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Open Thread 140.75

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764 Responses to Open Thread 140.75

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/transgender-cia/520050/?utm_source=atltw

    Yet another account of transitioning, this time with a lot of acceptance.

    It fits my model that I have no idea of what gender is, but it’s important to a lot of people, so I opt for kindness to people who want to change.

    The title of the article is less interesting than it sounds– the author didn’t become a better CIA officer because of any special insight from being a woman, she became a better CIA agent because living as a man was making her distracted and miserable.

    • Zephalinda says:

      I could really do without the conventional part of these narratives that goes “I knew I was an authentic woman when I… [insert gross misogynist trope here].” Grand prize still goes to Andrea Long Chu’s “the breasts, oh, the breasts!” and “to be a woman is to submit,” but McCloskey’s touches about how womanhood = wearing crinolines, loving chocolate and knowing to vacuum the floor without being asked (!) are also no picnic. As a narrative move, it’s on the level of folks who show their deep Scottish identity by wearing belted kilts and knowing their “family” tartan, or Austenites who go on about how they were meant to have been born in the Regency, they’ve always just loved those elegant dresses and carriages and tea parties.

      I resent that if a cis woman cheerily told me the true nature of womanhood is to look pretty, have a great rack, weep freely, love chocolate and wear cute clothes, I would have various resources for calling out parts of that framework as internalized misogyny and gender essentialism. But when it comes from a trans woman, I’m not aware of any acceptable response except “yes indeed, how brave of you to say it.”

      • DinoNerd says:

        I resent that if a cis woman cheerily told me the true nature of womanhood is to look pretty, have a great rack, weep freely, love chocolate and wear cute clothes, I would have various resources for calling out parts of that framework as internalized misogyny and gender essentialism. But when it comes from a trans woman, I’m not aware of any acceptable response except “yes indeed, how brave of you to say it.”

        I’m with you on this. I don’t normally say it, because too many vocal US feminists currently insist (without quite saying it) that trans women are more important than cis women. But I come from that side of ‘genderqueer’ that experiences gender differences as something that has to be learned and enforced, and my “autism” made it very difficult for me to learn my own “innate” traits successfuly – i.e. if there are any personality traits that are innate in males and not in females, or vice versa, I certainly couldn’t find them by introspection.

      • Etoile says:

        That’s what’s inherently problematic about the question of “internalized misogyny”. How can anyone – a cis or trans-woman – convince you that, if they believe certain gender stereotypes to be accurate or true, or have any degree of gender essentialism in their set of beliefs, convince you that they aren’t just brainwashed? How can they prove the credibility of their lived experience vs. your theory that they only hold these beliefs due to nefarious patriarchal forces and not their reason?

        • albatross11 says:

          Etoile:

          It strikes me that this is a distinction that happens often, e.g., with mental biases. On one hand, it’s useful to have the concept that you might be succumbing to some mental bias or thoughtlessly adopting some dumb belief of your society. On the other hand, it’s almost never useful to have that kind of claim tossed around in a discussion, because it’s got a built-in Kafkatrap where the very fact that you disagree is itself proof that you’ve internalized misogynous ideas or you’re a self-hating Jew or your white privilege has blinded you or something.

      • I resent that if a cis woman cheerily told me the true nature of womanhood is to look pretty, have a great rack, weep freely, love chocolate and wear cute clothes, I would have various resources for calling out parts of that framework as internalized misogyny and gender essentialism. But when it comes from a trans woman, I’m not aware of any acceptable response except “yes indeed, how brave of you to say it.”

        That’s the nature of the Intersectionality totem pole. A man isn’t welcome to criticize a woman’s behavior unless she’s openly and unambiguously a conservative, since you are lower(or should it be higher?) on the totem pole, you can’t criticize their behavior either.

        Analyzing it on a deeper level, you can model political correctness as being about subverting/transcending the traditional Western family structure. A cisgender woman with the above views is not subverting/transcending it, while a transgender women, no matter how “traditional” her views may be, is by her very nature subverting/transcending it. Of course this is just a model and like all models is a simplification, but it fits with real world behavior pretty well.

      • albatross11 says:

        If a woman in her 70s (like Deidre McCloskey) expresses some outdated gender stereotypes, I’ll probably just roll my eyes internally and leave it alone, whether she started out as male or female.

      • Viliam says:

        This is one of those paradoxes of politically correct thought:

        There are no differences between men and women.
        …but also…
        You can feel that you were born in the wrong body.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Also, beauty standards are social constructs.

          But gay people are Born This Way.

          • cassander says:

            It’s vitally important everyone work harder and harder to hire more minorities and women, but no individual has ever gotten a job because of those efforts and it’s bigoted to say that such a thing is even possible.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            1 in 4 women will be raped while in college.

            Also, we should send as many women to college as possible and any father who has reservations about allowing his daughters to attend college is a misogynistic bigot.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Everyone in this subthread banned forever.

            …not really, because it would be annoying to have to process bans for so many people, but come on.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I have what must be a very basic question and I’m sure is has been studied in the literature. How many people who transition are doing so because they think they fit better into society’s proscribed gender roles for the other gender?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Here’s what’s in the article: ” I knew I’d “arrived” as a woman when someone made a sexist joke about my driving.”

      I’m surprised people are still making jokes about women’s driving– I don’t think I’ve heard one for decades.

  2. Are hunter gatherers more socially skilled than we are? I can see both sides of the argument. One says that of course they are. We put on our sociality as a mask when we go to work or to social events, then go home and watch tv or use social media. Hunter-gatherers don’t “retreat” from socializing. It’s all they do. The other side might say that while that’s true, they also deal with mostly the same people all their life, while we have to meet new people all the time as a matter of living in a big, complex society. It’s not hard to socialize with people you’re perfectly comfortable with. Who’s right?

    • Elephant says:

      As your post itself makes clear, this depends heavily on how you define “socially skilled.” If you’re using the phrase to mean several very different things, there’s no one answer possible.

      As a separate point, I doubt hunter-gatherer societies are all identical enough to lump into one bucket.

      Also: I don’t know what “we” you’re referring to.

      • Social skills: being able to effectively communicate and connect with different people. Being able to predict how people react to different situations. Being able to effectively avoid or defuse conflict. Having charisma. “Social skills” doesn’t have a clear cut definition but when someone says that this person has higher social skills than another, we know what they mean.

        Hunter gatherers are not monoliths but they have enough commonalities that we can obviously talk about them as a group.

        “We” is obviously people in developed countries.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          but when someone says that this person has higher social skills than another, we know what they mean.

          I assume they’re using the term as a synonym for outgoing (lit. people-oriented extraversion), which is a drive, not a skill per se (though obviously can lead to the development of skills).

          We put on our sociality as a mask when we go to work or to social events, then go home and watch tv or use social media.

          From my experience reading about personality theory, only the innately socially inclined experience the modifications to affect they make in public as “putting on a mask”. Other kinds of people may not even experience this as changing their affect at all. Do you call it “putting on a mask” when someone starts crying during a sad movie?

          • I assume they’re using the term as a synonym for outgoing (lit. people-oriented extraversion),

            That isn’t how I use the term. Someone can be outgoing and incompetent about it, making people less likely to enjoy his company, which I would describe as low social skills.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      How true is it that hunter-gatherers never “retreat” from socialising? Surely a hunter-gatherer could go into his tent, or go for a walk on his own, in order to get away from the rest of the group for a bit.

      Regarding the considerations you mentioned, maybe it’s the case that moderns are better at relatively shallow socialisation with a large number of people, whereas hunter-gatherers are better at developing deep connections with a comparatively small number?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        +1 to your first paragraph.

        I’m pretty sure I’ve heard (and noticed) that people from large cities tend not to smile and greet others (even in more limited social areas such as a hallway at their place of work), whereas people from smaller locales tend to do this.

        • Aapje says:

          It’s a logical consequence of density. You’d become very tired of greeting people if you’d greet everyone you meet in a big city.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Yes, this is also what I heard as to the reason for this behavior.

          • acymetric says:

            Then there is that awkward phase as small/medium cities start becoming large cities where nobody knows whether they are supposed to greet strangers or not, making walking on sidewalks unbearable as people awkwardly shuffle past each other, possibly mumbling a barely audible greeting or raising their hand by about 4-6″ in a sort of quasi-wave motion.

        • DarkTigger says:

          Also, why should I great everyone at my workplace? I don’t know most of them. I’m vaguely aware of most of the people working on my floor. I don’t know this people. I have nothing to do with this people, except for getting my pay from the same legal entity. But even that isn’t true for all the people in the building.

          I greet the people from my team. I greet the people working for the same department. Back when I worked for smaller companies, or in smaller local sites of an company I greeted everyone there.

          • acymetric says:

            Well, there is the networking opportunity of getting to know people from other departments, which could be beneficial down the road if you ever need to unexpectedly interact with those departments, if the company does some restructuring and you start having to regularly work with those departments, or if you might in the future want to advance or transfer to another department where the people you meet by saying hello in passing might be (and might even have some authority).

            I’m not a very outgoing person, but after about a year or year and a half I knew all 150 people in my last company (barring maybe a handful of new temps that rotated in and out) by name even though I probably only actually had to interact with less than half of them even semi-regularly to do my job. I am 100% confident that this helped me advance as quickly as I did (because my reputation extended past my immediate coworkers essentially to the whole building, at least on some level).

            This may or may not be something that you feel is important for you/your career path (and how valuable it is varies from company to company) but that would be at least one reason right there.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Yes 150 people would be the “smaller company” I worked for in the past. But there are a 120 people on this office floor alone. There are four of those floors in this building alone. There are just as many people in the building on the other side of the road (who regularly come over because we have the better coffee to have meetings with coworkers in this building.
            I know the names of most of the people from HR. I am not sure if I have seen one of them since the onboarding meeting.
            There is just no chance to know all this people.

  3. thetitaniumdragon says:

    With regards to enlightenment and sex scandals:

    Isn’t the most likely explanation that this is all nonsense?

    Because that seems like the most likely explanation.

    Even if it is real, just because someone claims to have achieved enlightenment doesn’t mean they’ve done so. In fact, it strikes me that wandering around and publicly saying you’re enlightened is probably a sign that you’re not, because being enlightened frees you from desires – including the desire for approbation for your enlightenemnt. Being famous for being enlightened seems like an oxymoron unless you are some monk somewhere and it is your students who constantly bring people to you to become enlightened.

    Faking enlightenment seems extremely likely due to its social status, and as far as the layperson is concerned, someone who just *sounds* enlightened probably actually passes for enlightened better than someone who *is* actually enlightened, because the person who actually *is* enlightened has nothing to prove to anyone.

    Also, “enlightened” people might just seem crazy to the point where few would want to associate with them.

    For example: was Diogenes enlightened?

    A lot of his responses sound pretty much like exactly the sorts of thing you’d expect someone who was “enlightened” to say.

    When scolded for masturbating in public, he said “I wish it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing my belly.”

    When someone reminded him that the people of Sinope had sentenced him to exile, he said, “And I sentenced them to stay at home.”

    He once begged alms of a statue, and, when asked why he did so, replied, “To get practice in being refused.”

    To the question what wine he found pleasant to drink, he replied, “That for which other people pay.”

    When asked why people give to beggars but not to philosophers, he replied, ‘Because they expect they may become lame and blind, but never that they will become philosophers.’

    He was breakfasting in the marketplace, and the bystanders gathered round him with cries of “dog.” “It is you who are dogs,” cried he, “when you stand round and watch me at my breakfast.”

    When the slave auctioneer asked in what he was proficient, he replied, “In ruling people.”

    One day, observing a child drinking out of his hands, he cast away the cup from his wallet with the words, “A child has beaten me in plainness of living.”

    Alexander [the Great] found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, “I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.”

    This is all pretty much the sort of thing you’d expect from someone who was “enlightened”.

    He was obviously not “free from desire”, and yet, he was an ascetic who lived a very plain lifestyle who “saw the way of things” very frequently – very literal wisdom from the gutter, given where he lived. But a lot of people hated him because he was a smelly cantankerous vagrant.

    So really, if you’re given the choice between some shit-stirring homeless dude who lives in a bathtub and says things that constantly make people angry, and someone who lives in a nice temple and says mild but seemingly deep things all the time and claims to be free from desire, which are you going to choose as being the “wise man”?

    • Creutzer says:

      I don’t really get the impression that “saying mild things and claiming to be free from desire” is what people who claim or imply enlightenment do. What they do claim is that they are happy practically all the time, which isn’t the same thing. Mostly, it seems that those who explicitly think enlightenment entails freedom from all desire also tend to have a dire view of its achievability.

      • Eri says:

        > What they do claim is that they are happy practically all the time, which isn’t the same thing.
        What counts as “happy”? Because if someone asked me whether my life is mostly happy and am I mostly happy and satisfied with what I have, I’d answer “yes”. I am not enlightened in the slightest; I just have a good life.

        • Creutzer says:

          It seems pretty clear to me that they do not mean this kind of happiness that requires looking at your life overall. (In the context of that concept of happiness, it makes no sense to say that someone is happy “all the time”.) They mean presence of positive feelings and absence of negative feelings moment-to-moment. Perhaps “joyful” is a better word for what they seem to be getting at. Even someone who is happy with their life experiences joy only in a tiny minority of moments. It appears to me the claim of a lot of enlightened people is that a vastly larger proportion of their experiential moments are filled with something like joy.

  4. albatross11 says:

    This tweet of a slide presented to Washington science teachers is entertaining mainly because it makes an explicit statement out of something I think is a commonly held view that is rarely stated. Indeed, it’s often the case that citing the data showing disparities in outcome is enough to get many people to think you’re bigoted–to even mention these disparities is evidence of sin.

    This is silly, but that doesn’t make it any less widespread.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Correct. Asians do better than whites on standardized tests because of our broken system in the US.

      • thetitaniumdragon says:

        Whites in the US do better than whites in any other country on the planet, on average.

        It seems unlikely that the US system is “broken” unless you think everywhere else is even worse.

        • johan_larson says:

          That’s an interesting claim. I did some research using the PISA 2015 results, and while it is not quite true, it is almost true, which is very interesting.

          Here are the results for US Whites:

          science 531
          reading 526
          math 499

          In science, the following predominantly white nations do as well or better: Estonia (534), Finland (531)

          In reading, the following predominantly white nations do as well or better: Canada (527), Finland (526)

          In math, the following predominantly white nations do as well or better: Switzerland (521), Estonia (520), Canada (516), Netherlands (512), Denmark (511), Finland (511), Slovenia (510), Belgium (510), Germany (506), Poland (504), Ireland (504), Norway (502)

          I should add that this isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison, since I am comparing US whites not against white people elsewhere but against entire nations, which typically have some outsider representation. Even Germany, while overwhelmingly white, has some non-white students. But in the case of countries like Finland and Estonia, the non-white populations really do vanish into statistical noise.

          But that said, US whites are a very high-performing group, and if considered separately score among the very highest-performing nations and beat nearly all white nations in science and reading. The same can not be said of mathematics, where quite a few nations (white and Asian) do better.

          Incidentally, white and Asian scores in the US are very close:

          science: white 531, asian 525
          reading: white 526, asian 527
          math: white 499, asian 498

          I would have bet on US Asian scores being significantly higher than US white scores.

          • albatross11 says:

            IIRC, blacks and hispanics in the US do better than most majority black / hispanic countries, probably because we have better-funded and -run schools. I’m also surprised by the Asian scores not being higher–I wonder if that turns on Asian being such a grab-bag of groups in the US. OTOH, East Asians (China, Japan, Korean, etc.) and South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, etc.) both do really well in the US, so I’m not sure what’s going on.

          • quanta413 says:

            Asian scores could also be suppressed a bit by extremely recent immigrants who haven’t yet mastered english (my understanding is that any gap closes pretty fast though, so we’re talking like “moved to the U.S. a few years ago” not “moved to the U.S. when five years old took the test at fifteen”.

            I don’t know if the U.S. also lumps Pacific Islanders into Asians when collecting the PISA race/ethnicity data either but that’d also affect scores.

          • AliceToBob says:

            The PISA’12 scores seem quite different:

            Asians 549
            Whites 506

            I’m surprised things have changed so much in that time frame. Perhaps this reflects a change in methodology/grouping.

            Source:

            https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2012/pisa2012highlights_3f_1.asp

  5. Atlas says:

    A possible PSA:

    A couple months ago, I began consciously doing more reading on the Kindle app for my phone (as well the Comixology app). I’ve found this to be quite valuable and would recommend at least considering this to others, even though I still prefer to read paper books ceteris paribus. For one thing, it’s allowed me to purchase more books than I otherwise would have, because storage space is no longer a practical constraint. I already rely quite heavily on public libraries and my university library to acquire books, which I think is usually much better than buying your own copies, but sometimes it’s nice to have extremely convenient reference books. (Especially if one is, like myself, so foolish as to sometimes waste time arguing with people on the Internet.)

    Furthermore, it’s increased the time I spend reading per day, perhaps by 20-30 minutes on average. This is partly because it makes it convenient to carry around lots of books that I categorize as “comfy but informative.” They’re non-fiction books that require (or at least that I feel free to devote) less System 2 capacity for me than my primary reading material and that I really enjoy reading, but are still more informative than refreshing Twitter/gaming/other silly things I used to spend interstitial time doing. (Some recent examples for me would be Modern Times by Paul Johnson, The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker and The Machinery of Freedom by our own Professor Friedman.) So there have been quite a few instances where I’m too tired after work and/or class to give the physical book I’m carrying the attention I feel it deserves, but where I have enough mental energy to read one of these books on Kindle.

    Also, because I, like (I think) most people these days, usually carry my phone with me, but don’t always carry a paper book, it’s a nice, non-Internet reserve of entertainment/intellectual stimulation. I remember—and perhaps mine will be the last generation that does— how frequently tedious things like e.g. waiting at the dentist could be as a kid if I didn’t bring a book of my own and they had either no or no interesting reading material. But between the Kindle and podcasts apps, I rarely find myself bored in that particular manner these days, which I really appreciate.

    I don’t know, maybe this is old news for everyone else and I’m just way behind the times/out of loop. (Although Pew finds that, a few years ago at least, print books were still far more popular than ebooks.) But I’ve found doing more reading on Kindle a nice little quality of life improvement, and if you still mostly read paper books perhaps you might as well. (Also, Project Gutenberg has a wide variety of books available in Kindle format—e.g. Moby-Dick and a collection of Macaulay’s essays—and if you live in a big city the library system probably has a lot of ebooks you can check out.)

  6. snifit says:

    At Amb. Marie Yovanovich’s testimony today at the impeachment hearing, I heard a Republican Congressman make a prediction: that fewer Americans would support the impeachment proceedings at the conclusion of public testimony than support it currently. According to fivethirtyeight.com, about 48.5% of Americans currently support impeachment proceedings. That number hasn’t dropped below 47.9% in the past month.
    Do you think we’ll see a drop in support for impeachment proceedings in the next two weeks? Will there be a large drop in support (say more than 5%) in the next two weeks, like the increase around Sept. 24?
    Personally I don’t think support will drop (60% sure) and would be shocked to see a large drop (90% it doesn’t occur). For reference, I’m not American but I think Trump’s actions are appalling.

    For discussion, an editor for nationalreview.com, a right-aligned publication, argues that the president’s impeachment defense as executed by Republican congresspeople is “stupid” and “embarrassing”. If the defense works, he argues it will work not through serious arguments or rebuttals but like “a boyfriend or girlfriend who thinks that if they just scream and stomp their feet enough in a public place, they won’t get dumped.” He recognizes that Democrats have the facts on their side, but risk not being taken seriously by the public because Trump has been accused of so much over the last three years.
    Is he right? Are there any serious rebuttals (i.e., competing narratives that right-aligned media are comfortable pushing) to be made against the case Democrats are building?

    • Two McMillion says:

      The most common narrative among my right-wing friends on social media is, “What Trump did isn’t wrong, and even if it is, the fact that they’ve highlighted this issue over all the other things they could accuse Trump of shows that the Democrats are stupid/evil/immature (circle one)”.

      • Two McMillion says:

        Some quotes from my facebook page:

        The case against Trump hinges on arbitrary, pedantic, and malleable definitions of “corruption.” If he “colluded with Ukraine,” as he is accused of doing, I frankly don’t care, because I don’t see it as being substantially different from any number of other “legal” actions taken by any number of other politicians, and I don’t see why it should be a problem anyway.

        If it is “corruption” for a politician to wave under the nose of a foreign power a carrot which he has the legal authority to wave in hopes of gaining cooperation in legal activities that might potentially increase his reelection chances, then all politicians are “corrupt,” and it isn’t even reasonable to expect them not to be. Every politician always has his own reelection in mind, and carrots are made for waving.

        And if it is “corruption” for a President to attempt to investigate possible corruption of his predecessor… that’s just crazy.

        I will not be following or commenting on the impeachment hearings, because they are ridiculous on their face. The reason offered for impeaching the President is stupid, and so the only question is whether or not his enemies will be able to succeed in impeaching and/or removing him on stupid grounds.

        For that, there is nothing to do but wait and see.

        You have to admire the Democrats’ brazen corruption. They’re literally saying that investigating corruption is an impeachable offense.

        Trump can straightforwardly run against The Swamp. Anyone who votes for impeachment is Pro-Corruption.

        Less than a year after spending millions of dollars to investigate the Russian Collusion Conspiracy Theory, Democrats are now insisting that there is no legitimate government interest in investigating corruption. Incredible.

      • cassander says:

        Frankly, that (including your more extended comment) would be pretty close to my feelings. I wouldn’t call what the democrats are doing corrupt, and I do think that the latest charges are pretty ridiculous. But I also think that they might work out.

        Tarring trump with corruption seems feasible and a reasonable strategy given the collapse of the collusion narrative. And it at least rhymes with earlier charges, so even if these ones aren’t particularly damning, the slow accumulation might be enough to drag trump down. I don’t think it will drag him all the way to impeachment and removal, but it might get him far enough to lose the election.

        I’d also say that it’s doing horrible damage to our civil fabric and that they should stop it, but I see why they’re doing it.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think US politics has collapsed into a defect/defect pattern between the parties at this point, and it’s hard for me to see how it will get better. It’s easier to get attention and retweets by saying awful nasty things about the other side than by anything positive, and that shapes way too much of our national political dialogue. One driver of that is that Twitter seems optimized to capture the attention of the kind of people who become journalists in the US, so most of the people whose job is to report on what’s going on in the country are living deep within a Twitter bubble.

          • cassander says:

            My only real question would be has it collapsed to that, or has it always been that and we’re looking at the past with rose colored glasses? I think you can make a case either way, but I’m not sure how you’d measure it objectively.

            On twitter, I work at a journalistic institution, and I definitely agree that a lot of journalists are the sort of compulsively social creatures for whom twitter is like crack. But twitter is also just…easy. You can easily put things out and instantly get hits. You get a constant feed of people saying things, and a huge amount of journalism is just people saying “so and so said X today”. And, as you say, it’s very easy to bubble yourself. It’s probably not good for journalism as a profession, but it’s impossible to ignore.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Case in point

        Hard to believe combing through phone transcripts they couldn’t find some mention of Trump Hotels or some other personal wheeling and dealing even if just out of dumb, rote unscrupulous impulse toward self-enrichment…and instead went with this half-baked quid pro nothing

    • hls2003 says:

      The polling on impeachment inquiry support has been, at best, confusing. For one thing, it is always questionable whether poll recipients understand the distinction between “should hearings be held,” “are the hearings well-founded,” “should the House impeach,” and “should the President be removed.” I think the Republican Congressman is wrong if he’s predicting the hearings will result in any public movement on this question, because I would bet (95% confidence) that a rounds-down-to-zero number of people who are actually watching the hearings will change their mind, or were ever going to change their mind, no matter what information was or was not elicited. So I don’t think support will change much either direction, because nobody who’s paying attention was undecided to begin with.

      I don’t know if it’s possible to poll this, but I think a really interesting set of questions would be: (1) what percentage of voters know there’s a difference between Russia and Ukraine as countries (I’d guess less than 60%); (2) what percentage of voters know that “the Russia probe” and “the Ukraine probe” are two different things involving different alleged conduct / facts (I’d guess less than 30%); and (3) what percentage of voters know that the current impeachment proceedings involve “the Ukraine probe” and not “the Russia probe” allegations at all (I’d guess less than 15%). I would bet that those numbers, whatever they are, are also virtually unchanged following the hearings; because again I think anyone actually watching is already vastly more politically engaged than the average voter.

      Also, for what it’s worth, Jonah Goldberg in particular (and National Review in general) have been loudly anti-Trump since before 2016, and in my limited experience, Goldberg in particular is not taken very seriously (or at all) among right-leaning partisans, certainly not on any issue relating to Trump. That’s just my impression based on consumption of right-leaning media.

      ETA: There was a general discussion of this in the last .25 thread, here. My general impressions, which remain unchanged or strengthened thus far through the “public” phase, are here. Given that the Democrats already disclosed the favorable portions of the “sealed” testimony to the media prior to the public hearings, it seems unlikely there would be any further major surprises negative for Trump that hadn’t come out before. But I guess we’ll see.

    • honoredb says:

      I don’t think there’s a serious rebuttal to be made to the core allegation, that Trump was caught using his power as the President to try to embarrass a political rival. It’s just too blatantly true. But I do think it’s likely (80% chance) that Republicans will find an effective rebuttal to some secondary or supporting aspect of the Democrats’ case, or at least a more legitimate process complaint than what they’ve tried to manufacture so far, over the next few weeks, in a way that embarrasses Schiff on, say, the front page of the New York Times. They seemingly can’t subpoena anybody who remains loyal to Trump, so there’s a dangerous information asymmetry: Giuliani won’t confirm anything the witnesses or committee get right, but he will disprove anything they get wrong.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think the practical question is “is this seriously bad enough to impeach him and remove him from office.” And that’s ultimately a political question, which will be answered largely on party lines. The result is that Trump will not be removed from office. I’m not sure whether he’ll be damaged by the impeachement hearings–I think it would be optimal for the Democrats to keep them dragging on until the election, but I don’t think they can manage that and if they do, it may backfire.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I don’t think there’s a serious rebuttal to be made to the core allegation, that Trump was caught using his power as the President to try to embarrass a political rival. It’s just too blatantly true.

        Inclined to agree, but I’m also not sure there’s a serious rebuttal possible to the opposite core claim: that we have an interest in whether there was corruption involved in Hunter Biden’s appointment and that it’s the administration’s job to investigate that. I don’t see how one can dispute that as a general principle. The argument seems to be that this was impermissible since the alleged corruption involves Trump’s likely election opponent, and I can sort of see that — but at the same time, the fact that it involves the likely Democratic candidate for President seems to me to make it more important than usual.

        For suspicions of internal corruption, one might make the claim that it would be more seemly for the President to “recuse” himself by handing it off to someone else in the administration (though such a person would still be reporting to him, so perhaps that’s just window dressing). For something that involves other countries, and in fact requires asking cooperation from another head of state, I’m not sure such a handoff would be responsible.

        Both those core claims strike me as not only defensible but in fact true. So what does one do? I don’t want the President to be able to use his position to take down his rivals, nor do I want running for office to include immunity for past crimes. Either one seems like the road to a banana republic.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m also not sure there’s a serious rebuttal possible to the opposite core claim: that we have an interest in whether there was corruption involved in Hunter Biden’s appointment and that it’s the administration’s job to investigate that.

          That claim is both far too specific in the first part, and far too generic in the second, in ways that highlight the implicit rebuttal.

          “We” may have an interest in whether Americans are engaged in corrupt business practices with foreign corporations, but there’s at least thousands and probably millions of Americans engaged in foreign transactions that are at least suspicious. So, Hunter Biden specifically is at the very top of the list of people “we” have an interest in investigating for corruption? It requires almost willful self-delusion to believe that.

          And Hunter Biden clearly is at the top of the list, because it isn’t “the administration” that is investigating, it is Donald J. Trump personally. And Rudy Giuliani, who isn’t even part of the administration. That’s not normal. Identifying specific targets for criminal investigation is not the President’s job, and if he is doing that it is at least evidence that the Attorney General’s office is hopelessly corrupt or incompetent.

          But really, if something that claims to be an anti-corruption campaign involves a head of state or government identifying specific private citizens as targets for investigation, then that campaign is going to increase corruption, not reduce it. Really, you want to keep elected officials entirely out of that line of work, and yes that means not electing DAs, but presidents, premiers, or kings meddling in that business is the worst. This is a pretty solid rule, as you’ll discover when it’s e.g. President Warren personally deciding which billionaires to sic the IRS on.

          And then there’s the dubious bit about the administration “investigating” anything here. “The administration” includes agencies like the Justice Department and the FBI, specifically for carrying out this sort of investigation. I think I missed the part where Trump asked them to investigate Hunter Biden. Asking the Ukranian government to investigate runs into the problem that Trump believes the Ukranian government itself to be hopelessly corrupt, so how any American national interest is served by that is hard to see without e.g. a serious discussion of how there’s going to be deep US oversight of this particular investigation. But, I seem to have missed that too.

          The only specific element of the investigation that Trump and Giuliani seem to have specifically required, was the public announcement by the Ukrainian President that he was investigating the Bidens (and, somehow, Hillary Clinton) for corruption. Which, if there was going to be an actual investigation, you’d probably not want to do at the start of the process because why warn the targets to fire up their shredders?

          So, yeah, rebutted. Donald Trump and his allies were not pursuing a national interest in investigating corruption in this case.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And if fighting corruption was also the official policy, it would have been handled through the official channels, instead of having side channels demanding it — and then hiding evidence of what was requested from internal parties.

            That would be called “consciousness of guilt” in a criminal setting. You know it’s wrong because you are hiding it, even from your own teammates.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Hmm. For me, much of what you say is covered by my

            the fact that it involves the likely Democratic candidate for President seems to me to make it more important than usual.

            Hunter may well have been at the top of the list only because Joe is running for President. That's kind of okay with me.

            I'll give you the point about him not directing the DoJ and the FBI to investigate, if you really have some reason to believe he didn't. (If in fact he did not, I could get feisty and point out how much effort the DoJ and the FBI have spent on undermining his Presidency from even before it began, and wonder whether he would be entitled to doubt whether they would be of any help at all, but I won’t. Oops, I guess I did.)

            Regarding

            President Warren personally deciding which billionaires to sic the IRS on

            I’ve already acknowledged that your argument is on solider ground regarding internal corruption. But we’ve already seen Mueller indict a large handful of Russians, knowing well that nothing would come of it. As much as I would like to believe that there are “channels” for getting action out of the Ukraine that don’t require a rapprochement between high elected officials, you’ll forgive me for being doubtful. For what it’s worth, a few years ago Biden seems to have agreed.

            I didn’t notice anything in the transcript of the call about making a public announcement, nor any mention of Hillary Clinton at all unless, um, you count Crowdstrike. Has that shown up elsewhere?

            I guess the point I was trying to make was this. In an alternate timestream, if it had been Dick Cheney’s kid who got the dubious job while Cheney was VP, and Trump had tried to shake the bushes about investigating that, would you really consider that an abuse of power? Are Joe and Hunter Biden exempt from that scrutiny because Joe is running for President? (If so, why exactly does that make sense?)

            How egregious would their alleged crimes have to be before it became something you really wanted to know the facts about before voting for Joe, even if getting those answers required action on Trump’s part?

      • cassander says:

        >I don’t think there’s a serious rebuttal to be made to the core allegation, that Trump was caught using his power as the President to try to embarrass a political rival.

        This is true, but it’s also true that the rival was almost certainly accepting a… not quite bribe, let’s call it a gratuity, and I have a very hard time getting more upset at the person who was trying to reveal what happened than the original offender, even if the revealer was motivated purely by self interest.

        • Aftagley says:

          well, no. It’s not true. The rival’s kid had taken a cushy job on the strength of his dad’s connections.

          • TripleS says:

            Really anyone who objects to the Hunter Biden thing should want Trump impeached on the grounds of blatant nepotism. His own children and son-in-law are blatantly unqualified for their roles and have no business in any sensibly run government.

          • cassander says:

            @Aftagley

            That’s why I called it gratuity not a bribe. I think it’s totally unbelievable that Biden didn’t know about it, and didn’t approve of what was going on. I doubt that it got them anything, but I think there’s no chance that Hunter wasn’t given the job in the hope of influencing his father.

            @TripleS

            His kids aren’t paid, and he’s employed them in similar roles for years. They’re no different in this regard than Valerie Jarrett, and no less qualified than aspiring failed novelist Ben Rhodes.

          • quanta413 says:

            Really anyone who objects to the Hunter Biden thing should want Trump impeached on the grounds of blatant nepotism. His own children and son-in-law are blatantly unqualified for their roles and have no business in any sensibly run government.

            I’d also like the Bushes, Clintons, and any remaining Kennedys (and descendants and relatives out to 3 degrees) to be forever gone from government for a start.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Hunter Biden has nothing to offer anybody besides crack cocaine and his last name. And I doubt he was trying to sell cocaine to the Ukrainians.

            It’s a pathetic display, like Hillary Clinton’s brother selling his own last name. But it isn’t, by itself, corruption.

          • albatross11 says:

            Family members of powerful people get cushy jobs all the time, and this isn’t illegal. It’s hard to see how you would make it illegal without making it impossible for the children or siblings of the president to make a living.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And not just powerful people. Any sufficiently famous person is likely to have a kid or sibling whose entire career is “I’m related to that famous person” unless the parents (of said relative) did an exceptionally good job of instilling them with their own work ethic.

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11

            After years of shouting about the emoluments clause and various trump associates being explicitly attacked for this sort of thing, “everyone does it” rings a bit hollow.

            More importantly, however, hunter’s entire adult life appears to have been based on taking cushy gigs from his dad. He first worked at a bank that was a major contributor, then got put on the amtrak board, became a fixer with John Kerry’s kid, got an extremely unusual waiver to join the navy despite being overage, then got terfed out on drug charges, (biden’s explanation was his son’s consumption was accidental), and then started collecting money from foreign governments & got on Burisma’s board.

            yes, lots of fame adjacent people can trade on names, as Edward Scizorhands said, he has absolutely nothing to offer except cocaine and his name. It’s very clear in this case that there is no possibility that it wasn’t untoward.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Uhhh, this is a little bit beyond just getting a cushy job because you are famous. Joe Biden took a leading role in America’s foreign policy on Ukraine and demanded the dismissal of an official who had an open investigation into a company on which Hunter Biden was a board member.

            The actual circumstances and reasons for dismissal are irrelevant, the fact is that the appearance of impropriety and obvious conflicts of interest are so obviously severe that Joe Biden’s political career should be over. And maybe Trump isn’t the best standard bearer, and maybe this is a “only Nixon can go to China” moment, but aid to Ukraine absolutely should be withheld until Ukraine can do a full investigation and demonstrate to Congress and the President that there is no foul play.

            Now I understand that Trump is blatantly corrupt and that in the real world this should pretty much be let go and Trump is probably engaging in actual foul play, but if you are going to try to appeal to my sense of morals, you should actually try to appeal to my cynical Eastern-European, third-generation-accountant, everyone-is-a-bastard morals. And those demand that Joe Biden and Hunter Biden get their asses raked over coals for the better part of a generation.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Just because the only thing Hunter Biden has to offer is his last name doesn’t mean corruption is happening.

            People like famous people. And even if you personally do not, you have to realize that, as in a Keynesian beauty contest, other people like famous people. “Hey, you like country music — do you want to have a meeting with Taylor Swift’s brother? He’s on our board!”

            The kids of Presidents get into Harvard and Yale, and partly that’s because the kids of hard-driven people are going to be hard-driven people, but also because Harvard and Yale like being able to show off famous people as alumni.

            I don’t know what Hunter Biden promised Burisma to get hired. Maybe nothing; maybe he promised them his dad would give them a deal or something. Maybe he promised it and it was all a lie he could never deliver. Hunter doesn’t look like the person who would listen like JFK’s mother and knock these things off.

            One reason to hire Hunter is to show off to Western powers that “look, we are a serious company — a relative of the Vice President serves on our board, so obviously nothing corrupt is going on!” Whether that turns out to be true or not is a mixed bag (I don’t feel arsed to look up the famous people on Theranos’s board), but it’s definitely true that people believe that other people believe that famous people lend credibility to things.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          and I have a very hard time getting more upset at the person who was trying to reveal what happened than the original offender, even if the revealer was motivated purely by self interest.

          Yes, attempts to question or out or punish the IG whistleblower are disgusting.

      • Clutzy says:

        I mean, there are plenty, particularly if you read the rough transcript.

        The phone call is, more or less, not driven by Trump. Biden’s name is brought up vaguely, and in passing. On top of that its a proven fact that Ukraine indeed attempted to materially aid the Clinton campaign in 2016. Its also a fact that Trump holds grudges, and doesn’t like foreign aid. Thus, he likely has a hairtrigger when withholding funds, any reason could result in a hold.

        That there is this corruptish Biden action and it hasn’t been investigated, and that Trump would be excoriated for not pushing for an investigation if Biden was instead Dick Cheney makes the defense all the more strong. Can we really impeach the President for doing his job? Isn’t that what we were just told for 3 years? It doesn’t matter if its your political opponent, you should pursue justice and collusion to the ends of the earth, even if you have no evidence to launch an investigation!

    • Aftagley says:

      Kind of echoing what honoredb said, I think they are going to ride this out by ignoring subpoenas.

      At this point, we’re either read testimony or heard from nearly everyone involved in this case and we’ve got a good basic outline of the facts: The President wanted the Ukraine to investigate the dems/Biden and took action to pressure the country into making that happen. The only people we haven’t heard from yet are maybe some folks at OMB who can speak to specifically why the aid was help up.

      The thing is, none of these people testifying are top-level officials. None of them actually made decisions or directly heard Trump say anything (Soundland excluded, but he’s already outed himself as a liar). If Trump’s inner circle can successfully ignore subpoenas, republicans can claim that there just isn’t any good evidence linking the president to this directly. Sure, dems will complain, but that nuance won’t make it to the public.

      At this point, I think the republicans’ best strategy will be to prevent important people from testifying and just refusing to admit that this smoke implies the existence of fire. Dems should press to get Mulvaney, Guiliani and hopefully Trump to testify.

      • Matthew S. says:

        The President wanted the Ukraine to investigate the dems/Biden and took action to pressure the country into making that happen.

        More accurately, the President wanted Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation so that he could use it as political ammunition; there’s no evidence he cared whether an investigation actually happened.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/470205-8-in-10-say-their-is-little-to-no-chance-they-will-change-their-minds

      62 percent of respondents said there is no chance they could change their minds regarding impeachment

      19 percent reporting there’s only a small chance of doing so.

      8 percent responding that there is “some chance” they could change their mind.

      2 percent said there is a strong chance they could change their mind

      So large swings are unlikely. Most people have already decided.

