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Open Thread 142.25

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1,137 Responses to Open Thread 142.25

  1. Thegnskald says:

    Question:

    Has anybody here gone on a diet that restricted the types of foods they ate, who didn’t feel better while on that diet? (If so, did a different restriction set have any effect?)

    • Anthony says:

      Not quite an answer to your question, but as a teenager, I kept getting told that eating chocolate was contributing to my acne. I went off chocolate for three weeks, and the acne got worse.

    • aristides says:

      I was on Keto for a grand total of 2 months, and absolutely miserable for all of it. Keto is the poster child for it gets worse before it gets better. I felt light headed, dizzy, and my work productivity halved. It got so bad that in week 3 I caved and ate a whole teaspoon of sugar straight. Even after I made it past the worse, I was still more miserable than when I didn’t diet. I did lose 5 pounds over the 2 months, but of course I gained them back after quitting.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Keto “flu” lasted for about a week for me. Otherwise it was very easy.

    • Clutzy says:

      I found a vegetarian diet that we tried for 2 months to be miserable. I was always hungry and never satisfied.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Avoiding gluten had no effect for me, other than being a minor nuisance.

      • Chalid says:

        Same for me. I tried it because I noticeably felt bad after a meal with a bunch of seitan, which is essentially made of gluten, but after a week of gluten-free diet and (especially) after I managed to try another bunch of seitan with no effect, I concluded it must have just been coincidence.

    • I am happy about losing weight on my current diet, but I wouldn’t say it makes me feel better (other than that) or worse.

  2. kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

    I’m considering putting my very young daughter in day care. She’ll be 4 – 7 months old during the period in question. I’m worried about the long-term harmful effects this might have, but so far I haven’t been able to find much good research on the topic. Does anyone know something about this topic and have an opinion? Or know where I should look for good, relevant studies?

    • acymetric says:

      What kind of harmful effects are you concerned about (or do you not have any specifics and are just generally concerned)? What kind of day care? A larger operation that is essentially like preschool for infants/toddlers (many kids/staff/official brick and mortar building) or one of the deals where a woman is watching probably her kid(s) plus yours and maybe a couple others from other families primarily at home?

      • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

        Not sure what kind of daycare yet, we haven’t shopped for one yet. I’m mostly concerned with long-term effects, e.g. on adult IQ. Why do I think there might be such effects? Well, one study I read found that in well-educated Danish families there was a long-term effect of not being around the parents much in early childhood. Also, the “parasite load” theory seems pretty strong and it seems to suggest that getting lots of infections early on is bad for brain development. (See: http://expost.padm.us/biodet)

    • Well... says:

      My experience having had two kids in daycare (one from about 6 or 9 months old through age 3, the other from about a year and a half through pre-K) is it mostly depends on the other kids in the daycare, although much less so for the age range you’re talking about. And the kids are largely a product of the parents, so I’d recommend visiting daycares around drop-off or pick-up times and seeing what kind of people put their kids there. Do they seem like they have jobs? How do they interact with the staff and with their own children? Do they seem happy? Etc.

      Also, does it pass the smell test, both literally (does it smell gross in there) and figuratively (does it give you a bad feeling).

      ETA: If your concern is mainly about the child’s socialization and behavior toward other people, that’s what my comment was aimed at. If your concern is about long-term stuff like bonding with parents or developing poorly because of malnutrition or something, I doubt that would be an issue except in extreme cases.

      • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

        Thanks. I’m mostly concerned with long-term effects, e.g. on adult IQ. Why do I think there might be such effects? Well, one study I read found that in well-educated Danish families there was a long-term effect of not being around the parents much in early childhood. Also, the “parasite load” theory seems pretty strong and it seems to suggest that getting lots of infections early on is bad for brain development. (See: http://expost.padm.us/biodet)

        Not exactly super convincing, of course. Maybe both those lines of evidence are wrong. But it’s worrying enough for me to want to dig deeper.

    • aristides says:

      I read some bloggers reviews of the scientific literature awhile ago, and my opinion is as long as the baby receives the same nutrition (including breast milk) and human interaction there should be no long term effect. In the short term, it might delay child parent bonding, and possibly early childhood development, but I think that that is mostly driven by subpar daycares. We ultimately decided against daycare, because it doesn’t make financial sense for my wife to work just to pay daycare.

      • Anthony says:

        it doesn’t make financial sense for my wife to work just to pay daycare

        Many of the stay-at-home mothers I know did so because of this – if daycare were cheaper, or their jobs more remunerative, they would have put their kid(s) in daycare. Even some of the strongest feminists I know were stay-at-home mothers because their entire income would have gone to pay for daycare.

        • Well... says:

          This was almost true for my wife, yet we put our kids in daycare anyway because staying at home all day taking care of an infant (and the second time, an infant and a toddler) started to drive her nuts, which I don’t mean lightly. Chalk that up to her being raised in the modern post-feminist world if you want, or maybe she has a less maternal personality than most women, or whatever.

          So, just sayin’, sometimes there are other considerations besides finances.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Working might make it easier for her to get a better job– or a job at all– in the future.

      • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

        Awesome, thanks! Any idea how I can find that bloggers’ review?

    • albatross11 says:

      One warning: when your child is in daycare, she and your family will get sick a lot more often than you do now. Daycares are full of sniffling children who put everything they find on the floor into their mouths, so everything spreads really well there.

      • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

        Yeah, that’s actually one of the main things that worries me. From the biodeterminist’s guide to parenting: “This suggests the hypothesis that home-schooled children should be smarter than public-schooled children because they’re not getting exposed to the latest contagious infection every month, but no one’s been brave enough to face the confounders an attempt to measure that would throw up, let alone the political firestorm.” Basically it seems there is pretty good evidence that “parasite load” reduces IQ (and probably other things too) and so that should make us wary of having kids get too many infections too early, even if it does build up their immune system.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Bacterial and viral infections are not parasites, and what is true of the latter cannot be assumed to be true of the former without evidence.

      • eric23 says:

        Yes, but they avoid getting those infections later on. What my mother told me (having raised 4 kids under a variety of circumstances) was, “There will be a year in which your kid will be constantly sick. You can choose if this year is at age 1 or age 5. But it will still be a whole year.”

        As for the “parasite load” theory, the flipside is that early exposure may help avoid autoimmune issues later on.

  3. jermo sapiens says:

    I may be wrong, but from my perspective it’s quite clear that the impeachment proceedings are not intended to remove Trump from office, because there is no way the senate will convict based on what we’ve heard so far. The witnesses testifying today all seem to be legal experts who will not testify to anything that Trump did. Unless there are more material witnesses coming, it appears the factual basis for impeachment has been laid out.

    I think the democrats know this and they’ve known this would happen since before they went ahead with the impeachment hearings. But I’m having a hard time coming up with a plausible theory as to why they would decide to press ahead knowing this. None of the ones I can come up with seem satisfactory.

    A) to make Trump look bad before the election
    B) to appeal to their base by fighting Trump
    C) to control the news cycle
    D) ?

    • Well... says:

      Those all seem satisfactory to me. Also, (D) could be anything from “an outlet for their rage” to “a distraction from other things they don’t want people looking at”.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Those all seem satisfactory to me.

        That’s a matter of personal judgment. If I were a Democrat I dont think these would satisfy me, in the sense that the cost of impeachment would seem to be disproportionate to the sought-after outcome.

        Also, (D) could be anything from “an outlet for their rage” to “a distraction from other things they don’t want people looking at”.

        Distraction makes sense to me. They would need to be very afraid of something coming out, but that would fit with the over the top reaction to Trump’s election, and the bizarre and pointless Mueller investigation.

        • tomogorman says:

          what cost do you think impeachment has — particularly as to what other alternative?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I’m thinking mostly in terms of the votes of independent voters. If you appear to be unfairly attacking a sitting president, I would expect a lot of independent would decide you’re not worthy to replace him.

          • tomogorman says:

            This is why I think you specifying the alternative matters. Even if not impeaching Democrats are (presumably – hence request for you to specify) still going to be saying that what the President did was awful. If independent voters think otherwise (a proposition I have low confidence in – although I also have low confidence independent voters will be strongly swayed to vote for Democrats because of impeachment – low confidence on all predictions of their behavior) they are going to think the attacks are “unfair” regardless. Further, you also risk undermining your case to the voters (independent and otherwise) that what Trump did was all that bad. After all, if you seriously thought it was that bad why wouldn’t you start an impeachment.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            After all, if you seriously thought it was that bad why wouldn’t you start an impeachment.

            I see your point. But a good answer to that question would be “because it was doomed to fail”, and legislators in DC have better things to do than such theatrics. Also failure doesnt look good.

            The Mueller investigation failed. Now the impeachment will fail. What else have the Democrats done? Not much. Both their attempts to take out Trump failed, and this will strengthen Trump, assuming he wins a second term.

          • tomogorman says:

            What do Congressional Democrats have the option of doing besides theatrics though? None of their substantive agenda has a chance of passing given a Republican Senate and President, they have already passed bills in the House, they are willing to pass the few bills (mainly USMCA at this point) where they have sufficient agreement with Republicans to pass a bill.
            It seems like you are just offering different theatrics – which I think you have little reason to believe are substantively better.
            I certainly understand that if you think Democrats are wrong on the substance of the charge you disagree with them – but you seem to be trying to make a stronger claim than that.
            I seriously doubt there is any substantive difference in how emboldened a Trump who is re-elected would be between this world and an alternative world where the Democrats declined to impeach at this point. In either world Congressional Republicans have made it clear he can get away with at least this level of behavior.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            What do Congressional Democrats have the option of doing besides theatrics though?

            Reach out across the aisle and reach a compromise on the many issues which affect American voters.

            I’ll be here all week folks, try the veal.

            No seriously you might be right that it’s all theatrics anyways.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I don’t expect compromise bills to work when you’ve reached the point that the parties desire diametrically opposite measures and outcomes.

        • tomogorman says:

          It takes two to tango on compromise. Democrats spent two years before the midterms trying to work on an infrastructure bill and an immigration bill. This failed as a result of the President not being very engaged and his base asking for a price the Democrats consider to high for a bipartisan bill.
          Its certainly not all politics, because as noted above I think Democrats are right about the substance of the impeachment charge.

          • gbdub says:

            Sure, but how many dance partners are going to take up your offered arm if you’re trying to punch them with the other?

            You can be a calm rational party preaching bipartisanship and compromise, or you can be a party that is still spending most of their energy fighting the outcome of the 2016 election. It is hard to do both credibly.

      • Garrett says:

        I’d critically add to (D) – increase fundraising.

        If you can’t enjoy the levers of power, you can at least enjoy the fun of running a flush campaign.

    • tomogorman says:

      A) seems pretty satisfactory to me (with bits of B & C), and as an addition to A – in so far as you think this makes Trump look bad forcing Republicans in Congress to vote against impeachment and then conviction would have the important benefit of making them look bad as well.
      If you believe (and this is my belief) that Trump committed acts which clearly should result in his impeachment and removal from office then a vote against impeachment/removal provides clear additional reasons to vote against the relevant Congressional Republicans.
      (granted if you disagree with the thesis that Trump clearly deserves impeachment/removal then this wouldn’t follow, but I think most Democrats would honestly believe impeachment is deserved).

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I dont think this story makes Trump look that bad. I think it makes him look like Trump. I’d be curious to know how many people were OK with what Trump is known to have done in the past, but were pushed over the edge by this. I dont think there are many.

        FTR, assuming Trump is guilty of what he’s accused of, I dont think that’s worthy of impeachment. But I dont even think that the Democrats demonstrated that he’s guilty of what he’s accused of. They demonstrated that some officials within the DC bureaucracy thought he had offered a quid pro quo, not that he did in fact offer a quid pro quo.

        but I think most Democrats would honestly believe impeachment is deserved

        No doubt this is correct. But it’s not that helpful to Democrats.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think you’re right that most people have already priced in Trump’s character and tendencies, and so either already oppose him or won’t have their opinion changed much by what’s coming out in the impeachment process. I think the world would be a better place with him out of the white house, I think what he apparently did w.r.t. Ukraine was arguably serious enough to impeach him for, but don’t see any prospect for the Senate removing him from office based on what has come out so far.

          • I think what he apparently did w.r.t. Ukraine was arguably serious enough to impeach him for

            A question for you and lots of other people. Do you think this is the sort of thing most previous presidents would not have done, or only that they would have done a better job of not making it obvious? Perhaps I am overly cynical, but I assume that presidents routinely use their power for political advantage, limited primarily by the risk that if they are too obvious about it they won’t get the advantage.

          • fibio says:

            I’m sure many had the integrity to do nothing like this, but many more knew it was just not worth the risk of getting caught. So far only Trump and Nixon have been willing to take such a gamble for so meager a result.

          • ECD says:

            A question for you and lots of other people. Do you think this is the sort of thing most previous presidents would not have done, or only that they would have done a better job of not making it obvious?

            I’ve heard this a lot, but I’m struggling to think of a president, hell, a US politician, who was brought down by the announcement that a foreign government was investigating them.

          • cassander says:

            @fibio says:

            you should look at what LBJ and FDR got up to. LBJ was personally quite corrupt, and while FDR didn’t need money, he got up to just about every other shenanigan you can think of.

            @DavidFriedman

            what matters less is how obvious it was then how much attention it got. the bidens didn’t hide what they were doing, but no one cared. Nixon didn’t do anything that kennedy, LBJ, and FDR didn’t do, but no one cared. Trump is crass, but LBJ literally waved his dick at people in the oval office.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            In general:

            * Many Presidents would be tempted to use the power that is supposed to be for the benefit of their country instead to attack their political opponents

            * A handful of Presidents would look at something like this and decide how to do it covertly.

            * All of those Presidents would realize this specific scenario was too unlikely to ever be kept covert and decide against it.

            * They would probably do other categories of things that are easier to hide, though, and I suspect many got away with it by having competent cronies instead of incompetent cronies.

            * I can’t say “we should excuse this, because the only reason they got caught is their own stupidity.” The need to hide this kind of activity and stay within the guardrails specifically limits the ability of smart+corrupt Presidents to do corrupt things. Those guardrails must be enforced, and part of enforcing guardrails means punishment for being caught going over them.

          • Aftagley says:

            Nixon didn’t do anything that kennedy, LBJ, and FDR didn’t do, but no one cared.

            Nixon:
            1. Used campaign funds and assets to stage a break-in of the office of a political rival.
            2. Tried to cover up his involvement in said illegal activity.
            3. Stonewalled an investigation into his involvement in said illegal activity.
            4. Used the power of his office to fire his attorney general and deputy attorney general to get the investigation shut down.
            5. Kept meticulous audio recordings that eventually served as proof of most of this (with some immaculately timed tape deletions that indicated they knew what was going on was wrong and didn’t want a record).

            I don’t remember anything like this being done by FDR or LBJ. A quick googling didn’t reveal any other blatantly illegal activity or obvious cover-ups. What specifically are you alleging that FDR and LBJ did that was the same as what Nixon did?

          • So far only Trump and Nixon have been willing to take such a gamble for so meager a result.

            I’m not sure what “such a gamble” means here. My understanding is that it has long been the practice to use ambassadorships to reward major supporters and contributors. That’s surely a case of abusing an authority that is supposed to be used for the good of the country.

            It’s not at the presidential level, but the central feature of the spoils system that was the routine way of running cities for a century and more was the use of the power of elected officials to reward supporters—”to the victor go the spoils.”

            Quite a lot of corporations make political contributions to both sides. It’s hard to explain that as due to political conviction. Either they are all stupidly throwing their money away or it is normal for contributions to be rewarded by politicians doing favors for contributors. Those favors involve the use of political power that is, in theory, supposed to be used for the benefit of the nation.

            Trump’s misdeeds are more blatant than usual, and he has the disadvantage of a lot of people in both the bureaucracy and the press who don’t like him, but I don’t see any more fundamental difference between that and what politicians routinely do.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure what “such a gamble” means here. My understanding is that it has long been the practice to use ambassadorships to reward major supporters and contributors. That’s surely a case of abusing an authority that is supposed to be used for the good of the country.

            The fact that it’s accepted practice, makes it not so much of a gamble. And, while clearly unseemly, the practice is usually deniable enough that nobody is going to get proof of explicitly criminal behavior out of it.

            The gamble on Trump’s part wasn’t in his choice of emissaries (except possibly w/re Giuliani), but in having his emissaries(*) try to use taxpayer dollars to bribe/extort foreign governments for private political favors. That’s not an accepted practice the way crony ambassadorships are, the use of federal funds for the purpose makes it more explicitly criminal, and the veneer of deniability on this one is pathetically thin.

            I’m with Scizorhands on this one: professional politicians wouldn’t come anywhere near this one unless they could cover their tracks far better than Trump’s team did.

            * And ultimately himself personally, which puts this solidly in “what were you thinking?” territory.

          • Aftagley says:

            Adding on to what John Schilling wrote, it’s even more of a gamble because the potential upside is just so small.

            At best had his scheme gone off perfectly and been completely successful it would have meant that a person who might have become his opponent in the general election would have lost the primary. Assuming his intuition was correct that Joe was the strongest candidate in the democratic field, that means that the President allegedly risked getting impeached so that in a year he’d only have to face off against the 2nd strongest democrat.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The media has basically spent the last few months making everybody think about Biden in the context of potential and plausible corruption, taking him effectively out of contention.

            What changed in their coverage of Trump, really? Substitute one ambiguous corruption charge with another.

          • Aftagley says:

            @Thegnskald

            I’ll bet you $10 that’s not the case.

            Look at the polling data. On Feb 3rd of 2019, well in advance of all this shit coming out, Joe was leading the democrats with 29%. Now, after months of this Ukraine scandal and a couple of unforced errors on his part… Joe is still leading the democrats with 29% support.

            ETA: Source

          • Thegnskald says:

            If Biden goes into the (edit) general election, what does the narrative look like for that contest? How can it be spun?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Assuming his intuition was correct that Joe was the strongest candidate in the democratic field, that means that the President allegedly risked getting impeached so that in a year he’d only have to face off against the 2nd strongest democrat.

            Or maybe he just thought that he’s being investigated left and right for “russian collusion” that never really happened, so maybe Biden should be investigated for having his son make money from Burisma and the Chinese government by trading on his father’s position.

          • Aftagley says:

            @Thegnskald

            I think I misinterpreted what you meant. When you said “takes him out of contention” I thought you meant “he’s no longer a viable candidate and will lose the primary.” Not trying to be dense here, but do you mind restating your point?

            @jermo sapiens

            Even accepting the idea that he wanted to give Joe a taste of what he thought was his own medicine, he did so in a way that exposed himself to existential risk. That’s what I mean by gamble – the cost/benefit ratio just seems screwy

          • John Schilling says:

            If Biden goes into the (edit) general election, what does the narrative look like for that contest? How can it be spun?

            It can be spun as the only people who care about Hunter Biden being the same people who cared about Benghazi and the Emails and the Long-Form Birth Certificate, worthy only of mocking and derision. Since this will be mostly true, and the FBI won’t be stumbling in with an October Surprise this time, I’m liking Biden’s odds in this scenario.

          • cassander says:

            @Aftagley says:

            1. Used campaign funds and assets to stage a break-in of the office of a political rival.
            2. Tried to cover up his involvement in said illegal activity.
            3. Stonewalled an investigation into his involvement in said illegal activity.
            4. Used the power of his office to fire his attorney general and deputy attorney general to get the investigation shut down.
            5. Kept meticulous audio recordings that eventually served as proof of most of this (with some immaculately timed tape deletions that indicated they knew what was going on was wrong and didn’t want a record).

            1. FDR, LBJ and Kennedy used government resources to spy on their political opponents.

            2-4. They all kept it covered up.

            5. The taping system Nixon used was installed by Kennedy and used by LBJ. I have no doubt that there were systematic deletions.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            They all kept it covered up.

            A successful cover-up does help evade prosecution, yes.

            This isn’t a college admissions test and we don’t need to factor in “well, what about the fact that his accomplices were incompetent?”

          • Thegnskald says:

            Trump doesn’t need to convince rank and file Democrats to vote for him.

            All he needs to do is make them apathetic enough about Biden to stay home.

            Part of Trump’s appeal to his base is his personality. Reinforcing the narrative of his personality, of his offensiveness to the progressive and institutional left, doesn’t actually harm him. This is in-character, and more, basically what his voters want from him.

            Trump tried to do an end-run around regulatory hurdles to get a bigshot establishment elite investigated, in spite of the establishment stonewalling the investigation, and the establishment is trying to punish him for it. That’s the narrative that Trump’s base gets.

            What narrative does Biden’s base get? Orange man goes after Joe Biden illegally for things Biden, uh… probably didn’t do? The narrative for Biden has a caveat, an asterisk. That’s not a good thing for your heroic narrative to have.

          • John Schilling says:

            Trump doesn’t need to convince rank and file Democrats to vote for him.

            All he needs to do is make them apathetic enough about Biden to stay home.

            No, he needs to make them apathetic enough about Biden and Trump to stay home. If they care enough about Trump, they’ll vote for anyone with a (D) after their name. Now, raise your hands if you think Donald J. Trump is going to adhere to a campaign strategy of making anyone apathetic about Donald J. Trump.

            Part of Trump’s victory in 2016 came from voters being apathetic about Trump because they “knew” he couldn’t win, that Hillary was Inevitable and the question was whether they were going to come out to rubber-stamp her victory. That’s not going to be nearly so much of a factor in 2020.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Yeah, any Democratic candidate has the respectable upper middle class Democrat vote in the bag. Trump isn’t really going to change that no matter what he does.

            He doesn’t need to.

            Imagine, if you will, a politically disengaged person to whom Trump is just another corrupt wealthy white man.

            You think Biden is going to be an alternative attractive enough to bother voting? After the press coverage for the past year?

        • I think it makes him look like Trump.

          That’s a good point. I don’t know if Trump is actually guilty, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he had done what he is accused of — it seems like the sort of thing he might well do. So anyone who a similar view of Trump and is still willing to vote for him is unlikely to have his vote changed by the Ukraine case.

    • salvorhardin says:

      (A) is clearly part of it, and there is some reason to believe that a variant of this actually worked for Republicans in 1998-99. Namely, it weakened Gore in the 2000 election to not be able to take as much advantage of Clinton’s coattails, because Clinton was seen to be a compromised figure despite being otherwise popular and presiding over a strong economy. It’s harder to make this stick with an incumbent seeking reelection, but on the other hand, Trump has never been anywhere near as popular as Clinton was in the late 90s, and AIUI a larger fraction of voters already support Trump’s impeachment than ever supported Clinton’s.

      Disclaimer of bias: I supported (and still support) Clinton’s impeachment and thought it was a travesty that he was allowed to remain in office, in part because the failure to remove him contributed to Trump’s electability.

      (B) is likely a factor too, in that many Democratic House members would face stronger primary challenges if they didn’t support impeachment. The Democratic primary base has believed from the start (correctly, in my view) that Trump is entirely unfit for office and ought to be removed as soon as possible by any legal means possible. Moreover, they fear (again, reasonably in my view) that if Trump gets away with actions like those in Ukraine he will be emboldened to use even more illegal and morally atrocious means to cheat in the 2020 election, up to and including the deliberate falsification of vote totals in swing states with the assistance of Russian hackers. If you fear this, it really is imperative to try to do whatever you can to stop it, even if it’s a long shot.

      Note too that, if the presently available factual testimony constitutes all available evidence for impeachment, this is largely because Trump has obstructed so many subpoenas of plausibly relevant material witnesses– and that obstruction may itself form one of the impeachment articles. So the legal experts’ testimony is relevant insofar as it can speak to whether that obstruction on its own rises to the level of an impeachable offense. Even Jonathan Turley’s testimony is arguably consistent with this, and he’s the expert the Republicans picked to provide a legal case against impeachment.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Moreover, they fear (again, reasonably in my view) that if Trump gets away with actions like those in Ukraine he will be emboldened to use even more illegal and morally atrocious means to cheat in the 2020 election, up to and including the deliberate falsification of vote totals in swing states with the assistance of Russian hackers. If you fear this, it really is imperative to try to do whatever you can to stop it, even if it’s a long shot.

        This is a testament to the immense chasm between Americans of different political stripes. If you actually seriously believe this, and are not saying it just to get a rise or to create fear in people, I dont know what to tell you. This sounds like a parody of a Republican railing that Obama is a secret Muslim who wants to abolish Christianity.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Except that there’s zero evidence for the more exceptional claims about Obama, circumstantial or otherwise, whereas with Trump we have hundreds of firsthand testimonials from respectable people who have interacted with him, testimonials spanning his entire adult life– not just his political life– about his apparently unbounded willingness to cheat, lie, and collude with cheaters and liars in order to aggrandize himself. This is not true of most politicians and in particular it is not true of most Republican politicians. You may say that the Democratic base would have believed it of any Republican, and that may well be right! But that is still a very poor argument for its being untrue of Trump.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            There’s also zero evidence that Trump cheated to get elected in 2016, whereas there is plenty of evidence that Clinton cheated to get the D nomination. And there’s zero evidence that Trump will “deliberately falsify vote totals with russian hackers” in 2020.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            @jermo sapiens

            Trump was not President in 2016 and so could not make use of the government’s powers or resources to cheat.

            Trump has previously lied about why he lost the popular vote (he claimed that it was due to massive illegal voting), he and his associates have questioned the legitimacy of elections that the Democrats win, and he has suggested he won’t accept losing an election.

          • albatross11 says:

            NostalgiaForInfinity:

            So, it seems to me that there has been a massive full-court press from a lot of prominent Democrats and a lot of mainstream publications to establish the idea that Trump’s election wasn’t legitimate because of Russian online propaganda operations in the US[1] Indeed, it seems like Hillary Clinton has even made comments along these lines, directed at Trump and also at Sanders.

            What this looks like to me (as a more-or-less libertarian who has no love at all for Trump) is that both sides were quite willing to call the integrity of the election into question in public for political advantage.

            Similarly, there’s a lot of outrage (correctly, IMO) at Trump for calling various current and former government employees traitors for leaking/testifying against him. But a hell of a lot of the performatively outraged are just fine with accusing rivals of their favored candidates of being Russian agents[2], or with people from their side doing so.

            Tribalism can blind us, and the closer the election, the stronger the effect.

            [1] Just to be clear: these claims are bullshit. The Russian operations were a drop in the bucket of existing media operations (including online advertising), and could only have affected the outcome of an election balanced perfectly on a knife edge. If the Russian influence operation mattered, there are probably a hundred or more operations (by parties, PACs, companies, and foreign governments) that mattered more.

            [2] Go ask Tulsi Gabbard whether this has become a normal weapon in political battles.

        • DeWitt says:

          This sounds like a parody of a Republican railing that Obama is a secret Muslim who wants to abolish Christianity.

          The birthers who believed Obama was a secret Muslim elected one of their own to be a president, so the irony here is very real.

      • EchoChaos says:

        there is some reason to believe that a variant of this actually worked for Republicans in 1998-99.

        This goes against the conventional wisdom, by the way. The Democrats picked up 4 Senate seats in 2000 and came within a hairsbreadth of being only the second time in the post-war period that a party successfully held the Presidency for three elections in a row.

        Most political science puts the loss in 2000 on the Elian Gonzalez case, which turned Florida Cubans against Democrats more strongly than expected.

      • and that obstruction may itself form one of the impeachment articles.

        Listening to the radio today, I heard congressional testimony by a lawyer critical of impeachment. One point he made was that the charge of obstruction was based (whether entirely or partly was not clear) on Trump having people refuse to testify, leaving it to the courts to decide whether or not that was justified. He argued that for Congress to claim that refusing their orders until the court system ruled on them was an impeachable offense was itself an abuse of power, ignoring the fact that there are three branches of government, not two, and it is up to the court system to rule on disagreements between the legislature and the executive.

        Is that a correct description of part of the charges? Of what is wrong with it?

        At a considerable tangent, I would take claims of abuse of executive authority more seriously if the Democrats were willing to try to do something about Trump claiming the authority to go to war and to impose tariffs, both of which are supposed to be decided by Congress.

        • albatross11 says:

          Just as an aside, I 100% agree with:

          At a considerable tangent, I would take claims of abuse of executive authority more seriously if the Democrats were willing to try to do something about Trump claiming the authority to go to war and to impose tariffs, both of which are supposed to be decided by Congress.

          As best I can tell, about 90% of political pundits and vocal internet commenters use ideas like limited government or abuse of executive authority in a purely instrumental way–they happily use it to bash the other side, but don’t care about it at any other time[1]. That makes it especially worthwhile to notice the people who seem to care about abuses of power no matter who does them, and who seem to have principles rather than merely interests.

          IMO, Bush should have been impeached, removed from office, and sent to prison for his administration’s war crimes. Obama should have been impeached and removed from office for violating the war powers act and for having American citizens assassinated on his authority alone, and perhaps also for having his administration shelter war criminals. (I voted for Obama in 2008, but went back to voting Libertarian in 2012 because of these issues.)

          I suspect that other presidents have done similar things to what Trump did in Ukraine. If they’d come out, I’d have favored seeing them impeached for that stuff. Given the elite and public consensus in the US, it seems almost impossible to get to a world where presidents who abuse their authority routinely get impeached and removed from office. In this case, there’s a substantial elite coalition in favor of impeaching Trump for abusing his authority, but not enough of one to remove him from office. I’d like to see the precedent established that you can actually lose power via abusing your authority, though. I’ll also admit that I think Trump is an unusually bad president among a set of remarkably shitty presidents we’ve had in my adult lifetime (and I suspect they weren’t unusual for the whole of US history, but I haven’t studied enough to know for sure).

          One thing I keep finding jarring: There are tons of apparently-serious people saying (IMO correctly) that Trump is a scary guy to have as president because of his unique mixture of evil ideas and personality flaws. And then in the next breath, they’re supporting increased executive powers (let’s stack the court as soon as we get into the white house; let’s claim the president can just make private companies do whatever she wants). Or supporting more power for the executive branch to spy on Americans, or for the president to order bombings without Congressional approval.

          [1] See also: balanced budgets/deficit concerns, taking offense at us having close relations with horrible regimes, etc.

          • EchoChaos says:

            The problem is that a lot of Republicans see Trump as the tat for the Democrats prior tit, and aren’t particularly interested in spiking their power because they do not believe the Democrats are genuine. (genuine as a unit. I don’t deny there are genuine Democrats)

            There have been two prior Presidents who did things that in my mind should obviously merit removal from office. The Republican got removed, the Democrat didn’t.

            Until a Democrat is removed, I won’t allow Republicans to be removed for purely game theory reasons. (I am aware I don’t control anything, but obviously Mitch McConnell’s view is pretty similar).

          • IMO, Bush should have been impeached, removed from office, and sent to prison for his administration’s war crimes.

            I’m not sure how war crimes committed abroad fit into U.S. law. But Bush did confess to using information produced in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—without authorization by the FISA court. As I understand the law, he was immune to prosecution while in office, but I don’t think that makes him immune to prosecution afterwards.

            Of course, none of the NSA people more directly responsible got prosecuted either. And the Director of National Intelligence did not get prosecuted for perjury, despite his having lied to Congress in sworn testimony.

          • Controls Freak says:

            the Director of National Intelligence did not get prosecuted for perjury, despite his having lied to Congress in sworn testimony.

            I’m not going to respond to much of the legal/political concerns, but I want to remind you that DNI Clapper was not under oath at the time, and that Congress got the correct, classified answer pretty much immediately after the cameras (which were streaming his testimony straight to Moscow) were turned off. Scroll down for the sources provided after you asked me for them.

          • but I want to remind you that DNI Clapper was not under oath at the time

            That might be true, but the only evidence you offered in our previous exchange was that the text of the tape of the hearing did not include a swearing in. I have no idea whether that would be included in the tape, or is a procedural matter that precedes the hearing.

            On the other hand, googling for information on the case, I find multiple sources saying he was under oath, and nobody saying he wasn’t. That includes Clapper. He has offered a variety of excuses for his false statement, of which the least believable is that he had simply forgotten about the mass collection of telephone metadata, but I can find no reference to his ever claiming that he was not under oath, despite the fact that he was responding to accusations of perjury.

          • Controls Freak says:

            the text of the tape of the hearing did not include a swearing in

            Nor does the tape, itself.

            I have no idea whether that would be included in the tape, or is a procedural matter that precedes the hearing.

            That’s why I also cited the neutral paper, that wasn’t commenting on this issue at all, instead commenting on the regular procedural matters of these types of hearings. They provided a logical reason why an official like Clapper would not be under oath during a proceeding like that, on top of the claim that it is the usual practice.

            googling for information on the case, I find multiple sources saying he was under oath, and nobody saying he wasn’t.

            I had cited the Lawfare piece. I’m pretty comfortable guessing that most of the random google results are from folks who barely follow details like this and just assume that someone in front of Congress is under oath. This is a tailor-made case of the old adage about a lie traveling ’round the world before the truth gets its boots on. If you ask a common person off the street whether people in front of Congress are under oath, they’ll almost certainly say yes. I very much believe that if you asked any of the writers of your random google search results, “So, did you check for sure whether he was under oath? How did you verify that fact?” they would be a little surprised and then realize that they had actually just made an assumption.

            I can find no reference to his ever claiming that he was not under oath, despite the fact that he was responding to accusations of perjury.

            Not a serious allegation. If Congress had ever done some official, public process of referring him to DOJ for prosecution, we’d probably have seen a public rebuttal of, “Lol, he wasn’t under oath. Sorry. ROFL.”

            Let’s put it this way. Can you find any source which provides nearly as much evidence for the claim that he was under oath as you’re demanding from me to show that he wasn’t? Not “a number of sources”. Some form of evidence from those sources.

        • Aftagley says:

          Is that a correct description of part of the charges? Of what is wrong with it?

          Here is the report, the stuff about obstruction begins on page 200 or so.

          To answer your question, it’s based in part on Trump’s order to people not to testify (which to be clear, he was ordering them to ignore subpoena’s compelling their testimony). They are also saying he obstructed by “Concealing material facts,” attempting to “Intimidate witnesses” and by “Retaliating against employees for speaking with Congress”

          As for that not being a valid argument since the Supreme Court exists and can, in theory, mediate between the two houses I’d argue that fact doesn’t matter. There are laws that require parties to answer congressional subpoenas that have previously been upheld by the supreme court, so it’s not like this is some new issue. The constitution gives Congress the ability to impeach, not ask the Supreme Court if it’s ok for them to impeach.

          Furthermore, if you care about the supreme court as an institution you almost certainly don’t want them getting involved in this mess. Bush V. Gore was bad enough, but the credibility of the court could not survive this mess.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            https://twitter.com/JesseCharlesLee/status/1202302861637496833

            Posting because it’s probably speaking against interest: Fox News commentator judge Napolitano says that the House does not need the judiciary’s permission to subpoena, since they have the sole power of impeachment. It is theirs, all theirs.

            I haven’t reached full epistemic fix on this yet, since I have a strong impulse that says “it is absolutely your right to use legal methods to resist subpoenas” and I’ve seen some #NeverTrump conservatives raise a similar defense of the White House. But my (and their) impulse might be wrong.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      there is no way the senate will convict

      To quote the old aphorism, “Not with that attitude.”

      Or, golf wise, “100% of putts that don’t make it to the hole also don’t go in”.

      D) is “Because Trump has actually, and clearly, committed impeachable offenses of the kind explicitly considered by the framers”

      And the correct answer is (E) All of the above.

      Despite, (F) Impeachment carries its own risks for Democrats and most Federally elected Democrats know this.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        D) is “Because Trump has actually, and clearly, committed impeachable offenses of the kind explicitly considered by the framers”

        So if Obama had done something similar, like ordering an investigation into political opponents, and he was still in office, you would support impeaching him as well?

        • tomogorman says:

          The specifics matter A LOT. Being a political opponent does not mean that one is 100% immune from being legitimately investigated for crimes.
          BUT that means looking at the specifics are important.
          Here Trump is apparently investigating this at his and Guilianni’s initiative. There are to my knowledge zero career State, Defense, or FBI employees that supported this investigation.
          Here Trump tried to keep the investigation a secret from the rest of government, running it through irregular channels, initially indicating the whistle blower report should not have gone to Congress, denying that there was a quid pro quo.
          Here Trump is not conducting the investigation itself through reasonably non corrupt institutions (like our intelligence community and State department). Instead he is asking it be conducted by Ukraine and threatening to with hold millions in defense aid connection with that ask.
          Finally, the underlying suspicion with respect to Joe (as opposed to Hunter) Biden is just not there. Joe Biden was VP not Prez. He didn’t make the policy he executed it. The decision that the US should push for Shokin’s removal was made by Obama with input and support from the State department, Congressional Republicans, and Western European allies. This doesn’t mean that the decision was substantively correct, but it makes it highly unlikely it was made for the narrow benefit of Hunter Biden.
          In no circumstance has Obama been alleged to do anything similar to this — if he did yes I would absolutely support his Impeachment

          • gbdub says:

            On the other hand, do you think that if it were Trump’s child on the board of a Russian oil company, there would not be calls to have that investigated?

            Not arguing that Trump went about doing this the right way, but I do strongly suspect that if the roles were reversed the Dems would be loudly pushing for a corruption investigation of hypothetical Trump Jr. and would probably be able to round up enough allies in the appropriate departments to make such an investigation happen.

          • tomogorman says:

            This not going about it the right way is doing way too much work for you.
            1) this is grounds to investigate Hunter Biden, not Joe, but Trump on the call (as well as elsewhere) specifically want Joe Biden investigated and alleges that Shokin’s firing was improper.
            2) going about it the wrong way hurts a lot – if I ask the cops to look into you with a warrant thats a legal search, if I break into your house thats burglary. If I ask the cops to look into you because of real facts and they decide to do it with no ulterior motive – thats probably a legitimate investigation. If I ask the cops to look into you or else I will withhold my millions of dollars donation to the police department – then it looks very sketchy.
            3) also, as noted by Mitt Romney – other than political opponents what corruption investigations does Trump undertake.
            4) I categorically reject the idea that the Intelligence, Defense, Law Enforcement, and Foreign Service communities are so corrupt that they cannot be trusted to investigate legitimate crimes. This is a strong claim requiring strong evidence. Occam’s Razor – this wasn’t a legitimate investigation, that’s why Trump was unwilling to go through official chanels.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I categorically reject the idea that the Intelligence, Defense, Law Enforcement, and Foreign Service communities are so corrupt that they cannot be trusted to investigate legitimate crimes.

            You’re entitled to your opinion on this. From my point of view, I find it abundantly clear that the FBI, CIA, DoJ, IRS, etc… are corrupt and biased against conservatives and Trump, so it’s not surprising to me that you would feel this way.

            Just off the top of my head, the IRS improperly prevented conservative groups from receiving the same tax benefits as conservative groups. Comey excused Clinton for mishandling classified info and evading FOI laws (something many are in jail for). FBI used the Steele dossier (ie crappy oppo research from the DNC) to obtain FISA warrants against the Trump campaign. Then you have the Mueller fiasco which just demonstrated with extreme clarity that the entire “deep state” is corrupt and absolutely opposed to President Trump.

          • Aftagley says:

            IRS improperly prevented conservative groups from receiving the same tax benefits as conservative groups

            You mean as liberal groups. This was found out, was a large scandal and people resigned over it. Final review by the IRS IG found that it wasn’t just conservative groups that were unfairly targeted, but pretty much any group that was explicitly political.

            Comey excused Clinton for mishandling classified info and evading FOI laws (something many are in jail for).

            The information was classified after the fact (and then by compilation, a subjective review). It was also a major point during the campaign and Comey took two options to publically dump on Clinton while she was running for president.

            FBI used the Steele dossier (ie crappy oppo research from the DNC) to obtain FISA warrants against the Trump campaign.

            The Steele dossier was originally oppo funded by a republican challenger to Trump. More importantly, it wasn’t the start of the FISA process. That was when a drunken Trump aide was overheard bragging about his ties to Russia by an Australian diplomat. The diplomat reported this to the FBI, triggering the investigation.

            Then you have the Mueller fiasco which just demonstrated with extreme clarity that the entire “deep state” is corrupt and absolutely opposed to President Trump.

            In what way was Mueller’s process a fiasco? He conducted an investigation at the behest of a Trump-appointed official. His findings were damning when presented to the public.

