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Links 12/19

[Epistemic status: I haven’t independently verified each link. On average, commenters will end up spotting evidence that around two or three of the links in each links post are wrong or misleading. I correct these as I see them, but can’t guarantee I will have caught them all by the time you read this.]

You’ve probably seen the Russian city flag with the bear splitting the atom. But this is just the tip of the great Russian animal flags iceberg.

All archaeologists agree that the Roman artifacts dug up around Tucson, Arizona, are a hoax. Everyone agrees that there was no Roman colony of “Calalus” in North America that did battle with the Toltec Indians before finally being defeated in the 9th century AD. But who buried dozens of carefully-forged “crosses, swords, religious/ceremonial paraphernalia containing Hebrew and Latin inscriptions, pictures of temples, leaders portraits, angels, and a dinosaur inscribed on the lead blade of a sword” around Tucson during the 1920s to make it look like there was?

New study by growth mindset proponents finds an effect size of d = 0.11, highest in medium-achieving schools with challenge-supporting peer norms when the moon is in Scorpio. Even if true it should cast doubt on previous studies, since 0.11 is not a human-observable effect size or commensurate with the small-study findings in earlier growth mindset work.

Before genetic engineering, there was atomic gardening, the 1970s practice of planting some seeds in a circle around a radiation source and hoping some of them got beneficial mutations. The process produced modern Ruby Red grapefruits, among other things.

Despite the apparent renewal in interest, only about 1% of Americans think the gap between rich and poor is the most important issue – although it looks like it’s hard to get people to agree on what is a major problem in general.

What is continuous AI takeoff? What would a discontinuity in AI takeoff mean?

One of the engineers who worked on the Viking Mars landers continues to make the case that they discovered life on Mars in the 1970s and everyone is just ignoring this for no reason.

Table Of Organic Compounds And Their Smells. Smell is…a lot more logically organized in a dimensional space than I thought. And in case you have the same question I do: “ethereal” = “smells like ether”.

You might already be following the Navy UFO thing: over the past few years, the Navy has encouraged its pilots to come forward with UFO accounts, signal-boosted the reports, and sponsored UFO research organizations, as if they’re trying to stoke interest for some reason. Now the plot gets weirder: a Navy scientist has filed a patent for a quantum superconducter antigravity drive capable of UFO-like feats of impossible aeronautics. When the Patent Office rejected it as outlandish, the Chief Technical Officer of naval aviation personally wrote the Patent Office saying it was totally possible and a matter of national security, after which the Patent Office relented and granted the patent. The patent thanks UFO researchers in the acknowledgements, includes a picture of a UFO recently sighted by Navy pilots, and does everything short of print in capital letters ‘THIS COMES FROM A UFO’. Scientists who were asked to comment say the proposed drive is “babble” and none of the supposed science checks out at all. Has the Navy fallen victim to conspiracy-peddlers, are they deliberately trying to stoke conspiracy theories for some reason, or what?

Related: Army Partners With Former Blink-182 Founder To Study Alien Technology.

Principles For The Application Of Human Intelligence: Can decision-making by human intelligences introduce bias? Can HI be racist? “Until…human debiasing techniques reach the efficiency of our regular auditing, review, and modification of algorithms, we should not implement these human decision systems.”

BMJ: Failing to complete a prescribed antibiotic course does not contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Along with all of WeWork’s many other red flags, did you know they used kabbalah in decision-making? I would add that the name “Adam Neumann” has kabbalistic implications all by itself, regardless of what decision-making procedures he uses.

A while ago I linked an article about a supposedly disastrous trial of genetically engineered mosquitos in Brazil. This was wrong. The media misunderstood the incident, blew it out of proportion, and it seems that possibly the journal screwed up the original paper somehow? In any case, the scientists who wrote the paper the whole thing was based around are so upset that they are asking for their own paper to be retracted.

California passes a law saying that freelance journalists may not write more than 35 stories per year, which many freelance journalists argue is not enough to survive on and would essentially destroy freelance journalism as a career option. The story seems to be that California wanted to ban Uber from classifying its drivers as freelancers, and the easiest way to do this was just to ban freelance work and carve out exceptions for any form of freelance work the state didn’t want to ban, and whoever was in charge of exception-making randomly chose the number “35” for freelance journalism. The lawmaker responsible has apologized to freelance journalists, but the cynical part of me isn’t sure what apology they can give beyond “we’re sorry our law ending people’s freedom to make contracts with flexible work schedules also affected popular people who can complain”. And if you think I sound angry, as always you should read @webdevmason’s takes (1, 2). Anyway, I think California journalists should feel lucky to be allowed 35 stories; most new housing in the state is limited to two.

Minced oaths: You probably knew “gosh” = “God” and “darn” = “damn”. But did you know “crikey” = “Christ kill me”, and maybe even “bloody” = “by our Lady”? As always, Aaron Smith-Teller takes it too far.

The Middle East is quickly becoming less religious.

Which occupations disproportionately support which Democratic presidential candidates? Mostly what you’d expect, if anything a little too on the nose. Mathematicians for Warren, talent agents for Harris, pizza delivery drivers for Yang, etc. Also, if you want to figure out who is “the candidate of the rich”, you will find all the data you need here.

Jason Crawford’s Roots Of Progress blog on the history of science is going full time. Highly recommended – see eg his post on iron here. There’s also a subreddit.

Latest poll on how Americans view civility: 88% believe that “compromise and common ground should be the goal”, but 83% believe that “I’m tired of leaders compromising my values and ideals [and] want leaders who will stand up to the other side.”

A few weeks ago I posted about the bygone age when people used the Internet for endless arguments about atheism. If you’re sad you missed that era, good news! There’s still a little piece of it going strong over at DebateReligion.reddit.com.

Pollution map: California wildfires vs. a totally normal day in China

Local Bay Area news: mass shooting at a party in an AirBnB house in Orinda, five dead. Orinda responds by banning AirBnB; AirBnB responds by banning parties. Seems to me like they’re just launching pointless attacks on coincidental features of this particular shooting instead of going after the real problem: houses.

Some pushback against Bryan Caplan’s Open Borders: Garrett Jones does an analysis where he shows that on Caplan’s own assumptions, average income of native-born US residents would fall by 40%, from $55,000 to $38,000. Caplan pushes back in a couple of ways. First, even under Jones’ assumptions, global GDP would almost double (because the natives being worse off is more than compensated by immigrants being better off). Second, a bunch of complicated statistical issues with Jones’ analysis. Third, pointing to South Africa, where the end of apartheid did not lower white incomes at all (!), showing that, even in multiracial countries where a richer race/class is outnumbered by a more politically powerful poorer race/class, this doesn’t seem to hurt the richer race/class (at least so far). There’s more at the link. See also the discussion of Open Borders at r/TheMotte.

Did you know: Brazil has more homicides than America + China + Russia + the EU + the rest of the Anglosphere combined?

Last month I linked the BernieBlindness subreddit so people could speculate whether weird media failures to include Bernie Sanders in lists of candidates were mistake or conspiracy. Here’s an even more impressive list of weird media failures to include Andrew Yang. Since I don’t think anyone feels especially threatened by Yang, I count this as strong evidence for the media just being too dumb to remember who all the candidates are consistently.

I can’t believe we’ve been rationalists for over a decade now and nobody proposed just doing a scientific study to see whether the Democrats or the Republicans are better. Apparent answer: when studied through careful causation-detecting economic techniques, having a state switch from Democratic to Republican control, or vice versa, has almost no effect on various outcomes of interest like unemployment, crime, or school attendance. This is true even when you limit it to the most extreme cases (state goes from unified Democratic control to unified Republican control and stays that way for many years). Not really sure what to think of this.

LW: autopsy of last year’s self-driving Uber crash. Hindsight is 20-20, and I usually try to hesitate to critique people smarter than I am who are trying to do an insanely difficult thing – but this still seems completely inexcusable and shockingly incompetent.

Texas plane crash was gender reveal party gone wrong; this comes hot on the heels of gender reveal parties being linked to a pipe bomb death and alligator abuse.

A team including Joseph Henrich (author of Secret Of Our Success) publishes a giant paper making the case that Westerners’ psychological differences from the global norm (more individualist, more trusting, less bound by tradition) date back to kinship structures enforced by the early Catholic Church (many of you will have first heard this theory from Twitter user @hbdchick, who’s been using it to explain everything for the past half-decade). There’s been a big (and sometimes nasty) pushback from less-quantitatively-oriented historians; see The Scholar’s Stage for a great play-by-play and a spirited defense of Henrich.

I’ve always wondered how long it takes to make a really good painting; some seem so intricate that I imagine an artist working full-time for a year just to get it right. Turns out I am very off and a skilled artist can make impressive-looking paintings in a few hours.

The Libertarian Party of Kentucky ran a third-party candidate who split the vote and helped a Democrat get elected Kentucky governor this year; here is their statement on the results.

Last month, one of the world’s leading Napoleonic historians was rescued from an icy river, only to have relief turn to horror when he was discovered to be wearing a backpack full of severed human arms. Then things got weird.

Alexey Guzey spent 130 hours chronicling errors in the first chapter of Dr. Matthew Walker’s hit book Why We Sleep, and is suitably upset by it. It seems to be paying off with high-volume sites like Andrew Gelman and Hacker News taking note. No response yet from Walker, but I agree with Gelman’s suggestion that Joe Rogan (who helped popularize Walker) should invite Alexey on his show to talk about it. See also this comment on the subreddit critiquing some of Guzey’s points, with ensuing discussion – the one about not using correlation to infer causation in all-cause mortality stats is a very important point, here and always.

Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in college and cemented a cultural association between young people and entrepreneurship. But according to the American Institute for Economic Research, this association is wrong: the average successful entrepreneur is 45 when they found their company, the youngest entrepreneurs are the least successful, and a 50-year-old’s company is almost twice as likely to succeed as a 30-year-old’s.

A few weeks ago I reviewed an NYT article on incentives; since then some real economists including David Henderson (Part 2 here) and Bryan Caplan have weighed in with their own thoughts.

If you’re wondering what socialists want, this article on How To Build Socialist Institutions gives a pretty good rundown of moderate socialist proposals (eg nationalize things that have successfully been nationalized in other countries and times, switch various things to co-ops).

Myths about WWI: contrary to the portrayal that officers sat in comfortable tents as they sent enlisted men to certain death, officers were about 50% more likely to die than ordinary soldiers.

From the best of new Less Wrong: Design Principles Of Biological Circuits. I was especially impressed by this passage: “The body uses an integral feedback mechanism to achieve robust exact adaptation of glucose levels, with the count of pancreatic beta cells serving as the state variable: when glucose is too low, the cells (slowly) die off, and when glucose is too high, the cells (slowly) proliferate…mutant cells which mismeasure the glucose concentration could proliferate and take over the tissue. One defense against this problem is for the beta cells to die when they measure very high glucose levels (instead of proliferating very quickly). This handles must mutations, but it also means that sufficiently high glucose levels can trigger an unstable feedback loop: beta cells die, which reduces insulin, which means higher glucose “price” and less glucose usage throughout the body, which pushes glucose levels even higher. That’s type-2 diabetes.” Any experts reading who can confirm if this is true?

“Do you think we’re prepared for the big reveal that the last century and a half of history has been orchestrated by an immortal Andrew Johnson with space-radiation-related superpowers and a grudge?”

New research paper claims that “deaths of despair” are caused by white people being angry at the loss of their white privilege. This should immediately prompt another round of “spot the statistical malpractice people are using to provide scientific cover for the dominant narrative”, but in this case Clay Routledge has already done our work: the paper is just a rehash of the finding that Trump did unusually well in areas hit by the opioid epidemic and deaths of despair. The paper uses Trump support as a proxy for racism, tries to adjust out a few confounders, declares the whole thing probably causal, and so reframes this as “racism must be causing deaths of despair”.

The Department of Homeland Security opened a fake university in Michigan. They convinced immigrant students (who had legitimate student visas) to go there, used their openly-DHS-persona to ensure students the university was legitimate – then arrested those students for visa fraud since they were attending a fake university. They claim that since the university was fake (ie didn’t have any real classes or professors), they were operating a sting on immigrants who were okay with attending a fake university in order to keep their visas. But students claim they weren’t told it was a fake university without classes or professors when they signed up, and some students who transferred out once they figured out it was fake were also arrested. I’ve been reading about efforts to abolish the DHS recently, and the people involved stress they don’t mean that nobody should ever enforce immigration laws. They mean that the DHS, specifically, as an organization, has a screwed-up culture, and that dissolving it and leaving immigration enforcement to various other departments the way it was before 2001 would work better. This university thing seems like Exhibit A.

Man wields narwhal tusk to thwart terrorist’s murder spree is now a thing that has happened.

Kurt Vonnegut’s ice-9 is science fiction, but the same process – a new crystalline form arising in a substance, spreading unstoppably, and destroying everything that relied on the old form – happened in real life to the AIDS drug ritonavir (tumblr post, paper).

Zero HP Lovecraft: God-Shaped Hole

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910 Responses to Links 12/19

  1. wiserd says:

    “California passes a law saying that freelance journalists may not write more than 35 stories per year”

    Per client.

  2. Yosarian2 says:

    Yeah I’ve always thought a continuous view of AI was more likely. Say, the first commercially viable GAI is only marginally generally intelligent, maybe the equivalent general intelligence of a human with 70 IQ, sells for a few million dollars, and they sell tens of thousands of them. Then a few years later they sell one that’s slightly better, etc. The end result would still be superintelligence but not a singleton.

    The idea of a single AI rapidly self modifying while running without breaking itself in the process always seemed implausible to me.

  3. pansnarrans says:

    “But did you know “crikey” = “Christ kill me”,”

    Doubt it. More likely just a euphemism for “Christ”.

    “and maybe even “bloody” = “by our Lady”?”

    Now you’re just being absurd.

  4. Reasoner says:

    With regard to the UFO stuff, I wonder if since Harambe’s death there is just less pressure to conform in general, which is what leads to “[addressing] this issue in a serious manner and without the distraction of the social stigma that this phenomena seems to attract”.

  5. The Alexey Guzey post is interesting, but I’m not a fan of the way Guzey treats single studies as proxies for “the literature” or “the evidence.” Walker cites (or at least refers to) studies too, and it’s not clear to me why I’m supposed to consider his claims “refuted” because Guzey can produce a study pointing in the opposite direction. Even if Guzey’s study is a meta-analysis that subsumes Walker’s cited studies (as is the case with the sleep-cancer connection), meta-analyses have been known to contradict one another. Beware The Man Of One Study, right?

    I agree with Guzey’s caution about epidemiological evidence, but in the context of an attack on Walker specifically it’s a bit misleading. Most evidence in biomedical science is observational, and most claims based on biomedical research rely on insufficiently justified leaps from correlation to causation. You can bite this bullet and decide that huge swaths of biomedical science and publicly disseminated biomedical “knowledge” is bunk — which IMO is probably right — but if adopted consistently, this view makes you a contrarian who disagrees not with just one specific expert/”expert” but with huge, illustriously accomplished subpopulations of experts. At this point we’re not really checking anyone for “scientific and factual errors” anymore — with the certainty, finality, and lack of controversial background assumptions implied by that phrase, anyway — we’re just disagreeing with them.

    • guzey says:

      I’m not a fan of the way Guzey treats single studies as proxies for “the literature” or “the evidence.”

      If I’m reading my essay correctly, in every single case (with one exception) when I use studies to make a point in the essay, I always cite more than one study (let me know if you find any other examples). For example, in section 1, I cite 2 meta-analyses + 1 study + an academic Encyclopedia of Sleep.

      The one exception to this practice is found in section 1.1. There I cite a single-meta analysis and note that there’s literally no evidence that would support Walker’s claim, which is why I believe that just pointing to one meta-analysis is sufficient in this case.

      I agree with Guzey’s caution about epidemiological evidence, but in the context of an attack on Walker specifically it’s a bit misleading.

      You say that my strict views on causal inference, not shared by the majority of the researchers make my essay “a bit misleading” and suggest that I use my views to accuse Walker of “scientific and factual errors”.

      I believe that I’m being very careful to distinguish my personal opinion from the consensus research. I ask to provide at least one specific quote where I’m being misleading in a way you accuse me of being misleading.

  6. zenmore says:

    I didn’t see anyone else mention this, but the USPTO has the option to designate applications as secret if there’s a compelling national security interest. So it’d be surprising if significant military inventions weren’t withheld from the public for at least some period of time.

  7. Gumpalonia says:

    What if there was a way of achieving the same benefits of open borders without opening any borders, but by actually doing exactly opposite: making creation of borders easier? And to achieve the productivity increase globally, not just in current first world countries, and without any risk of downsides like ethnic or cultural conflicts? Based on the same premises Caplan himself argues from, there might be a way. His basic claim is that people in poor countries are poor because they are trapped in bad institutions, so granting them access to better institutions increases their productivity. This relies on the second premise that these institutions are permanent enough not to be affected by any amount of immigration. And my proposition relies on a third premise: there is a certain amount of people in even the countries with the worst institutions who want to change/exit the bad ones and establish better, and also have to abilities required for maintaining good institutions.

    What you do is allow establishment of small independent states within currently existing states. You allow and create incentives for 1-10% of the smartest/most pro rule of law/whatever trait or traits are best for establishing and maintaining good institutions people to decouple from their countries of origin and create new mini states. There they create good institutions or just copy the ideas required for building them from existing states. Once established in the degree that they become permanent (the magic culture is set), you can open the borders (or actually just re-establish by expanding them). The poor wouldn’t not have to emigrate anywhere, good institutions would just spread over them and make them rich once the process is completed.

    The benefits to Caplans idea of people actually immigrating to a foreign culture with a different ethnic composition is obvious. Risks for cultural or ethnic conflict is non-existent. The population is more likely to accept the improved institutions and possible ideological/cultural changes required since they see them being created right in front of their eyes by their own countrymen. They see how the institutions work and how much more wealth is created will feel much more compelled to accept the changes and not engage in political activism to roll back the institutional changes.

    If this reasoning holds you can basically make a theoretical case for massive wealth creation by arguing either for open borders or almost the opposite. Weird how that works.

    • John Schilling says:

      What you do is allow establishment of small independent states within currently existing states.

      Who is the “you” doing the “allowing” here? Stipulated that there are lots of people in e.g. Syria who want to live someplace with better government than Syria. And for the sake of argument, we’ll say that includes the requisite fraction of competent, honest bureaucrats and policemen.

      Fine. I will allow them to create an honest well-governed microstate in Syria. Presumably so will you. I doubt the United States Government will object. Maybe we can even get the UN to say “sure, knock yourself out, we won’t stop you”. It’s allowed.

      By almost everybody except Bashir al-Assad and his thugs. Now what?

      • Gumpalonia says:

        I don’t know exactly how the practicalities work, but aren’t there already ways for powerful countries either subtly push or strongarm other countries to act in certain ways?
        Let´s say we started viewing something like “living under good institutions” as a human right. Also let´s assume we were rational enough to understand we don’t know how to get there, making local experimentation necessary. This would lead to viewing prevention of experimentation to create good institutions a violation of human rights.
        My main point wasn’t practical though. Maybe we don’t know yet whether opening existing or creating new borders gets more people access to permanent well-functioning institutions.

        • John Schilling says:

          I don’t know exactly how the practicalities work, but aren’t there already ways for powerful countries either subtly push or strongarm other countries to act in certain ways?

          Nothing that works, no.

    • A version of this is, in fact, an ongoing project–the one that is supposed to be coming online shortly is in Honduras, but I gather there are a variety of more partial versions already. I think “New Cities” is the usual current term.

      The idea, as I understand it, is that the special zone has its own civil law and courts, but is still under the criminal law of the host country. Past models include Hong Kong and the Chinese Special Economic Zones.

      • Gumpalonia says:

        Those are interesting experiments, definitely worth following. The interest to exit local institutions and create new ones seems to be there, and is being done almost everywhere in more subtle ways. Private schools could be seen as one way people grant their children access to better educational institutions, and foreign investments looks like people betting where institutions will be more productive in the short and/or long term.

  8. kastaka says:

    I mean, nowadays the answer to the Tuscon question of ‘why are there loads of lovingly created fake artifacts in the ground’ is generally ‘some people ran a reenactment event / ren faire / LARP there’…

  9. janjanis says:

    Mass shooting at a party in an AirBnB house in Orinda. Orinda responds by banning AirBnB; AirBnB responds by banning parties.

    I got a sensible chuckle out of this

  10. Fitzroy says:

    You probably knew… “bloody” = “by our Lady”?

    Apparently that’s a folk etymology. No greater source than the queen of all things lexicographical and etymolgical herself, Susie Dent, tells us it is a 17th century coining referring to drunken rowdy aristocrats, known as ‘bloods’.

    To be ‘bloody drunk’ was to be as drunk as such a posh hooligan and from there it entered the lexicon as the only truly adjectival swear word.

  11. hnau says:

    Russian prosecutors have accused a renowned historian of murder after he admitted shooting and then dismembering his student partner in St Petersburg.

    Oleg Sokolov, 63, was rescued drunk from the Moika river in the city

    He sobbed in court, saying: “I repent”.

    One person described the professor as “eccentric but not aggressive”; others claimed he considered himself Napoleon reincarnated.

    Crime and Punishment much?

  12. SCPantera says:

    The antibiotics course completion thing has been professional trivia in pharmacy for at least as long as that study’s been published. I remember being told by professors in pharmacy school c. 2010 that it was less about preventing antibiotic resistance in that particular instance of a prescription and more about discouraging people from having leftover stocks of antibiotics that they later give to other friends and family for any mild malaise when they’re also potentially expired and less potent, which presumably IS a risk for development of antibiotic resistance (though at this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if an actual study of this found otherwise).

    It’s the kind of thing where I’ll bring it up if I want to impress a colleague but I’m still putting “’til all taken” on every bottle regardless.

  13. Max More says:

    Scott, I have enormous respect for your intelligence, depth of knowledge, and insight. (Although I curse you for drawing me into long blog-reading sessions!) However, I have to register a follow-up objection to your comments on Alcor/cryonics and “getting way too comfy with a weird cult”.

    In addition to my previous comment that disputes the veracity of your source (Mike “Darwin”), you cite: “and then this Verge article to finish it off.” I took at look at that source. I’d seen it before but didn’t recall it in detail. What I found is that it discusses Alcor (and others) and then goes on to People Unlimited. It makes absolutely NO connection between the two.

    I’m baffled as to why you would cite this as some kind of coup de grace. Is the fact that People Unlimited (by some odd throw of the dice) is only a 10-minute drive from Alcor any kind of proof or evidence of a connection? You write way too much about experimental design in psychology to believe that. So, why did you point to the Verge article as in any way supporting Darwin’s hostile lies?

  14. Max More says:

    Yes, Scott you are accidentally libeling people. The claim that Alcor is getting too comfy with People Unlimited is another Mike Darwin fabrication. The true story is too long to post here. As Alcor CEO, I can assure you that I do not share any of their counter-scientific beliefs. Their value lies in the positive, friendly environment they create for people who want to live. My interest in them was to see if some of that upbeat culture could be translated in the typically unfriendly, hostile, and mean culture (especially online.

    Darwin’s claim that I am “smitten” with PU is utterly false and baseless. He has provided zero evidence for believing that I or any Alcor staff member or official believes in PU’s non-scientific and unscientific views.

    It should be mentioned that the members of PU have a range of beliefs. Some of them are hardcore loony. The core idea that death can be overcome by ignoring it and not thinking about it is one. Other members are (especially in recent years) open to science and technology. I’m not clear why they are interested in science and technology if belief and attitude are all you need. It seems to be some form of double-think.

    Darwin states that “Alcor’s Max More and Natasha Vita More are key figures at RAADfest”. No. First of all, Raadfest is not PU. They are related but the Raadfest attracts a wide range of people, including a number of excellent scientists. Second, I am not a key figure. I did speak at the first two, but have not spoken at the last two and didn’t even attend last year’s. There is NO promotion of People Unlimited or Raadfest in Alcor’s publications. “Max and Natasha have stayed on with the “Coalition” for three years now, while also spamming their respective organizations” Another lie by Darwin.

    “Max and Natasha have recently bought into another rip-off-cult-con, The Finder’s Course”. And another lie from Darwin. I had never even *heard* of “The Finder’s Course”. I have nothing to do with the content of the Humanity+ newsletter. I asked Natasha about it and she was not familiar with it. No doubt, one of the members asked for it to be mentioned in H+’s newsletter. I have no idea whether this is a rip-off or cult, but I have ZERO to do with it. To suggest otherwise is dishonest.

    As an atheist and rationalist of 30 years, I’m insulted by Darwin’s libelous fabrications.

    Please try to be more skeptical of Darwin’s assertions. His modus operandi is to mix fact with fiction and to present his views with a cult-like certainty in service of his agenda.

    • Max More says:

      I thought I had corrected my text before the time ended… I should have written: “As an atheist and rationalist of 40 years” (not 30). Sometimes I forget how old I am (chronologically).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’m going to remove the link until I figure out more about this. I’ll also (with your permission) link your comment here on the next open thread.

      I don’t actually see a huge amount of difference between what you’re saying and what Mike accuses you of, in that you both seem to agree you spoke at a conference they put on, are part of a coalition run by their founder, and say some nice things about them being a good environment. But I agree that I was too gullible in thinking your involvement with a few of their projects meant you respected them or fell for them in some way.

      Are you saying that the email from Natasha advertising Finder’s Course here is a fake, or just that someone asked her to send an email advertising the course and so she did?

      I included the Verge article for more context on People Unlimited, not as evidence that you were linked to them.

      • Max More says:

        Scott: First, I am NOT a member of the coalition for radical life extension. I’m not entirely sure what “coalition” even means. I’m assuming it means someone who is on the Steering Committee for Raadfest. I was indeed on that committee early on. That was when the Coalition and the Raadfest were supposed to be an organization distinct from People Unlimited. When it become clear that the conference was to be controlled ultimately by a non-profit branch of PU, I dropped off. That was something like two years ago.

        Again, the conference is not the same as PU. But their level of final control put me off being involved even though we could really use a well-attended general life extension conference/event.

        There IS a huge difference between what I am saying and what Darwin claimed. You noted a few uncontested claims but did not mention his view that I’m trying to infect cryonics with religion, that I’m supposedly “smitten” with PU, the false and unsubstantiated claim that I’m pushing the “Finder’s Course”, etc.

        “Are you saying that the email from Natasha advertising Finder’s Course here is a fake, or just that someone asked her to send an email advertising the course and so she did?” Your URL didn’t lead me right to a link but I dug a bit and found an (unopened email from Humanity+) on the topic from September 2. I already answered your question when I wrote: “No doubt, one of the members asked for it to be mentioned in H+’s newsletter.” I just forwarded that email to Natasha so I can ask about it. As I said before, she is unaware of this course. It looks like it was an email separate from the H+ newsletter, so I’m curious as to why it was sent out. Maybe it was actually a fake. If not, I’ll have a word about checking out recommendations from H+ members before emailing the membership!

        “I included the Verge article for more context on People Unlimited, not as evidence that you were linked to them.”

        Thank you for clarifying that. I don’t think it was obvious.

  15. a reader says:

    I don’t see anybody here discussing the paper about WEIRDs as a product of the Western Church banning cousin marriages:

    A team including Joseph Henrich (author of Secret Of Our Success) publishes a giant paper making the case that Westerners’ psychological differences from the global norm (more individualist, more trusting, less bound by tradition) date back to kinship structures enforced by the early Catholic Church

    IMO that paper has a major flaw: it says – but doesn’t prove – that cousin marriage was more tolerated in Eastern Europe / Church than in Western Europe / Church. I didn’t see any evidence for that in the paper and as far as I know – and I know, as an Eastern European – it is the other way around: more cousin marriage in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe.

    The Eastern Church explicitly banned first cousin marriage in 692 at Quinisext Council (aka Trullan Council, held in Constantinople, that was not accepted by the Western Church):

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3814.htm

    Canon 54
    The divine scriptures plainly teach us as follows, You shall not approach to any that is near of kin to you to uncover their nakedness. […] from this time forth he who shall marry the daughter of his father’s brother; or a father or son with a mother and daughter; or a father and son with two girls who are sisters; or a mother and daughter with two brothers; or two brothers with two sisters, fall under the canon of seven years, provided they openly separate from this unlawful union.

    On the other hand, Western Church didn’t seem to put that much effort into preventing cousin marriages. The Western European dynasties seem one big not so happy incestuous family (especially the Habsburgs). Not only were the cousin marriages pretty common – I think it was more difficult to find dinastic marriages between people who didn’t have a known common ancestor – but in Spain and Portugal, they went even further sometimes: to avuncular marriages between uncle and niece! See this list:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avunculate_marriage

    […]
    Amaury I, Lord of Craon and his half-grandniece, Jeanne des Roches (1212)
    Alfonso X of Castile had a concubinage with his paternal half-aunt Maria Alfonso de Leon
    John, Constable of Portugal and his half-niece, Isabel of Barcelos (1424)
    Afonso V of Portugal and his niece, Joanna of Castile (second wife) (1475)
    Jacques of Savoy, Count of Romont and his niece, Marie of Luxembourg, Countess of Vendôme (1484)
    Joanna of Naples and her half-nephew, King Ferdinand II of Naples (1496)
    Ferdinand II of Aragon and his half-grandniece, Germaine of Foix (second wife) (1505)
    Philip II of Spain and his niece, Anna of Austria (fourth wife) (1570)
    Charles II, Archduke of Austria and his niece, Maria Anna of Bavaria (1571)
    Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria, and his niece, Anne Juliana Gonzaga (second wife) (1582)
    […]
    Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria and his niece, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria (1635)
    Prince Maurice of Savoy and his niece, Princess Luisa Cristina of Savoy (1642)
    Karl Eusebius, Prince of Liechtenstein and his niece, Johanna Beatrix of Dietrichstein (1644)
    Philip IV of Spain and his niece, Mariana of Austria (second wife) (1646)
    Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor and his niece, Margaret Theresa of Austria (1666).
    Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), lived in concubinage with his niece, Marie Louise Mignot Denis.[9]
    Prince Augustus Ferdinand of Prussia and his niece Margravine Elisabeth Louise of Brandenburg-Schwedt (1755)
    Pedro III of Portugal and his niece Maria I of Portugal (1760)
    Prince Benedetto, Duke of Chablais and his half-niece Princess Maria Ana of Savoy (1775)
    Infanta Benedita and her nephew, José, Prince of Brazil (1777)
    Prince Eugene of Saxe-Hildburghausen and his niece, Caroline of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1778)
    […]
    Infante Antonio Pascual of Spain and his niece, Infanta Maria Amalie of Spain (1796)
    Sir John Acton, 6th Baronet, Prime Minister of Naples and his niece Marianna Acton (1799)
    Francis IV, Duke of Modena, and his niece, Maria Beatrice of Savoy (titular queen of England and Scotland according to the Jacobite succession) (1812)
    Leopold, Prince of Salerno and his niece, Archduchess Clementina of Austria (1816)
    Infante Carlos, Count of Molina, and his niece, Infanta Maria Francisca of Portugal (1816), and later his niece, Maria Teresa of Portugal (1838)
    […]
    Ferdinand VII of Spain and his niece Maria Isabel of Portugal (1816), and later his niece Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies (1829)
    Gustav, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg and his niece, Princess Louise of Anhalt-Dessau (1818)
    Leopold, Grand Duke of Baden and his half-grand niece Princess Sophie of Sweden (1819)
    Infante Francisco de Paula of Spain and his niece Princess Luisa Carlotta of Naples and Sicily (1819)
    Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and his niece Duchess Marie of Württemberg (second wife) (1832)
    James Mayer de Rothschild, founder of the French branch of the Rothschild banking family, and his niece Betty Salomon von Rothschild (c. 1825).
    Prince Francis, Count of Trapani and his niece Archduchess Maria Isabella of Austria (1850)
    […]
    Richard von Metternich (son of the famous Austrian Chancellor) and his niece, Pauline von Metternich (1856).
    Duke Nicholas of Württemberg and his half-niece Duchess Wilhelmine of Württemberg (1868)
    Prince William of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld and his half-niece Princess Juliane of Bentheim and Steinfurt (1873)
    Amadeo I of Spain and his niece, Maria Letizia Bonaparte (second wife) (1888)
    Henryk Sienkiewicz, Polish novelist, and his niece, Maria Babska.[10] (1904)
    Alois Hitler and his niece Klara Hitler, parents of Adolf Hitler. After they were married, Klara still called her husband “uncle”.(1885)[11][12] Hitler himself declared that his own half-niece Geli Raubal was the only woman he ever loved.[13]

    I saw only one name on that list belonging to Eastern Church: “Byzantine Emperor Heraclius and his second wife and niece, Martina”.

    • albatross11 says:

      I’m not any kind of expert here, but my understanding is that special dispensations (permission) from the church were required for (close) cousin marriages. But the Western church was fairly corrupt, so wealthy and powerful people often got the required permissions. Normal people didn’t, but probably nobody was keeping such close tabs on their geneologies, so while marrying your first cousin would have been forbidden, probably neither you nor your priest would have known that you were marrying your fourth cousin.

    • ana53294 says:

      Kings, princes and dukes marrying cousins proves nothing in regards to the attitude of the Catholic church to commoners marrying cousins.

      In Spain, for example, we have pretty good records of church marriages going back as far as the 15th-16th century (for churches that didn’t burn). That is more interesting than whatever kings were up to.

    • John Schilling says:

      The Eastern Church explicitly banned first cousin marriage in 692 at Quinisext Council (aka Trullan Council, held in Constantinople, that was not accepted by the Western Church):

      Yes, and in 732 the Western Church (Pope Gregory III) explicitly banned marriage within the seventh degree of consanguinity. They used a different definition of consanguinity than we do, but I think that’s somewhere between third and fourth cousins. In 1215 the rule was relaxed and the definitions changed; first and second cousin marriages forbidden, third cousins OK, if I read correctly.

      With dispensations possible, of course, hence all of your examples of very very rich and powerful people getting permission to marry close relatives. And mostly from post-Reformation eras when the church’s power was in relative decline.

      As others have noted, you err in looking only at royalty. Huge amounts of culture come from people who aren’t kings, queens, princes, or princesses. And for most of the Middle Ages and early Modern period, those people generally weren’t allowed to marry the girl next door in their clannish farming hamlet; they had to go to market days in the town down the road and hope to bring home a girl from a different village. Hence, a forced breakdown of extreme clannishness and more room for WEIRDs.

      • albatross11 says:

        Particularly if you’re thinking in terms of either cultural or genetic evolution, what rules 99+% of the population live by is probably more important than what rules are available to the very wealthy and powerful via special dispensations from the Pope.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I have heard that the reason that the English were so outbred was because King Alfred was very serious about following the Pope’s rules and as the heroic king who had saved the realm from pagans, his example of Christianity was aggressively followed by the common folk, including out-marriage.

          Alfred’s out-marriage (he married a Mercian as a Wessex noble) was probably only because he was the fifth son. For example, his father married Osburh, who was the daughter of one of his noble advisors. However, once the culture changes, the change is a big deal.

          • a reader says:

            They didn’t seem really that outbred (at least compared to Eastern Europe). According to Wikipedia:

            First-cousin marriage in England in 1875 was estimated by George Darwin to be 3.5% for the middle classes and 4.5% for the nobility, though this had declined to under 1% during the 20th century.[78] Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were a preeminent example.[79][80]

            George Darwin was the son of Charles Darwin (who married a first cousin, so George Darwin was himself a product of cousin marriage).