    • John Schilling says:

      I heard a Republican Congressman make a prediction: that fewer Americans would support the impeachment proceedings at the conclusion of public testimony than support it currently.

      That seems extremely implausible.

      It is certainly plausible that close to three years of crying wolf about e.g. Trump being a Russian agent and Trump paying off his mistress from the wrong slush fund and so forth, have so discredited the Democratic party in the eyes of Trump’s remaining supporters that the needle can’t move much farther in the anti-Trump direction because nobody on that side is even listening. I hope not, because if true that means Trump can now get away with literal murder or worse, but could be.

      That the needle is going to move towards Trump, that people who now favor impeachment will oppose it when they watch the hearings on CSPAN (or see the commentary on Twitter) is unlikely. This time, the Democrats have stuck with a single coherent narrative from the start – that Trump tried to extort a friendly nation, by withholding legally appropriated funds, into publicly accusing the Bidens of being Nogoodniks. And the investigation is now in the phase of hearing public testimony from credible, sympathetic witnesses saying “yep, that’s what happened”. The Democrats are past the time when they were holding secret hearings on little more than Nancy Pelosi’s and Adam Schiff’s say-so, and well past the time when this was just a report by one anonymous whistleblower. And the Republicans are entering the phase where it will be publicly obvious that they are hiding something by blocking obviously relevant witnesses from testifying.

      I don’t see how it ever gets better for Trump, until it is over. The only question is whether it gets bad enough for twenty Senators to jump ship. And that’s going to depend on Trump not making too many stupid impulsive mistakes between now and then.

      • albatross11 says:

        And that’s going to depend on Trump not making too many stupid impulsive mistakes between now and then.

        Yeah, *that*’s gonna happen.

        • John Schilling says:

          Many, yes. Too many is the question. This fight is entirely Trump’s to lose, and any veteran politician would just decline the opportunity and ride it out. The Democrats have cried wolf too many times, the GOP has a lot of margin against a 2/3 vote in the Senate, and their base hates beyond honor or reason the people they see as trying to bring down Their Man.

          That man being the quick-tweeting Donald Trump, is the only thing that makes the outcome even in doubt. He may be just the guy to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory here.

      • sharper13 says:

        You seem sensible enough.

        that Trump tried to extort a friendly nation, by withholding legally appropriated funds, into publicly accusing the Bidens of being Nogoodniks.

        I’m under the impression the facts are that the funds were given to the Ukrainians, that they didn’t publicly accuse the Bidens, and that the Presidents of both countries have publicly denied any such negotiation/intention. If so, then this reduces down to at best what the proof of intentions of those involved were.

        Are you aware of any evidence beyond civil servant gossip that the narrative you describe is true? If so, could you provide a link or two, or a description I can use to find it on Google?

        Because the reason I’d think the current hearings will end up with fewer supporters is that people who previously were willing to believe the Democrats in the House had some evidence of the narrative you described have now seen the complete lack of direct evidence in what were supposed to be their best witnesses.

        I mean, I personally thought it was at least possible Trump had done something here in terms of a quid-pro-quo (it fits with his NY deal-making personality-type), but I’m extremely underwhelmed by the witnesses thus far presented in the sheer lack of actual evidentiary content.

        Because of that, I’d speculate that people who watch hearing-information on more left-wing news sources will get the Democratic accusations and the best gossip from the witnesses, while not seeing any of the points the Republicans make, while people watching more right-wing news sources will get to see the opposite and thus both will be somewhat confirmed in their pre-existing opinions.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m under the impression the facts are that the funds were given to the Ukrainians,

          The funds appear to have been given to the Ukrainians because John Bolton approved the transfer, shortly before Trump fired him. And, BTW, reality? Please stop trying to turn John Bolton into the good guy; it’s liable to make his brain explode. Or at least his mustache.

          Are you aware of any evidence beyond civil servant gossip that the narrative you describe is true

          We are in the process of turning “civil servant gossip” into sworn testimony. The transcript is a public record, validated by the administration. And failing to carry an extortion attempt to completion doesn’t make you an honest man, it makes you an incompetent crook. Enjoy defending your champion.

          • sharper13 says:

            So that would be a “No” on there being any direct evidence of the purported attempted extortion, then?

            Making a transcript of someone saying their buddy told them that their coworker told them that someone totally did something wrong doesn’t convert it into evidence of a crime. Especially when their accounts are contradicted by the official transcripts of the conversations in question and by the people who were actually parties to those conversations.

            I expected a better response from you, I really did.

          • snifit says:

            What do you mean by direct evidence? Witness testimony that person X did Y is the typical example of direct evidence. There’s been a bunch of that.

          • sharper13 says:

            @snifit,

            Yes, a witness stating they observed evidence of crime A (which might be that X did Y) is direct evidence. A witness stating that they heard from L that M told L that (X did Y) would be evidence suggesting they heard that, not that (X did Y), because even if X didn’t do Y, that witness still could be telling the truth about what they heard from L.

            As another I-wish-was-hypothetical example, if you as a news consumer read in the NY Times that X did Y and then someone calls you as a witness and you state that you believe X did Y based on that, your statement wouldn’t be anything like what I’d consider actual evidence that X did Y.

            Is that clear enough, despite all the letters? 🙂

    • Matthew S. says:

      I predict that this congressman would decline to back up his prediction with a monetary wager. Confidence – 90%

    • blipnickels says:

      Maaaaaaybe?

      I haven’t taken a read on the impeachment polling but looking at RealClearPolitics’ Presidential Approval Rating it looks like disapproval of Trump rose and remained elevated but approval fell and is now rising back up. It’s not impeachment polling but all the impeachment polls have issues. My big takeaway from the polls is how little impeachment has mattered. There was like a month where it really seemed to hurt Trump but he’s been bouncing back and if I take the two year view or the max view this looks really minor. I guess the congressman could technically be right but I’d guess none of the numbers will actually move significantly. 45% of people will always want him impeached and 40% will never want him impeached so I wouldn’t expect big swings.

      As for the National Review, that’s not where I’d look for an impassioned defense of Trump.

      • snifit says:

        As for the National Review, that’s not where I’d look for an impassioned defense of Trump.

        Right, I would expect that from Trump himself or from Republican congresspeople or from Fox News hosts. But when I see their defenses, they are not “serious rebuttals” to the case Democrats are building that Trump tried to bribe Ukraine for help getting re-elected. They are about The Whistleblower, or about Democrats’ eagerness to impeach, or about how Biden is bad, or complaints that witnesses are too distant from Trump to be useful. I can see how some of these complaints can influence opinion about impeachment, but they don’t address the facts Democrats are establishing. That is worth noticing.

        • Clutzy says:

          For serious rebuttals to exist, serious accusations must exist. Everything we have evidence for is a thing that is a vague maybe-sorta where the factual timelines contradict the narrative.

          Its also like in the Mueller/Comey situation where we are supposed to accept that corrupt conduct, that is obviously observed is cleansed by doing a certain set of rituals, while less corrupt conduct is made more corrupt because the person failed to follow some arcane set of rules no normal person would concoct.

          What I’m talking about is: Foreign Collusion. Okay if you launder your activity through a law firm and then a dirt factory and actually end up getting fake dirt. REALLY FREAKING BAD if you agree to a meeting in person, but get nothing.

          Investigating political opponents: Okay if you use domestic agencies under your direct control where probable cause is falsified through political dirt generated by unverified 3rd party foreigners known to be politically motivated. REALLY FREAKING BAD if you kinda sorta apply pressure to a foreign government to investigate something that there is public domain evidence that establishes a prima facie case of corruption.

        • blipnickels says:

          But when I see their defenses, they are not “serious rebuttals” to the case Democrats are building that Trump tried to bribe Ukraine for help getting re-elected. They are about The Whistleblower, or about Democrats’ eagerness to impeach, or about how Biden is bad, or complaints that witnesses are too distant from Trump to be useful.

          Obviously a lot of people do take them seriously. Let me try to explain.

          I think the Democrats are building a case that…kinda doesn’t matter because they’re referencing a standard of conduct that doesn’t apply anymore.

          Allow me to give the Democrats this: they’ve proven to my satisfaction that Trump pressured the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, the rival presidential nominee, and that’s bad. In fact, it’s Bad and definitely impeachable 20 years ago.

          But I’m not confident it is now. We’ve had formal investigations by intelligence agencies into either the president or the likely party candidate for the past 7 years, honestly since the Benghazi investigation morphed into an excuse for dirt digging. In 2016 both the major candidates had FBI investigations into them and in 2020 we’ll have a impeachment inquiry into one over his attempt to investigate the other. This is the new normal.

          And Trump had a decent legal excuse to investigate Biden. If nothing else, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine and his deputy alleged in the US press that the Bidens were dirty and worse, as the whistle blower acknowledges (bottom p.4) . With 90% confidence that’s just an excuse for Trump, but it’s still a better excuse than a low-level functionary’s drunk BS, which is how the Russian investigation formally started.

          Or, to simplify, Trump got rat-effed, and now is being impeached for trying to rat-eff someone else. And that’s not fair. And the Republican base, whatever else, understands that.

          And a lot of the “not serious rebuttals” don’t make any sense if there’s a bright line that the US, whatever else, does not allow investigations into rival presidential candidates. But if you think that’s dead letter, then the whistleblower’s political biases, or the Democratic party’s bad faith, or the corruption of the Bidens, or the weakness of witness become really serious rebuttals.

          • John Schilling says:

            But if there’s no limit applied to presidents “rat-ff” ing their opponents, then we proceed inevitably to a stage where POTUS meets regularly with the CIA and FSB and says “OK, these are the guys I need literally assassinated so that they can’t upset to comfy thing we’ve all had going on for decades”, and one-party rule forever. We need some sort of rule for how far that’s allowed to go before we impeach.

            And it can’t be the “literally assassinate” part, because having them arrested for kiddie-diddling with officially authenticated deepfake evidence works just as well.

            Right now, we’re trying to hold the line at three pretty solidly defensible Schelling points. First, don’t use corrupt foreign governments to go after your domestic political opponents. Second, don’t use money congress has authorized for another purpose, to go after your domestic political opponents. Third, if you’re going to use US government agencies to go after your political opponents, do so overtly and with the usual standards of transparency. These have the advantage of being A: obviously wrong and B: actual crimes under current law and C: walls that haven’t fallen yet.

            We should all want to keep those walls standing; we shouldn’t use the fact that Trump’s opponents tiptoed into the grey area of one of them to tear down all of them, and we shouldn’t be so eager to keep Donald J. Trump in power that we don’t think about what sort of power we are handing to his eventual Democratic successor. If you do tear down these walls for the sake of a few more years of President Trump, I’d like to know what walls you plan to set up to replace them.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling

            And it can’t be the “literally assassinate” part, because having them arrested for kiddie-diddling with officially authenticated deepfake evidence works just as well.

            If the Bidens weren’t so obviously guilty, I would be as concerned about this as you are, but they are. this wasn’t a fishing expedition, it was asking them to help with the gutting and salting.

          • blipnickels says:

            @John

            But if there’s no limit applied to presidents “rat-ff” ing their opponents, then we proceed inevitably to a stage where POTUS meets regularly with the CIA and FSB and says “OK, these are the guys I need literally assassinated so that they can’t upset to comfy thing we’ve all had going on for decades”, and one-party rule forever. We need some sort of rule for how far that’s allowed to go before we impeach.

            I concur. This is really bad and I don’t like any place it could end up. However, I’m not confident that an impeachment of Trump will meaningfully constrain future presidents of either party and if the allegations about the whistleblower are true, the lesson of a successful Ukraine impeachment will be “rat-eff your opponent before they can rat-eff you”.

            As for your bright lines:
            On not involving foreign governments, this is the most defensible one but I’m not clear why getting a foreign government to publicly investigate is significantly worse than the CIA and NSA secretly investigating. Also, didn’t the whole Russia thing start with a tipoff from an Australian diplomat and a lot of information on Russian hacking later on came from US allies?
            On money, I think this is just a distraction. Foreign aid has never been super important to Americans, much less impeachable, and the US Congress never authorizes money for investigating your political rivals. What’s wrong is politically motivated investigations, not how they’re financed.
            Third, on transparency, I think you’re downplaying the violation. Even ignoring the Stzork stuff, there’s no legal line here, we just have to assume the good intent of the people authorizing the investigation.

            Or, to rephrase, I don’t think anyone would be comfortable if Trump had ordered the FBI, CIA, and NSA to rat-eff Biden rather than the Ukraine. There’s no line or Schelling points there worth defending; the core problem is that Congress and the President are able to use their powers to investigate their political rivals and any solution/limit needs to address that head-on, not draw lines on how some kinds of politically-motivated investigations are ok and others aren’t.

          • albatross11 says:

            cassander:

            What written law do you think the Bidens violated?

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11 says:

            At the absolute least, he’s violating federal ethics guidelines about accepting gifts, which I believe apply to close family members. I know they do for legislative officials. If he encouraged or solicited it, things are much worse. Possibly also conflict of interest laws.

            In theory we could find out if that happened by investigation! In practice, I doubt Biden is fool enough to leave a paper trail.

          • John Schilling says:

            @cassander:

            this wasn’t a fishing expedition, it was asking them to help with the gutting and salting.

            Help who with the gutting and salting? Who, other than Zelensky, did Trump ask to investigate Biden? If there had been some ongoing FBI or Special Counsel investigation to which the Ukrainians could provide evidence, then you’d have a case. But then you’d have to accept US standards of transparency and due process in the overall investigation.

            What possible legitimacy would a purely Ukranian, or Ukraine+Giuliani, investigation have had? Do you envision Hunter Biden being extradited to Kiev? Joe Biden spending time in a US prison because Zelinski said “he’s a crook” and had some Ukranian oligarchs offer testimony to that end? Or is it just about defaming Biden’s reputation?

            @blipnickels:

            I’m not clear why getting a foreign government to publicly investigate is significantly worse than the CIA and NSA secretly investigating.

            I’m pretty certain that if any US president were to ask the CIA and NSA to secretly investigate their political opponents, the CIA and NSA would say no. That may change, and if it does it would be very worrisome. That’s the sort of thing I want to see stopped early here.

            And if you think that Clinton and/or Obama had the CIA and NSA secretly investigate Donald Trump, I’m pretty sure you are A: mistaken and B: not paying attention.

            But, sure, we can go into 2024 with say President Warren’s CIA tasked with digging up (or making up) the dirt on whoever the Republicans put up to challenge her. The Democrats won’t complain, and when Republicans whine about it everybody will laugh and say “you asked for it”. Unless, maybe, they stop asking for it.

          • blipnickels says:

            @John Schilling

            And if you think that Clinton and/or Obama had the CIA and NSA secretly investigate Donald Trump, I’m pretty sure you are A: mistaken

            Excellent, a clear factual disagreement. While the origins of the Russia investigation aren’t as clear as I’d like, the official start appears to be Operation Crossfire Hurricane, a joint NSA, CIA, and FBI into connections between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the election.

            The wikipedia article even mentions John Brennan’s testimony in May 2017 to the House Intelligence Committee that a group of officials from the CIA, NSA, and FBI to investigate and in a July interview that he, as CIA director, gave information to the FBI information which “served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion [or] cooperation occurred.”

            This was running in 2016, at the height of the election, against the presidential candidate of the rival party. No one involved could have reasonably been unaware of the political reality of this investigation and it’s impacts; nor is there any reasonable way Obama could have been unaware of this. Nor is there much public evidence about what investigators did what, when, and who knew and authorized it, which is perhaps understandable for top secret agencies but depends very heavily on the target of the investigation believing he was treated fairly.

            If you have some other information, I’d love to hear it, but I honestly did not consider this matter under factual dispute, merely the legitimacy thereof.

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling says:

            Help who with the gutting and salting? Who, other than Zelensky, did Trump ask to investigate Biden? If there had been some ongoing FBI or Special Counsel investigation to which the Ukrainians could provide evidence, then you’d have a case. But then you’d have to accept US standards of transparency and due process in the overall investigation.

            And, more importantly, accept the rampant leaking, the accusations of “trump is using the CIA to spy on his enemies”, and the immediate collapse of the investigation even if it’s completely legitimate and by the book. Far better to get someone else to throw down the gauntlet, even if your only motivation is justice.

            What possible legitimacy would a purely Ukranian, or Ukraine+Giuliani, investigation have had? Do you envision Hunter Biden being extradited to Kiev?

            In the eyes of american democrats, more than a trump administration investigation. Not that that’s a high bar, mind you.

            I’m pretty certain that if any US president were to ask the CIA and NSA to secretly investigate their political opponents, the CIA and NSA would say no. That may change, and if it does it would be very worrisome. That’s the sort of thing I want to see stopped early here.

            the CIA did get caught spying on the senate not all that long ago. I might believe that the CIA would refuse (or at least stonewall) Trump’s request to do that, but not any other president’s unless it was extremely blatant.

          • John Schilling says:

            Excellent, a clear factual disagreement. While the origins of the Russia investigation aren’t as clear as I’d like, the official start appears to be Operation Crossfire Hurricane,

            Which your cited source describes in the masthead as an “FBI investigation”. I thought I was pretty clear that the FBI and DOJ are supposed to do this sort of thing, in a way that the CIA and NSA aren’t. If the FBI asks the CIA and DOJ to provide specific assistance from their areas of expertise, that’s still a very different thing than the CIA and NSA running their own investigation.

            Also completely missing from your cited source is the bit where Obama and/or Clinton initiated any of this. Again, I thought I was pretty clear that there is and ought to be a line between law enforcement agencies deciding to initiate criminal investigations, and politicians directing policemen (or worse, spies) to go after specific political opponents.

            The CIA is prohibited by law from investigating US citizens and permanent residents, except under specific and largely incidental circumstances. If the CIA had been investigating Donald Trump, as opposed to investigating Russia and sharing relevant information with the FBI at the request of the FBI, that would have been a very big deal. If the CIA had been doing this because Barack Obama had called John Brennan and said “Investigate the crap out of Donald Trump”, that would have been an even bigger deal. But that doesn’t seem to have happened. And that’s the standard that applies here.

          • blipnickels says:

            So we’re in agreement that the CIA and the NSA were involved in the investigation of Trump and Russia. We may disagree on the extent or propriety of that involvement, but we agree they were involved, right?

            I thought I was pretty clear that the FBI and DOJ are supposed to do this sort of thing, in a way that the CIA and NSA aren’t.

            No, nobody is supposed to be doing that sort of thing! No one wants regular investigations of rival presidential candidates, especially around election season. I’m not aware of any FBI investigations into a presidential campaign pre-2016 and we’ve had at least 2 since then. The line where we say “Well, the FBI might be investigating the rival presidential candidate but at least the NSA and CIA aren’t too involved” is a pointless one. In extreme cases (which is probably the best defense of Mueller et al) it may be legally necessary to investigate for the good of the nation but it’s supposed to be so discouraged that even a successful investigation has serious political consequences and a failed one should have apocalyptic ones. Right now there’s no political consequences and that’s Bad.

            Also completely missing from your cited source is the bit where Obama and/or Clinton initiated any of this.

            What’s the story where Obama didn’t OK this? Did a 3 agency investigation into one of the biggest political stories in modern history involving the rival presidential candidate not warrant a mention in the daily brief? Did Brennan go behind Obama’s back and investigate a political rival without telling him? Did Obama secretly disapprove but just couldn’t overrule Brennan et al? Seriously, what’s the story where Obama didn’t know? And not having any transparency on what Obama knew and/or approved of 3+ years later is not an argument in his favor.

            If the CIA had been doing this because Barack Obama had called John Brennan and said “Investigate the crap out of Donald Trump”, that would have been an even bigger deal. But that doesn’t seem to have happened. And that’s the standard that applies here.

            So don’t order it yourself, just give your underlings a nod and wink before they go do it? I mean, I agree one is more uncouth, but the end result looks the same.

            And as a final note, I’m not sure I trust the CIA and NSA to investigate presidential candidates to any extent. I’m not sure they’ve earned it.

            @cassander

            I might believe that the CIA would refuse (or at least stonewall) Trump’s request to do that, but not any other president’s unless it was extremely blatant.

            Yeah, that’s actually one of my greatest fears. That at some point the Democratics will be ordering investigations into Republicans and Republicans will be ordering investigations into Democrats and who wins will be decided by who various agencies side with.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If the Bidens weren’t so obviously guilty

            I object. This assumes things we don’t know.

            I think this is your logic:

            1. Hunter Biden lent his name to Burisma.

            2. Since Hunter Biden is worthless, he must have been selling something corrupt.

            3. For this corruption to be valuable, Joe Biden needed to co-operate.

            I agree through the middle of step 2: Hunter Biden is worthless. But this does not mean that Biden was necessarily selling something corrupt. While the business world, over time and in aggregate, generally comes to sensible arrangements, individual businesses make incredibly dumb decisions all the time.

            Hunter Biden, having nothing else to sell besides his name, was eventually going to find a buyer, even if the buyer gets nothing of value. Economists have studied this.

          • Clutzy says:

            Right now, we’re trying to hold the line at three pretty solidly defensible Schelling points. First, don’t use corrupt foreign governments to go after your domestic political opponents. Second, don’t use money congress has authorized for another purpose, to go after your domestic political opponents. Third, if you’re going to use US government agencies to go after your political opponents, do so overtly and with the usual standards of transparency. These have the advantage of being A: obviously wrong and B: actual crimes under current law and C: walls that haven’t fallen yet.

            Your C is clearly untrue, and irrelevant. The Obama admin used government resources to go after its political opponents several times, including Trump. Did so clandestinely every time, and only admitted to the conduct after being found out by outside groups after stonewalling. In many cases it still refuses to admit its conduct and such agents obstruct and defame investigators like IG Horowitz on a regular basis, attempting to discredit his investigation.

            And this makes your other “Schelling points” irrelevant because this is the inner wall. Its like saying, “well we can’t have the Carthaginians crossing the Alps, while their armies are already sacking Rome.”

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Clutzy

            I’m really enjoying the arguments here. Honest question:

            The Obama admin used government resources to go after its political opponents several times, including Trump. Did so clandestinely every time, and only admitted to the conduct after being found out by outside groups after stonewalling.

            Can you give more details, or pointers to more details? I see that Carter Page is mentioned on the Wikipedia page for Horowitz, but what are the other examples (besides Trump)?

          • Clutzy says:

            @Alice

            Fox News journalist James Rosen’s phone records (and his parents phone records!) were seized in order to get a source, Stephen Kim. Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator in the investigation and had his international travel limited. Generals David Petraeus and James Cartwright were prosecuted for leaks after being publicly critical of administration decisions in war. In all at least 10 leakers to media about illegal conduct were indicted under Obama (Snowden being the most famous). The IRS targeted conservative groups via a codeword system, and “lost” records that would have been dispositive to intent. The DOJ and Treasury used their regulatory control over banking organizations to force banks like JP Morgan to cut ties with customers that had not violated the law, most prominent among these: Gun dealers and manufacturers. The DOJ (and EPA) used a controversial system known as “sue and settle” to sue politically disfavored companies and then funnel the settlement money to politically favored charities. This policy was recently repealed.

            And, of course the crown jewel is Crossfire Hurricane (and its predecessors which go back to at least 2015), where a full blown FBI/CIA/NSA joint operation spied on political opponents based nothing but political propaganda that had not been independently verified (so far as we know, and we usually know Democratic-favoring facts very quickly).

          • albatross11 says:

            Wasn’t Petreus fired for sharing classified information with his mistress/biographer?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The Obama administration had a shit record of going after whistleblowers, especially after promising to be the most transparent ever, and the press did minimal coverage of it.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Clutzy, thanks for the reply/info.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There’s been calls for Trump’s impeachment before his inauguration. And they didn’t stop when the Mueller report came out and said “Sorry boys, no Russian collusion”. So the new reason for impeachment doesn’t really move the needle.

        I suspect in a more normal administration, the Ukraine thing would definitely have been a scandal, but it wouldn’t have gone to impeachment quickly if at all, and might have affected electoral chances more. But the whole “Oh yeah we were going to impeach him over Russia, which didn’t happen, but now we’ve got Ukraine which totally did happen so we’ll impeach him over that” thing weakens the sting considerably.

    • teneditica says:

      a boyfriend or girlfriend who thinks that if they just scream and stomp their feet enough in a public place, they won’t get dumped.

      Probably the most embarassing thing NR has published trying not to look sexist yet.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I’m not following the impeachment stuff so this might be wildly off, but it seems to me that the Democratic strategy has to fail. Barring a recording of Trump doing something wildly illegal the Senate will reject it and the Ds will come across as losing. Is there some meta play here where independents are going to look at an impeachment inquiry that got no results as a positive for the Dems?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Maybe they’ll get something damaging enough to move the electorate. If they keep digging, maybe they’ll even get something that shocks the shriveled consciences of the Republicans in the Senate (and maybe the horse will learn to sing). But mostly, it helps them in their home districts where they can be seen as fighting the good fight against Trump.

        I think the most significant effect may be the damage done to Biden, which may give Trump his second term.

      • The Democratic strategy is to distract Trump from governing and his supporters from demanding he govern. It’s the same goal as the Russia investigation. They’ve done that beautifully. It’s sickening to watch as Trump supporters treat him staying in office as some kind of accomplishment.

        • cassander says:

          I don’t exactly disagree, but having someone in office who isn’t actively trying to destroy you (or things you value), even if he’s accomplishing nothing, is a huge win when the alternative is someone who is trying to destroy you.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Pretty much. Every day Hillary Clinton isn’t President is a gift from God, even if the unfortunate substitute is Donald J Trump.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Since my order of preference is anyone in office and not governing, someone in office and doing stupid things that aren’t all that harmful (e.g. the Wall), and someone in office raising taxes and tearing down entire sectors of the economy (Warren’s socialized medicine)… I’ll take it.

          Sure, I’d prefer someone in office governing well… but who ever heard of that happening?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Earlier, I didn’t support impeachment, because I felt that a failed impeachment would overall be more damaging than letting it sit. So if-ever impeachment was started, it had to be good enough to succeed, and it had to be good enough that his defenders (or enough of them) would realize the gig was up.

        But I’ve just become so weary. So, so weary, and worn out, and burnt out with all the crap.

        I remember back during Bill Clinton’s administration, when Bill betrayed me[1]. He said, to my face[1], that he didn’t do it, and I went with that, and it turned out he was lying to me[1]. I just couldn’t do it any more. I was done.

        And, while I still think a failed impeachment is damaging, I also realize that this can be weaponized against me. If a group (either the Senate Republicans or his populist supporters) just commits to defending him no matter what, then nothing can get over that hurdle, and literally anything goes, so fuck it. And the “defend no matter what” group also takes less dramatic solutions off of the table, since Trump can read those signals as easily as me and realize that he can get away with anything.

        [1] This wasn’t obviously personally to my face. But that is how I took it.

    • snifit says:

      Thank you for all the replies! I’ll revisit this in two weeks.

    • woah77 says:

      I feel an urgent need to point out that largely sterile mutations are not another sex. They’re a failure to produce a proper one. “2% of live births are genetically abnormal and might not properly develop sexual characteristics” is not an argument for sex being a spectrum.

      • mtl1882 says:

        I’m not sure if I’m right on this, and I’m afraid I’m going to phrase this too awkwardly, but my understanding is that each fetus has the structural potential to develop into either sex, with one path essentially activated by chromosomes as development continues. That is a very simplified version of it, but hopefully it is fairly accurate. In some of the ambiguous cases, especially related to chromosome abnormalities, features of both are present. So while most people fall on one side or the other, the two sexes are not, as I understand it, mutually exclusive. In this sense, it seems fair to say that something spectrum-like exists, even if most people are at the extremes. People may disagree on the significance of the small number of cases, but I think whether or not two categories are mutually exclusive matters quite a bit when we’re claiming we can enforce boundaries. I think of this a lot with regard to embryos and how they can split and recombine. These things are really complicated.

        • The Nybbler says:

          If it’s a spectrum, it’s more like an emission spectrum than a thermal spectrum. Two distinct bright lines, and just a bit of noise around and between.

          • mtl1882 says:

            Yes. I get that it can seem like mere quibbling about a few outliers. But that there can be overlap, such that the outliers are not just “dysfunctional” versions of one or the other, but actually contain elements of both, seems to be very crucial if we’re trying to act like the sexual dichotomy thing is just generally “obvious” and some rule of morality or nature. It is obvious enough that most people appear to be one or the other, and that the roles are generally complementary. But it seems more significant to me, philosophically, that there are people who actually have traits of both sexes than that there are people whose traits do not seem to match easily with either one. That coexistence seems like a red flag for investing a lot in a binary identity structure to the point of being offended by or dismissive of deviations from it. I realize that, socially and functionally, sex will matter a lot, and society will organize around it. But, particularly with controversial personal issues, I think it is important to be honest about the fact that it isn’t actually a dichotomy, even though most people reasonably assumed so for a long time and many still do. Reading old medical textbooks from the 1800s is very interesting with regard to this–most believed it was better, socially, to pretend the dichotomy was real, and lie to their patients. But that’s not the same as it being real, and they pretty early on accepted was false.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t deny the exceptions, but they are few. And most of them cluster pretty closely with the main lines — 47,XXY usually results in a slightly abnormal male phenotype, most of the time, 45,X a slightly abnormal female one, for instance. Being dismissive of exceptions is wrong, but it’s less wrong than being dismissive of the binary structure in the first place.

        • quanta413 says:

          I think whether or not two categories are mutually exclusive matters quite a bit when we’re claiming we can enforce boundaries.

          I don’t see why this makes much difference, when the bimodality is so strong. There’s no clear biological line that separates most categories that humans care about. There’s a clearer line here than for racial or cultural boundaries, but people enforce the hell out of those. Right wing people, left wing people, pretty much just all people. Racial and cultural boundaries maybe aren’t all well justified but almost everyone acts like they are. And then there are lots of categories with no natural boundaries relating to law etc. that people enforce all the time. And a good chunk of those with fairly good reason.

          • mtl1882 says:

            It depends on what type of enforcement. Yes, people will socially enforce sorting people into categories based on literally everything. It is certainly possible for exceptions to a dichotomy not to have much significance in the real world, as the model is “good enough” for most people on a practical level. I’m talking about people who tend to read more into things and who go for certainty. I’m talking about philosophical or religious arguments, or debates in which people are really assuming that there is some major significance attached to sex differences, or appealing to the fact that nature/God made two categories and put people in one of them. Sometimes these things influence law, etc., but they also just influence thinking patterns. Realizing that humans are complex in ways that we’d never imagine is a helpful thing to keep in mind.

          • quanta413 says:

            I don’t believe in God, and I admit those arguments are usually uninteresting to me but what I have read of Catholic arguments about natural law or Islamic rules about cases like intersex people makes me think they are actually very aware of the complexities and take them into account.

            Overall they appear to me to be more rigorous and careful than most secular stories that claim to be all about the nuance. There are more careful secular philosophers like Peter Singer, but Peter Singer reaches all sorts of uncomfortable conclusions on many topics that put him well outside the secular mainstream.

            Protestants of various stripes on the other hand, I’ve tended to find… wanting. Not that there aren’t good Protestant theologians or philosophers. I just think the average Protestant worldview tends to be less friendly to complex treatises. Which isn’t necessarily bad, since there are upsides to simpler or less explicit rules and encouraging people to make their own moral decisions.

            And law is heinously into particulars so I think it’s pretty inaccurate to claim that law happens to be into unreasonable certainty in this narrow area.

            So you leave me in the same place. I can think of bad examples but I can also think of good examples, and whether or not people take into account rare cases has little effect on the overall conclusions they reach about enforcing norms. It’s other commitments, beliefs, or ideas that seem to drive most of conclusions.

          • mtl1882 says:

            @quanta413

            I don’t believe in God, and I admit those arguments are usually uninteresting to me but what I have read of Catholic arguments about natural law or Islamic rules about cases like intersex people makes me think they are actually very aware of the complexities and take them into account…Overall they appear to me to be more rigorous and careful than most secular stories that claim to be all about the nuance

            Agreed. This is what was on my mind, but I figured I wouldn’t veer off into that direction if no one else would get my reference. I’m not religious either, but find it an interesting topic. Clearly, most leading Catholic and Islamic thinkers haven’t dismissed the idea of sex roles. But many feel no need to furiously assert the dichotomy and deny or even laugh off exceptions. Some do a good job, IMO, discussing nuances and at times reconciling difficult positions. While I know most people are not this sophisticated in their thinking, I feel like we insist on crude reasoning when we don’t have to do so. For example, getting stuck in the life does/does not begin at conception thing. Human life is created at conception, but how many humans that ends up being is dicey for quite a while, with the embryo able to split and recombine and all that. I think that is a pretty good hint that defining “personhood” at the embryo level is not a wildly obvious translation of God’s will. I’m not saying that a good argument can’t be put forth that takes this into account–religious thinkers have come down on both sides. But I think it is the sort of thing that forces a “stop and think” moment that we can generally use more of. And the crude reasoning occurs on all sides of the divide–I’m not calling out pro-lifers specifically at all, I just think this example is good because it is something that seems to have a clear dividing line, but turns out to be more complicated.

            Of course, on the secular side, people don’t even try to draw lines that hold up under scrutiny, but refuse to stop using it as a rhetorical technique. Maybe this is hard to do without a broader religious/philosophical grounding, but I don’t really have such a grounding and I find it manageable. I think of people like my grandparents were, pretty intelligent but not highly educated, practical in their approach to life, doing what makes sense and for the most part and having a live and let live approach. They assumed nature/God made two sexes, and they didn’t care that much if people expressed different beliefs, certainly not outside their own family, but they did assume there was something inherently “wrong” about going against what seemed like an obvious order of things. Not until late in life had they heard of intersex conditions, but once they did, it seemed to make quite a change in their perception. Nature/God wasn’t that scrupulous about drawing lines there–some things are complicated. They weren’t suddenly comfortable with gender fluidity, but they seemed to see it as something as foolish to try and control using broad rules, and made peace with that. I think a lot of people are capable of this attitude, and are happy once they realize they aren’t being asked to pretend to ignore an obvious line in the sand, even if they have their own personal set of lines.

            Protestants of various stripes on the other hand, I’ve tended to find… wanting. Not that there aren’t good Protestant theologians or philosophers. I just think the average Protestant worldview tends to be less friendly to complex treatises. Which isn’t necessarily bad, since there are upsides to simpler or less explicit rules and encouraging people to make their own moral decisions.

            Yes, this is a very interesting dynamic. Protestants intentionally broke with unified tradition/authority on these points, and therefore is just a different animal. When there are a bunch of sects breaking off, reconciling inconsistencies doesn’t need to happen. As you said, there are upsides and downsides. At this point, I don’t think many people in any religion in the U.S. spend much time on theology, so I’m not sure how much of an effect it has today. The freedom of choice and belief of modern America has kind of universalized the approach, I think.

            And law is heinously into particulars so I think it’s pretty inaccurate to claim that law happens to be into unreasonable certainty in this narrow area.

            I don’t have an issue with making laws relating to sex or gender, but I do have an issue with claiming to be merely codifying nature’s laws rather than making a choice to define things in a way that is workable in real life. We should keep in mind the difference. Man-made laws are inevitably *to some extent* arbitrary, and that is okay, *as long as we do not lose sight of it.*

            So you leave me in the same place. I can think of bad examples but I can also think of good examples, and whether or not people take into account rare cases has little effect on the overall conclusions they reach about enforcing norms. It’s other commitments, beliefs, or ideas that seem to drive most of conclusions.

            I agree that it is commitments/beliefs/ideas driving the show, but I think edge cases go a long way in establishing natural limits to many people’s sense of certainty in their ideas. There are a lot of prejudiced people who will point out, to much laughter and derision, that “there are some good ones” in whatever group they are prejudiced against. They notice that they are having trouble actually drawing a line, and it registers with them. Their bigotry is still dangerous, but probably not nearly so much as if their belief existed without a perception of the edge cases. The law very much gets involved with how things are classified and the nature of them, and keeps edge cases very much in mind. And I’m saying that is the best approach.

            Right now, we have very goofy simplistic discussions about things that were discussed with nuance by people alive in 1823, despite all their prejudices. People don’t need to act like simpletons to justify proposed limitations, shoehorning everything into their scheme. They can acknowledge the hard cases and make a slightly higher level argument. Whether they fail or succeed, it is the healthier approach for society, acknowledging that trade-offs will be made instead of claiming to codify existing reality. Thank you for your thoughtful response, and sorry for the ranting reply! It was helpful in clarifying my own thoughts.

          • mtl1882 says:

            @quanta413

            (My comment instantly disappeared–hope this does not duplicate)

            I don’t believe in God, and I admit those arguments are usually uninteresting to me but what I have read of Catholic arguments about natural law or Islamic rules about cases like intersex people makes me think they are actually very aware of the complexities and take them into account…Overall they appear to me to be more rigorous and careful than most secular stories that claim to be all about the nuance

            Agreed. This is what was on my mind, but I figured I wouldn’t veer off into that direction if no one else would get my reference. I’m not religious either, but find it an interesting topic. Clearly, most leading Catholic and Islamic thinkers haven’t dismissed the idea of sex roles. But many feel no need to furiously assert the dichotomy and deny or even laugh off exceptions. Some do a good job, IMO, discussing nuances and at times reconciling difficult positions. While I know most people are not this sophisticated in their thinking, I feel like we insist on crude reasoning when we don’t have to do so. For example, getting stuck in the life does/does not begin at conception thing. Human life is created at conception, but how many humans that ends up being is dicey for quite a while, with the embryo able to split and recombine and all that. I think that is a pretty good hint that defining “personhood” at the embryo level is not a wildly obvious translation of God’s will. I’m not saying that a good argument can’t be put forth that takes this into account–religious thinkers have come down on both sides. But I think it is the sort of thing that forces a “stop and think” moment that we can generally use more of. And the crude reasoning occurs on all sides of the divide–I’m not calling out pro-lifers specifically at all, I just think this example is good because it is something that seems to have a clear dividing line, but turns out to be more complicated.

            Of course, on the secular side, people don’t even try to draw lines that hold up under scrutiny, but refuse to stop using it as a rhetorical technique. Maybe this is hard to do without a broader religious/philosophical grounding, but I don’t really have such a grounding and I find it manageable. I think of people like my grandparents were, pretty intelligent but not highly educated, practical in their approach to life, doing what makes sense and for the most part and having a live and let live approach. They assumed nature/God made two sexes, and they didn’t care that much if people expressed different beliefs, certainly not outside their own family, but they did assume there was something inherently “wrong” about going against what seemed like an obvious order of things. Not until late in life had they heard of intersex conditions, but once they did, it seemed to make quite a change in their perception. Nature/God wasn’t that scrupulous about drawing lines there–some things are complicated. They weren’t suddenly comfortable with gender fluidity, but they seemed to see it as something as foolish to try and control using broad rules, and made peace with that. I think a lot of people are capable of this attitude, and are happy once they realize they aren’t being asked to pretend to ignore an obvious line in the sand, even if they have their own personal set of lines.