          • cassander says:

            Here Trump is apparently investigating this at his and Guilianni’s initiative. There are to my knowledge zero career State, Defense, or FBI employees that supported this investigation.

            Yes, how can we forget article two section 1 of the constitution, “The executive Power shall be vested in the civil service of the United States of America”

          • this is grounds to investigate Hunter Biden, not Joe

            I thought the claim was that Joe pressured the Ukrainian government to drop a corruption investigation that targeted (among others) the firm that was paying Hunter. If there is any evidence for that, which I don’t think there is, it would be appropriate to investigate Hunter.

            The only reason Hunter would matter is if he was selling things that Joe was in a position to deliver, or at least was believed to be by the buyers—Hunter himself doesn’t have anything to sell.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            “Joe”.. The quotation marks here because it was very much just about everyone that had much dealings with the ukrainians who wanted the guy fired, had him fired because he was seen as completely damn useless on the corruption front.

            If anything, having Joes son on the board did the firm *harm* because the guy who replaced Sorkin did investigate them. Didnt find sufficient evidence to convict, but if they were trying to get the dogs called off that clearly did not work.

            Now, this may make Hunter a complete conartist, who is scamming people with influence over his father he just does not have, but, as to Joes character, it speaks well.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Now, this may make Hunter a complete conartist, who is scamming people with influence over his father he just does not have, but, as to Joes character, it speaks well.

            The two most likely theories are:

            1. Hunter told them he could get his father to do things, which obviously wouldn’t happen because everyone would focus like a laser on Joe as soon as Hunter’s appointment was announced

            2. They hired Hunter because it was nice to have a “celebrity” on their team, for various reasons, including the fact that it signals “hey, we even have the son of that guy who is after us for corruption, obviously we are not corrupt, because everyone will now focus like a laser on Joe.”

            This was 100% guaranteed to make a headache for Joe, but Joe couldn’t do anything about it. He can’t make it illegal (I’m not sure it would even be constitutional to restrict the jobs of family members of powerful politicians) and he can’t order his son around. But Hunter is a fuck-up, and is gonna fuck up, and so he fucked up his dad because getting $60,000 a month when you are otherwise useless is so good a deal to pass on.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            You are ignoring the other theory, which is “Joe Biden did or promised to do something for them so they hired his son as a legal way to say thank you”.

            That something doesn’t have to have actually been done, or doesn’t have to be illegal to make that a very plausible reason for it.

          • This was 100% guaranteed to make a headache for Joe, but Joe couldn’t do anything about it.

            If I have correctly followed the accounts—someone who has paid more attention to them is welcome to correct me—Hunter accompanied his father on a trip to China and shortly thereafter got sizable benefits from the Chinese government for a business he was involved in. His father could surely have chosen not to invite him to accompany him, so if that account is correct, it is evidence that the father is to some degree complicit in the son’s misdeeds.

          • John Schilling says:

            You’re entitled to your opinion on this. From my point of view, I find it abundantly clear that the FBI, CIA, DoJ, IRS, etc… are corrupt and biased against conservatives and Trump, so it’s not surprising to me that you would feel this way.

            Their people don’t think very highly of Donald Trump, to be sure. But in four years, not one of those “corrupt” IRS officials have leaked Trump’s tax returns to the press.

            And that’s just one example out of many. You are almost certainly correct as a description of how Donald Trump feels about the bureaucracy, and maybe you share that belief. But in fact, the “Deep State” is an order of magnitude more pro-Law than it is anti-Trump.

          • Corey says:

            From my point of view, I find it abundantly clear that the FBI, CIA, DoJ, IRS, etc… are corrupt and biased against conservatives

            “Biased against conservatives” seems like it should be unlikely for any law-enforcement-type agency, so something we should have a strong prior against.

            Example (h/t Yglesias): police are generally against gun control these days, because that’s part of the conservative package, where they used to be more in favor of gun control because it would obviously make their jobs easier and safer.

            Even the FBI: I’m not sure Comey is a good example of anti-conservative bias since he was the one to bring up a last-minute “emails!” thing. And the New York FBI office had a collective anti-Hillary hard-on.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Corey

            I think “biased against conservatives” is very wrong. “Biased against Red Tribe” is almost certainly true, however.

            Remember that most Beltway Republicans are very much Blue Tribe Republicans, so any office that is 50/50 Republicans/Democrats will still be 95+% Blue.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            “Biased against conservatives” seems like it should be unlikely for any law-enforcement-type agency, so something we should have a strong prior against.

            The FBI is not your local police force. I would expect the local police to be very conservative, the local police chief to be more liberal on average, FBI agents to be more liberal also, and the FBI top brass to be woke. Or are Peter Strzok and Lisa Page outliers?

            Even the FBI: I’m not sure Comey is a good example of anti-conservative bias since he was the one to bring up a last-minute “emails!” thing. And the New York FBI office had a collective anti-Hillary hard-on.

            Fair point. Comey did two things of note during the 2016 election. He exonerated Hillary for things that would get a normal person in jail for a very long time. And then he “re-opened the investigation” with Hillary e-mails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop (I love this timeline), only to say shortly after the re-investigation didnt turn up anything.

            The cumulative effect of these two things is still massively helpful to Hillary.

          • John Schilling says:

            Fair point. Comey did two things of note during the 2016 election. He exonerated Hillary for things that would get a normal person in jail for a very long time.

            One more time: No he didn’t, because normal people don’t normally get thrown in jail for doing what Hillary did. They get yelled at, threatened, fired, and told to go away because they’re never allowed to work for the government again, and that’s the end of it.

            So, mission accomplished.

          • Plumber says:

            In terms of ‘bueracracy’ I really only have much direct experience with The City and County of San Francisco (“Long Live his Imperial Majesty Norton!”), though my Mom worked for The University of California (“oppressive occupiers!”) and I heard some tales about that, and then there’s encounters with the public school system. 

            Compared to private industry government is operationally far more (small “c”) conservative, with many more “Sir Humphrey’s” than “Che Guevara’s”.

            Those higher up in the hierarchy who are closer to elected officials and thus the voters like to come up with ‘innovations’ but long institutional memory teaches that these are best ignored as long as possible and only endured until they’re replaced by the next ‘innovation’ (lately the innovations mostly involve time-wasting computer record keeping that no one looks at again, while the old paper system is still used by us in the field because it’s faster and easier for us and we know it works).

            Sometimes a good new idea comes up (never by the higher ups, your boss may come up with a good idea once in a while, rarer still your bosses boss, but your bosses boss? 

            Never).

            A good “heuristic” if an idea could be good is how it’s delivered: if face-to-face face maybe, if memo never.

            When a new idea hits it’s best treated with suspicion until proven innocent, only new hires think otherwise until they learn better. 

            In terms of electoral politics among the vocally political (I don’t know people’s silent politics) whites and/or those with long commutes lean more Republican, non-whites and those who live close lean more Democratic. Cops and deputies mostly lean Republicans, as do DA’s and Firefighters though not as much, with the modifiers mentioned above, though even anti-Trump black cops complain about “liberals”.

            Public Defenders go past Democrat and are often full Leftists (Che Guevara and Malcolm X posters, et cetera).

            The nurses and other staff at General Hospital are usually in between cops and Defenders politically.

            Public school teachers are operationally conservative, but vocally fully “woke”.

            Building repair and Public Works “hands” are usually Biden Democrats with a few Sanders Democrats and a few Republicans with young white ‘hands’ (unless they went to college) being far more likely to be Republicans than older whites, young non whites are overwhelmingly silent politically, older non-whites are much the same as the older whites political ly, most supervisors are Republicans except for young ones (so the opposite of ‘hands’) at least until they buy a house in the suburbs. 

            Fully “Woke” is exceedingly rare among public works, with the closest examples I can think of usually being pro-black but usually still anti-gay.

            I’m almost a decade out of private industry but when I last worked construction the leanings were pretty much the same as Public Works, nearly 20 years out of the motorcycle shop, as I remember it Democrat or Republican depended on how many guns you owned.

            I’m more than 30 years out of school but as I remember it girls were more liberal than boys, a huge number of both called themselves “anarchists”, and if a classmates parents lived in the Berkeley hills their parents probably were pro-Reagan, if they lived in the flats probably not (I doubt that pattern is still the case), and far Leftists who were even madder at “liberals” than conservatives were were around, no far Right that I encountered back then, young far Right men (even center-Right women are exceedingly rare in my experience) seemed to have popped up among coworkers in the 2000’s after ’90’s talk radio. The few far Leftists I encounter today are grey hairs, and judging by national polls my “bubble” is atypical in that in my face-to-face acquaintances among men the old lean more left and the young lean more right, though among women the opposite is true (which does match the polls).

          • jermo sapiens says:

            because normal people don’t normally get thrown in jail for doing what Hillary did

            This guy is in jail. The article tries to make parallels with Hillary’s case. I dont know enough to say how accurate it is but it seems reasonable to me.

            Also Hillary was secretary of state and traded on her political power to amass a massive fortune from people she would have had formal relations with as a SoS or as a President, had she been elected.

          • Clutzy says:

            One more time: No he didn’t, because normal people don’t normally get thrown in jail for doing what Hillary did. They get yelled at, threatened, fired, and told to go away because they’re never allowed to work for the government again, and that’s the end of it.

            So, mission accomplished.

            This is an insane, beyond galaxy brain level take when we have Paul Manafort in prison, Roger Stone on trial, and Mike Flynn in infinite purgatory over things 1/10th as important as what Hillary did.

          • Nick says:

            Oh man, dude, setting aside the particular story, just don’t read The Federalist. There are some folks associated with them that I like, but the publication exists to produce outrage. It’s just not worth following.

          • Aftagley says:

            It’s not the same, but the reasons why are somewhat arcane. Basically it comes down to classified documents vs. classified information.

            Let’s say that aliens exist and this fact is classified. What clinton apparently did would be equivalent to mentioning the aliens in various emails and discussing implications of that fact. This makes these emails classified, but only based on the information contained within them. In most cases, there would be no indication that the information contained in the email was classified unless you happened to remember that fact. This isn’t to excuse the behavior – it was incredibly careless.

            What this guy is accused of doing was stealing obviously classified documents and taking them home. This would be equivalent to, I don’t know, a detailed report on an alien autopsy. This document would be covered in classification markings and be obviously classified.

            The whole “i didn’t know this was classified” excuse may or may not work in the former case, but it certainly doesn’t in the latter.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            This isn’t to excuse the behavior – it was incredibly careless.

            No, it was not “careless”.

            Hillary Clinton did not place her email server in a bathroom in her house because she was being careless. Would you accept this argument from Trump? It was just careless of him to try and get the President of Ukraine to investigate Biden, he should have been more careful, and asked the FBI. This is just one big old accident, like that time I dropped ketchup on your shirt.

            She did it for a very specific and obvious reason: to avoid Freedom of Information requests, presumably to hide the corruption around the Clinton Foundation. And in order to avoid FOI requests, she deliberately and willfully mishandled classified information.

            Oh, but silly me! I was all outraged over some regular guy going to jail over mishandled classified documents, and all Hillary did was mishandle classified information. This is TOTALLY different. How could I ever think there was a double standard in place. I must have been out of my mind.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            John Schilling isn’t some Clinton-email apologist. A little over 3 years ago he (and I) were some of the posters here regularly saying it was a serious, potentially disqualifying, problem.

            Hating these corrupt politicians isn’t just tribalism. Clinton would probably be doing stuff now if she were President, and getting away with it because she would know how to be subtle enough. But fuck if that means Trump gets away with it because he does not know how to be subtle enough.

            I don’t have to worry about impeaching Clinton because she gone, hopefully for good.

          • cassander says:

            @Edward Scizorhands says:

            Hillary wasn’t subtle, she erased tens of thousands of emails under subpoena. What the bidens did wasn’t subtle, his job was publicly announced. They don’t have to be subtle because they can count on people to cover for and excuse them.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Clinton defied oversight laws put in place on her.

            Hunter Biden is not a government employee and can do whatever the fuck (and apparently whoever the fuck) he wants, as far as the law is concerned.

          • cassander says:

            @Edward Scizorhands says:

            Clinton defied oversight laws put in place on her.

            Tens of thousands of times. And destroyed evidence. And lied about it.

            Hunter Biden is not a government employee and can do whatever the fuck (and apparently whoever the fuck) he wants, as far as the law is concerned.

            He isn’t a government employee, but his dad was, and Joe was absolutely bound by federal regulations about gift giving, conflicts of interest, and bribery of close family members.

          • John Schilling says:

            This guy is in jail. The article tries to make parallels with Hillary’s case. I dont know enough to say how accurate it is but it seems reasonable to me.

            It isn’t. This guy is at least two standard deviations from normal in how much classified information he took, how blatantly obvious it was that it didn’t belong in his home, and how implausible it is for this to have been an honest mistake in doing his job. Also, he seems to have posted a bunch of it to public web sites, and sent some of it to foreign contacts. And then either hired an incompetent lawyer, or didn’t listen to his lawyer.

            It seems reasonable to you, because you’re going by a cherrypicked subset of facts and opinions packaged by a source that specializes in making it seem reasonable for you to embed yourself in a deep-red outrage bubble of people perpetually outraged at everyone not as outraged as they are. I do not believe you will ultimately find that to be a winning strategy in the long run.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’m going to cut you short and point out that the simplistic version of this question implies that no R can investigate any Ds, and vice versa. This is obviously a laughable conclusion.

          So, in the interest of not having a fruitless discussion, is it possible for you to model and articulate what you think I think the relevant differences are between investigations of any particular opponents of Obama and the specifics in question here?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            what you think I think the relevant differences are between investigations of any particular opponents of Obama and the specifics in question here?

            Probably the use of foreign aid as leverage. But then again, using foreign aid as leverage is not in itself considered a crime.

          • EchoChaos says:

            This is obviously a laughable conclusion.

            Not sure I agree. I am perfectly comfortable with a norm that “absolutely nobody currently running for office can be Federally investigated”.

            Yes, occasionally you might get a bad situation, but a J. Edgar Hoover style blackmail ring is far worse.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @jermo sapiens:
            No, that isn’t the relevant difference. You are going to need to look for a generalizable rule that applies to the County Sheriff as well as the President.

            @Conrad Honcho EchoChaos (my bad, I think Conrad had a similar gravatar or something):

            “absolutely nobody currently running for office can be Federally investigated”.

            “Hi, I’m Al Capone and I want to be your President.”

            This is a clear and obviously unworkable failure mode.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I am EchoChaos. Conrad Honcho was someone completely different.

            And yes, I am fully aware of that failure mode. Given that election periods are every four years, that doesn’t bother me.

            I am far more concerned with a situation where the executive branch of government is weaponized against challengers.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            No, that isn’t the relevant difference. You are going to need to look for a generalizable rule that applies to the County Sheriff as well as the President.

            Honestly stumped. I can think of the idea that Trump wanted Biden investigated for “personal benefits” but that is generally true of any investigation of political opponents.

            Maybe you’re thinking that Ukraine is such a crucial ally or something (the Democrats seemed to be pushing that line), but I honestly dont expect you to believe that, and it doesnt fit the County Sherrif.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @EchoChaos:

            “I’m Al Capone and it’s apparent with yesterday’s just completed election that the American people need the choice of Capone more than ever. That is why in 4 to 40 years time, I will become your next president.”

            Conversely:
            “Hey, AG Nitti. President Capone here. Make sure you indict Ness before he declares for office. This is vital.”

            You solve very little with your proposal AND open a giant exploitable loophole.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @jermo sapiens:

            If the pilot on a commercial flight wants to turn off the electronics and fly the plane completely manually, when is this OK?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            If the pilot on a commercial flight wants to turn off the electronics and fly the plane completely manually, when is this OK?

            Hmm, not sure, when he needs to do something that the electronics cant handle? My own opinion would be “when he feels like it”. Anyways, I’ve tried to answer your question honestly, if you want to have that fruitful discussion, tell me what makes what Trump did so awful.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My own opinion would be “when he feels like it”.

            This is not the correct answer. Flying a commercial plane absent electronics and electrics is inherently more difficult and thus riskier than otherwise. Thus there are policies and procedures that the pilot will use to decide whether to take this step. In addition, the policies and procedures are in service of the ultimate goal of safely flying the plane.

            If some incident occurs when this step has been taken, we will evaluate whether the policies and procedures were followed. We will evaluate how and why deviations from those policies and procedures occurred. Ultimately, we will evaluate whether the pilots actions were in service of the ultimate goal of safely flying the plane.

            Does this begin to bring my position into clearer focus for you?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Does this begin to bring my position into clearer focus for you?

            Yes.

            But, imagine if you will, an airplane with electronics that are completely corrupt. Then I would prefer the pilot take over immediately.

            You may have faith in the law enforcement apparatus of the US to be lined up with your interests, and insofar as your interests are opposed to Trump’s and the American working class, you are no doubt correct.

            I am of the view that the FBI, the CIA, the DoJ, and the State Department are corrupt beyond redemption, and if Trump’s crime is not relying on them when they would have stabbed him in the back at the first opportunity, I fully support his crime.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            As I suspected, pointless.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Is your argument that had a career diplomat/investigator said “we should investigate Hunter Biden”, then everything Donald Trump is alleged to have done (withhold aid in exchange for an investigation) would have been acceptable and no problem at all?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            As I suspected, pointless.

            Only if your goal was to convince me of your position. I now understand your position better, and that’s not pointless. Maybe if you took the time to humbly appreciate the points I was making, you wouldnt find it so pointless.

            I will leave you with the following links, which are relevant to this discussion.

            Boeing 737 MAX
            Comey on Clinton email scandal
            IRS targeting controversy
            FBI used Steele dossier to obtain FISA warrant against Carter Page

          • tomogorman says:

            @EchoChaos
            Is your argument that had a career diplomat/investigator said “we should investigate Hunter Biden”, then everything Donald Trump is alleged to have done (withhold aid in exchange for an investigation) would have been acceptable and no problem at all?

            Not HeelBearCub, but – while this is an overstament of my position – its not completely wrong.
            One of the key questions as to whether or not what Trump did was ok was whether there was any genuine public interest or pure personal interest.
            The fact that there appears to be no one at State or Defense who supported what he was doing (including ambassadors to the EU and Ukraine appointed by him) is, imo, pretty strong evidence there was no genuine public interest.
            Had somone at State come up with the idea instead of Trump that would be evidence that public interest was more plausible than I currently think.
            The execution of the idea is still pretty reckless (I don’t see how you expect an honest investigation given the circumstances under which he was making the ask), but it would support the idea that the motive behind the investigation was more than political.
            Yes, the President, and not the State department has ultimate authority so Trump has the legal power to make the policy. But that doesn’t mean he can’t abuse that power – and be impeached for abusing that power – so evidence of regularity is evidence that the power wasn’t be abused. But this was not regular at all.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @tomogorman

            Thanks. I understand the position now.

            I reject it entirely, but I understand it. I find that to be the exact empowering of the Deep State that I am concerned about.

            I will also note that actual career government people did in fact support the investigation.

            For example, Lt. Gen. Kellogg. https://www.axios.com/keith-kellogg-jennifer-williams-pence-trump-zelensky-call-impeachment-d3dfcf62-d089-4b9d-8f0e-0dda9f3f914e.html

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @EchoChaos:

            Is your argument that had a career diplomat/investigator said “we should investigate Hunter Biden”, then everything Donald Trump is alleged to have done (withhold aid in exchange for an investigation) would have been acceptable and no problem at all?

            If a career diplomat had a) formed this opinion, b) taken it through normal channels, c) those normal channels had resulted in the matter being referred to the DOJ, d) DOJ had then followed their normal process, e) at some point the FBI had seen some national security implication in Biden’s action and referred it to NSC (or another appropriate body), f) normal diplomatic channels were attempted to resolve these implications and eventually determined to be fruitless, g) that national security ramification was weighed against other national security ramifications and found to be overriding, h) the NSC then, in cooperation with State, Congress, and our allies, analyzed the available remedies and risks, i) lesser remedies were attempted and were unsuccessful, j) then, finally, at the end of that long process, we might see direct intervention by the White House, in cooperation with all of the above mentioned bodies, to withhold appropriated Congressional funds as well as other measures, as appropriate

            I’m sure I have left out steps. Basically there is huge difference between top-down and bottom-up, most especially when it comes to political rivals, but generally speaking. Even if we are talking about intervening in, say, ASAPRocky’s situation, because Kim Kardashian mentioned it to you, the right way to handle that if you are the president is refer it to the channels and initiate the bottom up process.

          • albatross11 says:

            The specific issue is using foreign aid as leverage to cause another country to investigate your political rivals.

          • Dan L says:

            I am of the view that the FBI, the CIA, the DoJ, and the State Department are corrupt beyond redemption

            Putting a marker to come back to this when I have time (tonight?), because it exemplifies a few different flavors of unhelpful thinking that happen to be pet peeves and I might be able to offer something constructive.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The fact that Trump and Giuliani took steps to hide their actions indicate they knew they were wrong.

            Hunter, for all his worthlessness and stupidity, has his employment by Burisma publicly announced. Had he somehow attempted to be paid covertly, that would be a sign of malfeasance.

            I will also note that actual career government people did in fact support the investigation.

            For example, Lt. Gen. Kellogg. https://

            I was kind of hoping to see at that URL some record or note that Kellogg had called for the inquiry before it became public.

          • Dan L says:

            Ok, circling back now.

            1) “Corrupt”

            I keep an informal list of words whose use suggests (but not guarantees) the speaker is about to say something very dumb. “Collusion”, “quantum”, “RICO”, “clip”, etc. They tend towards the political and towards terms of art, mostly because that’s where people care very much while simultaneously either desperately need the rhetorical edge from exaggeration or simply can’t spare five minutes for Google.

            “Corruption” is very high on that list. You have a word with a plethora of distinct legal meanings, stretched theoretical interpretations, and a largely non-intersecting set of common rhetorical usages divorced from any actionable substance – it’s like “treason” on steroids! Is this an argument about legal wrongdoing, or just that the speaker thinks someone is being unethical? Hell, most of the time I saw it used (primary season, natch) it’s just shorthand for “this person is following incentives that are opposed to my interests I simply don’t like”. As a worked example: if you think “corruption” is a good explanation for why Lieberman killed the public option, you need remedial lessons in the politics of the CT economy. And so on.

            That’s not to say it (and others on the list) can’t be used legitimately, obviously – but I feel it should likewise be obvious to any combatant in the Culture War that this is a fraught term. Deploying it without preemptively clarifying is not a good sign; at best, it means you’re dealing with uncut conflict theory.

            2) FBI, CIA, DoJ, State

            The obvious first question is where this list came from – I’ve asked quite a few times for a principled description of what exactly defines “the swamp”, and I have a similar issue here. Uncharitably-but-authentically, the ambiguity appears to be a feature rather than a bug. The list can grow or shrink to encompass whomever needs to be delegitimized today. (All references to 1984 are on 1’s list, but insert your own “Eastasia has always been on the axis of evil” reference here to taste.)

            The second question is really an extension of the first: how long have you held this belief? Or more trenchantly, can you show me a time where this belief has led you to adopt an ideologically inconvenient position?

            I do not trust the integrity of folks who first noticed in 2016 that the FISA court system is sketchy. Or of those who are only now realizing that grand juries might not be great for the defendant. That’s not active distrust and we can discuss why (and for how long) those things might be, but no points are yet awarded for intellectual consistency. Wait a swing of the pendulum, and we’ll see where we are then.

            3) “beyond redemption”

            Take a moment and ponder whether this comes from the same place as “abolish ICE”. From there, consider how the standard arguments against the latter apply to the former, but more so – that is an enormous swath of the Federal government, encompassing several vital functions that need to be performed either by the agency in question or a substitute. It is very possible for these things to go sour and for houses to need to be cleaned – the FBI will be paying for the legacy of Hoover for quite a while – but if the proposal is that a unitary executive has the power to replace a quarter million personnel on a whim then it is a position indistinguishable from a power grab of breathtaking scale. So… distinguish!

          • jermo sapiens says:

            “Corruption” is very high on that list. You have a word with a plethora of distinct legal meanings, stretched theoretical interpretations, and a largely non-intersecting set of common rhetorical usages divorced from any actionable substance – it’s like “treason” on steroids!

            Yes “corrupt/corruption” is a loaded word with many different meanings. I like Moldbug’s definition: Corruption is any human action that is not what it appears to be. Very broad. But in this specific instance, what I mean is that the deep state is ostensibly neutral, when in fact it has a bias.

            The second question is really an extension of the first: how long have you held this belief? Or more trenchantly, can you show me a time where this belief has led you to adopt an ideologically inconvenient position?

            The IRS scandal tipped me off, and the way the 2016 race played out confirmed my suspicions (Clinton’s criminal “foundation” taking millions in bribes speaking fees, her cheating her way to the Democratic nomination, and the way she was forgiven for having her email server at home, etc…). And the same people who support Clinton through all this are up in arms that Trump wanted to investigate Biden’s son’s appointment to the Board of Burisma?? This makes the parable of the mote and the beam look not hyperbolic enough. Some of these actions and double standards were undertaken by people who can officially be partisan, but the partisan Ds seem to always have the support of the public service in a way that is denied to Rs.

            Clinton would not have been subjected to a Mueller style investigation despite her many misdeeds, because she has tons of support in Washington whereas Trump does not.

            As for ideologically awkward positions, Im quite prepared to criticize Trump if he does something stupid like increasing the troop presence in the middle east. If he does, I would expect it to be the result of some corrupt deep state actors influencing him. And maybe that would be wrong, I dont really have the information to assess whether the US needs more troops in the middle east, but from whatever information I have, it clearly does not, and whoever has the full information (the deep state), I distrust with extreme prejudice.

          • albatross11 says:

            jermo:

            I think the deep state does not have a political party. If Romney or Rubio or Bush were president right now, they would not be having the problems that Trump’s having. Partly, that’s because the way Trump operates makes him a pretty easy target. But also, he’s dissenting from the elite consensus[1] in ways that offend a lot of the elites, and the elites are often in a position to push back.

            On the other hand, the deep state (and specifically, the Justice dept, intelligence agencies, State dept, and the military) all have agendas of their own which are probably a lot more important than a particular political bias. Note that we still haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan or Syria, we still have a lot of troops in Iraq, and despite some Twitter drama about the president saying he was wiretapped by the Obama administration, nobody’s pushing back on the listen-to-everything-all-the-time policy we’ve accepted thanks to the never-ending war on terror. For that matter, the AUMF is still in force, and still being used to justify sending troops and bombing wherever the president likes.

            It is a very bad thing that the deep state is so able to insulate itself from the voters, IMO.

            [1] The good news is, Trump pushes back on areas of elite consensus that are dumb or crazy. The bad news is, Trump is the opposite of an idea guy, so while he can reject dumb parts of the elite consensus as obviously nuts, he doesn’t have an intellectual vision with which to replace it.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I think the deep state does not have a political party. If Romney or Rubio or Bush were president right now, they would not be having the problems that Trump’s having. Partly, that’s because the way Trump operates makes him a pretty easy target. But also, he’s dissenting from the elite consensus[1] in ways that offend a lot of the elites, and the elites are often in a position to push back.

            That’s a good point. It’s not that Trump is a Republican so much as Trump is an outsider. Rubio would not have suffered this. Maybe Bernie Sanders would have.

          • Clutzy says:

            I think the deep state does not have a political party. If Romney or Rubio or Bush were president right now, they would not be having the problems that Trump’s having. Partly, that’s because the way Trump operates makes him a pretty easy target. But also, he’s dissenting from the elite consensus[1] in ways that offend a lot of the elites, and the elites are often in a position to push back.

            IMO this is less than half true. For instance, President Ted Cruz would, IMO have faced 99.99% of the media and bureaucratic opposition Trump has. President Mitt, probably 80%. People appear to have forgotten how much the media lit its hair on fire during Bush, and in response to the McCain/Romney candidacies. On top of that the bureaucratic mutiny had already began under Bush via things like Scooter Libby, and I see no reason their corruption and bias would not have proceeded at the same pace that the media has, which is to say quickly.

          • Aftagley says:

            Scooter Libby deliberately leaked classified information that effectively ended a woman’s career as a way of punishing her husband.

            In what way is that an example of “bureaucratic revolt?” Someone did something that was amoral and illegal and almost suffered the consequences of his actions.

          • hls2003 says:

            Scooter Libby deliberately leaked classified information that effectively ended a woman’s career as a way of punishing her husband.

            It’s been awhile, but my recollection is that this is false. David Novak came out later, after the prosecutions, and said that Richard Armitage was his source, not Libby. I was pretty sure Libby got charged with making false statements, not leaking.

          • Aftagley says:

            My memory is also hazy, and a trip down wikipedia lane was only slightly helpful. Here’s a condensed version of the facts as I understand them, although I’d honestly forgotten just how complicated that whole mess was.

            You are correct that they got Libby for perjury, you are incorrect that the only source was Armitage. He was the primary source, but there was another source reportedly in the Bush Administration. This was almost certainly Libby, but could presumably have been Rove or some other politico. This uncertainty led the special prosecutor to only go after Libby for lying to the feds – something he unquestionably did.

            My previous question stands – how is this the example of an incipient bureaucratic revolt?

          • Clutzy says:

            Because if we applied the Libby standard evenly somewhere around 95% of administration officials would eventually be convicted of false statements. Just like in the Mike Flynn situation, if FBI agents randomly ambush interviewed admin officials, they would be able to manufacture 1001 charges against them. The fact that this is only happening to Republicans (despite obvious documented lying by people like Clapper and Brennan under oath, not merely in FBI interviews), is an untenable political situation.

          • hls2003 says:

            You are correct that they got Libby for perjury, you are incorrect that the only source was Armitage. He was the primary source, but there was another source reportedly in the Bush Administration. This was almost certainly Libby, but could presumably have been Rove or some other politico. This uncertainty led the special prosecutor to only go after Libby for lying to the feds – something he unquestionably did.

            My recollection is from being online and fighting about this in comments a decade ago (maybe the time of his pardon/commutation?) and I have a memory that sources were clear that Libby himself never outed Plame. I can’t really defend that now because I don’t remember the sources, but I thought it was quite clear he was innocent of that. A quick Google gets me this but it’s behind a paywall and I can’t even read it to see if it comports with my recollection. This suggests Judith Miller recanted her testimony about Libby’s alleged role in her memoir. But it’s been too long, I don’t have all the sources anymore. Suffice to say that I think “Scooter Libby leaked, so the bastard had it coming” is false, or at the very least not well-supported.

            My previous question stands – how is this the example of an incipient bureaucratic revolt?

            Sorry, I haven’t really been following the whole thread. I just happened to notice Scooter Libby, and had memories of Comments Past. I would expect it would be viewed in that light as a politically motivated prosecution supported by the Intelligence Community as vengeance against the Bush administration throwing the IC under the bus after Iraq.

          • Aftagley says:

            Sorry, I haven’t really been following the whole thread. I just happened to notice Scooter Libby, and had memories of Comments Past. I

            Actually, no this was my bad. For some reason I though Clutzy, not you had posted that response. Pushing you to answer a question I didn’t ask you wasn’t cool on my part; my apologies.

          • Dan L says:

            @ jermo:

            Yes “corrupt/corruption” is a loaded word with many different meanings. I like Moldbug’s definition: Corruption is any human action that is not what it appears to be. Very broad.

            The obvious reply is that if you’re knowingly using a broad definition, you need to correspondingly weaken the consequences of that charge. Not doing so is the Worst Argument in the World. Declaiming a broad swath as political enemies is… not that.

            The more complicated reply is that this is less an accusation and more a weaponized profession of ignorance: “what it appears to be” is a judgement about the observer first and foremost, and an assessment of marketing second. And there absolutely is incentive to spin impressions about one’s opponents – that’s another reason Ideological Turing Tests are useful, and why primary sources are indispensable. Or at the very least, stop trying to fight vast formless things.

            And when the experience needed to give accurate impressions is itself treated as evidence of corruption of the speaker, the belief has become self-sustaining. This is dangerous in a very concrete way, and is the central component of my pet theory of radicalization. But that’s a tangent.

            Clinton would not have been subjected to a Mueller style investigation despite her many misdeeds, because she has tons of support in Washington whereas Trump does not.

            ಠ_ಠ

            Would you like the list alphabetically, or chronologically?

            Or more trenchantly, can you show me a time where this belief has led you to adopt an ideologically inconvenient position?

            As for ideologically awkward positions, Im quite prepared to criticize Trump if he does something stupid like increasing the troop presence in the middle east. If he does, I would expect it to be the result of some corrupt deep state actors influencing him.

            In terms of past times it’s happened this looks like a “no” then, with a prepared line of retreat. There is a reason I ask about actual and not hypothetical cases.

            whoever has the full information (the deep state), I distrust with extreme prejudice.

            And there’s the kicker. You didn’t answer my question about where your list of agencies came from, and now you’re defining your opposition in a way that cripples your own epistemology. What would it look like for you to have the full information?

        • jermo sapiens says:

          The specifics matter A LOT.

          Yes. Particularly the specifics of whether a D or a R is being impeached.

          Instead he is asking it be conducted by Ukraine and threatening to with hold millions in defense aid connection with that ask.

          Trump does not have jurisdiction in Ukraine where the alleged corruption took place. Ukraine received the aid it was promised. The mere fact that the son of the VP is receiving millions from a corrupt Ukrainian oil and gas company is sufficient to warrant an investigation. Also the fact that the son of the VP is receiving billions from China to manage in his hedge fund.

          In no circumstance has Obama been alleged to do anything similar to this — if he did yes I would absolutely support his Impeachment

          Did Obama know that the Trump campaign was being wiretapped? (serious question, I dont know the answer)

          • tomogorman says:

            Trump alleged that the decision to apply pressure for Shokin’s removal was corrupt. That decision was made in the U.S. The Trump campaign has done nothing to check on how the Obama administration, U.S. Congress including Republicans, and Western European allies came to support this move. Presumably, because it would render the idea that it was done to benefit Hunter Biden inherently laughable.
            Hunter Biden is a U.S. citizen and current resident. Presumably were there sufficient grounds to investigate him there would also be evidence to found in the U.S. (emails, finances, etc.) There appears to have been no effort to undertake any such investigation.
            Insofar as there would be a need for cooperation from Ukrainian law enforcement with U.S. law enforcement there are formal channels to request such cooperation – they were not used in this case.
            Formal channels are important because they can safeguard against abuse of power – they are certainly good evidence that something is of public interest to the U.S. rather than Trump’s narrow political interest.

            As to the Trump campaign being wiretapped – that did not happen. The closest thing to that claim appears to be that Paul Manafort was wiretapped, although from what I can gather it was at least unclear as to whether Manafort was working for the Trump campaign during the time. Source:link text that there was a wiretap meant MULTIPLE checks of the type I think provide evidence of regularity were present. Normal FBI agents were involved. A U.S. Judge signed off on probable cause for the wiretap. Manafort was of course subsequently convicted of various crimes by the DOJ as run by Trump. Hence indicating there were real grounds to be suspicious.
            Finally, there is no evidence that Obama was personally involved in any of the decisions to go after Manafort at all. Occam’s razor suggests he was not – the President usually does not get involved with DOJ decisions at that level. If you wanted Congress to ask, I would be fine with that, but there is no reason to presume he was.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I agree with most of what you said, but it seems to me you’re leaving out a few important points. I’m not 100% sure on the details, but wasnt the Steele dossier presented to a FISA court to get permission to spy on the Trump campaign?

          • tomogorman says:

            Nope, now your thinking about the FISA warrant (which does not appear to have been a wiretap) to look at Carter Page. The Steele Dossier was one of the bases (though far from the only) for the FISA warrant against him. Source: link text
            Surveillance was after Carter stopped working for the Trump Campaign. Again, the investigation involved regular FBI channels, warrants approved by Judges, does not appear to have been initiated by Obama (nor again any evidence he was involved at all), and while not resulting in charges – it was clear that Page did have real Russian connections. Notably, the FBI was also quiet about this at the time – unlike Trump who wanted a public announcement Biden was being investigated.

    • Corey says:

      B I think, the pressure got to be too much, eventually you do have to listen to the voters. There was a lot of talk in lefty spaces about “why aren’t they impeaching already?” since the Democrats took the House.

      Also, and I hate to harp on this every thread, but the factual basis literally does not matter. To the Republican electorate, Trump can do no wrong, they will adjust their realities as needed to compensate. Likewise, to the Democratic electorate, he can do no right, and their reality will fit this need.

      No President will ever be able to be removed from office unless the partisan-reality-bubble phenomenon goes away somehow, or partisan dynamics shift enough that a party can get 2/3 of the Senate. So vote carefully.

      I know people here try to stick with extant reality, but that’s only going to get harder, if it’s even still possible in things that relate to politics.

      • Clutzy says:

        I also mainly think B is the answer. This is something Dem leadership had to do to avoid a bunch of Dave Brat- Eric Cantor situations.

    • broblawsky says:

      Is it that difficult to believe that your political opponents might genuinely believe that they have a duty to do something about these crimes, even if they can’t get the result they think is just?

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Not necessarily. It is that difficult to believe that Adam Schiff is just performing his duty. He wanted to impeach Trump since day 1.

      • Corey says:

        Most people don’t believe their opponents believe things in good faith, because to believe X in good faith would contradict obvious fact Y, not realizing their opponents have carefully excised Y from their reality.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The witnesses testifying today all seem to be legal experts who will not testify to anything that Trump did.

      They are not fact witnesses. They are legal experts.

      The fact witnesses were previous. And the GOP House Members kept on asking them to do legal analysis, which they (mostly, wisely) refused to do.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      d: To stop the crime in progress. Trump was leaning on the Ukraine to manufacture dirt on his opponents.
      It does not actually even matter if he realizes that is what he was doing, to a ukranian politician, this whole saga is going to be an obvious case of “Mobster with leverage is blackmailing me into manufacturing dirt”.
      And it certainly looks like they were going to cave and go ahead and pay the danegeld. Not so much because of the money, but because they really, really need the end user certificates on their armament buys to sail through without a hitch.

      Ukraine is not a great power, but they are a real nation with a real intelligence service, and it is an intelligence service with a terrifying amount of expertise in dirty politics. If Pelosi let that plot go forward unmolsted, come november, a lot of democrats would suddenly be very surprised by the skeletons in their closets, particularily because they never hid these specific skeletons.

      So, optics, smoptics, no longer any choice about launching an impeachment, because to do nothing would be a disaster. The impeachment proceedings are already a win in this regard – the investigation derailed the entire plot, the money was released, ect.

    • blipnickels says:

      I may be wrong, but from my perspective it’s quite clear that the impeachment proceedings are not intended to remove Trump from office, because there is no way the senate will convict based on what we’ve heard so far……I think the democrats know this and they’ve known this would happen since before they went ahead with the impeachment hearings.

      I don’t think the Democrats knew this; I think if you’d asked the average congressional Democrat, or Democratic voter, in September/October as this was developing whether they could really impeach the president on this, they would have said yes. And I think there’s an alternative universe where Trump was impeached on this.

      It’s worth pointing out that October saw Trump’s approval rating slide from ~46% to ~42%. If that slide had continued, and at the time no one could be confident Trump would rebound, then the Republicans would have faced paying a real price to defend Trump and the Democrats would be looking pretty smart right now. It’s not even impossible the Senate wouldn’t have impeached him (or asked him to leave). Yeah, it’s Republican, but it’s Establishment Republican and the 2015/2016 primary isn’t that long ago. McConell or Lindsey Graham might be on the Trump Train now but that’s driven by his sky-high popularity with the Republican base, if that cracked then there’s a lot of Establishment Republicans who would happily sell him out and return the Republican party to the old Reagan/Bush formula.

      The impeachment hearings have been a pretty shocking failure and Trump’s approval ratings have climbed throughout November. Honestly, it’s frightening how much Trump has no-sold a impeachment investigation on genuinely bad acts and I don’t think that could, or was, really predicted by anyone when the impeachment started.

      • cassander says:

        Numerous people predicted it, including myself. I wouldn’t have bet the farm on it, but “not much changes” was precisely what I expected. The failure is only shocking to people who were already foaming at the mouth about trump. But trying to impeach trump over him investigating joe biden’s corrupt son was never a very sound strategy from a PR perspective. It might have worked, but now the democrats will fall back on the lower reward strategy of dragging out the impeachment for as long as possible in the hopes that trump walks into a trap, but mostly simply as campaign friction.

        that said I don’t think it was all calculated by the democrats. Pelosi might be clear headed enough to see things as they really are, but I suspect much, maybe even most, of her caucus is part of the foaming at the mouth brigade.