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin_marriage

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, if you’re looking for examples to demonstrate inbreeding depression in IQ, the Darwin/Wedgewood family is not the one you’d reach for first….

    • a reader says:

      Lets’s not forget the context: a comparison between Western Europe / Church and Eastern Europe / Church regarding tolerance of cousin marriage. I have little doubt that cousin marriage was less common and less tolerated among Western peasants than among Western royalty, but that’s not the point. My point is that a society/religion where the rich and powerful do a lot of X probably tolerates X more than a society/religion where even the rich and powerful seldom if ever do X. There were lots of cousin marriages among royalty – but they seemed less frecvent among Eastern Orthodox royalty like Byzantine emperors or Russian tsars, where a method of choosing (future) emperor’s or tsar’s wife were the bride shows, when the prince was shown a group of girls from the country’s aristocratic families and chose the one he liked:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bride-show

      Ana, if I remember correctly, you live in Spain but can read Russian – so you are in perfect position to make a comparison between the frequency of cousin marriages (2nd cousins or closer) among Spanish kings and Russian tsars. A comparison between the cousin marriages frequency among Spanish and Russian peasants is a lot harder to do, because you say there is such data for Spanish commoners “as far as the 15th-16th century”, but I very much doubt such data exists for Russians before 19th century.

      • ana53294 says:

        The attitude of the Eastern church towards cousin marriage doesn’t matter as much as it does in the West.

        The Russian Orthodox Church was powerless to get rid of an almost-incestual practice of screwing the daughter in law called snokhachestvo.

        And Russia includes many regions such as Chechnya and Dagestan, which are Muslim and still practice cousin marriage.

        Spain was and still is homogeneously culturally Catholic. Russia is not and hasn’t been even homogeneously Christian for a very long time. Therefore practices of cousin marriage were still common in many Russian communities, and that will have an effect on culture.

        • acymetric says:

          The Russian Orthodox Church was powerless to get rid of an almost-incestual practice of screwing the daughter in law called snokhachestvo.

          I would consider this weird, and pretty distasteful (both understatements), but I don’t think it is in the same ballpark as anything incest related to be called “almost-incest”.

          • ana53294 says:

            It depends on why you think incest is bad.

            While creating babies who are much more likely to have genetic diseases is a factor, it’s not the only reason why incest is bad.

            A father screwing his daughter destroys the family bond, the trust and protection a family is supposed to offer. Screwing your daughter in law also does all those things.

            I honestly don’t see that much of a difference between the two things, morally.

        • a reader says:

          The attitude of the Eastern church towards cousin marriage doesn’t matter as much as it does in the West.

          The Russian Orthodox Church was powerless to get rid of an almost-incestual practice of screwing the daughter in law called snokhachestvo.

          There is a pretty obvious reason why the Orthodox Church had more power to get rid of cousin marriages than of that “snokhachestvo”: those things happened in the privacy of the homes, but marriages happened in public, in the church, by the priest (there were no civil marriages in tsarist Russia).

          And Russia includes many regions such as Chechnya and Dagestan, which are Muslim and still practice cousin marriage.

          And polygamy also, I suppose, at least in tsarist Russia. But that is a very non-central example – like polygamy among some fundamentalist Mormon sect in the US. Would you say that:

          “Therefore practices of polygamous marriage were still common in many US communities, and that will have an effect on US culture.” ?

          Regarding cousin marriages in Spain, look what a one of the historians who criticized that paper says (he describes himself on twitter as “Historian of the Spanish Monarchy in the early modern period”):

          The ban on cousin marriage that everyone ignored via dispensation (papal or episcopal) because otherwise, in small villages, they would have had no one to marry? (And we needn’t go far, my great-grandparents, married in Madrid in 1914, were first cousins once removed!) […] there is a misconception that cousin marriage only applied to the upper classes but this is untrue, at least in the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal (I suspect, from what I’ve seen, that this was also common in France

          https://twitter.com/gvb1985/status/1192812287003901952

  16. Douglas Knight says:

    Does the California law limit Youtube uploads to 35/year? monetized youtube uploads?

  17. Icedcoffee says:

    Not sure if this has been stated already, but the “support for political candidates by profession” link is just looking at small donors, not support generally. This helps explain why Bernie Sanders is seemingly the most popular candidate for the majority of professions, yet is anywhere from 2nd to 4th in the polls nationally.

  18. Phil H says:

    The study on state leadership: If this is true, it’s the best news ever. It means that democracy is working exactly like it’s supposed to, because despite ideological differences, neither party is willing/able to enact policies that actually make (important) things worse.

    • because despite ideological differences, neither party is willing/able to enact policies that actually make (important) things worse.

      Or better.

      • Doesntliketocomment says:

        Isn’t the stock libertarian argument that state policies can’t make things better, only worse?

        • Anonymous McPseudonym says:

          Even if we assume that, a state deciding to have fewer policies could then be an improvement. And if there is too much inertia for that to happen, the result is concerning.

      • Phil H says:

        @DavidFriedman
        Sure, but the point is that if one party discovers the way to make things better, they are likely to use it, because it should gain them an electoral advantage (assuming here that voters are at least somewhat rational). Then the other party has to catch up by adopting the same, or some other equally successful policy. The logic of the election “market” selects for convergence at the best situation, not for convergence at some bad situation. (There’s a bunch of assumptions built in there, but this is the first-pass, Econ 101 version.)

        • The logic of the election “market” selects for convergence at the best situation, not for convergence at some bad situation. (There’s a bunch of assumptions built in there, but this is the first-pass, Econ 101 version.)

          Not if Econ 101 includes public choice theory.

          Almost all countries, including democratic ones, still have tariffs, two hundred years after Ricardo worked out the economic analysis of trade that shows that, under most circumstances, a country that imposes a tariff is making its citizens worse off, two centuries during which England in the nineteenth and Hong Kong in the twentieth provided striking real world evidence in support of that conclusion.

      • Prussian says:

        Or better.

        Point 🙂

        I don’t know if it’s the best news ever, but it is richly amusing.

  19. Prussian says:

    In the interests of scientific rigor, I have been spending some time on twitter asking Zach Weinersmith and Bryan Caplan to do just one simple experimental test that would show open borders would work. This test is nice and simple:

    Z.W. must run a series of comics about Muhammad that are as a irreverent and scurrilous as the ones he routinely runs about Christ or Buddha.

    Funnily enough, neither he nor Caplan ever respond. Weird, right? I mean Z.W. happily retweets all praise of his book, but he manages to always avoid this simple little thing that could prove his case. Odd, don’t you think…

    • PorterBridges says:

      I don’t doubt you, but can you link ZW comics that mock Christ or Buddha that you reference?

      • Prussian says:

        Sure thing!

        Christ
        Body of Christ
        Gospel according to Jesus
        Drinking your own blood

        Buddha
        Garbage humour
        Dalai Llama Hostages
        Zen Buddhist championships

        Just from simple googling – there’s more in the archives (yes, yes, they are quite long).

        Now can you imagine what would happen if he made a few like that about Muhammad?

        • Nornagest says:

          That’s some pretty light mockery, I gotta say. The third one for Buddhism isn’t even the Buddha, just some random Buddhist.

          • Prussian says:

            Sure it is – but can you imagine even this level of light mockery directed at Islam? You know what would happen.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think I do, actually. You’re probably thinking of the Charlie Hebdo incident, but I’m not sure we can usefully generalize from a far-left French print paper to a mostly apolitical American webcartoonist. Especially since thousands of others, including some major news outlets, did dare to print more or less scurrilous depictions of Muhammad in the wake of the attacks, to no effect.

            Plus, that was an ISIS op, and there’s no effective ISIS organization anymore.

          • Prussian says:

            reply below – clicked the wrong ‘reply’ button

        • Prussian says:

          Well, I could go down the list of people who have learned to their cost what happens – but let’s make it simple then: why doesn’t he just put it to the test?

          Though I can’t let this go:

          Plus, that was an ISIS op, and there’s no effective ISIS organization anymore.

          You may want to go and look up Jyllands-Posten and all those posters calling for beheadings and another Holocaust – which predate the existence of ISIS.

        • slapdashbr says:

          Considering where they grew up and live, they may have a familiarity with Christian and Buddhist culture that does not extend to Islamic culture.

          I.E. I can tell the joke “What’s the difference between Baptists and Presbyterians? The Presbyterians say hi to each other at the liquor store.” I have no idea if there are two different Islamic groups where this joke would make sense. And I’m a fairly broadly-educated person when it comes to theology.

          • Hanafi and any of the other three schools of Sunni law. As long as they aren’t in the wine aisle—I wouldn’t expect a modern liquor store to carry fermented date juice.

    • g says:

      When A pesters B with repeated claims that “if you were serious about [thing] then you would do [largely unrelated thing A just made up], and if you don’t it proves you know you’re really wrong” and B doesn’t take the bait, I think B is usually not the one being unreasonable.

      Your proposal has at least two serious problems (besides the whole being-a-dick thing — I mean, honestly, “ZW must …”? “Spending some time on Twitter” when he doesn’t actually respond?).

      So, the implicit argument goes something like this. “Open borders is a really bad idea, because if we had it we would be flooded with Muslims, and Muslims are bad because they kill people they see as disrespecting their religion. If ZW started publishing cartoons mocking Muhammad, he’d get hate mail and death threats and might actually get killed. He knows this, which is why he doesn’t publish such cartoons. So his call for open borders is insincere or stupid.”

      Problem 1: your argument hinges on the proposition (which might be true or false; it doesn’t matter all that much right now) that it’s already dangerous for someone in the US to make fun of Muhammad. Even though the US doesn’t, in fact, have open borders, and indeed currently has deliberately anti-Muslim immigration policies and a society that by and large is not at all friendly to Muslims. I think “we shouldn’t have open borders because then it would be dangerous to antagonize Muslims!” is hard to square with “it’s already deadly dangerous to antagonize Muslims!”.

      Problem 2: your argument also hinges on the proposition that ZW’s only reason for not publishing Muhammad-mocking cartoons is that he’d be in danger if he did. But that’s obviously false. ZW writes for a particular audience, which you might characterize as “geeky middle-class left-leaning intellectuals in the US and similar places”. That audience is fairly well acquainted with Christianity and Buddhism. If ZW made jokes about Muhammad parallel to the ones about Jesus that you linked to, most of his audience wouldn’t get them. (It’s also entirely possible that Christian traditions about Jesus happen to be a more fertile source of humour than Muslim traditions about Muhammad. Christianity is about Jesus much more than Islam is about Muhammad, and so far as I know most of the stories about Muhammad are of the form “some people came to Muhammad and asked him about X, and he said Y” which doesn’t seem like it has the same comic potential that miracles, transubstantiation, being-God-and-human-at-once, etc., etc., have.)

      I think there are not-stupid arguments to be made of the general form “if we open our borders, we may get a lot of people in group X, and we don’t want that because their culture has properties Y which could be bad”. But you need to actually make the arguments if you want to persuade anyone rather than just getting high-fives from people who agreed with you already.

      • Prussian says:

        Well, in order:

        1. I am proposing a simple experiment that could prove their thesis. The reason I’m doing this is that it is the presence of a hundreds of thousands strong kristallnacht complete with banners calling for the next Holocaust that made people like me think that Open Borders might not be such a good thing after all.

        2. You make my case for me. If Z.W. couldn’t do this without risking his neck, in America, with a minuscule Muslim population, do you care to imagine what it would be like after his ‘Open Borders’ fantasy happens? You don’t need to imagine – go look at Europe. Read, e.g., Bruce Bawer.

        3.

        our argument also hinges on the proposition that ZW’s only reason for not publishing Muhammad-mocking cartoons is that he’d be in danger if he did. But that’s obviously false

        That’s a blind assertion fallacy. “Obviously”, huh? Well, not obvious to me. And he goes for plenty of obscure jokes.

        Then there’s this:

        Christianity is about Jesus much more than Islam is about Muhammad

        – actually, that’s not really true. The volumes of Islamic literature on the life and times of Muhammad dwarf the New Testament many times over. Just go and look at any collection of hadith. In fact, given the brevity of the Koran, it is the Hadith that provide far more information on day-to-day living, not to mention that act has the source for Shariah.

        But you need to actually make the arguments if you want to persuade anyone rather than just getting high-fives from people who agreed with you already.

        As you wish. Here you go.

        • Nornagest says:

          The volumes of Islamic literature on the life and times of Muhammad dwarf the New Testament many times over. Just go and look at any collection of hadith. In fact, given the brevity of the Koran, it is the Hadith that provide far more information on day-to-day living, not to mention that act has the source for Shariah.

          This is all true, but I don’t think it addresses the point that g was making. Christ isn’t just a preacher, he’s tied deeply and personally into the structure of Christianity — as the Son of God, he’s the guy that directly enabled everything he was preaching about through his personal sacrifice.

          In other words, he’s important to Christians not just for what he did but for what he is. The opposite is true for Muhammad re: Islam: he’s venerated as the final prophet (unless you happen to be a Baháʼí), but has no special relationship with God other than that. This is why depictions of him are forbidden, incidentally — since he’s after all just a man, they’re considered a temptation to idolatry.

          That makes him a less interesting character from an outsider perspective. He doesn’t have the hook that Jesus (or to a lesser extent the Buddha) does. And while he wrote far more than Jesus did, and his heirs even more, those writings and the traditions around them are almost totally unknown in the West — I doubt even 1% of Westerners could name three miracles attributed to him, for example.

          • acymetric says:

            This is why depictions of him are forbidden, incidentally — since he’s after all just a man, they’re considered a temptation to idolatry.

            This doesn’t jive very well with the reactions to depictions of him.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            Pretty much everyone heard that Islam promises you 40 something houris if you go to heaven (it might not be quite correct theologically but not all the joke premises about Jesus are either). This alone can be used for basically infinite number of “afterlife being not what one expected” jokes SMBC is so good at. Peculiar family life is another common topic and you can have plenty of jokes about it based on the fact that Muhammad had, and Muslims in general are permitted to have, more than one wife. So whatever stops him from touching Islam it cannot be lack of potential for humor.

          • Prussian says:

            @Nornagest, what acymetric & Alex say.

            Yes, Muhammad is regarded as only a mortal, not as the Word Made Flesh the way Christ is. (Actually, the parallel to Christ in Islam is the Koran, the Perfect Book.) But as a practical matter, the reverence paid to him changes the game. Again, Christians won’t lynch you for mocking Christ, but, well…

          • it is the Hadith that provide far more information on day-to-day living, not to mention that act has the source for Shariah.

            Not quite. Islamic law is based in part on Hadith, in part on the Koran, in part on consensus.

          • g says:

            I agree with Alex that there might be a fair bit of potential for SMBC-style jokes about Islam — e.g., making fun of the 72 virgins thing. But Prussian asked specifically for jokes about Muhammad, and if he did so because he thinks they’d be more offensive to Muslims than jokes about Islam in general then I agree. Unfortunately I think they would also be harder to make funny. (Alex suggests that maybe Muhammad’s multiple wives, at least one married very young, might be a useful topic. Maybe, but I don’t think you could get a whole series of jokes out of it without being boring.)

            Nornagest is correct about the point I was making. It’s not that Islamic tradition doesn’t say a lot about Muhammad, it’s that most of what it says is “someone asked Muhammad about X and he said Y”, and so far as I know most of that gives less scope for humour than turning water and/or blood into wine, feeding thousands of people miraculously, rising from the dead, being a god-man, and so forth.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            This is why depictions of him are forbidden, incidentally — since he’s after all just a man, they’re considered a temptation to idolatry.

            This may be how Muslims tend to justify it, but conservative Muslims definitely don’t act like they believe this, because they get very angry at non-Muslims making fun of Muhammad.

            Conservative Muslims who have law-making power tend to make anti-blasphemy laws that don’t merely defend the Quran or the religion in general, but also gets used to defend Muhammad.

            Quite a few Muslim base their ideas of how to behave on the life choices by Muhammad, which doesn’t seem compatible with regarding him as just a person.

          • albatross11 says:

            Jokes about Mohammed would probably only be funny to an audience that was pretty familiar with Islam, right? I mean, jokes about Catholic theological concepts work mostly because the listeners know at least vaguely about, say, the eucharist being the body and blood of Christ, or Mary being conceived without original sin, or Mary giving birth to Jesus though she was a virgin. Otherwise, making jokes based on those things will just fall flat.

            I’m sure there are a bunch of jokes you could make based on Mohammed and other important figures and ideas in Islam, but I probably wouldn’t get many of them. And similar jokes you could make about, say, Hinduism–some would be very funny to people steeped in that culture, but wouldn’t make a lick of sense to most Americans.

          • and so far as I know most of that gives less scope for humour than turning water and/or blood into wine, feeding thousands of people miraculously,

            There is a story about Muhammed doing the latter, although the number was probably not in the thousands. I’m not sure if it is considered an authenticated hadith or not.

          • Quite a few Muslim base their ideas of how to behave on the life choices by Muhammad, which doesn’t seem compatible with regarding him as just a person.

            It’s compatible with regarding him as a person who was divinely inspired.

            I think the same pattern appears in Jewish traditions, with the fact that some particularly holy sage did something being taken as some evidence that God wants you to do it that way.

          • Lambert says:

            I’d go further than that.
            You’re just describing a role model.
            There’s plenty of them who are just people, both religious and secular.

          • Aapje says:

            Yes and role models can be treated like gods aka deification.

            If people are expected to unquestionably follow a person’s teachings or example, how is that different from the person being a God?

            If the only difference in how people relate to the person is assertion that the person is human, rather than a God, is that meaningful beyond esoteric theocratic reasoning about the faith?

          • If people are expected to unquestionably follow a person’s teachings or example, how is that different from the person being a God?

            Two points:

            So far as the case of Mohammed, I think “unquestioning” exaggerates it. My impression is that, with regard to things Mohammed did rather than things he said, the attitude is more nearly “Mohammed did X, so that may be how God wants us to do X.” That allows the possibility that X, such as some detail of how Mohammed did his prayers, might be morally neutral.

            More generally, one might unquestioningly follow someone’s example because one had evidence that that person was doing things right, hence should be imitated, even if one didn’t understand why particular things he did led to the admired result. One might also do so because one believed that person was divinely inspired, hence his example showed what God wanted.

            I think the latter fits the Muslim view of Mohammed. But probably their view of the other prophets as well, including Jesus. Does that make them all gods?

          • Prussian says:

            I think the latter fits the Muslim view of Mohammed. But probably their view of the other prophets as well, including Jesus. Does that make them all gods?

            Again, the proof is in the pudding. The reverence paid to Muhammad is well in excess of that paid to Jesus or Moses. When you have people willing to cut their own hands off in response to accidentally saying he didn’t like Muhammad….

            The real parallel I’d draw is with what I’ve read of personality cults around totalitarian leaders.

        • g says:

          Sorry, could you explain what you mean about “a hundreds of thousands strong kristallnacht“?

          I live in Europe, and it is not in fact some sort of Muslim-oppressed hellscape. My impression is that it would be about equally risky to make SMBC-style cartoons about Muhammad in Europe and in the US; I don’t see much sign that the risk is anything like proportional to the number of Muslim immigrants. If some Muslim is angry enough at ZW to try to kill him, maybe they’re angry enough to get on a plane.

          I didn’t make a “blind assertion”; immediately after saying “I think that’s obviously false” I explained why, at some length. You largely ignored my explanation (I guess doing anything else would have undermined your zinger about blind assertions too obviously), but in response to what you did say: (1) yes, he goes for obscure jokes, but they’re obscure jokes about topics familiar to many of his audience. Unfriendly AI worries are more obscure than Islam (probably), but not among SMBC readers. And (2) sure, there’s plenty of Islamic literature that talks about Muhammad, but so far as I know — and note that it doesn’t really even matter if I’m wrong, because for SMBC’s jokes to land they need to make sense to their readers — almost all of it, as I said above, is super-boring stuff about how some people asked Muhammad about X and he gave response Y.

          Thanks for the link to your lengthy post about Islam. I think that’s much more productive than haraassing cartoonists on Twitter.

          • Prussian says:

            Sorry, could you explain what you mean about “a hundreds of thousands strong kristallnacht“?

            Sure. Just look at what is being called “the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy”. Just look at those cries for beheading and the next Holocaust. Kristallnacht is the only word for it.

            I live in Europe

            So do I. Why do you think that I write under a pseudonym?

            and it is not in fact some sort of Muslim-oppressed hellscape.

            I never claimed it was. If you read my long post on the subject, what I say is that it is becoming more and more islamized, and that the final result of this will be a continental civil war. If we’re lucky, it’ll be something like the Irish Troubles; if not, it’ll be something like Bosnia.

            Thanks for the link to your lengthy post about Islam. I think that’s much more productive than haraassing cartoonists on Twitter.

            I’ll freely grant you that – I’m not anywhere close to perfect, and Z.W.’s smug attitude has gotten under my skin. I know I should do better, but…

            Thank you for taking the time to read my post 🙂 I hope you find something of value there.

          • Nornagest says:

            My impression is that it would be about equally risky to make SMBC-style cartoons about Muhammad in Europe and in the US

            I think this is probably mistaken. I don’t want to give too much credence to the wilder right-wing claims about Europe’s relationship with Islam, but the US has fewer Muslims as a percentage of the population, many Americans identifying as Muslim belong to groups like the Nation of Islam (which are culturally separate from traditional Islam), and the people from traditional Islamic cultures that do live here are more likely to be economic migrants. That all adds up, and while, yes, someone that was really pissed off could just buy a plane ticket, I think the inconvenience, financial obstacles, and greater likelihood of getting caught that that imposes matter quite a bit.

            It’s only one data point, but Salman Rushdie — famously the target of an ongoing fatwā and survivor of at least one assassination attempt in London — has lived a fairly high-profile life in the US since 2000, and I’m not aware of any attempts on his life here.

          • many Americans identifying as Muslim belong to groups like the Nation of Islam

            The Wikipedia article estimate Nation of Islam core membership as 20,000-50,000. I’m seeing an estimate of 3.45 million for the U.S. Muslim population. So unless there are other and large groups like NoI that I’m missing, they represent a tiny fraction of the Muslim population.

          • Aapje says:

            Lots of European Muslims also came for economic reasons, but that reason was to work in factories during a brief period after much more accessible education reduced the size of the working class and before factory work moved to Japan/China, removing many working class jobs.

            These Muslims were selected for their lack of higher education, as to not compete with the better educated natives and often came from rural places. These people often did work that didn’t require learning the language of the European country where they worked.

            So when many of them lost their jobs, their lack of language skills made them turn to their fellow migrants, isolating them in bubbles, which increasingly became religious, as they focused on religion to regain status and pass their time.

            American Muslims are ethnically fairly different and didn’t migrate for jobs that would soon disappear. Learning the language was fairly mandatory for them. They also didn’t migrate in large mono-cultural groups, like European Muslims mostly did.

        • g says:

          Kristallnacht (according to the Wikipedia page about it; I haven’t verified any of the numbers myself) involved the destruction of 267 synagogues, damage to 7000 businesses run by Jewish people, the arrest of 30,000 Jewish men (many of whom were sent to concentration camps). At least 91 Jewish people were killed, possibly a lot more.

          The Jyllands-Posten affair doesn’t seem much like that to me.

    • Well... says:

      Hey Prussian! Just wanna say, I really like your writing and I consider myself a fan of yours. The article you wrote against racial identitarianism (I can’t remember the exact title but it’s along those lines) is one of my favorites ever. I’m excited to be able to interact with you here.

      That said, I don’t think your proposed experiment actually tests the hypothesis “Open Borders could work.” Instead it tests “Muslims in general can integrate into a Western society in which religious figures are often mocked.” This is perhaps a related hypothesis, but not the same thing.

      Also, what is the experimental design here? Are we measuring whether ZW gets mean comments from Muslims on Twitter, or whether his house gets bombed?

      • Prussian says:

        Thank you for your kind words. 🙂 My Anti-Racialist Q & A is one of the few things I’ve written that I’m really proud of and make me think my time online hasn’t been a complete waste.

        That said, I don’t think your proposed experiment actually tests the hypothesis “Open Borders could work.” Instead it tests “Muslims in general can integrate into a Western society in which religious figures are often mocked.” This is perhaps a related hypothesis, but not the same thing

        That’s completely true. I regard mass Islamic immigration as leading to a disaster for reasons that I have spelled out in depth. As regards other kinds of immigration, my main concern is, in the words of Eliezer Yudkowsky, that our societies just aren’t smart enough to pull it off at the moment. Good != free, after all. I do spend a lot of time banging on on having completely unrestricted immigration for, e.g., Sikhs or Yazidi.

        But to return to my racialist point, what staggered me is how similar the attitudes of Islamic fanatics and racialist fanatics were. Which is why I’m against mass Islamic immigration. Imagine a time portal opened in your town and white southerners from the time of segregation started pouring through, with the consequence that you started having cross-burnings, lynchings, cells of the KKK etc. That’s the equivalent to what has happened in Europe.

        Are we measuring whether ZW gets mean comments from Muslims on Twitter, or whether his house gets bombed?

        More like the latter. No one cares about mean comments on twitter. It’s real world consequences that matter – I’m thinking things like what happened to Molly Norris or at Garland, Texas.

        • Well... says:

          Imagine a time portal opened in your town and white southerners from the time of segregation started pouring through, with the consequence that you started having cross-burnings, lynchings, cells of the KKK etc.

          Tack on “Should they be let in?” and I think that’s a more interesting thought experiment to put to open-borders advocates, because it forces them to see their proposed policy from the other side. I forget who said it, but I like the adage that whatever policy you support, put it in the hands of your enemies and see if you still think it would work well.

          ETA:

          what staggered me is how similar the attitudes of Islamic fanatics and racialist fanatics were

          Somewhere on my blog, back around 2016 I think, I wrote that people in the all-trite (name obscured for SEO reasons, just say it out loud if you’re not sure what it means) should just go join Al Qaeda, because Al Qaeda is doing in practice what they claim they want in theory, and after all Al Qaeda is happy to accept recruits from all backgrounds.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ll admit I still don’t know what qualifies as “alt-right.” Is that Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor, Steve Sailer, Charles Murray, Razib Khan, Ben Shapiro, Scott Adams, Sam Harris, Eric Weinstein, Jordan Peterson, anyone who voted for Trump? All those have been called “alt-right” in public by people with somewhat significant platforms and blue checkmarks.

          • Well... says:

            I have a blog entry about that too! Link.

            Spencer, Taylor, Sailer, yes. The rest of them no. The reason is that I see the all-trite as a kind of network of bloggers and online writers and commenters who reference each other a lot and share a lot (but not a complete suite) of ideological common ground, particularly with regard to what they think should be the proper composition of Western society and a few key policies emanating from that. There are nuances I outline in the blog post.

            Keep in mind it’s been three years now since I’ve really been looking at this up close though, so some things might have changed.

          • In both cases, the Alt Rightists are either too dimwitted to realize this is what they logically want and should do, or else they lack the fortitude to actually do it because deep down they know they prefer the modern, multicultural, egalitarian, globalist world they live in and complain about to the traditional, hierarchical, patriarchal, segregated world they like to pretend to desire.

            I have yet to see anyone on the Alt Right explain why they don’t really just want to become Amish or Muslim, so I know I’m right on this.

            I’m sure a communist in the Soviet Union in 1985 could have made a similar argument against the dissenters in his society. “You either support communism or medieval theocracy, nothing else.”

          • Well... says:

            I don’t see the connection. Were dissenters from communism arguing for monarchy? Were there ascendant monarchist societies nearby just waiting to recruit them? I suppose the communist could argue the dissenters should go join a capitalist society — and many dissenters indeed did!

            The particular group of dissenters we’re talking about in this conversation are actually arguing for things Islamist groups and the Amish are already doing, and against modern global Western civilization. If the all-trite wanted to live in the society they apparently describe as ideal, they could literally do it tomorrow! They’d just have to go join either the Amish or Al Qaeda. Both of those groups happily accept recruits.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I think the fact that you’re lumping the Amish and Al Qaeda together is a strong indicator that you need to refine your categorization scheme.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Well…

            Religious supremacists generally care pretty deeply WHICH religion is doing the “in charge domination” thing, so this is a pretty big straw man.

            Religious fanatics definitely care quite a lot if it’s a Christian theocracy, Jewish theocracy or Islamic theocracy and aren’t particularly amenable to a swap.

          • Prussian says:

            Somewhere on my blog, back around 2016 I think, I wrote that people in the all-trite (name obscured for SEO reasons, just say it out loud if you’re not sure what it means) should just go join Al Qaeda, because Al Qaeda is doing in practice what they claim they want in theory, and after all Al Qaeda is happy to accept recruits from all background.

            Ohhhh, yeah.

            When Graeme Wood wrote this article on ISIS, he was shocked to find out that Richard Spencer really liked it. But Wood thought Spencer liked it to support his “Brown People R Bad” meme. Not true at all – Spencer liked it because he thought of the rise of ISIS as an inspiration.

            Let that sink in.

            And, no, the A.R. does not include people like Ben Shapiro etc. The A.R. are explicit racialists – they say that it has to be white nationalism first and foremost. Now, there is a range from ethnocratic liberals like Taylor who say that they’re willing to go along with gay marriage as long as it’s between whites (seriously) to utter fascists like the late Guillaume Faye. But they place race at the absolute center of their thinking.

            This simply isn’t the case when it comes to Murray, Harris, Shapiro etc.

          • Well... says:

            @Jaskologist and EchoChaos:

            I offered the Amish and Al Qaeda as alternatives; I didn’t lump them together. What they have in common is practicing exactly the thing the A.R. claims they want in theory. (I suppose you could also add FLDS and other groups like that to provide a wider menu of options; surely one could be found to suit the taste of any given A.R.ist.) A.R.ists who like Christianity can go for Amish, ones who don’t can go for Al Qaeda. (Personally I’d hope they all went for Al Qaeda, because I wouldn’t wish that kind of influx on the Amish.)

            As Prussian notes, Richard Spencer finds ISIS inspirational, which my suggestion predicts.

          • albatross11 says:

            So, I’m very familiar with Steve Sailer, and somewhat with John Derbyshire and JayMan, along with other people in that broad vein like Razib Khan, Greg Cochran, and Steve Hsu.

            I think you’re basically right that the adults[1] are largely reacting to some areas of US elite consensus that they disagree with. Steve Sailer’s pithy phrasing for that is “Invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world.” I’d add various bits of political correctness. But I think the strongest thread I see running through these folks’ writing is a deep and IMO well-founded skepticism about the wisdom, competence, and good intentions of US elites.

            These are also all people who are broadly in the space of human b-odiversity thinkers. But that’s not the same thing as racial essentialism or white racial identity politics. To a large extent, it’s people pointing out practically important facts that get blackholed by most mainstream news sources and commentators.

            Many of Sailer’s commenters are white nationalists or somewhere in that space, but I’m pretty sure Sailer isn’t, and I’ve read a lot of his work. (Maybe he’s deceiving us all about his true beliefs, but since he’s already paid as much of a career and social price for what he *has* said as he would if he went full Jared Taylor or even full Richard Spencer, it’s hard to see why he would bother.) Most of his commenters aren’t white nationalists, and many seem to me to honestly want what’s best for the whole country, including the nonwhites here.

            I think Steve and other paleoconservatives were making many of these arguments for a long time, but the Iraq War and 2008 financial meltdown and the apparent continued decline in well-being in a lot of American cities and regions have all made their critiques of elite wisdom a lot more plausible.

            [1] I’m not interested in listening to trolls or crazies, so these are the only ones I’m interested in reading.

          • albatross11 says:

            As I said, I’ve read Sailer’s blog for some years now, where there’s a substantial white nationalist contingent among the commenters. And there’s something I’ve seen from some of the white nationalist types that seems a worthwhile point to consider:

            It is socially acceptable and usually encouraged by prestigious media types in the US for racial and ethnic groups other than whites to organize along race/ethnicity lines to campaign for shared political goals. The NYT will write glowingly of your efforts on behalf of your nonwhite ethnic group, mainstream politicians will seek your endorsements, etc. A similar effort by whites will be seen by basically every mainstream person as a terrifying and evil development that needs to be stamped out ASAP.

            Now, some of the goals that nonwhite ethnic identity political organizations campaign for, and that are generally well-regarded by a lot of prestige media in the US, are actively opposed to the interests of most whites. Affirmative action in education means white kids have a harder time getting into top schools so nonwhite (and non-Asian) students can have an easier time getting in. Reparations mean whites pay more taxes and don’t get any of the benefit. Busing and many public school desegregation efforts have the effect of making the schooling of a lot of white kids worse, for the hoped-for benefit of black kids. It’s easy to see how this can encourage whites to organize on ethnic identity lines in response.

            At the same time, mainstream media sources and elites pretty routinely slag on whites, and specifically white men. They say stuff about us as a group that would absolutely never be okay, said about anyone else. (And shouldn’t be okay, because it’s awful.) It’s a commonplace in stories about black/white gaps in education, income, wealth, and imprisonment that the gap is attributed to racist whites now or in the past, with no need for much supporting evidence.

            It seems to me that this is untenable in the long run. It’s like a bunch of the mainstream media sources and politicians in the country are actively trying to drum up some kind of white ethnic identity politics.

            And however unpleasant Trump is, he’s a walk in the park compared to what we would see in the US if we really got explicit white ethnic identity politics to become mainstream. They’ve been mainstream before, but for the last few decades, most whites have had no interest in white identity politics and in fact have been actively opposed to such things. We really, really want to keep things that way.

            A reasonable cultural solution, IMO, would be pushing back on overt racial identity politics and overt racial hostility across the board. But if it’s mainstream acceptable rhetoric to publish op-eds and run talking head shows bashing whites or white men, you can’t really be all that shocked when rhetoric the other direction becomes more mainstream. If there are explicit calls and political organization to enact policies that make whites as a large group worse off and are intended to do exactly that, you can’t really be surprised if the opposition to those policies often ends up organizing largely on race.

            I think this is a pattern that will continue–it’s destructive for the nation as a whole, but locally profitable for media sources and individual racial activists and politicians. And I do not think it will end well. Trump is not remotely the worst you can see along these lines.

          • Well... says:

            To a large extent, it’s people pointing out practically important facts that get blackholed by most mainstream news sources and commentators.

            I wrote about that, too. And expanded my thoughts on the topic. Quoting myself:

            We live in a world in which there’s a lot of denial of facts, so it’s tempting to spend all of one’s energy just highlighting facts and making a big deal out of how others are denying them, but what we do or would like done based on those facts is extremely important, much more than just having those facts acknowledged.

            I agree with you about the promotion of nonwhite racial identitarianism being an obvious way to get white people to join in (play the “prison yard” game, as I wrote about) and this being an undesirable outcome. But that doesn’t mean white people ought to go ahead and join in just because nothing is being done about other racial groups’ identitarianism.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Well…

            I read your posts and thought to myself, but okay, what now? Like lets take BLM. I’m totally on board with being anti-cop, I’ve been anti-cop for my adult life, and before. But when you are anti-cop for such ignorant and statistically illiterate reasons, it means your anti-copness does no good because you propose reforms targeted at this not-problem (overpolicing of blacks) which means the real problem (cops being jerks who are systematically trained to be jerks with itchy trigger fingers, see the Florida highway shootout) won’t be fixed by your proposals, in fact, you are probably going to make things worse!

