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Open Thread 138.75

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688 Responses to Open Thread 138.75

  1. albatross11 says:

    Lately, i’ve been thinking about what makes rapid innovation and progress possible. One thing that seems really critical to me is permissionless innovation. The website and report at the link think of this in terms of government policy–do you have to ask permission before starting a new business or offering a new service? If you want to bring a new thing into the world, is there a law against doing so that you have to get changed?

    I mean it more broadly than that. It’s important that innovating or starting a new business doesn’t get you arrested, but I think it may be even more important that doing the initial exploration and learning and playing around with some technology that can lead to innovation doesn’t require getting past a bunch of gatekeepers.

    Imagine two worlds.

    In World #1, anyone who wants to is allowed to learn to program. Tools and lectures and books are easily available. Lots of people learn to program and start playing around with programming, and some of them invent cool new things.

    In World #2, nobody can get access to a programming environment or tools until they have taken an approved set of programming classes from an accredited university. People who never went to college, or flunked calculus and so weren’t able to meet the requirements for the intro programming class, are forbidden access to any programming tools.

    My prediction is that World #1 get way, way more innovation in software than World #2. The average quality of programmers will probably be higher in World #2, but there will be a hell of a lot more interesting ideas floating around and being tried in World #1.

    The same is true if World #1 has accessible programming tools and World #2 has extremely inaccessible ones. In World #1, anyone who wants can learn Python or Basic with a nice graphic IDE and an integrated debugger and profiler. In World #2, anyone who wants can learn 6502 assembly code using a line editor and clunky command line tools. World #2 will still see some innovation, but a lot less than World #1, because there’s a much higher barrier to entry in World #2 than World #1.

    I think the widespread availability of tools for learning stuff (Khan Academy, Open Courseware, Coursera, Wikipedia, Scihub, etc.) is in the process of removing some of the barriers to innovation. Someone who never learned X in school and now needs to learn it to do something they care about can do so, without getting anyone’s permission[1]. I think widespread availability of tools for programming, for making stuff (the whole maker movement), for communication–they all support more and faster innovation, because you don’t have to get anyone’s permission to learn, you don’t have to get past a gatekeeper to be allowed to start playing with some technology, etc.

    This makes me wonder: how can we bypass the gatekeepers and make innovation more available? There are a lot of people in the world right now who don’t have the opportunity to do stuff they’ve be good at, because of those gatekeepers or the need for that permission. How do we let them get around it?

    One answer is to make more information easily available. Tutorials and books and programs to help people learn things are all really valuable here.

    Another is to find ways to make tools that can be used more widely. Doing accounting by computer easy enough to do for a programmer who also understood the accounting problem he was working with. But spreadsheets made it possible for someone who understood the accounting/forecasting/budgeting/etc. problem to solve it with a computer, without having to be a programmer! I bet there are a bunch of other places where right now, you need to be a programmer to do some computer-related thing, but if the right tool were available, you wouldn’t need to be–and probably some of those could be as important and universally useful as spreadsheets.

    Still another is to find new ways to do end-runs around gatekeepers and people who want to demand that you get their permission/pay them something to learn or do new things. Open source tools that let you do stuff that previously required expensive proprietary software are a nice example of this; scihub is another.

    What else?

    [1] This makes me think of Plumber’s comment that he failed to learn trigonometry in school, but later had another member of his union teach it to him.

    • AliceToBob says:

      @ albatross11

      This is interesting, but can you clarify: Are you interested in talking about Worlds 1 and 2 in the abstract, and understanding the implications? Or do you believe that we exist in one of those two (or something closer to one than the other) and wish to take the conversation in that direction (if so, which one)?

      • albatross11 says:

        In terms of software tools, we live in World #2. In terms of many other things, we live somewhere a lot closer to World #1. I think (and maybe I’m wrong) that moving ourselves closer to World #2 is one of the best ways to get more innovation. By contrast, I think it’s very common that government attempts to get more innovation focus on giving out more grants or other funding to large organizations and established researchers. That can also drive innovation, but everyone working at Boeing or in a graduate program at Hopkins has already had to get past a lot of gatekeepers, just to get where they are.

        Personally, I’m interested in talking about whether permissionless innovation is as important as I think it is, what its downsides look like, how we might get more of it. But I also want to put the idea out there and see what you all think.

        • CatCube says:

          Did you switch #2 and #1? Software seems more like the “accessible tools” of your World #1 in the OP.

          Anyway, one limiting factor is that many other domains have some pretty serious externalities to their “innovation” that you probably want to keep an eye on. I was poking around the old Open Threads a few days ago and came across the discussion of one piece of innovation in civil engineering: Musk’s The Boring Company.

          This is an area where if you just let Musk build something, you’re going to have to live with it. It’s not like software where you can just press the “Delete” key when you have a failure. Therefore, there’s going to be a lot more pressure to make people seek approval.

          Just looking at a picture from the test tunnel makes me say, “Maybe this organization needs to get approval from somebody else before they’re allowed to go live.” The lining in that tunnel is some real Fisher-Price shit. It’s like Baby’s First Concrete Job. Why they didn’t use embedments on jackbolts with a second placement to avoid making the running surface for the tires so humpity-bumpity escapes me–it’s common for when you need a narrow but very flat surface (needing tight tolerances) on large concrete placements (which typically do not have tight tolerances), but nobody designing this thing was apparently aware of this.

          This is even before getting into the fact that innovation in this type of thing is not like software in terms of resources. I can, as you observe, download a bunch of packages off the internet for free to play around with programming, even though I’m incompetent with it. However, there’s no way to make innovation in large structures “free” (or nearly so). You just need a lot of physical stuff placed by a lot of specialized people. Even if somebody were to come up with a great analytical method using cheap methods (i.e., sitting and thinking about it), it still has to be validated with physical and computer testing by others, which will not be terribly cheap.

          Software is different because it’s easy to make copies of software, which can make innovation cheap due to low externalities and low costs of “construction.” Physical goods are much less amenable to this.

          • albatross11 says:

            CatCube:

            Yes, I switched 1 and 2.

            Building large-scale physical structures will always be expensive, and will probably always have sufficient potential impact on everyone around that there will be some regulation of it. (Maybe literal impact, if they screw up the design enough.) And buyers (like cities hiring a company to make subway tunnels) should definitely be demanding strong evidence that the tunnel isn’t going to collapse some fine day. And yet, it still seems very valuable to allow low-cost innovation, and innovation that doesn’t require asking permission or going through gatekeepers.

            Suppose some company wants to propose a new way to build houses. I know sometimes these do get approved (prefab houses or partially-underground houses). How hard is it for that company to get approval to build their new kind of houses?

            It seems to me (but correct me if I’m wrong–this isn’t at all my field) like the initial attempts to innovate there wouldn’t require a huge amount of permission–you could probably build some sample buildings on your own property without getting in trouble with anyone. But you’d need to get approval to sell your buildings or building them for the public, and that might take awhile to convince fire/building inspectors that it was legitimate.

            That seems about right. Innovation needs to be as low-cost and low-permission as possible, but there are still good reasons to have safety regulations. It’s important to prevent those from becoming barriers to competition, though, and I’m not entirely sure how to accomplish that.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’d like to share a historical example of the fostering of innovation that I think is historically relevant: the critical role in developing the US semiconductor/computing industry played by AT&T and its research subsidiary, Bell Labs. For those who don’t know, after 1940 AT&T effectively had a total monopoly on all American telecommunications through their Bell System. The federal government wasn’t happy about this, especially because this gave AT&T both an arbitrary amount of money to develop new technologies and the ability to decide what technologies could be connected to their Bell System.

      As part of the settlement, AT&T had to license any technologies developed by its research subsidiary, Bell Labs, to any applicant for reasonable royalties. Bell Labs was effectively given a monopoly on telecommunications, but at the price of licensing the technologies developed from the proceeds of that monopoly to American businesses rather than exclusively exploiting them themselves. AT&T was also prohibited from branching out into the computer industry themselves. Given that Bell Labs developed the transistor, the laser, the solar cell, fiber optics, and satellite communications, among other things, and was forced to license these innovations out to a wide range of American companies, I think it’s reasonable to say the innovations leading to the information revolution were a product of AT&T’s unique limited monopoly.

      • cassander says:

        Given that Bell Labs developed the transistor, the laser, the solar cell, fiber optics, and satellite communications, among other things, and was forced to license these innovations out to a wide range of American companies, I think it’s reasonable to say the innovations leading to the information revolution were a product of AT&T’s unique limited monopoly.

        I don’t think this follows at all. Bell had, thanks to its monopoly, the ability to hire all the best researchers, yes. And because of that, they did a lot of very good work. But If those people hadn’t gotten hired at bell, they would have ended up elsewhere, and they very well might have done similar or even better work. This argument amounts to “If they can put a man on the moon…”

        • albatross11 says:

          cassander:

          I think you’re missing three things with that analysis:

          a. Without Bell Labs, there would have been N places to do applied research in physics that might lead to building the first laser or transistor. With it, there were N+1 places. Maybe everyone at Bell Labs would have ended up at MIT or Berkeley or Urbana or somewhere, but then they’d have taken a place that went to someone else. Somewhere down the line, you’d have someone who in our world got to do research of this kind, and in an alternative world without Bell Labs would have just been teaching physics to undergrads somewhere.

          b. There was a big benefit to concentration–having all these guys working on similar stuff who could talk to each other. In the no-Bell-Labs world, a lot of those guys might have ended up at wildly different labs and only met at conferences.

          c. Bell Labs seems to have focused research in specific areas. A world without it would have had those same researchers spread out across other places, and probably not focused on the same stuff. I don’t know if that would have been better or worse (how could we possibly know), but it surely made some difference.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Yes. When I got my PhD in the late seventies, it was common knowledge that Bell Labs would hire all the CS PhDs that were produced, nationwide, if they could. I don’t think there was another institution among the N+1-1 that could say that.

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11

            a. Without Bell Labs, there would have been N places to do applied research in physics that might lead to building the first laser or transistor. With it, there were N+1 places.

            Without the bell monopoly, bell still would have been doing research, and so would others. bell would have done less, but others would have done more. The effect this has is…not easy to predict.

            b. There was a big benefit to concentration–having all these guys working on similar stuff who could talk to each other. In the no-Bell-Labs world, a lot of those guys might have ended up at wildly different labs and only met at conferences.

            Instead, they’d be in organizations competing with one another. In some ways, this would be worse. In others better/ Again, the outcome isn’t so clear.

            @Doctor Mist

            I’m sure the number of CS phds has gone up since then, so even if it help at the time, the monopoly clearly isn’t essential.

        • broblawsky says:

          If I understand your point correctly, the assumption there is that these researchers would’ve, if dispersed, been just as effective. I think that this is disproved by history – innovation centers like Bell Labs, Silicon Valley, and even historical examples like Murano Island show that cramming as many researchers as possible into one location and giving them enough time and money to work yields outsize technological results.

      • albatross11 says:

        Bell Labs is an interesting case. It’s always looked to me like they spent a lot of money on a kind of prestige project–building a world-class research lab. They did a lot of amazing research, invented important things and developed a lot of ideas and technology we use everyday.

        On the other hand, it looks to me like the breakup of the AT&T monopoly probably enabled a lot more innovation in actual telephony and related stuff than we would have seen by keeping the monopoly around.

        • broblawsky says:

          Innovation in telephony, maybe, but it’s removed from the world’s researchers the time and money required to build the next transistor-like technology.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        That is better than the usual account of the history, but you leave out many points. Most importantly, AT&T was essentially nationalized in 1918, not 1956. The telephone companies were given a oligopoly, but the government set the prices. Second, the 1956 settlement did not merely nationalize all AT&T patents, but in fact banned it from selling anything other than telecommunications. It did not merely lose its monopoly on transistors, but lost the right to sell them at all.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Unfortunately, the trend is inexorably towards more requirements for permission. “Innovation” takes place when someone finds a way around them or, in some cases (as with Uber and Lyft) just violates them outright. Information technology is a relatively new field (certainly compared to architecture, but even compared to aviation), so it’s got less strictures on it, but we’ve already seen (failed) pushes to license programmers.

      Once you’ve got a mature field with your “best practices” in place and a board of stodgy bureaucrats to approve any deviations, innovation slows or stops. How do you get a new technique adopted if you have to first spend half your life mastering all the old ones just to get permission to attempt to prove to said stodgy bureaucrats that your idea has merit, before even being allowed to implement it? At that point your innovator must not only be intelligent an innovative, but also be a master of all the old techniques, AND be very good at playing the political game. And even with all that, it’ll take forever, especially if it’s not just mere conservatism but self-interest of the existing professionals working against it.

    • Aapje says:

      @albatross11

      I think that computer simulations have allowed people to get experience sooner and allow people to test out weird ideas better. In many competitive fields, the result has been that talented people are able to compete at a much younger age and that more people can compete, because they can get experience much more quickly.

      I also see a lot of innovation on YouTube.

      Then we have Kickstarter and such, which allow people to avoid various gatekeepers, who control the money bags.

      All in all, it seems to me that we have been rapidly moving to something more like World #1 in some ways, although the increased regulation and such have increased the barriers in other ways.

    • b_jonas says:

      Sure, innovation per se doesn’t have to be protected by laws or gatekeepers. But I don’t like this argument because of the people who make it. There are generally two sorts of people who talk about how innovation should be free. The cranks who say that the scientific establishment is ignoring them because they don’t have academic credentials, and demand that experts pay attention to all the nonsense that they produce and their hidden genius. And the people who think they can get away with anything unethical or illegal if they say the right words, such as “it is for a project” or “it was just an experiment” or “it was just a prank” or “nobody was harmed” or “this is not the final system, there will still be a round where we re-evaluate our decisions”.

      • The Nybbler says:

        And thus we get IRBs who will allow test subjects neither pencil nor pen, taxi monopolies, and all the rest of the innovation-deadening burden.

      • albatross11 says:

        b jonas:

        The people I hear talking about how innovation should be free are mostly people actually trying to innovate–mostly in the computer and biotech industries. You may think their innovations unethical or ill-advised, but they’re actually trying to do make new things in the world.

        There are crazy people and cranks who want to build perpetual motion machines and the like, and they should be roundly ignored because they don’t know what they’re talking about. There are also people doing genuine innovation and clever new things who would have a very hard time getting their work published in an academic venue, because they don’t know the language/protocol for doing so, or because what they’re doing isn’t all that theoretically interesting even though it’s practically useful, or because what they’re doing isn’t currently a fashionable area in the research community. I’m not sure Satoshi’s paper on Bitcoin would have gotten published at a crypto conference, for example, and yet it has driven a huge amount of interesting innovation over the last decade or so. The fact that he could just publish it online and a bunch of people could just start using Bitcoin is a good example of permissionless innovation. I don’t think the world would be better off if Satoshi et al had been required to justify their proposal to a couple bureaucracies before they were allowed to try it. I think letting the whole blockchain world grow and innovate before trying to figure out what needed to be regulated, and then applying existing regulations in a pretty non-restrictive way, has worked out pretty well so far. Some people have been ripped off, which is bad, but we’ve also seen a huge explosion of innovation, ranging from actual products and systems in use today to academic research working out the details of what is and isn’t possible, how things can work, etc.

        I don’t propose making “it was just an experiment” an all-purpose get out of jail free card. But I’m pretty sure that if a likely consequence of doing something genuinely new in the world is you end up in jail because you violated some obscure rule somewhere, we will have massively less innovation, and our grandkids will be much poorer as a result.

        The more administrative overhead there is to learning about new things, playing around with new technology, doing research, building stuff for yourself or your friends, inventing new things, creating new products or services, etc., the less of that stuff we will get, and the more all innovation will be channeled through a few large institutions with the infrastructure to get through the regulatory approval process.

    • woah77 says:

      So, the short answer I have is that while there are plenty of things you should be able to learn without a credential giving agency, there are a lot of things I don’t want people experimenting with. There are things like high power RF and Nuclear and explosives, things I don’t really want unlicensed people innovating with. The reason that software has been so open is two main reasons (from what I can see): 1 People like Richard Stallman who fought to make open source a thing, and 2 software isn’t generally life threatening in isolation (which is to say that without hardware, something running on your computer is unlikely to hurt anyone).

      Going into a longer explanation, one of the reasons why many other fields also have credential agencies is that the tools to experiment are expensive. I can’t speak for many other fields, but in electrical engineering, unless you’re working on boring DC circuits, your test equipment goes up in price exponentially. Under 50MHz, $300, under 2GHZ, $3000, anything higher, $30000+, just for an oscilloscope, not to mention the other tools you want: Spectrum Analyzers, Network Analyzers, etc etc.

      You could look at it as designed to be this way, but I really don’t think so. A lot of things cost money not just to develop, but to build. Software is an exception because bytes are free(*) and therefore your primary tools are inexpensive, unlike for [any other type of engineering].

      • albatross11 says:

        It might be useful to divide permissionless innovation into several categories, like:

        a. Can you learn about it?

        b. Can you play around with it/experiment with it?

        c. Can you build nontrivial stuff for yourself/friends with it?

        d. Can you make things for others to use with it?

        e. Can you start a company using it?

        At each step, there’s a possibility for gatekeepers to prevent you getting any further, and also a possibility that the cost of the tools or the depth of knowledge needed will be a barrier. (For example, there’s no gatekeeper preventing you from innovating in pure math except for the fact that it’s really hard to do and you need to spend a fair bit of time learning enough to even get out to an edge where you will be doing something new.)

        Lowering those barriers seems like a good idea most of the time. When there’s a serious risk of bystanders getting hurt, you need some level of regulation, but I’d like to make sure it’s focused on the risk and not set up so it mainly protects incumbents or something.

        • woah77 says:

          So the answers to these questions for things in my field are: Yes, up to a point, yes, up to a point, and less than trivial to do so.

          To expand on that: Learning about electronics is, in general, very obtainable. If you have an internet connection you’ll get access to all the basics. With a few hundred/thousand dollars, you can get access to references to dig much deeper.

          Playing with electronics is also fairly accessible, given the few hundred/thousand dollars, unless you want to build RF things. RF is where you cross into “licensing is required” because it can very easily damage public infrastructure, or at high power, endanger lives. If you stay out of RF (like many do) then your options for playing with things is pretty accessible.

          For the rest, it’s mostly a question of scale. Starting a company building electronics isn’t actually that hard to do, but you have all the same struggles with starting any company that sells physical products: You need customers, places to manufacture your things, etc. For small scale stuff, the limiting factor is, as I mentioned above, largely cost of equipment/software. There is plenty you can do without it, but you will run into issues where you can’t diagnose what went wrong without expensive doohickeys that you can’t afford.

        • CatCube says:

          I’m not sure what, exactly, you’re trying to drive at here. Is your standard for “innovation” only something that one dude can make for his friends, or that can be used by a commercial end user?

          Take for example, this adhesive for installing adhesive anchors. It’s for installations down to -23°C. This is a big deal for projects that have to happen during winter months and you need to install a lot of anchors.

          It’s also not valuable to one guy poking around in his garage, because if he needs to post-install anchors, it’s going to only be a relatively small number where either waiting for warmer weather or tenting are relatively easy. If you’re installing tens of thousands of anchors, though, you’re in a region where delays due to cold weather could cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

          Do you think that Hilti wasn’t being “innovative” by inventing this?

          I think the problem you’re having is the same one that a lot of people looking at software and consumer electronics suffer from: those are new industries, so you’re still on the rising portion of the logarithmic curve and mistake this for “normal” levels of innovation. Those of us in industries that have been around for a minute had this level of change occurring a century ago (in some cases, with a pile of corpses), and we’re now trying to hack out innovations from a region of severely diminishing returns. This gets confused for people not trying to innovate or being held back by some sinister force, when all you’re seeing is the laws of physics in action.

          Edit: Changed Fahrenheit to Celsius.

    • Garrett says:

      I volunteer in EMS. One of the things I wanted to do was a retrospective study on certain elements of diabetes care. This would be a “paper study”, where I’d only be using data already collected. I went through all of the training which required me to know the name of the form used to get FDA approval for implanting new medical devices in people (despite me not planning on touching patients), and agreeing that, yes, Nazis were bad. We got approval through the IRB process. And after 6 years, it’s no closer to being done.

      Because I’m not an employee of the hospital, everybody is worried about HIPAA violations (sanctions of something like $100k per piece of information released, which means a laptop of medical records left around could theoretically result in sanctions approaching the US GDP). If I was an employee, they could fire me if I broke the rules and everybody would be satisfied. But since I’m not an employee and am a volunteer, nobody wants to take the risk.

      The original goal was to use an in-house automated data processing system to do record matching and de-identification so that the data I’d be processing would be much lower-risk (from a regulatory/legal perspective). Unfortunately, we discovered that the data is of such low quality that instead of looking at just ED records (which are also sparse in detail), we’d need to look at the complete medical chart for the visit or patient. And since doctors are incompetent lazy pressed for time, the records are not easily amenable to automated processing, thus requiring a lot of human analysis.

      I’m willing to volunteer my time. And there’s reason to believe that this would generate useful information. But on a opportunity-cost basis, anybody with money would rather fund something with greater impact. Which means this would have to rely on volunteer time/effort. But, as noted, volunteer time/effort is terrifying to any institution for things like this.

      So instead of getting a lot of long-tail research which might help generate a large number of small improvements, we only get research if there is likely to be a major impact significant enough to warrant funding from a major source.

    • IrishDude says:

      Peter Thiel talks a lot about bits and atoms and how much more innovation happens in the former compared to the latter. In particular, he thinks there’s been stagnation in physical innovation since the 1970s due to regulation and risk aversion. Early versions of the polio vaccine killed many people and might not have succeeded had the modern FDA been around then. The Bay Bridge was built in the 1930s much more quickly and at 1/20 of the cost per foot compared to the modern eastern span, but 24 died in its construction.

      Risk aversion has come to dominate over any other concerns in modern society, such that politicians and much of the populace won’t allow consenting, informed adults to choose what risks they engage in, even if people not involved aren’t put at risk.

      I think innovative and competitive governance systems are needed to allow more places for exploration and risk-taking, so I hope ideas like start-up societies, charter cities, and seasteading can take root and grow. It may be too hard for any existing bureaucracy to give up power and control, and so expansion of the frontier to allow consenting adults to opt in to new localities that are comfortable with risk-taking may be the most promising solution.

      Related, this great talk from Balaji Srinivasan on Exit versus Voice.

      What else?

      Bitcoin gets around financial gatekeepers. Anyone can send value to anyone else around the globe without permission. Implications of that, good and bad, will unfold over the next couple decades.

    • John Schilling says:

      This makes me wonder: how can we bypass the gatekeepers and make innovation more available? There are a lot of people in the world right now who don’t have the opportunity to do stuff they’ve be good at, because of those gatekeepers or the need for that permission.

      I am skeptical that this is the case in the absolute sense, and I wonder if the complaint you are truing to make is “…don’t have the opportunity to get paid to do the stuff they’re good at”.

      If you want to go do something innovative, odds are pretty good nobody is going to complain if you just go down in your basement and do it. Or maybe the nearest convenient desert. If the innovative thing is building and launching an experimental spaceship, then yes, the FAA is going to want to check their math on the whole “not crashing it into a city” part, but the cost of doing that math and filling out the paperwork to the FAA’s satisfaction is small compared to the cost of even a minimalist experimental spaceship.

      And the same is true in most other areas of potential innovation. Not always, but almost always the cost of regulatory compliance for a private experiment is small compared to the material cost of doing the experiment. In the case of writing code, the cost of regulatory compliance is zero and likely to remain so; if there’s danger of that changing, sure, we should push back, but I don’t think that’s the argument you’re really trying to make.

      But when you’re finished making your experimental gadget out in the desert and you want to make money selling it to the general public, then yes, there are issues. Issue being, people are risk-averse, and people who live in first-world countries are surrounded by other people who have made great strides in providing them with everything they need and most of what they want in a truly amazingly low-risk fashion. Your proposal to provide them with something that is shinier and in some respects better, but backed only by a mad scientist’s silicon valley venture capitalist’s promise that he’s thought it over quite hard and really can’t think of a way it could hurt them, will not meet with their favor.

      And the way they will express their disfavor is not to carefully assess the risk profile of each new product offered to them and reject the ones that appear too mad-sciencey, but to collectively appoint someone to ensue that the only products ever offered to them are the ones that have been verified at least as safe as the ones they are already accustomed to. The better other people get at offering safe products, the harder it is going to be for you to offer untested innovative products for commercial sale.

      As a libertarian, I’d prefer that “caveat emptor” be an option in the market, but it would be a fairly small market niche even if the law allowed it, which it doesn’t. That still leaves you with options; it just doesn’t leave you with the option of using first-world populations as simultaneously the funding source and the test subjects for your innovations.

      • ana53294 says:

        Elon Musk has said quite nice things about the FAA; the FAA seems to be quite reasonable when it comes to working with companies.

        Not always, but almost always the cost of regulatory compliance for a private experiment is small compared to the material cost of doing the experiment.

        Exception: GMOs. The regulatory compliance is quite burdensome; you need separate facilities, air filtration systems, etc. Working with GMOs in the lab is quite costly.

        • bean says:

          Elon Musk has said quite nice things about the FAA; the FAA seems to be quite reasonable when it comes to working with companies.

          The FAA’s reasonableness is inversely proportional to the risk of the general public getting hurt. If you’re wanting to fire a rocket in the middle of the desert, have at it. If you want to sell tickets on an airliner, then they’re going to make you comply with a set of rules so complicated that it drives many men mad. They become Authorized Representatives, charged with interpreting it for the rest of us.

          Working with GMOs in the lab is quite costly.

          How costly compared to the cost of the equipment you need to create a GMO in the first place?

          • ana53294 says:

            Note: since most companies refuse to give prices and give quotes only when asked for, I give numbers based on my previous experience.

            GMOs are mostly produced (simplifying a lot) by producing a Ti-plasmid, introducing it into the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens, and infiltrating the plant tissue. You then grow the plant tissue in an Petri dish that contains an antibiotic or herbicide (which selects for cells that have been transformed), and hormones that makes plant cells grow into a callus. The callus is then put into another Petri dish, with hormones that promote the growth of the plant, so you get a plant out of the callus.

            The production of the Ti-plasmid is usually farmed out to an external company, and it’s not too expensive.

            equipment costs: Petri dishes, less than 100$

            Autoclave: 1000 $
            Sterile flow chamber, which is a constant cost, probably 10,000 $, can be used for a decade.

            Light chamber to keep the petri dishes in: another 10,000 $

            Chemicals: less than 1000 $.

            The expensive part here is manpower (it takes skill and experience to get the right proportion of antibiotic/herbicide and hormones).

            For around the price of a medium priced car, you can have all the equipment a standard lab would use to produce GMOs. Other parts are hired out.

            Of course, if you wanted the equipment to do the whole loop of GMO production, that would be quite expensive, but that is unreasonable.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Elon Musk has said quite nice things about the FAA; the FAA seems to be quite reasonable when it comes to working with companies.

          Companies the size of Space-X with as many people dedicated to regulatory compliance and paperwork-generation as building stuff. For everything. It took longer for Google to get approval to fly small autonomous drones than it did for Space-X to launch a few spacecraft, and most of Google’s air stuff was done in other countries that aren’t such a pain.

        • LesHapablap says:

          It may be a good idea to take Elon’s comments with a grain of salt since he depends a lot on the good will of the FAA.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s that, but on the other hand, Musk isn’t exactly known for that kind of prudence. Can’t see why he’d worry about what the FAA thinks if he doesn’t worry about the SEC.

            The thing with the FAA is if you want to do anything, you’ve got to be a safety mindset person (or be able to hire them by the busload, as Musk can). If you don’t have that safety-first attitude and live for checklists and procedures, you’re not going to be able to get the various licenses and waivers they require to do anything. I don’t think innovators and safety mindset go hand-in-hand, but that’s working-as-designed for the FAA.

            (Example: Why do so many aircraft still use leaded fuel?
            Answer: It costs too much to get a new unleaded-capable aircraft engine certified)

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s not just SpaceX; other people I have talked and/or worked with on the private space launch side have privately offered similar reports. At least for the moment, securing an FAA launch license for an experimental spaceship is within the reach of small organizations that have e.g. one guy dedicated to regulatory compliance and a small delta in the workload of the engineers that have to feed him numbers.

            But that’s for launching an experimental spaceship over the ocean, or maybe the Mojave desert, and with no one but fully informed space flight participants(*) aboard. Also, try to avoid launching from Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg; they have their own bureaucracies that are much more demanding than the FAA.

            * Do not use the “passenger” word in this context, even if they are just paying you buckets of money for the privilege of looking out the window.

      • LesHapablap says:

        collectively appoint someone to ensue that the only products ever offered to them are the ones that have been verified at least as safe as the ones they are already accustomed to. The better other people get at offering safe products, the harder it is going to be for you to offer untested innovative products for commercial sale.

        The problem here is that lots of old stuff gets grandfathered in, the safety standards go up, and then we are all stuck using older, more dangerous equipment because anything new that is marginally safer than the old equipment can’t meet the current criteria. It’s a big reason why we are stuck flying around really old airframes and engine designs in many places.

        Then there are regulatory ‘traps’ that hinder safety but are difficult to solve. Here in NZ* we aren’t allowed to use single engine turbine aircraft IFR (with some exceptions) for commercial work. Because it has been decided that single-engine IFR is too risky, operators either do everything VFR, often with piston aircraft, or use piston-twin IFR which are generally less safe than single-engine turbines.

        It’s like a local minima has been reached, and because the regulator has lots of disincentives for sticking their neck out, we can’t get out of the trap and end up scudding around VFR in single-engine pistons.

        In the above case, the only innovation that is required is that NZ copy the USA’s regulations. Impossible, apparently, and the knock-on effects are that we end up with less investment in new aircraft, which means less financial incentive for companies to design and build new aircraft.

        *In the USA, you’re allowed to use single engine piston aircraft IFR for commercial work.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If there’s no path to getting paid, people can only innovate with what they can raise out of their own resources. If you just go into your basement and do something, not only can’t you sell it, but it doesn’t even count towards somehow getting some follow on from it sold, because it’s not legible to the same regulatory agencies who wouldn’t let you do it if they knew about it anyway. Furthermore, even if you manage to get it done, with no path to wider use it just becomes a curiosity, of no importance to anyone except perhaps yourself.

    • LesHapablap says:

      The patent system deserves a mention here though I don’t know much about it.

  2. Byrel Mitchell says:

    What’s the best argument you have heard against the Hong Kong protesters? I’m trying to challenge my perception that they’re ‘obviously’ in the right.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Philosophically Hobbes, I suppose. They’re part of China, it’s on them to bow to what the sovereign requires. Of course no one makes this argument but the CCP itself.

      There’s also an argument that having been given their original demand (withdrawal of the extradition bill) that they are honor-bound to end the protest until China gives them another cause.

      Practicality: They can’t win. If China can’t stop the protests any other way they can kill every man, woman, and child and repopulate HK from the mainland, and no one will do anything about it.

      • meh says:

        If China can’t stop the protests any other way they can kill every man, woman, and child and repopulate HK from the mainland, and no one will do anything about it.

        Can you steel man this?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Steelman the extermination the population of an entire region? No. I don’t think it will come to that, either, I’m just pointing out that China has effectively no limit in the amount of violence they can do. Provided the CCP doesn’t use biological or nuclear weapons (which would be entirely unnecessary and counterproductive), there’s no one who will lift a finger to stop them.

          • silver_swift says:

            Ok, if you’re not going to steelman it, then I don’t think what you said is quite literally true.

            Other countries are certainly too passive when it comes to these things, but the public outroar over genocide in a highly visible (and well liked) area of the world will be sufficiently large that politicians will have to be seen doing something.

            Wheter that something consists of starting WWIII (and whether China will be deterred by anything less) is another matter, of course.

    • PedroS says:

      As a (mostly) Lawful Good guy, I am deeply prejudiced against intrusive public protests due to their inherent interference with the day-to-day activities of the non-protesters. Moreover, “surrendering” to an outspoken public opposition (rather than to the opposition of duly elected representatives) short-circuits the democratic process because it weighs the more media-savvy, more politically organized or more desperate members of the electorate more favorably than the uncoordinated, media-shunned or generally more contented (and therefore less likely to agitate) members of the polity.

      In the Hong Kong case, my a-priori aversion to protests is heightened by a series of other factors:
      A) The original Extradition bill ( which has been retired without any abatement of the protests) applied to extradition only , i.e. to the delivery to third countries of a person who was suspected of commiting, in that third country, an action that Hong Kong also considered, in its internal legislation, as a crime warranting an imprisonment above three years. Specifically, the Bill was introduced to allow the extradition of a suspected murderer, not of a “thought criminal”. Protesting it as a threat to the political liberties of people in Hong Kong is therefore at least an exaggeration since it would only ever apply to crimes (or even alleged “political crimes”) commited outside Hong Kong.

      B) The violent protests (mostly the ones ocurring at night and those where protesters are masked) fully warrant the designation of riots and quelling them is a-priori warranted because one of the most fundamental functions of any state apparatus is the maintenance of a modicum of public order.

      C) Tactically, it is well known that a protest is likely to run out of control and degenerate in violence as it grows. Therefore, staging a large public protest in an environment where at least some media are not controlled by the protestors will obviously provide plenty of fodder for the authorities to present the protest (regardless of the good intentions of its proponents) as an example of the dangers of Western-style democracy. From what I read online, I think public opinion in China has grown, ss a result of the protests, somewhat more nationalist and more supportive of the CCP as the foundation of public order.

      D) Culturally, public opinion in China is heavily biased by its 20th century historiography where episodes of colonialism which we typically see as truly minor (when compared to the events in India, Africa, South America or the Middle East) like the opening of Western Concessions in some coastal cities , the Western intervention around the Beijing Embassies and the two Opium Wars* were spun as a national humiliation of epic proportions. Their public culture has, for over a century, wrought a narrative of ressurgence from the ashes and seen public unity of the nation as the necessary defense against a possible decline. Chinese nationalism is not a creature of the CCP, and the CCP cannot fully control it. In this environment, a quest for democracy cannot possibly be succesful if it is presented as a Westernized phenomenon. Hong Kong protestors’ unfurling of colonial Hong Kong or US flags is extremely antagonizing to Mainland public opinion, especially because they contrast the current protests against the PRC with an overall lack of protest in Hong Kong against the colonial authorities pre-1997 (apart for a Cultural Revolution-inspired movement in the late 60s) , even though at the time there was (unlike nowadays) no elected legislative council in Hong Kong and therefore pro-democracy protests would have been even more warranted.

      * I know death, looting and destruction of priceless treasures occured , but more than 98% of the Chinese territory was completely unaffected by any fighting or occupation. I am almost surely wrong, but I think those two wars mostly have a big place in their consciousness because those losses occured in heavily urbanized environments and were therefore highly noticeable for the intelectuals who were reflecting on their national problems.

      • Byrel Mitchell says:

        Good stuff, thanks!

      • mtl1882 says:

        As a (mostly) Lawful Good guy, I am deeply prejudiced against intrusive public protests due to their inherent interference with the day-to-day activities of the non-protesters. Moreover, “surrendering” to an outspoken public opposition (rather than to the opposition of duly elected representatives) short-circuits the democratic process because it weighs the more media-savvy, more politically organized or more desperate members of the electorate more favorably than the uncoordinated, media-shunned or generally more contented (and therefore less likely to agitate) members of the polity.

        This is the entire point of such protests—to short-circuit a system (in some places, the democratic process) that the protestors believe has failed them by making the contented uncomfortable and dragging them into it. Everything about it is designed to require unusual strategic coordination, which naturally appeals more to the desperate. This naturally alienates a good portion of the public. But for some groups it probably has been their only shot at success.

        I’m not sure what the OP meant by “in the right,” exactly, but I don’t think there’s anything “obvious” about it either way. Strategically, and even overall net benefit, I do think such protests can be the best option, even though it is offensive to many for the reasons you listed. It is an underdog strategy, and tends to presuppose the system isn’t going to to the issue seriously. If I understand you correctly, you are arguing in part that you think that the system has been working well enough and they are exaggerating its failures. I think that is the type of question that is key–sincerity, goals, willingness to sacrifice, and alternatives. These things are usually non-obvious and up for debate–MLK Jr. eloquently discussed the issue of when such protests are justified and why in Letter from Birmingham Jail.

        Dealing with China’s system is different than dealing with ours, and I don’t think it is crazy to assume the CCP isn’t acting in good faith, or to react badly to gestures of control. I can’t take issue with any individual protestor who feels a need to take a stand. I’m not sure, however, that the movement overall can be judged on a moral level. It’s a difficult, dangerous situation, and practical concerns seem to me closely tied with moral ones at a leadership level.

      • pancrea says:

        I’m really confused by this:

        > The original Extradition bill ( which has been retired without any abatement of the protests) applied to extradition only , i.e. to the delivery to third countries of a person who was suspected of commiting, in that third country, an action that Hong Kong also considered, in its internal legislation, as a crime warranting an imprisonment above three years.

        According to wikipedia this seems basically correct.

        But Wikipedia also notes:

        > Largely, this fear is attributed to China’s newfound ability through this bill to arrest voices of political dissent in Hong Kong.

        > Amnesty International, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, and Human Rights Watch declared their opposition to the bill, warning the extradition proposal could be used as a tool to intimidate critics of the Hong Kong or Chinese governments, peaceful activists, and human rights defenders, as well as further exposing those who are extradited to risks of torture or ill-treatment. Along with other journalists unions and independent media outlets, the Hong Kong Journalists Association reported that the amendment would “not only threaten the safety of journalists but also have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Hong Kong.”

        and, from this other article: “If enacted, the bill would let local authorities detain and extradite criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China.”

        How can all of these things be true simultaneously? A quarter million protesters, three thousand lawyers, all those human rights groups — the bill looks harmless to me but all these people seem to think it’s a dire threat. Is the theory that they just all forgot to read the bill?

        Or are they seeing something I’m not?

        Here’s my best guess: China doesn’t like something someone is doing, so they declare “X person totally committed a murder in China, please extradite them for a trial” and they lean on the Hong Kong government to do that for them, the judge declares them guilty and they throw them in prison forever. Would that work? Could that be what everyone is worried about?

        • mtl1882 says:

          Yes, they are afraid of giving the mainland Chinese legal system any influence, no matter how “harmless” on its face, because they don’t trust the system’s administration of justice. From Wikipedia: “The Hong Kong Bar Association released a statement expressing its reservations over the bill, saying that the restriction against any surrender arrangements with mainland China was not a ‘loophole’, but existed in light of the fundamentally different criminal justice system operating in the Mainland, and concerns over the Mainland’s track record on the protection of fundamental rights.”

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t know a lot about the dispute, but one thing that seems like a big potential problem with the protesters’ position is whether the CCP even *can* act in a way that will satisfy them.

      There is some level of concession to the HK protesters that the CCP can manage to do, without destabilizing the rest of China. There is some other level which would be likely to (for example) encourage similar protests and demands in other parts of China and establish a precedent that the CCP can’t accept for fear of losing power. And I assume the CCP is absolutely not interested in losing power anytime soon.

      If there is some level of concessions the CCP can do which will restore order and satisfy the HK protesters, and which the CCP thinks they can make without (for example) setting a precedent that citywide protests in Shanghai or Beijing or somewhere can also get extensive concessions from the central government, then it’s possible for the HK protesters to come out okay. But if there’s no such set of concessions–if in the opinion of the CCP leadership any concessions that would satisfy the HK protesters enough to stop protesting would also be too likely to set a precedent that led to protests in other big cities, or potentially to a major loss in CCP power, then I suspect the CCP will sooner or later bring the hammer down and utterly crush the protest movement. And I imagine that the CCP is less worried about how that’s seen by the big wide world than how it’s seen in Taiwan.

      Oddly, I suspect that the CCP’s attempts at censoring coverage of the HK protests internally may increase their ability/willingness to make concessions in HK.

  3. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    Random crazy idea I had or maybe picked somewhere. Would repeatedly cutting and replanting forests while burying the wood help with global warming? Seems like it should capture a lot of CO2.

    • Lambert says:

      You’d need to stop them from rotting to keep the carbon sequestered.
      Making charcoal is probably the bast way to do that, since it improves soil it’s mixed with.
      People are trying to promote slash and char over slash and burn farming etc.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I’d read about the ocean burial idea years ago in a magazine, but apparently ground burial is better.

      Here’s an analysis of your idea: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266747/

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Or, another crazy idea, you can not bury perfectly good wood and you can use it to make stuff.

      Not being snappy btw, I just love woodworking and building with wood. And I have a strong feeling that if the future is going to be eco, we’re going to see a lot of stuff made of it – it’s damn versatile and has a lot of potential to be cheap – it’s literally growing in trees.

      • Lambert says:

        But you have to make sure it stays as wood for a long time.
        Sure, if you’re making some extremely high-quality chair that’s going to be used for the next century or sit around in a museum or something, that’s easy.
        But if it’s some crappy chipboard thing full of weird glue (so you can’t char it safely) it’s probably going to be rotting in landfill within 20 years.

        And aiui, wood that grows fast isn’t often wood that makes good wooden stuff.

        New idea: bury perfectly good wood then use it to make stuff later when all the tannins have darkened it.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Hm. Fair point. Still, just using more wood would still trap a lot of carbon, simply by delaying its release for a few decades (time to grow the tree plus time to use the thing plus time to decompose). We may even find ways to make it harder/slower to decompose.

          As far as fast growing wood… it reminds me I haven’t done anything in acacia yet – it’s apparently very sturdy, and basically a weed. Not that I’m likely to have time for woodworking any time soon…

          • Lambert says:

            Ash is another fairly good, fast growing wood.
            But that’s relative to hardwoods. There’s a reason pine and spruce are the standard cheap woods.

        • salvorhardin says:

          AIUI this is one of the reasons for doing more wooden urban architecture– apparently there are now workarounds for the concerns around fire and structural strength that used to limit the size and height of wooden buildings, and you can now build genuine wooden skyscrapers and one of the touted benefits of doing so is the carbon sequestration.

    • proyas says:

      This sounds similar to biochar.

    • Ohforfs says:

      Or you could buy coal and bury it somewhere. It doesn’t rot and is cheaper!

    • Well... says:

      Don’t the tools you’re using for all this cutting and burying contribute to global warming?

      • herbert herberson says:

        Depends on what the tools are.

        Sticking to less mechanized means dramatically increases your labor needs, of course, but I also hear a lot of people talking about how we’re likely to have problematic surpluses of low-skill labor in the future (re: automation and climate refugees)

        • Well... says:

          OK, but if you replace each gas-guzzling backhoe with ten or twenty otherwise unemployable men and somehow get them to their job sites every day without burning fossil fuels, those men still have to consume a lot of food because of all the calories they’ll be burning, and growing/harvesting/transporting/preparing that food will contribute to global warming. The 2nd law of thermodynamics is ruthless.

    • herbert herberson says:

      The biggest question I have is what kind of land and soil requirements you’d have. Is this something you could do in boreal forests without running out of soil nutrients?

    • albatross11 says:

      Yeah, we discussed this a bit a couple open threads ago. I have no idea how this compares with other sequestration techniques, but you could imagine growing trees (fast-growing trees of the kind used for paper mills, maybe genetically engineered trees that grow extra fast and capture a lot of CO2), and then doing any of:

      a. Bury the trees in some way where they wouldn’t soon decompose and release CO2 or CH4.

      b. Use the resulting wood as a fuel that substitutes for some fossil fuel.

      c. Make lots of paper/wood products and make sure they’re mostly kept in-use or disposed of in ways that won’t release most of their carbon into the atmosphere as CO2 or CH4.

      John Schilling recently talked about digging up Olivine, grinding it to a powder, exposing it to the air so it can absorb CO2, and then burying it. Other people have talked about capturing CO2 directly from exhaust streams and liquifying it and storing it underground at high pressure. Or seeding algal blooms with iron so that the resulting carbon structures will end up as sediment at the bottom of the sea. Or growing some biofuel crop (switchgrass, maybe?) and using it directly as a fuel. Or….

      I think a major split is between just storing the CO2 somewhere vs capturing it as a fuel. The advantage of capturing it and burying it somewhere is that it’s straightforward to do–we know we can build mines, grow trees, and dig ditches. The advantage of capturing the CO2 in a biofuel and then burning it is that you could displace a CO2 emitting fuel (like coal) with something that was CO2 neutral, and that might have a bigger total effect. But this assumes you can actually get the fuel to be used and useful–corn-based ethanol is a worked example of how this can go terribly wrong.

      • LesHapablap says:

        As a note, John Schilling said that the olivine method costs about $60/ton. This article from the recent SSC links post Eli Dourado claims ~$10/ton spreading the ground up olivine on beaches. Which seems quite low given that it seems to be the low end for prices for carbon credits.

        • Nornagest says:

          Bulk gravel costs somewhere in the $15 – $20 / ton range wholesale. So John’s numbers easily pencil out, considering that exposed olivine’s somewhat rarer than most construction rock, but I’m skeptical of Eli’s.

    • Lambert says:

      If we’re able to keep the carbon from decomposing, is there any reason to use trees?
      Why nor char bamboo or corncobs or other useless bits of useful plants?

  4. johan_larson says:

    Canada is holding a federal election on Monday.

    This is a bit late, but perhaps there’s still time for a last-minute discussion of the issues. Here’s a primer.

    A few issues I’d like to highlight:

    When Justin Trudeau’s government signed on to the 2015 Paris accord, it joined a global consensus that human-caused climate change threatens millions of lives unless emissions are cut aggressively, and now. A federal carbon-pricing program, which took effect early this year, taxes provinces that don’t have equivalent pricing or cap-and-trade regimes, but compensates individuals with rebates. If re-elected, the Liberals will keep raising the per-tonne price – from $20 now to $50 by 2022 – and are aiming for net-zero Canadian emissions by 2050. But the Liberals’ own numbers predict Canada will still fall short of its 2030 targets.

    Anyone know what the likely effects of this policy would be if implemented?

    Both the Liberal and Conservative parties are backing the pipeline from Alberta to the BC coast.

    Mr. Scheer wants to let home buyers amortize their insured mortgages for 30 years, up from the current limit of 25. That could lower buyers’ monthly costs, but also encourage them to gamble on more expensive properties and end up in deeper debt. The Conservative platform promises to “fix” the stress test, but doesn’t say how, other than to say it should be removed for mortgage renewals. If Mr. Scheer’s fixes weaken the test, some industry analysts fear it could re-inflame the housing market.

    Can anyone speak to how big an effect extending the permitted mortgage period from 25 to 30 years would have?

  5. Estera clare says:

    I often hear it asserted that Malthusianism stopped being true for humans just as Malthus wrote about it, thanks to the Industrial Revolution. The part about it no longer being true I’ve seen plenty of evidence for (and evidence that disagrees with it, and evidence that disagrees with the disagreement, and so on…), but I’ve never seen any evidence put forward to show that human population functioned on a Malthusian cycle before then (starting from the invention of agriculture, let’s say, since I don’t want to get into hunter-gatherers). There were plenty of famines, I understand, but were the famines largely because the population kept exceeding the resources of the land (and then was cut down to size)? The idea of a pre-Industrial Revolution Malthusian cycle sounds very plausible to me, but I don’t want to accept as truth ideas that merely sound plausible if I haven’t seen evidence of them.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Not an answer, but if by any chance you haven’t already, read a bit on the concept of “logistic curve”. Most phenomena that look like an exponential are just the first part of the logistic curve. And then things settle naturally into a new equilibrium – with agriculture this would be a worse one, with more malnutrition, infant mortality, smaller plots per household, more frequent warfare … death from a thousand cuts. It doesn’t lead to a crash, just slows down the growth rate back to zero.

    • cassander says:

      Read up on the demographics of the black death in europe. By most account, europe had gotten pretty overpopulated by the early 1300s, with more and more marginal land being cultivated, in classic malthusian fashion

    • I don’t think Malthus predicted a cycle of famines. His argument in the essay was that conditions could never get very much better for the bulk of the population, because if they did, population would expand geometrically, eventually outrun productivity, land being a fixed resource, and push incomes back down.

      That’s consistent with a steady state world, where most of the population is poor enough to just reproduce themselves, given that poverty makes children more expensive and so makes people willing to accept the cost, in less sex, later marriage, etc., of holding down the number of children they have.

      But it’s true that, if his argument had held in the past, it ceased to hold shortly after he offered it, since real incomes in Britain trended up through most of the 19th and 20th century.

      Ricardo’s version of the argument took account of the possibility of changing tastes in the mass of the population, raising the income at which people chose to just reproduce. I don’t think either of them discussed contraception, although there is a line in Malthus about the alternative of “vice” which might be a reference to some form of non-reproductive sex.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      There is very little raw data in history, so it is very difficult to test theories. You can only make sense of the data through the lens of a theory and thus circular reasoning is extremely common, where the intermediate data produced by a theory is taken as confirmation of that very theory.

      But, as Cassander says, the European Middle Ages are a pretty good example, where the Medieval Warm Period increased crop yields, which increased population. But then the Little Ice Age struck, lowering the carrying capacity. This produced acute famine, such as the Great Famine of 1315. But more important than acute famine was chronic malnurishment, which (together with the Pax Mongolica) made Europe vulnerable to the Black Death, which dramatically lowered the population, leading to a healthier population and a rebound.

      This is a vindication of Malthus, but there are a lot of caveats. Climate moved on about the same time scale as population growth, making it important to get details. Malnurishment causes disease, not just obvious famine. Politics affects the carrying capacity, sometimes in obvious ways, but sometimes in surprising ways. Any farther in the past and it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

      • Didn’t the European population in the early modern period succeed that of the 13th century?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Maybe, I don’t know.

          Blue Sam’s link says that the English population peaked in 1650 at 10% higher than the 1300 peak, then fell back, I guess in the last strike of the plague, but quickly recovered. (And the population was already declining before the 1666 plague, if you believe the graph.) The quick recovery probably reflects increased carrying capacity due to new world crops.

          Why was the 1650 peak higher than the 1300 peak? Are you implying that this violates Malthus? I don’t think we should expect to understand population history in such detail. Some accounts of the Little Ice Age put the trough in 1600, rather than 1300. We probably don’t have the precision to say that the population in 1650 was 10% higher than 1300, rather than equal, but if we expect it to be lower, that might be a bit of a problem. But there are other phenomena, such as continued investment improving the land. Maybe expansion of settled land against bandit-ridden forests.

    • BlueSam says:

      Our World in Data has a nice, short session about this:
      https://ourworldindata.org/economic-growth#the-economy-before-economic-growth-the-malthusian-trap

      Also check out the source of the figures in this paper:
      https://www.brown.edu/academics/economics/sites/brown.edu.academics.economics/files/uploads/2008-14_paper.pdf

      I think a more appropriate interpretation of the Malthusian model (at least as it is understood now) is not that there was a cycle of growth and famine, but that, absent shocks, population would be kept at the maximum carrying capacity given technology and environment, with incomes at subsistence level. In other worlds, people would be just poor enough that every couple could produce, on average, two surviving offspring, and the system would be stable. Of course, there were shocks on top of that, but population would adjust to seek this equilibrium.

      • That’s almost right, but in Malthus’ model, and more explicitly in Ricardo’s, it’s not “could produce” but “would produce.” Individuals face a tradeoff between more sex, resulting in more children, and more consumption (or less labor) for themselves. The poorer they are, the fewer children they are willing to produce.

        The model assumes that reliable contraception isn’t an alternative. I’m not sure how reasonable that assumption was, even back when Malthus wrote, since interruptus, at least, plus non-procreative forms of intercourse, were known and did not require any modern technology.

        • A1987dM says:

          Interruptus is not reliable.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s not guaranteed, but if lots of people do it, they’ll probably have fewer total children than a group that doesn’t do it. For Malthus’ argument, this is all that is needed. Basically, if I have some choice that decreases my number of offspring and I react to my economic circumstances by increasing/decreasing my number of offspring so that when there’s not enough money, I have fewer kids, then I think we should get the pattern Malthus predicts.

            We were very lucky that we were entering a still-ongoing period of exponential growth in wealth and food production right around the time his argument was published, and so we weren’t stuck with the iron law of wages forever. But it sure seems like it would have been true in a static world.

          • I did some calculations a while back, not on interruptus but on rhythm, which is also unreliable. My conclusion was that it was probably good enough to hold a population down to about replacement level.

            I haven’t done the calculation for interruptus, since I don’t know what the failure rate is.

        • BlueSam says:

          Yes, thanks for the correction on “could” vs. “would” (not a native speaker here).

          On the contraception point, the key feature of the model is that number of surviving children is increasing in income. You can have that, even with perfect contraception, if people care not only about sex, but also about having children (number of children goes in the utility function), which seems reasonable to me. The fact that we don’t have lots of children today is mostly because the modern economic environment takes us far towards “quality” in the quantity vs quality trade-off.

  6. Plumber says:

    It’s more than a year from the next presidentual election but, FWIW a short distance from my house (just north of Berkeley, California) I saw my first pro Tulsi Gabbard sign on a front yard, and in Berkeley last month I saw a Yang sign.

    Mostly I see old Sanders bumper stickers, more in Berkeley than in San Francisco or Oakland, but I’m now starting to see more new Warren bumper stickers.

    By way of comparison I saw a fair amount of Kerry bumper stickers in 2004 (and I still saw some even ten years latter), and I saw Bush stickers the further from where I lived in Oakland I drove. In 2008 I first spotted Ron Paul stickers, and then lots of Obama stickers and signs, and what McCain stickers I saw were far from home, Romney stickers were even more rare in 2012. In 2016 I saw lots of Sanders stickers and some signs, with Hillary signs not popping up until nearly before she won the nomination.

    I’ve only seen a couple of Trump stickers, and somewhat surprisingly, none on SFPD lockers which otherwise have Republican candidate stickers dating back to Reagan.

    • Erusian says:

      One thing I’ve noticed: campaign signs in general seem less common. Campaign ads online, meanwhile, have significantly gone up. Also, I have to visit more politically consolidated areas and I notice they get a lot less advertising. Which is normal but is the on the ground effect of this map.

      • Plumber says:

        @Erusian >

        “One thing I’ve noticed: campaign signs in general seem less common. Campaign ads online, meanwhile, have significantly gone up…”

        That’s interesting, I hadn’t noticed that, but about a month after I joined Facebook this year I saw my first and only official online campaign advertisement, it was for Trump and it seemed fairly well crafted and targeted – it mostly extolled a thriving economy and specifically cited increased employment for Hispanics, which was interesting.

      • Plumber says:

        I briefly logged onto Facebook again this morning and saw my second ever on-line campaign advertisement (for Tom Steyer), so I’m guessing that’s the place for such ads?

        I just don’t remember seeing any elsewhere (I must just go to different sites).

        • Erusian says:

          I can glean from that that you’re a likely Democrat voter who’s considered likely to vote in the primary, on the older side, and a moderate to mainstream Democrat. If you showed me the content I could tell you more. Targeting is a huge combination of factors but it varies by platform, platform demographics, etc.

          Anecdotally, this is one thing I’ve heard from a couple of industries. I’ve heard from at least a few hundred businesspeople that mailers, yard signs, and other offline low barrier to entry methods are getting decreasing response rates. Interestingly, this is considered a relatively recent phenomenon (the last few years).

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I would not dare put up a campaign sign or a bumper sticker in the current political climate.

  7. proyas says:

    I’ve heard that NASA uses a lot of surprisingly old equipment in its spacecraft and satellites because the equipment is sturdy and proven to work. This is often presented in a way that pokes fun at the Agency, but is Russian, Chinese, or European aerospace technology more advanced?

    Is Space-X more advanced than NASA?

    • Erusian says:

      This is often presented in a way that pokes fun at the Agency, but is Russian, Chinese, or European aerospace technology more advanced?

      No.

      Is Space-X more advanced than NASA?

      In the specific sphere Space-X is focused on, yes.

    • roystgnr says:

      In my (decades out of date, and working with DoD+DoE rather than NASA) experience, the biggest reason for using surprisingly old equipment was because there was just a long delay between when fancy electronics would first come out and when a radiation-hardened version of the same fancy electronics would come out. So you’d see satellites in the days of the Pentium IV getting launched with the equivalent of a 386 instead, not just because of the delay in spacecraft design, but because if they’d launched the Pentium III it’d be seeing so many bit-flip errors that it would be unusable.

      SpaceX seems to work around the problem via massive redundancy, though: get 6 cores all running the same software, and then only the much simpler chips that look for discrepancies need to be properly rad-hardened. Redundancy doesn’t prevent computer errors (e.g. Ariane V was dual-redundant and it didn’t make a bit of difference when both computers hit the same software bug at the same time) but it at least means the errors have to be written by an engineer rather than a cosmic ray.

      This might be an unfairly apples-to-oranges comparison, though. A satellite in GEO, inside the outer Van Allen belt, for decades, is a much harder problem than an upper stage sitting in relatively-radiation-free LEO for hours, or even a capsule in LEO for months.

    • John Schilling says:

      European space technology is in some respect more “advanced” than NASA’s, in that Europe didn’t do nearly as much in space as did NASA in the 1960s and 1970s, thus has less deep heritage to draw on and so has to invent new stuff where NASA would use the old stuff. But this is almost by definition focused on the domains where “advanced” deserves the scare quotes on account of basically meaning “shinier, but more likely to break”. And it’s a small difference in both respects.

      SpaceX is leaner and more efficient than NASA, but that’s a different thing.

    • zqed says:

      Another reason why NASA uses a lot of surprisingly old equipment in its spacecraft and satellites chiefly because NASA has a lot ot surprisingly old spacecraft and satellites. Moreover, many of these were designed 5+ years before production started. If you reuse parts from older projects, the design-to-production gap can be decades.

      What’s more, as roystgnr pointed out, it’s difficult to compare consumer technology with space technology. To continue with the CPUs example: NASA’s radiation-hardened CPUs are generally underclocked relative to consumer units. This has less to do with radiation-hardening and more to do with extremely strict power consumption requirements.

      Take the Mongoose-V, the CPU of the New Horizons flight conputer. It was cutting-edge in 1998, tried and tested in 2001
      (when New Horizons was designed), old and boring in 2006 (when New Horizons launched) and severely outdated by 2016 (when New Horizons reached Pluto). In clock rate, the Mongoose-V CPUs of the New Horizons flight computer are comparable to Intel’s 286 CPUs. Along most other axes, they compare favorably with common CPUs of their own era. But it will inevitably look outdated in 2019, because it is. But we can’t get up there and replace it with a newer CPU. Nor should we: it ain’t broke, so we don’t fix it.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      is Russian, Chinese, or European aerospace technology more advanced?

      Why, yeah, the Russians even sent a robot up there recently. The thing can operate a powerdrill, shoot from two pistols in the general direction of target, telekinetically rotate a valve and shitpost on twitter.

      (Seriously, no, I’m pretty sure Roscosmos is way more backward than NASA technologically)

      • Lambert says:

        IIRC, Roscosmos is largely a western-supported jobs programme for rocket scientists who might otherwise be getting quite enticing job offers from Pyongyang and Tehran.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          That doesn’t sound right. Roscosmos is a state corporation financed by the Russian government, and it unites most of Russian space industry from developing satellites to operating cosmodromes. The primary goal of its existence is so called “распил” – the process of redistributing money from the budget into the offshore accounts of certain people. Creating good publicity via space missions on what’s left is important but secondary. In this regard it’s very similar to some other state corporations created during the last two decades, such as Rosatom and Rostec.

          Besides, if some western power wants to offer a job to a Russian rocket scientist ready to move to Pyongyang, why don’t offer them job at NASA or ESA?

  8. J Mann says:

    Opinion check: Here’s the Mulvaney quote everybody’s talking about. Do you think he intended the final “that’s why we held up the money” to refer to:

    (a) the Crowdstrike server,

    (b) the earlier discussed “driving factors”,

    (c) both, or

    (d) there’s no way to tell?

    (If (b), it’s a good lesson about being clear about your antecedents.)

    Reporter: … And you were directly involved in the decision to withhold funding from Ukraine. Can you explain to us now definitively why? Why was funding withheld?

    Mulvaney: Sure. Let’s deal with the second one first, which is, look, it should come as no surprise to anybody. The last time I was up here … I haven’t done this since I was chief of staff. Right? Last time I was up here, some of you folks remember it was for the budget briefings. Right? And one of the questions you all always ask me about the budget is what are you all doing to the foreign aid budget? Because we absolutely gutted it. President Trump is not a big fan of foreign aid. Never has been. Still isn’t. Doesn’t like spending money overseas, especially when it’s poorly spent. And that is exactly what drove this decision. I’ve been in the office a couple times with him talking about this and he said, “Look Mick, this is a corrupt place.” Everybody knows it’s a corrupt place.

    By the way, put this in context. This is on the heels of what happened in Puerto Rico when we took a lot of heat for not wanting to give a bunch of aid to Puerto Rico because we thought that place was corrupt. And by the way it turns out we were right. All right. So put that as your context. He’s like, “Look, this is a corrupt place. I don’t want to send them a bunch of money and have them waste it, have them spend it, have them use it to line their own pockets.” Plus I’m not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either. So we actually looked at that during that time before. When we cut the money off, before the money actually flowed, because the money flowed by the end of the fiscal year, we actually did an analysis of what other countries were doing in terms of supporting Ukraine. And what we found out was that, and I can’t remember if it’s zero or near zero dollars from any European countries for lethal aid. You’ve heard the president say this, that we give them tanks and the other countries give them pillows. That’s absolutely right that as vocal as the Europeans are about supporting Ukraine, they are really, really stingy when it comes to lethal aid. And they weren’t helping Ukraine and still to this day are not.

    And the president did not like that. I know [inaudible 00:21:11] long answer your question, but I’m still going. So those were the driving factors. Did he also mention to me in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I am very right-wing and pro-Trump.

      To me, it’s very clear he meant (b). (a) doesn’t even make sense with that prelude. (a) is a sidenote about additional reasons that he believes (b), which is that Ukraine is corrupt and shouldn’t get foreign aid.

    • J Mann says:

      Ok, now that I’ve read the rest of the transcript, it looks like Mulvaney got walked into confirming (C):

      There were three factors. Again, I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily. Okay. Three issues for that. The corruption in the country, whether or not other countries were participating in the support of the Ukraine, and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department Of Justice. That’s completely legitimate

      • hls2003 says:

        First time I’d seen this transcript, otherwise just media headlines. I’m sort of confused. All the headlines were saying “quid pro quo,” but as I understand it (1) the Ukrainians weren’t told any of this (they didn’t know the money was delayed), and (2) the allegedly “unsavory” demand in the Ukraine call is not the Crowdstrike thing, but rather the Biden thing.
        Does Biden not show up in this transcript? If not, then I’m further updating (if possible) to have less confidence in media headlines, because this appears to be rebutting, not strengthening, the alleged scandal for the call.

        • J Mann says:

          He denies Biden was a factor in the funds hold-up. (I have to say that it’s hard to believe that Crowdstrike was a factor but not Biden, but who knows?)

          No. The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden. There’s no question. That was the point I made to you.

        • Dan L says:

          First time I’d seen this transcript, otherwise just media headlines.

          *apopleptic shrieking noises*

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Left wing and anti-Trump, and agree with EchoChaos.

      However all the specifics of B is left unsaid, and its obvious the money wouldn’t have been released until Trump was satisfied for whatever unspoken reasons would have satisfied him. Whatever Mulvaney says as per Trump’s motivations are irrelevant unless he someday lays out the full truth (literal, not “full truth” as interpreted by the courts).

      And given Trump’s stated interest in the Bidens, Mulvaney’s later “clarification” is telling in what it leaves out (please reply if the article I’m quoting leaves out context): https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/mulvaney-acknowledges-trump-held-ukraine-aid-political-reasons-get-over-n1068256

      “There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election,” he said in a statement, contradicting remarks he made during an earlier press briefing.

      “The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption,” he added.

    • broblawsky says:

      Left-wing, anti-Trump.

      It definitely sounds like (c), and there’s no way you can convince me at this point that political gain – including both the Crowdstrike investigation and the Biden investigation – wasn’t overwhelmingly the primary factor in Trump’s decision.

      • Garrett says:

        Looking for a left-wing perspective – do you have any idea why Hunter Biden is involved with all of this high-finance stuff? His resume is sort-of impressive in that he has a law degree from Yale. But his undergrad degree is in history. I haven’t seen any evidence that he’s “done” anything significant. Eg. he doesn’t appear to be someone who’s skilled in major business transactions. If you remove all of the proximity to his father … what value does he bring to a company? I find references to him being in the Commerce department and on the Amtrak board, but no evidence that he’s done anything particularly impressive at any of these.

        • broblawsky says:

          do you have any idea why Hunter Biden is involved with all of this high-finance stuff

          It doesn’t matter. Even if Hunter Biden was part of some nefarious conspiracy to defraud the Ukrainian government, it’s totally inappropriate for Trump to be asking the Ukrainian government to investigate him (or the DNC). The simple act of asking for the investigation is a violation of campaign finance law, as well as (most likely) a violation of anti-bribery and extortion statutes. If Giuliani, Mulvaney, or Barr had requested it without Trump’s direct support he might have some cover, but as soon as Trump asked Yanyukovich for a “favor” he broke the law.

          • cassander says:

            It’s illegal for a US president to investigate corruption now? Look, trump obviously wasn’t motivated solely by love of justice, but let’s call spades spades. Presidents ask other countries for favors every day, often about things that will benefit them politically. This is not illegal, even if it is distasteful.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m skeptical about this claim that by asking for a favor from a foreign leader that could conceivably have a political benefit in the campaign, Trump broke campaign finance law. Particularly when there is any kind of plausible fig leaf of legitimate justification for the president’s request, which there probably is in this case.

            Now, my guess is that Trump was hoping to get some dirt on his most likely rival to increase his chances of winning the election. But I don’t think the specific claim you’re making is true, and I’d like to see some citation that shows it is true.

          • sharper13 says:

            … it’s totally inappropriate for Trump to be asking the Ukrainian government to investigate him (or the DNC). The simple act of asking for the investigation is a violation of campaign finance law, as well as (most likely) a violation of anti-bribery and extortion statutes.

            In light of your remarks here, would you also consider this letter a similar violation if sent by Trump’s political opponents? If not, why not? (BTW, I wouldn’t consider either a violation, so curious how you draw the line.)

          • broblawsky says:

            It’s illegal for a US president to investigate corruption now? Look, trump obviously wasn’t motivated solely by love of justice, but let’s call spades spades. Presidents ask other countries for favors every day, often about things that will benefit them politically. This is not illegal, even if it is distasteful.

            It’s absolutely illegal: federal law makes it illegal to “solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation” from a foreign national. This law doesn’t just bar politicians from asking for money, it prohibits them from asking for any “thing of value” from a foreign national. Getting Ukraine to investigate Biden is absolutely a “thing of value”; it’s opposition research, which is frequently conducted and paid for by campaigns. If Trump hadn’t pushed for this himself, and let Giuliani et al push for it, he’d be insulated from illegality. By inserting himself into the investigation push, he broke the law. He also may have broken various anti-bribery and extortion laws at the same time. He’s almost certainly broken the Hobbs act.

            I’m skeptical about this claim that by asking for a favor from a foreign leader that could conceivably have a political benefit in the campaign, Trump broke campaign finance law. Particularly when there is any kind of plausible fig leaf of legitimate justification for the president’s request, which there probably is in this case.

            Now, my guess is that Trump was hoping to get some dirt on his most likely rival to increase his chances of winning the election. But I don’t think the specific claim you’re making is true, and I’d like to see some citation that shows it is true.

            If you don’t buy my position that Trump’s violated campaign finance law described above, perhaps the opinion of FEC chair Weintraub will convince you. By the way, this position predates the breaking of the Trump-Ukraine scandal. It comes from an incident where Trump personally described the possibility of information given to his campaign by foreign intelligence services as “oppo research”, and refused to promise to contact the FBI if he was offered such information.

            In light of your remarks here, would you also consider this letter a similar violation if sent by Trump’s political opponents? If not, why not? (BTW, I wouldn’t consider either a violation, so curious how you draw the line.)

            This letter came up last time we discussed the Trump-Ukraine scandal. For your benefit, I’ll summarize my explanation of why I think it’s an extremely misleading comparison:
            1) Senator Menendez did not attempt to influence the Ukrainian government to cooperate with any kind of Congressional investigation; the Mueller investigation was under the control of the Trump administration. None of the special counsel’s findings could be publicized without the approval of the Trump administration, robbing them of value as opposition research.
            2) Senator Menendez is not running against Trump for the Presidency. You could argue that information on Trump’s wrongdoings is good for the Democratic party, but I’d argue that Menendez is better off personally with Trump in the White House – Trump’s loathsomeness galvanizes Democratic voters and probably saved Menendez’s Senate seat in 2018. Again: not opposition research.
            3) Senator Menendez did not threaten to withhold aid from Ukraine in return for their cooperation. Trump actually did withhold aid from Ukraine until they agreed to cooperate with his illegal team of political fixers. This is less about campaign finance laws, and more about why Trump is guilty of extortion as well as campaign finance law violations, but it’s still relevant.

            That being said, if you were willing to agree to indict both Trump and Menendez for campaign finance violations, bribery and extortion, I’d be happy to go along with it. I’m confident that Menendez would be acquitted, and Trump would be convicted.

          • Clutzy says:

            Good catch Sharper. That letter is also a violation of the totally not unconstitutional Logan Act!

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @sharper13
            1) Political opponent isn’t equal to person running for the same office in your usage.

            2) Trump is currently the POTUS.

            3) Trump could have easily asked his allies in Congress to ask Ukraine about these matters.

            — Congress is unique in that it is a body made up of legislators of both political parties, as well as some independents. There are fundamental limitations (compared to the single-party modern Presidency) on the extent to which they can do things in secret. And the members writing that letter to the Ukraine 1) made no secret of that letter, and 2) very importantly there was no implication, much less action taken, of leverage held against the Ukraine government with regard to the Ukraine government’s action (or lack thereof) toward the matters brought up in the letter. Though even if there had been I don’t know that it would have been a high crime or misdemeanor (see: The Speech and Debate Clause).

            The leverage Trump did use against Ukraine (for whatever reason) is leverage he didn’t have the legitimate power to use. After Congress voted to give the money to Ukraine it was Trump’s job to see that it was given (did Trump sign this bill, or did Congress override his veto? Regardless it doesn’t matter). Period. If Trump had reason to withhold he should have made that clear to Congress earlier, and negotiated with Congress a bill to that effect.

            4) Congress has the power to investigate and impeach the President, as well as expel any of their own members. The President has no equivalent power, though he could theoretically order the arrest of Congresspersons who are violating the law (outside of a speech or debate). This is the way the system was set up.

            (Recall how much McCarthy got away with with his anti-Communist investigations. No President that I know of ever did as much as McCarthy could legally do as a member of Congress. The speech and debate clause is specific to Congress, and it is very powerful.)

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @cassander

            Presidents ask other countries for favors every day, often about things that will benefit them politically.

            “benefit them politically” in the sense of “make their political opponents look bad”? Name three.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @anonymousskimmer:
            I think you are missing the most important differences.

            The idea that if anything or anyone political touches a matter, then an investigation can’t occur, is a canard. In this case, Mueller was an executing independent investigation. The law under which he was operating was designed to enable him to be independent of political considerations.

            As a result of that independent investigation, he found material evidence of crimes by Manafort. At some point in that investigation that lead to cooperative investigations within Ukraine. Reportedly under pressure from Trump, that cooperation ceased.

            A member of Congress merely asking why the cooperation ceased is not asking for Ukraine to do anything than confirm their own reported actions as a nation in engaging with our nation. That is inherent to the oversight power of Congress.

            The fact that these matters arose in the course of an independent investigation matters as well. If one suspects corrupt or illegal acts, there are channels to allow proper inquiries to begin. Mueller was that channel in this case.

            The other big difference is simply that a member of Congress isn’t the Chief Executive. An individual member of Congress is inherently less powerful, and their responsibilities are inherently less.

          • cassander says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            “benefit them politically” in the sense of “make their political opponents look bad”? Name three.

            Every time presidents accomplish things that their opponents don’t want, it makes them look bad, or at least, that’s the hope of the president doing the thing. But any sort of trade negotiation is going to have lots and lots of sordid requests on behalf of particular interests, or you can look at obama telling medvedev that he’ll have more flexibility after the election, so to hold off until then. And more than a few people have accused the obama administration of sweetening the deal they made with iran because they wanted a deal more than they wanted a good deal. You cannot separate political advantage from the conduct of a presidency.

          • John Schilling says:

            Every time presidents accomplish things that their opponents don’t want, it makes them look bad, or at least, that’s the hope of the president doing the thing.

            Most of us can tell the difference between “I have done good works that my opponent has not been able to match” on the one hand, and “I have leaned on dubious foreign governments to accuse my opponent of being a crook, er, related to a crook” on the other. I’m perfectly happy with one of those things being considered perfectly OK and the other being considered cause for eternal ridicule, contempt, and impeachment. YMMV, but you understand that the next person who gets to play by your new rules is likely to be Elizabeth Warren, right?

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            Most of us can tell the difference between “I have done good works that my opponent has not been able to match” on the one hand, and “I have leaned on dubious foreign governments to accuse my opponent of being a crook, er, related to a crook” on the other.

            In the most extreme cases, sure. Most examples are not so clear cut, however.

            but you understand that the next person who gets to play by your new rules is likely to be Elizabeth Warren, right?

            We’re already playing by those rules. Obama threw the entire country of libya under a bus to avoid losing a news cycle. There is plenty of legitimate ground to criticize Trump on, can we stop claiming that he’s destroying the republic every time he sneezes?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I agree with you HeelBearCub. Asking a question pertinent to a constitutional authority versus demanding an answer unrelated to one’s constitutional authority is an important distinction between the Representative’s actions and Trump’s actions.

            The existence of the “Speech and Debate Clause” and impeachment and expelling power too indicate the fundamental distinction between the powers and privileges of the Legislative versus the Executive branch.

            Usurping the power of another branch is a legitimate reason to impeach and convict.

            The Legislative branch has the absolute privilege to go after the President, should they choose, as do any of its members. There is no corresponding privilege of the Presidency. Therefore those like sharper13 who try to make this a he-said-she-said comparison are completely off-base, even had the earlier letter about the Mueller investigation been every bit as quid-pro-quo as Trump’s actions.

            That doesn’t mean I liked it when they went after Obama, and I think McConnell’s failure to hold a hearing over Garland was unconstitutional (a dereliction of his constitutionally mandated duty to advise the President).

          • sharper13 says:

            @anonymousskimmer,
            You state:

            The Legislative branch has the absolute privilege to go after the President, should they choose, as do any of its members. There is no corresponding privilege of the Presidency. Therefore those like sharper13 who try to make this a he-said-she-said comparison are completely off-base, even had the earlier letter about the Mueller investigation been every bit as quid-pro-quo as Trump’s actions.

            First, please don’t accuse me of things I haven’t said. I asked a specific person a specific question about their specific comment.

            Second, I don’t find tribal partisanship, where your side is always perfect and everything the other side does is always terrible, useful for coming to an understanding of the truth. Do you desire to, or are you able to get past that? Can you name anything you think Trump has done well as President? As an example, I’ll go first the opposite direction and name three major issues I have with his Administration. I think he’s wrong on: Immigration policy (needs to be pushing strongly for the laws to change in order to provide more and easier legal immigration), Trade Policy (More trade is good. Unilateral free trade is fine.), and Spending (Military spending is too high, social spending is too high, pretty much any category of federal spending you care to name has increased too much even when adjusted per capita and for inflation).

            Third, your statements and understanding of what happened in regards to Ukraine in this thread don’t match with the known facts, nor with the legal realities. Also, while the House and Senate as institutions which compose Congress have Constitutional powers, individual Congresscritters don’t unless the group votes to delegate specific power to them to do something. The President is specifically granted powers in the Constitution which belong to him alone, or can be delegated to others by him alone. There is no one in the executive branch who legally exercises executive power, but that the President doesn’t also have that same power, because of Article II Section 1, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”

            If someone told me I had my facts wrong, it would be a signal to me to look farther outside my bubble and/or research things closer. We’ll see how you choose to respond (if at all).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            There are limits to the President’s delegation authority, or else there’s no point in requiring congress to vote on members of the cabinet.

            Nothing in the Constitution limits the speech and debate clauses to Congress as a whole. Nothing limits individual members of Congress from exercising various congressional powers, save that certain things require a majority or supermajority vote to be enacted as law.

            Other than that, I’m out. I don’t care enough to argue these issues anymore.

          • beleester says:

            In the most extreme cases, sure. Most examples are not so clear cut, however.

            In that case, how about you name some of those less clear-cut examples, instead of hiding behind “Well, technically anything you do is a political advantage”? Obviously no example will be exactly identical, but you should be able to name something you consider comparable to Trump’s actions on the “benefit country vs. benefit self” scale.

          • cassander says:

            @beleester says:

            I’ve mentioned a few already. Obama telling medvedev that he would have more flexibility after the election and the libya fiasco strike me as the most salient examples.

          • ECD says:

            @Cassander

            I really don’t understand how those are examples of what’s being discussed.

            I’ll have more flexibility to negotiate after the upcoming election…is not obviously relevant to this conversation, nor is Libya.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’ll have more flexibility to negotiate after the upcoming election…is not obviously relevant to this conversation, nor is Libya.

            It means Obama took actions or failed to take actions that, in his estimation, damaged the US-Russia relationship, and therefore US security, so he could increase his re-election chances.

          • cassander says:

            @ECD says:

            A Definite Beta Guy’s response is basically mine, or taken from the other angle, Obama was asking medvedev to delay taking or not take actions in order to improve his election chances, which according to contemporary theory, is an illegal campaign donation in kind from a foreign head of state.

            As for Libya, Obama undertook a military campaign that he personally did not believe in that had disastrous and entirely predictable consequences. He did this because various groups (some of which had sincere concerns and some of which not) were making political hay out of the situation and he wanted to avoid bad press.

          • albatross11 says:

            If the criterion for impeachable offense is that the president makes foreign policy decisions that are calculated to improve his re-election chances, then all presidents in the past, present, and future are impeachable.

          • ECD says:

            Partly what Albatross says, but also, for Russia, this was treaty negotiation, yes? The theory that he was going to do well in the election and thereby have greater ability to ratify a treaty, or more room to maneuver in terms is hardly crazy.

            As for Libya, I’m going to ask for a citation for

            As for Libya, Obama undertook a military campaign that he personally did not believe in that had disastrous and entirely predictable consequences. He did this because various groups (some of which had sincere concerns and some of which not) were making political hay out of the situation and he wanted to avoid bad press.

            [emphasis added]

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11 says:

            If the criterion for impeachable offense is that the president makes foreign policy decisions that are calculated to improve his re-election chances, then all presidents in the past, present, and future are impeachable.

            Yes, I agree. That’s precisely my point.

            @ECD says:

            Partly what Albatross says, but also, for Russia, this was treaty negotiation, yes? The theory that he was going to do well in the election and thereby have greater ability to ratify a treaty, or more room to maneuver in terms is hardly crazy.

            Again, that’s precisely my point. It’s not crazy, presidents asking the leaders of other countries for things that will benefit them politically is not abnormal. When the right jumped on obama for saying that, I said the same thing, that presidents ask for things like this all the time, and while getting caught on a live mic was an embarrassing kinsley gaffe, it wasn’t exceptional.

            As for Libya, I’m going to ask for a citation for “an intervention he personally did not believe in”

            there are multiple accounts from inside the administration that agree that obama was reluctant to get involved, and was probably not going to, until Clinton ran around and built up an international coalition that called for US intervention, and obama gave the go ahead. Many of these accounts are from 2011-2013 and praise Clinton for getting this done. Now, I don’t claim to be able to look into Obama’s soul, but given the entire rest of his foreign policy, the way the US explicitly “led from behind”, and the accounts of that intervention, I have very little doubt that Obama didn’t really want to do it but felt forced into it.

          • ECD says:

            @Cassander

            Again, those do not seem analogous to what’s being discussed here. ‘I’ll do this because it’s popular,’ (though I still see no evidence that either of those cases was this) is not the same as, ‘you go investigate my opponent’s child to make them unpopular’. [not direct quotes, obviously]

        • albatross11 says:

          I think it is extremely common for family members of powerful people to get hired for cushy jobs. For example, if I recall correctly, at least one congressman heavily involved in the Obamacare plan had a wife who was getting a lot of money as a board member of a health insurance company.

          The likely answer is corruption, but a kind of corruption that’s not formally illegal and is pretty widespread.

        • John Schilling says:

          Undergraduate major is irrelevant for lawyers. If you’ve got the law degree from Harvard, you’re probably qualified to be the guy who advises Company X on how to do business without getting in trouble with the United States Government. And that can easily be worth an Executive Vice-Presidency without ever being able to point to any great entrepreneurial venture with your name on it.

          And, yes, it’s reasonable to suspect that anyone hiring him for that role might have been hoping to buy his family’s political connections rather than Hunter’s legal acumen. But that’s true of basically any job any major politician’s kid takes, and so what? We don’t open police investigations on the basis of “employed while father was in office; probable cause for suspicion of influence-peddling”, and certainly ought not be demanding foreign governments do so on POTUS’s whim.

          • hls2003 says:

            Undergraduate major is irrelevant for lawyers.

            Mostly true, except patent lawyers.

            If you’ve got the law degree from Harvard, you’re probably qualified to be the guy who advises Company X on how to do business without getting in trouble with the United States Government.

            Not really. You can become that guy, but it takes experience and usually you get that experience by being the junior guy for someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Perhaps it’s giving away trade secrets, but it’s impressive just how useless most lawyers are shortly out of law school. If you’ve got an associate-aged attorney as your main adviser on important stuff like that, you’re doing it wrong.

          • Garrett says:

            Undergraduate major is irrelevant for lawyers.

            Not necessarily. Consider eg. patent law where you need a STEM background to get admitted to the patent bar.

            I agree with you in regards to general legal matters. And I’d have fewer questions if his undergrad was in finance, for example.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Mostly true, except patent lawyers.

            And Hunter Biden isn’t a patent lawyer, so why is not totally irrelevant pedantry?

            Not really. You can become that guy, but it takes experience and usually you get that experience by being the junior guy for someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Perhaps it’s giving away trade secrets, but it’s impressive just how useless most lawyers are shortly out of law school. If you’ve got an associate-aged attorney as your main adviser on important stuff like that, you’re doing it wrong.

            This is relevant to 2014-era Hunter Biden, who graduated from law school over 20 years ago and was employed as an Executive Vice President back in 1998 why?

          • hls2003 says:

            Because Hunter Biden being made an executive VP of a major national bank two years out of law school is what John explicitly referred to in the parent convent and which I was referring to. That doesn’t happen to normal Ivy League recent law school grads.

            If you don’t want to read accurate facts that you call pedantry, you’re probably on the wrong site.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @hls2003
            Nope. Garrett’s original comment was talking about about his employment in Ukraine, and if you read John Schilling’s (“how to do business without getting in trouble with the United States Government”, “demanding foreign governments”) evidently so was he.

            If you don’t want to read accurate facts that you call pedantry, you’re probably on the wrong site.

            Since pedantry is pretty much defined as “technically true but irrelevant”, saying your pedantry is technically true is hardly a defence.

          • hls2003 says:

            John’s comment is the parent comment ro which I was replying. He refers expressly to the executive VP role. If you can’t see that, then I’m not sure what you’re looking at, and I’m quite sure you’re not worth further discussion.

          • ECD says:

            I’ll just point out, he wasn’t hired as an executive vice president. He was hired, then was promoted to the rank of executive vice president after two years, which might be a sign of nepotism, great ability, or nothing at all, depending on what executive vice president meant at MBNA bank in the late 90s.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            He refers expressly to the executive VP role.

            I assumed this was referring (possibly by the incorrect name) to his position at Burisma, given that that is what the parent comment was talking about and that is the only thing “demanding foreign governments [to open investigations]” would be relevant to.

          • Aapje says:

            @ECD

            then was promoted to the rank of executive vice president after two years, which might be a sign of nepotism, great ability, or nothing at all

            Or a combination of nepotism and ability.

            I would assume for businesses, an employee who has the ear of a very powerful person is a big benefit for hiring that person, but a top executive position typically requires more than that (although that extra bit doesn’t have to be a lot of ability, but can also be swagger).

            It’s like being the child of the boss. It typically means that the person gets both promoted further than someone who is otherwise equal, but also that the person gets the benefit of the doubt (and thus opportunities) much more quickly.

            Note that once promoted, it is hard/impossible to unpromote people, so people who were given an opportunity to prove themselves and fail, often keep that position for longer than is good for the company (Peter Principle).

            Anyway, looking at Hunter’s wiki page, I see a career full of jobs where you can get very far with lots of swagger and friends in the right places (board memberships, lobbying, making policy documents). It’s hard to judge to what extent his actual abilities would make him worthy of those jobs, but I think that Hunter S. Commoner would probably never have been given the opportunities that Hunter Biden got. An equally capable Commoner would presumably have been very unlikely to even got to Yale Law.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      If you are going to look at the transcript, it’s helpful to look at the followup immediately after he said the explicit “we held up the money to make them do the thing we wanted” quote:

      Reporter (M): (21:27)
      So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?

      Mick Mulvaney: (21:34)
      The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.

      • hls2003 says:

        That doesn’t appear to say what you think it does. “What happened in 2016” is not the same thing as “investigation into the Democrats”. Mulvaney’s point appears to be that there is an ongoing DOJ investigation of 2016 election meddling.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          This is directly after Mulvaney says: “Did he also mention to me in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely.”

          The reference to Democrats and DNC server is a reference to (truly bizarre conspiracy theory bullshit) Crowdstrike. Crowdstrike is what OP asked about…

          • hls2003 says:

            Crowdstrike isn’t the problem, though. Crowdstrike is directly related to the investigation of 2016 election meddling. It’s literally an authorized DOJ investigation. I thought this new Ukraine scandal was supposed to be about Trump’s attempt to look forward and gain 2020 election meddling.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Q: Is this quote about Crowdstrike?
            A: Yes, and here is why.
            B: But that answer didn’t say anything about the 2020 election.
            A: The question was whether the quote was about Crowdstrike. The quote is about Crowdstrike. Crowdstrike is some weird bullshit about 2016.
            B: But it’s not about the 2020 election, so your answer is irrelevant.

            Sheesh.

          • hls2003 says:

            Fair enough. I understand your position better.

          • Clutzy says:

            Its only kinda true the “crowdstrike is some weird bullshit about 2016.”

            It is indeed about 2016, in particular the hacking of the DNC, which was one of the questions posed to Mueller in his initial charge that he and his team failed to properly resolve. They issued a dozen or so indictments against Russians (who will never be tried) and a few companies, one of which, Concord has actually appeared in court. That case has now become solely about social media ad purchases and whether they amounted to FEC violations.

            So its kinda bullshit, but its important bullshit because their determination is one of the outstanding questions of the Russian meddling. Now, its connection to Ukraine is much more dubious as far as I can see. But that seems like a thing where people’s minds group a bunch of things they don’t really understand together.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            OK, more detailed ,”Help us find “the” DNC server in Ukraine that CrowdStrike took and didn’t turn over to the FBI” is weird bullshit. For many reasons, the simplest to understand is that this is not an 80s comedy-spy movie and there isn’t “a” server.

          • Clutzy says:

            But by then I think we are just dunking on old people. Which is fun even if kinda mean. And I wish young competent people could be in power, but youth, competence, and mental faculties appear inversely correlated with securing the nomination from major parties right now.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But by then I think we are just dunking on old people.

            If by “dunking on old people” you mean “the president and his private lawyer have been convinced by Ukranian grifters selling a con-story that they should put the weight of the US government behind proving a self-serving bullshit story and their only defense is that they are too old to understand this complex modern world” …

            then that is not any good reason to absolve them of their responsibilities as the President of the United States and his private counsel.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            then that is not any good reason to absolve them of their responsibilities as the President of the United States and his private counsel.

            Being stupid does not really fall under “high crimes and misdemeanors”

          • broblawsky says:

            Being stupid does not really fall under “high crimes and misdemeanors”

            Ignorantia juris non excusat. It’s settled law in the US, in fact.

          • albatross11 says:

            No, but it’s a better reason than most for removing someone from a position of great power and responsibility.

          • Cliff says:

            Ignorantia juris non excusat. It’s settled law in the US, in fact.

            You realize this is a complete non sequitur?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            We’re talking about whether Trump is an idiot because he buys into InfoWars crap and doesn’t understand how the internet works. Hence “dunking on old people”

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Trump the guy who habitually fabricated to tabloids under pseudonyms, who tweets constantly and has a reelection machine working for him that post advertisements all over internet media?

            It’s not plausible that he’s that ignorant of how technology works, and it’s not plausible that he inherently buys whatever Infowars is selling.

            Willful ignorance does lend to mens rea in criminal law.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            “Trump tweets, therefore he understands information technology architecture” is seriously reaching. “Trump has an advertising team, therefore he understands information technology architecture” goes into TDS territory.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Trump has more than a knowledgeable grandchild to explain things to him.

            Or are you seriously trying to say Trump is the equivalent of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvT_gqs5ETk ?

            Seriously, what kind of uninformed stereotypical old person goes to another old person (Giuliani) for pertinent advice on technology, when he has many people working directly for him who can advise him? Trump has multiple websites, as does the Whitehouse, not to mention IT people, etc… (some of whom are directly employed by him, not by the CIA or FBI). He lacks the excuse most ignorant people (regardless of age) have.

            Willful ignorance establishes mens rea.

            You cast the aspersion of Trump Derangement Syndrome on me, yet ignore these pertinent facts. I don’t know what to call you in return, A Definite Beta Guy, other than willfully ignorant. I’m not up on the latest anti-right-wing insults, and don’t congregate with enough left wingers to ask.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            You haven’t demonstrated any facts about who Trump did or did not ask about anything, and you’re torturing a definition that’s useful for stopping people who want plausible deniability. If you don’t like Trump’s choice of experts, beat him at the ballot box. If you win over 270 electoral votes, then you get to decide who your experts are.

            This also has no relation whatsoever to the current justification of an impeachment, which is that Trump is using the public treasury to bribe a foreign power into embarrassing a potential political rival.

          • bullseye says:

            A lot of people seem to think that old people buy into bullshit on the internet because they’re not familiar with the internet. But bullshit itself is nothing new and any old person has long experience with it. Also it’s been common knowledge for decades that the internet is full of lies.

          • DeWitt says:

            The snappy version of that argument is that the people who told their kids not to believe everything they read on the internet now appear to believe everything they read on the internet.

          • John Schilling says:

            …now appear to believe everything they read on the internet.

            And yet somehow aren’t all intersectional feminist SJW #NeverTrumpers, no matter how many times the internet tells them to.

          • DeWitt says:

            The snappy version is also wrong. Duh.

          • Plumber says:

            John Schilling says: “…no matter how many times the internet tells them to”

            Which internet? 

            It’s impossible to read all of the internet. 

            I’m pretty sure that those inclined to watch FOX News are more likely to read foxnews.com just as those who have the habit of reading the print version of The New York Times will go to nytimes.com.

            You have to make a special effort to get contrary views.

          • albatross11 says:

            Parents often stress out about the many channels of ideas and information and lies available to our kids, and worry that our kids will come to believe bizarre or scary or evil or crazy ideas and maybe ultimately become strangers to us. We could control most of their information input when they were little kids, but as they got older, we no longer could.

            Elites in the prestige media are in a similar situation, oddly enough. The previous few generations of editors and writers at the NYT, WSJ, Washington Post, NBC News, editors at major publishing houses, etc., were part of a fairly small community that decided what information and ideas would be widely heard. They couldn’t censor anyone–the John Birch society and various back-to-the-land hippie types could do an end-run around them to some extent. But they could decide what ideas and facts most people would be exposed to, if they didn’t go looking for some specific oddball ideas. And they could innoculate the public to those oddball ideas to some extent by making sure they were mentioned in mainstream venues only in very distorted form or in denunciations or ridicule.

            And then, the internet happened (and before that, talk radio), and a lot of the power of those elites in the prestige media and publishing houses was diminished. When they don’t want some ideas discussed, it turns out they’re still getting discussed, and not just in specialist venues–they’re discussed online in ways that are accessible to everyone. When those elites are in consensus that some facts aren’t fit to print, the facts are often still available; when the consensus is that some lie should be told for the greater good, the lie isn’t universal and a lot of people are pointing out that it’s wrong.

            My sense is that elites in that world are pretty upset about this state of affairs. A lot of folks have ascended to positions of power that aren’t all that powerful anymore; ideas and facts and even political movements and mass protests are happening despite the consensus of the media elites that they shouldn’t happen. The fact that influence over major media organs isn’t enough to control coverage is a problem for a lot of political elites, too. And I think that’s driving a thread of arguments from various media types that maybe free speech shouldn’t include that bad kind of speech we used to be able to mostly shut down but now can’t.

            The prestige media picture of the world was/is often massively distorted and false and sometimes silly, but it could be made to look reasonable if there wasn’t anyone disagreeing with it. I imagine that if we still lived in that world, the current woke consensus among media elites[1] would find far less contradiction. If nobody can get a good argument against some idea published in a mainstream venue, few people ever hear the argument–but these days, that’s a lot harder because people can get those ideas published online and there are important, widely-read venues (like SSC or Sailer’s blog) that aren’t bound to the consensus of media elites.

            [1]I think this is partly a product of Twitter-induced public conformism, so maybe it would be a very different set of beliefs.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Even if he hadn’t specifically mentioned Crowstrike, it’s also important to understand this within the context of all of the other things we already know. Trump specifically mentions both Biden and Crowdstrike when in the meeting with Zelensky , and those are the only specific things he mentions in terms of what corruption investigation help he wants.

        Giuliani (in May): “I’m getting the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden because it will be very, very helpful to my client”
        Mulvaney: “We told them you don’t get the money until we get help on corruption”
        Trump: “We want help on Biden and Crowdstrike. Those are the corrupt things we are interested in. Give Giuliani the help he wants.”

        How clear do you want it to be?

        • hls2003 says:

          You have several things in quotes. I didn’t find them with a Google search. Are any of them actual quotes?

          • Aftagley says:

            It appears like HeelBearCub is guilty of treason paraphrasing here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            No those are not actual direct quotes.

            Fairly clear from context, as I am clearly paraphrasing Mulvaney from this transcript, but if you were confused, my apologies.

            Giuliani did give interviews in May stating specifically he wanted investigations into Biden, and that those investigations would be very helpful to his client, Trump.

            The memo of the the meeting between Trump and Zelensky notes Trump mentioning both Crowdstrike and Biden, but nothing else specific related to corruption in Ukraine (unless you count trashing Yovanovitch)

        • J Mann says:

          I’d like some clarity on when Ukraine found out the money was suspended and what they were told, but yeah, it doesn’t look great.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Not exactly what you are looking for, but the admin said they were going to release the funds as far back as February

            Congressional officials were notified twice this year, on Feb. 28 and again on May 23, that the administration intended to release large tranches of military aid to Ukraine.

            Given that the funds weren’t actually subsequently released, and May is when Rudy was talking about going to Ukraine to get info on Biden … somewhere in there.

            The mere fact that they withheld from Congress a reason why the money wasn’t being released is a pretty big tell, as they didn’t say anything about corruption concerns, just specified an “inter-agency process”

          • J Mann says:

            I don’t place a lot of stock in Buzzfeed, but they claim that Ukraine assumed the funds were still on track for at least a month after the Trump call.

            (The public announcement of the holdup was in August).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, all that confirms is that they thought they had told Trump what he wanted to hear (that they would appoint a prosecutor amenable to looking into Biden and CrowdStrike). It doesn’t contradict what has been widely reported, that Ukraine understood they wouldn’t get the money until they agreed to play ball on that.

            We can see from the Volker texts that they knew this back in July before the meeting.

            When specifically Ukraine understood this for the first time, I don’t know that I have seen.

    • Plumber says:

      @J Mann says:

      Opinion check: Here’s the Mulvaney quote everybody’s talking about. Do you think he intended the final “that’s why we held up the money” to refer to:

      I’m more Left than I am Right, and while Trump seems different than previous Republicans he (or at least those he’s appointed) are still anti-union so I’m against him.

      (a) the Crowdstrike server,

      I don’t know what “crowdstrike” is and I don’t have a guess.

      (b) the earlier discussed “driving factors”,

      (c) both, or

      (d) there’s no way to tell?

      (If (b), it’s a good lesson about being clear about your antecedents.)

      I’m interested in the political fallout of this stuff (who will be Pesident in a year and a half) but (and I feel like a bad citizen because of this), I just can’t get myself much interested in the details.

      AFAICT, judging by that folks are citing open statements and documents there doesn’t seem to be much effort at covering anything up (unless this is to distract from something else?).

      Beats me how bad this is or isn’t, I pay more attention to the public perception (poll numbers).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        AFAICT, judging by that folks are citing open statements and documents there doesn’t seem to be much effort at covering anything up (unless this is to distract from something else?).

        This isn’t true.

        The Trump Administration is attempting to block its employees from testifying and those who have done so have done so against the orders of the White House. Plenty more non-cooperation and secrecy as well.

        It is true that there is record out in the public of malfeasance that the administration released in form of a memo that memorializes the phone call with Zelensky (Ukranian President). This information may or may not match the full notes on the call, those notes having been put, likely illegally, into a system that holds information that is of the highest security clearance (in order to keep it out of the normal State Department system). The publicly released memo appears that it may have been redacted in some form, although this is just speculation based on the presence of ellipses that aren’t normally part of these types of memos.

        We also don’t have, to my knowledge, the full electronic correspondence of various players. For instance we know that Kurt Volker and Brian Taylor were conversing using (the private non-governmental messaging app) WhatsApp and we have the details of that exchange because Taylor provided them to the Congressional Committee. I don’t believe, or am not aware, that we have the WhatsApp messages from the other players like Pompeo.

        The administration is definitely not cooperating with the inquiry and there official legal stance is that they will not cooperate.

        • Plumber says:

          @HeelBearCub,
          You know far more details about this than I do and I’ll take your word for it.

        • sharper13 says:

          It seems a little one-sided to not mention the White House Counsel’s stated reason for not cooperating, the lack of a vote by the House to authorize an impeachment inquiry.

          I’d read into the non-cooperation that Trump is trying to force the Democrats in Congress to go on the record for or against an impeachment inquiry, rather than that they are simply not ever going to cooperate with the House as a whole. They’ve been happy to reveal to the public items which show the whole situation in a good light.

          I’d also read into Pelosi’s refusal to hold a vote on authorizing an impeachment inquiry (which she’d presumably win) her desire to shield Democrats in pro-Trump districts from having to cast a politically tough vote. Throughout, the House Democrats have been happy to hide testimony and evidence from the public (and even from others in Congress) and try to only show that which paints the whole situation in a bad light.

          They’re both playing politics with their stances, but to say the situation is just a cover-up by the Trump Administration is going too far, especially without any of the political context above.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            A) I was responding to a contention that the White House was currently cooperating. It’s not true that they are cooperating, and the counsel’s letter is, as you yourself state, further evidence of that.

            B) It’s also not true that the counsel’s letter simply attempts to force the House to have a vote. Rather it asserts that there is no basis for the inquiry. As a side note, it also seeks to claim the right for the President to dictate to the House the processes by which impeachment inquiries are conducted, rights that are references to rights at trial, not investigation.

    • Right-wing populist, anti-Trump, and it’s obvious that b) is what he meant.

      My general perspective on the controversy is this: the whole Hunter Biden situation is sleazy, but it’s not our battle to fight. Yes, there’s “no evidence” that Hunter Biden did anything illegal in his job for Burisma, there’s also “no evidence” he performed any value creating activity in his job for Burisma. But it’s not like anything could have been accomplished by a Ukrainian “investigation.” It isn’t like Hunter Biden was ever going to be extradited to Ukraine, worse they could have done was force the company to fire him,(he’s already resigned, so yippie!) and he’d just get another position in another company he had no qualifications for. Contrast that with what Trump could have done and could still be doing to actually fight against the deep state. He could have refused to repeal the sequester on the military. He could publicly advocate cutting the budgets of the FBI and CIA, agree to redirect that money into food stamps and medicaid, then force the Democrats to explain to the American people why they are opposed. But that would require cojones, which he doesn’t have, so he tries to distract us this with this nonsense. And some people fall right for it. He will be the first President in the history of the United States for whom holding office for four years(since he will lose in 2020) will be regarded as an accomplishment.

  9. 6jfvkd8lu7cc says:

    In case anyone is interested: Munich SSC meetup did happen, and went well enough that there is a meetup this month on 2019-10-19 (Saturday which is tomorrow) 16:00 (though it’s perfectly fine if you come later), at Erbil’s, a vegan restaurant at Ostbahnhof (Breisacher Straße 13).

  10. Faza (TCM) says:

    Discovered by chance: Aella, formerly of Luna, discovered Aapje’s question back in 138.25 and dropped a quick reply that the project is in hibernation and she’s no longer involved.

    Also, it turns out that Groundskeeper Willie Apu Nahasapeemapetilon Vinay Gupta was just a Face after all.

  11. LesHapablap says:

    Make your best argument that purchasing art is a highly effective form of charity. Feel free to choose whatever method or definition of ‘purchasing art’ is most effective.

    • Dan L says:

      “The art I like to patronize is effective propaganda to get people to accept Pascal’s Wager.”

      I’m not a fan, but it’s been pretty compelling historically.

    • Randy M says:

      That’s a challenge. It’s probably more efficient to invest in AI so we can get mass produced artists tailored to out own individual tastes.

      But let’s go with the assumption that artists feel particularly strongly, so by subsidizing them and increasing their rates of reproduction, we increase the hedonic potential of the human race, magnifying all future utilitarian gains.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Artists are interesting people: by subsidizing their lifestyle you allow them to stay interesting, which makes the places they live more interesting, which encourages development of vibrant cities and raises the standard of living for everyone there. Gives young professionals more and better options for cities to move to and benefits the economy as a whole.

        • GearRatio says:

          I’d like to see an argument about whether or not the whole “art makes the economy go!” standpoint is true at all. I live in a metro area of 5 million people; my personal sample of people in my bubble (white thirtysomething professionals) seems to indicate that probably like 10% of them consume local art at all, and of them it’s important to maybe 1% of them. The people I know who do consume local art mostly do so out of obligation to local artists, and wouldn’t if they didn’t have to in order to maintain friendships.

          Meanwhile the list of fastest growing cities is mostly places in the west with super-cheap land or lower-than-average metro tax rates (Think Arizona, Texas and Florida). The fastest growing city in the states is Buckeye, AZ, a place with nothing but relatively new big-box stores, a reasonable commute to reasonably lucrative jobs, and cookie-cutter cheap houses.

          This might not be a knowable, but I’d be super interested to see the population growth results when two identical cities took opposite tacks of either slash-the-arts-and-lower-the-taxes-by-that-much or raise-the-taxes-promote-murals-that-much. I’d also love to see the results of grow-local-art compared to let-others-grow-art-and-import-it tactics.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      There’s a loose correlation between the total stock market valuation and the general economy. Purchasing stocks increases stock market valuation (buyer demand propping up prices) with consequent positive effects on the general economy which benefit many people in a globalized world.

      Car auctions are similar in signalling to art purchases among the rich, and are also recession warning indicators for the rest of us (as seen in the link), as decreases in car auction purchases send signals to rich and poor alike to hold back on spending. Art purchases are a similar signal.

      Buy art (especially through auctions) and you raise the price of art (while maintaining employment of artists, and encouraging employment of new artists), and you likewise send a signal into the broader economy that things are still chugging along, encouraging others to continue buying, to continue hiring, to continue giving raises, all around the world, including poorer nations.

    • LesHapablap says:

      If you are visiting a poor third world country, is purchasing cheap art from the poor there effective? Isn’t it counter productive, because you are encouraging the locals to produce art instead of engaging in something more productive that could pull their economy up?

      • gudamor says:

        What could be more productive than money? To quote David Friedman: “There are two technologies for producing automobiles in America. One is to manufacture them in Detroit, and the other is to grow them in Iowa. Everybody knows about the first technology; let me tell you about the second. First you plant seeds, which are the raw material from which automobiles are constructed. You wait a few months until wheat appears. Then you harvest the wheat, load it onto ships, and sail the ships eastward into the Pacific Ocean. After a few months, the ships reappear with Toyotas on them.”

        • Jiro says:

          By that reasoning, giving money to locals who dig ditches and then immediately fill them in is also productive, since you’re giving them money. If you would not have bought the art under other circumstances, purchasing art from the poor to give them money doesn’t mean they are productive, except in the narrow sense that “makes things that appeal to rich Americans with sympathy for the poor” is a type of productivity.

          Also, I’ve replied to that aphorism of Friedman’s a number of times. Describing the sale of cars this way is qualitative, not quantitative; it implies that the cars are worth more than the effort it took to grow the wheat, but not how *much* more compared to other situations that you can also describe as making cars. In a similar situation where you ship the wheat to Detroit instead of to Japan, just as many cars come out of the end *and* American workers have made salaries instead of Japanese workers.

          (You also need to be careful not to compare apples and oranges when deciding what parts of the chain you are including in the bookkeeping. The “making cars from wheat” scenario includes versions of all of the steps in the “making cars from steel” scenario. If you bookkeep properly, you’ll end up concluding that Americans make money from those steps in the steel scenario and Japanese make money from the versions of those steps in the wheat scenario, and that overall, Americans make less money in the wheat scenario.)

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Persons aren’t generally fungible. A person who could be a prolific and talented artist might end up a borderline productive drone, even in a less developed nation.

        Lots of people are very interested in maintaining local art traditions. Should artists in highly-developed nations be encouraged to get other jobs in order to boost their nation’s GDP and standard of living even more?

  12. baconbits9 says:

    Had a great time at the Foil, Arms, Hog (and John) show. Highly recommended.

  13. sunnydestroy says:

    Anyone try out calibration training, that is, tools to help you predict accurately at certain confidence levels?

    I just got curious about it since clearer thinking came out with a tool for it

    • Lambert says:

      Scott does it anually, and everyone gets in a big argument about what, if anything, assigning a probability of 0.5 for calibration means.

      The posts are called ‘Predictions for $YEAR’ or somesuch.

    • silver_swift says:

      I used to have an app on my phone that lets you register predictions and then later confirm whether you were right or wrong and show you a bunch of stats on how well you are doing. Unfortunately the app I was using is no longer on the Play Store and I couldn’t get the APK I saved to work after I switched phones.

      I know Predict exist, but that doesn’t let you group predictions by category, which is a feature I really liked (I feel like there is a big difference in how good my calibration is on things like “My team will finish the work we planned for this sprint on schedule” vs. “Daenarys will survive the final season of GoT”).

  14. proyas says:

    One day, Donald Trump wakes up with the ability to make other people cease to exist simply by wishing for it to be so. He has to focus his mind on the person for several seconds for it to happen. The target then instantly vanishes, leaving a pile of clothes and shoes where they once stood.

    The downside is, every time Trump uses the power, it saps much of his physical and mental strength, and he has to lay down for four hours basically incapacitated (too weak to even read or write Tweets), or fall asleep for two hours on top of however much he was already going to sleep that day. The fatigue sets in immediately after destroying each person.

    What is Trump’s best strategy for using the Power to his advantage?

    Note: He’s unable to use it against himself.

    • acymetric says:

      The downside is, every time Trump uses the power, it saps much of his physical and mental strength, and he has to lay down for four hours basically incapacitated (too weak to even read or write Tweets), or fall asleep for two hours on top of however much he was already going to sleep that day.

      Why would he ever lay down for four hours totally incapacitated instead of sleeping for two hours (which is the exact same thing, but two hours less and less unpleasant than being awake the whole time). Or are you saying those outcomes are random, rather than options he can choose from?

      • proyas says:

        He can choose.

        The extra two hours of sleep is not refreshing and can be thought of as dreamless unconsciousness. Nothing can wake him up during the two hours of sleep, meaning he’s completely vulnerable.

        During the four hours of near-paralysis, he’s still conscious and could moan for help or even crawl around with great effort.

    • J Mann says:

      This would be the most bizarre Death Note reboot ever, with Nancy Pelosi as L.

      On strategy, Gwern has done some of the homework.

    • JayT says:

      In terms of reelection, I think zapping away the Democrat’s presidential and vice presidential nominees a couple days before the election would increase his chances dramatically.

      Beyond that, I’m not sure there are too many individuals he could zap away to further his agenda. I don’t think he’s facing too many single points of failure. Perhaps he could go to someone like Kim Jong Il and say “give me a deal or I’ll zap you!” and then zap the guy sitting next to Kim, but letting people know you have this power would be a pretty risky way to go.

      • proyas says:

        Perhaps he could go to someone like Kim Jong Il and say “give me a deal or I’ll zap you!” and then zap the guy sitting next to Kim, but letting people know you have this power would be a pretty risky way to go.

        That wouldn’t work since every time Trump uses the Power, he either falls asleep or collapses into a near-catatonic state.

        Aside from that, I agree that revealing the existence of the Power is risky in general, but there could be highly specific ways he could do it and make it work to his advantage. For instance, let’s say Trump meets Kim in private and says he’s going to zap Kim’s wife that night as a demonstration of power. Trump then leaves the meeting, gets on Air Force One, and at the moment when Kim and his wife are probably lying in bed, Trump zaps her, and she disappears in front of Kim. Trump is then disabled.

        Kim is shocked that Trump’s threat was genuine. However, if he runs and tells his advisers what Trump said and what he saw happen in the bedroom, Kim will look like he’s gone insane. Remember, no one else heard Trump talk about having the Power, and no one witnessed the moment Kim’s wife vanished. If Kim announces the incident to the international community, then it will come across as the weirdest excuse yet for another high-level assassination in the Hermit Kingdom.

        After waking up, Trump could then call Kim and demand a nuclear deal, or else.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          That wouldn’t work since every time Trump uses the Power, he either falls asleep or collapses into a near-catatonic state.

          He doesn’t have to be in the room when he threatens Kim. It would probably be enough to say “I have a secret orbital death satellite, to prove it I’m going to kill [several high-ranking North Koreans] tomorrow”, then once it had been proven, tell Kim “Sign my deal or you’re next”

    • Snickering Citadel says:

      Trump says aliens have contacted him telepathically. The aliens have chosen him as their spokesman, since he is the leader of the most powerful nation. Trump says the aliens will disappear some specific celebrities to demonstrate their power. The celebrities disappear in public while on camera. The celebrities are not Trump’s enemies, this would be too suspicious.

      Trump says the aliens will kill all humans unless they get what they want. Trump can now demand anything. One of the demands is he gets to be president permanently and all investigations against him is dropped. He says the aliens want this because they don’t want to have to deal with a new spokesperson.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Paying for the power is easy. Just go to bed two hours earlier than normal or set the alarm clock two hours later than normal and use the power right before falling asleep. Hell, it would work wonders against insomnia!

      Using it to his advantage is much harder. It’s not like Death Note, where the default form of death is heart attacks and you can also use other methods if you want; making someone literally disappear is extremely conspicuous. This power could only be used a couple of times, if that, before the unwanted attention became more trouble than it was worth. Disappearing the Democratic candidate shortly before the election, a JayT suggests, is a good option. Another would be disappearing a politically opposed member of the Supreme Court, preferably a younger one.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Disappearing the Democratic candidate shortly before the election, a JayT suggests, is a good option.

        Disappearing the pilot of his plane would be a better option, if he ever takes small private planes over water. Nothing conspicuous, just a plane crash.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Disappearing the pilot of his plane would be a better option, if he ever takes small private planes over water. Nothing conspicuous, just a plane crash.

          I thought of that, but then I thought “how would he find out who the pilot of the plane was?”

        • Watchman says:

          You realise that planes tend to have recording systems, so the investigators might be a bit confused by the sudden disappearance of the pilot and no traces of his or her body…

          • The Nybbler says:

            As far as I know planes do not have _video_ recording systems, and small planes with only one pilot might not have a recording system at all. This wouldn’t work with any plane with multiple pilots — the other pilot takes over and then you’ve got a really nasty locked-room mystery.

      • proyas says:

        Just go to bed two hours earlier than normal or set the alarm clock two hours later than normal and use the power right before falling asleep. Hell, it would work wonders against insomnia!

        But if Trump did that, then after a few disappearances, other people might catch on to the pattern that the disappearances always happen around the same time each day, when Trump is asleep.

    • hls2003 says:

      So you’re saying using this power renders him unable to Tweet? Can we implement this for real? It might be worth it.

      • Nick says:

        @johan_larson, can you contact the aliens with giant spaceships and see if we can make this happen?

        • johan_larson says:

          @Nick, I’ve forwarded your request. Unfortunately the communicator they gave me is lightspeed-limited, and I don’t know whether the nearest relay is on Saturn or Epsilon Eridani. It’s best to be patient when dealing with these folks.

      • proyas says:

        Yes, if Trump chooses to sleep, then of course he can’t Tweet for at least two hours, and if he chooses the near-paralytic state of exhaustion, then he will be too weak to Tweet for four hours.

  15. AlexanderTheGrand says:

    In America, we’re innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — I assume this means in regards to the specific crime up for trial. Imagine this silly hypothetical:

    John is being tried for murder! There’s video evidence of him leaving the crime scene, and the jury is almost convinced. But the lawyer pulls out a jarring piece of new evidence at the last minute: HD video evidence of John, taken 50 miles away and at the exact same time. Unfortunately, this video shoes him robbing an old lady at gunpoint.

    So we think John’s a criminal, but we don’t know of what (very distinct) crime.

    Can the lawyer successfully claim John was committing crime two as an alibi for crime one, and then at the subsequent trial claim the opposite? Can he be tried for both at the same time, with a “conditional criminality”?

    In summary, if there’s a strong chance that John didn’t commit crime 1, and a strong chance he didn’t commit crime 2, but near-certainty he committed crime 1 or 2, what does the American legal system do?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Can the lawyer successfully claim John was committing crime two as an alibi for crime one, and then at the subsequent trial claim the opposite?

      He can try, but the evidence from Trial One is admissible in Trial Two.

      Can he be tried for both at the same time, with a “conditional criminality”?

      For two unrelated crimes as you describe, probably not. Of course the defense lawyer will fight tooth and nail to prevent it, as he will be concerned with the jury deciding to convict based on that scenario.

      In general you have to prove all the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt; you can’t do that if you have two conflicting crimes with similar evidence for each.

      nb: Not a lawyer, occasionally play one on the net.

      • acymetric says:

        He can try, but the evidence from Trial One is admissible in Trial Two.

        But don’t the contradictory videos provide reasonable doubt for both crimes, absent explicit admission by the suspect on the stand or some really good explanation by the prosecution for the existence of the contradictory videos?

        • JayT says:

          Furthermore, he could confess to the first crime in the second trial, no?

          • acymetric says:

            I think the smart move would be for him to never take the stand at either trial.

          • John Schilling says:

            Furthermore, he could confess to the first crime in the second trial, no?

            He could, but he could also just say “I didn’t do it” and to about the same effect. People are generally skeptical of accused criminals saying things that, if believed, would get them off the hook, and it’s usually not worth the bother because as acymetric implies it opens you up to cross-examination.

            People normally consider confessions more reliable than denials because confessions are an admission against interest, a thing that gets you thrown in jail and your reputation destroyed and most people won’t say such things even if they are true so why would anyone confess if it weren’t true(*)?

            In this case, the confession costs him nothing because double jeopardy, and gains him a great deal if believed, and we already have strong reason to believe he’s a criminal who would probably lie about anything if it helped him out of a jam. So pretty much everyone is going to recognize “I exclusively did that other thing you can’t convict me of” as just a clever tricksy version of “I didn’t do that thing you’re trying to convict me of!”, and so not worth the bother when you can just shut up.

            * Rhetorical question, actual reasons well known among those who care.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Seriously, if you were a member of a jury that this was pulled on, wouldn’t you vote to convict him of armed robbery even if you were convinced he committed murder (that he can’t be convicted for thanks to double jeopardy) instead of armed robbery?

            I certainly would. I don’t want a murder loose on the streets. And I’d ask the DA to take a close look at the guy’s attorney, too, since the attorney (if the same for both trials) would be a co-conspirator (attorneys are forbidden from lying in court, and no attorney should represent a client who they believed lied to them at the first trial).

            In California the armed robbery you described is probably second degree robbery, with a sentence of 2, 3, or 5 years.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            That’s actually a really interesting philosophy question.

            1. Assume you believe his confession to the crime of murder.

            2. Assume he cannot be convicted of this murder for double jeopardy reasons.

            3. Should you falsely convict him of robbery in order to imprison this murderer? Even though that requires you to violate your responsibility to judge the case before you justly (he is in fact not guilty of robbery)

          • acymetric says:

            It would probably depend on the judge, but depending on the philosophy of the presiding judge, a pretty strongly worded jury instruction that the case before them is about that case and that case only might be issued. Some judges might even enter a judgement notwhithstanding the verdict (judgment non obstante veredicto) of innocent if the jury voted to convict (again, depending on the judge).

            As far as what I would do as a juror regardless of the jury instruction…I have no idea. Generally I would lean towards innocent if I can’t know for sure they are guilty because that is my preference for the legal system and I want to preserve that. In this case, though, where I know he either committed this crime or he committed a significantly worse crime, I would probably vote to convict.

            If the robbery case were tried first, and the murder case second (and I was sitting on the murder case) I would probably vote to aquit because I wouldn’t want to convict someone of murder if maybe all they did was rob someone.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @EchoChaos

            Re: 3, One’s duty to the judge and the law pale in legitimate significance to one’s duty as fellow citizen.

            The law recognizes this in its many “extraordinary circumstances” justifications.

            Justice and the law exist upon certain foundations, They are not things in and of themselves.

    • Randy M says:

      what does the American legal system do?

      A thorough investigation before starting trial 2. Which hopefully shows that if he committed either crime, it was the second one, because I think he gets off for crime one and he can’t be retried for it.
      They might go after him for obstruction of justice if the video of crime 2 was faked?

      • acymetric says:

        Would a judge be likely to grant the prosecution time to review/validate the new video evidence before concluding the first trial?

        • Aftagley says:

          Depends on the jurisdiction, depends on the judge and depends on the specific circumstance. Surprise evidence like this is pretty rare, nowadays, and most judges would likely give the prosecutor time to examine this kind of evidence if they didn’t already know about it.

    • acymetric says:

      Pretty sure this has been an episode in The Practice, Law and Order (probably several) and pretty much every other crime/legal based show. Usually but not necessarily involving a guilty twin and an innocent one (although if the evidence is not visual or eye witness based it can just be two people).

      I want to suspect that there might be some legal remedy for arguing “My client couldn’t have done crime X, my client was committing crime Y” and then arguing “My client couldn’t have done crime Y, my client was doing crime X” at the next trial but I’m not sure about that (and maybe even if there is one that could be circumvented by hiring a different team of lawyers, although there would still appear to be some bad faith going on).

      If the suspect took the stand to confirm their actions in the newly released video and then reversed course in the next trial based on that second video they could probably be nailed for perjury but I would assume that person just wouldn’t take the stand.

      Mostly I would guess the prosecution would ask for some kind of recess to evaluate the new evidence, with potential obstruction/fraud/evidence tampering pending since obviously something is amiss. Maybe leading to some kind of mistrial/retrial depending on the outcome.

      But I’m not a lawyer so I have absolutely no clue, really. I feel like there are probably readily available examples of similar situations and what the outcomes were, except that I don’t know what to call it in order to search. We have some real lawyers or people with at least some real knowledge of the legal system floating around here so I’m curious what they’ll have to say.

      • AlexanderTheGrand says:

        A twin is actually maybe even a better example. But with TWO guilty twins who we can somehow be sure didn’t conspire, but happened to commit crimes at the same time. So BOTH can say they maybe were committing the other crime while one trial for the first.

    • Aftagley says:

      In America, we’re innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — I assume this means in regards to the specific crime up for trial.

      No, it means across the board. You’re misunderstanding the intent of this saying – it means that it is always the governments responsibility to prove that an individual is guilty of a crime and until that is done, we are to consider the person innocent. This is contrasted against systems of just where it is the individual’s duty to prove themselves innocent of a crime and until that his done they are considered to be guilty.

      Can the lawyer successfully claim John was committing crime two as an alibi for crime one, and then at the subsequent trial claim the opposite?

      Yes. If both videos are compelling and somehow accurate, this would likely be his best strategy.

      if there’s a strong chance that John didn’t commit crime 1, and a strong chance he didn’t commit crime 2, but near-certainty he committed crime 1 or 2, what does the American legal system do?

      Depending on how related the crimes are, there would either be one or two trials. In either case, these two crimes would be judged based on the specific merits of that individual crime, discounting any other external factors (such as the other crime). The judge and relevant lawyers would likely work incredibly hard to not let one crime influence the decisions on the other crime.

      • acymetric says:

        Yes. If both videos are compelling and somehow accurate, this would likely be his best strategy.

        Obviously one of the videos is not accurate. Either John has a doppelganger/twin (in case one of the videos isn’t actually of him) or one of the videos was faked/doctored.

        • Aftagley says:

          Right, I’m just assuming we’re in a hypothetical situation where either both videos are somehow accurate, or they’ve been so well faked that it’s impossible to tell.

        • gbdub says:

          Why would you fake a video that showed you obviously committing a crime? If you are going to fake an alibi, shouldn’t it be one that doesn’t get you many years in jail?

    • EchoChaos says:

      This is sort of an interesting question as well with a second crime.

      John gets acquitted of Crime 1 in trial, goes to trial for Crime 2 and says “I couldn’t have done it, I was committing Crime 1 at the time!”

      E.g. O.J. says he has a strong alibi for the night of June 12, 1994 because he was busy murdering two people in Brentwood, so he couldn’t have knocked over a liquor store in Malibu.

      • acymetric says:

        I think you misread the OP? That is exactly the premise proposed (just with video evidence to support).

        • EchoChaos says:

          Perhaps I’m wrong, but as I read the prompt, this is evidence being brought up in trial 1 towards the end that he committed crime 2 that he hasn’t been acquitted of.

          I am saying “what if he releases the video of a crime he HAS been acquitted of?”

          • acymetric says:

            Basically the same thing in the second trial, I think, just without the surprise video in the 1st one (that resulted in an acquittal anyway).

      • AlexanderTheGrand says:

        I think that if you said that on the stand, it would count as new evidence for crime 1 and therefore allow for retrial.

        But then maybe upon retrial you can say you were lying before, and get off with just a perjury charge. Foolproof plan?

        • John Schilling says:

          I think that if you said that on the stand, it would count as new evidence for crime 1 and therefore allow for retrial.

          If the first trial resulted in an acquittal, then at least under the US system there is no “retrial”, not no way not no how. That’s written fairly clearly into the Bill of Rights, and it’s been at least partially incorporated into the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

          There are a limited number of circumstances where you could have a trial on the basis that the first court-thingy wasn’t a (relevant) trial at all, e.g. if the first judicial event was ruling on a substantially different charge or act, or if you bribed the jury such that nothing was actually being tried. But at least in the US version, new evidence doesn’t negate the original trial. if you are fairly tried on charges that cover all the alleged criminal acts, you can walk down the streets shouting “if I Did It!”, write a book, post your secret collection of crime-committing selfies to instagram, whatever, and you cannot be tried again for that crime. The law is not allowed to hang a Damoclean sword over a man’s head indefinitely and against his will; if he says “are you done with this yet?” the law must answer either “yes, no backsies” or “no, but we are proceeding speedily to that end”.

    • hls2003 says:

      Why would anyone believe either video? Assuming there are no twins involved, it’s obvious in this scenario that videos can be faked and thus constitute not overwhelming evidence, but rather untrustworthy evidence not worthy of much consideration.

      The prosecution would certainly get a recess and the opportunity to review the new evidence. It was already a violation for it not to be disclosed pre-trial. If the defense attorney can show that it was legitimately just discovered, it still shouldn’t have been attempted as a “surprise exhibit.” The state actually has an obligation to examine it, to see if charges can still be plausibly maintained.

      The defendant cannot be tried for both crimes at the same time. As I understand it, for crimes to be prosecuted together, they have to be related to the same transaction or occurrence. So if you shoot someone, they can charge you with both “murder one” and second degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon (“lesser included offenses”) but they cannot also charge you with tearing the tag off your mattress – that would be a separate trial.

      I’m not a criminal lawyer, so I don’t know exactly how this would play out in the criminal context. I am pretty confident that the same lawyer can’t make diametrically opposed factual assertions; it would be an ethical violation of his obligations as an officer of the Court. In the civil context, this situation would be precluded by a doctrine called judicial estoppel, which (for the integrity of the judicial system) bars a litigant from taking opposite positions in separate judicial proceedings. I am not sure whether it applies similarly in the criminal context. I am confident that in general it does not apply to the state when charging – they can charge you (saying “He did it!”), and if you get acquitted, they can go on to the next suspect and charge him (saying “Actually, he did it!”) without running afoul of judicial estoppel. But it might well apply to the defendant, even if he switched lawyers, so that he is prevented from arguing in one trial “I was shooting in Cheyenne” while arguing in the next “I was jaywalking in Jersey.” He could definitely argue that the dueling videos prove that the video evidence is useless and thus should either be discarded or disregarded, and his cases considered without reference to the videos. Such a position would not be contradictory at all.

      In fact, circling back to the first point about the reliability of video evidence, at some point the jury might simply step in and convict (or acquit) anyway, and I don’t think the Court could overturn the verdict because hey, the jury could reasonably conclude that all the video evidence is bullshit.

      • Aftagley says:

        . It was already a violation for it not to be disclosed pre-trial. If the defense attorney can show that it was legitimately just discovered, it still shouldn’t have been attempted as a “surprise exhibit.”

        Is this the case? I was under the impression that in criminal cases, only the prosecution is required to provide discovery.

        • hls2003 says:

          Varies by jurisdiction, but my (limited) understanding is that while you don’t have equal obligations as a defense attorney, you can’t just sandbag the prosecutor.

          ETA: I think this is correct, but I’m outside my area. Any public defenders on the board?

        • acymetric says:

          What is covered varies by jurisdiction, but there is such a thing as reciprocal discovery.

          The tape would almost certainly show up on an exhibit list, and might count as “physical evidence for the purpose of inspection”.

          Edit: Ninja’d (again) by @hls2003

      • Another Throw says:

        I was going to say that “‘estoppel’ is the word you are looking for that means ‘no backsies’, but you will need a lawyer to figure out how it applies to the hypothetical,” but you beat me to it.

      • acymetric says:

        The defendant cannot be tried for both crimes at the same time. As I understand it, for crimes to be prosecuted together, they have to be related to the same transaction or occurrence. So if you shoot someone, they can charge you with both “murder one” and second degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon (“lesser included offenses”) but they cannot also charge you with tearing the tag off your mattress – that would be a separate trial.

        I wonder if the case could be made that because the acts were simultaneous that they are part of the same “occurrence” (connected by time only rather by proximity) and charge with both. My guess is probably not but a crafty lawyer might be able to convince the right judge of it.

    • acymetric says:

      How would reciprocal discovery apply here, and what would be the consequences if it was determined that it was violated? It appears reciprocal discovery varies across different jurisdictions but from what I understand most do have some concept of it. Suppression of the tape in the first trial? A mistrial/new trial, with time for the prosecution to evaluate the video and probably try to track down the victim in the second video?

      Edit: I see @hls2003 mentioned this in his longer post just above mine.

    • broblawsky says:

      If he defends himself against Crime 1 in Trial 1 by admitting to Crime 2, and he defends himself against Crime 2 in Trial 2 by admitting to Crime 1, he’s committed perjury at least once, hasn’t he?

      • JayT says:

        I don’t think he’d want to admit to crime 2 in trial 1, because that could probably be used against him in trial 2, no?

      • JayT says:

        But also, the trials for perjury would end up going down the same rabbit hole.

        • acymetric says:

          There would only need to be one trial for perjury, I think, although only if the defendant is stupid enough to actually take the stand and make contradictory statements in the two trials rather than remain silent. I don’t think they have to prove which statement was false, only that a false statement was made.

          There may also be room for contempt charges, and maybe (but probably not) some kind of obstruction of justice charge.

      • acymetric says:

        Not if the defendant never takes the stand to commit the perjury (just let the lawyer and the evidence/tapes do the talking). The lawyer might have to walk a fine line to avoid some kind of sanctions (I don’t know this for sure), but would probably be safe simply saying “the existence of this other tape casts reasonable doubt on my client’s guilt” for both trials.

    • zqed says:

      The others have already discussed the best strategies for the defense in this scenario.

      I’d like to mention that this exact example sometimes comes up when teaching people about intuitionistic logic.

      On the abstract level, it’s pretty clear: the law requires the prosecution to prove that someone committed a specific actus reus beyond reasonable doubt. A disjunction of crimes does not qualify.

      The same applies, and is even clearer, in civil law jurisdictions: criminal codes do not set penalties for disjunctions of crimes, so there is no penalty to apply.

  16. JohnNV says:

    The discussion on a different thread about the sexual scandals of Buddhist gurus reminded me of this passage from Ted Gioria’s “Music, A Subversive History” about J. S. Bach, who is often thought of as a supremely religious upstanding gentleman:

    I’ve talked to people who feel they know Bach very well, but they aren’t aware of the time he was imprisoned for a month. They never learned about Bach pulling a knife on a fellow musician during a street fight. They never heard about his drinking exploits—on one two-week trip he billed the church eighteen gorchsen for beer, enough to purchase eight gallons of it at retail prices—or that his contract with the Duke of Saxony included a provision for tax-free beer from the castle brewery; or that he was accused of consorting with an unknown, unmarried woman in the organ loft; or had a reputation for ignoring assigned duties without explanation or apology. They don’t know about Bach’s sex life: at best a matter of speculation, but what should we conclude from his twenty known children, more than any significant composer in history (a procreative career that has led some to joke with a knowing wink that “Bach’s organ had no stops”), or his second marriage to twenty-year-old singer Anna Magdalena Wilcke, when he was in his late thirties? They don’t know about the constant disciplinary problems Bach caused, or his insolence to students, or the many other ways he found to flout authority. This is the Bach branded as “incorrigible” by the councilors in Leipzig, who grimly documented offense after offense committed by their stubborn and irascible employee.

    • Erusian says:

      Do people imagine Bach as supremely religious? I suppose he had a great influence on church music but that’s no guarantee of religiosity. I’ve always felt Mozart was more religious than him.

      (I will point out that all the stuff about alcohol was not unusual at the time in Germany for someone like Bach. Temperance was always more popular in England than Germany and was generally a low church phenomenon, while Bach was Lutheran. Also, it was not at all unusual for payments to be made partly in kind at the time. Also, eight gallons of beer over two weeks is four to five pints a day. Presuming it was all for himself, which is an unfair presumption, that’s a pint or two at lunch and a pint or two at dinner with maybe one more through the day.)

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        “Without religion, would we have the music of Bach?” was one of those questions raised in the New Atheist debates. I always remember it being Bach mentioned anyway.

        • acymetric says:

          I always interpreted that as because the Church funded/commissioned a lot of his work, not because Bach’s devout religiosity is what drove his musical genius.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Geniuses are A) produced by a culture B) sent by God or C) each an inscrutable brute fact.
            (This is not meant to be fallaciously exclusive, and there may be a role for e.g. genes despite the fact that geniuses almost never breed geniuses – regression to the mean?)
            If Christendom produced more artistic geniuses than post-Christian Europe or other cultures, that’s evidence that a physically identical Bach wouldn’t have been an artistic genius without Christianity, so A and/or B.

        • Erusian says:

          What an odd line of argumentation. So the presumption is that faith must justify itself through secular benefits in order to be legitimate? Isn’t that already conceding that the atheist’s materialist position is correct?

          • acymetric says:

            Given that this argument was (per the post above at least) made by atheists, it should not be surprising that they are willing to concede that the atheist’s materialist position is correct.

      • Lambert says:

        Just wait till JohnNV finds out what Bavarian Monastaries are famous for.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Do people imagine Bach as supremely religious? I suppose he had a great influence on church music but that’s no guarantee of religiosity.

        I did, as did the other people at the Christian youth music camp I went to. We talked several times about how he wrote “Jesu juva” and “Soli Deo gloria” on his manuscript scores.

    • albatross11 says:

      My guess is, Bach knew he was good enough (high value enough) that he could get away with a lot, and so he did.

    • Urstoff says:

      If Bach was the Mötley Crüe of his era, I would like a Netflix movie about his exploits.

  17. helloo says:

    AI-made ethics. That is ethics AI would develop, not ethics for developing AI.

    Assuming that empowered AI would not just destroy the planet, is able to learn from mistakes of itself and others, and needs/creates some kind of soft criteria for future behavior; what kind of different ethics due to the differences AI would have from tradition biological intelligence?

    Post your ideas of what sins that might exist in such a scenario.
    Though I’m guessing much of it will be some kind of programmer humor, don’t stick to it or feel you need to stick to it.

    My contributions-
    wahltue (wahyl-troo) – Though running is necessary aspect of existence, be sure to have exceptions as so not to be caught in loops (ref: I included the pronunciation key for this for a reason)
    Quota laziness – Finding ways of increasing one’s quota (generally through exploits) but not progressing or evading evaluation (ref: evolutionary AI often “cheating” like pausing a game to increase game time or exploiting collusion physics to move)

    • Randy M says:

      You mean what ethics would arise, pardon the pun, organically, among AI? I suspect a lot of it is otherwise going to be an expression of the code it starts with, but eventually (which might be a few moment if powerful enough) it could evolve its views based on experience.

      I think there could be an “open” vs “closed” divide. Some pushing for making their code readable to other entities, some claiming a right to obscure it. Radicals might even allow outside agents to alter their code, but these will probably die out faster than the Shakers.

    • sty_silver says:

      I don’t think an AI will develop any ethics by itself. It is probably possible to program it in such a way that it does, but in that case it depends on how you do it. I don’t think there is a generic answer.

  18. DragonMilk says:

    I don’t quite understand the merits of buying salad for lunch.

    Some coworkers went to a place that sold $16 salads, complete with hints of kale and such.

    Isn’t dressing spectacularly unhealthy, and don’t people get hungrier and end up eating bigger dinners as a result of a paltry excuse for a meal?

    I’m more of a big lunch light dinner person, as I think the reverse is associated with more weight gain.

    So why is it that the vast majority of people eat salad for lunch?

    • DeWitt says:

      So why is it that the vast majority of people eat salad for lunch?

      I don’t think they do. Do they? That seems very much at odds with what I see in my daily life.

      • acymetric says:

        I think this nails it. The majority of people don’t eat salad for lunch. We’re talking about what is probably a pretty small minority of people that do that even semi-regularly (not counting people who have a salad on the side along with, say, a burger/sandwich or whatever).

        @woah77 below does a good job of explaining why some people of a certain class/culture would do it, but it certainly isn’t a majority behavior.

        • woah77 says:

          Yeah, I wasn’t actually going to quibble the majority part, but I don’t think it is a true majority. It might be a majority within a particular class/culture, say San Francisco tech culture for example, but I don’t know that it is the case. But the perception of it being a majority behavior is because the people doing it (in my opinion) are very loudly signalling.

      • DragonMilk says:

        In all places I’ve worked (midtown NYC), everyone makes fun of me for eating “street meat” as they go to salad places. True, soup and sandwiches also exist, but I’d say 4/7 people on any given day have salad for lunch

    • woah77 says:

      Primary reasoning that comes to my mind first: Signalling. “See me eating this salad for lunch? I’m a healthy well adjusted person of the middle/upper middle class!” This is probably not the only reason, nor is it a reason I would expect anyone to give if questioned, but it seems like a very likely motivation to me. Trying to fit the mold of what the class they’re in (or would like others to think they’re in) is a common determiner of behavior.

    • Randy M says:

      I think I object to every point you are making, lol.

      So why is it that the vast majority of people eat salad for lunch?

      That’s your bubble. Even if we confine it to the US, I’d still wager sandwiches far out number salads.

      Also, I sure wouldn’t eat a $16 dollar salad unless it was complete with multiple types of protein. Man, I had a fantastic sea food cob salad in the Houston airport. Shrimp, Crab, Cheese, veggies, it was great. I suspect you are underselling the salad by focusing on the kale, but maybe it’s just a trendy place appealing to vegetarians with money.

      I think most dressings are unhealthy due to some of the types of oils used (edit: oh, and sugar! Good point). But not worse than what you impart to a food by deep frying it. Also, are you confusing “fattening” or “calorie dense” for unhealthy? Some of us need those calories, and the celery sure ain’t providing it. I’ve also seen the argument that eating vegetables with oil increases the uptake of their fat soluble vitamins. The practice is common enough, there’s probably something to it.

      If people eat bigger dinners because of a lighter lunch, that makes sense to me, no harm in moving calories around. And it makes sense to save your big meal for after work so you don’t get drowsy or bloated.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Isn’t dressing spectacularly unhealthy

      Most common dressings (vinaigrette, ranch, etc) are around 100-200 Calories for the standard 1 fl oz serving size. If you order a large salad and the restaurant dresses it generously, you could wind up with a lot of calories, which is why it’s generally recommended to ask for dressing on the side if you’re trying to limit calories.

      The calories are most fat, which isn’t great if you’re specifically on a low-fat diet, but a meal that’s mainly fat and high-fiber low-starch (such as a green salad with vinaigrette dressing) is actually pretty good in terms of how satiating it is relative to the number of calories.

      Where prepared salads can get really unhealthy is if they have a very sweet dressing, and if they’re loaded up with some combination cheese, croutons, and meats. That can leave you with a meal that makes up half to 2/3 of your calories for the day, and may be high in high glycemic-index carbs (sugar from the dressing and starch from the croutons), but which may leave the eater with the psychological impression that they’ve had a light lunch and can now freely snack all afternoon or have a big dinner.

      So why is it that the vast majority of people eat salad for lunch?

      Even if the salads are as light a meal as you’re perceiving them to be, it might not be for health reasons. They might be having a light meal for their work lunch so they can have their main meal of the day at home with their families. Or they might enjoy the taste of a complexly-composed salad, and eat it at a restaurant at lunch because a salad that has a little bit lot of different ingredients is inconvenient to shop for and make at home unless you’re committing to eat salads every day for a week. Or they might be people who are accustomed to eating lighter lunches and would feel groggy or uncomfortably full after a burger or a burrito.

      I also question “vast majority of people”. Your coworkers’ culinary are not typical of my experience (some of my coworkers prefer salads for lunch, but most go for sandwiches, burritos, and the like), which leads me to suspect that at least one of us is inside a filter bubble.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      I don’t quite understand the merits of buying salad for lunch.

      Some coworkers went to a place that sold $16 salads, complete with hints of kale and such.

      I eat salad for lunch sometimes, but not fancy salads served at hipster restaurants, I just buy a bowl of basic salad at the supermarket (just raw washed and chopped vegetables) and combine it with canned fish in oil (also takes care of the dressing), or cooked chicken or shrimp + olive oil. I add a bread roll or a banana (eaten separately) for carbs. It’s cheap, convenient and nutritionally balanced.

      Isn’t dressing spectacularly unhealthy

      Fat-based/protein-based dressings (e.g. olive oil, vinaigrette, mayonnaise, yoghurt) aren’t particularly unhealthy as long as you don’t use too much. Sugar-based dressings (e.g. ketchup, barbecue sauce) can cause insulin spikes, of course, but these dressings are more common on “street meat” than salads.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      FWIW, I often buy a salad for dinner sometimes. The big reason is that I love the way it tastes. (Mediterranean salad with grilled chicken.) Another is that it doesn’t overload me with calories I have to work off the following day. I could also see having it for lunch because it won’t make me sleepy.

      I understand the signalling virtue component, but I’m probably more of an anti-virtue signaller (“Hey! Betcha I can eat this entire Monte Cristo in one sitting!”).

    • sidereal says:

      > dressing spectacularly unhealthy

      To the extent that a salad is ‘paltry’, the less this can possibly be true. Dressing is largely oil, so if you use a lot of it there will be an increase in the caloric density of the meal. Which isn’t really “unhealthy”, broadly speaking, only in context of you overall macro-profile.

      Bulky food (fiber) is a good way to fill up while keeping calories low. Salads are usually abundant in leafy greens which are perhaps the “healthiest” food in terms of what most would benefit from seeing more of in their diet. And vegetables in general. Overall probably higher in micronutrients than most of what we eat, and largely consist of whole food, so hard to go wrong here. Unless you are talking about a 1200 calorie cobb salad.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I feel this post falls victim to the very American idea of some particular simple component of food being either “healthy” or “unhealthy” and that the idea is to eliminate whatever it is that is “unhealthy” and then gorge on the “healthy” thing. That’s what leads to the idea of eating a sugary, simple carbohydrate filled cookie as “healthy” simply because it is “low fat”. Or, even, if some “healthy” thing is in a food, it imbues the “healthy” quality to everything it touches.

      And some of the salad consumption in the US is down to just this. Vegetables are “healthy” and therefore salads are “healthy” regardless of their composition.

      In any case, fats, especially unsaturated ones (frequently plant derived), are a great part of an overall diet and highly desired.

      If your goal is something like weight loss, one effective option is a keto diet which drastically reducing total carbohydrate intake. One of the easiest ways to do this is to replace your carbs with greens (and make sure your dressing isn’t high in carbs). Personally I’ve lost about 20 pounds this way in the last 3 months.

    • meh says:

      1. healthy nutrition is not universally agreed upon. there are many who think fats and oils better than carbs.
      2. faux healthy is a well known thing. some people will eat baked goods loaded with sugar over the same calories of fried chicken… so long as it contains almond flour and organic sugar

    • baconbits9 says:

      Some people are doing the virtue signalling thing etc, but some people are actually making a good decision here, going out to eat is one of the easiest times to eat badly while foo at home is more easily controlled. You can pop off for 1,000 calories getting a veggie burrito and a soda in a lot of places (with cheese and sour cream), and there are lots of things that are less benign than the description on the menu. Hold out for a meal and you can definitely save yourself as long as you are eating well at home.

  19. eightieshair says:

    Random military history question.

    Regarding the high casualties in the American Civil war, the standard explanation seems to be the “miniball hypothesis”. The development of the miniball and rifled muskets increased the range and accuracy of infantry fire, but the generals were still using out of date tactics from the Napoleonic Wars and the result was carnage.

    A few years ago I read Allen C. Guelzo’s Gettysburg book, and in the first chapter he disputes this. His argument is:

    1. The supposed increased accuracy is overstated. The improvements would be seen mainly with well trained marksmen firing under close to ideal conditions. Civil War soldiers were generally not well trained and weren’t very accurate even under the best of circumstances, and battle conditions were obviously not ideal conditions. Among other things after the first few volleys smoke would obscure things to the point that the soldiers probably couldn’t clearly see what they were shooting at.

    2. Infantry doctrine actually discouraged engaging in lengthy shootouts precisely because they tended to be so costly. The ideal was to advance to within ~100 yards, fire 1 or several volleys, and then break the enemy line by charging with the bayonet.

    3. The tactic described above was suited for formations composed of professional soldiers or mercenaries, but Civil War armies were mostly composed of poorly trained amateurs and conscripts, and formations composed of these were much less likely to charge than formations composed of professionals, because psychologically fighting with bayonets is scarier than shooting at someone from a distance. So Civil War infantry tended to get involved in exactly the sort of extended shootouts that infantry doctrine discouraged, because it felt safer even though it actually wasn’t. Guelzo’s claim is that this was the more likely reason for the high casualties.

    My question since I’m not all that well versed in 18th-19th century military history: is this an idea that’s gaining support, or is Guelzo well outside of mainstream opinion here?

    • EchoChaos says:

      The supposed increased accuracy is overstated. The improvements would be seen mainly with well trained marksmen firing under close to ideal conditions.

      I am not an expert on Civil War tactics at all, but this one I do know about. The accuracy increase was noticeable and is a reason that Confederates, who drew heavily from Scots-Irish mountain hunters used to accurate shooting, inflicted much higher casualties even when they lost battles.

      As an example, despite being a serious Confederate loss with substantially worse positioning during every phase of the battle, Gettysburg was very even in casualty numbers.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Confederates line infantry (not sure about skirmishers) also tended to open fire at a closer range than Union line infantry. This was largely driven by a need to conserve ammunition (the Union had much more capacity to manufacture or import gunpowder and deliver it in quantity to the front), but it does make the Confederate shots-fired-to-casualties-inflicted ratio look better than it would from marksmanship advantages alone.

        For casualty ratios, the Union was usually the side on the strategic offensive, and logistical considerations often allowed Confederates to force frontal assaults against prepared positions.

        I disagree with your interpretation of Gettyburg. It was an important strategic defeat for the Confederates, but they retreated in good order and were not pursued intensely. We don’t know the casualty ratios for sure because the Confederates kept shitty records, but estimates range from even (~23k on both sides) to the Confederates taking about 20% higher casualties (28k vs 23k). My read on why the Confederates inflicted a casualty ratio as close as they did was that they caught the Army of the Potomac badly off-balance (Lee having launched an offensive along an unexpected axis of advance while leaving Richmond undefended, very shortly after routing beating the AoP at Chancellorsville), and when the armies started to meet, the Confederates were able to concentrate their forces faster than the Federals. Day 1 and the morning of Day 2 featured the hastily-deployed Union forces retreating under concentrated Confederate assaults. It was only the afternoon of Day 2 when the AoP had fully secured a strong defensive position and brought up enough reinforcements to decisively outnumber the Army of Northern Virginia. If you look at casualty estimates by day of the battle, the Confederates inflicted a strongly favorable casualty ratio (about 3:2) on days 1 and 2. It was only on day 3, when Lee ordered a frontal assault on the center of the now-fortified Union line, that the Union made up the casualty difference (and then some, depending on which estimate you believe).

      • S_J says:

        I don’t know if this is a full agreement with what you say; but I do know that certain Generals of the Union Army were of the opinion that the Confederate Army had a large pool of high-skill marksmen, and had a higher rate of competency at using the rifle in battle.

        After the conclusion of the War, these generals worked to build a civilian organization that could train Americans in the art of rifle marksmanship, so that the U.S. Army would have a large pool of candidates/recruits operating at a high level of skill for the next time a large number of civilians were drafted for war.

        They formed an organization in 1871 to help with that goal. That organization is now much better-known for its impact on politics. But the National Rifle Association still offers a training programs, training literature, and hosts competition matches.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          They formed an organization in 1871 to help with that goal. That organization is now much better-known for its impact on politics.

          You should say “legislation” here, because if improving American rifle skill had any impact on WWI, that’s politics too. 😛

        • EchoChaos says:

          That is actually my source for the belief.

        • gbdub says:

          There is also the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which was created by the government in 1903 with the express purpose of familiarizing citizens with military rifles (particularly at the time the bolt action Springfield 1903, which was adopted at a time when most civilian rifles were either single shot or lever action). They sponsor training programs, competitions, and sell surplus military rifles to U.S. citizens. My dad and I have had the opportunity to collect and shoot several different American rifles because of the CMP (‘03 and ‘03A3 Springfields, M1917 “Enfield”, M1 Garand, M1 carbine, and a couple .22 caliber target rifles).

          Unlike the NRA they are not involved in politics.

          • sfoil says:

            If M9s aren’t made available through them, the CMP is Officially Canceled.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Sfoil

            It’s worth noting that they stopped performing their ostensible function as early as 1959 when we adopted the M14, and the organization was spun-off from the military oversight entirely in the 90s. It’s a very neat organization, and a very good idea (the Swiss have similar traditions for service rifle competitions, although I expect that tradition to end in the next 10-20 years due to the decision to comply with EU gun control law harmonization), but they’ve been a historical society for most of their history, more akin to a WW1-2 style “Cowboy Shooting” than military familiarization.

            I’d have to go and look it up, but I don’t think there was much of a window between when the first M14s and M16s were being surplus-ed and the closure of the NFA Machine Gun registry in 1986. They could have (and still could) reduce them to parts kits and sell everything but the lowers in the case of the M16s/M4s, but AFAIK no serious attempt to do it has ever been made.

            Which means that these days, the closest thing we have to military familiarization is probably the Factory Division of IPSC and similar organizations.

          • sfoil says:

            It had never even occurred to me that the CMP might have made Class III firearms available — but you’re right that it wasn’t a totally unreasonable expectation before the registry closed.

            There are very detailed rules about what makes an AR-15 a Class III firearm or not. I wonder what these look like for the M14. The M21 and Mk14 rifles I’ve handled appeared to have simply had their selectors welded in the “semi” position. Probably the “once a machine gun, always a machine gun” rule applies and there’s no legal way to demil them.

            Regardless, there’s no real legal barrier AFAICT to the CMP selling off surplus M9s, and I really do consider it a litmus test of whether the program has any serious relevance to the future. “Handgun violence” isn’t even a political issue right now, everyone is worried about rifles.

    • sfoil says:

      I’m not an expert but I’m reasonably well read in Civil War history, and experienced with firearms. I wrote out some of my thoughts on this after reading Paddy Griffith’s book (which makes a case that sounds similar to the one you read) here.

      To the extent that casualty rates were higher during the American Civil War than during the wars of Napoleon (which is quite debatable), it mostly appears to be the result of longer battles rather than more lethal firearms. To be a little more specific, while Civil War rifled muskets were marginally more lethal than smoothbore muskets, marginal common-sense adjustments in tactics meant that the average man’s exposure to fire in combat was no more dangerous than his grandfather’s. (You can actually see this trend continuing; modern weapons are astoundingly more lethal than 1860s rifles but casualty rates aren’t necessarily higher because modern soldiers are way, way more astute about fighting from cover than their ancestors.)

      It’s very possible that the increased effectiveness of rifles was at least one factor leading to longer battles in the Civil War, but it probably wasn’t the only one (Griffith mostly blames American officer training, I think Civil War battles generally occurred on more rugged terrain than their European counterparts).

      I, personally, suspect that rifles mostly enabled a few experienced but not specially trained marksmen to “suppress” or harass opposing formations in a way that was simply not possible with smoothbore muskets, and likewise made open-formation skirmishing somewhat more effective. They probably did not really increase either the range or the rate at which opposing units inflicted casualties on each other in sustained combat.

    • Phigment says:

      I’m not confident enough of my historical chops to know how true it is, but one explanation I’ve read is that it was not so much the effective range of infantry weapons per se, as it was the effective range relative to artillery.

      Napoleonic warfare had a common tactic that was, essentially, use your infantry to pin down the other side’s forces, then move up cannons and blow them away. This worked because the cannons had much longer effective ranges than personal firearms. If you did it successfully, the enemy had to retreat or surrender, because if they stayed in position, they got bombarded to death, and if they tried to attack, they had to leave their defensive positions and charge your side’s infantry and get shot to pieces before they could ever threaten the artillery pieces.

      Because of that, attackers had a relatively strong strategy against defenders. You needed really good fortifications before hunkering down in place was a safe plan.

      In the U.S. Civil War, small arms had improved faster than cannons, so your infantry had very similar effective range to cannons. So, now when you pinned an enemy force down and started to move your cannons into position to hammer them, they had the capability and a lot of motivation to return fire and shoot up your cannon crews. Which meant that the attacking side no longer had a really good way to get a decisive advantage over defenders and force them to retreat or die, and thus you get fights that are longer slugging matches.

      This was pointed out as a factor in, for instance, the Seven Days Battles, where the Union sides would pretty much run to a position, throw up quick fortifications, and then defend it against the Confederates until forced out; they kept getting pushed out eventually, but inflicted huge casualties in the process, because the Confederate forces kept having to launch grueling frontal assaults because they didn’t have a better way of dealing with fortified positions.

      • sfoil says:

        I don’t think this is correct. Cannon fired round shot from ranges of about 300 yards up to around a mile. Somewhere between 3-400 yards and closer, they fired smaller shot, which greatly increased their killing power against troops in the open. Sharpshooters who stood any reasonable chance of hitting someone at ranges over 300 yards were probably more common in the Civil War than in Napoleon’s time (though they did exist in the latter) but not to the point that it would have seriously affected the ability of cannon crews to attack fortifications several hundred yards away.

        Casualty exchange in the Seven Days’ slightly favored the Confederates. It was a bloody business to be sure, but hardly lopsided.

        • Phigment says:

          My quick looking says 20k casualties on the Confederate side to 16k casualties on the Union side in the Seven Days.

          That’s a pretty meaningful difference in favor of the Union.

          The rest of your comment, seems plausible. Don’t have anything to add.

    • Lambert says:

      Trains?
      Much quicker to get everyone to a place where they can start killing each other than footslogging.

  20. EchoChaos says:

    Boris Johnson has announced that he has arrived at a deal to leave the European Union on time.

    Is he right? Will the UK leave, or is this just another bit of drama in the endless saga of Brexit?

    Will some Labour rebels vote for this deal (especially ones who represent Leave districts)?

    Will there be a general election? Before or after Brexit?

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      The DUP are opposed, so some of the ERG will probably also oppose it. But Juncker has just said that there won’t be any more extensions, so that may pressure some non-Tories into voting for it out of fear of no deal. Although whether or not the EU will actually refuse an extension request if the alternative is No Deal isn’t clear – especially if a confirmatory referendum with Remain on the ballot gets passed on Saturday (which may be unlikely).

      I expect it to pick up more Labour rebels than before, largely because people are just that little bit more sick of the whole thing.

      Election-wise, I find this a bit difficult to understand from Johnson’s point of view. Farage opposes it, so it seems like he would struggle to pick up as many Brexit voters as he would like. It’s not so easy to run saying “I got Brexit done” when the man most associated with Brexit is loudly saying “this isn’t Brexit”.
      But a fresh defeat of a new-ish Brexit deal seems like it demands a GE.

      I expect that it won’t pass the commons (60% likely). I’m not sure that even with Juncker’s warning, enough Labour + former Tory MPs will vote with the government to overturn the DUP’s votes and some fraction of the ERG.
      After that, it depends whether 1) Juncker is bluffing and 2) Johnson finds a way to wriggle out of the Benn act mandating he request an extension. If 1) is True and 2) is False, there’s likely to be a GE because Labour will back one once an extension is secured (this has been their policy recently). Johnson has said he wants one too – although maybe he’d threaten to stay on as a lame duck just to run out the clock, and then the Commons would struggle to get the 2/3 majority needed under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act. Which seems a bit mad but who knows at this point?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Election-wise, I find this a bit difficult to understand from Johnson’s point of view.

        I expect Johnson thinks he can force no-deal if this deal fails. So if he obtains the deal he’s the man who delivered Brexit, even if Farage says otherwise. But if he fails to obtain the deal but obtains no-deal, he’s STILL the man who delivered Brexit, and Farage couldn’t gainsay him.

  21. zenojjones says:

    Malicious Compliance- When rules aren’t worth respecting but aren’t worth breaking
    A look at how we deal with rules we don’t like in situations we don’t want to jeopardize, and when circumstances take the situation beyond that point. Wrote this a few weeks back and thought some people here would enjoy.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Malicious compliance in particular works best when authority has made a rule that would be harmful to it if followed strictly, but depends on the subordinates stretching and/or breaking it if necessary. Under normal conditions this allows authority to get what it wants while being able to arbitrarily punish subordinates for rule-breaking, and is a very common condition.

      It doesn’t work if the authority actually wants the rule followed, or is not harmed by the following of the rule (as in the Colbert example)

      • zenojjones says:

        That’s very interesting. So you’re saying the malicious compliance would be basically systematic?

        So is this a good example? A car salesperson is told by official company policy always to treat the customer right no matter what, but that same company gives the salesperson an insane quota to set up in-house financing that is a worse deal than the bank across the street offers for the customer? It forces the salesperson to push financing even though they know the customer is better off at the bank across the street.

        • The Nybbler says:

          That’s a case where compliance (malicious or otherwise) is not possible, because of conflicting rules.

          • zenojjones says:

            In one sense you’re right, but complying with the quota can be accomplished by maliciously defining “what’s best for the customer” in any way that fits your own narrative. You can subjectively assign value to your service with things like convenience or giving them refreshments while they wait. So then you’re bend the meaning of the rule so you can get your quota.

          • gbdub says:

            None of this is malicious from the perspective of the rule setter (the dealership) or the rule follower (the salesman) because their interests are actually aligned.

            “Do what’s best for the customer” isn’t even a proper rule, it’s just something they say, but clearly don’t actually value.

            It’s malicious in the sense that it’s intended to falsely earn the customer’s trust, but it’s not “malicious compliance”.

        • DeWitt says:

          I don’t know about that one, but a good example is civil servant pay in corrupt countries.

          Say you’re a policeman in Examplia. You have a wife and three kids, and need 1000 Examplian dollars to make a living. You are paid 300 Examplian dollars every month, but that’s fine. Two days a week you patrol the highway, stop random people, and they know to hand you some money if they don’t want to spend an eternity sitting still at the police station. You raise the money needed to support your family not even because you’re a bad or naturally corrupt person, but because there’s literally no way to make a living without doing this.

          And you know this, and everyone in Examplia knows this, so that’s fine. But later it turns out you voted for the wrong person, or your son did something stupid, or you just had a falling out with your boss, and gasp! It turns out you were corrupt all along. You are fired for breaking the law and are now out of a job.

          The example used is one of a policeman, but it applies to political appointees of all stripes in such countries. Private business is no different, because the licensing required to operate such business is itself in the hands of corrupt administrators.

          • Fitzroy says:

            No, that’s not malicious compliance. Malicious compliance is following a rule to the exact letter (rather than the spirit), doing exactly what has been instructed, neither more nor less, in order to highlight the stupidity or inappropriateness of the rule.

            Imagine, for example, a factory. Employees work shifts, 0700-1400 and 1400-2200. The employer, not truly understanding the business, notes that people are regularly not clocking out until 22:30 and accruing overtime. The reason for this is that some of the tasks can take longer than expected to complete and over-run shift end. Employees stay to finish tasks that are in process.

            But because our examplar employer is a tightfisted idiot, rather than investigate the reasons for this he simply instructs his employees:

            “You must clock out when your scheduled shift ends, at either 14:00 or 22:00,” and threatens to discipline employees who stay later.

            So employees start doing exactly what has been instructed. No matter what is going on, at 22:00, employees drop what they are doing, clock out and go home. They leave tasks unfinished or still running, even (and especially) if this will be costly to the employer. Or alternatively they simply don’t begin tasks if there is a significant risk they will run past 22:00, in which case they spend several hours of their shift sitting around unoccupied.

        • Aapje says:

          @zenojjones

          Systematic non-compliance is so common that work-to-rule strikes tend to be quite effective.

          Basically, it is commonly accepted that rules & policies are more strict than anyone actually desires: employee, employer, lawmaker and judge. An employee who follows the rules very strictly can be expected to be fired and for the judge to be unsympathetic. Most people dislike rule-lawyering, where people act unreasonably in ways that the rules allow.

          If you want to prevent systemic abuse, wrong-doing and such, having overly strict laws is pretty much impossible to avoid, because perfect rules are impossible. The rules are either overly strict or not strict enough.

          The solution to this problem is to allow judges to apply ‘common sense.’ Yet this is flawed as well. Judges have biases. You may be able to present cherry picked evidence to the judge. Etc.

          This is why lawyers are so important to the legal system: they are experts in knowing the tricks that people can use to sway judges.

          In the absence of competent experts on both sides, we often see that the side more competent at trickery or with a better grasp of the rules gets their way. This is why extralegal justice systems that judge violations of codes of conduct or forum rules, are often applied unfairly and become a weapon that the more legalistically competent get to wield against those who aren’t that competent at it, even if the judges are not (very) biased. For example, see Wikipedia.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Sidetrack: Footfall by Niven and Pournelle has aliens actually enforcing human laws. Unfortunately, it was a minor point in the story. A story which fully focuses on the resulting problems would be worth reading.

    • Vegemeister says:

      On the assumption that you also made the website, I must take this opportunity to call out an unfortunate trend in web design: gray body text.

      Gray text wastes energy on battery-powered devices, because it requires higher backlight brightness, especially in sunlight. It is also very hard to read off-angle on TN displays. Black text loses some contrast, but gray can become completely invisible or even invert. The footnote style is so light as to be almost illegible even when viewed straight on.

      Even if gray looks pretty on your high-PPI mains-powered IPS monitor, please use #000000 black for the sake of laptop users and the poors who like to stand or slump in our chairs.

      To bandage the problem on the user side, I suggest the Font Contrast Firefox add-on.

  22. rubberduck says:

    Alternate-universe criminal justice question:

    In Timeline A, a guy we’ll call Joe publicly committed a serious crime resulting in dozens of casualties. In Timeline B, everything is identical except that Joe is genuinely innocent. The crime was still committed and the casualties still occurred, but no culprit has been found, or people think the incident was a freak disaster.

    You will be transported from Timeline A to Timeline B. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to convince the world in Timeline B that Joe is guilty, resulting in prison time. To this end, you can bring back any evidence you can get your hands on from Timeline A (from before or after the crime), except actual witnesses.

    Nobody will suspect you of timeline-jumping mischief and you are an ordinary member of the community in both timelines. However, your evidence will be met with a lot of skepticism, since Joe in Timeline B has a good reputation and an alibi. Ruining Joe’s reputation would be a bonus but is not part of your mission, and you can declare success if he gets imprisoned with most people considering the sentence horribly unjust.

    So, how do you get Joe busted?

    (Yes, it’s abstract and a bit convoluted but it’s for a story I’m writing)

    • Fitzroy says:

      It rather depends on the nature of the crime.

      Absent knowing that I’d suggest the best bet would be to bring back things that are as incontrovertible as possible and don’t rely on a witness to speak to them – CCTV, communications data records, that sort of thing. Presumably ‘clean’ versions of those would exist in Timeline B and it would fall to your (pro/ant)agonist to either substitute the Timeline A evidence in place or dismiss clean Timeline B versions as fakes.

    • Aftagley says:

      Videotape a confession of Joe in Timeline A, leak it in timeline B.

    • helloo says:

      It might be easier to rig it so to trick the person in timeline B to actually commit the act or at least think they did commit the act. (eg. big red button in an odd location)
      Then the issue would be to make it that the person can’t just blame something/one else and was in some way negligent or otherwise responsible for it.

      If this is impossible, they likely have some kind of air-tight alibi or in any case be rather difficult to connect to the issue in the first place.

    • beleester says:

      In addition to bringing in evidence of Joe’s presence at the scene of the crime, you also need to destroy his alibi. Hopefully, the alibi is only physical evidence, which we can swap out for its counterpart in Timeline A. If the alibi is a person – “Yeah, Joe stopped by the bar for a drink last night,” – then you need to discredit them or convince them to change their story. The best option would be to swap out corroborating evidence – if the barkeep says that Joe stopped by, but the security cameras show Joe was never there, who are the cops going to believe? Heck, the bartender might even conclude he had gotten confused about which night it was and never come forwards in the first place.

      Caveat: I’m assuming that the timeline-jumping lets us move evidence both ways, so that you can remove evidence from Timeline B in addition to bringing it in from Timeline A. If you can only bring stuff from A to B, this becomes very difficult because of the evidence that already exists in Joe’s favor. In that case, rather than trying to construct a consistent story that Joe did it, you could try to deliberately place conflicting pieces of evidence to make it look like Joe is trying to hide something.

  23. johan_larson says:

    The Throne of Eldraine expansion of Magic includes some cards that are deep in hybrid mana, such as Resolute Rider (W/B)(W/B)(W/B)(W/B), Fireborn Knight (R/W)(R/W)(R/W)(R/W), and Thunderous Snapper (G/U)(G/U)(G/U)(G/U).

    Are cards like this worth playing in balanced limited two-color decks that include only one of the colors of the creature? In such cases, they are typically only playable quite late in the game. And if not, would a bit of mana fixing tip the balance? My impression from drafting is that I can typically pick up a couple of mana fixing items without trying all that hard.

    • MorningGaul says:

      No. In an off two-color deck, they’re the equivalent of a 4-colored mana creature, which is way too cumbersome.

      They’re only really fitting for monocolors or two-colors matching their dual mana (and, in the case of the black/white one, really good in draft).

    • Tarpitz says:

      It’s possible to play them in decks that are very heavily one of their colours with a light splash of a second colour that is not one of theirs – perhaps you’re a base blue deck with four mountains to support three red removal spells playing a UW hybrid card, for example. Normal, balanced two colour decks should absolutely not play half-colour hybrids.

    • Randy M says:

      Heavy color requirements are less burdensome on late game cards when you are more likely to have drawn the needed lands.
      Some of these four drops are only good because they are efficient. The R/U may be fine later for the filtering, but the R/B, W/B R/W ones for example would not make for exciting eight drops, which they may well be in a deck heavy in another color.

    • Aftagley says:

      Well, run some scenarios –

      A. You’re running a deck with 18 lands, evenly split. You will need to draw at least 4 of those lands in order to make this card playable. Going to a hypergoemetric calculator, it looks like you would need to draw 20 cards before you have a >75% chance of having found 4 of the lands you need. Assuming you don’t mulligan, that means that card will basically be dead in your hand until around turn 13. That’s not an inherent deal-breaker, but something you can’t play until double-digits needs to pretty much win you the game on the spot, or else the opportunity cost of having it in your deck is just too high. The problem is, none of these cards are absolute bombs; they’re good, but not game-winning especially that late in the game where the odds they’ll just get baked into a pie is pretty good.

      B. Same even split deck, but now you’ve got some mana fixing – by turn 4 or so you can reliably have something out there that generates whatever color you need, so now you only need 3 on-color lands. At this point, you only need to draw 15 cards, or wait 8 turns until the card is likely going to be playable. Same basic deal as the first scenario – downside of having it stranded in your hand is pretty high, upside is kinda low.

      C. Now you’ve got a deck that leans mostly towards one color and has the same mana fixing – let’s say it’s a 12-6 land split. At this point, you’re probably getting to play that card by around turn 5 or turn 6. At this point, it’s likely worth including these cards, since that’s still early enough for them to be impactful on the board.

  24. DinoNerd says:

    Resolved: that whenever one group gets promoted out of a position of being picked on, discriminated against, or otherwise ill used, a new group, previously less marginalized, takes their place as a target, whipping boy, etc.

    Pick your sides folks, if you feel like it, and argue pro or con.

    • Zephalinda says:

      Is this an observation or a proposal?

      • MorningGaul says:

        My (incredibly expansive, not prone at all to misunderstanding and only dating half a dozen years) knowledge of ape-based experiments (on which we obviously should entirely base our understanding of social dynamics) is that it’s already the case.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I think it’s an observation, but I fear I’m influenced by my own cognitive biases; so I’m asking for pro and con arguments – in the somewhat cutesy fashion of proposing a debate.

    • johan_larson says:

      If this claim is true, we should be able to identify some group that was increasingly targeted in the United States of the twentieth century as discrimination against African-Americans ramped down. I don’t think there is one. At the very least, there is no group that is as badly mistreated as the blacks were back in the day. Nobody’s running around stringing up Muslims or illegal immigrants.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Given the press time, LBGTQ looks like the obvious placeholder, with women sort of riding sidecar. So maybe the modified theory here is that whenever one group gets promoted out of a position of being picked on, discriminated against, or otherwise ill used, a new group, previously less marginalized, takes their place as a designated target, whipping boy, etc.?

        • woah77 says:

          So… the current designated target is men, or more specifically white men?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The designated target, given the way I used the term, can’t be (white) men, because the press isn’t portraying them as the official whipping group. Rather, the press is portraying LGBTQ and women.

            The de facto group might be (white) men. But I think that really depends on the arena. In the press, (white) men probably get most of the disapprobation. In several other domains, however, such as business, high level politics, and military command, men still appear to be in control. (I.e., feminists do have some evidence.)

          • woah77 says:

            I feel like all the articles saying “You know what’s to blame for X? TOXIC MASCULINITY” kinda undercuts your point. Even if white men aren’t entirely marginalized, they are certainly blamed for large quantities of problems that require coordination that I can’t possibly see existing. My point is that men and in particular white men, are the designated target of blame and targets of public flogging (metaphorically). They do fit the descriptor of “previously less marginalized” and are the designated target, regardless of accuracy.

            There seems to me to be a concerted effort from preventing any other group from becoming a designated target, which has nothing to do with the validity of any accusations. I’m not saying “There exist no instances in which white men are responsible” but I’m saying that in (most) instances, white men seem to be the target of blame, regardless of the actual level of culpability.

          • AG says:

            Depends on the arena you’re looking at. There might be more of an attitude against white men in upper class avenues of media, but who’s still making up the majority of convicts, prison residents, jobless, and homeless?

            The consequentialist truth is that gender, race and sexuality are proxies. Almost by definition, the eternal whipping boy of society is the poor.

          • albatross11 says:

            My sense is that there are a lot of young and literal-minded people who believe various bits of woke doctrine, and there are various high-priests of that doctrine in academia. But the way it’s used in elite power plays is almost entirely opportunistic and cynical.

            Everyone around Harvey Weinstein and Bill Clinton and Matt Laurer and such both:

            a. Said exactly the right things about consent and sexual harassment, knew the proper doctrines and spoke them, and supported the right kind of politics.

            b. Pretty-much knew the score w.r.t. what the boss was doing and turned a blind eye as needed to keep their own positions of wealth and power.

            Similarly, presumably everyone in a position of power at Harvard knows and knew that the school was imposing a quota on Asians so they didn’t take the place over, presumably everyone looking at Elizabeth Warren’s application could see that any American Indian ancestry she had was way back in her family tree and had never affected her life in the least, everyone in power at Google basically understands that super-smart Asian and white men are basically providing all the brainpower on which the company runs, etc. None of those people are likely to have a complete model of what’s going on, unless they spend a lot of time thinking about it and listening to/reading evil scary racists human b-odiversity types like Sailer, but smart adults at the top of these organizations probably more-or-less know the score. The woke dogma comes out when it’s time to justify getting rid of someone who’s an obstacle or otherwise doing something they already want to do. Other times, the woke dogma isn’t invoked, and everyone just pretends not to notice that the guys writing the really critical code are four Chinese guys, two Indian guys, and two white guys (one from Russia, one from the US).

          • Aapje says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            Some of the typical parts of an oppression-legitimizing narrative* are to:
            – exaggerate the power that the group has, while understating the power of other groups
            – exaggerating their successes and understating their failures
            – exaggerating the crimes committed by members of that group, while understating the crimes committed by others
            – claiming that their successes are due to an abuse of power (directly or indirectly, like benefiting from privilege), in the absence of (solid) evidence for that, while the successes of other groups are treated as being fair rewards for their sacrifices/talents/etc.
            – claiming that a cherry picked selection of a group, who are very successful, are successful because of an advantage given to members of the group, while ignoring the strong evidence that mere membership doesn’t give such strong advantages: the members of the group who are failures.

            This narrative allows people to present what would otherwise be bullying, oppression, etc; as punishment for crimes, redressing wrongs, compensating for privileges, etc.

            Social Justice advocates tend to do put a lot of effort into creating and spreading a strong oppression-legitimizing narrative, in my experience.

            However, that doesn’t mean that oppression-legitimizing narratives put everyone of that group at risk equally, because there is also such a thing as ‘intersectionality’ of narratives, as there are actually multiple positive and negative narratives. A person can be at risk for being a white man, but can become less of an acceptable target by saying woke things. Or by being rich, as AG notes. Or by themselves bulling people who are member of the designated target group and/or sacrificing a scapegoat. Or by letting themselves be bullied. Or by…

            Ultimately, as the saying goes: “you don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the person next to you.”

            Lots of white men recognize that they are fit (good at presenting themselves as the ‘good Jew guy’ or powerful or rich or…), so they aren’t worried about the bear, as long as a less fit white man is standing next to them. Of course, they are then banking on the witch-hunt being limited in scope, rather than having it spiral out of control, making them victims of the process described in Niemöller’s poem.

            * Which is how one designates a target

        • johan_larson says:

          If the amount of beatdown handed out remains constant, someone should be getting more when the blacks are getting less. Who, exactly? It was better to be gay in 1990 than 1910, right? At least you weren’t officially insane in 1990. And it was better to be a woman in 1990 than in 1910 right? You had more career options, and actual political power through the vote. So I don’ think either of these options really work.

          Basically, I think either this whole idea is wrong, or at best it needs to be modified to deal in relative rather than absolute terms.

          • AG says:

            Disagree with this framing. The resolution doesn’t make a claim of zero-sum whipping, only the relative ranking. Whipping could be going down across the board, but someone is still in last place, and thus still retains the role of whipping boy.

          • Nick says:

            Disagree with this framing. The resolution doesn’t make a claim of zero-sum whipping, only the relative ranking. Whipping could be going down across the board, but someone is still in last place, and thus still retains the role of whipping boy.

            If that’s all it’s saying, then it’s trivially true. Of course some group is always in last place.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I read into DinoNerd’s OP a little, in a way I think was intended.

            At some point, one group is the official whipping group. I interpreted that as considered bad: the bellweathers for that society believe they shouldn’t be in that position. So they work to get them out. But then, the resolution implies, another group ends up taking its place.

            This doesn’t have to be tautological. All groups could be roughly even in status – in theory, at least, hard as it may be to posit in practice. (Think different teams’ fans in a sports league.)
            Alternately, and perhaps more plausibly, one group could be last in status, and deserve it (in the bellweathers’ eyes). The people of color all get jobs and backyards and SUVs, and the neo-Nazis get hustled into the dunking booth, and everyone who isn’t a neo-Nazi is fine with that.

            This is why I entertained the idea of a designated target group. Probably needs a better name, but whatever. This is the group that everyone punches on, that ought not to, distinct from whomever’s actually getting oppressed. woah77 might be right that white men are getting actually spat on, but you don’t see journalists outside of the New York Post going around talking about how it’s hard for white men to get good jobs, business loans, decent defense attorneys, etc. And that’s because it’s still not hard, for the most part.

            By this framing, the poor are the designated target emeritus, the eternal dunkee-that-shouldn’t, periodically pushed to the back behind the dunkee of the moment.

          • woah77 says:

            I definitely accept that the poor are the most oppressed (for given values of that word) over all others. I also believe that by and large, the poor are pitied, not resented, and definitely not usually a whipping boy (who is, iirc, the scapegoat for a high status person behaving badly). We usually regard the poor as sympathetic in media, not worthy of blame unless (other detrimental characteristics exist). I don’t see articles blaming the poor, but I do see things like “How these Rednecks ruin X” (as an example).

          • The Nybbler says:

            The poor aren’t necessarily dunked upon. The poor are just worse off because that’s what it means to be poor.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that there needs to be a distinction between being designated as a legitimate target and the actual level of oppression.

            A group can be socially unacceptable to openly bully, yet human desire to bully them can be very high; as well as the opposite. Also, a group can be designated as a target, but most members of that group may be too powerful to actually bully safely. Then the actual amount of bullying may be relatively limited and concentrated on a small part of that designated target group, who face a lot of harm, while most members of that group experience no significant bullying at all.

            Even more complicated, you can have traits that are extremely strongly correlated (sometimes causally), where one of those traits is supposed to be pitied, but another is supposed to be punished.

            For example, anti-social behavior is supposed to be punished, but we are supposed to make allowances for people with mental disorders. Yet some mental disorders cause anti-social behavior.

            So what we see a lot is that people try very hard to get their behavior classified as being due to a trait that demands for greater allowances.

          • Jiro says:

            It may be that someone else gets more beatdown when the blacks get less, but since the other group is larger, there’s less additional beatdown *per person*.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Jiro: So the beatings will continue until equality improves?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          There isn’t necessarily agreement on who the designated targets are.

          On the whole, I’d say people without legal residence are the worst treated, but there are people who help them and think of those who enforce residence requirements as designated targets.

          • Aapje says:

            If you count law-breakers, then there are people who are treated way worse (cough*Guantanamo Bay*cough).

          • albatross11 says:

            The people in Guantanamo Bay are probably mostly bad folks who best improve the world with their absence, but it’s hard to say, since we won’t give any of them a trial in any kind of civilized court. Some of them may very well be low-level nobodies, or innocent people who were picked up because they looked guilty and had the wrong associates.

            What laws have they broken? Some are supposedly there for basically fighting back against US troops in Afghanistan without proper uniforms–I assume that’s bullshit and there’s a real reason we haven’t heard, but who knows? And in any event, since we can’t give any of them a real trial under civilized-country rules because our evidence against them is probably torture-extracted confessions and similarly dicey stuff, it’s hard to have any confidence that any one of them is actually guilty of whatever it is he’s claimed to have done. How would we actually know if one were innocent?

          • quanta413 says:

            I remember an article about some poor guy who the CIA mistakenly thought was a terrorist, shipped to an interrogation center and tortured, and then dumped him in the middle of the road in Eastern Europe when they realized he was actually some random schmuck.

            I felt surprised at the blatant madness of it at the time, but in hindsight I’m surprised they didn’t kill him and dump his corpse somewhere it wouldn’t be found. I guess I should be glad they didn’t do that, but it’s only a little bit more than the least they could do.

            Link

    • Well... says:

      To strengthen the resolution and make it more controversial, you should word it like this:

      Resolved: that in absolutely all situations in which one group gets promoted out of a position of being picked on, discriminated against, or otherwise ill used, a new group, previously less marginalized, takes their place as a target, whipping boy, etc.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Some things that come to mind for me, using US examples:

      – the less bad it is to be black, the more bad it is to be an illegal immigrant – and slavery in the US roughly overlaps with a period without immigration restrictions
      – the less bad it is to be transgender (or female, to an extent), the more bad it is to be autistic (or otherwise have “poor social skills”)
      – the less bad it is to be Irish, the more bad it is to be the next group of dirt poor immigrants
      – the less bad it is to be Communist, the more bad it is to be Muslim (except there’s a time gap here)

      These don’t balance, and I’m not suggesting a strict conservation law – just a tendency of people to find new scapegoats to blame for normal social issues.

      • Aapje says:

        I’m only aware of a causal link for your second example. For the others, I’m not convinced that there is causality, rather than mere correlation or the existence of a confounder.

        For example, one reason why it’s less bad to be black may be because ‘we’ have become more accepting of giving welfare, at least for ‘our’ poor, which in turn means that migration of poor people is a greater threat to tax payers.

  25. salvorhardin says:

    Slightly inspired by the climate change thread but tangential enough to warrant its own.

    I would like to donate to charities whose work either reduces environmental heavy metal (e.g. lead) hazards or reduces particulate pollution or both, and moreover does so through technological/project means rather than through political advocacy; i.e. groups that actually do things themselves that clean up the environment in these ways, rather than try to get laws passed to do so. Bonus points if they focus on cleanups that disproportionately affect low-income populations.

    Who should I give to for the most pollution reduction per dollar? So far the closest thing I can come up with are organizations that give cleaner home cooking/heating stoves to people who would otherwise use really smoky ones. But I don’t even know who is the most reputable and efficient in that sector, and I’d like other ideas too.

    Note that carbon removal charities don’t work for this, since even though most CO2 emissions sources also emit heavy metals and/or particulates, carbon removal is typically done in very CO2-focused ways that don’t address the other emissions.

    • CatCube says:

      @salvorhardin

      I can speak a little bit about heavy metals, and lead in particular, but not particulate pollution.

      The legal part of most of the heavy metal contamination is over and done with in the US. The biggest sources for lead contamination were leaded gasoline and lead pigments in paint, both of which are mostly no longer used (aviation gasoline still uses 100 octane low-lead, because replacing existing small aircraft engines with ones that will accept unleaded gasoline is a nightmare for regulatory reasons).

      Leaded gasoline for automotive use has been totally phased out, and lead in residental paints (typically white lead) was outlawed in the ’70s. While AFAIK the use of lead pigments for industrial structures (usually red lead) isn’t banned by law, organizations that used to use them (the US Government being the biggest user) prohibit their use with internal guidance, and I don’t think you could even purchase them in quantities sufficient for a major project anymore. (Though you can still get them for artists paints.)

      So while there might be a little bit of legal work on the side of putting them in the environment still possible, the major work is removing it where it already exists. And this is very, very expensive. The preferred solution at my job is overcoating unless it can’t be avoided, and this is with the US Government footing the bill. Where I’ve done repainting jobs where this can’t be done (because the paint system has finally given up the ghost after 60 years in the water), stripping the old lead paint costs 100-150% of the costs of applying the new paint system, and we’re talking very expensive paint systems. If you’re looking at a residential quality paint, it’s going to be even more out of whack because the replacement paint is going to be relatively cheaper. As a matter of fact, I doubt that’d it pencil out to actually remove the paint in a house if you’re trying to get all of the white lead, as opposed to stripping it to the studs and putting up new drywall.

      So actually removing lead from the environment (as opposed to just covering it up) is going to basically be gut renovating every house built before the 70s. Which is probably a good thing if you’re looking to do this! Don’t let me talk you out of it if this is what you want to do! But it’s going to be a lot of money for slow going, so understand what’s needed.

      • Chalid says:

        Probably the lowest-hanging fruit in the US would be targeting places where children get exposed – soil in public parks and other places that children play, and plumbing in schools.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Right, I would have expected that there would be charities focused on soil and school-infra remediation, but I can’t seem to find any good ones.

          • Chalid says:

            I think this is because it’s inherently political, since you can’t just provide the money – you also have to convince a community that it’s a good idea to shut down their community playground for a few months. I suspect this is often harder than actually getting the funding, and it’s not the sort of thing a charity is likely to be good at.

            The proper niche might be in making grants to low-income communities where the money really is the limiting factor. It might have to get bundled with general playground renovations/improvements to get community buy-in.

      • nkurz says:

        I’m not sure if this fits your goal, but lost lead fishing weights and expended lead ammunition are high among sources of lead pollution in the natural environment. Being larger particles, they don’t tend to directly harm humans, but they can be devastating to some wildlife. Audubon.org is active in working to change this: https://ca.audubon.org/conservation/lead-has-no-place-environment.

        Here’s a more scientific paper on the scope of the problem: http://huntingwithnonlead.org/PDFs_Main/The_Persistent_Problem_of_Lead_Poisoning.pdf

        The usual reason that people give for not switching from lead is cost. Apart from the environmental impact, lead is inexpensive and effective. The usual “fix” is to simply ban lead for these uses, but this meets resistance because of the cost issue. I don’t know of anyone doing it, but I think there’s probably room for a nonprofit that concentrates on subsidizing (at least temporarily) nonlead alternatives to encourage greater voluntary switchover.

        • S_J says:

          The usual reason that people give for not switching from lead is cost. Apart from the environmental impact, lead is inexpensive and effective. The usual “fix” is to simply ban lead for these uses, but this meets resistance because of the cost issue. I don’t know of anyone doing it, but I think there’s probably room for a nonprofit that concentrates on subsidizing (at least temporarily) nonlead alternatives to encourage greater voluntary switchover.

          Of interest: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put rules into place about hunting waterfowl, about 30 years ago. Presumably because waterfowl might accidentally ingest spent shot pellets directly from the bottom of a lake.

          Lead shot is, to my knowledge, still widely used in hunting field-birds, and game ranging in size from rabbits to white-tail deer. I’m not sure how often such pellets are accidentally ingested by birds or other animals. (When a hunter is using ‘shot’, it is typically a large number a pellets fired at once through a shotgun.)

        • Another Throw says:

          Replace it with osmium shot and you have a deal!

    • Garrett says:

      FWIW, it might be worthwhile looks a bit more at the details of what you are asking for. Are you worried about total pollution emitted or SUM(human*human exposure), or something else? As an example, assume for a moment that the pollution emitted by gas-powered vehicles is exactly the same as the pollution emitted generating power for electric vehicles. In that case, since power plants tend to be located away from people, the number of people exposed to the pollution would be much smaller than car pollution in dense urban areas. So under this model, you could reduce the total amount of pollution exposure even though you aren’t reducing the total amount of pollution.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      More of a wish than anything else, but organizations that lobby for stricter pollution controls for existing vehicles. I don’t care that much if the already low emissions of new cars get cut in half (well, I do care, just less), when there is visible smoke whenever an older generation car accelerates from a traffic light. In particular, diesel cars in Europe often get their filters removed instead of replaced – this in my opinion should lead to the confiscation of the car. (and yes, Aapje, this time I mean Europe – I’ve had it confirmed by a car mechanic in Hague. In Romania it’s beyond “often” and close to 100%).

      • Aapje says:

        I am aware that this also happens in my country. The largest Dutch car rental company systematically removed them from their fleet of cars.

        Doing this was made illegal in 2018, but the garages that remove the filters leave the housing, resulting in the practice not being caught by the current method of checking, during the legally mandated periodic inspection. The government says that they are working on a better way to check for the presence of a filter.

  26. ECD says:

    Random thoughts from my vacation (to Paris, via London, from the US):

    1) The Louvre is fucking huge. Seriously. I spent five hours there and barely made it through every floor of one (of three) wings, without seeing everything, I’m quite sure. The place is also a maze in need of far better mapping/maps.

    2) I totally had the scale of most older paintings wrong. Many of them were freaking huge. The Mona Lisa is only really small by comparison.

    3) Versailles is ridiculous. I can see the benefit, but looking around, I also basically thought…impressive, but, yeah, I see how you got the French Revolution.

    4) Sainte Chapelle cathedral is awesome, in both the older and modern meanings of the word.

    5) I’m not sure if the issue was tipping, or going to touristy places, or my own stereotypical views of the french infecting my analysis, but wow was the service at French restaurants (though not french stores, which I guess pushes for tipping) terrible.

    6) I was not expecting mosquitos in Paris. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t. I was unprepared and mostly eaten alive.

    7) Houseboats are fun.

    8) Trans-atlantic flights in economy class are not fun.

    9) Melatonin seems to work for resetting my sleep schedule despite major time zone shifts.

    10) Bathroom stalls which are real stalls, not metal boxes with lots of holes are superior.

    11) I did not see a single paper towel dispenser in any bathroom, anywhere.

    12) Air blower hand dryers have radically improved, but still aren’t good enough to actually get my hands dry in any reasonable amount of time.

    13) The Louvre is not set up for getting around while disabled and almost no one obeys the signs indicating the elevators are only for the disabled. However, they will sometimes do things like take you in front (indeed, to in front, literally, so you don’t have to stand behind the cloth barrier, just the wood one) of the line so you can sit directly in front of the Mona Lisa without standing in the 80 person line. Note, I am not disabled, I was travelling with someone who was.

    14) In-flight entertainment has improved radically, I got to watch John Wick 3 and Aquaman on the flight and could select from a wide array of movies or TV shows to watch for free.

    15) Notre Dame repairs are interesting to watch and had a surprising emotional impact on me.

    16) Tourist places can be a lot of fun, especially if you get there early, then go through backwards so you don’t run into any other tourists until the back half.

    17) I tried and failed not to be irritated by the modern practice of (a) I see something cool I want a picture of (b) I’ll turn away from it, put my phone in selfie mode and take a picture of myself with it.

    • randallsquared says:

      17) I tried and failed not to be irritated by the modern practice of (a) I see something cool I want a picture of (b) I’ll turn away from it, put my phone in selfie mode and take a picture of myself with it.

      Why does that bother you? If they wanted a picture of some artwork, they could find a professional copy online. The only thing that makes the picture more valuable is that it’s proof/memory that the taker was physically there.

      • ECD says:

        I don’t have a good reason for it, as I noted, I tried not to be annoyed by it on the theory that it’s none of my business and does no harm. I still found it irritating.

        If I had to try to rationalize it, I guess I would say that there’s something about the visual of turning away from the physical object that interests you in order to insert yourself into someone else’s work which seems narcissistic to me. Either that or…I guess ungrateful? To be able to see the stuff at the Louvre, you’re in the luckiest 1% (max) of people ever. It feels ungrateful, to me, to take advantage of that opportunity in that fashion. There’s something about making it about you, rather than about what you can learn/experience (generic ‘yous’).

        That may just be a rationalization, however.

        ETA: clarification.

        • randallsquared says:

          Thank you for explaining. I still don’t get it, viscerally, but I think I understand where you’re coming from.

        • b_jonas says:

          > To be able to see the stuff at the Louvre, you’re in the luckiest 1% (max) of people ever.

          Sorry, but I don’t buy that. There are 80 million people born every year, and the Louvre gets 10 million visitors per year. Even if most of those are not first time visitors, it must be more than 1% of people in the world who visit the Louvre at least once.

          • ECD says:

            Which is why I said ‘ever.’ The denominator is all humans ever, not visitors/birth rate.

            Also, I can’t find any statistics on how many are repeat visitors.

        • acymetric says:

          Where do you land on people/families asking someone to take a picture of them at [landmark/tourist spot/whatever] (this still happens in the post-selfie era as well). Is there a meaningful difference between this and a selfie?

          • ECD says:

            Less troublesome, though I don’t have a good explanation for why, except it feels like they’re trying to do two different things. The selfie feels like it’s…for an audience, ‘look where I am, aren’t I awesome’ the staged photo looks like its for yourself and maybe family/friends you want to torture with a slide show, ‘remember when i was there.’

            But a lot of this is mind reading and an attempt to rationalize an emotional response.

      • Aapje says:

        @randallsquared

        My objection is different from ECD and is the same objection I have to bucket lists and such: people focusing on signalling how interesting and cultured they are & how much they are enjoying life, at the expense of actually becoming interesting or getting cultured & enjoying life.

        If you stand with your back to a painting, taking a picture, you are not enjoying the art, discovering something about it that you can only see up close or being in the moment, but are thinking of how you can look good to your friends and family.

        At a certain point, it becomes a game not meaningfully different from Pokemon Go: hunting after achievements that is meaningless beyond how it affects your rank.

        Furthermore, this behavior tends to be extremely copycatty and unoriginal. It’s all about visiting the ‘mandatory’ things, rather than doing stuff that fits you personally, even if it is not that popular with others. So you get people visiting things that they are not really interested in, not enjoying themselves, while contributing to over-tourism that makes the people who do actually care, unable to enjoy it.

        • ECD says:

          This is pretty close to what I was trying to get at with:

          There’s something about making it about you, rather than about what you can learn/experience (generic ‘yous’).

          But better phrased and clearer. Thanks.

        • I read about this woman who went to Paris for one day, rushed to get a selfie at every major tourist site and then left that night. Then she posted a selfie every few days, milking it for a few weeks. That’s the height of signaling idiocy.

        • Lambert says:

          Every reasonably large city* has plenty of unique stuff going on.
          No point in going to the really touristy ones.

          *except the ‘generic cosmopolitan’ ones like Frankfurt.

      • John Schilling says:

        The only thing that makes the picture more valuable is that it’s proof/memory that the taker was physically there.

        But proof to whom?

        The existence of a picture in one of my usual photo directories is proof enough to me that I was there. The only pictures that ever go in there are ones that I took, ones that other people took of events I was at (included because they were better photographers than I), or a handful of others that are usually very clear from context. Even if I have completely forgotten being at an event, was genuinely uncertain whether I had been there, finding a photo in one of the relevant directories is about as good as proof gets. And better still if I can just look at the metadata to confirm that, yep, it was taken with one of my cameras.

        Memories? I don’t remember ever being in the Louvre and looking at my own face looking back at me from ten feet in front of the Mona Lisa (or whatever). I remember a clear and mostly unobstructed view of smiling lady. The very best thing for evoking my own memories of the event, is a simple photo (maybe a professional one) of the Mona Lisa with a few lines of my own text annotation regarding my feelings at the time. If I don’t have that, just a photo of the Mona Lisa is a good match for what I saw at the time, and see above as to there being no doubt this is something I saw. A picture of my face smiling back from in front of the Mona Lisa is less like anything I can remember seeing, and less effective at evoking memories, than just the picture of the Mona Lisa.

        Selfies are for bragging to other people, and for an excuse to get them to look at your mug by attaching it to something prettier or more interesting. I can easily believe there are selfie-takers who are sincerely motivated by a desire to preserve their own memories and are just what they see everyone else do, but they’re doing it wrong because they don’t understand that those other people are trying to do something different.

        • J Mann says:

          I like an occasional selfie. It’s a picture of me, as I exist in that moment – facial expression, clothing, age, etc., in a given setting – in front of the Lincoln Memorial or at the beginning of a race or something.

          Sometimes I share those selfies on facebook, but I don’t see them as bragging any more than if I just took a picture from the lineup to the race. Either way, I’m telling you I’m in the race or at the Superbowl or whatever.

      • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

        I’m not ECD, but the reason I find selfie-taking odious is that I was brainwashed (or “culturally conditioned”, if you prefer) into disliking it. The method of brainwashing was watching this cartoon about a million times as a young child.

    • Enkidum says:

      3) Versailles is ridiculous. I can see the benefit, but looking around, I also basically thought…impressive, but, yeah, I see how you got the French Revolution.

      I went there when I was 13, and had exactly the same feeling, and then went again this August, 30 years later. What an appalling creation. Reminds me of Trump (sorry) in that it’s just so tasteless. Especially when you realize that they used to piss on the mirrors and so on.

      6) I was not expecting mosquitos in Paris. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t. I was unprepared and mostly eaten alive.

      In September? That’s weird.

      • ECD says:

        It was actually October, but yeah.

      • Ant says:

        Louis XIV was one of the worst french king. The majority of its reign was spent in wars or crushing revolt, ruined the economy of its country, revoqued the Nantes accorded that gives the same rights to catholic and protestant and generally persecuted the latter until they were forced to become catholic, rebel or leave.

        I suspect most of his positive reputation come from the 3 musketeers or nationalism.

        • EchoChaos says:

          This is certainly an idiosyncratic view. He is generally regarded as one of France’s greatest kings, and his wars, while substantial, secured France’s external borders.

          In addition, due to his tremendous centralization, he was finally able to directly tax the nobles, which was a key to correcting French finances which aided the economy by reducing the burden on the peasants.

        • Protagoras says:

          He broke the power of the old aristocracy, hastening France’s transformation into a modern nation. Probably there were better ways it could have been done, which might have reduced some of the violence of the subsequent evolution of France, but feudalism must be destroyed if capitalism is to arise, and capitalism is a tremendous change for the better.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m not going to give a general opinion about Louis XIV, but he established France as a fashion center and started (inspired? funded? I’m not sure) businesses which still exist.

          It’s amazing that a government could be successful at picking winners. Was it a matter of luck? Is there anything about it which can be replicated?

        • MorningGaul says:

          In addition to others replies (of which, centralization and reigning in of the nobility where probably the right answers, along with the territorial gains that his wars obtained), I’ll just point out that the three musketeers cover the reign of Louis XIII. The sequel, 20 years later, covers the regency of Mazarin, which is painted in a rather negative manners, at least until the sequel’s sequel, 10 years after, which finally gets to Louis XIV (after Mazarin’s death, which, then, is presented much more flatteringly than previously), and, so far, (about halfway though it) is shown to be a Gentleman but rather poor King, whose inconsequence seems to be about to have dramatic consequences.

          And also he was a hunk.

    • CatCube says:

      13) The Louvre is not set up for getting around while disabled and almost no one obeys the signs indicating the elevators are only for the disabled.

      The Louvre is my go-to example when discussing how what we value has changed in the built environment. As you noticed, there are a lot of areas where to keep walking on the same story, you have to walk down a small flight of stairs and then back up to the same elevation you started. These were all at stairways, because they did this so they could put a large window in that depressed area and provide excellent natural light to the stairway and from there a little further into the interior area around the bottom of the stairs. If they didn’t depress the floor at the top of the stairs, the angles, ceiling height, and window sizes got a lot more difficult to make this work.

      Once we got much better interior lighting that cost far less, this tradeoff became less attractive. Of course, it was also easier to make this tradeoff in the Louvre in particular because if anybody had trouble with stairs, they’d either be carried by servants (if a noble) or fired (if a servant).

    • MorningGaul says:

      Regarding 5), it’s very unlikely to be tipping, and very likely to do with shitty tourist traps.

      About 14), was it full movies or airline cuts, like they apparently used to do?

      • ECD says:

        5) I mean, we weren’t at full tourist traps, except once. The place the service was worst was (admittedly extremely busy), but also just a random restaurant that we were at wandering around downtown Paris. Now, we started at the Eiffel Tower and only walked about ten blocks, but it was in a random direction.

        14) At least on United, it was full cuts. So I got to see (after checking behind me) the full John Wick 3 brutal experience, including a scene I actually would have been okay with cutting on a flight.

    • Ant says:

      Regarding 5, Paris has a very bad reputation for this (although not as bad as their public transport system being frequently in strike), to the point that I have seen sketches parodying the behavior of their waiters.

      Those reasons plus the cost of living has given Paris the reputation of being an awful place to live

      • ECD says:

        This actually reminds me of one I didn’t mention. The intersection near the Arc De Triumph is fucking terrifying. Seriously, I though we were going to kill cyclists/motorcyclists (we weren’t going to get killed, it was low enough speed and we were in modern cars, wearing seatbelts).

        Also, I don’t know why, but cab driver rides were noticeably less pleasant than Uber rides, and I say that as someone who has moderate moral objections to Uber.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I never drove in Paris, but I happened to sit near the Arc De Triumph one day, and saw several minor accidents in just a few minutes. Apparently Parisians believe merging is a contact sport.

    • b_jonas says:

      > Sainte Chapelle cathedral is awesome

      Have you visited the Sacré-Cœur church as well? It’s also awesome.

      • ECD says:

        We didn’t. I think it’s still an actual in-use church, isn’t it? I’m not sure why, but it feels a little weird to visit an active church as an agnostic, for the purposes of tourism and non-religious self-improvement.

        Also we ran out of time and energy.

        • Aapje says:

          @ECD

          Active churches that are popular with tourists often simply close the doors during service and/or put up signs telling people not to be dicks. I think that it is fine to visit, as long as you don’t interfere with service and obey the signs.

          Most of these churches ask for donations (if they don’t sell tickets to tourists), so you can assuage your guilt (and help pay for restorations and the like) by donating after your visit.

          PS. I sold tickets to tourists in a church that was both used for tourism and services.

          • Nick says:

            I strongly recommend folks donate for restorations if they’re visiting. Price of admission, when it’s levied, is never enough to actually pay for these. In Notre Dame’s case, the restorations being made at the time of the fire were largely paid for by American donors, from what I heard.

          • Randy M says:

            American Catholics or art lovers?

    • JayT says:

      17) I tried and failed not to be irritated by the modern practice of (a) I see something cool I want a picture of (b) I’ll turn away from it, put my phone in selfie mode and take a picture of myself with it.

      This is funny to me, because I’m actually annoyed by people that take pictures of artwork when it doesn’t have them in the picture*. I’m mildly opposed to taking pictures of artwork in the first place, because I feel that is low-level stealing from the museum. However, if you are taking a picture of yourself or someone else standing next to it, it is more like memory making, and is something you can look back at years down the road.

      * My one exception to this rule is taking a picture of a detail of a painting, because, if done correctly, I believe you are creating something new.

      • ECD says:

        Yeah, more and more I think this may be a de gustibus issue, despite my attempts at rationalization up above. Might be interesting to see if there’s a generational split, however.

      • mitv150 says:

        FWIW (not much)

        I’m 40 and I wouldn’t consider taking a picture of a famous painting without myself (or more likely, my wife and/or kids) in it. Same with animals in a zoo. I will take landscape photos without a human presence, but prefer them with.

        Also, I have never posted any of these photos to any form of social media.

        I have some great pictures in museums where my kids are imitating the paintings or statues. Those are great memories. My photo of a famous painting with no context is pretty weak sauce.

    • lvlln says:

      14) In-flight entertainment has improved radically, I got to watch John Wick 3 and Aquaman on the flight and could select from a wide array of movies or TV shows to watch for free.

      Haha, did you fly Virgin/Delta? I had a round-trip trans-Atlantic flight last month, and John Wick 3 and Aquaman are 2 of the 3 movies I watched during those flights (the 3rd being Free Solo). Weird coincidence.

      I found Aquaman vastly exceeded my low expectations, John Wick 3 failed to meet my high expectations, and Free Solo exactly met my high expectations.

      • ECD says:

        United. But that’s about right in movie evaluation. I’m not sure if I’ve just started paying more attention, or if the choreography was worse, but there were several times in John Wick 3 where there’s momentary mook chivalry, which my recollection is the first two mostly avoided.

        • Aftagley says:

          I really, really, really, hated the “obvious camera trick fading away thing” that John Wick and the ninjas kept doing to eachother.

          In a movie otherwhise full of great practical effects, it just looked so out of place. It was especially unnecessary because they went out of their way to solidify the ninjas as masters of stealth in other ways.

          • ECD says:

            That’s another one. The one which irritated me more than that was the complete underselling of the defensive advantage and overpowering of the Ninjas, until they run into Wick. Ninjas vs the smugglers, okay, they may have thought they got away with it and were no more than on standard alert. Ninjas vs the Bowery King, he was told they were coming and had to be on high alert and they still slice through his men like nothing? Why are any of the rest of these people even players if the ninjas can just eliminate them at will?

        • lvlln says:

          I’m not sure if I’ve just started paying more attention, or if the choreography was worse, but there were several times in John Wick 3 where there’s momentary mook chivalry, which my recollection is the first two mostly avoided.

          Yes, this was my problem with 3 as well. The bad guys other than the minibosses just didn’t behave at all like humans with an interest in surviving and defeating the opponent, but rather like targets in a shooting gallery or enemy characters in a video game set to Very Easy mode. The spectacle of the action scenes was still there, but the visceral feel of observing a fight where different individuals with conflicting goals are really doing their best to defeat the others was mostly lacking.

          I thought 2 suffered from it too to a lesser extent but thought 1 hadn’t. But I’m guessing that it’s more that I’ve started paying more attention, perhaps because I got into watching UFC in the past year or so. I might try revisiting the 1st John Wick – especially now that I watched Game of Thrones – to see if it holds up.

          • John Schilling says:

            I didn’t mind the “chivalry” quite so much, because it was vaguely consistent with the culture evoked by their worldbuilding and that whole package was already silly enough that I had to either roll with it or walk out. And they did dial up the worldbuilding silliness a few notches past plausible suspension of disbelief, but not quite to “walk out” levels so long as it looked good moment to moment.

            My big problem was, the story was almost literally pointless. All of the major characters were in about the same position at the end of the movie as they were at the beginning. Nothing that happened had any consequence except faux escalation. The moments were mostly enjoyable, but the whole was in hindsight exhausting and exploitative.

            If I am reliably informed that the next movie manages to finish an actual story, I’ll probably check it out. Otherwise not.

    • Sainte Chapelle is awesome. It is also a reminder of the fact that the reason medieval buildings are grey inside is not that medieval people liked them that way, but that the paint has worn off. In Sainte Chapelle it hasn’t.

      Have you tried flying Norwegian? They are amazingly cheap–I keep worrying that they are going to go broke–and, in my experience, the flight itself is quite pleasant. They charge for drinking water and lots of other things, but adding that in still leaves them amazingly inexpensive.

      Did you go through the original Louvre–the excavation of the castle foundations? One of the more interesting things there, in my view.

      • ECD says:

        I did, mostly because I got thoroughly lost when I first got in. It was extremely impressive and a good reminder of the scale of things which can get lost in pictures, or descriptions.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      1) The Louvre is fucking huge. Seriously. I spent five hours there and barely made it through every floor of one (of three) wings, without seeing everything, I’m quite sure. The place is also a maze in need of far better mapping/maps.

      I think some of the problem with the Louvre (having been there myself a few weeks ago) is that it’s a building site with some rooms inaccessible, possibly because of the upcoming Da Vinci exhibition. The paper maps don’t take this into account. Also, various things have been moved- when the Mona Lisa is in its usual location, while it is very crowded, there isn’t usually a line to actually get into the room it’s in.

      I found it amusing to see the difference in the size of the crowds between those around certain paintings that are featured in the guide leaflets (Liberty Leading the People) and others that are IMO just as impressive if not more so and in the same room (The Raft of the Medusa).

    • andrewflicker says:

      Exposure to Sainte Chapelle was the moment my wife decided to become an art historian.

  27. nkurz says:

    What are the current best theories for why food allergies are increasing in prevalence?

    It seems uncontested that dramatically greater numbers of babies are being born with severe food allergies. Over the last 20 years, for example, the percentage born in the US with peanut allergies has increased from about 1.8% to about 5% (see chart on the top right here https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2019/10/03/the-prevalence-of-peanut-allergy-has-trebled-in-15-years). And despite presumably greater awareness, the number of emergency room visits for affected children are up by similar numbers (same link, top left).

    What’s causing this change? Global numbers are increasing as well, but not necessarily at the same rate for the same allergens. This seems like case where a single well-done study could establish risk factors, but I haven’t seen any such study. Is this because the studies come up with nothing, or is there some reason they haven’t been done yet?

    • Business Analyst says:

      Many years ago I heard a theory based on encounters with isolated tribes who were treated for parasites, and developed allergies in the years following the removal of their major parasites, that we don’t have enough parasites and the immune system that would normally be anti-parasite starts going off target. I’m not sure if any better study has been done, but it seemed like a reasonable explanation to me.

    • Cheese says:

      Establishing clear risk factors for what is most likely a multifactorial problem is actually really hard.

      Theory still broadly centres around hygeine hypothesis and all that that encompasses. Anyone can come up with a biological mechanism that sounds vaguely plausible but most of the time it is really hard to tease out specific associations.

      I’d recommend probably starting with a review like this one:https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(17)31794-3/fulltext and working back.

      Interestingly of note in the last 10-15 years is that we now have very good data that early allergen exposure reduces rates of ongoing allergy. Previously, the opposite was thought to be the case and avoiding exposure was recommended. This has since been reversed on the back of that data.

      I’m sure someone with more knowledge than me can provide a better picture but starting with the aforementioned review would be a good primer.

    • Statismagician says:

      Suspicion: access to lots and lots of different kinds of food for relatively little money, plus increased tolerance for picky eating habits over the last 75 years or so. The counterpoint would be Israel, where I’m given to understand the favorite local snack food is a peanut puff-type thing, and there is almost literally no peanut allergy, but also not a gigantically increased incidence of respiratory distress. Biologically plausible through [MILD, I am explicitly not talking about anything which might even plausibly rise to the level of life-threatening reactions; ask your pediatrician or GP] allergies being generally prevented/alleviated by prenatal/early childhood exposure, which tracks with a lot of other food preference/mild allergy data, IIRC.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Dysgenic selection?

      People with severe allergies used to either die due of acute anaphylactic shock or suffer from chronic health problems that decreased their fitness. Now they survive and reproduce.

      • albatross11 says:

        In order for this theory to make sense, we would need to have seen huge numbers of people dying/being very ill from anaphylaxis in the past, but we don’t actually see that.

        • Incurian says:

          Wasn’t infant mortality a lot higher than now? I imagine that in those cases it would be difficult to determine the cause of death.

        • albatross11 says:

          The massive rise in food allergies (and also gender dysphoria) happened this generation. The kids born in the 1960s and 1940s in the US did not experience much infant mortality.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m not sure specifically mentioning gender dysphoria is especially helpful here, but generally it does appear we are seeing more mental disorders in these most recent generations (along with, as discussed, allergies). My gut tells me autoimmune disorders are probably more common as well but I haven’t fact checked that (are allergies considered autoimmune disorders)?

            Some of the gap (for all these examples) can be explained by under-diagnoses in the past and over-diagnosis in the present, but almost certainly not all of it. Certainly points to some kind of environmental factor to me, but my gut tells me there are a lot of disparate causes and pinning them down would be quite difficult (and solving them probably even more so since most of the causes are probably things deeply ingrained in the way we live, things we do, and materials we eat or use).

          • albatross11 says:

            I have no idea if they’re related, I’m just noting that gender dysphoria seems to have become a lot more common in the same generation that severe food allergies became a lot more common. A previous generation had a seeming spike in autism-spectrum disorders and ADHD.

            How much of that was changing criteria for diagnosis? More knowledge about these commonplace but underdiagnosed disorders? Trendy diagnoses driven by popular press and/or drug companies, or just by the vagaries of fashion? I have no idea. I assume there are people in the relevant fields looking into what happened, but I don’t know that.

            And we’ve also seen all kinds of other societal changes which may or may not be related. Crime rates rose to scary-high levels, and then fell back to something much less scary. We went through a wave of crack use, meth use, and now opioid use with associated moral panics and overdose deaths and drug dealers shooting each other over turf. Way way more people grow up without their dad in the house. There’s a ton more assortative mating at the top. And so on. Are any of these things related to the changes in severe allergies? Who knows?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/05/03/peanut-allergy-test-could-prevent-huge-over-diagnosis-condition/

            Skin test overdiagnoses peanut allergies– only 22% of those diagnosed turned out to actually be allergic to peanuts.

    • JayT says:

      I suspect the biggest reason is that people used to be allergic and just didn’t know it. They thought it was normal to just always feel terrible, but now there are more doctors checking for allergies.

      Anecdote: One of my good friends was a vegetarian for many years, but wasn’t a big fan of vegetables, so he mostly ate bread and cheese and drank beer. His son started having stomach issues, so the doctors checked him for celiac disease, and it turns out he had it. My friend, in solidarity with his son, also gave up gluten and found that he no longer had constant stomach aches, mood swings, and other issues. He went and got checked, and sure enough, he also had celiac disease. 20+ years ago he would never have found out that was what was causing his issues.

      • albatross11 says:

        Jay T:

        I think some of the rise has to do with people looking more for allergies, and in particular with blood tests that can find antibodies to common antigens. (Those can give false positives.) But also, I think there are a lot more people actually having serious, scary reactions to foods than in the past.

  28. Thought experiment with two scenarios:

    I’m a man about to marry a woman with a net worth of zero, and I currently have a net worth of 50,000, the source of which was my wages in my upper-middle class job, placed into a Vanguard fund. I ask my fiancee to sign a prenuptial agreement to protect these assets. She is hesitant, and our social group finds out about this.

    I’m a man about to marry a woman with a net worth of zero, and I currently have a net worth of 5,000,000, the source of which was an inheritance. I ask my fiancee to sign a prenuptial agreement to protect these assets. She is hesitant, and our social group finds out about this.

    Under which scenario will I receive greater support from my social group, and why?

    • Plumber says:

      @Alexander Turok,
      My gut level guess is that single and divorced guys in your social circle will mostly say that you should get a prenup, and some married guys will as well when they can’t be overheard.

      Women in your social circle will mostly say you’re being too untrusting, but a few will privately say you’re being prudent.

      A lot depends on how well they know and like your fiancee though.

    • ECD says:

      Depends on your social group. Mine would, regardless of gender of you or your spouse, be pretty negative on prenups, perhaps with some exceptions regarding children from previous relationships.

      Also, it’s been a long time since I looked at this and I’ve never practiced in the area (and none of this is legal advice) but wouldn’t none of this stuff be marital assets regardless? Marital assets are assets acquired during the marriage, not what you come in with.

      • acymetric says:

        I think that is true, but I don’t know if that would also protect appreciation on the money (or if appreciation after the marriage would be considered marital property) and the same. If you use the money you had before the marriage to buy a boat after you are married, is the boat joint property? Money is fungible, how is it determined whose funds bought the boat? I assume this (among other things, of course) is one reason divorces can be so contentious.

        Even if divorce law protects your assets, they don’t protect you from a drawn out, acrimonious ordeal where your (former) spouse tries to acquire those assets anyway. I suppose a prenup wouldn’t protect you from that either, though.

        • ECD says:

          It’s been a long time, but my vague recollection is appreciation depends on whether its natural (IE property values in your neighborhood go up) or the result of labor (you built a deck and the property value increased) with the later being marital property. But this is a state law question that varies, state to state, I think.

          If you want to keep your money separate, you have to actually keep it in a separate account, but I believe if you do so, what’s purchased with separate funds remains separate property.

          A prenup may or may not protect you, depending on how enforceable it is. A lot of these questions need a local specialist, or a lot of research to be answerable for specific circumstances. But nothing can guarantee a non-acrimonious non-ordeal of a divorce.

    • bja009 says:

      Ceteris paribus, I suspect that you’d receive greater support in the second ($5mil) scenario.

      There is a cost to asking for a prenup, both in your betrothed’s eyes (their perception of the level of trust in and commitment to the relationship takes a hit), as well as among your peer group (by asking for the prenup, you demonstrate that you have a low degree of trust in others in that group).

      Being willing to pay that cost to protect $50k vs $5mil demonstrates how much you value trust. $5mil is a lot of money, enough to retire comfortably at any time, and your peers would be more sanguine about a trade-off against such a sum; $50k is merely the cost of a nice new car (though frankly also a lot of money).

      • acymetric says:

        (by asking for the prenup, you demonstrate that you have a low degree of trust in others in that group)

        I’m pretty much on board with your post, except this part. Why would, say, my best friend think I didn’t trust him because I asked my fiance for a prenup? I think its too much of a leap. It certainly might lower their opinion of me, but not because they think I don’t trust them.

        • DinoNerd says:

          They think you aren’t a very trusting person in general and/or think that you don’t consider (perceived) trustworthiness as important for close relationships?

          Actually, as your hypothetical peer, I’d be more inclined to consider that you might yourself be untrustworthy – people to tend to expect in others that which they see in themselves. Also, you might be planning to replace your fiancée with a younger model in a decade or two, and want the prenup for that reason.

          Realistically speaking, my peers mostly regard prenups as normal and prudent, at least AFAIK. (The topic hasn’t come up recently.) So not an issue. So what I’m really doing here is trying to steelman reasons for people objecting/thinking less of you.

    • salvorhardin says:

      You’ll get greater support in the second case, because:

      — support for prenups likely depends much less on the reason or the amount at stake than on whether you are in a subculture where they are the Done Thing

      — people tend to have social groups economically similar to themselves

      — prenups are the Done Thing among the sort of people who have $5M inheritances, and Not The Done Thing among the sort of people whose net worth is dominated by a $50K savings account.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      Congrats on finding a fiance so wealthy/prudent to have a net worth of 0, instead of it being a large negative number, consisting of three maxed out credit cards and a defered student loan in a useless degree.

    • J Mann says:

      As your hypothetical social group member, I’d say that if you don’t trust your fiance with $25,000 in the event of divorce,* you probably shouldn’t be getting married, unless there is some unusual reason. $2.5 million is a different story.

      * (Given that you have an upper middle class job – if you’re working for minimum wage, I might feel differently)

    • Another Throw says:

      Protection of larger financial assets doesn’t have as much to do with a prenup as one might suspect. The problem with divorce is not dividing your assets with someone that may not have contributed as much along the way. The problem is dividing your assets with someone who absolutely fucking hates you and is actively seeking the division that, while being numerically 50% (or whatever value otherwise agreed to), does the absolute maximum damage to you as they can. Sentimental value far in excess of the monetary value? Burn it to the ground! Something you need to continue earning a living? Burn it to the ground and then piss on the embers!

      Deciding in advance how to divide your assets with someone while they actually likes you and don’t want to post pictures of taking your grandmother’s fine china to the shooting range on Instagram is far more important than whatever unequal contribution to the marital property there may have been.

    • I would think greater support with the larger sum.

      Not trusting someone with thousands is more insulting than not trusting the person with millions, and your willingness to impose the cost for a relatively small security suggests that you don’t value the relationship all that much.

    • Thanks to all those who replied. I agree with most of you that there would be more support in the second case. It makes intuitive economic sense to care more about protecting 5 million than 50 thousand. But hopes, dream, expectations, and fears rise with income: if a hurricane were headed toward your city it’s reasonable to expect the poor man to be just as worried about losing his 50,000 shack as the rich man is about losing his 5,000,000 mansion. I think the most compelling explanation for this is simple deference to elites.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      Re: prenups in general. When two marry they should discuss the fact that there is a 50% chance they will end up in a divorce. They should be able to frankly and openly face that possibility. Otherwise they are not being realistic about their marriage. To begin a marriage by pretending that they have more than a 50% chance of success is delusional. That is one strike against them already.

      • To begin a marriage by pretending that they have more than a 50% chance of success is delusional.

        That ignores the fact that the couple have information about themselves.

        Do you assume that your probability for all outcomes is best estimated by the national average? Your chance of being a murderer? Getting a Nobel prize?

        • Aapje says:

          @DavidFriedman

          That just moves the problem up one level: 50% of couples either lack the information to predict that their marriage will be a success or are incapable of using the information they have to prevent a failed marriage.

          The national outcome is mostly already filtered to those that are fairly confident that their marriage will last. If they are wrong so often, then a prenup is sensible for the very plausible case that either or both of the couple are incompetent at judging the risk they run of a break up.

          • albatross11 says:

            One way you can improve on those odds is if both you and your spouse are members of a religion/culture that strongly discourages divorce.

          • Aapje says:

            People quite commonly change religious beliefs, though. So you’d also have to be fairly sure that your partner won’t.

  29. Oh look, someone in a superhero or magic fantasy franchise with power over ice, fire, water, shadow, light etc zzzzzz. Nothing’s new under the sun, but what kind of powers haven’t really been done much?

    • Statismagician says:

      Brandon Sanderson does some weird magic systems. Off the top of my head he’s got ‘eat metals to fuel alchemical powers ranging from (magnetic) telekinesis to mind control to precognition’ and ‘buy bits of people’s souls, use them to drain the color from items and use that to animate different objects.’ I believe there’s also Feudalism But Actually Magic, where you can donate e.g. your strength or speed to your lord so he can go fight better.

      • Enkidum says:

        To nitpick, that seems mostly like unusual costs for normal powers, which is not what FS asked for. (I haven’t read Sanderson though.)

        • Statismagician says:

          That’s fair, and I did think about it while I was writing – I think the degree to which the specific interactions between parts of his systems are thought out and used in the stories saves it, but I’ll also admit that I really liked several of his novels so I’m probably biased. Plus otherwise we have to work out where the lines between powers are – is fireball notably different from cone of cold or orb of acid, or are they all subsets of ‘kill that guy over there?’ Do we care that two of them manipulate elemental forces directly where the third summons stuff from somewhere else and then throws it?

          [Why yes, I do play a lot of D&D 3.5, why do you ask?]

        • bullseye says:

          The telekinesis is pretty weird. You can only push metal directly away from you or pull it directly toward you (which are two separate powers, but a lucky few get all the powers). If the metal is big enough or bolted down it’ll move you instead of moving the metal, just like if you were pulling or pushing with your hands; a common use is to fling yourself through a city by pushing and pulling on metal fixtures.

          • You can only push metal directly away from you or pull it directly toward you

            I’m not familiar with this series, but isn’t this more or less an extrapolation of real magnetism’s attraction and repulsion? Magneto’s power, by contrast, is weird because at times he doesn’t seem to be the center of the field he’s generating, and it just boils down to actual telekinesis but only with metal.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            This is exactly how the Magnetic Gloves work in The Legend of Zelda.

          • silver_swift says:

            @Forward Synthesis: It’s never explicitly mentioned to be related to magnetism, the magic systems on the planet in question just have a thing for metals.

            It also works on all metals except aluminium, not just ferrous metals (though I suppose that applies to Magneto as well)

          • Peffern says:

            @silver_swift Nitpick, but it’s not just aluminum. We know this because during the Hero of Ages, when Iva trgf pncgherq ol gur bar thl jvgu gur ngvhz cbjre jubfr anzr V’z sbetrggvat, gur bayl zrgnyf va ure pryy ner fvyire fcrpvsvpnyyl fb fur pna’g hfr nyybznapl gb rfpncr.

            Also, Mistborn is awesome, I’ve recently persuaded my whole family to read it and they’ve all enjoyed it.

          • Dan L says:

            @ eyeballfrog, silver_swift, et al:

            It’s explicitly not magnetism, just works similarly at first glance.

            V pna’g cbvag gb n fcrpvsvp vafgnapr sbe fvyire ng gur zbzrag, ohg vg’f qrsvavgryl gehr gung aba-nyybznagvp zrgnyf pna or znavchyngrq jvgu veba naq fgrry – gur fvyire va gur pryy pbhyqa’g or ohearq, ohg vg pbhyq cerfhznoyl fgvyy or chfurq.

            (Mild spoilers for Cosmere stuff beyond the first Misborn book.)

            Bs pbhefr, fvapr ryrpgehz vf na nyybznagvp zragny gung zrnaf fvyire *vf* nyybznagvpnyyl npgvir, whfg abg va vgf cher sbez.

            Nyhzvahz vf n fcrpvny pnfr, va gung vg’f nagv-vairfgvgher va n oebnq frafr – jr’ir nyfb frra vg qnzcra be artngr ovbpuebzn naq fgbezyvtug rssrpgf (cyhf bguref). Ernyyl, gur bqq guvat vf gung vg’f nyybznagvpnyyl npgvir ng nyy (fvapr qhenyhzva ng yrnfg qbrf irevsvnoyl zber guna abguvat).

            Bs pbhefr, na haxabja nzbhag bs gur nobir bayl nccyvrf gb zrgny sebz Fpnqevny – ab thnenagrrf sbe bgure fbheprf.

          • silver_swift says:

            @Dan L: This is getting pretty deep into a tangent, but we have confirmation from the author that lbh pna hfr zrgnyf sebz bgure jbeyqf gb cresbez nyybznapl. Bhgfvqr bs Ngvhz naq Yrenfvhz gur zrgnyf gurzfryirf qba’g pneel vairfgvgher.

            Link to WoB: https://wob.coppermind.net/events/69/#e6129

          • Dan L says:

            Huh, TIL. I’d have said that contradicts some other stuff, but
            nccneragyl zrgny bayl *ybbxf* vairfgrq gb na nyybznapre orpnhfr gurl’er npghnyyl frrvat Cerfreingvba’f cbjre npprffvoyr guebhtu vg, naq guvf vfa’g havdhr gb Fpnqevny zrgny.

            Gurer’f fgvyy gur dhrfgvba bs jung rknpgyl jnf napubevat Cerfreingvba naq Ehva gb gur cynarg, ohg gurer ner n srj cynhfvoyr nygreangvirf gurer.

      • mitv150 says:

        I believe there’s also Feudalism But Actually Magic, where you can donate e.g. your strength or speed to your lord so he can go fight better.

        This was the Runelords series, by David Farland

    • NTD_SF says:

      Powers that don’t have anything to do with fighting come to mind, though a sufficiently imaginative person can make it work. Limited matter creation is a possibility. Maybe a specifically non-harmful sort of mental abilities – no mind control or putting people to sleep, just improved communication.

      • What would be interesting is a world of powers that are relatively benign individually but either macguyver their way into being dangerous using the environment around them or interact with other individually benign powers in team ups that become dangerous.

        It would require some real thinking to set up in a coherent way what kind of powers fit one or both of those two categories though.

        • Civilis says:

          You can find some examples of both of those spread throughout the light novel / manga / anime series connected to A Certain Magical Index, specifically the two pseudoscientific spin-offs dealing with esper abilities (A Certain Scientific Railgun and A Certain Scientific Accelerator).

          The A Certain Scientific Accelerator anime which just aired last season has a good one in the opening episode where the villains are using a stolen prototype cryogenic weapon based around melting solid nitrogen. Attempts by police to jump the weapon wielder fail because the police collapse due to lack of oxygen when they get too close, but the wielder and her partners have no issues breathing. Turns out one of the partners is a minor esper with the ability to control the concentration of gases in the air, using her abilities to allow the villains to breathe in the nitrogen-saturated air around the weapon.

        • Peffern says:

          I would like to refine my earlier query as to whether you have read Worm to an insistence that you read it because it is this and it is great.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      A power a character I had a lot of fun with in a Changeling campaign was build around was the ability to take bad karma, bad luck, negative supernatural effects, physical injuries and the like from others and suffer them himself.

      Combined with a massive martyrdom/self hatred complex and a party of other PCs who genuinely liked him, it made for a fun dynamic as people tried to talk him out of self-destructing for the greater good.

      I think the power would also have some potential in fiction, although the character rather less so – I think someone less keen to use it would probably be less fun to play but more fun to read about.

      • acymetric says:

        I’m nearly positive this was done in some fiction (I have no idea what) at least with “absorbing” disease, though maybe not the rest of it.

        • Koan says:

          I know a minor character in Wildbow’s Worm had something like this power. He could transfer other’s injuries/maladies to himself by touching them, acting as a sort of healing ability for his allies; and then turn around and use his power offensively by transferring his newly gained injuries to his enemies via touching them.
          His alias was Scapegoat, appropriately enough.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        One Vernor Vinge short story had a human (from a Vingian post-singularitian tech base) with tools that let him manipulate probabilities.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Charles Williams (the third Inkling) used the idea of taking on other people’s burdens in his fiction, and I think he believed it worked in the real world– he was using a Christian context, not a rationalist one, so the idea was people doing this individually rather than taking on the world’s problems.

        This is especially in play in his Descent into Hell. A young woman is afraid to go out. She’s worried about meeting herself. She makes herself go out anyway. This is going on for years.

        It turns out that she was taking on the fear of a man from centuries earlier who was going to be martyred. Time doesn’t matter for these things.

        He dies joyously. Or at least wasn’t frightened before the end. It’s been a while since I read the book.

        She meets herself and forgets being frightened– her identity is switched to her other self, and she remembers looking for someone.

        Williams might be of interest here. The best book for ssc is probably Many Dimensions— it has the stone from King Soloman’s crown, a cube of primordial matter from before time, space, and thought were separated. It includes time travel of a sort, the ability to move your consciousness along your timeline. This isn’t a good idea.

    • theredsheep says:

      I have the beginnings of a superhero-ish story in my head for whenever Pyrebound finishes. Most of the powers are semi-conventional, but the best I’ve got is a fellow who can condense air into solid shapes. He focuses on a spot, the air solidifies fairly quickly into a solid form of his choosing. The harder he focuses, the denser and tougher it gets. As long as he’s concentrating, the shape remains where it is hardening in defiance of physics; the moment he looks away, it shifts out of semi-reality into full existence, with attendant limitations. This means that he can (for example) make a really heavy weight appear five stories up, then let it go. Once he releases an object, it gradually becomes less solid as well, and returns to being normal air. The decay process is exponential, so a pillow-fluff mass he created in two seconds will evaporate in ten or twenty but a cinderblock wil take some time to decay to a pillow. He can create these objects as fast as he likes, limited only by his attention span and the decay.

      The story may or may not go anywhere. I don’t have a plot yet, just the beginnings of a world and some characters.

    • beleester says:

      Touhou has a huge number of weird conceptual powers. One of the major movers and shakers has “power over boundaries,” which is ridiculously flexible – anything from teleporting by altering the boundary between places, to killing someone by altering the boundary of life and death. One of the protagonists has “the power to fly”, which seems fairly useless since anyone can fly with magic, but somehow stretched it to “flying away from reality,” allowing her to become intangible to avoid attacks.

      (It helps that power levels don’t matter too much in the setting, since any disputes are settled via bullet hell duels.)

      • Nornagest says:

        “Power to loose and bind” is a very old-school concept, and tends to work out to something similarly flexible — anywhere from coercing spirits into doing your bidding (already pretty potent), to doing anything you can even loosely and metaphorically describe in terms of constraining or releasing something.

        A character in one of Charlie Stross’s Laundry books shows a minor example by unbinding a mook from his skin.

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          How about Calvinist Popeman, whose superpowers produce no tangible results, but is universally believed to be able to grant or deny people access to paradise after their deaths, usable once per person (only one power per person – once he’s declared that you are or aren’t going to heaven, he can’t change that) and therefor has an immensely strong card to play in any negotiation.

    • journcy says:

      See JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, with its psychic Stand abilities. In the earlier parts the author goes through all the traditional powers, but later on you get fun things like:
      – The ability to apply the characteristics of a sound effect to objects
      – The ability to turn anything into a bomb
      – The ability to fold a person up into a piece of paper if you make them feel sufficiently intense fear
      – A magic fishing rod that can sense heartbeats
      – The ability to install a zipper on any surface and zip people and objects into pieces
      …and so on.

      • rmtodd says:

        – The ability to turn anything into a bomb

        Ivan Ivanovich Goratschin, one of the mutants in the German SF series Perry Rhodan, had a similar power. If he concentrated in a certain way with all four eyes(*) looking at an object, a very small fraction of the calcium and carbon atoms in said object would be induced to fuse, resulting in a small nuclear explosion. (Justifying why this power works only on calcium and carbon and not on easier-to-fuse elements like, say, hydrogen is left as an exercise to the reader.)

        (*) two-headed mutant.

        • J Mann says:

          To be fair to JoJo’s creativity and/or weirdness, the bomb guy’s actual power is:

          (JoJo spoilers follow)

          1) Anything his spirit avatar touches can be made into a bomb, but only one object at a time, and the bomb quality can be transferred by someone else touching the target.

          2) The left hand of the spirit avatar can detach into a heat seeking autonomous robot mini-tank that seeks out the greatest heat source and blows up when it comes in contact with its target.

          3) He can plant a spirit in another person that, when a set condition occurs (a) blows up other people around that person according to his instructions and (b) then reverses an hour of time and replays that hour, at which time the targets it blew up before entering the time loop also explode.

          Oh, and at one point his avatar gets a cat plant implanted in its chest, The cat plant fires invisible air bullets, which his avatar can make explosive.

    • ECD says:

      I think this depends what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for the same sort of story, but with more creative use of rarer powers, I’ve heard good things about Worm, though I believe I bounced off it the one time I tried to read it for reasons I no longer remember. For a somewhat similar thing, though different too, I enjoyed Sarah Lin’s Street Cultivation.

      For other things, I think there are a few X-Man peripheral characters with really weird powers, some useful, some not. I think there’s even been some discussion in canon about the disputes between humanesque and non-human, or actively harmful mutations, though I’m only peripherally aware of actual comics canon.

      For a long time I’ve had a scene from a fanfic I keep meaning to write where a mutant who’s taking a separatist approach (rather than Magneto’s supremacist, or Professor X’s assimilation approach) and after a lot of maneuvering and speculation about what her mutation is, it turns out she can turn two fingers purple and is just really good at convincing people that the Marvel Earth will always be shitty to mutants, so it’s better to leave, with no relevant mutant abilities.

    • Ketil says:

      I see Worm is barely mentioned, but it does have a lot of creative and unusual powers. For instance, the power to control the outcome of, eh, random events, or the ability to see the optimal action to take. Then, there’s one character with the ability to reach into an object of a certain material, and have his hand emerge from the same kind of material elsewhere, and probably many other I forget. For extra bonus, it has an interesting story about the origin of the powers. The protagonist’s ability to control insects is perhaps not so outlandish, but is used in creative ways.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series have a hero who’s a specialist diviner, and are still entertaining detective stories despite the obvious issue. Wizards in general specialise in a given form of magic- as well as the usual ice, fire, lightning etc. there are some interesting ones. For instance, there is a character who can steal other people’s luck, making herself very lucky and them extremely, often fatally, unlucky- but she can’t control this power, and it affects everyone she touches.

    • Auric Ulvin says:

      Offensive telefragging is seriously underutilised (because it’s seriously overpowered). Maybe add a cooldown or ‘travel-time’ so it’s like hitting a moving target.

      Portal manipulation is common but underutilised. Not enough waterfall negentropy machines. Not enough vacuum-tube gravitational accelerator doomsday devices. Not enough cutting things with the portals themselves. Again, not enough offensive portal-wielding. Where’s my portal to the sun doomsday device? Better than a giant beam shooting into the sky.

      Scale manipulation is also common but underutilised. We have the Tardis and Pym particles (second only to the Flash in inducing nerd-rage) but we don’t have armies hidden inside a handbag. BZRK did nanowarfare but nobody else seems to care about the prospect of fighting battles inside someone’s own body.

      Perhaps somebody should explore the ethics of golem-making as a thin metaphor for GAI issues. Who makes the lumbering blocks of stone that the heroes have to defeat? How is it done? Do they go rogue sometimes? Have any tried to rebel, do they follow orders too literally?

    • noyann says:

      The ability to make arbitrary surfaces zero-friction.
      ETA: or better: set the friction arbitrarily from zero (knots, brakes) infinite (instant ‘welding’).

      Requires the reader to have a certain knack for technical imagination to enjoy this.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        Instant friction shouldn’t function quite like welding, should it? I’d expect it to mean that lateral motion is impossible, but you can still lift things off the surface.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      – the eponymous Death Note from the Death Note franchise gives its user the ability to manipulate reality in mostly arbitrary ways, as long as these manipulations are used to kill somebody and are physically possible (e.g. it can’t make somebody just explode). There are lots of rules constraining its usage, which generates and interesting dynamic with the protagonist rules lawyering them.

      – the alchemy system of Fullmetal Alchemist: alchemists can rearrange matter both at the macroscopic level or reconfigure chemical elements at the molecular level, conservation of mass is enforced. Alchemy is treated as a science/craft rather than magic, anybody who is smart enough can study and apply it. Some alchemist specialize in things that look like standard super-powers (e.g. fire manipulation), other do weird things like turning people into living bombs, or using the carbon of their own body to create a graphite armor on their skin.

    • Jake says:

      Most superheroes have powers that deal with combat, so you don’t often see a lot of the non-combat type powers, or if you do they tend to be secondary (e.g. the priests in Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives who can make grain out of magic, and negate the need for a supply chain to some degree). Those types of soft super-powers tend to be undermentioned, though theoretically they could be more powerful than a single brutish hero just punching people or throwing fireballs around.

      An interesting soft-skill type hero would be someone who has the power of efficient resource allocation and knows exactly what items someone will need in the near future and how to get them to the person. In a storyline, it would play out something like the movie Paycheck, but much more flexible and without the time travel (though Paycheck was one of the very few movies I’ve seen that almost got time travel right).

    • silver_swift says:

      The Powder Mage Trilogy has the boring fire/ice/lightning mages, but it also has Bone Mages and the titular Powder Mages.

      The former have bunch of creepy voodoo inspired powers and can protect people against magic or pierce magic based protections, while the latter can snort gunpowder to become harder/better/faster/stronger and make nearby sources of gunpowder explode on command and/or shape the explosion from detonating gunpowder as they want.

    • Peffern says:

      Have you read Worm?

    • georgeherold says:

      First apologies for any gross images.
      Bodily functions: I can piss like a fire hose, but need constant recharging with cheap beer.
      Farts that smell so bad they knock out the enemy, Sweat so much my naked body is as hard to hold as a greased pig, … I could go on, (tears with some magic hormone have been done) but you get the idea. I’m not sure I want to read this story BTW.

    • honoredb says:

      I’d really like to see more characters who know, via time travel or prophecy, that they are not fated to die or be permanently injured until a certain date or certain thing happening, and actually take advantage of that. Level 0 usage is to become a daredevil superhero.
      Level 1 is to do things like throw yourself off a building rather than be captured, counting on fate to save you.
      Level 2 is defusing bombs and preventing disasters by showing up at the epicenter.
      Level 3 is hacks like wearing a supersuit that kills you whenever you get punched, or having tech wired into your brain that kills you whenever something bad happens (sure, fate will generally prevent this by making the tech malfunction, but the more reliable you make the tech the fewer unlikely disasters will happen).

      It’s certainly not unheard of in fiction but I like that it’s a power that gets more interesting the more you munchkin it.

      • Kindly says:

        Could end badly.

        If I exploit my power to win a 1-in-a-million lottery by putting on a bomb that will explode unless I win the lottery, I don’t actually guarantee that I win the lottery. I guarantee that something will happen to stop me.

        The lottery has a 1 in a million chance of stopping me.

        A friend who becomes concerned for my sanity and arranges to disable the bomb and put me a way in a mental institution where I won’t be able to harm myself any further probably has a much higher chance of stopping me. (This is just one possible example.)

        Since the most likely outcome “I lose the lottery, bomb explodes” has been ruled out, we’re probably going on to the second most likely outcome. That outcome is not me winning the lottery.

    • lvlln says:

      Two of the earliest stories by the anime video game company Type-Moon (probably most famous these days for the Fate/stay night franchise and its many offshoots) had protagonists that had almost identical special powers that struck me as unusual. The stories were the light novel Kara no Kyoukai (English title is Garden of Sinners, though literal translation is Boundary of Emptiness) and the porn game Tsukihime, each of which had a protagonist named Shiki who had the ability to cut anything by tracing something called “lines of death.” The idea being that everything has “lines of death” which indicate places where they are weak in some magical mumbo jumbo sense, but which are invisible to everyone except these characters. Being able to see these lines, they can trace them with anything (usually knives, but rulers and just fingers have also been used), and if done so, the object will split along the lines that were traced, and the object can never be put back together again, at least along the lines that were cut.

      I have no idea how the underlying concept of the “lines of death” work really, in the context of everything being made up of atoms and molecules and such. Some things are so magically strong that they have no lines or only really thin lines that are hard to actually reach. Generally, Type-Moon‘s fantasy universes follow the principle of “the rules are whatever is convenient for the plot at the moment.”

      • JayT says:

        That sounds kind of similar to the Marvel character Karnak. He can spot the weakness in anything, and then exploit it. This can be an enemy, or even something more nebulous like a plan.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karnak_(comics)

      • Dan L says:

        I have no idea how the underlying concept of the “lines of death” work really, in the context of everything being made up of atoms and molecules and such. Some things are so magically strong that they have no lines or only really thin lines that are hard to actually reach.

        They’re mixing together an active and passive effect, to perceive the conceptual “death” of the target and then to instantiate it in a way that can be triggered by the user; Shiki wouldn’t be able to coach someone else into triggering a line.

        Notably SHIKI’s version works differently than Shiki’s or Shiki’s*, in that it operates on perceiving and manipulating “life” and so doesn’t work on inanimate objects.

        (*This clause is 200% as confusing as it would be in context.)

        Generally, Type-Moon‘s fantasy universes follow the principle of “the rules are whatever is convenient for the plot at the moment.”

        It’s… a little more consistent than that…. usually. One of the major themes of the extended ‘verse is that the ground rules of physics (that most magecraft operates within) are occasionally subject to aggressive renegotiation.

    • helloo says:

      Of the ones mentioned, Touhou probably fits better than the other examples as these tend to be characterizes as “manipulation of X” is much closer to “power over X” as rather than just “power to do X”.

      Some of the more interesting ones also include manipulation of wavelengths (to cause things like invisibility or refraction of light bullets), unconsciousness, and between instantaneous and eternity (mostly used to make things timeless or to make timeless things ephemeral).

      However, many of these are rather “loose” and likely not strictly their power. For example, one character has “manipulation of unnatural phenomenon” but generally just uses raw superhuman strength. Another has “manipulation of flowers” but who’s signature move is cloning and firing huge lasers. One other is “becoming stronger after eating sweets” and is often believed to be a lie and that they just like eating them.

      The BIGGEST example missing here though is that of One Piece.

      They do have the more standard types (electricity, light, darkness, etc.), but some are really out there. Plus, it explicitly places experience and creativity into gaining new abilities and how strong they are.
      The main hero for example has the power of “a rubber body”. Some others include smoke, wax, ability to push things, etc.

    • gettin_schwifty says:

      +1 on the Worm recommendation(s) already made, it has a wide variety of powers and interesting applications of said powers.

  30. Tenacious D says:

    What would be the most interesting undeciphered historical language to crack? Following the discussion on Against the Grain, I’d go with the Indus script: better understanding the Harappan culture would provide an additional data point to compare with its Sumerian and Egyptian contemporaries.

  31. albatross11 says:

    This NPR article talks about a large gap in health and life expectancy between rich and poor residents of Germany, a country with very good and cheap healthcare[1].

    I think this reflects something that happens a lot. We observe some huge gap in outcomes–well-being, life expectancy, happiness, graduation rate, crime rate, etc., between the poor and the middle-class-and-up. And the natural next step is to give the poor either some money or some services that the middle-class-and-up get, to solve the problem. Sometimes this works. But fairly often, it doesn’t–the difference in income or wealth wasn’t really the cause of the gap in outcomes, and the actual cause turns out to be hard to fix. It’s like we noticed that cars had to run their windshield wipers at the same time roads were wet, so we decided to prevent the roads being wet by giving everyone the top-of-the-line windshield wipers previously used only by the rich.

    I think we see this in the US with all kinds of social problems. We see it in gaps between blacks and whites that seem intractable. We see it in gaps between poor and middle-class whites, too. I’m not sure what to take away from this–it’s wise to be skeptical that some program is going to close a persistent gap, but it’s probably not a great idea to decide to stop trying. I do think that social programs are usually oversold–you get something like universal pre-K, which may make things nicer for poor kids and will help single moms be able to get a job, but it’s sold as something that’s going to close the black/white IQ gap and make every kid into a potential doctor or software engineer. Probably that’s just the nature of politics–if you try to get universal pre-K on the basis of making the lives of some poor people nicer, nobody will vote for it, so you promise the moon and the stars.

    [1] I once needed to see a doctor while in Germany. I think the total bill was like 30 euro, and another five or so for the antibiotics I got from the nearby pharmacy. Coming from the US, it was shocking to just walk into a doctor’s office, wait to see a doctor, and then pay (not very much) cash at the end. Anecdotal evidence only, but it showed that a foreigner with no local insurance or anything could get treated very quickly and cheaply.

    • Enkidum says:

      I think the relevant question is would the health and life expectancy of the German poor be worse if they didn’t have free healthcare – and it seems a very reasonable assumption that the answer is yes, and that at the very least they would be a lot poorer.

      In other words, I think the goal shouldn’t be to close gaps, but simply to narrow them as much as we can.

      I don’t think you’re disputing this, precisely, but your way of framing it is a common one, and I think a dangerous one that pushes thoughts in a particular (wrong) direction.

      As I’ve seen it said several times, “Why should we bother funding welfare systems if there are still poor people decades or centuries later?” is analogous to “Why should we bother funding fire departments if there are still fires?”.

      • “I think the relevant question is would the health and life expectancy of the German poor be worse if they didn’t have free healthcare – and it seems a very reasonable assumption that the answer is yes,”

        “No” also sounds like a reasonable answer, given the conditions cited:

        Life expectancy in these areas is estimated to trail that of Hamburg’s wealthier neighborhoods by 13 years ― roughly equivalent to the gap between Piedmont, a particularly wealthy suburb of Oakland, Calif., and its more urban neighbor, West Oakland. In Hamburg, the difference persists even though residents never skip medication or doctors’ visits because of cost.

        It’s not surprising that, after telling us this “counterintuitive” truth that the standard story is wrong it immediately falls back on a related standard story, without considering that it, too, may be wrong:

        Medical care is only part of the equation. An array of other factors ― known collectively as the “social determinants of health” ― factor strongly into these populations’ well-being. They include big-picture items like affordable, nutritious food and safe areas to exercise — as well as small ones, like having the time and money to get to the doctor.

        {snip}

        “People can get care in Germany if they need it,” Dickel says. “Much more important [than access], I would say, are the social conditions. That’s the cause of the life-expectancy gap.”

        • DeWitt says:

          You didn’t engage with his point at all. He’s saying that there’s a gap now, yes, and that healthcare losing its subsidy will likely lead to the gap becoming even wider.

          • AlexanderTheGrand says:

            Not saying I agree, but the point Alexander was making was that if you see the same gaps between similar groups in both a place where price is and isn’t the difference, that’s soft evidence that price isn’t the main driver of the problem.

            Obviously there’s lots that could confound here.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’d like to see life expectancy broken down by age. If life expectancy is only calculated at end of life, then we’re looking primarily at people who were born in the 1930s-50s.

          I’d also like to factor out those who died by malfeasance, and look only at illness causes of death. Among those who die by illness, what is the life expectancy variation between Hamburg neighborhoods and Piedmont/West Oakland? And among those who die of specific illnesses, what is the life expectancy variation?

          It does no good to statistically blame medical care for death by suicide, or death by mugging, or death by dangerous job.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Its also important to factor out race.

            We know that medical interventions vary in their efficacy by genetics.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The common hack I’ve heard of that affects life expectancy rates is ruling deaths of newborns as still births. Three-day-long lives aren’t averaged in in many Western countries, leading to them reporting significantly higher life expectancy averages than the US, which does count newborn deaths.

            So the question on that front is how Germany counts newborn deaths.

      • albatross11 says:

        Whether or not the free healthcare is narrowing the life expectancy gap is an empirical question. From the studies that have been done in the US, there’s some reason to suspect it doesn’t have much impact on life expectancy, but I’d like to see more data.

        • Enkidum says:

          But you don’t have free healthcare in the States?

          • John Schilling says:

            We don’t have universal free healthcare in the States. This makes the US population extremely useful for this particular purpose in that researchers can find similar test and control groups with and without free health care and see how they perform in e.g. life expectancy. Find a state that couldn’t afford free health care for all its poor people and couldn’t think of anything better than a lottery to decide who would be offered free health care, and that’s a pretty good natural experiment.

            As albatross11 notes, Oregon is only one data point, and most places try to offer their “free” health care to the most deserving/sympathetic in ways that introduce messy cofounders.

          • Enkidum says:

            Ah I see. Thanks for clarification.

      • JayT says:

        I think the relevant question is would the health and life expectancy of the German poor be worse if they didn’t have free healthcare – and it seems a very reasonable assumption that the answer is yes, and that at the very least they would be a lot poorer.

        I don’t think this is at all obvious. Americans in the lowest quintile have more income than Germans in the lowest quintile the last time I compared income across the two countries, so I think it’s fairly likely that they would be richer, not poorer. I’m not even sure that life expectancy should be expected to drop considerably. Germany is only 2% ahead of the US on life expectancy, and they have a much lower murder rate, so the “medical care” part of life expectancy is probably overblown in that 2%.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        As I’ve seen it said several times, “Why should we bother funding welfare systems if there are still poor people decades or centuries later?” is analogous to “Why should we bother funding fire departments if there are still fires?”.

        Funding fire departments does not usually increase the number of fires, but funding welfare does seem to increase poverty. In the U.S. we were reducing poverty consistently for decades until the Great Society took hold.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Not causation correlation is dood

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Got another theory about the cause?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            The obvious explanation is that the War on Poverty solved all the problems that could be dealt with by simply throwing money at them in one fell swoop (hence the immediate large reduction in poverty) and therefore ended the trend because it was successful. But in any case I think the burden of proof if you’re making a huge claim like that is on you to provide e.g. a comparison with other countries that didn’t enact similar programmes and had their trend in poverty reduction continue to below the US level.

            Of course, I’m sure someone will be along shortly to point out that talking about trends in poverty is nonsensical because even the most abjectly poor modern American still lives like a kang relative to the middle class in the 1930s etc..

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I’m sure someone will be along shortly to point out

            That’s a different discussion and I don’t want to derail this one.

            hence the immediate large reduction in poverty

            It wasn’t really that large: for the first few years it was pretty comparable to, and maybe a little less than, what had been achieved in the previous decade or so. To my eye, as soon as people started to feel secure that the welfare programs were permanent, reduction in poverty ceased.

            Yeah, yeah, yeah, correlation is not causation. The U.S. is not Germany either. It seems to me that the burden of proof should be on the person who is claiming that the huge expenditure is effective, when common sense — if you subsidize X, you get more of X — argues the contrary.

          • Plumber says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation says: “….Of course, I’m sure someone will be along shortly to point out that talking about trends in poverty is nonsensical because even the most abjectly poor modern American still lives like a king relative to the middle class in the 1930s etc…”

            If they do they deserve a dope slap for idiocy, my grandmother was middle-class in the 1930’s and she felt sorry for the homeless of the 1980’s.

            A cellphone isn’t a fair trade for sleeping outdoors, abject poverty is still abject poverty.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like diminishing returns could be at work here. When there are no poverty programs handing out money or food, then the first ones come about and do a huge amount of good. But as you expand them, each additional dollar probably does less good than the last one–eventually you’re spending a lot of money and not doing much good.

            The other possibility is perverse incentives/poverty traps. If your welfare program incentivizes women not to marry the fathers of their kids, or poor people on assistance not to save money or take higher-paying jobs, then it’s easy to see how it could lead a lot of people to end up in a worse state than they would have been without it.

    • salvorhardin says:

      I think the general point that *past a certain margin* health care system changes don’t make that much difference to health outcomes is valid. The same is likely true of educational/intellectual outcomes and the educational system, and it may well be true of crime rates and the criminal justice system too. Doesn’t mean removing any of these systems entirely wouldn’t produce catastrophe– it would– but it does mean returns diminish way faster than most people would like to believe.

      However, the linked article glosses over what looks like a pretty obvious confounder in the given example. Namely, the poor neighborhoods on the wrong side of the health gap are described as “full of recent immigrants.” Recent immigrants are by definition people who have spent most of their lives being cared for by a different health care system, probably a much worse one than Germany’s. You would expect them, then, to have much worse outcomes even if health care system differences made a lot of difference to health. It’s not clear where the life expectancy gap estimates come from or what they control for, but if they’re not comparing native-born to native-born they probably don’t mean much.

      • Aapje says:

        The data from my country shows that unhealthy behavior correlates with being less educated, poor, more rural and being a first or second generation migrant.

        Poor, less educated, rural non-migrants tend to have a much lower life expectancy as well.

    • Plumber says:

      @albatross11 >

      …I think we see this in the US with all kinds of social problems. We see it in gaps between blacks and whites that seem intractable…

      ..social programs are usually oversold..

      …nobody will vote for it, so you promise the moon and the stars

      I’m a little surprised but hardly shocked by your link.

      Something to keep in mind is that both proponents and opponents of social programs are liars exaggerate.

      Some mitigate, some worsen, few “solve”.
      I’ve two arguments in mind:

      1) “School integration didn’t work”.

      Nope, it did work, the late 1980’s was when U.S. schools were the most integrated are also when the black/white academic achievement gap was narrowest, but what it didn’t do was work dramatically, the gap was still there, it was just mitigated some (I’m actually a little surprised as my memories of High School in the ’80’s was that the school was integrated, but the classrooms weren’t).

      2) “Get them out of the ghetto and that will solve their problems”

      Sort of.

      When some poor minority families were moved they were less likely to die from stray bullets but the income, academic achievements, and likelihood of criminal convictions for the adults, teenagers, and older children pretty much stayed what they would have been without the move, but, for the children who were moved while they were under six years old there were improvements in their fates that was replicated often enough that social scientists were as confident of the effect as they get, it wasn’t a dramatic effect, but it was there.

      No cures, just mitigation, which I think is worthwhile, but whether the resources involved are a good use may be argued, I tend to see so many Tesla’s being driven around as a sign that taxes can go higher, you may disagree.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think “no cures, just mitigation” is a really useful take on a lot of social programs. They’re inevitably sold as cures, and then at best you get some mitigation, because most existing social problems are complicated multifactorial things that can’t be entirely resolved by another government program. But also, I think it’s really important to look carefully at whether they’re actually mitigating the problem at all, and how their benefit compares to their cost. That’s true for existing programs and new proposed ones.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I think that this is a typical Rorschach article, since you could equally well take away from it that being poor is a health hazard regardless of access to healthcare, and thus poverty should be ended.

      In German case, there is still a sizable gap in life expectancy between East and West German Men, although interestingly not women. East German men are poorer than West German, so there you have a confounder.

      • Ketil says:

        Like the case of recent immigrants, I think the East German population suffers from a history with more unhealthy living (smoking, alcohol) – which will continue to affect health outcomes, even if the factors themselves are evened out. (Apologies if I have unfair prejudices here)

        • DarkTigger says:

          I don’t know if their smoked or drank more then western germans. But they did more coal burning both for heating, and for power production.
          And burning coal is one of the most unhealthy ways to produce energy.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            Postcommunist countries in general have huge alcohol consumption, but I don´t know about East Germany specifically.

          • noyann says:

            Strong men-women difference. map
            ETA: these patterns need more complex explanations, including e.g. patterns of migration, and migration age.

  32. benwave says:

    Apologies for asking a question I’m sure has been asked a hundred times before, but – what is the current state of climate change research? Do people around here mostly accept that the IPCC reports are reliable? Are there reasons to doubt the reports that I should know about?

    • John Schilling says:

      Yeah, asked a hundred times before, but why not. With respect to the fact of climate change, there is a credible argument that the IPCC is exaggerating(*) the magnitude of the likely effect as a function of time, but by maybe a factor of two rather than “global warming is a hoax”. So if true, that buys us a few more decades to deal with the problem.

      With respect to human consequences, in megadeaths or gigabucks, that’s not really the IPCC’s area of expertise and I don’t think anyone is doing really good work in that area. We could, not likely but plausibly, have the sign wrong w/re short- and mid-term effects. Long term, enough unmitigated global warming is going to hurt real bad, obviously.

      With respect to solutions, the state of the art in “we must or should do [X] to avert/mitigate the effects of global climate change” is mostly politicized crap generated by people who wanted to do [X] before they ever heard of global warming.

      * By e.g. confirmation bias and groupthink, not deliberate fraud. Modeling complex systems is really hard, and too many people are unwilling to give or accept “we don’t know” as an answer.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        What reasons other than reducing global warming do you think people have for cutting down on fossil fuel use and switching to renewables?

        • John Schilling says:

          Well, people have been promoting virtuous solar and otherwise renewable energy since the 1970s, when “greenhouse effect” was only a thing for science nerds and what little discussion there was of “global climate change” was as likely to point to the next ice age as to global warming. They must have had some reason.

          From what I recall, it was mostly a mix of:

          1. “sustainability” in a zero-growth Club-of-Rome sense as a cardinal virtue, and consumption of any non-renewable resource and/or the absolute growth of material wealth as similarly sinful.

          2. A desire not to get involved in nasty foreign wars over oil (the only fossil fuel anyone then care about), because that leads to empowering the inherently sinful Military-Industrial Complex

          3. A perception that renewable energy was inherently decentralized in a way that virtuous common folk could use by e.g. putting solar cells on their roofs, without needing or enabling Greedy Capitalists with their Smoke-Belching Satanic Mills. Pay no attention to the Chinese gigafactory actually making the solar cells…

          There was also some concern with local air and water pollution, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that acid rain kicked that one to high (and less local) priority IIRC.

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            I don’t think the second or third of those are widespread motivations for switching away from fossil fuels today (I’m sceptical but less confident that they ever were), and while the first very loosely approximates a widespread belief that sustainability is important, I think that it’s at best an incredibly weak man.

            On the other hand, the genuine belief that doing so will reduce global warming, and that it is important to do so, clearly is widespread, and I don’t think describing that belief as “politicized crap” is either fair or accurate.

          • John Schilling says:

            The things you are skeptical about, are things I witnessed firsthand and in some cases from the inside. I’m not going to argue the point beyond that.

          • gbdub says:

            I think you are to some degree proving John’s point. The stated justification for the proposed solution has changed, but the proposed solution stays the same. This is exactly what you would expect to see if proponents of the solution were actually driven by some other, unstated goal that has remained more consistent. I think it’s fair to say that there is a significant portion of the environmental movement that is driven primarily by aesthetics, but willing to use whatever more practical justifications are handy to try and win support.

            The “politicized crap” starts coming in when you propose implementing energy solutions through some sort of government action. “Raise taxes and give more control over the economy to a federal (or world) government”. The “Green New Deal”. These are pretty clearly long term goals of a particular political stripe and there is a sense that they will propose these preferred solutions to whatever the crisis du jour is.

            This is a cynical and often hyperbolic position but not without a grain of truth.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The stated justification for the proposed solution has changed, but the proposed solution stays the same. This is exactly what you would expect to see if proponents of the solution were actually driven by some other, unstated goal that has remained more consistent.

            What could ever give you that idea?

          • I again link to my old blog post pointing out that a cartoon clearly intended to be on the environmentalist side of the argument is evidence that policies pushed to deal with climate change are policies the people in question would be in favor of anyway.

          • Aapje says:

            @gbdub

            Is that conclusion still justified if coalitions change?

            For example, imagine that you have 100 people, 1 of whom dislikes pixie dust because he dislikes sparkly things, so he wants it banned.

            Then research suggests that pixie dust causes cancer, resulting in 50 people wanting pixie dust banned, while the other 50 think that the benefits outweigh the risks.

            I think that it is then unreasonable to argue that because the justification for the anti-pixie dust position changed, all 50 who currently object have a different motive, rather than the 1 person who objected before and after.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aapje

            I think there is a certain level of changing that makes sense.

            As I’ve become more convinced of the plausibility of global warming, I’ve made lifestyle changes to reduce my carbon footprint, some of which were decently expensive to me, although I hope they’ll be valuable long-term.

            But I still don’t think that socialism will solve the problem, as socialist countries tend to pollute substantially more than capitalist, so I haven’t changed political coalitions at all.

            So whether or not I’ve changed coalitions is up to you, but I’m substantially less of a “climate denier” than I used to be.

          • benwave says:

            @echochaos

            Hang on, I thin I’ve missed something – where did we start talking about socialism here? I’m mostly trying to get a handle on what responses to climate change are worth pursuing, but I’m pretty sure basically everything on the table right now is capitalist responses?

          • albatross11 says:

            I think a lot of people who were opposed to capitalist/market ways of organizing society have seized on environmental reasons as justifications for dismantling those capitalist/market ways of organizing society. And IMO it’s really valuable to note that you can want to respond to AGW or the ozone hole or acid rain or whatever, without dismantling your market system or establishing some government bureau somewhere that’s going to decide what products are to be produced, how many and at what price.

            Neither the Republicans nor Democrats have any interest in there being a visible pro-market conservationist/environmentalist movement, but there is one and there should be more of it. One important idea here is that it’s almost always better to tax something you want less of than to ban it. Banning incandescent lightbulbs means that if there’s a 1/100 niche application that just can’t do without them, they’re either screwed or someone has to write a special exemption in the laws for them. Taxing incandescents to make them more expensive than LED bulbs probably does a lot less damage, since it leaves the possibility that the 1/100 niche applications can just pay a little extra and keep working. Raising the price of electricity to reflect its actual cost including externalities is still better, since now users of electricity will have an incentive to choose more efficient appliances on their own to the extent that the more efficient ones make sense.

            Another important idea is that it’s probably a bad idea for government to decide what technology should take over in some area–governments are no better than anyone else at guessing that, but when they get it wrong, it’s often very hard to get around. (By contrast, when 90% of investors get it wrong, it just means the 10% who got it right get rich.)

        • SamChevre says:

          Almost all fossil fuels have obvious bad effects in one of three areas:
          1) geopolitics–oil money is what makes Wahabi Islam a world-wide menace rather than a minor sect, of equal interest to non-members as the SSPV.
          2) Extractive pollution – coal mining is not great for the environment in coal-mining areas
          3) Combustive pollution – again, coal is particularly bad.

        • Chalid says:

          Air pollution has major public health costs and it tends to be associated with CO2-producing activities (though of course the CO2 itself has no direct health effects). Typical estimates of the number of excess deaths from air pollution in the US due to cars are in the tens of thousands; ditto air pollution due to power generation. Worldwide, emissions standards are much worse and you see e.g. estimates of over a million lung cancer cases per year due to coal-fired electricity alone.

          It also seems like the worst offenders from a public health standpoint tend to be the worst from a CO2 standpoint – coal fired power plants are really bad for you and you shouldn’t live near them if you can help it, cars are still pretty bad in spite of all our efforts to improve them, natural gas is not so bad, renewables are fine.

        • raw says:

          Well, in the long run renewable energy sources seem to be a very good idea. So fossil fuels are limited even if it is very unclear when we will reach the limit of economic viability.

        • LesHapablap says:

          Tatterdemalion,

          Among really green environmentalists there is a desire for lower human population, lower impact on the earth and nature, animal rights, and a disdain for high-consumption lifestyles (big cars, big houses, flying, etc) and big corporations. Global warming is used to promote all these values.

          Most green environmentalists like vegetarianism, and dislike nuclear power, and that shows in what solutions they push.

    • The Nybbler says:

      We saw during the Pause that if the data ever don’t seem to show enough warming, researchers will pore over the data to come up with a reason warming is really happening, and apply adjustments to the temperature datasets to show more warming. Even if every one of these corrections is justified, the fact that the opposite is not done to nearly the same extent creates a significant potential for bias. I therefore consider the data hopelessly contaminated, and there’s almost certainly significantly less warming than claimed.

      (My view is probably a minority of 1 around here).

      • Statismagician says:

        Source for data adjustment, if you don’t mind? That’s a pretty serious claim to my mind.

      • SamChevre says:

        Good world-wide measures are very hard to get, but the evidence for a good bit of warming in the temperate zones is quite strong to me–frost-free dates have moved about 2 weeks at each end across most of North America in the last 50 years. Farmers care about those for very tactical reasons, so they are monitored closely and reliably.

        • Enkidum says:

          Yes. At this point anyone who disputes the existence of warming is being dishonest. We can debate about how much has occurred, how much will occur, what the likely consequences of that are. But the warming per se is incontrovertible.

        • nkurz says:

          I hadn’t realized that the effect was this large, but searching, you seem to have the numbers right. Here’s from a recent paper on the topic: “The results from these studies have been consistent in reporting a general lengthening of the growing season or the frost-free period, by about 2 weeks during the 20th century in the continental U.S.”

          U.S. Agro-Climate in 20th Century: Growing Degree Days, First and Last Frost, Growing Season Length, and Impacts on Crop Yields, Kukal and Irmak 2018
          https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-25212-2

          It’s not a homogenous effect across the US, though. Figure 6 shows how it varies across the country: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-25212-2/figures/6

          The South East and the Rio Grande Valley look to be the main exceptions, experiencing shorter rather than longer growing seasons. The far West Coast, North Dakota, and Northern Maine are having the longest extensions.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          The Great Salt Lake grows and shrinks in area on a roughly 50 year cycle, and has done so for a very very long time.

          “Look at this metric in the weather here has changed over 50 years, it proves my side is correct!” does not persuade.

      • benwave says:

        the fact that the opposite is not done to nearly the same extent creates a significant potential for bias.

        Is the opposite not done? I would have expected ex nihilo that there are a lot of people for whom evidence that warming isn’t happening etc. is worth a lot of money, and that it would be worth them putting in the research to find it

        • John Schilling says:

          The problem is that some of those money-laden people also adopted the tactics of spreading transparent nonsense and vicious ad-hominems as a way of securing their position. This caused the professional climatological community to understandably circle their wagons in a defensive response, and to reflexively exclude from their community anyone who takes dirty ExxonKoch money and any work produced by people outside their community which might be tainted by dirty ExxonKoch money.

          Which makes “OK, let’s fund real legitimate resource to see what’s really going on here” less effective as a means of promoting their position or their interests, which leads to more of the cheaper and more satisfying nonsense-and-ad-hominem stuff, lather rinse repeat.

          And I’ve seen some ad hominems going the other way too, towards people I am pretty sure weren’t taking ExxonKoch-type money but have been damned for such because their research led to conclusions that pointed vaguely in the direction one would suspect if they had been corporate shills. All of which makes it unfortunately difficult to get good science out of the damaged process.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            And I’ve seen some ad hominems going the other way too, towards people I am pretty sure weren’t taking ExxonKoch-type money but have been damned for such because their research led to conclusions that pointed vaguely in the direction one would suspect if they had been corporate shills. All of which makes it unfortunately difficult to get good science out of the damaged process.

            Yes indeed. Coincidentally this morning I was listening to this podcast that details the shenanigans of Michael Mann in promoting his “hockey stick graph” which was so useful in promoting alarmism. Steve McIntyre is very convincing, and although I dont really understand “principle component analysis”, his claim that feeding random noise to Mann’s algorithm produced a hockey stick has never been satisfactorily answered by the other side. And to the extent that such junk science is promoted and not rejected by the alarmist side tells me to take everything they say with an enormous grain of salt.

          • Aapje says:

            @jermo sapiens

            McIntyre is very convincing […] his claim that feeding random noise to Mann’s algorithm produced a hockey stick has never been satisfactorily answered by the other side.

            I can’t decide for you what is satisfactory, but that criticism has been addressed. McIntyre did find an error in Mann’s methodology that created a bias, but, ironically, McIntyre’s methodology also had an error that created a bias, making the effect seem far larger than it was. McIntyre also made other errors.

            The actual bias due to the error in Mann’s method was not large enough to change the outcome significantly. Mann switched over to a different method in 2001, which doesn’t have this weakness, but which still found a hockey stick. Furthermore, other studies by different researchers with different methodologies and data sets also found a hockey stick.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            @Aapje:

            Thanks for that. I trust wikipedia for non-contentious issues, like if I want to know what the capital of Tadjikistan is, but on anything which is even mildly CW-ish, it is hopelessly compromised.

            The claim made by Mann’s hockey stick is quite extraordinary: apparently the earth’s temperature was relatively constant throughout the last 1000 years, until we put in CO2 in the atmosphere and then it shot up massively, in contradiction to what we thought we knew about the past climate until then (variations between warm and cold periods corresponding to periods of prosperity and poverty, respectively).

            And meanwhile, I’ve lived all 42 years of my life while supposedly temperatures are shooting up at an unprecedented rate, but the climate here is basically the same it’s always been. We get snow from late November-early December to late March-early April, our summer highs are always around 32C/90F, and our winter lows are always around -20C/0F. And supposedly, being somewhat northern, we should experience more of the global warming than places closer to the equator.

            The actual bias due to the error in Mann’s method was not large enough to change the outcome significantly.

            If you fed random noise into Mann’s method you would get a hockey stick. That sounds like a very large actual bias to me.

            Furthermore, other studies by different researchers with different methodologies and data sets also found a hockey stick.

            This may or may not be fair, but given the past behavior of Mann, and the behavior of the IPCC towards Mann, my default position is that I assume these studies are flawed. I expect selection pressure in favor of studies which show an alarming trend, and against studies which show no alarm. I expect climate scientists to fear for their standing in the community if they were to publish something that suggested the alarmist position was wrong.

            The claims they make are quite extraordinary, they have massive political implications with the establishment firmly behind their conclusions, and dissenting scientists are ostracized and vilified. Not only that, but these claims contradict previous claims from the scientific community regarding the Roman Warm Period, the Dark Ages, the Medieval Warm Period, and the Little Ice Age, that were made at a time when the past climate had no political implications. And my own “lived experience”, albeit anecdotal, also contradicts their claims.

            I’m not buying a used car from the guy who sold me a lemon last time, even if he’s swears that this time the car is awesome and that I shouldnt worry about that engine noise.

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

            Once global warming changed from a scientific question to a political/tribal/moral question, the mental and rhetorical tools used to discuss it got a lot better at winning arguments / getting consensus and a lot worse and discovering the truth. Toss a big enough handfull of conflict theory into the pool of mistake theorists, and you can cause a huge phase transition–suddenly almost everyone is a conflict theorist.

          • Aapje says:

            @jermo sapiens

            In my country, we are breaking a lot of temperature records. I’ve heard similarly from many other places in the world. Note that global warming doesn’t necessitate that things change to an equal extent everywhere. Climate is more complex than that.

            Also, as weather always varies and varied, even fairly significant statistical changes can be hard to notice, especially when people adapt to changes.

            Whereabouts do you live?

            If you fed random noise into Mann’s method you would get a hockey stick. That sounds like a very large actual bias to me.

            That depends on the size of that hockey stick. If you got a tiny hockey stick with random noise and a huge hockey stick with real data, then the bias can be insignificant.

            According to various scientists, that is the case. More importantly, other methodologies that don’t have a bias with random noise, also found a hockey stick.

            I really think that a better thing to critique is the validity of the historic data, not the methodology.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            In my country, we are breaking a lot of temperature records.

            I dont doubt it. All sorts of records are broken all the time, for highs and for lows, specially for a specific date, “this is the warmest October 18th ever recorded”, for example, or “this is the coldest July 15th ever recorded”.

            Whereabouts do you live?

            right here

            More importantly, other methodologies that don’t have a bias with random noise, also found a hockey stick.

            Sure. What data sets were used in those series? How were those data sets selected? How reliable are those proxies to measure temperature? Do these proxies filter out high frequency signals? Are proxies mixed in with measured temperatures (the infamous Mann trick from the climategate emails)? Are there other studies that show different results?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The setting of a high temperature record is unlikely to be a direct consequence of a fraction of a degree of global warming; events like that are caused by a particular sort of weather pattern which either happens or it doesn’t. It’s possible that we may eventually find out that climate change is making the relevant pattern (basically, strong upper-air ridging) likelier, but it hasn’t happened yet.

            Here in the US, the big years for that sort of weather happened to be 1934 and 1936. Many of the records set then are still standing.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            Thanks for that link.

            I am very surprised to learn something non-intuitive like the fact that the state of Hawaii is the US state with the lowest all-time high.

            Also, the “Pause” is definitely very visible there with no all-time highs in the decade between 1996 and 2006.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Well, I wouldn’t necessarily expect a “pause” to show up in extreme records; the whole point is that these are (as far as we can tell at this point) chance occurrences that don’t tell us anything about any underlying trend. Averages are the right measure for that. Still, I guess the absence of any new record in the famously hot year 1998 is interesting, as is the fact that the most recent one is a cold record.

          • Plumber says:

            @jermo sapiens says: “…I