            Protestants of various stripes on the other hand, I’ve tended to find… wanting. Not that there aren’t good Protestant theologians or philosophers. I just think the average Protestant worldview tends to be less friendly to complex treatises. Which isn’t necessarily bad, since there are upsides to simpler or less explicit rules and encouraging people to make their own moral decisions.

            Yes, this is a very interesting dynamic. Protestants intentionally broke with unified tradition/authority on these points, and therefore is just a different animal. When there are a bunch of sects breaking off, reconciling inconsistencies doesn’t need to happen. As you said, there are upsides and downsides. At this point, I don’t think many people in any religion in the U.S. spend much time on theology, so I’m not sure how much of an effect it has today. The freedom of choice and belief of modern America has kind of universalized the approach, I think.

            And law is heinously into particulars so I think it’s pretty inaccurate to claim that law happens to be into unreasonable certainty in this narrow area.

            I don’t have an issue with making laws relating to sex or gender, but I do have an issue with claiming to be merely codifying nature’s laws rather than making a choice to define things in a way that is workable in real life. We should keep in mind the difference. Man-made laws are inevitably *to some extent* arbitrary, and that is okay, *as long as we do not lose sight of it.*

            So you leave me in the same place. I can think of bad examples but I can also think of good examples, and whether or not people take into account rare cases has little effect on the overall conclusions they reach about enforcing norms. It’s other commitments, beliefs, or ideas that seem to drive most of conclusions.

            I agree that it is commitments/beliefs/ideas driving the show, but I think edge cases go a long way in establishing natural limits to many people’s sense of certainty in their ideas. There are a lot of prejudiced people who will point out, to much laughter and derision, that “there are some good ones” in whatever group they are prejudiced against. They notice that they are having trouble actually drawing a line, and it registers with them. Their bigotry is still dangerous, but probably not nearly so much as if their belief existed without a perception of the edge cases. The law very much gets involved with how things are classified and the nature of them, and keeps edge cases very much in mind. And I’m saying that is the best approach.

            Right now, we have very goofy simplistic discussions about things that were discussed with nuance by people alive in 1823, despite all their prejudices. People don’t need to act like simpletons to justify proposed limitations, shoehorning everything into their scheme. They can acknowledge the hard cases and make a slightly higher level argument. Whether they fail or succeed, it is the healthier approach for society, acknowledging that trade-offs will be made instead of claiming to codify existing reality. Thank you for your thoughtful response, and sorry for the ranting reply! It was helpful in clarifying my own thoughts.

          • Jewish legal literature recognized four sexual categories: male, female, hermaphrodite, and tumtum. The last seems to have been someone whose genitals were not observable, so it wasn’t known if the person was male or female—nobody seems to be sure exactly what medical phenomenon it corresponded to.

            There were discussions of what the religious obligations of the last two were, given that males and females had different obligations.

          • quanta413 says:

            @mtl1882

            Thank you for your response. I don’t have much more to say.

            I agree that for people who haven’t thought about it much, the existence of exceptions can lead to some changes in their thinking.

            @David Friedman

            Thanks, that’s very interesting. I’m trying to understand what the tumtum category might correspond to although it sounds like from what you say, no one is 100% sure. I can’t think of any physical phenotype quite like that or at least not permanently like that, especially since hermaphrodite is already a category.

    • mdet says:

      I also saw this video, and thought that the meat of it — explaining various intersex conditions — was good, but the apparent thesis “this proves biological sex is a spectrum, not a binary” just obviously didn’t follow. In addition to what woah said, a “spectrum” implies the kind of continuous distribution where almost every individual is somewhat different from all the others: if you get 50 people in a room and examine the shape & size of their noses, you’ll get a wide variety and no exact matches. But with sex, there are two very specific, overwhelmingly common setups that together make up +98% of the population, and then 1~2% that are somewhat abnormal, often dysfunctional versions of the main two. Sounds like an imperfectly executed binary.

      • quanta413 says:

        “Sex is two big clusters, a bunch of little clusters, and a few harder cases” isn’t a very catchy title though.

        I think Jerry Coyne said “Human sexes are bimodal” which is about as catchy as your “imperfectly executed binary”.

      • A1987dM says:

        there are two very specific, overwhelmingly common setups that together make up +98% of the population

        That also applies to elections in the US — does that make Libertarian and Green and independent and Constitution voters “abnormal” or “dysfunctional”?

        • Another Throw says:

          That also applies to elections in the US — does that make Libertarian and Green and independent and Constitution voters “abnormal” or “dysfunctional”?

          Um, duh?

          They all systematically fail at the central purpose of a party so they are, like, the poster child of dysfunctional. And they are so abnormal that the only on of them that anybody even knows about keeps running on the Democrat ticket to try washing off the stink.

          But anyway, it is just a bad analogy.

          • albatross11 says:

            Minor political parties have a different goal than winning elections. Many people support third parties as a way of getting an otherwise-excluded set of ideas into widespread currency, while recognizing they’re not going to win any elections. The existence of a couple percent of voters who preferred Libertarians to Republicans or Greens to Democrats also offers a pretty clear opportunity to the major parties about a way they could increase their vote totals next time around.

            Indeed, the same happens with many presidential campaigns–I’d guess Andrew Yang knows he’s not going to win the Democratic nomination this year, but hopes to get the idea of UBI into the heads of a lot of people. Ron Paul ran for president on the Republican ticket many times; it was obvious he wasn’t going to win, but he got the chance to push back on the whole put-our-endless-wars-on-the-credit-card consensus, and that was worthwhile.

        • quanta413 says:

          As someone vaguely libertarian (at least compared to what we actually get), I agree that libertarian voters (which would include me around half the time) are definitely abnormal.

          And arguably, libertarian thought is almost guaranteed to be dysfunctional as far as winning elections as a political party a multiparty democracy. Taking it seriously pretty much locks you out of all the wheel-greasing and log-rolling that makes politics function.

          Maybe greens could be argued to be a potentially viable new mutant (although it looks pretty unlikely) since their ideology may be more compatible with politics and with government. Sort of like Republicans once were a potentially viable new mutant. And then they were one of the big two.

        • mtl1882 says:

          Right—they are certainly outliers, but it seems to me that if we’re trying to make good decisions about, for example, winning third party votes or in any way engaging with third party members politically, it matters quite a bit whether we conceptualize Libertarians and Greens as:

          1) Dysfunctional Democrats,
          2) Dysfunctional Republicans,
          3) Neither, or
          4) A Democrat-Republican “hybrid.”

          It seems silly to me to think of these people as “really” belonging to one of the major parties but somehow being mistaken about it, or malfunctioning in trying to carry out this membership. When something is broken, it can’t fulfill its intended purpose, but we don’t know the intended purpose of every person. They may agree more with one of the major parties, and benefit more from aligning with it, but for some reason or another, they are opting out.

          “Neither” is “playing a different game,” not being bad at being a Democrat or Republican. As is pointed out below, you can argue a third party’s goal is not winning an election, but influencing the election or the conversation, or various other things. They are arguably entirely separate entities, not some watered down version of a major party. Memorable third-party candidates tend not to be derivative–even if their beliefs are close to one party, they are big, quirky, individualistic personalities who are an ideology unto themselves.

          When people puzzle over all the independent/swing voters and what they must be thinking, we run into a similar issue. A lot of people will jump in and say most are defective partisans—they say they are independent, but always vote one way. This is a version of “they are really Democrats/Republicans, but something in them malfunctions and creates an impulse to show off and care more about projecting superior thoughtfulness, so they give the wrong answer.” I think this is a thing, but not a huge thing. I bet most of them do tend to vote consistently, but the fact that they are not comfortable committing suggests that perhaps something doesn’t sit right with them and if the other party were to play to that issue, they might “suddenly” shift.

          This wouldn’t be bizarre—I think a lot of people are like this. I do not think they are exact Democrat-Republican hybrids, moderates across the board, which is the other explanation commonly given. Some are, but I think most are an abnormal combination of strong stances that are split across parties. I don’t think this makes them a defective Democrat or Republican–the way things are arranged along partisan lines is by no means inherently correct or stable. They can’t really be “both” in this case because they do have to pick one party or the other in voting for a candidate, but they have traits of both. It is wrong to assume that, on an individual level, one belief is mutually exclusive with another just because they are held by different parties. They will have to pick one when they vote, but which party they pick may “suddenly” shift, because their other beliefs didn’t disappear. It’s not safe to assume they’re on one side only, and it’s generally not safe to conflate a “neither” with a hybrid. A neither is playing a different game altogether, and must be dealt with on those terms. They may not believe in participating at all, or they may be getting an insurgency together.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I don’t find that analogy compelling. For one thing, we have reasons to think that the sexes are natural kinds (chromosomal evidence, observation of other animals and even plants) that simply don’t apply to US politics. For another thing, turnout in US elections is generally between 50 and 60%, so Republican and Democrat voters can’t make up 98% of the population.

          Also, I think you’ve misunderstood the point about “abnormal” and “dysfunctional”. He wasn’t saying that the 1-2% are dysfunctional because they’re rare, but introducing that as an extra reason to treat them as an imperfectly executed binary.

          • mtl1882 says:

            @The original Mr. X

            I didn’t mean it as an analogy for the sexual binary—I know the discussion is mixed in so it is natural to draw that conclusion, but I didn’t mention sex in that post. It was intended as an objection to the characterization of the political system on its own terms. Democrat and Republican are completely man-made categories, *and* you actually do have to vote or register one way or the other, so you can’t be both simultaneously. But I was objecting to the idea that they are the only two options, and everyone else is a failed version of a partisan. In the original post, dysfunctional was defined as failing at the central purpose of the party, which in both cases is getting itself elected. Dysfunction, unlike abnormality, is defined by the idea that something has gone wrong by some standard. As you point out, a lot of people just stay home. Why would we generally define their functionality, or libertarians’, according to the priorities of the two major parties?

            Something may arguably be “wrong” here with nonparticipants, but it would seem to be relative to our general society/political system, not partisan identification. It is much easier to define sexual dysfunction, since you can point to reproduction as an “objective” natural purpose, but most kinds of sexual dysfunction occur among people who identify as men or women, and don’t indicate deviations from the binary arrangement. The existence of a tiny third group might indicate an imperfectly executed binary, but it could also mean a third group that exists on its own terms. The former can’t be assumed from numbers alone.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “Dysfunctional” generally implies that there’s something wrong in the thing itself, rather than that it’s simply unable to fulfil its function due to external circumstances or that it does something that someone else finds inconvenient. So a third party which has trouble gaining traction because the US electoral system tends to favour people grouping into two main parties, or a person who chooses not to vote, wouldn’t count as dysfunctional because they’re nothing actually wrong with them, they’re just in an environment that’s unconducive to achieving their goals (in the party example) or behaving in a way that’s inconvenient to party bigwigs (in the voter example).

            As for sexual dysfunction, the reason we have different sexes in the first place is because they’re necessary for reproduction. And I think that’s the main reason for considering hermaphrodites and the like to be the results of an imperfectly-executed binary rather than a third gender in their own right — the biological purpose behind males and females is pretty clear, but there’s no clear purpose for having intersex, hermaphrodites, etc. So there seems no plausible reason for human evolution to develop a third group that it exists on its own terms, whereas we do know that things sometimes go wrong in a developing person.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Note that fully functional hermaphrodites, capable of both impregnating and being impregnated, would qualify as a third gender. They exist in many species, but to my knowledge, humans have not produced such a thing.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I agree that “spectrum” is the wrong word, but I’m not sure what the best way of expressing “isn’t a simple bimodality” is.

      I believe the video as an argument against the idea that male and female are deep metaphysical truths, when they’re actually pretty contingent and an oversimplification.

      @mtl1882 comment

      I’m grateful for this– it’s a good explanation of problems with binary thinking. May I repost it to facebook?

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Does anyone know how much modern hunter-gatherers use ostracism? I don’t think we can find out about early hunter-gatherers, though I’ll grant there’s a possibility considering the trend of getting more and more information from surprisingly little data.

    The usual evo-psych model seems to assume it was a standard punishment, but it seems to me that it would be unlikely if a person was somewhat useful. Ostracism makes more sense if you have people to spare. Instead, I expect that a low-status person in a hunter-gatherer tribe would be steadily harassed– something like the way Sapolsky describes baboon behavior. I’m guessing, though.

    I’ve heard a story about Native Americans just abandoning leaders they don’t want, but I don’t know whether it’s true.

    • Erusian says:

      Ostracism and murder (or both, where a person is ritually ejected then killed after they lose group protection) appear to vary by culture, environment, and even immediate resource availability. Even among close related eskimo bands, the rates vary widely. I’m not aware if they actually investigated why that might be, though the study just chalked it up to a dearth of resources and called it a day.

      However, it’s widely agreed their threat is common and a mechanism of social control. Interestingly, this is not just low ranked people: it appears to be commonly employed against leaders as you describe. People do not like being dominated and overweening leaders can be ejected for basically that.

      Native Americans tended to be significantly more organized and complex than pure hunter-gatherer societies. It varies by case but usually when Native Americans abandoned a leader it was more like a king being abandoned by their nobles. The leader would still have a personal retinue but that was still a great reduction in power, capability, and prestige. Genghis Khan’s early life is an example of what that sort of abandonment looked like from the other side of the world: they still had servants and a home and all that but they were by no means important and had to retreat to sub-optimal land.

      It’s a matter of independence and a lack of coercive mechanism in that case. Those individual minor chiefs could leave without losing very much materially unless the major chief could punish them. And if most of the leader’s forces left then he was (by definition) losing that ability. Like medieval kings, great chiefs would spend a lot of their time warring against disobedient vassals.

  8. johan_larson says:

    Because of an accident with the temporal electrochromodynamic blah-blah from your earlier adventure in the year 1955, you are now trapped in a university library from the year 2010. You will remain trapped for four years. The library is fully stocked and empty of people, and your handlers have been able to provide you with everything required for basic life support for the four years.

    How do you spend this time?

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Basic life support in 2010 obviously includes Wifi, so…

    • Jaskologist says:

      I accidentally step on my glasses.

    • thasvaddef says:

      As it happens I did regularly trap myself in a university library in 2010.

      How I spent this time was reading lesswrong.

    • WashedOut says:

      I’d build a huge castle out of books, then sit up in my watchtower and teach myself Russian.

    • Rowan says:

      A fully stocked 2010s university library would naturally include computers and an internet connection, so I spend the time playing videogames, browsing reddit, and watching anime. The main difference from how I live now would be I feel less guilty about it due to being trapped, and I make a tonne of money off of bitcoin which I regretted not doing the first time through 2010-14.

  9. Incurian says:

    What are the design considerations/solutions/tactics for long range missile guidance in space (where long range means your target is in a very different orbit, is in the opposite part of the same orbit, or is orbiting a different body)? I’m thinking hours or days long travel time. Would we expect it to be easy to confuse the missiles by making lowish delta-v maneuvers that result in large trajectory changes, and then reversing the maneuver after the missile adjusts its course? What sort of maneuvers will be most effective for defeating missiles? Or do most engagement scenarios make it relatively easy for the missile to adjust course no matter what the target does? Or does the missile just have such a delta-v advantage that even good maneuvers are easy to match? What’s the long range space missile meta game? What sort of guidance algorithms should the missiles use, and what maneuvers should ships use to defeat them?

    • John Schilling says:

      Almost certainly this is going to be done the same way long-range missile attacks against moving targets are done on Earth – by periodic midcourse command updates, probably via encrypted tightbeam laser communication. Tracking targets across long range requires specialized sensors that you may find inconveniently large and/or expensive for a relatively small and expendable missile, and it particularly benefits from having multiple sensors looking at the same target from multiple angles. That’s not a job for a missile.

      So whoever does that job, collates the information and broadcasts an update to every in-flight missile every mumble minutes, saying “Ensure that your current course is X; activate your terminal guidance sensor at time Y and look for signature Z”.

      It’s possible that the platforms which do this could themselves be very missile-like. The Soviets used to (and Russia still may) have a trick for launching say twenty missiles at a distant enemy fleet, one of which would fly at high altitude so that it could track the fleet on radar. And in so doing make itself blooding obvious to anyone with a functioning air defense system, but until it gets shot down it is giving midcourse guidance updates to ninenteen missiles staying low and quiet. When #1 does get shot down, #2 climbs to altitude and takes over that role…

      • LesHapablap says:

        That sounds incredibly complex for Soviet era technology. These were cruise missiles? And autonomous? What kind of distances were they flying?

        • John Schilling says:

          Antiship cruise missiles, capable of autonomous operations with a range of 500-800 kilometers. First reported example entered service in 1975.

          • LesHapablap says:

            That’s incredible. I find those sorts of engineering challenges without modern computers pretty amazing. bean’s posts about early guided bombs comes to mind, as well as the Link trainer.

          • John Schilling says:

            Of course, these were never used operationally, so they might have just fallen apart in practice. Or exectuted a perfect coordinated missile swarm attack on an oil tanker twenty miles from the aircraft carrier they were supposed to hit. But just getting it to work in training exercises was a significant accomplishment, I agree.

            Third cite credits “a team of scientists and designers of Central Scientific Research Institute Granit headed by its General Director V.V. Pavlov, Hero of Socialist Labour”

  10. proyas says:

    In what ways is Canada a freer country than the U.S.?

    • Hypoborean says:

      The big one from a stereotypical American freedom aesthetic perspective is that our litigation system is less of a twisted mess so many more ‘risky’ things are still allowed. Examples include surfaces idiots could slip on but are reasonably safe and Kinder Eggs being sold in stores. The explanation I’ve heard explaining this from my friends in law school is that the Canadian legal system leans on the word “reasonable” in a lot of its statutes and empowers judges to throw out frivolous suits very early, and make the plaintiff pay for the defendant’s legal costs in especially egregious cases.

      The big one from a practical perspective is the healthcare system. It’s good enough for most things and you don’t have to worry about bad luck or a lost job + a minor ailment bankrupting you. Including time saved not wrestling with insurance, it’s a better deal for the bottom 80% of the income distribution, and the top 20% isn’t losing much since the US is less than 100 miles away (from all major population centers) if there’s something bespoke that you need.

      • Eri says:

        Wait, could you please elaborate on Kinder Eggs? Don’t they sell them in US?

        • AlphaGamma says:

          No, and in fact people have been fined for bringing them in from Canada in their luggage.

        • Hypoborean says:

          Kinder Eggs are banned for sale in the US because the toy inside “constitutes a choking hazard for children” or something to that effect.

          • Eri says:

            Wow. The only precaution with Kinder Eggs we have in our country is the label that says something in the lines of “contains small details that might be inhaled, not suited for children under three.” I’d never guess.

            Thanks for the explanation.

        • NTD_SF says:

          There is an egg-shaped Kinder product sold in the US, but it’s a Kinder Joy instead of a Kinder Surprise. Inside, one half of the plastic is filled with a chocolate spread, while the other half has a spoon and toy. It’s probably also worse chocolate – I found it too sweet even by the standards of American candy.

          • Eri says:

            I like both Kinder Surprises and Kinder Joys, and still buy them sometimes, even though I’m an adult now. I find them both okay. One the other hand, I’ve got a sweet tooth.

        • Garrett says:

          Food with inedible stuff inside of it is banned under Federal law.

    • johan_larson says:

      Canada scores marginally higher (freer) than the US on the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index. Canada is 8th; the United States is 12th.

      Canada also places higher (freer) on the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index. Canada is 5th; the United States is 17th.

      That’s a bit surprising, actually. I would have bet on Americans having more economic freedom, with Canada having the edge, if anywhere, in personal freedom. But I’ll take this excuse to celebrate. Woo! Canada, fuck yeah!

      • teneditica says:

        This shows once again that DC libertarians can’t be trusted.

        From wikipedia:

        Internet providers have laws against hate messages and if sites violate these terms they become shut down. Bernard Klatt was the owner of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) named Fairview Technology Centre Ltd in Oliver, British Columbia. In 1998, Klatt was identified as a host of multiple websites associated with hate speech, neo-Nazi organizations, the Toronto-based Heritage Front, the World Wide Church of the Creator, and the French Charlemagne Hammerhead Skinheads. Local businesses, schools, students and government agencies had easy access to the racist sites because Fairview Technology was their service provider. The Hate Crimes Unit established by the government in British Columbia examined the complaints against Fairview, and required Fairview to accept full legal liability for the material on the sites; Klatt then sold the Internet service to another company.[13]:259

        • Ketil says:

          and the French Charlemagne Hammerhead Skinheads

          All right, that caught my interest. The Internet only appears to know about this from two books by the same author, from which the Wikipedia text is lifted almost verbatim. Surely, this is merely the invention of some deranged mind?

      • NTD_SF says:

        The major difference in economic freedom is a measure they’re calling ‘fiscal health.’ It doesn’t seem to be explained or defined on their site. That’s one of the reasons I always dislike these sort of country-measurement things. I was actually surprised by how much information Heritage included, usually all you can see is a ranking.

        • Protagoras says:

          Ah, so they’re deficit hawks. Canada seems to have a substantially lower national debt. Which seems to me like a stupid thing to include in “economic freedom,” but as usual they can’t resist including their favorite hobby horses.

          • Garrett says:

            Deciding that debt is equivalent to deferred taxation (if taxation counts negatively) doesn’t strike me as a terrible idea. Although more formalism would be nice.

        • Machine Interface says:

          As seen from Europe, Canada does seem freer on the protectionist angle, much more willing to sign trade agreements with various countries in the same time as the US renegate on existing agreements and impose new tarrifs like there’s no tomorrow.

          • Noah says:

            That seems like you’re measuring the rate of change of protectionism, as opposed to the actual level of protectionism in place.

    • Tenacious D says:

      The culture is more easy-going in certain ways. So adding on to @Hypoborean’s point about the litigation system, there is also less of a cultural tendency to resort to the law. I haven’t checked the numbers, but I expect the number of police per capita is lower*; they are certainly less militarized. If it actually comes to asserting your rights or defending yourself in court, you have more guarantees in the U.S., but being less likely to be in such a situation to begin with is going to benefit the average person.

      Another point to consider is that the federal government is relatively weak, resulting in a lot of local control. It’s pretty routine for provincial premiers to be elected with basically a mandate to challenge the federal government on some point or other, for example.

      *In rural parts of the prairies, police response times often exceed an hour. Farmers and other residents are frustrated that all the police can do about theft is help fill out insurance claims. There have been some infamous cases recently where landowners have faced lawsuits or charges for firing [what they claimed were] warning shots that [ricocheted or had a hangfire and] injured or killed trespassers/attempted thieves.

  11. The Pachyderminator says:

    I’ve just flipped through Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith’s comic book argument for open borders. One thing I noted: after addressing a variety of arguments against immigration (including ones related to economics, culture, crime, and the IQ gap), Caplan turns to the question of how likely open borders are to actually get enacted. He mentions, as a reason for pessimism/skepticism that anything will change, that we (the USA) don’t even have open borders with Canada. Caplan asserts that there’s no reason for this at all, just inertia and political apathy. It’s rare for Bryan Caplan to deny outright that any arguments against his favored policy even exist. Does anyone here want to dispute this? Why shouldn’t the United States have an open border with Canada?

    • quanta413 says:

      I can see how there’s no good reason that’s relevant at this moment.

      The best counterargument I can come up with is that once you open a border, closing it may not be easy. There’s no guarantee Canada and the U.S. will remain on friendly terms forever or that the biggest security hole will be the southern border of the U.S. It’s hard to see how this would change in the next few decades but it’s possible. Maybe a terrible pandemic occurs and starts spreading through Canada. You’re going to want to lock the border down tight and quarantine any recently arrived Canadians, and that’s going to be harder if you’ve let people move completely freely back and forth for decades and stopped checking who is crossing at checkpoints.

      It seems farfetched, but I also don’t think the border between the U.S. and Canada is causing much damage either. On the other hand, I also doubt the current U.S. government would enforce serious quarantine procedures in time in the event of a pandemic even if they could, so my scenario is probably moot.

      • Hypoborean says:

        FWIW current thinking on how to deal with a pandemic doesn’t involve sealing any borders because (a) people travel so much by air it will have hopped the border long before you decide to close it, (b) closing the border messes up global supply chains of the medical equipment we’d need to fight the pandemic that is, at that point, already inside our borders, and (c) if you keep the border open but aggressively screen people coming it it would be easier to catch infected people than fully closing the border and having to worry about people sneaking into the country anyways.

        (At least according to some people at the CDC that the podcast Science Versus got to interview)

        • (a) people travel so much by air it will have hopped the border long before you decide to close it

          This assumes a single infection means more infections don’t matter. A real pandemic(as opposed to the media’s “swine flu pandemic”) is pretty unlikely, but my hope is people won’t listen to these experts if it does.

          https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/disaster-in-the-south-pacific/

          • Hypoborean says:

            If you can actually stop 100% of infected people entering the country, that’s obviously the preferred solution. However, seeing as the US does not and likely never will have that capacity, the expert consensus is the “best practices accounting for realistic constraints.”

            Note that, for example, (c) is designed to catch as many infected people at the border as possible, using quarantine periods to clear people coming from high-risk areas as necessary.

            Basically, I think this is a case of the expert consensus arguing against the equivalent of an immune system overreaction since they see and worry about that, and them not realizing that so many people don’t think about this that an under reaction (not increasing screening at the borders) is even possible.

            Also note that the most recent horrific disease that emerged was essentially frozen in its tracks because the Western world was willing to deploy military + medical personnel to isolate it at its source, and now we have a vaccine for it so future outbreaks are less dangerous.

            …the comment thread on the West Hunter blog post that you linked hasn’t exactly aged well, seeing as the “liberal” response to Ebola worked.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think he meant to link to this one.

            It has held up fine–Cochran correctly pointed out that ebola wouldn’t spread far in American conditions, but that you could reduce the number of American medical workers who got it by reducing the number of people with ebola who were let in. He’s also right that if there were a super-contagious highly-lethal disease, we’d need to stop all traffic in from infected regions. Though realistically, we probably couldn’t, and so we’d have a whole lot of deaths.

        • quanta413 says:

          Alexander Turok’s answer about (a) is true although it’s possible for a pandemic to be so bad that you should abandon all hope of containing it. At that point though, you’re screwed no matter what you do. But usually the less people you have entering the country and the better you track who is entering, the more chance you have of getting potential carriers isolated, finding who they came into contact with and isolating them, etc.

          But I don’t think (b) makes sense, and I think (c) is practically equivalent to “we’re going to close the border if it’s warranted” but said in a manner to avoid causing a negative response.

          For (b), it’s possible to import critical goods while sealing the border against the free movement of people although depending on the level of safety you need it may make things significantly more expensive and lower the volume of imports. But that’s ok, because most imports are not as critical as not having 1-10% (or god forbid more) of the population die. Other countries aren’t trying to spread the pandemic. Everyone is invested in each country clearing the pandemic as quickly as possible and invested in not letting the pandemic spread. I also have difficulty believing the stock of medical supplies doesn’t outstrip the window you need to cover while you rearrange import procedures.

          (c) only makes sense if you’re not going to have an open border. Not all infections can be easily detected with a quick test at all stages of infection. If the infection has an incubation period, then “aggressive screening” means you’d have to quarantine anyone coming in for however long the incubation period is before letting them cross or do some incredibly invasive screening of their recent health status (which is risky, difficult, and so time consuming anyways that you should probably just follow quarantine procedures). The border is all but closed if everyone who wants to cross has to wait in isolated quarantine for a week while their health is monitored.

          And it’s going to be a lot easier to impose the necessary quarantine procedures at the crossing if you kept your border checkpoints and border patrol well staffed and maintained.

          • Hypoborean says:

            You’re assuming a lot more sensibility on the part of the “close borders” crowd than actually exists though. Remember that in 2014 we had Donald Trump screaming to “Let zero people from Africa into America”, not “Make sure everyone coming from countries with proven infections clears quarantine.” And that was when <5,000 people had died. Think about how loud that perspective is going to be if the global death toll crosses one million, heading for tens of millions.

            (c) is the right way to reduce infections crossing the border, and makes much more sense than the actual commonly proposed (representative example, not strawman) "slam the border shut and let zero people through" approach.

            Slam the border shut taken to max would also suggest stopping trade, since you wouldn't want to risk your border personnel interacting with crewmembers of foreign trade ships, hence the relevance of (b). For one example, most of the US's IV bags are currently made in Puerto Rico [which is technically part of the US but you and I both know would end up on the wrong side of a hard quarantine wall if one was imposed].

          • albatross11 says:

            quanta:

            I’d expect the quarantine thing to happen if there were a sufficiently scary contagious disease circulating. Though it’s quite possible that it would be done too late, or otherwise mishandled. My sense is that the US public health people are quite competent, but our political leadership is mostly pretty lousy.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Hypborean

            The original question was “Are there any good arguments for not having open borders” where open borders means “no border controls” or close enough as to make no difference. The context is a book by Bryan Caplan who is extremely strident about these things. Caplan claimed there are literally no good arguments for not having an open border with Canada. That’s crazy talk.

            What Donald Trump or Trumpists thinks isn’t relevant.

            (c) is slightly nicer than complete closure, but if you have to hold people in quarantine for a week (or a month!), total border crossings are going to be extremely limited. The normal number of trips Canadians make to the U.S each year is in the millions. If every entrance requires a one week stay in an isolation unit (much less a month), that millions is going to decline precipitously. My guess is by 99% or more. There isn’t enough space prepared to isolate many people, and almost no one is going to take a vacation that first requires a one week stay in isolation. So almost all vacations are out. Almost all business trips are out. Only extremely limited travel would occur.

            Cutting travel by orders of magnitude and holding anyone attempting to enter under quarantine as long as necessary is closer to sealing the border completely than leaving it open.

            (c) is the right way to reduce infections crossing the border, and makes much more sense than the actual commonly proposed (representative example, not strawman) “slam the border shut and let zero people through” approach.

            (c) scales almost arbitrarily close to a full lockdown (depending on how long the quarantine period is, etc.). The idea that incentives to cheat are too strong and you can’t stop the cheaters if you fully lockdown, but incentives to cheat aren’t a big deal and you can stop all the cheaters if you only hold the few people still allowed through in an isolation unit for a week(s) is nonsense. If you think cutting the number of border crossings by however many orders of magnitude it takes and tacking on however many weeks of quarantine it takes is a reasonable precaution, it makes no sense to think that just slamming the border shut is impossible and won’t be effective at stopping pandemic spread. If you can’t slam the border shut, then you can’t manage to cut travel by orders of magnitude and hold who is left in quarantine either.

            Slamming the border shut is not as nice (since now no specialists are traveling out to help people where the pandemic is) and in many cases would be an overreaction (lots of diseases can’t be transmitted without close contact), but it’s still effective.

            @albatross11

            Eh… maybe. I agree our political leaders would be lousy at this (except in so much as they succeed by accident for reasons like “They like closing borders for other reasons”), but I’m not sure whoever is holding the reins at the CDC could be relied on. Even if they’re mostly good, it’d only take one bad boss at the wrong time. And there hasn’t been a serious widespread contagious pandemic in the U.S. for so long (HIV was widespread in one sense but not in the way I’m thinking; it was too highly concentrated in some groups), that I expect a lot of American people would underreact to a pandemic which could screw everyone if the people who think it’s no big deal manage to remove a competent CDC head who made the right choice.

    • CatCube says:

      Does anyone here want to dispute this? Why shouldn’t the United States have an open border with Canada?

      People asking things like this is something I find completely baffling. The United States has an absolute right to control its borders and who comes in. This is our house. What on earth is the federal government for if it’s not securing the nation? Hard to do that if you’re not keeping track of who’s coming in.

      • teneditica says:

        Open Borders doesn’t mean that the government can’t keep track of who’s coming in, just that it lets everyone in, unless there’s a really good reason. That the US has a right to control its borders and who comes in doesn’t mean that it has to exercise this right and prevent people from coming in for no reason.

        • Hypoborean says:

          The difference is, apparently most people think “we don’t want to let you in” is “a reason”, not “no reason.”

      • Garrett says:

        The flip side is that the country most likely to object is Canada. They’re more worried about guns coming across the border, and the healthcare system would have to figure out how to manage with US insurance or something.

    • Hypoborean says:

      Echoing CatCube’s point socially / politically. This sort of argument is dead obvious but also registers as NaN to libertarians like Bryan Caplan because they endorse “there’s no such thing as a society” arguments on steroids. If you don’t believe me, look at his borderline-farcical writing on the subject (https://www.econlib.org/the-berlin-wall-in-or-out/, https://www.econlib.org/the-berlin-cage-a-dialogue/) and note that he endorses the rights of Home Owner’s Associations restricting entry to a neighbourhood but not a government restricting entry to a country. Libertarian anti-government bias is rotting his brain on this topic (and I like his writing on a lot of other things!)

      But, if you want to get down to economic brass tacks, the reason why America doesn’t have an Open Border with Canada is very obvious: Canada lets in 350,000 people a year from around the world (a mix of government’s best estimate of economically-optimal level of high skilled immigration and the private sector requesting visas for people they’ve already made job offers to). If these high skilled immigrants could move to the US instead, many of them would, so Canada would respond by letting in more high skilled immigrants until immigration to Canada again reached the Canadian-economic-optimum. This would massively increase immigration to the US.

      Yes, most of it would be high-skilled, and it would almost certainly be beneficial, but it would also be scary, uncontrolled, and foreign. All obvious reasons not to do so, for anyone with a sense of healthy sense of risk aversion.

      • ana53294 says:

        Open borders absolutely don’t mean that people who aren’t citizens of the countries that have open borders can easily move in legally. It doesn’t mean that in the EU, and wouldn’t mean it in the US’ case.

        Sure, Canadian visa holders could move illegally, but the same thing that prevents them from coming to the US with a visa and overstaying would prevent them from doing so.

        Illegal immigrants only have access to illegal, i.e. terrible, unsafe, and back breaking jobs. A doctor in Canada won’t come to the US to work as a maid or a field worker in the US. Canada isn’t that poor*, and the US isn’t that rich.

        Legal immigrants from Canada would only include Canadian citizens, as it does in the EU. In the EU, only citizens have a permanent right to settle in another country, as opposed to the right to move. Yes, a permanent resident in France, or somebody that has a French visa, can go to Spain for a week to visit Barcelona without an additional visa. But the permanent resident doesn’t have the right to settle in Spain (unless they happen to be a EU citizen or a spouse thereof).

        *For countries that are, like Cuba, this does actually happen.

        • TakatoGuil says:

          Sure, Canadian visa holders could move illegally, but the same thing that prevents them from coming to the US with a visa and overstaying would prevent them from doing so.

          Overstaying a visa is the number one entry method for illegal immigrants in the US.

          • ana53294 says:

            Yes, it is. But these people chose to immigrate to Canada, and jump through the hoops in Canada.

            As easy as emigrating to Canada may be, it sounds implausible to me that getting a work visa for Canada would be easier than getting a tourist visa for the US.

            I may believe that a Canadian tourist visa holders could cross the border to the US, and then overstay his visa. I find it harder to believe that a work visa holder would overstay in the US.

            And, as the Canadian work visa holders are mostly quite qualified workers, that kind of job can’t be done illegally. Isn’t it better to be a doctor in Canada than a maid in the US?

        • Hypoborean says:

          Isn’t this a Motte and Bailey on the phrase “Open Border”?

          If you have literally zero border checks on the US/Canada border, it’s pretty easy for immigrants to Canada to work for a US company in the US but be paid “in Canada”, legally.

          • ana53294 says:

            I don’t think it’s motte and bailey.

            In the world, the most open borders there are are inside the EU, for intra-EU. Sure, these borders may not be exactly like the platonic ideal of open borders, but the EU free movement of people is the most achievable thing we have done when it comes to open borders.

            Somebody who gets paid in Canada would be paying Canadian taxes, would be sending kids to Canadian schools, would get Canadian medical insurance, etc. Even if they frequently travel to the US for work meetings, they would still be living in one country. The IRS could trivially found such tax fraud, and companies would not like to be in trouble with the IRS.

            As I said, well paid jobs like engineers and doctors are resource intensive and can’t be done illegally. Such shady and illegal methods won’t work big-scale.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Open borders absolutely don’t mean that people who aren’t citizens of the countries that have open borders can easily move in legally.

          It’s definitely what Caplan means by it; see his book.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Hypoborean banned for one month. Please make at least a little effort to keep your arguments object-level and not talk about how bias is rotting other people’s brains.

    • There are two main arguments I see:

      1. There is a sense that as soon as you concede this, Caplan will scream “and that just proves how RACIST” you are. That may not be fair, as he being a libertarian is a different breed from the liberal open borders activist.

      2. There’s a mutual admiration coalition between blue America and Canada, and so there’s understandable hostility to the idea of letting Canadians freely migrate.

      I don’t think this attitude is strategically wise, as there is nothing historically pre-ordained to create such a coalition. And the border with Canada does have some harmful effects. In my company we have a Canadian co-worker who we are allowed to work with when he’s in Canada. When he comes to America, he’s only allowed to meet with us, not work with us, and the border officials try to catch him with their stupid “gotcha” game. That kind of thing is completely pointless and pushes intelligent people into the arms of the globalists. I say America, Canada, and Britain should reunite. We can throw out our “living” constitution, Canada can throw out that ugly leaf flag, and, as soon as the Queen dies, Britain can throw out the royals.

      • Hypoborean says:

        America would need about 700% more chill on the federal level for Canada to even consider merging. AKA, we’d need at a minimum an arrangement that let us keep our healthcare system the way it was, ensured that we aren’t on the hook for America’s out of control deficit, and let Quebec keep being obstinately French.

        And honestly, once we did that the main difference would be getting Canada to spend a reasonable amount on its military, which is something I think we absolutely should do but most Canadians disagree with me for the hard to argue against reason of “why bother, America’s right there.”

        • albatross11 says:

          There’s a huge difference between:

          a. Eliminating all or most border checks at a peaceful border–something we could do with Canada pretty easily, I think.

          b. Eliminating immigration controls with Canada, so anyone could come to the US from Canada to live and work.

          Either one could be done, but they’re quite different policies.

    • Clutzy says:

      Probably the #1 reason is bureaucratic necessity. There are many people who are allowed to travel to the US/Canada via passport or VISA, but are not supposed to stay long term. If you want to illegally immigrate to America, you just “vacation” in Toronto, then hop on over to the US, and viola, you’ve disappeared.

    • onyomi says:

      If two countries agree to have open borders between them they end up de facto having the immigration policy of the more liberal of the two (or the most liberal possible combination of the two) vis-a-vis the rest of the world. A pro if you share Caplan and Weinersmith’s view about universal desirability of open borders but a con if you don’t.

    • blipnickels says:

      Well, there’s the pretty obvious thing where the people around you are a pretty big impact in your life, so you kind of want a say in who’s around you and that extends to politics/policy, which immigration pretty clearly influences.