            What is a guy, who is admittedly self interested (I want to demilitarize police and give them less power over the lives of non-criminals) to do? Its not like I’m obsessed with violent crime statistics, but I am pretty into the right kind of police reforms, and an incorrect narrative has been derailing smart reforms for a decade.

          • Well... says:

            For now let’s say the typical BLM position as it’s commonly presented is anti-cop, fueled by bad statistics and thinly veiled reactionary animosity toward many of the established hierarchical structures in our society.

            And we can model the A.R. position as anti-BLM, fueled by an impulse to react against whatever the BLM position is, for reasons we could speculate about elsewhere. But at the end of the day, the A.R. position is the “prison yard” view of society, where there’s “them” and “us” and whatever “they” do to grab power legitimizes whatever “we” might do to stop them or grab it for “ourselves” instead. It’s a toxic, dead-end program that ultimately makes its bearer more and more incompatible with the real world the more he internalizes it. (In that sense, it has something closely in common with the BLM position.)

            My position is to be pro-“society where we can all coexist peacefully” (recognizing that is simply an ideal). We need cops, it’d be nice if they weren’t so militarized, and we also need and want black people and don’t want them to feel so targeted just for being black.

            There’s a lot to be said for HOW things get said. The order in which you present statistics, arguments, and policy proposals, and how you phrase them, matters. You’re never going to please everyone, but there are ways to do it that at least aren’t specifically designed to piss certain people off, call them out, etc. The BLM thing, for me, begins with steelmanning and empathizing that position. Once you do this it subtly changes how you approach everything else in the equation.

            BTW if there’s a real base-level problem here it’s journalism. But the A.R. spends its criticizing-journalism energy whining about how biased journalism is (and conjecturing why, something something da jooz), rather than arguing persuasively that journalism’s air of legitimacy and authority as narrative-maker is false.

          • Clutzy says:

            I don’t think you’ve really presented any real helpful way forward. BLM and the media narrative around it are inherently strawmen. That is the nature of the movement because it is based on statistical illiteracy. Most of society needs less policing and less aggressive policing. The exception to that rule is crime riddled areas, like certain parts of the city I live in. BLM’s policies would not only make those areas of the city less safe, but my portion as well, while also not dealing with the issue that cops drive around our streets in SUV-tanks and camp out around stop signs looking to bop people for driving normally. Or that they hang out around bars on Friday nights looking to give out public intox and underage drinking tickets to the college kids around here (meanwhile a college woman was raped and murdered 3 blocks away at an intersection every human in our area knows should be staffed by police 24/7, but of course is not).

          • albatross11 says:

            Well:

            I read your post on “hatefacts,” but I think you’re missing something. It is indeed pointless and destructive to go around looking for true things you can say to piss people off or hurt them. But the whole point of why the existence of hatefacts is a problem is that they’re often actually relevant to the discussion at hand.

            Like, if I’m walking down the street and I start haranguing everyone around me about the black/white IQ difference, I agree that would be dumb and pointless and probably just get people mad at me. But if we’re discussing the black/white performance gap in school, or why blacks are underrepresented in magnet schools or in STEM fields, the black/white IQ difference is pretty obviously relevant. It lets you make accurate predictions about reality, and helps you understand the world you observe.

            The world we live in now is one in which respectable mainstream serious publications like the NYT or Washington Post will write a series of stories about how some city’s magnet schools have too few black students, and will claim that this is due to some kind of racism or discrimination by whites. And they will never mention the black/white IQ difference, just as they usually won’t mention that Asians are massively overrepresented in the magnet program. The result is that these stories, which are how lots of important decisionmakers and most well-informed voters find out about how the world works, are providing a hugely distorted view of the world, omitting relevant evidence (hatefacts) because either they think nobody should be allowed to know them, or they think mentioning those facts will get them fired.

            The result is that the whole public disussion about the matter is warped and confused, the way a discussion of drug-resistance in bacteria would be warped and confused if no mainstream publication would let themselves mention evolution.

            This happens again and again, in many areas. Relevant, well-established facts are omitted because they’re hatefacts. We have a long discussion in the media of the disparity of blacks vs whites in prison without mentioning the pretty strong evidence that blacks do, in fact, commit crimes at a much higher rate than whites. Every publication happily reproduces the factoid that women make a lot less money on average than men, but very few will go ahead and explain the reasons that explain most of that gap (field of work, hours worked, experience, etc.). Google can have a huge internal discussion about why there aren’t more women in STEM, but Damore gets fired for making a counterargument and having it widely seen. And so on.

            Does Sailer sometimes go for the cheap shot? Sure. I’m not convinced he does more often than other opinion journalists, but I wish he’d do less of that. But the facts he keeps bringing up are relevant to the public discussion, and they are hardly ever mentioned in polite venues. Their lack means that people trying to think about important issues in our society don’t know basic stuff needed to talk sense. It’s very like discussing US foreign policy with people who don’t know anything about our past actions except for the big wars. (“They must hate us for our freedom.”)

            Sometimes, unspeakable facts end up being really critical for making good decisions. Then, your society just sticks its hand in a meat grinder, because you’re having an AIDS epidemic and nobody can frankly discuss condoms or homosexuality, or you’re about to get into a war and nobody can say that the other side is way bigger and stronger and is going to clobber you.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well:

            I agree with you about the promotion of nonwhite racial identitarianism being an obvious way to get white people to join in (play the “prison yard” game, as I wrote about) and this being an undesirable outcome. But that doesn’t mean white people ought to go ahead and join in just because nothing is being done about other racial groups’ identitarianism.

            Just to be clear, I agree that whites *should not* join in with the racial/ethnic identity politics. . I’m making a factual claim here:

            1. There is currently a norm against white identity politics. It’s imperfect and leaky, but exists.

            2. I think the behavior of activists and the media are undermining this norm.

            3. I think if this norm is undermined far enough, it will lead us to a bad place as a society.

            4. I think it’s unworkable to maintain the norm via current mechanisms (media denunciations of both real white identity politics and also anyone opposing various identity-politics proposals that broadly screw whites over). That maybe could work when big media companies owned all the megaphones, but I don’t think it can work in today’s world.

        • Anonymous McPseudonym says:

          Seconded as to your excellent writing, Prussian! Thank you for producing well thought out and interesting content. Perhaps the best part is the clear intellectual honesty. Even though some of the conclusions of the Anti-Racialist Q&A strike me as incorrect, it is clear that you’re actually trying to find the truth, rather than simply push a politically-convenient line.

          As for the open borders question, how about having free migration for all Kafirs, while muslims are quarantined in their existing nations until we develop a cure for islam? If we are very fortunate, perhaps AI or genetic engineering will discover a way to free people from religious beliefs. If not, it still seems better to let most people travel freely while not letting in a social cancer like shari’a.

          • Prussian says:

            I like the idea of kafir-only migration. My only concern there is that Western societies, as currently constituted and governed, may not be smart enough to pull it off, and that deep structural changes need to happen to accommodate it. But let’s be clear: that’s a problem of Western societies, not our fellow kafirs, and I am in favour of making those structural changes.

    • broblawsky says:

      What are you willing to give up in return for ZW doing this? If he does this, and doesn’t get murdered, will you agree to become an advocate of Open Borders? If not, why should he bother, since your refusal to change your mind would indicate you don’t actually consider it a good experiment?

      • Anonymous McPseudonym says:

        Given that ZW already mocks Jesus and Buddha, he clearly doesn’t need much additional incentive to mock Muhammad. If there’s really no danger, why should he not? And if he hesitates, that should tell us something.

        • g says:

          He mostly doesn’t mock Jesus and the Buddha. He makes jokes that feature them, which is not the same thing. So whether he needs additional incentive to make jokes featuring Muhammad instead depends on whether he can make jokes featuring Muhammad that work as well as his jokes featuring Jesus and the Buddha. I think it’s entirely plausible that he can’t, either because the traditions about Muhammad don’t contain as much potentially-humorous stuff, or because he isn’t as familiar with them, or because his audience isn’t as familiar with them.

          (For the avoidance of doubt, I am not saying that he wouldn’t be putting himself at any sort of risk if he did it, though in fact I think the worst he’d actually get would be some hate mail. I’m saying that he has other reasons for not doing what Prussian demands, that have nothing to do with any risk he might be incurring.)

          • Prussian says:

            See my reply to B_Epstein below

          • or because his audience isn’t as familiar with them.

            I think the most likely explanation. Most Americans know very little about Islam.

          • Well... says:

            Can’t both be true? That most of SMBC’s readership knows very little about Islam, AND that Z.W. is secretly terrified of offending fundamentalist Muslims who might try to kill him? In other words, that his stated reason for avoiding Muslim jokes is technically accurate, and maybe is the reason he likes to tell himself, but is not the actual reason he feels deep down. (Highly speculative obviously.)

            After all, he’s sometimes made comics about obscure topics and even incorporated into them as an in-joke (e.g. in the hover text or the secret panel) the fact that very few readers are likely to understand the punchlines. So it’s a motte and bailey, if I’m using the term correctly.

          • John Schilling says:

            Anything is possible, but it is unlikely that an educated liberal-ish American is really afraid (secretly or otherwise) that Muslims are going to kill him for offenses against Islam. As noted, even Salman Rusdhdie isn’t terribly afraid of being killed in New York. That’s not a thing that happens in the United States, because our Muslims are different, and it’s not a thing that liberal-ish people want to believe happens here because it goes against the standard narrative of multicultural diversity = Good.

            More plausible, is being apprehensive about materially harmless but annoying hate mail from offended Muslims.

            More plausible still, I think, is being apprehensive about hate mail from liberal-ish colleagues upset that you’re going against the multicultural diversity = Good narrative with your “Islamophobia”.

            And, yeah, not having any good Muslim jokes that don’t depend on cultural knowledge the audience doesn’t have and don’t reduce to stupid caricatures.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Another plausible option is that he doesn’t want to make fun of Muslims in his cartoon is because he himself is a liberalish educated guy who just doesn’t want to do it. He may think it’s promoting Islamophobia, or it is just gauche.

            Same sort of reason liberal people didn’t celebrate Osama Bin Laden’s death. Not out of fear of hate mail, but because it signals membership in an outgroup.

          • Well... says:

            I think one aspect of this is that ZW “fits the profile” of people who would disavow the existence of any connection between Islam and violence, yet seem aware of the connection on some level and quietly act on it.

          • John Schilling says:

            people who would disavow the existence of any connection between Islam and violence, yet seem aware of the connection on some level and quietly act on it.

            The “connection between Islam and violence” is extremely small in the place where Z.W. does almost all of his acting, so there’s nothing for him to act on.

          • Prussian says:

            The “connection between Islam and violence” is extremely small in the place where Z.W. does almost all of his acting, so there’s nothing for him to act on.

            Is it, though? I mean, again: Molly Norris, the Garland Cartoon attacks, the recent business in Florida… But more to the point, during the original cartoon pogrom, CNN and other pixellated the cartoons out of fear. Even South Park which is supposedly afraid of nothing, balked at the last minute from showing Muhammad on its show.

            Doesn’t this suggest that there is at least some real intimidation going on?

            N.B.: You may well be also right that he is concerned over the censoriousness of the Western left, the tendency to blacklist people, the twitter mob etc.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            If your standard for evidence is listing anecdotes, there is a link between most things and violence.

          • Prussian says:

            thc your ability to combine an avoidance of the evidence, a deep reluctance to do investigation that might run counter to your presuppositions, and make isolated demands for rigor, is duly noted and appreciated.

    • B_Epstein says:

      It’s amusing/ staggerinly surprising that in a thread presumably filled to the brim with people fond of empirical evidence, ZW’s actual response to Prussian’s concern was never brought up.

      (ETA – it was not even suggested to look it up, unless I’ve missed. In which case, my apologies.)
      Here‘s one place where he gives it. Incidentally, and without being snarky, finding it probably takes less time than stalking ZW on twitter. I suspect it because it didn’t take me long when I was searching a couple of years ago (yes, I and a thousand others were also wondering about the absence of Islam from SMBC. One more reason for ZW to ignore Prussian’s dogged pursuit).

      Anyway, here’s the relevant quote:

      FT: Your religious comics focus on Christianity. What would you say to the accusation that you are “picking a soft target” and that “you wouldn’t dare joke about Islam”?
      ZW: I’ve occasionally been accused of this. In my defense, I’ve taken some shots at Buddhism and Judaism as well. The reason I stay away from Islam is that most of the people who would read my comic are not familiar with ANY particulars of it. People at least have a vague notion of Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. If I made a joke about a tenet of Islam, nobody would get it. I also don’t make jokes about Hindus or Chinese folk religion, both of which have followings on the order of billions.
      When doing comics, especially single panel comics, you have to pick visual tropes that are quickly understood by your audience. As it happens, my audience is very familiar with the verbal and visual language of Christianity. So, there’s just a lot more for me to work with there.
      I want to say explicitly that avoiding Islam has nothing to do with the idiocy of the Danish cartoon censorship a few years back. There are a number of webcomics (see: Jesus and Mo) that mock Islam and Mohammed on a daily basis, none of whose authors are in any great deal of trouble for it.

      So he gives precisely the “audience unfamiliar with Islam” answer and addresses threats of violence specifically, giving evidence that it is not at all dangerous to repeatedly mock Islam in the US. Now, you could argue he’s biased and not 100% honest with himself or with us. You could argue that his evidence is incomplete. But that is an entirely different conversation from “lol ZW afraid of Muslims and won’t admit it”.

      • Prussian says:

        Thanks for finding that; first time I’ve seen it. But my reaction is, well, you know what the Inuit said to the refrigerator salesman, right?

        I ain’t buying it.

        I mean, Z.W. could talk to Molly Norris – if he can find her – or the survivors of Garland…

        But Jesus and Mo! Right? Well, you know, it’s odd, I’m having real trouble finding out who draws or writes that. And then I found this interview with the artist of Jesus & Mo… go watch. Notice anything weird about it? Funny, but for some completely unexplained reason they go to pains to conceal the guy’s identity.

        Huh.

        Look, I don’t really want Z.W. to draw this. He has a wife and two kids, and I don’t want him to find some maniac trying to kills his whole family with an axe, as happened to Kurt Westergaard, or gunned down like the writers of Charlie Hebdo.

        What I do want him to do is to stop being such a fathead on this subject and to get real.

        But let’s say, for the sake of the argument, that he’s not actually a hypocrite here, that he really believes this. So what? Jack Merrit really believed that ISIS members could be reformed and got stabbed to death as thanks. Maren Ueland posted against ‘islamophobia’ and decided to hike through Morocco with her friend, and both got their heads chopped off by ISIS. And so on. Reality isn’t what we want it to be.

  20. Gsdfgbidsavfo says:

    Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in college and cemented a cultural association between young people and entrepreneurship. But according to the American Institute for Economic Research, this association is wrong: the average successful entrepeneur is 45 when they found their company, the youngest entrepreneurs are the least successful, and a 50-year-old’s company is almost twice as likely to succeed as a 30-year-old’s.

    One reason for older people being more likely to be successful is probably that they already have an established job and are therefore only going to become an entrepreneur if they think they have a high chance at becoming successful. So the difference would be smaller if younger people were similarly risk-averse. That doesn’t explain the average age of successful entrepreneurs, though.

  21. PorterBridges says:

    Regarding Caplan’s claim that South African white people experienced zero loss of salary or career prospects due to the end of Apartheid and drastic demographic and political shifts.

    Just a quick look at Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_South_Africans

    Since 1994, there has been significant emigration of white people from South Africa. There are thus currently large Afrikaner and English-speaking South African communities in the United Kingdom, Australia and other developed countries. Between 1995 and 2005, more than one million South Africans emigrated, citing violent and racially motivated black on white crime as the main reason, as well as the lack of employment opportunities for whites

    A large emigration like that described is hard, quantifiable, measurable evidence that something bad is happening to them.

    • Incurian says:

      Good thing they could emigrate.

    • abe says:

      No it isn’t. The relationship between income and outmigration is not so simple as you might imagine.

      In any case, the hard data say that South Africa has not become more dangerous (as measured by its murder rate, which has fallen precipitously since 1994) or poorer (as measured by real GDP per capita, which has grown tremendously since 1994) since Apartheid. Despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth in this comment section.

      • EchoChaos says:

        as measured by its murder rate, which has fallen precipitously since 1994

        Note this may be misleading evidence for a few reasons. First is that 1994 is the height of resistance and murder had grown shockingly from the very low rate in the 70s and 80s.

        The second reason is that in a very dangerous place people act differently. In my safe suburban American community, it is very common for young women to walk alone at night, children to play through the neighborhood loosely supervised, etc.

        My understanding is that such behavior was common in 80s South Africa and is not common today. That would point to it being substantially more dangerous in a way that murder rate would not fully define.

  22. g says:

    The Wikipedia page on minced oaths does indeed claim that “crikey” = “Christ kill me”, but doesn’t give any evidence for it. OED says it’s just “Christ”; the online Merriam-Webster agrees, and so (though I don’t know how much evidence this is) does Wiktionary. I have two books about swearing on my shelves; one doesn’t seem to mention “crikey” at all, the other says in passing (so maybe not carefully checked) that it’s a minced version of “Christ”.

    Web searching turns up a few books that make the “Christ kill me” claim, but nothing that looks scholarly and well researched. (Usually it’s a remark made in passing in a book about something else.)

    If there’s any sort of evidence for its derivation from “Christ kill me”, specifically, I haven’t found it. I reckon it’s a myth.

  23. bobic says:

    Scott, please, a trigger warning for extreme sexual content would be appreciated. It is my belief that succumbing to that stuff exiles God from one’s soul and leads to eternal fire… and I like reading your blog otherwise, so please do that in the future, and I won’t click on stuff from Zero HP Lovecraft in the future, ok?

    Thank U

    To expand: a temptation to bad thoughts can lead, for me, to hours or even days of unhappiness and struggle. I could block this whole site and cut my net access or something, and indeed perhaps I should. But for the time being I call on your infinite solicitude to provide a warning. I know you believe that they (trigger warnings) are valid. God bless

    • Douglas Knight says:

      0HPL has his own content warning. Is that not enough for you?

      Of course, it would be easy for Scott to introduce a policy of propagating warnings. But it would be tricky to do without implying a uniform standard set by Scott, which is a burden I wouldn’t want to take on.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’m not sure how you would come to the conclusion the story has “extreme sexual content” without said warning, since the story is basically PG13. (In terms of said content, it tells, rather than shows, like a movie telling you someone had sex without showing it.)

        It is largely about sex, after a fashion, granted. But on the flip side, it isn’t actually about sex, and sex is merely a vehicle for what is, basically, a cautionary/moralistic story. Indeed, the person complaining might actually be happy with it.

        • soreff says:

          >since the story is basically PG13
          Mostly agreed. _Maybe_ the scene with Azathoth dissolving Sophia counts as vore?

          One convention that the author invented that I think is neat is the:

          even though the symbol varies and is white, contained inside a colored trefoil).
          (α)blue speaker is an embodied human, physically present in front of you.
          (β)green speaker is a ghost, but the ghost is being actively controlled through telepresence, speaking live and in real-time.
          (γ)yellow speaker is a semi-static recording of a real person, and anything it says was authored by a real person or synthesized exclusively from human-authored materials.
          (δ)orange speaker is being animated by an automated computer program using materials that were curated by a real person
          (ε)red speaker is missing a certificate, potentially an unsupervised artificial intelligence

          Interesting idea, and not one I’ve seen before.

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      I was looking for the promised extreme sexual content, and after a while I got bored.

    • soreff says:

      (condolences to bobic on his triggering on the link)
      I sort-of enjoyed the Zero HP Lovecraft link,
      but the story seemed to expect way too much from plausible virtual-reality settings (_if_ I’m
      interpreting the story correctly, which I may well not be). E.g. the layering of a garden scene
      on an apartment – can one _really_ avoid colliding with the furniture if you do that?
      Similar concerns apply to the erotic applications. Yeah, a pelvic thrust is the same for both
      sexes, but many sexual acts are going to be trying to put two pieces of flesh in the same
      space at the same time.

  24. brungl says:

    Tal Yarkoni has a better, quantitative critique of the Henrich paper: that it affirms the consequent. It takes an observation (“Westerners are more independent and trusting of strangers”) that could be explained equally well by many unrelated and/or contradictory theories, and presents it as evidence for *one* of those theories. As Yarkoni puts it:

    [One possible point of a paper is] to update P(T|D)—the probability of a theory being true conditional on the observed data…[but] when P(D|T_{1..k}) is high for a large number k of theories, then the conditional P(T_p|D)—where T_p is the authors’ preferred theory—is correspondingly low.

    Relatedly, for anyone that hasn’t read Yarkoni’s recent paper on what he terms the generalizability crisis in psychology, it’s extremely relevant to the community’s interests. IMO this should be the next big metascientific discussion, the issue is potentially as severe as the replication crisis.

  25. jimrandomh says:

    > From the best of new Less Wrong: Design Principles Of Biological Circuits … Any experts reading who can confirm if this is true?

    Speaking as a type 1 diabetic (the condition where most pancreatic beta cells have been destroyed by autoimmunity), having coded parts of a continuous-glucose-monitor-and-insulin-pump control system which I use to regulate my own blood sugar, and having continuously monitored my blood sugar while micromanaging insulin inputs for more than a decade.

    I skimmed the relevant book chapter. I think the system described does exist and that each of the elements works as described in this summary, but it’s only a small portion of the overall glucose-regulation system. The book completely omits several key glucose-regulation-related systems that I know about and thought to check, and then the review pares this down further to one aspect of one system. I think this gives a false impression of simplicity; if you’re using it to inform your intuitions about how complex biological systems are, you will definitely be misled.

    I can’t really put all the fragments into a coherent picture with a nice takeaway; it really is too complex for that. But I can give you some fragments.

    1. The mechanism described is a second, slower control system tuning a parameter of a primary, fast control system. Beta cells detect and release insulin in response to rising glucose caused by meals, which happens on timescales of tens of minutes, much much faster than cell proliferation and cell death.

    2. A major problem which the pancreas has to deal with, which human diabetics also have to deal with, is the time delay between adding insulin and falling blood sugar. This turns it into a prediction problem, where you will sometimes have too little insulin (blood sugar stays high for awhile) or too much insulin (blood sugar goes too low). Recurring mispredictions are called prediabetes and reactive hypoglycemia, respectively. Temporary low blood sugar is much much worse than temporary high blood sugar.

    3. Pancreatic beta cells don’t really die from slightly-high or slightly-low blood glucose at equilibrium, they die when glucose is at its maximum-outlier value after a maximum-outlier meal.

    4. There are many pathways that generate glucose from other sources (eg from proteins) with their own regulatory systems switching them on and off. Gluconeugenesis is greatly elevated in T2DM, and metformin (which reduces gluconeogenesis) seems to help.

    5. There is another cell type, alpha cells, also in the pancreas, which release glucagon, which does approximately the opposite of insulin, signaling scarcity, causing tissues which have stored glucose to release their stores.

    6. The liver stores a ~500kcal reserve supply of glycogen (which it can readily turn into glucose and vise versa), and the muscles have another ~500kcal reserve supply of glycogen. Insulin resistance changes suddenly when these reserve supplies transition between partially filled, empty, or full.

    I don’t think the complexity is unmanageable in the long run, and I don’t think there are many parts without purpose. I think the biological-motifs lens is a good one. But I feel like there’s a motte-and-bailey between “biological systems form motifs with legible functions,” and “the interaction-network is sparse enough that you can look at a mechanism, and make accurate predictions about interventions, without a heroic effort to find neighboring mechanisms you missed.”

    • deciusbrutus says:

      Are the glycogen stores actually accurately modeled as “cannot add more” “can add or remove” or “cannot remove more”, with nearly sharp transitions between those three states? My intuition was that things like that were much more gradual, for example that if one of them was at 90% capacity it would have much less uptake than if it were at 10% capacity.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        If your endocrine system is working right, you will smoothly transit through the various stored resources when you starve for a while. After a time you will be burning mainly fat. And by and large, that will be okay.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think this gives a false impression of simplicity; if you’re using it to inform your intuitions about how complex biological systems are, you will definitely be misled.

      As something of an aside, I feel like the tendency to find simple models as inherently more desirable is a common failure mode, and one that I feel is a recurring cognitive bias for Scott (and perhaps the rationalist community in general). You would think the community that came up with “The map is not the territory” would somehow be more resistant to this, but my impression is that this isn’t the case.

      • Anthony says:

        You would think the community that came up with “The map is not the territory” would somehow be more resistant to this

        We’re now part of the General Semantics community?

      • B_Epstein says:

        That’s mathematically true, in many contexts, even without going into stuff like Solomonoff induction.

        Is it a rule with no exceptions? No. But it’s pretty good – and it’s simple, and thus inherently more desirable…

      • Aapje says:

        @HeelBearCub

        Simple models are inherently more desirable than equally explanatory more complex models, because the very purpose of a model is to be a simplification of a more/too complex reality, allowing us to draw conclusions that you can’t draw from looking at reality itself. The simpler a model is, for the same explanatory power, the better it is.

        “The map is not the territory” doesn’t mean that complex models are better, but that the model is not reality, which is a far different claim. More complex models are not necessarily more accurate models. They can actually be more deceptive, in that they can make mismatches with reality less overt and thereby mislead people into using their model to draw utterly unreasonable conclusions.

        Equating complexity with accuracy is a common fallacy…

  26. moridinamael says:

    Seems parsimonious to assume that the Air Force isn’t worried about a”UFO reactionless drive gap but they want other state actors to waste resources studying and trying to replicate their inane UFO reactionless drive patent.

    • sharper13 says:

      Naw, the Air Force and Navy aren’t competing with the Chinese or the Russians, they’re competing with each other. This is all just a ploy to win the once-a-decade “who gets to play with the new jets” battle. 🙂

  27. VirgilKurkjian says:

    “Salvatore Pais” can be pretty freely interpreted as “The one who saves the peace”. Seems like an obvious pseudonym to me.

    My guess is that these are bait. If the Navy can convince foreign powers that these technologies exist and provide them with half-finished blueprints in the form of these patents, they can trick the Chinese (and possibly others) into sinking huge amounts of resources into total dead ends. If you’re convinced that the US is already most of the way towards building these devices, you’ll be very concerned about falling behind, and might be willing to take a risk.

  28. teneditica says:

    California passes a law saying that freelance journalists may not write more than 35 stories per year, which many freelance journalists argue is not enough to survive on and would essentially destroy freelance journalism as a career option. The story seems to be that California wanted to ban Uber from classifying its drivers as freelancers, and the easiest way to do this was just to ban freelance work and carve out exceptions for any form of freelance work the state didn’t want to ban, and whoever was in charge of exception-making randomly chose the number “35” for freelance journalism. The lawmaker responsible has apologized to freelance journalists, but the cynical part of me isn’t sure what apology they can give beyond “we’re sorry our law ending people’s freedom to make contracts with flexible work schedules also affected popular people who can complain”. And if you think I sound angry, as always you should read @webdevmason’s takes (1, 2). Anyway, I think California journalists should feel lucky to be allowed 35 stories; most new housing in the state is limited to two.

    It’s incredible that there are freelance writers, even in this thread, who believe that Uber drivers should get “protections” that they do not want themselves.

  29. proyas says:

    The U.S. Navy’s patenting of alleged UFO technology immediately struck me as a deliberate disinformation operation.

    • slapdashbr says:

      Having worked in DoD-funded research, it’s possibly that, somewhat more likely this guy is just bullshitting his technologically-clueless funding sources with ridiculous claims and fucking around with government money to produce nothing of value.

  30. proyas says:

    I just hope that People Unlimited doesn’t steal Alcor’s money and force it out of business. Having all the frozen corpses and heads thaw thanks to lack of money would kill the human cryonics sector.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Having all the frozen corpses and heads thaw thanks to lack of money would kill the human cryonics sector.

      you don’t say.

    • Aapje says:

      @proyas

      Cryonics companies probably have the same problem as pension funds. The business model is based on a certain level of ROI, to earn enough money on capital to preserve these corpses and heads indefinitely. With low interest rates, the ROI is low.

      I don’t see this ending well…

      • EchoChaos says:

        This is a fascinating failure mode of cryonics that I had not considered. Thanks for the insight.

      • Max More says:

        Alcor’s care trust is invested in a range of instruments. It has and continues to earn far more than interest rates. It’s bizarre that you would assume we keep all that money in a bank account or CDs.

        • Aapje says:

          @Max More

          Dutch pension funds have been shifting away from bonds to investments, to keep their return on investment up. This means that they are accepting a higher risk of major investment losses. Dutch laws require the pension funds to hold higher reserves when interest rates go down, which nicely compensates for the consequences of low interest rates (lower returns and/or higher risks). Lots of people want to get rid of this mechanism, putting the pension funds at great risk of not having enough money in the future.

          I think that the natural tendency, in the absence of such rules, is to ignore the extra risks, which humans seem wont to do, until a recession happens and the false optimism gets exposed.

          Has Alcor also shifted more to risky investments, in response to lower interest rates? Has Alcor increased their reserves (sufficiently) to compensate for the increased risks?

          If the answer is yes & no, then Alcor is at serious risk of running out of money when a great recession happens.

      • zenmore says:

        I have to say that a lot of pension funds have major investments outside of bonds. For example, the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund owns large amounts of real estate and other productive assets (companies, infrastructure assets). Some other pension funds are often not funded fully by retiree’s contributions + growth but by the assumption of continued pay-in.

  31. deciusbrutus says:

    I worked for the Navy. They aren’t organized enough to keep a UFO engine enough of a secret to be a conspiracy.

    The Navy wasn’t organized enough to keep secrets from their own. I can’t find an independent source, but it was widely understood that several pieces of information were declassified during the Cold War (particularly increases in the “in excess of” unclassified information regarding submarine depths) in response to PR releasing audiovideo footage showing that information.

    A facility like Area 51 requires too many support staff to avoid leaks on the order of space aliens.

    I can believe that there’s a few trolls in the Navy who can use official resources to make rumors of alien tech, and even that doing so is an official program.

    • EchoChaos says:

      “To big to hide a conspiracy of that magnitude” may indeed be true, but it’s taken a hit after several recent large-scale conspiracies spanning decades were revealed. The biggest was the Catholic Church.

      • theodidactus says:

        I’m going to confess that what really shattered my belief in this argument (which I used to make all the time) was the VW emissions scandal. Everyone involved had such a strong incentive to be the weak link, but (as near as I can tell) even competitors kept the secret…the fact that it was kept secret for so long by so many has never been satisfactorily explained to me.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The competitors knew? Do you have a source for that? I have not heard anything remotely like that.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Well, they knew, because they did it to. If you know how the trick works, you can just bring an competitors car on an teststand, and run series of test until you have a good feeling how exactly this modell cheats. After that you can leak that information.
            The fact how central VW is in the debate (and not say BMW or Mercedes or GM) is a sign that not beeing the first to be leaked is an big advantage.

          • Aapje says:

            If you only recognize the corruption when you are corrupt yourself, there is an obvious incentive to keep quiet.

            EU law tries to compensate for this incentive by granting a form of immunity to a company that whistleblows. They don’t get fined, unlike the companies that are found guilty and didn’t notify the EU of the crime they were committing.

          • DarkTigger says:

            You don’t only recognize it when you do it yourself. But it should be pretty obvious what’s up, when you can’t physically do X, and both you and your competitor claim to do X

          • Aapje says:

            That depends on the situation. In this case, probably true. In many other situations, corruption is not necessarily so easy to detect.

          • theodidactus says:

            You don’t only recognize it when you do it yourself. But it should be pretty obvious what’s up, when you can’t physically do X, and both you and your competitor claim to do X

            This is sort of what keeps me up at night. These companies of legions of engineers that dream in performance curves and spend all their free time thinking about engines and stuff. When competitors realize they can’t duplicate a rival’s performance, you’d think they’d have a really strong incentive to get to the bottom of why (even stronger than a regulatory agency)….either everyone knew, and no one said anything, or precisely the people who would care about this issue the most didn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Maybe I am misunderstanding the argument that is going on here, but the VW scandal as I understand it doesn’t seem to really match the argument.

            The scandal as I understood it was VW fraudulently pretending to satisfy DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) requirements in the US market for sake of increased fuel efficiency numbers. Their competitors in the US passenger car diesel market were essentially non-existing, both before and after the start of requirements for a DPF. In the US, if you wanted a passenger diesel car you were looking at either a Mercedes or VW, vehicles that are going after different market segments.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            VW did the same in Europe and elsewhere. Diesel passenger cars are a pretty big market in Europe. To wit, VW sold half a million cheating cars in the US, but sold 11 million cheating cars in total. So the vast majority of their cheating cars were sold outside of the US.

            Other manufacturers were also found to have far higher emissions in daily driving than during the test. A complication is that is it is normal for the engine software to tune itself to the environment and for pollution to differ based on how you drive (how fast do you accelerate, etc), so higher emissions during normal driving can be blamed on cheating software, but also on the test not being representative of daily driving. There is a large grey zone where it’s hard to argue that the manufacturers set out to cheat.

            VW’s software was blatant about it, by recognizing that the emissions test was being performed and then running a low-pollution program, that would never run in any real life circumstances.

            Fiat Chrysler had something similar and also got a hefty fine and saw a senior manager being charged with various offenses.

            However, the competitors who heavily tuned their software to do well on the test, but didn’t have their software recognize the test and act on that, might have thought that VW and Fiat Chrysler were just being a bit better at programming to the test, rather than programming around the test.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @HBC
            Yes, VW was first blown up under US law. (And only them because they were basically the only providers of Diesel cars in the US) But as Aapje said they pulled the same stunt internationally. And yes other (at least other German) car companies did the same. Many people suspected that mostly VW was hit, as a protective measure for the US car industry.

            The exact thing they did was programming the engine controll unit to be able to regocnize the classic enigne test driving behaviour, and then driving at lower intensity, and using more AddBlue in the catalysator. This would have let to worse acceleration behaviour lower max speed, and more frequent need of maintanace, to refill AddBlue, for the cars on the street.
            The way that the controll unit identifies test behavior is different from company to company. But since basically all car companies used the same controll unit from Bosch, finding out how other people did is easy as soon as you know the trick. (And private researchers where able to reverse engineer it, for German newspapers)

            @Aapje
            It’s important to add that it wasn’t the VW software engineers who developed the fraudulent software, but engineers from Bosch. Who by the way delivered the firmware with a note saying “You know it would be illegal to sell cars running this, right?”

        • deciusbrutus says:

          Affected model years 2009-2015, so six years before it got revealed.

          Failed to keep the secret.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m going to confess that what really shattered my belief in this argument (which I used to make all the time) was the VW emissions scandal. Everyone involved had such a strong incentive to be the weak link

          What I don’t understand, in part because I haven’t looked into it closely, was who exactly “everyone involved” was.

          VW was I think unique in the bit where someone explicitly programmed the software to “game the test”. That crosses the line into deliberate fraud and conspiracy. But was it a top-down fraud where VW management said “this sneaky bit is how we are going to meet the standard”? Or did VW management just tell its engineers, “meet this standard somehow or no bonuses for anyone and probably layoffs”, and then turn a blind eye to the rest?

          The latter would be within the realm of petty conspiracies that can stay secret almost indefinitely. Until US regulators started asking troublesome questions, at which point any coverup would drag VW management into the sort of large explicit conspiracy that can’t stay hidden for long (and, in fact didn’t).

      • deciusbrutus says:

        The Catholic Church didn’t keep any secret. They just used their political power to overtly protect individuals.