        • The Nybbler says:

          But trying to impeach trump over him investigating joe biden’s corrupt son was never a very sound strategy from a PR perspective.

          Unless you’re one of the other Democratic candidates.

          • Clutzy says:

            Yeppers.

            Joe is the candidate of the Dem base, but not of the Dem elites.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Who do the Democratic elites want? Certainly not wealth-tax Warren, or Sanders. Bloomberg seems unlikely; he’s got a way of making enemies, plus he’s switched nominal party affiliation (while always being a tyrant). Hillary again? I can’t see them being that foolish.

          • Clutzy says:

            Who do the Democratic elites want? Certainly not wealth-tax Warren, or Sanders. Bloomberg seems unlikely; he’s got a way of making enemies, plus he’s switched nominal party affiliation (while always being a tyrant). Hillary again? I can’t see them being that foolish.

            A first segment has been with Warren since almost day 1. This is the non-billionaire elite class. College grads working in or around government and journalism. These voters were almost universally Warren/Beto/Harris supporters on day 1. Most are now Warren, with some Buttegieg.

            The ultra rich class appears to be leaning Buttegieg now, with some Bloomberg.

          • albatross11 says:

            There was a really weird level of excitement/love for Beto in the Democratic-leaning media that I have never understood.

          • Clutzy says:

            There was a really weird level of excitement/love for Beto in the Democratic-leaning media that I have never understood.

            Whats not to understand? He’s white Obama with a spanish sounding name. A blank slate you can project any dream you have onto.

        • blipnickels says:

          I was going to argue that impeachment is a rare and powerful weapon and it always leaves a stain, even if you win (see Clinton, Andrew Johnson) but then I looked up the list of presidential impeachments and there’s a surprising amount there. Honestly, this Ukraine thing looks less serious than the Iran-Contra affair, which Reagan survived pretty well. Nixon/Clinton were not accurate references.

          Having said that, are you arguing there was no chance for impeachment or just that it wasn’t likely? I’ll agree, impeachment was never probable but in October when approval numbers were sliding and new details were coming out, were you giving successful impeachment a 30-40% chance of success or a 5% of success?

          • cassander says:

            So one must distinguish between impeachment and removal. Removal I thought and think is very unlikely. Impeachment I thought was probable a month ago (less probable now), but even the most enthusiastic partisans on the left had to be a little disappointed that they’ve had to step down from treason to improper investigation of joe biden’s useless kid, and enthusiasm counts for a lot.

            that said, I don’t think impeachment changes that much one way or the other by itself. Absent some explosive revelation, it’s going to be an extremely partisan affair, which radically reduces its ability to influence the 80-90% of republicans that approve of trump, and if they didn’t move then the senate doesn’t move. Of course, there always was a chance of an explosive revelation,and holding hearings increased the chance, but I’d say the chance of that is lower today than it was a month ago. if hunter biden is the best the democrats have, they don’t have much.

          • blipnickels says:

            there always was a chance of an explosive revelation,and holding hearings increased the chance, but I’d say the chance of that is lower today than it was a month ago. if hunter biden is the best the democrats have, they don’t have much.

            That’s kind of what I’m getting at. Yeah, it wasn’t likely, but it could happen and the Democrats would probably get some political advantage out of it even without an explosive revelation. But that’s not what happened, Trump looks stronger now than a month ago and the impeachment looks like a complete flop, and that surprises me.

          • Clutzy says:

            IMO, if the Democrats wanted to impeach, they should have gone after Mueller’s obstruction theory. It was weak, but much stronger than this case to the general public. That they went with this course is evidence that they don’t really have a connection to “the people” colloquially. That is because they think that Biden’s arrangement is normal. That is a blindspot.

            For most people, the more they know about the Biden situation, the more they despise politicians. People look at Biden’s son and think, “my son is 10x as qualified as that kid and makes way less” and they are not wrong. This is the kind of corruption that has been hidden from the public for a long time, and is now being brought to the light. Its not good politically.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Honestly, it’s frightening how much Trump has no-sold a impeachment investigation on genuinely bad acts and I don’t think that could, or was, really predicted by anyone when the impeachment started.

        I think Trump, McConnell, and Pelosi all would have (and probably did) predict that.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Honestly, it’s frightening how much Trump has no-sold a impeachment investigation on genuinely bad acts and I don’t think that could, or was, really predicted by anyone when the impeachment started.

        The likely conclusion is that the impeachment hearings have demonstrated that most Americans don’t agree with you on “bad acts”.

        This isn’t partisan, because the shift is mostly independents, but Democrats simply have not made their case that Trump committed bad acts. Worse (from their perspective, not mine), they’ve genuinely undermined it.

        • blipnickels says:

          The likely conclusion is that the impeachment hearings have demonstrated that most Americans don’t agree with you on “bad acts”.

          That’s true. The American public is ok with, let’s call them ‘politically influenced’ investigations of rival presidential candidates for some time.

          That’s bad.

          • cassander says:

            That’s true. The American public is ok with, let’s call them ‘politically influenced’ investigations of rival presidential candidates for some time.

            I think that was proven when the democrats were able to spend two years getting trump investigated for treason.

          • blipnickels says:

            @cassander
            I’m not sure it was proven. There still haven’t been a ton of politically influenced investigations into rivals yet. Our sample size is low and powerful people still have incentives to stop this slide into internal political warfare, mostly because it’s all fun and games until people start actually going to jail.

            I think pre-Ukraine my prior that politically influenced investigations would be unpalatable to the general public was low but significant, like 30%, and now it’s 10% and I’m significantly less certain that there’s an upper-bound of unacceptable conduct.

          • cassander says:

            @blipnickels says:

            I think pre-Ukraine my prior that politically influenced investigations would be unpalatable to the general public was low but significant, like 30%, and now it’s 10% and I’m significantly less certain that there’s an upper-bound of unacceptable conduct.

            And what was your prior pre-mueller? Because frankly, I think that’s what’s causing a lot of the impeachment apathy on the right, you can’t scream about investigating everything trump does for two years, then turn around and try to impeach him for daring to investigate someone else. I mean, you can, the democrats are doing it, but it’s going to ring hollow, especially when the guy trump was investigating was just about the least sympathetic person imaginable.

          • blipnickels says:

            @cassander
            Probably 90-95%.

            My prior pre-Mueller was messed up because I really got caught up Hillary Clinton’s Servergate thing. I hated the fact that Hillary skated on a crime everyone agreed was illegal, even if it was a petty process crime, and ignored how important it was we went from a House committee investigation to a FBI investigation. At least the Republican base became very ok with politically influenced investigations and I was too and shouldn’t have been.

            Once Mueller came around, and especially after the report was released, I realized how bad it had gotten but Trump is an outlier in many ways and a lot of intelligence officials honestly seem to have gone really nuts over Russian interference so I kinda hoped after the election things would calm back down, at least her.

          • cassander says:

            @blipnickels

            I was surprised by Mueller as well. Not the findings, but how long it was allowed to go on, how passionately convinced people were that it was going to reveal Trump committing treason, and how much the IC bought into it. Hillary was not popular in that crowd, especially after the email situation, and i expected them to keep their heads down.

          • Clutzy says:

            Mueller isn’t the real problem. The pre-Mueller actions by the CIA, NSA, and FBI are the problem. They, more or less, fabricated evidence to wiretap Carter Page et al. Mueller simply rolled up a bunch of Trump-adjacent associates using that evidence that had committed crimes.

            The only problem with Mueller is that he prosecuted crimes that, while technically on the books, had never been pursued before. Thus it reeks of selective prosecution. But that has been common in the US, for many years, so its not necessarily a norm change. But people have noticed. If Trump was Obama, he could easily convict thousands of people under the Manafort rationale.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just as an aside, active investigations into presidential candidates by the justice department and intelligence agencies can be a weapon for one party to attack the other, but they also have a really scary secondary effect: they put the Justice department and intelligence agencies in a position to exert a lot of control over presidential candidates, including the ability to potentially eliminate ones they don’t like. That’s something that can go really, *really* badly for us as a country.

            During the 2016 election, there were formal investigations of both candidates ongoing. It seems quite plausible this will also be true in 2020. Those investigations may be partisan witch hunts, or may be honest attempts to enforce the laws as neutrally as possible, but they still end up with the investigating agencies having a hell of a lot of power to decide who becomes president, and with the candidates having a hell of a big incentive to keep the investigative agencies happy with them. How do you suppose a candidate who openly supports major reform at the FBI and cutting the staff of the Justice department by 30% is going to do in that world? (Will any candidate ever dare take that position?)

        • Chalid says:

          There are (slightly) more Americans who think Trump should be impeached than who think he shouldn’t be impeached, and there have been since October.

          Trump’s approval rating has not rebounded, it has stayed flat and probably will continue to stay flat forever no matter what happens (unless the economy slows dramatically).

    • John Schilling says:

      D) To provoke Trump into doing something Senate Republicans will remove him from office over.

      E) To do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do and it doesn’t cost them anything to do the right thing this time.

      • Chalid says:

        E) is generally underrated as an explanation of politics, and in this case it clearly contributes.

    • BBA says:

      My decision to disengage from politics was the correct one, I see. Five years from now, when Trump is completing his second term and a Medvedev-like figurehead (perhaps Ivanka or Jared, but that might be too obvious) is preparing to replace him in the Oval Office, I might reconsider.

      I used to care, but…

    • B strikes me as the most likely explanation.

    • MorningGaul says:

      I’m only barely attuned to the US media, but a combination of B and C seems most likely from the outside, in the form of “we must do something opposing trump, running a seemingly pointless impecachment procedure is doing something, therefore we must do the pointless dance to show we do something to oppose trump”, because, from an outside perspective, Trump don’t seems to be doing much that need opposing. No foreign expedition, no grand reform, just half-assing mundane stuff, a bunch of which don’t even need opposition to fall appart.

      Then again, for all I know, there are some very important national affairs that I simply don’t hear about, because it doesnt cross the Atlantic (the ocean, no the publication).

    • FormerRanger says:

      (D) in the hope that something will turn up (“Perhaps the horse will learn to sing”)

    • Plumber says:

      @jermo sapiens says:

      “…impeachment proceedings are not intended to remove Trump from office, because there is no way the senate will convict based on what we’ve heard so far…

      …I’m having a hard time coming up with a plausible theory as to why they would decide to press ahead knowing this. None of the ones I can come up with seem satisfactory.

      A) to make Trump look bad before the election
      B) to appeal to their base by fighting Trump
      C) to control the news cycle
      D) ?”

      I haven’t read the whole thread, and I’m strangely disinterested in the hearings (and no this isn’t a general disinterest in politics, I avidly followed the progress of the ACA ten years ago), but I suspect there’s a motive among House Democrats that voters will see the Senate not convict and “come to Jesus” and elect different Senators.

      Pretty remote odds of that actually happening, but maybe they have that hope.

      Otherwise with a Republican Senate and President there’s not much for them to do that will have much effect and impeachment provides a way to look and be busy.

    • eric23 says:

      because there is no way the senate will convict based on what we’ve heard so far

      Key words are “so far”.

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I posted this on the Mental Mountains post, but it may have been too late to be noticed.

    Scott, would you be willing to update your review about Richard’s case? You’ve misrepresented how the therapy works, and you’re getting quoted.

    Here’s what the book (p.46) says:

    ***

    Richard closed his eyes and imagined being in a meeting at work, making some useful comments and being confident about the knowledge he had shared. This is what ensued:

    Cl: Now I’m feeling really uncomfortable, but– it’s in a different way.
    Th: OK, let yourself feel it– this different discomfort. [Pause] See if any words come along with this uncomfortable feeling.
    Cl:[Pause] Now they hate me.
    Th:”Now they hate me”. Good. Keep going.See if this really uncomfortable feeling can tell you why they hate you now.
    Cl:[Pause] Hnh. Wow. It’s because– now I’m– an arrogant asshole– like my father– a totally insensitive, arrogant, know -it-all.
    Th: Do you mean that having a feeling of confidence as you speak turns you into an arrogant asshole, like Dad?
    Cl: Yeah, exactly. Wow.
    Th: And how do you feel about being like him in this way?
    Cl: It’s horrible! It’s what I always vowed not to be!

    ****

    Here’s what you wrote: “During therapy, he described his narcissistic father, who was always mouthing off about everything. Everyone hated his father for being a fool who wouldn’t shut up. The therapist conjectured that young Richard observed this and formed a predictive model, something like “talking makes people hate you”. This was overly general: talking only makes people hate you if you talk incessantly about really stupid things. But when you’re a kid you don’t have much data, so you end up generalizing a lot from the few examples you have.”

    ****

    There is no mention of the therapist knowing about Richard’s father or making a theory about Richard’s relationship with his father.

  5. gbdub says:

    Prompted by a discussion elsewhere about the armament layout of the Battlestar Galactica – in all but the hardest of sci fi, the various combatants have wildly different ship design philosophies. Battlestars vs. Cylon base ships. X-Wings vs TIE fighters. Federation vs. Klingon starships. Etc.

    This makes a lot of sense from a story telling perspective, making the ships and weapons visually distinct characters unto themselves.

    But of course it makes very little practical sense. All of the combatants (usually) have access similar tech and are solving similar problems. In reality this setup usually results in convergent evolution of weapons and vehicles. Broadly speaking, every age of sail ship of the line looked the same. Every battleship in WWII looked pretty much the same (distinguishable, but not different the way a Mon Calamari cruiser and a Star Destroyer are). Same goes for planes, tanks, machine guns, and so on.

    Are there good examples from real life of combatants with similar tech levels but wildly different design philosophies, like we see in sci fi? Or conversely, visual sci fi where the opponents have clearly evolved convergently to very similar appearing weapon systems?

    • Incurian says:

      It could be like Cortez vs Aztecs. If you’re separated by light years and have no contact, it makes sense that your tech would diverge wildly. In Star Trek et al though, I think I agree that we would expect technology to converge rather quickly, with the limiting factor perhaps being wealth.

    • Lambert says:

      I too am bingereading acoup.blog (cw: time sink)

      Probably depends on the maturity of the tech.
      It takes time to converge on the optimum.

      And how much of the tech is industrial/civillian off-the-shelf vs secret military stuff.
      E.g. how the West took on the problem of soot in fuel-rich rocket turbomachinery while the Soviets developed alloys that could withstand oxidiser-rich combustion.

      Of course, apperances are only skin-deep. While the superficial apperance of battleships, for example, didn’t change an awful lot post-Drednought, the internal gubbins on a WWII vessel are far more advanced.

      • gbdub says:

        To your last paragraph, sci fi seems exactly opposite – the internal gubbins are all functionally equivalent, but the exterior and interior design styles are radically different.

    • sfoil says:

      Path-dependence and transitional periods are the big sources of the differences you’re talking about. Incurian’s example is one of extreme path dependence: five hundred years later, the military equipment of the Mexicans and the Spaniards looks pretty similar, now that they’ve been dealing with the same sorts of threats.

      bean would know more about this, but the transitional period from wood and sails to steel and steam looks like it produced a huge variety of designs that eventually converged on a basic design. You can also see this in the earlier days of tanks, before everybody converged on the closed-turret-with-one-big-gun design.

      There’s usually some difference because you’ll always find yourself in some sort of transition period. Russian forces for instance held onto wood furniture on their weapons a lot longer than the Americans did, which is pretty distinctive visually. There’s quite a lot of difference in the web gear worn by individual American soldiers between now and 2000, some of which is because they spent a generation fighting wars where digging and crawling weren’t particularly important. If they have to start crawling around in the forest again, their look will change again.

      Even now you can see quite a few differences. Russians want all their personnel carriers to be amphibious so they have a distinctive hull shape. And they generally reduce the profile of their tanks and other AFVs much more than Western designs. The Russians use a propeller-driven strategic bomber pretty extensively; the Americans have planes with distinctlooking low observability features. The Mi-24/25 is a lot different than most other helicopter gunships and looks it.

      • bean says:

        bean would know more about this, but the transitional period from wood and sails to steel and steam looks like it produced a huge variety of designs that eventually converged on a basic design.

        That’s a good thought, but let down by the lack of coherent design philosophies. It’s not like the British built all central-battery ironclads while the French built all turret ships. Everybody was trying a bit of everything at the same time. Basically, the whole period 1860-1890 was a giant string of experiments, and when things stabilized, everyone settled down to build quite similar ships, with a few exceptions. (American superimposed turrets and French quad main battery layouts spring to mind, and even those are fairly mild by sci-fi standards.)

        • Tarpitz says:

          Is NATO vs. Warsaw Pact design philosophy a better example? The differences in assumed campaign length seem to me to have led to fairly visibly different approaches. Soviet ships bristled with weapons, where Western ones looked a lot cleaner and more elegant.

          • bean says:

            There were several things that fed into that. A big one was actually that western ships had the ability to repair their electronics at sea, while the Soviets had a very limited pool of technicians capable of doing so, and would just turn on the second system until they got back to port. Some was doctrine, as the Soviets were big on the alpha strike.

      • gbdub says:

        I agree that transitional periods are where you see more varied designs.

        So in this case Star Wars is the worst offender (although Trek is not much better). Canonically, everybody you see in Star Wars is part of (or at least on the periphery of) a galaxy spanning civilization that has existed in one form or another for literal millennia, with more or less static technology for most of that period. Definitely should have settled on some common design philosophies by now.

        • Tarpitz says:

          It’s an asymmetric war between sides that anticipate quite different mission profiles, though.

          • gbdub says:

            This explains why the Rebellion favors light fleets with heavy strike fighters while the Empire relies on heavy dreadnoughts and point defense interceptors.

            But it doesn’t explain why TIEs and X-Wings appear to be designed to optimize for entirely different laws of physics. (Or why X- Y- and A-wings look similar, and TIE fighters, bombers, and interceptors look similar, but neither sides “equivalent” ships look anything alike)

          • AG says:

            Hypothesis: the actual mechanism for air and space flight alike in the Star Wars galaxy is actually something pretty physics-breaking (this is, after all, a galaxy in which The Force exists), such that the shape of the ship doesn’t matter. Which means that various brands design for MAXIMUM AESTHETIC.

            Like Winamp skins but for spaceships.

          • AppetSci says:

            Surely ship’s shields on a low power setting can be used to form any shape of virtual airframe profile you want, ensuring perfect aerodynamics for your oddly-shaped craft.

    • bean says:

      Are there good examples from real life of combatants with similar tech levels but wildly different design philosophies, like we see in sci fi?

      The best example that springs to mind is the US vs Soviet navies, but even then, the ships don’t look nearly as distinct as sci-fi ships usually do. Yes, the soviet ship has more antennas and more exposed weapons, but it’s not like someone with no experience telling them apart is going to be able to do so reliably. Some of this is because both sides are constrained by the environment in ways they won’t be in space, but even then, military equipment tends towards the functional.

      • bean says:

        Actually, the best example of a radically different design philosophy that cashed out in appearance was probably Nelson. She looked nothing like anything else afloat at the time, although a lot of that was stuff from WWI trickling through the design bureaus. I can’t say exactly what everyone else would have built if they’d been producing battleships in that era (the US didn’t particularly like that layout for a variety of reasons, but I can’t speak to anyone else) but even Nelson vs (say) Colorado is pretty close compared to the examples you give.

      • sfoil says:

        There actually are some pretty substantial visual distinctions in ground equipment. Differences in design decisions between the T-64 and MBT-70 produced significant casually-observable differences in succeeding designs vs 1950s tanks pretty much all looking the same.

        The Soviets leaned heavily on 8×8 wheeled personnel carriers throughout the Cold War; NATO used similar vehicles only in a few niche roles, preferring METAL BAWKSES. NATO, or at least the Americans, also had a habit of using soft-skinned utility vehicles like the M151 in roles (recon, tank destroyers) where the Russians would have used an armored car like the BRDM.

        • bean says:

          The basic problem is that what’s really obvious to an expert can be totally incomprehensible to an outsider. Yes, there are distinct differences between NATO and WP tanks, but a layman is just going to see boxy turret vs rounded turret, and that’s not a very strong hook to hang a distinction on. X-wing vs TIE is a very sharp contrast.

          The use of BRDMs and soft-skin vehicles is a better contrast. Not quite sure what was going on there.

    • mitv150 says:

      Some possible reasons for divergence (in an SF setting) other than technology that developed separately:

      Physiology – are life support systems required? Gravity suppression? FTL travel?

      Purpose – Is the ship a true warship or some sort of hybrid passenger/warship/colonization ship? Is the ship intended for one role but somehow got shunted into a new role?

      • gbdub says:

        These might be justifiable in some cases. But in most examples you’ve got humanoids fighting humanoids with similar tech in the same environment.

        In the real world, most fighting vehicles end up with their designs fairly tightly constrained by their propulsion, weapons, and armor (and more recently sensors). So if both sides have equivalent propulsion, weapons, armor, and sensors, you’d expect the fighting vehicles to be largely similar.

    • albatross11 says:

      It seems like you could get this from having the different sides’ militaries have very different missions or histories or support/funding structures. As an example, think of a battle between horse archers and knights/pikemen.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Strategy videogames tend to be more like real life in this regard I think (although Supreme Commander is the only example I can think of now). I guess it’s due to the need to maintain a balance between factions. And because having to develop and then to familiarize the user with a number of completely different sets of units would be too much toil.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        What kind of strategy videogames are you talking about? StarCraft is the most prominent RTS and it is most famous for having 3 entirely different sides.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          Supreme Commander as I said. Although the units there look much more different than any real world example too, except maaaaybe for the US vs Soviet Navy case bean mentioned. But they mostly work in quite the same ways with some variation in effectiveness and each faction lacking one or another type or having something extra, much like in the real world (say USSR have no stealth aircraft but only they have an attack helicopter capable of carrying troops. Hm both examples have analogues in the game now that I think about it).
          Star Craft is a good counterexample I haven’t thought of, yes. Not that I was saying all videogames are like it, just that it’s more common.

        • gbdub says:

          I was actually going to say that strategy games are some of the worst offenders, in the sense that units often look very different but play roughly similar roles so that the overall “rock paper scissors” concepts work and the factions balance (with some deviations like some factions favoring swarms of low cost units vs. more powerful but higher cost units)

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            I guess it depends on what you meant by “design philosophy” (and on the game in question of course). If the units have approximately the same size and general shape and do approximately the same thing, but have very distinctive texture, style (I mean how they small details are shaped) and coloration, would that be example of similar or different design philosophies?

          • gbdub says:

            Consider TIEs vs. X-Wings. They do basically the same thing (dogfight in space with lasers) but look very different. I think that’s kind of similar to a lot of strategy game units, things that look quite different despite being functionally equivalent.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            Well then I think SC still holds although I agree it might be an exception rather than a rule. Units of the same type and tech level (there’s 3 distinctive tech levels in the game) usually have more or less the same plan in all 3 human factions – I don’t consider Seraphim because 1) they’re alien, just entered the conflict and have superior technology so their units really are stronger so it’s sort of justified and 2) I never played the 2 part that introduced them. If look at, say T1 bombers, the two of them are nearly identical – trapezoidal wing running through all the length of the fuselage, two engines, – and the third (Eon) still have more in common with its counterparts than with an interceptor of the same faction.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Consider TIEs vs. X-Wings. They do basically the same thing (dogfight in space with lasers) but look very different.

            While in practice they end up doing the same thing, the X-Wing is a generalist to the TIE fighter’s specialist. TIE fighters just have lasers, with no shields, no heavier armament like the X-Wing’s proton torpedoes, and no hyperdrive. They’re designed to be deployed as a fighter screen for heavy capital ships, and aren’t intended to operate on their own, whereas an X-Wing regularly goes off and does its own thing with no support in the area.

            I’m not sure that really covers the design differences (why does a TIE fighter have giant solar panels when they’re designed exclusively for short-duration strikes with resupply readily on hand? Maybe to extend the length of time they can be out on patrol?), but they are built for different things.

    • rahien.din says:

      It’s because physics is solved in sci-fi, but not in real life.

      In real life, physics is not solved. The way to gain an edge on your opponent is to improve your physics. Designs converge because all the engineers are chasing the same thing.

      In sci-fi, everyone works with the same physics, and that physics is solved. Therefore, the way to gain an edge on your opponent is to improve your combat philosophy. Designs diverge because all the engineers are each looking to exploit a different military strategy – or, they are permitted to express the combat philosophy inherent to their culture.

      Others correct me where I’m wrong but : in WWII, the Americans and the Japanese had very different combat and design philosophies regarding fighter aircraft. The Americans had fewer fast, well-armored, well-armed planes. The Japanese had more numerous, agile, lightly-armored planes. Presumably this reflects the fact that they were seeking advantages within the relatively-solved domain of [prop-driven fighter aircraft].

      • bean says:

        Others correct me where I’m wrong but : in WWII, the Americans and the Japanese had very different combat and design philosophies regarding fighter aircraft. The Americans had fewer fast, well-armored, well-armed planes. The Japanese had more numerous, agile, lightly-armored planes. Presumably this reflects the fact that they were seeking advantages within the relatively-solved domain of [prop-driven fighter aircraft].

        Prop-driven fighter aircraft weren’t remotely solved, nor was the Japanese philosophy was to prefer numbers. If anything, the opposite. Fighters got tremendously better during the war, and the Japanese were famous for the high quality of their pilots at the start of the war. They simply didn’t have the infrastructure to train a huge number of pilots, and that was their Achilles heel throughout the second half of the war. They did choose to emphasize maneuverability over protection, speed, and firepower, and in doing so, they chose wrongly. The Japanese designs suited WWI-era tactics, and when the allies figured out what was going on and how to play to their strengths, the Japanese lost badly.

        • LesHapablap says:

          bean,

          When reading Bob Leckie’s Guadalcanal book there were a few instances where Japanese fighter planes were converted to floats tried to fight with American planes and didn’t stand much chance due in part to the loss of performance from the float(s). Were there ever any attempts to make float plane fighters with floats that could be jettisoned, like a drop tank?

          • bean says:

            Not that I’m aware of, no. The problem is that you’d have no way to land. That’s occasionally useful (the Grand Fleet did it a lot, and the CAM ships of WWII also did so) but generally frowned upon.

          • LesHapablap says:

            It would also be much harder to engineer a way to jettison floats since they require very very strong and multiple attachment points; they take a massive beating compared to wheels. And of course they take much more abuse than drop tanks.

            I once visited a museum that had a collection small, 5″ to 2″ long models of all the aircraft types used in WW2: it was absolutely staggering the scale of how many different designs were tried and built. You really only hear about a tiny fraction of the bombers, fighters and transports.

            Experiences like at that museum that really lend a sense of scale to it at least for me. It is hard to wrap my head around how vast it really was.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not a fighter plane, but the Japanese M6A “Seiran” floatplane bomber had the ability to jettison its floats in flight if it needed the extra speed to evade enemy fighters. I don’t think this was ever used operationally.

            As bean notes, jettisoning the floats means losing the plane no matter what, you’re just buying extra chance of success for that one mission and maybe for keeping a trained pilot alive. But the Seiran was designed for use from submarine aircraft carriers, and late in the war at that, which is a nigh-suicidal mission profile to begin with. If dropping the floats increases your chance of torpedoing one of the locks on the Panama canal, yeah, go ahead and write off an airplane for that.

          • LesHapablap says:

            I just happened across this as well today, a sleek looking reconnaissance floatplane with a jettisonable float:

            Kawanishi E15k

            The one time the jettison function was used in anger it didn’t work.

    • proyas says:

      Battlestars vs. Cylon base ships. X-Wings vs TIE fighters. Federation vs. Klingon starships. Etc.

      In the case of Star Trek, the Federation’s ideology precluded it from building pure warships, resulting in Starfleet having ships that were design compromises between warships, science ships, and transports.

      Among the species that built pure warships, there is more design convergence and the ships look more like modern planes, with a central fuselage and a central engine and/or engines on each wing. Examples:
      -Klingon Bird of Prey
      -Klingon Battlecruisers
      -Dominion corvette
      -Dominion capital ships
      -Romulan Warbird if you make a sensible change to it by deleting the top or bottom “shell” (not sure what purpose the big void in the middle had)

      • Statismagician says:

        IIRC, the big void is a requirement of the Romulan singularity-based reactor system for some Treknobabble-y reason.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Treknobabble

          That is a great word. I’m sure it’s not original, but I haven’t seen that one before.

          • Statismagician says:

            Definitely not mine – it was apparently common in newsgroup Star Wars vs. Star Trek debates in the early days of the internet; I picked it up from people who were involved in those.

        • proyas says:

          I never heard of an explanation for the void in any of the TV shows.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Helicopters have very different looks to them. Just looking at heavy-lift helicopters, you’ve got the Chinook with tandem rotors. the Mi-26 which is more conventional looking. The SkyCrane which looks very different to both, like a praying mantis. The concentric rotors popular with Russian designers. Or the Kmax designs with their intermeshing rotors.

      Often the differences come down to how easy it will be to maintain, what kind of operating locations they need. Do you use jet engines or turboprops? Well that comes down to potential FOD risk. Then fuel prices change and the calculus changes yet again.

      The fact is that none of the combatants in real life will ever have the equivalent technology, resources or operating environments. In the case of the sci-fi you can have wildly different species with different environmental tolerances, different preferred communication methods, and different philosophies, different supply lines.

      It is actually surprising in Star Trek how similar all the alien ships are. They only seem to be different in shape, really, and since they operate in a vacuum that is hardly surprising. They are all around the same size, with the same size of hallways with the same gravity, they all have a bridge where the main participants look forward to a big screen. Nobody even wears seat belts that I recall even though they are constantly getting thrown around.

    • John Schilling says:

      Much of the similarity in ships and airplanes is driven by the medium they operate in. It’s the same air and the same ocean for everything, so everybody’s airplanes have to be streamlined in about the same way, with paired wings and stabilizing fins at the rear, everybody’s ships get approximately the same hull shape and freeboard for speed and stability and seakeeping. And even then you get rather substantial variations like monoplanes vs. biplanes for about thirty years, or delta wings, or those godawful Japanese pagoda masts. Or, looking back a bit, square-rigged vs fore-and-aft rigged ships.

      Space offers substantially more flexibility, and that may allow for more variation in design philosophy. Looking at Star Trek, for example, the constraints seem to be:

      Warp engines are usually paired, and need to be kept widely separated from A: each other and B: non-expendable people.

      The ship’s only significant defense is a deflector-shield bubble that has to be at least big enough to encompass the warp engines.

      The payload a pair of warp engines can move at reasonable speed, won’t even come close to filling the shield bubble that encompasses the engines.

      Spheres, cylinders, and ellipsoids aren’t that different in structural efficiency as pressure vessels.

      Now go design a starship. Looking in particular at TOS, the Federation uses two warp engines widely spaced from a fat cylinder with most of the other useful stuff, but there’s enough critical functionality and crew space in a separate vaguely ellipsoidal hull to make a highly capable lifeboat in emergencies. Also, high area-to-volume ratio for windows, scientific sensors, and the like. The Klingons care much more about their officers and much less about the enlisted, so the primary hull is tucked closer to the engines and the secondary hull can be a little sphere on a long boom. Probably better firing arcs for their weapons. The Romulans are all willing to die for the cause, even the officers, so they’ve just got an ellipsoidal primary hull, with one big gun forward and the whole thing faired into a moderately aerodynamic shape because they’re the only ones who might land a starship on a planet.

    • Chalid says:

      Some of it can be justified from biology – Cylons and humans are fundamentally different, they have different reaction speeds, differing ability to quickly think about complicated 3D tactical problems, different ability to withstand acceleration, etc. and so a Cylon-crewed ship should look different than a human one. More extreme hypothetical aliens could have more extreme differences – say the Silicoids don’t need to breathe air so their ships can have holes in them, while the Arat Kur are social insects who dislike privacy and open spaces so crew space needs are small, etc. etc.

      And perhaps you can justify some differences from resources – the Federation has some worlds which are rich in element X, which allows them to make smaller, more efficient warp drives, which then allows other changes in the ship, while the Klingon worlds are deficient in X but have lots of Y, which allows stronger alloys, which then lets you build ship shapes that the Federation can’t, etc.

    • fibio says:

      It’s an older game now but Sword of the Stars had some fantastic ship design. One of the key features of the game was the races’ cultures and physiology affecting every part of their play style. So the humans, new to space but learning fast, seemed to have stripped all the boat bits off a battleship and called it a day. The Tarka, honorable warriors, made ships with sharp angles almost reminiscent of samurai armour. The Hivers, practical bugs, put a barrel full on guns on a giant engine. The Liir, space dolphins, have bulbous fishtanks for ships with all their weapons on tentacle like outriggers. The Zuul, think furry xenomorphs, had ships an Ork would called kludged together. And lastly the Morrigi, space dragons, had elegant smoothly flowing ships that were highly decorated.

      Definitely worth checking out the screenshots. Funnily, because the ships were modular you can compare component by component how the different species mentalities influenced the way they solved the same problem.

  6. Bobobob says:

    Is atheism the inner black hole that fuels religious fundamentalism?

    I just finished an excellent book, Richard Marius’ biography of Thomas More. Marius hints at the possibility that More (and his arch-nemesis Martin Luther) were both driven by the unspoken, barely acknowledged fear that their beloved Christianity was a sham. Both men were both extremely smart, especially in the context of late medieval Europe, and it must have occurred to them during their textual excursions that religion simply Didn’t Make Sense. (Erasmus may have been in this same category, but he seems to have been smarter and more easygoing than either More and Luther and probably was not prone to such dark nights of the soul.)

    So what do you do when you can’t face the possibility that the Truth to which you have devoted to your life is actually false? You double down on heretics and enemies of the faith. You wind up like Thomas More, a decent family man, in many ways ahead of his time, who tortured heretics in his own house and joyfully sent them to be burnt alive.

    Does this same tension fuel modern religious fundamentalism? Are jihadists and creationists fueled by the deep-down-inside fear that what they want to believe isn’t really true? I think it’s a fascinating idea.

    • Lambert says:

      And Dawkins is so strongly atheistic because he actually believes in but hates God.

      • Bobobob says:

        I guess I see your point, but I don’t think there’s a real equivalency there. My guess is that it’s more common for a deeply religious type to harbor deep doubts about religion than it is for an uber-rational and scientific type to harbor deep doubts about science and rationality.

        • albatross11 says:

          Bobobob:

          Okay, why do you believe that, and what would evidence for/against look like?

          • Bobobob says:

            I’m not actually saying I believe that, it’s just an idea that occurred to me that I thought I would work out here. The discussion so far has not disappointed.

        • Shem The Penman says:

          Are jihadists and creationists fueled by the deep-down-inside fear that what they want to believe isn’t really true? I think it’s a fascinating idea.

          My guess is that it’s more common for a deeply religious type to harbor deep doubts about religion than it is for an uber-rational and scientific type to harbor deep doubts about science and rationality.

          Don’t you think that everyone, you and me included, professes belief in whatever flatters our self-image? The religious fundies need to think of themselves as pious, and atheists need to think of themselves as rational. So those needs determine what people will consider persuasive in terms of justifying their beliefs.

          It’s been a long time since I’ve assumed that the truth value of religion or atheism is even remotely relevant to people’s preference for either.

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            I had a thought today that’s relevant: We’re biased in favor of ideas we want to believe, and against ideas we don’t want to believe. But we’re also biased against noticing our biases, and in favor of attributing bias to those who disagree with us.

        • SamChevre says:

          It seems a lot of “deep doubts about religion” are of a type that’s really common for scientific types to have about science. They are doubts about particular details, in particular fields.

          It’s as if you said someone had “deep doubts about science” if they thought that many-worlds quantum mechanics didn’t make much sense.

          • Shem The Penman says:

            It seems a lot of “deep doubts about religion” are of a type that’s really common for scientific types to have about science. They are doubts about particular details, in particular fields.

            Yes and no. There are indeed a lot of details on which experts disagree. But there’s also the network of unacknowledged assumptions on which scientific inquiry rests. This should make true skeptics, even the secular kind, ask a slew of questions: How much of reality do we create and how much do we discover? How can we tell how well science corresponds to reality when we only understand reality through the methods we’ve developed to study it? How much of science is telling us how reality is and how much is just validating its own assumptions?

            Incidentally, Iago the Yerfdog, I agree wholeheartedly.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        I know this is offered as a counterpoint to Bobobob’s argument, but I actually hold both the view that “pugnacious religion is often an attempt to silence doubt” and the view that “pugnacious atheism is often an attempt to silence doubt.”

      • Anthony says:

        I don’t know about Dawkins, but Christopher Hitchens’ atheism was fueled by a huge sense of disappointment in God.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      It’s quite easy to poke holes in every religion, and lazily conclude “religion simply doesnt make sense”. But a purely atheist view of the world is also very flawed, and the question of why every successful human society has adopted a religion is never answered.

      If you want to look for the causes of religious fundamentalism, I suggest looking at causes of fundamentalism in general. There are probably few jewish/islamic/christian fundamentalists in your social circle (wild guess), but I wouldnt be surprised if you encountered progressive fundamentalists, ie the super woke. What are they after? Social status. Typically they cant get social status using conventional means (charisma, looks, talent, humor, etc…) and so they use whatever the official religion of their society to get ahead.

      • Bobobob says:

        I should have phrased that better. Maybe not a blanket statement like “religion doesn’t make sense,” but more that specific aspects of Catholic dogma don’t make sense (the Trinity, the resurrection, turning water into wine, etc.) More and Luther both seemed to have been bothered by this.

        • Nick says:

          the resurrection, turning water into wine

          I can see why the Trinity confuses people, but what doesn’t make sense about these?

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            I’ve noticed that some Christians have a weird reluctance to accept miracles at face value, and turn to semi-naturalistic explanations, even ones that are stranger than the miracles they’re replacing.

            For example, I’ve heard the Flood explained in terms of a layer of water in the atmosphere (“the waters above the firmament” supposedly) being allowed to rain down upon the Earth, then the Earth expanded to accommodate them.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Iago the Yerfdog

            Mostly for doctrinal reasons. God is a God of Order, so Christian doctrine is commonly that He bends the laws of physics the minimum amount required for His interventions.

            Even when we believe a miracle has occurred, finding the “minimum intervention” allows us to understand exactly what happened there.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            For example, I’ve heard the Flood explained in terms of a layer of water in the atmosphere (“the waters above the firmament” supposedly) being allowed to rain down upon the Earth, then the Earth expanded to accommodate them.

            That’s fascinating. But of all the stories in the bible, the one we can say happened with the most confidence is the flood. Not that a guy named Noah built a boat with 2 elephants 2 giraffes and 2 lions… But that a major flood occurred. Almost every culture has a flood myth, and we know that the water levels around the world rose drastically at the end of the last ice age.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Iago the Yerfdog / @jermo sapiens

            Note that this doesn’t mean the “firmament was a globe of ice that fell” is indeed the parsimonious or correct explanation.

            I tend to agree with @jermo sapiens that the flood was in fact a massive event from a source like that.

          • Nick says:

            It’s fine to not want to be suckered by charlatans or whatever—I’ve been hearing concern and mixed response to Medjugorje for a long time, for instance. It’s also fine to bear in mind that naturalistic explanations might come along as, say, our understanding of medicine advances. But trading “it was a miracle, God can do that, ya know” for a really outlandish explanation strikes me as a mistake.

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            @EchoChaos

            I totally get the bias in favor of minimally-supernatural explanations. The ones I’m talking about typically involve as many or more, or as big or bigger miracles than taking the miracle at face value. The Earth expanding to accommodate the water is one such example.

            @jermo

            Granted, but I’d argue that such a local flood doesn’t count as the Flood. Granted that there’s always a bit of arbitrariness to whether something is really a blegg or a rube, what stands out about the local flood is it doesn’t seem like it means the same thing as a global flood.

            Contrast this with the view that while humans evolved naturally, or our bodies did anyway and then we were given souls, the Fall was simply the first disobedience, not literally eating fruit from a tree. In that case, the essential meaning seems preserved.

            (There’s also one occult interpretation I’ve run across that I find quite fascinating: the Fall is a folk memory of an ancient deal with demons and we’re still dealing with the consequences of it.)

          • Almost every culture has a flood myth, and we know that the water levels around the world rose drastically at the end of the last ice age.