      Did Caplan lay out the legal challenges behind open borders with Canada? Like, I’m no legal expert, but I’m pretty sure the US allows dual citizenship and quick google search pointed to it being a Supreme Court decision, Afroyim v Rusk. So wouldn’t open borders with Canada not create more Americans but instead a ton of Canadian-Americans, because why would you give up Canadian citizenship if you didn’t have to? And how would that work? Like, how would 5-20 million new Canadian-American voters affect things? How do taxes work, especially with FACTA? How do the various entitlement programs interact? Can sick Canadians living in Seattle return to Canada for medical care? Does Canada even still exist in a few generations because with birthright citizenship everyone who gets US citizenship automatically passes it onto their kids, even if they return to Canada, right? How does Canada feel about this?

      Maybe I’m wrong on this, but it seems like there’s a ton of practical problems Caplan would need to address first. And solving those practical problems would involve either Canada or the US, or both, to dramatically change their current laws and policies. Which kind of gets back to the current situation where both populations don’t want their laws and policies changed in that way and maybe they should be left alone to do as they wish.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Does Canada even still exist in a few generations because with birthright citizenship everyone who gets US citizenship automatically passes it onto their kids, even if they return to Canada, right?

        Not quite right. Birthright citizenship means that if you are born in the US you are a US citizen, with certain narrowly defined exceptions (the only one that applies to anyone today is children of foreign diplomats).

        A child born to a US citizen parent outside the US is not necessarily a US citizen- it depends on whether, and for how long, the US citizen parent has lived in the US.

        In general, while these practical problems may exist, other sets of countries with open borders (such as the EU, or the UK and Ireland even before the EU) have solved them.

    • Aapje says:

      Why shouldn’t the United States have an open border with Canada?

      Some reasons (from a US perspective):
      – An open border allows criminals to take advantage. For example, by fleeing to Canada.
      – You can get an undesired waterbed effect. For example, if Canada cracks down on certain negative behavior more than the US, Canadians can migrate to the US to take advantage of the laxer rules. If the US taxes certain groups more, they can more easily evade those taxes by moving to Canada. Or Canadian homeless can move for climate reasons, burdening the US/Californian welfare system.
      – You lose control over migration policy. Whomever Canada allows in, is allowed into the US.
      – Migration dilutes/changes culture (of course, the US is already a very culturally diluted place)
      – You lose some control over labor-supply (for example, my country has for a long time restricted the number of doctors by limiting the number of people getting to study medicine, to prevent oversupply of doctors).
      – The resulting migration can burden certain regions. For example, if open borders causes lots of Canadian programmers to move to SV, it can drive up the housing prices even more.
      – Open borders can make it easier for Canadians to influence US politics, for example by protesting in Washington, making it seem like more American favor that cause than actually do.
      – Open borders can contribute to overtourism.
      – Open borders = more travel = more pollution.
      – Open borders = more travel = more pandemic risk.
      – Open borders can make it easier for people/globalists to form international bubbles, driving people in the country apart.
      – Taxation issues you get with having people live/work in multiple countries.

      • JPNunez says:

        Why wouldn’t you want an oversupply of doctors?

        Are (IIRC) dutch (or American in this case) people too healthy?

        Maybe you guys are tired of grandpa living so long and just want him to expire already?

        • Doctors are high status experts and we want to be seen as respecting high status experts. So the number of new males M.D.s fell by 40% since the 1970s.(See https://www.econlib.org/archives/2013/03/the_high_price.html) I see three explanations:

          1. The pool of men who could potentially be doctors has declined due to some unexplained fall in capability within that pool.

          2. The men in that pool are equally capable, but are now turning away from a high-paying, high-status job in search of greener pastures elsewhere.

          3. Insiders are colluding to restrict supply.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Isn’t the obvious reason (4) There are more female MDs taking up places that would otherwise go to men?

          • Statismagician says:

            ^This. Specifying male doctors, especially over this time period, is nonsensical given the stated arguments.

        • MorningGaul says:

          It’s the same in France (with current push from the government to remove the quota), and here are my guess (supplemented by wikipedia) at to why:

          -Effective lobying by the doctors: the less they are, the more important and the larger their market share.

          -A strong culture of government planning, because you wouldn’t, in fact, want an oversupply of doctors.

          -A fear of runaway cost for the socialized healthcare system. The state fixes the minimum price of a doctor appointment, and reimburse most of it (some can charge extra, but with, i believe, reduced reimbursment rates). If you have more doctors appointments (which could be possible if you have more doctors), your system -which was already bleeding money until recently, when it started to lower investments- have to reimburse more appointments.

          -Keeping the cost of the (almost entirely paid by the state too) medical university down, by limiting the number of students.

        • Aapje says:

          @JPNunez

          There are indications that medicine expands to keep doctors busy*. So fewer doctors may help to control costs.

          We may be over-treating quite a few people. Fewer doctors may reduce this issue.

          Also, doctors need costly and demanding training, that burdens the health system (note that Scott had trouble finding a residency spot, because he was a burden on the system, like all doctors that still lack practical training)**.

          * In the case of the US, with over-treatment of those with good insurance and the rich, even as those without insurance are under-treated (although even then in a very costly way, as many seem to use very expensive emergency care and don’t get treated for easily solved problems).

          ** This is not a reason against migration from a country where doctors don’t need remedial training, but is a reason for education quota’s. Note that being dependent on supply from other countries is risky, as the country may make policies that drop the supply to zero or even cause doctors to remigrate.

          Maybe you guys are tired of grandpa living so long and just want him to expire already?

          I very much doubt that a meaningful number of Dutch grandpas die way too soon because of a lack of doctors.

    • INH5 says:

      Canada doesn’t want to import America’s Southern border illegal immigration problem. There are other reasons, but that’s the big one.

    • DinoNerd says:

      It’s notable that in my lifetime, Canada had a mostly open border with the US. There were border checks, but you didn’t need a passport – any ID card would do – and it was normal for Canadians to drive from Canadian point A to Canadian point B through the US, sometimes with plenty of stuff that would be dutiable if it were staying in the US. And in my parents’ generation, Canadians moved to the US on the drop of a hat, with little or no impediment – at least if they were white.

    • John Schilling says:

      Why shouldn’t the United States have an open border with Canada?

      Because then it has approximately Canada’s immigration laws with the rest of the world, and Americans as a whole aren’t up for that. And for that matter, it’s not clear that Canadians are up for that.

      There are probably an order of magnitude more people in the world whose first-place choice of where to move is the United States, then Canada. But it is generally easier to immigrate to Canada. So if it is known that one can immigrate to Canada and then just hop over to the United States, lots of people are going to do that instead of trying to immigrate to the United States directly. And if Canada decides that it’s multicultural society requires 300,000 new immigrants per year, but expects than 90% of the people who show up aren’t going to stick around, they have to issue three million visas every hear and hope they got that percentage right.

      It doesn’t take much border and immigration control to prevent all this mess, but it takes more than none.

    • Tenacious D says:

      I want to dispute the point about inertia. As @DinoNerd alludes to, the Canada-U.S. border is getting less open than it used to be. For example, my grandmother was a Canadian citizen and resident but attended high school in the U.S. because it was closer. More recently, (until after 9/11 when it became more of a hassle to cross) residents of Canadian border communities used to think nothing of crossing the border for something as simple as filling up their car’s gas tank at a lower tax rate.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        In the 80s and 90s I would cross the US-Canadian border without thought. I have less occasion to try recently, but I have not bothered (even when presented with the opportunity) in the past 20 years.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I’m not really impressed with any of the arguments against open borders between US and Canada. I’d like to see it somewhat like the EU, although I suppose that wouldn’t be possible without some over-arching treaties between the two countries to resolve immigration, health care, guns, etc.

      But really, the problem is that it is becoming HARDER to go between the countries. You used to just need a US driver’s license to travel into Canada, but now you need to use a passport. Why the heck has it gotten harder? I suppose it is mostly because of terrorism paranoia, much like TSA theater. I just wish people would get over it.

      And I’ve heard these extra difficulties are a really big deal for those who live close to the border. It doesn’t bother me too much because I don’t have much cause to go into Canada. But I’ve heard that up in northern Minnesota they have lots of folks who actually live and work in different countries, and also folks shop at each others’ stores, etc. I am kind of curious how this works in more urban areas by the border, such as Detroit/Windsor or Niagara/Niagara.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I am kind of curious how this works in more urban areas by the border, such as Detroit/Windsor or Niagara/Niagara.

        I recently crossed the Niagara/Niagara border at the Rainbow Bridge; it was easy. Yes, you need a passport, but that’s a once-every-ten-years difficulty. I came back through Buffalo; that crossing had more of a wait, but if you do it regularly you can sign up for the NEXUS thing where you demonstrate to both countries you’re a good and loyal clone who would never exceed your security level citizen, there’s a fast track; there’s also a NEXUS-only crossing just north of the tourist-focused Rainbow Bridge.

        The crossings which accept commercial vehicles looked horrible though, with trucks backed up for miles.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      I’m not sure why the U.S. shouldn’t have an open border with Canada, but shouldn’t Canada, given their relatively higher level of social services, bar entry to U.S. citizens? Isn’t healthcare/tax arbitrage the biggest reason against open borders outside of demographic arguments?

  12. Let’s say the liberal democracies of the world decided they want to divest themselves from China as much as possible, mainly for political purposes(as opposed to more narrow economic concerns like balance of trade and effects on the labor market). What’s the best way to do that?

    • Hypoborean says:

      Probably make a credible commitment to long-term pushing trade to zero. Slowly ramp up trade barriers, starting low but automatically increasing over time and eventually reaching insane levels, to allow time for factories to migrate to other low-manufacturing-cost countries? Combined with trade treaties the destination replacement countries that helped give those countries preferred market access in exchange for reforms that allowed them to scale up their manufacturing sectors faster.

    • Lambert says:

      Massive investment in India, Bangladesh etc.
      Start a neocolonial Great Game in Africa.

  13. GearRatio says:

    How does my carbon footprint shrink or grow if I buy a car new and run it until it wears out right to the junkyard as compared to buying cars at 100-130k miles and running them until a similar death?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Your own footprint will likely be higher, as older cars are less efficient, but provided someone’s going to run that car into a junkyard, I don’t think it matters globally. The people using only the end-of-life of cars are balanced by the people buying cars new and selling them before end-of-life.

      • Well... says:

        older cars are less efficient

        That depends. A 1987 Toyota Corolla (avg. ~37mpg) is more efficient than a 2013 Corolla (avg. ~31 mpg). I know because I owned both — in the same city, with roughly the same amount of driving and the same split of highway to city driving — and kept track of my gas mileage.

        Also, as they age some cars tend to run into problems that reduce their efficiency and increase their carbon footprint while others tend to run into problems that are unrelated to these things. I got rid of my 87 Corolla because it became structurally unsound from all the rust; mechanically it was in great shape. A lot of modern cars have engines that are not designed to run much over 100k miles, but their bodies are manufactured in a way that resists rust and those types of problems far better than older cars did.

      • Well... says:

        Separate idea: is there anything to be said for the way new cars are sold (transported to dealerships where they sit on big paved lots) vs. used cars (either following a similar dealership model, or being sold person-to-person via stuff like Craigslist)? Seems like the dealership method would be more carbon-intense, but maybe I’ve got that backward.

        • GearRatio says:

          I think in Nybbler’s mental model, SOMEBODY has to have the car delivered to the dealership at some point, since for almost everybody cars aren’t made locally. Since all used cars were at one point new cars, and since you are either taking up a used car or taking up a new car if you have a car, he’s saying there’s equilibrium – if you stay in the car-owning system, either you have a car delivered or you take a used car forcing someone else to have a car delivered.

          • Well... says:

            What happens if the ratio of those who prefer to buy used cars relative to those who prefer to buy new ones changes significantly?

            For instance if it increased, would manufacturers respond by making cars that break down faster, as a way to make buying a used car less worthwhile to more people? It seems like the manufacturers would have an incentive to respond this way, and plenty of manufacturers already get away with poor reliability, so this would mean buying a used car creates a situation that incentivizes carbon emissions. But maybe there’s a hole in my logic somewhere.

      • GearRatio says:

        This is sort of my model as well, but I do wonder about it. When I go to the junkyard, there’s tons of cars in it that are small honda or small toyotas with 150-200k; this isn’t anywhere near the full lifespan of one of those cars, usually. I feel like your/my model works perfectly in a perfectly closed system where the “this car is dead” point is the same for everyone, but I suspect there might be some stretchy around the edges, so to speak, in a “me buying a new car when my car is at 180k contributes to 180k is a dead car norms” sense.

        Full disclosure: I don’t actually care about being environmentally sound, but I do care a lot about maintaining high mileage cars for some reason.

  14. albatross11 says:

    Reflections on My Decision to Change Gender

    This is a really interesting article in Quillette by economist Deidre McCloskey, about her experiences transitioning from a man to a woman in her 50s, and how it’s all worked out for her.

    • Hypoborean says:

      I read the first bit of it, but stopped at the point where she farcically mis-applied the birthday paradox (which appears to have been removed in a later edit, now that I look at it).

      What did you get out of it?

      • albatross11 says:

        I found it very interesting to read her story, which I didn’t know before. I knew she was a prominent economist who had changed genders, but not the rest of it–her ex-wife and kids still not speaking to her, for example. (And who knows what their side of the story would look like? It’s clear that Donald’s decision to become Deidre must have traumatized the hell out of them.) Or her discussion of having lost interest in sex after the surgery–I’m not surprised by that, but I hadn’t heard before of that as a likely side-effect of the surgery. (I’m not sure how common it is, but I bet it’s quite common, given the loss of the testes and all the hormone treatments.)

        • Hypoborean says:

          That is surprising that there was that degree of estrangement.

          • Ketil says:

            Not so surprising to me. The ex wife feels betrayed, the feeling of betrayal leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate takes away all reason and responsibility, and she goes full Dark Side all over the children.

            (I didn’t read the piece, so I have no opinion on how this happened in this particular case. Just pointing out there are plausible and common causalities that may apply.)

          • hls2003 says:

            It doesn’t surprise me at all, and I expect we’re getting a self-serving gloss from Deirdre. It reminds me of a distant friend of the family who came out as gay in his 50’s and left his wife and kids. If he’d left them for his young secretary, everyone would have come down on him as a bad guy. Instead he seemingly expected to get plaudits for his “courage” because of the homosexual element. From his wife and kids’ perspectives, he was just an asshole.

      • quanta413 says:

        I read the first bit of it, but stopped at the point where she farcically mis-applied the birthday paradox

        That bugged me a bit too (I don’t expect economists to make mistakes like that; I’d probably give a pass to most people), but it didn’t matter to the rest of the article.

        It was interesting, but the story was also sad and sort of unpleasant. I got the impression that McCloskey has been a self-absorbed person before and after transitioning. There was also a flavor of gender essentialism to some of the story that I found distasteful but is pretty common. To be clear, I believe there are significant sexual differences so that’s not that implication that bothers me. From the article,

        Next morning I came out of the guest room, and saw her working on last-night’s pile of dishes. I saw, too, that the rug needed vacuuming, so without devoting much thought to the matter I found the vacuum and started running it. Then I noticed her looking at me strangely. I fancy that it was the first time she viewed me as an actual, if honorary, woman. The woman saw the dirty rug, and without being ordered to, cleaned it. I fancy that it was the first time she viewed me as an actual, if honorary, woman. The woman saw the dirty rug, and without being ordered to, cleaned it.

        It’s good to help out, but a change in inclination to vacuum is not meaningful in the way McCloskey implies it is.

        • Hypoborean says:

          Yikes. That’s very much gender-as-1950’s-stereotypes.

          • Adrian says:

            In general (and from my admittedly limited personal observations), male-to-female transgender people appear to heavily apply female stereotypes, to the point that they sometimes behave or dress more like clichés of women than actual, modern women.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Isn’t gender essentialism* kinda central to the whole exercise?

          I mean, without that, what’s the point?

          * Presumably we both take “gender essentialism” to mean: “men do this; women do that”.

          • quanta413 says:

            * Presumably we both take “gender essentialism” to mean: “men do this; women do that”.

            I take it to mean this, but with respect to things that could go either way or are obviously caused partly by cultural differences. Like are skirts for women, for men, or for both? In the U.S. skirts are thought of as being for women, but in Scotland some men have worn skirts in the form of a kilt (for a few hundred years or so). Who takes out the trash and who vacuums? Neither requires strength and different straight couples have different arrangements here even if one is more common. What colors are considered for boys or for girls? Etc. These are different types of facts than “What sex typically has greater grip strength?” And then gender essentialism treats the observed patterns as somewhat more than just patterns.

            As far as I can tell (although it’s hard) some nonbinary people want to wear clothing that’s not the typical choice, have somewhat unusual sexual preferences, maybe somewhat gender atypical hobbies (but you’ll likely find more straight cis people with gender atypical hobbies), but they don’t seem invested in gender essentialism (unlike McCloskey). I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of transgender people are the same way; some people slide their self-categorization around over time.

            Transgender individuals who believe in gender essentialism may get more attention, but I don’t know if that’s because those beliefs are common among transgender people or because those stories are just somehow more interesting/enraging to people.

            What McCloskey is implying should also be distinguished from transgender people who say they have a more biologically female brain in a male body or vice-versa which is more a claim about certain sexual characteristics than about gender.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            McCloskey says specifically:

            Every cell in my body shouts XY, XY, XY!

            and

            And more importantly a gender changer age 53, as I was in 1995, can’t have had the history of a born girl and woman. She cannot have had the good and the bad experiences of girlhood and motherhood and the rest. No science can change her life history.

            Once we’ve eliminated both biology and lived experience, we don’t have very many places to go, other than performative womanhood – which implies some manner of gender essentialism.

            To be sure, I agree with you both regarding the issues with such gender essentialism (like pretty much all culture, it’s far from universal) and the fact that even within McCloskey’s own culture, a lot of people might not share that specific version of gender essentialism, whether trans or no.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Transgender individuals who believe in gender essentialism may get more attention, but I don’t know if that’s because those beliefs are common among transgender people or because those stories are just somehow more interesting/enraging to people.

            I’m not sure transgenderism even makes sense without gender essentialism. What does it mean to say “I don’t care if society thinks I’m a man, I’m *really* a woman” if there isn’t some sort of objective female essence which makes me a woman?

          • quanta413 says:

            I’m not sure transgenderism even makes sense without gender essentialism. What does it mean to say “I don’t care if society thinks I’m a man, I’m *really* a woman” if there isn’t some sort of objective female essence which makes me a woman?

            For some people, it could be a socially acceptable way to wear the clothing of the other biological sex and send other signals typically associated with the opposite sex. An aesthetic choice if you will.

            Like I said, there are also some transgender people who claim they have a male brain in a female body. This is a claim about sexual characteristics rather than gender.

            But I agree that to a large extent, it’s hard to come up with a story that isn’t at least somewhat gender essentialist.

        • albatross11 says:

          I took that as McCloskey speculating on her relative’s gender stereotypes, not saying she believed it.

          • quanta413 says:

            That’s a more charitable reading, but the article as a whole made me think that McCloskey held many stereotypes as more true or right than they were.

  15. Well... says:

    I heard Barbara Tvsersky interviewed on Sam Harris’s podcast, and one of the things she mentioned was how we use gesturing to think, to aid in communication, etc. Even pacing, drumming our fingers, etc. seem to be ways we aid our own thinking.

    Expanding on that, could it be said that our minds would likely work quite differently if we didn’t have the bodies we have? If so, what are the implications for the concept of “mind uploading”?

    • Mind uploads would have virtual bodies, and would think in the same way.

      • mdet says:

        Why would mind uploads have virtual bodies? Just for continuity / sanity’s sake?

        • Most uploads will want one, and there’s no real cost associated with it.

          • Well... says:

            Being represented by a virtual body isn’t the same as the real experience of having a body (and using one to think). To simulate that experience, there’s got to be a real cost, namely in computing power — if it’s possible at all.

            Also, is this mind being uploaded supposed to include the gut-brain axis?

          • Hypoborean says:

            “Being represented by a virtual body isn’t the same as the real experience of having a body (and using one to think).”

            Wouldn’t it be the same if we could emulate it and feed the emulated sense data to the emulated brain? Seems like it would be as easy/impossible to emulate a body as a brain.

          • Well... says:

            If gesturing or pacing back and forth generates something we can think of as data, I’m not clear on how that data is supposed to work with the data generated by, say, recalling a memory, or feeling hungry, or solving a math problem, or playing an instrument, or scratching an itch. I’m not clear on how any of these, distilled to “data”, are supposed to work together in a way that approximates the experience of having a mind while existing only as information in a computer network.

            Is this just because I’m not read up on mind uploading (which I admit I’m not), or is it because there’s no “there” there to be clear about?

          • Being represented by a virtual body isn’t the same as the real experience of having a body (and using one to think).

            It might not be exactly the same, but you’d get used to it. Having hands to wave around, that is zero cost relative to emulating all the neurons of the brain. Nothing on the inside of the hands needs concern the program.

          • If gesturing or pacing back and forth generates something we can think of as data, I’m not clear on how that data is supposed to work with the data generated by, say, recalling a memory, or feeling hungry, or solving a math problem, or playing an instrument, or scratching an itch. I’m not clear on how any of these, distilled to “data”, are supposed to work together in a way that approximates the experience of having a mind while existing only as information in a computer network.

            Gesturing or pacing exists as data fed into the emulated brain, and is processed in the same way gestures are processed by our physical neurons.

          • Hypoborean says:

            I guess a key question is whether implementing the gesture is associated with thinking, or implementing the gesture in relation to your environment is associated with thinking. I would expect that what matters to the brain is you choosing to move your hands (I often ‘talk with my hands’, and I expect I would do so even in a sensory deprivation tank), not the slight wind pattern on my skin caused by the gesture.

            If it’s just being able to make those movements as a way to jog memory, that’s would almost certainly be very easy to simulate.

    • Incurian says:

      Spoilers for Fall.

    • AG says:

      The same way internet language has evolved to account for the lack of bodies? The development of linguistic connotations to communication formats as greentext, e x t r a s p a c e s, italics, or reappropriation of coding concepts (bang!paths, markup tags /s), or, of course, the return of second-hand visuals via emoji. 🙂

      The way we think about communicating via various mediums changes depending on both the medium and the language. Code-switching is actually more of a third language, than the speaker thinking the same way in each of the constituent languages.

  16. Well... says:

    Based on my two years’ experience sending my kids to two different elementary schools here, my local school district appears to place an emphasis on independence over accuracy, at least when it comes to writing. For example they don’t correct kids who write letters or numbers backward, and they encourage kids to write phonetically if they’re not sure how to spell a word.

    Is this a sound practice? My 1st grader writes a lot for fun. Should I be bugging her to make sure her 2s don’t look like 5s and that she’s spelling words properly? Or should I worry that this would stifle her urge to write, and rest assured the accuracy will come later?

    • John Schilling says:

      I think the ideal is to learn to read and write well enough that the errors don’t greatly impede communication, then go for enthusiastic quantity and practice makes perfect. But the question of where that optimum is, is tricky. We tolerate sloppiness from elementary school students that we wouldn’t from adults, which is good, but if your daughter writes lots of stuff that nobody wants to read because of the mistakes, that’s going to be as discouraging as calling out the mistakes.

      • Well... says:

        So far my wife and I, and sometimes grandparents, are the audience. (Not counting stuff she writes in school.) We read everything she writes and for the most part overlook her mistakes so long as we can tell what it’s supposed to mean.

        • Randy M says:

          I would say you probably know your daughters limits better than the school, so you should go ahead and correct her until just before the point of frustration.
          All the mistakes have to be fixed eventually, but a lot of that will come with more experience reading as well.

    • mtl1882 says:

      My mom has always been annoyed that this was the approach used for my younger siblings. I work in education, and I definitely see the appeal of it in some sense–it stops kids from freezing up because they don’t know how to do things exactly right. But I’ve noticed the kids I work with increasingly have no sense of phonetics and can’t spell. They seem to memorize each word individually, which is hugely inefficient. They see “intersect” and read “interest,” which is something we all do occasionally, but they do it constantly. I think it is hard to balance making a kid self-conscious with making them learn how to do it correctly in many cases, but from my experience I lean toward “bugging her,” but doing it in a way that isn’t discouraging or too perfectionist.

    • Explain the issue to her and ask her if she would like to have you point out mistakes.

      My younger son learned to spell because he didn’t want the people he was interacting with online, mostly much older than he was, to think he was stupid.

      • “Not looking stupid” is one of the strongest learning motivators. A great thing about the internet is that it motivates me to research something more fully to avoid looking stupid.

        • RobJ says:

          “Not looking stupid” is one of the strongest learning motivators. A great thing about the internet is that it motivates me to research something more fully to avoid looking stupid.

          Be careful with that, because for different personalities (like mine) it can be a great de-motivator also.

      • Ohforfs says:

        I would like to congratulate you on the behalf of all children of the world. I’m seriously touched.

    • Incurian says:

      I imagine that as they read more books, they will self correct.
      Does writing 2s backwards affect their arithmetic? That seems like a subject where more attention to detail is warranted.

      • Viliam says:

        There is a chance the reverted 2s will be mistakenly read as 5s later.

        Once I tutored math a boy who wrote “+”, “×”, “x”, “y”, and “4” almost the same; an asymmetric cross rotated by an uncertain angle. Half of his problems were caused by inability to read what he wrote previously. (Another half was not having an idea what he was doing, e.g. he could reduce “40/20” to “4/2”, but he stopped there. He was quite surprised to learn that “4/2” is somehow related to “4÷2”.)

        I am not saying all people who write weirdly are like that, but I would immediately get suspicious.

    • aristides says:

      Personal anecdote, that is how I was taught in second grade, and the opposite of how I was taught in third grade. Transitioning from anything goes to one specific way was an unpleasant experience. Currently, my handwriting is atrocious, to the the point of my colleges making should have been a doctor jokes, and my spelling is fairly bad, with spellcheck being my saving grace. That said, I got through law school and work in HR, both writing intensive, so it didn’t hold me back. I still find writing to be a uniquely unpleasant activity. Not sure what you should make of this, especially since I’m just one person.

    • ana53294 says:

      My personal preference is to separate drafts/rough writing and clean text.

      So have her draft whatever she wants for personal use, and then rewrite the text with proper spelling. Of course, with time you start to write correctly from the beginning, but I find that having to check the spelling of “bureaucrat” or other words like that in the middle of the writing process breaks my train of thought.

      I think encouraging standards in stuff you write for other people as opposed to yourself is good. A lot of notes from uni I made where useful for me, for example, because they would refer to metaphors/concepts I have in my head. But being aware that other people don’t get what I’m saying because I need to put what’s in my head into the paper makes me more aware of gaps in my explanations.

  17. Canyon Fern says:

    Salutations. I leave you with a Chinese-ified parody of a classic American song. [CF’s assistant here: I tried to talk him out of this, but he’s got me frond-whipped. -Ludovico]

    My country, ’tis of thee
    I gain both liberty
    And Xi Jinping;
    Land where the landlords died
    Land of the Hanzu’s pride
    From ev’ry mountainside
    Let Xidom ring!

    5000 years have thee
    In thy own history
    To thee I bow;
    I love thy rocks and rills
    Thy woods and templed hills
    My heart with Redness fills
    Like Chairman Mao

    Let pipas swell the breeze
    And ring from all the trees
    The ancient song;
    Let Communism rise
    Let all who realize
    Join as I prophesize:
    Xi does no wrong

    Our fathers were of Thee
    They had no liberty
    Their toil was long;
    Long may our land be Red
    Though I may soon be dead
    For thee I raise my head
    China is strong!

    • cassander says:

      this is excellent.

    • danridge says:

      “My heart with Redness fills/like Chairman Mao[‘s]”? But I got what you meant, and while it doesn’t add a syllable and mess with the meter, I’d consider it acceptable to keep the slightly misstructured parallelism if “Mao” sounds better than “Mao’s” when sung.

      • Lignisse says:

        The rhyme scheme is aabcccb so “Mao” is correctly rhymed with “bow”

        • danridge says:

          Oh man, I’m so tolerant of slant rhymes I didn’t even think of that! Made me think, if you wanted to use “Mao’s” for the more grammatically correct parallel structure, you could go back and change “bow” to “boughs” (as anything with “bows” would seem forced); it would take some reworking, but somehow “boughs” seems an appropriate word in a patriotic song.

          • Canyon Fern says:

            @Lignisse, @danridge, thank you both for chiming in. I finished this before @danridge posted his 2nd reply, so it repeats some of what he said there.

            @Lignisse, you are correct that I rhymed “Mao” with “bow”, and that “Mao’s” would throw off the rhyme — but the rhyme is not the issue. @danridge was pointing out an even more grievous error!

            A slavish devotion to meter and rhyme has left me flat-footed in Red territory, for it is semantically strange to say “my heart fills with Redness, like Chairman Mao” (dropping the inversion.) The structure here is one of implied parallelism: the previous quotation can be seen as a paraphrase of “my heart fills with Redness, like Chairman Mao fills with Redness“, and it’s semantically strange to say that a person fills with something. If I wanted to say that my heart filled with Redness, the way that Chairman Mao’s heart filled with Redness, then that would be alright, for I would be comparing two hearts. But, as written? It’s neither jack nor shit!

            I can rescue the stanza in at least three ways:
            – “My heart with Redness fills / Through Chairman Mao” [i.e. “Through Chairman Mao, my heart fills with Redness”]
            – “My heart with Redness fills / Praise Chairman Mao!”
            – “No new land, thou!” up top, and then the end of the stanza as given

            Note that, if you wish to preserve the “-/au/” rhyme, I hereby urge you not to rhyme with “kowtow”. This is a borrowing from Chinese, and while in English it is usually pronounced so that both syllables rhyme with “cow”, in Chinese, both syllables rhyme with “row”. I leave you to figure out your own repaired stanza using “kowtow” somewhere.

            I will see to it that you, @Lignisse, receive a Llama of Gratitude, and that you, @danridge, receive a Greater Llama of Gratitude. Unfortunately, it will be a few days before my assistant sends them by post. Once I’ve finished dictating this message, I must savagely punish him for letting such an error slip through — so he will be rather hard-up for a while!

            [No! Not the frond-whip! I can’t–]

            LUDOVICO! CEASE YOUR COMMENTARY, TYPE THESE WORDS, AND BARE YOUR BOTTOM! AT ONCE!

          • danridge says:

            Dear Canyon Fern, the Greater Llama will be adequate compensation for keeping you out of the death camps, as would be a fitting punishment for filling our great leader with anything, even in song. Please give Ludovico a few lashes from me, along with my regards!

  18. DragonMilk says:

    “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

    When did kids stop getting this drilled into them and start equating disagreement with harm and violence?

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      I doubt your assessment that anyone who had means of punishing bad-mouthers internalized this message.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” has also seemed to drop from the standard preschool curriculum…

      • Erusian says:

        One pattern through history I don’t think people take enough notice of. In times of stringent morality, goodness almost invariably becomes more associated with obedience to certain forms rather than any sort of ‘inner light’.

        I think Bojack Horseman captures a lot of the liberal id. In it, Diane Nguyen says: “I don’t think I believe in “deep down”. I kinda think all you are is just the things that you do.” I suspect that most people in hock to elite cultural norms would agree with some version of that statement.

        • cassander says:

          I think Bojack Horseman captures a lot of the liberal id. In it, Diane Nguyen says: “I don’t think I believe in “deep down”. I kinda think all you are is just the things that you do.” I suspect that most people in hock to elite cultural norms would agree with some version of that statement

          Really? I’d say the opposite. Modern norms seem obsessed with rooting out the deep down at the expense of weighing actions.

          • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

            I think both of you are right and “modern left” (And others too) is spread far and wide through various stages of ingroup-outgroup games. They want to give an excuse to ingroup by finding external factors that turned good people inside of them sour, and they would infer internal malice of the outgroup that did nothing wrong.

            On the other hand they will strike against tropes suggesting outgroup’s inner goodness, that call for their charity something like “I’m a good guy inside if only there was woman’s love to redeem me”.

          • Erusian says:

            Really? I’d say the opposite. Modern norms seem obsessed with rooting out the deep down at the expense of weighing actions.

            Well, I suppose it depends on your point of view. Do you take the attempts to root out past racist/sexist incidents as an attempt to figure out what the person believes ‘deep down’ or to punish their violations of the moral code ex post facto? Personally I see it as the latter.

    • lvlln says:

      I was in 4th grade in the early 90s, and I recall my homeroom teacher then explicitly calling out that specific saying as wrong-headed, and that we should all consider words to be more hurtful than sticks and stones, because while sticks and stones can harm our body, words can hurt our feelings.

      I have no idea how common this was at the time; I went to a private school, one of those semi-old ones that had been around since like 1900 preparing the kids of the elites and all that, which was all-male (still is today, I think) and required everyone to wear blazers and ties and loafers and etc., in a blue part of a blue state. So my experience wasn’t typical.

      • Kindly says:

        I was in 4th grade in the late 90s, and had the same experience in a public elementary school. In a probably-blue part of a red state.

      • John Schilling says:

        because while sticks and stones can harm our body, words can hurt our feelings.

        I’m guessing your homeroom teacher has never had her body hurt, and thinks it inconceivable that such a thing could ever happen.

        • broblawsky says:

          Is it that unreasonable? Most people go their whole lives without suffering a serious assault from another person. Based on the US current violent crime rate and life expectancy, you have a 73.94% chance of never being the target of a violent crime – and I suspect the actual odds are better still, as violent crime tends to be statistically clustered.

          • quanta413 says:

            It seems pretty unreasonable to me. There are a lot of ways to suffer physical pain besides being jumped. You don’t have to be that unlucky to break an arm, get very sick, or something like that. I’d guess something like that happens to maybe not most people, but at least a large chunk, like 30% or more.

            It’s also the sort of thing where you should be able to roughly figure out how bad physical injury is from observing other people’s response to it. It’d be incredible to not at least know a few people who have suffered serious physical pain.

          • LesHapablap says:

            I’d say the vast majority of boys have committed and been victims of assault. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I hit someone or got hit growing up.

          • melolontha says:

            @LesHapablap:

            How severely, though? In this context, I think the relevant category is violent injuries of comparable severity to the wounds caused by verbal bullying. Which is all a bit fuzzy and subjective, of course, but I think very minor violence (kids punching each other in the arm, that kind of thing) is both extremely common and mostly irrelevant here. Rates of more serious violence presumably vary hugely across countries, social classes, and so on, but in my world I think >95% would technically have been involved in some kind of violence, while maybe <20% would have been involved in anything significant and maybe ~5% in anything serious.

            edit: those numbers (while obviously pulled out of nowhere anyway) were meant to apply to kids and teens interacting with each other (and honestly I was mostly thinking of school and school-related situations), not to victims of domestic abuse or to adults across a whole lifetime

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            >Most people go their whole lives without suffering a serious assault from another person

            I don’t know where you went to middle school, but I guarantee a bunch of them were pummeled. So were some of the upthread homeroom teacher’s students. You and she didn’t notice because they’re losers and beneath notice.

        • lvlln says:

          I’m guessing your homeroom teacher has never had her body hurt, and thinks it inconceivable that such a thing could ever happen.

          FWIW, if my memory is correct and if my teacher wasn’t lying, your guess is wrong. I have no idea if he ever had his body hurt, but he did tell us once that he was stationed in the middle east during the Gulf War, and how he had a genuine fear of being hurt or killed when he was there. He did note, however, that he had a greater fear of killing someone else than of being killed, i.e. that to him, the result of him shooting someone during a battle and killing them would have been worse to him than the result of him being shot during the battle and being killed.

      • Walter says:

        The 2 great hazards of life are boredom and pain. Boredom is by far the more difficult to avoid, but Pain is by far the worst of the two.

        The teacher is entirely safe, and they have forgotten even the shadow of Pain. Their life is a monodimensional game of avoiding boredom. From this perspective, words are far worse than blows.

        They observe those who are struck bouncing back in minutes or hours, and it does not speak to any part of their experience. But they understand the pain of a cutting insult, and their empathy is engaged in a way that it isn’t for strikes.

        The students understand that their fellows can impose pain, and the teacher is a fool, but the teacher has the power to impose boredom, and this is enough to compel their obedience, and so they do not openly gainsay their overseer.

    • Cariyaga says:

      Probably about the time there was increasing awareness of people who were emotionally abused…

      • woah77 says:

        It seems to me that the change is a bit of a pendulum swing too far in the other direction. What would be great is if people spent more time learning about and teaching shame resilience. That would be a good method for actually solving the problem of emotional distress and abuse.

    • Urstoff says:

      Perhaps growing up in a world with internet where there are legions of anonymous people that delight in being absolutely awful to everybody has changed the perspective of many on this? You encounter jerks in real life, but not remotely at the frequency of doing anything on the internet.

      • Plumber says:

        @Urstoff >

        “…You encounter jerks in real life, but not remotely at the frequency of doing anything on the internet:

        Most weeks I see far less verbal abuse on-line than I hear spoken, I’d say I encounter more jerks in “meatspace” than “cyberspace”, but I usually do plumbing repairs in a county jail most weeks as part of my job and hear the inmates yelling at each other and often me when I pass by the cells.

        With the books, meals, and cable television the jail wouldn’t be all that bad but for the company.

        • Urstoff says:

          Fair enough; I think the statement can be amended with “In the upper-middle social classes that set these sorts of social norms…”

    • Don P. says:

      Of course there’s xkcd on this:

      https://xkcd.com/1216/

      In particular, the mouseover: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it.”

      • cassander says:

        I prefer “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can make you doubt yourself till the end of your days”

      • theredsheep says:

        As a general rule, they’re apples and oranges, but words are significantly less terrifying. Even a relatively mild physical blow can potentially cause damage that will leave you sore for some time. Greater strength yields lost teeth, broken bones. Up the ante a bit, you’re talking permanent, life-altering damage or death. Yeah, years of verbal abuse can give you lifelong emotional problems, but two minutes with an angry husband with a baseball bat can leave you physically crippled with multiple health problems requiring lots of expensive and possibly unpleasant therapy, escalating bills, chronic pain, reduced capabilities to perform basic life functions, and yeah, probably emotional problems too.

        So all in all, I’d say sticks and stones are definitely something to be taken more seriously than words.

        • Randy M says:

          Yeah, the people arguing for the equivalence of words and stones have probably only been worded, not stoned.

          • hls2003 says:

            I would expect a whole lot of them have gotten stoned, pretty frequently.

          • melolontha says:

            It’s all about the relevant levels of severity though, right? At the top end you can be murdered or driven to suicide, and at the bottom end you can enjoy some playful pushing and shoving or friendly teasing. So both categories can cover the full spectrum of severity.