        • NoRandomWalk says:

          I legitimately didn’t know about the issue. Not, I knew about it but didn’t say anything because I was afraid of reprisal.
          And I think that’s true for most catholics (of which I am not one)

          • EchoChaos says:

            Yeah, “the Catholic Church is engaged in widespread tolerance of child sexual abuse which it uses institutional power to prevent” was not known by the average person.

            That’s pretty much a definitional secret.

          • albatross11 says:

            There were rumors and even jokes about gay priests with an interest in young men, which I sometimes heard as a non-Catholic growing up.

            Later on, there were some scandals involving priests abusing minors (as I understand it, this was almost always closeted gay priests having some kind of inappropriate relationship with adolescent boys), which were hushed up but word about them still leaked out. This looked like the normal behavior of an organization, and a reasonable guess was that it was just the base rate of such things.

            Still later, it became clear that the church hierarchy in the US had been actively protecting the priests in question, including moving them from parish to parish as part of the way they quieted down the scandals. This took a small problem that can afflict any organization (scouting, schools, etc.), and massively magnified it, since the same priest would sometimes abuse minors in several successive parishes. It also became clear that the church hierarchy had spent way more effort on quieting down the scandals and taking care of the abusive priests than on protecting future adolescent boys from being abused.

            More recently, the full (maybe) scope of this came out more clearly, and a lot of surrounding details/claims about widespread gay sex among priests and sometimes among priests and seminary students came out. Among other things, this badly damaged the reputation of some previously very highly-thought-of cardinals and bishops, caused at least one cardinal to resign (Washington DC has a new archbishop as a result), and filled in a picture of a whole network of closeted gay priests who had blackmail material on one another that may have explained how some abusive priests managed to get such gentle treatment from the church hierarchy.

        • theodidactus says:

          I know I’ve had this exact conversation on SSC before but

          * The movie Spotlight does a really good job showing how a secret can be “kept” even if everyone knows it. Like half the work those folks did in real life was going through their own clip archives.

          * one of the best things the movie does is show how scandal-“breaking” is a collective action problem. The lawyer in that movie is the best example: he looks like a villain for “keeping the secret” but he (spoiler) tried for years to tell the press about what his victims went through…and no one cared…and when no one cares, the best thing do to for your clients is talk them into quietly settling.

          * As a deeply-embedded catholic, I can definitely tell you that creepy-priest jokes were in vogue among the youth pre-9-11…this would be before the scandal went mainstream. It’s possible that I have memories that seem stronger in light of what we now know, but I definitely remember these jokes pre-9-11.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            It’s kinda moving the goalposts to say “The Catholic Church didn’t keep the secret because there were jokes and rumors about gay priests and kids” but “The US military kept the secret despite there being an entire culture phenomenon about them having UFOs and reverse engineering them”.

            I’m making a much stronger claim: That the Catholic Church failed to keep the secret but used its political power to delay it from blowing up for decades.

            That is to say, people who had no affirmative obligation to the church to protect church secrets knew a lot about how the church was enabling abusers, and remained silent only because the church successfully threatened them. They continue to remain silent about being threatened because the Catholic Church’s threats are credible and effective.

          • albatross11 says:

            What threats can the Catholic church hierarchy make against a victims’ group, a newspaper, or a blogger to force them to keep silence, at this point?

  32. Aapje says:

    Re: Navy patent

    It makes zero sense for the navy to patent that kind of invention if it was real, just like you don’t see the army patenting secret weapon technology.

    Re: Caplan on South Africa

    Caplan makes the typical libertarian mistake of equalizing well-being to income. He argues that an influx of low-IQ people benefits high-IQ people, as evidenced by on average high-IQ white people in S-Africa earning way more than on average low-IQ black people. This ignores that many white South-Africans lock themselves up in gated communities guarded like prison, except with security keeping people out. That crime is extremely common. That 10% of the parliament seats are filled by a party whose leader has said “We are not calling for the slaughter of white people‚ at least for now”. That he and former president Zuma have repeatedly sung the ‘shoot the Boer’ song. That the country can’t keep the electricity on and has water shortages.

    So even if white South-Africans were richer due to the presence of so many less educated and lower average IQ black people, which doesn’t seem proven at all, it is not obvious that the many downsides are worth it. Even if one only looks at money, one can wonder how much of that income is wasted on mitigating the downsides.

    Also, it is completely unsurprising that the end of apartheid didn’t lower white incomes, as that also meant the end of sanctions. That a lack of sanctions is economically beneficial is non-controversial and doesn’t mean that open borders is beneficial. I’m not sure how Apartheid proves anything about open borders anyway, since South Africa definitely didn’t really adopt open borders after Apartheid ended, formally and informally (there is no black solidarity in this matter, as is evidenced by black South Africans regularly beating up black migrants).

    Even if Caplan is correct, then open borders increases intra-country inequality, which many oppose.

    • Murphy says:

      The US military weirdly does patent cutting edge weapons tech.

      They’ll even patent vague ideas.

      https://www.e-reading.life/chapter.php/71262/33/Feynman_-_Surely_Youre_Joking%2C_Mr._Feynman__Adventures_of_a_Curious_Character.html

      The guy continues: “We’re planning to start a laboratory on nuclear-propelled rocket airplanes. It will have an annual budget of so-and-so-many million dollars …” Big numbers.

      I said, “Just a moment, sir; I don’t know why you’re telling me all this.”

      “Just let me speak to you,” he says; “just let me explain everything. Please let me do it my way.”

      So he goes on a little more, and says how many people are going to be in the laboratory, so-and-so-many people at this level, and so-and-so-many Ph.D’s at that level …

      “Excuse me, sir,” I say, “but I think you have the wrong fella.”

      “Am I talking to Richard Feynman, Richard P. Feynman?”

      “Yes, but you’re …”

      “Would you please let me present what I have to say, sir, and then we’ll discuss it.”

      “All right!”

      I sit down and sort of close my eyes to listen to all this stuff, all these details about this big project, and I still haven’t the slightest idea why he’s giving me all this information,

      Finally, when he’s all finished, he says,
      “I’m telling you about our plans because we want to know if you would like to be the director of the laboratory.”

      “Have you really got the right fella?” I say. “I’m a professor of theoretical physics. I’m not a rocket engineer, or an airplane engineer, or anything like that.”

      “We’re sure we have the right fellow.’

      “Where did you get my name then? Why did you decide to call me ?”

      “Sir, your name is on the patent for nuclear-powered, rocket-propelled airplanes.”

      “Oh,” I said, and I realized why my name was on the patent, and I’ll have to tell you the story. I told the man, “I’m sorry, but I would like to continue as a professor at Cornell University.”

      What had happened was, during the war, at Los Alamos, there was a very nice fella in charge of the patent office for the government, named Captain Smith. Smith sent around a notice to everybody that said something like, “We in the patent office would like to patent every idea you have for the United States government, for which you are working now. Any idea you have on nuclear energy or its application that you may think everybody knows about, everybody doesn’t know about: Just come to my office and tell me the idea.”

      I see Smith at lunch, and as we’re walking back to the technical area, I say to him, “That note you sent around: That’s kind of crazy to have us come in and tell you every idea.”

      We discussed it back and forth—by this time we’re in his office—and I say, “There are so many ideas about nuclear energy that are so perfectly obvious, that I’d be here all day telling you stuff.”

      “LIKE WHAT?”

      “Nothin’ to it!” I say. “Example: nuclear reactor … under water … water goes in … steam goes out the other side … Pshshshsht –it’s a submarine. Or: nuclear reactor … air comes rushing in the front… heated up by nuclear reaction … out the back it goes … Boom ! Through the air—it’s an airplane. Or: nuclear reactor … you have hydrogen go through the thing … Zoom !—it’s a rocket. Or: nuclear reactor … only instead of using ordinary uranium, you use enriched uranium with beryllium oxide at high temperature to make it more efficient … It’s an electrical power plant. There’s a million ideas!” I said, as I went out the door.

      Nothing happened.

      About three months later, Smith calls me in the office and says, “Feynman, the submarine has already been taken. But the other three are yours.” So when the guys at the airplane company in California are planning their laboratory, and try to find out who’s an expert in rocket-propelled whatnots, there’s nothing to it: They look at who’s got the patent on it!

      Anyway, Smith told me to sign some papers for the three ideas I was giving to the government to patent. Now, it’s some dopey legal thing, but when you give the patent to the government, the document you sign is not a legal document unless there’s some exchange , so the paper I signed said, “For the sum of one dollar, I, Richard P. Feynman, give this idea to the government …”

      I sign the paper.

      “Where’s my dollar?”

      “That’s just a formality,” he says. “We haven’t got any funds set up to give a dollar.”

      “You’ve got it all set up that I’m signing for the dollar,” I say. “I want my dollar!”

      “This is silly,” Smith protests.

      “No, it’s not,” I say. “It’s a legal document, You made me sign it, and I’m an honest man. There’s no fooling around about it.”

      “All right, all right!” he says, exasperated. “I’ll give you a dollar, from my pocket!”

      “OK.”

      I take the dollar, and I realize what I’m going to do. I go down to the grocery store, and I buy a dollar’s worth—which was pretty good, then—of cookies and goodies, those chocolate goodies with marshmallow inside, a whole lot of stuff.

      I come back to the theoretical laboratory, and I give them out: “I got a prize, everybody! Have a cookie! I got a prize! A dollar for my patent! I got a dollar for my patent!”

      Everybody who had one of those patents—a lot of people had been sending them in—everybody comes down to Captain Smith: they want their dollar!

      He starts shelling them out of his pocket, but soon realizes that it’s going to be a hemorrhage! He went crazy trying to set up a fund where he could get the dollars these guys were insisting on. I don’t know how he settled up.

    • albatross11 says:

      Notably, a whole lot of white South Africans left SA when Apartheid ended. This was entirely rational, because there was a good chance that the handover of power was going to be followed by a permanent one-party state whose main operating principle was payback. A South African friend of mine said that when it was going down, the phrase she often heard was “One man, one vote, once.”

    • John Schilling says:

      It makes zero sense for the navy to patent that kind of invention if it was real, just like you don’t see the army patenting secret weapon technology.

      Secret patents are actually a thing. I think I’m coinventor on one, though it may have expired by now. They are necessary to forestall subsequent inventors (or patent trolls) from saying “I just now discovered and patented X; anyone using X next week has to pay me $bignum”. So it’s quite possible for the Navy to reverse-engineer UFO tech, patent it, and not tell anyone how it works.

      Well, except for the bit where the Zeta Reticulans will claim priority, and extrasolar patent litigation is a bitch, but never mind that.

      Submitting an open patent for something of such obvious and decisive military utility, strongly suggests that they want publicity. A joke, a hoax, or a diversion, and the only question is whether it’s a couple of dubious characters having fun or some official operation. Since nobody serious is going to take this seriously enough to matter (e.g. to weaken their nation’s mundane defenses by sinking gigabucks down a UFO-drive sinkhole), I’m leaning more towards the former.

      • Well, except for the bit where the Zeta Reticulans will claim priority, and extrasolar patent litigation is a bitch, but never mind that.

        For one thing, whose reference frame do you use to determine simultaneity?

        • John Schilling says:

          See, this is what happens when we start letting people with physics doctorates become law school professors.

          But, OK, there’s no helping it now. NIST is just going to have to use a reverse-engineered UFO drive to go out and put a set of timekeeping beacons in close orbit about Sagittarius A* as an official standard for simultaneity and precedence in legal disputes throughout the Milky Way.

        • Lambert says:

          With algorithmic day-traders now putting their assets as close to the exchanges as possible in order to minimise speed-of-light delay, I wonder how long it will be before we start to see relativistic court cases.

    • PorterBridges says:

      The end of Apartheid in South Africa is an excellent test case for open borders.

      If Caplan can convince me that white people didn’t lose any income due to the end of Apartheid, that’s a huge deal. I’m not yet convinced.

      I’d like to see Caplan debate a good expert representing the other side that white people experienced zero loss (or nearly zero) of income, zero loss of education opportunity.

      I’ve heard that South Africa practices drastic affirmative action and racial preferences in the universities and in civil service: that sounds bad. Maybe that’s just hearsay, I don’t know how to quantify that, and maybe my emotional brain exaggerates it. I feel I’m open minded where a good data driven argument could convince me, but I don’t just take Caplan’s word for it.

      • Ketil says:

        TL;DR: they didn’t end apartheid enough, by nationalizing land and industry and handing it out to the poor. (Like in that next-door paradise, Zimbabwe?)
        But the still enormous inequality, unemployment, and crime raises the question whether this is caused by opening opportunities to the black majority, or just bad governance in general. My money is on the latter, which means a decline in welfare for the white minority may be caused by the same.

        https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/business/south-africa-economy-apartheid.html

        Interesting basis for apartheid: an emerging class of poor white proletarians. Keep the blacks down, so that the slightly less worse off whites feel better about it. Sounds slightly familiar?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_Commission_of_Investigation_on_the_Poor_White_Question_in_South_Africa

        Presentation on job market by race. Rather coarse (only compares 1994 and 2014, and there is substantial overall growth) but doesn’t seem show obviously bad outcomes for the white minority:

        https://www.statssa.gov.za/presentation/Stats%20SA%20presentation%20on%20skills%20and%20unemployment_16%20September.pdf

      • Aapje says:

        My understanding, which admittedly is not based on too much familiarity, is that:
        – S-Africa is trying to balance affirmative action with not destroying their country, causing anger among many blacks
        – The end of apartheid ended sanctions, which ought to by itself increase wages
        – Those sanctions might have had very limited negative impact, although the impact seems fairly unclear. If it did have impact, it was probably more by preventing new successes, rather than hampering the existing industry.
        – S-Africa has traditionally had a shortage of skilled labor, not so much unskilled labor. Under Apartheid (60’s/70’s), there was fairly substantial immigration of skilled white migrants.
        – Both during and after Apartheid, there was great resistance to black labor immigration from the rest of Africa, with nothing that can be described as open borders before or after.
        – White poverty has increased, in part due to affirmative action. So if white incomes have not deteriorated, income differences between the richest and poorest white Afrikaners must have increased.
        – Post-Apartheid policies & such might have/be depressing economic performance, for example, the apparent increase in corruption, as well as affirmative action.

        IMO, depending on how you judge various impacts, you can make many a just-so story, like:
        – The end of sanctions should have greatly increased skilled (and thus mostly white) wages, that they didn’t shows that open borders, affirmative action, etc is bad for skilled people.
        – Affirmative action should have greatly depressed white wages. That they didn’t, shows that open borders was a great boon to skilled workers.

        Again, both of these assume that post-Apartheid had something that can be called open borders, which I dispute in the first place.

  33. teneditica says:

    New research paper claims that “deaths of despair” are caused by white people being angry at the loss of their white privilege. This should immediately prompt another round of “spot the statistical malpractice people are using to provide scientific cover for the dominant narrative”, but in this case Clay Routledge has already done our work: the paper is just a rehash of the finding that Trump did unusually well in areas hit by the opioid epidemic and deaths of despair. The paper uses Trump support as a proxy for racism, tries to adjust out a few confounders, declares the whole thing probably causal, and so reframes this as “racism must be causing deaths of despair”.

    I must admit I haven’t read the entire paper, just an excerpt, but it seemed to me that the paper genuinely tried to call attention to the suffering that anti-white-rhetoric causes, with just a few shibboleths.

    If you’re wondering what socialists want, this article on How To Build Socialist Institutions gives a pretty good rundown of moderate socialist proposals (eg nationalize things that have successfully been nationalized in other countries and times, switch various things to co-ops).

    The article doesn’t even try to argue that certain things have been successfully nationalized. Unless success is defined as: Hasn’t collapsed yet. As for switching to co-ops: People are and should be free to start co-ops, but I’m assuming switching to co-ops is supposed to mean that ownership of a corporation is transfered to workers? Why would anyone start a new corporation with that threat looming in the background?

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      The article doesn’t even try to argue that certain things have been successfully nationalized. Unless success is defined as: Hasn’t collapsed yet.

      Tell me, when’s Deutsche Bahn going to collapse? The BBC also seems to be going pretty strong.

      • teneditica says:

        I wasn’t predicting the immininent collapse of any government owned company. I’m just saying that the mere fact that a company hasn’t collapsed yet, and even that its collapse isn’t imminent, is not success.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Then what is?

          • teneditica says:

            Really? Shouldn’t the person claiming something was a success find a metric?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            What are you actually trying to say? You seem to be snarking, but I can’t detect any traces of an underlying point.

            The (blindingly) obvious position to take is that success for a government owned company can generally be measured the same way as success for a normal one. By that standard, either DB is a success or (as you seemed to be implying above) no privately owned company is.

          • teneditica says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            If government owned companies are supposed to run like normal ones, what’s their point?

            Does every capitalist corporation in existence count as a success for capitalism?

  34. greghb says:

    Army Partners With Former Blink-182 Founder To Study Alien Technology.

    How can one be a former founder?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Enjoyably written. I obviously agree with you, but I appreciate you taking the time to do the math on some of the migration numbers.

    • Prussian says:

      Thanks for this. By the way, don’t expect Bryan Caplan or Zach Weinersmith to respond or acknowledge any of this.

      I was truly depressed to see how Caplan talks about how he believes in magic culture!!!

      Back in the real world, we can see what’s happened in Europe. Mass islamic immigration has meant that European countries are more and more adapting themselves to Islamic norms. Your map of how people are still carrying their culture around centuries later in America was a real eye opener.

      But, I guess, Caplan can hold a rabbit’s foot under a stepladder and make it all good.

      • Aapje says:

        It’s actually more complex, with many Islamic countries have norms that are not so much Islamic, but local to a region, some of which are from before the countries became Islamic (like female circumcision, which is a pre-Islamic practice that is only done in countries that already did it before Islam came around and in fact, also done by some Christian communities).

        Mahreb migrants are the borderers of Europe, having a culture that clashes immensely with Western civilization*. In contrast, migrants from countries like Iran do way lot better. Although to be fair, selection effects play a role here too (Europe got the well-educated Iranians and selected for working-class Mahrebians, but the latter still do a lot worse than Turks who were selected similarly and both groups did worse compared to Italians).

        * Or perhaps more correctly, interacts with it in a bad way, where modern Social Justice mindset feeds honor culture in a super-destructive way, which is far less true for Calvinist culture.

        • Prussian says:

          It’s a bit more complex, but less so than you say. To take FGM, for example, wherever FGM came from, it is firmly part of the Islamic mainstream, with three of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence listing it as “noble/desirable”, and the fourth, the Shafi’i, listing it as “obligatory”.

          The point I was getting at is that in Europe an Enlightenment culture is slowly giving way to an Islamic one. Freedom of speech is a good example – more and more are willing to rationalize restrictions on blasphemy, sorry, “offensive speech”. There have been hundreds of thousands of FGM cases in Britain and only recently has there been any prosecution of the same. You have extremely high levels of jew-hatred being imported. And so on.

          And, just to pile one doomsday scenario onto another, this is, slowly but surely, leading to a backlash. It’s pure fuel for parties and movements we really, really don’t want to see rising. So I have to say that Caplan & Z.W. are getting on my nerves here.

          • Aapje says:

            The two main Muslim groups in my country are Moroccans and Turks, both of which are Sunni. Neither practice FGM. Also, there has been no apparent increase in acceptance of FGM in my country, merely more awareness.

            Note that Dutch-American Hirshi-Ali, who likes to fight FGM, is Somali, which is a smaller minority in my country. Their culture doesn’t make for much success in the West, but at least it is not very criminal.

            Freedom of speech has been restricted in Europe quite a lot before. A regression on this front is not really evidence of Islamisation, especially as the SJ restrictions are mostly not those that a conservative Muslim would favor (and vice versa).

            The issue in Europe is far less that the elite or society as a whole is adopting negative Islamic beliefs, but more that there is a strong tendency by the elite to ignore these problems or to blame them on the natives. Or clear causality is ignored when it doesn’t suit the ideology (like the link between migration from Islamic countries and terrorism, which somehow is not an argument one may use against Muslim immigration, nor do those who favor easier migration openly argue that the resulting terrorism is worth it, which is probably what many believe, but refuse to defend).

            So I don’t foresee a ‘giving way,’ but rather an increase in parallel societies and friction between groups. I agree with you that this boosts the far right. I’m not very hopeful about the next big recession, which I think will uncover many tensions, as recessions are wont to do.

          • Prussian says:

            The issue in Europe is far less that the elite or society as a whole is adopting negative Islamic beliefs, but more that there is a strong tendency by the elite to ignore these problems or to blame them on the natives

            It’s not so much adopting as accepting, I’ll grant you. The elite don’t believe in the death penalty for blasphemy, they just find it easier to make excuses for the fanatics who do believe that. So the overall effect is that that point of view gains dominance.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            To take FGM, for example, wherever FGM came from, it is firmly part of the Islamic mainstream, with three of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence listing it as “noble/desirable”, and the fourth, the Shafi’i, listing it as “obligatory”.

            Then why is FGM much more common in Ethiopia than Saudi Arabia?

            Freedom of speech is a good example – more and more are willing to rationalize restrictions on blasphemy, sorry, “offensive speech”.

            Many European countries still have literal blasphemy laws, with occasional half-hearted attempts to prosecute under them continuing to this day and serious censorship being common as recently as the 70s/80s.

            There have been hundreds of thousands of FGM cases in Britain and only recently has there been any prosecution of the same. You have extremely high levels of jew-hatred being imported.

            C i t a t i o n s n e e d e d

          • Prussian says:

            Citation provided.

            Those articles are from Julie Bindel, a really old-school feminist and socialist, so it isn’t just us right wing maniacs saying this.

            Here’s the NYT on islamic Jew Hatred in France

            Here’s the Atlantic asking whether it is time for Jews to flee Europe.

            Here’s the NYT again, talking about the uncomfortable truth about Jew-hatred in Sweden

            Here are the Jews fleeing Malmo.

            Here’s Wikipedia.

            I can keep doing this, believe me, but this should be enough to be going on with.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Also this one from National Geographic:
            https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2019/11/french-jews-fleeing-country/

            This should also count as evidence that the left is not above talking about these things, since NG is typically very liberal.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Have you read Bindel? What do you mean “FGM cases in Britain”? She takes the number of women born in places that practice FGM, assumes that emigrants are identical to the general population and computes the number of women who would have had FGM. But had it in the home country, not in Britain! Bindel estimates that these women have 65k daughters. That is the relevant number.

            The question is whether immigrants assimilate. Bindel simply assumes that they don’t. That’s fine for her purpose, but it’s circular to cite her as evidence against assimilation.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Stories about antisemitism in France need to be viewed in the context of several facts:
            – France has a lot more right-wing antisemitism than most European countries (for instance, the cemetery desecration linked in that National Geographic article) as well as people who are primarily anti-semites rather than politically left or right (for instance Dieudonné who is equally at home with Le Pen and Ahmadinejad).

            – Unlike other most other European countries, most French Jews are Sephardic and have the same nth-generation North African immigrant background as the majority of French Muslims. Therefore antisemitism in the latter group differs in various ways from antisemitism among e.g. British Muslims who are nth-generation Pakistani.

            – For whatever reasons, French Muslims become terrorists (and in particular commit antisemitic acts of terrorism) a lot more frequently than Muslims in other European countries.

            Due to these, you should be wary of making inferences about the level of antisemitism among French Muslims from a narrative about high levels of antisemitism in France in general, and also of generalising details about antisemitism (or anything) among French Muslims to European Muslims in general.

            I don’t know what’s going on in Malmö. Possibly antisemitism there was encouraged by the previous mayor who has expressed some dubious views on Israel, but you shouldn’t conclude from this one example that letting people called Ilmar into Western European countries is a bad idea. In any case, all narratives I have seen about antisemitism among European Muslims (in general, not just the articles you posted) focus on France and Malmö specifically. For the reasons discussed above, you shouldn’t generalise from those to Europe as a whole.

          • Ant says:

            Living in France, the only adaptation I see to islamic norm is :
            _ There tend to be more option for muslim to eat (for instance, there will be 3% of the surface of a supermaket devoted to muslim food, and it will be easy to find arabic sweets during ramadan. In comparison, eating fish on friday was imposed during the manadatory part of my scolarity.
            _ Half of the official holiday are for christian event, 0 for any other religion.
            _ The racist and stupid law against the veil is still in effect, because laicity is a core value of France. France also pay christian and jew priest (and only those, it’s apparently constitutionally impossible to give the same right to muslim) because part of the constitution mandate it (but in a laic way, I suppose).
            _ The anti muslim party is currently going for the second place in the presidential election, despite being by far the most corrupt and inconpetent of the bunch (which is easier than it used to be, but still something to be “proud” of).
            _ In the 60/70, Hara Kiri, a satirical newspaper was legally closed twice by the autorities, officially because they weren’t suitable to children. The last one was definitive. Some of those founder create a few year later Charlie Hebdo. I haven’t heard about closing Charlie hebdo because they were blasphemous, and killing, threatening or harassing journalist is not something that’s even close to be accepted.

            In summary, could you consider for a moment that Fox news and your source in general are full of shit ?

            Thinking that Europe is going to go hardcore muslim because of terrorist is like thinking that the USa are going to become a black supremacist country because of Obama, Black Live Matter and affirmative action in university.

            Now for your remark about Zach not making fun of muslim, let me suggest a few reason :
            One is that you can laugh about anything, on the condition that you laugh about it. People who ask about joke against Islam generally don’t have laughing as a primary objective
            The second one is that you can laugh about anything but not with anyone. I wouldn’t want to be see laughing with racist, and I suspect that Zach Weiner doesn’t want this either.

          • Prussian says:

            @Douglas Knight, I have read Bindel, including the bit where she points out that the number of recorded FGM instances are drastically underreported, and also where she notes that children are being brought to the UK for FGM. And also where she notes how it took decades for anyone to even begin to admit this was a problem.

            As regards Ant, have you considered that not one – not one – of those links that you haven’t bothered to read is to Fox News? That they are quite deliberately to mainstream, even left-liberal publications? Have you considered that this is all suspiciously similar to what’s going on in Malmo, and if you don’t know that, it’s because you haven’t read or looked or investigated? Have you considered that, just maybe, things likea Jew being tortured to death with chants from the Koran inspires these ideas? ? Did you, perhaps, consider that this isn’t an isolated thing, that it needs to be considered in light with the same phenomena popping up all over Europe, which you’d know if you’d, e.g., read the link to Wikipedia?

            Thinking that Europe is going to go hardcore muslim

            Maybe you might want to consider that I haven’t here, or elsewhere, argued that, but was talking specifically about the importation of violently illiberal beliefs and attitudes, including Jew-hatred?

            Arguing that Islamic immigration hasn’t brought with it extreme and murderous anti-Semitism is just plain fantasy.

            thisheavenlyconjugation, okay, you don’t want to hear about France or Malmo – actually, my links talk about Sweden as a whole. Alright:

            – Here in Germany is how “Jew” is being used as an insult by, hem hem, a certain community, and how 41% of antisemitic incidents were at the hands of Muslims.

            – Here is a German synagogue burned down

            Here is what happened when an Israeli Arab tried walking through Berlin with a kippah

            Here’s the annual al-Quds day

            Here’s even Mehdi “kafirs are animals” Hasan admitting jew-hatred is rife among British Muslims.

            Here’s an investigation in Mosques in Britain where you can hear such charming statements as burning down Hindu businesses and killing Jews personally.

            Etc. Etc. I wrote that I can keep doing this; believe me, I can.

            Look, does anyone here really think I’ve made all this up? I mean, really?

          • Aapje says:

            @Prussian

            My understanding is that FGM typically happens abroad, where parents go on holiday to their native/ancestor country and then have their daughters cut.

            This is legally much safer for them and the person doing the operation.

            It makes little sense to bring girl to a Western nation to be GFMed.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Prussian
            The article you say is about Sweden in general gives examples almost exclusively about Malmö.

            The reason I’m bringing up France and Malmö specifically is that the case for high levels of antisemitism (in comparison to other prejudices) in those places is strong. For France there is the high number of antisemitic terrorist attacks. For Malmö, Wikipedia says that 79 of the 700 Jews living there were attacked in 2009. This is high enough that we can conclude there is a major problem with antisemitism without having to look for corresponding figures for Islamophobia, homophobia etc..

            But this is not true in other places. You can build a compelling narrative from a list of incidents for anything (for instance, read through this) — although some of your links don’t even do that; I don’t find the story of a single man who said some terrible things and was then imprisoned for inciting racial hatred to be very persusasive. Unless the incidents are particularly bad (France) or spatially compressed (Malmö) you need to look at statistics to draw a justified conclusion.

            Doing that for British hate crime figures 2017-2018, it looks like antisemitic incidents are somewhat more common than anti-Muslim ones (assuming frequency of reporting is the same between the two) with both having a yearly incidence somewhere in the range 0.1-1%, but a British Muslim is more likely to be a victim of a hate crime than a British Jew because racially motivated hate crimes (and specifically ones against British Asians) are more common than religious ones. From a brief look it seems like the situation is similar in Germany, but I would be interested to hear if you have different results for that (or any other country).

          • Prussian says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation, this is again missing the point. To take it in reverse order, I’ve never denied that there is a backlash building – in point of fact, I’ve been warning about it for years. But that wasn’t what was being discussed.

            What was being discussed is whether or not Islamic immigration has imported murderous anti-Semitism, and that is beyond debate. Saying, “Oh, that article only mentions Malmo!” is like saying “Oh that article only mentions Ferguson” if the subject is White Nationalism in America.

            I really can’t reprint all of my 40,000 word post here, so all I can ask is that you bother to go look and read some of the evidence on this subject for yourself.

            @Aapje – (btw, how do you pronounce that?) – I agree, that is what I had heard, that FGM is usually carried out abroad. That’s why I was staggered to read that from Bindel. But then I thought – why am I staggered? Considering how London has become a byword of bad news among more liberal Muslim nations would this be really that surprising?

            Re:FGM, you were asking how come Turks and Morroccona practice it if they’re Sunni. Well, different people are more or less observant. But my point was one cannot say it’s not Islamic when it is endorsed by the 4 big schools of Sunni jurisprudence. Same way you can’t say that keeping Lent isn’t Christian, even if not all Christians observe it.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Prussian
            No, you’re completely failing to engage with my point. Asserting something is “beyond debate” does not actually make it so; you need to provide evidence. And if you want to show that something is a systemic problem then that evidence needs to be statistical, not just anecdotes and first-principles speculation based on scripture.

          • But my point was one cannot say it’s not Islamic when it is endorsed by the 4 big schools of Sunni jurisprudence.

            That does not seem to be the case. Quoting from The Reliance of the Traveler, a very large shafi’i manual of fiqh:

            “Hanbalis hold that circumcision of women is not obligatory but sunna, while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband.”

            Also relevant, from the same source, on circumcision:
            “and for women, removing the prepuce of the clitoris (n: not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert).”

          • Prussian says:

            thc, please bother to read some of those sources. Read my extensive post on the subject. I mean, even if the ethnic cleansing of Jews is only happening in Malmo, that is a pretty damn big story. That’s really all there’s left to say.

            David Freedman, yes, I know the Reliance of the Traveller, but that quote does not seem to conflict with my previous comment that 3 out of the 4 consider FGM “recommended” and one – the Shafi’i – consider it “obligatory”. Maybe I’m missing something here.

          • @Prussian:

            In the post I think I was responding to, you said female circumcision was “endorsed by the 4 big schools of Sunni jurisprudence.” I took “endorsed” to be something stronger than “they speak positively of it, but it isn’t an act you will be rewarded for in heaven, nor an act you will be punished for not doing.”

          • Lambert says:

            You mean in the sense of al-aḥkām al-khamsa (The Five Rulings)?

            Speaking of the whole Weinersmith thing, I’m sure there’s a joke to be made in comparing this part of Islamic jurisprudence to RFC 2119

          • You mean in the sense of al-aḥkām al-khamsa (The Five Rulings)?

            Yes.

          • Aapje says:

            @Prussian

            The pronunciation is [ *aː . p j ə ], if that helps.

          • Prussian says:

            @David Freedman

            Ah. If nothing else, this has been a great way to find out how even a small difference in the meaning of a word can lead to a disagreement. Worth knowing. 🙂

      • I’ve been reading Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe and I didn’t realize how bad it was. For decades, the governments have been saying meaningless platitudes to the voters who want to limit Islamic immigration while their demographics dramatically change. It’s too late to do anything without resorting to the methods people don’t want to do. But as the situation gets worse, the governments are doing less and less to deter immigrants. It’s the kind of policy that Democrats in the US are trying to push on the rest of the country.

      • m.alex.matt says:

        Your map of how people are still carrying their culture around centuries later in America was a real eye opener.

        It may be worthwhile to actually read the book that map is based on, because I’m not sure the author of that article did.

        The thesis of American Nations (and Albion’s Seed) is that of a first mover advantage when it comes to culture, not of persistent subsequent immigrant cultures. The initial settlers of a region set the culture there and the culture persists through some really shocking degrees of change in economy, demographics, population density, even environment. Albion’s Seed is kind of the better researched book on this one, by the way: while American Nations is easier to read and has a broader take (more ‘nations’), it’s less comprehensive from an analytical point of view.

        • Clutzy says:

          To be honest, I think this theory greatly exaggerates the first mover advantage.

          As a descendant of the 1860-1910 immigrants, I find the notion that America successfully assimilated the new immigrants hilarious. Is part of this because all of my descendants came from the north? Maybe, but I don’t think a sane person can look at America in 1880, and then in 1930 and say, “well those immigrants really didn’t change much.” They were the backbone of political machines that changed cities, states, and eventually the nation. Wilson and FDR, who involved us in the biggest international wars in the history of the US would not have been elected without the support of the recent immigrants and their children.

          America changed as much as it assimilated. The same has happened recently in places like California. It increasingly looks like a classic latin american country with an oligarchy + an underclass.

  35. AlphaGamma says:

    In other Uber news, they recently lost their licence to operate in London, though they have been allowed to continue pending their appeal. A London transport and history blogger writing as “John Bull” (which may or may not be a pseudonym) has written an interesting article about this.

    The reason given is that Uber’s app was insufficiently secure, allowing drivers who were not properly licensed to use licensed drivers’ Uber login details to accept rides on their behalf- and to upload their own photo so the passenger couldn’t tell the difference!

    The most salient paragraph IMO is:

    The answer is that there is an existential dilemma lurking at the heart of Uber. It is Schrodinger’s taxi firm. To be profitable it needs to be an app. But to operate in London it needs to be a cab firm.

    (In London, minicab drivers- what Uber claims to be, similar to a US car service- must not only themselves be licensed, but must also work for a licensed cab firm. Uber simultaneously claims to be a licensed cab firm for regulatory purposes and claims that its drivers are their own independent cab operators for tax purposes)

    Note that other Uber-like businesses are operating in London without the same problems, so they may not be inherent to the “rideshare” business- only to Uber’s specific business model. Plus, of course, the traditional- if unusually large- minicab firm Addison Lee ran into similar trouble over the employment status of its drivers.

    • Incurian says:

      How much better is the security for regular cabs?

      • Anthony says:

        If Uber’s app has a hole such that someone can use another driver’s login, then they’re now on the level of regular cabs, modulo local laws regarding background checks for cabbies vs Uber. Though even then, the security of app-based cabs is better than that of regular cabs, as the driver is known, and can be figured out after the fact. If an impostor (subcontractor?) assaults someone, the rider can go to the police, who will get the details of the account-holder from Uber. One or two cases of someone getting arrested for something someone else did will make the drivers be more careful about letting others use their logins.