            A gradual increase in the sea level doesn’t map well onto a sudden catastrophic flood event.

          • Nornagest says:

            A gradual increase in the sea level doesn’t map well onto a sudden catastrophic flood event.

            No, but a gradual increase in the sea level, or other geological events, can cause sudden catastrophic flood events. The Zanclean flood refilled the Mediterranean basin five-some million years ago — too long to have figured into flood myths, but it’s the sort of thing we might be looking for. Similarly, the Channeled Scablands in Washington were formed by a series of catastrophic outburst floods during the Pleistocene.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            A gradual increase in the sea level doesn’t map well onto a sudden catastrophic flood event.

            But the Mediterranean rising all the way up so it floods into the black sea does. See here. There is a fantastic BBC Horizon documentary on this but I cant find it at the moment.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Atheist worldviews are flawed in what respect? (Not looking for an argument, just curious what point you skip over with that.)

        • jermo sapiens says:

          The things that prevent me from being an atheist are things like what is the first cause (e.g., what caused the big bang?), what is consciousness and why are we conscious, why is the universe so finely tuned to allow for complex life forms, etc.

          • Bobobob says:

            I think part of the problem is the definition of “atheist.” I’m also all about fine-tuning, anthropic reasoning, consciousness, etc. I consider myself an atheist only in that I don’t believe in miracles, an anthropomorphic god, heaven and hell, angels, etc.

            Is there another word? I seem to recall “possibilianism” was once in vogue…

          • Thegnskald says:

            Hrm. I guess from my perspective, those are unknowns, rather than flaws.

            Or, perhaps more specifically, those are flaws in our specific understanding, which don’t really translate to what I guess I think of as the atheistic worldview.

            If it turned out tomorrow that there was a good reason the “fine tuning” had to be that way – maybe mathematically no other values were possible after we learn a little more about the substructure of the universe – that doesn’t really affect my theological position.

            The atheistic worldview as I see it takes it, in a sense, as a matter of faith that the universe is explicable on its own terms, rather than placing emphasis on any particular attempt to explain it. Atheism isn’t really affected if the big bang turns out to be falsified by a different model of the early universe, basically, it just switches to that model.

            I don’t know how to approach the idea of atheism rooted in belief in specific… hm. Institutions of belief? Memeplexes? That seems… odd, to me.

            Although that does make some interactions with some atheists I have known make a little more sense. (Overprotectiveness of the big bang theory has always baffled me, but in that light it makes sense.)

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I dont believe in miracles either. I cant say for certain that there is no God, therefore I’m agnostic. Atheists seem to commit the same error of certainty as believers do.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Hrm. I guess from my perspective, those are unknowns, rather than flaws.

            Yeah that’s a better term. Thanks. But we cant help but yearn for answers to those questions, and to the extent that atheism fails to provide them, it’s a flaw. I’m not saying atheism is necessarily wrong, but that I dont have sufficient confidence that atheism can answer these questions to call myself an atheist.

          • Adrian says:

            The things that prevent me from being an atheist are things like what is the first cause […]

            I don’t think any religion provides a satisfying answer to that question. Sure, they might say that “God has always existed”, or “God is the first cause”, or “God is an inherent property of existence”, but none of those has any more explanatory power than “the physical laws have always existed”, or “the Big Bang was the beginning of time and space”, or “the physical laws are an inherent property of existence”.

            Atheists realize that neither religion nor science can provide a satisfying answer to those questions. Well, at least they should realize that… There are, of course, some fundamentalist atheists like Stephen Hawkin, who believe that science actually does answer those questions.

          • Aapje says:

            @jermo sapiens

            Why is that a flaw in atheism, rather than in humans?

            If I want to float, but can’t due to gravity, is physics flawed or are my desires unrealistic?

            IMO, a lot of bad ideology is driven by a refusal to accept impossibilities & making up the difference with fictions that make it seem that one can have the impossible.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Atheists realize that neither religion nor science can provide a satisfying answer to those questions. Well, at least they should realize that… There are, of course, some fundamentalist atheists like Stephen Hawkin, who believe that science actually does answer those questions.

            I agree completely. And I think these conclusions should lead to a position of agnosticism, instead of belief/disbelief with any kind of certainty.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Why is that a flaw in atheism, rather than in humans?

            It might be a flaw in humans. I’m just saying, myself, as a flawed human, am incapable of adopting atheism because I cant rule out the existence of a God, for those reasons.

          • Aapje says:

            My atheism doesn’t involve ruling out God, but merely not accepting the existence of God without somewhat solid evidence.

            Your desire for meaning requires you to assume that a certain type of entity exists and to assume that he behaved a certain way, which you seem to consider an answer.

            That is not more satisfactory to me than making up any evidence-free answer ( = not very).

          • Murphy says:

            I cant say for certain that there is no God, therefore I’m agnostic. Atheists seem to commit the same error of certainty as believers do.

            I’m an athiest.

            I could say that I consider there to be a 99.9….something % chance that there is no deity. I can’t rule it out in the same way I can’t rule out that there’s a giant invisible rabbit following me everywhere and judging all that I do.

            I could call myself “agnostic” but that implies beliefs far closer to 50/50.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I can’t rule it out in the same way I can’t rule out that there’s a giant invisible rabbit following me everywhere and judging all that I do.

            This seems to resemble the flying spaghetti monster style of thinking and I dont think it’s helpful. God should be construed reasonably and that means a conscious entity created the universe. There is no evidence for that other than the existence of the universe, which is to me at least, somewhat of a mystery. The alternative is the existence of the universe for no reason, and while I cant rule it out it doesnt seem to be preferable to the existence of a God.

            Another way to look at it is that the first cause is the universe itself, or the first cause is God. Both are dead-ends in a way. But the existence of God presupposes an entire realm of existence where God “lives”, and this allows you to answer a whole bunch of questions with “God only knows the answer”, whereas if the universe is the first cause all answers to our questions should be answerable within the universe, and that doesnt seem to be the case.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t think any religion provides a satisfying answer to that question. Sure, they might say that “God has always existed”, or “God is the first cause”, or “God is an inherent property of existence”, but none of those has any more explanatory power than “the physical laws have always existed”, or “the Big Bang was the beginning of time and space”, or “the physical laws are an inherent property of existence”.

            “What caused God” is a nonsensical objection to first cause arguments. And “God is the first cause” is not something we say, it’s something we prove.

          • Aftagley says:

            My view are that god’s existence or lack-thereof probably don’t matter. Better minds than I have spent lifetimes pouring over the existing evidence and haven’t come to any unimpeachable conclusion, and my lifetime is highly unlikely to see any new evidence for god’s existence arrive. So, I don’t know, and don’t really care.

            I’ve heard this viewpoint described before as apathism, but I don’t like that term. Unmotivated Agnosticism maybe?

          • Dacyn says:

            @jermo sapiens:

            God should be construed reasonably and that means a conscious entity created the universe.

            See, that’s your problem right there. The only type of consciousness that we know about comes from evolution, leading to brains which are systems of many interacting parts. God is supposedly nothing like this, in particular he is supposed to not be made of parts. So how can he be conscious?

            @Nick:

            “What caused God” is a nonsensical objection to first cause arguments.

            From your link:

            What [the cosmological argument] seeks to show is that if there is to be an ultimate explanation of things, then there must be a cause of everything else which not only happens to exist, but which could not even in principle have failed to exist.

            I think when people ask “what caused God?”, what they really mean is “why is it the case that God could not even in principle have failed to exist?” I think this question has no good answer.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            See, that’s your problem right there. The only type of consciousness that we know about comes from evolution, leading to brains which are systems of many interacting parts.

            We have absolutely no idea how our consciousness is created. Some theories suggest that every elementary particle like electrons carry a little bit of consciousness, and some theories suggest that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon caused by electrical activity in the brain.

            What we do know is that consciousness is affected by the brain. But not much beyond that, with respect to the specific nature of consciousness.

            So we are in no position whatsoever to rule out God having some kind of consciousness.

          • Nick says:

            @Dacyn

            I think when people ask “what caused God?”, what they really mean is “why is it the case that God could not even in principle have failed to exist?” I think this question has no good answer.

            This is a pretty weird response. First, I’ve had this argument plenty of times, and no one has ever elaborated on the objection in that way. Second, if that’s how you’re going to put it, the objection is oddly contentless. Like, if that question has no good answer, then the argument doesn’t work, because…???

          • Viliam says:

            why is the universe so finely tuned to allow for complex life forms

            I am quite satisfied with the hypothesis that there are (infinitely) many universes with different laws of physics, and although most of them don’t allow complex life to exist, we obviously find ourself in one of those that do.

            Yeah, there still remains the question of what caused the universe(s) to exist… which I don’t consider fully solved. It’s just that creating infinitely many universes out of nothing doesn’t seem to me like a task in principle more difficult than creating one.

            what is consciousness and why are we conscious

            I suppose that “modeling one’s environment, including oneself” is an important part of the answer. Possibly not the full answer.

            I also expect the question itself to be somewhat incomplete; it may turn out that there are many different forms of consciousness, of which human consciousness is merely one example. So the future philosophers debating this topic may have to be more specific whether they talk about human-like consciousness, or consciousness in general which also includes things humans don’t have.

          • Randy M says:

            I am quite satisfied with the hypothesis that there are (infinitely) many universes with different laws of physics, and although most of them don’t allow complex life to exist, we obviously find ourself in one of those that do.

            I don’t see why swapping out one unfathomable infinity for another makes cosmology more satisfying.

          • Adrian says:

            @Nick

            “What caused God” is a nonsensical objection to first cause arguments.

            That is irrelevant to jermo sapiens’ question “what caused the big bang?”. The answer “God” is as devoid of explanatory power as the answer “I don’t know”; it merely creates a new question “what caused God?”

            If your position is that “there must have been a first cause, and that first cause is God”, then why is “God” a better first cause than “the Big Bang”? That’s why I said that religion does not provide a satisfying answer to that question.

            And “God is the first cause” is not something we say, it’s something we prove.

            Are you saying that you can prove the proposition “God exists”, or are you saying that you can prove the proposition “if there is a first cause, then God exists”?

          • Dacyn says:

            @Nick: I think people are often bad at elaborating their intuitions. But we can disagree as to whether my argument is a valid interpretation of what most people mean by the “what caused God?” objection, to concentrate on the argument itself.

            I am not really thinking about it in terms of the cosmological argument working or not working, but rather in terms of which of two scenarios is more plausible. One, the big bang causes all subsequent events in the universe, but it doesn’t have a cause itself because there’s no time prior to it. Two, the big bang causes all subsequent events, but both are cause by God, who in turn is uncaused. In each case we can ask: why does the first cause exist, given that it is uncaused? Both scenarios seem to have equally valid answers to this question. Specifically, I don’t see how saying that it “can’t possibly not exist” is any better than “brute fact” unless you give an argument for why it can’t possibly not exist.

          • Nick says:

            @Adrian

            That is irrelevant to jermo sapiens’ question “what caused the big bang?”. The answer “God” is as devoid of explanatory power as the answer “I don’t know”; it merely creates a new question “what caused God?”

            If your position is that “there must have been a first cause, and that first cause is God”, then why is “God” a better first cause than “the Big Bang”? That’s why I said that religion does not provide a satisfying answer to that question.

            Yeah, my position is that there must have been a first cause, and that first cause is God. But let’s clarify immediately that first cause arguments are usually not about what came first in time. That would be a kalam argument, the kind William Lane Craig likes to use, and personally, I don’t even know if such arguments work. First cause arguments however can perfectly well be put instead in terms of simultaneous causation, and I gave a short sketch of one to jermo sapiens a few months ago. The takeaway for your question here is that when you have simultaneous causal series you aren’t even trying to answer questions like “what happened prior to this that caused it?” and you’re dealing with causes that clearly need to bottom out somewhere or you haven’t explained anything. That is what enables us to conclude there’s a first cause. Obviously, as I go into there, it takes more work to show that this first cause has the divine attributes, and more work still to show it’s the Christian God or Catholic God (as I believe it is).

            @Dacyn:

            I think people are often bad at elaborating their intuitions. But we can disagree as to whether my argument is a valid interpretation of what most people mean by the “what caused God?” objection, to concentrate on the argument itself.

            That’s fair!

            I am not really thinking about it in terms of the cosmological argument working or not working, but rather in terms of which of two scenarios is more plausible. One, the big bang causes all subsequent events in the universe, but it doesn’t have a cause itself because there’s no time prior to it. Two, the big bang causes all subsequent events, but both are cause by God, who in turn is uncaused. In each case we can ask: why does the first cause exist, given that it is uncaused? Both scenarios seem to have equally valid answers to this question. Specifically, I don’t see how saying that it “can’t possibly not exist” is any better than “brute fact” unless you give an argument for why it can’t possibly not exist.

            What makes you think time began with the Big Bang? My understanding is that this is an open question in physics; I have read many a dubious explanation from atheists that the Big Bang was caused by a prior universe collapsing into a singularity.

            Supposing however that time did begin with the Big Bang, what makes you think it doesn’t nonetheless need a cause? We can still ask, after all, where the matter came from, or where our laws of physics came from, and all sorts of questions like that. And God is not a brute fact; if God must exist, then God is self-explaining (which, to be clear, is not the same thing as causing himself to exist; I don’t think anything can cause itself to exist, since a thing needs to be already exist to bring something into existence). The Big Bang meanwhile is not self-explaining, as you seem to admit if you’re calling it a brute fact. I don’t see why I should accept the existence of a brute fact, much less the Big Bang as one.

            The problem here as I see it is that you can indeed appeal to prior universes or something. And while very odd to keep appealing to one universe after another, all the way back forever, I’m not sure that there’s anything necessarily wrong with it: I don’t know of any good reason we can rule it out as explaining why things exist today. That’s why I’m not convinced kalam arguments work. Instead I would point you to my simultaneous causation argument above.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Nick:

            What makes you think time began with the Big Bang?

            I suppose I don’t really have an opinion on the alternative cosmologies you mention, I was under the impression time starting with the Big Bang was the standard position though. In any case, if you like we can consider the argument to be about whether God exists, assuming that time did start with the Big Bang.

            Supposing however that time did begin with the Big Bang, what makes you think it doesn’t nonetheless need a cause?

            Our intuitive notion of causality tends to be time-bound, and so if there is no time prior to the Big Bang then under such a notion it would not make sense to ask whether it had a cause — such a cause would have to be prior to it which is impossible. I realize that you are going to claim your notion of causality does not require time. The closest I can translate this into my own language is that you are talking about abstract dependence, such as the statement “the value of 3*3 – 2*2 depends on the values of 3*3 and 2*2”, but there are plenty of things that don’t abstractly depend on anything else, e.g. 3 and 2 in this example. I don’t see why the laws of physics and its initial state shouldn’t be such a thing. (The solution to the differential equations is then abstractly dependent on the initial conditions, which agrees with our temporal notion of causality.)

            And God is not a brute fact; if God must exist, then God is self-explaining

            See, you object to the Big Bang because you don’t see why you should accept a brute fact. I object to God because I don’t see why I should accept that God is self-explaining. The situations seem exactly parallel to me. (ETA: I guess I mean, each of us finds the other’s scenario intuitively implausible, but can’t say anything the other will find convincing. Or more directly: I don’t see “where did matter come from” etc as meaningful questions.)

            The problem here as I see it is that you can indeed appeal to prior universes or something. And while very odd to keep appealing to one universe after another, all the way back forever, I’m not sure that there’s anything necessarily wrong with it: I don’t know of any good reason we can rule it out as explaining why things exist today.

            I am not going to appeal to infinite prior universes, I think the concept makes no sense. Certainly it cannot hold if causality is to be a special case of abstract dependence, which does not allow infinite regression. (The reason for this is that in abstract dependence things are essentially depending on small parts of themselves, e.g. 3*3+2*2 depending on 3*3 or “the solution to [diff eqs] with [initial values]” depending on [diff eqs] and [initial values] So there’s nowhere for infinite regression to come from.)

            Anyway, thanks for the chance to clarify my beliefs about this stuff some more, I realize I have weird beliefs even for atheists.

          • Adrian says:

            @Nick

            The takeaway for your question here is that when you have simultaneous causal series you aren’t even trying to answer questions like “what happened prior to this that caused it?” […]

            I’m not necessarily concerned with the notion of time, or a temporal sequence of events. Rather with the question, “why does time exist”, as part of the more general question, “why is there something instead of nothing”.

            […] and you’re dealing with causes that clearly need to bottom out somewhere or you haven’t explained anything.

            See, I think that even if you can show that – given certain assumptions – there must be a first cause, you still haven’t explained anything, because you haven’t explained why the first cause occured at all, or why it had the particular properties it had, or how it came into existence.

            My stance is that the answer to the question “why is there something instead of nothing” (and related questions regarding a first cause) are so far removed from the workings of our environment, that our human brains are incapable of understanding it, because we lack the intuition necessary to comprehend the answer. Sort of like an ant, which could never comprehend abstract math. Therefore, I believe there is no satisfying answer, neither by religion nor by science.

            Obviously, as I go into there, it takes more work to show that this first cause has the divine attributes, and more work still to show it’s the Christian God or Catholic God (as I believe it is).

            Just to get this straight: You believe that you the existence of specifically the Catholic God, as understood by current Catholic dogma, and not of any other God, has been proven conclusively, either by you or by somebody else?

          • Nick says:

            @Adrian

            See, I think that even if you can show that – given certain assumptions – there must be a first cause, you still haven’t explained anything, because you haven’t explained why the first cause occured at all, or why it had the particular properties it had, or how it came into existence.

            You’re not getting it. When I say first cause, I mean we’re positing a cause that doesn’t itself need a cause. The reason we’re doing this is because if we don’t, then the causal series still has no bottom and nothing has been explained. I haven’t given it any more ‘properties’ than “causes things” and “isn’t caused.”

            Just to get this straight: You believe that you the existence of specifically the Catholic God, as understood by current Catholic dogma, and not of any other God, has been proven conclusively, either by you or by somebody else?

            I never said conclusively, and in a certain sense that’s obviously false: it can hardly be conclusive if most people don’t agree with me. And plenty of what we know about God comes from revelation, not natural reason, so I certainly wouldn’t say we have proofs, much less “conclusive” ones, of the Trinity or anything like that. Even so, I don’t think there’s anything actually wrong with the proofs.

            (And no, I didn’t come up with them. I’m just some rube. We have people for that.)

            (ETA less jerkish.)

          • mitv150 says:

            I always thought it was just turtles all the way down.

          • Aapje says:

            It seems to me that linear time is a consequence of causality, which is a consequence of the rules of physics. The rules of physics that exist in our universe don’t have to hold outside the universe, so that ‘space’ can have far different rules of physics, including rules without causality and thus no (linear) time.

            Without causality, the meta-universe can ‘just be,’ similar to how many religious people claim that God just is. So you can use the word ‘God’ merely for whatever happened in the meta-universe to get a big bang. I don’t see a rational justification for attributing features to this God beyond the tautology: I define God as what created our universe, so God is capable of creating a universe.

            Yet clearly very many religious people don’t stop there and start imagining God as sentient, intelligent, having a morality and seeking to make humans live according to it, etc. IMO, that is driven by their own desires (what ought to be true for them to be content), not by what is.

            Conflating ‘is’ and ‘ought’ is bad practice from a rational point of view, although delusion may be more healthy for some/many than rationality.

            The choice between rationality and delusion is subjective anyway. Rationality is not objectively better (the idea that it is, is itself a delusion).

          • Aapje says:

            @mitv150

            Catholic, protestant, Muslim or Buddhist turtles?

            It matters…

          • Thegnskald says:

            A question: Is causality more than an abstraction we use to make sense of the universe?

            At a certain level, everything can be thought of as the interactions of waves. There isn’t so much a causal chain as an evolutionary (in the physics, rather than biological, sense) process.

            The idea of this process having a beginning seems… hrm. Very human-oriented. Very narrative oriented; narratives have beginnings and endings. That which is, simply is.

            That said, my life has been full of periodic oddities, which are more personally satisfying to see as part of a narrative structure. Yesterday, a car drove by as I was contemplating a problem I have been considering ceasing working on, and a loud “Don’t give up” pierced the music coming from my earbuds. Definitely narratively satisfying. Does it mean anything?

            Well, if I solve the problem and it is important that I solved it, it will certainly become part of my narrative history. If I continue to make no progress and eventually give up, it will fade from my memory. (And if I continue to work on it until I die and make no progress… well, that’s a different narrative.)

            I see the appeal of the narrative. But part of the narrative is the idea that I, personally, am important. That… I care less for.

            Supposing a religious perspective on events, that would make me something like an atheistic prophet, sent to deliver the solution to a specific problem. I can’t reconcile that.

          • Nick says:

            @Aapje

            Without causality, the meta-universe can ‘just be,’ similar to how many religious people claim that God just is. So you can use the word ‘God’ merely for whatever happened in the meta-universe to get a big bang. I don’t see a rational justification for attributing features to this God beyond the tautology: I define God as what created our universe, so God is capable of creating a universe.

            Yet clearly very many religious people don’t stop there and start imagining God as sentient, intelligent, having a morality and seeking to make humans live according to it, etc. IMO, that is driven by their own desires (what ought to be true for them to be content), not by what is.

            The reason you don’t see a rational justification is because you haven’t looked or asked. As I’ve alluded to multiple times now, there is a whole series of arguments for the divine attributes once you’ve established there’s a first cause or unmoved mover or whatever. Instead you’ve just supposed that there are no such arguments, and gone on to explain how we must therefore be imagining things and driven by our desires. This is textbook Bulverism.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nick

            The existence of arguments for something is not strong evidence that it is true. Rationalizations also involve arguments.

            I’ve seen many a religious person make arguments, none of which convinced me that they weren’t rationalizing a construct designed around their needs.

            Perhaps you have some unique and very persuasive arguments which makes my comment unfair, but I doubt it.

          • Nick says:

            @Thegnskald

            A question: Is causality more than an abstraction we use to make sense of the universe?

            At a certain level, everything can be thought of as the interactions of waves. There isn’t so much a causal chain as an evolutionary (in the physics, rather than biological, sense) process.

            I don’t know what either of these things mean. How do you explain anything without causality? In particular, how do you explain the activity of waves?

          • Nick says:

            @Aapje

            The existence of arguments for something is not strong evidence that it is true. Rationalizations also involve arguments.

            This is a fully general counterargument. “I know you think you proved 1 and 1 make 2, but don’t you know the existence of arguments for something is not strong evidence that it is true?”

          • Adrian says:

            @Nick

            You’re not getting it. When I say first cause, I mean we’re positing a cause that doesn’t itself need a cause.

            Oh no, I do get it. Given certain assumptions, you can construct a chain of reasoning with the conclusion that an event must have occured which wasn’t caused by anything else. Makes sense (under those certain assumptions). My point is that it doesn’t explain why that event didn’t need a cause, while all other events apparently do need a cause for them to occur.

            The reason we’re doing this is because if we don’t, then the causal series still has no bottom and nothing has been explained.

            This is what I don’t get: Why do you think a first cause explains more than a causal series without a beginning? In particular, what does the former explain which isn’t explained by the latter?

            I haven’t given it any more ‘properties’ than “causes things” and “isn’t caused.”

            Firstly, “isn’t caused” is an extremely peculiar, interesting property, mostly because no other event has that property, so it deserves a good amount of consideration. Secondly, there is another property you didn’t mention: “directly or indirectly causes the universe to exist in exactly the way it is existing now”, which is also not explained by the cosmological argument.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Aapje:

            It seems to me that linear time is a consequence of causality, which is a consequence of the rules of physics.

            Talk of something being a “consequence” of something else presupposes causality, though, so it’s circular to claim that causality is a consequence of the rules of physics.

            Also, the “rules” of physics are really just descriptions of how physical things behave. They can’t actually cause anything, and they certainly can’t be the first cause, since they presuppose the existence of other things.

            @ Adrian:

            Oh no, I do get it.

            With respect, no you don’t. “God/the First Cause/the Primum Mobile doesn’t need a cause” isn’t just asserted, it’s a conclusion of the argument. Also–

            My point is that it doesn’t explain why that event didn’t need a cause, while all other events apparently do need a cause for them to occur.

            The First Cause is a thing, not an event. Events don’t cause things, things cause things.

          • Adrian says:

            @ Mr. X (the original one)

            “God/the First Cause/the Primum Mobile doesn’t need a cause” isn’t just asserted, it’s a conclusion of the argument.

            Yes, I agree, and I don’t think I’ve written anything to the contrary. In fact, I’ve explicitly used the word “conclusion” with regards to the cosmological argument and the first cause.

            The First Cause is a thing, not an event. Events don’t cause things, things cause things.

            No, things don’t cause anything, things doing something cause something; a thing doing something is an “event”, not a “thing”. Unless you use the term “cause” to actually mean “create”.

            Anyway, for the purpose of this discussion, it is besides the point whether the “first cause” was a thing or an event.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Interactions between waves don’t have a causal arrow.

            Like, imagine a particle bumping into another particle. Follow the moving particle back in time, and something bumped it, and something bumped that, and so on and so forth.

            When you start thinking in terms of waves (or relativity), the causality goes away. It simply isn’t meaningful to ask which particle ran into which particle – their field waves overlapped, and the overlap changed the shape of the field waves until they didn’t overlap.

            We could think of this as an interaction, and think in terms of causal chains of interactions, but the thing is, they never started or stopped interacting. The interactions simply evolved.

            After the particles move apart, because of a particularly intense change in the shape of their fields, their fields continue to interact. There wasn’t, and isn’t, an event; there isn’t any discontinuity there. The discontinuity is purely in terms of what we notice happening.

            (Color confinement may be an exception, but it isn’t well understood)

            Even if we generate a new particle, the behavior is still one of a continuous evolution; the fields that give rise to that particle transition, as far as we can tell, smoothly into that state.

            The idea of causality is rooted in an idea that events are sequences; A causes B causes C. Reality is smoother than that; A, B, and C are all part of the same continuous and universal interaction between everything and everything.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Nick: I find it funny that theists tend to treat the First Cause part of the argument as the main part, whereas obviously the main part is the proof of the characteristics. I mean, many atheists (at least those who don’t believe in infinite regressions) agree that there is a first cause, they just don’t agree on what it’s properties are.

            I think Aapje is not giving a fully general counterargument, but rather saying that you can’t expect him to respond to an argument that you’ve only vaguely alluded to and not actually stated.

            @The original Mr. X: I think Aapje is talking about something more like conceptual dependence that I described in my previous comment, rather than causality. I.e. “in order to understand X, you must first understand Y”. The universe is a consequence of the laws of physics in this sense, because you have to understand the laws of physics before you can understand the universe. (Well, you can imperfectly understand the universe without the laws of physics.) Anyway, this may not be exactly what Aapje had in mind but the point is there are notions that are similar to causality but aren’t causality.

            To your other point: Just because the argument implies that God doesn’t have a cause, doesn’t mean that it explains why God doesn’t have a cause.

          • Murphy says:

            @jermo sapiens

            “This seems to resemble the flying spaghetti monster style of thinking and I dont think it’s helpful. God should be construed reasonably and that means a conscious entity created the universe. There is no evidence for that other than the existence of the universe, which is to me at least, somewhat of a mystery. The alternative is the existence of the universe for no reason, and while I cant rule it out it doesnt seem to be preferable to the existence of a God.”

            A deity that can think and have plans is, to the human mind, a lovely intuitive concept because we’re naturally surrounded by beings who can think and plan.

            But a working mind is insane complex and unlikely to just happen.

            It’s like someone deciding that stellar models are complex and boring… so you decide that it’s equally or more likely that a load of atoms must have just happened to form into a supercomputer and spaceship which then dragged rocks around until it got the current solar system.

            A random spaceship is an intuitively easy idea. But it’s the difference between merely complex but likely and so unlikely that it’s orders of magnitude more likely that you’d win the powerball jackpot every week for 100 years.

            ” flying spaghetti monster ” stuff is an attempt to get through to people that their first vague intuition has no special privileged position as equally likely to anything else.

            As such it’s normally extremely helpful.

            Another way to look at it is that the first cause is the universe itself, or the first cause is God. Both are dead-ends in a way. But the existence of God presupposes an entire realm of existence where God “lives”, and this allows you to answer a whole bunch of questions with “God only knows the answer”, whereas if the universe is the first cause all answers to our questions should be answerable within the universe, and that doesnt seem to be the case.

            That’s kind of just word salad.

            Not all questions have to be answerable and the universe doesn’t owe you any answers.

            And “God is the first cause” is not something we say, it’s something we prove.

            That sounds interesting since as far as I’m aware nobody has ever proven such.

            Every such “proof” I’ve ever seen claimed has just been useless word salad that proves nothing.

      • every successful human society has adopted a religion is never answered.

        Same reason why AFAIK every successful society before 1900 invented a form of medicine, none of which provided any net benefit to its patients.(Basic nursing care, giving food and water to the wounded while they are too weak to care for themselves was of course effective, but you don’t need a special educated caste to tell you to do that.) People like to tell stories about the world, they like to hear stories about the world, the easiest way to generate a story about the world is to make it up.

        • Iago the Yerfdog says:

          none of which provided any net benefit to its patients

          I’ll grant you that pre-modern medicine was rough and often trafficked in bizarre theories, but “no net benefit” is a pretty strong claim.

          • They didn’t just believe in bizarre theories, they would carry them out on your body. They never performed any comparison studies, never presented any proof their procedures were effective. The strong claim would be that any of them managed to get it right using such primitive methods.

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            @Alexander Turok

            The strong claim would be that any of them managed to get it right using such primitive methods.

            I think you’re massively overestimating the role of theory in the practice of medicine; understandably, since the crank theoreticians got all the attention and fame.

            My guess is that most doctors leaned much more heavily on their experience, honed in the ordinary way: the last couple of times I had a patient with X, I did Y, and Z happened. This sort of muddling isn’t rigorous, but it isn’t random, either.

            The value of doctors, like the value of other kinds of non-rigorous arts, was the value of having a class of people who could pass on their experience to the next generation. I can easily see this passing the bar of “net positive.”

          • Iago the Yerfdog says:

            @Alexander Turok

            I just thought of another way of putting my point: you seem to be assuming that there was no significant selection pressure on medicine as a discipline. I assume there was.

          • John Schilling says:

            They didn’t just believe in bizarre theories, they would carry them out on your body. They never performed any comparison studies, never presented any proof their procedures were effective. The strong claim would be that any of them managed to get it right using such primitive methods.

            So, basically the same process they used to develop e.g. agriculture and animal husbandry, and pottery and metalworking and architecture and all the rest?

            Yeah, that can’t possibly have worked. No one can get anything right until they learn to do proper scientific studies.

          • albatross11 says:

            The three problems I see with this:

            a. Nobody knew what a germ was or knew they needed to wash their hands/instruments between patients. This means that for any infectious disease, doctors before the germ theory of disease was widely accepted have to have been spreading a lot of diseases around.

            Was there some kind of widely-known folk understanding of the need to wash hands, clothes, and instruments carefully between patients that experienced doctors followed? I’ve certainly never heard of any such thing, and it doesn’t seem to have happened w.r.t. childbirth fevers. Doctors must have had some intuition about how some diseases spread, but I don’t think there was any substantial fraction of them, say, washing their hands carefully or wearing a bandana over their face while treating sick patients.

            b. Medicine is famously very messy and noisy–enough so that even modern doctors who have a pretty decent understanding of the body and the causes of disease are pretty terrible at figuring out whether a given treatment really helps or harms patients. Modern scientific doctors did radical mastectomies and lobotomies, honestly thinking they were helping their patients.

            Until the mid 1600ss, nobody on Earth, not even the smartest mathematicians or scientists, had the right tools to find subtle effects of treatments against a background of noisy biology–probability theory hadn’t been invented yet. So it’s almost guaranteed that the doctors of 1800 (who overwhelmingly didn’t know any probability theory unless they were into gambling) didn’t actually know which of their treatments helped and didn’t help, unless the effects of the treatment were really big and unambiguous. A complete cure that works most of the time would be noticed, but probably not something that raised probabilty of survival from 50% to 80%.

            c. The doctors of 1800 had little or no useful theoretical framework in which to fit insights about disease, because nobody knew what caused most diseases.

            That means that it would have been hard for doctors to convince anyone else when they had some subtle insight from their experience.

          • John Schilling says:

            The three problems I see with this:

            All seem to apply just as well to crop growth. Nobody knew what e.g. nitrates were, the whole thing was very messy, and there was no theoretical understanding of how a seed became a plant. And yet premodern farming produced lots more food than just staying in your hut and seeing what grew for you to eat.

          • So, basically the same process they used to develop e.g. agriculture and animal husbandry, and pottery and metalworking and architecture and all the rest?

            With pottery and metalworking and agriculture it’s easy to verify success or failure. Does the plant grow or not? Does the pot leak or not? So there’s no equivalent of bloodletting in those fields. In medicine, monitoring outcomes was much harder. The first recorded time in history when someone did a semi-controlled study, James Lind on scurvy, the medical establishment ignored it because it didn’t fit with their theories.

          • John Schilling says:

            Does the plant grow or not?

            How is this any easier to assess than “does the patient get any better or not”?

          • ana53294 says:

            A field of grain has a lot more biological replicates than n=1.

          • acymetric says:

            So does a doctor treating humans. Did doctors before the 20th century just treat one patient and then retire, without ever learning from the doctors before them or passing on knowledge to the doctors after?

          • John Schilling says:

            Also, those “biological replicates” are replicates. A farmer plants one field of grain, once, and has to wait six months or so to see how it turns out. OK, maybe three fields of rotating crops and a small vegetable garden. That’s still a pathetically small sample size compared to a doctor’s patient list over six months. And if the field of grain has in fact ten thousand wheat plants, big deal – they’re all getting exactly the same treatment under exactly the same conditions and the farmer only cares about the average result. It’s one data point.

          • How is this any easier to assess than “does the patient get any better or not”?

            Don’t do any planting in your field, watch what happens. You’ll get a couple of plants growing. Don’t form your clay into pottery, the result will not be pottery. In contrast, if you don’t do anything at all for a sick patient, they will usually get better anyway.

          • John Schilling says:

            Don’t do any planting in your field, watch what happens. You’ll get a couple of plants growing.

            And once you get to get to the “OK, I took a bunch of seeds from last year’s crop and stuck them in the ground”, you’ll usually get a field of crops growing in the same way that a doctor who does nothing but say “you’re sick; lay down and take a rest” will usually see his patients get better.

            We got to the “stick a bunch of seeds in the ground” level at least six thousand years ago. For six thousand years, farmers could do nothing beyond that baseline, would usually see their crops grow. And yet, without microscopes or modern biology, farmers spent the next six thousand years learning how to make crops grow even better. Lots better.

            So I am not buying your assertion that six thousand years of doctors must have learned nothing because they didn’t have microscopes and modern biology.

      • Dacyn says:

        Are you implying that some unsuccessful human societies have not adopted a religion? Which ones?

        • jermo sapiens says:

          I dont know, may be there are none. May be there are, and we dont know about them because they were unsuccessful (i.e. extinct).

          It’s just that human nature seems predisposed to religion in a way which is surprising.

          • Dacyn says:

            OK, fair enough. I think it would have been clearer to omit “successful” from your statement, to avoid the implication that part of your argument is that theist societies are more successful.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            the implication that part of your argument is that theist societies are more successful

            It’s either that, or that atheist societies never existed. Also, look at the birth rates of atheists vs religious people (table 2 here).

          • Dacyn says:

            @jermo sapiens:
            Well right, but you have no evidence that atheist societies did exist, so it seems like a pretty weak argument.

            I think lower atheist fertility rates is tied into the demographic transition even if it isn’t fully explained by it. So I don’t know if it would be relevant in prehistory. And modern-day atheism seems to be doing well enough for itself by siphoning people from religious groups.

          • Jaskologist says:

            How could atheist societies have not existed? Presumably under any purely naturalist theory*, religion would be something humans had to invent/discover; atheism would be the default unless you think other primates also believe in God. If only those who managed to come up with religion were able to form societies that’s a big deal right there.

            * Obviously, if you start with Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden, humans start with religion, but that poses much bigger problems for the atheist narrative.

          • helloo says:

            If you hypothesize that religion is interlinked with early government, and that societies need/will create governments as they grow in size/density, then it could be the case that all societies will have at least something that looks like a religion.

            Or something similar with religion and early culture.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Jaskologist
            Non-human primates do not try to answer the questions “where do we come from?”, “why should we be moral?” An atheist society would be one that asks these questions, but doesn’t answer them with God/gods.

          • Nornagest says:

            How could atheist societies have not existed? Presumably under any purely naturalist theory*, religion would be something humans had to invent/discover; atheism would be the default unless you think other primates also believe in God.

            Belief in a transcendent God, a god separate from and superior to the natural world, is comparatively recent. The earlier models, which are probably ancestral but which we can still see in various contemporary forms of polytheism and pantheism, identify God/gods with parts of the world, don’t clearly distinguish religion from culture, and don’t clearly distinguish supernatural from naturalistic explanations of phenomena. The whole concept of atheism doesn’t really make sense under such a worldview — it would be like rejecting the concept of casuality.

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        the question of why every successful human society has adopted a religion is never answered.

        This implies that religion is useful, not necessarily that it is true. Many ideas are useful because they’re true. But that can’t be the case here, since the myriad religions of the world directly contradict each other’s dogma. Even if one religion were true, all others would be false, and seemingly useful regardless. Thus, religion’s usefulness is divorced from its truth or falsity.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Not necessarily. It may be that religions have a mix of true and false elements, and the utility comes specifically from the true elements rather than the false ones (and that religions with more true elements are also more useful).

        • Randy M says:

          Thus, religion’s usefulness is divorced from its truth or falsity.

          Not necessarily.
          The atheist says to the Christian, “I merely believe in one less god than you; to the Hindu you too are an atheist.”

          But looked at another way, religions have in common (often, if not universally) that they put mankind under the authority of a metaphysical creator. In this way, they may all be closer to the truth–even if only one completely so–than the entirely secular alternative that denies that entire aspect of existence rather than “merely” quibbles about it’s qualities. (They may also be further, of course, but the point is that they have a commonality).

          Agreed that true is only a subset of useful and a not synonymous, though.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            (also @The original Mr. X)

            religions have in common (often, if not universally) that they put mankind under the authority of a metaphysical creator.

            And this is about as specific as you can get before the stories start to become blatantly contradictory. The Abrahamic religions profess faith in a singular, all-powerful, personal, creator god. Hinduism is…pick-your-favorite-prefix-theistic depending on who you ask. Buddhism (depending on the school) either rejects the notion of a creator deity or worships a concept of “emptiness” which the world came out of. Falun Gong and Taoism tell of a “way” or “underlying natural order of the universe” — nothing like the agentic Abrahamic God.

            More importantly, each of these religions lack central, core tenants of what the others believe to be necessary for enlightenment/salvation/whatever. To Catholics, the Eucharist is one of the most important rituals, a core part of their faith in which they receive Jesus into themselves. Even their Protestant cousins don’t believe in transubstantiation, to say nothing of the Buddhists! The Buddhists, in turn, might be disappointed at how Christians never even attempt to reach a state of Samadhi. You can try to round off meditation to “basically like prayer”, but not if you want to truly understand it (which I don’t claim to, though I notice a whole lot of particular factors and related terms that Wikipedia warns against naively mistranslating). And everyone but the Muslims is clearly disobeying the commandment to pray towards Mecca five times a day.

            To claim that all the world’s religions are pointing towards the same thing still requires that each of them (or at least, all but one) be gravely mistaken about it on fundamental levels. Even if I assume for sake of argument that the conviction of billions of religious people is good enough evidence to start believing in a metaphysical deity of some sort, how should I decide which religion to follow? My soul is (possibly) on the line, after all.

          • Randy M says:

            I certainly agree that it matters what religion you practice if you want to be faithful to the objective reality.
            But in terms of talking about usefulness to society, they may possibly share more than they do with atheism.

    • Skeptic says:

      I believe this is a fascinating, contrarian, but in the end hollow take. Contrarian claims that fly in the face of our historical understanding of a figure require sufficient evidence to rebut the already voluminous writings on said figure. Occam’s razor can be applied too readily, but in this case it’s the obvious conclusion absent extraordinary evidence.

      FWIW, there is no real historical evidence More tortured anyone, let alone in his own house. He is said to have ordered the whipping of two people in his entire career.