            In a relatively safe environment like the schools I went to, I was at much greater risk of being non-trivially hurt by words than by fists. And I would guess that even in rougher environments, below a certain age it’s pretty rare for kids to do lasting physical damage to each other.

            Obviously in some other situations the range of physical harms to be realistically feared goes much higher than that of verbal harms.

          • Ohforfs says:

            I’ve been beaten as a child and had generally shitty mother.

            The beatings were by far the least damaging thing.

            (though i think that the saying is cringeworthy)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It’s one thing to say that words do less damage than physical attacks, though I’ve seen people with abusive parents say that they would rather have a beating than be harangued for hours, but it’s another thing to say that words don’t hurt at all.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I have actually never heard anyone say this seriously. Every single use of the phrase has been someone calling it out as incorrect.

      I am 27 years old.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’m not quite twice your age, and I’ve heard it said seriously – but as an aspirational goal more than a statement of fact. You should not allow yourself to be harmed by the words of people who mean you harm. And you can asymptotically approach that goal if you work at it, so try.

        I think people understood this better in the olden days.

        • Randy M says:

          Right on, and furthermore, just because you want people to be able to endure harsh words doesn’t mean you want them to have to.

        • Shion Arita says:

          Yeah that’s pretty much my take on it. With words, to a large extent, your reaction to it is subject to your volition and choice, or at least you should strive for it to be (and as you say one can be asymptotically successful at this). For sticks and stones, not so.

          Like Dragonmilk below, I heard it seriously in elementary, and not seriously by high school.

        • aristides says:

          I’m approximately the same age as Two McMillion, and I’ve heard it both ways, but internalized it the way John Schilling states. It helps that my parents taught it to me that way. I definitely plan on teaching that to my kids, you need thick skin in the modern era.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I’m a few years older than Two McMillion, and I definitely heard it seriously when I was very young (kindergarten?)

          As John Schilling notes, it was used not to exonerate verbal bullies but to cheer up their victims.

          It was also said by kids as a sort of all-purpose comeback. It really did ring true to us. (At my school it would not be taken as a suggestion)

      • theredsheep says:

        I heard it quoted over the intercom in first grade, though with only partial approval. I think. That was in 1989 or so.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I’m 31, and in elementary school, it was taught seriously, while by the time I was in high school, it was derided.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I question the implicit assumption here – I’m not sure that slogan was ever taken seriously.

      • HowardHolmes says:

        I’m 71. It was definitely a thing.

        A similar thought that I currently hold in high regard is by Epictetus: It is not he who hits me or insults me who hurts me but rather my opinion of the thing.

      • Plumber says:

        I’m 51 and I heard “Sticks and stones may break my bines but words will never hurt me” seriously taught and said by teachers and other adults in Berkeley and Oakland, California when I was a child in the 1970’s, and it surprises me to learn that the phrase still isn’t taught.

        For my cultural background Berkele snd Oaklamd Berkeley were probably even more “Left” then than now, the first Republicans I encountered (besides my mothers parents) that I knew were Republicans (but I didn’t know what a Democrat was in the ’70’s either) were girls from the hills and their brothers in the ’80’s, and they were more “blue tribe”, I only met a few “red tribe” Republicans in the ’90’s, and then I met a lot of “red tribe” Republicans in the 21st century, and no longer meet “Blue-Tribe Republicans” face-to-face.

        Both “Blue-Tribe” and “Red Tribe” Democrats and Leftists I still encounter, men are mostly red tribe, women blue, red tribe Republican men are common, Republican women are rare.

      • Beck says:

        It was and it still is by a lot of people.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        I’m 42, so younger than your other respondents, and of course it was (and should be) taken seriously.

    • hls2003 says:

      I would expect this to be a parental thing, not a school or institutional thing. Schools and institutions in general probably don’t want to be seen as encouraging verbal abuse (or “fighting words” in older terms) just because it causes problems for them down the road. My parents used this phrase, unironically, when I was young – but as a coping mechanism, not as a normative statement. They also instructed me not to use angry and abusive words, which they wouldn’t have done if such words were entirely ineffectual.

      I think perhaps that is the sense that is missing or seems to be changing – coping and resilience versus empathizing and dwelling-upon. I think even when this phrase was used, people recognized that words could cause problems. But the emphasis was that the problems should be overcome, and that minimizing the hurt (by emotional resilience, recognizing that one’s emotions can and should be controlled) was the best response. In contrast, now I think we have more of a focus on engaging the injury, empathizing with the victim, and encouraging the victim to treat his pain very seriously. This helps acknowledge the pain, but also makes the victim more defined by their pain rather than by their resilience in defeating the hurt; we are more likely to give kudos for having certain feelings than for overcoming our feelings. That seems like the reason the phrase has gone from “genuine advice” to “ironic example of outdated or bad advice.”

      • LesHapablap says:

        I think this is exactly right. It was always meant as a coping mechanism or a response to verbal abuse and speaks more to the values of trying to be resilient. It doesn’t mean that words are actually pain free or that anyone ever thought that was the case.

        Edit: maybe I shouldn’t say always. I was born early 80s and I always took it that way. In middle school we had a “lifeskills” teacher that taught us a new one: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can break my heart.” She was hippieish.

    • AG says:

      Gosh, you sure seem peeved by words on the internet. Perhaps it’s not drilled in nearly enough, then?

    • ECD says:

      I think the “getting this drilled into them,” part was the problem. If a large enough group gets anything drilled into them, they’ll get it wrong, that is not as quasi-stoicism, ‘your words have only the weight and impact I choose to give them,’ but rather as excuse, ‘what? I didn’t do anything wrong, it’s not like I hit you.’ Not direct quotes. And this leads quite directly to ‘words can definitely hurt me, this is bullshit.’

      I’ll also note something I noticed in elementary school, when there was a real shift from ‘kids playing’ to ‘no violence,’ which meant that the balance of power really shifted to kids who were better with their words and leaving the more traditional bully as basically powerless, as their main recourse would get them instantly expelled.

      • Procrastinating Prepper says:

        I think this is exactly right. Norms have changed over time to be way less tolerant of letting children face physical pain. I’m sure there are still kids getting ‘pummeled’, as Andrew says, but at zero-tolerance schools it’s now an after-school activity instead of a normal part of recess. But kids still gotta find some way to decide and show status at school when everyone’s watching, so the psychological games have ramped up to compensate. Teachers probably changed their sticks-and-stones advice as a reaction to this.

        Another element is that kids are possibly more sensitive than they used to be, for the same mysterious reason that rates of anxiety, depression and autism are going up in the general population.

        • Cliff says:

          for the same mysterious reason that rates of anxiety, depression are going up in the general population.

          Helicopter parenting?

    • LesHapablap says:

      How does this fit in with spanking as punishment? I’m not a parent or an expert, but I have never believed the anti-spanking research because it seems like a prime spot for motivated reasoning in social science. And if you have to punish a kid, you have to inflict some mental anguish on him. What’s the difference if that anguish is from a spanking versus some non-violent punishment?

      So if someone disagrees with the ‘sticks and stones’ message, surely they are equating words with physical violence, and therefore they would be fine with spanking? Or would they claim that there are non-violent punishments that don’t result in any mental anguish? In which case how can they work as punishment?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      For what it’s worth, I received persistent verbal abuse from third grade to twelfth, mostly about being short and having feet that turn out. I somewhat calmed down about the height thing by my thirties. For some reason, the stuff about my feet didn’t stick as much, possibly because I thought it was crazy to pay that much attention to how feet were oriented.

      In any case, I didn’t get a lot of being told I should be tougher, but any pressure in that direction was just more evidence that I couldn’t expect kindness.

      I did get told “Just ignore them”, but I now believe that any advice that starts with “just” is a way of ignoring the difficulties of whatever is being recommended.

      Whatever happened to all that boring repetition about evolutionary psychology? You know, the idea that being assigned low status feels like a death threat because of ostracism.

      Seriously, does it actually work to tell children they should ignore insults?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Seriously, does it actually work to tell children they should ignore insults?

        At least in my case, ignoring insults resulted in escalation to hitting. On the other hand, so did yelling back…

        (no sticks and stones at least, it wasn’t that rough a neighborhood)

      • quanta413 says:

        Seriously, does it actually work to tell children they should ignore insults?

        I didn’t always or maybe even usually succeed, but my life as a child would have sucked a lot more if I hadn’t tried to ignore ostracism and insults. I am extremely thankful that there were adults in my life who tried to impart some level of stoicism. For example, if a child cried when hurt at Tae Kwon Do practice, the master would often say things like “Why are you crying? Stop crying!” or “Crying doesn’t help.”. Learning to put up with physical pain can help with learning how to put up with wounded feelings. Although that particular route doesn’t work for everyone.

        If adults had told me to complain about things, etc. it would have been a lot worse. Sometimes children smell weakness and prey on it. You’ve got to ignore them or somehow make it unpleasant for them. Complaining or asking them to be nicer makes it worse. Running to adults also usually doesn’t work, kids are pretty good about finding the line of what they can get away with, and making a habit of snitching is looked down on.

        I think the thing people forget when they try to draw some sort of equivalence is that someone causing you physical pain causes emotional trauma. It’s a twofer. Not only are you physically hurt and could be injured, but it’s a blow to the psyche to have someone casually cause you physical pain just for laughs. Even if you can ignore the physical pain itself (which I think is a good thing to attempt), you may be physically injured.

        I had people hit me, and I had people insult me. I’d take being insulted tens of times over even being hit with something that just stings and leaves no permanent damage. Now if someone actually tried to seriously injure me? Even something as minor as a bloody nose or black eye? I can’t even imagine how bad the insult would have to be to compare. It’d take a ton of work to create the sort of emotional damage with words or schemes that someone could cause by throwing a punch.

        Now there are words that can be said that can hurt comparably to getting physically injured, but I’m thinking of things like your family disowning you (which is way up there on the scale).

        • Chalid says:

          Learning to put up with physical pain can help with learning how to put up with wounded feelings

          Is there any non-anecdotal evidence for this?

          • quanta413 says:

            Doubtful. My guess is at best you could collect many anecdotes, collate them, and call it epidemiology. Not many IRB’s are going to let you shock people while attempting to teach them stoicism and then see how they react to being insulted.

            But maybe somebody crazy tried something in the 19th century.

            The same problem holds for any studies of this sort of thing though, so I’d be surprised if the evidence is going to get much better than anecdotes or collections of anecdotes.

          • woah77 says:

            So we do the experiment in China?

          • LesHapablap says:

            You might be able to find a group of kids who have gone through certain diseases or injuries and then compare to them to control groups

          • quanta413 says:

            You might be able to find a group of kids who have gone through certain diseases or injuries and then compare to them to control groups

            A difference in differences study? So the “treatment” and control groups are matched on characteristics until the accidental injury occurs? That’s an interesting idea. Although you also want to separate a treatment group based upon who was trying to learn stoicism just after the injury (or started learning it at some point in time) which complicates things. So there’s the uninjured-unstoic group, the uninjured-stoic group, the injured-unstoic group, and the injured-stoic group.

            It seems like it’d be difficult to get a big enough sample and good follow up, but worthwhile and interesting if you can pull it off. The ecological validity is probably high at least.

      • aristides says:

        Not always, but in my case it turned out find. I was always a weird kid, and was insulted for how I dressed and presented myself, but I didn’t care what anyone else thought and just ignored it. The only thing that did get to me was a girl that started constantly pushing me, which did make me cry, but I tattled in her, and never got physically bullied again. The verbal bullying just rolled off of me, and though I didn’t have Many friends, I was overall happy. Maybe if I took it personally and changed how I presented myself, I would have had more friends, but considering how weird I am, that was still probably unlikely, and I would have struggled for nothing.

    • ajakaja says:

      What’s up with comments like this? Why don’t you ask if people think it’s true, or if others perceive kids as equating disagreement with harm and violence, rather than assuming everyone agrees they’re true and asking how it happened?

  19. If we legalized insider trading, how much of the prohibitions on it would re-appear in the form of companies forcing their employees to sign agreements not to do it, and then being able to sue them for fraud if they do it anyway?

    • broblawsky says:

      Almost none? Insider information usually accretes to C-level employees first; I can’t see those same employees restricting their ability to make money. It’d just be considered a perk of the job.

      • teneditica says:

        What about the board?

        • broblawsky says:

          IME, the board doesn’t exert much influence over governance in modern companies unless things go very wrong. There’s a reason why we single out “activist” investors and boardmembers – they’re exceptions to the rule.

  20. JonathanD says:

    People of SSC, speaking with my sister this morning, I found out that my niece is graduating high school in a few weeks, a semester early. In the spring of what would have been her senior year, she’ll continue working (as a waitress) and take a college class at the community college, to get a sense of what it’s like (this is at her parent’s insistence). However, despite being reasonably bright (As and Bs in school) she doesn’t enjoy school and will probably not opt to go that route. What will she do instead? She isn’t really looking past early graduation. So, ideas, suggestions? What would you do if you were 18 and wanted to build a life, or kill a couple of years until a life came along? Trades? Travel? Peace Corp? The Service? I recall someone linking some sort of program planting trees for the summer. What are good options for bright, un-academic young people?

    Asking for three reasons. One, because I would like to have some things to suggest to my sister, two, because, when I thought about it, I realized I had no idea what my answer would be, and three, one of my kids will likely be in a similar boat in about ten years.

    • hls2003 says:

      Purely anecdotal, but I had several friends do Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. I got the impression they were somewhat disappointed and a little disillusioned with the experience; they thought they’d be saving the world and the experience didn’t necessarily provide the emotional benefits they were expecting.

      Another couple friends did work/travel combo platters where they’d work (e.g. bartending) for a while for savings, then take a couple months off to spend the money on cheap long-term travel. That seemed somewhat more positive.

      • Incurian says:

        I wonder if disillusionment might be a valuable early experience.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Leslie Fish said that finding a toy didn’t match the advertisement made her a cynic for life.

        • The clearest case of disillusionment I can remember was in my early twenties, when I spent a summer as a congressional intern, mostly working with a group that was producing a fact book on state and local finance. I discovered a fact that was clearly true, clearly important, and had the opposite of the implication the people I was working with, who were academics, favored. They refused to include it. Doubtless I was naive, having grown up in a very atypical family bubble, but the idea that academics would deliberately let politics trump truth in their professional work shocked me.

          That’s part of the reason that, fifty years later, I am skeptical of the current climate orthodoxy. I know that academics will be dishonest when doing so is useful to them because I saw it happen, and it’s pretty easy to see the potential implications. If lots of people are a little dishonest, concealing evidence in one direction and exaggerating that in another, the combined effect can be conclusions which all of them, each trusting the work of other people they agree with, believe are correct, when a fair examination of the evidence would conclude they were not.

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

            This is one reason why “noble lies” are so destructive.

          • Ohforfs says:

            Do you mean to say that it’s political partisanship that plays into climate science? But wasn’t it bipartisan when it first appeared and that it’s global so US politics shouldn’t affect it decisively?

          • It’s partly ideological, which isn’t the same thing as party partisanship. But even without ideology, once an orthodoxy is established, possibly on very weak initial evidence, there is pressure of various sorts to go along with it. As best I recall, either the charge or the mass of the electron was incorrectly estimated initially, and for quite a while later measurements failed to correct the error.

            In the case of climate, the fact of warming since about 1911 seems well established. The primarily human causation is plausible—but as of the last thing I saw from the IPCC, they were only claiming confidence on that for warming since the mid-20th century. The projections of future warming are quite uncertain, as one can see by looking at the range of outcomes from the different models in IPCC reports, and the general pattern so far has been to overestimate future temperature. The projections of the climate effects are still more uncertain—the IPCC first claimed that AGW was increasing droughts, then retracted that claim in a later report, and the much hyped effect on hurricanes does not seem to be supported by evidence so far, and I gather depends on very uncertain theoretical analysis. Go on from that to the extreme uncertainty about effects of technological change and economic growth over the next century, and there is lots of room for people to consistently make judgement calls that point in the direction they want, well short of the sort of deliberate dishonesty that I described in a different context.

            To see the mechanics of such pressure in an entirely different case … . There has been some discussion in the PTSD thread of a 1970’s psychiatric textbook that claimed that father-daughter incest wasn’t really a problem. Imagine that you were a researcher today who came up with evidence supporting that claim. Would you publish?

          • Ohforfs says:

            By coincidence i just read about Nobel Prize in Economics for Nordhaus (2018) and i am… sad? I mean, from what i read… my opinion of at least the Nobel economics comitee dropped a lot.

            I also read something about…. uh, a medical scientist rediscovering simple mathematical formula and getting cited 75 times after publishing it in good journal.

            https://science.slashdot.org/story/10/12/06/0416250/medical-researcher-rediscovers-integration

            Sorry of drifting off topic, but i just wanted to say i am unable to disagree with you about disappointment in scientists today 😀

            Even though i like and respect science very much in general, and that includes climate science. My example are more like – at least the poor medical chap, not sure about Nordhaus – of mistake, not conflict.

            Though, come to think of it, you’re economist, right? What do you think about that Nordhaus’ Nobel?

            (btw, I would publish – but then i am notoriously, say, amoral, and then i would get fired so it wouldn’t matter)

          • What do you think about that Nordhaus’ Nobel?

            Prior to his getting it, I commented on him several times on my blog. I haven’t looked at the technical details of his modeling so can’t speak to it, but I interpret his behavior as attempting to come as close as he can to sounding as if he agrees with the current orthodoxy without saying things that he believes are untrue. I think my blog comments should make clear the basis for that opinion.

          • erenold says:

            I am curious what the fact was, the orthodox position it contradicted, and the ostensible reason given by the academics in question.

          • The fact was that the baby boom was coming out of the schools and into the work force. For the previous decade, the ratio of schoolchildren to workers had been going up, so maintaining a constant per pupil expenditure required increasing taxes. For the next decade the ratio was going down, so you could maintain constant per pupil expenditure with falling taxes, or increased with constant. The fact book was on state and local finance, and K-12 schooling was far and away the largest expenditure of state and local governments. It was a demographic fact about people already born, so clearly true, and implied a reduced need for state and local taxes, so clearly relevant.

            The people I was working with wanted voters to believe that states and localities needed more money and I was offering a reason why they needed less. As best I recall, they offered no reason not to include my fact–they just didn’t include it. I was a congressional intern on loan to them from a congressman’s office (via the Joint Economic Committee, which he had lent me to for four days a week), so in no position to insist on an explanation.

            That same summer I encountered another and unrelated piece of dishonesty. But that was from the Agriculture department, not academics I knew and worked with, so didn’t shock me. I discussed it in a passage on sunk costs in Hidden Order and, I think, Price Theory .

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      What is she interested in? Good at?

      • JonathanD says:

        What is she interested in?

        Nothing special that I know of. She’s a fairly stereotypical teenage girl. She likes watching tv, listening to music, and hanging out with her friends.

        Good at?

        She has an aptitude for math. I tried to get her interested in engineering a couple of years ago but didn’t get anywhere.

    • Randy M says:

      What would you do if you were 18 and wanted to build a life, or kill a couple of years until a life came along?

      I recommend the former rather than the latter. Ideally she’d have some sort of life goals already she could work towards.

      Does she want a family? If so, this should be a priority. Because it doesn’t always ‘just happen’ and missing this, or potentially worse, making a poor choice or even just choosing too late, will negatively impact her life more than missing a vacation or being in a different retail job. If she wants a mate, she should consider what she wants in a husband, what that kind of person will want from her, and put herself in environments where she can find those types of men. Take classes, go to church perhaps, get a job that will let her interact with people–waitress seems pretty good for this.

      I was in her position, and wandered into college because everyone assumed that’s what you did if you had any aptitude at all, even just before the turn of the century. Worked out pretty well, but now the costs seem higher and the benefits lower, relative. So finding a different job that can support herself without it would be great if she has no passion for academics. My younger sister is managing a restaurant, which she has a degree for, but I think that path is open to a diligent waitress without a degree as well.

      • JonathanD says:

        She’s not currently interested in having a family. My sister doesn’t expect that she’ll have grandchildren, though of course, people can and do change their minds. Making life choices to husband hunt isn’t going to be a strategy she’s at all interested in.

    • broblawsky says:

      Long-term, without a college degree, her career options are going to be limited. I’d strongly advise against supporting her not going to college. Short-term, she might consider Americorps, or a Conservation Corps. It sounds like she should figure out what she’s passionate about before trying to make a career.

      • JonathanD says:

        Is this true? I have the impression that the trades are a good option, and are interested in getting more women. Anyone know if that’s true? Plumber, if you’re around, would you tell a kid to go into your line of work?

        • broblawsky says:

          Trade apprenticeship programs are hard to get into, and are (AFAIK) not as well-paying as people commonly think, due to limited hours. It’s a better option than retail, but not as good as getting a good degree at a cheap college.

        • Plumber says:

          @JonathanD says:
          November 14, 2019 at 10:00 am

          “…I have the impression that the trades are a good option, and are interested in getting more women. Anyone know if that’s true?”

          There’s been some efforts to get more women into the trades since the ’70’s, for some apprentice programs in California click here

          Plumber, if you’re around, would you tell a kid to go into your line of work?

          Compared to what?

          “…First of all: what is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders but those who give advice as to what orders should be given. Usually two opposite kinds of advice are given simultaneously by two different bodies of men; this is called politics. The skill required for this kind of work is not knowledge of the subjects as to which advice is given, but knowledge of the art of persuasive speaking and writing, i.e. of advertising
          Throughout Europe, though not in America, there is a third class of men, more respected than either of the classes of workers. These are men who, through ownership of land, are able to make others pay for the privilege of being allowed to exist and to work…”

          Bertrand Russell in 1932

          Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value of Work by Matthew Crawford well convinced me that “white-collar” work is often soul (or at least morale) destroying, while “blue collar” work is just more body destroying, and as far as I can tell paid employment is more tolerable the more

          1) you’re paid 

          2) you’re praised

          3) your respected

          4) you feel your efforts matter

          5) your efforts are successful

          6) the less time you spend at it

          7) the less pain you feel

          8) you have a feeling of agency

          9) you aren’t required to lie/cheat/steal (though a few thrive and enjoy doing so, there’s many jobs in marketing and sales for them, a flexible conscience is highly sought by employers, but usually those employers cheat their employees as much as they encourage their employees to cheat the customers).

          The (few) women I’ve known to make it in the trades were either unusually tough or they drifted to the more cerebral aspects of the trades (working more like architects/engineers and less like laborers), they were also a bit more likely to be night class teachers at my unions school (one-in-fifty of the teachers instead of one-in-a hundred in the field), one memorable lady would go to every union meeting and knit during it.

          The pay as a journeyworker plumber/steamfitter in my local union is about $50 an hour, a bit more if your working on a high rise in San Francisco, a bit less if your working government, low rise or up north, but to get to journey status you have to have enough non-union work experience (self-emoloyed counts) plus be effective/skilled enough to be kept on after hire or you need to start as an apprentice, and a first year apprentice is paid about a third of a journeymen wage (sorta like how a first year public school teacher is paid a low wage, but 10+ years of seniority gets you good pay), so the odds of a pay cut at first while going into harder work is strong, and that’s not including the night classes an apprentice must pass – unless you learn to weld first in which case if your the only welder on the crew at the job site your supposed to get journeyman rate, it takes passing some tests (both written and hands-on) and 9,000 on-the-job hours to reach journey status, the only time an exception is made (that I remember) was during the last recession when volunteering for Habitat For Humanity counted as on-the-job hours, though a few came in young via “work experience” that they claim they got from their family business (“An apprenticeship is five years, how are you a journeyman at 20?” “Oh, I worked for my Dad”).

          The trades I’ve seen with the most women have been (in order) electricians, low paid general laborers (usually Spanish speaking), air conditioning repair, and then steamfitters, while I’ve seen a few women plumbers they’re rarer than in the trades I’ve listed above, and I’ve never seen a woman fire sprinkler fitter.

          Frankly my apprenticeship years were some of the most miserable of my life, school was far easier – but your not paid for school and there’s no guarantee of a job upon graduation, including the extra pain from injuries and just how miserable apprenticeship was I’d say that the pay and status I now have became worth it ten years after I started as an apprentice (it’s now just over 20 years since I tested in and was accepted into the apprenticeship).

          Even so, except for the very worse ones, the occasional on-the-job injury is better than most days of working retail sales when either your customers are annoying, or you like the customers and the owner wants you to cheat them.

          There’s also “B.S.” jobs were looking busy when there really isn’t much productive to actually do, which is more stressful than having tasks that feel actually productive to do, this is endemic in large organizations and even small ones on slow days with “bird dog” bosses, and this may happen with blue collar jobs as well when you can’t get the tools and parts needed, but usually there’s ultimately something measurable to achieve (is it built/fixed?)  so that situation doesn’t last as long until either the business fails or someone competent in ordering material replaces the managers in a small shop, the best jobs I’ve had have been small shops, but so have the worse as “How dare you duck when I throw things at you!” bosses are the jobs you’re most likely to be able to get first. 

          In my experience government employment is better than most private employment as being ordered to lie/cheat/steal is much less, but annoying “innovations” from upper management who are apparently trying to look busy make it worse than working for the best small shops, but work stops for the best as well as the worst shops, especially during deep recessions, but (thankfully) government doesn’t stop as there’s always someone to keep jailed.

          My advice for someone young is to look over the lists of government jobs, their qualifications, and their openings every month for at least a year, which are much more clear than the ‘black box’ that is private industry, and decide on what jobs to pursue, unfortunately for most of them private industry experience, schooling, and/or previous government experience (found in remote small towns/rural counties far away) is usually required, so planning a path is often necessary.

    • Aftagley says:

      Enlist – either in the Navy, Coast Guard or Chair Force.

      Get some discipline, work experience and cool life stories. A life’s worth of veteran benefits and free college down the line if she wants it will greatly improve her future opportunities.

    • SamChevre says:

      I worked in construction until I was 23 before going to college.

      Things I suggest looking at:
      1) Store/chain restaurant shift management – the hourly pay can be decent and the experience is valuable long-term.
      2) The military
      3) Some of the trades
      4) IT onsite help desk work

      None of my siblings who work have college degrees. Two massage therapists, an electrician, a truck driver, an IT help desk person – all of them seem to be doing well.

    • However, despite being reasonably bright (As and Bs in school) she doesn’t enjoy school and will probably not opt to go that route.

      Try to get her to change her mind. Explain that she doesn’t have to enjoy it, she should do it because society pays her to do it.(Whether it should is another matter.)

      I recall someone linking some sort of program planting trees for the summer.

      If she isn’t willing to go to college, none of that do-gooder stuff is going to help her. If she wanted to objectively help people she’d be better off working in the area of her comparative advantage and donating earnings to charity. I doubt planting trees is her area of comparative advantage.

      What are good options for bright, un-academic young people?

      There aren’t any, except maybe the military. I would say find some job where she has some chance of moving up to a managerial position, then after showing her work ethic, threaten to quit for a real or imagined better opportunity if she doesn’t get it. Rince and repeat.

      • JonathanD says:

        If she isn’t willing to go to college, none of that do-gooder stuff is going to help her. If she wanted to objectively help people she’d be better off working in the area of her comparative advantage and donating earnings to charity. I doubt planting trees is her area of comparative advantage.

        I didn’t mean it for the charity benefits, just that it sounded like a fun way to spend a summer. I remember thinking at the time that I wished I’d heard of when I was the right age. This would be more in the screw around for a few years before deciding what to do camp. I think the Conservation Corp that @broblawsky was it, though I had thought it was a paying gig.

        • I didn’t mean it for the charity benefits, just that it sounded like a fun way to spend a summer. I remember thinking at the time that I wished I’d heard of when I was the right age.

          Planting trees sounds to me like it would be fun for a few hours/days, then brutal and repetitive thereafter. If she is different, she could consider working as a lumberjack or some other brutal outdoor labor job.

    • Erusian says:

      With young people like that, I tend to try and figure out if they know what they want to do. This can be vague but if they have a pretty firm sense of direction, that’s fine. For example, if they say, “I really want to help stop global warming, I’ve wanted to since I was a freshman.” or “I really want to be a singer.” or “I really want to start a beauty company.” or anything that’s generally goal oriented.

      If they don’t have that, I recommend they gain the most high paying, generally useful skills I can. Usually coding or accounting/finance or things of that nature. If they do, then I try and sit them down and build out a viable career path. And then figure out what the first steps they need to take it are. At eighteen, almost anything is still possible. And if they take six months to really focus on it they can make a ton of progress in setting themselves up for success.

      Edit: Ignore the people that say academics are the only pathway to success. That’s true of certain industries but not at all true of others. It all depends on what you want to do. Now, I do agree a college degree is generally beneficial but if you have a realistic plan you stick to that doesn’t require a college degree, you’ll usually be fine. (You’ll notice having a ‘reasonable plan they’ll stick to’ is more than most college students have though…)

      • Ignore the people that say academics are the only pathway to success. That’s true of certain industries but not at all true of others.

        This is basically true. There’s coding and there are union jobs where you need an “in” to get, and there’s harsh, dirty, dangerous outdoor jobs.

        I do agree a college degree is generally beneficial but if you have a realistic plan you stick to that doesn’t require a college degree, you’ll usually be fine

        You’ll escape poverty which is usually due to stupid decisions, but college is still a much better deal.

        • Erusian says:

          Quite the contrary, I know many people who are quite successful and didn’t go to college. It’s slightly less likely than those who did. The main difference is some people who went to college were able to just kind of stumble forward on a general path to success. “Oh, I got a degree in whatever, got my first internship at whatever, went on to become a whatever professional…” whereas the non-college people tended to have a plan they stuck to and executed. The non-college professionals who just wandered around usually turned out much worse for wear.

          To give some examples, I know someone who went out of high school to do music. She didn’t have an in and she’s not a big name but she’s stuck to it and now works in that industry helping with sound mixing and a few other odd things. She makes good money. Another guy got started in real estate and now owns over a million dollars in rentals (owns, not manages) in his late thirties. Another guy I knew is basically retired after having become a successful jingle writer for local commercials and is now trying (and failing) to get famous off ‘real’ music. And another guy I know started coding at 17 and is now making well into six figures at a major tech company. Another person started a blue collar company, became a multimillionaire, and now lives in Czechia with his ex-model wife.

          You can say these are exceptional and they are exceptional in a general sense. But most people I’ve seen who have a focused plan and stick to it do fine. Maybe not get super wealthy, but a nice middle to upper middle class life. The key was they were dedicated to the work and they developed skills that people would pay them for. As I said above, most eighteen year olds (most people frankly) don’t have that much drive though.

          • Another guy got started in real estate and now owns over a million dollars in rentals (owns, not manages) in his late thirties.

            The problem is it gets harder every year to “start” without a college degree.

          • Erusian says:

            Maybe. I know plenty of people getting started in real estate today. They’re not doing great just this moment because the market is slowing down but otherwise they seem fine…

          • SamChevre says:

            My anecdata is almost opposite yours.

            Most of the people I know who are under 50, don’t have a college education, and are doing well didn’t stick to one thing: they worked hard consistently, at a variety of things, until some combination of identifying what they were good at and being in the right place at the right time got them over the transition from “working hard at whatever comes to hand” to “good at something that they are well paid for.”

            I’ll give one of my sisters as an example: she worked as a house cleaner, a waitress, a nanny, at a Starbucks, eventually went to massage school but kept working as a waitress until she had a solid client list. She’s not yet 30, and owns her place (a 1 bedroom condo) outright.

          • Erusian says:

            @SamChevre

            Keep in mind, my advice presupposes the person has a strong interest and a demonstrated talent in it. I said that if they didn’t have those things, they should learn the most generally useful and profitable skills. They can then experiment.

    • Eri says:

      Maybe some program like Au Pair would interest her? It means an experience of living in another country and also learning a foreign language, which can be useful for her later in her career.

      As for degree, in my field (IT) it is possible to find a job without a degree as long as your skills are good enough, even if the diploma makes it much more comfortable. But if she doesn’t have any interest in programming, then that’s, obviously, not the greatest path.

      I do not know much about other fields, but anecdotally, a degree is important. Even the easier jobs more often than not require some form of education in-between secondary school and university (is there any US analogue for that?)

      I’d ask her what are the reasons she doesn’t want to go to university. Maybe it is possible to solve them without refusing the very idea.

    • johan_larson says:

      Sending someone to college when she don’t know what she wants to do with her life (and doesn’t find academics engaging in the first place) sounds like a recipe for listless underachievement and wasted money. Far better, I should think, to let expensive training wait until she has figured out what to train for.

      I would suggest letting this kid take a gap year, with the explicit goal of figuring out what she wants to do with her life. Let her live at home, and offer funds for whatever investigations she need to do. Do not offer funds for fun and games. If she wants pocket money, let her take whatever job she can get, which probably won’t be anything great with neither training nor experience.

      • LesHapablap says:

        I suggest a gap year spent travelling on the cheap around Europe or India or Australia/NZ. She’ll gain a bit of maturity and meet lots of people her own age. She’ll probably need her parents to help fund it.

        Would be good to know what her hobbies are, if she has any bad habits, what her parents do and how rich they are, that sort of thing.

        • JonathanD says:

          Yeah, the gap year is definitely what I would do if I were 18 again. She doesn’t have any standout hobbies that I’m aware of. She drinks and gets high, but not to excess as far as I’m aware, and her family is middle middle or upper middle class.

    • Urstoff says:

      Does the French Foreign Legion accept women?

    • psmith says:

      What would you do

      Me personally:

      -Conservation corps. Fun if you like working innawoods and don’t get stuck handing out lunches in fire camp or picking up trash on the road, and can be a decent way into a decent-paying job as a climbing arborist or a power lineman (I know several guys who did this) or fighting fire (but that’s kind of its own ball of wax, there.).

      -Tree-planting. Not a charitable enterprise or anything, it’s part of the logging industry (at least as seasonal work in Canada), just working way out innawoods and quite fun if you like that sort of thing.

      -Military.

      -Don’t like the ocean enough to say commercial fishing but I can see the appeal otherwise.

      But these are all fairly male-coded and absent further information I don’t know that I’d throw them out as serious suggestions for your situation. Au pair seems like a decent idea. Maybe WWOOF?

    • John Schilling says:

      How’s the waitress thing working out for her? Waitressing at a good restaurant can be quite lucrative for a young woman with a knack for it; paid my stepsister’s bills until she earned her CPA and she wasn’t living poor. But it’s not a career, and earning potential will fall off pretty rapidly in a decade or so if she hasn’t burned out beforehand.

      If she is making good money and not hating it, then the important thing is to make sure she doesn’t go too long without planning for what comes next. Insisting that she ditch waitressing ASAP because it’s a professional dead end is going to cost you credibility and cost her a chance to make money that she can use to finance whatever the next step turns out to be. Could be that’s managing and ultimately buying out the restaurant she waits tables at now. Could be saving enough money to quit and backpack around the world for a year, then try something new. At eighteen, it’s not urgent that she answer that question this year, but she should be at least thinking about it.

      But barring any specific interests on her part, it is unlikely that any specific plan you suggest for her is going to be significantly better than a year in a good waitressing job while thinking about what comes next.

      • JonathanD says:

        As far as I know, waitressing is going fine. My idea here isn’t to tell her she’s doing something wrong, it’s just to let her know she has some options.

        I’m from the same small midwestern town she is. When I was her age, I was one of 20 finalists for a 10 full ride scholarships to some relatively prestigious California university (I don’t remember which one.) The final step in the process was going out there for an interview, at which point I simply gave up. California seemed like the moon to me. I’m worried that she has the same provincialism I did at her age, so I thought I’d try to give her a sense of some of the choices she has that she might not know about. It’s possible (probable really) that I’m really collecting advice to give to my 18 yo self, and her issues, whatever they are, are totally different from mine.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Is it reasonable to point her at this discussion?

          • acymetric says:

            I wouldn’t advise that. People can be kind of weirded out that they are being discussed by a bunch of strangers on the Internet without their knowledge.

        • John Schilling says:

          If provincialism is the problem, there’s a good chance that travel is the solution. Or possibly lots of reading, if travel is right out.

          The question is how to nudge her towards travel, if she’s not already inclined to it. Inviting her on a family vacation to someplace cool might work as a start. I won’t suggest “forgetting” to buy her a return ticket and giving her hitchhiking money instead, because that would be mean.

    • AG says:

      Have her work retail through the holiday season. Then she’ll be champing at the bit to do anything that will ensure that she never has to work retail ever again.

    • WashedOut says:

      Not going to college is a great idea. I’d be looking to get her into one of the more intellectual trades, i.e. electrical or avionics etc. Employers are tripping over themselves trying to get more women into trades, she should be a shoe-in for a good apprenticeship if she’s half smart.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      What makes you think she is going to like either the trades or the service? Has she expressed any interest in blue-collar work?

      As always, there are 3rd shift openings at our factory. The starting pay is around $19/hour, with a practically guaranteed bonus of 10% per year, and pretty good benefits. I am sure after 6 months of that, and comparing it to the experience of college-educated, salaried employees, she will revisit her decision to not attend college.

    • Lambert says:

      High (bachelors or a bit below) level apprenticeship?
      If they’re a thing wherever you are.

    • aristides says:

      She should consider long term opening her own small business. College is great for future employees, but not as useful for future small business owners. If her parents saved money for college, she could use that as start up capital to open a business. Short term, she should try to get jobs in the industry she wants to open her small business in. Even if they pay minimum wage, they’ll teach her more than college would. Suggest it and see if she’s interested.

  21. Eri says:

    Is it true that shifting your monitor’s colour balance to a redder one is good for your eyes? I’ve recently heard about it, and I’m curious. However, I wasn’t able to find any research, can anyone suggest some articles on this topic?

    • lvlln says:

      I think the common wisdom is that changing it to redder helps helps one fall asleep more easily, since it’s lower in blue light which hampers melatonin release or something like that. I’ve never heard anything about it being better for the eyes, except maybe just easier to look at.

      No idea if it’s an old wives’ tale or if it’s real, though. At least major companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple believe it enough to implement it in their OS software, but, of course, that doesn’t tell us much about its veracity.

      • b4mgh says:

        I think the common wisdom is that changing it to redder helps helps one fall asleep more easily, since it’s lower in blue light which hampers melatonin release or something like that.

        I have installed a program called f.lux that adjusts the color of your monitor according to your sleep cycle following that idea. In my experience it can be somewhat effective in making falling asleep easier, and it is just generally more pleasant to use the computer late at night.

        I have also experimented with different lightbulb colors for my desk. I settled on a small incandescent light bulb surrounded by white glass, over which I place a red paper cover I made myself. When I need more light I can just remove the cover, but generally I find that it is just the right amount of light for my night-time computer use.

  22. Levantine says:

    I wonder how are the ongoing political developments in Bolivia viewed from certain political viewpoints, as they may cause perplexion. For example:

    “Socialism fails again”

    The claims that I’ve seen speak of rates of poverty moderate and extreme, the illiteracy rates and unemployment rates have dropped significantly during the reign of “the socialists”.