        • Evan Þ says:

          If Uber drivers do that, it’d usually be obvious to their passengers – when I book an Uber, I get a notification with the driver’s name and photo and the make, model, and license plate number of their car. If I’m told that Bob will be arriving in a white Prius with this number, and I see a red Tesla with this other plate number, then I know something’s up and probably won’t even get into the car.

          Maybe if a driver switches with someone else who has the same make and color of car and a similar-looking face, it’d get past their riders. But that’d cut down the options a whole lot.

          • acymetric says:

            Supposedly, according to someone elsewhere in this thread, the “substitute” driver can reupload their photo in place of the original driver’s photo.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Mission: Impossible: Ghost Ride Share Protocol

  36. DarkTigger says:

    Man wields narwhal tusk to thwart terrorist’s murder spree is now a thing that has happened.

    Even better another guy involved in stopping the attacker was, an convicted murderer with a one day pass.

    So a convicted murderer and a guy with an narwhal tusk stoped an convicted terrorist on parloe reoffending.
    I file this under “this branch of reality wasn’t meant for production”.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      “this branch of reality wasn’t meant for production”

      When I was a young lad in HS on a tour of colleges that I might want to apply to, I happened to pull a book off of a shelf in bookstore adjacent to a campus. My recollection is that the title was “Donut Holes and Other Mathematical Improbabilities” (although a search now doesn’t turn up a book by that name). The math itself was way above my head, but the thesis of the preface was readily approachable and has stuck with me to this day.

      We are exposed to a near uncountable number of events over the course of our lives. The fact that we are exposed to improbable events, thus, isn’t noteworthy. What would be noteworthy is if we didn’t observe improbable events. I think the well worn example of the probability of any two people in a class sharing a birthday may have been in there.

      The fact that someone used an improvised weapon isn’t noteworthy (we aren’t flabbergasted by the use of fire extinguisher). The fact that at some point someone would use some bizarre piece of paraphernalia to do something with is likewise merely the expected result of the near innumerable newsworthy interactions the collective we observe over the course of time.

      • g says:

        The book was probably Martin Gardner’s “Knotted doughnuts and other mathematical entertainments”. Its preface is only one paragraph, but its first chapter is entitled “Coincidence”.

      • DarkTigger says:

        That book (at least it’s title and theme) seems to be well known. At least it rings a bell.

        But yes, I’m aware that improbable events are a thing we should expect, espacially in a world where we get news from many events all over the it, from media that is incentivesed to overreport such events. “This branch of reality wasn’t meant for production” is a meme around here, that came up in 2016, around Trumps election.

    • Nick says:

      an convicted terrorist on parloe reoffending

      I just want to point out that The Onion predicted this one.

    • Riothamus says:

      He may not make an honest buck, but he’s 100% American. Now let these people go.

  37. craig729 says:

    It’s 35/publication, not 35 total. Still messed up, as can be seen by webdevmason, but not as egregious as 35 for the freelancer.

  38. zluria says:

    According to the Wikipedia article that you linked to, a boy named Timotéo Odohui likely planted the Tuscon artifacts in the ground. He was known for his “love for sculpture of soft metals and his collection of books on foreign languages”.

  39. Murphy says:

    interesting recent story of voting machines.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/30/us/politics/pennsylvania-voting-machines.html

    Vote totals in a Northampton County judge’s race showed one candidate, Abe Kassis, a Democrat, had just 164 votes out of 55,000 ballots across more than 100 precincts. Some machines reported zero votes for him. In a county with the ability to vote for a straight-party ticket, one candidate’s zero votes was a near statistical impossibility. Something had gone quite wrong.

    With clearly faulty results in at least the judge’s election, officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Mr. Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137, over his opponent, the Republican Victor Scomillio.

    The snafu in Northampton County did not just expose flaws in both the election machine testing and procurement process. It also highlighted the fears, frustrations and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the 2020 presidential contest, given how faith in American elections has never been more fragile. The problematic machines were also used in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs — areas of Pennsylvania that could prove decisive next year in one of the most critical presidential swing states in the country.

    County officials who led the purchase of the machines have argued that the system actually functioned as it should

    “We also need to focus on the outcome, which is that voter-verified paper ballots provided fair, accurate and legal election results, as indicated by the county’s official results reporting and successful postelection risk-limiting audit,” said Katina Granger, a spokeswoman for Election Systems & Software, the manufacturer of the machines. “The election was legal and fair.”

    While it’s good that the paper ballots were there to be checked….

    There’s a relevant XKCD:

    https://xkcd.com/463/

    The machines that broke in Northampton County are called the ExpressVoteXL and are made by Election Systems & Software, a major manufacturer of election machines used across the country. The ExpressVoteXL is among their newest and most high-end machines, a luxury “one-stop” voting system that combines a 32-inch touch screen and a paper ballot printer.

    apparently rather than manual testing, the system relies on automatic test which themselves have some worrying qualities.

    “It doesn’t test if the touch screen or the scanner work. It doesn’t even cast votes for everyone on the ballot,” Mr. Skoglund said. “It is especially concerning that it can send made-up votes to the vote counting software without needing a real ballot. Fake ballots are a feature no voting machine should have.”

    The automatic tests in Northampton proved problematic, and did not even cast a test vote for every candidate, according to test receipts shown to The New York Times. But the machines were still rolled out on Election Day.

    And yet another relevant XKCD
    https://xkcd.com/2030/

    Ms. Granger noted that there are nearly 6,300 ExpressVoteXL voting machines in use across the country, and none had experienced similar counting problems to those in Northampton County.

    Everyone and anyone in any any region using ExpressVoteXL voting machines shoud probably be doing manual recounts of everything that has passed through their machines ASAP.

    • Lambert says:

      Can someone just hack themselves into office then ban voting machines, already?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      With clearly faulty results in at least the judge’s election, officials began counting the paper backup ballots generated by the same machines. The paper ballots showed Mr. Kassis winning narrowly, 26,142 to 25,137, over his opponent, the Republican Victor Scomillio.

      The fact that (actual) paper ballots can be clearly, directly and permanently marked by the voter showing their intent is one of the major reasons why I am against broad-scale use of electronic indication of voter intent. Even the kind of machines described here are sub-optimal in this regard. Optical scanned and tabulated voter marked paper ballots are the way to go.

      The second reason has to do with efficiency. Once a paper ballot is given to a voter at check in, they merely need a pen and horizontal surface to mark their ballot. Tabulation for an entire precinct or other voting location can be accomplished with one machine. Peak demand is met with … one machine. Electronic machines must be present in enough number to meet the simultaneous peak demand. If this is not the case, the busiest locations suffer many hour long lines, something we have consistently seen to happen in practice.

      • EchoChaos says:

        This is one place that I totally agree with @HeelBearCub (not many of those). Electronic voting machines are a huge mistake. Paper and pencil needs to return.

        • John Schilling says:

          Ink pen rather than pencil, but yes absolutely. Electronic voting, or God help us all internet voting, is pure folly.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They kept asking until one software engineer agreed that yes, internet voting was a great idea. In 2033 that software engineer, the newly-inaugurated President Yarvin, declared internet voting an unqualified success. His Vice President was somewhat less enthusiastic, having had to change her name to Candidate McCandidateFace to get on the ticket.

          • acymetric says:

            Total aside: is there a clear origin to the [thing] Mc[thing]Face formulation, or did it just kind of happen as a cultural phenomenon?

          • Nornagest says:

            Boaty McBoatface was the first well-known example in that format, I think, although wiki cites an earlier “Hooty McOwlface”.

          • acymetric says:

            It was common enough on my college campus(es) so it dates back at least to 2006-2008. I was thinking maybe it appeared in some popular TV show or movie (like Friends or something) and spread from there.

  40. Ketil says:

    Thought experiment: if we assume that Open Borders is unpalatable to voters, and therefore not a realistic option in spite of all its glory… What if we put this proposal on its head, and instead of immigrants moving to rich countries, the rich countries (i.e., the US) instead took over third world countries, and integrated them under its dominion? What would the economic benefit be of opening up for unrestricted business with guarantees of stability and security backed by US military might?

    • Murphy says:

      You assume that the subjugated states, conquered for the empire would enjoy the benefits of empire.

      Since we’re talking about what’s politically easy… it’s much easier to reclassify subjugated people as second class citizens, ignore their welfare and pillage their wealth and resources in order to enrich the heart of the empire. Bonus points if you arrange things to focus anti-empire sentiment on internal groups by splitting the subjugated territories and getting one half to hate the other.

      You can pull it off the non-evil way, but it’s hard and looks a lot more like the EU admitting new member states or the USA allowing new states to join. And it’s expensive with the richer heartlands of the empire needing to be contributors to the cost of running it.

      But as we’ve seen with brexit, that kind of thing can be terribly politically unpopular with the same groups who complain about immigrants. So we still run into the problem of good choices being politically hard.

    • Lambert says:

      Hold my pith helmet…

    • The Nybbler says:

      This is what’s called imperialism or colonialism. Compared to open borders, it has the advantage of not collapsing the rich countries. However, it does mean fighting a lot of wars and spending a lot of money and men on keeping the third world countries dominated. You’re unlikely to get a lot of local support for building rich-country institutions in these places, because they’re foreign if for no other reason; the local support you do get is going to have ulterior motives. And the people you send over are not likely to run the places for the benefit of the natives nor even to really take on the “white man’s burden” of bringing the natives into your shiny new rich-country institutions. Instead they’ll be venal and corrupt and looking to extract what they can for themselves and screw the bloody wogs.

      So, on paper, a reasonable strategy. But the history is mixed and mostly some degree of “bad”.

      • EchoChaos says:

        But the history is mixed and mostly some degree of “bad”.

        Depends heavily on the natives. It worked great in Singapore and Hong Kong.

      • Aapje says:

        @The Nybbler

        Lots of Westerners genuinely want to help people in the third world. Not everyone is selfish.

        Of course, their idea of ‘helping’ is not necessarily shared by the locals.

        • Thegnskald says:

          A good localish case study would be to see how well our institutions are working for, say, Appalachia, to pick a poor region of the country that is, from a certain perspective, a colonial welfare state.

          Doesn’t look good.

        • DarkTigger says:

          Also their idea of helping might be formed by assumptions, that do not fit into the local conditions, or do not overlap with reality very well.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Lots of Westerners genuinely want to help people in the third world. Not everyone is selfish.

          The problem isn’t an absolute shortage of people who want to help. The problem is getting only people who want to help and actually know how in the colonial administration without them being crowded out by the venal and/or the idealistic yet incompetent.

          • Aapje says:

            Historically, many of them worked outside the colonial system.

            More specifically, the late 19th century saw a lot of teachers and doctors being hired as missionaries.

            As for competence in colonialism, the irony is that ‘white paternalism’ became unfashionable at about the same time or a bit after exploitation became so. We might have had actually benevolent rule if things had been different (and in many cases, the end of colonialism resulted in wars, genocide, etc, so even partially exploitative and partly benevolent rule might have been better, in the short term at least).

            A lot of remaining colonies of Western nations are democratic, but are run poorly by locals, with them making demands from their old colonizers, who gnash their teeth when the stuff they give is invariably dumped in a big black hole of corruption and incompetence (which is then often blamed on the old colonizers, who nevertheless are not allowed to intervene).

            I’m just happy that Suriname became independent in time, so their (ex-drug lord) president, who recently was convicted of torture and murder during his coup in the 80’s, but was nevertheless democratically elected (in 2010), is not really our problem anymore. Note that his son used government resources for drug and weapons trading, until he fell for a DEA sting to supposedly sell weapons to Hezbollah & he is now in an American cell.

            Our remaining Caribbean ‘assets’ are fortunately not this bad, just regular third world shit shows.

            France seems to have it a lot worse.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        The compromise solution would be something like charter cities, you don’t have to rule the whole country. This has other problems, namely if the city gets taken over later on.

    • albatross11 says:

      You could imagine offering some kind of formal US client status–we commit to their defense, they agree to peg their currency to the dollar and make sure their laws are broadly compliant with some US principles (no stoning people for being gay, no legalizing the wrong drugs), their citizens get some preferential immigration treatment, etc. Something a little less extensive than what Puerto Rico has, maybe?

  41. SEE says:

    Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in college and cemented a cultural association between young people and entrepreneurship. But according to the American Institute for Economic Research, this association is wrong: the average successful entrepeneur is 45 when they found their company, the youngest entrepreneurs are the least successful, and a 50-year-old’s company is almost twice as likely to succeed as a 30-year-old’s.

    Of course, this is based on whatever definition of “successful” they’re using.

    Looking at a much narrower and much more successful slice, the current seven largest companies in the world by market capitalization, all of them were started by founders of age 35 or younger.

    Jobs/Wozniak were 21/26 at the founding of Apple.
    Gates/Allen were 19/22 when they founded Microsoft.
    Bezos was 30 when he started Amazon.
    Brin and Page were both 25/25 Page when they founded Google (which has transformed into Alphabet).
    Buffet founded Buffett Partnership, Ltd at age 26 (it bought the failing textile maker Berkshire Hathaway when he was 34).
    Zuckerberg was 20 when he founded Facebook.
    Jack Ma was 35 when he founded Alibaba.

    Note the mean of those ages (to the same number of significant digits) is 25, the modes are 25 and 26, and the median is 25. So, it seems that the most successful entrepreneurs have an average age of 25.

  42. James Green says:

    On the off chance that no-one has pointed it out yet the homicides map re: Brazil vs the World is a bit misleading because it includes China on “the world’s” team. There are a hecka lot more homicides in China than end up in the officially compiled and reported data.

    This does not subtract from the main point that there are entirely too many murders in Brazil in particular and South and Central America in general.

  43. liskantope says:

    With regard to the report that only 1% of Americans see income inequality as the most important issue, to be fair, this is not surprising regardless of whether income inequality is among the very top issues on Americans’ minds. For instance, I expect that even most diehard Bernie supporters would select “climate change” as a more important issue than income inequality.

  44. theodidactus says:

    This is a risky post because I could look like an idiot or come out looking smart if I predict things in advance…

    …isn’t there some argument that the California law, at least as it pertains to freelance journalists, violates the 1st amendment? I’d liken it to certain campaign finance restrictions the supreme court has found to be unconstitutional. This is a “quantity based” restriction on speech, and perhaps more specifically the press.

    I can see the potential counterargument (for the press itself, there’s no limitation on the number of articles, there’s a limitation on the number of authors) …\
    but I still think this is weak to some kind of 1st amendment attack, precisely because the number “35” appears to be chosen arbitrarily.

    Foundation: I’m a 3L. I say that not as a point of authority but rather the opposite. I’ve taken first amendment, and did fairly well in the course, but I’m not an authority on the matter or anything.

    • Erusian says:

      I believe there has been talk of mounting such a challenge. Whether it will come to fruition or work I don’t know. The press doesn’t get special legal protections against most regulations. For example, they can’t argue that they get to pay less than minimum wage because it would limit the speech of people whose labor is only worth so much. But I suppose it could go the other way? Not a lawyer.

      • theodidactus says:

        Broad and general restrictions are of course fine…The trick is really more like a law that says “you can’t have workers that make less than minimum wage…unless you’re an antiques store, those can have 8…or a restaurant, those can have 2…or a newspaper, those can have 7”

        Then I think the press gets to be like “well wait, why 7? that sounds both over and under inclusive…” and that makes you vulnerable to some kind of strict scrutiny argument.

        Not fully formed in my own head either…this is finals week after all…but Its something people should think about.

    • ECD says:

      My initial response would be you’re trying to dress up a freedom of contract argument in freedom of speech clothes to get around seventy some years of precedent. I mean, lawyers try this all the time, but generally lose.

    • theodidactus says:

      To clarify my argument here a bit.

      1: It’s uncontroversial at this point that the state could make a law that said “All employers must pay a minimum wage of 7.50 an hour” and a theater company couldn’t shoot back “This infringes on our first amendment rights because now we can’t hire enough playwrights.” The minimum wage law is a broad law of general applicability. If you can’t deal with it, too bad.

      2: It’s also pretty uncontroversial that the state can’t make a law that says “No playwrights may write plays about criminals” , this is a pretty clear content based restriction.

      3: The supreme court has also recognized in many contexts that quantity-based restrictions are unconstitutional. These would look like “No playwright may write more than 15 plays a year.” This occurs most often in a campaign finance context. The government can’t make laws that say “no campaign may spend more than [x] on political advertising” because they recognize that money facilitates speech, and the government can’t just put a ceiling on how much talking someone gets to do in the public sphere.

      4: So what if the state made a law that said “No theater company may commission more than 5 plays per playwright?”…I think this is still a straightforward quantity restriction. You’re clearly aiming at one artistic medium and forcing them to have 25 different playwrights instead of 5 really prolific ones.

      5: The question is what would happen if the state said “No company may employ contractors for more than 10 distinct assignments (or whatever), except playwrights may get a special variance from the department of theater and culture” …this is dicey. I hope you can see that, going directly from four, a modification that says “no theater company may commission more than 5 plays per playwright unless they get a special variance from us” ultimately looks like a more egregious first amendment violation.

      6: And the evil there is of course that the government now gets to say which playwrights write more plays…even if it’s entirely neutral in its variance procedures, this looks terrible. I’m not sure an arbitrary selection of 35 commissions for freelance journalists, and a total exception for graphic designers, is any less bad.

      • ECD says:

        I think you’ve built your argument on a false premise. No one is saying you can only write, or publish 35 pieces in a year. They’re saying that if a publisher wants to buy more than 35 pieces from you in a year, then they have to treat you as an employee.

        • Erusian says:

          So you couldn’t, for example, have a weekly column? How about a small microblog that has you pump out a hundred pieces of small, SEO optimized content per year (and is counting on you having other clients)?

          I agree it’s not an issue if you’re a highly paid staff writer. But that’s kind of the reason people are objecting, isn’t it? Why are other forms of writing and journalism being restricted?

          • ECD says:

            Like I said above, I’m open to the idea that 35 is the wrong number. However, again, it’s not your right to write which is being restricted, its the publishers right to profit from your writing, without recognizing you as an employee.

            How does your argument not also apply to minimum wage/overtime/worker protection laws generally?

            Also:

            I agree it’s not an issue if you’re a highly paid staff writer.

            Did I say this? Where? If not, who are you agreeing with?

          • Erusian says:

            Like I said above, I’m open to the idea that 35 is the wrong number. However, again, it’s not your right to write which is being restricted, its the publishers right to profit from your writing, without recognizing you as an employee.

            No, it’s your right to sell that’s being restricted. That is literally what the law as written restricts. If it was trying to prevent their ability to profit, it would not be attempting to prevent the transaction but instead redistribute its profits.

            How does your argument not also apply to minimum wage/overtime/worker protection laws generally?

            Because those set prices, not quantities. Setting prices might create less jobs but, crucially, it does not undermine the idea of selling my labor enough to make a living. This does.

            I myself have pointed out elsewhere that a minimum freelance price/wage would be a much better solution to the same goal if it was really about worker protection. But, crucially, that wouldn’t harm freelance journalism nearly as much.

            Did I say this? Where? If not, who are you agreeing with?

            You said they’d have to treat them as an employee, thus implying this wasn’t a problem. A staff writer is a employee as opposed to a freelancer in journalism.

            Edit: Just to be clear, I’m not universally opposed to government interventionism and I’m certainly not opposed to protecting freelancers. I’d be behind better crafted laws. What I do not like are laws made without consulting the communities they regulate, which basically wipe out a profession in favor of another, more politically influential profession.

          • ECD says:

            No, it’s your right to sell that’s being restricted. That is literally what the law as written restricts. If it was trying to prevent their ability to profit, it would not be attempting to prevent the transaction but instead redistribute its profits.

            No, the distinction is, are you an employee, or a contractor, that is what is being set by the law.

            Because those set prices, not quantities. Setting prices might create less jobs but, crucially, it does not undermine the idea of selling my labor enough to make a living. This does.

            Anything that sets price sets quantities. It specifies that if you work a certain amount, for a certain employer, you have to be treated as an employee. So, take the linked story, which quotes a guy as saying:

            “Earlier this year, I was working for a site doing daily news contributions, and they wanted at least 50 per month.”

            We can discuss if 35 a year is too low, but, if you’re writing 50 articles a month, I’m going to think you’re an employee.

            You said they’d have to treat them as an employee, thus implying this wasn’t a problem.

            No. I said they’d have to treat them as an employee. This will definitely cause problems, especially with the massive over-supply of writers and a relatively global (or at least English-speaking) market, due to limited reach of California state law. However, California is actually the size of many countries and this is neither crazy, nor obviously unworkable.

            I honestly have no fucking clue how to solve the problem of the growing gig economy (and maybe I’ll prove to just be an old fuddy-duddy and it won’t end up being the massive problem I foresee) I very much do not think that attempts to fix it will not have bad side effects, but let’s talk accurately about what those attempts are, all right?

          • Erusian says:

            No, the distinction is, are you an employee, or a contractor, that is what is being set by the law.

            I’m afraid you’re simply wrong. This law is explicitly saying that you cannot sell more than 35 stories per news source. If you do, you cannot sell the stories but instead must be employed as a laborer. That is a distinction. It might seem subtle but due to the fact that employee is a status that is increasingly weighted it’s important.

            Your right to sell your labor is not being taken away. Your right to sell a product (custom written stories) is. Again, this seems subtle but it is important.

            Anything that sets price sets quantities. It specifies that if you work a certain amount, for a certain employer, you have to be treated as an employee. So, take the linked story, which quotes a guy as saying:

            We can discuss if 35 a year is too low, but, if you’re writing 50 articles a month, I’m going to think you’re an employee.

            Imagine one person writes 35 tweets. Imagine another person writes 35 in depth exposes on Harvey Weinstein. They’ve both written 35 pieces but I agree one is effectively working full time there. The other is not.

            My objection is not that freelancer conditions aren’t a problem or that we shouldn’t try to solve it. My objection is this a stupid way to do it that just happens to favor a politically influential interest group by stomping on competition.

            This will definitely cause problems, especially with the massive over-supply of writers and a relatively global (or at least English-speaking) market, due to limited reach of California state law.

            Well then, I’m mistaken and we agree this law is a stupid law that won’t solve what it intends to solve but will create more problems.

            I honestly have no fucking clue how to solve the problem of the growing gig economy (and maybe I’ll prove to just be an old fuddy-duddy and it won’t end up being the massive problem I foresee) I very much do not think that attempts to fix it will not have bad side effects, but let’s talk accurately about what those attempts are, all right?

            How have I talked inaccurately about what the attempts are? My point isn’t that it can’t be fixed. It’s that this is a uniquely stupid way to fix it that just happens to favor a wealthy and influential interest group. And that sets off my suspicions.

            I’ve actually gone so far as to suggest practical alternatives I think will work better. I know there are a lot of people in this thread taking the libertarian line of ‘all government regulation bad’. But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying this, specifically, is a bad idea and probably crony capitalism. Not that all attempts to improve the lot of contractors are doomed to failure and we should give up.

          • ECD says:

            I think this conversation has run its course, but just to be clear, I think you’re engaged in nonsensical hairsplitting, I do not agree that this is necessarily a stupid law, and I think your proposed “solutions” (I could find one paragraph in one comment which I think is what you’re referring to?) are somewhat interesting, but would require an entire reworking of how freelance writing is paid (which is fine with me, but probably impractical).

          • Erusian says:

            As you wish. I could go on about my ideas on how to improve independent contractors’ lot at some length if there’s interest.

            But more to the point, I’d like to register my strong alarm at the idea that I’m “hairsplitting”. Regulations are applied as written and even tiny hairsplitting differences will have huge effects. I’m not sure the difference between selling labor and selling the product of that labor is as hairsplitting as you think but even if it is, it’s relevant for how the regulation will actually play out as policy.

          • ECD says:

            I misunderstood your point on the difference you are intending to draw. I still think that’s incorrect. You still have the story and are still free to sell it to anyone else. The same publisher is even free to buy it, if they’re willing to employ you. I honestly don’t see a difference between ‘you can buy 35 stories’ and ‘you can buy 39 hours of my labor’ before triggering ‘and then they become an employee.’

          • Erusian says:

            The regulation does make that distinction though. Under it, I can sell all 2,080 hours of my labor to one magazine as a contractor so long as I only write 35 really amazing stories. I can’t sell 35 hours of my labor to make 35 okay stories. (The idea that stories are perfectly changeable from magazine to magazine is wrong too.)

            Again, it’s possible the legislators are not in someone’s pocket. They could just be shockingly incompetent. It doesn’t change the fact it’s a bad regulation and the distinction is important and it has the effect of advantaging elite staff writers at the cost of a poorer, less organized class of freelancers.

          • ECD says:

            Okay, so if I’m understanding correctly, your preference would be something based on hours worked, right?

            Now, unless I’m confused, freelance writers are usually paid by the word (or by the piece, with prices varying by length), if they’re actually freelance. This would require a change in that structure, because otherwise I think we’ll find that shockingly, no freelance writer worked enough to be full time anywhere, but they all wrote exactly the same number of words and were paid the same, as we’ll have no way to check this and the alternative will be not working due to the ease of getting around this.

            Now, if that payment model is changed, things might be interesting, but, again, I’m not sure what the broader effects would be.

            Also, I’m not real convinced ‘this disincentives tiny clickbait pieces’ (paraphrasing my interpretation of your number of pieces concern) ‘and incentivizes longer, more in-depth pieces,’ is actually a bad thing. Honestly, that actually seems like a good argument (if not one the proponents made, to my knowledge) for an article cap.

          • Erusian says:

            I’m speaking in terms of hours because that’s what other people were speaking in terms of. (See: the concerns about subverting the hourly minimum wage, the poor overworked uber drivers, etc.)

            Yes, writing is usually charged by word or piece (tweet, article, whatever). Hourly contracts exist but are rare. But my point is not that I’d prefer it done by hour: it’s that it doesn’t protect people from what it contends to protect them, which is working overly long hours without benefits.

            If you insist on having an equivalent to minimum wage regulation, a minimum price per character or piece would make more sense. Say, a minimum of $.02 per character. This doesn’t prevent the writer from selling their products it only makes sure they get a minimum price. It also allows people to still get paid for tweeting and larger stories on a sliding scale. Likewise, you could mandate that Uber pay a minimum amount per mile and per customer.

            Honestly, what I really suspect would help freelancers most is not some minimum wage equivalent but a system that makes it easier for them to pool their healthcare needs like a corporation gets to and a changing of laws that makes it easier for them to get enforceable summary judgments against people who refuse to pay them. But setting a minimum price might have positive effects on the class overall, as minimum wage purports to.

            Also, I’m not real convinced ‘this disincentives tiny clickbait pieces’ (paraphrasing my interpretation of your number of pieces concern) ‘and incentivizes longer, more in-depth pieces,’ is actually a bad thing. Honestly, that actually seems like a good argument (if not one the proponents made, to my knowledge) for an article cap.

            Are all short pieces clickbait? I don’t think so. There are plenty of five hundred word stories in the New York Times or The Economist. So I disagree it disincentivizes clickbait. Further, that work is unevenly distributed: shorter stories are more likely to be freelance, longer stories are more likely to be staff.

            This is very much a, “The law, in her majesty, has made it equally illegal for poor and rich men to sleep under bridges.” kind of law.

  45. J says:

    “Professor Cyclone Covey” from the Arizona hoax article is obviously one of the X-Men. That’s right up there with “Nick Metropolis” in terms of epic names.

  46. pressedForTime says:

    …wearing a backpack full of severed human arms…

    This makes it sound like the arms of several people were in the backpack, but it was only (only!) the 2 arms of the woman he murdered.

  47. guzey says:

    I should clarify that I did not spend “130 hours chronicling all the errors in the first chapter of Dr. Matthew Walker’s hit book Why We Sleep”. I spent 130 hours chronicling the five most egregious errors in the first chapter. There seem to be many more errors in the chapter.

    • j1000000 says:

      Thanks for that post. Sometimes I wake up feeling well rested at 7 hours, but because the 8 hours thing is so widespread, I usually force myself to try to go back to sleep.

      Have you gotten much pushback in the style of “even if it’s technically wrong, why bother debunking this since overall it’s probably good”?

      • guzey says:

        Yes, this was the majority of the feedback I got lol.

        Also — this sounds very similar to my experience. I used to force myself to sleep full 8 a lot even when I didn’t want to. After having done all of this research I’m much more relaxed and feel even better 🙂

    • Nick says:

      This post was a big relief to me—I worry regularly about how much sleep I’m getting, and had the same “Wow, trying to get 8 hours of sleep is apparently really counterproductive” bind back in college. And now I’m bingeing your archives. Thanks.

    • kotrfa says:

      Thanks for that article, really. I saw the feedback on reddit and hackernews, it’s quite sad people are like “well, but it may be better to lie like this”…

    • Rachael says:

      I envy you guys. I’m just about functional on 8 hours, dizzy and nauseous with fatigue on 6, and only feel well-rested on 10 or 11.

  48. Jacob says:

    Seems to me like they’re just launching pointless attacks on coincidental features of this particular shooting instead of going after the real problem: houses

    Please don’t give the Bay Area government any other ideas/excuses to limit housing

  49. n8chz says:

    I guess that would explain the Gilligan’s Island episode with the radioactive seeds.

  50. gdepasamonte says:

    Loosely related to ‘”speed of painting”: one of my best finds this year was the series Tom Keating on Painters. Tom Keating was a British art forger in the 60s, incredibly technically gifted but disillusioned with the cynical attitude of contemporary art. Having some understanding of historical painting styles from restoration work, he spent the decade thumbing his nose to the galleries & auction houses with fake Rembrandts, Gainsboroughs etc. When he was found out and arrested, the public discovered that he was rather a loveable old rogue, and he was duly put on television.

    In the series, he demonstrates in a fast-and-loose way how he imagined some of the great painters worked. One of the many pleasures of watching is seeing how quickly and accurately someone with a lifetime of working with a brush in hand can put down exactly the right thing. The re-imaginings of Constable’s Haywain and Turner’s Fighting Temeraire are my favourites. They are clearly done over several days at least, but are much more complex than the picture in the link (the amount of layering in some is staggering.)

  51. pressedForTime says:

    88% believe that “compromise and common ground should be the goal”, but 83% believe that “I’m tired of leaders compromising my values and ideals…

    Well, I am tired of leaders who compromise my values and ideals, which just happen to be that compromise and common ground should be the goal.

    They’re moderate in all things, including their moderation.

  52. Brett says:

    I’m suspicious of cases where you have a successful public institution (like a public bank), and then extrapolate from that to claiming that you could have only public banks (something Matt Bruenig does regularly). Existing public institutions are all embedded within a broader market economy and often have private alternatives – to get an idea of what democratic socialism would really look like, it’s best to look at stuff where there is no alternative to the public institution. Some of that seems to work well (single-payer health care, at least on the insurance side). Others not so much (IE long distance passenger rail with Amtrak). Overall it’s not particularly promising.

    All that said, I wouldn’t be opposed to a policy of gradually incorporating greater employee representation and ownership over time. I think it’s good if the firm essentially has an institutional voice through employee representatives on the board, and don’t think it’s beneficial to leave them entirely to share-holders indefinitely.

    Mondragon is an interesting case because it’s so singular – there’s nothing really like it. It seems to work well for its members, so where are all the other Mondragons?

    Before genetic engineering, there was atomic gardening, the 1970s practice of planting some seeds in a circle around a radiation source and hoping some of them got beneficial mutations.

    We still do that now with mutagenesis in plant breeding. Blast the plants and seeds with radiation or some other mutation-inducing thing, then examine and cultivate the mutants for useful traits.

    Myths about WWI: contrary to the portrayal that officers sat in comfortable tents as they sent enlisted men to certain death, officers were about 50% more likely to die than ordinary soldiers.

    A huge chunk of the male British aristocracy got wiped out in WWI, because they were over-represented in the officer corps and had high fatality rates (especially junior officers).

    • ReaperReader says:

      Some of that seems to work well (single-payer health care, at least on the insurance side).

      Out of interest, where has tried single payer health care? The UK has a private health sector. And for that matter, many continental European countries have multiple health insurers for mandated care, without having noticeably worse or more expensive public healthcare systems than the UK.

      • Brett says:

        Canada. Single-payer insurance, no co-pays.

        • cassander says:

          canada has more out of pocket spending as a share of all spending than the US.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            As a share of all healthcare spending, yes. Why should we care about that, rather than a much greater difference in the opposite direction in absolute terms? If you want to object to Brett’s claim that Canada doesn’t have copays, the fact that Canada has any out-of-pocket spending is sufficient (assuming that figure only includes copays and not e.g. plastic surgery, which may or may not be the case).

        • ECD says:

          @cassander

          Note, that’s as a share of all health spending (ie the better you do on controlling costs, the higher your percentage is going to be) not all spending (at least at that link). That’s due to prescription costs, as I understand it. Despite having approximately the same per capita income, the actual cost is, by your source, $690 a year vs $1,103 per year.

          ETA: Nope, can’t just be prescription costs, as poking around that site claims the per capita prescription costs for Canada are $139. I’m unsure what’s going on, or where the data is coming from.

  53. cassander says:

    >Not really sure what to think of this. (states not getting better or worse when they change political hands)

    You should think that states are ponderous beasts that don’t change very quickly unless they have to, and since they’re the biggest thing around, they almost never have to. And then you should thing about the inherent dangers in entrusting half of GDP, more or less, to be spent by institutions that no one actually controls.

  54. fortybot says:

    > Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in college and cemented a cultural association between young people and entrepreneurship. But according to the American Institute for Economic Research, this association is wrong: the average successful entrepeneur is 45 when they found their company, the youngest entrepreneurs are the least successful, and a 50-year-old’s company is almost twice as likely to succeed as a 30-year-old’s.

    How many of those successful older entrepreneurs previously started a failed endeavor?

  55. Note that the anti-Alcor rant claims The Finders Course is a rip-off. Yet the Slate Star Codex post on The PNSE Paper says rather nice things about the founder of The Finders Course, Jeffrey Martin.

    • Tetrahedrex says:

      Yes, the author’s reflexive dismissal of the course seemed a little telling when it comes to his/her biases.

    • g says:

      There’s no obvious conflict between “wrote one interesting paper” and “started a course that’s largely useless and pretty scammy”. Scott’s article about the PNSE paper doesn’t really “say rather nice things about” Jeffrey Martin; in fact it says practically nothing about Martin. It says some nice things about the paper. Pretty much the only thing it says about Martin himself that isn’t specifically about what he did in the paper is this: ‘Martin is a Reiki practitioner associated with the “Center for the Study of Non-Symbolic Consciousness”, so we’re not getting this from the most sober of skeptics’. Not particularly rude, but also not particularly nice.

  56. maintain says:

    Whoa, that smell thing looks really interesting. Can someone explain what is going on there? Anybody know enough organic chemistry to talk about it?

    • helloo says:

      Organic compounds are ones that mostly made of Carbon, Oxygen, and Hydrogen (very simplistic definition).
      Columns are the type/structure of the compound.
      Rows are how many carbons and thus “long/big” the compound is.

      Note this table only includes a portion of those types of compounds. And even then, mostly the ones with simple structures.
      One of the more important groups it leaves off is the aromatics, which as it’s name implies, often have strong odors (and not necessary bad ones). But grouping those on a flat table might be difficult.