      • Bobobob says:

        He may (or may not) have personally tortured heretics, but Marius makes it clear that he did keep prisoners in his house. (Which, in context, was apparently not unusual for someone in his position at that time.)

        • Two McMillion says:

          Does “keep in his house” mean, “you can’t leave, but you stay in the guest bedroom and can use the library” or “Chained in the basement with the rats”?

          • Bobobob says:

            It means “kept in stocks,” according to the author. Not sure if there were bathroom or library privileges.

    • DragonMilk says:

      I don’t think so. In my theology, it’s emphasized that it’s perfectly fine to doubt and question. For instance, the book of Job is mostly Job insisting he’s done nothing wrong and asking to question why bad things are happening to him as he (rightfully) complains about his situation. The conclusion says God was furious at his friends for suggesting that suffering was karmic, and that Job was in the right, despite all his complaining.
      In the New Testament, a man has a crazy boy (Mark 9) who wants healing, but the disciples couldn’t do anything. Jesus asks if he believes, and his response is, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” That’s sufficient – the man doubts but would like to believe, and that’s enough. Later on Jesus said that prayer was needed to drive out the spirit.

      Long story short, a “fundamental” Christian who believes the above two stories actually happened knows it’s ok to doubt.

      As to what I think you mean by “religious fundamentalism”, it would seem that it comes down to self-righteousness and submission, along with not actually understanding the “fundamental” teachings if you will. As (I think) CS Lewis puts it, at the end of the day, either you say to God, “Thy Will be Done” (heaven) or God says to you, “Thy Will be Done” (hell).

      Inherently, the Bible makes it clear that vengeance is reserved for God to dispense, do not judge lest you be judged, etc. The Christian message is that humanity is so messed up that no heaven can emerge from earth, and no one is righteous to approach God again. Yet because of God’s love, Christ approached us.

      You may be onto something that creationists do not allow for dissension/doubt, but this is not what the Bible actually says to do. It’s fairly clear that one should make all doubts/complaints known to God, and that it’s an important part of prayer.

      • Dacyn says:

        In my theology, it’s emphasized that it’s perfectly fine to doubt and question.

        Funny, I was told “a thousand questions do not add up to a single doubt” — the implication being that the former is OK but not the latter. Your first story is just about questioning, and your second makes it clear that doubt is to be perceived as a weakness that one needs to overcome. Not that great for intellectual honesty IMO.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Having doubts is fine – leaving them unresolved is not. Either accept or reject what the object of doubt is. To linger in doubt is unhealthy if it’s resolvable.

          • Dacyn says:

            First of all, that’s not really what your story says — you yourself said that the fact that the man “would like to believe” is what makes his situation acceptable. Second, that’s still a problem for intellectual honesty: sometimes it’s not possible to know the answer to a question, and forcing yourself to resolve it one way or the other will just result in a false sense of certainty.

          • DragonMilk says:

            How exactly are you defining doubt and intellectual honesty?

          • Dacyn says:

            @DragonMilk:
            I usually think of doubt as uncertainty about something you think is likely to be true, but are not completely sure of. Intellectual dishonesty is basically “lying to yourself”, for example telling yourself that you know the truth about something when in fact you are uncertain about it.

            To clarify part of my earlier comment, “would like to believe” is different from “would like to resolve his uncertainty”; in fact they are completely different mindsets. The former violates conservation of expected evidence.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Ah, so I’m taking the dictionary definition of “a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction”.

            There should be a reason a feeling of uncertainty arose. For the dude in Mark, his kid had issues since childhood and the disciples came in thinking they could solve the problem but were unable to. And so it was perfectly reasonable to lack conviction in the prospect that his son could get healed. Jesus’ response suggests to me that that sort of “doubt” is totally fine and even reasonable.

            So this is far from “intellectual dishonesty.” Jesus’ invitation is to “come and see”. On the one hand, given all the purported benefits offered, you would like to believe. On the other, given the incredible claims presented, you are fairly uncertain of them, and it would be helpful to somehow resolve them.

            These feelings are not mutually exclusive and are commonly held together. Both also meet the definition of doubt.

          • Dacyn says:

            @DragonMilk:
            I don’t understand what distinction you are trying to draw between my definition of doubt and yours. They both seem to be basically synonyms for uncertainty.

            Regarding the story, I remind you again of your own exegesis: “the man doubts but would like to believe, and that’s enough”. The point is that “would like to believe” is presented as a positive quality. But why should it be positive? Treating it as positive encourages one to trick oneself into believing, and that is what is intellectually dishonest. (Note I didn’t say that anyone in the story was intellectually dishonest, but rather that the message of the story was “not that great for intellectual honesty”.)

          • DragonMilk says:

            Maybe another way to say it is that doubt doesn’t always come from reasoning but rather from the lack of reasoning/emotion, and so it should be resolved.

            The best example I’ve heard is the following. Say you get a checkup and the doctor says you have a malignant growth that needs to be surgically removed. With your reasoning, you are in full agreement that the best course of action is to remove the tumor.

            And so it is until you’re strapped in. For some reason they only have local anesthetic and aren’t going to knock you out, and this has also been explained to you. You are on board with the procedure until…you see the knife. You have always had a phobia of sharp objects!

            Here, you begin to doubt. Is this surgery really necessary? Will it actually completely resolve the issue? Is the tumor really that likely to develop into cancer? All these doubts you can justify as well reasoned! But really what’s happening is that your emotions are taking over, and your well-reasoned plan has collided with the reality of the looming knife.

            And here, it’s “perfectly fine to doubt and question.” But the more rational course would be to tell the surgeon, “I believe, help me with my unbelief.” You are resolving your doubts by allowing the surgeon to proceed, as much as your mind screams in the moment, “KNIFE, KNIFE!”

          • Randy M says:

            The point is that “would like to believe” is presented as a positive quality. But why should it be positive? Treating it as positive encourages one to trick oneself into believing, and that is what is intellectually dishonest.

            One’s lack of belief can come from many places. As much as we like to pretend here to have rigorous considerations of all evidence and hold the most likely explanation in exactly as much certainty as is warranted, priors are pretty fuzzy, and what is convincing Monday may seem folly on Tuesday.
            Changing one’s mind as evidence accumulates is a virtue; changing it according to whims is not.

          • Dacyn says:

            @DragonMilk:
            Since the patient knows his emotions are “taking over”, he does not actually doubt as much as he seems to. (I.e. the fact that a pessimistic outlook is coming from emotions is evidence for a good outcome, and at least on some level he takes this into account.)
            Can you say that the man in the story was really only afraid instead of truly doubtful, and he was merely being told to conquer his fears? Possibly. I don’t read the story that way (particularly in the context of Christian teachings as a whole). I guess everyone will have to make their own reading.

            @Randy M:

            One’s lack of belief can come from many places.

            John 3:16 doesn’t mention etiology of belief.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Sounds like the Litany of Tarski is what’s missing: If Jesus can cure my child, I want to believe that Jesus can cure my child. If Jesus cannot cure my child, I want to believe that Jesus cannot cure my child.

            Would you say that that is the best position to take, in terms of intellectual honesty?

          • Plumber says:

            @Winter Shaker says: “…If Jesus can cure my child, I want to believe that Jesus can cure my child. If Jesus cannot cure my child, I want to believe that Jesus cannot cure my child.

            Would you say that that is the best position to take, in terms of intellectual honesty?”

            I’m not who you asked, but “intellectual honesty” isn’t my goal, a measure of solace is. 

            I didn’t much like The Matrix (I thought Dark City did similar themes better and a bit earlier anyway), but as I recall there’s a scene where the lead protagonist is presented a choice between a pill that let’s him know “the truth” or continue in illusion? 

            Yeah, if the “truth” is cold, hard and cruel  please make me ignorant! 

            The Menagerie, Part 2 episode of Star Trek, and especially the film Brazil are more to my liking than The Matrix (unfortunately I’m all-too-aware that intoxicants, including “in-love” are all too temporary, and hangovers are worse than sobriety, plus “a luxury once tasted becomes a necessity”), and I want happy illusions, if I’m strapped to a torture chair with no hope of escape, I still want to have hope.

            I strongly suspect that ultimately justice and redemption are cravings that may never be filled, ultimately only oblivion awaits, but I also believe that most of us have an inate moral sense (what C.S. Lewis called “the Tao”), and also a religion shaped craving in our hearts (unfortunately I wasn’t raised in faith so I never caught it).

            Isn’t it pretty to think so that morality is rewarded? 

            Though I suppose the obvious conclusion that traditional faiths are true and I and most everyone I love are damned forever may cause one to want to not believe if you already did.

            I sure as Hell (there it is again) try not to bother to try to argue folks out of hope if they’re blessed/fortune enough to have it (though just now I realise that earthly hope I do bother to dispel, as back when I worked for the Port of San Francisco a newer hire annoyed me with all his talk of “They should” do this or that improvement, so I drove him to a part of the bay where a pier collapsed and you could still see some remnants sticking out of the water, pointed to them and told him: “There is no ‘they’ there is only us, we will never get the funding to prevent that, we use our hands to do what we can for as long as we can, but ultinately that is the fate of everything we repair, please don’t tell me what they should do again, ‘they’ is you and me”, and at my current assignment our mantra is “The building has been scheduled to be destroyed and rebuilt within ten years for the last 30 years” [since the ’89 quake]).

          • Corey says:

            If Jesus can cure my child, I want to believe that Jesus can cure my child. If Jesus cannot cure my child, I want to believe that Jesus cannot cure my child.

            This reminds me of an interesting bit from blind YouTuber Molly Burke.

            She did a video of things she wished people wouldn’t say to her, that she has actually gotten (one was “you’re lucky your parents kept you” – WTF? Who would say that to anyone?). The interesting case is “can I pray for you?”

            She didn’t want people praying for her because she IS a believer, and does not want to get miracle-cured. (She spent some years coming to terms with blindness, and does not want to undo that I think).

          • Dacyn says:

            @Winter Shaker: Yes.

            @Plumber: I suppose different people have different values. Though perhaps you find intellectual honesty to be valuable in some circumstances even if you prefer to override it sometimes.

    • bean says:

      Both men were both extremely smart, especially in the context of late medieval Europe, and it must have occurred to them during their textual excursions that religion simply Didn’t Make Sense.

      This is unfortunately a common mistake made when reading history. People in the past were about as smart as they are today, but had very different worldviews. Expecting that it “must have occurred” that religion doesn’t make sense (a claim which a substantial portion of humanity, myself included, would disagree with you on) is a big stretch. The major thinkers that eventually lead to things like Deism, much less modern-type atheism, wouldn’t show up for another century or more.

      • Bobobob says:

        “Must have occurred” may be too strong a phrase. Intuited? Feared? I’m picturing a more subconscious process fueling religious fervor, not the actual stark thought that atheism may be right.

        • Jaskologist says:

          We know Martin Luther’s actual motivations: fear of damnation. He didn’t doubt God’s existence, he doubted the security of his own soul. The man became a monk because he swore to do so after being nearly struck by lightening. Finding a way to be sure of his salvation was a central concern of his.

      • Shem The Penman says:

        People in the past were about as smart as they are today, but had very different worldviews.

        Exactly. It’s common to patronize our not-so-distant ancestors as being ignorant and superstitious, but the truth is that our approach to myth and symbolism is the one that lacks nuance. What these stories meant to the communities in which they resonated is a lot more important in terms of understanding them than whether or not they were literally true.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      Fundamentalist zeal actually seems to me like a more logical reaction existence of god than lukewarm moderate “god totally meant the exact thing I want him to mean, also it’s a metaphor anyway so don’t bother” take. God is the most powerful, all-knowing entity so it makes sense to try and follow its orders as hard as humanly possible. Conversely rule-lawyering making excuses and not being a fundamentalist makes more sense if you don’t actually think god is real but still like it as a symbol.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I mean, maybe. Who knows? Does it matter?

    • eigenmoon says:

      This model predicts that converts are completely non-fundamentalist immediately after conversion but become more and more fundamentalist as they learn new stuff and gain new reasons to doubt.

      At least in Europe (US religiosity seems to be… different) the opposite tendency is well known. Fresh converts are usually the most fundamentalist but in 10 years most of them become moderate.

  7. DragonMilk says:

    Inspired by a post in the prior open thread, I’d like to understand skepticism for the supernatural. Personally, I’m quite open to “supernatural” phenomena under the following reasoning:

    1. Supernatural simply means not explainable by humanity’s current understanding of Nature
    2. Nature is the humanity’s systemic collective understanding of the universe
    3. Science is the systemic part of that collective understanding. The crux of Science is that any observed phenomena must be replicable and repeatable
    4. Observation necessarily is constrained by human perception, not only the sensory organs of any individual, but also those who are in a position to peer review claims
    5. Therefore, any incident that occurs and observed/experienced by an individual that cannot be replicated and has not been previous recorded in the annals of systemic understanding will be deemed “supernatural” by some, and doubted by others
    6. Furthermore, while certain claims should rightfully be met with some skepticism, it is going too far to assume that everything must have a “natural” cause, since that relies on repeatable human observation.

    In particular, I find people often dismiss miracles along the lines of, “well of course that didn’t happen, magic doesn’t exist!” To me, the whole point of a miracle is that something happened to people who would otherwise be skeptical, but their existing paradigm of understanding the world could not capture. The set of such “unnatural” phenomena, particularly those that result in a benefit to people, are deemed miracles.

    Further, even if our science expands to be able to “explain” the miracle, I probably won’t think it any less miraculous. If an extremely unlikely positive impact even happens, being able to explain the exact mechanism doesn’t take away from the event for me.

    For instance, did you know there are some people who have survived falling out of airplanes? I consider these miracles. Someone being able to document how the body survived impact (trees breaking fall, landing in snow, etc.) furthers understanding of how it came to pass, but doesn’t detract from the “miraculous” nature of them.

    • acymetric says:

      1. Supernatural simply means not explainable by humanity’s current understanding of Nature

      Paraphrasing my reply in the previous thread (since it makes sense to move the conversation here): I don’t think this is a sufficient or accurate definition of what people mean when they talk about the “supernatural”, so anything that follows from your definition here is going to be flawed.

      • meh says:

        right. none of the ‘skeptics’ are claiming that there aren’t things not currently explainable. this looks to just be a motte.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        This is a fair response, but I see where DragonMilk gets it from, though. When skeptics talk about the supernatural, they generally talk about what, given our current scientific understanding, can’t exist or happen.

        Bigfoot is not supernatural because if Bigfoot existed it would simply be another ordinary biological creature, if perhaps an odd one. Astrology is supernatural, by our lights at least, because if astrology works, it works because of causal forces not accounted for by present-day natural science. (On the other hand, I can easily imagine a society that has formulated an explanation of astrology and considers it a natural phenomenon.)

      • DragonMilk says:

        Hmm, I’ll make this a bit personal then. This life event is fairly foundational to why I’m a Christian. (I’ll get to the point after this long story, I promise)

        *Queue flashback*

        Summer after junior year of high school (nearly 15 years ago now), I got pretty sick with some sort of flu thingy. Fever, body ached, needed pedialyte, bedridden for about a week. Then overnight I felt completely better. Went back to my summer job serving food at a retirement home.

        Now at this time I was still very much an arrogant, petty, asshole. I told people who didn’t ace tests that there’s no way they’re that dumb and they must just be lazy when it comes to studying, for instance (I had always been in public school, and believed tests were necessarily easy to ace, so intelligence should not be a factor in performance, only effort).

        Anyway, rewind to the start of the summer. There was a girl I liked who I asked to hang out with when summer started, like play tennis, and she eventually said that she frankly thought I was overly competitive and it would’t be fun. Rather than thank her for the feedback, I did my usual bizarre routine of finding a reason not to like her and told her I didn’t hang out with her anymore. When she asked why, I told her I didn’t want to tell her. All this was over AOL instant messenger mind you. Truth was I was so smitten that nothing people told me made me NOT like her/I didn’t buy it. Yet I explained my process of getting over people and relayed some things other said about her…

        Next morning I felt guilty. That was a pretty shitty thing I did. Naturally, I called to apologize (yes, I was a self-aware asshole). Her mom picked up and told me I’m not talking to her as she cried until 1am in the morning. As a studious kid who slept at 9:30, I was mortified. Had I really made someone cry for over 3 hours? I called again in the afternoon with a canned apology, this time received by her father. And so I went on to my summer travels…or so I thought.

        I just kept feeling guilty about making someone I liked so much cry so much, and couldn’t sleep well. At a camp, a dude suggested that girls cry all the time, and not to worry about it, which intellectually I acknowledged, but still felt AWFUL. When I got back from the travelling, I fell ill a few days later.

        Alrighty then, caught back up to when I return to work at the retirement home. I was not just a petty, arrogant, asshole, but a sanctimonious one at that. There was a male coworker who loved to boast about his female conquests, which I despised. He was unsure of why I did not like him. Anyway, on my first shift back, he kept teasing me by saying the feminine form of my name and vice versa with another girl who worked there. Unbeknownst to any co-workers, the feminine form of my name/that of the co-worker was the same name of the girl I liked and made cry.

        And so I had a complete mental breakdown at the end of the shift at about the 17th instance of hearing her name. While today I know this reaction to be irrational, at the time the guilt made each incantation feel like a stab to the heart.

        Coworkers helped me finish up, and for some reason I felt like driving to the nearby church, and so I did. I was a nominal Christian since childhood when my parents converted, meaning more of the legalistic type (“yeah, people really suck, I can see why Jesus had to die for *all those other terrible* people, but I’ll take it too I guess”). Well it was a Wednesday during the summer, so no one was there. I did see a couple vans, so I thought maybe someone was inside. I checked every single door (about 13 of them in 5 entrances?), but all were locked. Oh well, I really just need to sleep this off…or so I thought.

        Turns out I just couldn’t fall asleep. After a week, I started half-dreaming, after two, it was full on hallucination. By that time, I had concluded that I must have died since I could neither sleep nor really wake. Oh boy, was I in hell then? Those locked doors must have been symbolic!

        And so on the surface I was moving about lethargically but in my head I was being blamed for all sorts of atrocities. I eventually wandered into my next door neighbor’s house through the backyard, the woman was a nurse practitioner who urged my parents to take me to the hospital (they hoped it would just pass on its own), and I was soon hospitalized.

        At this point, I was fully convinced I had died and gone to hell given my inability to wake from this odd state where I kept getting blamed for anything from higher gas prices to suicide bombings (actually they were related, apparently I had suicide bombed so many oil producing regions that the price of crude spiked and gas prices neared $5 per gallon). The Iraq war was going on so maybe I was just getting news headlines about IEDs as inputs.

        Well on the surface I was deemed deeply depressed/suicidal when in fact I just wanted to be put out of existence. What was going on is that I thought some thirty years had passed, as in my hallucinated timeline, I had gone from suicide bombing to somehow starting a nuclear war between the US, Russia, and China and everyone was now in a post-apocalyptic world. My heart felt like pure ice, accompanied with all the burning you feel when you wash your hands after coming in from shoveling snow from the driveway amped up x100. And eventually I had a (hallucinated) prayer to be put entirely out of existence so as to not suffer with all this guilt anymore.

        Prayer said, an odd thing happened. Some authoritative voice said, “your time has not yet come.” I make no claims as to the source of that voice, but upon hearing it, I somehow realized that I was in fact either dreaming or hallucinating, none of it was real, just a nightmare, and I woke.

        Nurse asked me, “What year is it, and who’s president?”

        I replied, “1985, Ronald Reagan.”

        “Go back to bed,” she said.

        And so I did…and I slept, knowing it was in fact sleeping.

        When I woke again and responded with George W Bush and the year, I asked how much time had passed. I was afraid I’d missed the start of my senior year, or even college.

        Apparently it was a week. Those hallucinated 30 years were but a week. I had been put on some medication that I would be weaned off of over the course of a few months.

        Introspectively, I realized I was an asshole. And so I changed…gradually; old habits die hard. In fact, on one of the last days of senior year, some girl remarked, “I think we’ll all be very successful!” To which I replied, “Why? What would make you think such a thing?”

        Hiccups aside, I at the very least acknowledged this Jesus thing wasn’t just for all the bad people out there, as my heart was pretty rotten and I needed Him too.

        *End flashback*

        Well, since then, I went to college, have been working in NYC for over 9 years, and got married. My wife says that she appreciates that even though I’m smart, I’m not arrogant or an asshole about it.

        And that, in my mind, is supernatural.

        • OrangeInflation says:

          Thank you for sharing this story. At first I thought–this must be a schizophrenic incident, as you were the age and sex when onset is typical. The resolution of this story is awesome. I have watched a loved one go through a similar experience (went from asshole to non asshole through a claimed supernatural experience) and sometimes I think, “I can believe the universe came into existence without a god, but changing (loved one) from an asshole to a non-asshole, now that would take a miracle!”

        • meh says:

          do you have any reason to suspect someone put psychedelics or other narcotics in the water at the home?

          • DragonMilk says:

            Not likely. Family way too cheap for that!

          • meh says:

            There is often a lot of prescription medications in a retirement home. How likely is it something was accidentally put in food and ingested?

          • Corey says:

            @meh:

            My demented mother-in-law took to hiding her medications rather than taking them – typical paranoia.

            One of the reasons my sister-in-law kicker her out was because her dogs got sick, finding the hidden pills.

          • meh says:

            @Corey
            I wonder what sort of deity they thought your mother-in-law was.

        • Murphy says:

          Funnily enough I had an experience that pushed my view almost the exact opposite way.

          I used to go to sunday school. I was always a geeky kid and sort of into neuro stuff.

          They had a guest speaker in, a little more happy-clappy than normal. Someone talking about how he’d “found god”

          So he starts talking about his drug use and and various things and how one day he’d found himself on a park bench when it was like he’d seen a light, felt a presence ,his arms were numb, felt like he couldn’t walk, like he suddenly couldn’t understand the person next to him….

          along with a bunch of other things…

          And to him it was a life-changing religious experience.

          Meanwhile I sat there thinking “stroke, stroke, stroke,stroke.”

          It was just ticking too many “that was a fucking stroke, part of his brain almost died” boxes.

          But people were all like “oh what an amazing religious experience”

          And I was there thinking “this guy needs to go talk to a doctor, not a priest.”

          It kinda mentally pushed me away from religion a little.

          In principle, there are things science doesn’t know about.

          in practice, most of the time that weird thing someone experienced is more likely to be a mundane thing or their brain mis-firing than the universe revealing itself to them.

          If you hear hoof beats and you’re not at the zoo or the plains of africa… think horses not zebras.

          And quite a few people genuinely have just one epileptic fit or one psychotic episode without it turning into a regular thing.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Don’t untreated strokes result in things like permanent brain damage?

            Edit: though I suppose if he was a drug user, people may dismiss issues as drug related rather than stroke related

          • Garrett says:

            Don’t untreated strokes result in things like permanent brain damage?

            Sort-of, by definition. If it goes away on its own it’s called a Transient ischemic attack, or TIA. If it goes away on its own, it’s a significant risk indicator for near-term future stroke and you probably should be seen emergently, anyways.

    • phi says:

      The statement “The crux of Science is that any observed phenomena must be replicable and repeatable” isn’t true. For example, Darwinian evolution is a phenomenon that we have so far observed on only one planet, yet it is still an important part of the science of biology. Or to take a more mundane example, imagine rolling 1000 dice. Thanks to combinatorics, the outcome is virtually guaranteed to be unique, and impossible to replicate. Yet the event does not thereby become supernatural.

    • fibio says:

      1. Supernatural simply means not explainable by humanity’s current understanding of Nature

      I think you need a much stronger statement here, as right now it puts dark matter right next to ghosts in the bucket. Historically, supernatural is far more often not just the unexplained but the inexplicable, like a meteorite was to a caveman. A supernatural phenomena is so inexplicable that, if it were proven to exist, it would require a rewrite of a large fraction of our understanding of the universe.

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems to me that the danger of the label “supernatural” is that it will lead you to dismiss weird but potentially interesting observations as silly woo-woo stuff that can be safely ignored. If there’s some weird hard-to-explain thing happening that people keep noticing, it’s probably worth trying to understand what’s going on there.

        • fibio says:

          It is useful to be able to distinguish between the two types of explanation for phenomena, though. The natural explanation for ghosts is that people over-match visual data to human features because are brains are wired to err on the side of caution. The supernatural is that people continue to exist after death in absence of any observable medium.

          We want to require a far higher standard of proof with the later than the former, because otherwise we’re constantly tearing down our understanding of the universe for no reason or benefit. While some paradigm shifts may be missed or come later than they could, correcting the other way is worse.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I know there are commenters here who think it’s invalid, but I’ve never really been able to fully grasp why – Richard Carrier’s definition of the supernatural as involving ontologically basic mental entities seems to be about the best way of splitting this that I’ve come across – that is, something is supernatural if it has mind-like properties (consciousness, volition etc) and is not itself made out of, or arising from the interactions between, simple things that do not themselves have mind-like properties. For instance, our brains are not supernatural; they are made of neurons which, as far as we can tell, do not themselves individually have anything mind-like about them, and those neurons in turn are made of atoms which certainly do not appear to have anything mind-like about them. So if you view human consciousness as ultimately arising from the physical properties of the atoms which make up the neurons which make up the brain, then you believe that human minds are not supernatural.

      Conversely, if you believe that human minds, or indeed gods, spirits etc, do not arise from mere naturalistic physics, but have some element which has those mind-like properties but cannot in principle be broken down and analysed in terms of simpler interacting parts that individually lack those mind-like properties, then you believe that human minds (gods, spirits etc) are supernatural according to this definition.

      Your story is certainly interesting, but I am not sure that it resolves things one way or another. It sounds like the sort of thing that people sometimes report after taking psychedelics, which are themselves just inert molecules that happen to mimic human neurotransmitters in ways that produce powerful changes in consciousness (with the implication that those same sorts of experience can arise naturally if someone happens to have something natural happen to them involving the equivalent actual neurotransmitters), and those neurotransmitters, and the receptors they act on, are all just physical things that we are still in the early stages of being able to get a handle on explaining as natural phenomena.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        My problem with Carrier’s definition is that it simply changes the load-bearing term from “supernatural” to “mental,” and relies on the fact that we categorize everything into either material or mental.

        Suppose I had a stick that I could tap against a wound to make it heal faster. It’s in every way an ordinary stick except one: it happens to have (with apologies to Moliere) a curative virtue.

        Most people would call such a stick supernatural, I think. Ex hypothesi, its healing powers are not reducible to particle physics. But in what way is it mind-like?

        • Protagoras says:

          I think your example is little like most examples of allegedly supernatural phenomena, but you are probably right that the definition is a little too narrow. Still, the category of the supernatural is very much more human-centric than the category of the unknown to science, as in your example where a stick produces health (a very complicated phenomenon which humans don’t understand very well but group under a single word connected to what it does for us). Your case still has a similarity to the cases Carrier describes, as in your case something with very complicated underlying sources (not in this case the generation of thought, but generation of life is in many ways analogous) is somehow produced without the presence of the usual underlying sources or any plausible substitute for them.

  8. Nearly Takuan says:

    (Epistemic status: noob questions, probably discussed to death already, especially since health care costs are the #1 talking point of the current US Democratic primary this year.)

    (Leftist friends: let’s for now set aside whether other countries are able to provide comprehensive universal health care, and whether insurance companies and pharma companies are responsible for artificially high costs. For the moment I’m curious about what an incrementalist/moderate/compromise(d) health care “deal” might look like.)

    Centrist podcast “The Daily” recently discussed a few anecdotal cases related to health care costs in the US, tempering its otherwise-dramatic stories by pointing out that health insurance premiums are a result of employers trying to avoid paying more for insurance, and that if employers and employees don’t pay for their health care somebody will still have to. Again, let’s assume the cost can’t be addressed just by shifting around power balances, and near-term solutions require that we find a way to pay the current sticker price of all medical treatments.

    1. To what extent is this a result of feature-creep in what medical insurance does, i.e. insurance payouts increasing in scale and probability because insurance now pays for stuff we suffered and/or died from right up until the moment insurance started covering it?

    2. To what extent can the feature-creep be factored out to conditions you’d speak to a GP/physician/body-part-specialist about vs. conditions you’d speak to a psychologist/psychiatrist/counselor about vs. conditions you’d speak to a chiropractor/astrologist/medium about? If these were separate coverages to elect, could most people get away with having overall lower premiums and deductibles by paying for separate insurance packages? (For example, my wife and I gamed the system as much as we could by scheduling allergy diagnoses, psychiatry appointments, massage therapy, etc. this year, because we knew we’d hit out-of-pocket max when our baby was born anyway and that made everything else “free”. But of course the insurance company was already “gaming” us right back; the deductibles, out-of-pocket, premiums, etc. were likely calibrated to prevent large losses in exactly this scenario. If treatment for depression, bipolar disorder, and random wants that are only vaguely medical were not covered in the first place, there wouldn’t have been anything there to take advantage of. And meanwhile, in all our non-pregnant years, I would expect to pay a medium-high premium for coverage of our various high-risk chronic mental illnesses, but it’s weird feeling like we’re also paying for “alternative medicine” options we’ll never exercise, with no way to communicate this to our insurance provider.) Dental and vision are already separate, so bucketing everything else together feels extra weird.

    3. I often hear citations of “conventional wisdom” that the reason permanent life insurance is such a ripoff is because it’s guaranteed to pay out someday: since the risk is 100% unless the subscriber does something highly specific to violate the terms (and beneficiaries can’t persuade courts otherwise), there are no non-payments to add to a pot, and the system can’t possibly be better than a glorified trust fund. To what extent does the American medical insurance system resemble this — that is, to what extent does the stochastic probability “between risk-of-feeling-sad-all-the-time and risk-of-appendicitis, this patient is X likely to require an insurance payout before we can refresh their deductible” asymptotically approach an unpleasantly-high figure? Is the deductible itself the tool most providers would reach for to calibrate this back down? To what extent does consumer choice between high-deductible and low-deductible plans actually exacerbate this?

    • Thegnskald says:

      3 gets at what I personally think is the heart of the issue with health insurance, specifically. It isn’t insurance anymore. It’s an additional layer of bureaucracies and hierarchy welded on top of the healthcare system in which you pay for a service from someone other than the people providing that service

      • albatross11 says:

        It’s kind-of both. I shouldn’t be using my insurance when I get a check-up or go to the doctor for some routine thing. When I need the insurance feature is when I break my leg or end up in the hospital for some major problem. Otherwise, I’m just paying the doctor via a super-inefficient bureaucracy.

        • Garrett says:

          via a super-inefficient bureaucracy

          Doesn’t the “negotiate payment amounts” count for something? I’ve generally seen the cash price listed for services (not chargemaster amount) be moderately above the negotiated rate from my insurance. Not a big difference, but perhaps 20% different. It’s enough that the negotiating power may indeed set me out ahead in terms of the cost of overhead.

          • Grek says:

            No, it does not.

            The way the system is set up, the people who decide what medical services should the purchased (the patient, acting on the extremely influential advice of their doctor) is not the person who negotiates the prices. As a result, the insurance company is put in the unenviable position of haggling over prices when the seller knows for a fact that they can’t walk away from the table. The company can make lists of things they won’t cover and places they won’t cover services from, but anything they DO cover, they have to pay for. And that invariably leads the hospitals demanding exorbitant price-gouger’s fees as an opening offer and then haggling down to something still unreasonable not not quite as unreasonable as the nominal price.

            You see a similar model of price gouging in colleges when it comes to textbooks. To a first approximation, the Professor of a course decides what textbook(s) will be purchased after consulting with the textbook manufacturer. The student has the option to refuse to take a particular class or to go to a different college, but once they’re enrolled they’re stuck buying whatever book is demanded of them at whatever absurd price they can get it at cheapest. This leads to textbook manufacturers up-selling the professors and rolling out a slightly tweaked version of the same product every four years in order to keep prices sky high. Sound familiar?

          • Garrett says:

            @Grek:

            I specifically noted that I wasn’t talking about chargemaster amounts.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Note that most European systems work the same way. If you’re trying to distinguish American from European, this is not a good method. If you look on the long time frame and don’t think that the American system is an outlier, but are trying to explain change over time, this is a better argument. But then you have to consider the several European systems that aren’t like this.

    • Nearly Takuan says:

      Follow-up:

      4. How come I haven’t heard pundits or politicians discuss “a la carte” health insurance as a serious option? It seems to me like it should in theory be politically viable. The Left should generally like that it opens up low-hanging fruit for the government to subsidize and encourage obvious public-wellness things like vaccinations and annual physical checkups (under the assumption that we could plausibly believe the Right opposes this less strongly than government-subsidized expensive stuff like MRIs, organ transplants, or whatever), and the Right should generally like the pay-to-win nature of the initial proposal. (I am being unkind. Let’s say instead that it is “consumer-choice oriented.”) Incrementalist progressives can look forward to eventually claiming each new subcategory for a government-sponsored single-payer magic plan anyway, but starting with the stuff that’s actually kind of necessary (again, vaccines, and then maybe dialysis, and as attitudes eventually shift maybe *then* we can try to get away with making rich people pay for poor people’s schizophrenia treatments). Conservatives should like the opportunity to defend the government from having to pay for “unnecessary” or otherwise controversial stuff like emergency contraception. I only see this not working if we’re more jealous of each other’s gains than happy with our own, i.e. leftists refusing to be happy with a deal that leaves women having to pay (potentially a lot of money) for the right to their own bodies, rather than having it granted automatically under the current “state says it’s legal and doctors say it’s needed so insurance has to cover it” deal.

      • Garrett says:

        This idea was generally referred to as a “high-deductible” plan, which Obama described derisively as house insurance in that it stops you from losing your house from a medical incident.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think health insurance that worked like insurance (high deductible plans, catastrophic health coverage) would require some kind of better-functioning market in medicine than we have to function well. If you can’t get anyone to tell you how much anything will cost ahead of time and people paying their own bill always get billed 10x what insurance pays, it’s hard to see this working very well.

          OTOH, giving everyone catastrophic healthcare coverage would make huge medical bills much less scary. I imagine this would also undermine much of the demand for health insurance–lots of healthy people carry it only to avoid having their savings drained by some surprise medical emergency.

          • Corey says:

            Many, many people already have what people are calling “catastrophic plans”.

            My family in-network deductible is $4000, then 20% coinsurance to $8000 out of pocket max. And this applies to everything (including prescription drugs), nothing has fixed copays except for things mandated to be zero-copay like clonidine and flu shots.

            Out-of-network is a separate set of deductibles/coinsurance/oopmax of $8000/50%/$16000, but out-of-network coverage isn’t very useful anyway because balance billing etc.

            This is the nicer insurance option (there’s a cheaper one) in an industrial company of 100,000 employees. The company puts $1000/year (for families) in your HSA.

          • Garrett says:

            would require some kind of better-functioning market in medicine than we have to function well

            Maybe. But there are other issues as well. For example, your car manufacturer will refuse to honor the warranty if the vehicle isn’t properly maintained. For example, they won’t cover a seized engine if you don’t get the oil changed.

            One of the problems with any healthcare market/system is that we need to find *and accept* the “and then you die” part. As others have noted, obesity is a major factor in major risk factors. Do we allow insurance to refuse treatment for obesity-related diseases? Or do we allow for price discrimination based on obesity level? (Neither is currently allowed under the ACA).

            Okay. Weight loss is hard. What about other things like diabetics failing to take their insulin? What about others failing to take prescribed medication at all? What about conditions caused by self-induced illegal activities? What about my (multiple!) patients who have known cat allergies, own multiple cats, and then call 911 because they are having difficulty breathing due to an allergic reaction … from their cats?!?

            One of the major arguments for having health insurance cover routine conditions is that it’s cheaper to catch/manage a condition earlier via detection and prevention than via late-stage/ER detection. That’s true. It’s also besides the point. That only makes sense if the use of that coverage will result in the patients taking the required action to get the benefits.

        • acymetric says:

          Was it really derisive? I always considered high deductible plans and HSA’s as something that was promoted as part of the ACA, but perhaps I was mistaken.

          • Statismagician says:

            Both are true. This sort of plan is very bad at being what you, personally, want for your health insurance, and very good at being what the government and your insurer want you to have – compare “Cadillac plans,’ which are broadly speaking in the inverse position and so get the snide nickname.

          • Cliff says:

            My high deductible with HSA works very well for me. I have no complaints. The “high” deductible is still modest and the HSA is a fantastic tax vehicle.

        • Nearly Takuan says:

          Pretty much every company I’ve worked for, big or small, rich or desperate or “startup” (aka desperate but in denial about it), the default health plan was officially called the High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and unofficially (by anyone who was actually on it) the “Don’t Get Sick” plan. The benefit was supposed to be that if you actually did manage not to need much medical care for a whole year, any money you’d sheltered in an HSA would still be there for later, so it’s sort of an extra savings account for retirement (doesn’t earn interest but also doesn’t get taxed when you use it or penalized if you need it earlier). But, most of us (myself included) needed literally 50% of the take-home pay each month for rent (sharing a house or apartment with 2-3 roommates), and big chunks of the rest for e.g. student loans, so there wasn’t much wiggle room to actually shelter anything even in a 401(k) plan or IRA.

          The HDHP annual deductible ranged from $5,000 to $12,000 depending on employer. Since my gross income was very far below $5k/month, rent payments were half of what taxes didn’t remove, and after everything else there wasn’t anything to save, “Don’t Get Sick” felt really accurate. Any catastrophe bad enough to make my insurance actually start paying out for anything would leave me homeless anyway, so how is that considered insurance?

          This year we’re much more secure and we wanted a baby, so I did the math and figured Plan #2 looked better for us. Our premium went up by $850 per month (they get a total of $1,800 between my employer’s contribution and what I end up paying for), but we still had a deductible: $2,500 per person. Like I said, we shot straight through that and hit the out-of-pocket max of $6,000 overnight, and insurance has been covering everything else (for my wife, that is: I’m personally still under my deductible and paying out of pocket for my own stuff). But according to their own paperwork, they’ve actually still only really paid out a total of $6,000 themselves this whole year. They already got that amount of money from me by April this year! I know they have their own employees to pay, lights to keep on, etc., but I still end up feeling like there’s something wasteful and vaguely unfair about the current system, to the point where even the Right ought to be pretty concerned about fixing it somehow.

          • acymetric says:

            The benefit was supposed to be that if you actually did manage not to need much medical care for a whole year, any money you’d sheltered in an HSA would still be there for later, so it’s sort of an extra savings account for retirement (doesn’t earn interest but also doesn’t get taxed when you use it or penalized if you need it earlier).

            HSA’s absolutely do earn interest, and once you’re above a certain threshold (maybe $3,000) you can manage it the same as a 401k in terms of investments (not necessarily with the exact same options provided by whoever manages your 401k, but the same kind of deal).

            The HDHP annual deductible ranged from $5,000 to $12,000 depending on employer. Since my gross income was very far below $5k/month, rent payments were half of what taxes didn’t remove, and after everything else there wasn’t anything to save, “Don’t Get Sick” felt really accurate.

            That is an absurdly high deductible. Are you sure that is the deductible, and no the out of pocket maximum? I haven’t seen deductibles higher than $3,500 single/$7,000 family for any employer provided high deductible plans I’m familiar with. Also, every employer I’ve seen offering high deductible plans automatically contributed half of your deductible to your HSA (even if you are contributing nothing yourself) every year. In some cases in perpetuity, in some cases for first x years of employment (usually 3-4).

            I think the companies you worked for just had particularly bad healthcare packages, not necessarily typical.

            Finally, high deductibles are not generally considered the best option for families with children or older people (50+, say) unless they started out in the high deductible plan early and (hopefully) stocked money away in the HSA while they were young/childless/healthy to cover the deductible when they are older/have children later.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t understand the math here. You were able to afford the $6000 out-of-pocket maximum plus a similar increase in premium, whereas if you’d stayed with the HDHP you’d have paid $5000-$12000 and no increase in premium. Looks like the HDHP was a much better deal.

          • Nearly Takuan says:

            Yes that was the deductible, not the out of pocket max. Which answers the other question: after hitting the $12k deductible I’d have either no bills left to pay (so insurance continues to not be insurance) or have 20% coinsurance on the remaining $3k to hit the out-of-pocket max on that plan. Ultimately there’s not that much difference, I suppose, and it’s probably true that if I’d had any money to save in an HSA before this the HDHP really would be a better deal.