    “I don’t know. Possibly the numbers are cooked”

    Any actual evidence for that?

    “It was a tyranny… Or, at any rate, the former Bolivian regime made such breaches of the rule of law, that it was natural and healthy for that house of cards to be toppled.”

    The available accusations against the former regime are apparently without evidential backing, and in conflict with claims such as that “no electoral irregularities or fraud” by election observers based in Washington DC.

    On the other hand, the unlawfulness of the new president is clear.

    “This is a globalist regime change, and globalism is a leftist ideology”

    It makes it leftists against leftists.

    “Yes, that’s typical of the Left: recall Trotskyists vs. Stalinists, etc.”

    I recall reading how the Left is united and goal oriented, in contrast to the Right.

    “Maybe both claims are truthful at different levels, or looking from different perspectives.”

    Fair enough. BTW, president Trump came out with words of support of the new regime, which makes him back the globalist left, whose interests overlap with those of the Bolivian millionaires, and at this point I can’t even be ironic: I’m truly disoriented.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      The claims that I’ve seen speak of rates of poverty moderate and extreme, the illiteracy rates and unemployment rates have dropped significantly during the reign of “the socialists”.

      “I don’t know. Possibly the numbers are cooked”

      Socialist regimes tend to promote education and employment, but then they fail, don’t they? Criticism of socialism usually doesn’t claim that gravy train will never come, only that it will inevitably crash somewhere down the line.

    • Aftagley says:

      The available accusations against the former regime are apparently without evidential backing, and in conflict with claims such as that “no electoral irregularities or fraud” by election observers based in Washington DC.

      This is incorrect.

      Here is are the main complaints coming from the OAS:

      1. Without letting anyone, especially monitoring agencies, know, election data was rerouted to a private server before getting to monitors/auditors. The official computers/servers were also not properly secured. This means that the underlying data can’t be trusted anymore.

      2. A bunch of written records are likely to have been forged.

      3. Pre-written election procedures were not followed, and there was not a strong chain of custody over the electoral results. Some records have apparently been destroyed.

      4. Initial reports had a Morales up by a margin of 7.3% with only 84% of the votes cast. Had this margin held, there would have been a second election. The final reports had over 10% (the margin needed for morales to win outright).

      First-off, CEPR isn’t some unbiased election observation joint, and they definitely aren’t affiliated with the USG. They are a left leaning economic think tank that’s got a history of being pro-bolivarian. That doesn’t discount their argument, but it should be considered when you are essentially relying on them to go against the OAS and the people of Bolivia.

      In there rebuttal to OAS, CEPR only talks about OAS’s 4th point, and makes the argument that it’s conceivable that his margins could have run up another couple of points on the late-returning ballots. CEPR doesn’t talk at all about any of the security/chain of custody/forging accusations. The data they are using to validate Morales is likely to be tainted; they can’t just use that data to prove he’s correct.

      • False says:

        I’m posting this as a complete outside observer with no special knowledge of the details of this event, but who shares a very similar level of skepticism to Levantine regarding the legitmacy of ousting Morales.

        In there rebuttal to OAS, CEPR only talks about OAS’s 4th point

        This does not seem correct. The CEPR argue against points 1-3 when, in their report, they claim that the OAS has failed to show adequate evidence for irregularities or tampering. I’m very curious to know what evidence you have for your claims 1-3, especially number 3, as that would radically shift my understanding of the events as they unfolded. Your argument begs the question because you seem to take OAS’s claims as factual, whereas the opposing argument is that the OAS seems not to have empirical proof.

        To reinforce some of Levantine’s inital skepticism as to the unbiased nature of OAS’s claims, how can we trust the OAS when, once the OAS claimed that there were irregularities in the election, Morales agreed to a full audit by the the OAS, and yet they refused to do so, forgoing a full audit and instead releasing only a preliminary audit with no empirical data? They have also been incredibly quiet as events have now unfolded in Bolivia.

        Speculation and conjecture are not enough of a foundation to destabalize an entire country, plunge it into violence, and allow for the rise of a an interim president who seems to be an openly white-supremecist christian fundamentalist to an empty legislature. The ritualistic placing of a bible over the indigenous flag (and then burning the flag) and claims that “Bolivia is once again a Christian nation” do not seem to be in keeping with conscientious objections for the sake of a stable democracy and instead seem to be exactly the sort of thing one would expect to see after a successful coup by radical forces. After resigning, Morales and other members of his party had to flee Bolivia in fear of their safety, and other members of the Mas are even scared to return to the legislature. This doesn’t seem like a normal resignation due to election fraud, but a military style coup.

        Hopefully you can see why there’s a lot of room to be skeptical about this situation. The “yes-this-is-a-coup” take is “The U.S. state department and the OAS helped start a coup by Bolivia’s right-wing forces as the latest attempt to destablize leftist governments in south america.” As much as I would love to dismiss this, it unfortunately seems to ring at least half true.

        • Aftagley says:

          This does not seem correct. The CEPR argue against points 1-3 when, in their report, they claim that the OAS has failed to show adequate evidence for irregularities or tampering. I’m very curious to know what evidence you have for your claims 1-3, especially number 3, as that would radically shift my understanding of the events as they unfolded. Your argument begs the question because you seem to take OAS’s claims as factual, whereas the opposing argument is that the OAS seems not to have empirical proof.

          Just to be clear: have you read the OAS’s report and if so, do you accept that what they are saying is potentially truthful? Not trying to attack you or anything, but that’s the source document I’ll be referring back to in answering this question. If you haven’t, check it out and let me know what you still disagree with.

          To reinforce some of Levantine’s inital skepticism as to the unbiased nature of OAS’s claims, how can we trust the OAS when, once the OAS claimed that there were irregularities in the election, Morales agreed to a full audit by the the OAS, and yet they refused to do so, forgoing a full audit and instead releasing only a preliminary audit with no empirical data?

          The claim here is “the OAS is sitting on a final report” or is for some reason restricting data, correct? Do you mind linking to a good source on this one? I haven’t seen any sources backing up that idea.

          Speculation and conjecture are not enough of a foundation to destabalize an entire country, plunge it into violence…

          Disagree. If believe that your system is corrupt enough where conclusive evidence of government wrongdoing will never be uncovered without sustained action, then protesting is ethically mandated.

          seems to be an openly white-supremecist christian fundamentalist to an empty legislature.

          The legislature is empty because the socialist party refuses to join. They have a good reason for not doing so, but the option at this point is either “No President” or “President approved without a quorum” both options are bad, I personally think that a vacuum is worse.

          As for openly white supremacist, I honestly don’t know. A look through normal media reporting on this event doesn’t back this claim. I think the best source for this point I found was Jacobin, but, you know… Jacobin. If she’s being honest and her goals are merely to arrange for a new set of fair elections within 3 months then her personality and biases hopefully won’t matter either way. If she doesn’t arrange free elections, they should also be protested.

          The ritualistic placing of a bible over the indigenous flag (and then burning the flag) and claims that “Bolivia is once again a Christian nation” do not seem to be in keeping with conscientious objections for the sake of a stable democracy and instead seem to be exactly the sort of thing one would expect to see after a successful coup by radical forces.

          Again, I’m not seeing any credible sources alleging this happened. It does seems exactly like the kind of thing that radical forces would do, or the kind of thing that pro-bolivarian propaganda outfits would claim had happened to mobilize the base.

          After resigning, Morales and other members of his party had to flee Bolivia in fear of their safety, and other members of the Mas are even scared to return to the legislature. This doesn’t seem like a normal resignation due to election fraud, but a military style coup.

          Yes they fled, no there’s no good evidence that anything unlawful would have happened to them had they stayed. It’s WAY cushier to be a leader-in-exile than a disgraced former president/leader in country.

          Hopefully you can see why there’s a lot of room to be skeptical about this situation. The “yes-this-is-a-coup” take is “The U.S. state department and the OAS helped start a coup by Bolivia’s right-wing forces as the latest attempt to destablize leftist governments in south america.”

          And here we get to the crux of my annoyance/disagreement. I don’t honestly believe that the upright folks at the state department decided to secretly work with shadowy forces in some random country no one in the US cares about just to stick it in the global eye of leftism. It’s not the cold war anymore, no one cares about small time leftist leaders anymore.

          Who possibly benefits from doing this? What rationale supports this idea? Do you honestly think that that during an impeachment process for meddling in another country’s internal politics that the Trump department decided to go off and stage a coup? or maybe that a shadowy cabal of leftist-hating FSO’s decided to go rogue and take down Morales? What would anyone gain for this?

    • teneditica says:

      The available accusations against the former regime are apparently without evidential backing, and in conflict with claims such as that “no electoral irregularities or fraud” by election observers based in Washington DC.

      CEPR are not “election obsevers”, they are a think tank that happens to employ this guy, who generously decided, given the trust due to him as a neutral source, to write a paper with a simulation that is supposed to offer an explanation for the observerd irregularities. He did not himself observe the election, and people who actually did concluded that there was probably fraud.

    • Aftagley says:

      I decided to separate out the critique of your facts vs. a critique of your ideas.

      Morales is Morales, he only represents the broader movement of his ideas as much as say, Trump represents fiscal conservatism or Putin represents (checks Putin’s current party) the people of Russia. Morales isn’t some avatar of socialism, especially not to the people of Bolivia. He’s a complex man with a complex history; it’s very possible for him to have done some good early on and now be a national issue.

      Morales running for this election is a national farce. The constitution prevents him from another term. A referendum from 2016 showed that the people of Bolivia didn’t want him to run for another term. The only reason he’s running is that the Supreme Court and Constitution was overruled by a tribunal. He’s grown increasingly erratic and has made choices internally that have alienated a bunch of people.

      BTW, president Trump came out with words of support of the new regime, which makes him back the globalist left, whose interests overlap with those of the Bolivian millionaires, and at this point I can’t even be ironic: I’m truly disoriented.

      Occam’s razor – is it more likely that Trump has decided to Back a shadowy network of the globalist left and Bolivian millionaires, or that he finds the evidence that the election was rigged compelling?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “The claims that I’ve seen speak of rates of poverty moderate and extreme, the illiteracy rates and unemployment rates have dropped significantly during the reign of “the socialists”.”

      I think these claims are misleading.

      Here is a graph of Bolivian poverty rates over time. Morales was elected in 2006. It’s hard to tell but mostly looks like continuation of preexisting trend.

      Here is Bolivian literacy rate over time. It looks like it did worse under Morales than before him.

      Here is unemployment. Again, it looks like a trend that started before Morales continued into his administration, but in general the unemployment rate is higher now than when he was elected.

      Low confidence that my interpretation of this is perfect, but even lower confidence in whatever source you’re using.

      • Garrett says:

        FWIW, the X-axis for the literacy rate is messed up, making it look like the taper off is sharper than it really is.

  23. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    A pleasant little video about the physics of paint drying.

    However, I can’t find anything about the stages water goes through from room temperature to boiling.

    • Peffern says:

      Last spring I took Transport Phenomena and one of the problems for convective mass transfer involved paint drying evaporatively. I seem to recall a joke among some of the students that solving the problems was less interesting than watching it in real time…

    • HeelBearCub says:

      However, I can’t find anything about the stages water goes through from room temperature to boiling.

      Funny that, because I have pondering the mystery if why, as water comes to a boil, the pitch it makes gets lower in frequency. Seems a little odd, when you think about the idea of more energy = faster/more reactions. I can think of reasons why it could be, but I don’t know the real reason.

      Haven’t found any particular good explainers of the phenomenon.

      • woah77 says:

        I’m not certain what you mean by this, but if you can elaborate, I might have some ideas.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          This effect is perhaps most easily observed with an electric kettle for boiling water, although I think it happens with pretty much any water as it comes to a boil. Of note, there is not any kind of “whistle spout”, just so that it’s clear I am talking about the noise made by the water itself.

          As the water heats up near the boiling point, the kettle will start to give off a sort of “fizzing” or “static” sound. This is separate from a periodic ticking sound that I believe accompanies the expansion of the metal as it heats. As the water continues to increase in temperature this fizzing sound begins to deepen in tone, eventually becoming sort of a low rumble just before the water comes to a full boil.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I’d have to test it, but as a preliminary hypothesis: Increasing temperature means larger bubbles (more liquid water being converted into steam). The “fizzing” sound you hear as water simmers is most likely just that: fizzing. Tiny bubbles forming and collapsing.

            As for why a bigger bubble makes a deeper sound, I’m not sure: The walls of the bubble have more surface area and thus resonate more slowly? Except that the popping sound is the water striking itself as the bubble collapses, isn’t it? So more surface area hitting itself…well, same thing, slower vibration/resonance, lower pitch?

            Not an acoustic engineer or physicist but that would be my guess.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko:

            Yeah, that’s why I said I can come up with potential reasons why it might be. I think you’re thoughts and mine are similar.

            The other, slightly different, thought was that larger bubbles = fewer bubbles = slower frequency of bubble formation.

          • woah77 says:

            I would suggest that larger bubbles means larger air cavity, which means the wavelength of sounds created is longer. Longer wavelength = lower frequency = deeper sound.

            Related

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @woah77:

            Very interesting article. Thank you. That does seem like the right explanation.

      • Clutzy says:

        Kettles are loudest before boiling (I think about 70-80 C its the loudest) because of bubbles forming and collapsing in on themselves. Basically, before water boils all these little bubbles of water vapor form at the hotter parts of the vessel, but because they are surrounded by water that isn’t at the boiling point yet, they quickly cool down and collapse in on themselves, this is a fairly violent process when viewed on a small scale.

        As the kettle gets hotter, the bubbles dont collapses as quickly or violently, and obviously once it is boiling they don’t collapse at all.

  24. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Education doesn’t reliably lead to prosperity on either an individual or group level. I welcome theories about have does lead to prosperity.

    This comment is inspired by Millennials earn 20% less than baby boomers did—despite being better educated

    • EchoChaos says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s mostly national IQ (not as much personal).

      Education is a luxury good. We buy it because we’re rich, it doesn’t make us rich.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Does it seem as though national IQ dropped that much?

        • EchoChaos says:

          Ballpark guess would be that national IQ among millennial is about 3-5 points lower than boomers based simply on population averages because millennials are less white, slightly more Asian and substantially more Hispanic than boomers.

          That’s not a lot, but it could explain the 20% difference.

        • Education probably dropped young Americans’ wages because of the opportunity cost of being in school for four more years, that’s four fewer years of job skill development.

        • albatross11 says:

          Is there data that shows that average IQ fell in the US over the last 30 years? I’m skeptical….

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      It seems like a somewhat fallacious comparison. Young people have to compete with entrenched geezers to whom IQ and education is less crucial, because they entrenched. It’s as mistaken to compare them as to compare them across country lines.

      It only really makes sense to compare millenials with millenials.

      • Well... says:

        How often are millennials actually competing with geezers (by which I assume you mostly mean boomers) for the same job or promotion?

        • ana53294 says:

          Millenials aren’t competing with boomers for the same promotion; they are competing with people who already have the job they want to get that job.

          And that happens all the time in academia, for example, where you may have much more accomplished young researchers trying to get a professorship their older colleagues got much more easily (and are refusing to leave; many academics retire into their seventies).

          • Well... says:

            So, exceptions include academia, public libraries, and other fields where there are few positions and people tend to cling to them until late retirement. But it seems like in general the pattern of millennials competing against boomers in a meaningful way is not prominent.

          • Garrett says:

            competing against boomers in a meaningful way is not prominent.

            Wouldn’t this apply to any union position where seniority matters for employee retention or hiring preference?

          • Well... says:

            Sure. Like I said, “fields where there are few positions and people tend to cling to them until late retirement”.

      • It’s comparing millennials with boomers in the past when they were young.

      • acymetric says:

        They’re not comparing millennial now vs. boomers now. They’re comparing millenials now vs. boomers at the same age some decades ago.

        Edit: Ninja’d

        • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

          The stereotype of Boomers is that in their youth they could easily get hired by just walking in the office. I guess they didn’t have the same kind of competition.

          In either case, it seems unreasonable to try and compare sizes of different pies.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Wow, is that the stereotype? It is very very wrong. At least for middle boomers like me that came of age in the ’70’s. There was so much competition because of course we were baby boomers so there were so many of us. It was very hard to find jobs in the ’70’s.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, the easy hire stuff was discussed in this subthread. It’s mostly pre-boomer.

          • Clutzy says:

            For certain fields I expect it differs, but I’d guess the legal field is somewhere between 5 and 10x as competitive for recent law school grads as when Boomers and even Gen Xers were graduating.

            Older attorneys joke about how their C’s got degrees at mid-tier schools and then they got hired at a big firm, worked 8 years, made partner, etc. Now if you have C’s the only way you’d get hired is if you are at a top 20 school, or if your daddy is hiring you.

            The only exception to that is minority candidates that are skilled. A minority with a B+ average will get like 10 offers.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Young people have to compete with entrenched geezers to whom IQ and education is less crucial, because they entrenched.

        This is a plausible implication from the article, which blames the recession. Recession leads to people’s savings being reduced, making the difference for a lot of them between retiring and staying in the workforce. More of them in the latter category means more available labor, and thus lower wages.

        That’s simplifying a little. 20YOs aren’t competing directly with 50YOs, but 50YOs staying at work means fewer 40YOs getting the jobs the 50YOs left behind, which means fewer 30YOs getting the jobs the 40YOs would have left behind, etc.

    • Garrett says:

      It doesn’t look like they normalized across types of education. Getting a degree in art history probably isn’t employment-useful, whereas a degree in engineering or nursing probably is.

      Also, how much of that was based on the unique economic conditions following WWII? Could it be that we are back to what would be considered “normal” employment conditions?

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Boomers started their careers during a time of strong economic growth and unusually low wealth inequality, millennials started their careers during the 2007 financial crisis and unusually high wealth inequality.

    • Well... says:

      1. By “prosperity” I take it you mean in a narrow financial sense. (Intuitively, I factor having kids into my personal definition of prosperity.)

      2. By “education” I take it you mean both the sheer credential aspect and the structured learning meant to go behind it, rather than just one or the other.

      3. One’s own education might not lead to prosperity, but the education of others certainly does. I never went to school to get a degree in what I do for a living, but what I do for a living depends in large part on computer systems. The science, development, and programming of those systems is something other people got educations for, and without them doing that I might not have my job. This is just one example and there are countless others to show how education has led to prosperity on the individual and group level — just not my education in this instance.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Those are good questions.

        What I meant by prosperity is pretty much income, though what can be bought with the income is also relevant.

        Children end up being a matter that’s kind of like the education and prosperity question– what circumstances enable people to turn prosperity into children

        What I had in mind for education was the conventional notion of education. It probably should include craft training, but it usually doesn’t.

        My underlying notion is that at least some of what’s learned in school is useful, but there needs to be a part to make that education useful, and I think a lot of people believe education is the solution to poverty and don’t think enough about what social systems are needed to make that education useful.

        And I agree that there can be too much education just in terms of time spent.

    • cassander says:

      I love the “despite” in that sentence. It speaks to so much of what is wrong about the education system. Why on earth would you expect that people who spent several years getting degrees of extremely questionable utility would make more money than people who spent their time working and getting actual experience?

      The basic math is also questionable. Millenials have more and better durable goods than boomers did at the same age, they live in larger (per person) and nicer homes, and have vastly better medical care. If they were truly making less money, they’d have to be giving something up somewhere, but they don’t appear to be.

      • I agree the CPI is overstating inflation, but an obvious thing they are giving up is children.

        • cassander says:

          they’re having fewer than the early boomers, but spending a lot more money on each one. I’m not sure that child related consumption is down, it’s certainly up since the birthrate stopped dropping in the mid 70s.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Does anyone have information on the proportions of different sorts of degrees boomers vs. millennials have?

    • Aftagley says:

      How much of this wealth gap shows up when you factor in:

      1. Our education cost way more than yours did and we have significant student loan debt when starting out our careers?

      2. The fact that boomers destroyed manufacturing as a viable career path for the less well educated?

      3. The fact that housing/cost of living prices have increasing way above wages throughout the entire time we’ve been on the job market?

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I agree that these are all extremely important factors.

        1. How much of that increase is a result of poorly designed student loans and the growth in non-faculty staff at universities? Or new and fashionable programs (e.g. women’s studies) that need to be subsidized by traditional programs (e.g. engineering)? Or the fact that IQ testing for jobs is now essentially illegal and everybody who wants an entry-level white collar job needs a degree in “psychology” or something?

        2. Free trade with third world nations got you cheap flat screen TVs and stuff, at the expense of your social fabric.

        3. Immigration increases the demand for housing and the supply of labor.

        • Nick says:

          Or new and fashionable programs (e.g. women’s studies) that need to be subsidized by traditional programs (e.g. engineering)?

          Just going to note here: it’s often the traditional humanities that are being subsidized, not just the fashionable programs. My university wouldn’t have a theology department or a bunch of others if not for core curricular requirements.

      • The fact that boomers destroyed manufacturing as a viable career path for the less well educated?

        I’d say “tech and trade.”

        The fact that housing/cost of living prices have increasing way above wages throughout the entire time we’ve been on the job market?

        The finding accounts for inflation, so it already counts the housing price increase(.food, durables, ect. decreased.)

        • acymetric says:

          I’ve always been somewhat skeptical that housing costs are really properly accounted for in inflation metrics, at least in part because changes in housing costs vary so much by locality and housing type.

    • John Schilling says:

      Goodhart’s law has to be at least part of it, and I question the claim that millennials are “better educated” when what is established is only that they have more credentials.

      If college degrees are for A: upper-class people who need to upper-class “finishing school” and B: unusually promising poor to middle-class people deemed most likely to succeed in professional careers, then education will be highly correlated with economic success. If college degrees are for everyone because college degrees cause economic success, then college degrees will be much more weakly correlated with economic success.

      • hls2003 says:

        +1 to this. Assume that income roughly translates to “possessing skills or gifts capable of creating material value in society,” that is, you get more income as your skills add more value. If you start with an education credential for the most-naturally-gifted 20%, you would expect their high skills (hopefully improved by the education) to produce substantial income later relative to their peers in the bottom 80%. If you now brute-force the education credential to encompass the top 40%, you would expect their skills to produce less income relative to their peers in the bottom 60%, because the possessors of the credential are likely to be less-skilled and thus lower-producing overall.

      • Aftagley says:

        So if the value of a Bachelors degrees has decreased, I’d agree that comparing millennials and boomers isn’t worthwhile. Are there any degrees who’s value hasn’t eroded that you reasonably compare?

        • Statismagician says:

          Medical degrees, possibly?

        • SamChevre says:

          I don’t think comparing degrees is the right approach: what you want to compare are percentiles. So the ~60th percentile Millenial has a bachelors degree–how are they doing relative to a 60th percentile Boomer.

          I think Millenials are much worse off. You have to be much further up the income distribution to own a house in a neighborhood where most children have the same parents they did when they were a month old, on a single income.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      The article wants to blame the problem on the recession. Meanwhile, I assume the claim is that ( better education => more income ) because ( better education => better skill => more income ). If that’s the case, then there’s a potential weak point from a traditionalist’s perspective: maybe ( better education => better skill ) is false.

      What subjects are all those bachelor’s degrees in? And what are the baseline requirements for a BS in a given subject in 2018, vs. the same BS in 1978?

      Alexander Turok’s link above suggests the stereotypical right wing CW take is wrong: there was no surge in X Studies degrees. Arts, humanities, psychology, and sociology look pretty stable since 1995. That dark line between criminal justice and economics is cultural studies, which has been less than 1% the entire time.

      Health has been growing since 2004. Education steadily decreased; journalism steadily increased. The big gain appears to have been business, which blew up in 1970-80 and stuck around 20% of the total majors since then.

      The biggest possible problem I see is that there are over twice as many people with degrees as there were in 1970. There’s simply more people. And that chart only covers the US; the market has globalized significantly since then. That’s probably the most accurate take, not to mention the boring one. (Hypothesis: the median income worldwide went up.)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Instead of “better education => better skill => more income “, how about “better education => better skill => more income iff good use of sufficient capital => more income “?

        If this theory is right, then we need an explanation for why there’s less capital and/or worse use of it.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          [W]e need an explanation for why there’s less capital and/or worse use of it.

          We do, aye. …The obvious capital factor there is land, and there’s less of that per person now. But there are many more forms of capital as well, naturally. Which brings us to the earlier claim about the US manufacturing base. How many factories are still in operation, and what is their average GDP? (And their average GDP per person they employ?)

          • The obvious capital factor there is land, and there’s less of that per person now.

            The value of land is mostly based on proximity to humans. More humans -> More land that’s valuable due to proximity to humans, so this is not a limited factor. If you want to look at land when stripped of its value due to proximity to humans, look at farmland in Kansas, there’s no increase in the real price of that. The problem with high housing costs is in political decisions not to allow people to develop it. In other words, it’s a choice.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz says:

      “Education doesn’t reliably lead to prosperity on either an individual or group level. I welcome theories about have does lead to prosperity…”

      Labor, resources, and relariver power lead to prosperity, but before I get into that, the reason more education no longer leads to higher wages is supply, demand, and what I call “the standing audience effect”:
      At a theater with seats one person stands up to get a better view of the performance, now with their view blocked the person behind them stands up to make the difference, and then the person behind them does as well, soon most are standing instead of sitting comfortably in their seats.
      With the collapse of wages for the less educated due to de-unionization, automation, and China’s entry in the W.T.O. the relative wage premium for college diplomas went up so more of the young went to college, eventually supply of graduates overtook demand.

      From: The Rise and Fall of the College Graduate Wage Premium

      “Simple supply and demand specifications do a remarkable job explaining the long-run evolution of the college wage premium.”

      The wage premium for workers in occupations requiring high levels of education was exceptionally high in 2005. But this is not the first time that the gap has been so wide. In 1915, for example, the premium for a college education was also large. In the decades in between, the United States saw the earnings gap between the more educated and the less educated narrow dramatically, up until the early 1950s, and then begin to widen rapidly again after 1980.

      What caused these changes? In The Race Between Education and Technology: The Evolution of U.S. Educational Wage Differentials, 1890 to 2005 (NBER Working Paper No. 12984), co-authors Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz conclude that “strong secular growth in the relative demand for more educated workers combined with fluctuations in the growth of relative skill supplies go far to explain the long-run evolution of U.S. educational wage differentials.”

      Using this supply-demand framework, the authors find that from 1915 to 1940, the relative demand for college graduates (those with 16 or more years of schooling) grew at an average rate of 2.16 to 2.41 percent per year. But the supply of college-educated workers grew at an average 3.19 percent annually during the same period. Not surprisingly, the wage premium for college graduates over high school graduates narrowed dramatically during the period.

      Starting in 1980, the supply-demand picture flipped, the study shows. The rise in the supply of college-educated workers slowed to 2.00 percent per year while demand increased to somewhere between 3.27 to 3.66 percent per year. That’s a major reason behind the rise in the premium back to the levels of 1915. “Overall, simple supply and demand specifications do a remarkable job explaining the long-run evolution of the college wage premium,” the authors write, with the exception of two periods.

      The first is the 1940s, when the actual premium declined more sharply than predicted. In all likelihood, the authors argue, the lingering effects of wartime wage policies, the bargaining power of industrial unions, strong wartime demand for production workers, and the postwar consumer boom all acted to narrow the premium below its long-term equilibrium level. (In the 1950s, the premium rebounded more strongly than predicted, apparently bringing the wages of skilled workers back into balance.)

      In the mid- to late-1970s, the college wage premium narrowed again. Slowing productivity, high inflation, and oil-price shocks complicated the picture. Unions whose members had wages fully indexed to inflation and whose contracts provided real wage growth helped boost the income of non-college-educated workers. These “institutional” factors may have led, again, to the college premium narrowing more than supply-and-demand fundamentals would have warranted. In any case, the college premium rebounded dramatically in the 1980s after a deep recession and employers’ tougher line with unions led to concession bargaining in the early part of the decade.

      The study finds similar supply-demand forces influencing the wage premium to high school graduation during the first part of the twentieth century. A jump in the number of high school graduates starting around 1910 marked the beginning of the decline in that premium that lasted until the 1940s.

      The authors also examine what role immigration has played in the fall and rise of the college wage premium since 1890. Since immigrants have tended to swell the ranks of less-educated workers, especially during the initial and latter parts of that period, their influx has had an impact. But “immigration had a far smaller effect on relative skill supplies in all periods we examine than is generally presumed and thus it had a smaller impact on changes in the premium to education than is often asserted,” the authors argue.

      After 1980, for example, when there was a slowdown in the growth of the relative supply of college graduates, the decline in growth of the relative supply of native-born graduates accounted for 86 percent of the change. Thus, only 14 percent was due to immigrants. For high school graduates, the immigration effect was far more pronounced. But again, the slowdown in the growth of the supply of native-born high school graduates accounted for 57 percent of the effect, they calculate, while 43 percent of the effect was caused by immigration.

      “Technological change is the engine of economic growth.” Yet, the authors conclude, it also “creates winners and losers and can sometimes have adverse distributional consequences that may foment social tension…. [But] [i]f workers have flexible skills and if the educational infrastructure expands sufficiently, then the supply of skills will increase as demand increases for them. Growth and the premium to skill will be balanced and the race between technology and education will not be won by either side and prosperity will be widely shared.”

      — Laurent Belsie

      The question then is what kept wages up for “low skilled” workers in the mid 20th century? 

      High membebership in “Industrial” (instead of “craft”) unions. 

      From: the September 2018 NBER Digest

      New Evidence that Unions Raise Wages for Less-Skilled Workers

      The salary premium for union members compared to nonunion workers with comparable skills has remained relatively steady over the last 80 years.

      Tapping into eight decades of private and public surveys, a new study finds evidence that unions have historically reduced income inequality.

      For Unions and Inequality over the Twentieth Century: New Evidence from Survey Data (NBER Working Paper No. 24587), Henry S. Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko, and Suresh Naidu assembled a household-level database on union membership dating back to 1936.

      The U.S. Bureau of the Census has tracked wages and education consistently since 1940. Aggregate data on union membership goes back to the early 20th century, but data on individual workers were not readily available until the Census Bureau started asking about union affiliation in 1973. By that time, unions were already in decline, and higher-skilled workers accounted for an increasing share of their membership.

      The researchers draw on more than 500 surveys conducted by Gallup and other pollsters from 1936 through 1986, extending their dataset into the present day with information from government surveys and other sources.

      Their study finds that the salary premium for union members compared to workers with comparable skills and demographic characteristics has remained relatively steady over the last 80 years despite large swings both in the overall number of union members and in their education levels. The less skilled the workers were, the greater the wage premium associated with their union membership. The researchers find a negative correlation between unionization rates and measures of inequality such as the Gini coefficient.

      Between 1940 to 1970, when unionization peaked and income inequality narrowed, unions were drawing in the least-skilled workers. Before and after that period, unions were smaller and a higher fraction of their members were drawn from the ranks of high-skill workers. The 1940–1970 period also coincided with the highest share of union members drawn from minority groups.

      The clear implication of the researchers’ analysis is that, because unions offer a larger wage premium to less-skilled workers, unions have an important equalizing effect on the income distribution to the extent that they are successful in organizing the less-skilled. Recent decades have seen growth in educational attainment in the workforce, and, importantly, not only has the overall share of workers who are unionized declined, but unions have also become relatively less successful in organizing less-skilled workers. The remaining unionized workforce is more highly educated than it was earlier. The combination of the declining presence of unions in the labor market and the increased skill level of the remaining union workers means that the important equalizing effect of unions on the income distribution that was seen in the middle of the 20th century has diminished substantially.

      — Steve Maas

      The loss of the power of “low skilled” workers to negotiate for wages nearer to the median has driven more to attempt college (the percentage of graduates is higher now then before, and so is “some college” but no diploma. 

      The irony is that the sheer numbers of the “Millennial” generation is enough to force a better deal for themselves through political means, as you guys could easily out vote we of older generations if you got organized. 

      Why don’t you?

      • Aapje says:

        There are more Baby Boomers than Millennials, so outvoting isn’t feasible.

        • Plumber says:

          @Aapje,

          Not in the U.S.A. anymore.

          From Pew Research: “…Millennials are expected to overtake Boomers in population in 2019 as their numbers swell to 73 million and Boomers decline to 72 million…”, where American Millennials are outnumbered is in the voting “turnout rate“, if the young bothered to vote at the same percentage or higher they’d be the majority of the electorate.

          Here is 2018 polling data on The Generation Gap in American Politics, as you can see the “Silent generation” (born between 1928 and 1945) and the “Millennial generation” (born between 1982 and 1996) are the most different in generational political views (those born earlier and later are too small a percentage of the population to bother polling), with the “Boomers” (those born between 1946 and ’64) mostly sharing political views close to the Silents, and “Generation X’ers” (born between 1965 and ’80) having views closer to those of Millennials.

          I’m thinking of the Political Confessional: The Woman Who Thinks Older People Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Vote that was discussed at an open SSC thread a few weeks ago, if her generation bothered to vote at the same percentage as their elders they’d win, but they won’t so they don’t, hence her beef with how her elders vote when really it’s that her contemporaries that are to blame for not already dominating the electorate with higher turnout.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I took a look at that article. It appears the claim of lower income is based on this report. It’s based on the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances. The Survey of Consumer Finances is based on household, not individual data. We know people are marrying less; also, in 1989 (their baseline year), almost 60% of married couples were two-earner households. This seems like a significant confounder.

    • sharper13 says:

      Time in school (which is what they measure as “education”) can, but doesn’t necessarily, lead to higher earnings in someone’s overall life. For example, much of the results are pre-baked in based on the selection of the type of people (smarter, more conscientious) people who end up having more time in school.

      That said, the linked article is flawed, if nothing else because comparing younger adults between generations and noting that those who spent longer in school aren’t doing as well than earlier misses that the ones spending longer in school started their career 4-5 years later. When people change jobs for large raises every 3-5 years for the first couple of decades, those missing years of work experience can make a huge difference in the statistics, even if 20 years later they end up on a higher eventual job level.

      So not saying it’s not true, but IMHO not enough information and like vs. like comparison included to actually know.

  25. Le Maistre Chat says:

    When a Supreme Court gets involved in your Dungeons & Dragons campaign:

    The Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, India is so ancient that no one knows when it was built. What we do know is that it is mentioned in several Sanskrit Puranas and the Tamil Sangam literature, ancient texts whose dates are disputed themselves. It is known to have at least eight secret vaults.
    On 27 June 2011, five vaults were opened on the orders of the Supreme Court of India, in response to a petition seeking transparency in the temple’s management. A vast amount of treasure was found,, including hundreds of thousands of gold coins dating to the Roman Empire’s trade with Southwest India, and even earlier (up to 200 BC).

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      I am really disappointed that at no point Supreme Court seemed to have been squished by a giant rolling boulder.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        I would expect that this is due to the fact that a Supreme Court is likely to have a higher than normal number of (rules) lawyers…

        I’ll get my coat.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’s not so much Indiana Jones as Bugs Bunny

        Vault B has not been opened presumably for centuries. The Supreme Court appointed committee members opened the metal-grille door to Vault B and discovered a sturdy wooden door just behind it. They opened this door as well, and encountered a third door made of iron, which was jammed shut.

  26. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Following up on the fitness test discussion below:

    What are good exercises for working my abs? I already do deadlifts, but want to hit the abdominals more directly.

    I have access to a full gym with a lot of equipment, but some of it I know I don’t want. The sit-up machine makes my back hurt for days, and not in a DOMS way.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Ab rolls and leg raises are my core ab moves.

    • johan_larson says:

      Planks.

    • Nornagest says:

      Ab wheel’s pretty good, if your gym has one.

    • sunnydestroy says:

      I forget the exact name for them, but hanging leg drops are one of the most intense isolating ab exercises I know. It’s essentially the opposite of a leg raise, which forces much stricter form. I can’t even do the full straight leg version of it because of its difficulty. First you jump up and hang from a pull up bar by your hands (like you’re doing a pull up). Raise your legs, but leave your knees bent. You want to raise them until you knees are all the way up to your chest. That’s your starting position. Drop them from your chest until your legs are at 90 degrees, but don’t let it go all the way back down. Bring your knees back up to your chest again then controlled lowering to 90 degrees again. You basically have to engage your abs the entire time.

      Other than that, I like medicine ball twist crunches and planks.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Food for thought: I’ve read accounts that twists and curls are potentially bad for the spine. It’s a matter of time before the disks herniate. (Me: they’re probably fine if you’re “careful”, but I don’t know what “careful” would entail.)

        Sources that advise not twisting and wrenching your spine advise doing core exercises that keep the spine relatively static. So, planks, pushups, that thing where you lean on a workout ball and keep your balance, etc.

    • AlexanderTheGrand says:

      Dragon flag progressions (they’ll almost definitely be too hard to do at first but getting there is valuable). And planks.

    • sharper13 says:

      If you are looking for “good-looking” abs to impress, you might also consider that fat-burning exercise in general contributes heavily to that, as six-pack-abs are in large part just low fat-percentage-person-abs. In fact, low enough to be dangerous.

      Of course, if you’re just looking to be able to do something specific physical and think stronger abs will help that, it’s a different story, but then you might just want to do that specific physical thing as well.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It’s a little of Column A, a little of Column B. Last time I finished my cut, I think I was around 12 of so PBF, and they were not showing, so I am trying to make things better for the next time around.

  27. Don_Flamingo says:

    So “Age of Empires II” comes out tomorrow. I’m already downloading it from Steam.
    Anyone else excited and is planning to play online?

    • DragonMilk says:

      I hope you mean Definitive Edition!

      I just bought it – how good are you?

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        Voobly never worked for me in the past (network issues). So I never got too much into online play. Last time I could beat the hardest AI in HD, but not two mediums at the same time.
        My Steam name is my real name, so I don’t want to share it publically. Care to give yours?

  28. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Good news, everyone! I’m teaching Talk to Transformer theology!

    Article 1. Whether the existence of God is self-evident?

    Objection 1. It seems that the existence of God is self-evident. Now those things are said to be self-evident to us the knowledge of which is naturally implanted in us, as we can see in regard to first principles. But as Damascene says (De Fide Orth. i, 1,3), “the knowledge of God is naturally implanted in all.” Therefore the existence of God is self-evident.

    Objection 2. Further, a thing’s being what it is by its own nature is self-evident. But God is the first cause of all things, as stated above (I-II:4:4; I-II:8:2). Therefore God’s existence is self-evident.

    Objection 3. Further, if it is impossible for a thing to exist unless it be what it is, it would not be possible for God to

    Objection 2. Further, those things are said to be self-evident which are known as soon as the terms are known, which the Philosopher (1 Poster. iii) says is true of the first principles of demonstration. Thus, if we take the definition of “a body,” as, for example, when we are told that a body is an extension of space, then all we know is the definition, and not the definition in relation to any subject. Therefore, if we have a knowledge of things in themselves, and of that which belongs to them through their own nature, then we know these things in themselves and not in relation to any subject.