      The general gist is that
      A) human’s smell often groups by structure
      B) smells are often very identifying when dealing with organic chemicals
      C) smells tend to get worse with long chains
      D) some smells are weird
      E) organic chemistry is smelly job

      In the Pipeline, a mostly chem blog by someone working in the pharma industry mentioned it a while ago. Doesn’t offer much details for this chart, but does show how others dealing in the field relate to it.
      https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2013/12/30/a_table_of_smells_stinks_and_aromas

      • helloo says:

        Thinking back on this, I should have phrased C) as “smells tend to follow trends with increasing chains”.
        It’s much more applicable and is “truer” regarding chemicals outside of that table. Some of the worse smelling chemicals tend to be on the small end (probably because they’re more gaseous and penetrating).

    • zzzzort says:

      I would say that the space of organic molecules is much much larger than this, and that the sense of smell is really complex; much harder to classify than sight or hearing. There are a whole of different sensors, they are sensitive to different ranges of molecules, and the information gets synthesized in various ways.

      I’m not a real chemist, but I know a bit about fatty acids. I find it interesting that the goat smell is periodic in the carboxylic acids (decanoic acid is also known capric acid, from the latin for goat). Biological fatty acids always have an even number of carbons; the enzyme that builds them adds carbons two at a time (this has been used for a test if a sample is of biological origin). Chains with odd numbers mostly (?) come from chopping off bits of longer tails. This happens in rancidification, and is probably why odd carbon fatty acids smell rancid (not that rancidification would also create even carbon chains, but not much else would create odd carbon stuff).

  57. ECD says:

    Latest poll on how Americans view civility: 88% believe that “compromise and common ground should be the goal”, but 83% believe that “I’m tired of leaders compromising my values and ideals [and] want leaders who will stand up to the other side.”

    I almost certainly would agree with both those points. Compromise and common ground should be the goal. I’m also extremely tired of my leaders compromising my values and ideas, usually by refusing to argue for what I want either because they don’t want it (the democratic party is a lot further to the right than I am generally), or because they do want it, but don’t think its achievable and apparently continue to believe that the right way to negotiate is to announce your own goal is unachievable for now, then begin negotiating from a position five steps closer to the center, then end up ten steps closer to the center after negotiations, if we’re lucky.

    • mtl1882 says:

      Yeah, I get the sense that the issue here is people’s assessment of their leader’s “good faith,” and probably the “other side’s” as well. What they want is for both sides to actually get something done–to demand action and do the necessary deals to achieve it. They are unable to articulate this pointedly, and so they talk about “compromise” (which means “stop bickering and get to work”) at the same time they talk about “standing up to the other side” (which means “stop avoiding the issues”).

      We do have a terrible problem with wanting it both ways, as revealed by many polls, but some of the seeming contradiction results from lack of specificity and clarity in communication.

      I think a big problem is that we’ve tried to make “pork” type tactics unacceptable, so compromise becomes synonymous with meeting halfway, which on many issues is nonsensical and pleases no one. There are issues that have to go one way or the other, and a different type of compromise, agreeing to pair a decision favored by one party on one issue with a decision favored by the other party on another issue. In that case, both sides get a constructive project done. And since people generally have different levels of investment in various issues, one party may be fine to let an issue of lesser importance go against them to gain a victory on one of greater importance to them. I’m sure on an individual level, people favor compromise on certain issues but want total capitulation on others. They give mixed answers because the question is too broad.

  58. wonderer says:

    One of the engineers who worked on the Viking Mars landers continues to make the case that they discovered life on Mars in the 1970s and everyone is just ignoring this for no reason.

    Not just one of them, and he’s not just an engineer. Gilbert V. Levin was the principal investigator of the Viking labelled release (LR) experiment. Patricia Ann Straat was co-experimenter on LR (along with Levin), and she also believes her experiment found life on Mars. It was Levin and Straat who wrote the papers that announced LR’s results (paper 1, paper 2). Straat gave a fascinating interview about this on Event Horizon.

    It’s noteworthy that their papers from the 1970s say the results were inconclusive:

    Available facts do not yet permit a conclusion regarding the existence of life on Mars. Plans for conclusion of the experiment are discussed

    The results and their interpretation still leave unresolved the question of whether the Mars LR data were generated by biological or chemical activity.

    I’m not saying Levin and Straat are right or wrong. But the LR experiment was their baby, which means they probably know more about its ins and outs than anyone else in the world–but it also means they’d be the most biased in favor of a positive result.

    • Brett says:

      It would be worth doing a retest of the Viking biological experiments with tighter controls and the larger set of knowledge we have now about Mars. I still think they didn’t find life, but it’s worth testing again.

    • John Schilling says:

      That’s what we get when we send a robot to do a man’s job. Lots of ambiguity, and maybe a robot designer(*) with the firm belief that his baby can have done no wrong.

      Until we get full AGI, robots are at their best dealing with very clearly-defined problems, or at least problems for which we have lots of high-quality calibration data. We’ve got one data point for what a living planet looks like, and it doesn’t look like Mars. So I expect we’ll know whether Mars has life-as-we-don’t-know it, about the time we send human scientists to start digging and applying human judgement on the spot.

      Not that I begrudge the Viking team for doing the best they could in 1976, but it’s time to admit that we aren’t going to get the answers we want by Thinking Even Harder about the results of 1976’s experiments.

      * Hopefully not named Daystrom. Or Dyson, or really, I’m sensing a theme here

    • thetitaniumdragon says:

      The experiment very likely yielded a false positive, which reflects poorly on the experimental design, as they spent a vast amount of money to send a flawed experiment to Mars.

      I’ve read a fair bit of back and forthing about it, and the people with the abiotic explanations who point out that the experiments were flawed have the right of it. Frankly, we made this mistake a lot; as we have gotten a better understanding of how the universe works, we’ve found a lot of abiotic processes that can mimic life in some ways.

      Better experiments could be done, but honestly, I don’t think we’ll get any useful results unless we put boots on the ground on Mars.

  59. Zubon says:

    On “compromise and common ground,” let’s quote a small child explaining to her little brother: “Do you know what sharing is? That’s when you have something I want and you give it to me.”

  60. The lawmaker responsible has apologized to freelance journalists, but the cynical part of me isn’t sure what apology they can give beyond “we’re sorry our law ending people’s freedom to make contracts with flexible work schedules also affected popular people who can complain”. And if you think I sound angry, as always you should read @webdevmason’s takes (1, 2). Anyway, I think California journalists should feel lucky to be allowed 35 stories; most new housing in the state is limited to two.

    Here’s something that could fix this problem: make a law that every legislator gets to force 10 bills a year into voting, no debate, no long-winded speeches, just vote yay or nay. That way, no legislator would ever be able to say “sorry I can’t undo it, life sucks.” If they can’t get their bill through, they’d have other legislator’s to blame.

  61. eigenmoon says:

    I’ve found the socialist article to be very dumb, which is what I expected.

    The relative effectiveness of nationalized vs. private companies is a well-known question and I think it’s called Friedman’s rule that nationalized companies do everything at 2x cost and also with worse quality. The socialists seem to disagree… well, if your nationalized companies are so great, why not let the free market demonstrate it? Let’s allow private postal services and see who wins, for example.

    Worker co-ops and credit unions are nice capitalist institutions. Socialism is when Red Guards force every business to become a worker co-op. Surely if the co-ops are as great and super-effective as the socialists say they’d be able to peacefully push the traditional companies from the market without the help of Red Guards?

    The last paragraph is the most hilariously stupid so I couldn’t stop myself from making fun of it. Here goes:

    Democratic socialism means waking up in the morning without worrying about rent,

    Worrying about who gets what real estate was a very common occurrence in USSR. If you want to distribute something democratically, you should expect at least some drama to happen.
    Here’s a Soviet comedy about how dehumanizing real estate “democracy” can be.

    making breakfast with ingredients you grew alongside your neighbors,

    Historically accurate. The USSR government was so bad at delivering food to people that many people wasted their time on gardening in order to have a fallback source of food.

    and taking clean and free public transit

    “Free” means that you pay for it with your taxes. What, you thought rich people paid for it with their taxes? Of course not, the rich don’t have their companies anymore because socialism. Also apparently you pay for replacing the old not-so-clean vehicles with the new cleaner versions.

    for your short commute to the job

    Could be up to 60-90 min in the Moscow Metro. Somehow socialism didn’t magically make the commute in a big city short. I wonder why.

    where you and your co-workers elected your own management.

    The term for such a management was “Soviet”.

    It means having your share of the profits you help produce direct deposited into your local credit union,

    “Share of the profits” means salary, which in worker co-ops is usually lower than in “exploitative” businesses. In USSR salaries were very low. “Direct deposited” means that you’ll be taxed for all the “free” stuff.

    going on a long walk through your vibrant and diverse neighborhood

    Here’s another Soviet comedy about how every Brezhnev-era building was of the exact same boring model. That’s what happens when politicians have to approve your architecture.

    sleep in your warm bed without worrying about energy bills

    Semi-accurate. In USSR centralized heating usually ran hot, so in order to have normal temperature in the room you had to open a window during winter. You might not worry about energy bills, but guess who pays them in the end.

    You don’t have to call your insurance agency to argue over a deductible,

    And why not? The insurance agency, Gosstrakh USSR, is of course owned by the government, so you have no other options.

    you don’t have to have your allergies exacerbated by dirty air,

    Oh, you will be taxed for cleaning all the air as well.

    you won’t be stopped and arbitrarily questioned by an aggressively militarized police force.

    Because forbidding the entire population from owning businesses is totally going to work without aggressive policing. Riiiiight.

    • ECD says:

      I’m sorry, you read that article and came away with the notion that the USSR was an example of working socialism that he was relying on? The article which purports to answer the question:

      But if these socialists explicitly reject the models of the USSR or communist China, then what is their alternative? If not a bureaucratic command economy, does democratic socialism exist as anything other than an abstract daydream in the minds of the young and the pages of a few magazines?

      • eigenmoon says:

        The socialists may say that this time it will be nothing like USSR. So they’ve said about Venezuela. Here’s Jeremy Corbyn:

        Chávez… showed us that there is a different, and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism… In his death, we will march on, to that better, just, peaceful and hopeful world.

        Then it ends exactly like USSR and socialists make a surprised Pikachu face. See this book for a serious take on that and this cartoon for a humorous take (although accurately portraying how socialists look to everyone else).

        The article does nothing to actually, not nominally, distance itself from USSR. Here’s an example:

        Because of its Cold War connotations, most Americans think of socialism solely as inefficient and bureaucratic public ownership through a powerful central government. But actual public ownership need not be either centralized or wasteful. The state of North Dakota owns both a public bank and the nation’s largest flour mill, …

        I don’t know what the Cold War propaganda told Americans, but USSR had lots of publicly owned companies.

        • ECD says:

          Okay, I’m less sorry now. The quote you give recognizes the USSR had lots of public ownership. It flat out says

          Because of its Cold War connotations, most Americans think of socialism solely as inefficient and bureaucratic public ownership through a powerful central government.

          And then goes on to argue public ownership can be non-inefficient, non-centralized, non-wasteful. You can disagree with that argument if you want, but again, the question its trying to answer is ‘what should/does his preferred model look like?’ The answer is very definitely not the USSR, which makes most of your response nonsensical at best. The same goes for Etoile below.

          • eigenmoon says:

            You keep saying that the proposed model is nothing like USSR but you’re not saying what’s the difference.

            Is it that this time everything will be efficient? But why would it be different this time?

            Is it that this time everything will be non-wasteful? But why would it be different this time?

            Is it that this time all ownership will be non-centralized? Now we might be getting somewhere but what does that even mean? How exactly USSR owning the bank that is now called Sberbank is different from North Dakota owning its public bank?

          • ECD says:

            You appear to have mistaken me for Brett Heinz. I’m not sure if I’m flattered, or offended, but either way, I’ll direct you back to the article, referencing sovereign wealth funds, increased worker ownership, worker cooperatives, participatory budgeting and…you know, the article itself, which references a bunch of stuff, only some of which was done in the USSR (and all of which has been done by other places without them becoming distopian hellscapes). Again, if you want to argue that’s not true socialism, knock yourself out, but it’s not a debate about the article in question.

          • Is it that this time all ownership will be non-centralized?

            We do have a model of a communist economy along those lines—Yugoslavia. My impression is that it worked better than the USSR, less well than conventional free market systems.

            There is also an extended literature coming out of the calculation controversy, with able socialist economists trying to construct and analyze workable models of decentralized socialism. I don’t think they succeeded, but the ideas are out there.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @ECD

            article itself, which references a bunch of stuff, only some of which was done in the USSR

            OK, so what exactly is the stuff that wasn’t done in USSR?

          • ECD says:

            Well, one obvious thing would be unions which can strike without being arrested and murdered. Sovereign wealth funds were not, to my knowledge, a USSR thing. Participatory budgeting definitely wasn’t.

            If you want more, you certainly seem well informed of the horrors of the USSR, maybe try reading the article which is allegedly under discussion.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The history of unions isn’t much better than the history of government and industry, with regard to violence.

            And while you can’t arrest a corporation, they get fined and have injunctions against them for going on strike against unions – sorry, refusing to negotiate in good faith.

            My personal experience of unions isn’t “Somebody standing up for me against management”, it is “Another set of management whose goals are to prevent me from actually having things to do instead of being bored to tears all day because I work faster than everyone else”.

            Which is to say, my experience of unions is worse than my experience of corporate management, except whereas the corporate management pays me for the impositions, unions force me to pay them.

            I think it is appropriate to view unions as another type of hierarchical power structure superimposed on the hierarchical corporate power structure. It exaggerates the problems of hierarchy, rather than ameliorating them.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            The history of unions isn’t much better than the history of government and industry, with regard to violence.

            You sure about that dude? I can’t think of any multimillion-deaths genocides/slave trades that you can blame on unions.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Technically true.

            In terms of this discussion, not terribly helpful, because it doesn’t really concern the context under consideration.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            What is the context under consideration in your view?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Organized labor disputes, and the way different organizations respond to them.

            (And can we not treat rebelling against slavery as a labor dispute? In spite of the lack of specificity of language I hope the difference doesn’t need to be spelled out.)

          • eigenmoon says:

            @ECD
            Trade unions are crap everywhere, as Thegnskald wrote.

            Late USSR has implemented “collective leadership” to dial down dictatorship. Once it was in place, workers were actually able to strike without being arrested and murdered. From the journals of Chernyaev (rus.) (my translation):

            1 November 1980
            […]
            In 1979 there were 300 “registered cases of refusing to work”, in which more than 9 thousands participated.
            […]
            This most likely would not be tolerated under Nikita [Khrushchov], they’d bring in the competent agencies and armed forces.

            But even over 9000 strikers did not improve Soviet socialism.

            Sovereign wealth funds are totally inconsequential. They’re just a separate pile of money.

            I like participatory budgeting because it reminds me of Switzerland. The Swiss voted for the debt brake, a law to prevent the government from doing deficit spending. And as Alan Greenspan said: “Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth”. I really like the debt brake and Swiss direct democracy and I’m looking forward to direct democracy resulting in even more measures against confiscation of wealth.

            maybe try reading the article which is allegedly under discussion.

            Easy there. I’ve read it. It looks exactly like USSR with some caveats like maybe we should experiment with new tech like participatory budgeting. Yeah, maybe the socialists should run more experiments before trying to ruin the entire country.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Organized labor disputes, and the way different organizations respond to them.

            OK, please give some examples of union members massacring thousands of cops.

      • Etoile says:

        I think the onus to prove that the USSR WASN’T real socialism rests on socialists, not the other way around. Perhaps this isn’t clear because the USSR has gained somewhat of a cartoonish image in the west, but we forget that:
        1) Everyone (or most everyone) including some older modern-day leftists, believed in the USSR as The Answer to Capitalism, a valid competing experiment; moreover, many identified as Leninists, Maoists, etc., (and considered early reports of atrocities to be right-wing lies and propaganda), AND
        2) In the USSR at least, official policies and structures cleaved pretty well to modern progressive and socialist doctrines that they want for the West. They had universal healthcare, free or cheap housing, trade unions, collective farming, protected domestic industries, official policies in favor of ethnic diversity and feminism….

        So what happened there?

        • I think the same thing was true, later, of Venezuela. It had very large supplies of oil, so an obviously favorable economic situation, yet its socialist government has produced an outcome so bad that about 13% of the population has emigrated (since 1999). And, as best I remember, it was promoted by the western left as an attractive model of socialism—at least until it turned into a catastrophe.

        • Joseftstadter says:

          Are Western socialists in favor of collective farming? Collectivization was when the USSR completely went off the rails. The NEP model of Socialism arguably was sort of working, although it may not have been politically sustainable even had Stalin not put an end to it.

        • 420BootyWizard says:

          I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here. Is it that you can’t have trade unions, universal healthcare, and official policies favoring feminism without USSR-style atrocities?

        • DarkTigger says:

          Wait the USSR had unions? I mean unions that were more than just party mouthpieces? I would like to have sources for that please.

          The only union in the Warschauer Pact area, worth their salt, I ever heard of was Solidanosc in Poland.

          • ana53294 says:

            Oral sources: I have been told that the USSR did not just have unions, they even had strikes against the government. They were repressed quite violently.

            That kind of thing does not appear in the newspapers of the era, as they were heavily censored. I am not sure you can get much better than oral sources.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @ana53294

            Yeah, but they were illegal unions. Basically a form of underground resistence against the government. Probably most famous labor dispute in the USSR is currently Novocherkassk massacre, but I am sure many others were better covered up.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          In the USSR at least, official policies and structures cleaved pretty well to modern progressive and socialist doctrines that they want for the West

          .

          This needs some factchecking.

          They had universal healthcare

          Yes.

          free or cheap housing

          Sort of, there was corrupt quota system and rationing of apartments.

          trade unions

          No. Independent trade unions were illegal in the USSR, as well as worker strikes. Official “trade unions” had different functions than advancing worker´s interest.

          collective farming

          Sort of, but collective farms were in reality mostly controlled by the government.

          protected domestic industries

          Yes.

          official policies in favor of ethnic diversity and feminism

          Not really. Soviet Union was an imperialist power dominated by straight white men, some token representation for women notwithstanding. And ethnic minorities were as a rule (not always) treated badly.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Executing badly does not mean “didn’t have”. I think that’s part of the point. When a government that supposedly has all of the things that Western socialists want ends up as the USSR, maybe those things are the problem.

            One more thing:

            official policies in favor of ethnic diversity and feminism

            They strongly did have these OFFICIALLY. That they still ended up as an imperialist power dominated by straight white men doesn’t change the fact that their official policies were indeed this way and should be considered a strike against those policies.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Most modern Western countries have most of those policies other than collective farming in some form. And yet, most Western countries are not the USSR!

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @EchoChaos

            I am sorry, but that is nonsense. Leadership of the Soviet Union had not tried to build woke utopia from dreams of US progressives that by giant mistake ended up as an imperialist power with a society thoroughly dominated by white straight males and with complete ban on independent unions. It was all intentional.

            They strongly did have these OFFICIALLY.

            Um, no. As I said, sometimes there were few token women on an important leadership committee, but overall society remained dominated by men to a degree that I think is hard to comprehend for modern Americans. Soviet propaganda, unlike propaganda of some other odious regimes, mostly hadn ́t openly proclaimed that women should be subjected to a rule by men or that some ethnic minorities are inferior, but if that is a bar for official policy of equality, postWW2 western capitalist regimes easily exceeded that.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @AlesZiegler

            I am not sure you got my objection. I am not saying that the Soviets tried internally to be woke at all. I am saying that they pushed a woke ideology aggressively worldwide in their official statements.

            Here are some good examples:

            https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/shortcuts/2016/jan/24/racial-harmony-in-a-marxist-utopia-how-the-soviet-union-capitalised-on-us-discrimination-in-pictures

            Those were in fact the “official policies” of the Soviet state. The actual policies followed were that their leadership was indeed heavily straight white male, assuming we’re calling Jews white, which I do, but many don’t.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @EchoChaos

            Jews were also persecuted minority in the USSR.

            Those posters you linked show Soviet policy of anticolonialism, which indeed existed (well, sort of, after colonies were liberated from western rule, Soviets tried to include them into their own empire, but nevermind) and was a HUGE deal. But it is not at all the same thing as contemporary US progressive leftism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @AlesZiegler

            That Jews made up the majority of early Soviet leadership and were also persecuted are not mutually exclusive. The Soviets persecuted lots of people.

            Their anticolonial ideology was based on ethnic diversity and feminism, both of which were shown there. They didn’t live up to that statement, we both agree.

            And yes, it didn’t exactly match modern woke ideology either, but it was an official policy in favor of ethnic diversity and feminism, which was the initial statement.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @EchoChaos

            I doubt that Jews made up majority of reasonably defined Soviet leadership ever, but in any case that would be a short period indeed. Even if we do not count Jews as white, Soviet leadership taken as a whole for the history of the country would be overwhelmingly white, unless we do not count Caucasians as white.

            Soviet anticolonial ideology was based on one strand of the strands of marxism. Was that an ideology of ethnic diversity and feminism? Well, compared to 19th and 20th century variant of conservatism, I guess so. Compared to modern progresivism, hell No. Like, homosexual relations were literaly criminalized in the USSR from 1934 to its dissolution in 1991.

            Ethnic diversity, gender equality and LGBT rights were low priority for marxism-leninism, although it has to be conceeded that that marxism-leninism is not against them. It was however very much against workers rights. I do not think that ideology with those characteristics is similar to contemporary US progressivism. And I didn´t even get to the part that US progressives do not want to nationalize everything, abolish elections and institute gulags.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @AlesZiegler

            The Jewishness of Soviet leadership is a digression, as I consider Jews white, as I said.

            While those things were low priority, I think it goes further than “not against” and to “actively for, although low priority”, given the propaganda I’ve shown.

            I am not accusing modern leftists of those things.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @EchoChaos

            The Jewishness of Soviet leadership is a digression

            I couldn’t agree more. Counting The Jews is a Bad idea. There is a joke that I´ve heard: conductors of Leningrad and New York Metropolitan Orchestra meet. During their conversation, Leningrad conductor burst out: “How could you Americans accuse us of antisemitism?! I have 21 jews in my orchestra!! How many do you have?”. American answers: “I do not know”.

            Otherwise I find it hard to locate where our disagreement lies. I do not think that current western leftists should by judged by the Soviet Union. Priorities of US left are significantly different from priorities of Soviet communists. Yes, I agree that in the context of 20s, Soviet Union could be classified as in favor of racial, gender and even LGBT equality compared to 20s West, but those times are long gone.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @AlesZiegler

            I was registering that I found @Etoile’s point about “official policies in favor of ethnic diversity and feminism” broadly accurate, especially for the time.

            You said they didn’t really have such policies, when I think it might’ve been better said “they did actually have those policies, but didn’t actually follow the policies they had”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I relink this 1926 article around here every so often: The Russian Effort to Abolish Marriage.

            Soviets went all-in on feminism. It was just so disastrous that they had to roll is back pretty quickly.

          • Aapje says:

            The Soviets really wanted women to:
            – be educated
            – work
            – vote
            – have a right to a unilateral divorce

            These are core feminist planks (if one judges feminism from a distance, rather than for the concerns of the (current) moment). In some ways they went further to demand equality than even modern Western feminists, like the desire to have women do hard labor just as often as men.

            That they failed to change quite a few ‘patriarchal’ beliefs is non-surprising, since Western feminism is also rather bad at doing so, in part because of a denial of male burdens/female benefits and even more so, their effects.

            The partial equality that feminists tend to fight for is typically considered unfair and/or undesirable by many men and women, whose needs/desires are often dismissed, rather than taken seriously, which means that no good alternatives have meet those needs/desires is presented, which in turn results in defections.

            However, all that means is that Soviet society didn’t adopt feminism wholeheartedly, which is not the same thing as Soviet leadership adopting it. They did so to a very large extent, which the caveat that no government is the Borg, so dissent will always exist. When the desires of the top leadership diverge from what the commoners want, you typically also see lower levels of leadership act against the top leadership and in accordance with the lower level desires, even if just for pragmatic reasons.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @EchoChaos
            @Jaskologist
            @Aapje

            I am going to reply to all three of you since you are making substantially the same point.

            First of, women did not have a right to vote in the Soviet union. Nobody had. There was a thing called “elections” (at least I think there was, I have´t checked, but it certainly was a thing in communist Czechoslovakia, which adopted lot of Soviet institutions), but it was not an actual choice of candidates, just a sort of compulsory manifestation of a loyalty to The Party. Of course that still means Soviet practices in this area were more equal than that of countries with only male suffrage.

            That they failed to change quite a few ‘patriarchal’ beliefs is non-surprising, since Western feminism is also rather bad at doing so

            I am going to start from here, since I disagree with this assessment of a Western feminism. Gender relations in 20th century West changed dramatically in a direction desired by feminists. And that didn´t happen in the Soviet union, or more precisely, it happened there but to a far lesser extent. Picture that Etoile is painting, that an official policy of Soviet leadership, guys like Stalin and Breznev, was to push for policies favored by contemporary US left, but they were stymied by a resistance of unwilling patriarchal society, is, to put it charitably, inaccurate.

            It is true that Soviet government wanted women to be somewhat educated and to be able to work outside from home, but those are not policies exclusive to progressive leftism. Mainstream conservatives today also support. You might also notice that USSR successfully implemented them, which is an evidence that if Soviet leadership would wanted to be more progressive, it could succeed.

            What imho actually happened: In the 20s, Soviet Union adopted some policies that were socially progressive compared to 20s West. Those policies were then partially but not completely rolled back in the 30s. From the 50s to 80s, while it would be silly to argue that gender relations in the USSR hadn´t changed at all, development in that area there was far less dramatic than in the West. So Soviet society remained dominated by men until its end.

          • Aapje says:

            Russian women got suffrage from the provisional government in 1917 and when the Bolsheviks took over, this was retained. The Bolsheviks/Lenin initially observed their promise of a soviet (= council) model, until they started losing elections. Then Stalin truly centralized politics. However, all along the way, women got as much as a vote as men.

            It is true that Soviet government wanted women to be somewhat educated and to be able to work outside from home, but those are not policies exclusive to progressive leftism. Mainstream conservatives today also support.

            Yes, after conservatives adopted feminism to an extent, they now support women working outside the home.

            Taking this as evidence that this isn’t a major part of feminism is ridiculous. That it is no longer very contested, doesn’t make it a core item of faith.

            So Soviet society remained dominated by men until its end.

            This is not very relevant, since modern Western society is also ‘dominated by men’ and will remain so, as long as feminists largely ignore the reasons why.

            Arguing that the Soviet union was worse than modern feminism for not achieving what modern feminism is also not achieving, is not fair.

            This is the general problem with your argument. You argue based on supposed lack of achieved equality (which you greatly exaggerate), that the Soviet leadership was not very feminist. Yet the propaganda and the laws were extremely egalitarian, with gender differences being primarily due to execution.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Aapje

            You are of course not wrong in that in the USSR women had as much voting rights as men. For the bulk of Soviet history, that meant aproximately zero voting rights.

            You might be surprised that I disagree with modern feminists on an issue whether current Western society is male dominated. However, Soviet society really was.

          • Aapje says:

            @AlesZiegler

            You might be surprised that I disagree with modern feminists on an issue whether current Western society is male dominated. However, Soviet society really was.

            Whether it was or not doesn’t distinguish between the old culture rejecting it or the leadership not desiring it.

            This is like arguing that because religion existed in the Soviet Union, the communists didn’t oppose religion.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Aapje

            Since this thread appears to be dead, you might wish to restart discussion on this topic somehere else. I remain unconvinced.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      I’m not going to bite on the whole thing, but here’s a correction to something important that I think comes from a place of excusable ignorance:

      Worker co-ops and credit unions are nice capitalist institutions

      Cooperatives (of which credit unions are an example) are nice market based institutions. They aren’t capitalist even though they can exist and sometimes flourish inside a specifically capitalist market economy. Capitalism is a market economy based on the private ownership of the means of production, cooperatives have shared ownership of the means of production (at minimum, every member of a cooperative is also a part owner with voting power). Socialism is based on social, communal, or shared ownership of the means of production. This definition encompasses a market economy where all companies are cooperatives and a strong social-democratic safety net, doing away with the market and private property altogether (land ownership mostly, not personal property like your shoes or car), it can mean central planning like in Soviet communism.
      Democratic socialism explicitly rejects the dictatorship part, by the way, along with demanding that we create socialism by democratic means like elections – at least in part because previous attempts to create socialism by violent revolution have led inexorably to dictatorships and the accompanying gigantic pile of human skulls.

      • cassander says:

        >Socialism is based on social, communal, or shared ownership of the means of production

        So it’s identical to shareholder capitalism? Great! Where can I sign up?

        You only have two choices. You can let people decide what to do with their stuff, or you can decide what people do with their stuff. the former is called capitalism, the latter is called socialism, and it cannot avoid central planning, because that’s the whole point.

        • Nick says:

          This seems reductive. Where do you place cooperatives, then? Do you consider them capitalist or socialist?

          • ReaperReader says:

            Butting in here, the key issue for me is how free people are to choose what form of economic organisation. A society where people can work for a cooperative or a publicly listed company or set up their own privately owned one or join a partnership or whatever is fundamentally different to one where everyone is forced into one type of organisation, or even a small set.

          • cassander says:

            there’s obviously a continuum, or at least steps, between the two, but at the end of the day, every piece of property gets allocated by someone. Either it’s going to be buyer/seller or a collective. Co-ops, when well run, are just companies where employees are also shareholders. Me, I’d rather not my livelihood be entirely invested in one company, which is why in the long run, voluntary coops just get back to capitalism.

          • ksdale says:

            The question is whether the workers have formed the co-op voluntarily, or whether it is the only ownership structure available to them, if I understand cassander’s distinction correctly.

            As an aside, a while ago, I spent a bunch of time thinking about ways to promote the formation of worker co-ops because it seemed like it might be an easy way to do a good thing. I’m a tax attorney, and although I’m not familiar with the world of co-ops, I’m not a novice when it comes to business formation or operation.

            Reading through a bunch of the literature on websites that exist to promote worker co-ops, I came away rather disenchanted. They tend to handwave away the actual running of the business, as if it just goes without saying that a business owned by the workers will work great.

            This ignores the fact that worker co-ops have always been allowed, and yet are quite rare. The only conclusion I could draw is that they are not actually intrinsically that great, for reasons that may be addressable, to be sure. But the literature doesn’t address what seem, in practice, to be nearly insurmountable difficulties.

            I tried to think of businesses that aren’t very capital intensive, because that’s naturally a big barrier to entry. Plenty of businesses would have an advantage if they had several people out of the gate who were willing to work.

            But I did some math, using estimates similar to what small business owners make for themselves from a business with a certain number of employees, and without the owner, the employees would make something like 10% more, which is nice, but comes with all the attendant problems of running the business by committee, which may come with at least 10% more work.

            There’s generally not nearly as much profit as people think, and owners of successful businesses make good money for sure, but it goes fast when it’s distributed amongst everyone, and running anything as a group is HARD, even when everyone is acting in good faith.

          • ReaperReader says:

            @ksdale, I once worked for a retired guy who once owned a fishing company. As did his dad. At one point the union demanded a share of the profits. “Certainly!”, said his dad. “And you’ll stand your share of the losses too.” The union switched to demanding a pay rise.

          • Mabuse7 says:

            I think that for any truly workable mutualist/co-op based economy to work the co-ops would invariably be modelled more on those that have been commercially successful in market economies, like John Lewis Partnership or Gore and Associates, rather than the smaller scale efforts usually lionised by worker ownership advocates. And I imagine that such an economy would end up looking much like postwar Japan’s, dominated by a few massive co-op conglomerates that formed to leverage scale and diversification to improve the returns of their worker-owners.

          • Clutzy says:

            An example of Co-Ops that are very common in the US is law firms. Only working attorneys can be partners.

            It just so happens to be that law firms, despite being run by otherwise very successful people, are very poorly run.

          • Statismagician says:

            Private medical practices, also.

          • ksdale says:

            @Clutzy
            In the US, partnerships and co-ops are actually different ownership structures. It’s true that only attorneys are allowed to own law firms, but they also have many other employees. As far as I know, a co-op is not allowed to have employees who are not owners. Partnerships offer a lot of flexibility as far as compensation and ownership are concerned, and co-ops have many more restrictions when it comes to differentiating between employees.

            This goes to what I said above about how there aren’t very many worker co-ops. I’ve had several clients who have wanted to do a co-op because of abstract ideas about fairness and realized that a different structure would much better serve their purposes, including their concerns about fairness between employees.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Clutzy
            In the US, partnerships and co-ops are actually different ownership structures. It’s true that only attorneys are allowed to own law firms, but they also have many other employees. As far as I know, a co-op is not allowed to have employees who are not owners. Partnerships offer a lot of flexibility as far as compensation and ownership are concerned, and co-ops have many more restrictions when it comes to differentiating between employees.

            Sure, but the problem for both is that you are missing a class of people who are unskilled at doing the underlying work (like law) precludes you from hiring skilled managers at reasonable rates.

          • ana53294 says:

            a co-op is not allowed to have employees who are not owners.

            That is not true. In co-ops such as Mondragon, becoming a member of the co-op is a privilege that is acquired after a number of years working for the company. Not everybody accepts (most people don’t have that kind of cash, and not everybody is willing to get a loan for that).

            They also have temp workers and such who don’t have even the chance of becoming a member.

            Of course, any kind of worker, from executive to cleaning lady, can become a member, so there isn’t the limitation of only lawyers.

      • ReaperReader says:

        Capitalism is a market economy based on the private ownership of the means of production,

        So publicly listed companies aren’t capitalist?

        cooperatives have shared ownership of the means of production. …. This definition encompasses a market economy where all companies are cooperatives

        So how under this are capital intensive projects like hydro power plants funded? A hydro power plant costs a lot to build but needs very few people to run. Does every worker at a hydro plant have to take on tens of millions in debt, to repay the cooperatives who built it?

        doing away with the market and private property altogether (land ownership mostly, not personal property like your shoes or car),

        So what happens if a small cooperative farm wants to hire some labour temporarily, let’s say one of the owners is pregnant. Does the farmhand get a vote and if so what are their interests in the long term productivity of the land?

        And how do you imagine the knowledge problem being solved if you do away with prices and markets? Does everyone get to spend two hours a day filling in information for a grand centralised network?

        Democratic socialism explicitly rejects the dictatorship part

        As did revolutionary socialism. They were very found of announcing how democratic they were. Not just before they took power, but afterwards. Even put it in the formal names of their countries. Have you heard of Hayek’s argument that democracy depends on individual economic freedoms, that a planned economy can’t tolerate diversity of values?

      • Brett says:

        I disagree a bit on cooperatives not being capitalist. A cooperative is indistinguishable from a partnership at the low end of firms, and they behave fundamentally like capitalist firms in a marketplace.

      • eigenmoon says:

        I think that the key question here is how to hedge against failure. If a worker of a co-op A is afraid that his co-op will fail, he may sell some of his shares and buy some shares of a co-op B, and workers of B will do likewise, and after some time everybody owns a bit of everybody. That’s capitalism.

        If the worker tries to sell his shares but Red Guards show up and explain that trading shares is forbidden and the only way to insure against co-op A’s failure is to trust that the Party will reallocate the worker to some other co-op, now that’s socialism.

    • beleester says:

      well, if your nationalized companies are so great, why not let the free market demonstrate it? Let’s allow private postal services and see who wins, for example.

      I think most socialists would take that bet. I generally hear capitalists make the opposite claim – the nationalized business will have an unfair advantage since they’re funded by taxes instead of profits, so they can provide any level of service the people want without regard to cost.

      The USPS, incidentally, has the opposite issue – the post office receives no tax dollars, but is mandated to provide service to everywhere in the US, up to and including tiny villages in Alaska only accessible by bush plane, while private carriers can just… not do that.

      • cassander says:

        I think most socialists would take that bet. I generally hear capitalists make the opposite claim – the nationalized business will have an unfair advantage since they’re funded by taxes instead of profits, so they can provide any level of service the people want without regard to cost.

        Socialists won’t take that bet precisely because they DO always do want that. taking the bet would be letting the national whatever company compete without subsidies, special legal protection or transfers from tax dollars. But when the national companies start to fail, the answer is almost always more subsidies, not “well, I guess that didn’t work out.”

        while private carriers can just… not do that.

        private carriers are illegal. but I’m quite positive that a private company could out compete the post office even with a universal service mandate. Step one, deliver mail every other day and you’ve just your cost base by a huge amount.

        • beleester says:

          taking the bet would be letting the national whatever company compete without subsidies, special legal protection or transfers from tax dollars.

          That seems… kinda pointless? A government program without any legal protections or mandates, funded solely by its profits, is just a private company that happens to have “government” in its name. You’re basically saying “I bet that the government is uniquely bad at hiring managers,” which… might be true, but doesn’t seem particularly revelatory about capitalism vs socialism.

          (Unless you were proposing to remove all the support but keep the mandates, in which case, no shit the one with more legal restrictions on its actions will have trouble.)

          Step one, deliver mail every other day and you’ve just your cost base by a huge amount.

          The post office has considered ending Saturday delivery to save costs for several years now. It comes up over and over, and so far they’ve decided that the expected loss of business from not delivering as promptly outweighs the expected savings.

          But go on, tell me more about how only the private sector could come up with cost-cutting innovations like that.

          • cassander says:

            @beleester

            That seems… kinda pointless? A government program without any legal protections or mandates, funded solely by its profits, is just a private company that happens to have “government” in its name.

            the point would be that government, liberated from the profit motive, would be free to meet the needs of customers, not shareholders. And those are not my words, that argument is constantly made.

            You’re basically saying “I bet that the government is uniquely bad at hiring managers,” which… might be true, but doesn’t seem particularly revelatory about capitalism vs socialism.

            How on earth could that not be relevant, given that under socialism the government hires all the managers?

            The post office has considered ending Saturday delivery to save costs for several years now. It comes up over and over, and so far they’ve decided that the expected loss of business from not delivering as promptly outweighs the expected savings.

            (A) I said every other day, not Saturday.

            (B) my understanding is that the post office has repeatedly tried to cut Saturday delivery, but isn’t allowed to by congress. So, please, tell me more about the efficiency of government run institutions.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            That seems… kinda pointless? A government program without any legal protections or mandates, funded solely by its profits, is just a private company that happens to have “government” in its name.

            Not at all. It means that it is run by the government. This is also very common; they are called enterprise funds in Finance jargon. A whole lot of water, garbage, sewer, etc. businesses are run by municipalities, and usually do not have subsidies from taxes. Sure, they have mandates, one of which would be to run an efficient and effective service for the townspeople. Usually it is a monopoly, which is why it is run by the government in the first place. Not at all pointless.

          • Clutzy says:

            That seems… kinda pointless? A government program without any legal protections or mandates, funded solely by its profits, is just a private company that happens to have “government” in its name. You’re basically saying “I bet that the government is uniquely bad at hiring managers,” which… might be true, but doesn’t seem particularly revelatory about capitalism vs socialism.

            I don’t think anyone has gotten to the crux of why it is revelatory about capitalism vs. socialism. The critique of capitalism (particularly in healthcare), it that it is exploitative towards both consumers and employees because of the profit motive. Also, often there are claims that we could wring out vast savings by eliminating redundant middle men like private insurance companies. An independent government program that is supposed to float on its own handles all of those critiques.

          • Garrett says:

            An independent government program that is supposed to float on its own handles all of those critiques.

            Is there any reason to believe that they would be any better than non-profit/charitable organizations? As it stands, about half of hospitals and (surprisingly) health insurance companies are non-profit/charitable organizations.

          • Clutzy says:

            Is there any reason to believe that they would be any better than non-profit/charitable organizations?

            In my mind, no. Some people would argue for scale.

      • MorningGaul says:

        I think most socialists would take that bet.

        That is not my experience. The French left has been consistently opposing any opening to competition, weither in energy, transports or communications.

      • I think most socialists would take that bet. I generally hear capitalists make the opposite claim – the nationalized business will have an unfair advantage since they’re funded by taxes instead of profits, so they can provide any level of service the people want without regard to cost.

        Sure, if the socialized firms can just tap into tax revenues whenever they lose out, they will win. But that’s unfair not just to the competitors but to the taxpayers who have to pay for services they aren’t using. Implicit in the challenge is that the socialized firm can’t do this. The only industry where the capitalists would say “no, we can’t have government in that industry even if they play by the same rules we do” is healthcare.

    • ReaperReader says:

      where you and your co-workers elected your own management.

      Imagine being a patient in a hospital where the main interest of the management was ensuring that their co-workers re-elected them. There’s a reason that public health care systems in democratic countries don’t appoint hospital managers this way.

      • Brett says:

        Neither do the large cooperatives, to be fair. The larger Mondragon cooperatives elect representatives who then hire and fire management, like appointing the top brass to a bureaucracy. Direct democracy just isn’t feasible with a large firm with heavily specialized employees and divisions.

        • albatross11 says:

          Interestingly, this is the same basic structure as many city governments in the US. The citizens elect a city council, the city council hires (or fires, as need be) a professional city manager and maybe some other top jobs (city engineer, police chief, etc.), can pass ordinances and funding bills, but otherwise lets the professional managers get on with running things. If they don’t like how things are going, they can fire the city manager and hire another.

      • An Fírinne says:

        Imagine being a patient in a hospital where the main interest of the management was ensuring that their co-workers re-elected them.

        Imagine being a patient in a hospital where the main interest of the management was ensuring that the fat cats who own the hospital get as rich as possible within the confines of the system.

        I dont believe in bottom-up management but its better then profit-based management

        • EchoChaos says:

          I dont believe in bottom-up magement but its better then profit-based managment

          Citation needed. Do you have evidence of health outcomes being better from one than the other? Because I’ve been in both government non-profit hospitals and private for-profit hospitals and I vastly prefer the latter.

          • An Fírinne says:

            Government owned hospitals are often underfunded and staff tend to go towards private owned hospitals as a result of this.

            Anyway I don’t know how rich you are but if you have a fat enough wallet you’re guaranteed a pleasant stay in a private hospital.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @An Fírinne

            Government owned hospitals are often underfunded and staff tend to go towards private owned hospitals as a result of this.

            You are incorrect. The VA is one of the best funded American government institutions, since it is favored by both the left and the right. It still is lousy compared to private hospitals.

            Anyway I don’t know how rich you are but if you have a fat enough wallet you’re guaranteed a pleasant stay in a private hospital.

            I’m an American, so top 1% worldwide. Good argument for Americans to stick with private hospitals, though. I’ll definitely use it.

          • cassander says:

            @An Fírinne

            So your argument is that government hospitals are managed better, and by better, you mean “underfunded by their management and thus worse”? Putting aside the contradiction here, how on earth does systematic under funding not reflect on the management of public institutions?

          • An Fírinne says:

            @EchoChaos

            You are incorrect. The VA is one of the best funded American government institutions, since it is favored by both the left and the right. It still is lousy compared to private hospital

            Well the United States is particularly notorious for its poor treatment of its veterans so it wouldn’t suprise me that the service is inferior there.

            I’m an American, so top 1% worldwide. Good argument for Americans to stick with private hospitals, though. I’ll definitely use it.

            Class discrimination is not a good thing

          • EchoChaos says:

            @An Fírinne

            Well the United States is particularly notorious for its poor treatment of its rans so it wouldn’t sup[rise me that the service is inferior there.

            I don’t know what rans are in this context, but I thought that since public ownership was so good that better funded public ownership should always win. But for some reason it doesn’t here?

            Edit to add: I see your fix to veterans. Is your argument is that despite the VA being incredibly well funded, the actual workers at the hospital hate veterans enough to make the service poor, or that despite massive overfunding relative to private hospitals the service is still poor because of something else?

            Class discrimination is not a good thing

            It is, though. And note that the private hospital I am talking about is a Catholic hospital that gives free service to indigent people, especially minorities, so it is both more inclusive than the VA (which only serves servicemembers and family) AND has better service.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @EchoChaos

            I’m honestly not familiar with VA so I cannot say but it seems premature to declare government-management to be inferior based on your single self-assessed anecdotal experience.

            Compare a Cuban run hospital (incredible healthcare system) to a Haitian one and tell me the Haitian one is still better.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @cassander

            So your argument is that government hospitals are managed better, and by better, you mean “underfunded by their management and thus worse”? Putting aside the contradiction here, how on earth does systematic under funding not reflect on the management of public institutions?

            Its the party in government which allocates the health budget. For instance in the UK right now the very anti-nationalisation Tory Party is in power and they starve the NHS of funds. If you deflate a balloon and then complain that its not rising into the air then you only have yourself to blame.

          • albatross11 says:

            Then compare the modern Pinkertons in the US to the Port Au Prince police and tell me whether we should have public or private police forces.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @An Fírinne

            I’m honestly not familiar with VA so I cannot say but it seems premature to declare government-management to be inferior based on your single self-assessed anecdotal experience.

            You yourself conceded that wealthy enough people should prefer private to public. Given that America is phenomenally wealthy, we should prefer private, which parses with my experience even in your worldview.

            Compare a Cuban run hospital (incredible healthcare system) to a Haitian one and tell me the Haitian one is still better.

            I don’t know enough about either, but if you have to compare Cuba to a third world mess like Haiti, you’re not convincing me well at all.

            Its the party in government which allocates the health budget.

            Correct, which is why the VA is such an excellent example, since both American political parties support funding it well.

            And more importantly, if your health system cannot handle the opposition ever getting power, you have a bad health system.

          • Clutzy says:

            Compare a Cuban run hospital (incredible healthcare system) to a Haitian one and tell me the Haitian one is still better.

            In 1950 Cuba was, on a per person basis, almost as rich as Florida in 1950. Haiti hasn’t caught up to 1900 Florida.

          • cassander says:

            @An Fírinne says:

            Its the party in government which allocates the health budget.

            yes, the managers. Unless you have a plan that doesn’t involve congress/parliament, you can’t say “well it everything would be great except for congress/parliament”

            For instance in the UK right now the very anti-nationalisation Tory Party is in power and they starve the NHS of funds.

            why do you make things up?

          • Lambert says:

            I’ve not crunched the numbers myself or anything, but the argument is that healthcare is getting more expensive faster than the NHS budget has grown in the past few years.

        • An Fírinne says:

          @albatross11

          Then compare the modern Pinkertons in the US to the Port Au Prince police and tell me whether we should have public or private police forces

          Don’t be silly. Cuba and Haiti are comparable because they’re both 3rd world countries and they’re right beside eachother.

          • Another Throw says:

            Yeah, and Germany and Liechtenstein are first world countries that are right next to each other. Lets compare them on GDP per capita.

          • An Fírinne says:

            @Another Throw

            Come on now, you’re deliberately being obtuse Cuba and Haiti are not the same as Liechtenstein and Germany.

          • Another Throw says:

            You’re right.

            Cuba has 8 times the GDP per capita as Haiti, compared to Liechtenstein’s 4 times Germany.

            You’re completely eliding the very real distinctions between Cuba and Haiti as being not even being worth discussion. It’s not a good look.

          • John Schilling says:

            Cuba and Haiti are comparable because they’re both 3rd world countries

            Cuba is not a 3rd world country and never has been. The three world model was specific to the Cold War, and under that model Cuba was a 2nd world country. Since 1991, use of the term “3rd world” has been deprecated, and the replacement scales (e.g. the IMF’s “developing/developed/industrialized nation”) pretty much always put Cuba in a different class than Haiti.

            This is not a reasonable comparison.

          • Clutzy says:

            Cuba, like Argentina, used to be a rich country. Argentina ~1900 may have been the wealthiest country in the world. Cuba in the immediate postwar era was richer than several western European countries.

    • NoRandomWalk says:

      The irony of fate is my favorite holiday russian movie and I have a tradition of watching it every year with family.
      Will check out Garage.

  62. b_jonas says:

    > WWI […] officers were about 50% more likely to die than ordinary soldiers.

    Ok, but which way does the casual link go? I hear soldiers sometimes get promoted after they die heroically. How often did they get promoted to officials?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Also, how high up the ranks does the effect hold for? If 90% of Lieutenants get gunned down leading the poor enlisted sods, that doesn’t do much to disprove the narrative that the generals and their staffs sat in comfortable tents sending everyone else to certain death. (I’m skeptical of that narrative for other reasons but this statistic is (probably) not great evidence)

      • Wency says:

        I’d be curious about this too. Anecdotally, a fair number of senior officers did die, whether from snipers, artillery barrages, or other causes. The most prominent for the British was Secretary of War Kitchener, who died when his ship hit a landmine. I’d think that in naval combat, casualties are more evenly distributed by rank.

      • sfoil says:

        Officers are too heterogeneous a population for this sort of analysis to be too useful. Generally, “unit leaders” get killed more often than the average rifleman and rear echelon troops less often. A company commander’s life is in serious danger; a staff captain is probably in a pretty safe spot. You can say the same thing about a sergeant who’s a squad leader and one who’s the general’s driver. Safe headquarters were stuffed with officers; so were death-sentence flying squadrons.

        In The Face of Battle, John Keegan speculates that a lot of the rancor directed at “officers” in WWI, at least in the British army, was towards members of the General Staff, who wore special insignia and were generally systematically segregated from combat troops, including other officers.

        All this said, it is ultimately true that generals directed bloody battles from relatively safe locations. Of course, that general used to be a lieutenant himself. If his time as a junior officer wasn’t as dangerous as that of the men he commands, well, that’s not exactly his fault.

    • Wency says:

      Definitely not that.

    • Athenae Galea says:

      (Both a reply to the parent and to @Gobbobobble’s comment above)
      I don’t know much about posthumous promotions, so can’t comment on what effect that has on the data, but I’m going to say that the statement would be true even without it.
      I was going to include a story I heard about a war memorial in France with only the entry “The class of 1914”, but looking it up it seems that only about half of that class (that is, of the officer training school) were killed.
      For comparison, out of 8 million mobilised overall, 1.4 million were killed. (I don’t have properly comparable numbers, which would be those mobilised at the outbreak of the war, so take this with a grain of salt.)
      For the higher ranks, in the British army, according to Wikipedia, 78 officers of brigadier-general or higher were killed, which together with it also saying a brigadier-general commands around 4,000 men, and the total size of the army was about 6 million, of whom around 750,000 were killed gives us (assuming the numbers of superior officers are negligible, so multiply this by … maybe 2/3? That’s just a guess though.) a 5.2% death rate for senior officers, compared to 12.5% overall. (Be aware that accuracy here is well below precision.)
      So back of the envelope calculations give a higher rate for junior officers and a lower one for senior. This is of course assuming that the 4,000 figure both was accurate around the time and didn’t change too much with the rapid growth in size.
      Also the 4,000 probably doesn’t include staff officers, who I would imagine had a much lower casualty rate.

      • Protagoras says:

        I’d be careful with back of the envelope calculations about numbers of officers, but as far as the results, junior officers having a higher death rate than enlisted and senior officers having a lower death rate is what I would have expected.

    • sfoil says:

      It would be and is extremely rare for someone to be posthumously promoted from an enlisted to officer rank. The “typical” case probably involves the dead man being entitled to commissioned rank but not permitted to wear it for one reason or another at the time of his death. There’s absolutely no way these edge cases have a significant effect on these numbers.

      Higher casualty rates for officers were (I would even say are, not that it gets talked about too much in public) considered normal and even a sign of a well-functioning military.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I don´t know exact numbers, but I am surprised by a claim that myth about officers sitting behind the lines comfortably developed. In fact in a historiography about the Great war one regularly encounters statements about shortages of qualified officers due to huge numbers of them being killed in early months of the war.

    • Aftagley says:

      which way does the casual link go?

      The way Scott originally put it. Everyone else is right – front line officers and specifically junior officers die at much higher rates than the enlisted. This has been true for nearly every war. There are a couple of reasons why, but the biggest one is that the enemy specifically wants to kill people in leadership roles because doing so has the potential to incapacitate the rest of the platoon. If you kill the officer, maybe the NCO takes over, maybe he doesn’t. Either way, you’re still happy as a sniper or whatever.

      • cassander says:

        That’s not why. Most people killed in ww1 (and every war since) were killed by artillery, not anything aimed at any one person. Officers die because officers are leading their men, and a big part of that is being conspicuously galant.

        • Ketil says:

          Another possible reason (probably more true in modern times than earlier) is that more valuable targets tend to be more officer-rich. Riflemen is a low value target compared to artillery, armor, or aircraft – which tend to have higher officer-to-private ratios.

    • NoRandomWalk says:

      Not a historian, but Dan Carlin’s hardcore history had dozens of hours on WWI, and one thing that struck me is culturally going into WWI war was still thought of as noble. Like french officers would literally raise their sword and charge into gunfire rather than retreat.

      This might explain some of the imbalance. However it went the other way too, for example near the end of the war officers wanted a really big naval battle to test all the new technologies they were developing even though the outcome was almost determined (being ordered into battle in the final days of any war just suuucks).

      I would guess that in WWII the ratio was much more skewed, though I’m sure *on average, in all wars* it’s still true that infantry have lower mortality rates than officers.

      • bean says:

        This might explain some of the imbalance. However it went the other way too, for example near the end of the war officers wanted a really big naval battle to test all the new technologies they were developing even though the outcome was almost determined (being ordered into battle in the final days of any war just suuucks).

        That is 100% not why either side wanted a big battle towards the end of the war. For both sides, it was essentially a matter of honor. The British were (rightly) worried that their contributions to maintaining the blockade would be rounded off to “sat at Scapa while the Army bled in France” while the German officers were concerned about the honor and prestige of the fleet if they surrendered without a fight. Neither side was that concerned with “will this work?”

        I would guess that in WWII the ratio was much more skewed, though I’m sure *on average, in all wars* it’s still true that infantry have lower mortality rates than officers.

        The problem is that “officers” is a very broad category, so it heavily depends on the boundaries you draw. It’s pretty well-known that junior infantry officer is the most lethal position in a typical Army, but while the sight of a dead general is occasionally valuable to inspire the troops, you don’t want them dying too often.

        • NoRandomWalk says:

          Thanks. I could be 100% wrong. My expertise is literally ‘i listened to a podcast.’ Your link is good evidence that the german fleet’s officers wanted to have a big naval battle for honor. I’m not sure it shows that the same was the case for the british. I vaguely remember hearing that wanting to test their new ships/strategies which they had been building up through the war was a significant part of it.

          • bean says:

            From what I can remember of reading on this, there was significant disappointment that the Germans didn’t come out, but very little of it was because they didn’t get to play with their toys. It was basically an honor thing for them, too. It’s hard to train for war and then only get one chance to fight, as the British battleships did. I can check some sources later to confirm, but there’s at least some discussion here.

  63. S_J says:

    The article on homicides in Brazil is pretty shocking.

    I was aware of this, partly because I’ve done research on comparison of homicide rates of various nations in the past. (Also because I’ve heard stories from people who spent time running humanitarian work in/around the poor parts of Rio de Janeiro.)

    That article may be committing a statistical error: at first glance, the per-capita rate are not calculated, only the raw numbers.

    Checking population statistics makes the results look worse: Brazil has a smaller population (~200 million) than the United States (~325 million). The base rate of homicide in the US is in the vicinity of 5-per-100k-population, while the cited value for Brazil puts its rate near 30-per-100k.

    Wikipedia confirms that rate.

    Of note: Wikipedia also confirms that the smaller nations of Belize, Venezuela, and El Salvador have much higher homicide rates than Brazil. Their populations aren’t large enough to produce the large result cited in the article, but their per-capita rates are higher.

    • EchoChaos says:

      My recollection is that two circles drawn on the globe, one covering Brazil through Mexico and the other covering Central Africa, can circle half of all murders in the world.

    • Wency says:

      It’s not a statistical error to exclude per capita numbers in this case — it’s the whole point being made. “X country has very high murder rate” is a point we hear often; “X country has several continents worth of murders” puts that in another context to make an interesting point.

    • Clutzy says:

      Every time I look at Brazil’s homicide rate I feel really good about America’s homicide rate. Something in our institutions must be awesome such that we don’t trend closer to them than we do to Canada.

      • John Schilling says:

        As a general rule, Americans of pretty much every race or ethnicity kill each other less often than do the current citizens of whatever country or region their ancestors immigrated from. Principle exceptions are Native Americans (obviously), and the descendants of the Scots-Irish Borderers.

        • Aapje says:

          Where do you get this from?

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          This isn’t true. The homicide rate for African-Americans is around 20/100,000. Neither of the African countries that have a rate greater than that (South Africa and Lesotho) were involved in the Atlantic slave trade. The African countries that were sources of slaves have rates ranging from around half the African-American one (e.g. Nigeria, Gambia) to significantly below the white American rate (Ghana, Guinea-Bissau). Likewise, the rate for white Americans (around 3/100,000) is significantly greater than that for e.g. the UK or Germany even before accounting for race in the corresponding countries.

    • DarkTigger says:

      And we have to remember 5 in 100k is still a rather high number for an developed country. In most of western europe it’s <1 in 100k.
      On the other hand. I don't put much trust in the official murder rates of China, and Russia.

  64. grendelkhan says:

    LW: autopsy of last year’s self-driving Uber crash. Hindsight is 20-20, and I usually try to hesitate to critique people smarter than I am who are trying to do an insanely difficult thing – but this still seems completely inexcusable and shockingly incompetent.

    It’s been mentioned (via this article, though I can’t find the thread) on the Culture War thread before, but here’s a tweet about it: self-driving cars are either going to fail to move in cities, or they’re going to kill pedestrians.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Here’s a more nuanced version of that tweet. Well, I thought he described two urban neighborhoods, one which he thought cars could navigate and one which he thought would be difficult, but it doesn’t quite look like that to me now. Maybe I was thinking of this? (a)

    • Jacob says:

      There’s no reason AI-driven cars should be any more dangerous than human-driven cars. Due to AI-phobia, they will probably need to be a lot safer before getting approved.

      • Ketil says:

        To make them really safe, we should only allow self-driving cars that are nuclear powered.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Much in the same way that air travel is intrinsically more dangerous but actually less risky, if our self-driving cars were exclusively nuclear powered, they would end up being safer.

          As in … dedicated pre-approved routes, central coordination and approval of routes, minimum set-off distances, specifically and actively coordinated embarkation zones, etc.

  65. itex says:

    On Arab countries becoming less religious: the survey specifically asked about “متدين”, which is stronger that what Westerners typically mean by “religious”. The same survey found that, e.g., 94.2% of Libyans pray daily vs. 77.7% calling themselves religious.

    • Statismagician says:

      Interesting – care to take a stab at translating the term properly?

      • Erusian says:

        متدين (mutadayyin) means one who engages in tadayana, in the same way the more famous mujahideen means one who engages in jihad. (And so on for other words, like ‘one who engages in farming’: the commonality is grammatical rather than conceptual.) It’s distinct from (for example) ديني (diniy), which means ‘religious’ in a basically similar sense to the English word (din means ‘religion’, -iy makes it an adjective). Diniy is the word used in ‘religious studies’, for example. Mutadayyin studies would imply they are training you for actual spiritual practice.

        Tadayana is a verb and it’s implicitly asking them not about internal beliefs but actions (even if those are mental, spiritual actions). In other words, a person who beliefs in God but didn’t live a godly life or take active spiritual actions wouldn’t be mutadayyin. They might be religious, though I suspect some wouldn’t conceded that.

        Very roughly, “Are you a baker?” vs “Do you bake?” except with religion. Just because someone doesn’t identify as a baker doesn’t mean they don’t bake. (Sorry for those who know more, I know that’s a really rough way to put it. English doesn’t really have a modern word that works for mutadayyin.)

        • hls2003 says:

          English doesn’t really have a modern word that works for mutadayyin

          Perhaps devout, or pious?

          • Nornagest says:

            It sounds like “practicing”, as in “practicing Catholic”, but I could be wrong.

          • Erusian says:

            Perhaps devout, or pious?

            This incorrectly gives it an adjectival nature, in my opinion. How do you ‘piety’ someone? It also collides with words like ورع (wari), which means devout/pious and is more directly derived from words that mean piety or righteousness etc.

            It sounds like “practicing”, as in “practicing Catholic”, but I could be wrong.

            No, definitely not. A non-practicing Catholic doesn’t go to church every week or doesn’t follow all tenets of the faith. These are very much not the implications of not being a متدين. If they were, not being one would be a much stronger negative statement.

            Like, the closest word I can think of in English is the 16th century “religionist”, with its implication of religion as an active action and verb and its association with highly religious people and societies who took a great deal of their identity from religious beliefs.

          • johan_larson says:

            Over in politics, there is the notion that some people are “politically active”, while most are not. The politically active are the people who do stuff, perhaps as amateurs or perhaps as professionals. They don’t just have opinions and chat about politics around the water cooler and maaybe drag their butts to the polls once every four years. They get out and do things, whether by raising awareness, or organizing, or raising funds, or campaigning for candidates.

            I guess in the same sense one could be religiously “active”, or not.

          • albatross11 says:

            Among Catholics in my parish, there are:

            a. A bunch of people who usually aren’t registered and come for major holidays (Easter, Christmas, Palm Sunday) when it’s convenient.

            b. Many people who come to Mass now and then, maybe aren’t even registered.

            c. Regular parishioners who show up pretty-much every Sunday and all holy days of obligation (special feasts like Ash Wednesday), but aren’t otherwise involved much in the parish.

            d. Involved parishioners who are a subset of (c), but who also volunteer for various parish ministries and activities. My family is in this class.

            e. Super-involved parishioners who are often members of a lay order and/or some group like Knights of Columbus, help run the parish, etc. These are the folks who are always at the church doing something. (Our family sometime skirts the edge of this group.)

            f. Deacons, priests, members of religious orders, etc., who have devoted a big chunk of their lives to the faith, and often perform religious services.

            These categories bleed into one another at the edges, and I don’t know what survey question you’d ask to capture what fraction of people are in each. But my sense is that polling questions in the US usually capture somewhere around either (a) (identifying as Catholic) or (c) (regular attendance). I don’t know what question you’d ask to capture some of these distinctions, and the questions would be very culture-specific.

    • James Green says:

      Does it really matter though? There is a clear trend here, as long as the same word was used both times I don’t see a problem. The most interesting country there is Yemen, which shows an increase in religiousness (certainly related to the war).

    • Ketil says:

      The same survey found that, e.g., 94.2% of Libyans pray daily

      Might it be that praying is seen differently in Islam and Christianity? Islam set fixed times for prayer, complete with muezzin calls, so I suspect it is more comparable to “do you attend church” in the West. Here, many people will go to church for various rituals (weddings, baptisms, funerals) and occasions (Christmas) without considering themselves religious.

  66. meh says:

    does anyone remember the anti photorealism in art link?

  67. grendelkhan says:

    I continue to be dismayed by the process by which scientifically rigorous transhumanism gets enthralled with and captured by weird woo stuff within a generation or so.

    Is there a past example of an attempt at rigorous transhumanism that got eaten by woo monsters within a generation? I’m having a hard time thinking of anything as old as cryonics.

    • gwern says:

      Scott just did a post on atheism, of course, which is very adjacent. General Semantics comes to mind as a possible example. Dianetics is an interesting one because it was a fraud to begin with, but then Hubbard jacked his own movement to turn it into the even more cultish Scientology.

      • Protagoras says:

        It may be benefit of hindsight, I suppose, but Korzybski’s writings struck me as crackpottish, so while he seems to have gotten a certain amount of (undeserved) respect early on, I am not inclined to count General Semantics as an example that started out rigorous.

  68. Well... says:

    Also, repeating my plea for Scott to start numbering the links. Or at least tell us why he won’t.

    • b_jonas says:

      Rather than numbering the links, I’d recommend posting a top-level command about each link. That would make it easier to read the comment thread if you care about the topic of some links but not the others.

      • Well... says:

        I think numbering them would achieve this same effect (because people commenting about a given link would likely include its number prominently in their comment) without making anyone do any extra work. Just making top-level comments about each link doesn’t make it clear which link people are talking about because they don’t have a clear identifier.

  69. Well... says:

    Sure, you can make a nice landscape in 2 hours if you use your imagination to fill in details. There are basic techniques to make realistic-looking rocks, grass, water, etc. Nobody will stand there and say “That doesn’t look anything like the wave I saw!” It’s much harder to do a high-quality 2-hr painting of something or someone specific that people would recognize.

    Re. Caplan and Open Borders: is his comparison to white Sith Ifricans supposed to make Americans feel better about mass immigration?

    • Aftagley says:

      Wasn’t this Bob Ross’s whole shtick?

      • AnteriorMotive says:

        Bob Ross even used this same translucent-crashing-wave template.

        Google “Bob Ross wave.”

      • Brett says:

        Ross extensively practiced all of his televised paintings beforehand. In addition to the painting you’d see him make on TV, he’d have two additional paintings exactly like the one he was painting (one of which was off-screen for him to use as a template).

    • AnteriorMotive says:

      The hardest part of painting is “understanding” the image/subject matter. After you’ve painted something one, you can paint it four times as fast a second time.

      In particular, this sort of natural subject matter can be thought of as a series of a few distinct patterns. Once you have an algorithm down for painting a segment of “roiling sea”, “epic clouds”, “backwash over beach sand” you can hammer them out very quick, because the human eye isn’t calibrated for recognizing errors in choppy surf in the same way that they’re calibrated for recognizing faults and subtleties in, say, a human’s face.

  70. The Nybbler says:

    New Jersey is bound and determined to follow all of California’s mistakes, although larger carveouts for journalists seem likely. The inevitable future articles about businesses leaving New Jersey are unlikely to make the connection.

    • Anthony says:

      With larger carveouts for freelance journalists, there will be many more articles about businesses leaving New Jersey. Articles about California will have to be written from Las Vegas or Austin.

    • Ketil says:

      Given that journalism has been an online activity for decades, and that these are state regulations – what is stopping freelancers to lance for out-of-state publications in less hostile environments? This may seem like a win for salaried journalists, but the publishers they work for seem likely to lose – in as much freelancers contribute substantial value.

  71. AlexanderTheGrand says:

    For the Caplan article, 55 -> 38 isn’t falling by 40% . Raising a 38,000 income by 40% gets you very close to 55,000 (38*1.4=53.2), but you only need to fall by 30% to get from 55,000 to 38,000 (55 * 0.7 = 38.5). Thanks confusing inverses.

    • Michael Watts says:

      One annoying thing covered early in economics courses is that economics defines the concept of percentage differently from everyone else. This is meant to solve the problem that values of an increase and a decrease that cancel each other out are not equal when measured in percentage points.

      I no longer remember the definition my textbook provided, but from first principles: the goal is to provide a number which is a function of two quantities a and b but independent of the order in which we encounter them. We can then measure a conventional percentage of this constructed quantity.

      The obvious quantities meeting this description are the sum or product of a and b. For the percentage we calculate to look roughly similar to the ordinary percentage, we want to use a value more approximately equal to a and b, so it will make more sense to use a mean. The mean based on the sum is the arithmetic mean (a+b)/2; the mean based on the product is the geometric mean (ab)^0.5.

      And regardless of which of those means you use, the fall from 55 to 38 is 36-37% of it. It seems fair to call this “about 40%”.

      • A1987dM says:

        Well, the real obvious way of achieving that is 100*ln(a/b)%, which in this case is 37%.

        (Myself, I only ever use percentages if the number before % is small compared to 100, and say things like “a factor of” otherwise. The whole point of % is to help with numbers which would otherwise be too small to handle comfortably. Saying “2,600%” rather than “26 times” is as silly as saying “2,600 cm” rather than “26 m”, IMO.)

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Those may be the obvious quantities that are symmetric in a and b, but there’s another mean that doesnt use them: the log mean, (a-b)/ln(a/b). Its kind of a fascinating construction–using only differences and ratios you come up with something between the two quantities.

        If you use that, you get your percent difference being ln(a/b), which as A1987dM points out, seems like the obviously correct choice for a symmetric calculation.

        • Michael Watts says:

          There are an infinite number of means. Why is the log mean the most obvious choice here? What are its properties and typical applications?

          The wikipedia article gives a derivation, but no motivation. And the definition, “the value m at which the curve f(x) = ln(x) has slope equal to that of the line between (a, ln(a)) and (b, ln(b))” doesn’t suggest anything obvious… to me. 🙁

          using only differences and ratios you come up with something between the two quantities

          Calling ln(x) “only differences and ratios” is a little overgenerous in my eyes. The arithmetic mean gets you a quantity in between two other quantities while actually using only differences and ratios.

      • One annoying thing covered early in economics courses is that economics defines the concept of percentage differently from everyone else.

        Could be true of a course you took, but it’s news to me. I certainly never did such a thing in any of the econ courses I taught.

  72. Erusian says:

    Despite the apparent renewal in interest, only about 1% of Americans think the gap between rich and poor is the most important issue – although it looks like it’s hard to get people to agree on what is a major problem in general.

    I disagree. Poor leadership is far and away the issue that shows as most important, varying between 23-34% of people. Immigration is next at 11-27%. They look even better when you combine them with related numbers (disunity, lack of respect sound like poor leadership to me). Everything else is single digits: healthcare at 7% maximum, racism at 7% maximum, national unity at 5% maximum and everything else even smaller.

    There’s a very clear message here: Americans want better leadership, a solution to immigration issues, and a stronger economy. A candidate who can convince people they will make the government better, show good leadership solve immigration, and improve the economy will be addressing a supermajority of American’s primary issues.

    More hot take: This probably means that the Democrat’s strategy of focusing on inequality is a losing one if the economy remains strong. Republican’s strategy of repeating over and over again the Democrat’s taxation policies will damage the economy is probably winning votes in net. Biden’s initial strategy of claiming credit for the stronger economy (through Obama) and claiming Trump is damaging it might have been better a message.

    I can’t believe we’ve been rationalists for over a decade now and nobody proposed just doing a scientific study to see whether the Democrats or the Republicans are better. Apparent answer: when studied through careful causation-detecting economic techniques, having a state switch from Democratic to Republican control, or vice versa, has almost no effect on various outcomes of interest like unemployment, crime, or school attendance. This is true even when you limit it to the most extreme cases (state goes from unified Democratic control to unified Republican control and stays that way for many years). Not really sure what to think of this.

    This reminds me of something I came off when looking at the Late Tokugawa Period. There was obviously a lot of desire for reform in the increasing chaos of the times. One domain embraced westernization and transformed their administration on the lines of Great Britain, the most advanced country in the world. Another embraced a highly reactionary approach, to the point they reimplemented some policies from as old as the 9th century. Both intended to rationalize the law, reorganize the economy, and increase the army (including producing more these new model weapons and tactics). These exact opposite policies (though intending to reach the same goal)… had the exact same effect. Both domains enlarged their armies with better, more modern weaponry, increased central control, and went into the ensuing Civil War as major powers. The main domains that failed did so because they were administratively impotent or corrupt or couldn’t overcome resistance to change or had a government that refused to confront the crisis. (Of course, even the successfully reformed domains were swept away by the Civil War, but that’s hardly their fault.)

    I’ve since held a suspicion that (if the government is intentionally trying to do its best for society and basically pragmatic), what’s more important is efficacy than the actual nature of the reforms. In other words, if they can be executed correctly either Republican or Democratic plans could work. Executing them correctly is the hard part. And this has structural factors that won’t necessarily be changed by simple transitions of power. And perhaps this is what populist movements can address: the Tea Party created a structural anti-government constituency, for example, that still exists even long after they’re gone.

    California passes a law saying that freelance journalists may not write more than 35 stories per year, which many freelance journalists argue is not enough to survive on and would essentially destroy freelance journalism as a career option. The story seems to be that California wanted to ban Uber from classifying its drivers as freelancers, and the easiest way to do this was just to ban freelance work and carve out exceptions for any form of freelance work the state didn’t want to ban, and whoever was in charge of exception-making randomly chose the number “35” for freelance journalism. The lawmaker responsible has apologized to freelance journalists, but the cynical part of me isn’t sure what apology they can give beyond “we’re sorry our law ending people’s freedom to make contracts with flexible work schedules also affected popular people who can complain”. And if you think I sound angry, as always you should read @webdevmason’s takes (1, 3). Anyway, I think California journalists should feel lucky to be allowed 35 stories; most new housing in the state is limited to two.

    Buy real estate in Las Vegas, if you can get it. That city and state are actively trying to recruit freelancers.

    What are they even trying to accomplish here? If you want to prevent contractors from being worse off than regular employees, it makes more sense to calculate the minimum wage and then add in all the regulations and benefits California requires for employees and then to set that as the minimum freelance rate in state. I mean, it’ll create issues similar to minimum wage, but that’s a lot better than just saying, “How many jobs do they need? Uh… 35. 35 jobs.”

    Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in college and cemented a cultural association between young people and entrepreneurship. But according to the American Institute for Economic Research, this association is wrong: the average successful entrepeneur is 45 when they found their company, the youngest entrepreneurs are the least successful, and a 50-year-old’s company is almost twice as likely to succeed as a 30-year-old’s.

    Is this surprising? The average entrepreneur isn’t founding FB, they’re founding a much smaller company. But even among rapidly growing tech startups, experience, connections, and access to early capital are all great indicators of success. These things all become easier to get the further along in your career you are. Facebook was always kind of a black swan. Even among career entrepreneurs, the kind who started in college, they usually have their first hit in their late twenties or early thirties at the earliest. (This is Google and Amazon’s case, for example.)

  73. kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

    I don’t know how you can read that thread on Yang’s media blackout and avoid the conclusion that it was deliberate. In many of the examples they list and display every candidate except Yang… all 20 of them, even though Yang is roughly #7 in terms of polls, donations, etc. And he’s not exactly forgettable either; it’s not like there are 10 other middle-aged Asian-american men running. (And yes, Yang’s campaign did repeatedly reach out to them to correct the errors. They repeatedly apologized and fixed the errors… but then kept making new ones.)

    • James Green says:

      I think it’s a case of Yang not fitting into the media’s preconceived notions of how things should be. The mainstream media hate will ignore anything that doesn’t fit into their story templates until it becomes so big it becomes unavoidable or perhaps they just want to reduce (or increase!) everything down to a two horse race.

      It’s like that gorilla on the basketball court; the media don’t see him because they aren’t expecting to see something like him. They are not malicious, just stupid.

      • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

        Deliberately leaving off a candidate who will be on the stage from your “list of candidates on the stage” seems like more than just stupidity. Especially when you do it repeatedly even after being corrected.

    • thetitaniumdragon says:

      Read up on the hostile media effect sometime.

      Yang’s national support is under the lizardman’s constant. He’s not a major candidate; he’s one of the fringe ones. The news media focuses on the people who do the most to stand out, which usually means either doing well in the polls or saying outrageous things or people raging out over them (like people whining about Bloomburg buying a lot of air time).

      It’s not surprising that the media forgets about him; when there’s over a dozen candidates, it’s pretty easy to forget about many of them.

  74. Nick says:

    Scott, is the narwhal tusk story under the three day rule? Should we be waiting until tomorrow to discuss it?

  75. siberian fox says:

    (would typically reply on twitter but you seem not to check it anymore)

    From the best of new Less Wrong: Design Principles Of Biological Circuits. I was especially impressed by this passage: “The body uses an integral feedback mechanism to achieve robust exact adaptation of glucose levels, with the count of pancreatic beta cells serving as the state variable: when glucose is too low, the cells (slowly) die off, and when glucose is too high, the cells (slowly) proliferate…mutant cells which mismeasure the glucose concentration could proliferate and take over the tissue. One defense against this problem is for the beta cells to die when they measure very high glucose levels (instead of proliferating very quickly). This handles must mutations, but it also means that sufficiently high glucose levels can trigger an unstable feedback loop: beta cells die, which reduces insulin, which means higher glucose “price” and less glucose usage throughout the body, which pushes glucose levels even higher. That’s type-2 diabetes.” Any experts reading who can confirm if this is true?

    This is essentially correct and most of it is quite elementary/mainstream, although AFAIK there is no evidence entablishing death by high glucose levels is an adaptation for proliferation *specifically*, it’s just a neat idea from this paper that would work to solve the real problem they present. Sections ‘Biphasic response can protect against mutant invasion but can cause vulnerability to disease’ to ‘Resistance to mutant invasion is enhanced by low proliferation, low cell number, and spatial compartments’ simply show correct predictions of this idea. Somatic heterogeinity/subpopulations of stem cells that compete and need countermeasures for excessive proliferation is quite accepted by now.

    The one big footnote I’d make is that there is a lot of evidence (also recent) you can have a good portion of the cell mass not dead but inactive due to exposure to exccess glucose, even in type-2 diabetes patients. This is the subset that can get better by a very low calorie diet.

    • Aminoacid says:

      While the cell apoptosis mechanism may be true, the last two sentences of the link seem wrong. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by an increase in peripheral insulin resistance (which can have multiple causes) long before beta cell dysfunction, which is why T2DM patients are not likely to have ketoacidosis. There is an unstable feedback loop involved in the pathogenesis of T2DM, but it consists on increased insulin resistance elevating circulating insulin level, which, being an anabolic hormone, results in adipose tissue increase, which contributes to an even higher insulin resistance, and so on. Beta-cell death happens at an advanced state of the disease, and I am not sure if it is established that the mechanism of apoptosis is due to an endogenous regulatory response or due to external factors, like nutritional overload

  76. Aftagley says:

    The patent thanks UFO researchers in the acknowledgements, includes a picture of a UFO recently sighted by Navy pilots, and does everything short of print in capital letters ‘THIS COMES FROM A UFO’. Scientists who were asked to comment say the proposed drive is “babble” and none of the supposed science checks out at all. Has the Navy fallen victim to conspiracy-peddlers, are they deliberately trying to stoke conspiracy theories for some reason, or what?

    *tinfoil hat is firmly on*

    Possible options ranked in descending order of probability:

    1. The office is a front (IE money goes in publicly and is then privately diverted to classified projects). Either: noone involved expected any kind of scrutiny on what they put out, the office don’t care if their status as a front office is made public or the office’s cover has already been blown and this kind of buffoonery is just them winding down operations.

    2. The navy actually has made some kind of novel discovery and is creating a bunch of smoke to obscure their actual advancements.

    3. The office this guy’s in has gone rogue. It wouldn’t take the entire navy to have gone crazy to have resulted in this kind of thing, just one or two departments.

    [large gap]

    4. Aliens exist?

    • Garrett says:

      I think this matters very little. In-practice, patents exist so that you can sue over them. They are not and haven’t been technical documents for a long time in any case – that scientists can’t make any meaning out of them is pretty much a sign of the current patent system. The True Meaning will be established by lawyers at trial. If this indeed is garbage, someone in one section of the government managed to get someone in another section of the government to file something in one folder instead of another. This will have legal implications for ~18 years and then not matter. Alternatively, it really is something useful at which point perhaps our lives are about to get better. Or maybe it’s a better way of levitating a frog inside a superconducting magnet.

      As for my guess, I’d go with option 0.5: some one/people lost a bet internally and were required to file a UFO patent. The runner-up had to shave their head.

      • zenmore says:

        I’m intimately involved with patents in my day job and I have to say, setting aside the lawyerly language, most of the academics I work with are perfectly capable of understanding the contents of patents, given that they often draft them or refer to them.

    • cassander says:

      1. The office is a front (IE money goes in publicly and is then privately diverted to classified projects).

      that’s not really how defense budgeting works.

    • Brett says:

      NASA had a guy who basically got grants to do dubious experiments in warp drive and reactionless propulsion for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something similar, especially if there’s some slender hope that it might produce some useful materials (the military would very much like access to meta-materials, if they can be made).

    • CatCube says:

      I’d swap #3 to the first position, by a good margin, but other than that the list is OK.

    • nameless1 says:

      I like the part where Mr. Pais has apparently also solved faster-than-light travel: https://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/abs/10.1504/IJSPACESE.2015.069339

      • Riothamus says:

        This seems to be the clincher, from the abstract:

        This involves the instantaneous removal of energy-mass from the system (spacecraft) when the spacecraft’s speed reaches v = c/2. Hence under such conditions, faster than light spacecraft propulsion, is feasible.

        To rephrase: they can travel faster than the speed of light, assuming the ability to dump energy faster than the speed of light.

        • imoimo says:

          Dang, that is damning. There’s plenty of physics cranks out there, but it’s sad to see one being taken seriously by the navy. As Scott notes, maybe this is a disinformation campaign — I hope it is. I wonder if the CTO who wrote the letter of support would be immune from perjury in that case.

          This patent being crank science doesn’t much change my thoughts on the possible UFO sighting though. Navy sees confusing object; turns to scientist who claims to understand it. Or navy sees confusing object; uses crank scientist to spread misinformation as defense while they internally investigate. Either sound like plausible navy responses, without implying much about what the confusing object was. Maybe there’s a useful Bayesian update in here but I’m not seeing it.

          • nameless1 says:

            Shouldn’t they Navy be better at generating believable disinformation?

            I mean, technically, part their job is to generate disinformation – in general, not about this case – that can mislead Russian and Chinese spies whose data is checked by Russian and Chinese scientists.

            I mean, what else can you do with spies these days, you cannot throw them in a prison anymore as we are all technically friends now, no Cold War, so what can you do, you mislead them, what else. I think feeding spies bovine feces is probably a big part of the counter-espionage system and it should be believable enough bovine feces to mislead the scientists backing up the spies?

          • DarkTigger says:

            Or maybe the Navy just deceided to employ a couple of cranks, in case one of them does actually have a useful idea.
            If I have a couple of million in disposable income I can afford to put 5$ a month into the lottery, just in case.

            This one crank might just have a good hand with journalists.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I mean, if it was just the patents, sure, but isn’t this neglecting the fact that so many pilots have reported actually seeing these things flying around now for several years (plus radar and video recordings) that they officially changed their UFO policy?

      I do think this provides a plausible non-alien answer to the question – if any of this stuff is possible, then maybe somebody already built it and that’s what pilots have been reporting, in the same way a lot of past non-hoax UFO sightings turned out to be secret military tech like the stealth bomber.

      But the whole aspect where these patents come out after years of the Navy basically saying they keep running into these things as actual physical objects of some type probably does need to be factored in to figuring out what is going on.

      • imoimo says:

        I think the patent scientist Dr. Pais can be safely assumed untrustworthy based on previous publications (see comment above yours). I don’t think this says much about the UFO sighting either way.

    • John Schilling says:

      Reading the fine print, I note that the proposed system requires a magnetic field of 1E9 Tesla. No, that doesn’t mean you need a billion of Elon Musk’s finest automobiles pulling the thing like a gigahorse carriage; that might actually be practical. A 1E9 T magnetic field is assocated with a magnetic pressure of approximately 2E29 Pa, or thirty septillion pounds per square inch if you prefer imperial units. Three quintillion times the breaking strain of carbon nanotubes. To contain that magnetic field, you’d need a construction material roughly a trillion times stronger than you’d need to build a Niven-standard Ringworld.

      Also, 1E18 V/m electric field. That’s not quite enough to start pulling atomic nuclei apart by raw electrostatic force, but it’s close – within an order of magnitude or two, by my estimate. When you’re postulating a system where electromagnetism is pondering whether it can overpower the strong nuclear force by BRUTE STRENGTH, you’re not in the same galactic supercluster as the quaint concept of engineering feasibility.

      Not going to dig any farther down in the details, but this looks to be a bunch of handwaving with Trekkian technobabble, trendy buzzwords, and arbitrary big numbers mixed together. And if you imagine you can get anywhere within a factor of a billion or so of making the UFO drive work, you’re already well past giving all your soldiers pocket terawatt fusion reactors for their particle-beam death rays, and armor with all the weight and bulk of a t-shirt that will let them survive direct hits by tactical nuclear weapons, so maybe lead with that?

      • Belisaurus Rex says:

        Article says the magnetism is equal to a magnetar and the electricity is equal to a nuclear reactor. We’d know if they built a magnetar on earth, right? Is that why my WiFi has gotten so spotty?

    • aristides says:

      My money says that this is a counter intelligence op. Russia and China know this technology is almost certainly impossible, but do they want to bet on it? They will assign at least one scientist to investigate whether this technology is possible, if it is can we replicate it, and if it is can we build counter measures? More likely both countries will assign a whole interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers to look at it. I doubt they will spend much time or money looking into it, but we didn’t spend much time or money creating the patent docs, so on the net we might waste more of their time than our own. Even if you do not think Russia and China will look at it, a Lieutenant in PSYOPs easily could have, and persuaded a Captain to go along with it.

      • rminnema says:

        That was my thought. One of the reasons that there were leaks about stealth technology and ABM technology during the Reagan years was to persuade the Soviets that they were out-of-their-depth. This led them to have to try and play catch-up on

        I think someone’s taking advantage of the weird USN UFO observations to try and run a PSYOP to try and convince the Chinese to invest a bunch of money in a gigantic hole.

        Or someone in the government is diverting money to Operation All Deeze Lap Dances.

        • MrApophenia says:

          I wonder if there could be a version of this where those scenarios are combined – ie, someone capitalizing on the weird UFO sightings to get approval for a budget for nonsense.

          I guess the UFO sightings could be part of a PSYOP themselves but there would need to be so many people involved for that at this point that that itself starts to seem like an implausibly large and elaborate conspiracy theory.

  77. Oddly enough, I too have been bitten by the new California law against free lancers, although less seriously. I had agreed to give a series of lectures based on my Legal Systems Very Different from Ours book for the adult education program of the university I recently retired from. When I did that a few years ago, no significant paperwork was involved. Now I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork and at some point I am supposed to be called in by the University’s HR department to do something or other in order to be classified as a temporary employee. I’m not sure it means I won’t volunteer to do the same thing in the future, but it makes it less likely.

  78. Clutzy says:

    The DHS thing seems like an expensive way to find illegal immigrants. But, immigration enforcement is so incredibly messed up and they have so many odd hoops to go through that I’m not surprised they occasionally engage in bizarre schemes.

    • GravenRaven says:

      The main point of the DHS sting operation was not to find illegal immigrants, it was to catch the recruiters who help match fake universities with the “students” who want to commit student visa fraud. Everyone criminally charged as a result of the sting operation was a recruiter. This is basically impossible without a sting operation.

      Every fake visa mill university, sting operation or not, is going to appear as officially approved by DHS, otherwise they would not be able to function. It is the student’s job to be aware of the requirements for their visa and DHS commmunicates this to students.

      If it is true that a few students were deceived by recruiters and actually thought they were going to attend a real university, then transferred to a legitimate university and had a student visa for that purpose, but were arrested and deported anyway, that seems unfortunate. But I’m skeptical that actually happened.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        “If it is true that a few students were deceived by recruiters and actually thought they were going to attend a real university, then transferred to a legitimate university and had a student visa for that purpose, but were arrested and deported anyway, that seems unfortunate. But I’m skeptical that actually happened.”

        How do you interpret the article’s claim that “A total of about 250 students have now been arrested since January on immigration violations…many of those arrested have been deported to India while others are contesting their removals”, and “Out of the approximately 250 students arrested on administrative charges, nearly 80% were granted voluntary departure and departed the United States”?

        • GravenRaven says:

          I can’t find any articles that report a number, or even a single detailed example, of people arrested and deported despite transferring to a legitimate program after arriving and realizing the university was a fraud scheme.

        • Anon. says:

          DHS claims they knew the uni was fake.

        • Aftagley says:

          The university was clearly and obviously fake. Fake as in, there were no classes, no papers, no tests, no nothing. It was a degree mill that was purposefully slowed down. The scam was that people would claim to be attending school here and actually be out working a job. They paid for this because their visa required them to be in school. There was no chance that someone thought they were legitimately attending school while signed up for this university.

          This explains why 80% took the voluntary departure – they likely knew they hadn’t been attending class and just copped to the penalty. Yes, maybe some people were deceived, but the vast majority of people swept up in this knew the score and knew they were committing visa fraud.

      • Aron Wall says:

        Every fake visa mill university, sting operation or not, is going to appear as officially approved by DHS, otherwise they would not be able to function.

        If that were really true, then there is also no need for a sting operation. If the DHS is willing to put in the manpower to draw up an official list of approved universities, and if recruiters are unwilling to recruit for a university not approved by the DHS, then a much easier route to enforcing the law is for the DHS to simply not approve visa mills. (Unless of course the real goal is to deport as many immigrants as possible, rather than to ensure the law is followed…)

        If on the other hand recruiters don’t always follow DHS guidance, then a sting operation could conceivably be warranted, but in that case it is also unnecessary for the DHS to trick people into breaking the law by deliberately whitelisting a fake university.

        The purpose of law enforcement should be to stop crime, not to encourage people to commit it.

        • Cliff says:

          The visa mills just say they are approved by the DHS, they are not actually approved

        • GravenRaven says:

          This is silly. The DHS does not have access to magical omniscience when certifying schools. Nor can DHS just instantly pull certification from every school it suspects is a visa mill. Most visa mills put a significant amount of effort into looking like a real school to outsiders and use networks of recruiters to find “students” looking for a visa mill. Nevertheless, having a certification system is useful because otherwise the barriers to entry for visa mills would be zero.

          Also, the problem of not being SEVP certified is not that recruiters won’t work for the university, it is that the students won’t be able to obtain the visas that are the whole point of enrolling.

          • Aron Wall says:

            So it’s only the poor students from India and China who are supposed to exercise magical omniscience?

            Everyone makes mistakes. But I’m sure the DHS is perfectly capable of coming to a much more accurate guess about this matter than most foreigners with poor English skills and borderline grades, and if there is any doubt the DHS could refuse to certify them, or spend their considerable money and manpower to actually go to the fake university campuses and see if classes are being held, rather than engage in legally and morally dubious entrapment schemes.

            On the other hand, constructing a whitelist of legit universities would be an actual service to foreigners. It’s not like it would be that hard; a real university is pretty difficult to conceal and most of the legit ones weren’t started in the last couple years.

          • GravenRaven says:

            The DHS, who the school is actively trying to deceive, is in a much worse position to determine whether a school is fraudulent than the “students” to whom the school is catering. This should be obvious. And if it were not clear to the student ahead of time, it is 100% obvious when they arrive.

            You have no understanding of how impossible it would be to construct a true whitelist. Most visa mills have a bit more physical presence than this egregiously fake sting operation. They will set up some physical infrastructure and hold some classes to pass physical inspection, they just don’t require the customers to actually attend or do anything.

          • They will set up some physical infrastructure and hold some classes to pass physical inspection, they just don’t require the customers to actually attend or do anything.

            Most colleges don’t require the customers to actually attend class, although I believe some do. They do require customers to pass exams, but not doing that would only become obvious at the end of the semester, and perhaps not even that soon.

          • Aapje says:

            In my country, there is ‘schoolification’ of universities happening, with an increasing number of paternalistic policies being adopted, like mandatory presence.

            I think that the main reason is the desire for maximum efficiency, with a lesser reason being the drop in student quality (although that may be driving a desire for more efficiency).

          • johan_larson says:

            “Schoolification” could potentially improve student performance.

            I studied kung-fu for several years back in high school. The typical session would begin with an hour of physical training and stretching, followed by an hour of instruction. For a while there some of the senior students were complaining about that first hour: too boring, not useful, too hard, too easy.

            In response, our instructor tried having that first hour free-form for a few months: we would bow in at the beginning, and then had 60 minutes to do whatever training we wanted. The second hour, the instructional portion, stayed the same.

            Training quality promptly nosedived. Most people would spend the free hour doing some light exercise and stretching, but many cut it short and spent lots of time talking with friends. I don’t remember seeing anyone do better or harder training than we had been doing before.

            A few months later we switched back to regular training, this time with no complaints.

          • littskad says:

            @DavidFriedman:
            Most colleges don’t require the customers to actually attend class

            “Require” might be not quite the right term, but any college that has students receiving Title V funding (which has got to be almost all of them) must be at least aware of whether they are attending classes, because their last date of attendance has to be reported for any class that they fail. I tend to satisfy this requirement in my undergraduate classes by giving frequent quizzes and using my gradebook as a de facto attendance book, as well as using it as a personal reminder to reach out to any student who misses a quiz.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Require” might be not quite the right term, but any college that has students receiving Title V funding (which has got to be almost all of them) must be at least aware of whether they are attending classes

            Perhaps this changed since I was in college, but I’ve literally never been in a college-level class that took attendance at lectures, and fewer than half — probably fewer than a quarter — gave frequent quizzes.

            Taking attendance at discussion sections wasn’t unheard of, though.

          • littskad says:

            @Nornagest:

            I believe you, but legally, universities are required to report “Last Day of Attendance (LDA)” for students receiving Title IV funds (I see I mistyped Title V above), since the money is supposed to be prorated depending on actual attendance and excess funds returned. For example, Indiana University’s official policy is here, and the University of Texas’s is here. The basic idea is, unless there is documentation to prove that a failing student attended at least 60% of the classes, they have to pay back a substantial amount (50% or more) of whatever Title IV funds they received in financial aid.

            I totally believe that a lot of faculty blow this off and just make something up when they need to put a date in their grade submission form, but that’s the sort of thing that can make the dean very nervous. By the way, it doesn’t have to be quizzes; relatively frequent assignments so that the instructor can get a date within a week or two should suffice. But only a midterm and a final, for example, without any other way to establish attendance with a bit more precision, is asking for trouble. I teach math, so frequent quizzes in undergraduate classes work well for this and, of course, I also use them to enable me to keep an eye on whether students are managing to keep up with things.

          • Aapje says:

            @johan_larson

            Traditionally, universities were supposed to churn out people with a high level of independence, self-knowledge and ability to self-motivate.

            Making universities more like a school makes more people ‘follow the flow’ and graduate as a result, but means that those graduates will have been challenged less on a motivational level and thus will not have developed as much on that front.

            It’s a trade-off. Historically, universities have made that trade-off differently.

            I remember a math professor presenting a proof during class and students complaining to him that they didn’t care, making him frustrated.

            It seems to me that less self-motivation will also result in more bare bones engagement with the material, as more students lack interest and just want to graduate with minimum effort.

          • bean says:

            Perhaps this changed since I was in college, but I’ve literally never been in a college-level class that took attendance at lectures, and fewer than half — probably fewer than a quarter — gave frequent quizzes.

            I have, but not that often. In some of the intro classes, they did it with clickers, occasionally doing some sort of cross-check to make sure nobody was bringing their friend’s clickers to class. In one of my higher-level aero courses, the professor said that if we missed more than one session without a doctor’s note, we’d lose a letter grade, and so took attendance. I suspect this is because it was the only way to avoid lecturing to an empty room. He was a bad lecturer, it was my only class M-W-F that year, and at 8 AM to boot.

          • Nick says:

            A lot of my classes took attendance (I graduated in 2017). Most just did roll call at the beginning of class, but many had regular quizzes, too, and at least from my junior year on there was pressure to make everyone show up for exams, I suppose for the Title IV reason littskad mentioned above.

            Someone in our psych department had that “if you miss a class without a doctor’s note you lose a letter grade” policy. She also had a policy that if you were late twice that was equivalent to an absence, I think. She would even lock the doors after 10 minutes, so if you were more than 10 minutes late you weren’t getting in regardless. There was a ridiculous mishap once where she forgot to unlock the doors at all, was sitting in the classroom for like ten minutes with everyone waiting outside trying the door and unable to get in. She finally found them… and marked everyone late.

          • gattsuru says:

            Most colleges don’t require the customers to actually attend class, although I believe some do. They do require customers to pass exams, but not doing that would only become obvious at the end of the semester, and perhaps not even that soon.

            To be clear, the legal requirement for F-1 and J-1 visas is not that students attend classes regularly, but that they maintain progress on their plans to graduate. DHS was not nabbing these students on that rule.

            DHS was getting these students on the specific rule that F-1 and J-1 students can only work for certain time periods, under very specific conditions. Students can work on-campus for up to 20 hr/week or off-campus after one year of normal enrollment (with limited exceptions) and explicit permission from DHS for up to one year of employment when it’s related to experience in their fields, in what is called OPT or CPT. It’s this prong that DHS looks to have been focusing on.

      • zzzzort says:

        But even the recruiters were (plausibly) entrapped. One was offered college credit by the DHS to recruit other people to the school. This is not some professional broker that was doing this habitually.

    • brad says:

      While I’m sure the people being deported think that’s the worst part, to me it’s the government keeping the “
      tuition money. That’s straight up stealing.

    • albatross11 says:

      There’s a danger with this kind of enforcement that AFAICT nobody’s talking about (because we all have to get our outrage and Orange Man Bad fix): We (the US) benefit enormously from having some of the smartest people in the world come to the US to go to school, do graduate work, do research, etc. Many of those people stick around and start companies, and among those who go back home, they often bring a lot of cultural affinity with the US and American attitudes home with them. They have lasting connections with US researchers[1], which matters for future research, for arranging postdocs/jobs for students, etc.

      This kind of sting operation has the potential to scare many of those top students away. This is part of a bigger pattern of making it hard for academics to come here that’s been going on since 9/11. I personally know researchers who explicitly decided to look for positions outside the US to avoid our immigration/visa system. Those are smart people–the kind who start companies and invent new technology and do top-tier research. We drove them away.

      I’ve also been in discussions about where to site academic conferences where there’s a big push to avoid US locations, because of our visa requirements. Instead of having the conference in the US, where it’s easy for American students and researchers to get there, we have it somewhere less convenient for us, because a bunch of the Indian and Chinese students worry they won’t be able to get in. I also know of several cases where very established top researchers with papers in big crypto conferences weren’t allowed in to give their talks, for inscrutable bureaucratic reasons. (These are people who were allowed in before and after, but somehow the paperwork didn’t get done in time for some conferences.)

      This stuff has a big cost, but the cost is invisible. It’s not measured in clicks for the latest Orange Man Bad story, or in big crowds of angry protesters, or in votes or campaign dollars. Instead, it’s companies not started in the US, top-tier research that didn’t happen in the US but instead happened in Europe or India or China, American influence on the smartest people in the world turning into Belgian or German or Chinese influence on the smartest people in the world. It’s measured in people whose students would have made breakthroughs or started companies here, only now they’ve decided to go look for a job in Europe or India or wherever. Maybe they won’t start a company elsewhere–most places are more hostile to that sort of thing than the US. Or maybe they will, but it won’t be an American company and won’t be hiring any Americans.

      This is one of those policy decisions that’s hugely important, but it’s not flashy and doesn’t offend any important interest groups or trigger any CW clickbait articles, so nobody notices as we gradually kill off a whole flock of golden-egg-laying geese. Our grandchildren will be *much* poorer, probably the whole world will be poorer, and the US will have much less influence in the world, as a result.

      [1] I’m an American researcher who has ties with a lot of foreign researchers, often from their time in the US when we collaborated on research.

      • EchoChaos says:

        The DHS says (and this may or may not be true) that everyone involved knew this was a scam university. They were told “this is a fake university that you’re paying to get a visa to the US so you can work there” and they paid money for that.

        Worrying about knock-on effects is worrying that Mexican travel agents will be hurt because the DHS ran a fake coyote operation.

        • albatross11 says:

          If indeed everyone involved knew it was a scam, then it’s a lot less likely to have bad effects. If many of the students thought they were going to a real college till they arrived and found out it was a scam, that’s very different. I’m not sure who I trust to give a straight answer on this–the DHS has every incentive to make their actions look good, the deported students have every incentive to make themselves out as innocent victims.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Sure, and media reporting “innocent students deported by heartless Orange Man” regardless of the correctness of the claim is also likely to make it have a negative effect even if the DHS is telling the entire truth, which is frustrating in and of itself.

          • albatross11 says:

            An interesting parallel is the students who got in via the college admissions scandal. Presumably some knew full well what was going on, others thought they were doing something like jaywalking that everyone does, still others thought they’d gotten in on their merits alone. But the reporting was very heavy on moral condemnation for these rich-but-not-that-rich parents for bribing sports coaches rather than the universities directly to get their kids in. There is nothing more powerful in media than The Narrative.

        • zzzzort says:

          My analogy would be an elaborate sting on home office installation getting people hit with tax fraud charges, and I think that would definitely hurt the business of H and R block, as well as things like charitable giving the tax code is designed to encourage.

          US immigration is a bureaucratic mess, and revealing suddenly that what looked like a loophole (this accredited university doesn’t require me to do much of anything) is actually sting is going to make everyone a lot more careful about everything. And if you have any sort of complicated status in the US (e.g. student switched to a resident, immigrant married a citizen, etc.) you will have done something wrong or borderline.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        The top students are going to big name universities; the “any school that gets me to America will do” crowd are not the cream-of-the-crop PhD-track superstars. Same goes for US natives, fwiw: if you’re in the “any school that gets me a degree” group, you’re practically by definition not one of the top students.

  79. viVI_IViv says:

    I continue to be dismayed by the process by which scientifically rigorous transhumanism gets enthralled with and captured by weird woo stuff within a generation or so.

    Scientifically rigorous transhumanism? Is this a joke?

    LW: autopsy of last year’s self-driving Uber crash. Hindsight is 20-20, and I usually try to hesitate to critique people smarter than I am who are trying to do an insanely difficult thing – but this still seems completely inexcusable to the point where everyone involved should be fired and maybe prosecuted.

    Uber’s gonna Uber. Seriously, their core business model consists in going to a city and operating an unlicensed taxi service, gambling on the fact that the government will be too slow to shut them down before their service becomes popular enough that shutting them down becomes politically inconvenient. I’m not surprised that they were applying the same philosophy to their self-driving car project. Move fast, break things, kill people.

    • Walter says:

      “Uber’s gonna Uber. Seriously, their core business model consists in going to a city and operating an unlicensed taxi service, gambling on the fact that the government will be too slow to shut them down before their service becomes popular enough that shutting them down becomes politically inconvenient.”

      Very much this. I’m not even a little surprised.

      • “Shutting them down becomes politically inconvenient” translates as “both the drivers and the customers discover that Uber is a good thing, and will be unhappy with politicians who shut it down.”

        • Walter says:

          I feel like you are kind of phrasing this as a disagreement, but I don’t actually dispute any of that.

          Like, I believe that it is very much better for people with money/phones that Uber exists instead of them being stuck using taxis. I think it is very very much better for unemployables that an uber-esque quasi job exists so they can make some money than that they be unemployed. I agree with you on that front.

          I think the way that Uber was brought into existence was illegal and unfair to the cab companies and their workers, who played by the rules and lost because those rules didn’t change fast enough. I resent Uber and its kind because of this initial action, and it has tainted them, in my mind, with an enduring odor of lawlessness.

          But that doesn’t take away the first part! Uber and the like are good for all concerned, and I believe that they will persist because of this fact. I wish that our system had been flexible enough to allow this kind of disruption without an initial outlaw paving the way, but it didn’t, and here we are.

          • albatross11 says:

            I see your point, but the cab companies in question hadn’t just played by the rules, they’d manipulated the rules to exclude competition, making the world a much worse place overall in so doing.

          • gbdub says:

            “The cab companies and their workers, who played by the rules…”

            Rules that were largely passed with the blessing if not active collusion of those companies and workers for the express purpose of limiting supply and raise barriers to entry, in order to benefit themselves at the expense of everybody else. So my sympathy is minimal.

            I really don’t like Uber’s tactics or general corporate mentality. On the other hand a company that did try to play by the rules would almost certainly have been throttled in the cradle by the same entrenched interests now crying crocodile tears over their lost monopoly. (And who are still playing their own rule exploitation game with ham-handed crap like this CA law)

            Since there are no good guys here I find myself notionally supporting the bad guys who are kinda sorta on my side, who have at least demonstrated an ability to make my life incrementally better.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @gbdub

            Rules that were largely passed with the blessing if not active collusion of those companies and workers for the express purpose of limiting supply and raise barriers to entry, in order to benefit themselves at the expense of everybody else. So my sympathy is minimal.

            There is an argument for cities to restrict the supply of taxis (allowed to pick up passengers who hail them on the street) in order to prevent the streets, which are a public good, being clogged up with empty taxis cruising around looking for passengers. Some cities (like New York) do this by only issuing a fixed number of taxi licences which can be bought and sold. Others (like London) make it very difficult to become a taxi driver, in London’s case with the famous Knowledge exam.

            The thing is that in most such cities Uber is not a taxi service. It is operating in another pre-existing sector of the market, the private-hire sector (car services in New York, minicabs in London). Because private hire cars aren’t allowed to ply for hire, there is much less incentive to restrict entry to this market. So it’s much less restricted. In London, the licensing criteria are essentially limited to ensuring that the vehicles they use are properly maintained and insured, and that the drivers aren’t criminals.

          • There is an argument for cities to restrict the supply of taxis (allowed to pick up passengers who hail them on the street) in order to prevent the streets, which are a public good, being clogged up with empty taxis cruising around looking for passengers.

            Taxi drivers could just as easily say that passenger cars are clogging up the streets, which are a public good they pay for, for them. And I could say that all these red-heads on the street are causing more traffic for us non-red-heads. The solution to this is congestion pricing, not arbitrarily denying access to the streets to certain groups.

            In London, the licensing criteria are essentially limited to ensuring that the vehicles they use are properly maintained and insured, and that the drivers aren’t criminals.

            Apologies in advance if I’m strawmanning you, but I would hazard to guess that you believe two things:

            1. It’s a tragedy that we have so many people incarcerated.
            2. It’s a further tragedy that, once they are released, no one will hire many of them and they find no opportunities, forcing some back into a life of crime.

            Now, neither belief logically requires one to oppose regulating Uber to exclude (former) criminals. You could say that you think criminals should have the opportunity to flip burgers or work in construction, but not drive Ubers. But you ought to at least think “hey, maybe the government shouldn’t step in and forbid this, let employers themselves decide if they want to take on that risk.” I don’t think these tradeoffs occurred to the regulators in London.

          • zzzzort says:

            Taxi drivers could just as easily say that passenger cars are clogging up the streets

            The difference is that most passenger cars don’t drive around while empty, while cabs spend a significant amount of time on the street without any passengers.

          • There is an argument for cities to restrict the supply of taxis (allowed to pick up passengers who hail them on the street) in order to prevent the streets, which are a public good, being clogged up with empty