            It’s possible I made some kind of mistake in my calculations that want obvious to me at the time. I guess the larger point is that my health care expenses got really high really fast (due to personal choice rather than tragedy in this case, but still), and all my other hard-to-reduce expenses were (and still are) also really high. The medical community presumably did everything it thought it could to reduce costs and put insurance on the hook for the rest. Insurance presumably did everything it thought it could to reduce costs and put my employer on the hook for the rest. My employer did everything it could to reduce *its own* costs and put me on the hook for the rest. Since the only money I can pay with when I’m on the hook comes from my employer, I put them back on the hook — if you’re not going to pay for me to not have a deductible, you’re going to pay for my deductible — and since they were reluctant to concede they lost an employee.

    • It seems to me that the essential first step in getting a well functioning private health care market is some way of altering incentives such that providers offer real prices to individual consumers, roughly the same prices they now end up negotiating with insurance companies. Looking at the information I get from my insurance company, the nominal charges sent to the company are many times larger than the actual amount with which the company settles the bill. If I had a way of arranging to get the same prices the insurance company does, I might well prefer to go without health insurance (aside from the fact that I’m now old enough to get Medicare, so am only paying the insurance company for coverage above that).

      I don’t know enough about the industry to know why that doesn’t happen or how it could be changed.

      • cassander says:

        forcing the providers to offer real prices won’t matter as long as consumers have no incentive to pay attention to them, but if you incentivise the consumers to care about the prices, the providers will quickly adapt (as can be seen in markets like lasik, psychiatry, etc.)

        • Corey says:

          This motivated me to google: CDC as of 2017 says, of adults 18-64 with employer-based insurance, 20% have a high-deductible plan with HSA and another 25% have an HDHP without an HSA.

          All these people are plenty motivated to care about price.

          Not to mention ACA plans, they have famously high deductibles (a popular anti-Obamacare talking point is that the coverage is “too expensive to use”).

          • acymetric says:

            20% have a high-deductible plan with HSA and another 25% have an HDHP without an HSA.

            What does with/without an HSA mean here? Anyone with an HDHP is eligible for an HSA, and I’ve never seen an employer offering HDHP without also having a servicer for employee HSAs. Does it just mean people aren’t putting money in, in the cases where the employer doesn’t contribute to the HSA automatically as part of the benefits package?

          • Nearly Takuan says:

            The percentage enrolled in an HDHP without an HSA increased from 10.6% in 2007 to 24.5% in 2017 among adults aged 18–64 with employment-based coverage.

            (CDC)

            I suspect what’s meant is that the employer does not open an HSA and contribute to it on the employee’s behalf, and the employee does not voluntarily contribute. Considering only about half of full-time employees even have any kind of retirement plan besides “savings & thrift”, I do not find this surprising.

          • acymetric says:

            I would speculate that a decent chunk of the 25% with an HDHP without an HSA work for employers that previously offered no insurance prior to the ACA, or are part-time employees where the company still offers them some (not very good) health insurance options, but I don’t know that for a fact.

      • Nearly Takuan says:

        I think you’re on to something.

        I also wonder if doctors and nurses are in the same awkward “seasoned professional in cushy white-collar job but living paycheck-to-paycheck” situation I’ve been in. It’s driven me several times to have to demand significantly higher pay from an employer I was otherwise happy with, and in all cases I ended up leaving because they didn’t move fast enough, and some other company with lower standards was offering literally 40% more (I’m unhappy about the lower standards).

        If health care providers in general are in the same situation — making much more money on paper than the average American but still financially very insecure because of the combined high costs of student debt + rent/mortgage + health insurance — then that could be driving up health care costs too.

        Next year I’m back on a high-deductible plan. I forget what the deductible is exactly but “too high” is the important feature: my mental math any time I get sick, feel pain, or notice an autonomous quivering lump growing out of my neck is going to be “shit, I’ll have to pay out of pocket if I ask a doctor about this”. And the scarier the condition seems, the higher I expect the price to be. I don’t want to die [of exposure], so rather than seek care when I’m firing out both ends, I’m likely to wait until I’m literally dying [of dehydration] to consent to letting someone take me to a health care provider. At that point the destination will be the ER, and the transport might well be a fully-equipped ambulance.

        This itself feels so wasteful! Most insurance plans I’ve been on try to incentivize preventative and diagnostic care by offering partial coverage and steep discounts well before you’d meet the conditions to have other forms of care covered. But those aren’t enough to counter the other incentive, to avoid paying $? out of pocket if I do go in. Like you said, I have no idea what the sticker price of that “preventative care” is until I go in, and experience so far leads me to believe I can’t afford it. All this leads to a behavior pattern where, even though I’m aware there’s a significant risk the cost will actually end up being much higher, I avoid preventative care unless somebody literally offers me $100 and an extra day of PTO to get checked. I’m a colossal burden on the system, I feel like I could not be otherwise, and I assume anyone in a similar or worse financial situation is behaving similarly. That’s a lot of colossal burdens!

        • Corey says:

          This kind of thing is common and has been going on a long time (e.g. see “RAND HIE” 40-odd years ago). Adding “skin in the game” reduces utilization, but does so across the board, it doesn’t just reduce “wasteful” spending and/or discourage ineffective treatments.

          That shouldn’t be too surprising since often even doctors don’t have a good idea of what’s effective or not (or are pushed into ineffective or unnecessary treatments for various reasons). Civilians have little hope there, and of course shopping around is difficult for all the other reasons in this thread.

          I’ve indeed seen proposals for negative copays for some preventive stuff (saving looking up links for an effortpost), in cases where it’d be a win from an expected-total-costs perspective, but I don’t know if any experiments have been done yet with it.

          • JohnNV says:

            Problem is that insurance contracts are for a year – at which point consumers (under the ACA) and employers fo group plans are expected to shop around. Which means that insurers have no financial incentive to cover preventative care via premiums. By the time you have whatever disease the preventative care would have caught earlier, you’ll be on a different plan. Many do anyway, but that’s by law, not because it’s in their business interests.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I doubt costs of living uniquely factor into health care costs except on a regional basis [and therefore apply to all businesses in a region] high living costs and high prices feeding on eachother.

          The only thing unique to medicine would be medical school costs.

    • Corey says:

      I might take a vacation from here and try to put together a health econ lit review for the group. Not that I’m particularly skilled in health econ or lit reviews.

      Your questions are good, but the level of discussion here is firmly stuck in “what use is half an eye?” territory. Maybe I can get some baraminology going at least.

  9. Iago the Yerfdog says:

    There was a theorist, whose name I can’t recall or find right now, who hypothesized that the rise of a civilization is a product of sublimated libido and the fall is linked with sexual decadence. The context in which his ideas were raised were to lambast modern sexual permissiveness for tempting people into gratifying rather than sublimating their libido, warning that it would lead to civilization decline.

    Let’s scrub the questionable Freudianism from the idea by recasting it in economic terms: in order to produce and maintain a complex civilizational infrastructure, there need to be a sufficient number of people with a higher preference for doing the things needed to build and maintain such an infrastructure than for seeking cheap thrills. If enough of those people change their preferences in favor of cheap thrills, then the maintenance won’t be done and the infrastructure will fall apart.

    As a cautionary tale, I can see some value in it, although I think the civilizational cycle, like the business cycle, is more complicated than just “the animal spirits” (for one thing, there’s a limit to how complex a system can get before the complexity has to be refactored, and each refactoring will also become increasingly difficult and costly).

    But the more crucial problem I see with the anti-sexual-permissiveness conclusion is that diminishing returns is a thing. At the beginning of a civilization, X amount of work will net Y reward. Each further investment of X nets less than the last (since increasing complexity increases the cognitive overhead costs and population growth increases coordination costs; but anyway why is not the point). As this happens, those cheap thrills start looking better and better.

    This isn’t an avoidable problem. You can only hope that you can reach an equilibrium where the effort required to maintain the civilization is just worth the opportunity cost.

    That leads me to my next thought: are there examples of civilizations which reached this equilibrium. The one that springs to mind is Ancient Egypt, which as I understand it was quite sexually permissive, even by contemporary standards in some ways, but managed to last 3000 years. (Obviously those weren’t the only factors.)

    China has a similar record, but I’m not familiar enough on what they did to manage this particular issue.

    • cassander says:

      You can only hope that you can reach an equilibrium where the effort required to maintain the civilization is just worth the opportunity cost.

      you can also just accept that the point of spending a couple hundred years building up a great republic is that your heirs can enjoy the couple centuries of decadence that follows. And since we’re clearly in a decadence phase, let your freak flag fly!

      but managed to last 3000 years

      Egypt had many periods of rise and fall within that period.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        Egypt had many periods of rise and fall within that period.

        Fair point; I’ll have to look further into this.

    • fibio says:

      I’m always skeptical of cyclical history theories. Partly, because they seem to have very little predictive power, but mostly because it seems to be part of the human condition that everyone thinks that things used to be better in the past. While the current war between generations feels new and scary, in truth you can dip into the sources for just about any historical period you care to name and find someone complaining about ‘how the youth of today are wrecking society’. That occasionally in history society was wrecked at that time, does not imply that these people were right.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        Well, the cycle that I’m interested in is simply “rise and fall”: civilizations build up their infrastructure then suffer a series of crises that result in their abandoning most of it.

        • fibio says:

          Because the infrastructure is no longer useful? If a city has its population cut in half by plague or war then they need half as many aqueducts, and maintaining the redundant ones is just wasteful. The same goes for military infrastructure if the great power across the water implodes into civil war. People build and maintain what they require, and when the greater context shifts they may have to change their priorities radically to cope.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because the infrastructure is no longer useful? If a city has its population cut in half by plague or war then they need half as many aqueducts, and maintaining the redundant ones is just wasteful.

            Or you need the same number of aqueducts, just not as large. And you can’t maintain half an aqueduct just because your ancestors overbuilt for your needs.

          • fibio says:

            Also a serious problem. Hence why all the Roman roads started disintegrating after the fall of the empire because no one needed that much transport capacity again for centuries.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Two examples I can think of from the top of my head.
            a) There are shifting lakes in the central asian steppes. Some people find utopical conditions, build a big cities around that lake, and build up a lot of infrastructure. Than the lake silts up. Two generations later those aqueducts, and irrigation channels leading to places that are basically desert. People return to a more nomadical lifestyle because the infrastructure that supported their agriculture just does not exists anymore.
            b) Some more powerful people close by, start extensive slave raids into a civilisation. Lacking the ability to fend them off militarily, the raided people disperse, start to develop economic modles that give more security than agriculture on the same fields year in and year out, they develop settlement patterns and livestyle that supports having to move fast. Build up infrastructure like agricultural terraces ans irrigation systems, that needs heavy investment and binds you to a place, become a liability. We know of cases where this happned in the last 500 years at least in Central Africa, in the Andes, and in SEA.

    • Ketil says:

      there need to be a sufficient number of people with a higher preference for doing the things needed to build and maintain such an infrastructure than for seeking cheap thrills.

      Hm. Perhaps the success of Western capitalist societies can be explained by a) women are attracted to power, b) men seek power in order to act out their hedonistic tendencies, c) under capitalism, power equals money, so men become entrepreneurs to impress the ladies, d) economic growth ensues. (Under other systems, power and thus sexual desirability is often derived from more destructive enterprises)

      In other words, the drive for sexual gratification is a vehicle for progress — A,K.A. the theory of the invisible hand job.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        the theory of the invisible hand job

        OK, that’s good.

        As a long-term guarantee against decline, this seems inadequate, though: money only tracks economic growth until someone figures out how to game the system through some form of financial sleight-of-hand.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        My armchair theory is that sexual mores in any culture that made it seem to specifically be about forcing men to work to pay for sex a lot. Which is achieved by raising greedy, sexually repressed women as well as discouraging practices such as seducing teenage girls who don’t yet know how to charge you properly.

    • Aftagley says:

      in order to produce and maintain a complex civilizational infrastructure, there need to be a sufficient number of people with a higher preference for doing the things needed to build and maintain such an infrastructure than for seeking cheap thrills. If enough of those people change their preferences in favor of cheap thrills, then the maintenance won’t be done and the infrastructure will fall apart.

      I kinda disagree I see it as – you need a significant number of people who’s desires for seeking cheap thrills don’t preclude their ability and willingness to build and maintain infrastructure. For example: if you have a talented engineer with a preference for going out every Friday night, but it doesn’t interfere with their professional capabilities, you’re golden.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Are you referring to J.D. Unwin?

      If so, interesting, because I just read this article about his studies.

      https://www.kirkdurston.com/blog/unwin

  10. HeelBearCub says:

    Well, I was planning on this post at some point anyway, might as well make it now given my reply to Thegnskald below.

    I turned 50 this year and I was starting to once again have pre-diabetic symptoms. Over the course of about 3 months I lost about 20 pounds, going from 225 to 205. I’ll explain how I did that in a minute, but I wanted to prime an intuition pump for people who think that dieting is as simple as “Calories in, calories out. ‘Cause physics”

    You observe that as more fuel is expended, you see vehicles going faster. This makes sense because of known facts of physics. You generalize that going faster for vehicles requires more fuel. (Don’t get hung up too much in the analogy. It’s an intuition pump, not a model.) You check many vehicles in your locale, and they each seem to follow this rule. You decide it must be true, as this is the only thing that makes sense from a physics perspective.

    Then one day, someone invites you on a journey outside your locale. Some of the vehicles cease expending fuel altogether. Their speed decreases and eventually stops, just as you expected. Surprisingly though, for some of these vehicles, after a period of enough duration, their speed now increases again without any expenditure of fuel at all.

    How can this be?

    You were in a marina, and now you are on open water, and the vehicles are sailboats. They had two modes of propulsion.

    The Ketogenic Diet (which Wikipedia rounds to low carb, which isn’t the same at all) purports to access a second mode of the human body’s means of “propulsion”. The observations are that (a) we require blood sugar to live, (b) not all foods are capable of being digested into blood sugar easily by our bodies, and (c) the body is capable of turning stored fat into available blood sugar.

    When you restrict your total carbohydrate intake to about 50 grams of carbs a day (as they are easily digested into blood sugar), AND also make sure your diet doesn’t consist mostly of protein (which can also be digested to blood sugar), THEN your body will, if deprived of blood sugar for long enough, start turning stored fat into blood sugar to satisfy your needs.

    And that is how I lost 20 pounds in relatively short order without restricting portions or counting calories. I did turn lots of meals into salads with fatty dressings being careful to avoid adding carbs in sneaky ways, like adding sugary vinaigrettes or things like beans. I did buy a ketone monitor just so I would know I was ketotic (and not at risk of keto-acidosis). I also very moderately increased activity (walking at a moderate pace several times a week, frequently just by walking a round of golf). I did tend to lose the weight in bursts rather than steadily. I did manage to stay keto over the families two week beach vacation (but failed to lose weight during it despite greatly increased activity). I didn’t ever feel hungry. After a few days, I didn’t particularly have any cravings for carbs.

    I have fairly easily maintained the weight, but I expect I will gain some back between Thanksgiving and New Years. Come January I will get back on the keto horse. If you want to try it for your self I found this website helpful for some basic info, and I bought my blood monitor from there. Can’t really vouch for the information there, as I certainly haven’t read past the basics.

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      If you want to try it for your self I found this website helpful for some basic info, and I bought my blood monitor from there. Can’t really vouch for the information there, as I certainly haven’t read past the basics.

      https://www.dietdoctor.com/ is also a good website for beginners.

      When you restrict your total carbohydrate intake to about 50 grams of carbs a day (as they are easily digested into blood sugar), AND also make sure your diet doesn’t consist mostly of protein (which can also be digested to blood sugar), THEN your body will, if deprived of blood sugar for long enough, start turning stored fat into blood sugar to satisfy your needs.

      Just noting here that it’s quite a substantial simplification. But it’s a decent one, since the real explanation would take another post of the same length or so, at least.

      And that is how I lost 20 pounds in relatively short order without restricting portions or counting calories.

      Gratz!

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Just noting here that it’s quite a substantial simplification. But it’s a decent one, since the real explanation would take another post of the same length or so, at least

        I should have made it clearer that I was providing a very crude approximation of the both the mechanism and the method for making it work. Thanks for providing more clarity.

        Although, now that I say that, I think for me at least, I really didn’t start with anything more than “Reduce your carbs really, really low. Be aware of how many carbs are in stuff you eat. Get some (very) moderate activity. Now check your ketones just to be sure.”

        And I actually didn’t check my ketones until a two or three weeks in after I plateaued at 5 pounds of loss after about a week.

        • HarmlessFrog says:

          Although, now that I say that, I think for me at least, I really didn’t start with anything more than “Reduce your carbs really, really low. Be aware of how many carbs are in stuff you eat. Get some (very) moderate activity. Now check your ketones just to be sure.”

          Nothing more is really needed, in many cases. Remove enough carbs, that’ll force the metabolism to upregulate fat oxidation, and with greater satiety of the regimen, there’s usually a spontaneous deficit via a combination of undereating and unconsciously increased BMR.

          And I actually didn’t check my ketones until a two or three weeks in after I plateaued at 5 pounds of loss after about a week.

          Playing around with macros is decent strategy for stalls. Curiously, both increasing protein up to about 30-35% and decreasing it to like 10% work for better results. Which is better seems to vary according to person.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I, too, have had success with ketogenic diets. But as I understand it, the conventional explanation for how they work is:

      1. The kinds of foods typically allowed on a ketogenic diet (meat, cheese, leafy vegetables, and small amounts of low-glycemic-index carbohydrates) tend to be much more satiating per calorie than the standard American diet.

      1a. Keto outright forbids a lot of low-satiation high-calorie bad habits: most notably regular soda and large servings of foods high in sugars and easily digestible starches.

      2. Keto vastly restricts your options for convenient impulsive snacking, so you wind up making much more of your eating decisions in far-mode rather than near-mode.

      3. Ketones in your blood stream have an appetite-suppressing effect.

      4. Some of the ketones you’re making are excreted through breath, sweat, and urine rather than being absorbed by cells and metabolized for energy. This excretion of excess ketones increases your effective “energy out” without any extra physical activity.

      #4 is the main thing backing the “metabolic advantage” benefits sometimes attributed to Keto, but the magnitude of the benefit of #4 is the subject of considerable debate. Last I heard, 1-3 combined to explain most or all of the observed weight-loss benefits of keto in controlled studies, as the experimental subjects’ weight loss was consistent with what would be expected from their activity levels and caloric intakes.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        1. The kinds of foods typically allowed on a ketogenic diet (meat, cheese, leafy vegetables, and small amounts of low-glycemic-index carbohydrates) tend to be much more satiating per calorie than the standard American diet.

        1a. Keto outright forbids a lot of low-satiation high-calorie bad habits: most notably regular soda and large servings of foods high in sugars and easily digestible starches.

        These sound like the major impactors to me. There’s been a recent study to objectively define a hyperpalatable processed food, and a ketogenic diet will exclude two out of three clusters. If you go full Guyenet on it (he’s not a LC proponent, but his recommendations are applicable), excluding added salt and making your meals mono-ingredient affairs like “mildly steamed steak”, that’ll be all of them.

        https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.22639

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I don’t think you are actually strictly describing keto. “Low glycemic index”, for instance, wasn’t a term I encountered in the keto literature. That sounds like Atkins or South Beach, other low-carb approaches.

        I certainly ate plenty while I was on the diet. Large amounts of nuts. Spoonfuls of peanut or other nut butters. I never found myself short on something to snack on. It may be true that my overall appetite was suppressed, but I didn’t have to do anything to suppress appetite.

        (4) is also true of blood sugar. And ketones (AFAIK) aren’t energy in and of themselves, just markers that the blood sugar you do have is generated from metabolizing fat.

        And this is the key point. If you want to lose weight, you (typically) want to lose body fat. There is literally no way to do this through dieting other than inducing your body to metabolize it. My (potentially flawed) understanding is that this is only possible by turning that fat into blood sugar. That is the available metabolic pathway. If you aren’t short of needed blood sugar, your body has no need or desire to metabolize that body fat.

        Here is one interesting upshot of this. If you measure blood sugar in the morning before eating, a number of 100+ mg/dL is considered to be pre-diabetic (126+ is considered diabetic). When you are in ketosis, a fasting number of around 100 or even over is pretty common (I experienced this). However, after I ate, my blood sugar would remain at essentially the same number (very much not pre-diabetic). This is because your blood sugar is no longer coming from your diet, but metabolized fat, thus it remains much more constant.

        • JohnNV says:

          Out of curiosity, has anybody looked at Keto diets in athletes? I’m a semi-elite marathoner and have a terrible diet, but running 50 miles a week allows me to get away with it. But I just turned 42 and know I won’t be able to keep this up forever… I do know that low carb + endurance training is a bad idea, but maybe there are workarounds?

        • HarmlessFrog says:

          (4) is also true of blood sugar. And ketones (AFAIK) aren’t energy in and of themselves, just markers that the blood sugar you do have is generated from metabolizing fat.

          They actually are used for energy. They’re a “substitute glucose” so to speak. This is important for the brain, because you can’t get medium and long chain fatty acids across the blood-brain barrier for oxidation, but you can get ketones (and short chain fatty acids and glucose) across. In a state of shortage of carbohydrate and substrate for gluconeogenesis, they’ll get produced to pick up the slack – you don’t want to malnourish your brain at any point. The brain will happily slurp up ketones, and what meager amounts of glucose are left can be used by tissues that can neither metabolize fatty acids nor ketones (the classic example is the red blood cell).

          There is literally no way to do this through dieting other than inducing your body to metabolize it. My (potentially flawed) understanding is that this is only possible by turning that fat into blood sugar. That is the available metabolic pathway. If you aren’t short of needed blood sugar, your body has no need or desire to metabolize that body fat.

          There are several energy-generating pathways here (and I’m necessarily simplifying here, and I’m not sure I know every single one, either).
          1. Carbohydrate (from the diet or from storage as glycogen) gets burned as glucose.
          2. Protein, depending on the particular amino acid, can get turned to either glucose and/or ketone bodies, and burnt like those.
          3. Fat has probably the biggest variety of oxidation modes:
          a) fatty acids can get turned into ketones, and get used similarly to glucose,
          b) glycerol (what normally holds fatty acids together) can get converted to glucose,
          c) fatty acids can get used directly by many cells (muscle, primarily), but according to the length of their carbon chains:
          – short chain fatty acids (below 6 carbons) are easiest to use, can even feed the brain,
          – medium chain fatty acids (between 6 and 10 carbons) can still be used rather easily, and regardless of insulin signalling, meaning you could eat pasta with MCT oil and still be in mild ketosis,
          – long chain fatty acids are easiest to displace from burning by hormonal signalling and availability of glucose.

          In general, the adipocytes constantly release and absorb fat. Even the carbiest of the carb eaters is burning some fat continually, but they’re not doing so exceptionally well (as can be seen in carb-adapted and fat-adapted athlete comparisons). Someone who isn’t eating carbohydrate will by necessity rely on gluconeogenesis (from protein and glycerol), ketogenesis (from fat and protein) and direct fatty acid oxidation. This does appear to make a large difference in how fast they can burn fat, wherever that fat is coming from.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Thanks for the more complete picture.

            they’re not doing so exceptionally well

            Can you expand on what you mean by the word “well” here? What is the difference between metabolizing body fat well and metabolizing body fat not well?

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You’re welcome.

            Can you expand on what you mean by the word “well” here? What is the difference between metabolizing body fat well and metabolizing body fat not well?

            The difference is about a factor of two in terms of peak fatty acid oxidation, using a graph from that low carb athlete study I linked JohnNV to above. A fat-adapted person has much greater capacity to utilize their own body stores, without refeeding. The carb-adapted person will do fine until they run out of glycogen, at which point they will “bonk” and need to get more carbs in, or slow way down – their demand cannot be met by fatty acid oxidation, because they’re not very good at that.

            Outside of sports, I suspect this is the mechanism for better tolerance of greater spacing of meals.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I don’t think you are actually strictly describing keto. “Low glycemic index”, for instance, wasn’t a term I encountered in the keto literature. That sounds like Atkins or South Beach, other low-carb approaches.

          I was intending to speak generally about low-carb diet approaches that aim to reduce carb intake to a level that can reasonably be expected to induce ketosis. This would definitely include Atkins and Keto (defined narrowly), but not necessarily South Beach. I’m most familiar with Atkins, which is probably why you’re hearing me use terminology more consistent with Atkins literature than narrow-sense Keto literature.

          I certainly ate plenty while I was on the diet. Large amounts of nuts. Spoonfuls of peanut or other nut butters. I never found myself short on something to snack on. It may be true that my overall appetite was suppressed, but I didn’t have to do anything to suppress appetite.

          That’s my experience, too, and it’s consistent with the findings I’ve seen in several studies: people following Atkins, Keto, etc tend to eat substantially fewer calories than their baseline diets, despite feeling full and making no particular effort to restrict portions or calories.

          (4) is also true of blood sugar. And ketones (AFAIK) aren’t energy in and of themselves, just markers that the blood sugar you do have is generated from metabolizing fat.

          My understanding matches HarmlessFrog’s: ketones are an intermediate step in metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids. They’re converted readily to and from acetyl-CoA, which is the main direct fuel input to the Krebs/citric-acid cycle.

          If you want to lose weight, you (typically) want to lose body fat. There is literally no way to do this through dieting other than inducing your body to metabolize it. […] If you aren’t short of needed blood sugar, your body has no need or desire to metabolize that body fat.

          This, I think, is fully explained by the naive calories-in/calories-out model. Your body metabolizes stored fat when it can’t get enough energy (even with energy-saving adaptations that kick in when you’re hungry) from recently-digested food and is running low on stored glycogen. So if you manage to reach a calorie deficit, your body will be burning stored fat regardless of whether you got there through calorie-counting, a ketogenic diet, exercise, or hard labor.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            This, I think, is fully explained by the naive calories-in/calories-out model. Your body metabolizes stored fat when it can’t get enough energy (even with energy-saving adaptations that kick in when you’re hungry) from recently-digested food and is running low on stored glycogen. So if you manage to reach a calorie deficit, your body will be burning stored fat regardless of whether you got there through calorie-counting, a ketogenic diet, exercise, or hard labor.

            Mind you, if we’re talking about starvation respnoses, as opposed to calorie restriction, the short-term effect is to increase BMR, not lower it. This may or may not have something to do with the anti-inflammatory properties of fasting, as it relates to lipostatic adiposity regulation. There does seem to be a major difference between “eating too little” and “eating nothing at all”.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10837292

        • For those interested in low glycemic index diets who, like me, are used to consuming a good deal of rice, it helps to discover that barley, unlike just about all other grains, has a very low glycemic index—25 for pearl barley, probably even lower for hulled barley. And it cooks up as a pretty good rice substitute, for eating with Chinese or Indian food.

          I was on such a diet for reasons unrelated to weight loss—for details see Bredesen’s book. But I ended up losing fifteen or twenty pounds. I suspect the reason was not something special about the diet but that the combination of sharply restricting what I could eat and fasting fourteen hours between the last meal of the day and the first meal substantially reduced the amount I ended up eating. I’m a little worried that, as I learn more about things consistent with the diet that I like, my weight may start going back up.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Seconding the recommendation for barley. I’ve found it to be similar culinarily to brown rice, but more flavorful and more satiating. It goes particularly well with beans and a bit of mild cheese.

            It’s also worth noting that most starchy foods are lower-glycemic index if eaten uncooked or if they’re allowed to cool to refrigerator temperatures after cooking. Much of the starch content of common starchy foods is in forms that are relatively inaccessible to our digestive systems (Type 1 Resistant Starches) and are converted to more digestible forms by cooking (and in the case of grains, by grinding to a fine powder). And when they’re cooled after cooking, some of the starch react with water in the food to convert to another less-digestible form (Type 3 Resistant Starch, or Retrograde Starch).

            The retrogradation process is why leftover rice, potatoes, pasta, beans, etc are generally drier and differently-textured than when they were freshly-cooked.

            There are also Type 2 resistant starches (naturally occurring starches that are relatively undigestible and remain so when cooked, most notably found in green bananas and high-amylose varieties of corn starch) and Type 4 resistant starches (synthetic/modified starches with similar properties to Type 2).

            In general, resistant starches are digested more like soluble fiber than like non-resistant starches: they pass through the small intestine mostly undigested and unabsorbed, and then are fermented by large-intestine bacteria. We absorb and derive nutrition from some of the bacteria’s metabolic byproducts, most notably medium-chain triglycerides, but this is a slower, less efficient, and much less glycemic metabolic pathway than breaking down non-resistant starches to simple sugars and absorbing them directly into the bloodstream in the small intestine.

            Fresh-cooked barley is significantly higher in resistant starch (type 2, I think) than most other cooked cereal grains, which I think is a major contributor to its low glycemic index. Cold-soaked oatmeal (mix rolled oats and milk in a 1:1 ratio by volume and leave in the refrigerator overnight) is also relatively high in resistant starch (type 1 in this case, since the oats are never cooked).

    • Aminoacid says:

      (Epistemic status: I am a Brazilian physician finishing up my residency in Internal Medicine, planning to follow-up with a residency in endocrinology; my English writing skills are rusty, so forgive me for the weird sentences)

      It’s important to keep in mind that the “fuel” for the human body is not sugar, fat or ketonic bodies, but Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). The hydrolysis of this molecule into Adenosine diphosphate+phosphate (ADP+P) is what provides energy to a lot of the metabolic reactions in the body. The energy we get from food is used to reverse the hydrolysis and turn ADP into ATP, and there are different metabolic routes for that

      Different tissues have different enzymes and different ways to handle the metabolic conversions. Cardiac muscle, for instance, can get all of the energy it needs from ketonic bodies (the kind of molecule the body uses to get the energy from fats) if they are abundant, but red blood cells can only stay viable if there’s glucose. The brain needs about 50% of it’s calories from glucose, and there are hormonal responses to assure that blood sugar levels never drop too low, and while SOME fat can be converted into sugar, it is only a small amount compared to bodily needs

      If that blood sugar is not coming from your diet, the body will get it from it’s reserves. In the first couple of days of carbohydrate restriction, it comes from Glycogenolysis (glycogen is a long sugary molecule stored in muscles and liver), but if you keep restricting carbs for more time, the body engages in Gluconeogenesis, the synthesis of new glucose molecules, and the main substrate used for that is protein, both dietary and endogenous. The less dietary protein, the more endogenous protein is used.

      If you keep a ketogenic diet for a while, you certainly will lose weight, but an important part of that weight loss will be of lean muscle mass, and by losing it, you decrease the amount of calories you burn by exercising (because you have less muscle to spend energy) and by resting (because it has a higher basal energy expenditure), and it is not uncommon for patients in ketogenic diets gain back the list weight in subsequent months (In Brazil, we call this the “afccordion effect”). Another thing to keep in mind is that an important part of the early weight loss is dehydration, because the body uses a lot of water both in the metabolic reactions and to eliminate the byproducts.

      Again, sorry about the english, let me know if there are phrases that are unclear

      (Also, don’t worry about ketoacidosis; unless you have type 1 diabetes and can’t produce insulin, or have end-stage renal disease, you won’t be able to cause it by your diet)

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        It’s important to keep in mind that the “fuel” for the human body is not sugar, fat or ketonic bodies, but Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). The hydrolysis of this molecule into Adenosine diphosphate+phosphate (ADP+P) is what provides energy to a lot of the metabolic reactions in the body. The energy we get from food is used to reverse the hydrolysis and turn ADP into ATP, and there are different metabolic routes for that

        The typical English moniker for ATP is “energy currency”; what you can make ATP out of is more often referred to as “fuel”.

        Different tissues have different enzymes and different ways to handle the metabolic conversions. Cardiac muscle, for instance, can get all of the energy it needs from ketonic bodies (the kind of molecule the body uses to get the energy from fats) if they are abundant, but red blood cells can only stay viable if there’s glucose.

        The heart actually prefers free fatty acids – it conveniently sits where it will get first dibs on anything coming from the gut – but will use any substrate if it can’t get them.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8891866

        The brain needs about 50% of it’s calories from glucose, and there are hormonal responses to assure that blood sugar levels never drop too low, and while SOME fat can be converted into sugar, it is only a small amount compared to bodily needs

        How much glucose the brain needs is not clear, 50% is the upper bound of the minimum; I’ve seen figures down to 25%. How much of the different particles it can get is somewhat limited by how high your ketones can go. It’s not usually beyond like 6 mM.

        The less dietary protein, the more endogenous protein is used.

        That’s not quite right. Starvation leads to less protein oxidation, as a measure to prevent excessive lean mass loss. At the same time, more gluconeogenesis is coming by way of the glycerol pathway. There’s good reason to believe that fat use in starvation is optimized to provide for gluconeogenesis, rather than for strict energetic efficiency (given that ketonuria occurs, as one example of energy wasting). Similar effects may apply to protein-restricted ketogenic diets.

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7647479
        https://sci-hub.tw/10.1146/annurev.nutr.26.061505.111258

        If you keep a ketogenic diet for a while, you certainly will lose weight

        You can totally get fat on a ketogenic diet, or at least increase your adiposity. I’ve done it. Three times – twice unintentionally, once purposefully. The question is just whether you are able to eat enough in general, and in particular enough protein. Eating nominally ketogenic ratios of deli meats is a simple way to get fat on a ketogenic diet.

        but an important part of that weight loss will be of lean muscle mass, and by losing it, you decrease the amount of calories you burn by exercising (because you have less muscle to spend energy) and by resting (because it has a higher basal energy expenditure), and it is not uncommon for patients in ketogenic diets gain back the list weight in subsequent months (In Brazil, we call this the “afccordion effect”).

        That’s one hypothesis why (the more effective types of) weight loss diets tend to follow a checkmark pattern (rapid loss, and rebound to a lower level). Personally, I think it’s people getting less strict with their macros, and cheating. There may also be an element of learning which foods taste the best, which would increase the food reward factor.

    • sidereal says:

      This doesn’t really pump my intuition. The paragraph “When you restrict .. THEN your body will..” in my mind still reduces to “when you eat fewer calories than you burn, then your body will…” (i.e., since calories and stored fat are essentially fungible)

      AFAIK, the simple CICO model must be true. But much is glossed over in the phrase “calories out” because energy levels, satiation, life satisfaction, etc. need not be fixed W.R.T. basal metabolic rate.

  11. proyas says:

    What percentage of metals mined from the ground make their way back into the Earth’s crust?

    For example, let’s say I mine a big boulder of iron ore and extract 1 ton of pure iron from it, which I use to make a car. After many years, the car goes to a junkyard, where it sits for a while and rusts. Some flecks of rust, which contain iron, fall off, crumble into bits, and go into the soil or are washed down waterways until they get to the sea. Even if the car is melted down and the iron recycled, the recovered iron will be less than 1 ton. How much less?

    I ask the same question for other other metals.

    • pqjk2 says:

      I guess you need to specify a timescale, because the answer becomes “all of it” at some point

      • Eric Rall says:

        I guess you need to specify a timescale, because the answer becomes “all of it” at some point

        Not quite all of it, just something like 99.99+%. The Apollo landers and the Voyager, Pioneer, Mariner, Viking, etc probes, for instance, aren’t coming back to the Earth’s crust unless we go out and get them. But that’s a small fraction even of stuff we send into space: anything in LEO will eventually suffer from orbital decay and fall back to Earth in a matter of years or decades without stationkeeping burns, and even the upper stages of lunar/interplanetary payloads are generally on orbits that intersect the Earth’s and are likely to hit the Earth at some point in the next few million years or so. There’s a chance they’ll hit the Moon instead, but a much smaller one since the Moon has much weaker gravity and no atmosphere to exert drag on a near-miss.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I think one interesting way to frame this is (maybe) how much returns to the earth’s crust per year.

        For example, we obviously turn a great deal of iron into steel, which turns into buildings. Buildings may last for decades. If we’re putting up buildings fast enough, we might match whatever turns into rusted cars and goes back into the crust.

        Then again, it might be moot, if it turns out there’s so much iron that we’ll never use it all up before the sun goes red giant.

      • proyas says:

        Good point!

        My timescale is 200 years.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          On first blush I think the answer to that is zero. The cycle from surface to crust is on geologic timescales, millions of years. The entirety of the history of Homo Sapiens isn’t enough to see significant recycling of surface to interior.

          The first google link I found says that one complete cycle is currently estimated at 500 million years.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That 500 million is recycling of the entire crust. Moving things from the surface into lower parts of the crust happens much more quickly. For an extreme case, the K-T boundary formed instantaneously, at least in geological terms.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ok, but how much of today’s cars and construction debris will be back in the crust in 200 years? I still think it’s essentially zero.

  12. JonathanD says:

    People of SSC,

    I think I remember a discussion of history podcasts targeted at youngish (8 – 10) kids from a few threads back, but my search skills have failed me. Anyone else remember this thread or have sharper skills than mine?

    • EchoChaos says:

      I asked for history BOOKS and got some good recommendations (my kids loved Horrible Histories), but I haven’t asked for podcasts and if there was such a thread I also missed it. I would also love such recommendations.

      • JonathanD says:

        Horrible Histories was it. My kids have been listening to the Past and the Curious and Goodnight Stories for Rebel girls, which are both fun historical podcasts, but they’re both narrow in their focus. For example, the rebel girl one had the story of a woman who was a WWII spy (Virginia Hall), but not much context. (Which we’re obviously filling in, but I would like it if we had something that roughed in the larger picture without us having to do it.)

        ETA: Thanks!

      • Björn says:

        I’m glad your kids loved Horrible Histories. Did you discover the various other science spin offs yet?

        • EchoChaos says:

          Nope.

          One thing to add that my kids really love that may be of interest to some here is the “Manga Bible” series, which is written by Christian Japanese and really quite a lot of fun.

          They just dropped the last book in the series, Manga Majesty, about the book of Revelation.

    • roystgnr says:

      I thought I came across Extra History (YouTube, though, not podcast) here several threads back. But the only relevant mention I can find is a response to a narrow “my kid is interested in Swedish history” query, not a general discussion of history series.

  13. hash872 says:

    Found this article floating around online- TLDR, a Brazilian academic is explaining culturally why he thinks Brazil does not have strong, 1st world country institutions- Brazilians are overly warm/friendly, and can’t establish ‘impersonal, formal relationships’. In his example as a professor, he says that his students view him as their friend, and can’t understand that he has a formal role as a professor- who may give them low grades on a project, have higher standards for work, not let things slide, etc. One can easily imagine lots of other examples, particularly around corruption.

    https://notesonliberty.com/2019/11/28/why-some-countries-are-stuck-in-poverty/

    I’ve heard variations on this argument before- there’s the whole ‘Catholic Church reduced kin-based ties in Europe which lead to impersonal roles, which lead to institutions’ that Scott posted in his Links Piece earlier this week. And of course many developing countries have tribal or ethnic ties (or Sunni/Shia or something) that are more important to them than formal, institutional jobs like cop or banker or government minister.

    I personally find these type of sociological arguments for national differences fascinating- I understand SSC has a vocal ‘race/IQ crowd’ that wants to explain development patterns by innate genetic intelligence, but I do prefer the cultural ones. Would be interesting to hear people’s thoughts

    • EchoChaos says:

      Culture is undoubtedly as powerful as race unless you’re monomaniacal about the subject. We know that directly from examples like Chile, where they have a very low corruption culture despite being racially pretty similar to the rest of South America.

      • AnteriorMotive says:

        I mean, I don’t disagree with the broader point, but Chile is racially very different from the rest of SA. Chile and Argentina were overwhelmingly populated by European immigrants: Spanish, French, German, Italian… whereas the more northerly are of majority Amerindian descent.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I knew about Argentina, but my understanding was that Chile was substantially mestizo.

          This is pure “Wikipedia research”, but for example Venezuela is 51% mestizo and 44% white, Colombia is 37% white, 49% mestizo, while Chile is 52% white and 40% mestizo.

          At an “eyeball look” that’s pretty similar to me. Am I missing something that is important and only visible on deeper dive?

        • Erusian says:

          No, Argentina was substantially settled by European immigrants who came there in droves in the late 19th and early 20th century. Meanwhile, Chile has never had a major migration movement after the initial Spanish influx (which mixed with natives). European migration into Chile was tiny: less than that received by Uruguay in absolute terms, and the population of Uruguay is tiny compared to Chile’s.