    P(1)- Q(57)- A(3)- RO(1) —

    In this way, when we know what a thing is in itself, the knowledge of the object in relation to the subject is not necessary for the knowledge of the thing. Hence it is said: “He knows his own man, and his own eye, and his own foot

    When the nature of a whole and of a part is known, it is at once recognized that every whole is greater than its part. But the thing which we cannot grasp as it is, is greater than its parts; and it is impossible to understand anything, as it is, as though it were not. But if that thing which we can understand, if it were possible to understand it, could be considered as not existing, what will be our notion of the essence of the gods, as they exist in their being? If, for instance, we know of them that they are immortal, that they have bodies without parts, that they have the same properties as ourselves; if these things are known to be true, it is evident that the essence of the gods is different from their bodies, from their bodies, from the properties of their bodies, and from the properties of their souls. And that this will be the case is proved by the

    As soon as the signification of the word “God” is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But in such words as these the mind of the poet is in danger of being arrested. For as he would have it, the “god” is not the same in all countries. The Greeks use the word “god” for a person or thing, a body, or a substance, while in the Latin the word is used to signify any thing whatever. For as we have in our language the word “father,” or “brother,” and “man,” or “woman,” so, likewise, we have the word “god.” Now in the Latin, the word “god” signifies not a thing, but only a person. For in the Latin “gods” are persons. For as we have in our language “father,” “brother,” and “man,” so, likewise, we have in

    That which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore,
    if there is an ultimate reality outside of space and time that we call “the world” and “everything that is,” then there would have to be a being of a kind of “God” who, if he existed, would have an infinite understanding of that reality.

    To understand what I mean by this, consider this: In the universe there is matter, energy, and space. In the universe, “every atom is made up of three different components: light, matter, and energy.” In the universe, if there was a God, he could see all of these things, could know all of these things, and he would have infinite knowledge of the universe.

    But the problem is, if there is a God, then he would have to be perfect. For if he was perfect, then he would know everything, and thus he would also have infinite knowledge of everything, and that’s just a logical impossibility.

    This is why

    Since as soon as the word “God” is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore, God exists in the same way as everything else exists, viz., in the mind and in the brain.

    [14] Furthermore, the same reasoning is valid for other intelligibles, e.g., the ideas of numbers, and the senses.

    [15] Furthermore, the divine substance is an intelligible, which is something that is in potency. Hence it does not exist in act. But the divine substance does not exist in act; it exists actually. Therefore, it does not exist as a divine essence; for a thing’s actuality is to exist in act.

    [16] Again, the intellect knows itself in act, for it knows itself by itself. But an intellect does not know itself by itself if the intellect is considered as being in act, because

    The proposition “God exists” is self-evident. However, we can understand this as a metaphysical proposition, which requires a priori, non-empirical premises to be true.

    In this section, we explain how one might use “self-evident” to refer to non-empirical, non-empirical, non-empirical, and so on propositions. We also show that if we consider what it means for a proposition to be self-evident, we can use a non-self-evident definition to provide a useful definition for self-evidentity, which is equivalent to the definition given by the non-self-evident proposition.

    A proposition that is self-evident, but does not meet the necessary condition that it must be empirically justified, is known as “self-evident”. A proposition that is self-evident but does not meet the necessary condition that it must be logically justified, is known as “self

    • Well... says:

      What’s the term for a Turing test where you try to convince the other person you’re completely insane? Whatever that test is called, I’d say Terminator passed it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Do you think you’re insane?

        No. Not in the least.

        What was it like to be on the cover of Rolling Stone for that interview?

        It was like I was in a dream or something. The thing that really stood out in my mind was the headline, “It’s not about the money. It’s about the music.” I remember feeling like that, and I had a great time being on that cover.

        Did it seem like a big deal to you?

        Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t want to say because it wasn’t until later that I really started to realize how huge it was.

        Did it feel like you could do anything?

        Yes, definitely. I remember being on the cover of Rolling Stone and feeling like, “I can do this.” I thought I could write my own material and do what I wanted to do.

        It was the only time that you were on the cover

        • imoimo says:

          Wow didn’t realize you were quoting the Transformer until the latest sentence trailed off. I was trying to guess the celebrity.

    • broblawsky says:

      This has taught me that bad theology is indistinguishable from Time Cube.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Are there four simultaneous parts to bad theology? In my view, yes. One, it assumes that God is a person. Second, it assumes that the person of God has free will. Third, it assumes that the free will of the person of God has no moral dimensions. Fourth, it assumes that God’s free will is not constrained by His nature. In the same way, some of the arguments for the existence of God rest on the assumption that God has free will and that God has no moral dimensions.

        For those who believe that God is not a person, what then is the relation of God to the universe? How do the statements of Scripture concerning the creation of the universe and the origin of man, for example, relate to this relationship? How is the relation between the human person and the universe to be understood? To answer these questions, it would seem that it is necessary to consider both the metaphysical as well as the theological aspects of the relationship of God to the universe. This is not literally true. Many theologians believe that God did not necessarily create everything with the same extreme precision He created Adam and Eve. For example, the universe seems to be very old.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Calvin and Hobbes:

      Summarize John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion

      In 1538, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), a French writer and philosopher, published his first book, Leviathan. His work, widely considered one of the most influential works in the history of Western thought, is known as the founding text of modern political philosophy.

      This book argues that humans must rule over themselves. “By what means will they not be slaves, but also masters of themselves?” he asks.

      Hobbes argues that all people have the right to a self-governed life, including the right to govern themselves and their property. Hobbes says that this right comes from God. “All men have a natural right of property in themselves,” he writes. He goes on to argue that a person’s right to his own life does not come from a contract or a government; it is inherent in humans.

      In his discussion of the political, Hobbes argues that “the first duty of men

      • Nick says:

        Wait, is Thomas Hobbes a time traveler?

      • Murphy says:

        Is it bad that I now want to write an entire bullshit philsophy book by prompting this thing and picking out the best couple paragraphs for each prompt.

        Hobbes argues that all people have the right to a self-governed life, including the right to govern themselves and their property. What he seems to miss is that the right to self-govern has been extended by some societies to the non-dominant groups (which is to say, to members of other societies). In most modern societies, one’s right to self-govern is exercised through laws and courts, which can be overridden only by the government. The right of property is another one, and, according to Hobbes, is the right to use one’s body as one sees fit. To use one’s body as one sees fit is a right that is inalienable, unlike the right to life, which is subject to the whims of others. Hobbes seems to believe that, given the existence of these rights, there is nothing one can do about the fact that

  29. ECD says:

    There’s nothing quite like discovering John Bolton agrees with you to make you question whether or not you’re correct about something.

    I still think I am, but I admit being on the same side as Mr. Bolton, who I have previously described as ‘wrong about everything’ does give me pause.

    • John Schilling says:

      Unless you’re part of his base, Donald Trump has almost certainly hired a lot of people that you broadly disagree with. And really, that qualifier may be unneccessary. Donald Trump has then thrown a large fraction of the people he’s hired under the bus, as soon as they became an annoyance or inconvenience to him. That’s going to result in a lot of people whom you generally disagree with, agreeing with you about the low moral character of Donald Trump.

      So, yeah, Bolton generally falls into “your approval fills me with shame” territory, but I say go with it just this once.

    • cassander says:

      What if both Bolton and Joe Biden agree with you? Which they probably do in this particular case.

    • broblawsky says:

      It’s kinda rough, yeah, but I deal with it by saying that there are some evil people with principles, and many with none. Just because your principles align with an evil person’s doesn’t necessarily mean yours are incorrect.

    • Aftagley says:

      I hold your same viewpoint on Bolton, but I see his current stance on the President as a good thing. If my claim is “the current President’s conduct is outside of any bounds of reasonable or proper behavior” then having someone from the far other end of the spectrum agreeing with me is strong confirmation that I’m correct.

      • cassander says:

        (A) People who got fired/forced out of a job are generally regarded as a reliable witnesses about their boss’s conduct.

        (B) on the spectrum of “do we like trump” Bolton is not on the far end of the spectrum from you. Someone on the far side of the spectrum would be someone who has/had a record of supporting trump and changed his mind. and my threshold for supporting is higher than “was willing to take his dream job under”.

        • Aftagley says:

          People who got fired/forced out of a job are generally regarded as a reliable witnesses about their boss’s conduct.

          Did you mean unreliable?

          on the spectrum of “do we like trump” Bolton is not on the far end of the spectrum from you.

          Agreed, but that’s not the spectrum I’m talking about. I’m talking about the pre-Trump political spectrum that used to exist. Sure, if we radically reorient political norms to only account for one variable, I guess we’re now on the same side, but that’s a bizarre stance to take, IMO.

          • cassander says:

            Did you mean unreliable?

            woops, that should say “not reliable”

            >. Sure, if we radically reorient political norms to only account for one variable, I guess we’re now on the same side, but that’s a bizarre stance to take, IMO.

            It’s not about re-orienting norms, it’s about selecting the relevant spectrum. If bolton was saying “Trump’s moves in asia are far too aggressive” then I’d sit up and listen, because on the hawkishness spectrum, bolton is way out there from me. But one’s position on the hawkishness spectrum isn’t correlated at all with the “is trump corrupt” spectrum, especially when the two of them have just parted under less than amicable circumstances.

          • mdet says:

            one’s position on the hawkishness spectrum isn’t correlated at all with the “is trump corrupt” spectrum

            I think that’s the point. “I know that my opinion on Trump’s corruption and unfit-ness isn’t ideologically driven because people’s positions on ideological issues aren’t correlated at all with ‘Is Trump corrupt?’” (Or at least, aren’t as tightly correlated as you’d expect. I’m sure a broad survey would find plenty correlation.)

          • Garrett says:

            Motivated reasoning may also apply. People are more likely to view people they disagree with as evil (conflict theory). So the idea that someone they disagree with happens to be corrupt is much more credible.

            Hence the idea of “statement against interest” and similar. John Bolton thinking that someone else is too aggressive demonstrates that someone is definitely aggressive. Likewise if eg. Hillary Clinton came out and claimed that Trump had done nothing wrong.

            But statements from an opponent for one reason have no reason to be uncorrelated with statements about another reason. The *issues* might be unrelated, but the *statements* aren’t necessarily.

        • Considering Trump’s history of claiming he fired people who say they resigned, his willingness to hire his enemies and his tolerance of them in office, I believe Bolton when he said he resigned voluntarily.

          my threshold for supporting is higher than “was willing to take his dream job under”.

          It’s not hard to think of people who supported him from the beginning who don’t like him now, Ann Coulter, John Derbyshire, Peter Brimelow, ect. In fact it’s much harder to think of notable people who supported him from the beginning and are still supporting him now.

          • EchoChaos says:

            In fact it’s much harder to think of notable people who supported him from the beginning and are still supporting him now.

            Jeff Sessions.

          • cassander says:

            It’s not hard to think of people who supported him from the beginning who don’t like him now,

            I believe his approval rating with republicans is still ~90%.

    • Nick says:

      Can I just say I love the headline “John Bolton drops bombshell”?

  30. SmileyVirus says:

    Not sure where this is most likely to be seen by our dear Scott, so I’ll leave it here.

    I don’t know whether you’re in the habit of taking requests for book reviews, but: I’ve been reading “The Master and His Emissary” by Iain Mcgilchrist and have almost reached the end. The thesis of the book revolves around left-right hemisphere differences in the brain’s function, and the author claims that shifts in the relative dominance of left- vs right-hemisphere ways of viewing the world may explain cultural shifts throughout western history. He posits that the left hemisphere, which he characterises as rational and context-insensitve, has in the modern age obtained an unhealthy degree of dominance.

    Broadly the book looks like a critique of rationalism and the enlightenment, two things I’m mostly positively-inclined towards. Some of his arguments seems persuasive, others seem to take several speculative leaps too far. But much of it hinges on neuropsychological claims which I don’t feel well-equipped to assess. The book seems to lie pretty squarely in the middle of the Venn diagram of SSC’s areas of interest, and I’d be very curious to read Scott’s review of it, were he to do one.

  31. johan_larson says:

    The US Army is phasing in a new fitness test:

    The Army Combat Fitness Test includes the following events:

    Deadlift—This is a three-repetition maximum deadlift using a hex bar.
    ​Standing Power Throw—Throw a 10-pound medicine ball as far as possible over the head and to the rear.
    ​Hand-Raised Push-ups—You still have to do pushups, but now you also have to add a lift of your hands off the floor when in the down (chest to ground) position each repetition.
    ​A 250-Meter Sprint, Drag, and Carry—This is five different tests within one event: a 50-meter sprint; a backward 50-meter drag of a 90-pound sled; a 50-meter movement; a 50-meter carry of two 40-pound kettlebells; and a final 50-meter sprint.
    ​Leg Tuck—This is a hanging knee up from a pull-up bar, bringing the knees to the elbows multiple times.
    ​Two-Mile Run—Soldiers still have to run 2 miles for their cardiovascular endurance test.

    If I understand the article correctly, the new standards will not be adjusted for age and sex.

    • Nornagest says:

      What’s the rationale? Some of these are so standard as to be boring, the sprint, drag, and carry is unusual but kinda makes sense (sprint to cover, hump ammo boxes, drag a wounded buddy), but the leg tuck, power throw, and hand-raising thing are just plain weird.

      • johan_larson says:

        Here’s one critic’s take on why the old test should be replaced.

        The old Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) was simple, but did not demonstrate which Soldiers are actually in physical shape for combat operations, and often troops and units had to have two aspects to their fitness training: one for the test, the other for actual mission capabilities.[i] The new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) being introduced this year is a grand stride in a good direction. It applies a holistic element to our fitness, disregards age and gender, and seeks to use strength, speed, and endurance as indicators of our capabilities.

      • sfoil says:

        The official rationale is that the new test “better predicts and trains for performance in combat” or something similar.

        The actual rationale, I strongly suspect, is to lower standards* as part of the combat arms gender integration push.

        *Mitigated somewhat because the sprint/drag/carry and ball throw prevent really tiny women from using high scores on isometric exercises to score too highly, but the test is just flat-out easier to pass in general than the old one.

        • cassander says:

          It’s probably both.

        • It really shows how mindkilled our society is on gender right now. The number of woman who want to fight in combat and would be good at it is a fraction of a fraction. Their parents don’t want it. The male soldiers probably don’t want it. The feminists who talk about it don’t want to join the military. It’s so transparently performative.

          • ana53294 says:

            And the kind of women who do want to join combat probably don’t want to get in through the lowering of standards.

            Who wants to be the only girl in a combat team when everybody knows you got in through lower standards and will probably be a drag in a combat situation?

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            I’ve seen a decent number who do want that.

            If the choice is between getting a special benefit or giving up your desired job, many are surely going to opt for the former.

          • Who wants to be the only girl in a combat team when everybody knows you got in through lower standards and will probably be a drag in a combat situation?

            What if you assume there will never be a mass-combat situation? A few raids like they did on Bin Laden’s compound, Americans as the “training” force as in Syria, but no Iraq-style mass casualty combat.

          • sfoil says:

            What if you assume there will never be a mass-combat situation?

            You’d be wrong. There have been multiple “mass combat situations” in the past ten years alone, including a modern peer-to-peer mechanized war (this one almost makes the cut, too).

            It’s true that Joint Special Operations Command has gotten into the habit of “fighting wars” by sending a handful of elite operators to call in airstrikes while the poor wogs sustain thousands of casualties in the process of actually seizing territory against armed resistance, but this is a lot different than claiming that the US Army is never going to have to supply the main body of an operation ever again.

          • Hypoborean says:

            The Israeli military, the Soviets in WWII, and the Kurds strongly suggest that in a modern mass-combat setting you *do* actually put a lot of your able-bodied women on the line and they perform well. The Kurdish case is especially notable since they’re all volunteers, not conscripts.

            That’s significantly more than “a fraction of a fraction.”

            Don’t confuse functionally peacetime (only high aggression men sign up for the military for thrill-seeking) with an actual homeland threat situation.

          • bean says:

            The Israelis primarily draft women for second-line positions. They have a few mixed battalions, which have traditionally been used as border guards. That’s a rather different thing from out-and-out combat, and I suspect the IDF knows it. The Soviets made use of women as tank drivers, snipers and pilots. They did not use female infantry AFAIK. (Snipers and infantry are not the same thing, even if the US recruits most snipers from the infantry.) In neither case did they put “a lot” of their women on the front line. The IDF has less than 4% of its women in combat units, and that includes things like artillery and fighter pilots. (Of course, the total percentage in combat units is something I don’t know, and given Israel, could be anything.) I’m not familiar enough with the Kurdish situation to speak to them, but things that happen in that kind of nasty, multifaceted war are not necessarily good guides for how to set up a good military.

          • Hypoborean says:

            Of all three cases, the Kurds are the ones closest to the knife’s edge of extinction and thus closest to what you’d expect to be pushing the bounds of the “actually doable” as opposed to “preferred”, and they do field all-female and majority-female infantry units. Interesting book if you want some visceral updates to your mental model of the Kurds: “We Came From Fire” by Joey Lawrence.

            As for the other cases you cited, for the Soviets tank drivers, snipers, and pilots are still combat roles, and in the Israeli case 4% of combat roles being women is still significantly more than the “fraction of a fraction” that Wrong Species cited, unless they are using “fraction” to mean “1/3.5”

            I’m not disputing that there’s a clear gender difference in preference for combat. I’m just pointing out that we have examples that suggest that its extremity has a social component, since we have societies that have effective fighting forces with decidedly non-trivial women participation.

            Oh, quick clarification — are you claiming that “combat” is just “frontline infantry” and doesn’t include pilots, artillery, tank drivers, etc? Because I would define a combat role as “anyone with a major chance to kill an opposing soldier in a major war.”

          • sfoil says:

            If I thought that the people pushing sex integration on the American military would be fine with 1-4% female units, and disproportionately few of those going on to be high-ranking leaders (something that requires exceeding physical standards continually for many years well into middle age rather than making the cut for a single contract in late teens/early 20s) I might be more on board with it, but I don’t so I’m not.

          • Fitzroy says:

            I would define a combat role as “anyone with a major chance to kill an opposing soldier in a major war.”

            I think “anyone with a major chance to be killed by an opposing combatant in a major war.” would be better. Otherwise you’re including people flying an Avenger UAV over the combat theatre from their comfy airconditioned office 7,000 miles away in Creech AFB Nevada as a combat role, which doesn’t feel quite right to me.

          • Ohforfs says:

            Unfortunately at this point it includes every civilian so we need even more specific definition…

    • ​Hand-Raised Push-ups—You still have to do pushups, but now you also have to add a lift of your hands off the floor when in the down (chest to ground) position each repetition.

      This is strangely worded. What does that mean?

      • johan_larson says:

        You lower your body all the way to the ground, and to show that you have reached the ground, you lift your arms and stick them out to the sides. You then pull them back in, and do the up-push part of the push-up.

        I’m guessing this done to make the push-ups harder to cheat on. With normal push-ups, people have a strong tendency to lower themselves down only part way.

      • @johan_larson
        Wouldn’t this be somewhat offset by getting a brief rest period between every push up? How long are you allowed to drag out the part where you stick your arms out to the side? If that’s longer than each pushup itself, then you are saving a lot of energy. Also, if you’re lowering your body all the way to the ground, you can let gravity take you a little more towards the end than if you have to support your body at all times.

        • johan_larson says:

          I think you can stay down as long as you want between pushups, but it’s a timed exercise. You are graded on how many you can do in two minutes.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          The big concern I see with this is that you can store a lot of energy in your arms on the down stroke, that you can release when straightening them on the up stroke. Or to put it another way, you can bounce. I do this all the time when I do pushups, and if I do hands-up, I’m going to miss that bounce a lot.

          That said, I also sometimes wonder if I’m dropping as far as I ought to, and hands-up pretty much means I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Might be worth it for me.

        • sfoil says:

          The hand-raise pushups are harder than regular pushups, even when the latter are performed without “cheating”, not only for the reason Paul Brinkley noted but also because the new test doesn’t allow you to move your arms around and work slightly different muscle groups as you go.

    • psmith says:

      Damn, wasn’t expecting to see this on SSC. Anyway, I pretty much agree with what Rob Shaul says here:
      https://mtntactical.com/knowledge/7-major-problems-proposed-army-combat-readiness-test-proposed-replacement-apft/

      • sfoil says:

        The situp is a horrible exercise, not so much because it’s ‘tested but because the average soldier probably does hundreds of situps every week, something I’m absolutely convinced is responsible for a lot of chronic back injuries. If that time was spent picking up heavy objects (deadlift) it probably won’t hurt more people and would actually be training something useful.

        • psmith says:

          I think this is pretty much spot on from the perspective of planning your own individual training but not very helpful in designing a test that a lot of people can take at once with minimal equipment. The hanging leg raises/”leg tuck”/”pull-up bar heel taps” seem like a decent compromise as a test event, or perhaps the buddy-carry component of the USMC CFT. (Though the USMC CFT also makes more sense as the second tier of a two-tier testing system, with the PFT being the first tier.).

          • sfoil says:

            The Army can afford a bunch of trap bars. Mark Milley, currently the Army Chief of Staff, used base-maintenance funds to install a room full of squat racks in every battalion when he was the commander of the 10th Mountain Division.

      • johan_larson says:

        Apparently pull-ups are a problem for women. It can take considerable training for a woman to do even a single legit pull-up.

        The USMC used to have pull-ups in their fitness test for both men and women, with the minimum set at one pull-up for women, but switched to flexed-arm hangs.

        • psmith says:

          You say “bug”, I say “feature.”

          • johan_larson says:

            I think we are both comfortable with considerable gender skew in the military. Some bodies are just better at some jobs.

            But I have to wonder whether the pull-up is the right test for assessing combat effectiveness. It seems so artificial. When the heck does one pull oneself up without using the legs at all? I suspect something like a body drag or even a deadlift would be more useful. And really, are barbells harder to find than pull-up bars?

          • psmith says:

            Second question first: yeah. I’ve build multiple pull-up bars, no sweat, under $100 for 6 count, heavily used and holding up fine, common materials (pressure treated 4x4s, 1.5″ pipe, concrete), dirt floor. A bar and accurate weights are going to cost significantly more, and more yet if you want bumpers or a platform in order to avoid cracking the concrete with repeated tests. If you’re training for pull-ups rather than testing a whole unit, you probably don’t even need a bar–I’ve chinned off the tops of doors, tree branches, whatever.

            OK, first question. You have a point, but imo:
            1) the significant difference in ease of administration outweighs the marginal benefit of extra specificity, especially considering that leaders at the NCO level will be able to informally evaluate the performance of the soldiers under their command in specific combat tasks during pre-deployment workups anyway (the real role of the fitness test is to winnow the applicant pool at the very beginning)
            2) I think it’s worth having at least one test of something like upper-body strength in the test battery rather than trying to mimic every possible odd-lift/drag/carry scenario. Even if you had a deadlift or a buddy carry, I think it would make sense to include chins (or ammo-can presses as in the CFT, or the new dead-stop pushups, or whatever.).

          • Clutzy says:

            How is a deadlift comparable to a pull up? Deadlife is a fine exercise, but it is lower body exercise, not upper body. A pull up is not perfect, but it is an excellent measurement of your ability to pull yourself over the top of something (like a fence) and your ability to pull a teammate towards you (such as over an obstacle, or a wounded teammate behind cover).

            While I’d say that most things are covered by a weighted long distance run, combat readiness is all about diverse skill sets. As an athlete who still exercises, the new test is somehow less diverse in the muscles it tests than if they just used Pushup/Pullup/2 Mile/100M. Which is kinda pathetic.

          • Hypoborean says:

            Do you have data suggesting that women actually perform badly in modern infantry combat? I haven’t seen anything suggesting that Kurdish women’s units suffered disproportionate casualities fighting ISIS (and with a total body count of 11,000, I assume the data set would be pretty representative).

            (Note that I haven’t seen a study breaking it down either way, and yes absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, but if there was a problem on the ground you’d think you’d have heard about the Kurds having to adjust to compensate for subpar units)

          • Clutzy says:

            Do you have data suggesting that women actually perform badly in modern infantry combat? I haven’t seen anything suggesting that Kurdish women’s units suffered disproportionate casualities fighting ISIS (and with a total body count of 11,000, I assume the data set would be pretty representative).

            Well, the army/marines have done extensive testing in controlled exercises. Female and mixed units in those have slightly lower scores.

            But you’ll never get great data on this from actual battlefields, because if it is true generals, admirals, etc will re-arrange how they deploy female units to avoid giving them the toughest assignments.

          • Hypoborean says:

            How much lower is slightly lower? Is it enough to suggest that doubling the potential recruiting pool isn’t worth the degradation in performance, or is it something that could be worked around in a mass-mobilization war so it might be worth building some of the infrastructure for it in peacetime?

            (Curious about your personal opinion on it since you’ve read more than I have)

          • Clutzy says:

            https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2394531-marine-corps-force-integration-plan-summary.html

            Here is a relevant article summary.

            My biggest concerns are probably speed and injuries. Speed is essential for all missions, particularly modern ones where we don’t really fight wars, we engage in a series of skirmishes and groups of soldiers are dispersed, then have to support each other when backup is called for.

            The injury problem is really bad (its why I also argue that we should stop encouraging women to play basketball, and instead play a sport that isn’t designed to destroy female ACLs). Having injuries on a unit depletes its strength when deployed, when injuries happen in the field, its much worse. Knee, hip, back, or ankle injuries essentially turn you into an extra ruck for a fellow soldier. Also, this might be my big brother-ness showing through, but I think its insane to think that units that are mostly composed of men are going to be able to cope with female and male casualties equally as well. Extra risks will be taken to rescue injured females, and deaths will be taken especially hard.

          • Hypoborean says:

            Thanks for the link!

            Those injury rates do seem wild. If that’s the case, it seems like either the Marines should commit to peacetime experimentation training on kit and practices to see if that can be brought down, and in the meantime reserve mobile / offensive combat roles to be male-only, or male + the rare handful of women who can meet 50th percentile male marine standards.

            “Also, this might be my big brother-ness showing through, but I think its insane to think that units that are mostly composed of men are going to be able to cope with female and male casualties equally as well. Extra risks will be taken to rescue injured females, and deaths will be taken especially hard.”

            If common, this would suggest gender-segregated units would be more rational in combat situations, although the Kurds fielding gender-mixed units suggests this is cultural.

          • CatCube says:

            @Hypoborean, piggybacking off of @Clutzy

            I don’t have a document reference, but an anecdote: when I was an executive officer in a training unit at Fort Leonard Wood (about 2006-2007) the Medical Corps was running an experiment in giving incoming female Soldiers osteoporosis medication because of the alarming number of complex fractures observed: stuff like fracturing the head of the femur off. I want to emphasize that these were primarily 18-year-old females, not ones closer to 39.

            They didn’t persist in doing it, so I guess they didn’t see decreases in injuries due to the tests. But it was something that was definitely worrisome to the Pentagon.

          • Aapje says:

            @Hypoborean

            The problem with reducing weight is that a lot of technological progress is working against this. There is a lot of stuff that is extremely beneficial to soldiers, making it hard to leave it home.

            For example, the average body armor for a soldier weighs 26 pounds. This has reduced lethal injuries a lot compared to a ‘naked’ WW II soldier, but it is a lot of weight.

            The only real solution is probably a very capable way to transport stuff using a robot, exoskeleton or such.

          • Garrett says:

            stuff like fracturing the head of the femur off

            Ho. Ly. Fuck.

            That’s not quite the hardest thing to break, but it’s pretty damn close. I was thinking of small tib/fib fractures or something where you become nearly immobile but can be repaired fairly easily. “Broken hip” isn’t pretty. It also likely goes from “gets around pretty easily in a wheelchair” to “probably bed-bound”.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Aapje

            Yes, but both those ideas are currently unworkable, pending revolutions in materials science. The biggest of the current issues is simply energy storage and efficiency. Of course, solving that with a new generation of ultra-dense, ultra-light, ultra-efficient batteries would in and of itself be a very big step towards lightening the load of a modern first world military…which is why that’s something militaries are already pursuing.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @johan_larson

            I know I’m a bit late to this, but:

            But I have to wonder whether the pull-up is the right test for assessing combat effectiveness. It seems so artificial. When the heck does one pull oneself up without using the legs at all? I suspect something like a body drag or even a deadlift would be more useful.

            I was able to have the experience of participating in an advanced obstacle-style course set up for doing physiologic research for combat-related tasks as well as evaluation of the effects of different gear packs on various tasks. Probably the two hardest tasks for the group I was in were (1) a body drag (as you point out), and (2) clearing a relatively high wall. Both tasks were noticeably even more difficult for the women in the group. Clearing the high wall was definitely aided by upper body strength in the same direction as a pull-up. It was difficult enough that they had actually installed some of those rock climbing wall footholds, but there was still a decent distance over which you kinda needed to pull yourself up and over. There were also a couple similar tasks to get up/through windows, but in this particular course, they weren’t as high.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        What makes this even more weird is that we already had one abortive run at a new PT Test and program, back when I was in, the one with the heavy emphasis on medicine balls and so on. One that was abandoned, AFAIK, because it required too much equipment and took too long to execute…

        Personally, I don’t think the only reason for the new one is to make it easier for females to pass, but I definitely think it was a reason. Time will tell if that matters or not. My guess, given injury rates from OIF/OEF, is that we’ll see time-delayed issues, and if training standards are lowered, that’s going to exacerbate the issues but won’t affect the time delay.

      • Kuiperdolin says:

        The deadlift thing does sound like it would take forever compared to the other exercises, was my first thought.

        The medicine ball throw sounds like a recipe for funny accidents.

    • bean says:

      If I understand the article correctly, the new standards will not be adjusted for age and sex.

      Hmm…. That’s interesting in a “what the heck are they thinking” way. Yes, combat is no respector of age or sex, but this is Army-wide. You’re either going to fail a huge number of women/older men or have it be completely trivial for the young men. Maybe you could normalize it by MOS, which wouldn’t be the worst idea.

      • Aftagley says:

        Yes. There will be a second test called the “Occupational Physical Assessment Test” that will comprise of:
        Standing Long Jump
        Seated Power Throw
        Strength Deadlift
        Interval Run (Beep Test)

        MOSs (Military Occupational Specialties) will be ranked in a three-tier system. Recruits with scores that fall short of Tier 1 (high-demand) in a given event won’t be eligible for specialties in that tier.

        So, grunts will likely have higher standards than Yeomen. Which makes sense, at least IMO.

      • Remember the conversation about women in combat?

        “How can anyone justify excluding women from combat? A woman who is just as capable as any man should be able to have the same opportunities. This is just common sense.”

        “But they aren’t going to be held to the same standard, they’re going to be held to a lower standard.”

        “Well, let’s suppose they were held to the same standard.”

        “But they won’t.”

        “Let’s suppose they will.”

        “They won’t.”

        • bean says:

          The male-female physical gap is worse in some areas than others, and you could easily design a test that plays to women’s relative strengths. The Canadians did this when they couldn’t get enough women to pass their existing test. I’m not sure that’s what’s going on here (the DoD is under different management that may be actually making an effort on this, and the presence of what looks to be arm strength events is evidence to that effect) but it wasn’t an idle worry.

          • you could easily design a test that plays to women’s relative strengths.

            Sure. But modifying the standards to benefit women still violates the spirit of “hold to the same standard,” even that won’t be enough.

          • bean says:

            I’m not sure I get your point. My worry was/is that the implementation isn’t being done by people who have the utmost dedication to combat efficiency and making sure women are capable of the same standards men are held to. It’s being done/driven by people who want equality rather than effectiveness, and are willing to butcher the standards to get it. The Canadians did this, with their infantry fitness test having a casualty evacuation section with someone of the same body weight.

          • johan_larson says:

            Are you sure about that, @bean?

            Here is the current Canadian Forces fitness test. I don’t see anything about adjustments for body weight.

          • @bean,

            My point is that they said they would hold men and women to a different standard. According to the link they aren’t. They say they will do so in a year. I would say “fool me one, shame on you,” but I was never fooled.

          • bean says:

            @Johan

            This was the combat test, not the general one. Sadly, I’d have to go looking for links on this, but I believe it came from a pro-women in combat source.

          • johan_larson says:

            Bean, I did a bit more research on current Canadian Forces fitness tests. As far as I can tell, there are two.

            The first is FORCE Fitness, based on Sandbag Lift, Intermittent Loaded Shuttles, Sandbag Drag, and 20 Metre Rushes. This test is required of everyone in the Canadian Forces.

            The second is FORCE Combat, which is like FORCE Fitness, but is performed with 25 kg of battle gear. It also includes a 5 km march, with 35 kg of gear. I think this one is only required of soldiers in combat arms.

            Basically, I don’t see anything to indicate that these tests are adjusted for the bodyweight of the soldier being tested. I think your information may be out of date.

        • Hypoborean says:

          Do you have data suggesting that women actually perform badly in modern infantry combat? I haven’t seen anything suggesting that Kurdish women’s units suffered disproportionate casualities fighting ISIS (and with a total body count of 11,000, I assume the data set would be pretty representative).

          (Note that I haven’t seen a study breaking it down either way, and yes absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, but if there was a problem on the ground you’d think you’d have heard about the Kurds having to adjust to compensate for subpar units)

          • John Schilling says:

            Three posts to the same thread saying almost exactly the same thing, is a bit excessive.

          • Reported the above comment for spamming the same question in multiple comments which I’m pretty sure is being asked in bad faith.

          • Hypoborean says:

            Sorry, what is the procedure here? Three different sub-threads with different people (I confirmed they were different usernames before posting) were all talking about the same thing, and the same point is relevant in each case. Should I have posted once and then referenced the first in the other two places? I assumed this was more convenient for people.

            And no, it’s not being asked in bad faith. I think the existence of modern fighting forces who are up against existential threats making extensive use of female recruits is strong evidence that they can be effective.* Is there some obvious counter-argument that I’m missing?

            *Trivially, the idea that upper body strength has become mostly detached from fighting performance in an era where accurate high long rifles are not especially heavy seems straight-forward enough to me?

          • Trivially, the idea that upper body strength has become mostly detached from fighting performance in an era where accurate high long rifles are not especially heavy seems straight-forward enough to me?

            Modern warfare imposes an even heavier load:

            https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a25644619/soldier-weight/

          • Hypoborean says:

            “Modern warfare imposes an even heavier load:

            https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a25644619/soldier-weight/

            Modern warfare as practiced by the US military involves humping large amounts of kit, yes.

            Two questions about this:
            (1) How aligned is being able to do a pull-up with moving with body armor? I’d expect gender variance to be lower (but still non-trivial) on a test involved moving under load than on a pull-up contest. If the goal is about war-fighting not dick-measuring, having one standard everyone must pass that is actually related to the role should be the priority.

            (2) How necessary / beneficial is this amount of kit? The US army doesn’t exactly have a good track record with pure-infantry* operations post WWII {Vietnam Occupation, Iraq Occupation, Afghanistan Occupation}. One of the reasons the Kurds can easily field mixed-gender and women-only combat units is their operational doctrine emphasizes light infantry (no body armor) tactics favoring mobility (source “We Came From Fire” by Joey Lawrence), since in Rojava they get a lot of their institutional knowledge from PKK guerrilla fighters (with decades of experience fighting the Turkish government).

            Maybe you can make the argument that heavy US infantry is superior to light infantry, and the Kurds only picked the latter because they were too underequipped for American-style tactics to be an option. BUT. The US-equipped and trained Iraqi security forces completely fell apart in 2014 against the ISIS blitz while the Kurdish forces in Rojava and the Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan held, so at the very least morale trumps equipment handily. And even when the Iraqi forces had time to get back together, most of the fighting to retake ISIS territory was done by Kurds (they did all of the fighting in Syria and also contributed 1/3 of the forces to retake Mosul)**.

            Basically, I don’t think the evidence for “upper-body-strength is critical for infantry performance” is as clear-cut as you think.

            *Pure-infantry meaning small-scale unit skirmishing, as opposed to larger operations with artillery and air support, which the US still dominates when they happen {First Gulf, Second Gulf}

            **https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mosul_(2016%E2%80%932017)
            The Battle of Mosul is especially interesting because the Peshmerga suffered significantly fewer casualties than the Iraqi army (relevant for trying to compare operational / doctrinal effectiveness), but I acknowledge that that’s not a definitive differentiator because “According to reports, the Peshmerga met little resistance on the eastern front, while Iraqi and PMF fighters coming from the south faced tougher resistance from ISIL.” Whether ISIL chose to resist the Iraqi forces more strongly was down to ISIL hoping to break their morale again or ISIL thinking could more easily beat their heavy infantry than the Peshmerga light infantry*** or ISIL thinking the heavy infantry was more threatening is unclear.

            ***My current reading is mostly limited to PKK-affiliated Kurds in Rojava [Syria], so I don’t know for certain the Peshmerga was using similar light infantry tactics.

          • sfoil says:

            I think the existence of modern fighting forces who are up against existential threats making extensive use of female recruits is strong evidence that they can be effective.* Is there some obvious counter-argument that I’m missing?

            Yes: what you have is evidence of an organization resorting to lower standards in desperate straits. The US military is not such an organization.

            *Trivially, the idea that upper body strength has become mostly detached from fighting performance in an era where accurate high long rifles are not especially heavy seems straight-forward enough to me?

            You’re wrong. If anything these weapons make the problem worse, because ammunition supply (=weight) is directly proportional to how long a given unit can remain engaged in combat, and since operating a firearm doesn’t require much physical exertion compared to e.g. shoving back against a shield wall, there’s far less downside to exhausting yourself getting into position. Carrying 80 lbs into battle would have been suicidal for a Roman legionary but has been the norm for heavy-weapons teams for a hundred years now.

            This problem is less serious in the defense and for garrison duty. Here’s a prediction: the more garrison/occupation/defensive duty a Kurdish formation performs, the more female it is. The more attack/assault/shock missions a Kurdish formation conducts, the more male it is.

            Two questions about this…

            So which is it? Is physical strength being incorrectly assessed, does it not matter, or should the US military alter its tactics in order to make it matter less?

            If it’s the last one, is it because you think the Kurds are tactically superior to the Americans in some objective sense, or is it just because their tactics are relatively easier for women to carry out?

            Mosul…

            My guess would be that the Iraqis sent their most heavily equipped formations against the most difficult objectives, and those units got into the toughest fights and took the most losses.
            Perhaps they should have sent less well equipped skirmishers to seize those objectives based on your theory that light infantry is simply better than heavy/mechanized forces, which would have resulted in a quicker and easier victory. I don’t think it’s very likely, personally.

          • CatCube says:

            @Hyperborean

            The US army doesn’t exactly have a good track record with pure-infantry* operations post WWII

            Don’t confuse losing a war due to bad strategy with not being able to execute infantry ops. As an example, in the battle at COP Keating, US forces were attacked with complete tactical surprise and at a 3.5 to 1 disadvantage and still inflicted much larger casualties. For the full spectrum of operations from platoon to division, the US is as good as ever, it just can’t turn tactical victories from piling up enemy bodies into strategic victory.

            The fitness of individual troops is much more relevant to tactical success (which we can still do handily), and orthogonal to tying those tactical successes into a larger plan (where we fall down in COIN, in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq).

          • Hypoborean says:

            @CatCube
            Interesting (and probably useful) anecdata!

            Do you think that definitively proves that American modern gear load-out is optimal?

            Also, is there a possibility that operational doctrine (bad strategy) is partially driven by kit choice? The adjective I often hear about American forces in Iraq/Afghanistan is “lumbering”, which could suggest that the doctrine of staying holed up in fortresses and doing only heavily armoured reconnaissance / interfacing operations is partially downstream of the fact that the modern American infantryman isn’t at all equipped to operate for extended periods of time outside of a FOB/COP.

            Also, is there any relevance to the fact that the action you cited is the kind of “defensive” action that amount of gear physically carried would affect less? (See sfoil’s point about garrison duty vs. shock troops)

            @sfoil:
            “Yes: what you have is evidence of an organization resorting to lower standards in desperate straits.”

            Isn’t this begging the question? Another common thing that happens when in desperate straits is that organization preference collapses and they resort to doing whatever is optimal. How would we distinguish those two cases?

            “You’re wrong. If anything these weapons make the problem worse, because ammunition supply (=weight) is directly proportional to how long a given unit can remain engaged in combat, and since operating a firearm doesn’t require much physical exertion compared to e.g. shoving back against a shield wall, there’s far less downside to exhausting yourself getting into position. Carrying 80 lbs into battle would have been suicidal for a Roman legionary but has been the norm for heavy-weapons teams for a hundred years now.”

            Carrying lots of weight happens now but not in the past =/= strength is more important now than in the past. In the past hand-to-hand combat effectiveness was fairly clearly dependent on strength, whereas marksmanship is not, so strength matters for logistics, but there are many workarounds.

            Also, haven’t you heard of Marius’s mules? “To keep these baggage trains from becoming too large, Marius had each man carry as much of his own equipment as he could, including his own armor, weapons and 15 days’ rations or about 50–60 pounds (22.5–27 kg) of load total.” And that was in an era with worse nutrition and smaller men.

            “This problem is less serious in the defense and for garrison duty. Here’s a prediction: the more garrison/occupation/defensive duty a Kurdish formation performs, the more female it is. The more attack/assault/shock missions a Kurdish formation conducts, the more male it is.”

            Possibly true, but if this is the main distinguishing factor then that’s more evidence that there’s room without compromising effectiveness in a lot of frontline combat roles, especially since US forces are heavily mechanized.

            “So which is it? Is physical strength being incorrectly assessed, does it not matter, or should the US military alter its tactics in order to make it matter less?”

            That’s the whole question, isn’t it? There’s strength as it’s currently assessed, there’s strength for lugging kit, and there’s how much kit optimally should be lugged. Anti-women-in-combat-roles internet posters seem really confident in all three steps in that chain, when any one of them changing would significantly affect the suitability of women for even “shock” combat roles…and I think we’ve already established that women can handle many other non-“shock” combat roles, which is also something that seems to aesthetically offend conservatives.

            “If it’s the last one, is it because you think the Kurds are tactically superior to the Americans in some objective sense, or is it just because their tactics are relatively easier for women to carry out?”

            I think evidence from the Middle East for modern large-scale combat against technologically inferior opponents is suggesting that light infantry is viable in that combat setting. If that’s the case, since the US military is suffering a manpower shortage (missed its recruiting target at least last year, might continue if the economy stays good), forming light infantry combat formations would be sensible holding all non-military considerations constant. And yes, my position is that if military effectiveness is not degraded by doing so, opening up more roles in the military to women is a good thing. YMMV. Of course, the Kurds suffered 11,000 combat fatalities fighting ISIS. If someone could show that heavy infantry would have suffered fewer casualties accomplishing the same task*, then the American public’s extreme sensitivity to combat deaths would strongly suggest against forming light infantry formations.

            “My guess would be that the Iraqis sent their most heavily equipped formations against the most difficult objectives, and those units got into the toughest fights and took the most losses.”

            The Iraqi Army and Peshmerga were functionally two separate armies that are allied and fighting in linked but distinct fronts [think British + Americans in WWII], not one combined force. The Iraqi Army attacked from the SOUTH and the Peshmerga from the EAST. So, unless there’s something about the geography of Mosul that causes all the toughest objectives to be in the south of the city, your explanation doesn’t hold up.

            The actual variation seems to be where ISIS chose to concentrate its fighting force, but the explanation for why they chose to do so against the Iraqi Army is unknown.

            “Perhaps they should have sent less well equipped skirmishers to seize those objectives based on your logic that light infantry is better than heavy/mechanized forces, which would have resulted in a quicker and easier victory. I don’t think it’s very likely though.”

            Quick note here:
            Heavy vs. light infantry is very independent of mechanized vs. not mechanized. You could easily have not-heavily-laden infantry operating from trucks + tanks, and you could easily have heavily-laden-infantry operating independently. If one was trying to reduce the amount of kit an American soldier had to carry, increasing mechanization would likely be one way to do it.

            *Speed might also be a factor here.

            P.S. How do you block-embed quotes without the “reply” button?

          • albatross11 says:

            One aside: if you have a job designed to be done by people of the strength and robustness of youngish adult men, then it will be really hard for youngish adult women, 70-year-old men, or 13-year-old boys to do it. That’s true, even if there’s nothing inherent in the job that precludes it being done by women, old men, or boys.

            Imagine if we had a force of intelligent gorillas we could set to work in some demanding environment. The jobs would often scale to their strength, and it would be all but impossible for even a very strong man to do the job. And that would be true, even if the job was some normal human thing like being a janitor. The vacuum cleaner would weigh 150 lbs, the mop handle would be seven feet long, and the cleaning supplies stored on an overhead shelf would all be these huge 50 lb containers of soap and wax and such. Why not? It’s more efficient, and no problem at all for someone with the strength of a gorilla.

          • Hypoborean says:

            “One aside: if you have a job designed to be done by people of the strength and robustness of youngish adult men, then it will be really hard for youngish adult women, 70-year-old men, or 13-year-old boys to do it. That’s true, even if there’s nothing inherent in the job that precludes it being done by women, old men, or boys.”

            This is an interesting different flavour of military readiness impacts. IE, if all you did was add women to frontline combat units, you would degrade readiness, but you could probably design an equal readiness unit if you were designing to take the differing gender composition into account.

            Depending on how you spin it, it can easily be used as an argument for both sides.

          • The Nybbler says:

            IE, if all you did was add women to frontline combat units, you would degrade readiness, but you could probably design an equal readiness unit if you were designing to take the differing gender composition into account.

            Except, in the specific case of the military, that the enemy gets to set the conditions as well.

          • Clutzy says:

            Of course, the Kurds suffered 11,000 combat fatalities fighting ISIS. If someone could show that heavy infantry would have suffered fewer casualties accomplishing the same task*, then the American public’s extreme sensitivity to combat deaths would strongly suggest against forming light infantry formations.

            Is this a joke? 11k American infantry with no air support could have handled ISIS easily if they were allowed to engage optimally. The handicap US forces have compared to Kurds/etc is they are ALWAYS on enemy soil. That’s why they wear body armor, because every window is a potential enemy. The Kurdish women infantry can blend right back into the population. In addition, and US politicians almost revel in handicapping them strategically.

            At the height of ISIS 11k Marines + a cavalry unit could march out of Baghdad smash ISIS, then turn southeast and smash Assad’s armies, then go take a dip in the Mediterranean and drink with some IDF friends.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Clutzy
            “Is this a joke? 11k American infantry with no air support could have handled ISIS easily if they were allowed to engage optimally. The handicap US forces have compared to Kurds/etc is they are ALWAYS on enemy soil. That’s why they wear body armor, because every window is a potential enemy. The Kurdish women infantry can blend right back into the population. In addition, and US politicians almost revel in handicapping them strategically.

            At the height of ISIS 11k Marines + a cavalry unit could march out of Baghdad smash ISIS, then turn southeast and smash Assad’s armies, then go take a dip in the Mediterranean and drink with some IDF friends.”

            So, I don’t know for certain, but I think you are severely underestimating the number of casualties inherent in trying to pry out an opponent of an urban setting (especially if you are assuming you have no air support, as you do). That goes double for one as adept at setting up booby traps and using suicide bombers (car and otherwise) as ISIS was.

            Do you have a credible reference point for this level of over performance by the US military against an irregular force? Breaking the morale of a conventional force caught in the open (First, Second Gulf) doesn’t count.

            Assad is SW of ISIS turf, BTW.

            Also, what is it about ‘home turf’ that makes a Kurdish light infantry woman holding a rifle immune to bullets fired from “any window”?

            @The Nybbler
            “Except, in the specific case of the military, that the enemy gets to set the conditions as well.”

            If you were reliant on excessive mechanization, then sure, there would likely be an enemy response which would degrade readiness. But that’s not necessarily true of all force configurations.

          • CatCube says:

            @Hypoborean

            Also, is there a possibility that operational doctrine (bad strategy) is partially driven by kit choice? The adjective I often hear about American forces in Iraq/Afghanistan is “lumbering”…

            I think you have cause and effect backwards. The kit choice is driven by the need to minimize casualties. To demonstrate the mentality, every single death that occurs in theater must be investigated by a major or higher, who has to produce a report detailing the circumstances and what factors contributed to the death. This report is provided to the family members (I don’t know if they were allowed to keep a copy, or just see it.) Imagine being the guy who said that his troops didn’t need body armor.

            The reason that you see less infantry fighting in Afghanistan is because the enemy desperately avoids it. If they allow their troops to engage US troops in a pitched battle, we’ll turn it sideways and shove it up their ass. They, quite rationally, choose to make use of hit-and-run tactics and IEDs. This is where they have a distinct advantage, and they make excellent use of it.

            Take the COP Keating example above. The US completely screwed the pooch on siting that base: they had rising terrain surrounding the base, it couldn’t be supplied easily, and there wasn’t much strategic advantage to the site. AIUI, their brigade engineer got a (deserved) career-ending memorandum of reprimand for allowing that COP to be sited there following the battle.

            On the Taliban side, they made truly excellent use of terrain, they had a well-executed attack with the rule-of-thumb 3:1 advantage, and they maintained surprise. The Wikipedia page said they lost 150 troops according to US reports; let’s cut that in half to account for optimistic “body count math.” They would still have lost 10 times the number of people the US did. And like I said: this was an exquisitely-planned operation that occurred at a time and place of their choosing.

            Lavish training and equipping that western forces use provide a distinct advantage in war: we can make terrible mistakes and still avoid massive tactical defeats. OTOH, the Taliban can do everything right and still take 10:1 casualties (or worse).

            Now, they got a strategic victory out of it, because they got to be the people that ran the US Army off of a base, and they were willing to lose the 80-150 people to do that. At the end of the day, strategic victories are the only ones that count, so they have the edge. But it’s more subtle than the loadout. In Vietnam, they had closer to what you seem to be treating as the “ideal” loadout: they’d give their troops an LBE, an M-16, and a slap on the ass and tell them to go out and kill Charlie. We lost about 1/10th the number of US troops in Afghanistan as we did in Vietnam and over a longer period, while only being marginally more successful.

            I don’t know what the larger strategic solution is; if I did, I’d probably still be in the Army and working my way towards general. I just doubt it’s as simple as ditching body armor.

          • Clutzy says:

            So, I don’t know for certain, but I think you are severely underestimating the number of casualties inherent in trying to pry out an opponent of an urban setting (especially if you are assuming you have no air support, as you do). That goes double for one as adept at setting up booby traps and using suicide bombers (car and otherwise) as ISIS was.

            Yes, indeed that is difficult, if that was what I was discussing. Rather, I was simply discussing allowing the Marines to smash the ISIS armies wherever they found them, and engaging as the military command decides, unencumbered by politicians. I am well aware that the standard tactics of non-American forces include all assortments of war crimes, like using human shields and not wearing uniforms. This makes your comparing their infantry tactics to ours all the more absurd. Even in a Battle of Stalingrad-like situation ISIS and Assad forces would be wiped out by US troops. Indeed, even with modern weapons those groups would easily lose to NAZI shock troops using 1942 era weapons. That is how massive the skill gap is.

            Do you have a credible reference point for this level of over performance by the US military against an irregular force? Breaking the morale of a conventional force caught in the open (First, Second Gulf) doesn’t count.

            I don’t see how that is relevant to what tactics we should employ. The tactics of light infantry in modern warfare as practiced by the Kurds are warcrimes, and if American soldiers used them they would be court marshaled.

            Assad is SW of ISIS turf, BTW.
            Also, what is it about ‘home turf’ that makes a Kurdish light infantry woman holding a rifle immune to bullets fired from “any window”?

            #1 Yes, E-W mindfart
            #2 they are not fighting in hostile territory. They fought defensive wars against ISIS and were the ones in the windows. In their offensive operations they were re-taking friendly and familiar territory where all Kurdish civilians would have been evacuated or would have aided their rooting out of enemies. Liberating cities is easier than conquering.

            If you were reliant on excessive mechanization, then sure, there would likely be an enemy response which would degrade readiness. But that’s not necessarily true of all force configurations.

            Your response to Nybbler equally confuses me. The readiness problem is not mech related, it is pacifism related. We do not determine where and when we strike (outside the special forces operations like the ones that took out Bin Laden and Al-Bagdadi), we fight almost all battles on enemy terms in enemy territory responding to surprise attacks.

          • Hypoborean says:

            “Yes, indeed that is difficult, if that was what I was discussing. Rather, I was simply discussing allowing the Marines to smash the ISIS armies wherever they found them, and engaging as the military command decides, unencumbered by politicians. I am well aware that the standard tactics of non-American forces include all assortments of war crimes, like using human shields and not wearing uniforms. This makes your comparing their infantry tactics to ours all the more absurd. Even in a Battle of Stalingrad-like situation ISIS and Assad forces would be wiped out by US troops. Indeed, even with modern weapons those groups would easily lose to NAZI shock troops using 1942 era weapons. That is how massive the skill gap is.”

            {Citation needed}

            If the American mode of warfighting is so vastly superior to the homebrew blitz, why did the Iraqi armed forces so lavishly trained and equipped by America fall apart like a first year law student’s argument? Between Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Vietnam, I’m not seeing a lot of evidence for the tactical superiority of the American war-fighting mode, unless you’re saying it’s 0% transferable to allied forces.

            How confident are you of the comparison of Stalingrad to the present? The hypothesis that modern rapid fire weapons + the ease of installing explosive defenses thanks to modern miniaturized electronics have made urban combat deadlier for the attacking force seems reasonable at face value.

            “I don’t see how that is relevant to what tactics we should employ. The tactics of light infantry in modern warfare as practiced by the Kurds are warcrimes, and if American soldiers used them they would be court marshaled.”

            I haven’t seen any evidence of the Kurds using human shields. Do you think not wearing a uniform is a really critical part of Kurdish military success?

            “#2 they are not fighting in hostile territory. They fought defensive wars against ISIS and were the ones in the windows. In their offensive operations they were re-taking friendly and familiar territory where all Kurdish civilians would have been evacuated or would have aided their rooting out of enemies. Liberating cities is easier than conquering.”

            Look at the map. The Kurds pushed past the Kurdish ethnic-majority areas into the “ISIS heartland” of disaffected Sunni Arabs who were the first support base of ISIS.

            “Your response to Nybbler equally confuses me. The readiness problem is not mech related, it is pacifism related. We do not determine where and when we strike (outside the special forces operations like the ones that took out Bin Laden and Al-Bagdadi), we fight almost all battles on enemy terms in enemy territory responding to surprise attacks.”

            I genuinely don’t understand this response. The discussion of military readiness has mostly focused on speed / carry capacity of soldiers, both of which would be much less relevant in defending a fixed position like COP Keating, n’est pas? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat_Outpost_Keating

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            If the American mode of warfighting is so vastly superior to the homebrew blitz, why did the Iraqi armed forces so lavishly trained and equipped by America fall apart like a first year law student’s argument? Between Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Vietnam, I’m not seeing a lot of evidence for the tactical superiority of the American war-fighting mode, unless you’re saying it’s 0% transferable to allied forces.

            The Iraqi Armed Forces were not trained or equipped to US Standards, nor did we even try. The general consensus when I was in Iraq was that their most elite SF units were trained to about the level of an active-duty US infantry unit at best, if not a reserve/NG unit, while the ING and NIA regular formations were, in general, a bad joke. A few minutes googling should provide you with a host of anecdotes that illustrate the sort of endemic issues we observed.

            The modern American mode of warfighting is a combination of US wealth and access to modern technology (which we don’t generally try to export to countries like Iraq because we know they can’t afford to equip themselves that way, and if we equip them to that level they can’t afford or choose not to -maintain- the equipment) and more importantly a distillation of western and especially German principles of command and leadership developed and refined over the past few hundred years along with a specific culture.

            That culture and those principles of command and leadership can be transmitted, but it requires a much more invasive and controlling relationship than the one we were trying to maintain between the US Forces and the nascent Iraqi government. More fundamentally, the Iraqi Army of the time had serious morale and loyalty problems and no particular willingness to fight and die for the government at the time. That says a lot about the state of the Iraqi government, but not a lot about the way they were trained.

            For a good overview of the issues, this article hits most of the high points, as does Kenneth Pollack’s “Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness”.

          • sfoil says:

            @Hypoborean

            What is your actual argument here? That, largely on the basis of a propagandistic photojournal, you believe that “the Kurds” are the best army in the world, and since “the Kurds” (say they) use a bunch of women combatants — there are pictures! — therefore if anyone is interested in copying “the Kurds” and thus maybe dethroning them as the world’s best fighting force, they should Hire Women? Because that’s what I gather your position is. You’ve sometimes come closer to suggesting that a woman with a rifle is usually better than a stuffed mannequin, something uninteresting that I don’t think anyone disputes.

            The current position of the US military on gender integrated units, after repeated failed attempts in more or less good faith to convince everyone involved that it was good policy on its own merits, is: This is happening, now shut up or fuck off. This statement was accompanied quite soon after by a marked lowering in physical fitness standards for new recruits. I and many others suspect these two things are related. Maybe we’re wrong, or it doesn’t matter anyway because this is part of making the United States armed forces more like the world’s premier military, The Kurds. But I think the real motivation is probably ideological and aesthetic.

          • Clutzy says:

            I continue to be in shock about the lack of understanding coming from these responses. The Kurds are a decent fighting force…for the Mid East, which is like damning with faint praise. The American military is on a different level of quality in all areas.

            Its also like you just ignore reality. Yes fighting without uniforms is critical to modern Middle Eastern military force, because they suck at actual combat (see the Iraqi army). Yes hiding among women/children (or where US forces can’t know whether there are women/children) is key to their success, otherwise they would get crushed either with air power, artillery, or just infantry storming the building and loosing on them without fear of killing children.

            Almost all US military failures are caused by political considerations. Not because our troops aren’t significantly more effective.

          • Hypoborean says:

            @Clutzy

            “I continue to be in shock about the lack of understanding coming from these responses. The Kurds are a decent fighting force…for the Mid East, which is like damning with faint praise. The American military is on a different level of quality in all areas.

            Its also like you just ignore reality. Yes fighting without uniforms is critical to modern Middle Eastern military force, because they suck at actual combat (see the Iraqi army). Yes hiding among women/children (or where US forces can’t know whether there are women/children) is key to their success, otherwise they would get crushed either with air power, artillery, or just infantry storming the building and loosing on them without fear of killing children.

            Almost all US military failures are caused by political considerations. Not because our troops aren’t significantly more effective.”

            You and I agree that the Iraqi Army sucks at actual combat. Where we differ is our assessment of the Kurds. The Kurds were badly underequipped vs ISIS formations using looted American gear (from the Iraqi army it routed), human shields, suicide tactics, and excellent martyr morale [combined sufficient to blitz conquer a third of Iraq before the emergency application of American airpower and Iranian troops] and still beat them.

            On the topic of uniforms, you just shifted the goalposts, possibly without realizing it. The Kurds didn’t wear uniforms when fighting ISIS, but they weren’t blending into the population. Not wearing ISIS mandatory beards and having women walking around holding guns and not in niqabs makes “this is an enemy combatant” dead obvious. So, the Kurds were essentially having a clean straight up fight and doing well.

            I’m aware that in the case of US occupations of Iraq , the enemy’s operational doctrine involved hiding amongst the civilian population to avoid annihilation by US airpower. But ISIS’s 2014-2019 caliphate was…not that? They were holding territory and manning checkpoints throughout that timeframe. When they were threatening to conquer Baghdad, they were doing that IN THE OPEN. And even the Taliban in Afghanistan aren’t so cut and dried. Like the Viet Cong and their jungles, extremely rugged terrain makes hiding from air power possible. Wide open deserts outside of cities with no cover make you a sitting duck, sure (First Gulf, Second Gulf, Libya), but even the moderate urbanization of Syria made engaging in a cheap Libya style regime change operation unfeasible, if the news reports c.2013-4 were at all accurate. The key variable here seems to be “is there cover”, where hiding among the civilian population is only one of many kinds of cover. The Taliban’s infrastructure in Afghanistan includes a lot of mountain fortresses in unpopulated areas that we straight-up can’t find, and never tried to locate on foot even with >100,000 troops in the country.

            Upthread we had made a clear distinction between frontline combat roles (“infantry”) and snipers and tank pilots and artillery. When you say 11,000 American troops could conquer all of 2014 Syria without a single airplane, did you mean 11,000 “infantry” or a balanced force of 11,000 with a mix of support artillery, tanks, snipers, etc? The second becomes a lot more plausible, but also gets back to “The US Military is organizationally excellent” much more than “a single GI is worth X Kurds due to superior training.” Also relevantly to our gender discussion, the second “balanced” force would have LOTS of combat roles completely compatible with women combatants without sacrificing a lick of combat readiness.

            Lastly, it’s this “just infantry storming the building and loosing on them without fear of killing children” that I think is the key point of contention here. Do you have evidence of American general infantry superiority over opponents equivalent to high morale ISIS fighters c.2014 when force multipliers like air support, proper artillery, etc are removed? Because the results of the Tet Offensive suggest otherwise (American tactical victory, but definitely not crushingly [2:1 casualty ratio, is my understanding, although decomposing that into American vs. South Vietnamese engagements is tricky], and that was on dug-in defense with a theater numerical advantage and aircraft and artillery support). Would you argue that the sub-Battle of Hue is a fairer (and more favourable) assessment of American GI performance?

            Maybe you can clarify which “political constraints” would need to be removed and how you estimate that would have effected a counterfactual major historical battle? Say, how it would have reduced the number of troops needed to win the Second Battle of Fallujah (2004)?

            P.S. I appreciate you continuing to come back to this. You have a deeper background on this than I do and I’m glad you’re taking the time to try to straighten out my layperson’s-attempting-to-sift-real-information-from-the-news approach. I’m trying to work out if your extreme confidence in the US military aligns with my existing model {organizational excellence, capable of massive strategic victories against known opponents, largely through combined-forces operations, individual infantry struggle against parity competitions when opponents’ guerrilla tactics successfully force the latter} or requires an update {American infantry in isolation also vastly superior to even best-in-region opponents}

          • Hypoborean says:

            @sfoil

            “What is your actual argument here? That, largely on the basis of a propagandistic photojournal, you believe that “the Kurds” are the best army in the world, and since “the Kurds” (say they) use a bunch of women combatants — there are pictures! — therefore if anyone is interested in copying “the Kurds” and thus maybe dethroning them as the world’s best fighting force, they should Hire Women? Because that’s what I gather your position is. You’ve sometimes come closer to suggesting that a woman with a rifle is usually better than a stuffed mannequin, something uninteresting that I don’t think anyone disputes.

            The current position of the US military on gender integrated units, after repeated failed attempts in more or less good faith to convince everyone involved that it was good policy on its own merits, is: This is happening, now shut up or fuck off. This statement was accompanied quite soon after by a marked lowering in physical fitness standards for new recruits. I and many others suspect these two things are related. Maybe we’re wrong, or it doesn’t matter anyway because this is part of making the United States armed forces more like the world’s premier military, The Kurds. But I think the real motivation is probably ideological and aesthetic.”

            …where did I say the Kurds were the best fighting force in the world? They are an underequipped infantry force lacking airpower, artillery, or tanks. I’m not at all disputing America’s clear organizational superiority in mass-scale combat.

            I’ve using them as a relevant example of a functional fighting force that includes a significant number of women that has actually been pushed to anywhere close to its limits (which can’t be said of most militaries on the planet post-WWII). If the people vehemently opposed to gender integration of the armed forces were correct that it would massively impair readiness, ONE WOULD EXPECT the gender-integrated Kurdish forces to underperform rather than overperform in competitions with male-only Middle Eastern forces.

            Similarly, I assume you don’t dispute that a female tank pilot, artillery crew, or sniper is going to be so close to identical in military readiness that it’s unlikely to matter (although maybe I shouldn’t assume this, since your “a woman with a rifle is usually better than a stuffed mannequin” comment is practically a self-straw-man). So the MEAT of the dispute rests in frontline infantry, and looking at an all-infantry force’s performance in recent history could be enlightening.

          • Clutzy says:

            I’m aware that in the case of US occupations of Iraq , the enemy’s operational doctrine involved hiding amongst the civilian population to avoid annihilation by US airpower. But ISIS’s 2014-2019 caliphate was…not that? They were holding territory and manning checkpoints throughout that timeframe. When they were threatening to conquer Baghdad, they were doing that IN THE OPEN. And even the Taliban in Afghanistan aren’t so cut and dried. Like the Viet Cong and their jungles, extremely rugged terrain makes hiding from air power possible. Wide open deserts outside of cities with no cover make you a sitting duck, sure (First Gulf, Second Gulf, Libya), but even the moderate urbanization of Syria made engaging in a cheap Libya style regime change operation unfeasible, if the news reports c.2013-4 were at all accurate. The key variable here seems to be “is there cover”, where hiding among the civilian population is only one of many kinds of cover. The Taliban’s infrastructure in Afghanistan includes a lot of mountain fortresses in unpopulated areas that we straight-up can’t find, and never tried to locate on foot even with >100,000 troops in the country.

            They never did any of that in the open against US forces. They did it against other, super crappy Middle East forces. Remember how it took like 1 month to beat ISIS once we started actually trying? All those guys at checkpoints returned to the sewers. But yes, that they flee to various covers that are expensive to search is the issue. Also, like with the Taliban, they don’t wear big “Taliban” flags once they go into the mountains, they just look like any other nomad.

            Upthread we had made a clear distinction between frontline combat roles (“infantry”) and snipers and tank pilots and artillery. When you say 11,000 American troops could conquer all of 2014 Syria without a single airplane, did you mean 11,000 “infantry” or a balanced force of 11,000 with a mix of support artillery, tanks, snipers, etc? The second becomes a lot more plausible, but also gets back to “The US Military is organizationally excellent” much more than “a single GI is worth X Kurds due to superior training.” Also relevantly to our gender discussion, the second “balanced” force would have LOTS of combat roles completely compatible with women combatants without sacrificing a lick of combat readiness.

            I imagined the 11k having snipers, and light cavalry at least, tanks and heavy artillery would make it a total whitewash. But you are right, the US Military is organizationally excellent and that comes from many things including the strength of individual American troops, and even moreso the small units they form. I would never explicitly claim 1 American = 5 ISIS or something, but I would say 1 rifle squad (usually 12 people led by a sergeant), or 1 rifle platoon (3 squad, a Lt., and other leadership, and usually support like medical corp) typically exceed the value of 5X that number of ISIS soldiers.

            Lastly, it’s this “just infantry storming the building and loosing on them without fear of killing children” that I think is the key point of contention here. Do you have evidence of American general infantry superiority over opponents equivalent to high morale ISIS fighters c.2014 when force multipliers like air support, proper artillery, etc are removed? Because the results of the Tet Offensive suggest otherwise (American tactical victory, but definitely not crushingly [2:1 casualty ratio, is my understanding, although decomposing that into American vs. South Vietnamese engagements is tricky], and that was on dug-in defense with a theater numerical advantage and aircraft and artillery support). Would you argue that the sub-Battle of Hue is a fairer (and more favourable) assessment of American GI performance?

            Vietnam does indeed serve as a lowpoint for American GI individual performance (but I don’t think you’ll ever get some sort of objective citation comparing 1-1). Standards were lowered very heavily in Vietnam see, e.g. this article. In addition the Tet offensive is the low of that low. Hue is still more representative for sure.

            Maybe you can clarify which “political constraints” would need to be removed and how you estimate that would have effected a counterfactual major historical battle? Say, how it would have reduced the number of troops needed to win the Second Battle of Fallujah (2004)?

            Political constraints are particularly important in urban warfare. The battle of Fallujah is an example of how inability to utilize bombardment of enemy positions results in more deaths on your own side, and a difficulty securing positions. As how Vietnam was a war that could have been won if there was political will to poke around into China, Fallujah 2 probably never happens if Fallujah 1 was carried out properly with proper bombardment and cleanup teams.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Hypoborean

            The Kurds were badly underequipped vs ISIS formations using looted American gear (from the Iraqi army it routed), human shields, suicide tactics, and excellent martyr morale [combined sufficient to blitz conquer a third of Iraq before the emergency application of American airpower and Iranian troops] and still beat them.

            This is not the impressive achievement you seem to think it is. Suicide tactics make it -easier- to defeat an opponent in a conventional combat environment, not harder. Human shields are of limited utility against Iraqi and Kurdish forces which aren’t particularly discriminating about them, something Amnesty International was rather upset about if you read their report on the battle of Mosul. So yes, part of it is that they were fighting in ways the US has generally refrained from, and the other part is that their opponent was not actually that impressive.

            The “Looted American Gear” consisted primarily of MRAPs, M117s, a literal handful of arty pieces which did not contribute meaningfully compared to their existing supply of mortars and other indirect fire weapons, and some small arms. Meanwhile, the Kurds were supported by multi-national air strikes and Iraqi and Iranian artillery (remember that mortar and artillery fire is the primary casualty-causing tool of the modern ground force), and had been furnished with additional equipment by the US beginning in 2014. Reports claiming that the Peshmerga were badly underequipped vs. ISIL are, to be frank, false. They were at worst comparably equipped.

            On top of this, as previously pointed out to you, the Kurds did not actually bear the brunt of the fighting. It’s also worth noting we’re talking about the Iraqi Peshmerga, who have in their ranks approximately 500-600 female soldiers. Total. This was not the YPG.

            Bottom line, ISIS was not and is not a professional fighting force. They were and are quite nasty in a counter-insurgency environment, but the main reason they were able to make major territorial gains is that they were effectively unopposed for most of that time (see my point about the Iraqi army and especially its political weakness, which you have tried to interpret as a failure of American military doctrine for some reason). The extent to which they were able to take and hold territory is the extent to which professional militaries were unwilling to commit to the effort required to take it away from them, because while you can hurt someone badly with air strikes and artillery, you need boots on the ground to take and hold territory and in more than “advisor” numbers.

            Something I think you are failing to understand is that there is quite literally no comparison between major/conventional combat operations (Syrian Civil War, ISIL invasion of Iraq, OIF March-April 2003, OEF October-December 2001, Desert Storm January-February 91, Large parts of the Vietnam war, etc) and Counter-Insurgency or STASO operations. Trying to use performance in one to make arguments about the other is entirely specious. It is not a matter of “is there cover or not”, or “is the terrain dense and complicated (urban/mountain/jungle) or simple and open?”. I feel like to have a productive discussion you need to back up and get an understanding for the difference between these environments and especially the ROE and doctrines involved. There is nothing preventing a conventional military from wiping the floor with a group like ISIL in an urban environment except for the simple fact that no modern professional military’s political leadership cared enough to spend the blood, treasure, and political capital required, instead preferring to provide limited indirect support while relying on local proxies/allies to provide the boots.

            The closest US analog to Kurdish and Iraqi performance in the Battle of Mosul are OIF and OEF battles like 2nd Fallujah, Tal Afar, Samarra, Tora Bora, etc. All have the same conclusion: Hybrid/insurgent type forces attempting to go toe-to-toe with the American military, in -any- environment, including mountain fortresses (Tora Bora) and built up cities (2nd Fallujah, Tal Afar, Samarra) get their asses kicked, and hard. In fact, there is continuity of a lot of ISIL’ tactics between the two in large part because ISIL grew out of and learned a lot from both AQI and the Taliban.

            I will pause to note that I actually agree with the broad, top-level premise of “it is not a priori impossible to include a non-zero number of females in modern combat arms roles without compromising readiness”. However, as we have just discussed, the Kurds are a very weak reed to use as the basis of that argument, especially if you want to take the stronger form you seem to of “there is no reason not to adjust the standards until women are able to serve in combat arms roles in numbers close to their percentage of the population.”

            I’m going to focus my discussion here on your errors of fact regarding the Kurds, ISIL, and military operations more generally, however. If you really want, I can go into your errors of fact regarding the nitty-gritty details of physical readiness standards and job-specific requirements either in this thread or the 141.25 OT. The short version is that you are handwaving away significant challenges, and don’t seem to understand what a lot of these jobs actually entail.

          • johan_larson says:

            @Hypoborean, let me suggest you be a bit more selective in what you quote from others’ posts. It’s good to establish context, but really long quotations just waste screen real estate.

            Also, you are enclosing your quotations in quotation marks. The usual practice around here is to use the Quote button to wrap the quoted text in [blockquote][/blockquote] tags.

            Like this.

          • sfoil says:

            If the people vehemently opposed to gender integration of the armed forces were correct that it would massively impair readiness, ONE WOULD EXPECT the gender-integrated Kurdish forces to underperform rather than overperform in competitions with male-only Middle Eastern forces.

            War isn’t a controlled competition. If it weren’t for American support, ISIS would probably own Kobane/Rojava now until either the SAA or the Turks drove them out. Not because the YPG sucks or has women in it or sucks because of women but just because they were in a bad spot. I think the YPG uses women about the same way that most first world militaries use women now: in combat support roles that include the very real possibility of killing and being killed. They also have a need, which first world militaries do not have, to form second-tier occupation/garrison units; this (YPJ) looks like where the comparatively larger proportion of women “combatants” among the Syrian Kurds comes from.

            …where did I say the Kurds were the best fighting force in the world? They are an underequipped infantry force lacking airpower, artillery, or tanks.

            You’ve repeatedly said that when the Kurds do things one way and the Americans another, that the Kurds’ way is better:

            Maybe you can make the argument that heavy US infantry is superior to light infantry, and the Kurds only picked the latter because they were too underequipped for American-style tactics to be an option. BUT. The US-equipped and trained Iraqi security forces completely fell apart in 2014 against the ISIS blitz while the Kurdish forces in Rojava and the Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan held, so at the very least morale trumps equipment handily.

            Also, is there a possibility that operational doctrine (bad strategy) is partially driven by kit choice? The adjective I often hear about American forces in Iraq/Afghanistan is “lumbering”, which could suggest that the doctrine of staying holed up in fortresses and doing only heavily armoured reconnaissance / interfacing operations is partially downstream of the fact that the modern American infantryman isn’t at all equipped to operate for extended periods of time outside of a FOB/COP.

            If that’s the case, since the US military is suffering a manpower shortage (missed its recruiting target at least last year, might continue if the economy stays good), forming light infantry combat formations would be sensible holding all non-military considerations constant.

            you could probably design an equal readiness unit if you were designing to take the differing gender composition into account.

            If you were reliant on excessive mechanization, then sure, there would likely be an enemy response which would degrade readiness. But that’s not necessarily true of all force configurations.

            If the American mode of warfighting is so vastly superior to the homebrew blitz, why did the Iraqi armed forces so lavishly trained and equipped by America fall apart like a first year law student’s argument?

            Maybe what you mean is that it’s better to have good morale/elan or whatever than good equipment or even superior physical fitness. That’s respectable. But the US wants all of it: they want to have the best fitness, the best equipment, and the most elan. If having the ability to carry a lot of heavy shit is better than not having the ability, then that’s what the US wants. As a side note about something that’s not too intuitive:

            If one was trying to reduce the amount of kit an American soldier had to carry, increasing mechanization would likely be one way to do it.

            Mechanization is the cause of how much Americans carry around, not the solution. By reducing the maximum distance you need to carry things, you end up increasing the maximum amount carried.

            Similarly, I assume you don’t dispute that a female tank pilot, artillery crew, or sniper is going to be so close to identical in military readiness that it’s unlikely to matter (although maybe I shouldn’t assume this, since your “a woman with a rifle is usually better than a stuffed mannequin” comment is practically a self-straw-man). So the MEAT of the dispute rests in frontline infantry, and looking at an all-infantry force’s performance in recent history could be enlightening.

            I do dispute it. Crewing a tank or a howitzer is not as taxing as what is expected out of an infantryman, but it is far more physically demanding than you probably think it is. You think that operating a tank is like driving your car or that firing a howitzer is covering your ears and pulling a lanyard; it is not. Here is what firing an artillery piece involves; the M777 shown is the lightest and most automated piece of its class that has ever existed.

            I would expect that under a fair integration regime, the infantry would be less than 1% female and the armor and artillery branches would be perhaps 5%. This is approximately the case in the Canadian forces. Likewise, while I don’t know much about flying, after 25 years of gender integration about 6% of the USAF’s pilots are women. I think these numbers are acceptable. I’m not sure the people pushing gender integration think these numbers are acceptable.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      How can you tell whether a new fitness test is doing a better or worse job of qualifying soldiers for combat? For military life generally?

      • johan_larson says:

        I would guess that the requirement for an overall fitness test, as opposed to job-specific tests, comes from the doctrine that all soldiers are supposed to be able to fight if they must. Even the accountants and the cooks are supposed to be able to serve as competent (but probably not actually good) infantrymen. This seems like a useful idea in dangerous territory.

        With that in mind, I think what I would do is design some sort of test that includes all kinds of things that infantry combatants might be required to do, particularly when fighting in provisional and defensive situations: firing rifles, evacuating wounded, transporting ammunition, all sorts of things. Base it as much as possible on the experiences of actual veterans. I expect you could do this with a 24-hour test, and that test could produce an aggregate score that reasonably well measures how well a soldier would perform as an infantry combatant. Eyeball the scores and the actual performance, and draw a line of minimum acceptable performance.

        If we could afford to, we’d put all soldiers through this test regularly, to make sure they are in fact still effective fighters. But that’s too complicated and expensive. So we need a quicker, cheaper test that does almost as well. Measure the performance of troops of widely varying performance in the 24-hour test in various simpler physical tests. Then find a few that in combination correspond closely to performance