helpfully laid out, the nature of the two party system (made essential by the first past the post system) means that impeachment very well may not serve to protect that power when applied to the executive branch.

    • Garrett says:

      Are we in a Constitutional Crisis?

      No.

      From my poorly-remembered days studying poli-sci, the concept of constitutional crisis arises when there is no established and/or enforceable mechanism for power to be used compatible with the existing structure of government. For example, prior to the passage of the 25th Amendment it was unclear who would be in charge in the event that both the President and Vice President died.

      There’s been no usurpation of power by the President (at least, more drastic than the action taken by the past century’s worth of Presidents). The Feds aren’t out detaining members of Congress or the Courts.

      You are welcome to argue that Trump’s policies are ugly, terrible and possibly damaging to the republic. You are also welcome to argue that Trump has violated the law or norms in such a way that he should be impeached, convicted, and removed from office. But in both cases there is well-defined procedure in-place to handle it.

      So no constitutional crisis. Just politics as (un)usual.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        This can easily become a crisis if the administration continues to claim blanket immunity to oversight. There is no clear way for congress to enforce their subpoenas.

        • EchoChaos says:

          They can impeach him for refusing to obey subpoenas. That’s a clear way to enforce them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            … sure. But that’s a little like having a criminal code where the only available punishment is capital. And if Pence is then elevated to the Presidency it doesn’t resolve the underlying failure to comply with the subpoena.

            Let me put it this way, that way lies madness.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            But then we’re not really in a Constitutional Crisis. We’re in a power struggle between the Legislative and Executive where the Legislative is blinking (and has been blinking for the last hundred years, more or less).

            The Constitution has a clear remedy here, which is that the Legislative can absolutely inflict its will on the Executive, but the Executive is betting they won’t.

            And President Pence would probably be a lot more willing to comply if the penalty is another impeachment and President Pelosi (who would comply).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The framers viewed that the House and the Senate would be “on the side of” the Congress. They (perhaps somewhat understandably) didn’t foresee how party politics would subsume this kind of check and balance. The especially couldn’t anticipate the kind of national ideological coalitions made possible by instantaneous national broadcast media.

            That’s really not Congress “blinking”. It’s something else altogether.

          • quanta413 says:

            But that’s a little like having a criminal code where the only available punishment is capital.

            Half-disagree. You could also say it’s the paperwork version of a suspect getting shot or tazered and dying of a heart attack while resisting arrest.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The punishment for conviction on impeachment is removal from office. You terminate their office as a direct result, rather than indirect. Not following at all what you mean.

          • quanta413 says:

            The punishment for conviction on impeachment is removal from office. You terminate their office as a direct result, rather than indirect. Not following at all what you mean.

            I mean, if you think of subpoenas as like a police request to come down to the station with the police for an interview and not following the subpoena as being like running away in response (or worse fighting back), then impeachment in response is like if the police tazering the fleeing suspect. Shooting is probably not the best analogy since police aren’t supposed to do that in that situation.

            I see your point about direct vs indirect since at least with a tazer, you probably don’t die, but I view the difference as more a matter of degree.

            I’m not sure if my analogy is more or less flattering to the Trump administration, but you get the gist.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            They (perhaps somewhat understandably) didn’t foresee how party politics would subsume this kind of check and balance. The especially couldn’t anticipate the kind of national ideological coalitions made possible by instantaneous national broadcast media.

            Sure, that’s the reason they’re blinking (and have for prior confrontations on both sides, like spending money without appropriation, de facto declaring war without Congress, etc). Both parties are to blame for this.

            But because we identify the reason for the blinking doesn’t change what is actually happening, which is that the Legislative keeps blinking.

            It doesn’t make a Constitutional Crisis by the common definition, which is that the Constitution doesn’t have a means for dealing with it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @EchoChaos:
            The problem still exist because in the world where Congress doesn’t “blink” (and I have issues with that word), you still have an unresolved problem vis-a-vis the mechanisms afforded them to obtain the compliance of the executive. They have a nuclear weapon and no conventional ones.

            … and the only winning move to that silly game is not to play. Which is what the dance between the executive and legislative branches for last 225 years has been. Mostly politicians (both legislative and executive) have recognized the danger of that game and avoided playing it.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            There are two problems.

            Problem one is that the Constitution gives the Legislatures all sorts of conventional weapons that they have ceded to the Executive. For example, they control the purse strings and the Executive can’t spend any money they haven’t appropriated. Except the Executive did that and they didn’t do anything. Only they have power to declare war. Except the Executive did that and they didn’t do anything. All the conventional weapons have turned out to be useless because Congress hasn’t had the courage to fight back.

            Problem two is that using the final nuclear weapon against your own party when he is CLEARLY wrong turned out to be a lot more damaging to the rest of your party than expected. If Ford had won in 1976, I suspect there would be a lot more willingness to impeach clearly bad Presidents of your own party.

            But Congresses (of both parties!) have seen that enforcing these norms means that you lose political power to push for the goals you genuinely hold, so they are willing to hold their nose and accept the weakening of those norms because to do otherwise would allow the other party to do other party stuff that you don’t like.

        • brad says:

          There is no clear way for congress to enforce their subpoenas.

          They could use the inherent contempt power. There was a rather clever suggestion of Rudy Giuliani in the Times which would neatly skirt escalating the Constitutional conflict, since he isn’t an executive branch official.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            … which still leaves us with the problem of how they would enforce that citation of contempt.

          • Clutzy says:

            … which still leaves us with the problem of how they would enforce that citation of contempt.

            The US Capitol Police.

            Obviously it would be hindered if Trump sent all relevant officials to Montana, but that LE agency is under Congressional control.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Clutzy:
            Interesting, thought.

            But I have a feeling that they wouldn’t enforce an arrest warrant issued by congress. That’s just a feeling, mind you.

            I’m curious if you have any citation to the contrary. The conversations I have seen around this all revolve the Seargent at Arms of the House being tasked with the job. That role merely sits in the board of the Capital Police and isn’t (AFAIK) in the chain of command.

          • Aftagley says:

            Or just sent Paul.

          • Clutzy says:

            HBC, I agree that I dont think there is any precedent for them doing stuff. But its a theoretical possibility.

            From my understanding, the founders were way more enthusiastic about impeachment (particularly of cabinet officials and judges) than has ended up being the case. Like, they would have removed almost the entire 9th Circuit because they are “wrong” so often, and expected several presidents to have been removed by now.

            Also, at the founding this was a more threatening system to the President, because the 2nd place person is VP. So impeaching Trump gives President Clinton, impeaching Obama = President Romney, etc.

          • brad says:

            With a duly authorized arrest warrant in hand, the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives could apply for extradition from a friendly state government. The contemptor to be delivered by the LEO of the extraditing state to the House.

            Or he could issue a writ of posse comitatus.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            With a duly authorized arrest warrant in hand,

            Duly authorized by whom?

            That’s a serious question. I don’t believe they currently would consider an arrest warrant sworn by the House, because it’s not something the House does.

            If there was an arrest warrant sworn by a judge, yes.

            I guess there is the possibility that the House could seek a warrant from a judge on the charge of contempt … but I really wonder whether the Capital Police are going to walk into State and serve it.

          • brad says:

            By the House of Representatives. There’s case law on the inherent contempt power and it includes arrests.

            And anyway, getting into court in such a way that the judiciary can’t sit on it for literally years is a big part of the goal. So if there’s a request for an emergency restraining order the ball has already been moved forward.

            As mentioned above, I think it makes a lot of sense to start with Rudy or someone similar rather than showing up at foggy bottom.

        • Garrett says:

          As noted, there are several ways to do this:

          1) Impeachment. Either at the Presidential or official level.
          2) Let them freeze in the dark. AKA. Cut off funding to the White House. A little less practical with Trump as he has independent assets, but he’d have to pay for his own staffing, pencils, whatever.
          3) Hold up appointments/nominations/whatever until compliance has been achieved.
          4) Others have noted contempt power/Sargent-at-arms. Possibly effective, but claims of Executive Privilege might still be able to raised under certain circumstances. OTOH, very practical to use to enforce subpoenas against private companies/individuals not involved with Presidential advice, but I’ve rarely heard of anybody refusing to appear before Congress that Congress really wanted to hear from.

          • albatross11 says:

            In principle, Congress should be able to dictate to executive branch agencies because of the power of the purse. (“Oh, you don’t want to answer our demand for information? Allright, we’ll put you down for a 10% budget cut next year.”).

            But this would require a lot more unity than Congress usually shows. Instead, it seems like most Congressmen feel far more loyalty and identification with their party than with the Congress as an institution.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That doesn’t work because the legislature has just as much of an interest in seeing budgets spent as the executive does. The executive branch spends those funds because that is what congress wants them to do. You are positing that Congress can cut off it’s own nose to spite it’s face.

    • J Mann says:

      Jim Geraghty argued that we saw something similar in the Fast and Furious investigation, where (according to JG), Congress subpoenaed documents, Eric Holder refused to produce them arguing that the investigation was politically motivated, Congress voted to hold Holder in contempt, and Holder refused to prosecute himself for it.

      This is obviously higher stakes, and Congress is free to impeach Trump for not producing documents, of course.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        That is an uncharitable summation of the F&F issue.

        There was no blanket refusal to turn over documents or testify. The Obama admin asserted executive privilege in relation to some documents which post dated F&F after Holder had already testified 9 times on the matter.

        ETA: I agree that the underlying legal question is (kind of) relevant though. There isn’t a clear mechanism to resolve the controlling power issues in a timely manner. F&F didn’t reach final legal conclusion till this last May.

        However limited assertion of executive privilege was already an accepted fact. What Trump is asserting here is vastly different.

        • J Mann says:

          Thanks – Like EC, I’m also glad you haven’t completely withdrawn.

          (FTR, I’m on semi-hiatus because I’m unusually busy).

      • broblawsky says:

        In addition to HeelBearCub’s very insightful commentary, I’d like to note that there’s a fundamental difference between the Executive branch ignoring a subpoena produced as part of a routine investigation and ignoring one produced as part of an impeachment inquiry.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          As I said above, I don’t think there is a super-special-impeachment-subpoena power. All that an impeachment inquiry does is provide an explicit reference for the “valid legislative purpose” of the subpoena.

          You can subpoena your neighbor to provide testimony about an affair if it’s pursuant to a potential impeachment of an officer for engaging in illegal conduct. You can’t do it because you want to know if they were the one screwing your spouse.

  10. Aapje says:

    What is going on with Luna, the infamous blockchain dating app backed by acid-taking cam girls and enlightened™ Hindu tech bro MMA fighters?

    They switched to Ethereum at the end of last year and then pretty much all communication seems to have ceased in 2019, with a single 2019 tweet in February. No new code has been committed to their GitHub since April.

    In the Play store, I see zero reviews of the app, although this may be because I’m not looking at the Korean Play store.

    Are they dying/dead?

    • Aftagley says:

      What is going on with Luna, the infamous blockchain dating app backed by acid-taking cam girls and enlightened™ Hindu tech bro MMA fighters?

      I’m out the loop on this one, but it sounds fascinating. Do you have a summary / relevant link I can check out?

      • See these posts:

        https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/18/practically-a-book-review-luna-whitepaper/

        https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/04/19/gupta-on-enlightenment/

        tl;dr is the product sounds inherently scammy, which commenters pointed out, and the guy who created it responded semi-politely at first in the comments but gradually descended into derangement as no one accepted his hand-waves.

        • Aftagley says:

          That thread is pure gold. Ajape – you broke his mind there. My existing quantity respect for you (not inconsiderable) has incremented upwards.

          When did the acid-taking cam girls come into it? I haven’t consumed the whole thing, but I’m pretty much just exclusively seeing Hindu tech bro MMA Fighters so far?

          • Aapje says:

            The ex cam girl is Aella, who was traumatized because of sexual abuse by garden gnomes (NSFW!!!), which she cured by taking LSD, which almost killed her. She also did nude mime (NSFW!!!).

            She does very interesting surveys on her Twitter and has a blog with fairly interesting content, like an in depth examination of how a cam girl earns money. Opinions are divided on whether she exploited or helped lonely men (or both), which may be a good description of Luna, as well.

            Put A Number On It (the green rationalist (who is not Pepe*)) recently published a two-part interview with her.

            She also wrote a little FAQ on Luna which is actually a lot more informative and less crazy than Vinay Gupta’s ‘sales pitch.’

            * The famous Hong Kong freedom fighter.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Aapje:

            The ex cam girl is Aella, who was traumatized because of sexual abuse by garden gnomes (NSFW!!!), which she cured by taking LSD, which almost killed her.

            I was fairly confused before your link. After, I don’t think I’ve ever been more confused in my life.

            She does very interesting surveys on her Twitter and has a blog with fairly interesting content, like an in depth examination of how a cam girl earns money. Opinions are divided on whether she exploited or helped lonely men (or both),

            I’m pretty sure it’s sexual exploitation of lonely (= can’t find girlfriend) men. Whether it helps them psychologically… is actually a really interesting question. There’s evidence that the talk therapy psychologists do works equally well regardless of the scientific theory behind it, so why not the non-scientific theory of “I’m hot and naked and will talk about your feelings for pay”?

            This is not meant to be in any way a knock on Scott’s practice, since he’s an MD who can combine the powerful science behind psychopharmacology with the Talking Cure.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            This is not meant to be in any way a knock on Scott’s practice, since he’s an MD who can combine the powerful science behind psychopharmacology with the Talking Cure.

            Maybe Scott should try talking to his patients and prescribing them drugs while naked. Given that he’s in San Francisco, I expect this would make his practice super successful. /s

          • albatross11 says:

            If the camgirl and the lonely guy both ended up better off after their interaction than before, then it’s hard to call that exploitation. It truly suck for both of them that they don’t have better options for meeting their needs for food/sex than being a camgirl/interacting with camgirls, but taking away the option of being/interacting with camgirls wouldn’t fix that, it would just make both parties worse off.

          • Aapje says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            After, I don’t think I’ve ever been more confused in my life.

            Thanks for the compliment.

            I embellished a bit for fun. She was a cam girl who was very creative. The gnome picture set seemed to be part of her advertising on Reddit. Bonus content (NSFW).

            She has said that LSD made her deal with trauma better, although she never specified what trauma. So for comedic effect, I put 1 and 1 together.

            @viVI_IViv

            You aren’t supposed to call yourself a doctor if you do that, because then it’s abuse of power within the patient-doctor relationship.

            The proper way to do it is to call yourself a guru. A guru can have sex with his disciples as much as he wants.

            PS. At first, I read ‘parents,’ as in “Maybe Scott should try talking to his parents and prescribing them drugs while naked.” I was aroused confused.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @albatross:

            If the camgirl and the lonely guy both ended up better off after their interaction than before, then it’s hard to call that exploitation. It truly suck for both of them that they don’t have better options for meeting their needs for food/sex than being a camgirl/interacting with camgirls, but taking away the option of being/interacting with camgirls wouldn’t fix that, it would just make both parties worse off.

            This. I was thinking more in terms of “it’s sad that this desperation exists to financially exploit”, not “this should be banned.” Because that could make both parties worse off.

        • Aella says:

          To clarify, the guy who went crazy in the comments is *not* the founder of Luna at all. He was a more famous name who gave the project credibility in the early stages but had extremely little to do with the actual thing.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      They’re dying, but only because Vinay Gupta broke all of the users’ arms.

      In addition to being an enlightened being, he’s also from a warrior culture. They have extracted respect from their enemies at the point of a sword for a thousand years, and are feared the world over by those who have had the misfortune to cross them.

      And that’s a very practical fact: his lineage is parallel to the Gurkhas. You could think of him as a Gurkha priest.

      (Note for the confused: the creator of Luna, Vinay Gupta, had a very englightened meltdown in the SSC comments section last year, including this delightful copypasta.)

      • John Schilling says:

        You could think of him as a Gurkha priest.

        Except that by his own admission, he’s more Scottish than Nepalese. Naturally, he picked Deiseach as his primary opponent in a steel-cage deathmatch of wit and will. This did not go well for him.

        Didn’t leave me expecting that his dating-app project would amount to anything either, but I was expecting more in the way of entertainingly spectacular self-destruction.

      • bean says:

        And that’s a very practical fact: his lineage is parallel to the Gurkhas. You could think of him as a Gurkha priest.

        A Gurkha priest would have more self-control.

        (My favorite Gurkha story is the one who was on a train when bandits broke in and started to rob it. He didn’t put up a fight against that, only when they tried to rape a girl near him. Then he drove them off single-handed.)

        Also, he wouldn’t wave around a Blue Ribbon from the 2002 DoD Science Fair like it was supposed to make us take him seriously.

        • John Schilling says:

          A Gurkha priest would have more self-control.

          Scottish Gurkha priest. Kukri in one hand, Claymore in the other, meditative enlightenment concurrent with drunken rage. Fights furiously with the train-robbers before realizing they were even trying to rob anyone, then offers them a sheep in place of the girl. Also, there’s bagpipes in there somewhere.

          Oh, crap. My mind just went to the scary place where somehow Groundskeeper Willie and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon can be the same person.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      They all dived into the deepest of the Blockchain until they ran out of drugs reached the Nirvana, now they subsist only by making cam shows starring handsome Scottish Gurkha warriors breaking the arms of Irish hags ladies.

    • Aella says:

      Aella here, who worked at Luna. I quit August 2018, and have been out of the loop since then, but afaik Luna’s in hibernation, particularly after the drop in crypto and a confusing/hefty tax burden reduced a lot of its flexibility to do things.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        Everyone’s already upped sticks for newer, greener Open Threads (I’m just passing through, by chance), but just in case you drop in here again: thanks for posting the update and the explanation of Gupta’s role in the whole enterprise.

  11. sty_silver says:

    Clinton is now at 7.2% chance to win the nomination on BetFair. I’ve been out of the loop, can someone explain why this is happening?

    • Aftagley says:

      Yesterday (or maybe the day before) Trump tweeting something to the effect of “Warren is so crazy, Clinton should come back and steal the nomination from her.” Clinton replied back something to the effect of “don’t tempt me.” She’s also made a couple jokes about it sense then.

      None of what has transpired leads me to believe she’d either be crazy enough to enter the race or that she’d stand a snowballs chance in heck of winning the nomination. 7.2% is IMO high.

    • Hypoborean says:

      I don’t agree with those odds, but if I was trying to steelman the thinking that went into someone buying up to that %, it would be a combination of:

      (1) There’s a small-but-non-zero chance that Donald Trump will be impeached and removed from office, which will strengthen Hillary Clinton’s presumptive claim to the presidency on the grounds that the 2016 election was ‘stolen.’
      (2) Biden has been faltering significantly in the past few weeks [potentially losing his polling lead to Warren and not having a good response to concerns that his son is a maybe-not-technically-illegally-corrupt sleazeball], which increases the odds of a center-left “white knight” candidate being anointed by the party before the primaries start.
      (3) The structure of the Democratic primaries have no winner-take-all-states, meaning that if the vote splinters we might have a contested convention, and Clinton being a compromise candidate that emerges out of the chaos could be a thing.

      • sty_silver says:

        Trump being removed is priced at around 20%. Your (1) and (3) sound like they could fully explain it.

      • Clutzy says:

        I think with Biden faltering, people are thinking that maybe that lane needs another player. Warren is becoming the frontrunner, particularly on the coasts, but that I think makes a lot of people nervous.

        • hls2003 says:

          Maybe, but these odds still seem ridiculous. I think the entire Democratic field could keel over dead tomorrow and Hillary still wouldn’t be the nominee. (Cue jokes about “mass suicide by double gunshot to the back of the head”).

      • Aftagley says:

        (1) There’s a small-but-non-zero chance that Donald Trump will be impeached and removed from office, which will strengthen Hillary Clinton’s presumptive claim to the presidency on the grounds that the 2016 election was ‘stolen.’

        This is not the existing state of play in democratic circles. Even people who liked Hillary are glad she’s gone, entirely based on the amount of baggage she’d been loaded up with. Combine that with a race that managed to lose to Trump and even in places where she was popular, she’s not that well loved.

        Also, if Trump is impeached, it won’t be about 2016.

        which increases the odds of a center-left “white knight” candidate being anointed by the party before the primaries start.

        Yeah, but like, 3 different people in the campaign already (Buttigeg, Booker and Harris) are all already positioned in that space and are all significantly more popular among the left than Hillary.

        The structure of the Democratic primaries have no winner-take-all-states, meaning that if the vote splinters we might have a contested convention, and Clinton being a compromise candidate that emerges out of the chaos

        This seems highly unlikely.

    • broblawsky says:

      Betting markets – especially small markets – can easily be shifted by outsized moves by a small handful of whales.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        That’s always a good hypothesis, which is why I recommend checking not just betfair, but also predictit. However, it turns out that it has roughly the same odds, so that’s not the answer. (Also, sty said that this isn’t an abrupt spike.)

        • broblawsky says:

          I don’t think this disproves my hypothesis? It just suggests that the whales have been operating across multiple platforms, over an extended period of time. I’ll admit that this makes my hypothesis less likely, but the only way to disprove it would be to figure out how many unique IDs there are taking the pro-HRC bet, and how big their bets are.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What does “whale” mean? At some level of lots of whales distributed across multiple platforms, it just means a bettors that you disagree with.

            Are you saying anything beyond what Protagoras (later) said that there isn’t that much resolution? But there is more liquidity, and lower fees, and less long-shot bias on betfair than on predictit. And even predictit has more than 7% resolution.

    • Phigment says:

      Donald Trump has been publicly taunting her. This has instantly raised interest in her again from all the people who dislike Donald Trump.

      Honestly, at this point it’s really looking like Trump has unlocked some kind of social super-powers, with the primary limitation on them being that the API is Twitter. He wins because he has somehow hacked the brains of the US elites and sends out directives to them 120 characters at a time, disguised as bizarre rambling and raving.

      This is probably why Kamala Harris is trying to get him banned from Twitter. She’s trying to disarm him by removing his access to the orbital mind control lasers.

      • Harris’s letter is pretty funny:

        She concluded: “No user, regardless of their job, wealth, or stature should be exempt from abiding by Twitter’s user agreement, not even the President of the United States.”

        https://www.fastcompany.com/90412223/why-wont-twitter-ban-trump-kamala-harris-wants-to-know

        Oh no, someone’s not following a website’s user agreement, what a national emergency! Still, the fact that he goads people into embarrassing themself doesn’t mean it’s all N-dimensional chess. It’s bizarre rambling and raving.

        • Phigment says:

          It can be BOTH bizarre rambling AND mind control!

          I mean, obviously I’m joking about the orbital mind control lasers, but I’ve seriously concluded at this point that Trump is, in fact, supremely excellent at what he does.

          It’s just that science can’t, at this time, understand why what he is doing works. It doesn’t look like it should work. Nobody expected it to work originally, and then we were all sure it was a fluke and it would stop working, but it just keeps going.

          You know all those AI-in-a-box thought experiments, where the question is if the super-smart AI could talk a person into unshackling it? If that AI were Donald Trump, given only a text channel to communicate 120 characters at a time, it would already be out of the box. It would have made its enemies so angry that they let it out of the box just so they could kick its ass in person.

          And now we’re all standing around scratching our heads and asking what just happened there, except for some people who are really, really upset and are gearing up to go kick that AI’s ass for real this time, as soon as they figure out how to open up the next box…

          It’s weird. It’s a weird, weird thing.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Covfefe

        (just in case)

    • Protagoras says:

      Figure out how much money you can make by betting against Clinton, assuming her odds are seriously overvalued. Is it significant? Is the return even positive after BetFair’s cut? If the answers are negative, the phenomenon is not particularly mysterious. Irrational bets are to be expected, and while if there’s a profitable way to exploit the irrationality, they should be swamped by people doing such exploitation, if there’s no profitable way to exploit the irrationality, the irrationality will stubbornly persist in the results.

      • sty_silver says:

        I can’t make any money on prediction markets because of where I live, but buying no shares for Clinton should be pretty significant.

        She’s also not the kind of person that’s expected to be overvalued. You can make that argument for Yang (I wouldn’t) but Clinton should, if anything, be less popular with odds makers. It seems to me like the more plausible option is that her odds are legit.

        • acymetric says:

          Are they actually setting those odds, or is it just driven by the market (legitimate question)?

          • sty_silver says:

            Pretty sure they’re driven by the market, though I don’t understand exactly how the process works.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Predictit and Betfair are transparent markets, none of their own money on the line, facilitating bets between their users. They show you the order book, ie, the number of dollars available to bet at the current price, and the next price. Googling “president bookie” I find things like this which seem to be bookies setting their own prices. I’m not sure how to read them, but they look pretty similar, eg, Clinton at 6x Booker. Here is a comparison of a bunch of sites.

  12. SteveReilly says:

    Wikipedia refers to “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” as an “epic comedy”. Are there any other examples of movies that are epic comedies? Off the top of my head I can’t think of any. Granted, “epic” might be a vague term, but “It’s a Mad…” is the only comedy I can think of that’s over three hours. Am I missing any?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      3 Idiots (2009) is only 170 minutes, but it is epic, ie, too long. There are many Bollywood comedies that do break 3 hours.

      IMDB has opinions.
      It claims that the Saragossa Manuscript (1965, 182″) is comedy. I find that an odd label, but I include it because I’ve actually seen it. Less oddly labeled is La Dolce Vita (1960, 174″).

      I have not seen Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974, 193″), but I think it was influential.

      Sometimes people use “epic comedy” to describe the micro-genre of comic long-distance races largely started by Mad (1963), such as the 1965 films the Great Race and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. But a long-distance race doesn’t need a long running time. Flying is only 138 minutes, although the Great Race at 160 is getting up there. The earlier Around the World in 80 Days (1956) is 178 minutes. The 2004 version of 80 is only 120 minutes. Silver Streak (1976) is 114. Smokey and the Bandit (1977) is only 96 minutes, a normal length comedy. (Manuscript would be better described as picaresque, but that’s pretty close to road trip…)

    • John Schilling says:

      I don’t think “epic” has ever been taken primarily as a measure of length, at least outside the realm of poetry. And even in poetry, the implication is that [subject] is worthy of a novel’s worth of verbiage, not that the writer couldn’t stop himself from adding verses. It’s “epic” if it tells the story of great and heroic deeds, preferably of a singular epic hero.

      As Douglas Knight notes, there’s a sub-genre of “race(*) comedies”, where you can easily imagine the same tale being spun as a heroic quest for fortune and glory. Those should all qualify as epic comedies.

      For the lone-hero version, both “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles” would fit, independent of running time. Coherent stories of heroes striving for a singular triumph, not just a framework for a string of gags.

      * No, the other kind of race

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        As Douglas Knight notes, there’s a sub-genre of “race(*) comedies”, where you can easily imagine the same tale being spun as a heroic quest for fortune and glory.

        Oh yeah, like those Shanghai movies with Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson! Or those Rush Hour movies with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Oh, and Blazing Saddles… those are great.

        * No, the other kind of race

        … oh.

        • quanta413 says:

          … oh.

          I was very sad to learn that this wasn’t going to be a discussion of Jackie Chan buddy cop movies since I read this thread in reverse.

    • Atlas says:

      Maybe O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    • dodrian says:

      Life of Brian. Given it borrows a lot from the unquestionably epic Ben Hur, has a fairly epic opening title, and breaks off midway through for an epic spacecraft chase scene, I think it qualifies.

    • AG says:

      Wouldn’t the MCU films count? Or do we need to get even more overtly comedic? If the climax should have to happen based on comedic principles, then a lot of heist films would become eligible, as any that have a HEA are all about a twist that puts a pie in the antagonist’s face.

  13. Machine Interface says:

    Rewatching Max Max: Fury Road (which I liked much better than the first time I watched it 2 years and a half ago, I guess it grew on me), I was reminded of an analysis of the film and became aware of a fallacy that comes up when discussing the morality of a given model of society/civilization.

    I could call it “the fallacy of discredit by denunciation of narrative”.

    Basically it consists of detailing the narrative of a society (“Immortan Joe is a generous warrior God leading his children to Valhalla”), then pointing out that the narrative is just a narrative and that underneath the society works in a rather different way from what is claimed (“Immortan Joe is actually a human warlord ruling with an iron fist over a population of starving slaves and brainwashed, sick murderers and robbers”), and from this conclude that this society is morally wrong not just judged from our point of view, but as proven by the fact that it needs a narrative to hide its true nature.

    It is a fallacy because of course, all societies work like this. All societies have a master narrative which is not so much a justification but rather an emotionally palatable rationalization of how this society actually works beneath the hood. Even liberal democracy has quite the gap between the narrative that most westerners buy into (“popular sovereignty”, “popular representation”, “social contract”, “human rights”) and the reasons that actually make liberal democracies so functional and enduring (very strong rule of law, highly procedural, transparent and strictly enforced succession rules, multiple sets of highly efficient tool to blow out political violence, a finely tuned equilibrium between the attractors of totalitarianism/absolute power/divine right on one side and factionalism/civil war/feodalism on the other, etc).

    This is of course because why a given mode of societal organization is successful is actually quite a difficult thing to analyze and certainly not at the grasp of most people who live in such a society. The narrative mostly exists because it is a simpler rationalization, easier to come up with and comprehend, but it’s the same kind of narrative that most people use for their personal actions — it doesn’t make these actions automatically morally wrong, it just means that most people don’t have access to their own motives.

    Is there a name for such a fallacy?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      “Fallacy of discredit by denunciation of narrative” is a special case of the fallacy fallacy. If you have an argument N which concludes X, and you show that N is invalid, it does not prove X is false.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Oddly, it doesn’t feel like a fallacy to me. Societies aren’t binary – true or false, bad or good.

      If a society has narratives that are especially obviously wrong, or especially blatantly extol values no successful person in that society actually follows, it’s worse than one with less unreasonable narratives that’s otherwise the same.

      But of course there never is a comparison society available that’s precisely the same except for the narratives. And this is part of the complexity you discuss in your final paragraph.

      But I still avoid buying into narratives that are obviously false, or joining/supporting the groups producing those narratives. At a personal level, this is generally not on a national or cultural level, but more a matter of group (sub)cultures, but it seems to me that the same rules apply.

  14. Hypoborean says:

    Maybe this is just a mental bias / hobby-horse of mine, but in terms of asset diversification I think people in the first-world above the 50th income percentile are massively underinvested in food to deal with tail risks.

    Since there are varieties of freeze-dried food stored in plastic bags filled with nitrogen that can last at least 15 years (and probably more like 25 for some branded) that cost ~$15 USD per person per day for complete nutrition, having a year’s worth of food stored per family member costs $5,500 / person, and is one of the only *real* economic diversifications in the case of {electrical grid collapse, nuclear war, civil war, Venezuela-level self-inflicted economic disaster, or winter caused by volcanic eruption*}.

    At $1,500 per year for a family of 4 [$5,500*4 / 15], maintaining a year’s supply of food is a nearly trivial expense, but almost no-one does it. It’s actually even cheaper if you commit to eating, say 1/10th of your meals in a year from your stockpile.

    Do people here think this is a rational-but-socially-forgotten-behavior because the tail risk hasn’t hit in 2 centuries? Or am I misaligned on something?

    *This last one is the case that made this a lowkey obsession of mine. The 1816 Year Without A Summer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer) was the last major volcanic eruption causing crop failure, and is believed to be one of the reasons why the Mormon religion (founded by someone who lived through it) has as a major piece of doctrine that each LDS family must has 1 year of food stored.

    • Ag is much more advanced now, farmers would just plant faster-growing crops and farm more intensely to minimize waste. If that isn’t enough, we’d slaughter animals and eat the 36% of the corn crop used as animal feed:

      https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/livestock-feed-and-habitat-destruction/

      If that’s not enough, we’d stop exporting, if that’s not enough, we’d buy up crops from the third world.

      • Hypoborean says:

        I don’t think faster growing crops would balance out a year where there is frost for 5 nights in a row in June in New Jersey.

        Agriculture being more advanced is a double edged sword. We have a lot more tools in the toolchest, but we are already getting a much higher yield per acre that could be ‘fragile’ to massively changed conditions, and our genetic variation in our seedstock is lower.

    • brad says:

      I think it would take an extraordinarily unlikely confluence of events for the quantity of food I have stockpiled to be the bottleneck in my survival.

      • Hypoborean says:

        Survival, sure, but what about malnutrition / significant financial cost of acquiring enough food? Note the average weight loss in Venezuela, as a reference.

        • brad says:

          The United States isn’t Venezuela. If highly skilled workers in the United States can’t earn enough to buy sufficient calories, the entire global economy is fucked, there’s almost certainly civil unrest, and probably wars. I don’t expect to do well under such circumstances, canned goods or no.

          (BTW I know several Venezuelans not in Venezuela that are doing just fine. Me, but in Venezuela when things started getting really bad, likely would have had that option.)

          • Chalid says:

            Imagine, say, the whole North American power grid goes down for a couple months after a large solar flare. Having food around could be lifesaving in that type of disaster.

          • brad says:

            If there’s no electricity, I’m not going to be able to continue to live 30 stories up. So where are me and my year’s worth of food going to ride out the storm?

          • Chalid says:

            Why not? It’s not like you’ll have to go out to get to your programming job every day.

            Anyway, 30 stories isn’t an impossible climb, just unpleasant if you’re not used to it. (Assuming you’re generally able-bodied, which I think from your weight-lifting posts that you are.)

          • brad says:

            I guess I could hunker down in there. But I’d need to leave regularly to get water and I’m not sure what the ingress situation would be with the doormen presumably gone. And I’d have to avoid getting robbed or killed.

            The bottom line is that I think in any disaster either the powers that be would have to restore order and form camps within a week or two or I’d be fucked regardless of prepping (leaving aside rearranging my whole life around it).

            So I guess that argues for keeping two weeks worth of supplies on hand. Even that feels not worth it.

          • albatross11 says:

            My sense is that there’s a kind of exponential diminishing return to number of days of supplies you have on hand. Having a few days of medicine and food is a pretty big win, because it will pay off as soon as there’s a bad snowstorm and the roads are impassable for a couple days, or you get a stomach bug and can’t leave the house for a couple days. A few days worth of drinking water covers the day when the water main has broken and the water’s out till the utility crew can fix it. And so on[1].

            Going from that to, say, two weeks of supplies covers a larger range of potential problems, but they’re much less likely. Bad weather that makes it a big pain in the ass to go to the store for a few days is commonplace. Bad weather that makes it a big pain in the ass to go to the store for two weeks is a lot more rare. It can happen, but it’s less likely to happen.

            Move on to six months of supplies, and you’re looking at really unlikely and awful disasters–a gigantic earthquake or widespread civil disorder or pandemic flu or something. If one of those happens, you’ll be glad of the six months of supplies, but it’s really unlikely you’ll need them. (OTOH, for most people, six months of supplies wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive in terms of money or space, so maybe it’s cheap insurance.)

            And so on. At the extreme end, you’ve moved to a defensible home way out in the countryside with a generator and a well and like-minded neighbors and a plan in place for some massive disaster. You’re *really* well prepared for that kind of disaster–something like a total collapse of order, outbreak of civil war, or nuclear attack on the US–but you’ve paid a lot in terms of money and opportunity cost for your collapse-of-civilization insurance.

            [1] For a suburb dweller like me, a lot of minimal disaster preparedness is stuff like keeping the gas tank at least half full and having a bit of cash at hand in case the ATMs get shut down for a few days when the big storm messes up the power lines. That plus making sure there’s no medicine you really need that you don’t have a week or two stash of, and that there’s enough food in your house that you won’t starve if you can’t get out for a week, and you’ve captured a lot of the available benefit of disaster prep at a small cost.

      • sidereal says:

        Very unlikely, but in the event that it happens your investment in food would appreciate tens or hundreds of thousands of percent.

    • I don’t think $1500 a year is a trivial expense for many people. And beyond that, there’s the question of storage, which could be a real problem, especially if you live in an apartment.

      • Hypoborean says:

        Not many people live in apartments in the US, but even in an apartment this would probably only take a closet or two.

        As for $1500/year, note I did specify 50th percentile income. At that income point for the first world, finding $125 / month is pretty easy subject to slightly lifestyle preference modifications.

        • acymetric says:

          It depends on what you mean by “not many” but just under 1/5 of the US lives in an apartment or condo (I’m not sure if townhomes are counted in that or not, I’m inclined to say know since it specifically identified condos as separate from apartments).

        • I still $125 a month is a pretty big expense. There’s so many useful things I could do with that money that doesn’t involve me spending it on useless crap that only pays out for an incredibly minuscule possibility of some apocalyptic event while assuming nothing will happen to cause all my prep to be useless.

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah, $125 is not going to be an insubstantial part of your expandable budget on a month to month basis, which you could otherwise use to save, invest, or spend on leisure/entertainment. You have to go up to the 80th percentile or so for me to take that statement as true, and even then I wouldn’t consider it a good use of money (not that I begrudge anyone who does, but if the question is why don’t more people do it…)

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          I think you overestimate the number of closets in a typical apartment.

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah, generally you’re looking at a small linen closet and then one closet per bedroom. If you’re lucky one of those bedroom closets might be a walk-in but it isn’t a given. You also might have small outside storage room accessible from your porch/patio. But remember, you have to fit everything there. Bike(s), camping stuff, a grill, seasonal decorations, and various other random stuff that people tend to want to store all have to go there too.

    • blipnickels says:

      Do people here think this is a rational-but-socially-forgotten-behavior because the tail risk hasn’t hit in 2 centuries? Or am I misaligned on something?

      Both.

      Most of the ‘prepper stuff I’ve read or talked about sounds more like a hobby/LARP than actual preperation. For example, if SHTF then I’m probably a lot more concerned about water than food and I’d rather have a good bicycle than a years worth of food I can’t take with me.

      Even the Red Cross falls into this. I’m not sure why my survival kit needs an “emergency blanket” when I have one, you know, on my bed or a photocopy of my driver’s license. It just sounds like a lot of stuff that’s going to sit in my garage and never get used and be too old/expired in any realistic scenario where I’d use it.

      So yeah, a lot of the prepping stuff, even from reputable sources, doesn’t sound very realistic.

      On the other hand, I think there is some real irrationality here.

      If you look at the Red Cross link, the only thing they mention which I need to have or die is water and (maybe) medication. I can go buy a couple cases of bottled water from the Walmart for <$20 which gives me like 80% of the advantage of prepping with 99% less work. I don't do this, it's irrational, and I'm not sure why.

      I guess there's stigma around prepping but the big thing is that even the best organizations don't come off as realistic. Like, they're prepping for a nuclear holocaust or something, while the biggest concern for the average poster here is the SF Bay Area getting hit by another big earthquake and the US government pulling another Katrina or Puerto Rico recovery. That’s a realistic tail risk where I can reasonably foresee what my needs will be.

      • Gray Ice says:

        I’m not sure why my survival kit needs an “emergency blanket” when I have one, you know, on my bed or a photocopy of my driver’s license.

        The idea behind the emergency blanket is that it is small enough and light enough to carry in a small backpack. The primary time this would make sense is if someone has to evacuate on public transport or some other scenario where they are not allowed or able to take more with them. If you have your own place with a garage and vehicle, then yes, this is probably lower on your list of things to worry about.

      • Hypoborean says:

        Having water on hand is absolutely a good idea, and an obvious part of rational prepping. When I was getting my sister up to 2 week readiness since she lives in Vancouver (a region that could have a bad earthquake any day now that could sever roads for a few weeks), I did focus on food and water.

        But longer term (past 2 weeks) water is pretty easy. You just stockpile iodine tablets and assume that if things persist you’ll have time to rig a rainfall catchment.

        • sharper13 says:

          A year supply is “ideal”, in the sense that’s ideally all you’d ever need, but most everyone would be well-served by at least putting together a bag/backpack with a 72-hour kit. A few days of portable food, a couple of bottled waters and life-straw (10K gallons for $15 unless you live in an absolute desert), a poncho, some way to keep warm, basic first-aid kit, total cost $60-100 in a form you can grab and take with you as needed in the event of an earthquake/hurricane/tornado/whatever.

          Start there, at least, and you might turn from an urgent need for help to someone who can ride out most issues, at least until outside help arrives.

          The slow build-up of a longer term supply of foods you can rotate and eat as part of your normal meals (which minimizes waste) is also beneficial during simple events like losing your job, where you want to use your “savings” and minimize expenses, not just a total disaster.

          In the event of a larger food-supply interrupting disaster, living next to orchards/fruit trees/farms/ranches, etc… is also a decent back-up plan. 🙂

        • Robin says:

          You can also disinfect your rain water in the sun: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_water_disinfection

      • baconbits9 says:

        Food is very important for emergencies. If you imagine an emergency as having to lock your front door for 3 days until the riots pass then all you need is water/critical medicine, but if the emergency is going to force you from your home while trying to hump 3-5 gallons of water plus a few other things. You will end up hungry and tired and prone to poor decision making, and good decision making is #2 on the list of most important things to have in an emergency basically behind water + necessary medicine.

        I’m not sure why my survival kit needs an “emergency blanket” when I have one, you know, on my bed or a photocopy of my driver’s license.

        An emergency blanket isn’t a spare regular blanket, its a lightweight and highly reflective piece of material that can be easily stored and carried.

        • acymetric says:

          …What if I feel it is important not to be easily visible during this emergency? Can I get a non-reflective emergency blanket?

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, but they’re a bit heavier and bulkier and you can usually arrange to deploy your emergency blanket under some sort of cover. Your call whether that’s a need-to-have, nice-to-have, or not worth the bother.

          • Lambert says:

            Emergencies where rescue services are trying to save you are probably more likely than ones where folks are trying to kill you.

            Fun fact: Ejector seat parachutes are orange, tan, olive green and light grey for camo in a variety of environments or visibility to rescuers.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Also, most emergency blankets I’ve ever seen that were shiny were shiny on one side, dull on the other.

          • Aapje says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            Apparently that is a consequence of their design, where only one side is designed to reflect heat back. To stay warm, the shiny side goes to your body.

          • nkurz says:

            @Aapje:
            > To stay warm, the shiny side goes to your body.

            It isn’t obvious to me that having the shiny side in to retain heat is better than having the shiny side out to reduce emissivity. Searching, it seems that you are right that the manufacturers usually suggest reflective-inward. Most of the medical research papers I found don’t seem to mention this, and instead simply conclude that space blankets aren’t particularly effective for treating hypothermia.

            This article though makes the counter-argument for reflective-out: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01738694/document

            I’ve only skimmed it, but it uses this exact question as its example of how metacognition about physical processes works. It concludes (I don’t know how well to trust the math) that shiny-out is better if you are in a non-windy environment, and shiny-in is better if you are extremely windy. Most of the paper is about how students react to these arguments.

            The most interesting part for this discussion might be Appendix 2, where the author does some “home experiments” that involve putting wrapped containers of water in the freezer and measuring the difference in temperature after a short period of time. In line with his calculations for the non-windy environment, he finds that having the shiny side out reduces heat loss significantly compared to shiny-in.

        • DragonMilk says:

          I dunno, I feel like I’d go full Jesus fast if there was no food and no way to get it.

    • AlexanderTheGrand says:

      Around how much space would that take up for one person? I imagine it’s around 200 lbs of food sans packaging, which I imagine taking up ~50 sq feet. You’d have to break it into at least 5 boxes if you ever planned to move it.

      For anyone who doesn’t own a home with a basement, I think the practical considerations may get in the way of that. For example, people living in big cities.

    • Chalid says:

      $15 per day per person seems a very high cost? I’m not a “serious” prepper in any way, but I did get a couple of these buckets which have food at about $3 per person per day with a shelf life of 25 years.

      I’ve also got a few six-gallon water containers, a bunch of water purification tablets, and basic camping equipment (stove, fuel) so my family is good for a couple months.

      If we’re without food longer than that here in the NYC area then the bands of roving cannibals are going to be a bigger problem than the lack of food. Of course if everyone bought such a kit it wouldn’t be an issue.

      • Aapje says:

        I did get a couple of these buckets which have food at about $3 per person per day with a shelf life of 25 years.

        Up to 25 years, excluding some of the contents, which is rated for up to 10 years.

        I would get new ones every 10 years, eating the old ones.

    • baconbits9 says:

      You don’t need to spend this kind of money. You can easily build a cheap stockpile of basic staples like rice, beans, pasta and canned goods that you will normally eat, and then replace them as you eat them before they expire as part of your normal eating habits. For a few hundred dollars a person, plus a cabinet or two worth of space and a few plastic tubs to keep bugs out you can have the same effect. The only reason to have a freeze dried food stash is if it is in a location that you are going to bug out to in the case of SHTF.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        And learn how to cook them without electricity or a gas stove

        • acymetric says:

          Did Zuess steal back fire or something?

          Pasta probably isn’t practical more because of the water requirements (and that it actually requires a decently high temperature), but a lot of other canned goods and other long-lasting foods can be eaten without cooking and still taste better than freeze dried food and the “cooking” (if you choose to do so) is just warming up over a small fire/heat source for a few minutes.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Sure, I’m just asserting that most modern Americans don’t currently know how to do that. I certainly don’t

          • acymetric says:

            I would expect anyone even remotely interested in survival prep to have at least a vague sense of how to start a fire…

        • CatCube says:

          https://www.walmart.com/c/kp/propane-stoves

          Having just the food isn’t all you need to do to be prepared.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Not in most cases. Quick check and we have ~18,000 calories worth of PB&J in the pantry, something like another 40,000 in dried fruit and nuts, 4,000 in sardines, 4,000 in pretzels. Just in stuff that will get eaten without any prep we are looking at 70-80,000 calories, and much of the other stuff can be eaten without cooking (large decrease in tastiness and some decrease in nutrition) so we don’t have to get into ‘have to figure out how to cook without a stove’ unless there is a long term power outage lasting a month plus without any chance for us to replenish our stores at all.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            What about the rice and pasta you mentioned? I think only* Boy Scouts know how to set up a cooking fire these days. @CatCube’s propane convinced me, though

            *obviously not literal

          • baconbits9 says:

            You eat the rice and pasta on days when the power is on.

    • DinoNerd says:

      IMO any situation which required most people in an area to live off stored food for a year would also carry a very high risk of that food being stolen by those who didn’t have any. This theft could be legal (rationing and expropriation) or illegal, but it’s very much present. So there’s somewhat of a tragedy of the commons effect – no individual benefit to me in storing food, unless most of my neighbours do the same, or I’m somehow unusually able to defend it – because my neighbours are probably going to be the ones eating it.

      In other cultures and times, local governments have kept food reserves, which they distributed during the inevitable periodic famines. But those were generally places and times where local food sources were the only practical ones, and crop failures occurred regularly.

      This risk appears to be of a less than once in a lifetime event, so not the kind of thing either an elected politician or manager of a publically traded firm can afford to care about – both have short term horizons enforced by their own self interest.

      [Edit: storing food and water for shorter (and more frequently occurring) emergencies is on the other hand good normal planning. Where I grew up, there were ocassional winter storms closing roads for a day or two, and anyone with sense had the reserves to deal with even exceptionally lengthy snow closures.]

      • baconbits9 says:

        Preppers want a years worth of food because they imagine plan on moving to the woods/mountains etc and building their life back up. The year’s worth of food is to cover them while they start over.

        That is kind of irrelevant, your reply misses the core issues of emergencies- they are unpredictable in many ways and the best path within them is to not be forced into decisions. If there is a riot in your city you will be happy(ier) if you don’t have to leave to get groceries when times are rough. Even if there is enough food in the stores, and you have enough money to buy the food, having more control over your food supply is of high value and might allow you to avoid taking risks at a time when you don’t want to take them.

        • DinoNerd says:

          If there’s a 365-day-long riot in my city, they’ve probably burned the whole city down well before the 180th day, including my home and all my stored food 🙁

          Seriously, I’m talking about the scale of stored food, not the general principle. A year is either too much or too little – and for cases where it’s too little, you also need a highly defensible compound somewhere hard to access, and a large cooperating team to defend it. (I’d expect a single nuclear family to be way too small, without a lot of luck.)

          • John Schilling says:

            A year is either too much or too little

            A year is just right for living through a crop failure, and “crop failure” can just as well mean that all the local farmers started the year thinking they were supposed to grow the crops with the highest cash value when shipped to China rather than the highest nutritional value for their hungry neighbors, or all the local suburbanites thinking it was OK for their yards to be grass and decorative shrubbery rather than vegetable garden and potato patch.

            But that requires either everyone have a years’ food, or the ones that do also have a plan to hold on to it through several months of increasingly intense attention from increasingly desperate neighbors. If you’re a Mormon in a mostly-Mormon community, the former will probably work. If not, “I’ve also got an AR-15 and lots of ammo” will almost certainly not work.

          • The Nybbler says:

            all the local suburbanites thinking it was OK for their yards to be grass and decorative shrubbery rather than vegetable garden and potato patch.

            I could plant a vegetable garden, but the only part I’ll get to eat is the rabbit, assuming I trap it. Or maybe the deer, though the township will object if they catch me. The squirrels or groundhogs will likely get the potatoes, and squirrels at least are too hard to catch. Actually getting a crop from edible plants is difficult, there’s a reason it keeps getting pushed off to specialists.

          • sharper13 says:

            Having “too much” compared to others around you isn’t an issue. The usual solution to that “problem” is that you either trade or give it to some of the other people around you (depending on the exact situation), which buys you goodwill, stuff you didn’t think to store, additional members to your group making you stronger than the looters, etc…

            Unless you can keep anyone from being aware you have more food than everyone else and you’re willing to watch other people starve, just keeping it for yourself is likely not the optimal course of action.

            Most people with a year’s supply of food fully expect that in an actual major emergency, we’re likely to be sharing that out with many of the nearby folks who need more food than is now remaining at the grocery store but didn’t think ahead that far. Better to be the sharer than the beggar, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            @sharper13:

            Having “too much” compared to others around you isn’t an issue. The usual solution to that “problem” is that you either trade or give it to some of the other people around you (depending on the exact situation), which buys you goodwill, stuff you didn’t think to store, additional members to your group making you stronger than the looters, etc…

            No, for that you need to be storing five years of food. If the harvest just failed and it’s going to be a year before the next harvest, and you have a year’s worth of food and your ten neighbors each have a month’s worth of food, then trading away some of your food for some of their stuff just means that you wind up starving to death with more and shinier stuff. And the goodwill of your starving neighbors won’t last because they’ll think you’re holding out on them.

            More generally, you can only (well, should only) trade away food in excess of what is needed to survive to the next harvest / supply dump / whatever, no matter how much stuff or goodwill is promised. And if the community average is less than the survival-to-harvest requirement, then no amount of trading can change the fact that the options are A: everybody starves or B: some people hold back their food and don’t let the starving people have it and make that stick.

            @Nybbler:

            Actually getting a crop from edible plants is difficult, there’s a reason it keeps getting pushed off to specialists.

            Last time I checked, the vast majority of the humans who have lived over the past six thousand years were gainfully employed getting crops from edible plants, and most of them were illiterate peasants. Only recently has that been pushed off on specialists, and the reason for that is the specialists got good enough at it that each of them can feed a hundred of the rest of us.

            If, push comes to shove, you want to say “I can’t even mange to feed one person” and give up and die, sure, whatever, I’d miss you except that I think we’re past having a functional internet at that point anyway. But if the plan is for you to trade other goods or services for food, and your community’s average food reserve is not enough to last until the next harvest, then you’re betting that what you’ve got to trade is so valuable that a working farmer will say “Yeah, I’m going to let some other guy actually starve to death to get me some of what Nybbler’s offering”. Which maybe you do, but that is the standard.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Last time I checked, the vast majority of the humans who have lived over the past six thousand years were gainfully employed getting crops from edible plants, and most of them were illiterate peasants

            .

            Yes, and they worked from sunrise to sunset or more, nearly every day, just to scrape out that existence, fighting pests and vermin and disease and fully subject to the vagaries of the weather. And if a crop failure occurred, they died in job lots. Such farming is difficult, uncertain, and terrible and life in the past was hell for the illiterate peasants, and probably would have been even without the barons coming around to collect some portion of their crop in exchange for not killing them and (with any luck) not letting any other barons come around and take their crop.

            You can’t do much else AND grow food under those conditions.

            Life for subsistence farmers today still pretty much sucks.

            If suburbanites have to take up subsistence farming, most of us (including me) are just going to die one way or another. Those who try to grow food will quickly find they don’t have nearly enough land to feed themselves, nor any real knowledge of how to farm it. Anything they do grow will likely get eaten by pests (which are quite abundant at least in my area). And that’s before you get to the two-legged variety.

          • Actually getting a crop from edible plants is difficult, there’s a reason it keeps getting pushed off to specialists.

            Depends on the plants. We get more apples and peaches, in season, than we can eat. Tomatoes as well. And oranges and lemons and plums and pomegranates.

            On the other hand, essentially zero apricots, because the squirrels get them when they are still green. If it was legal to use an air rifle to shoot squirrels, on the other hand, we could get squirrel, squirrel pelts, and apricots.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Don’t hurt Sasha’s daughter Natalie, David. Or I’ll let the possum lover who lives in your neck of the woods know where a wildlife hater lives.

            >:P

            In a more serious vein, this guy ( https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/touching-the-wild-touching-the-wild/8679/ ) actually bought all of the mule deer hunting permits in his area when studying and bonding with them, yet this still didn’t stop poachers from killing or driving off entire herds.

      • CatCube says:

        There’s a reason that “ammo” is part of the “stockpile canned goods and ammo” cliche.

    • Buttle says:

      As I understand it, this is mandatory in the LDS church.

    • Eternaltraveler says:

      can last at least 15 years (and probably more like 25 for some branded) that cost ~$15 USD per person per day for complete nutrition, having a year’s worth of food stored per family member costs $5,500 / person

      It doesn’t cost 5500 for a year’s supply of food for one person. That’s what it costs if you want to keep basically your same eating habits during the apocalypse. If you want food that can sustain life in an absolute emergency it can cost as low as 200 dollars for a year’s supply(a pound of wheat berries is ~1500 calories). And most staples like wheat berries/rice/beans will last for more than 30 years in their cans. That changes your math to be ~28 dollars a year for a family of 4. For this paltry sum it is very foolish not to do this even given exceedingly low risk.

      If storage is a concern, it is possible to store this year’s supply for 4 people under your bed.

      • Gray Ice says:

        Eternaltraveler:
        I’ve never cooked with wheat berries before. Do you have any good recipes or preparation tips?

        • Eternaltraveler says:

          Not really. You can grind them into flour or cook them like rice.

          • The latter is a great deal less work than the former. One of my puzzles is why anyone invented bread, given how much more work it is.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Portable, ready-to-eat food for hunting or gathering expeditions.

            Also don’t overlook how many nutrients may be captured inside undigestible, unmasticated kernels.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      When you are older, you will learn that the first and foremost thing which any ordinary person does is nothing.

      — Professor Quirrell, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

      Half the country won’t even save $400 to deal with an unexpected expense, and you think they are going to drop $1,500 a year on emergency food storage? College students don’t know who won the Civil War; you really expect them to have ever heard of the year without summer?

      To a normie, the whole point of money is to spend it raising status. The particulars may vary (an inner city gentleman might buy gold jewelry for his teeth, while a working class individual goes into debt financing a shiny new car, a middle class individual travels to exotic locations that will provide great pictures for his Instagram account, and a rich man purchases a superyacht) but the basic idea is the same; money buys status which is then leveraged for reproductive opportunities. Prepping is low status (take a look at Doomsday Preppers to see what the mainstream thinks of survivalists). As far as unreasonable expectations go, asking people to spend money to lower their status is right up there with King Canute commanding the tides to stop rising (yes, yes, I know).

      • cassander says:

        Half the country won’t even save $400 to deal with an unexpected expense,

        This statistic is somewhat misleading. In a world where almost everyone has access to unsecured credit, there isn’t a pressing need to have an emergency fund for expenses at that level. Your general point, however, is well taken.

    • Gray Ice says:

      Returning to this thread after it has kinda run it’s course:

      I think something that was touched on in a number of comments but not covered in depth was the topic of a balanced plan for various long tail risks. In other words, as your plans go from 1 day to 1 week to 1 month, etc. which things do you plan for and what do you prioritize.

      Part of what may be keeping people from spending a small amount of time and effort on food or water supplies is the sense that there are a large number of other items that need to be considered in parallel. For more minor disruptions, this could be things like: do you have neighbors who would help you in an emergency, do you know the best way to approach different disasters in your area, is your vehicle in good repair. In the longer term, this could include: could you live with your extended family, do you have the flexibility to take up farming or subsistence hunting, is it worth it to even prepare for this.

      It might be a good topic for a later open thread to talk about what are some low cost (money, attention, and weirdness points*) ways to improve on these types of concerns. I’d also be curious if there are some SCC or rationalist specific ideas which would apply.

      *I’ve probably exceeded my personal quota by posting this.

  15. Dino says:

    Still somewhat new here, and particularly impressed by seeing indications that people actually changed their minds because of rational arguments – something that I previously thought never happened except for some scientists some of the time. Curious to hear specific examples – anyone care to share a story of why they changed their opinions about a hot-button, CW, tribal issue?

    To clarify – I’m not interested in having a rational argument about any particular issue, I’m curious what issue you changed their mind about and why.

    • A few years ago, I argued on this blog with someone on global warming, skeptical that it was really something to be worried about. I’m much more concerned now. Back around 2014 or so, it looked to me like global warming had paused and I got in to a few arguments with someone about it. Now in 2019, it’s pretty clear that there is no pause and while I don’t think we should go insane in our response to it, it should be taken seriously.

    • Atlas says:

      Some caveats: in every case here except the anti-interventionist/quasi-pacifist one and specifically the natalist part of one, I am more sympathetic to views that I previously disdained without necessarily now fully agreeing with them. Also, I’m a fairly young guy, so I may become much less likely to change my views as I grow older.

      I’ve become more sympathetic to libertarianism, including anarcho-capitalism, partly because I read and was reluctantly impressed by arguments in its favor, but also because reading Scott’s essays has made me more willing to appreciate the validity of good arguments in favor of propositions I don’t agree with. (That is, in this case I’d heard some good arguments for libertarianism before, but previously felt more compelled to convince myself that they were wrong because I perceived it as not my “side.”)

      I’m going to be more cryptic than I’d like to be here, because I’m not totally sure what the rules about discussing certain topics are, but my views on tribalism, nationalism and the existence of differences between groups of people have changed quite dramatically. I initially received and accepted a certain world view that I’d been taught as a child in school and from the media. However, as I read and reflected more on my own, I came to believe that this view was false or incomplete in many important respects.

      I’ve become considerably more anti-war and opposed to violence as a means of internal political change. This was a result of both reading more widely and reflecting more honestly/perceptively on what I’d already read. For instance, I recall supporting the NATO intervention in Libya, which happened when I was in middle school, because the op-eds in its favor in the New York Times seemed persuasive. I was also biased because I enjoyed reading about military history, and reading about a war in the news was more interesting than reading about other things. Today, however, I believe that war was a serious mistake, and I think that, while an attempt to apprehend and punish the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and their direct enablers in Afghanistan was justified, it should have been conducted in a much more careful, restrained and limited way, and that the US-led occupation of Afghanistan has been highly destructive and unproductive.

      I’ve become more sympathetic to “traditional” sexual morality and natalism. Once again, this was a result of reading more widely and reflecting on the experiences of people I personally knew in the light of different perspectives.

      • aristides says:

        The rules are try to be necessary, kind, and true, but you only need two of those qualities. Since you are directly responding to a question, your response is necessary, true is always hard one with opinions, so just make sure your response is kind and you will be fine. You are also not supposed to talk about culture war topics on visible open threads, but this one is hidden, so you are fine. There are a couple topics that Scott wants to have people avoid, but just alluding to them won’t cause bans, he just wants o avoid entire threads dedicated to discussing them. You can see them if you click the comments tab at the top of the page.

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        Certain topics are not to be referred to by name, so as to keep the search engine robots from making unfortunate associations. I believe you’re trying to mention what people here usually call Horrible Banned Discourse. Since we’re on a hidden thread, you’re probably fine as long as you don’t mention it by name or go off on a racist tirade. Like aristides says, [true / kind / necessary]: pick at least two.

    • Well... says:

      I’ve changed my mind about a few CW issues, but in general the changes tend to be from having strongly lined up on one side of them to now being quite absolutely or relatively agnostic about them. In some cases this is paired with also no longer caring much about them.

      I think my mind was changed partly by being exposed to people “on the other side” who were clearly smarter than me and had arguments I could not find convincing refutations for, or else who were clearly starting from different irreducable values.

      The other part was I became much more comfortable not having an opinion.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I have changed on several hot-button CW topics since my headstrong youth. Mostly from conservative to reactionary, which can look similar to outsiders.

      In order:

      I am now strongly against free trade. This predates Trump by a substantial margin, interestingly. I first got it from reading Free Trade Doesn’t Work: What should replace it and why by Ian Fletcher.

      I am substantially less pro-war. I supported the Iraq War and signed up for the military. I am now mostly anti-foreign intervention. Fool me once.

      I am more convinced that global warming is actually happening and human caused. I was a full-on denier about 10 years ago, but now I’m neutral to leaning convinced. I disagree with the left about what should be done, but I am massively reducing my own carbon footprint as much as I can.

      I am substantially more nationalist than I was when I was young.

      • I am more convinced that global warming is actually happening and human caused. I was a full-on denier about 10 years ago

        The real issue, in my opinion, is not whether it is happening and human caused, is it whether the effects are large and negative. That’s a much harder claim to support, which explains why people on one side of the argument focus on the causation issue, but not why those on the other side do.

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t know how CW this is, but I’ve become rather more skeptical about UBI after reading the discussions about it here. I like the idea in principle, but worry that what we’ll get if we implement it won’t look much like the ideal–it could easily end up as one more in a long list of welfare programs that can’t ever go away.

      Over the course of a couple years (quite awhile ago), I changed from thinking civil partnerships for gay couples would be a good policy (and leave “marriage” alone as a symbolic sop to traditionalists) to thinking they needed to be able to get legally married. This was largely from seeing arguments about how much existing law and custom and policy was bound up in legal marriage.

      I’ve been in favor of a noninterventionist foreign policy for my whole life, but I’ve become a little more skeptical of how well that will work from reading/listening to people who know a lot about current foreign policy. I worry now that pulling back from a world policeman role will encourage other powers to step up, and eventually will lead to major wars; I also worry that going from a world where the US military is unambiguously dominant to one where China could plausibly win a war with us is likely to lead us into that war sooner or later. OTOH, it sure seems like we make a hash of it most of the time when we try to play world policeman, so I’m not sure what the right policy approach is.

      I became much more comfortable with some kind of welfare programs and some level of paternalistic laws after reading _The Bell Curve_ and reflecting on its contents. The more I’ve thought about that, and understood the impact of the intelligence distribution on the world, the more I’ve seen reasons to moderate my previous view that people should be smart enough and wise enough to avoid trouble themselves. OTOH, as with foreign policy, when we do welfare programs and paternalistic laws, we often make a hash of it, so again I don’t know exactly what the right policy is, here. UBI is appealing to me precisely because it seems like it might be simple enough that we wouldn’t f–k it up too much.

      Over the last few years, I’ve become a lot more in favor of social norms and to some very limited extent even laws/policies that encourage a traditional family structure–marry relatively young, raise a couple kids, grow old together. I don’t want to force anyone into that structure, because some people just can’t be happy there. But I strongly suspect that most people would have happier lives in some variant of that structure than outside it.

      Reading some alt-right-ish sites led me to realize that there are some pretty serious issues with immigration. Twenty years ago, I favored open borders; at this point, I favor something more like the Canadian system. The US has done really well from immigration in the past, and we’re historically great at assimilating immigrants, but we probably should be selecting immigrants to benefit our country, and it’s utterly nuts to have a 10-12 million person population of people permanently living here illegally.

    • aristides says:

      I used to only support local charities, and especially focus on volunteering for causes I supported. Reading Scotts’s Charity articles, and then the information published by effective altruism organizations persuaded me that existential risk is of such paramount importance, that based on my values, it dwarfs all other causes I had previously donated to, with the possible exception of my church. I now divide my charity money equally between my church and increasing bio security, while pursuing a career that has the potential to improve bio security.

      The other position I change my mind on was being pro gay marriage, but that happened mainly because I met open gay people and learned more about them.

    • Garrett says:

      I read a bunch of Ayn Rand material. I become an atheist and gun-rights proponent as a result.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m less anti-socialist, though, like Atlas, it’s more of me being less strongly opposed then fully on the other side. I used to be of the camp that socialized medicine would destroy innovation and lead to mass rationing and discontent. But Europeans do seem to genuinely like their respective set-ups, and see a compassionate case for significant reforms to the medical system here, and have no real expertise to evaluate what those should be. I still expect lots of complications and unintended consequences from any kind change to America, especially given it’s scale and diversity, but can see the arguments on the other side have merit. (This is the kind of thing Federalism would be good for, still convinced of that).

      I think I’m mostly convinced that Climate Change is a genuine threat do to being in different sources than when I was younger. I still don’t expect catastrophe and I don’t expect much improvement from any non-global conservation plan, so I largely take a ‘don’t over-react’ position, but I have more respect for the those worried about it.

      I’ll cop to being formerly reluctantly in favor of the invasion Iraq, buying into the strange mix of idealism and realpolitik in the neocon line of using it to bring stability to the region and being morally justified by Saddam’s human rights abuses.

      Occasionally I’ll poke some of my other contrarian/regressive positions, but they seem to holding.

    • sentientbeings says:

      I can think of several major ones for which I’ve changed my views, but I’m struggling to think of one that I changed within the last ten years. I suppose I’ve changed prioritization of certain things and confidence levels, but not necessarily positions per se.

      One of the last positions I remember changing was my opinion toward the death penalty. Looking back now I can’t even really return the mindset of believing we should have it. I changed it because it became obvious to me that all of reasons I had to distrust state authority and competence combined to provide a pretty compelling argument that the state should never have that power. I think that pro-death penalty folks get caught up in the idea that the worst criminals “deserve” death. I realized that, in the words of William Munny, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”

    • Loriot says:

      The Damore and Persky cases (as well as leaving the Google echo chamber and reading SSC in general) did a lot to convince me that the left has gone too far on CW issues. Of course, I still wouldn’t dream of voting Republican on anything important, but I no longer identify as a liberal either.

      Overall though, my experience is similar to that reported by Well… Reading the comments on SSC exposed me for the first time to opposing arguments that aren’t completely insane. It didn’t cause me to dramatically do a 180 on anything, but I’m less certain and opinionated about many things and more aware that the other side aren’t always cartoon supervillians.

    • Plumber says:

      @Dino >

      “…story of why they changed their opinions about a hot-button, CW, tribal issue?…”

      Off the top of my head:

      1) 15 years ago I thought that gay legal marriage in California was a niche issue and having it would tick off more folks than it made happy and was a distraction, but it now looks like more seem to like it being legal than don’t so I was wrong.

      2) Ten years ago I thought global warming was coming and efforts to resist it (more nuclear and natural gas, less coal and oil, et cetera) should be done, now I think it’s just too damn late, recent summers have been way too damn hot, geo-engineering is needed to make San Francisco have San Franciscan (instead of San Josean) weather again.

      3) I still want the Voting Rights Act strongly enforced, but in reading how well African-American “returnees” are doing in the ‘new south’ and more than I used to I think it’s now safe to let ‘States Rights’ be a thing again without much risk of the return of Jim Crow.

      4)  I thought that the passage of the ACA waa just about the only legislative progress in the last 40 years, but even though they have less poverty than California so easiet for them, that Massachusetts did something similar before on their own makes me suspect that stuff like that should just be a State by State thing, and maybe the Federal government should just be an old age insurance program with a Coast Guard and Post Office, and otherwise California and the rest should just govern themselves. 

      5) Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party can change what they stand for far faster than I thought they would.

      6) My most (social) conservative view was that the parents of minors should be discouraged from divorcing, and comments here have mostly convinced men that it’s impossible to make any laws that may effectively discourage their parents from divorcing without also hurting the kids, so no hope there.

      Given my “political” history I strongly suspect that I’ve changed on more stuff than that, but I think me memory falsely ret-cons my beliefs in a “We have always been at war with Eurasia” way because: For lack of a better term I’ll call my parents political leanings during most of my childhood political las “Trotskyists” though my Mom went “bourgeoisie” fast when she had a chance to, and my Dad may have been even better described as a “batshit crazy anarchist/wannabe rebel”, my step dad (who my Mom statted dating when I was about ten years old) in contrast to them was a moderate, my mother’s father was a Republican (and also a U.S. Army Air Corps veteran, and the most patriotic man I’ve known), my mother’s mother didn’t speak on politics until her husband died, after which she said she really like Joe Biden and didn’t like Palin (so I presume probably Republican and then a Democrat as a widow), I never met my other grandfather, my father’s mother was intensely Catholic and probably a Democrat, but according to my Dad either her brother or my father’ father’s brother was some flavor of Communist in the “30’s. 

      In Junior High School (1980-’81, and I was 12, I think it’s called “Middle School” now) I was voterd “Most Patriotic” for the yearbook, and in 1983 I was in the “Young Republicans” club at my High School, even so in 1984 I was at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco (my Mom worked as a secretary at The New York Times San Francisco bureau at the time) and I renember that Walter Mondale’s speech moved me to tears (something about helping “the least among us”), so I presume that I was a Democrat then, though I do remember nodding a lot when anarchist girls talked to me in my late teens and very early 20’s but whether I actually agreed with them or just thought they were cute  I can’t be sure of.

      By the dawn of the 21st century I was a registered Republican, which didn’t last as before the decade was out I was registered third party (which I will not name as given the amount of self “docking” I do here doing so would make it too easy to find my name), but after Pelosi got the ACA passed I registered as a Democrat.

      The thng is I don’t remember my opinions on any “hot button” issues being different in all those years, but they must’ve been otherwise my Party affiliations wouldn’t have changed during those times.

    • salvorhardin says:

      I’ve become more radical in ideals, more moderate in methods, and more uncertain (sometimes militantly uncertain) in some empirical beliefs.

      As we’ve had more opportunities to observe how populists, nationalists, and traditionalists behave in power I have become more anti-{populist,nationalist,traditionalist}, more convinced that cosmopolitan secular globalism is the correct moral worldview, and more convinced that when liberalism and democracy conflict, democracy should yield. I believe more strongly than before, for example, that defending the rights of peaceful people to cross borders freely is more important than respecting the wishes of anti-immigrant voting majorities.

      On the other hand, I have also become more of a mistake theorist vs a conflict theorist; more aware that my views are weird (and WEIRD) and that many decent, well-informed, intelligent people of goodwill disagree strongly with them; and more friendly to finding incremental steps toward a better world and second-best keyhole-solutions, vs insisting on radical principles. This blog has certainly influenced those shifts.

      This blog has also made me more convinced that, on many hot button issues around group differences and their sources, both “sides” are tremendously overconfident in their assertions.

  16. tossrock says:

    Nominative determinism: two of the most important names associated with the revelations around forced organ harvesting in China are… Kilgour and Gutmann (Content warning: viscerally disturbing). This is so on-the-nose that I’m having a hard time processing it.

  17. Atlas says:

    Am I missing something here? Russell writes of the syllogisms “all men are mortal, Greeks are men, Greeks are therefore mortal” and “all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is a mortal” in his History of Western Philosophy:

    (1) Formal defects . Let us begin with the two statements “Socrates is a man” and “all Greeks are
    men.” It is necessary to make a sharp distinction between these two, which is not done in
    Aristotelian logic. The statement “all Greeks are men” is commonly interpreted as implying that
    there are Greeks; without this implication, some of Aristotle’s syllogisms are not valid. Take for
    instance:

    “All Greeks are men, all Greeks are white, therefore some men are white.” This is valid if there
    are Greeks, but not otherwise. If I were to say:
    “All golden mountains are mountains, all golden mountains are golden, therefore some mountains
    are golden,” my conclusion would be false, though in some sense my premisses would be true. If
    we are to be explicit, we must therefore divide the one statement “all Greeks are men” into two,
    one saying “there are Greeks,” and the other saying “if anything is a Greek, it is a man.” The latter
    statement is purely hypothetical, and does not imply that there are Greeks.

    The statement “all Greeks are men” is thus much more complex in form than the statement
    “Socrates is a man.” “Socrates is a man” has “Socrates” for its subject, but “all Greeks are men”
    does not have “all Greeks” for its subject, for there is nothing about “all Greeks” either in the
    statement “there are Greeks” or in the statement “if anything is a Greek it is a man.”

    I don’t understand the distinction Russell is drawing, because: couldn’t you raise the same issues about the statement “Socrates is a man” that you could about the statement “all Greeks are men?” Rewriting Russell thusly:

    The statement “Socrates is a man” is commonly interpreted as implying that
    there is a Socrates; without this implication, some of Aristotle’s syllogisms are not valid. Take for
    instance:

    “Socrates is a man, Socrates is white, therefore some men are white.” This is valid if there
    is a Socrates, but not otherwise. If I were to say:
    “All golden mountains are mountains, all golden mountains are golden, therefore some mountains
    are golden,” my conclusion would be false, though in some sense my premisses would be true. If
    we are to be explicit, we must therefore divide the one statement “Socrates is a man” into two,
    one saying “there is a Socrates,” and the other saying “if anything is a Socrates, it is a man.” The latter
    statement is purely hypothetical, and does not imply that there is a Socrates.

    “Socrates is a man” does not have “Socrates” for its subject, for there is nothing about “Socrates” either in the
    statement “there is a Socrates” or in the statement “if anything is a Socrates it is a man.”

    So, is there a basis for Russell’s distinction that I’m not seeing?

    By the way, if there isn’t a basis for the distinction, lest anyone take this opportunity to impugn Russell, I want to note that, regardless of the validity of the alleged distinction, he’s raising a subtle and extremely important point that he develops in the following paragraph (which I’m especially sympathetic to as I’m also reading The Black Swan at the moment):

    This purely formal error was a source of errors in metaphysics and theory of knowledge. Consider
    the state of our knowledge in regard to the two propositions “Socrates is mortal” and “all men are
    mortal.” In order to know the truth of “Socrates is mortal,” most of us are content to rely upon
    testimony; but if testimony is to be reliable, it must lead us back to some one who knew Socrates
    and saw him dead. The one perceived fact–the dead body of Socrates–together with the
    knowledge that this was called “Socrates,” was enough to assure us of the mortality of Socrates.
    But when it comes to “all men are mortal,” the matter is different. The question of our knowledge
    of such general propositions is a very difficult one. Sometimes they are merely verbal: “all Greeks are men” is known because nothing is called “a Greek” unless
    it is a man. Such general statements can be ascertained from the dictionary; they tell us nothing
    about the world except how words are used. But “all men are mortal” is not of this sort; there is
    nothing logically self-contradictory about an immortal man. We believe the proposition on the
    basis of induction, because there is no well-authenticated case of a man living more than (say) 150
    years; but this only makes the proposition probable, not certain. It cannot be certain so long as
    living men exist.

    • pjs says:

      There’s a ton of twentieth-century philosophy on this point, which concerns specifically the question of what “proper names” might mean and how they are different from predicates. See wikipedia articules on: “Descriptivist Theory of Names” “Naming and Necessity” (Kripke), “Rigid designator”, “Sense and Reference” (Frege) just to get you started.

      I think a shallow answer to this question might be: Being Greek is just a predicate. Being being Socrates perhaps is likewise (or perhaps corresponds to a bunch of attributes/predicates that pick him out). But surely we can have a linguistic convention that when we use the proper name form, we are also implying existence and uniqueness, and when we don’t use a proper name there’s no such implication. But this is merely convention, and we could choose otherwise; there’s nothing interesting going on here.

      I don’t know enough to be unhappy with the shallow answer!

      But the philosophical debates were not so shallow, and in particular there are suggestions that singular names are/can be a different type of entity entirely (e.g. a “rigid designator”) not reducible to one or a bunch of predicates, whether or not existence of exactly one satisfying instance is also implied. I have never understood enough to find this forcefully compelling.

      Some of the arguments for names being special can be prompted by asking: what are we doing when we use the name for someone that doesn’t exist? What about discussing someone we genuinely think exist but doesn’t really? What are we doing if we ask “What would the world be like if Socrates were a woman?” – if being male is part of the very definition of Socrates-ness this question makes no sense, but it seems sensible enough on its face. If someone has two proper names by which they are known, do these two actually mean the same thing?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      You have to have a convention about whether “Socrates is a man” implies that Socrates exists. Russell chooses one convention. But whichever convention you choose, you can conclude “Socrates is mortal.”

      You could have a convention that when you deal with sets they must be nonempty. This seems like a bad idea to me.
      Your rewriting is asserting that the convention for the general should be the same as the convention for the specific. But people (eg, Aristotle) distinguish the general from the specific, so it is unreasonable to assert that they should have the same convention.

      Added: I assume that everyone used the convention that the specific exists, but I suspect that Aristotle or the Scholastics used both conventions for the general. But if so, this is the key error and Russell should isolate it.

    • eigenmoon says:

      All this nonsense disappeared with the development of mathematical logic. The Aristotelian “all P are Q” means, in modern notation:

      (exists x, P(x)) /\ forall x, P(x) -> Q(x)

      but if Socrates is a known object you could simply apply the predicate directly: IsMortal(Socrates), and that seems to be the point Russell is making.

      If you don’t have Socrates as a constant and only have a Socrates-detecting predicate, then yes, you’d need to write ugly things like:

      (exists x, IsSocrates(x)) /\ forall x, IsSocrates(x) -> IsMortal(x).

      But Russell has fixed this problem with his iota operator. Russell’s iota allows you to convert a predicate to an object once you have proven that there exists one and only one object satisfying the predicate. So if you have a proof of:

      (exists x, IsSocrates(x)) /\ forall x y, IsSocrates(x) /\ IsSocrates(y) -> x = y

      then you may define Socrates to be iota(IsSocrates) and just write IsMortal(Socrates).

      The reason it’s legitimate is that there is a proof translation from logic with iota into logic without iota. For any valid proof that uses Socrates as a constant you can obtain a valid proof in terms of IsSocrates().

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        This is the correct explanation. (For some reason, I had thought math-style logical notation predated Russell, so I was a bit thrown by why he was choosing to write in this way, but now it makes more sense.)

        This is a case of everyday interpretations of sentences conflicting with their more mathematical interpretations (similar to how “if it’s raining, I’ll bring an umbrella” is interpreted as an “if and only if” instead of the logical one-way if). In logic, it’s quite natural to have statements which are vacuously true: “all purple dogs speak French” is logically true, and mundanely unbelievable. This becomes important if we’re not sure of the entire extent of a set. What if we happen upon a purple dog next Friday? Quoi alors?

        Russell wisely dodges the question of whether there might be unknown instances of a set and instead focuses on the truth and validity of the statements as made. In the process, he distinguishes strict logical interpretations from everyday ones.

        Come to think of it, I think the logic definition of “interpretation” (an assignment of meanings to symbols in a formal language) may have postdated Russell as well.

        • eigenmoon says:

          I was overly vague with “all this nonsense disappeared” comment. Principia Mathematica started publication in 1910 but Russell’s “History of Western Philosophy” quoted by the OP is from 1945. So there is indeed a question of why Russell chose to write this way. I guess he wrote for philosophers who would run away at the first sight of a formula.

          Before mathematical logic, the way to express forall x, P(x) -> Q(x) was to say “no P are non-Q”. So you could say “no purple dogs are unable to speak French” if you needed to.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The Aristotelian “all P are Q” means, in modern notation:

        (exists x, P(x)) /\ forall x, P(x) -> Q(x)

        Isn’t the whole point of Russell’s passage to say that it means something else?

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      The statement “all Greeks are men” is commonly interpreted as implying that
      there are Greeks; without this implication, some of Aristotle’s syllogisms are not valid. Take for
      instance:

      “All Greeks are men, all Greeks are white, therefore some men are white.” This is valid if there
      are Greeks, but not otherwise. If I were to say:
      “All golden mountains are mountains, all golden mountains are golden, therefore some mountains are golden,” my conclusion would be false, though in some sense my premisses would be true.

      Here, Russell adopts an odd convention to resolve an apparent contradiction in a fallacious proof schema. I posit that
      (All x are y) /\ (All x are z) ==> (Some y are z)
      is simply invalid reasoning. The simple way to repair it, though, is simply to require a third premise:
      (All x are y) /\ (All x are z) /\ (Some x exist) ==> (Some y are z)
      Trying to bake (Some x exist) into statements of the form (All x are y) makes vacuously true statements like “All golden mountains are golden” impossible to express. I think the examples can be corrected as follows:

      “All Greeks are men, all Greeks are white, some Greeks exist, therefore some men are white.”
      “All golden mountains are mountains, all golden mountains are golden, therefore if golden mountains exist, some mountains are golden”

  18. Yair says:

    2 months ago, in August (2019), the US convinced the Kurdish militia to dismantle their fortifications near The Turkish border as a sign of good will. Then 2 days ago the USA pulled out without warning (no one was warned, the European allies weren’t told and I suspect even the Pentagon had no idea) and now Turkish air and ground forces are attacking the Rojava Kurds.
    Here is a quote, from 2 months ago:

    “The major elements of the security mechanism now in place involve the removal of Kurdish militia fortifications, which is being done in conjunction with the Syrian Democratic Forces on the Syrian side of the border. This address the Turkish security concerns, Maier said, and demonstrates the SDF commitment to the implementation.”

    Here is a link to the document, have a read and you will understand the level of treachery involved. It boggles the mind.

    https://www.defense.gov/explore/story/Article/1964619/us-turkey-cooperate-in-defeat-isis-effort/fbclid/IwAR3goHQOJeOl_x8LXUg0TS9-lGuTOkZ4464Lz2qeT06GY964rqsZMinQHoM/

    • DragonMilk says:

      Yeah, this move makes me consider Trump too senile to lead. While the US turning on forces it supported is not new, it usually takes many years for the about face (Iraq, Taliban, etc.).

      This is an unprecedented level of backstabbing and really helps China and Russia make the case that the US is no longer a trustworthy partner.

      • Aftagley says:

        Yeah, this move makes me consider Trump too senile to lead. While the US turning on forces it supported is not new, it usually takes many years for the about face (Iraq, Taliban, etc.).

        So, relevant news articles. According to people on the call, Erdoan bullied trump into making this play, apparently. The agreed-upon talking points going into the call were to pressure Turkey to stay north of the border, but then the president apparently caved.

        For those who missed this, the president laid out talking points before the call, then apparently changed his mind during a conversation about one country invading the territory currently held by our allies. That’s nuts.

        • EchoChaos says:

          The first article also emphasizes that Trump lost Mattis over exactly this (Trump wanting to get out of Syria).

          Even if that was the going in talking point, if Erdogan offered something that made sense, Trump changing his mind is totally in character and within his stated foreign policy objectives.

          And that’s assuming the leaks are correct.

          • JPNunez says:

            I suspect the only thing Trump got is…the troops coming home. One of the articles seems to agree. Gotta say that it’s good Trump wants to diminish US military presence overseas, but maybe this wasn’t the best way or place to do it.

    • jgr314 says:

      I’m curious to hear the steelman argument in favor of the recent US withdrawal. I think it would have two components: why withdraw and why withdraw in this manner?

      FWIW, I’m personally opposed to forever wars and deployments without clear objectives. Syria was/is a mess and I couldn’t understand what the concrete, achievable objectives were. Perhaps any reduction of US presence would appear to be a local (in time and/or space) disaster?

      • blipnickels says:

        Sure:

        why withdraw

        Because Syria is a mess the US has not and probably cannot significantly improve. The biggest problem with Trump’s policy is that he isn’t actually withdrawing troops.

        why withdraw in this manner?

        Two reasons:
        First, if he contacted the proper people there would be leaks and pushback from the military. If you’re going to catch crap from powerful people for doing something, better to do it fast.
        Second, the Kurds were always going to get sold out when the US left. Turkey and the Kurds seem to view each other as existential threats; modern Turkey and Kurdistan can’t exist at the same time. And, simply put, the Turks are more valuable than the Kurds. They’re a longstanding NATO ally and a major military power in the Middle East; they just have a lot more to offer the Americans than the Kurds possibly can.

        There’s no way US policy is this rational, but the steelman is that the US gets nothing out of Syria so it’s leaving and it’s selling out a weak ally in favor of a strong ally.

        • albatross11 says:

          I don’t claim any deep expertise here, but I imagine it’s going to be pretty hard getting local allies next time we need them, with this fresh in everyone’s minds. Indeed, we needed (and got) help from the Kurds for our own purposes for the last 15 years or so. Now that we no longer seem to need them, it looks like we have utterly sold them down the river.

          I’m in favor of a much less interventionist foreign policy than we now have, but when we do intervene (and sometimes, we genuinely need to), it would be nice if we could get local allies who didn’t fully 100% expect us to screw them over in the end, and it would be nice if we could convince potentially-hostile powers that it is possible to make peace with us short of either being conquered or test firing a few nukes to let us know war will be unacceptably expensive. But our foreign policy over the last few years has probably made both of those ideas very hard to sell anyone on. We’ll be paying that bill for a long time, especially since we’re sure to continue with our usual violent, interventionist foreign policy. We’ll just be doing it with fewer allies and less ability to get anyone to agree to anything with us.

          • Nick says:

            That’s where I’m at with this, too. I don’t want us to be in Syria, or lots of other places. But I’m really not a fan of screwing the Kurds like this.

          • blipnickels says:

            To quote Daniel Larison:

            Despite this long record of exploiting and then abandoning proxies, somehow the U.S. is never lacking for armed groups that are willing to accept U.S. support in the future……That should tell us that proxies and allies don’t side with the U.S. because of some magical credibility based on our past record, but because they see it as being in their immediate interests to do so. Promises and threats are made credible by the interests and capabilities of the government that makes them.

          • cassander says:

            Allies don’t sign up with you because they like you, they sign up with you because they share your goals. Local stringers will always be available whenever the US shows up with guns, money, and a grudge against the people they have a grudge against.

          • John Schilling says:

            Local stringers will always be available whenever the US shows up with guns, money, and a grudge against the people they have a grudge against.

            Not nearly so many of them if they know that you’re going to be gone next year, grudges unresolved and them left behind with “collaborator” tattooed across their forehead for the rest of their lives.

          • Given my biases, I would favor a non-interventionist foreign policy plus an invitation to any Kurds who want to come here to do so. That’s not a very satisfactory compensation for abandoning our allies, but it’s at least something.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @David, As I pointed out elsewhere, there’s over 45MM of them, so unless you have a plan for the yield from inviting over a third the population of Mexico, that may be a bit much in multiple ways

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling

            If you try to go back to literally the same people you abandoned, sure, it’s going to go poorly. But go more than a couple hundred miles away and I don’t think that abandoning the kurds will meaningfully hurt our ability to recruit stringers anywhere elsewhere, much like like I don’t think our endless support of the Kabul regime helps.

            Besides, it’s not like we haven’t thrown the kurds under a bus in the past, and they still signed up with us in syria, because their enemies were our enemies.

        • I don’t claim any deep expertise here, but I imagine it’s going to be pretty hard getting local allies next time we need them, with this fresh in everyone’s minds.

          Unless beggars can’t be choosers.

          • albatross11 says:

            Which basically describes the Kurds’ position. It was pretty obvious we were going to abandon them to their fate sooner or later, but what alternatives did they have?

        • Aftagley says:

          Second, the Kurds were always going to get sold out when the US left. Turkey and the Kurds seem to view each other as existential threats; modern Turkey and Kurdistan can’t exist at the same time. And, simply put, the Turks are more valuable than the Kurds.

          So, this right here is false. The Kurds had a completely viable path towards existing safely.

          All that the US/Kurds had to do was hold on long enough until Syria could re-coalesce as a functioning state. At that point, Turkey would have lost any justification for rolling across the border and the Kurds could have gone back to living in a mostly autonomous state. Look at how life existed for them before Syria collapsed.

          So, the most pessimistic interpretation of this is that it takes Syria a while to get back on its feet, which means a thousand or so US special forces have to do tours in Syria over the next decade or so. By all accounts, it wasn’t an especially risky tour, so our cost is pretty minimal and we get to do right by our allies.

          • EchoChaos says:

            All that the US/Kurds had to do was hold on long enough until Syria could re-coalesce as a functioning state.

            Will this happen before or after Somalia does so?

            So, the most pessimistic interpretation of this is that it takes Syria a while to get back on its feet, which means a thousand or so US special forces have to do tours in Syria over the next decade or so. By all accounts, it wasn’t an especially risky tour, so our cost is pretty minimal and we get to do right by our allies.

            Even one dead American is too many for a benefit this small.

          • cassander says:

            >All that the US/Kurds had to do was hold on long enough until Syria could re-coalesce as a functioning state.

            At that point, there are two options, US makes Syrian Kurdistan the 51st state, or the Kurds get curb stomped by Assad instead of Erdogan. I wouldn’t bet on the former.

          • blipnickels says:

            I’ll admit I’m not an expert on the Turks and Kurds but a simple overview is that they’ve been murdering each other for 40+ years, with Turkey going so far as to bomb the Iraqi Kurds. By the time Syria stabilizes into a functional state, whenever that might be, there still won’t be peace between the Turks and the Kurds and I expect the US to sell out different Kurdish groups in the future for the exact same weak/strong ally reasons.

          • Aftagley says:

            the Kurds get curb stomped by Assad instead of Erdogan. I wouldn’t bet on the former.

            There was a potentially viable diplomatic solution where the Kurds agreed to rejoin Syria in exchange for relative autonomy. Would that have been the most stable political solution? maybe not; but there was a chance and hard work could have preserved it.

            Now what do we have? The kurds were the security force in western syria. If they get wiped out, and Assad can’t control his western provinces; does Turkey plan to cover the entire Iraqi border?

          • John Schilling says:

            Even one dead American is too many for a benefit this small.

            I’m going to guess that approximately all of the American soldiers presently serving in Syria disagree with you on that point. In part because one of the benefits of doing right by our allies is that it saves thousands of Americans from dying in the next war. And in part because they are good and honorable men who understand what “ally” means.

            There’s a plausible argument that it was foolish for the United States to ally with the Kurds in the first place, but we did and that comes with obligations. And with consequences if we don’t live up to the obligations.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            I am not against military action that I perceive as serving the interests of the United States.

            I am against THIS military action, which @Aftagley describe as siting a thousand American soldiers for the next decade or so in an active war zone for a benefit that charts to me as essentially negligible.

            If there is a substantial argument that going all-in to defend the Kurds would save thousands, I still haven’t seen it. We aren’t treaty allies with them, and we are with the Turks.

            When choosing between two allies, going with the one you have an actual formal alliance with seems to me to be the right call. And I note that all the people angry that Trump was “threatening the stability of NATO” by implying that he wouldn’t defend countries that weren’t meeting the 2% baseline are silent when he backs an actual NATO ally.

          • John Schilling says:

            I am against THIS military action, which @Aftagley describe as siting a thousand American soldiers for the next decade or so in an active war zone for a benefit that charts to me as essentially negligible.

            You may be against this military action, but you are five years too late to not have this military action. You’ve got it.

            And you’re not getting out of it, because that’s not what your man in the White House is doing. There’s still going to be two thousand American troops in Syria, pretending to fight ISIS, exposed to all the risks(*) associated with such. They’ll just be doing it without the ally that was actually fighting ISIS, and with the “ally” that will happily play Let’s You And Him Fight between the US (alone) and ISIS while they take out the Kurds. The negligible good that we were doing will be diminished, and the cost will increase.

            Not getting involved in a war is one thing, and it’s often a good thing.

            Quitting a war is a different thing, and it rarely ends well for the quitter.

            Quitting a war impulsively, without warning your allies or your troops in the field or even your own generals, that’s just bafflingly stupid.

            And not quitting a war, but selling out one of your allies anyway (impulsively, etc), do you really think that is either morally or practically equivalent to “I’m opposed to this military action and we shouldn’t get involved”?

            This is basically Franklin Delano Trump saying, after D-day, “I’ve just got off the phone with Franco about some old grievance between Spain and Canada, and we think it was stupid to get involved in this silly European war in the first place, so we’re ordering our navy to stand aside and let the the Spanish hit Juno Beach with everything they’ve got”.

            If there is a substantial argument that going all-in to defend the Kurds would save thousands, I still haven’t seen it. We aren’t treaty allies with them, and we are with the Turks.

            Well, it will save thousands of Kurdish lives at the very least. And nobody cares that the Kurds aren’t “treaty allies”. Nobody whose help we will need going forward is going to say, “well, they weren’t treaty allies, so we totally trust you not to screw us over like you did them”. Even Recep Erdogan isn’t going to trust the United States after this. He’s just going to use us while it lasts.

            * Which, let’s be clear, are approximately zero, or perhaps less than zero. If my math is correct, the death rate among American soldiers in Syria has been lower than the death rate among American soldiers deployed at stateside bases. A few more bullets, but less driving and much less drinking and ISIS mostly can’t shoot straight anyway.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            That is a strong argument, and I appreciate it.

            It is mostly not the argument that I have seen, so I will have to think on it a bit more.

          • cassander says:

            @Aftagley says:

            There was a potentially viable diplomatic solution where the Kurds agreed to rejoin Syria in exchange for relative autonomy. Would that have been the most stable political solution? maybe not; but there was a chance and hard work could have preserved it.

            If you were a kurd, would you take that deal? I wouldn’t. Assad will spend several years violently suppressing many factions in Syria with extreme prejudice. When he finishes with them, why on earth wouldn’t you assume he will move on to the kurds?

            And from the US perspective, any deal over kurdish autonomy would involve the US cutting a deal with Assad, whose price will include either complete US withdrawal or guarantees of Syrian territorial integrity. There’s no way to do that without looking like you’re getting in bed with someone covered in blood. The optics are terrible.

          • Randy M says:

            That is a strong argument, and I appreciate it.

            It is mostly not the argument that I have seen, so I will have to think on it a bit more.

            More of this, please.

            (not directed at anyone in particular; just appreciating the acknowledgement of a potentially convincing counter argument)

        • DragonMilk says:

          Yes, but if your’e going down the backstabbing route, it should be carefully thought out and calculated, not as an impulsive decision following a phone call.

          Granted, I’m sure he has more info to work with than I can see, but the Kurds constitute over 45MM people, and have been screwed over since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. They outnumber Scots, Dutch, and Thais for context. By all rights they should have had an independent state by now (as far as it comes to rights, that is), and would be a lapdog if the US stayed loyal.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            This wouldn’t be the first time people talked about standing up a formal Kurdistan. And also not the first time the counterargument would be something something nation building something something trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.

            That said, I wouldn’t mind revisiting the issue, even from the safety of our armchairs here.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @Paul on that point, I actually agree with other commenters that it shouldn’t be America’s business to nation-build.

            Unfortunately, I think America has already propped up a quasi-state (as I’m doubtful much tax collection is going on in the areas occupied by Kurds).

            Existing governments like Turkey will quash any attempts to form a formal state, which is why the Syrian area (and Iraq to a lesser extent) was a haven for them. Turkey, recognizing the threat, is attempting to quash beyond its borders, and the US military has been instructed to stand aside to let it happen when it had the power to stop it (who honestly thinks Turkey would have invaded were the US still there?).

          • jgr314 says:

            I know this is totally a side point, but Thailand has a population close to 70mm. Perhaps you were thinking of Malaysia (pop around 30mm)?

            In any case, I didn’t really understand why you chose those groups for comparison. The one I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere, that I think is more salient is Israel, with population close to 9mm.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @jgr314, I’m going by this, which shows that actual Thais to be 31.1MM, with other ethnic groups a part of Thailand as well.

            It’s actually quite interesting how many ethnic groups comprise countries I think are homogeneous blocks. But I suppose the Kurds aren’t the only ones without a country, just one of the biggest groups.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        … “It will be super useful to my FSB bosses”.

        Seriously, that is the best possible argument for it.

        Even if you wanted to sell out the Kurds to do Turkey a favor, turning around and then publicly threatening Turkey completely wrecks that potential upside.

        • EchoChaos says:

          That’s pretty silly.

          The best possible Steelman argument for it is “Donald Trump really dislikes seeing American boys come home in bodybags and doesn’t see a massive advantage for Americans in staying, since he views international politics as having no moral valence”

          • Aftagley says:

            Well, by and large US servicemembers weren’t especially exposed to risk in Syria.

            If his goal is “reduce US service member’s casualties” it’s also weird that THIS is the conflict he’s choosing to pull out of.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            Because this is the one he can get out of right now.

            He’s been trying to pull out of Afghanistan too, but having less success because of the massive investment that we have there.

          • DragonMilk says:

            The Kurds were the ones in body bags and willing to do so. How do you feel about the US telling them to tear down fortifications because there’s an implicit guarantee of US protection and then announcing they’re on their own less than two months later?

            If you’re an EU4 player, you know how valuable vassals and mercs are! The analogy is you cut yourself off from the mercenary market and take a diplo hit by ceding a territory you didn’t care much for. You could argue that it’s only a temporary cutoff but you better have some diplo and influence ideas!

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DragonMilk

            I am an EU4 player! This is like pulling a guarantee from a minor you were interested in because your ally telegraphed that he was going to declare war and you didn’t want to end up on the wrong side of that war.

            You’re mildly sad you lost the ability to get that, but losing a critical ally would have been worse.

            Now, as for the removal of fortifications, that’s a bit of dirty pool, but it doesn’t seem like Trump directed that.

            The problem here is that Trump has been loudly signaling “I REALLY WANT TO LEAVE” for months (Mattis left over it), but the lower level apparatchiks have been making guarantees on the ground assuming that was false.

            It wasn’t false, and those lower level people are the betrayers, not Trump, who has been signaling this play for a long time.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @EchoChaos I knew you’re an EU4 player from other posts, so I’m gonna go full EU4 analogy, not sure which DLCs you own:

            To me, this is like supporting the rebellion in a country which is the small ally of a rival which borders one of your own allies. Your ally is actually in a coalition against the rival, and has an expired reconquest claim on the rebel area, but those rebels are one of the largest rebel groups in their own country. The ally has a newly fabricated claim on the rebel area, which has forts.

            For some reason, you have guaranteed your rival’s ally. You’d like to revoke it. But a decision comes up on whether to take an opinion hit from your own ally for keeping the guarantee or telling the rebels to dismantle forts and take a diplo hit.

            I would choose the first and revoke the guarantee later given that the ally is already in a coalition. I’m more concerned about the diplo hit.

            Bonus: I consider Trump a 1/3/1 leader who just dismissed a +2 military advisor and hasn’t really replaced him.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Wouldn’t Trump have to be 1/4/1 in a republic?

        • jgr314 says:

          Could you elaborate? What are the benefits to Russia?

          • Aftagley says:

            1. Propaganda. We look really bad on the world stage here, so it will be convenient for them to spin this into a narrative of US fecklessness.

            2. The US served as a counterweight to Russian power in the region. Assad is closely aligned with Russia and (i don’t know any of the details here) it’s possible that US presence in the region could have been forstalling Russian adventurism in the region. This is a possible example.

            3. Turkey may be a NATO ally, but they’ve been recently drifting close to Russia under Erdoen. Playing this forward – the Turks aren’t going to be popular in America for a while. I don’t forsee Turkey/US relations improving, which COULD lead to Russia picking off a NATO ally into their sphere.

            That’s all just off the top of my head. I’ll post back if I think of any others.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not sure it will be necessary for anyone to spin this as fecklessness. We’re not in the closet about our fecklessness, hiding it as a shameful secret. Instead, we’re marching at the front of the Feckless Pride Parade with a big smile on our faces.

      • matthewravery says:

        According to the internet, it wasn’t a “withdrawal”. The US forces (I’ve read 50 or 150 in different places) were moved to a different part of Syria.

        They didn’t come home, they were just re-positioned to a place that doesn’t interfere with a Turkish-led attack on the Kurds.

        • jgr314 says:

          Is the conclusion that the US gets all the downside and none of the upside from this action?

          • matthewravery says:

            This is my impression. This is why DoD people are so confused (at least according to press reports). The only result of this re-positioning is to enable the Turkish offensive.

            To elaborate, you can argue that things as they stood weren’t sustainable, but why now? And since this is clearly something Turkey wanted, what do we get from Turkey for doing this? If you’re gonna sell out the Kurds, you should at least make sure you get paid.

          • cassander says:

            What upside, exactly, do you think the US is getting in Syria?

          • Aftagley says:

            Off the top of my head:

            1. A motivated and reportedly skilled CT force in the region that we have relatively strong control over. It is unlikely any other force in the region will be able to integrate as closely or as capably with us as the Kurds were.

            2. Security over a bunch of ISIS detainees that we can trust/oversee. Even the president has admitted this move will probably let a bunch of ISIS fighters go back out into the wind. (although he think’s they’ll “just” attack our NATO allies, so I guess that’s ok /s)

            3. A general decrease in instability in the region. Less areas where people can hide out and plan attacks on other US forces in the area.

            4. Deterrence to Russian adventurism in the region.

          • jgr314 says:

            @cassander I assume this was directed at me?

            What upside, exactly, do you think the US is getting in Syria?

            As I wrote upthread, I don’t see what the US objectives are in Syria. Given the tone of your question, I suspect that this is a topic on which you and I agree.

            The upside to which I was referring was benefit of the recent US action (which I struggle to name, for reason that follow). My (current) understanding is that no US assets will be leaving Syria, so the US doesn’t get the “bring the boys home” benefit. Hence why I am not sure it should be called a withdrawal.

            The main other benefit I see mentioned by other commentors could have been improved goodwill with Turkey.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @cassander: Unfortunately we are there and still are there. I personally would prefer to have a pseudo-vassal state taking the blows than dedicate US forces though.

            It’s not as if Turkey would actually attack were US troops still stationed there – what is the upside in stepping aside and letting your mercs get slaughtered?

          • cassander says:

            1. A motivated and reportedly skilled CT force in the region that we have relatively strong control over. It is unlikely any other force in the region will be able to integrate as closely or as capably with us as the Kurds were.

            If by “the region”, you mean north eastern syria, sure. But Why do we want a CT force in a region where we’re not really trying to do CT, in a country we have no plans to occupy, run by someone who isn’t our friend?

            2. Security over a bunch of ISIS detainees that we can trust/oversee. Even the president has admitted this move will probably let a bunch of ISIS fighters go back out into the wind. (although he think’s they’ll “just” attack our NATO allies, so I guess that’s ok /s)

            They’ll probably attack Assad.

            3. A general decrease in instability in the region. Less areas where people can hide out and plan attacks on other US forces in the area.

            Absolutely not. Our involvement is prolonging the war and making the chaos worse.

            4. Deterrence to Russian adventurism in the region.

            Russia hasn’t been deterred at all. They’re adventurering more in Syria than anywhere else in the world in the last 20 years, and show few signs of stopping.

            @jgr314 says:

            Hence why I am not sure it should be called a withdrawal.

            It’s moving troops from Syria to Iraq, in all likelihood.

            @DragonMilk says:

            Unfortunately we are there and still are there. I personally would prefer to have a pseudo-vassal state taking the blows than dedicate US forces though.

            I’d prefer not to have vassals inside the territorial boundaries of states we’re not friends with, aren’t at war with, and aren’t actively trying to undermine in a serious way.

            It’s not as if Turkey would actually attack were US troops still stationed there – what is the upside in stepping aside and letting your mercs get slaughtered?

            the only way for the Syrian war to end now is victory for assad. We should stop doing things that interfere with letting that happen.

      • DragonMilk says:

        This would probably be it

        • jgr314 says:

          Thanks, I thought that was a helpful perspective.

        • sharper13 says:

          +1. The situation isn’t as simple as most articles have made it out to be. U.S. Presidents have “betrayed” some major part of the Kurds in each successive Administration going back to at least Clinton and Bush.

          In this case, Trump seems to have chosen to no longer support a supposedly terrorist Kurdish group in order to avoid the risk of something between war and bad feelings with an actual official NATO ally, Turkey. That’s of course complicated by the fact that the Turkish leader isn’t that great and the Kurdish group was recently helpful in cleaning up our mutual enemies in Syria.

          Personally, I wish more that some of the previous “betrayals” of the Kurds hadn’t happened and that after the conquest of Iraq our government had just bitten the bullet and partitioned the country along religious and ethnic lines. That would’ve done more to create internal stability in the region, but leaving an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan would’ve really upset Turkey.

          • Lambert says:

            Bite the bullet, invent a time machine and slap Syskes and Picot upsides their respective heads.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      If US troops stayed in Rojava to keep the Turks and Syrians out, what’s the endgame there? Is the plan really to carve a Kurdish communist state out of Syria and just let it sit on the borders of Iraq and Turkey forever?

      Turkey is a NATO Ally, we’re still occupying Iraq in the hopes of eventually withdrawing for real, and Iran is near to becoming a nuclear power. A US-backed Kurdish state in Syria would destabilize all three, possibly losing us one of the few useful NATO member states and dragging us into a war with Iran. Not to mention dragging out the war in Syria indefinitely.

      I don’t even see the upside here. Are we that eager to spread communism that we’ll throw away allies and endanger the lives of our own troops to do it? Are the Kurds such great allies that they’re worth invading and occupying the entire middle east, from Istanbul to Kabul, on order to support them? Or maybe the endless occupation is a good in its own right, a twisted form of economic stimulus?

      • FormerRanger says:

        Can you provide some details about how US troops in NE Syria “spread communism”? There are definitely Kurdish factions that are leftist; are the Kurds in NE Syria leftist? Kurds in Iraq seem to have been reasonably centrist, as the middle east goes. Kurds in Turkey include some terrorists; what is their left/right alignment.

        There are no governments that qualify as democratic in the vicinity. Turkey is drifting toward autocracy and sectarianism, and most of the other governments in the area are autocratic and sectarian. As a NATO member (which is nonetheless cozying up to Russia) Turkey is one of the less bad ones, but the trend is negative.

        Kurds have the problem that they are an ethnicity that is spread among three countries, all of whom are hostile to Kurds. The obvious solution of creating a Kurdish state in parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran is pretty unlikely. The semi-autonomous region in Iraq is the closest we have come to that, and it works reasonably well but probably can’t survive long-term.

        Syria is a problem that could have been prevented if the US had taken the lead in pushing out Assad Jr. That ship sailed a long time ago, though. Syria is going to be a mess for many years to come. The Russians mostly created the mess, having learned nothing in Afghanistan. The US was totally feckless, and continues to be. It is probably better that we leave. Russia will spend tons of money and lives and it still won’t be fixed.

        Not all problems in the world are caused by the US, and not all are solvable by the US.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The Rojava follows the communist ideology of “Uncle” Abdullah Öcalan, a leader in the Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The primary militia of Rojava, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), explicitly follow this ideology and are directly supported by the US. The Turks claim that their ties to the PKK are more direct, but obviously that’s disputed.

          Seriously, take a look at their ideology. “Democratic confederalism” literally involves outlawing private property and setting up local soviets to manage the economy. They even fly red fucking flags, it’s unreal how much of a shit they don’t give about hiding their intentions.

          The mainstream media goes out of it’s way to avoid calling attention to the fact that we’re funding literal communist guerrillas, but it’s all out in the open.

          Not all problems in the world are caused by the US, and not all are solvable by the US.

          Amen. So let’s get the hell out of the way, these tribal grudges are none of our business.

          • albatross11 says:

            I guess the good news is that when you’re funding a communist militia, at least you can be pretty sure it’s not actually a hardcore fundamentalist Muslim militia disguised as “moderates.”

          • acymetric says:

            Amen. So let’s get the hell out of the way, these tribal grudges are none of our business.

            So, this generally matches my worldview and preferences on when/where we should get involved (basically never), but given that we were involved my opinion on our behavior changes. Convincing them to reduce defenses and then bailing is a kind of double-cross setup I just can’t get behind. Pretty low.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The mainstream media goes out of it’s way to avoid calling attention to the fact that we’re funding literal communist guerrillas, but it’s all out in the open.

            Still a better love story than Twilight regime than Erdogan

          • DragonMilk says:

            Pick your poison. 45MM Kurds are spread out of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, half of which are in Turkey. Oppressed people will often have leftist leanings.

            …and the US *already* chose to support them. You can choose to eventually ditch them in a calculated manner, but if you’ve already stuck your nose into someone else’s business, this is like stepping two feet two the left of an explosion rather than getting fully out of the way.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @DragonMilk,

            If you want to fight in the great Kurdish revolution, knock yourself out. I’m sure that you can afford a plane ticket and it’s not like guns are hard to get in this country. By all means, commit your own life and your own money to the cause.

            Just don’t drag the rest of us along for the ride. The 350MM people in America have spent enough on nation-building as it is.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @Nabil

            Last I check the Kurds have never asked for US help in establishing an actual state or soldiers to fight alongside them. Do you think the $880bn has been more wisely spent elsewhere in Iraq/Syria?

            There’s a difference between choosing not to support a potential ally and backstabbing an existing one.

          • Yair says:

            The Rojava Kurds are leftist but they are not Communist in the USSR sense. Ocalan’s philosophy is closest to Murray Bookchin and Social Ecology.

            In the context of the Middle East the Rojava Kurds are by far the closest (other than Israel) to Western liberal values, they are secular, they support equality for women etc.

            From Wikipedia:

            Öcalan fashioned his ideal society of “democratic confederalism”.

            Democratic confederalism is a “system of popularly elected administrative councils, allowing local communities to exercise autonomous control over their assets, while linking to other communities via a network of confederal councils.” Decisions are made by communes in each neighborhood, village, or city. All are welcome to partake in the communal councils, but political participation is not mandated. There is no private property, but rather “ownership by use, which grants individuals usage rights to the buildings, land, and infrastructure, but not the right to sell and buy on the market or convert them private enterprises.” The economy is in the hands of the communal councils, and is thus (in the words of Bookchin) ‘neither collectivised nor privatised, it is common. Feminism, ecology and direct democracy are essential in democratic confederalism.

            With his 2005 “Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan”, Öcalan advocated for a Kurdish implementation of Bookchin’s The Ecology of Freedom via municipal assemblies as a democratic confederation of Kurdish communities beyond the state borders of Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Öcalan promoted a platform of shared values: environmental defense, self-defense, gender equality, and pluralistic tolerance for religion, politics, and culture. While some of his followers questioned Öcalan’s conversion from Marxism-Leninism, the PKK adopted Öcalan’s proposal and began to form assemblies.”

            Now keep in mind that they have needed to find a political system that will give them autonomy in a situation in which they cannot make their own state, so Municipal federalism seems an understandable choice.

            They are secular, pluralistic (For example they integrated numerous minorities and local Arabs to the SDF), believe in equality to women and in democracy. In the context of the Middle East, they are as close to western liberal values as it gets.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            In the context of the Middle East, they are as close to western liberal values as it gets.

            Turns out the most realistic part of Metal Gear Solid was Sniper Wolf.

          • The mainstream media goes out of it’s way to avoid calling attention to the fact that we’re funding literal communist guerrillas, but it’s all out in the open.

            I recall seeing plenty of articles fawning over the dreamy Kurdish socialists and the New Society they would bring to the Middle East. Democratic confederalism was a leftist applause light, at least for a little while.

        • Ohforfs says:

          >Kurds have the problem that they are an ethnicity that is spread among three countries, all of whom are hostile to Kurds.

          Isn’t it four?

          Anyway, i just realized the striking similarity to Polish situation after the partitions. Though it was actually different, for decades the partitioners cooperated among themselves in that particular matter.

      • Garrett says:

        Any reference for the Kurds being communists? I hadn’t heard that one before.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          See my comment above.

        • Watchman says:

          Note Iraqi Kurdistan is pretty much free-market, broadly nationalistic. The Syrian Kurds though are notably Communist, although the two groups seem to work together happily enough.

      • acymetric says:

        I don’t think (as many) people would take issue or be concerned if we had pulled out without encouraging the Kurds to dismantle fortifications first. It is the combination, not just the act of withdrawing (or relocating) itself.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Yes, I’m miffed about the betrayal, not the withdrawal.

          I’d tell the Kurds to harden their defenses, not dismantle them. If you want to pull out your troops do so and don’t announce it. Instead you’re relocating them and framing it as a withdrawal and blurting out that they didn’t help in WW2

        • EchoChaos says:

          I don’t think (as many) people would take issue or be concerned if we had pulled out without encouraging the Kurds to dismantle fortifications first. It is the combination, not just the act of withdrawing (or relocating) itself.

          I haven’t seen any indication that Trump directed the fortification dismantling. Every article I have seen puts it as mil-mil cooperation.

          Basically the lower level people were writing checks expecting the White House to sign them even though Trump has wanted to get out forever.

          • CatCube says:

            So if he was planning to pull out, then he should have been giving direction to the military consonant with that to not leave our allies in the lurch. Servicemembers aren’t mind-readers, or they’d probably be doing something a lot more lucrative. Otherwise, projecting that we’re going to be proceeding as we have been is a reasonable course of action for his subordinates to take.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @CatCube:
            +1

            If the limo driver is going north on the interstate, jumping into the front seat and yanking the wheel until you are pointed south isn’t excusable simply because you have been complaining about the traffic.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Given the instability of the region, it’s better to have a loyal quasi-state backed by the an implicit US guarantee of air support and arms than to commit actual US lives. There’s over 45MM Kurds. They would be the ones doing the “occupying” as they are already there. With their help, you could pull your own troops out and just establish bases in their areas.

        I’m fairly confident that lapdogs will not be diametrically be opposed to the values/ethics of the benefactor. Those betrayed are a different story.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          So you’re suggesting that we provide arms and air support in a bizarre quasi-imperialistic war against not just Syria but also the regime we literally just installed in Iraq, our NATO ally Turkey, and a soon-to-be-nuclear-armed Iran?

          The stupidity of sending air support from our air bases in Turkey in order to bomb Turkey and fighting against an Iraqi military we just trained and equipped is absolutely mind-boggling. As is the idea that this somehow wouldn’t become a quagmire spreading from the Bosphorus to the Hindu-Kush that would flood our European allies with tens of millions more refugees.

          And the end goal is, what, to replace American bases in Turkey with American bases in Kurdistan? That’s not even realpolitik, it’s just bloodthirsty idiocy.

          • DragonMilk says:

            No, last I checked the US has spent nearly $880bn in Iraq & Syria to:

            1. Haphazardly set up a corrupt Shia “democracy” that dismantled much of the existing bureaucratic apparatus and froze out the Sunnis, laying the groundwork for ISIS
            2. Commit more US soldiers and lives and then hitting on the bright idea of once again partner with the Kurds to use their bodies instead of US ones
            3. In effect already establish the Kurdish quasi-state and advise them to dismantle fortifications as a gesture of goodwill to Turkey and the already implicit guarantee of arms and air support.
            4. Do an about face and not withdraw, but stand aside and let the recent allies fight a doomed resistance against Turkey based on a single phone call.

            The idea that this somehow wasn’t already a quagmire spread out from the Bosphorus to the Hindu-Kush that already flooded Europe with millions of refugees is absolutely mind-boggling.

            And the end goal is to actually back out of the region with what already is a Kurdish quasi-state that we had chosen to support despite knowing their communist leanings. The die had already been cast. The follow-up has been pure back-stabbing.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m not going to argue that Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t been expensive and insane boondoggles. Afghanistan should have been a quick punitive expedition to kill Osama bin Laden and GTFO, while the Iraq war never should have happened. In either case, sticking around for nearly two decades has been a disaster and we can’t leave soon enough for my liking.

            But your reasoning is no better than that of the Bush administration. Just because we’ve had two decades of pointless wars doesn’t mean that we need to spend the rest of the 21st century babysitting communist and islamist maniacs in the middle east. If you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, step one to getting out is to stop digging deeper.

          • Aftagley says:

            Point of order: they’re not communists. They are libertarian socialists/communalists.

            Have any of their implementations of their economic philosophy offended you? AFAIK they recognize private property and respect individual rights, just have a society based around communal production of goods and communal representation.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Fair enough – we’ll see how much money is spent in on these conflicts over the next decade.

            To me the Kurds were one of the most effective uses of money that was being spent anyway and functioned as mercenaries to prevent actual American bloodshed.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Aftagley,

            Sure, and if you buy that I’ve got a lovely bridge to sell you.

            We’ve had more than a century’s worth of experience with revolutionary socialism. We know how this ends: either they get secure enough to start racking up megadeaths or someone else crushes them first.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @Nabil
            What makes you think Kurds necessarily lean communist inherently? To your point, there’s no question the PKK leans that way. In my understanding, though, they as a people are more held together by the legacy of Saladin than Marx.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @DragonMilk,

            Nobody is inherently communist, Kurds included.

            The specific organizations we’re talking about, the People’s Protection Units in Syria and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey, are communist. In a very literal sense where they fly red flags and organize soviets to plan all economic activity in the cantons they control. So far no de-Kulakization yet, at least not that’s been reported in the western press.

          • FormerRanger says:

            Isn’t the actual Kurdish “quasi-state” the one in northern Iraq? The one in Syria really isn’t even a quasi-state; it is an army that controls a border region between Turkey and Syria. We support it in the sense that it’s an army that is opposed to Assad and is possibly the only thing preventing Assad from doing more massacres.

            If there is a Kurdish entity we actually support it’s the one in northern Iraq.

            Have I missed something?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          There is no group that can claim sovereignty over 45 million Kurds, and trying to create one would instantly start a war with Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. One that the Kurds would lose without massive US support, including ground troops, and one that would create a land-locked Kurdish state with no national unifying institutions. Hell, Iraqi Kurdistan has an economic blockade on the Kurds we are giving weapons to, at least if Wiki is correct, so what makes you think there is a single Kurdish entity you can even appeal to?

          YPG is a limited player, only really useful in Syria, and backing them costs political capital with other Middle Eastern nations. The end-game on this involves a peace process the US already clearly signaled it wanted no part of, at least under this administration.

      • Or maybe the endless occupation is a good in its own right, a twisted form of economic stimulus?

        Assuming that the US government views invasion and occupation as a terminal goal goes a long way to understanding its behavior.

    • Clutzy says:

      I would like to question what we would do if we kept supporting the Kurds while Turkey engages in all-out war with them.

      I suppose a small benefit to the US in that situation is the expulsion of Turkey from NATO. But that is as far as benefits would go.

      • Lambert says:

        Benefit?
        The Straits of Bosphorus has been one of the most geopolitically important places in the World since the Bronze Age.
        It’s what’s standing between the Black Sea Fleet and everybody else.

        • Clutzy says:

          Turkey is a larger geopolitical threat to the US today than Russia is though. Particularly any Russian naval assets, which are sad.

          • FormerRanger says:

            Please expand on that. It’s so off-base that it would be interesting to see what you actually are saying. Turkey is not trying to undermine democratic governments all over the world. Turkey has no nukes. Turkey (AFAIK) does not have a dedicated army of internet hackers attacking soft targets in the US and EU. Turkey does not have outrageous territorial claims against its neighbors. Turkey does not control gas distribution to multiple EU countries. Etc.

          • Aapje says:

            Turkey works very hard to control their diaspora and discourages them from integrating into their new societies, which some see as undermining those countries.

          • Clutzy says:

            So just as a primer I’d rank threats as

            1. China
            2. Radical Islam
            3. Impoverished refugeeism
            4. Russia

            Turkey is a major contributor to #2 & 3, and is openly hostile on both.

            As for your statements, I think a few are pretty false.

            Turkey is not trying to undermine democratic governments all over the world.

            IMO quite false. They are implicated by the Mueller investigation, even though he was pretty incompetent at running down side quests.

            Turkey has no nukes.

            Prolly not true, but even if true their breakout time is probably less than a year.

            Turkey (AFAIK) does not have a dedicated army of internet hackers attacking soft targets in the US and EU.

            An unknown, but probably not true.

            Turkey does not have outrageous territorial claims against its neighbors.

            /S?
            They run incursions against their neighbors regularly under the guise of “counter-terrorism” that looks exactly like what Russia did in Crimea.

            Turkey does not control gas distribution to multiple EU countries. Etc.

            True. They do control many important shipping lanes though.

            Also what aapje said.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Turkey wouldn’t go to all-out war if we were to keep supporting them. the US’ betrayal is the only thing that afforded them the opportunity to fulfill their desire

    • Yair says:

      Jennifer Griffin, national security correspondent for Fox News posted a twitter thread about talking with a special forces soldier who was serving alongside the SDF.

      https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1182053870744276993.html

    • My reaction to this is “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” A President pulling out of a single theater of the Forever War is well above my expectations and significantly raises my (dismal) opinion of Trump. Sure, this sucks for the Kurds, but I’m not convinced that any sort of “orderly withdrawal” of US forces is politically possible under any plausible administration. If the Afghanistan War was a person, it would be old enough to join the Army and be sent to Afghanistan.

      If Trump can steal a march on the Deep State, this is exactly the area in which I want him to do it.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’d applaud pulling out of a lot of places, too, but as I understand things, we’re not actually pulling out of Syria–instead, we’re letting the Turks massacre our former allies while we stand by, still in Syria. Presumably we’ll still be there in a year, just with fewer allies and nobody willing to trust any promises we make.

        More broadly, I’m in favor of withdrawing our troops from many places in the world where they are now, notably Afghanistan. But you can’t do that on the spur of the moment without triggering a lot of instability you don’t want. You need to plan things out and keep your allies in the loop so they can also come out of things as well as possible.

        This goes alongside the initial invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Libya, and the withdrawal of the US from the Iran deal as another foreign policy move that seems to me to be self-sabotage. Every future intervention (which we will surely make, whatever I want) will be made harder and more expensive and less likely to turn out well by these godawful decisions.

        • I question the assumption you’re making that a planned, orderly withdrawal is possible. My model of reality suggests that events will mysteriously conspire to prevent this from ever happening, and I see no reason to believe that American forces will leave Afghanistan any time in the next 18 years, for example. “Hasty withdrawal with lots of collateral damage” and “no withdrawal ever” may in fact be our only options.

          • acymetric says:

            Maybe, but what we have now is still in the “no withdrawal ever” section, and with the added bonus of hanging what had been our allies out to dry at the hands of someone who is theoretically a better/more important ally.