          Chileans and Argentinians are similar in that the majority of the population identifies as white whereas the majority of (say) Mexicans identify as mixed. But if you want to make a genetic argument, Chileans are Spaniards mixed with indigenous Chilean peoples while Argentina are more recent European immigrants. (And, as you’ll note, Chile’s doing quite well while Argentina… not so much.)

          • AnteriorMotive says:

            You guys could be right. It’s very possible I was overly lumping it in with Argentina, and generalizing too much from a few acquaintances. Mea culpa.

          • Chalid says:

            FWLIW, Argentinians look really white. Buenos Aires felt like the whitest big city I’ve ever been to.

          • EchoChaos says:

            This actually makes the argument stronger. Chile’s institutions and culture are so good that it makes a country that demographically is similar to Colombia outperform Argentina, which is demographically more similar to the US or Canada.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @EchoChaos: if Chileans have good Western institutions and identify as white at the same rate as Argentinians despite objectively different genetics, that’s evidence for culture rather than genetics being destiny.
            This isn’t a piece of evidence that’s going to please either Leftists or racists.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Which pleases me as a non-leftist and non-racist.

          • If one is going to use the racial mixes in South America as evidence for or against racial effects, it’s worth distinguishing the relevant ancestral groups. People may be non-white either through Amerind ancestry or through African ancestry or both—presumably a very few through East Asian, but I don’t know how they get classified. The standard IQ claim is that Africans have a lower IQ than Europeans, East Asians a higher, and I think Amerinds as high or higher than Europeans.

            If a population with a lot of Amerind ancestry does well that tells us nothing about whether claims about the effect of population IQ are true.

          • Erusian says:

            @DavidFriedman
            If that were the case, you’d have a pretty close to perfect test case in that some regions of Latin America imported African slaves and others didn’t, depending on the needs of the local labor market. Not only that, but you have a pretty nice gradient of how many slaves were imported and the populations were often geographically distinct in obvious ways.

            This doesn’t really bear out racial explanations though. While it’s true Haiti (which heavily imported slaves) is the poorest country in Latin America per capita, the second poorest is majority white. Honduras, which is third, has almost no African ancestry (and a not great average IQ score). Meanwhile, at the top of the distribution you have Mexico (which is extremely diverse: there’s even a significant Asian population mixed in), as well as Barbados and Dominican Republic (which have predominant African ancestry). In fact, the wealthiest whitest country in Latin America (Argentina) is famous for being a complete basket case whose economy has been losing its position for the last century.

            You could, of course, make the argument the IQ effects are still there and are offset by something else like poverty. But then we’re getting into the question of how useful IQ is for predicting outcomes on a societal level. If you want to argue that Dominicans or Barbadans are genetically lower IQ than Argentinians and yet somehow better governed, that at least requires a significant explanation against the null hypothesis.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @DavidFriedman: Chile and other southerly parts of the Spanish Empire have a genetic history of indigenous + European settlers (Argentina being an outlier as we’ve discussed). Neither Chile, Peru nor Bolivia got many black slaves AFAIK. Brazil (Portuguese) imported a truly huge number of African slaves, so they tend to be a mix of those two immigrant streams, and indigenous people’s tend to be isolated in the Amazon. The Spanish Caribbean was mostly slave plantations, though racial mix varied by island (Cuba has plenty of white Hispanic people). Mexico is very diverse, and maybe also the Grand Colombia countries, though I know very little about that.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think culture and history explain a lot more than race when you’re looking at different countries/regions with very different cultures and histories. You can see this looking at the differences between North and South Korea, or East and West Germany during the cold war, or the changes various countries have gone through as they industrialized.

      Race/IQ differences seem a lot more useful for understanding patterns within a culture or nation. It’s also plausible that the local IQ distribution drives culture and economic development, but I’m not sure how you’d get strong evidence for or against this.

    • Tenacious D says:

      With respect to Brazil, my understanding is that the culture is quite different between the north and the south–especially in the sorts of ways that are relevant for this sort of discussion (i.e. patterns around institutions, education, and employment).
      The scope of the slave trade in Brazil was enormous. Something like 5x as many Africans were shipped to Brazil as to the US; the slave trade also lasted longer there. Northern Brazil is where the plantations were concentrated and where the cultural legacy of slavery is the strongest (I assume–I haven’t been there).
      Much of the population of southern Brazil (say Sao Paulo and the states to the south and west) originates from more recent waves of immigration. It’s a more industrialized region, with good modern infrastructure.
      I think Rio would be roughly on the border between these regions that have had quite different founding populations and historical experiences.

      • b4mgh says:

        You are right in that the culture is different between the North and South. More specifically, the Northeast and the South. The term “North” is used here to refer mostly to the states covered by the Amazon rainforest, which is sparsely populated and not very significant in cultural or economic terms. The “Northeast” refers to the various small, coastal states where the Portuguese first settled. The population and culture of the Northeast are the target of several stereotypes, most of which are negative. These include: laziness, stupidity, lack of education, poverty, overnatalism, machismo, corruption, and violence. Stereotypes tend to be based on a kernel of truth, and I can unfortunately attest that this is the case with some of these. One of my friend’s family moved from the Northeast to the South motivated by two things: search for better economic opportunities and escape from violent family feuds, where a slight committed one or two generations back meant that two or more large extended families had been killing each other for years.

        When we use the term “South” we usually refer to the three southernmost states. The economic center of the country, São Paulo, and the cultural center, Rio de Janeiro, are both in the Southeast. These do feature a culture that differs from that of the Northeast, but less than the South, and they are also different between one another (both are cities that don’t sleep; SP because of its business culture, and Rio because of its bohemian culture). This is because there has always been significant economically-driven migration from the Northeast to other areas, primarily São Paulo. Northeasterners are a common sight in both cities. Rio is the more violent one, in part because there the underworld is shared between several criminal factions in constant conflict, while in SP there is a stable monopoly under a single faction. The Southeast, especially the SP region, received a significant influx of European, Middle-Eastern, and Japanese immigrants during the late 19th and early 20th century, motivated by the opportunities in the blooming coffee industry.

        Lastly, there is the actual South. Generally speaking, this region is less rich than the Southeast, but features the best quality of life in the country. Historically, immigrants to this area have been mostly European; primarily Italian, German, Pole, and Ukrainian. There has for centuries existed a separatist sentiment among the peoples of these three states. This sentiment expressed itself in the form of violent rebellions, which were crushed by the central government. More recently, there is a movement which continues to advocate for this separation through peaceful means. The recent decrease of quality of life in Rio (mostly in the form of increased violence and deterioration of public infrastructure) has caused a slow exodus to other parts of the country, with the South (specifically Curitiba) being a popular destination. As a Southerner, I am troubled by these developments, as the people from Rio bring with them the culture that caused these problems in the first place, and I support the separatist movement despite the negative impact secession would have on our economy. Plus we’d get a cooler flag.

        • Tenacious D says:

          Thanks for the clarification and additional information. I had no idea there was a separatist movement in the (actual) South.

          • Aminoacid says:

            I would be hesitant to call it a movement; as a memeplex, it is not exactly rare, but serious support for southern separatism is less common than supporting the return of the monarchy or of the military dictatorship

    • viVI_IViv says:

      I’ve heard variations on this argument before- there’s the whole ‘Catholic Church reduced kin-based ties in Europe which lead to impersonal roles, which lead to institutions’

      But Brazil is mostly Catholic, its European settlers mostly came from Portugal, Italy and Spain. In fairness these are three of the four PIGS: countries with relatively high corruption and poorly functioning institutions for Western European standards, but they are still much better functioning than anything in South America.

    • hnrq says:

      I think I’m one of the few Brazillians here, so I can at least confirm what is said in the article. Relations here, even professional ones are very personalistic and “intimate”, and this happens even at the highest levels (CEOs, Ministers of State, Congressman, etc). However, I don’t think its all negative, and I really don’t think this is the actual reason for the lack of success of the country. On the positives:
      1. Brazillian people are very happy for their income levels when you look at the indices, and I think this is in large part due to these cultural traits.
      2. This is not always bad in business. I would actually be very interested in some kind of study that analysed this, but I think there should be several benefits. Just one (kind of dumb) anecdotal example I can think of is how much better brazillians are in (class or job) presentations compared to americans.

      It might be that Brazil hasn’t had the time to perfect what is the best corporate culture to exploit these cultural traits in the best way, and instead we borrow from a more traditional anglo-centric corporate culture that doesn’t work as well. Also, Brazil has had very few time in what could actually be called a real market economy, which I think is the main reason for the lack of development.

      I should also add that the perspective of this particular author is not that good. He seems to be your typical right-wing brazillian middle aged man, and talks about basically the same talking points of Bolsonaro’s party, which are flawed in many ways, even from a more libertarian point of view.

      • I’m reminded of a description by an Israeli friend of living in Israel. Using a bank teller takes a long time, because he chats with people. And it also fits the impression I get of immigrant Ashkenazi culture from Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish.

        Both very successful populations.

  14. Anyone know of good sources on the historical ineffectiveness of medicine and when it started saving more people than it killed?

    • Zephalinda says:

      “Medicine” is very underspecified here (does useful public health messaging count as “medicine”? What about the large proportion of public health messaging that is bogus but still science-y, like the Food Pyramid? What about sanitation? What about the social effects of when you go to the doctor and somebody listens to you, which makes you feel less alone and maybe kinda sorta reduces your overall stress-related inflammation levels?)

      Also underspecified and probably unspecifiable: “saving… people”– given that the vast majority of modern healthcare comprises interventions that trade off small shifts in risk against one another, or against partial, possibly-subjective reduction of symptoms.

      Given this, plus the ethical issues in conducting RCTs for ostensibly life-saving interventions, plus the fact that rank-and-file providers don’t appear to practice anything like evidence-based medicine, plus the general paucity of research on harms of treatment outside a few very obvious things, plus the general replication crisis, plus pervasive confounding by a million other non-healthcare variables… I have no idea how anyone could begin to rigorously investigate whether modern medicine has ever started saving more people than it kills. Like, I’ve seen some people try to make a case either way, but never in a persuasive or well-evidenced fashion.

      • albatross11 says:

        Maybe a useful heuristic would be to work out the fraction of medical problems for which you would have a better expected outcome by going to a doctor than by avoiding the doctor.

        In modern times, an example of “go to the doctor” would be when you’re having serious asthma. There are effective treatments for asthma that will reliably stop an asthma attack and that can do a good job controlling asthma. Getting on some long-term steroid inhaler plus getting a rescue inhaler is a huge win.

        In modern times, an example of “stay home” would be when you have a bad cold. The doctor can’t do anything to treat your cold that you can’t already do yourself, but you may catch something worse while you’re at the doctor’s office.

        In 1800, I imagine a good example of “go to the doctor” would be if you had a broken arm. The doctor could probably set the broken bone and help you heal up better.

        In 1800, I imagine a good example of “stay home” would be basically any infection. The doctor had nothing useful he could offer you to treat it, and since nobody knew what germs were, anything he did including shaking your hand had a good chance of giving you something else to fight off.

        • Zephalinda says:

          I feel as though those easy “go to the doctor”/ “stay home” narrative scenarios are precisely what we can’t use, though– or at least, not with nearly the confidence that generally gets attached to them.

          In the case of asthma, maybe the modern narrative is “This is a Very Bad thing, sniff our inhaler or you will die” (I don’t know– don’t have asthma). It might make sense mechanistically that an inhaler treats the symptoms of asthma and makes a patient feel better. But:
          –do we have good data– like, unbiased, non-industry-funded large-sample blinded RCT data– on actual disease course and long-term outcomes with passive management of serious asthma versus inhaler use at various levels? IIRC John Ioannidis et al did a meta-analysis of recent meta-analyses at some point and found that only a teeny number, like 25 of thousands, found a high-quality evidence base that clearly supported a particular treatment.

          –Have potential complex/ multifactorial/ long-term and subtle harms from inhaler use been extremely well-investigated, so we can quantify exactly how much health you’re giving up by reaching for the inhaler when you get short of breath? I bet they did studies on the five most obvious and immediate bad things that could happen to you, but there’s just no methodological way to trace low-level interactions with other systems, and I doubt we know the basic biology well enough to be able to predict all the possible effects.

          For that matter, what about the different prevalence of many diseases in past vs. modern societies? The hygiene hypothesis might suggest that our having asthma in the first place is partly the fault of modern medicine with its fanatical anti-germ messaging. A fair amount of observational data also implicates acetaminophen, definitely part of modern medicine, as a cause of asthma— but there’s no clear answer one way or another. Point Present, or Point Past?

          And finally, on the other side, most people don’t have nearly the grasp of medical history that’d allow us to say confidently which diseases were untreatable/ stay-home-and-die propositions in historical context. Premodern medical texts have a gazillion recipes for antiseptic ointments. I understand some of them were pretty effective, but we can’t compare with Neosporin because they didn’t collect the data back then, so who knows?

        • mtl1882 says:

          While Zephalinda’s points have merit, I generally think your way of looking at it makes sense. From my historical research of mid-late 1800s America, the impression I get is that doctors were helpful for fixing broken bones, but when it came to infections, which probably make up most health complaints, you were better off staying home. Because they did not understand germs, their assessment of most things was pretty off.

          They did notice patterns and have some skills and knowledge, but their confusion about cause and effect meant they weren’t actually all that helpful. And many things they did understand were hard for them to do anything about—they understood a good deal about various internal organs, but they didn’t have X-rays and couldn’t see much until the person was already dead, and couldn’t cure diabetes or much internal bleeding.

          Some other clear benefits doctors were capable of providing: mastectomies for women suffering breast cancer, smallpox vaccinations, quinine for malaria, amputations of infected limbs, opening up the skull to relieve pressure on the brain after a head injury, etc. But these things could easily end badly.

          The passing down of knowledge thing was certainly important, but a lot of these things did not require a ton of expertise. Anyone who was observant and good and puzzling things out, and who worked with tons of people and witnessed things, was a real gem, and many of these people were doctors, but they weren’t the majority of doctors, who got stuck in bubbles and arrogance like anyone else. And most of these were not just ignorant, but possessed actively harmful ideas and put them into practice. So the medical profession in general did not become noticeably beneficial until the germ thing got worked out and practice standardized. I mean, there really were not many standards, so quality varied *widely* and quackery was common until the very end of the 1800s.

          And I don’t get the sense that being wealthy played a huge role—doctors just couldn’t do all that much, for anyone. And the few who knew something really useful were probably just as likely to be family doctors who dealt with huge numbers of ordinary people, and generalists. In the relatively small number of cases where doctors knew what they were doing, and quality of care made a difference, I’m sure the wealthy benefited. Certainly there were tons of high priced expert doctors marketing themselves to wealthy people in the big cities, but they weren’t necessarily better. People certainly *thought* doctors helped, much of the time, but what they describe as being prescribed is easy to recognize as nonsense today.

          Look at what happened with James A. Garfield’s medical care after he was shot for a good illustration of some of this. After the Civil War, people seem to have been generally healthier–fewer stories about death in childbirth and cholera epidemics. But I think that was due to various advances in technology, lifestyle, and general social organization/sanitation, and people having fewer kids.

        • John Schilling says:

          While Zephalinda’s points have merit, I generally think your way of looking at it makes sense. From my historical research of mid-late 1800s America, the impression I get is that doctors were helpful for fixing broken bones, but when it came to infections, which probably make up most health complaints, you were better off staying home. Because they did not understand germs, their assessment of most things was pretty off.

          But we don’t care whether their “assessment” was off, we care whether their treatments are effective. And you don’t need the germ theory of disease to reduce a fever, or rehydrate a cholera patient. If you can do these things, then that helps the patient whether the doctor thinks the underlying cause was a germ, a miasma, or a demon.

          For that matter, you don’t need the germ theory of disease to e.g. use honey as a topical antibiotic for wound infections. If it works, and it apparently does, then it doesn’t matter whether the doctor’s assessment of the underlying physiology is “pretty off”. The Sumerians figured out that honey works, thirty five centuries before Pasteur. Not knowing why it works, didn’t stop them from successfully treating infections.

          Like the OP, I’d like to see a good evidence-based assessment of premodern medical practice, the costs and benefits thereof. But those are hard to find, compared to the ubiquitous “Ha ha! They believed in humours and leeches instead of germs and antibiotics, bunch of murderous quacks!” dismissals, and those are just the historical equivalent of quackery themselves.

          • As I mentioned, I talked with a historian who had apparently done what you wanted, using data on the British aristocracy over several centuries. Unfortunately I don’t remember her name, but she was the wife of Paul David, a Stanford econ professor.

          • the ubiquitous “Ha ha! They believed in humours and leeches instead of germs and antibiotics, bunch of murderous quacks!” dismissals, and those are just the historical equivalent of quackery themselves.

            Read up on the life and times of Ignaz Semmelweis, then tell me that the null hypothesis shouldn’t be that doctors at the time were indeed a bunch of murderous quacks.

          • DeWitt says:

            Read up on the life and times of Gilles de Rais, and tell me the null hypothesis shouldn’t be that aristocrats are indeed a bunch of sociopathic serial killers.

          • Read up on the life and times of Gilles de Rais, and tell me the null hypothesis shouldn’t be that aristocrats are indeed a bunch of sociopathic serial killers.

            Okay, the circumstances leading to Semmelweis’s death can be dismissed on Chinese robber grounds, but I see no reason to assume the hospitals in London were any less lethal. It’s true that Semmelweis is just one datapoint, but he was one of the first to bother collecting data.

          • John Schilling says:

            Okay, the circumstances leading to Semmelweis’s death can be dismissed on Chinese robber grounds, but I see no reason to assume the hospitals in London were any less lethal.

            The bit where someone shows up with an obviously cherrypicked Chinese robber, usually is pretty good evidence that other Chinese people are less prone to robbery

          • mtl1882 says:

            But we don’t care whether their “assessment” was off, we care whether their treatments are effective. And you don’t need the germ theory of disease to reduce a fever, or rehydrate a cholera patient. If you can do these things, then that helps the patient whether the doctor thinks the underlying cause was a germ, a miasma, or a demon.

            I guess I didn’t articulate my point very well, but I don’t disagree at all with your point that effectiveness is a separate issue from knowledge. I argued that doctors were notably ineffective in the 1800’s, in large part because they didn’t understand enough to figure out the effective treatment, and in large part because they lacked the technology to be effective in the areas that would give them a major impact.

            It’s obviously subjective, but when I say “notably ineffective,” I mean that when it comes to the health problems that doctors are able to help large numbers of people with today, the doctors were usually useless or worse. Their lack of knowledge about germs meant they did not think of sterilization, which compromised the effectiveness of all their invasive treatments. But even if they had gotten that right, most people go to doctors because they already have an infection, and doctors couldn’t do anything about that. They had no antibiotics. They could give some basic supportive care, but so could a non-doctor who had some experience caring for others. It usually wasn’t sophisticated.

            If you got injured, doctors had no X-ray machines or steel rods. They couldn’t tell if you were internally bleeding much of the time, and when they could it was hard to repair. If you had internal organ damage, you were generally done for. For things like childbirth, the effectiveness of doctors’ was doubly minimized, because not only did they introduce infection, but there was very little they could do to be beneficial to offset this risk. There were some things they could do, but the most obvious things we would think of (C-section, stopping major bleeding, repairing injuries, detecting abnormal fetal heart rate, putting a very premature baby on a ventilator) were not feasible. They could do little to help with the diseases of aging that take out most people—medications for heart and blood pressure issues, or diabetes, for example.

            Of course, something like advising hydration makes a huge difference, but people don’t need doctors to tell them to give someone water if they are burning up with fever. I don’t think they suddenly caused a sea change. I know some people must have been wrong about this, *but so were doctors.* It is crucial to understand that the doctors were flat out wrong on major things, sometimes more wrong than average, because abstract theorizing can go as awry as superstition.

            I have read an account from the mid-late 1800’s where a child who grew up with educated Boston parents describes having some flu-like illness and being told by his mother that he can’t drink any water, per the doctor’s orders! And how thirsty he was, such that he snuck into the kitchen and got some when she was asleep, despite how ill he was. He also describes a cholera epidemic in which his parents told him he could not have any fresh vegetables, as they thought this was the culprit. They were correct in the association—cholera is water-borne, and fresh vegetables would have been washed. So they were effective without medical advice. And doctors didn’t have much luck with effective cholera treatment.

            They didn’t understand what the small pox virus was, but their treatment was effective. That is one area where they were beneficial. But they couldn’t do anything for people with actual smallpox. They knew that quinine cured malaria, although they did not understand the disease came from mosquitoes. They realized it was connected to swamps, and told people to move away from them in warm weather, so that was a benefit, but not a realization unique to doctors. They could do a mastectomy, because breast cancer *can* be easy to detect and remove before it spreads, but they were unsuccessful with doing anything to stop the advance of most other cancers. The question was about when it started saving more people than it killed. If I had to judge based on my reading, it’s not clear to me that there was a net benefit until around 1900. My opinion is, of course, worth little and highly subjective, but it was intended as an assessment of the actual effectiveness.

            Like the OP, I’d like to see a good evidence-based assessment of premodern medical practice, the costs and benefits thereof. But those are hard to find, compared to the ubiquitous “Ha ha! They believed in humours and leeches instead of germs and antibiotics, bunch of murderous quacks!” dismissals, and those are just the historical equivalent of quackery themselves.

            I don’t think we will ever have enough evidence to do a rigorous analysis–the records that would account for the relevant variables just don’t exist. And, the medical profession was not at all standardized, so it is really hard to generalize as to the impact of “medicine.” Most doctors worked in communities, trained by local doctors. On more specific issues, such as when the survival rate of certain surgeries became favorable, it would be possible. Doctors who specialized tended to keep track of each other, and had a common knowledge base that they built on. I do agree with you that “ha! quacks!” is too simplistic—on some things, they were quite effective, and they often were smart and logical. But it wasn’t like they generally stumbled on antibiotics and used them effectively, albeit for the wrong reasons—they didn’t use them at all, nor did they possess an effective alternative treatment.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        If it helps, I think the question was prompted by a disagreement we had in another thread where he proposed that pre-modern doctors had no net benefit to society because their theories and research methods were so shoddy, and I countered that having a class of people who pass on their experience treating illness and injury arguably mattered more, in a positive direction.

    • I don’t know a source, but I had a conversation with a historian who had studied the question (and happened to be the wife of an economist I was having dinner with, as I remember). She had taken advantage of the fact that there is very good demographic data for the English aristocracy, going back a fair ways. Her conclusion, as I remember, was that it was in about the 18th century that access to the best quality medical services available, which the aristocracy had, produced a significant benefit.

      The economist was Paul David, but a quick google search doesn’t tell me his wife’s name.

  15. Plumber says:

    A common story I’ve seen is that older Americans (born before 1965) lean Republican Party, and Younger ones lean Democratic Party, but that hasn’t been my experience amongst those I know face-to-face.

    The now customary generational divides I usually see are

    Silent Generation“: born from 1925 to 1945

    Boomers“: born from 1946 to 1964

    Generation X“: born from 1965 to 1980
    and
    Millennials“: born from 1981 to 1996

    and usually polling charts show how those different generations politically lean compared to each other (often with Generation X lumped in with either Boomers or Millennials because we’re such a small minority compared to the two generations we’re sandwiched between).

    While age definitely correlates with political leanings, it’s seems more “wavy” than the big generational blocks, and from Pew Research’s A Different Look at Generations and Partisanship (from 2015, data from 2014), I see some interesting (to me) nuance, and hopefully those of you who’re more numerate (or just have better eyesight for reading charts and graphs) than me will take a look and see if I sussed it right.

    Those born around 1934 look to lean Republican the most, and those born around 1984 the most Democratic, there’s lots flux and birth year political leanings don’t match the customary generational divides, i.e. most “Silents” and “Boomers” vote for Republicans, but the very tail end of Silents (those born 1943 to 1945), and the oldest Baby Boomers lean Democratic, younger Baby Boomers lean more Republican, and older X’ers are more Republican than younger ones, elder Millennials lean the most Democratic of any age cohort, younger Millennials are a bit more Republican than older ones but still mostly Democrats (according to the 2014 polls).

    There’s lots of back and forth, but it looks to me that births around the third to fifth year in a decade (1943-’45, ’53-’55, ’63-’65, etc.) is when partisan leanings flip for their age cohorts when they become adults, usually folks keep voting for whichever party they supported as young adults, but folks under 40 just don’t vote as much as their elders.

    So some predictions based on that:

    If a Democrat doesn’t win the Presidency in 2024 (when the most Democratic leaning birthryear turns 40, and the oldest “Millennials” turn 43) with that strong of a tailwind the Party really messed up.

    Assuming a Democrat won in 2022, a Republican victory looks most likely to happen again in 2032 (those born in ’94 learn a bit more Republican than those born in 1984).

    I wish I could find more up-to-date polls that should the leanings of folks of different ages (besides the big customary “generations”) but my take away is that differences within the “generations” are as significant as those between ‘generations’ [or that the customary generational demarcations are LAME, and should be changed! I’d go:

    Get off my lawn you damn hoodlums! Generation: born before 1941

    “Listen to the Flower Children” Generation: born between 1942 and 1955

    Richard Hell’s “I belong to the Blank Generation”: born between 1956 and 1971 (he was actually born in ’49, but I’m ignoring that)

    “Metallica Rules” Generation: born between 1972 and 1985

    Napster Generation: born between 1986 and 2000

    Those Hoodlums Generation: born in the 21st century (so named until they are old enough to and actually bother to vote!) though even shorter cultural/political “generations” have merit]

    • EchoChaos says:

      If a Democrat doesn’t win the Presidency in 2022

      That would be a major Constitutional issue! Do you mean 2020 or 2024?

      As a proud member of the “Metallica Rules Generation” by your analysis, I found it pretty interesting. I’ll try to respond longer soon.

    • LesHapablap says:

      I was born in 83, we often wanted to be part of generation X because we saw them as cool (in a cynical MTV, Reality Bites way) but unfortunately we were Gen Y. Now years later we are getting lumped in with the millennials but I don’t think that is right: Millennials should be defined by growing up with smartphones/cell phones, internet, and heavy duty helicopter parenting.

      • Plumber says:

        @LesHapablap >

        “…Millennials should be defined by growing up with smartphones/cell phones, internet, and heavy duty helicopter parenting.”

        What birthyear would you say should be their start?

        • LesHapablap says:

          Looking at Wikipedia, they consider Gen Y to be just another name for Millennials: born 1981 to 1996.

          It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong; I am not a big man.

          Millennials ought to be from 1991 onward. Online social media presence during formative years is what I think defines them, even more than cell phones, smart phones or internet. They are the generation that most curates their life to present to others via social media for approval.

          • acymetric says:

            I tend to agree with you, and might even be inclined to push it a few years later to 1994 or 1995 (young enough that they would barely remember an era before smart phones). That would give us “Gen Y” of 1981-ish to 1995, a slightly small but reasonable generation, and then millenials 1996-2012 ish. This seems about right to me in terms of how similar I think people of various ages are (I am 31 and have much more in common with 36 year old Gen-Xers than 25 year old millenials in terms of cultural interests andchildhood experiences).

          • LesHapablap says:

            Maybe more important than technology were the parenting trends. I’m nowhere near qualified to speak on that. Though my parents were much more ‘helicopter’ than most others of my age, and I had to wear a helmet while riding a bike, they were nothing compared to today’s parents.

          • Murphy says:

            On paper I’m a millennial… but I’d argue that the defining factor is more about the 2008 crash. I think millennials are better defined by whether they got fucked over by the crash.

            There was an entire cohort who , just as they were graduating and looking for their first real job or while they were in the most vulnerable stages of their career were hit by the 2008 crash. That group continue to suffer financially from the early disruption to their careers because when the starter posts they would have taken re-opened there were more appealing new-grads.

            I just barely scraped by ahead of the crash so it only harmed me a little.

            Some of my friends didn’t and it fucked them over hard and I think their experiences better define the “millennial” generation.

            The smartphone generation are mostly post-millennials.

          • acymetric says:

            @Murphy

            That is an important age group to look at as a distinct demographic, but it doesn’t cover enough years to be a generation, and is also more dependent on when you entered the work-force than your birth year (which also makes it harder to track that demographic properly unless you only look at college graduates and go by graduation year).

          • Plumber says:

            @Murphy says: “On paper I’m a millennial… but I’d argue that the defining factor is more about the 2008 crash. I think millennials are better defined by whether they got fucked over by the crash.

            There was an entire cohort who , just as they were graduating and looking for their first real job or while they were in the most vulnerable stages of their career were hit by the 2008 crash. That group continue to suffer financially from the early disruption to their careers because when the starter posts they would have taken re-opened there were more appealing new-grads.

            I just barely scraped by ahead of the crash so it only harmed me a little.

            Some of my friends didn’t and it fucked them over hard and I think their experiences better define the “millennial” generation…”

            As an aside, this year I came across the “Old Economy Steven” ‘meme’ and while pretty funny, they’re flat out wrong as ‘Steven’ (judging by his attire and haircut) looks to me to be a High School senior circa 1977 to 1983.

            Those weren’t boom years, unemployment was very high in the early ’80’s (and things weren’t sunshine and puppies in the late ’70’s and latter ’80’s either), someone who entered the workforce earlier (late ’40’s to very early ’70’s) or later (mid ’90’s) than “Steven” likely had an easier time finding work.

            Yeah 2009 was awful, but ’82 was no picnic either

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Looking at Wikipedia, they consider Gen Y to be just another name for Millennials: born 1981 to 1996.

            It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong; I am not a big man.

            Millennials ought to be from 1991 onward. Online social media presence during formative years is what I think defines them, even more than cell phones, smart phones or internet. They are the generation that most curates their life to present to others via social media for approval.

            I tend to agree with you, and might even be inclined to push it a few years later to 1994 or 1995 (young enough that they would barely remember an era before smart phones)

            Sounds like y’all are just mistaking the generation after Millennials for Millennials. A quick skim over the various names for Gen Z shows those factors at work: “iGeneration”, “Digital Native”, etc.

            Millennials adopted the social media. Gen Z was born in it, molded by it…

            Maybe more important than technology were the parenting trends.

            Speaking from experience as a 1990 with younger siblings, helicopter parenting had yet to kick into full swing until Gen Z, too. Our whole neighborhood could still do all/most of the things you see 80s kids doing on TV. Likely a transitional zone but the edges of generations always are.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            As an aside, this year I came across the “Old Economy Steven” ‘meme’ and while pretty funny, they’re flat out wrong as ‘Steven’ (judging by his attire and haircut) looks to me to be a High School senior circa 1977 to 1983.
            Those weren’t boom years, unemployment was very high in the early ’80’s (and things weren’t sunshine and puppies in the late ’70’s and latter ’80’s either), someone who entered the workforce earlier (late ’40’s to very early ’70’s) or later (mid ’90’s) than “Steven” likely had an easier time finding work.
            Yeah 2009 was awful, but ’82 was no picnic either

            Memes are peddled by a lot of people who graduated post 2009, so I highly doubt a lot of these people experienced the actual bust of the recession.
            Also while Millennials suffered in the recession, so did a lot of other people. My Dad was laid off and never recovered. I worked for a company that restructured/laid off something like 20% of their workforce, and the people who were laid off had poor skills and likely did not find equally gainful employment.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’ve posted about the 2008 recession compared to earlier ones before. If you’re looking for good times in the economic figures, you won’t find them when the actual Boomers were entering the market (yeah, some of them saw low unemployment. Looks great until you realize why).

            The late Xers had a decent time (I, alas, graduated into the 1992 unemployment peak). The early Millennials hit the post-2000 bust, but this was fairly small as far as unemployment goes. The late Millennials hit the 2008 recession of course, which had a wide unemployment peak; it was 5 years before recovery to the levels of the post-2000 bust.

            The saddest news, especially for those who want to tear down the system because of the bad deal they’re getting, is that the best time appears to be right now.

            (and even established professionals lost in the 2008 crash; the company I worked for laid off half the company including me, and I got out of the next company I joined, which had a round of pay cuts, shortly before it went under)

          • Plumber says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy, and @The Nybbler,

            Bless you and thanks.

            I remember in ’82-’83 many stories of unemployment, and the numbers of beggars increased dramatically (finally diminishing in the late ’90’s).

            In ’86 when I left high school jobs were scarce, and in ’92 I was layed off from a low paid job that I had for four years and me and the women who later became my wife survived on her (larger than mine) unemployment insurance checks.

            Things picked up in ’93 and ’99 was booming but by 2001 I felt cursed as every place I worked at for the last 15 years was out of business.

            Yeah 2009-’11 was bad and I knew those who lost their homes, street beggars increased, and many compared it to 1929-’34, but to me it looked just like 1981-’83.

            I’ve seen complaints that “Boomers own all the housrs”, but I’ll further note that while I see a sprinkling of younger “gutter punks” most beggars and sidewalk sleepers I see look to me to be in their 50’s to their ’70’s, so even if a life outdoors makes them look 15 years older than they are that still makes most of them X’ers and Boomers, not Millennials and Zoomers, Hell my Silent generation Dad went homeless for a while until he turned 65 and got into public senior housing.

            It would be nice if it was ’99 forever (or ’71, ’55, ’28, etc) but t’ain’t so, and yeah a cohort of Millennials got shafted, but you don’t have to go all the way back to the ’30’s to find other young adults who didn’t do as well as those born a few years earlier or later, plus while it’s true that those who graduated into a poor economy usually stay behind compared to those who entered the job market in a boom, it’s also true that most of those who have “involuntary early retirement” usually never recover either.

      • zoozoc says:

        I was born in ’90 and I disagree with your definition of Millennial. Perhaps you aren’t aware (or perhaps I am wrong) that Gen Y and Millennial are the same generation?

        The generation that grew up with smartphones and social media already existing is currently unnamed but is the generation after Millennials.

        I do agree that older Millennials have quite a different experience than younger Millennials, but that is true of every generation grouping.

        • Dan L says:

          The generation that grew up with smartphones and social media already existing is currently unnamed but is the generation after Millennials.

          Gen Z is pretty commonly used, as is the nonsensical-but-fun-to-say “Zoomer”.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Yeah, Zoomer is pretty great for the young generation just because of the fun factor. Plus they’re young and my Zoomers do indeed run around a lot. So it works for me.

      • meh says:

        The term for what @Plumber is calling ‘Metallica Rules’ is the microgeneration Xennial or ‘Oregon Trail Generation’

      • gbdub says:

        “Millennial” was intended to denote “coming of age near the turn of the millennium”. The iPhone didn’t come out until 2007. Facebook didn’t launch until 2004 and was limited to universities for a year or so after that. So only the youngest Millennials could be said to have grown up with social media and smartphones. I’m a millennial and I didn’t have a PC until elementary school, internet until middle school, an MP3 player until high school, or a smartphone until I’d been working full time for a couple years.

        The problem is that blaming Millennials for everything was so fun that young Boomers and old Xers are still griping about “Millenial kids these days” when there are Millenials with kids themselves who are in high school.

    • Eric Rall says:

      [or that the customary generational demarcations are LAME, and should be changed!

      Absolutely agreed. I was born in 1981, which makes my a Millennial by most people’s categorization, but I feel a lot more cultural/generational kinship with people born 5-10 years earlier (solidly within the bounds of Gen X) than with people born 5-10 years later (solidly Millennial), and I’m a much better fit for Gen X than Millennial on lists like this. My wife (born in 1983) also feels more Gen X than Millennial.

      It also bothers me that the length of the generations changed for no readily apparent reason: Boomers and Silent Generation by the dates you listed get 21 and 19 years respectively, while Gen X and Millennials only get 16 years each. Keep a flat 20 year span from the Boomers onwards, and that moves the cutoffs to 1965, 1985, and 2005, which I think is a better fit for the facts on the ground.

      Alternately, rather than arbitrarily pegging a fixed 20-year window, you could anchor “generation” definitions to defining events of early adulthood. For example:

      “Greatest Generation” were of military age during WW2 (born 1918ish-1927)

      “Silent Generation” reached adulthood during the post-WW2 “golden age” (born 1928-1943)

      “Boomers” were of draft-eligible age during large-scale US involvement Vietnam (born 1944-1957)

      “Generation W” (for want of a better name) came of age after Vietnam, but before widespread adoption of personal computers (born 1958-1970ish)

      “Generation X” came of age with microcomputers/personal computers, but before 9/11 and when the the Dot Com crash settled in (born 1970ish-1984).

      “Millennials” came of age before unemployment returned to pre-9/11 levels (born 1985-1999ish)

      “Generation Z” is everyone post-millennial. It’s too soon to define their end-of-era generational event (born 2000+)

      I’m a little unhappy about how short a lot of these came out, and I found myself fudging the endpoint years a fair amount to make the result come out vaguely reasonable, so maybe a milestone method isn’t as viable as I’d thought.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The author has the dates of Oregon Trail (1971, 1974 for general release, Apple ][ release 1978) and the mainstreaming of the personal computer (1979, with the first “killer app”, Visicalc) wrong, which makes that “generation” longer than he claims; it includes most of Generation X.

          • Eric Rall says:

            The most iconic version of the Oregon Trail wasn’t released until 1985. The game written in 1971, published in 1974, and ported to the Apple II in 1978 was a spiritual forerunner to the 1985 version, but it was a very different and much simpler text-based game. The designer of the 1985 game has a very good article online describing the original game and the changes he made in designing the sequel.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I didn’t realize the later game was so different. I did play the older text based game, but very little of the later game.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I had the converse experience: I grew up with the 1985 version and only recently found out about the 1971 original.

      • acymetric says:

        1985 and 1999 just can’t be in the same generation. That generational split really needs to be in the 90s somewhere, so we’ll need to massage the years for previous generations accordingly. Everything up to that point made tons of sense though.

    • Tenacious D says:

      One more older millennial chiming in. My casual definition of the generation is “old enough to remember 9/11 but young enough to still be in school” (which makes it fuzzy at each end but that’s a feature not a bug). On technology, I agree with @zoozoc–it’s the generation following millennials that grew up with cellphones and social media as the norm (and all the issues that may go with that), while our generation experienced the adoption of these things (personally, my first computer use was on Windows 3.1, for example). I think your label of “the Napster generation” is apt, as it captures the sense of the internet still being a bit of a wild west during our formative years.

    • EchoChaos says:

      My feelings on “Generations”. Just like race, they have fuzzy boundaries (everyone is debating the end of Gen X and beginning of Millennials), but the broader truth is still there.

      My wife and I have pretty sharply different generational outlooks and perspectives (she’s six years younger than me and solidly Millennial) and even different motivations for our views, although we’re both conservative.

      I can totally believe that there are in the margins a tendency politically, but I don’t think it’s terribly sharp. Mostly older generations are more conservative (small c) for two reasons. One, society drifts left, so if you had the exact same views as JFK, you’d be to the right of Donald Trump, and two, older folks have more avoidance of change because they’ve seen too many changes go badly.

      Note that small c conservative can absolutely mean voting for the liberal party. This is why younger blacks are more likely to be Republicans than older blacks, for example (both are substantially more likely to be Democrats).

      I do think that the Democrats are mildly favored in 2024, but that’s for the purely secular reason that only once since World War II has a party held the Presidency for three consecutive elections (and I think Trump is a favorite to win in 2020).

      As for boundaries, I’ve always liked the 18 year generations with occasional breaks for “BIG EVENTS” like the end of WWII, which puts the Boom at 1945-1964, X at ’65-’82, Millennial at ’83-’00 and Gen Z ongoing to “just finished and started a new one”.

      They are necessarily fuzzy. Someone born in ’83 with most of his siblings in the late 70s is going to feel pretty X, someone born as a first child in ’82 with all the rest of the family in the 80s is going to feel Millennial, but I think they’re decent. That also puts all of X out of high school for 9/11 and all of the Millennials high school or younger, which I think also fits well.

      • albatross11 says:

        and two, older folks have more avoidance of change because they’ve seen too many changes go badly.

        This defines me (I’m in my early 50s). For the last few years, every time there’s been another moral panic or big social crusade, I’ve pattern-matched it with previous moral panics/social crusades which mostly did more harm than good or expended a lot of energy to little benefit.

        I had a conversation with my 18 year old son awhile back, where I pointed out that I could see all the same broken things in our society that he could–the difference between us was just that I’ve lived through a lot of attempts to fix those broken things that ranged from not very effective to doing a lot more harm than good, so I’m less enthusiastic about a movement to make radical changes to fix them.

        • EchoChaos says:

          This is a similar conversation that I’ve had with my father, a wise old Silent Generation Republican.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos > “…my father, a wise old Silent Generation Republican…”

            Oh we’re talking our kin now?

            Sadly I wouldn’t call any of my family ”wise” (though that’s true of most people, some folks I’d call “wiser than me”, but probably less than one-in-a-hundred folks would I call “wise”), the closest maybe would be my grandmothers.

            My Mom was born in 1946 and she very much is an early Boomer, Joan Baez and Doors records, et cetera. 

            My step-father was born in ’42 (so “Silent generation”) and on reflection his politics are close to mine, a pro-union Democrat alternately amused or frightened by the further Left. Strangely (except for filling in at a bait shop) his last full-time job was years of working at a gun shop (which the City of Oakland  eventually closed down via a special tax) where most of his co-workers were much younger Republicans.

            My father was born in ’37 and…

            …yeah I’m gonna refrain from talking about his politics this time, suffice it to say I see a lot of him in me and I regard him as a cautionary example. 
            He liked fishing (but not as much as my step-father), owned guns (but not as many as my step-father), went hunting (which my step-father never did), and he had an enormous book and record collection. He loved blues, country, folk, and jazz and I remember him listening to Hank Williams a lot (many of his tastes my step-father shared, which really showed me that a “generation’s culture” exists), I think that my father (despite being from New Jersey) really wanted to be a “Negro” and a “Red neck” somehow at the same time.

            My father’s mother was very much an Irish Catholic, regretfully she lived on the other side of the continent and I didn’t see that much of her but what I did see made me fond of her.

            I never knew my father’s father.

            My step-fathers mother I knew, and she was very much a “Jewish old Lady” out of a Seinfeld episode. 

            My mother’s mother (born in California of two German speaking parents) kept a German book of Lutheran martyrs that she inherited from her father, and she kept quiet about politics except for that she didn’t like Palin and did like Biden.

            My mother’s father was born in 1917 and he wasn’t wise, in many ways he was “simple” (he hardly read anything beyond “Readers Digest” and Louis L’Amour “westerns”), but he was the greatest man I’ve ever known and the reason I’m writing this post. Unlike my mother and her husbands (and probably my grandmother) he was a Republican (like his father), he was the most patriotic man I’ve ever known, and he taught me patriotism. 

            When I was four years old I saw him ward off a charging Elk by throwing a rock at it, saving me, my mother, and my grandmother. 

            He came to California in the 1920’s from Kansas “riding the fender of Model A Ford”.

            As a youth he picked crops and worked in a tomato canning factory (and decades later he still wouldn’t ever eat tomatoes).

            As a prank he dismantled a friends car and rebuilt it on a roof. He was a brilliant mechanic, and his mechanical skills (originally honed by working on tractors) led him to get jobs as an airplane mechanic (in the middle of the Great Depression!) including being the mechanic for movie star Errol Flynn’s (who he said was “a good Joe”) for a time.

            By ’41 he got a better paying job at Douglas Aircraft and by coming up with an idea to speed production was moved from the assembly line and into office work as an aeronautical engineer without a college diploma.

            He volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World war 2, became a test pilot, and (unlike his brothers) he never left the western hemisphere during the war, but he was due to be assigned to a bomber crew for the invasion of Japan and he told me and my brother: “If Truman hadn’t dropped the atom bomb then your mother and you may never have been born”.

            After the war he went back to Douglas Aircraft and worked for decades at McConnell-Douglas as an engineer, and was particularly proud of some plane he designed for the Navy.

            Unlike most of his generation that I’ve known he never seemed dour (maybe because while he served he, unlike his younger brothers, wasn’t sent into combat) and I only saw him get angry twice: once over the Iranians taking Americans hostage, and once when my grandmother said she’d “give up years of my life to get that dog back”.

            According to my mother he literally died laughing. 

            He pretty much was my model of what a  man should be like.

            “Greatest generation” indeed. 

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            Oh we’re talking our kin now?

            Wasn’t intending to, but I love the stories. Thanks for the view!

            My dad is indeed wise (and the pastor of our church). It isn’t exactly a term I throw around lightly.

            My dad was born in ’44, served in Vietnam after he graduated West Point and was career Army. Toughest, wisest and kindest man I’ve ever known, his advice is still valued.

            My mother was born in ’51, so very Boomer. Grew up in the D.C. scene (was actually Christy Ford’s teacher, so had very strong views about THAT confirmation). Started a vaguely centrist Democrat, moved hard right after marrying my father.

            Both sides of my father’s family were officers in WWII (Cavalry and Army Air Forces), because my family has always been “professional”, even when we’ve been poor. Both sides of my mother’s were government bureaucrats in the Treasury Department.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos,
            I failed my saving throw and can’t resist anymore!

            “…Both sides of my father’s family were officers in WWII (Cavalry and Army Air Forces)…”

            Air Force, not tobacco farmer and member of the House of Burgesses?

            I think only the secondmost cavalier who ever cavaliered then!

        • Silverlock says:

          I had a conversation with my 18 year old son awhile back, where I pointed out that I could see all the same broken things in our society that he could–the difference between us was just that I’ve lived through a lot of attempts to fix those broken things that ranged from not very effective to doing a lot more harm than good, so I’m less enthusiastic about a movement to make radical changes to fix them.

          Any particular examples? War on drugs? War on poverty?

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      Your electoral predictions interest me, because they agree with ones from a different methodology – the “date and eight” rule: if the 8s bit of the year in binary is 0 (i.e. the year is 0 or 4 mod 16) then Republicans win the presidency; if it’s 1 (i.e. 8 or 12 mod 16) then Democrats do. It’s held for every single election since 1944 except for 1980, and while it might just be an example of https://xkcd.com/1122/, I think it’s also plausible that there’s a genuine thermostatic effect in US presidential elections on around that timescale.

      In C:

      (int) year & 0x8 ? winner = Democrats: winner = Republicans;

    • Aftagley says:

      A common story I’ve seen is that older Americans (born before 1965) lean Republican Party, and Younger ones lean Democratic Party, but that hasn’t been my experience amongst those I know face-to-face.

      Personal experience here: if I interact with someone whom I believe to be under the boomer age threshold, I just assume we’re on the same page socially. We might argue about political differences, but we’re going to be arguing about who has to bake the cake at the gay wedding, not should the gays be allowed to have the wedding. I find this not to be the case with people above the boomer threshold.

      I think that breaking it down as Democratic vs. Republican might cause you to miss the underlying signal that, at least in my experience, the younger generation is markedly more progressive than the oldsters.

    • Purplehermann says:

      Do the general differences between blocks hold for individual states? Because I think only swing states really matter for this type of generational shift, and if the shifts happen mostly in true blue/red states, the differences won’t really change the elections

  16. ECD says:

    A few open threads back, someone asked about the accuracy of climate models. I lack the expertise to evaluate (and the access to read more than the abstract), but just stumbled across a paper that claims to review that question. The plain language summary states:

    Climate models provide an important way to understand future changes in the Earth’s climate. In this paper we undertake a thorough evaluation of the performance of various climate models published between the early 1970s and the late 2000s. Specifically, we look at how well models project global warming in the years after they were published by comparing them to observed temperature changes. Model projections rely on two things to accurately match observations: accurate modeling of climate physics, and accurate assumptions around future emissions of CO2 and other factors affecting the climate. The best physics‐based model will still be inaccurate if it is driven by future changes in emissions that differ from reality. To account for this, we look at how the relationship between temperature and atmospheric CO2 (and other climate drivers) differs between models and observations. We find that climate models published over the past five decades were generally quite accurate in predicting global warming in the years after publication, particularly when accounting for differences between modeled and actual changes in atmospheric CO2 and other climate drivers. This research should help resolve public confusion around the performance of past climate modeling efforts, and increases our confidence that models are accurately projecting global warming.

    • Frederic Mari says:

      Kevin Drum has a blog post on the topic and simplifies the graph : https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2019/12/climate-scientists-get-an-a-for-their-warming-predictions/

      To me, the imprecision of some models seem high but a -11% average is indeed pretty reasonable.

      https://library.wmo.int/doc_num.php?explnum_id=10108

      David Friedman was acting pretty relaxed b/c, well, who cares about a 1C degree increase? And it’s true. 1C is nothing.

      The problem is that it’s not 1C. It’s +4-5C in summer and -3-4C in winter. And the difference between 30C and 35C in summer is pretty drastic. It will screw up your quality of life. Unless you live in Kuwait and then it doesn’t matter – you can’t put a foot outside anyhow and are forced to live inside with AC in all cases.

      But I’m also concerned about the increase of extreme weather events. Heat waves are a pain in the neck. California fires seem to be seriously inconveniencing Californians…

      And, in Syria, drought + political fragility = civil war (see again that book I mentioned about the 17th century changing weather patterns being responsible for the death of 1/3rd to 1/2th of humanity from Europe to South America and including Asia and Africa)

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_issues_in_Syria#Five_successive_years_of_drought_(2006-2011)

      Not to mention…

      https://www.pasteur.fr/en/research-journal/news/tiger-mosquito-returns-france-51-departements-red-alert

      So, yeah, saying “oh, it’s only 1C on average, over 30 years, what are you crying about, you little sissy?” doesn’t feel like an adequate response. I do get the refusal to panic when, so many times, panics have been artificially inflated. But there’s a difference between the “moral panic” about D&D in the 80s and climate change.

      And, don’t get me wrong, maybe technological progress will solve everything. I’ve just heard about a company proposing to use solar energy to produce industrial heat (apparently, the biggest consumer of fossil fuels). Their pitch is “yep, we just solved climate change”. I hope they’re right.

      But the least we can do is treat this issue as the life threatening concern it is…

      • Chalid says:

        Unless you live in Kuwait and then it doesn’t matter – you can’t put a foot outside anyhow and are forced to live inside with AC in all cases.

        Maybe “you” can live inside, but surely these cities depend on a lot of laborers who need to spend a lot of time outside?

      • DarkTigger says:

        Two thoughts:

        So, yeah, saying “oh, it’s only 1C on average, over 30 years, what are you crying about, you little sissy?” doesn’t feel like an adequate response.

        While I agree to your point, I think your description of David Friedmans (the only person you name) way to argue is a little uncharitable, and won’t help to convice him and others.

        And, don’t get me wrong, maybe technological progress will solve everything. I’ve just heard about a company proposing to use solar energy to produce industrial heat (apparently, the biggest consumer of fossil fuels).

        We have the technology since 30 f***ing years. Winning heat from solar power is laughable easy and way more efficient than electricity. The problem is, it would be needed to be placed decentrally by local companies, who would still need to have access to a base load infrastucture, and no one wants to invest in that.
        You can propose all you want. If you can’t deliver an system that can be integrated into existing sites and amortizies in 5 years, nothing will change.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          Winning heat from solar power is laughable easy and way more efficient than electricity.

          IIRC, industrial heat is almost always generated by burning the fuels directly at the factory, not from electrical heat. So “more efficient than electricity” isn’t really the relevant benchmark.

          Furthermore, I presume you’re talking about systems where sunlight is concentrated by mirrors and directly used to heat tubes of water or whatever, then that hot fluid is used to transfer the heat to whatever needs heating? That doesn’t work unless it’s currently sunny at your factory. If you had a method of switching the power source between sunlight and fuel, the system could reduce your power bill on sunny days, but at the cost of installing and maintaining additional, more complex infrastructure. I’m also not sure how much land area you’d need to power a factory. Energy efficiency aside, I think the more important metric here is economic efficiency. Is a [pulls number out o rear] 15% reduction in your annual fuel bill more or less than the cost to build and maintain this new system?

          • DarkTigger says:

            IIRC, industrial heat is almost always generated by burning the fuels directly at the factory, not from electrical heat. So “more efficient than electricity” isn’t really the relevant benchmark.

            I was talking more generally about using surfaces to collect solar energy. At least a third of all our energy needs are heat. Winning heat heat from solar power is far more efficient, and heat is easier to save than electricity. I just happen to think solar/thermal should be talked about a lot more.

            Furthermore, I presume you’re talking about systems where sunlight is concentrated by mirrors and directly used to heat tubes of water or whatever, then that hot fluid is used to transfer the heat to whatever needs heating?

            Solar thermal collectors can deliver surprising amounts of heat even on cold cloudy days. But for higher temperatures, you probably need mirrors, or some kind of heat pump.

            Energy efficiency aside, I think the more important metric here is economic efficiency.

            Well, yes. That’s what I meant. If a system is not able to pay for itself in a reasonable short amount of time, no one will invest in it.

        • Frederic Mari says:

          You’re right – I should be more polite/careful. David Friedman has been nothing but nice and his demand for rigour doesn’t seem isolated since he similarly was pushing back on someone talking about death rates/life expectancy.

          So – my bad and apologies.

          But I wasn’t really insulting him, just straw-manning his position, which isn’t cool either.

          • Thank you. You have been generally courteous in this exchange.

            The question for me is why you are so confident of your position. You pointed me at a newspaper article on how much temperatures had changed over a twenty year period in various French locations in each month. Looking at the graphic on that page, one observed that in some locations in some months temperature had gone down by several degrees, in some it had gone up by several degrees. That surely made it obvious that variation place to place and month to month was too large for any single month at a single location to tell us what was happening more generally—and that was without allowing for the variation due to the particular period chosen.

            You then noted that in your location in a particular month temperature had gone up by a lot, as if that was relevant. The only relevance I can see is that it might explain why you thought you had yourself observed global warming at first hand.

            But it is an explanation which demonstrates that, if so, you were mistaken, since what you were observing was something special to your particular location in that month. And that followed from simply looking at the graphic on the page you had pointed me at.

            Yet you don’t seem to have changed your view at all.

            I should perhaps add that the part of the orthodoxy I don’t dispute includes the claim of a warming trend, although it looks as though you greatly exaggerate its size. I’ve pointed you at the webbed NASA figures already.

            What I disagree about is the consequences. I don’t think you have offered any relevant arguments on that, beyond hyperbolic statements about how large the negative consequences are. Have you tried looking at the latest IPCC report to see how much sea level rise they expect? Looking at the flood maps page to see how much coastlines shift in due to any specific amount of SLR? Looked at the Lancet article on mortality for cold and from heat, surely relevant to whether raising average temperatures is likely to increase or decrease mortality? Done anything to check that the catastrophist claims you have accepted actually fit the available evidence?

          • Frederic Mari says:

            Thanks and, for the record, I do try to be polite most of the time. I do get annoyed by hypocrisy (not sure why) and mendacious/deliberately obfuscating argumentation (the results of having to deal with teenagers in the household – when he was young, we used to explain to my son why we wanted him to do the things we wanted him to do ; an unexpected consequence is that now he pushes back with bad faith argumentation – as he’s not yet skilled enough to support a losing position with good arguments – and that’s driving me up the wall).

            That said, I appreciate that’s not what you’re doing here.

            You ask me why I am so confident. I don’t think that’s the issue. We look at the same data and same environmental consequences and you say “well, this isn’t too bad/it might even be good” and I say “this is damn unpleasant and likely to get worse”.

            Ultimately, I suspect we’re going to find out whose vision was more correct b/c it seems unlikely we’re going to to do anything meaningful about climate change. We’ll have to pick this up in 20 years.

          • We look at the same data and same environmental consequences and you say “well, this isn’t too bad/it might even be good” and I say “this is damn unpleasant and likely to get worse”.

            I think it is clear that there will be both good and bad consequences to climate change. There are a few places in the world, most notably the Nile delta, where relatively modest sea level rise, which is what the IPCC projects for the end of the century, can cause serious problems. There are a few places, such as some parts of India, where even relatively modest temperature increases can cause serious problems.

            At the same time, the only effect on the food supply we can be sure of is CO2 fertilization, which doesn’t depend on the uncertain causal chain linking CO2 increase to climate effects and is well established by experiment. An increase of crop yields by about 30% (less for maize and sugar cane, the two major C4 crops), is a very big plus. Effects on temperature related mortality look to me to be positive, although everyone ignores the (positive) cold half of that equation while focusing on the (negative) heat half. Effects on habitable land area seem clearly positive, since habitability at present is limited mostlh by cold, not heat.

            It isn’t that I think the bad consequences are not bad. It’s that, in my view, you greatly exaggerate the bad consequences, imagining that warming turns Marsailles into almost uninhabitable desert when it actually makes it almost as warm as Houston, while ignoring the good ones.

            Which parts of my argument do you disagree with? Am I understating the scale of IPCC projections? Are my positives not large positives?

            Alternatively, does your view depend on projecting much farther than the end of this century, which is what I’ve been using for my arguments? If so, we can argue about how useful it is to plan for problems centuries in the future, given the limitations of our knowledge.

      • nadbor says:

        The problem is that it’s not 1C. It’s +4-5C in summer and -3-4C in winter.

        Are you sure you don’t have it backwards? Isn’t warming supposed to be stronger in colder times and places than in the hot ones? +1.5C in winter and +0.5C in summer? Where are you getting this from?

        • Nick says:

          Sort of answering your question: Vox made an interactive page a few months ago about how climate change is projected to affect the temperature of cities by 2050. You can get a sense of it by punching in current cities, or by looking at some maps here. A warning with the second link, though: the lines are misleading, because the data starts way back in the mid-1980s. Obviously the lines will look longer when you’re starting more than twice as far back in time. Like, according to the first map, Cleveland already has weather like mid-Indiana, which is not nearly as far from St. Louis!

        • Ketil says:

          It’s the first time I hear a claim like that. I didn’t find anything, and the graph animation below shows that our current warming of a little less than 1° is distributed uniformly over the months. I guess it is possible that warming one degree is distributed evenly and the next degree not, but I don’t see why anybody would think it is likely.

          https://climate.copernicus.eu/another-exceptional-month-global-average-temperatures

        • Frederic Mari says:

          https://www.europe1.fr/sciences/pourquoi-le-rechauffement-climatique-accentue-t-il-les-vagues-de-froid-3532115

          In English, why is global warming making cold waves worse? Generally speaking, my limited understanding was that people switched from “global warming” to “climate change” exactly b/c the impact isn’t to just warm things up.

          There’s also the link I already shared.

          https://www.lefigaro.fr/sciences/2018/08/06/01008-20180806ARTFIG00205-comment-les-temperatures-ont-evolue-en-france-ville-par-ville-depuis-20-ans.php

          February and March are colder (though November and December are hotter so you’re right I’m imprecise when I say “winters are colder”) while July is hotter…

          But, TBF, I was using mostly my experience of two places I’ve a long experience with. Paris, where, as I mentioned, pollution and heat island issues, might complicate the picture and my parents’ place in the Southern French Alps, which may, for whatever reason, be atypical?

          • fibio says:

            In English, why is global warming making cold waves worse?

            Not a meteorologist but I’ll take a stab.

            So, climate and weather are both side-effects of natural heat redistribution patterns. This redistribution is caused by the energy input and output from various latitudes not being equal and the atmosphere attempting to smooth out any imbalances. This is why in general cold weather comes from the north and warm from the south, at least in the northern hemisphere.

            Global warming is an extra shot of gasoline in the whole process. More heat has to be transferred and it has to go deeper into the cold regions to be radiated away. It’s not just the same process but at a degree higher, its the same process working at 5% higher capacity (or whatever the percentage is. Probably a fraction of a percent that is surprisingly noticeable at the scale we’re talking about).

            Imagine driving down a bumpy road at 30. It’s already teeth rattling and amping things up to 35 just makes the bumps bigger. And its not just that the highs higher, the lows are lower because everything is moving with that much more energy.

            To torture the analogy further, scientists are in a knot about global warming mostly because we have no idea how far we can push this without the wheels falling off the car.

      • So, yeah, saying “oh, it’s only 1C on average, over 30 years, what are you crying about, you little sissy?” doesn’t feel like an adequate response.

        The problem is that it’s not 1C. It’s +4-5C in summer and -3-4C in winter.

        Over the past 30 years, global temperature has gone up by less than half a degree, as per the NASA webbed data.

        Generally my arguments follow the IPCC projections, and assume 2-3°C by the end of the century.

        Summer vs winter. The theoretical argument is pretty simple–I got it from a chapter in a book by Freeman Dyson. CO2 and water vapor are both greenhouse gases. The more of one greenhouse gas in the air, the less the effect of adding another—you can’t block more than 100% of the long wave radiation coming up from the ground. There is usually more water vapor in the air the warmer it is. I believe the observed pattern tends to fit that, with a good deal of random variation, but I haven’t looked into the question in detail.

        The same argument implies more warming in cold areas, where it is on the whole desirable, and less in warm areas, where it is not. The fact that Frederick in particular and people pushing the perils of warming in general don’t know that, or choose not to mention it, is one of many reasons for distrusting their claims.

        With regard to drought, I can’t tell if Frederick realizes that the IPCC attributed increased drought to AGW in the 4th report, retracted that claim in the 5th.

        But I’m also concerned about the increase of extreme weather events.

        People keep saying this, but I haven’t seen any explanation of what it means. Warming results in more extremely hot summers, fewer extremely cold winters. How do you decide to combine the two? It isn’t as if “extreme weather event” is a binary category, where something either is one or isn’t, so you can just count up and add.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          you can’t block more than 100% of the short wave radiation coming up from the ground

          How much do the absorption bands for CO2 and water vapor overlap?

          My understanding is that as the CO2 concentration increases, some SW radiation is absorbed on the margins of the absorption bands even while the SW radiation within the absorption bands is fully absorbed. This is why forcing is proportional to the logarithm of the concentration. Is that your understanding also?

          Also, I note that Freeman Dyson is on record opposing climate alarmism.

        • Frederic Mari says:

          You’ve mentioned your liking of the NASA website and I’ve taken a look.

          You certainly aren’t misquoting anything and, true, you can find some beneficial sounding effects (planting season will lengthen) but, taken as a whole, I can’t share your measured reaction about said effects.

          https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

          Hurricanes Will Become Stronger and More Intense
          More Droughts and Heat Waves
          Changes in Precipitation Patterns (i.e flooding frequency is and will increase)

          And, again, very simply, just follow the news. The weather is acting up. And, while you can argue no one is dying yet (in the western world) and it’s mostly property damage so far (plus dealing with tropical diseases in southern Europe and, I believe, the USA too) it just does not bode well.

          To summarise it again – if Southern France is to become almost desert-like, like the Sahel in Northern and western Africa, I’m not okay with it and would treat that as an existential threat even if, technically, people do live in the Sahel (I spent a chunk of my childhood in French western Africa so I’ve got some experience with the region) – though I’d argue the lower pop. density in the Sahel may mean we would have to resettle a good chunk of the pop. now living in the South of France and there’s no guarantee this would be peaceful.

          • Evelyn Q. Greene says:

            you can find some beneficial sounding effects (planting season will lengthen) but, taken as a whole, I can’t share your measured reaction about said effects.

            A Longer growing season is not some small effect. It’s a huge advantage especially combined with a longer frost free season(Which allows a greater variety of plants to be grown), and with the effects of CO2 fertilization. Also, collapsing increased precipitation solely into increased flooding ignores its positive effects. The agricultural effects, combined with warming the subarctic more than make up for disadvantages.

            And, again, very simply, just follow the news. The weather is acting up

            This is just the reversed version of the dumb ” how can there be global warming when it’s snowing outside” argument.

            we would have to resettle a good chunk of the pop. now living in the South of France and there’s no guarantee this would be peaceful.

            For some reason, I don’t find “If we don’t restructure the entire world economy the continentals will start murdering people” a very convincing argument.

          • if Southern France is to become almost desert-like, like the Sahel in Northern and western Africa, I’m not okay with it

            Checking online, the summer high in Marsaille is 85°F. Add 3°C for it, roughly the IPCC estimate for the end of this century on the high emissions scenario, and it’s about 90°F. That’s a little cooler than Houston is now, and quite a lot of people manage to survive in and around Houston.

            You have swallowed a hyperbolic account of the scale and effects of warming.

        • Chalid says:

          The theoretical argument is pretty simple–I got it from a chapter in a book by Freeman Dyson. CO2 and water vapor are both greenhouse gases. The more of one greenhouse gas in the air, the less the effect of adding another—you can’t block more than 100% of the long wave radiation coming up from the ground.

          This doesn’t make sense to me. All the heat ultimately has to leave earth by radiation, so re-absorption of radiation emitted by air molecules will make the earth warmer. Effectively, you can have greater than 100% absorption of the radiation. If a photon is absorbed by the atmosphere, it will later be reemitted, and from there it can hit the ground again, escape into space, or be reabsorbed by the atmosphere. If chance that it’s going to be reabsorbed by the atmosphere rises, then this will warm the planet.

          We can look at Venus as empirical evidence that having a *lot* of greenhouse gas leads to a *lot* of warming – there’s no obvious limit near our current conditions.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I think the proposed 100% absorption is the limit for the percent of solar energy input that remains on the planet. A planet with 100% absorption would increase in temperature at a constant rate equal to total solar energy input divided by the thermal mass of the planet (or at least of the planet’s atmosphere, if the planet’s surface is perfectly thermally insulated from the atmosphere).

            There’s also a separate limit due to the second law of thermodynamics: the sun’s radiated energy can’t heat a planet to a higher temperature than the sun’s surface. I think the mechanism is that heat will escape from the planet (even with fully-saturated greenhouse windows) due to black body radiation, in proportion to the temperature of the planet’s atmosphere. And if the planet gets hotter than the sun’s surface, then the planet would be putting out more black-body radiation than it could possibly receive from the sun. Of course, this limit is vastly higher (5778 K) even than Venus, so it’s only of theoretical importance.

          • Another Throw says:

            Venus and its atmosphere are so different from Earth in so many ways that any comparison for the purposes of a small delta in Earths condition is… fraught.

            Fun fact though: while at the surface, where the atmospherics pressure is about the same as being 1km below water on Earth, the temperature is crazy high, it turns out that sufficient altitude that the atmospheric pressure is the same as Earth… the temperature is really close too.

          • Chalid says:

            I think the proposed 100% absorption is the limit for the percent of solar energy input that remains on the planet.

            ah, that makes more sense. But then I’m not sure about the relevance of the point.

            The simple physics model that would occur to me is that radiation leaving earth scales as T^4, and you treat the atmosphere as a grey body radiating equally back to earth and into space; I take the easy way out and google it as opposed to doing it myself, and find that temperature increases faster than linearly with increasing absorptivity (plot after equation 3), which would seem to imply higher effects in summertime. (But how does emissivity scale with increased GHG concentrations? This is where my motivation runs out.)

  17. Thegnskald says:

    Those who advocate for the course their social groups espouse as the moral path have a tendency to become weakmen for that course, undermining the legitimacy of their own intended cause. This is because the moral course framework discourages truth-seekers (who are repelled by moralistic language) and encourages woo-seekers.

    Fundamentally I think this is one of the major problems with societal attitudes towards science, among other things.

    Alternatively, “If you think the experts are on your side, and you aren’t one of them, arguing on their behalf only makes your side look worse.”

    • AG says:

      It’s all in Gelman Amnesia context, though. How many insight porn writers are actually experts? What sort of empirical studies have the likes of Zizek or Butler run to underpin their ideologies?
      What looks like a weakman to one spectator seems like compelling stuff to another.

      See, for example, which movies and TV have sway over the audience. One audience’s cheese is another audience’s prestige.

    • eigenmoon says:

      The problem is that politically “look, here’s the moral thing to do” reads as “give us all the power, now!”. I don’t think the Left is even trying to hide it anymore. Woo actually translates to political strength, unlike legitimacy as determined by truth-seekers (as if anyone reads them).

      Socialists say that the existence of billionaires is immoral. Libertarians say that redistribution of wealth by force is immoral. The socialists believe that libertarians are willing to let millions rot in poverty without welfare support just to satisfy their irrational dislike for taxation. The libertarians believe that the best way to lift people from poverty is more capitalism and the socialists are going to ruin everything like they did time and time again. You can do some truth-seeking analysis of those statements but ultimately people choose by whether their appetite to eat the rich is stronger than their lust for freedom. And that choice lies in the domain of woo.

  18. johan_larson says:

    I changed jobs recently, and a lot of my new coworkers are Chinese. And they have some quirks, particularly around meal manners, like chewing with their mouths open and making a lot of noise, slurping and smacking their lips.

    Now, there is nothing wrong with doing so, but it is a notable and somewhat distasteful difference. By the standards of my culture, these are is the sort of childish bad manners that good parenting is supposed to do away with.

    But it got me wondering. Are there similar behaviors going the other way, common western behaviors that people from India or China, say, find distasteful?

    (Let’s keep the focus here on small-scale issues of manners and personal hygiene, and save the fulminating about female infantry and women drivers for other threads.)

    • Aftagley says:

      I’m an American, but two common complains about us that I’ve heard are

      1. We smile too much. Apparently people from different cultures find this creepy.
      2. I’ve heard from Germans that our overt patriotism (flags, national anthems, saying the pledge of allegiance in school) is weird, although I think this varies by country.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’ve also heard we are loud. (In a broad sense, not just noise, although that too.)

        • SamChevre says:

          The stereotype of Americans as talking far too loudly is widespread in Europe in my observation.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            “Where I come from, they don’t like Americans much
            Think they’re so loud, so tasteless and so out of touch
            Stiff upper lips are curled into permanent sneers
            Self-satisfied, awaiting the next forty years

          • Back when I was a grad student, I ended up spending a night in the Salzburg Bahnhof, along with a bunch of English students. At one point I recited a poem, I think Dylan Thomas, and one of them said (by memory):
            “My God, an educated Yank.”

            My conjecture was that education and income were more closely linked in England than the U.S., and incomes lower, with the result that Englishmen who could afford to visit America were likely to be better educated than Americans who could afford to visit England–this was c. 1970, and I was thinking in terms of the previous few decades. So the English were comparing an Englishman who graduated from Oxford to an American plumber (not our Plumber) who graduated from high school.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Many years ago, I took a Spanish-language immersion course in Mexico. The program was aimed primarily at Americans who were doing business in Mexico or with Mexican customers or suppliers, so one of the classes was a seminar on Mexican business/work culture. The main thing I remember from that was that the teacher illustrated some key differences between American and Mexican cultures by presenting a list of common Mexican stereotypes about Americans. The ones I remember are that we’re dead-serious at the time, all work and no play, and meticulous and punctual to the point of fussiness. There were more that I don’t remember, but my overall impression was that Mexican stereotypes about Americans were very similar to American stereotypes about Germans.

        • Aftagley says:

          Interesting. I’ve gone through the mirror version of those training (IE – you’re about to work with Mexican/central Americans, here’s some things to be aware of)

          Two of the biggest takeaways were: don’t expect punctuality or for any proposed schedule to be treated as anything other than optimistic guessing and schedule meetings for longer than you feel like they could possibly take, because getting down to business will take forever.

          My actual experiences didn’t bear this out, but I was dealing with some pretty squared away characters who had worked with Americans before, so my results may have been atypical.

      • acymetric says:

        2. I’ve heard from Germans that our overt patriotism (flags, national anthems, saying the pledge of allegiance in school) is weird, although I think this varies by country.

        A couple thoughts. I feel the Germans are the outlier here…flags are pervasive throughout tons of cultures. I don’t know enough about Germany specifically to say if it was just the particular Germans you talked to or if that is something that is common to Germany generally. One thing that would make me suspect the former is that there are also Americans who find our overt patriotism weird.

        • Frederic Mari says:

          re. Germany and their distaste for open display of patriotism, I think the reason should self-evidently be their bad experience the last time a guy pumped them up about the Fatherland…

          But generally speaking, Europe tones down its patriotic displays. No private house in France flies the French flag (except, sometimes, during the World Cup football matches but that’s still rare). It’d be considered weird.

          I’ve heard the Swiss are a bit more prone to flying the flag of their canton but I can’t really confirm.

        • LesHapablap says:

          I can’t think of a culture that has as many flags as the USA. Certainly in New Zealand people think Americans are ridiculous with all the flag waving.

        • Aapje says:

          @acymetric

          My country is a bit Germanic, so perhaps we are lumped in with Germany. Government protocol in The Netherlands for government buildings is to flag only during a few days, consisting of the birthday of a few members of the Royal family as well as:
          – National Remembrance Day of the Fallen
          – National Liberation Day
          – Veterans Day
          – the official end of WW II for the entire Kingdom
          – Kingdom Day

          That makes for 10 days of flagging in total. It is customary for many homes to fly the flag on the National Remembrance Day of the Fallen (half mast), National Liberation Day and Kings Day. So that is 3 days.

          The United States Flag Code mandates that the flag is flown daily at the administration building of every public institution, as well as every schoolhouse, on school days. The government advises that people should run the flag on 19 days a year, but when I visited the US, I saw quite a few people who flew the flag daily.

          So the US has way more flagging.

          • Cliff says:

            I find this a bit weird, because most (almost all) people in the U.S. don’t own a flag and raise it on zero days. Yes it is at public buildings but its not like when I go to Europe I ask myself “where are all the flags???”

          • Aftagley says:

            Perhaps, but if you saw someone walking by in a T-shirt with the flag on it, or with a flag bumper sticker you wouldn’t get that weirded out, right?

            Or if at some kind of non-political event and people randomly started chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” you wouldn’t think it was too abnormal, correct?

            This kind of stuff is utterly normal in the US and, afaict, not seen in most of the rest of the world.

          • Evelyn Q. Greene says:

            I find this a bit weird, because most (almost all) people in the U.S. don’t own a flag and raise it on zero days. Yes it is at public buildings but its not like when I go to Europe I ask myself “where are all the flags???”

            Every suburban neighborhood I’ve ever been in has multiple us flags, though usually on those little house mounted poles that don’t raise or lower. My neighbor growing up had an actual raising-and-lowering flag pole and I’ve seen enough of those in front of residential home that I
            don’t find it unusual.

            but its not like when I go to Europe I ask myself “where are all the flags???”

            I definitely notice the lack of flags in Europe, it’s weird.

          • Cliff says:

            Maybe it’s regional? Yes some people have house flags and there are probably a few in my neighborhood but I would say it’s 1% at most.

            I would not be weirded out by a flag bumper sticker but it would be exceedingly rare. A flag T-shirt would be weird I think, if it was just a flag and not an advertisement for something.

            A flag pole in a front yard is certainly a thing I have seen 2-3 times in my life, but it is exceedingly rare and unusual.

          • Plumber says:

            FWIW, in my old neighborhood in Oakland, California flag flying was rare (but the neighborhood was mostly apartment buildings), when I moved to a single-family homes neighborhood a few miles north in 2012 I saw a lot of American flags flying around July 4th (and also lots of rainbow flags for “pride week” so a Blue-Tribe neighborhood).

            After the November 2016 election I still see some but a lot less American flags, but one house on the block flys the flag year round.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I think I’ve seen a few flag poles. There’s one house down the street that has its own flag pole, but that’s the only one I can think of in this entire suburb.

            There’s a lot of those house-mounted US flags. Our house has one, and the house across the street has one, too. I generally see one on every block, so maybe 5% of homes.

      • AppetSci says:

        I saved this comment a while ago (maybe from SSC?) from a student working on the Holocaust Project recording testimonies from survivors. His professor talked about

        “a delegation of American students in the 1990s, carefully trained to do the interviews and fluent in Russian, who came to tape the survivors talking about their recollections —

        “And these flower-faced young Americans, smiling at us as we spoke of atrocities!”

        He said it was flatly unnerving, especially since their voices and words were sad and appropriate, and it was several years before he got comfortable with the idea that Americans smile sympathetically even when they’re sad, like to encourage you to keep talking, and that even at a funeral for her husband a widow will smile at you to show you she appreciates you coming. He said the interviewers would smile right up until they started crying! And then smile while they apologized for crying! He said after an initial period of shock he understood fairly quickly that they were sincere and serious people, they just had a dire smiling problem. But it took a long time to get comfortable with the cultural difference.”

      • pansnarrans says:

        I’ve heard from Germans that our overt patriotism (flags, national anthems, saying the pledge of allegiance in school) is weird, although I think this varies by country.

        The constant patriotism does come off as weird from the outside. Shouting “We’re number one!” seems almost like an inferiority complex. That being said, I come from a nation that’s ashamed of its national flag because it was co-opted by neo-Nazis. So who knows what the international waterline is?

    • ana53294 says:

      Public displays of affection are a no-no in Korea and Japan, from what I’ve heard. They do things like wearing couple clothing, but kissing in public is not done.

      Also, personal space is different.

      They always take off their shoes when entering a home in Korea and Japan, and sometimes even in public places like schools. They do that in Sweden and Russia, too, but less. I haven’t seen other countries doing that. It’s not done in Spain.

      • It’s occasionally done in the U.S., possibly due to influence from Japanese culture.

      • AG says:

        Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift made a whole comedic sequence of the American transfer student learning about the practice of changing into indoor shoes at school.

        Another big difference is how students are expected to clean their own classrooms after school lets out. This seems to be enabled by going with hardwood/tile as the standard floor, instead of a carpet that needs a more expensive vacuum.

        • Nick says:

          Another big difference is how students are expected to clean their own classrooms after school lets out. This seems to be enabled by going with hardwood/tile as the standard floor, instead of a carpet that needs a more expensive vacuum.

          Heh, you know, I’ve seen this a few times in anime and it’s never really registered. It may be because I remember cleaning the room as a class a few times; I think it was like a twice a semester thing, but I’m not very confident. ETA: Did anyone else do this?

          • Theodoric says:

            At my elementary/middle school (it was K-8) we had to wipe down the tables after lunch, but we did not have to do any other cleaning.

      • Aftagley says:

        They do that in Sweden and Russia, too, but less. I haven’t seen other countries doing that

        I wonder if this practice just tracks average days where your country is covered in snow. Taking off your shoes if they are maybe dusty from the road is way less important that taking them off if you’re going to track slush everywhere. Does anyone know if Japan gets a bunch of snow?

        • ana53294 says:

          The reason why they do it in Korea and Japan, from what I gather, is that they do (or have traditionally done) a whole bunch of eating while sitting on the floor, and they also sleep on the floor with a thin mattress. This means floors have to be cleaner than when you sleep on a raised bed, or sit on a chair and eat from a taller table.

          In Russia and Sweden, it could be because they had wooden houses, and wood gets ruined by dirt and water (melted snow).

    • I gather that one common source of conflict between people from different cultures is what distance they expect others to keep from them—whether you have a conversation from three feet away or one foot and the like. I don’t know how that plays out in the specific case of U.S. vs others.

    • sfoil says:

      Americans not removing shoes when they go inside a home is a big one, and I’ve heard actual complaints about it from representatives of several disparate cultures (Germany, Middle East, Asia).

      A lot of differences are only relevant comparatively. American “patriotism” — frequent display of the flag, people knowing the national anthem and singing it at public events — is weird to Europeans but seems pretty normal elsewhere.

      Others have mentioned general loudness from Americans.

      It wasn’t considered distasteful but Korean soldiers were consistently astounded that their American counterparts actually used the “thumbs up” gesture to communicate (most often to signal that some piece of equipment being moved around was in place and could be released). The explanation I was given was that they had seen it in movies before but variously thought it was something old-fashioned and archaic or just a made-up dramatic gesture, like a live-action version of huge anime sweat drops or something.

    • Chalid says:

      In lots of the world, western clothing is seen as extremely immodest.

      • Ketil says:

        Bare shoulders, legs, or sometimes also showing hair for women.

        For men: wearing shorts. I think in many cultures (including European countries), shorts are seen as children’s wear (at best). Some countries have relaxed work attire, and only salesmen wear ties, whil some (the British?) expect even programmers to wear formal clothes at work.

    • Robin says:

      Blowing your nose in public.

      I’m not sure about that rumour of us smelling like old cheese, especially to people from lactose-intolerant regions who seldom drink milk.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’ve heard stories about Vietnamese infantry being able to smell Americans. Apparently Americans smell of butter, which seems odd to me. I would have bet on cigarettes, particularly back in the 60s.

    • DragonMilk says:

      It is presumed that Americans exaggerate or outright lie in resumes and interviews, and I am often encouraged to exaggerate at least a little.

      Doesn’t fit with my personality though. I do a terrible job in interviews but exceed expectations once I start (relevant, as I’m 4.5 years into my current job and need to find a new one by end of June). I know my whole, “yeah I have no direct experience in that, but probably could pick it up fairly easily” attitude isn’t helpful.

  19. Plumber says: