Open Thread 153.75

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1,551 Responses to Open Thread 153.75

  1. johan_larson says:

    Suppose we have a piece of wood, maybe 5 cm by 5 cm by 25 cm, that is actually a piece of the cross that Jesus was crucified on. How close can we get to proving that this is true, if we are willing to use really elaborate historical and scientific methods of investigation?

    • Jaskologist says:

      More importantly, can we use the blood sample to clone Jesus, Kahless-style?

      • Randy M says:

        Or we can take samples from all great religious teachers to create the ultimate warrior peace-maker, Serpentor style.

      • theodidactus says:

        iirc there’s a millenarian christian science fiction series on precisely this concept, though I believe the blood involved comes from the shroud.

      • bullseye says:

        You use the clone to answer johan’s question: if it turns out to be the Second Coming, the wood is probably legit.

        • MisterA says:

          If it turns out to be a Bizarro, does that count as the Anti-Christ?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The Uglitudes, preached by Bizarro Jesus:

            Blessed are the rich in flesh, for theirs is the Republic of Hell.
            Blessed are those who cheer, for they will not be comforted.
            Blessed are the proud, for they will not inherit Mars.
            Blessed are those who are full and hydrated of unrighteousness, for they will be hungry.
            Blessed are the merciless, for they will be shown no mercy.
            Blessed are in the impure in heart, for they are blind to Satan.
            Blessed are the warmongers, for they won’t be called parents of Satan.
            Blessed are those who aren’t persecuted because of unrighteousness, for theirs is the Republic of Hell.
            Blessed are you when people compliment you, don’t persecute you and truly say all kinds of good against you.

      • bullseye says:

        I want to get into what Jesus’ DNA would look like.

        Possibility 1: He was a clone of Mary. Occasionally one’s biological sex doesn’t match what the DNA says it should be. So either he’d have a Jewish Y chromosome inherited from Mary’s father through Mary, or no Y chromosome at all and future researchers would mistake his blood for a woman’s blood.

        Possibility 2: Half of his DNA appeared miraculously. I’d guess that this would be King David’s DNA, given the importance of Jesus being from that bloodline.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Possibility 3: Jesus has a haploid genome.

          Possibility 4: Half of Jesus’s genome is made of ineffable divine whatchamacallsit instead of DNA.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Well, Jesus evidently looked reasonably enough like an ordinary Jew in phenotype…

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Possibility 3: Jesus has a haploid genome.

            Which is what the H in Jesus H. Christ stands for.

          • Murphy says:

            Possibility 5: someone puts his DNA into 23&me and various ancestry services and it turns out that he has a bunch of half-siblings all over the country right now.

            Possibility 6: someone puts his DNA into 23&me and various police databases and his DNA turns up as an exact match for a currently extant serial killer cannibal.

            Possibility 7: When comparing his DNA to the GRCH38 reference genome the variant SNPs in his genome turn out to encode a binary sequence that when turned into binary and unzipped yields an x86 executable that plays an animation of the Buddy Christ giving a thumbs up to the camera.

          • Deiseach says:

            Possibility 5: someone puts his DNA into 23&me and various ancestry services and it turns out that he has a bunch of half-siblings all over the country right now

            That’s the mediaeval construction of the Holy Kinship:

            The Holy Kin were the extended family of Jesus descended from his maternal grandmother Saint Anne. According to this tradition, St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, was grandmother not just to Jesus but also to five of the twelve apostles: John the Evangelist, James the Greater, James the Less, Simon and Jude. These apostles, together with John the Baptist, were all cousins of Jesus.

          • bullseye says:

            Possibility 6: someone puts his DNA into 23&me and various police databases and his DNA turns up as an exact match for a currently extant serial killer cannibal.

            In Soviet Russia, Jesus eats YOUR flesh!

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Joseph was David’s descendant, so the Holy Spirit could just have said “hey, this way he looks like his dad.”

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Is it possible to use certain techniques to at least determine that the wood was cut at the time and location that it approximately would have needed to be?

      • AlexanderTheGrand says:

        For time, radioactive carbon dating. Wood absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while its alive. In the atmosphere, the carbon of C02 is sometimes the product of cosmic rays hitting nitrogen, which makes it an uncommon isotope (C14). We generally know the proportion of this isotope in the atmosphere. Once inside the tree, the carbon decays from the rare isotope to nitrogen at a predictable rate, and no (or very little?) new C14 is produced . So, by measuring the proportion of C14 to C12 (the common isotope) we can determine how long the carbon has been decaying.

        Not sure on location.

      • matkoniecz says:

        5cm x 5xm x 25 cm may be too small, but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dendrochronology

        Dendrochronology is useful for determining the precise age of samples, especially those that are too recent for radiocarbon dating, which always produces a range rather than an exact date. However, for a precise date of the death of the tree a full sample to the edge is needed, which most trimmed timber will not provide.

        As of 2013, the oldest tree-ring measurements in the Northern Hemisphere are a floating sequence extending from about 12,580 to 13,900 years

        • Lambert says:

          You could try to cross reference the variation in thickness of the rings with the climate of the ancient Levant.

      • Carbon dating gives you the approximate time. It might be possible to use tree ring data to get it more precise, if the piece of wood shows multiple rings and you have a good guess at the geographical location.

        I don’t know whether isotope frequency in wood varies with location for some reason — if it does that might give you some geographical information.

        • Noah says:

          Type of wood varies by location, and presumably you’d use some wood that grows in the general vicinity for your crucifixions (though a half-decent forgery would take that into account). Does anyone who has knowledge of 1st century CE Judean flora and Roman crucifixion practices want to weigh in?

    • theodidactus says:

      I think about this a lot.
      Piggybacking off some Shroud of Turin Stuff I discussed in the last thread, it probably depends on how far back we can trace the existence of the block historically.

      Say some church has claimed that it’s the true cross since 1567.

      Say we have an army of scientists, the entire resources of major world economy (say the state of california), and years of time. Here’s what we could do (I think)

      * Isolate SOME DNA from the wood, getting a good idea of the tree’s genetic makeup in minute detail.
      * Perform the same analysis on a huge number of trees of the same kind from the levant etc.
      * Perform the same analysis on other trees of the same kind all over the world
      * use some kind of mitchondrial wizardry to compare common ancestors of the wood and other trees from the same region

      using this we could get a crude baseline for “how likely was that block of wood to have come from the same place and from roughly 50BC to 100 AD”

      even if our resulting percentage is pretty low, say 50%, I think it’s quite likely it’s genuine. After all, what are the odds that the church, at that remote time, saved SOME OTHER block of wood from that place, from that time period, when at the time no known method existed to verify either?
      * if they maintained the truth of the cross fragment as a prextual swindle, the amount of effort involved would have been far in excess of what was necessary at the time
      * if they were swindled by someone else, likewise
      * if every actor involved was genuine (IE some crusader really found a little shrine that someone really had kept faithfully since 100 AD which at that time really happened to acquire the wood the owner of the shrine really thought was specially connected with jesus…but it wasn’t from the real cross) we still have, quite by accident, stumbled onto the oldest connection between the christian church and the present day.

      note this analysis doesn’t work if, say, somebody shows up tomorrow claiming to have the fragment. he could have set out to fool our genetic tests. the same is not true of the knights templar (unless you subscribe to a conception of their abilities that borders on dan-brownian and would actually make for a pretty good science thriller)

      This might be elementary to a lot of people here, but a lot of modern Christians really underestimate how tenuous the connections are between their faith and the traditions that emerged immediately following J-dog. Our oldest depictions of the guy date from hundreds of years after his death (whenever the hell that was), as do most of the texts from the gospels themselves. if that block of wood was fake, it would still be a very important historical artifact.

      • Jaskologist says:

        To generally agree, I think the best we can prove scientifically is that the wood comes from within about a century of the correct time, more or less the right area, and has Jewish male blood on it. There’s nothing we can do to prove that it was used in this specific crucifixion unless we already had a known good piece of the actual cross to compare it with. The Romans crucified a lot of Jews, probably especially after the rebellion in 70AD.

        Now, if that were paired with a very old historical claim that this was a piece of the real cross like you describe, those two together would constitute pretty strong evidence. But we already know we don’t have a piece of wood that fits that criteria.

        • Randy M says:

          The Romans crucified a lot of Jews, probably especially after the rebellion in 70AD.

          Even if we could date the fragment to the exact date [and place] Jesus died (which we don’t know), there’d still only be a 33% chance of getting it right.

        • Noah says:

          Can you do better than “Jewish male” by using the Y chromosome? What is the historical consensus on Jesus’s descent from the Davidic dynasty and are various modern claims of descent from said dynasty considered remotely accurate? This is, of course, setting aside the question of how immaculate conception would interact with genetics, which I don’t care about, but presumably Christians would.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Nope. Christians are pretty clear that he had no human father, and even if you don’t buy that, I think it’s safe to say that Joseph wasn’t his father.

          • Lambert says:

            Is there a canonical mapping between the hebrew alphabet and the amino acids (including selenocystine and pyrrolysine)?

          • Eric Rall says:

            If the Catholics are right about transubstantiation, then we should be able to get a fresh blood and tissue samples from Jesus at just about any Catholic church to use as a basis for comparison.

          • Deiseach says:

            If the Catholics are right about transubstantiation, then we should be able to get a fresh blood and tissue samples from Jesus at just about any Catholic church to use as a basis for comparison.

            Nope, doesn’t work like that, the accidents of bread and wine remain the same, it is the essence/substance that changes.

            Unless you’re going to try and source something from one of the Eucharistic miracles, such as the Miracle at Bolsena or the Host of Lanciano, you’re out of luck.

            And just to go down a different rabbit-hole, seeing as how we were speaking elsewhere of the Aztecs, whilst looking up the names of the Eucharistic miracles I was led to the Mass of St Gregory and in turn to this – an Aztec feather painting of the subject commissioned by the nephew of the last Emperor as a gift for the Pope 🙂

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How can it be possible for essence and accidents to be mismatched?

          • Nick says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            There’s nothing weird about the essence and accidents being mismatched; that happens all the time. For instance, if you chop your arm off or dye your hair blue, your accidents have certainly changed, but you’re still Nancy, still a human being, etc. Likewise there’s nothing weird about a substance changing along with its accidents; the accidents changing along with it seems to be the rule in nature. For example, when I die my matter will no longer have its substantial form, as evidenced by the rapid decay which will follow.

            What’s weird about transubstantiation is that the substance changes and the accidents don’t, which doesn’t seem to happen anywhere else in nature. In that way it’s kind of the dual to the chopping-off-your-arm or hair-dyeing examples. But there’s nothing metaphysically impossible about it.

      • gbdub says:

        After all, what are the odds that the church, at that remote time, saved SOME OTHER block of wood from that place, from that time period, when at the time no known method existed to verify either?

        Considering there were a bunch of Christian soldiers and pilgrims rummaging about the Holy Land for the entire Crusader period who were grabbing every remotely plausible looking relic, I’m guessing a lot of bits of wood that were legitimately very old and legitimately from Judea found their way back to Europe. Given the acclaim (for themselves and their local church) likely to come from bringing back a nice relic, I doubt Crusaders were particularly motivated to closely examine the claims of any locals insisting that this or that little block of wood was from the True Cross.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        This might be elementary to a lot of people here, but a lot of modern Christians really underestimate how tenuous the connections are between their faith and the traditions that emerged immediately following J-dog. Our oldest depictions of the guy date from hundreds of years after his death (whenever the hell that was), as do most of the texts from the gospels themselves.

        I don’t think that’s true. The academic consensus about the gospels these days is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all come from the late 1st century AD (perhaps bracketing a few later interpolations like the infamous SCABMOM passage) and John from not long after that.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I don’t think that’s true. The academic consensus about the gospels these days is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all come from the late 1st century AD (perhaps bracketing a few later interpolations like the infamous SCABMOM passage) and John from not long after that.

          Indeed. Mark is usually dated to 40 years after Jesus was crucified.
          “Our oldest depictions of the guy date from hundreds of years after his death” better describes Alexander the Great:
          Diodorus of Sicily Book 17 (circa 40s BC)
          Historiae Alexandri Magni of Quintus Curtius Rufus, 1st Centuty AD
          Plutarch’s Vita of him, circa 100-110 AD
          Alexándrou Anábasis, Arrian, 117-138 AD
          Justin’s Epitome of The Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, a Gallo-Roman (so reign of Augustus at earliest)
          And of course the Alexander Romance, whose contents were too plastic to date without an ancient manuscript.

          • theodidactus says:

            by “depictions” i meant literal depictions. Like “Here’s a drawing of this guy” IIRC the oldest image of Christ is from 300 AD just checked its 235 AD

            My memory of when the gospels were written was off by more than 100 years though, so clearly I need to repeat catholic school.

            EDIT: I was remembering when they were NAMED not WRITTEN, oops

    • meh says:

      how would the answer change if it was a block of wood for some random historical person, with no religious connection?

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      Touch it to a hated political figure’s forehead and see if they burst into flames. Saves you the lengthy investigation and gets rid of hated political figure.

      I’m having Indiana Jones thoughts, but I’m not sure exactly why…

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree with everyone else who said carbon-dating, blood analysis, and trying to trace the kind of tree is the best you can plausibly do.

      Implausibly? The best I can imagine this possibly going is that our heroic gang of extremely rich archaeologists convince every church with a True Cross relic to donate it to them for analysis. If you can find that multiple different relics widely separated in time and space came from the same individual tree, that would be pretty exciting (although of course you can’t prove they didn’t all just come from some very early ur-fake). Then if our sample comes from that same tree, we’re in business.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If you can find that multiple different relics widely separated in time and space came from the same individual tree, that would be pretty exciting (although of course you can’t prove they didn’t all just come from some very early ur-fake).

        The Emperor’s mother will not be told no!
        If you could carbon date wooden Catholic/Orthodox relics to 50 AD with an error bar of 23 years, statistically it’s 167 times less likely that it’s from Golgotha on the day Jesus was crucified between two robbers than the cross a rebel was nailed to on one of many Tuesdays by Titus’s orders.

    • Silverlock says:

      Thanks for the link. At while ago, I was explaining the replication crisis to my teenage daughter, who is interested in psychology and thinks she may end up majoring in it when she goes to college. (She is only a high-school sophomore, though, so who knows?) If we ever discuss it again, I can direct her to the article to show her what I am talking about.

      Also, I found “The Lacy Macbeth Effect” an amusing typo. It sounds like a mashup of the Bard’s work with The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    It seems to me that the COVID 19 pandemic has some interesting intermediate qualities. If it were only killing/disabling a tenth as many people, our reaction would be a lot smaller. If it were looking to kill a third of the population- or nine tenths– I don’t know what we’d to, but it would be more drastic.

    If it had happened 50 years ago, we’d be almost helpless, I think. Pretty much just let it burn through. If it were 50 years from now, we might be able to handle it easily.

    Modern communications take a lot of the edge off, but not enough. In terms of the economy, I think it would help a lot if remote-controlled robots were high quality and cheap. How much would have to be developed for those robots to be feasible?

    • John Schilling says:

      I think I mentioned this before, but we’ve made the (developed) world safe enough that a large fraction insists on classifying everything as “absolutely safe” or “intolerably dangerous” and then excluding the latter from their lives. Something like seasonal influenza rounds to “absolutely safe”. COVID-19 mortality isn’t low enough for anyone to call it “absolutely safe”, and we don’t really know how to exclude it from the general public’s lives. But it isn’t so dangerous as to seriously challenge anyone with more sophisticated risk-management strategies.

      That’s another grey area, and a divisive one.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        A general point: The mainstream/blue American emphasis on health and safety is relatively recent (started in the 60s, I think) and not at all a human universal.

        • John Schilling says:

          Not a human universal, but I think it’s common throughout the (highly) developed world.

      • There is a similar pattern of reducing a continuum to a binary in both accounting and tort law, as well as various places in morality.

      • keaswaran says:

        Is there any reason to think this binary classification is new? What seems new is just that as quality of life goes up, the probability of death that moves something from the “safe” to “dangerous” classification has gotten lower.

    • mfm32 says:

      Interestingly, it did happen, almost exactly 50 years ago, and as best I can tell we didn’t do much about it. It even had its early US foothold in the Navy! There was another pandemic about a decade later, but that might have been a less deadly strain the current virus depending on where you stand on the IFR vs. CFR debate.

      This is an important point to remember when people make historical comparisons to measures that were or weren’t used, for example in evaluating legal precedents for government power in a pandemic. Even quite recently, human societies had a much higher tolerance for death by infectious disease.

      • Murphy says:

        We’re in a sort of awkward position. if we were utterly helpless then we would just have to let it burn and there would be damn-all anyone could do about it.

        But we can roughly project that a year to 18 months from now we will likely have vaccines and even before that treatment protocols are improving rapidly.

        Combined with that we very rapidly had a solid idea of who was at risk the most.

        So that turns it into choices. No longer just a roll of fates dice by unknowable cruel gods.

        Add in that we’re on the margin where our society can afford some degree of lockdown.

        Sure, we could unlock right away but wouldn’t it suck if your Mom dies and you know that if you’d not visited for a few months she’d still be alive then the tradeoffs become more real. Not some unknowable curse of a dark god but rather direct consequential results from the actions of individuals.

        Historically, government tend to have extreme power in the face of pandemics because few other threats can kill so many citizens so fast.

        Historically, human societies had a much higher tolerance for death by infectious disease (though important to note, plagues were still treated as a special case where the government could wall you into your own house and wait for a long time to see who survived, this is distinct from mundane infections like infected wounds) because there was no other choice.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Given that we are in lockdown now, it is unfortunately the case that Heisenberg ethics kicks in: If you ease the lockdown, then all resulting deaths are on your head.

          We would be much better off if we could make the lockdowns just tight enough that we get hospitals that are 50% full rather than 5% full, because that might get us to herd immunity in a more reasonable time. That is a tricky thing to do, since any small change at the beginning of a two-week exponential process can have a huge effect on the outcome at the end of two weeks — I liken it to trying to flip a light switch with a ten-foot pole. But it’s moot, because it is politically impossible to say, “We are making this change and we consider the likely magnitude of the resulting deaths to be acceptable.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, I’d note that:

            a. If we get to herd immunity by spread of the virus, then we will inevitably overshoot it–we’ll get more than the number of people we need infected for herd immunity. Keeping R_t lower means we overshoot by less, and I think that can have a substantial impact on total number of deaths.

            b. As long as the virus is circulating and is a significant risk for a lot of people, those people are going to be very reluctant to do a lot of normal economic activity, like taking a flight somewhere or going to a crowded bar or restaurant. If 80% of the population needs to get this for the virus to die out, and I’ve got a 2% chance[1] of dying if I catch it, then I’m going to be working pretty hard to be in that other 20% that never got it. Multiply that by several million, and you get an economic impact that’s probably comparable to the lockdown.

            [1] I’m in a somewhat-high risk group for COVID-19. My best guess is IFR is somewhere between 0.5% and 1% overall, and it’s probably at least 2-3 times as high for me.

    • gbdub says:

      Our reaction also has unfortunately middling qualities: it’s too painful to continue indefinitely (or really much more than it already has) but not so crippling as to have been immediately rejected as unjustified. It’s not useless – it does seem to slow the spread – but not so emphatically effective that everyone is onboard with keeping it up regardless of the cost.

    • keaswaran says:

      I think it’s also interesting to compare it to the other pandemic that is still ongoing, that everyone tends to forget about because it’s been raging for about my entire lifetime. In the first decade and a half, HIV was far more deadly than COVID, but we’ve now got treatments that make it far, far less deadly. It had a much longer incubation period, both in terms of asymptomatic transmission, and just a very slow rate of transmission. (Even an infected superspreader who has unprotected sex with one new person every day tends to transmit it only once every few weeks or months, rather than giving it to 50 people in one evening five days after catching it.) Nevertheless, I think that even with massive undercount of COVID, we still haven’t reached the point where the number of people infected is as high as it is with HIV, and we’re nowhere near the total number of deaths. We’ve largely slowed the spread in the developed world, at first through social distancing that everyone involved hated (whether it’s closing the bathhouses for a few decades, pushing condom use on everyone, pressuring people into abstinence, or returning gay people to the closet for a decade) but now through a good enough understanding of the mechanisms of transmission that we know precisely which drug taken when can make it safe to do all the fun things you used to do in the ’70s. Of course, after the first couple years, most people learned that it was unlikely to be a risk factor in their own community, so they ignored the social distancing requirements (it always shocked me in college how much straight people thought birth control pills were all the protection you need!)

    • Buttle says:

      If it had happened 50 years ago, we’d be almost helpless, I think. Pretty much just let it burn through. If it were 50 years from now, we might be able to handle it easily.

      I think that’s more or less what happened during the 1957 Asian flu pandemic, and the 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic. The CDC claims the 1957 flu took 116,000 lives in the US, and 1.1 million worldwide, with a world population less than half of today’s. We have yet to reach that level of death with covid 19.

      I don’t have detailed month by month numbers, but given that world
      population has more than doubled, and US population nearly doubled since
      then the CDC figures of 1.1 million worldwide deaths and 116,000 US
      still look large compared to COVID-19 so far. Here is a description
      from the UK:

      The first cases in the UK were in late June, with a serious outbreak in
      the general population occurring in August. From mid-September onwards
      the virus spread from the North, West, and Wales to the South, East, and
      Scotland. One GP recalled ‘we were amazed at the extraordinary
      infectivity of the disease, overawed by the suddenness of its outset and
      surprised at the protean nature of its symptomatology.’2 It peaked the
      week ending 17 October with 600 deaths reported in major towns in
      England and Wales. There was some evidence of a limited return in the
      winter.

      By early 1958 it was estimated that ‘not less than 9 million people in
      Great Britain had … Asian influenza during the 1957 epidemic. Of these,
      more than 5.5 million were attended by their doctors. About 14 000
      people died of the immediate effects of their attack.’3 Not only was £10
      000 000 spent on sickness benefit, but also with factories, offices and
      mines closed the economy was hit: ‘Setback in Production — “Recession
      through Influenza”’ (Manchester Guardian, 29 November).

      see more at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2714797/

      Although children were the most affected, schools don’t seem to have
      been closed. However, “In London 110 000 children were off school
      suspected of having influenza.”

      One bright spot was the forward thinking action by Dr. Maurice Hilleman
      to produce a vaccine cultured from samples collected in Hong Kong. This
      vaccine actually became available in time to be of significant use in
      limiting US losses.

      see https://www.history.com/news/1957-flu-pandemic-vaccine-hilleman

      Although children were the most affected, schools don’t seem to have
      been closed. However, “In London 110 000 children were off school
      suspected of having influenza.”

      One bright spot was the forward thinking action by Dr. Maurice Hilleman
      to produce a vaccine cultured from samples collected in Hong Kong. This
      vaccine actually became available in time to be of significant use in
      limiting US losses.

      see https://www.history.com/news/1957-flu-pandemic-vaccine-hilleman

      Sad to say I haven’t seen any evidence of similar excellence today.

      The 1957 Asian flu was certainly not the garden variety seasonal flu; it
      was a worldwide pandemic caused by a novel virus. Quite a bit like the
      one we’re living through now.

      • keaswaran says:

        Still, if deaths over the complete pandemic cycle were only two to four times higher than deaths in the first two months of covid, and if they were limited to that amount even without any school closures or widespread mask-wearing, let alone lockdown, then it suggests that the virus that time was far less dangerous than the current one.

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Eat Rat, Make New Body: Easy Stuff for Pythons

    CW: the article goes for the gross-out in both pictures and descriptions of snakes killing and eating.

    Anyway the article is about studying the snakes which fast for weeks or months and then eat a huge meal. It turns out that when they’re fasting, they don’t produce stomach acid. When they’re digesting, they increase their metabolism beyond anything otherwise known– for weeks they’re putting out more energy than a galloping horse does for a few minutes.

    They increase the size and capacity of their digestive organs tremendously, then shrink them back when they aren’t digesting.

    Question not addressed in the article: How do snakes avoid being eaten while they’re digesting a big meal?

    • rocoulm says:

      General follow-up question: what do snakes do while they’re digesting? Not looking for food obviously; aside from the occasional mating or moving to new territory when food is scarce, what do they occupy their time with, and how likely are they to be hunted/eaten while doing it?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        King cobras live on snakes, but I don’t know what other species especially eat snakes.

        In discussion on facebook, I was told that ball pythons at least hide when they’re digesting. I don’t know how much that can help with small predators (rats, canids, carnivorous birds) which I would expect to be rummaging around, but I might be underestimating how thorough the rummaging is.

        I’ve seen recommendations to feed pet snakes dead prey, or at least never leave a snake unsupervised with its prey.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          King cobras live on snakes, but I don’t know what other species especially eat snakes.

          Moses had a snake on staff who could take these questions if it was still alive.

  4. Aapje says:

    If Shakespeare had used Dutch fixed expressions in his plays, he might have gone places.

    ‘Zweten als een otter’ = Sweating like an otter

    Sweating profusely.

    ‘Ik kan geen ijzer met handen breken’ = I can’t break iron with (my) hands

    I can’t do the impossible.

    ‘Oliedom’ = Oil dumb

    Extremely dumb. Probably derives from ‘olijk dom,’ where ‘olijk’ is an obsolete word for: very badly.

    ‘Kletsmajoor’ = Major babble (as in the military rank)

    Someone who babbles a lot.

    ‘Of je worst lust!’ = Whether you like sausage!

    This is what you can say if someone asks you to repeat your question and you are upset at them not listening to you initially or because they rudely asked you to repeat the question. This comes from a 1935 youth novel called ‘Polletje Piekhaar’, with Rotterdam lower class dialect/slang, which also gave us:

    ‘Geef mijn portie maar aan Fikkie!’ = Give my portion to Fikkie!

    I don’t want any part of it. Fikkie is the name of a dog, in the novel. The bestselling novel is now forgotten, but the expressions from it remain used.

    ‘Verstrooid’ = scattered

    Being absent-minded. A typical usage and stereotype is: ‘verstrooide professor’ = an absent-minded professor.

    • Bobobob says:

      By any chance, is the Dutch word verstrooid derived from the same root as the Yiddish word farshimmelt? (serious question)

      • Lambert says:

        No, it comes from PIE *strew-.
        Schimmeln might be related to words like ‘swamp’ and ‘sponge’.

      • Aapje says:

        I found no evidence of that and it seems very unlikely. The root seems to pretty clearly come from straw (‘stro’ in Dutch, but ‘strooien’ is the adjective version, as in straw hat = ‘strooien hoed’).

        The earliest know use of ‘strooien’ to mean scattering is from 1287 (‘ver’ is added to words to indicate that the act happened in the past, so ‘verstrooid’ means: it has been scattered). Various related languages have very similar words to ‘strooien’ that mean the same, suggesting it goes back way earlier, to a common proto-Germanic root language:

        Old English: streawian
        Modern English: strewn
        Nynorsk Norwegian: strøya
        Old High German: strewen
        Alemannic German: streuwe
        Modern German: streuen
        Gothic: straujan
        Luxembourgish: streeën

      • Creutzer says:

        Yiddish farshimlt means ‘mouldy’ (German verschimmelt – different spelling for the same underlying phonological representation; from Schimmel ‘mould’). Totally unrelated to verstrooid, except that both have the same prefix (Yiddish far- = German ver- = Dutch ver-), which is a cognate of English strew. Taken literally, verstrooid is something like ‘strewn out’ – and now it’s immediately apparent how it acquired its metaphoric meaning. German has zerstreut with the same meaning (just a different prefix, which emphasises the ‘apart’ or ‘in different directions’ aspect of it). Russian also has a word meaning ‘scatter-brained’ that is formed exactly analogously (complete with the closest matching verbal prefix): rassejannyj. I’m not sure if it’s a loan translation of German zerstreut or simply an independent development of the same metaphor.

        • Robin says:

          It’s funny that in Dutch “scattered around” and “absent-minded” are the same word. When the comedian Heinz Erhardt said that he is totally scattered around (verstreut) today, instead of zerstreut, people found it a hilarious wordplay!

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t this why Rudi Carrell did so well in Germany? He just spoke bad German and people found it hilarious 🙂

          • noyann says:

            He would have made it anywhere, with the family talent and early learning, the hard working, and the perfectionism. I think he cultivated his funny accent somewhat, but that was not the main driver of his success.

    • WashedOut says:

      Some from Australia:

      “It went off like a bride’s nightie” – A really fun, energetic event took place

      “Goes like shit off a shovel” – Usually in reference to a car or some high-powered machinery, it performs really well.

      “Could eat the arse out of a low-flying duck” – very hungry

      “Doesn’t know whether he’s Arthur or Martha” – someone is totally confused

      “A month of Sundays” – a very long time

  5. rocoulm says:

    A dream I had recently:

    It began as the classic teeth-falling-out stress dream. I have these, oh, once or twice a year, but this one was different. As soon as my teeth felt the slightest bit loose early on, I recognized the feeling and was about 99% sure I was dreaming. I also remembered that usually the way these dreams end is with my dental condition being exposed in public somehow, and the dream fades away just as I reach the point of maximum embarassment. This time I was determined to end the dream myself.

    I decided I’d mimic the conditions the dream usually ends with – I just went outside somewhere crowded and showed people what was happening. I got some weird looks, but mostly people being annoyed that I was bothering them. The dream went on. I tried to find more and more public places, more conspicuous ways of revealing what was going on but it never worked – teeth just kept falling out. Each failure made me just a little bit less sure I was dreaming after all – eventually I gave up and decided to wait it out, 50% sure the dream would end when I ran out of teeth, 50% sure I’d just go the rest of my life toothless. I didn’t care, I was just frustrated by that point.

    The last third or so of the dream consisted of me staring into my bathroom sink, mouth open, and teeth falling out. By then, the rate had gone from one every couple minutes to several per second. Obviously, I was not only losing teeth, I was growing them back just as fast. What’s more, I realized the teeth coming out were becoming larger and larger – the last few were comically large, dentist-office models that shouldn’t even have been able to fit in my mouth.

    When it got to the point of my sink overflowing with teeth, cascading across the countertop and around my ankles, I finally woke up.

    • Well... says:

      Well there’s a perfect nightmare for me.

      • rocoulm says:

        Oddly enough, I wasn’t really scared. By the end I was just annoyed since I couldn’t do anything but stand there.

        • Well... says:

          Come to think of it, I have had one or two losing-teeth dreams where my reaction was more “dangit, now I’m gonna have an ugly gap in my teeth for the rest of my life, unless I get some expensive dental implant, but that means a whole procedure…ugh!” and less abject terror at the symbol of my bodily decay. But the latter is by far my typical response in those dreams.

    • Randy M says:

      When it got to the point of my sink overflowing with teeth, cascading across the countertop and around my ankles, I finally woke up.

      Before you even got to cash that in?

    • WashedOut says:

      My interpretation of your dream is that it’s actually a very meta lesson in epistemic humility.

      Your subconscious gave you a dream narrative that it knew you would recognize, but deliberately robbed you of the ability to demonstrate in-dream that you were competent enough to short-circuit the lesson (public humiliation) through initiating the humiliation yourself. The meta-lesson is that you think you’re the master of your own domain and can manipulate your surroundings totally, but actually you are still subject to the vagaries of brain chemistry and complex environments just like everyone else. The sink overflowing with teeth is a playful exaggeration by your subconscious to illustrate this point.

  6. Well... says:

    Gardeners of SSC: What have you found is the most effective way to keep pest animals — in particular, raccoons — out of your garden?

    • Ditto question for squirrels.

    • meh says:

      a dog.

      but i’m still figuring out how to keep the dog out of the garden.

    • dweezle says:

      I grow a lot of really hot peppers in my garden and believe that it has a noticeable deterrent effect on mammalian garden thieves. I know it’s probably some old wives tale but i have had much less of a deer issue since i started. My current garden is about 30% really hot peppers, habeneros and spicier. I think you could get some of the benefits with more strategically placed rows of peppers on the outer edges, but YMMV.
      Also you get lots of hot peppers using this strategy.

      • Well... says:

        That works once the peppers are up, but what about when you’re first planting? We surrounded our garden with hot peppers that never sprouted. Meanwhile the crops on the inside got dug up and eaten.

        • JustToSay says:

          Before plants really get growing, I use some metal fencing material that comes on big rolls at home improvement or farm stores. I’ve heard it called roll fencing or cattle fencing. It’s maybe 4′ wide and the roll is probably 50′ long. It’s metal mesh with ~2″x4″ openings.

          I cut it into pieces a few feet wide so that I have several panels I can lay down on top of the garden and rearrange as things come up at different rates.

          It does have sharp edges, so if it will stick out into an area where kids will be running around, it can be a hazard.

          It works for me, but I just have two 4×8 raised beds.

          • Well... says:

            Ahh, raised beds! So you basically have “walls” already — ones that are much less likely to be dug under than ground-level walls — and you make a sort of trellis roof out of the fencing material.

          • JustToSay says:

            I’m living the dream! If it makes you feel better, I have raised beds because the soil here is impossible to work with and just digging up the yard isn’t a winning proposition.

          • I have raised beds because the soil here is impossible to work with

            Whereas I built raised beds for my daughter’s use to put on the part of our back yard that is covered with concrete.

            Most of the rest of the sunlight falling on the yard is going to my fruit trees.

  7. theodidactus says:

    COVID-20 hits in december of this year. It’s way worse than COVID-19. Anyone who steps outside their residence is instantly disintegrated by viral forces beyond all scientific comprehension.

    How exactly the virus defines “their residence” similarly evades science: the virus somehow understands statutory and common law, and does not attack people that remain domiciled within areas they have a personal property interest in. Given the complexity of property law and the legal definition of residence, this is itself a touchy question: it’s safe to say that any tenet of an apartment, anyone who owns real property (in fee simple or in wilder versions of ownership), and people that live in parked mobile homes are safe. Tenets can move about the common areas of their apartment complex as well, but anyone who (IE) steps into their car, turns it on, and leaves their driveway is instantly dismembered. no one is quite sure what happens to people that live in their car, etc. Easements, adverse possessory interests, and the like go from being arcane legal concepts to concrete matters of life and death.

    It will take, at minimum, 3 months to reform property law to allow humanity to survive the pandemic. Until then, the virus will apply the law as it is understood, this year, in the jurisdictions where that law is in effect.

    You might have 12 hours of unique forknowledge that the virus will hit. You cannot purchase, rent, or otherwise obtain real property in that time.

    How screwed are you?

    EDIT: Added some stuff for clarity, I might add wrinkles below as the mood strikes me. new details about the virus emerge.

    • rocoulm says:

      How does it handle AnCom communes?

      • theodidactus says:

        For real: no one is really sure.

        • rocoulm says:

          Does this affliction affect everyone instantly? Or is there warning, with the coasts seeing it first before it slowly creeps into the Midwest?

          • theodidactus says:

            I think that accounts for the 12 hour window. Some places get hit right away, you might be lucky enough to be one of those people that knows its coming.

            The virus will surely overrun the whole planet in a 24 hour window, working jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction, consuming common law countries first. In america the outbreak will begin in the 3rd circuit, then spread to the 2nd, then the 1st, then the 5th and 11th simultaneously…

          • rocoulm says:

            I think I’d be able to make it 3 months on water and carefully-rationed canned food.

            For food, I’d need to do some stocking up to last 3 months, which hopefully won’t be as hard as it is now.

            For water, I have some property with a well, but won’t be able to count on electricity. I also have a generator, but…. it’s not yet hooked up. I think I could stockpile enough gas to run that exclusively to power my well, and be okay. As it’s happening over winter/early spring, I may just be able to melt snow/collect rainwater as well.

            Other difficulties: hopefully I never come down with food poisoning, or need other medical attention. Also, without electricity, I wonder how much longer it would be before information that the pandemic is over would even be disseminated – maybe I’d end up staying in an extra month or two just out of ignorance.

            Conclusion: survival odds 7/10, though it’d be very unpleasant.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Most people would be able to make it three months with no food at all: water and vitamin pills.

            Mark Watney disagrees.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Scoop:

            “Most people would be able to make it three months with no food at all: water and vitamin pills.

            “Hell, a three month fast would be about the healthiest possible thing for a large portion of the nation.”

            The lack of salt sounds dangerous to me, and I’m wondering about bone loss. And muscle loss.

            It’s not as though fat people are actually lean people with detachable fat.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Scoop, there’s a ;history of ignoring fat people’s lives and health on the assumption that nothing is more important than making them lose weight.

            I’m dubious about evolutionary arguments, but human history includes a lot more food shortages than total lack of food.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            You’re right; I didn’t think it through enough to note that three months is actually a relatively short time.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’m a citizen. Does that mean I have some however-attenuated ownership interest in public roads? At least in my city? How fast do you think it’ll take the city council to change things so I do?

      One very interesting factor here is whether current law allows for legislative meetings to take place over videoconference, and whether that can be changed without first holding an in-person legislative meeting. I’m afraid that probably can’t happen for the US Congress without a Constitutional amendment, so I suppose we’ll finally have a constitutional convention since that’s the only legal way to propose an amendment without Congressional action.

      In the meantime, I’ve got two weeks or so of food, and I don’t expect that to change before December. I can stretch that out if I need to, but I expect to be pretty hungry by February at the latest. I do hope the power stays on. Also, I’ll be carefully watching my neighbors to see if the common areas of our condo complex count as our residence…

      • theodidactus says:

        apologies, I added some details that MIGHT help clarify some of these questions, though of course a hypothetical like this is supposed to be messy a real life problem like this, which is definitely going to happen, trust me, is always going to involve unknowns.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Maybe 12 hours of unique foreknowledge? If I get that reliably, I think I’ll try to tell others so they can get food too. That’s still going to be the constraining factor for most people, I think.

          Well, either that or medication. Until/unless the power or water goes out, but there’s nothing the average person can do about that one.

          • theodidactus says:

            I think I underestimated how easy it is to acquire 3 months of food in 12 hours. In retrospect, that doesn’t seem that hard really…

          • Evan Þ says:

            Oh, I myself could probably do it, or at least I could before COVID19 – drive to Costco, get a membership, stack up on some really large containers. But most people presumably won’t have those twelve hours’ notice, and even if they do, crowding would keep most of them from actually getting enough food.

          • albatross11 says:

            All utilities will stop working within a few days, since the people keeping them working are either holed up at home or vaporized. Some of the “keeping stuff working? thing can happen from home, but most of it can’t. I’m guessing power and internet/cable/phones go out within a few days at most, and water stops working a week or two later because no more water is being pumped into the water tower.

            Fires, once they start, burn until they run out of fuel because nobody can fight them. (I’m not sure how long till the water goes off, but after that, you can’t even stand in your yard and spray the oncoming fire with your garden hose.)

            I guess the plan would be to buy lots of food, plus propane tanks and a gas grill, etc., to ensure I have the ability to cook things. Also big containers in which I can store water, and a few big barrels to put outside and catch rainwater. I don’t have to worry about anyone stealing anything left in my yard, which is a plus. A generator and fuel for it would be nice and maybe doable in a day, though it would only let me provide power for a few things at a time. (Just charging up laptops and ipads and rechargable lights and such would be a win.)

            Most people in the world will die. Not very many people have three months’ supply of food/water/etc. on their property–especially in cities. In many places, you can’t get enough water to survive without going off your property.

            If only I get the 12-hour warning I’ll warn some other people while frantically trying to save my family, but statistically this will round to zero. If everyone has the warning, nobody will be able to get anything and we’ll just all die except for the very rare people who have enough supplies to get through it and don’t get caught up in a riot/shootout trying to get the last box of pasta from the grocery store.

            OTOH, you probably don’t have to worry about running up debts or even committing crimes to get your supplies. Most likely, there won’t be a functioning society left to enforce any rules on you when the three months are done anyway, given the massive die-off.

    • Jaskologist says:

      So basically, COVID-19 came from bats, and COVID-20 came from vampires.

      • theodidactus says:

        I had not considered this. Given my interest in one day tangling with dark forces beyond the ken of mortals, I probably should have paid more attention in property law.

      • Bobobob says:

        And COVID-21 movies can only be viewed by adults.

    • theodidactus says:

      I now realize this hypothetical crisis implicates my favorite area of the law: 4th amendment searches and seizures as they pertain to property rights. At least some courts have characterized apartment guests as having a distinct property interest in the apartment, though they’ve never needed to characterize exactly what sort of interest. If the Supreme Court took cert on a case like US v. Bain right before the pandemic, their decision could reshape human history.

    • John Schilling says:

      For bare survival, water is the the only thing that would be a concern even if I were locked down instantly; I’ve got a bit over a month’s worth stored at short rations, and not sure how much I could fill into improvised storage once locked down (can’t count on rain in the desert). So, quick shopping/scrounging for storage containers, and filling them before the water pressure drops too low from everyone else doing the same.

      For sanity, more cooking fuel, generator with fuel and/or solar panels with battery storage, candles or lantern fuel, and sanitary/hygiene supplies would be a priority.

    • sidereal says:

      So you can die of starvation, dehydration, or eviction? Assuming it rains (does the rainwater harvesting law in your local government matter?) or I’m allowed to fill my bath tub I’m fine, as a rule I keep at least a few months calories on hand. But hell, most people can probably go a few months without food, so likely have enough on hand to make it, especially given they can just lay in bed.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Have you checked your bathtub? Mine does a slow drain even when the drain is theoretically closed, and I don’t know how to make it really water-tight.

        • theodidactus says:

          I think you could seal it up with household tools if you really had to. What comes to mind immediately would be
          1) close drain
          2) seal the drain with a giant mound of crazy glue
          3) get a plastic cup from the kitchen
          4) put caulk or sealant of whatever kind available around the rim of the cup
          5) mash the cup down over the drain, putting something heavy on top of it until the sealant sets.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Suppose you want to be able to use it as a bathtub later.

          • John Schilling says:

            Buy the house next door in three months, its inhabitants being long dead and the real estate market having crashed, and use their tub.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          I don’t know how to make it really water-tight.

          There’s an app for that.

          The tricky part is that I gather it’s use-once, so I have never deployed it.

      • theodidactus says:

        The early phase of COVID-19 was an interesting demonstration in exactly how much of various supplies I have in my apartment, because I took lockdown very very seriously in mid-march and pretty much didn’t leave my unit for 3 weeks.

        I *still* haven’t had to go out and buy toilet paper, paper towels, or Kleenex. Turns out my wife and I just always have a 179-billion year supply in my closets. Also, I have a curiously large supply of large frozen slabs of meat at all times.

    • drunkfish says:

      /r/legaladvice is obsessed with arcane property law. They’re going to *love* this pandemic.

    • We already own our house and yard. I’m pretty sure that we have three months worth of food currently in the house, especially if you count fruit coming ripe in the yard over that period. But the three months doesn’t give a cure, so isn’t very relevant to us.

      It sounds as though most of the population of the world dies, which will have serious negative effects on us even if the virus magically vanishes before we run out of food.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      People who have let their mortgages go underwater feel like real goobers.

    • Kaitian says:

      I feel like I’m missing something, because in this pandemic, surely literally everybody dies? Even if we assume the disease comes with an instruction sheet that explains its relation to property rights, how would you spread this information if nobody is allowed to go to work? Surely after a few hours or days without maintenance, all internet and phone lines will be out of service? Not to mention water and electricity.
      So even preppers with a generator and months of food on hand die, because they never learn about the new risk. Everybody else dies because they’re unable to get food and water. People who literally never leave their property die because they can’t get deliveries or any utilities. Everyone is now dead.

      Also, do children and babies own property? Fetuses?

    • S_J says:

      Tenets can move about the common areas of their apartment complex as well, but anyone who (IE) steps into their car, turns it on, and leaves their driveway is instantly dismembered.

      [sarc]
      I don’t know, most of the beliefs that I hold don’t move around on their own…is there some sort of materialization of tenets going on in this scenario?
      [/sarc]

      I’m not very screwed, as a homeowner. The virus will likely ignore me walking across my lawn to the mailbox. However, if the virus strikes a family member who goes out for a walk in the neighborhood, things will get bad fast.

      Worse for society: an uncomfortable fraction of people who drive trucks for USPS/FedEx/UPS/Amazon, as well as police/EMS/Firemen, will die the first day. Not to mention a huge number of high-level politicians (and their chauffers and staffers).

      What about people who live in a room on a cargo ship, or on a Naval vessel? What about people who live/work on offshore oil rigs, or spend half the year at a mining location?

      This is beginning to sound like the discussion of social disruption from a Coronal Mass Ejection that destroys the electrical grid. Except instead of destroying infrastructure, this disaster has removed people and their know-how from a large section of society.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      It would certainly be a new thing to have a sapient virus that could read and understand human law. However, this virus has a pretty low IQ, since they are basically exterminating their prey species.

      So I think I would try to communicate with them and explain (in a nice way) how dumb their behavior is. Maybe we could come to an accommodation where I would agree they could freely live in my body if they don’t kill me. In fact it might actually be useful to have a sapient virus inside me that wanted me to survive as long as possible. Did y’all see the Futurama episode where a bug inside Fry made him into a superman? Something like that would be my goal.

  8. meh says:

    been asking this here for a while… no good answers in the article, but others are also asking

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/if-trump-is-down-in-the-polls-why-do-so-many-americans-think-hell-win/

    • Matt M says:

      Joe Biden is just so unimpressive, and even his supporters seem so generally unenthusiastic about him, that it’s difficult to imagine him actually winning, even considering how unpopular and hated Trump is among certain segments of the population.

      This would be starkly apparent right about now and leading up into the election, if Trump were still allowed to hold his rallies…

      Edit: And to be clear, when I say “difficult to imagine him winning” I mean that in the most literal sense. Remember, I’m the guy who bought Biden shares on predictit when COVID shutdowns started. Logically I think right now he is more likely than not to win. But I have a tough time visualizing in my head him giving a speech as President or something like that. He just doesn’t “seem like that guy” in my mind. And Trump, back in 2016, didn’t either! And people also underestimated his chance of winning, too!

      • Well... says:

        If Biden is so unimpressive why is he the presumed winner in the Democratic primaries?

        • Matt M says:

          Because all the potentially interesting people dropped out in the same week in order to torpedo Bernie?

          It seems that the DNC, the media, various insiders, the politically active branch of Dem voters have settled on Biden as the “least offensive option.” And he almost certainly is that.

          What I’m saying is that the “least offensive” guy doesn’t always win. In fact, they usually don’t.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s weird that the less offensive candidate won the primary but is worried about losing the election for being unremarkable. [edit: Because usually you take extreme to court your base, then moderate to attract the undecideds]

            His primary support was predicated on this unremarkablity being winning in the general. Did no one have the sweet spot? Or is he still favored, and the worry is just an irrational dread?

          • Well... says:

            Why did they drop out to torpedo Bernie if Biden is unimpressive? Why torpedo Bernie at all? (OK, I know know why I would have, but I don’t imagine they all share my reasons.)

            Is this just the inevitable endgame of “coalition of the fringes”? An inoffensive and unimpressive candidate election year after election year?

            And, why is Biden considered inoffensive? Even discounting his drug war history which most people evidently have no clue about, I thought people think of him as kind of a gaff-prone weirdo who sniffs children?

            Are people so dumb that they think Biden being Obama’s VP means he has Obama mojo on him, and Obama was super popular and won the election easily so they think Biden will do the same?

          • Why torpedo Bernie at all?

            Two plausible reasons:

            1. Because many Democrats believe that his views and image are too extreme, and will result in Trump being elected.

            2. Because many of the Democrats currently influential in the party believe that if Bernie wins he will take the party away from them — rather as Trump took the Republican party away from the Republican establishment.

          • John Schilling says:

            I thought people think of him as kind of a gaff-prone weirdo who sniffs children?

            Nobody thinks their own politician’s gaffes matter. And the bar for thinking their own guy’s personal behavior matters is set well above the annoyingly touchy grandpa level. The people who think of him primarily as a “gaffe-probe wierdo who sniffs children” are the people who were never going to vote for any Democrat, or who were going to consider it nigh unto treason for the DNC to nominate anybody but Sanders, and most of them will go to their grave wondering “but why didn’t the Biden voters care?”

          • Ninety-Three says:

            Because all the potentially interesting people dropped out in the same week in order to torpedo Bernie?

            By late February, Bernie and Biden were the only candidates 538 gave a higher than 1% chance of victory to (Bloomberg was the only other even breaking 0.1%). In the event of a contested convention, it seems very unlikely that the nomination would pass over the establishment candidate and the two guys with the best poll numbers to land on, say, Warren. The really obvious reason for all the candidates dropping out in March is that they noticed they had no chance and decided to stop wasting their time.

            You got any evidence to back up your conspiracy theory about their true motivations?

          • Garrett says:

            > Why torpedo Bernie at all?

            Let’s assume that Biden gets the nomination and loses. Sure, another 4 years of Trump. But what is the long-term harm to the Democratic brand? At-worst, some Bernie supporters will be mad at the DNC for back-room shenanigans, but the DNC can always claim that the people responsible no longer work for them and it will be difficult to prove false. The responsibility will be diffuse and not clearly documented because it’s all back-room stuff. In-general, the public won’t care.

            But if Bernie gets elected, the Democrats go from a party slightly to the left of the mainstream to “party who nominated *that guy*”. Bernie hasn’t really been criticized or attacked by the Democrats in a serious way. But I’m certain the Republicans are salivating at the opportunity. In the general public’s mind right now, Bernie is the guy who talks about healthcare and billionaires a lot. After Republicans start digging up his quotes about how awesome Venezuela, Cuba, bread lines, etc. (sure, some of it’s out of context), the Democratic *brand* will be seriously harmed for having nominated him. And should he win a *huge* amount of the money which currently goes to Democratic candidates and causes will go towards thwarting Bernie. Probably meaning the Republicans.

            A Biden candidacy is possibly a short-term loss. A Bernie candidacy is a long-term loss for *the party*.

          • Aftagley says:

            Because all the potentially interesting people dropped out in the same week in order to torpedo Bernie?

            Why is this meme still around?

            So, lets look at the data. In the 2016, the democratic primary basically didn’t happen. In 2008, every candidate not named Obama or Clinton had dropped out by mid January. In 2004 the primary lasted a bit longer, but had still cleared up by early March. 2000 was also a weird year, with Al Gore pretty much walking away with the nomination, but if you go back to 1992 you see that the field contracted in the first week of March.

            For the past human generation we have a system where in the Democratic Primary the field begins to contract in January and has almost always reduced to two candidates by early March. In 2020, we have a system where… the primary field began to contract over the first few months of the year and reduced to two candidates by March. So, was this some kind of anomalous conspiracy? Clearly not.

            Saying that candidates dropping out is conspiracy against the Bern is like saying gravity is a conspiracy against NASA – yeah, it doesn’t help them but it’s a known risk that they’d have been stupid not to take into account.

          • Matt M says:

            Look, you can quote me all the dates and statistics you want.

            The fact remains that…

            a. They all dropped out within a remarkably short period of time compared to each other
            b. At the time they all dropped out, Bernie was leading and looked like he might very well win
            c. Nearly all of their supporters went to Biden, and not to Bernie

            I don’t know that there’s a “conspiracy” in the sense that they all agreed to do it or that someone ordered it or anything like that. And yes, I understand that rational self-interest can explain any individual’s decision to drop out.

            But it still very much looks like “they dropped out to stop Bernie.”

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Nearly all of their supporters went to Biden, and not to Bernie

            Are there reasons to think many of their supporters would have gone to Bernie instead at some point if they’d stayed in? If not, then the only effect from them dropping out was increasing Biden’s chance of winning outright with a corresponding decrease to his chance of winning at the convention.

          • mitv150 says:

            An additional factor that I don’t see mentioned above is that they dropped out immediately prior to Super Tuesday. There was effectively zero campaigning and spending to be done between the time at which they dropped out and a massive set of election results.

            That strongly suggests that they dropped out for the purpose of influencing the Super Tuesday results. What was their to lose otherwise?

          • Aftagley says:

            a. They all dropped out within a remarkably short period of time compared to each other

            Have you ever noticed that in presidential elections, nearly every losing candidate ends up conceding remarkably close to the first Tuesday in November?

            Treating the dates they dropped out as an independent variable ignores the fact that they were all either staring down the barrel Super Tuesday or dealing with the aftermath.

            b. At the time they all dropped out, Bernie was leading and looked like he might very well win

            The first part of your statement is true. Polling in mid-late February had Bernie somewhere around 25-30% and everyone else shuffling around the 5-20% range depending on the day.

            Sure, he also had a narrative around him that made it look like he’d win. People were saying he could expand his base, that Biden was considered a dead fish…

            Then the South Carolina Primary happened. Everyone who mattered was still in the race and Biden completely destroyed them. He got just under 50%, Sanders got 20% and everyone else was fighting for table scraps. This proves that Biden was still a dominant force while Mayor Pete, Amy, and Sen. Warren were active in the field.

            So, yeah this is one data point, but it’s a pretty important one. SC ended up being pretty indicative of the South as a whole, which really doesn’t like Sanders. Bernie was no sure thing even before people started dropping out. He had a chance, but it wasn’t in any way locked up.

            c. Nearly all of their supporters went to Biden, and not to Bernie

            Beaten to the punch on this one by thisheavenlyconjugation. The fact remains that Bernie is incredibly divisive on the democratic side and very few people have him as their second choice. If you feel the bern, you’re not rolling with Mayor Pete. But, someone who’s first choice isn’t around any more can and will gravitate towards the generally popular and unobjectionable Biden.

            ETA

            What was their to lose otherwise?

            Prestige. Losing an election or primary sucks and potentially hurts your future political career, since no one wants be remembered as that guy who barely broke 2% in Virginia, or wherever.

            Sure, they could have stuck around (and remember, Warren DID stick around), but if you’re young and don’t want to have to explain your poor election performance when you’re running again in 2032 or whenever, you’d rather just get out early.

        • BBA says:

          Biden had strong support among “very offline” people – older churchgoing African Americans, plus the handful of blue-collar whites who haven’t jumped to the Republicans yet. And that’s still enough to win a primary in most states. For all the visibility that the DSA and the Pantsuit Nation have online, they don’t actually amount to a lot of voters.

      • Wrong Species says:

        This is a popular sentiment on the internet which I think is so strange when Biden was popular throughout the whole Obama presidency. Biden memes were really popular back in late 2016/early 2017. I’m guessing that too many people are picking up the Bernie supporters talking points.

        • cassander says:

          Biden was popular as the President of Vice, but that doesn’t mean people wanted him to actually be president.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Maybe not, but it’s just bizarre how people are talking about him as if he’s on the same level as Hillary Clinton for terrible candidates. The guy has charisma and folksy charm. It’s not exactly a mystery why he’s the Democrat nominee.

          • keaswaran says:

            > The guy has charisma and folksy charm.

            Note that his charisma and folksy charm work wonders on “very offline” people (as mentioned above). But for people like me, a wonkish discussion by Hillary Clinton of policies for adults with special needs due to developmental disabilities is far more endearing than anything Biden has ever done. And in many online forums, people like me aren’t as rare as we are in the general public.

          • John Schilling says:

            And in many online forums, people like me aren’t as rare as we are in the general public.

            These would be the forums filled with people who don’t know anyone who voted for Richard Nixon, if online forums had existed in 1972.

    • Deiseach says:

      The answer is in the question? Because last time round, everyone and their dog had Trump dead last, lower than a snake’s belly in a coalmine, down in the polls.

      But he won.

      So this time round, polls going “No, we’re sure this time, he’s down down down in Davy Jones’ locker!” are not so convincing.

      That’s doesn’t mean the polls are wrong, it just means people are perhaps correcting for what happened last time.

      EDIT: Also, strike me pink, but if FiveThirtyEight have a senior writer hyperventilating about Trump doing something naughty to win by cheating, then this makes me downgrade any kind of prediction they might make, based on “stop being such a hysterical little girl” because haven’t we heard this song and dance before? Bush is not going to hand over to Obama, he’s going to declare martial law so that the Republicans will be in office forever! The Republicans are engaging in vote suppression! Hanging chads stole the election from Gore who really won it!

      Though that guy does address things more calmly as the discussion goes on and does contemplate Biden’s lead being weak, so not as bad as I originally thought. But honestly, is the go-to excuse this time going to be “Trump cheated by taking extralegal, unethical or norm-violating steps” the way “It was the Russians!” was the excuse in 2016?

      • Matt M says:

        There’s definitely some of this going on, too.

        The logic isn’t necessarily sound, but I think there’s a decent segment of the public saying to themselves “Last time they said Hillary had a 95% chance of winning, but Trump won; therefore this time so long as their estimate of Biden winning is 95% or less, Trump will win again” or something like that.

        • keaswaran says:

          > most people are just smart enough to realize that a lot could happen between now and the election that would change people’s mind.

          That would explain people being very uncertain who would win. It doesn’t explain people being confident that Trump will win, because it requires them to think that what could happen between now and the election would uniformly point in one direction.

      • Tarpitz says:

        strike me pink, but if FiveThirtyEight have a senior writer hyperventilating about Trump doing something naughty to win by cheating, then this makes me downgrade any kind of prediction they might make

        The way I read this was that he was suggesting that some voters thought Trump might cheat, which would partially explain why they thought he might win, not necessarily that he himself thought Trump might cheat.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Also, strike me pink, but if FiveThirtyEight have a senior writer hyperventilating about Trump doing something naughty to win by cheating, then this makes me downgrade any kind of prediction they might make, based on “stop being such a hysterical little girl” because haven’t we heard this song and dance before?

        That’s horribly misrepresenting him. He’s not saying that Trump will cheat, he’s saying that other people think Trump will win because they think Trump will cheat. And he’s using a definition (“norm-violating steps”) so broad that it has already been met.

        I mean for God’s sake he wrote one paragraph ended it with “Basically, if some people already think Trump will cheat to win, they will likely not find the polls much comfort.” How do you come away from that with the conclusion that Perry Bacon is being a little girl?

      • Tumblewood says:

        EDIT: Also, strike me pink, but if FiveThirtyEight have a senior writer hyperventilating about Trump doing something naughty to win by cheating, then this makes me downgrade any kind of prediction they might make, based on “stop being such a hysterical little girl” because haven’t we heard this song and dance before? Bush is not going to hand over to Obama, he’s going to declare martial law so that the Republicans will be in office forever! The Republicans are engaging in vote suppression! Hanging chads stole the election from Gore who really won it!

        Your assessment of Perry Bacon Jr’s position is not so much what he claims but what he surmises people fear. The actual quote about cheating from the discussion is:

        Second, I think the possibility that Trump might take extralegal, unethical or norm-violating steps (like trying to have the Ukrainian government investigate the son of one of his rivals) to win the election makes people a little less confident that the election will take place in a traditional way. (Basically, if some people already think Trump will cheat to win, they will likely not find the polls much comfort.)

        He writes about the idea of Trump ‘cheating’ to win the election in the indicative and not the subjunctive, like one would write about a real prospect, but that is as far as he goes. It is a big leap to conclude that Perry Bacon Jr personally believes Donald Trump will do that, when his actual statement is about what other people may believe.

    • Bobobob says:

      The way things are going, I think it’s very possible that Trump will contract, and possibly die from, COVID-19. Biden, too, especially if he’s out on the campaign trail shaking hands. November may look a lot different than it does now.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        My impression is that people in fairly high risk groups who get the virus still have a risk of death or long term disability which is well under 50%. No?

        • Bobobob says:

          Not sure of the statistics, but I think it would be virtually impossible to conduct an effective campaign while simultaneously recovering from COVID-19.

          I wonder if Trump or Biden’s willingness to take a COVID-19 test will be a defining issue of the campaign. What if, for example, Trump takes the test and is shown to be an unsymptomatic carrier?

          • Tarpitz says:

            Contracting a fairly serious case of CoViD-19 pushed Johnson’s approval numbers from good to stratospheric, so as long as they didn’t die there’s no guarantee it would be a bad thing for their electoral prospects. And frankly, anything at all that stops Biden from talking in public may well be a positive for his chances…

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Trump, and lots of people Trump meets with, are tested daily or near daily already.

            Some pundits have wondered, since access to tests allows Trump and his team to to campaign and appear with more ease, if Biden’s team should get the same once the race really starts.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I’ve been assuming that if Trump or Biden actually contracted COVID-19, he would not die from it because he will get a level of care that ordinary people do not get.

        But I realize that I’m hazy on what that level of care is. I have not heard of anything that would be an effective treatment except it costs a hundred times more than insurance will pay. Is there a payoff to the presence of a full-time nursing staff not distracted by a hundred other patients?

        People wondered if Boris Johnson might die, and he did not — but he is twenty years younger than Biden or Trump.

        • John Schilling says:

          But I realize that I’m hazy on what that level of care is. I have not heard of anything that would be an effective treatment except it costs a hundred times more than insurance will pay.

          There are no such treatments for most diseases, for both medical and economic reasons, and I’m pretty sure that COVID-19 is no exception. Nor is there much benefit from having a nurse standing by your bed 24/7. In general, by the time you’ve reached the level of a middle-class citizen of any developed nation whose hospitals aren’t utterly overwhelmed, the marginal benefits of throwing more $$$ at medical problems are small.

          “X will live much longer / is much less likely to die of Y than the average person because he is Rich and Powerful”, is right up there with “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” on the list of things often believed but rarely true.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Well, there are a few counterexamples. Malnutrition for sure, and probably auto accident. We don’t have a very good handle on the count of people who have died from Covid-19 because they tried to self-care and therefore were not observed sliding into a cytokine storm. I would guess that Trump is getting tested pretty regularly (but maybe not, if it is judged that the optics of that are bad) and could therefore get remdesevir sooner than Joe Public is likely to get it. But perhaps that sort of thing has more of an effect on the intensity of the bout and the time to recovery, rather than on the likelihood of survival.

            I also know there are things that have treatments that are, for one reason or another, insanely expensive. AIDS was like that for a while, though it might not be any more? And whatever that drug was that Shkreli cornered? But of course both of those are diseases that had been around for ages so that expensive treatments be developed in the first place, and Covid-19 has not.

            I’m not trying to argue with you, just provide context for my query. I expect you are correct.

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, there are a few counterexamples. Malnutrition for sure,

            For middle-class citizens of developed nations? Unless you’re using “shops at normal grocery stores rather than Whole Foods” as your standard for malnutrition, I don’t think there are significant gains/$$$ to be had there.

            And whatever that drug was that Shkreli cornered?

            Daraprim, and the price he was charging was the one calculated to have have the median insurance company scream but pay up. Or possibly miscalculated, but probably not by a huge margin. You can’t make huge profits by pricing your drugs so high that insurance companies won’t pay for them, because then almost nobody will actually pay for them.

            Sucks to be poor (or a citizen of a nation with a penny-pinching national health service) and sick with whatever the next Shkreli has cornered the market on, but you don’t have to be filthy rich to get the right drugs.

        • Chalid says:

          IANAD but I’d think the rare non-scalable treatment would be transfusions of convalescent plasma or whole blood. (Give the patient blood from people who have already recovered; this blood will have antibodies against the virus.)

          Nobody has yet demonstrated its effectiveness against covid-19 to my knowledge, but there hasn’t been a decent trial yet. But the technique works against other diseases.

        • Cheese says:

          >I’ve been assuming that if Trump or Biden actually contracted COVID-19, he would not die from it because he will get a level of care that ordinary people do not get.

          There is no actually effective level of care inaccesible to ordinary people in a western country, assuming a non-overwhelmed health system.

          It is quite possible that it would be ever so slightly worse, given the pressure that might be on a treating team given celebrity status. That is, the temptation to throw a bunch of experimental drugs at them which most likely don’t work and are likely to contribute to potential complications. I include convalescent plasma in that but an early administration of that is the only thing I can really think of that might be effective but is currently out of reach of the general public.

          Predicting who will die or not is a mug’s game at an individual level anyway.

      • Jaskologist says:

        You’re forgetting that Trump has the cheat codes to reality. Here’s what actually ends up happening.

        Mexico, due to fears over the Coronavirus, shuts down their border with the US. To be safe, they build a wall, which they pay for.

        A miracle cure is ultimately discovered: a variant on the Chloroquine molecule, notable for its double-iron bound. This COVID Iron-Iron (CovFeFe for short) medicine sweeps the globe and effectively eradicates all concerns about the virus. The US is the primary supplier of this; nobody trusts Chinese manufacturers after all their faulty COVID tests.

        But that doesn’t come in time for Ginsburg, whose infection opens up a Supreme Court vacancy that McConnell quickly moves to fill. The sexual harassment accusations against Amy Coney Barrett don’t slow things down much, but they do help keep the accusations against Biden in the public mind, while revving up Trump’s base. That combined with a reopened economy powered by covfefe secures Trump’s first reelection.

      • keaswaran says:

        Why would Biden shake anybody’s hands? Is he afraid he doesn’t look Trumpian enough?

        • Deiseach says:

          Why would Biden shake anybody’s hands?

          Part of stumping for votes on the campaign trail – meeting the people, pressing the flesh, kissing babies… well okay, maybe Joe had better hold off on that last one 🙂

          • keaswaran says:

            But I don’t understand why anyone would be doing any of that right now. Presumably part of campaigning has always involved going to the Iowa State Fair and eating at diners in New Hampshire, and none of that is going to happen either. Most people’s lives are drastically different right now from what they were three months ago – why not think the campaigns would be done at least somewhat differently?

            But then again, Trump keeps saying that he keeps shaking hands, and refuses to wear masks when visiting hospitals, so maybe politicians in general are much more conservative with the behavior that makes them “look presidential”.

    • edmundgennings says:

      I would also say Biden has the appearance of senility and accusations of sexual assault while also appearing creepy not yet dealt with. Regardless of one’s takes on those issues, Trump has yet to play those cards. Now with Covid taking up all the air I doubt any network other than Fox will really cover those issues in detail except to criticize Trump for bringing them up in a crass objectionable way. But I have a hard time betting on Trump not getting the media to talk about what he wants by being crass and objectionable.

    • theodidactus says:

      also, there’s probably a large degree of defeated cynicism. He’s so obviously bad, but he keeps winning, so a huge portion of his base must be those “barbecue and eat all humans” party adherents that Scott keeps warning us about, so no matter what he’s going to carry the day with his zombie horde, etc. Plus he’ll cheat, and so on.

      Rightly or wrongly, I think a lot of trump opponents believe that literally nothing can be done to win over large portions of the country, so they might not even care at this point.

    • Atlas says:

      I think people generally focus too much on the inside view, perhaps especially when it comes to politics. From the outside view, Trump was (IMHO) decently favored to win re-election circa December 2019 because of the combination of the good/upward-ticking economy and incumbency advantage. Now that the economy is in the process of tanking, Biden as the challenger is getting a huge boost. I don’t think anything else—Russiagate/Reade/alleged senility etc.—really matters.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Stop assuming the man in the street is the kind of nerd who cares about polls or generally checking the state of reality before generating a belief. His predictions go against the polls because he hasn’t read them. He doesn’t expect Trump will win despite polling, he expects Trump will win end of thought.

      • meh says:

        Sure, I’ll take you advice about the man on the street… now what about the many commenters on SSC who also have this belief? (there have been many instances of both pro and anti trump commenters expressing near certainty of another term)

    • valleyofthekings says:

      Polls mean nothing this early in the campaign. Let’s wait and see a few debates, let’s see what scandals get surfaced or invented.

      The first debate is Sep 29; the second is Oct 15. I don’t expect I’ll assign much weight to the polls until then.

      • There was just a special election in California for a House seat that flipped from Republican to Democratic in the previous election. The Republican candidate won it by a substantial margin. That’s a little evidence that current conditions are strengthening the Republican position, although obviously it’s a very small and non-random sample of voters.

    • sharper13 says:

      People (including many really smart people) don’t really believe early election polls. They tend to be wildly inaccurate, in part because there is no real way to validate them, unlike polls right before the election (which must match election results). This leads to less than rigorous decision-making by pollsters, who many times have other motivations.

      What’s the correct percentage of turnout for each party, or each demographic to include in your poll weighting? Where is your cut-off for how likely a respondent is to actually vote in the election? Yeah, the pollsters mostly don’t actually know those answers either. They tend to go with less risky decisions, or ones which match conventional wisdom in their polling circles, or just include less likely voters, and call it good.

      Also, there are generally wild swings over the last few months leading up to an election, both as candidates save their ammo/money and as unexpected events occur. The final result thus has only a loose correlation with the May polls. So at most, they’re a minor indicator, not some reason to put your faith in an eventual winner. If you do want to weigh them, last time I checked, Trump was doing better in the “poll of polls” than he has for his entire term, with only a 4-5 point national margin against him, so if you thought he might win pre-covid, you’d update the other way based on recent polls, not toward him losing.

      If you want a “poll” to rely on, then the betting odds show Trump as a clear favorite. Is that usually better or worse than the non-profit-based polls?

      So in reality, I think what you’re seeing is a rational discounting of those polls at this point, and more of a reliance on other perceived factors.

      • keaswaran says:

        Everything I’ve seen shows Trump at almost exactly the same point in the polls as he had been all along. (He had about two weeks in mid-March of a slight bounce.) And there’s always quite a bit of movement in the polls in the last six months, but the amount of movement has been decreasing in recent cycles as elections become more partisan.

        • Matt M says:

          I saw a social media post the other day that I can’t find now… I think it was supposed to be pro-Trump, but it was showing the “approval rating range” and Trump had the tightest range of any President since like JFK.

          Basically nobody has changed their mind on Trump, one way or the other.

        • sharper13 says:

          Because I read the site daily for other reasons, the RCP average is the one I pay the most attention to over time. It is fairly noisy because it depends on the timing of various polls which don’t necessarily agree with each other.

          The peak is the beginning of April, but Trump’s currently polling above anything earlier than the end of February this year since the start of his term, so he’s well above average at this point.

  9. Bobobob says:

    Amplifying this from a thread below, because it’s an interesting issue I haven’t seen discussed here yet. Is there any precedent for asking a presidential candidate (and sitting president) to take a COVID-19 test administered by an impartial third party, and disseminating the results?

    What if Trump and/or Biden turn out to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus? What if one of them tests positive for COVID-19, say, a week before the election? I can see all kinds of scenarios playing out.

    • Well... says:

      Why would it make a difference, other than there might be extra media attention over whether the candidate/president is displaying the proper safety precautions in public?

      • Bobobob says:

        Well, imagine a situation where Trump or Biden test positive one or two weeks before the election. How will the disease progress? We might not know until after Nov. 4.

        If Trump, especially, were shown to be an unsymptomatic carrier now, there would be huge pressure to 1) wear a mask and 2) scale down his activities. Not to mention all the “I told you so’s” directed at the White House.

        Perhaps more to the point, will the candidates be using COVID-19 tests as a political weapon pointed at each other’s heads? “Joe Biden took a test and was cleared of COVID-19, why won’t Donald Trump do the same?”

        I can imagine all sorts of permutations.

        (BTW, I use the opening “Well” as in “well,” not your name “Well,” but properly capitalized for the beginning of the sentence. Cue the Abbott and Costello routine.)

        • Well... says:

          (BTW, I use the opening “Well” as in “well,” not your name “Well,” but properly capitalized for the beginning of the sentence. Cue the Abbott and Costello routine.)

          What would be the point of a handle like mine if it didn’t cause those kinds of situations?

          Anyway, I don’t think what you’re talking about would be as big a deal as you’re imagining. It’s just not that interesting. News outlets might get one or two days of stories out of it but that’s it. I’ll register that as a prediction with 89% confidence, dependent upon one or both candidates testing positive as asymptomatic carriers.

          • Bobobob says:

            It’s funny, I feel the exact opposite way. I think it would be a big deal, since we’ve been living, breathing and eating COVID-19 (its infectiousness, its course of symptoms, its possible long-term effects in individuals) for three months straight. Curious to hear what other people on the board think…

          • Randy M says:

            The number of times I’ve deleted that eponymous filler word from the start of my posts around here is nigh uncountable.

          • Bobobob says:

            Yeah, let’s hope Well doesn’t get banned, I don’t want to lose that word from my online vocabulary.

            Now I can’t get the Captain Beefheart song “Well” out of my head.

          • Well... says:

            It’s funny, I feel the exact opposite way. I think it would be a big deal, since we’ve been living, breathing and eating COVID-19 (its infectiousness, its course of symptoms, its possible long-term effects in individuals) for three months straight.

            Is “we” the types of bright, curious, highly literate, disproportionately well-educated people who read and comment on SSC, or is it the average voter and journalism consumer?

            ETA: Bobobob’s last remark has me idly wondering if I’m one of those people Scott secretly to ban.

          • Nick says:

            Banning Well… would be inconvenient, but if there’s one person around here Scott mustn’t ban, it’s albatross11.

          • Alejandro says:

            My wife keeps telling me: “You should try to be more like that SSC commenter”. I find it annoying, but I know she means Well…

    • If a candidate tests as having already had the disease and recovered, that coud let him interact with others without social distancing. And if he was known to be immune, that would reduce the criticism of him for doing so.

    • S_J says:

      I don’t know about Biden…but I’ve seen stories indicating that the White House medical staff is testing the President and most people who meet him every day.

      Last week, there was news about a press secretary for the Vice President testing positive. The story seemed to indicate a daily testing regimen, and a test that switched from negative one morning to positive the morning after.

      Anyway, I suspect that it will be impossible to hide a positive result for the President, or anyone in his Executive staff. Simply because notices will be sent out to the pool of people who interacted closely with him, that those people should isolate and be tested.

    • keaswaran says:

      I’m not sure why we would be testing for an acute condition right before the election, especially if it’s one that people likely get only once. If the candidates have managed to get through 8 months of pandemic without being infected, it would be really weird if one or both of them got infected right before the election! Much weirder than if one of them got infected in the several months after the election (which is just a longer period in which anything could happen).

    • sharper13 says:

      Isn’t this one point of having a VP candidate as well as having the actual electoral college vote later and then confirming it in Congress?

      A candidate might die or be incapacitated for lots of reasons, right up to a car accident on election day. What’s the point of having a special test for one particular reason? Are you concerned about the “infect others” issue? Presumably, they’d eventually have to isolate just like anyone else for a limited time. I mean, I guess they meet more people than average during a couple of days there, but is the risk really that specifically huge?

  10. Nick says:

    Tara Burton, who is not my ex, was in the NYT last week with a piece on Millennial traditionalists:

    Many of us call ourselves “Weird Christians,” albeit partly in jest. What we have in common is that we see a return to old-school forms of worship as a way of escaping from the crisis of modernity and the liberal-capitalist faith in individualism.

    The most prominent element is aesthetic and especially liturgical traditionalism, which Burton, an Episcopalian, appears to be on board with. Not everyone who is a “Weird Christian” prefers Gothic architecture and the Latin Mass, but revulsion toward contemporary church art, or attraction to chance-encountered traditional worship, is a common gateway. She recounts one such story from Episcopalian seminarian Ben Crosby, and another from Rod Dreher, whose first conversion experience was in Chartres cathedral. And of course, liturgy has been the sticking point for Catholic traditionalists for more than fifty years.

    Burton puts her own spin on the typical story: the aesthetic is as punk as it is traditional. This is true of punk taken in the broadest sense, of course, as transgressive alternative culture. Go around in leather and a mohawk, and everybody will clap. But start sporting rosaries and tonsures, or sneaking out of the house to attend midnight Mass and adoration, and you’ll really raise eyebrows. And isn’t that the point? This interests me not least because yesterday I read the to-me surprising claim that punkpunk literary genres tend Romantic:

    Punk Punk: In general, anything with “-punk” in its name has a strong tendency towards Romanticism, due to the genre’s cynicism about human advancement, preference for older and more visible machines, and strongly antiauthoritarian tendencies.

    I suppose I should have realized this a long time ago. Anyone, anyway, can see the affinity between a Romantic perspective and both traditional aesthetics and traditional Christianity. Interestingly, in my experience punkpunk genres have rarely used traditional aesthetics. But if you are telling a dystopian story of the little guy ground under the heel of The Man by technology advancing under the guise of progress, it makes little sense to dress The Man in the regalia of a king or the red robes of a cardinal! Tradpunk, it seems to me, is cataphatic where other punkpunk is apophatic. Or, it’s the nostalgia instead of the pessimism realized.

    The second element is the political. If you follow this stuff on Twitter, you’ll know it tends strongly Marxist; this frustrates me personally, but I get it, I really do. I too was attracted to the faith in part because of its radical social teaching, and I’m disappointed but not surprised folks interpret it in Marxist terms. Besides them, there are a lot of oddballs—illiberals and postliberals, quite a few integralists—and the closest any come to our two major parties is support for Bernie or a better populist than Trump. Leah Libresco Sargeant is an establishment shill by comparison when she favorably cites the American Solidarity Party. 😉

    Burton is also correct to note that traditional Christianity gets wrapped into sketchy all-trite stuff, but that is not new, and it didn’t need dwelt on. She mentions for instance that Roosh V returned to Christianity last year, banning discussion of premarital sex but “continuing to attack feminists and LGBTQ people.” Well, maybe we should celebrate his reversion, and guide him toward a fuller one, instead of insinuating it was done in bad faith. More importantly, though, there is more to say here about the right than cheap conversions and racist dogwhistles. For heaven’s sake, even the integralists admitted a few months ago that the debate over integralism has largely been one on the right. That goes for illiberalism generally, which is far from a “progressive” project. And I know Burton knows this, because I know who her friends are; she’s not shy about mentioning Susannah Black or Leah in this piece and others. In other words, she knows there are more folks on the right than racists and reacti*naries, and she’s at most about two steps from them in the social graph. The selective attention here is inexcusable.

    The last element is the theological. Weird Christians are typically thoroughgoing in their espousal of traditional doctrine. Yes to the parts that seem cruel or outdated today, a hearty yes to the supernaturalism, and an especially hearty yes to scandalous passages from ancient or medieval writers. Alas, Burton is brief on this point, so I don’t know where she stands; all I know is she hasn’t swum the Tiber yet. Garry, whom she interviews, recounts finding theology as taught in Catholic school dumbed down, and it’s clear he sought out better instruction himself. This is not an uncommon story.

    It’s a flawed but interesting piece, and I wish it were longer; Burton should have discussed the political element more comprehensively, the theological element, well, at all, and the punk half of “tradpunk” more, too—especially since the piece ran in the paper edition with the title “The Future Of Christianity Is Punk”. Still, I enjoyed seeing the Grey Lady don a mantilla for just a day. 🙂

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Dr. Becky’s Ten Favorite Astronomical Mysteries

    1. What’s inside a black hole?
    2. What’s the Universe expanding into?
    3. What is dark energy?
    4. What’s dark matter made of?
    5. Where is all the antimatter?
    6. What happened in the first 10^-43 seconds of the Universe?
    7. What came first: the galaxy or the black hole?
    8. What causes fast radio bursts?
    9. Why does the Sun’s magnetic field flip?
    10. Does life exist on other planets?

  12. proyas says:

    In The Matrix, the Earth’s sky has been permanently darkened by a thick cloud layer made of self-reproducing, solar-powered nanomachines, so things are uniformly dark at surface level.

    That said, would wind turbines, dams, and tidal power still be able to generate electricity?

    I ask because I know most of the planet’s weather (wind and precipitation) owes to the uneven heating and cooling of different regions. With the sunlight blocked, the Earth’s surface would be much more uniform in temperate, surely reducing wind speeds and rainfall. But would there be enough anyway to make wind turbines spin and dam reservoirs fill?

    Would the tides be affected at all?

    https://youtu.be/EVM5-_fusjs?t=131

    • bullseye says:

      Venus has very fast winds despite very heavy cloud cover. The sun would heat the nanomachines instead of the surface, which I’m sure would do something to the wind, but I don’t know what.

      Dams would work as long as there’s still rain, and it seems to me there would be; the sun still puts heat into the system, just at a different altitude.

      Pretty sure the tides would not be affected.

      • drunkfish says:

        In addition to the Venus example, Titan also still has winds and rain, despite a very hazy atmosphere. The winds are slower, and rain is less frequent, but neither is nonexistent.

    • Dack says:

      I thought wind was mostly the coriolis effect?

      • drunkfish says:

        The coriolis effect reorients motion, it doesn’t create the motion. I’m pretty sure the coriolis effect is acting to turn equatorward/poleward winds into east/west winds. The north/south winds are caused by uneven heating (the equator is hotter, etc) setting up large scale flows in the atmosphere.

        • Dack says:

          It is a force. You can’t reorient a force without exerting force. So they are two competing forces. In a world with no spin, the wind would just be north/south and in a world with no temp differential, the wind would just be east/west. In observation of our non-hypothetical world, the forces compete and predominantly go east/west with a smaller north/south tendency. This leads me to believe that the coriolis force is the stronger of the two, though I’ve never seen it quantified.

          • drunkfish says:

            No, you’re misunderstanding how the coriolis force works. If a fluid is stationary, it does not experience a coriolis force.

            You can see this if you look up the formula for coriolis force, e.g. http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/CoriolisAcceleration.html

            Notably, it’s a = -2(Omega cross v). If v is zero, it evaluates to zero. The force exerted by the coriolis effect is proportional to velocity (and dependent on its direction).

            Qualitatively, the coriolis force is a result of existing in a rotating reference frame. When a fluid moves perpendicular to the spin axis in a rotating reference frame, its velocity relative to the frame velocity changes, and there’s an apparent acceleration. The coriolis force isn’t just something that randomly exists, it’s specifically a result of certain types of motion in rotating reference frames, and if there’s no motion it has no effect.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      While we’re talking about that scene, I’m always annoyed when Morpheus describes Neo’s appearance (“residual self-image”) as “the mental projection of your digital self.” What’s being projected digitally is his mental self-image. It should be “the digital projection of your mental self.”

  13. hash872 says:

    So I just finished 10% Less Democracy, a decent (and contrarian to the spirit of our age!) little book by Garett Jones, another GMU economist. I’d be interested in hearing the opinions of other people who read it. I found myself mostly agreeing with the author, and I probably share a lot of his policy views, but the book was a little underwhelming and he had some random/unfocused chapters in there. Overall I think his biggest issue is just framing- even if we’re advocating for ‘less democracy’, I think we have to lie about what we’re doing a bit, and find a politically palatable way to sell that to the masses. Anyways, a chapter review:

    Chapter 2: He advocates for longer terms for politicians, and says that 2 years for the House of Representatives is an unusually bad design. Agreed- I’d prefer 4 for Reps and 8 for Congress (partially so that we can avoid the mess of midterm elections), and I like his idea of staggering the House elections (a third at a time, say) as well. Less populism, and braver politicians who can make harder decisions.

    Chapter 3: Central bank independence. Big agree on all of this, nothing to really add.

    Chapter 4: He argues for appointing judges & city treasurers, not electing them. Another big agree, but I wish he’d broadened this to include prosecutors and other random local/state functionaries. (Do sheriffs have to be elected? Why do we have such a random tangle of different law enforcement agencies anyways?)

    Chapter 5: Here he starts to go off the rails a bit. Basically argues for requiring a high school degree to vote, which I don’t have a moral issue with, but he fails to quantify exactly how many non-high school grads are voting in every election. Seeing as education & income are highly correlated with voting- I’m not clear what problem he’s solving here. He also disparages the cognitive ability of the uneducated to make quality electoral decisions, which is fine, but he doesn’t address the more interesting question of why an uneducated person voting for the same candidate as a highly educated voter is ‘bad’. If they both reach the same electoral conclusion- again, what’s the problem that we’re solving here?

    Chapter 6. He thinks government bondholders should have political representation in government. OK- but every government is already at the mercy of the bond markets, who can choose to flee if they want- what exactly is gained by giving them literal votes? Bondholders already constrain what governments can do (enormously for everyone other than the US), so for the third time, I’m unclear what problem is being solved here. Also would be logistically tough as ‘bondholders’ are not a homogeneous group and may frequently change (here I think you see the ivory tower abstraction of the professor, who has a high-level but not a practical understanding of financial markets).

    Chapter 7. Argues for bringing back earmarks to help pass legislation. Another good chapter, I’ve been saying this for a while. My basic mental model for democracies is that a little corruption being the norm is a lot better than every elected politician being a Self Righteous Ideologue, which I feel like the US is sliding towards. A little more payoffs here and there, please.

    Chapter 8. Kind of unfocused, rambling chapter about how the European Union is too much of a democracy? (Not really an expert, but- don’t people say the opposite??) I dunno about this one.

    Chapter 9. Something about Singapore. A little too quasi-authoritarian praising for me.

    Overall, I’d love to see these ideas expanded to the less sexy but more crucial plumbing that make up developed countries. For instance I was pretty surprised that he didn’t recommend removing zoning power & construction approvals *away* from local cities- that’s a pretty hot topic these days. The ability to delay every piece of new housing, infrastructure, factories, whatever with endless NIMBY lawsuits & ‘concerned neighbor’ meetings is a great example of too much democracy at the local level- could’ve replaced that entire EU chapter with this, say.

    Getting rid of primaries and just having political parties choose their nominees is a more risque/controversial move, that I’m not sure I’m advocating for, but is definitely in the mix for ‘10% less democracy’ arguments.

    Would love to hear other reviews!

    • bullseye says:

      Regarding Chapter 4, a while back I read an article by a former elected judge arguing that electing judges is terrible. Voters have no good way to evaluate a judge’s performance, so they go with conviction rate. This leads judges to knowingly convict the wrong people in order to stay in office.

      Regarding Chapter 5, I agree with your point, and also I’d expect politicians to start fiddling with graduation requirements to prevent certain demographics from voting. I’m in favor of giving the government as little leeway as possible in deciding who gets to vote.

      • Aftagley says:

        Voters have no good way to evaluate a judge’s performance, so they go with conviction rate. This leads judges to knowingly convict the wrong people in order to stay in office.

        I’ve people in my life who are very close to me who are judges. Your correct that electing judges leads to warped incentive structures, but I think you’re over-simplifying the issue.

        Let’s say your a judge who’s got an election in 6 months and obviously innocent person comes into court. There is no electoral incentive for you to find him guilty; in fact, there’s a pretty huge risk – if your actions lead to the imprisonment of a guy who doesn’t deserve it, hell your opponent could make hay out of that, so you let him go.

        Now, an obviously guilty man comes in. Yes, there would be an electoral risk to letting that man go free, but… why would you? He’s clearly guilty. You sent that man to prison. In this case the additional motivation of getting re-elected was in the same direction as justice, so we don’t really care.

        It’s the edge cases that matter. The ones where the guy almost certainly did it, but maybe the prosecutor’s case isn’t air tight. Where your guy has a prior’s sheet a mile long, but maybe the rational behind the cop’s initial search isn’t believable and you’ve got a nagging doubt that the evidence should be suppressed.

        Mind you, there’s no great solution to this. Even in states where judges are appointed, there are still outside interest groups who will attempt to sway the process. I’d almost recommend lifetime appointments, but those have their own issues.

      • David W says:

        Suppose we went halfway: you get to vote for every judge for whom you sat on a jury? That’s a period where you got to watch the judge perform in his/her job, and you’re already expected to pay attention.

        Perhaps extend it to voting rights for everyone summoned, to prevent voir dire from being a method of electorate control. After all, the judge controls that process too, it should provide useful information.

        • Aftagley says:

          Issues with that plan:

          1. I don’t really care what my judges do during a jury trial. The only thing they’re doing then is just handling objections, they don’t get to decide anything important. Also, if the judge screws something up during a jury trial, it’s going to result in a process violation and the defense attorney’s would have to try to lose that appeal.

          No, I want ethical and impartial judges when it’s a bench trial. That’s the primary time a judge gets to exercise independent judgement.

          2. Again, judges control voir dire in the sense that they approve the strikes requested by the defense attorney and the prosecutor… but they don’t get to strike anyone for cause.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I haven’t read it, and I just put it on my list of books to borrow from some library, some day, if and when they reopen.

      Looking at the description on the publisher’s site, I see a fairly obvious potential criticism.

      During the 2016 presidential election, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders argued that elites were hurting the economy. But, drawing together evidence and theory from across economics, political science, and even finance, Garett Jones says otherwise.

      If the stock market is doing great, and the owning class is raking in cash, but 90% of the year’s graduating class are on track to never be employed, or never have more than minimum wage gigs, the “economy” will appear to be doing very well indeed by most of the popular metrics.

      I expect the somewhat amorphous category of elites to mostly do whatever they believe is individually good for them. When their interests align, and differ from those of the rest of the population, the result won’t be good for non-elites. That’s always true, and you always need some kind of counterbalance to avoid degenerating into an oligarchic autocracy.

      When Trump and Sanders supporters talk about “elites were hurting the economy,” what they tend to mean is “the poor are getting comparatively poorer, the middle are getting pushed down to join the poor, I can’t afford what my parents had at my age, etc. etc.” They don’t mean “elites are keeping GDP low” or “elites are causing the number of people unemployed, actively looking, and meeting various other hurdles [to be counted as unemployed] to increase. I.e. the complaint tends to be “elites are causing themselves to get a bigger share of the pie than before”.

      I don’t know how much Jones’ arguments rely on commonly-criticized-metrics, or similar. But without being clear about the distinction betweem economic metrics and human welfare, I can’t see him persuading anyone who doesn’t consider themselves somehow part of the elite.

      The description also makes points like “the consensus of the field is that …”. That would, of course, be the consensus of experts (elites) in the field, who may be judging based on interests that align with those of other elites, and not of everyone else.

      You need democracy of some kind to keep a check on elites with aligned interests without resorting to more destructive remedies (mostly violent). How much you need probably depends in part on just how aligned those elite interests are.

      It would seem that both Trump and Sanders supporters agree that the interests of those currently powerful are significantly unaligned with everyone else’s interests. (Of course they have different definitions of who those people might be, etc. etc. But they do agree there’s a problem.)

      I doubt that this is a good time for “more elites, less democracy,” even if there’s a reasonable distinction between technocrats and those who are merely very rich.

      • hash872 says:

        I mean this in a friendly discussion kind of way, and I don’t mean to personally attack you, but I loathe the ultra-handwavey term ‘elites’ with the passion of 1000 burning suns. To me it’s just the absolute worst part of the last 5 years, this now bog-standard phrase that Must Be Used In Every Discussion Ever. Who exactly is in this category??? There is no such broad homogeneous category. Please, let’s take ‘elites’ out to the shed like Old Yeller. (‘Neoliberal’ is a distant second).

        You seem to grouping academic experts, people with PhDs and such, into this ‘elites’ category with- elected politicians? This is not a coherent grouping, except at a Trump rally or something. They are all distinct groupings. Wall Street, Silicon Valley, some people in the Midwest who run private mid-market firms, people with PhDs, elected office holders at all levels, the New York/DC media, various cocktail party types, factory owners, people who went to Ivy League schools and have upper middle class jobs now…. these are all separate groupings with separate incentive structures (who fight with each other constantly). It is not one huge, overarching category that are against the pure, working-class people of America. I am begging for intellectual rigor, literally begging.

        The standard argument against populism is that the policy positions are bad, and would cause more harm to ‘the people’ than they realize

        • ltowel says:

          An interesting discussion I’ve had with friends, which I do think translates to some level of “being elite” is: who are the most powerful people you could get to take a call from you through the people you know socially and professionally. We put this at Bacon #2, but I think it’s reasonable at most numbers.

        • Another Throw says:

          How else would you describe the observation that, while sometimes the interests of the Kings of England and the Holy Roman Emperors and the Doges of Venice and the Popes and whoever runs the Free Imperial Cities sometimes conflict——enough that they go to war about it every couple of years, even!——they all seem to be uniformly bad at caring about or taking into consideration the plight of the peasants?

          It is a question of mutual visibility rather than mutual interest.

          When you find a 20 dollar bill on the ground, it doesn’t belong to anyone you know, and you don’t even know anyone that still uses cash anymore it is really hard not to see it as free money. But it damn well did belong to somebody. You just couldn’t see it. Far more often than you find a 20 dollar bill yourself, someone you know will; you are far more likely to go along with something even when it doesn’t benefit you if it benefits someone can see and harms nobody that you can see.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Wall Street, Silicon Valley, some people in the Midwest who run private mid-market firms, people with PhDs, elected office holders at all levels, the New York/DC media, various cocktail party types, factory owners, people who went to Ivy League schools and have upper middle class jobs now…. these are all separate groupings with separate incentive structures (who fight with each other constantly).

          All these groups have strong ties with each other, and they do have class interests that conflict with those of the peasants.

          When the French Revolution happened, all the European monarchs were shocked by it and tried to support a monarchic restauration. Why? After all, these kings were constantly fighting each other. Still, despite their conflicts, they were all playing the same game, when something that went against the rules of the game happened, they all felt threatened by it and opposed it.

        • Aapje says:

          @hash872

          Mostly well-educated globalists.

          I don’t see why ‘elite’ is less sensible than ‘left,’ ‘right,’ ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative.’

          The standard argument against populism is that the policy positions are bad, and would cause more harm to ‘the people’ than they realize.

          That is also the argument for populism. The globalists mostly live in a bubble where they don’t recognize the harms to the commoners that they don’t know. For example, you see these people react with surprise when people oppose migration, because they mostly meet the upper crust of migrants (and when they don’t, the respectable thing to do is to ignore how some problems are much more common with migrants). They mostly don’t feel the pain (and when they do, usually don’t let themselves recognize the pain) that those lower on the totem pole feel, who deal with the less nice migrants much more often.

          The claim that populists harm themselves usually seems to come from ignorance, where all kinds of debatable benefits are attributed to the policies that populists oppose, while downsides are ignored. And especially, it is constantly ignored how those harms and benefits impact different groups in society, differently.

          • hash872 says:

            @aapje. That’s a fair point. My concerns are more around economic populism (‘break up the big banks!’ ‘nationalize whole industries!’ ‘protectionism is grand’) that we have here in the US. As a center-leftist, my most withering criticism is really more for the far left, and my argument was that these economic propositions/emotional arguments would actually harm the working classes. I was less focused on immigration

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It’s not just a matter of meeting the nicer immigrants, it’s effective altruism.

            Making people who are very badly off much better off, primarily at the expense of people who are somewhat badly off is utilitarianism, I think.

          • Aapje says:

            @hash872

            This actually suggests that the term ‘populist’ is just as problematic as ‘elite.’ Nowadays it seems to overwhelmingly be used as a pejorative aimed at people on the right, not as you use it (or perhaps that is just my bubble).

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            These people don’t line up to give away their wealth, jobs, etc; even when they argue that those were ill gotten, so at most it is forcing altruism on others.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje, whether and how consent is involved in effective altruism is a whole additional topic, and one I haven’t seen discussed.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Do any of these work better for you?

          “The professional class.”

          “The managerial class.”

          “The 9.9%.”

          “The Cathedral.”

          • hash872 says:

            I’m arguing for linguistic precision & rigor- if that’s what you mean, that’s great! I just wanted to understand who exactly is in that class.

            You’re more on the right, correct? Would I be unfair if I said that juxtaposing the ‘managerial classes’ against the ‘working classes’ is a bit Marxist?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            They certainly come closer to meaning something than “elites” – if you’re using that as a synonym for one of those you’re going to get very confused if you talk to people using that to mean “Davos attendees”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You’re more on the right, correct?

            Sure, but what I support as my political/economic philosophy is the “American System” of cooperation between capital and labor. Right now I’m heavily on the pro-labor side because I think policy has been heavily slanted towards capital for far too long.

            Would I be unfair if I said that juxtaposing the ‘managerial classes’ against the ‘working classes’ is a bit Marxist?

            Not exactly. The managerial class isn’t the owners, it’s not capital, it’s…the managers. The wonks, the think tanks, the professors, the journalists, the lobbyists. The tinkerers of the policies who tilt things this way and that way. They ultimately work for capital, take their profits from things that are good for capital, and as such are heavily incentivized to think that what’s good for capital is good for everybody because it’s good for them. But at the end of the day they’re not actually capital.

            They’re the “elites” because they man the elite institutions, not because they own everything.

          • Christophe Biocca says:

            Would I be unfair if I said that juxtaposing the ‘managerial classes’ against the ‘working classes’ is a bit Marxist?

            I don’t know about Conrad’s use of the term, but I sometimes use it to distinguish non-owning management from the equity-holders. People who have control delegated from, but not the same incentives as, the shareholders.

          • Aftagley says:

            They’re the “elites” because they man the elite institutions, not because they own everything.

            Not trying to pick a fight here, but isn’t that a classic motte-and-bailey argument then?

            If someone says to me, “Man, that guy over there is an elite, let’s get him!” I’d think I was going after some kind of shadowy plutocrat, not “One of the many people who man the elite institutions.”

            I think pretty much no one likes the top 1%, I think that a certain group of people try to smear the next 9% as being fundamentally the same as the top 1% and the way they do that is via your incredibly elastic definition of elite.

            Bringing up your earlier point, I love all of your proposed counter-terms, particularly “the cathedral” but that’s mostly because I think it would make Nick happy to hear more people talking about cathedral’s in daily conversation.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Not trying to pick a fight here, but isn’t that a classic motte-and-bailey argument then?

            Well, no, first because I’m not the one who used it originally in this discussion. But I also don’t think most people use it to just mean “the 1% of shadowy plutocrats.” We talk all the time about “elite institutions” and “elite universities.” Isn’t it fair to call someone who graduates from an “elite university” and then works at an “elite institution” an “elite?”

            When I think of this class and their group interests, I think of former Clinton campaign/WH communications director George Sephanopoulos now political correspondent for ABC News interviewing former FBI Director James Comey to promote his new book before he starts teaching an ethics course at William & Mary. Just gotta work finance into that example somewhere and we’re all set.

            These are not capitalists, they are not the owners, they are not the plutocrats, but shouldn’t any reasonable definition of “The Elite” include them, and those a rung or two below them on the ladder?

          • Nick says:

            @Aftagley
            I basically agree with hash872’s point about “elite” being imprecise, but I think to be fair it’s fine when there is a context in which you’re calling something elite. Like, to take an example from sociology, Mills meant something in particular by the term power elite. I don’t think there’s anything terribly wrong if someone wanted to use the term in a way very reminiscent of Mills, provided that context was actually clear. (But just going around saying “the elite” all the time is maybe not so clear.)

            In Conrad’s case terms like “the professional class” and “the managerial class” and “the 9.9%” can be traced pretty easily: we’ve discussed articles that use these terms here on SSC! And Conrad was one of the people recommending one. (This link should work to read the article and get around the paywall.)

            I love all of your proposed counter-terms, particularly “the cathedral” but that’s mostly because I think it would make Nick happy to hear more people talking about cathedral’s in daily conversation.

            Aww, you’re too kind. 🙂 That would be lovely, but personally my favorite is “the professional class.”

          • SamChevre says:

            “The top 1%” on what hierarchy is a key question.

            Let’s put it in concrete terms: on one side, you’ve got Rocco Falcone, who owns a local chain of hardware stores started by his grandfather. Still lives near the same small city where he grew up and went to a local non-elite college. It’s very likely he is in the top 1% of US citizens by income or assets. On the other side, you’ve got Elizabeth Bartholet–Harvard Law professor, organized an anti-homeschooling conference.

            They are both “elite”, but I think “the elites” usually means people like Dr Bartholet.

          • Aftagley says:

            Well, no, first because I’m not the one who used it originally in this discussion.

            My apologies, I came in too guns blazing on that last one. I’m not trying to accuse you of anything or alleging that you’re the root cause of this term. Sorry if it came off that way; I still think it’s kinda motte-and-bailey esque but I don’t think you’re knowingly perpetrating any argument in bad faith.

            For me, elite implies, well, some kind of elite status. Some access to resources, some ability to direct movement. Some kind of control or at least access to power. Not in a broadly distributed “well, they can solidify consensus around positions” kind of way but in a “pick up the phone and make something happen” way.

            We talk all the time about “elite institutions” and “elite universities.” Isn’t it fair to call someone who graduates from an “elite university” and then works at an “elite institution” an “elite?”

            So, I spent a bunch of time while I was doing something college-equivalent couch surfing at Yale and I got to be pretty good friends with a bunch of people who went there. By and large, most of them were from middle class families and took out massive student loans to afford tuition. Some of them stayed in academia and now are mostly either PHD candidates or adjunct professors. Some of them work in private industry, but none of them really exert any kind of influence. One of them would have been the outlier here, since he was an early hire at a start up that turned into a unicorn… but that company ended up being WeWork, so I’m not sure what his situation is like right now.

            In short, sure – these people to an elite university and most of them probably still work for what could be called elite institutions, but they’re drowning in debt, don’t work particularly stable jobs and definitely don’t have any significant prestige that would imply, to me, some kind of elite status.

            I feel like I’m not really expressing my point well. Let me use an example: Elite Athletes

            According to the NCAA only 7% of high school football players will ever compete in the NCAA, and that’s including D2 and D3 schools. If you limit it to D1, you’re talking about less than 3% of players . When you factor in people who go pro, the numbers drop down to less than .1% Going off the top 10% definition of elite, you’d have to call everyone in the NFL, the NCAA and most of those weird secondary leagues that no one watches elite, which just doesn’t correspond to my internal definition of “elite.” I want a Heisman winner to be my elite athlete, not Wheaton College’s 3rd string corner-back.

            When I think of this class and their group interests, I think of former Clinton campaign/WH communications director George Sephanopoulos now political correspondent for ABC News interviewing former FBI Director James Comey to promote his new book before he starts teaching an ethics course at William & Mary. Just gotta work finance into that example somewhere and we’re all set.

            Right, but you just picked two people would, for sure, rank in the top 1% of any power rankings in america. Sure, neither of them are super rich, but they’ve both formerly occupied positions of massive power and prestige. I agree, they are both elite… but what about the production intern working on Sephanopoulos’s show pulling down minimum wage with no benefits who just graduated from Colombia?

            In advocating for an expansive definition of elite, you picked someone who ran the world’s most powerful law enforcement agency and someone who worked directly for the president.

            These are not capitalists, they are not the owners, they are not the plutocrats, but shouldn’t any reasonable definition of “The Elite” include them

            Yes!

            and those a rung or two below them on the ladder?

            No!

            I don’t think there’s anything terribly wrong if someone wanted to use the term in a way very reminiscent of Mills, provided that context was actually clear. (But just going around saying “the elite” all the time is maybe not so clear.)

            Agree, but with the added twist that I think the lack of clarity could be functioning as a feature, not a bug.

            In Conrad’s case terms like “the professional class” and “the managerial class” and “the 9.9%” can be traced pretty easily: we’ve discussed articles that use these terms here on SSC! And Conrad was one of the people recommending one.

            Again, agree. Ascribing anything to Conrad here was unintentional and regrettable. Once again Conrad, sorry for coming across like I was calling you out. I don’t like the idea, but I don’t blame you for it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No harm, no foul, man. All good.

            and those a rung or two below them on the ladder?

            No!

            That’s where I disagree with you. Don’t you think the class interests of your Yale friends are far more inline with those of George and James? Much more so than the class interests of welders and dock workers and Wal-Mart greeters? The things which are good for George and James are probably also good for your Yale friends. They may not be so good for the welder/dock worker/greeter.

            The difference between your Yale friends and G&J is that your friends are at the beginning of their careers, and G&J are at the ends of theirs. That production intern on George’s show isn’t planning on staying there forever. They’re there so they can be like George one day. That’s not to say they’re all going to wind up a successful as G&J, but they’re still on the same team, working in the interests of the organizations that give them and G&J their individual and collective prestige, wealth, and power, nothing the likes of our welder/dock worker/greeter friends will ever come close to.

            They are the elite class. But still I prefer the term “professional/managerial class.”

          • Aftagley says:

            I was writing a response to this, but then I realized that, as happens annoyingly often, SSC had already said what I wanted to say but likely better than I could say it. From the post about Social Class:

            The three main classes (labor, gentry, and elite) are three different ‘infrastructures’. To be in labor you need skills, to be in gentry you need education, and to be in elite you need connections. There’s no strict hierarchy (eg not all gentry are above all labor), but you can picture them as offset ladders, with the lower gentry being at the same rung as the higher labor and so on….

            …The Elite control everything; the constant threat is that Gentry and Labor will unite against them, which might very well work. The Elite neutralize this threat by making Labor hate Gentry as “effeminate” or “pretentious”; they also convince Labor that the Gentry are probably secretly in cahoots with the underclass against Labor. Elites also convince Labor that Elites don’t exist and it’s Gentry all the way up, which means that “anti-1%” sentiment, which should properly get Labor and Gentry to cooperate against the Elites, instead makes Gentry hate the Elites but Labor hate Gentry.

            Using this framework, conflating gentry and elite belies some very real differences despite the fact that some people in the gentry might have more in common with certain members of the elite than they do with labor.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Okay, but that’s just like, one definition, man.

            Come to think, I prefer something like “technocratic class.” “Managerial” sounds like the manager at your Taco Bell could be part of the “managerial class,” and that’s not the type of management we’re talking about. The technocratic class assumes the roles of managing…everything, by virtue of their “expertise.” The EPA experts manage what you can and can’t do with “your” land. The journalist experts manage your opinions, the political consultant experts manage your elections, the lobbyist experts manage your policies, the economics experts manage your trade. But the underlying assumption is that they’re managing these things in their class interests.

            “Expert class,” however, sounds flattering, so perhaps “technocrat class.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Aftagley

            Yeah, but that framework is not valid anymore in that the gentry and elite are becoming more similar to each other and are thus teaming up more and more, while labor is drifting away from both.

            Note that labor has always required defectors from the other classes, ‘late bloomers’ (people who didn’t get access to education early on to shape them into gentry, but did have the talent), people marrying in, etc; to exercise political power*. See Trump, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Pim Fortuyn, Geert Wilders. None of these are working class people.

            Social Justice tends to have little interest in actually fighting for the lower classes, so the leftists are abandoning labor (I read a story a while back about the student organizations presenting themselves to new students at an Ivy (Harvard, I think), where they had a ton of organizations for supposedly oppressed groups like non-white people, LGBT and such, but nothing concerned with the poor/working class).

            * Many of these pipelines have been disrupted. Fairly good access to education by the talented, coupled with very little chance for those who miss out to make up for it, means that smart working class elites are very rare. Much increased assortative mating by education, means that fewer top tier men have a working class wife who influences him (or uses his money and power) to help the working class.

          • Aftagley says:

            Okay, but that’s just like, one definition, man.

            Yep, he just happened to say it particularly well.

            I don’t actually know where we disagree anymore (I’m terrible at tracking arguments, sorry). Let me know if we’ve converged or just reached the end of useful discussion.

            I’m not denying the existence of this class. I agree, somewhere near (but not quite at) the top of society there is a group of people who correlate closely enough to be effective labeled as a class. The group is over represented in the bureaucratic functioning of our society. Call them the gentry, the technocratic class, the managerial, the professional or whatever and I’m happy. I’ll even content that, on average, they’re going to take actions that will benefit their class (although might also postulate that the actions that benefit their class are mostly structured to benefit other classes as well, although likely in ways that they care about more than the other classes do. See, for example, free college)

            But when people call this group the elite, they ignore or outright obscure the fact that there is an equally if not more powerful class of people “above” the managerial class who don’t need to bother developing complex regulatory systems to make changes, because they’ve got the resources to just have what they want happen.

          • Aapje says:

            @Aftagley

            The people with lots of money tend to work hard to shape the regulations so they can avoid paying taxes or otherwise make the system work for them.

            I just watched an expose on the Dutch King who gets custom legislation to make the government pay for his hunting hobby in a way that no other Dutch person can, while the prime minister lies to parliament that he is treated like everyone else. Yet the royal family has around €1 billion, so they could easily fund their own hobbies, yet they don’t.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Yet the royal family has around €1 billion, so they could easily fund their own hobbies, yet they don’t.

            There’s some saying about corporate benefits (probably by someone I don’t like, but this quote is spot on) that goes something like “you do stuff all day and can’t tell if it’s really changing the bottom line for the company: but if you order some intern to do your dry cleaning, that’s a tangible benefit you can see immediately.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            (although might also postulate that the actions that benefit their class are mostly structured to benefit other classes as well, although likely in ways that they care about more than the other classes do. See, for example, free college)

            How does free college help welders, dock workers, and Wal-Mart greeters?

            But when people call this group the elite, they ignore or outright obscure the fact that there is an equally if not more powerful class of people “above” the managerial class

            No, they just lump them in together, because:

            developing complex regulatory systems to make changes

            via the technocratic class is the manner by which the shadowy plutocrat variant of elite

            have what they want happen.

            When Mr. Moneybags wants what he wants to happen, like changes in immigration laws, he funds his think tank to write the position papers to flog at the journalists to get the results from his public opinion pollsters to give to the lobbyists to wave in front of the politicians. And he and his class companions are paying all of these people, all of whom are part of the technocratic class. Not bribing them, but whatever he wants to happen is probably something that’s indirectly beneficial to the technocrat class, too. Which makes it “good.” That it’s not good for the working class is immaterial. Mr. Moneybags has got another think tank to explain to us that the concerns of the working class are invalid because they’re short-sighted or backwards or motivated by racism or what have you.

            I would prefer separating classes out as lumpenproletariat, working class, technocratic class, plutocrat class, but when someone merges the last two and says “elite” they’re not trying to get one over on you. They’re lumping them together because they see them acting in concert. “The Empire” isn’t just the Emperor and his will, it’s Vader and everybody down to the stormtroopers, too.

          • Matt M says:

            How does free college help welders, dock workers, and Wal-Mart greeters?

            I think a lot of people assume that the only reason people are welders, dock workers, and wal-mart greeters is that they couldn’t afford to go to college.

            (Note: I personally think this is obviously wrong. Free college wouldn’t mean “nobody has to be a wal-mart greeter anymore. It would just mean “now you need a college degree to even get a job as a wal-mart greeter.”)

          • When Mr. Moneybags wants what he wants to happen, like changes in immigration laws, he funds his think tank …

            Oddly enough, I can’t remember receiving any checks from him back around 1970 when I wrote the chapter of Machinery arguing for open borders. I should check with Bryan Caplan to make sure he’s gotten his check. Julian Simon isn’t around any more so I can’t check with him, but given that what he is best known for is being the leading critic of the then almost universal population alarmist position, I doubt he got much either for his arguments in favor of immigration.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And David, I’m pretty sure you’re well thought of by the universities that have paid your salary and the influential folks who invite you on speaking tours. Your ideas about free trade and open borders are excellent ideas for your class (and mine!).

          • Your ideas about free trade and open borders are excellent ideas for your class (and mine!).

            Open borders was and is a very unpopular idea — note that even Democrats who arguably support policies that are equivalent to that almost always deny being for open borders. Complete free trade is more of a mixed case.

        • DinoNerd says:

          but I loathe the ultra-handwavey term ‘elites’ with the passion of 1000 burning suns

          Frankly, so do I. I used it anyway, because that’s what my sources were using, and because politically speaking the folks who are mad about elite behaviour often seem to consider distinguishing among multiple meanings of the same thing to be yet another “elitist” behaviour that’s unacceptable to them.

          I’m sympathetic to arguments about technocrats – defined somewhat sloppily – because I consider them to be people “like me” – i.e. people who can understand statistics, follow a mathematical argument, know the difference between Truth/truthiness (= it makes me feel good) and actual truth, and correctly explain the scientific method.

          OTOH, I’ve observed a lot of “experts” produce handwavy feelgood nonsense, and/or predictions that don’t pan out, even while they continue to be consulted by the media, so I’m suspicious of that sympathy.

          The real question, though, is whether the book that started this discussion uses the same fuzzy non-definitions.

          • Aapje says:

            Ultimately, the knowledge and ability to stay within the Overton Window, only making sloppy and/or pejorative claims where that is allowed, while walking on egg shells where it isn’t, is itself a matter of both talent and education.

            For example, if you defend heterodox sloppiness like Foucault, Žižek or Pinker did, claims that tend to otherwise be outside of the Overton Window of the well-educated, suddenly become acceptable.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      he doesn’t address the more interesting question of why an uneducated person voting for the same candidate as a highly educated voter is ‘bad’. If they both reach the same electoral conclusion- again, what’s the problem that we’re solving here?

      The simple answer is that the uneducated demographic does vote differently than the educated one (and their turnout is above zero, so it doesn’t matter that it’s lower than educated turnout, they can still swing an election), but ignoring that to address the hypothetical:

      If the stupid people and the smart people disagree on who should run things, we’re probably better off going with the smart people’s choice. We can guarantee this outcome by disenfranchising the stupid. In the case where the stupid and the smart agreed, no harm was done by the addition of stupid votes, but that implies no harm will be done by removing them, the outcome’s the same either way. So we don’t let them vote just in case we end up a with scenario where they disagree with the smart people.

      • salvorhardin says:

        And note that there are softer and less abusable ways of doing this, e.g. let the “stupid” outvote the “smart” if they meet a supermajority threshold, but let the “smart” decide in cases where the “stupid” are relatively evenly divided.

        You can model this generally by positing a democratic and an epistocratic house considering a change in the law, and each house’s vote can have four outcomes: supermajority yes, supermajority no, close yes, or close no. Let these be denoted Y/N/MY/MN respectively, and you could then have a rule like this, where E: denotes the vote of the epistocratic house and D: that of the democratic house:

        E:Y, D:Y/MY/MN: change happens
        E:MY/MN, D:Y: change happens
        E:MY/MN, D:MY: change happens

        else change does not happen. So a supermajority of epistocrats can outvote a weak majority of democrats and vice versa. Variations on the rules (and of course varying supermajority thresholds) would vary the balance of power.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Yeah, I’m a much bigger fan of meritocratic voting than the average person, but fully disenfranchising any large demographic seems like it creates the risk of candidates running on a platform of free money for voting demographics, screw everyone else. And with college loan forgiveness already being firmly within the Overton window of the Democrats…

          • Mycale says:

            Agreed. Putting on our conflict theorist hats, it’s worth remembering that smart people can still be selfish, just like everyone else. Granting more political power to groups deemed more meritocratic may just result in them finding clever ways to subsidize their preferences at the cost of others — college loan forgiveness strikes me as an excellent example of this sort of thing.

      • If the stupid people and the smart people disagree on who should run things, we’re probably better off going with the smart people’s choice.

        If the educated people are mostly urban and the less educated mostly rural, then disenfranchising the less educated may result in policies that benefit the former at the expense of the latter. Similarly, and more plausibly, if the more educated are professionals and executives and such and the less educated are farm laborers and waiters.

        Beyond that point, I’m not sure that more educated people consistently vote more intelligently, given that rational ignorance means almost everyone is voting on the basis of very low quality information. William F. Buckley famously said that he would rather be ruled by the first thousand names out of the NY phone book than by the faculty and staff of Harvard, and I’m not sure he was wrong.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Beyond that point, I’m not sure that more educated people consistently vote more intelligently, given that rational ignorance means almost everyone is voting on the basis of very low quality information.

          Are you saying that smart (which “educated” is a decent proxy for) people aren’t better at making decisions based on limited information?

          • Educated is an imperfect proxy for smart, and educational credentials are an imperfect proxy for educated. Both Plumber and Dieseach are clearly very well educate, but Plumber by his self-description and, I would guess, Deiseach as well don’t have very strong credentials.

            Beyond that, there is the problem of what better at making decisions means in the context of voting. A smarter person is somewhat more likely to realize that his vote has an essentially zero probability of affecting the outcome of a presidential election. So “better at making decisions” doesn’t mean “more likely to choose the candidate better for the country.” It means something more like “more likely to vote for the candidate it is in his private interest to support,” which depends largely on which candidate people who matter to him will approve of his supporting.

            Are you familiar with Dan Kahane’s work on beliefs about issues, such as evolution or gun control, that have become linked to group membership? He finds that the more intellectually able someone is, the more likely he is to agree with the group he is part of, whether that means believing in evolution or not believing in evolution. It’s rational behavior, although not rational belief, because whether you believe in evolution has essentially no effect on the world but can have a substantial effect on you, via your interactions with a setting where most people do believe in or where most people don’t.

            Think of voting as something more like cheering for your football team than buying a car.

          • matkoniecz says:

            Are you saying that smart (which “educated” is a decent proxy for) people aren’t better at making decisions based on limited information?

            Even if that was true[1] I would still consider “faculty and staff of Harvard” to be a horrible ruler, much worse than completely random selection.

            See https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/04/29/open-thread-152-75/#comment-890241 (A Harvard Law professor say we need to censor the Internet for the common good, text starting from “In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong.”)

            Or “The reason parent-child relationships exist is because the State confers legal parenthood…” type of insane opinions (appeared in https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/04/22/open-thread-152-25/#comment-884958 ).

            This kind of complete failure exists in much higher concentration among professors and university faculty.

            I would prefer legislation written by GPT2.

            first thousand names out of the NY phone book

            Though this is a poor randomization method, easy to exploit and phone books are probably no longer updated/printed.

            [1] and I suspect that it is, but not as much as smart and educated people expect

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Ninety-Three
            The proposal was apparently to define smart as “graduated from high school”. But even if you increase it to “has a degree”, there are lots of idiots with degrees and political opinions opposite from yours.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            A Harvard Law professor say we need to censor the Internet for the common good, text starting from

            NO. And you should know that, if you had read the article instead of a blog comment about another article about the article. His thesis is “The harms from digital speech will also continue to grow, as will speech controls on these networks. And invariably, government involvement will grow.” [empashsis added] He expresses no more approval or calls to action than an anti-war activist saying that the US is going to bomb a bunch more middle-Eastern nations in the name of national defense.

            In the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong. Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values.

            The article is entirely descriptive rather than normative, and this [emphasis added] is the only part that’s even a disputable fact and not a trivially true one.

            Even the US, which has some of the freeest internet in the world, has, as the article points out pressure from Congress and bills like SESTA, which the author quite reasonably construes as the government playing a role to ensure compatibility with society’s norms and values (because it previously wasn’t). A reasonable person could argue that this doesn’t constitute a large role, it’s certainly smaller than the role that the EU plays. You could also perhaps argue that it’s wrong that the government must play a large role in the same way that a government doesn’t have to pass minimum wage laws, but that just downgrades his point from “must” to “inevitably will”.

            I challenge you to find a quote of him saying we need to censor.

          • Matt M says:

            His thesis is “The harms from digital speech will also continue to grow, as will speech controls on these networks. And invariably, government involvement will grow.” [empashsis added]

            Isn’t this also how Karl Marx talked about Communism?

          • nkurz says:

            @Ninety-Three:
            > The article is entirely descriptive rather than normative
            > I challenge you to find a quote of him saying we need to censor.

            To be clear, we’re talking about the article in the Atlantic by Jack Goldsmith and Andrew Keane Woods: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/what-covid-revealed-about-internet/610549/? The one that says:

            In the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong. Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values.

            I take “China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong” and “governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values” to be a strong suggestion that the US Government should censor more actively. Did you miss this part, or do you really interpret it be entirely descriptive rather than the prescriptive statement I take it to be? He might not be saying we “need to censor”, but isn’t he clearly claiming that we should?

          • Ninety-Three says:

            The proposal was apparently to define smart as “graduated from high school”. But even if you increase it to “has a degree”, there are lots of idiots with degrees and political opinions opposite from yours.

            There are even more idiots without degrees and I clearly specified the problem motivating this solution: when idiots and smart people disagree, we’d rather go with the smart people. This achieves that outcome (though not in every case, proxy).

            I’m seeing a surprising number of comments pushing back on educated ~= smart, even though I explicitly called it out as a proxy rather than a perfect indicator, and as an empirical matter everyone admits that it’s true to some degree. Moreover, I wasn’t even saying we should do it, I was answering hash’s question about what problem we were trying to solve with this approach.

            I’m tickled that this is the issue that makes SSC comments go full “arguments are soldiers”, like when Twitter got made about Dawkins saying eugenics was bad but would technically work.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @nkurz

            Did you miss this part

            I literally quoted this part, with analysis of why I took it as descriptive. I even bolded the part you’re objecting to. Did you read my whole post?

            @Matt M

            Isn’t this also how Karl Marx talked about Communism?

            He then went on to say that there should be a revolution, and it would be great. That is absent from this piece.

          • matkoniecz says:

            NO. And you should know that, if you had read the article instead of a blog comment about another article about the article.

            The text starting from “In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong.” ?

            I even quoted that.

            They are subtler than “lets censor, I will happily bear burden of banning people and views I dislike” and they avoid words with negative associations (like “censor”) but

            Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet

            is quite clear in outright advocating censorship.

            The article is entirely descriptive rather than normative, and this [emphasis added] is the only part that’s even a disputable fact and not a trivially true one.

            This is untrue, “we must censor internet” (or “Significant monitoring and speech control” if you prefer to avoid clear wording) is an opinion not a fact.

            Similarly “In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong.” .

          • Nick says:

            ETA: On second thought, deleted completely. Terrible heat to light ratio, sorry.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @matkoniecz

            Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet

            is quite clear in outright advocating censorship.

            Apparently we just disagree on what words mean, because I have heard an awful lot of people arguing that, for instance, imperialist wars are an inevitable component of a mature and flourishing superpower and they were definitely not advocating it.

          • Matt M says:

            because I have heard an awful lot of people arguing that, for instance, imperialist wars are an inevitable component of a mature and flourishing superpower and they were definitely not advocating it.

            These people are advocating something. In this case, probably “let’s not have an empire in the first place.”

            So what do you suppose the author of this piece is advocating? If it’s not increased speech controls over the internet, then what is it?

          • uau says:

            Apparently we just disagree on what words mean, because I have heard an awful lot of people arguing that, for instance, imperialist wars are an inevitable component of a mature and flourishing superpower and they were definitely not advocating it.

            You’re wrong in this case. People do not normally use positive words like “flourishing” in this context unless they approve. They might say something like “as internet use spreads and it becomes essential for a wide range of uses, calls for censorship will increase”. They would not say “any form of internet bringing true happiness and prosperity to the people must naturally have heavy censorship”.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Ninety-Three

            There are even more idiots without degrees and I clearly specified the problem motivating this solution: when idiots and smart people disagree, we’d rather go with the smart people. This achieves that outcome (though not in every case, proxy).

            But in what cases do we find that “idiots” and “smart people” (with the distinction being made based on graduating from high school) do have something approaching opposite consensuses? I can’t really think of any.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @Matt M

            So what do you suppose the author of this piece is advocating? If it’s not increased speech controls over the internet, then what is it?

            As previously stated, nothing, because he’s being descriptive. If this is going to be an “everything is political” argument, I’m out.

          • Christophe Biocca says:

            Thankfully the author didn’t write exactly one article, so we can use others on the same topic to disambiguate:

            But both the commercial non-regulation principle and the anti-censorship principle are allowing real harms within the country’s borders as well.

            Finally, U.S. regulators, courts, and tech firms may need to recalibrate domestic speech rules. Tim Wu has recently proposed some ways to rethink First Amendment law to deal with the pathologies of internet speech. For instance, First Amendment doctrine might be stretched to prevent government officials from inciting attack mobs to drown out disfavored speakers, as President Trump has sometimes appeared to do. Or the doctrine might be tempered, to allow the government to more aggressively criminalize or regulate cyberstalking and trolling, or even to require speech platforms to provide a healthy and fair speech environment.

          • John Schilling says:

            As previously stated, nothing, because he’s being descriptive.

            “Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values”

            Is not a descriptive statement. For the most part, Goldsmith and Woods are careful to describe with approval rather than explicitly prescribe, but they do prescribe.

          • matkoniecz says:

            As previously stated, nothing, because he’s being descriptive.

            Are you claiming that

            “In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong.”

            is descriptive, and states fact rather than opinion?

            And that this statement is not advocating censorship?

          • nkurz says:

            @Ninety-Three:
            > I literally quoted this part, with analysis of why I took it as descriptive. I even bolded the part you’re objecting to. Did you read my whole post?

            Apparently not well enough! Sorry about that. The sequence was that I read your post, then had trouble finding a link to the right article, then read the article and came across that passage that seemed to contradict what you were claiming. And then failed to re-read your post before posting. I feel silly.

            I’m also astonished that you think that is merely descriptive. I take it as a strong opinion that the US in the future should censor the internet in the way that China has in the past. I’m not actually bothered to the part that you bolded, rather the sentence before it, which is what that was the only part that I quoted.

          • Controls Freak says:

            That article by Jack Goldsmith has been super misinterpreted. As a follower of Jack, I knew immediately after reading it that it was being misinterpreted (and why). If you’re curious to know whether he thinks your interpretation isn’t what he was going for, he wrote a follow-up to claim exactly that. I think a fair amount of blame goes on the authors, because if so many people are misinterpreting you, you could have used better words.

            Anyway, he was definitely trying to be descriptive. For a couple decades, the prevailing zeitgeist in the US was that the internet was magical; information was born to be free; there should be no regulations on the internet whatsoever, and there will then be no censorship – the magic internet will give all the best dissidents a platform and cause no harms in any way. Well…. that turned out to be not so terribly true. As the internet got older and more widespread (matured and flourished), people did do bad things on the internet, and other people wanted them to be stopped. Some of those latter people may have gone too far. But speech controls definitely came – often through the pressure points of major tech companies. In this big picture, the “don’t touch the magic, totally free internet” view was wrong, and China’s view was less wrong right. This is all the descriptive bit.

            Now, the prescriptive bit is about as minuscule as you can imagine.

            governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values.

            Anyone here who has said anything like, “Maybe the government should do something about Facebook/Google/Cloudflare using speech controls for bad political purposes,” should be applauding this claim. To spell out what you’re saying, “Maybe the government should do something about Facebook/Google/Cloudflare using speech controls for bad political purposes, because that type of political censorship is not compatible with our society’s norms and values.”

          • matkoniecz says:

            Thanks for this explanation, that is a quite sad situation. (I ended with something similar on a much smaller scale on some family issue more than once).

            That article by Jack Goldsmith has been super misinterpreted.

            Because it was poorly written.

            If you want to praise some part of China policy without making endorsement of Chinese government-style authoritarianism then

            In the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right

            is a poor phrasing.

            I now see what was intended by author, but I am reading a text – not a mind of author.

            And author has written that China was largely right in their egregious censorship (freedom versus control).

            Now I know that intended meaning was different but I have no idea how this was missed in proofreading.

            —–

            If I write “Hitler was right” I don’t get to be surprised when I say “I meant limiting cruelty toward dogs”. Being surprised that it was interpreted as praising mass murder is weird.

            If I write “China was largely right” I don’t get to be surprised and say that it applies to “worrying about digital harms”. And be irritated that it was interpreted as praising extreme censorship, 1984 style treatment of history and government-style authoritarianism.

            If you want to praise China for combating something but not for their methods then qualify your praise.

            —-

            Maybe it was not intended, but the text still had an opinion praising China-style censorship.

          • Controls Freak says:

            And author has written that China was largely right in their egregious censorship (freedom versus control).

            The non-parenthetical part doesn’t follow from the parenthetical part.

            Maybe it was not intended, but the text still had an opinion praising China-style censorship.

            Nah. That’s not actually in there anywhere.

        • hash872 says:

          If the educated people are mostly urban and the less educated mostly rural, then disenfranchising the less educated may result in policies that benefit the former at the expense of the latter

          The US political system is permanently biased for the rural states, primarily by the Senate and to a lesser degree the Electoral College. So this seems unlikely. This is why we have tens of billions of dollars in farm aid to unproductive businesses, etc.

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems intuitive that smarter people who know more will make better decisions. And yet, that’s surely not true in all cases–sometimes the smarter, better educated people are captured by an evil ideology or have incentives that lead them to make terrible decisions for locally-rational reasons.

          I suspect in the modern US, one problem with concentrating decisionmaking power in the hands of a smallish number of highly-educated, smart people is that those people have very little actual understanding of what’s going on with less smart, less educated, less elite people. Often this is combined with an active dislike or hostility for some or all of the less educated/less elite.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            There is research which suggests that more educated people are actually more radical & biased…in all directions.

            And political elites seem to have more accurate opinions, but also more polarized ones.

            I also think that a lot of these people (like politicians, professors and journalists) are in atypical environments with atypical and often not so healthy rules for ‘winning’. A lot of the time, they don’t win by testing their ideas against reality, but by testing them for popularity (and even then, often in large part within that weird bubble).

      • Aapje says:

        @Ninety-Three

        What happens if the smart people use all the tools at their disposal to maximize the policies that benefit themselves, at the expense of the ‘stupid’?

        For example, use (media) propaganda to tell these people that policies that will actually harm them, will benefit them?

        Or make the system so complex that the well-educated/insiders get their way, but others lose out?

        • Garrett says:

          > policies that will actually harm them, will benefit them

          1. We already did this with free trade.
          2. Way too often “harm” is equated to “not being given as much “free” stuff by the government.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        This relies heavily on mistake theory of government. What if there is a genuine conflict of interests and preferences between smart and stupid people? Then disenfranchising the stupid will probably result in worse policies with regards preferences and interests of the aggregate population, although better for smart people.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          .. Actually, substantially worse than that.
          The history of “governance” over people who are not represented is chock full of said people being ground under heel *even if it confers absolutely no, or even negative* material benefits to the governing class. Because people get off on lording it over, and feeling better than others.

          Enlightened tyrants are unusual. It is far safer for everyone to have a say. Even if their say is stupid. Learn to persuade people, okay.

        • Garrett says:

          General principle: you get more of what you subsidize. Unless we’re in a world where we are so starved for calories we can’t afford intelligence *and* we can’t solve the problem with intelligence (which reads to me like civilizational collapse), you’d want to certainly not favor the stupid over the smart. Because then you get more stupid and less smart. So if only the smart can vote and they elect to prefer to structure things to their benefit, you’d ultimately end up with a population of more smart people long-run.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            So if only the smart can vote and they elect to prefer to structure things to their benefit, you’d ultimately end up with a population of more smart people long-run.

            I do not think that this is a desirable goal.

          • Aapje says:

            @Garrett

            This is far from a given, since the smart generally don’t seem to desire eugenic behavior (having lots of children).

          • Garrett says:

            > This is far from a given, since the smart generally don’t seem to desire eugenic behavior (having lots of children).

            Not surprising given that the government is currently structured to have the productive people subsidize the non-productive. If you assume that intelligence correlates strongly with productivity, the system disincentivizes smart people to have children.

            Also, there are some of us who really would like to start a family and have lots of children for (among others) reasons like this. But since the government has decided to reallocate my productivity to (disproportionately) women, one of my strongest mating strategies has been destroyed.

          • But since the government has decided to reallocate my productivity to (disproportionately) women, one of my strongest mating strategies has been destroyed.

            I don’t follow that.

            Are you talking about welfare policies that help support single mothers and so reduce the pressure on women who want children to get married? I wouldn’t think the women that would be relevant to would make up much of the pool of women you would regard as potential wives.

            Or is your point that equal employment laws reduce your income from employment and increase that of your potential partners, so make them less interested in giving up their income and living on yours?

            Or is it something else that hasn’t occurred to me?

    • salvorhardin says:

      Excellent review, thanks for saving me some of the effort I was too lazy to expend earlier.

      Chapter 5 would have been improved by replacing it by a hyperlink to Brennan’s _Against Democracy_ which makes the same class of argument in much more detail, with better evidence, and more rigor. The general idea that there should be epistocratic and mass-democratic bodies in the institutional mix that should check and balance one another seems like it’s worth a lot more exploration; Brennan provides some good starting points but one could brainstorm a lot more, e.g. having an epistocratic house of the legislature (like the House of Lords but selected by highly educated/intelligent people rather than composed of aristocrats) that can veto democratic decisions with a supermajority, or having assemblies of experts with similar supermajority veto powers over particular domains.

      As I said before, I think the biggest omission is a systematic examination of the differences in governance quality between:

      — parliamentary systems and systems with a separately elected executive
      — party-list proportional representation systems and first-past-the-post individual district legislative elections

      It seems like a party-list proportional representation parliament is effectively 10% less democratic than e.g. the US system in the way Jones likes, so we should look at whether those systems (of which I think there are plenty in the world these days) do better than the US by various measures of governance quality.

      • keaswaran says:

        And of course there are more subtleties possible.

        Does your parliamentary system empower the party leader to unilaterally change the portfolios of the ministers or is this done by the parliamentary party as a whole? Are party leaders chosen by insiders or by anyone who votes in some party leadership race? How much control over the judiciary does the government have?

        Do you use a straight proportional representation system or first-past-the-post individual district system? Or alternatively, do you divide the jurisdiction into a bunch of multimember geographic districts and go proportional in those? Or do you do the New Zealand/Germany thing of having first-past-the-post geographic districts and then “overhang” seats to bring the total up to a proportional number?

        • salvorhardin says:

          FWIW I really like the NZ/Germany mixed representation system and suspect (with low confidence) that it is a significant contributor to their relatively high quality of governance, though it’s certainly plausible that the sort of cultures which produce high quality of governance also produce support for that sort of system.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Thanks for the review. I have not read the book, and I won’t be putting this on my list to read since you don’t have a high opinion of it. If anyone could recommend a better book on elections, I’ll put that one on my list. But some general comments:

      Judges: Yeah it probably doesn’t make sense to elect judges, since almost no one knows enough to make good judgments. I always leave that part of my ballot un-filled. But I would like to have recall rights for a judge, so voters have a say if there are some critical issues. And at least for SCOTUS, I would like appointments to be for a specific time period, say 10 or 20 years, not for life-time. And then stagger them, so each president gets a similar number of picks.

      High school degree to vote: I dislike this one mostly because a high school degree means very little. And like you say, this will have very little effect on elections anyway, since they rarely vote anyway. I would be in favor of a test to prove you know something first. Say a test that you know the name of your Congressman, both Senators and governor. This is a much more objective test of voting knowledge, and will also correlate with intelligence. And exclude a lot more folks than a HS degree, so might have some effect.

      Bondholders have political representation: This sounds nuts to me. Even in corporate America, bondholders have no voting rights, only financial weight.

      Bring back earmarks: No no no. I am not convinced they ever went away anyway. Trading favors is not a little corruption; it is about the waste of billions of dollars per year.

      EU too much democracy: Yeah I am a bit surprised about that take. I’d like to hear from Aapje on this.

      • Aapje says:

        The EU has a ton of theoretical democracy, but if we look at it in terms of whether the policies reflects the will of the people and whether people can actually exercise the power to effect change that they theoretically have, I think that it is minimal.

        Transparency is minimal everywhere, in fact.

        I doubt that 5% of voters for European Parliament could even tell you which party in Parliament their vote went to (when asked point blank, rather than to get to pick from a list). After all, you don’t get to vote for these parties, but for national parties. They then have to form a coalition with other national parties. The resulting parties then tend to form a Grand Coalition in secret, but because they don’t pick the executive, they don’t have to be transparent about what deals they made.

        Actually holding these politicians accountable requires so much study that even most journalists gave up on it. It’s just insider baseball now. Outsiders can only notice the end results and agree or disagree with that, but it’s not realistic for them to put in the effort to know who to vote for to create change, one way or the other.

        Even figuring out whether a decision was made by the European Parliament or the national politicians (who are not insiders, so they vote blind too) is extremely hard.

        So how can voters hold anyone accountable?

        Whenever major decisions are made, I also notice extreme coercion and trickery being applied, to the point where the decision is about as much an exercise of free will on the part of politicians as paying protection money to the mafia.

      • keaswaran says:

        A system that requires you to correctly answer the name of the congressperson, both senators, and the governor in order to vote will heavily incentivize everyone to publicize the names of these people, so that the test will no longer serve any discriminating function. However, because of the familiarity effect, it will then make the people who it was meant to exclude end up feeling more favorable towards the incumbents. Thus, this would largely have the effect of entrenching incumbents in any of the marginal cases where it was going to have any effect.

        • Matt M says:

          My system would require each candidate to submit a bullet-point list of “5 reasons to support me” (these could be anything, policy positions, character references, attacks on their opponent, etc.)

          When you vote for someone, you are presented with a list of five options, and you are required to select the option that best explains why you are voting for that candidate.

          But the twist is, only three of your selectable options are from your candidate, the other two are from the opposition. If you select an “opposition” reason, your vote is disqualified and thrown out.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I dispute this. Suppose McCain submits a list of things like “Conservative judges, powerful economy, promoting freedom abroad,” and Obama supports a list of things like “Liberal judges, powerful economy, better healthcare.” Suppose next that I really like McCain’s healthcare plan, and that’s my primary reason for supporting him. But it doesn’t get into the top five reasons he lists.

            (a) If “Better healthcare” doesn’t show up on the screen for me, which reason do I select? Maybe I don’t care about conservative judges and dislike foreign interventionism, but I think it’s worth it to get McCain’s healthcare plan.

            (b) If “Better healthcare” does show up on the screen for me, what happens if I select it? It was submitted by Obama, but I personally think it’s a valid reason to vote for McCain.

            (c) Also, both candidates listed “Powerful economy”, so that term loses its discriminating power. I suppose this at least would degrade gracefully, since every voter can without fear select it as a good reason for supporting their chosen candidate.

          • Matt M says:

            I shouldn’t have said “bullet point.” Require a full sentence. In reality, what you’d get is something like “I’ll make a better economy by strengthening unemployment benefits and promoting green jobs” from one candidate and “I’ll make a better economy by lowering taxes on job creators and cutting harmful federal regulation” from another.

            If people can’t tell which is which, that’s their own fault and they are the exact type of person we want to disenfranchise.

            If the candidates themselves do a poor job in selecting their five statements, (i.e. if people are voting for McCain because of health care, but he doesn’t use health care as one of his five) then they have nobody to blame but themselves if their supporters get disenfranchised more than their opponents’

            If Obama is campaigning on healthcare and McCain evaluates that healthcare is important to people, one of McCain’s statements can very well be “I will keep the existing healthcare system in place, and protect it from being dismantled as my opponent wants to do.”

          • AG says:

            And I assume, these five sentences are not allowed to put names in them? You said attacks on the opponent are allowed, then why wouldn’t every sentence be “Vote for me because I am not B C D E (and there am obviously candidate A)”?
            And even if names are prohibited from the sentences, expect dogwhistling to immediately get instituted. Emails will go out to their supporters saying “Here are my five sentences. They’re the ones that all say ‘rubber ducky’ in them.”

          • Matt M says:

            Emails will go out to their supporters saying “Here are my five sentences. They’re the ones that all say ‘rubber ducky’ in them.”

            I think you overestimate the engagement, attention span, and intelligence of the marginal voter.

            Yes, the candidates would do everything in their power to telegraph “THESE ARE MY FIVE STATEMENTS, MAKE SURE YOU PICK ONE OF THESE FIVE SO YOUR VOTE WILL COUNT.”

            Lots of people will get it wrong anyway.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          the test will no longer serve any discriminating function.

          This is a feature not a bug. It is a good idea for voters to know who their representatives are — if the test makes them learn, then they know a little more. But I don’t think this will happen for the the lowest 10% or 20% of the voters who are completely oblivious but just vote for whoever someone else tells them to. Good riddance. I am also skeptical that such a test will help incumbents even more than currently. I suspect a lot of low information voters just want to vote out all the incumbents — this will help them do this. Hard to say. In any case, I can’t think of a better test.

    • cassander says:

      Less populism, and braver politicians who can make harder decisions.

      People respond to incentives, and elected politicians are always going to be monomaniacaly focused on re-election no matter what. Giving them longer terms won’t change that, especially in legislatures where there there is almost never any sort of direct accountability.

    • matkoniecz says:

      Kind of unfocused, rambling chapter about how the European Union is too much of a democracy?

      WTF he means by that? Too much democracy? Where? Basically nothing what matters in EU is elected. And EU parliament works in so bizarre and unfathomable way that elections feel like a black box anyway.

      He thinks government bondholders should have political representation in government.

      WAT. Just wat. Who would want to literally auction political representation? And give it retroactively for free?

      Basically argues for requiring a high school degree to vote

      Opens very ugly can of worms for literally no change (how many people without high school degree vote?). It is a freaking Chesterton’s wall, not fence.

    • Imsoindiethatmyblogdontfit says:

      Basically argues for requiring a high school degree to vote

      I really dislike this meme of somehow limited voting. To me, it is based on a misunderstanding of democracy and of why we vote. The main purpose of democracy is not to make sure that we make the smartest decision all the time. The main purpose of democracy is to make sure that the rules of government are clear and fair to everyone so that power exchanges can occur without a civil war. “One person, one vote” is clear and fair. If you start adding clauses to this, it becomes less clear and fair. The people who you don’t allow the vote will rightfully feel disenfranchised from society and the social glue will become weaker.

      In addition to this, there’s the argument of if voting really matters (remember that the election impact on the stock market isn’t noticeable) and if smart people vote better than dumb people (remember Beware Systemic Change).

    • AlesZiegler says:

      So I have not read it, but call me unimpressed by some of his ideas.

      Central bank independence – ECB is more independent than Fed (or Bank of Japan, I presume), and results of their actions have been dismal.

      Requiring high school degree to vote – setting aside that I, for one, have a low opinion of cognitive abilities of not only uneducated but also many college graduates, this ensures that interests and preferences of non-high school graduates get ignored even more by the political system than it is currently the case. I think this is bad.

      Giving political representation to bondholders seems totally crazy. Aren´t two main holders of US debt governments of China and of Saudi Arabia?

      • add_lhr says:

        One issue with ECB vs Fed comparisons is that the ECB only has a mandate to fight inflation. The Fed explicitly (and thankfully, in my view!) has a dual mandate to fight inflation and maintain employment. The mandate seems to be a design choice that is separate from how much independence a CB is given to actually achieve that mandate (although I’m not certain about this).

        • AlesZiegler says:

          To be precise “The primary objective of the European System of Central Banks (hereinafter referred to as “the ESCB”) shall be to maintain price stability. Without prejudice to the objective of price stability, the ESCB shall support the general economic policies in the Union with a view to contributing to the achievement of the objectives of the Union as laid down in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union.” (I just looked that up). Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union includes list of All the Good Things in the World, literally starting with “peace”.

          I agree that the mandate to maintain price stability above all else including employment and banking system not collapsing is too narrow, but clearly there is some wiggle room for having more or less reasonable policies, and lack of democratic accountability is not helping.

          Other thing is that the mandate of the ECB cannot be changed in response to events or results of its actions except by unanimous consent of EU member states. This is what I mean by its high degree of independence compared to the Fed.

          • Lambert says:

            The ESCB isn’t the relevant institution. The Eurosystem, including the ECB is.

            The ECSB also includes non-eurozone central banks.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Lambert

            That is correct, but ECB does not appear to have any other goals than those of the whole ESCB (unlike central banks of member states, who are also subjected of national law, as German Constitutional Court recently reminded us).

            I should´ve included source, this formulation of goals of ESCB is from Article 127 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU. Almost identical formula is in Article 2 of Protocol on the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank, which is an appendix to that Treaty, and also at the same time an appendix to the Treaty on European Union.

      • BlazingGuy says:

        This is a common misconception, but the main holder of US government debt, in aggregate, is definitely US pension and retirement funds. China holds more treasury bonds than any foreign country, though.

        I still don’t think that giving bondholders extra votes or whatever is a good idea.

    • ana53294 says:

      Another argument against limiting the franchise to those with a degree (besides the fact that it’s wrong, and well, history). CatCube made a comment several weeks ago (I’m rubbish at searching through SSC), that Red America has a much higher tolerance for risk, since they work the risky jobs, and their entertainment is also riskier (dirt bikes, hunting, etc).

      A lot of the current coronavirus idiocy is because people can’t handle risks well. If we exclude from the electorate all the people who are the ones that know how to take risks and do so, we would become an even more risk averse society.

      While I don’t like Heinlein’s view that only those who take the risk of defending a country by enlisting should have the franchise, the opposite argument is also wrong. And while the US military does require a high school diploma, there are other necessary and risky professions that don’t require a high school diploma.

      The intelligence of the intelligentsia doesn’t make it good at taking risks, knowing when to take a calculated risk, or whether a risk is high enough to shut down the economy. It seems to me that uneducated people, when given the correct information (the median age of a death by covid; comparing the risks with a profession; a more intuitive way to grasp information), are more likely to reach a conclusion that weights risks better.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Also, two far more simple points. The point of democracy is not to select the absolute best rulers, it is to give everyone a stake in the country, so that there are no large groups with nothing to lose who will feel like it is a good idea to set the world on fire. US democracy is already not doing a very good job at that, restricting the franchise will make it completely stop working.

        Secondly, specifically for the US, the point in the political process where utter stupidity happens is really easy to identify, and it is not the franchise that is the problem. It is the primary process. Oh. My. Goddess, something is very, very wrong with the way you do that.

        Seriously. WTF. Anyone that wants to start political reform anywhere else but there and fundraising is palming enough cards to program a computer to send a man to the moon.

      • keaswaran says:

        And note that your point doesn’t really depend on whether taking risks per se is the relevant axis on which people without a high school degree have some relevant insight that people with it are more likely to lack. It’s clear that there are all sorts of governmental systems that function badly because the people that design the systems have never used them (unemployment insurance is one that comes to mind, given the drastic failure of state systems to even receive calls over the past few weeks) and the proposal to disenfranchise one group would just increase this.

      • hash872 says:

        Yeah, I mean another objection is that the side that relies on sub-high school graduates would just game the system by giving everyone in their state a GED, if they think that’s going to swing elections in their favor. Jones is pretty naive about stuff like this.

        I don’t personally hate the ‘restrict voting to the more educated’ argument, but it would’ve been nice to see Jones at least grapple with the obvious counter-arguments (that the upper middle class would simply vote for things that benefit them personally, would be ignorant of working class concerns, etc.)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        In Starship Troopers, Heinlein had a government where people had to do some sort of risky service to get to vote, but it didn’t have to be military. Weirdly, they couldn’t vote until after they finished their service (which could be extended indefinitely in case of emergency). I’ve never seen an explanation for the restriction.

        Heinlein floated a number of other ideas for restricted franchise. From memory, they included only women above a certain age who had children for one, and ability to solve a quadratic equation for another.

        • An old and real version is limiting the vote to land owners.

          That makes sense if people and other forms of property are mobile. Someone who owns himself, or a pile of gold bars, can support politicians who provide short term benefits at long term costs, then leave when the costs appear. Someone who owns land either stays or sells it at a loss when the long term costs become visible.

          I’m not sure what a good modern equivalent would be. For Hungary, or some other country with its own language, limiting the vote to fluent speakers of that language might work, since they have a skill which loses most of its value if they leave.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            the property own rule isn’t that good if people think they can sell before the costs of their policies come due.

            Your explanation makes a lot more sense than the usual claim that people without property “don’t have a stake in the system”.

          • the property own rule isn’t that good if people think they can sell before the costs of their policies come due.

            Before the future costs become visible to potential buyers. That could be well before the costs actually come due.

  14. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    I used to ask myself “Why do I make money?” but the past couple days are really eye-opening.

    -One of my coworkers wanted to know the overtime in April due to COVID. So he went through 90 spreadsheets (one for each shift, for each day) and manually entered in all overtime, with manually entered job titles, and manually entered wages.
    -One of my coworkers issued a report that said we made $50,000 yesterday, despite the fact that we KNOW we lose $20,000 on a weekly basis. It took about 5 minutes to find 3 critical errors.
    -One of my coworkers accidentally duplicated a week’s worth of data in her typical weekly report, and it was a particularly good week, so the month-end numbers came in WAY off. A brief look at the raw data would have revealed this error.
    -One coworker spent 2 hours trying to investigate a $300 rounding error. See $20,000 per week losses above, reference against term “prioritization” in nearest dictionary.
    -A set of coworkers has sat on the $2 MILLION 90+ day liability we owe vendors, which I am now taking over because, you know, I want to make sure our bills are paid.
    -One of my coworkers apparently doesn’t own a home computer in the year of our lord 2020?
    -One coworker said we “expensed” something instead of “accrued” something, which has caused roughly $600,000 to go missing in some godforsaken account. This coworker is a trained, experienced accountant.
    -Our managers do not audit their machine time sheets. Their supervisors are judged based on how much they produce per given machine hour. You can judge the highly predictable results. Simple solutions for this have been rebuffed (mostly, “write down how long your 5 machines ran on a sheet of paper and check it against the database”)

    Do you trust any of these people to make strategic decisions involving tens of millions of dollars, and, more importantly, do you trust them trying to DEFEND their strategic decisions to Vice Presidents and Company Officers?

    • Bobobob says:

      Are these all different coworkers, or is there some overlap in the incompetence Venn diagrams?

    • TimG says:

      My feeling for a while is that few people are qualified to do their job. But we don’t have anyone to replace them with. The world has gotten complex faster than we’ve gotten smarter.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I think “does not make stupid mistakes” is a much higher bar than it sounds. Human intelligence is much more powerful than it is reliable; never making stupid mistakes is much harder than being able to complete hard tasks that create lots of value for others on a regular basis.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I think “does not make stupid mistakes” is a much higher bar than it sounds.

        Yes. It is hard to determine the context from ADBG’s post, but I do wonder if he expects to find zero mistakes. I remember years ago when I went from being a manager and always checking other folks’ work to doing a bunch of the work myself, and being reviewed by other people. I was quite humbled to realize that I make mistakes too. ADBG: perhaps the mistakes you found really were outrageous, but please be careful not to be too arrogant about this.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          No one makes more stupid mistakes than me! There’s a difference between a stupid mistake, and “I don’t feel like I should check my data when it is literally my job to ensure data integrity and do basic analysis on it.”

      • Wrong Species says:

        Especially when it comes to tedious tasks.

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      My crowning achievement in this realm was designing a fix for a very highly-compensated lawyer who had the misfortune of having one of those printers where the sheets are printed in reverse order. He made enough hourly that he could have just BOUGHT a new printer, but instead he would flip hundreds of sheets by hand (no interns I guess), taking him collectively many hours per year. He did not want anyone messing with the printer settings because he did not trust technology (or maybe thought something would get broken). I told him that you could put the papers back in the printer and print out n-many blank sheets, where n is the number of papers to flip. The sheets magically came out in correct order, having been flipped twice. Voila, I save the company tens of thousands of dollars per year.

    • Cheese says:

      If errors of that magnitude are happening in only a few days, is this a system error rather than striking incompetence of many different people? Are roles and objectives ill-defined such that people are working outside of their expertise and are the systems and procedures either too complex or poorly explained?

      • keaswaran says:

        It could also be that each of these people is involved in hundreds of comparable tasks, so that this represents an error rate below 1%. Exactly the sort of system in which it makes sense to employ someone as a double-checker, even though the people are quite competent.

    • phisheep says:

      This all sounds very familiar to me, but I’ll put in a word of defense for the worker investigating the $300 rounding error. Once I had an accounting discrepancy of only £20-ish, but it turned out it was the right thread to pull on to uncover a £1 million credit owing to us – and all because our supplier was even worse at this stuff than we were.

      • cassander says:

        I frequently tell my team members that the worst number to be off by is one. If you’re off by a million, then something big and obvious is wrong, and it will quickly be spotted and corrected. But when you’re off by 1, the problem can lurk going unnoticed for a long time, and will probably be harder to fix if discovered.

      • John Schilling says:

        Sometimes it’s worth tracking a seventy-five cent accounting error. If it turns out you only caught a thief who stole the seventy-five cents (or $300 or whatever), sure, you’ve wasted your time. But, a priori, all you know is that the math looks wrong. And math is pretty much the one thing we are sure is never wrong, so you clearly don’t understand what really is wrong. Worth a bit of time to get that straight.

        I’ll also defend the coworker who doesn’t own a personal computer in 2020. In 2010 that would have been a warning sign, but ownership of proper computers has been trending downwards as smartphones etc have taken over their most popular roles. If it’s important to your business that they have a computer at home, issue them a laptop.

        The rest, yeah, that’s stupidity and a lot of it is hard to explain as just careless stupidity.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        You…..aren’t necessarily wrong. What you want to look at will depend on your job function, your industry, and the type of error. In pharmacy, I once looked at a 25 cent error, which turned out to be a BIG issue because an insurance company had altered our dispensing fee for all claims. That means a lot of money can be missed, because the pharmacy submits a lot of claims.

        But you need to know what your job is and what you are responsible for. Most employees looking at minor discrepancies are just spinning their wheels over minor discrepancies and have other things they need to do, or else the company starts losing money.

    • Murphy says:

      -One coworker spent 2 hours trying to investigate a $300 rounding error. See $20,000 per week losses above, reference against term “prioritization” in nearest dictionary.

      I’d probably trust this one.

      Sure, it’s a $300 error this week but unless you know the cause it could have been a $300 every week or every month and worse, if the numbers don’t add up and you don’t know why then there could be far worse errors lurking and when you run a bigger account through it perhaps 30K or 300K will disappear next time.

      Sometimes you pull on one little unimportant thread and discover a trove of important error.

      also it sounds like there are some shoddy workflows there.

    • Randy M says:

      -One of my coworkers issued a report that said we made $50,000 yesterday, despite the fact that we KNOW we lose $20,000 on a weekly basis. It took about 5 minutes to find 3 critical errors.

      Wait, what? Because of the shut down, seasonal, or some obscure accounting trick?

      • Nick says:

        The trick must be to lose money slower than deflation. 😉

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Let’s call it “obscure accounting trick.” Should we hit our number? Yes, we should. Will we? No. How do we cover ourselves? Build up the fat “planned favorability” somewhere else. “There’s a great deal of ruin” applies basically everywhere.

        However, to set yourself up for success, you need to actually stop shooting yourself in the foot and grab the low-hanging $20,000/week.

        • Randy M says:

          I guess I’m unclear on what the “we” is in the that sentence, but from the explanation I assume it’s not the company as a whole on an average week.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Short answer: yes
            Medium Answer: not really (we are probably unprofitable as a company right now, due to COVID-related shutdowns, but I can’t tell you because I don’t know full company results)
            Long Answer: I am the Factory Controller, so I am responsible for budgeting standard costs for the Factory and explaining the variances. We do this in conjunction with Production. The biggest impact is “how many widgets can you make an hour” and “how many people does it take to run this line.”

            We have a few different run rates:
            -What Production says they can make. This number is “pure fiction.”
            -What Production thinks they are actually hitting. This is closer to reality, but because it is a KPI that is not well audited, it is still not entirely correct. This number is “massaged.”
            -What we can actually hit based on prior 12 month actuals. This number is estimated, but is the closest to true. This is our Budget Number.
            -What we are actually hitting based on our recent reduced performance.

            The disconnect is between 3 and 4. We are not hitting targets we know we can hit. We…sort of expect things like this to happen from time to time and build a little extra filling during the sausage making process, if you catch my drift.

            So, we’re not producing as much as we should. Are we actually losing money to standard? Nah, not yet.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m guessing some amount of your reason for continuing operation despite operating at or near a loss is that some fraction of those employees need to be paid now to retain their services in better times, and you might as well run at half capacity while you do so?

    • S_J says:

      The coworker who does not have a computer at their home may use a smart-phone for most email/social-media purposes. Or may use their work computer for some nontrivial amount of non-work use…

      One of my old acquaintances did that for many years, and likely still does.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, I feel like this one exposes ADBG as the old fuddy duddy here.

        I’d guess most white-collar employees under 40 don’t have home desktop PCs anymore. A lot of them don’t have their own computers at all. They use phones/tablets for most personal tasks, and their work laptop for everything else.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I challenge this. I am a white-collar employee under 40 and most of my friends and family members are white-collar employees under 40. I know some people primarily USE tablets, but practically everyone owns a laptop, and uses it fairly regularly. The only other person I can think of that does not own a laptop and uses only a tablet is my 90 year old grandmother-in-law.

          Note that we followed up and asked about a tablet: doesn’t own one of those, either.

        • Dack says:

          Since they could just as easily have done whatever they were being asked to do on a phone/tablet that is good enough to serve as a computer, I find it more likely that they resented being asked to do work stuff at home and this was their way of refusing (whether technically true or not).

          • Evan Þ says:

            You can’t assume that. My phone’s decent for casual web browsing and good for email. But it’s really bad for a lot of the stuff I need to do for work. Even a tablet probably wouldn’t have enough processing power for some of my work responsibilities.

          • Dack says:

            I assumed nothing. I just find it more plausible that someone doesn’t want to do work stuff (in the realm of accountancy) at home than that they are unable to.

    • a real dog says:

      I make public, embarrassing mistakes often and fail to care about my job 90% of the time. Yet I’ve been called a high performer multiple times and everyone is coming to me to fix their shit.

      The skill floor is really, really low and recruitment for most positions is more about experience/connections/pretending to understand the domain, than actually being able to do things. Also see the amazing effectiveness of checklists on expensive to train professionals using expensive equipment in high-risk situations (including risk to themselves).

      I sometimes struggle with impostor syndrome and then I realize it’s impossible to avoid, with the modern workplace being set up such that everyone keeps the facade of professionalism while having no idea what they are doing. The impostor syndrome’d people were right all along, they just don’t realize that everyone else is an impostor too.

    • sharper13 says:

      If you:
      1. Show up for work on time each day you’re supposed to.
      2. Do more or less what your manager asks you to work on.
      3. Don’t get into wildly inappropriate loud arguments on a regular basis at work.
      then you’re probably one of the top/reliable employees at most companies.

      Being actually competent at your job is a big bonus as well, but also serves to offset some of the above type issues for some people.

      Sometimes smart people work at smart people companies and are thus not exposed to as much of the regular masses of “normal” workers. A friend of mine joined a pure technology company I was at and his comment after a few weeks was that he was used to being the smartest guy at his work, but suddenly he was the dumb guy at work. In contrast, I have family members who are wildly successful at companies which are primarily retail-oriented because they can do 1-3 above, but the vast majority of their co-workers can’t.

      • Randy M says:

        then you’re probably one of the top/reliable employees at most companies.

        I think this overstates things a little.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I have a friend who works at a job where acheiving all 3 points is unusual, and will put you in line for promotion. Her coworkers have, among other things, colluded in robbing the place, used the workplace for an illegal side hustle, turned up hours late without calling in, and called in as unable to come to work because they were in jail. Several appear to be too illiterate and/or dyslexic to handle basic job requirements. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the job doesn’t pay well ;-(

    • bzium says:

      In that part about managers not auditing time sheets, did you mean to write that their subordinates are judged based on productivity per machine-hour? Because the way it’s written right now confuses me.

      (And if it’s written correctly, could you explain who’s putting incorrect stuff in the time sheets, how are they incentivized to do this, and why would you expect managers to even want to audit stuff if that had the visible side-effect of undermining their supervisors?)

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Is ‘The Release from Deception’ (1754) by Francesco Queirolo the most impressive thing ever sculpted out of a single block of marble, or can you cite something even more impressive?

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      This easily beats any other sculpture I’ve seen for the “How was this physically possible” factor. What kind of tools do you even use to carve the inner folds of a tangled net out of marble?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What kind of tools do you even use to carve the inner folds of a tangled net out of marble?

        I can’t find any information on that! Apparently he did it all by himself, not a single apprentice or anything in his workplace. Maybe he was a wizard.

      • Another Throw says:

        Probably a drill. Or several, really.

        ETA:

        The drill was used for a variety of tasks. These included creating holes for dowels or metal fittings but mainly it was employed to achieve depth in delicate areas of carving where the chisel might cause damage.

    • Randy M says:

      That is impressive!

    • Another Throw says:

      Looking at it I am not seeing very many (any?) places where you would really need to reach through the net very far in order to reach the body. For example, while the net may be draped away from the torso, you could reach in the gap between the torso and the net rather than through the net. The net follows the form of the leg rather closely, before veering away from the body steeply. Based on the fact that the work is jammed into a corner, the back is almost certainly unfinished so the artist didn’t need to resolve how the net works around the back, or behind the legs. The tangled mass of net around the head and shoulders has a lot of surface details, but few actual perforations. Super impressive! But I don’t see anywhere the artist needed to be reaching through super far.

      Also, the deep undercuts and perforations in the net would be predominately done with a drill rather than a chisel.

  16. ltowel says:

    How do people feel about the Companion mechanic in Magic: The Gathering?

    For those unaware, Companion is a mechanic in the newest set, Ikoria, which is currently only available online in one of the two Magic: The Gathering video games. It allow you to play a specific creature from outside of the game, whenever you want, as long as you meet a particular deck-building restriction. The mechanic has taken over every format, and has led to speculation that there will be a nearly unprecedented banning in Vintage, the format where you’re allowed to “play all your cards”.

    Personally, I think the mechanic is a game-warping mistake and if the designers were at all competent at aping mechanics from hearthstone (a much worse game), they’d have seen the damage the odd/even deck-building restriction cards did to that game.

    • broblawsky says:

      As a (former) hearthstone player, this doesn’t quite sound like the odd/ even problem. The problem with Genn & Baku was that they gave players a much stronger incentive to use their hero power every turn, which made the game much more predictable.

      • ltowel says:

        Getting an 8 card hand is stupidly powerful, and having that 8th card be exactly the same every game makes the games much more predictable.

        Hearthstone and Magic are different games, but it’s hard to look at “you can only play even mana costs, but you get a 6/6 for 6 with an abusable ETB as an 8th card in your hand” (and Gyruda is not one of the strongest companions) as reasonable after seeing the Even/Odd metagame in hearthstone.

        It is probably worth mentioning that there are 10 different companions, all with different deck-building restrictions and mana costs.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      How do people feel about the Companion mechanic in Magic: The Gathering?

      I accept the expert consensus on it.

      • ltowel says:

        I’m disappointed I haven’t seen this and also glad to never pick Timetwister in vintage cube again.

    • Jake R says:

      I mainly play draft where I think it makes for an interesting deck-building twist. It’s not as format-warping as the cycling deck right now. It definitely doesn’t feel unwinnable when an opponent has a companion, which was what I was worried about initially.

      I can definitely see a world where every meta standard deck has a companion and every companion deck plays out very similarly game to game. If that’s the case I doubt we we want to be there for a full standard rotation.

      My first impression on seeing the cards was also “oh they’re ripping off Hearthstone” but honestly a Gyruda deck doesn’t really play out all that much like a Genn Greymane deck. They’re still very different games and while Wizards is certainly pushing limits it doesn’t strike me as inherently a bad thing to steal the occasional interesting idea from Hearthstone.

      • ltowel says:

        I think the cycling deck would be fine (albeit strong) if games were still played in pods so people could take your cyclers that fit into their decks, instead of drafting with a pod and playing random people with similar records. I do think this is overall a really fun draft format, even with cycling (simic mutate/golgari graveyard/sultai hybrid is a sweet deck to draft also)

    • Business Analyst says:

      It’s cancerous, but Lurrus supremely useful in an enchantment or cycling deck. All the flickering agent decks are terribly unfun to play against. I don’t mind losing, but I want to feel like I had some sort of chance, those make losing feel awful, to the point that I just concede if Agent drops.

      It’s felt like the last 3 sets have each increased the power level a little too much for my taste, this is sadly beginning to remind me of X-Wing in the period just before they scrapped everything to go with a dynamically adjustable second edition.

    • Imsoindiethatmyblogdontfit says:

      My impression is that the seed to the Companion mechanic was that someone at Wizards noticed that people really liked Commander, and got an idea to make normal MTG more like Commander. The fact that this idea survived to make print is either a case of a designer being unable to kill their darlings or executive meddling (I would go with the later since my impression is that the set switches hands a couple of times between design, playtesting etc.).

      From a Limited/draft perspective, it annoys me that all companions would be clearly playable in limited even if you removed the Companion ability from them. And the Companion mechanic, as we know, is really really strong. That just feels like sloppy design.

      But I don’t hate companion. I think it could be a fun mechanic if it was balanced as to not dominate Standard, and as to make sure no companion is an autopick in draft. Sadly they made the power level a tad too high (once again, executive meddling to pander to the kitchen table Commander players?) and now we suffer the consequences.

      One issue with Companions that isn’t mentioned much is how anti-Vorthos most of them are. Lutri kind of makes sense: he’s a magical otter. But why does he care if you have copies of other cards in your deck or not? Gyruda is a big sea monster that mills-reanimates? What even is the flavor of mill-reanimation? How can a big dumb sea monster take control of your opponents creatures? Why does the sea monster care about even cards? Its clear to me that all companions where a mechanical idea first and then had the flavor painted on. And none of them really connects with the monster theme of the set or represents a monster archetype (except maybe Kaheera).

      • Randy M says:

        Oddly enough, Mark Rosewater has mentioned in the past playtesting a mechanic where you could set aside certain cards to start in your opening hand that was brokenly overpowered. Companions are even better than that, because they are an extra card and can’t be discarded. I’m not sure why the darling couldn’t be killed this time.

        executive meddling to pander to the kitchen table Commander players?

        Not too wise if so. Commander players seem pretty uninterested in the cards, and more casual players would probably like them just as much if the power level was lowered a bit.

        Why does the sea monster care about even cards?

        ‘Cause it’s got eight legs. That’s like, four times as even as two.

        • Imsoindiethatmyblogdontfit says:

          Maybe the plan is to get the casual Commander players to start playing Standard online? Companions seem more geared towards getting Commander players into Standard than to improve commander play.

          But Maro describes it quite good here on his blog. This may be corporate smoke-and-mirrors, but I want to believe him.

          Are you worried about Companion?

          Another of my game design truisms is “the greatest risk is not taking risks.” What makes Magic “Magic” is that it’s a dynamic game that’s constantly changing and trying new things. Not everything works out, but that’s okay. Magic can survive things that end up being problematic. Trust me—the game’s history is littered with things that caused headaches. What’s far more dangerous is us making sets that don’t excite anyone. I’d much rather make a mechanic that’s polarizing than make one that everyone forgets in a day. Will companion be an awesome creation or a horrible mistake? I bet a lot of people are going to play a lot of games to find out. Also, we’ve played a lot of games with it in R&D. It’s pretty fun. We don’t put things out if we don’t see a lot of upside potential.

          Maybe it was a genuine desire from the designers to bring the goodness of Commander to Standard?

      • ltowel says:

        There was also such an easy flavor win by having the companions as something akin to Dr. Who-esque companion to a Planeswalker’s Doctor. (heck that’s probably where they got the name from)!

    • Aftagley says:

      I’m mainly a standard/limited player, so while I understand that the companions are kinda destroying the older formats, I don’t really care. I don’t particularly mind a format I don’t play having curveballs thrown at it if it means that formats I do play get interesting ideas from time to time.

      That being said, in Limited I think companions are cool. If you draft them early you get to do a very unique style of drafting that modifies the traditional CABS/BREAD formula. If you draft them late, you still get a pretty good card. Anything that manages to be a build around AND a bomb is A ok in my book. You also don’t see them often enough to get sick of them. Overall, I think they’re pretty cool in limited.

      In standard, I’m more mixed, but still generally positive about them. I like it when sets “feel” different from one another and this really makes the set stand out. Not sure if I’ll still like them in a year, but that’s future-me’s problem. Honestly, my biggest issue with Standard’s is the Agent of Treachery. The card is just not fun.

      • ManyCookies says:

        If you draft them early you get to do a very unique style of drafting that modifies the traditional CABS/BREAD formula

        They’ve been moving away from BREAD “Draft the good cards in two colors” lately. Ikoria in particular is really synergy focused, almost cube like in the way you want to archetypes rather than color pairs.

        • Randy M says:

          To illustrate your point, the best deck fills up on off-color cards that cheaply replace themselves to power up the handful of pay-offs.

          • Aftagley says:

            yeah, but that deck is pure cancer and way above the power level appropriate for draft.

            IMO the single-mana cost cyclers either should be have costed 2 or at least required colored mana. And Zenith Flare should have the words “any target” replaced with “target creature or planeswalker”

          • Randy M says:

            is/ought distinction. (I don’t disagree)

    • Perico says:

      As a limited mechanic, companion is a cool, if somewhat overpowered, way of encouraging people to try new ways of drafting. So not too bad, I guess – I wouldn’t mind seeing it again in future sets, for limited purposes.

      On the other hand, constructed formats are dead to me until companions rotate or are banned. I thoroughly dislike the way companions take over constructed Magic in every format they are legal in, how they distort the deckbuilding process, and how repetitive they make games.

      What would make them tolerable for me? I like the idea of introducing deckbuilding restrictions (if anything, we need more Battle of Wits-style cards), but the risk/reward for companions as currently implemented is completely off: the reward is so good, that you need an extremely good reason not to use a companion. The right balance, in my opinion, would be for companions to be playable in niche decks, but to have most competitive decks without one. That is clearly not the case at the moment.

      How to implement a not-too-good companion? With the rules as currently written, I think only Lutri comes remotely close to having a fair requirement. Yorion might be fair if it required 60-80 extra cards, rather than the current 20. But all other existing designs are probably hopeless. So either we ban companions from constructed altogether, or we change the companion rule. This would be an unprecedented power level errata, and thus extremely unlikely. Also, I don’t think it’s possible to implement a change that makes companions fair without rendering most of them unplayable. Consider the following options:
      – 1) Using a companion reduces your initial hand size by 1.
      – 2) When you play a companion, as an additional cost, put a card from your hand in the bottom of your library.

      Both are pretty harsh nerfs, but I’m pretty sure that, with 2), Lurrus still deserves a ban in non-rotating formats, Gyruda still has a tier-1 deck in Standard, and the remaining companions become weaker but still see a lot of play. If we go even further with option 1), I think Lurrus is still a thing (possibly even a broken thing, in some formats), and the rest are just no longer worth the effort. It’s quite a fine line.

    • Tarpitz says:

      The mechanic itself is not intrinsically bad, but it is extremely dangerous and R&D have stepped far, far over the line into the territory where it becomes a problem. Lurrus in particular is the strongest creature ever printed, and that’s not a good thing.

      I do believe it is symptomatic of a desire to make Standard more Commanderish – more about decks getting to execute their plan, generally involving some sort of engine and trying to go over the top of each other – which is a style of gameplay that does not appeal to me. Commander players already have a format to play: it’s called Commander. Standard should offer something different.

    • ManyCookies says:

      I don’t think Companion was a fundamental design mistake from the word go. Lurrus is giving the whole mechanic a much worse rap than it deserves, being by far the most powerful and the one with the most repetitive effect (infinite recursion wee), but that’s more a specific development mistake that could’ve been avoided in the same way Oko/JtmS/T3feri were specific planeswalkers mistakes. Heck even changing Lurrus’s restriction to include nonpermanents – and exclude FoW/FoN – would’ve gone a long way to stop its Legacy/Vintage dominance.

      Yorion’s also probably a mistake, though in Standard I think Fires of Invention/Agent of Treachery is the larger problem in those decks and will lose a significant amount of its edge once it can’t Lukka->Agent->Yorion in a turn. And the Legacy Snoko bullshit should’ve been banned anyway (#banastrolabe). Zirda’s possibly eating a Legacy ban, but again that’s more of a “cost reductions are typicall broken” than something inherent to the mechanic. The rest of the companions are reasonably fair, either requiring significant deck concessions (Umori) or just aren’t that powerful (Kaheera).

      They’re pretty fun limited cards, drafts are quite interesting with them.

  17. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I know people wanted to sign up for vaccine challenge trials.

    Scott linked https://www.thecovidchallenge.org/ before.

    I’ve read about https://1daysooner.org/ on Vox.

    I don’t know which is better, but if you sign up for one you may as well sign up for both.

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    The Epistemology of Henry Jones

    You are a post-WWI male rationalist, a University of Chicago PhD whose father was also a PhD.
    In 1935, you narrowly escape death by saying the name of Shiva to a priest of Kali who hypnotized you and displayed some explicitly supernatural power.
    In 1936, you are captured by Nazis and see a German archaeologist melted by the Ark of the Covenant after he impersonated the Jewish high priest.
    In 1938, you watch the cup Jesus of Nazareth used at the Last Supper perform miracles.
    In 1947, you perform archaeological analysis on a UFO that crashed at Roswell, New Mexico with its inhuman pilot.
    In 1957, you see thirteen crystal skeletons come back to life, merge into one being, open a portal to “their home dimension”, and the Peruvian temple they were in collapse to reveal a UFO that matches the one from Roswell.

    What’s your religion and what do you believe you know about the nature of reality?

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      I don’t get paid for philosophy or theology. All I know is that it belongs in a museum!

      Most of that could be shoehorned into mainstream Christianity. The Church, as far as I know, has no stance on aliens (I think they believe that God only incarnated on Earth, not a different Jesus for every alien species but I could be mistaken on that.)

      I long for some good Catholic sci-fi.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        I long for some good Catholic sci-fi.

        Have you read C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy? (Consisting of Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.) Not Catholic, but nothing specifically un-Catholic. Admittedly THS takes place entirely on Earth and could more accurately be called mythopoeic fantasy rather than sci-fi, and Perelandra, which is my favorite C.S. Lewis book, will either move you to tears with its divine beauty or bore you half to death.

        Also A Canticle for Leibowitz, which is a very Catholic book and on my shortlist of favorite sci-fi novels.

        • Jake R says:

          Second the Space Trilogy, although of the three Out of the Silent Planet is the only one that’s cleanly Sci-Fi. Interestingly, the first time I read it I thought Perelandra was the best book ever written and That Hideous Strength was a bit of a slog. Every time I reread them though Perelandra drops a little and That Hideous Strength seems a little better. Out of the Silent Planet just remains solidly good.

        • Skeptical Wolf says:

          I’ll second the recommendation of A Canticle for Leibowitz. I recently read it as part of a (still ongoing) project to read through all the Hugo Award winning novels. I found it much stronger than A Case of Conscience, which has two major parts that never really come together into a coherent whole.

          In the short story space, The Star by Arthur C Clark is both fantastically written and from a very Catholic perspective.

          • matkoniecz says:

            from a very Catholic perspective

            Not convinced by that part. At all.

            Rira nsgre nccylvat “Sbe zl gubhtugf ner abg lbhe gubhtugf, arvgure ner lbhe jnlf zl jnlf, fnlf gur YBEQ.” vg vf n ovg gbb zhpu.

            Though I still recommend reading it.

          • Skeptical Wolf says:

            Not convinced by that part. At all.

            This is fair, so I will be more precise. This is a book written by a practicing catholic about explicitly catholic characters that reflects the teachings of the catholic church (as I, a non-catholic, learned them from a catholic school) better than any other novel-length science fiction I have encountered.

            It is also, in my opinion, very good.

            Take the above with as many grains of salt as you feel appropriate.

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            Arthur C. Clarke wasn’t a practicing Catholic (or any other faith).

          • Belisaurus Rex says:

            Is Harry Potter on that list?

            Yeah, I’ve read The Star and Canticle but hadn’t heard of CS Lewis’ trilogy yet. I’ll put it on my ever-growing list.

        • Filareta says:

          “Have you read C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy? (Consisting of Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.) Not Catholic, but nothing specifically un-Catholic.”

          Actually given authors’ theological views and high-churchism, it is anglo-catholic SF.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I long for some good Catholic sci-fi.

        Have you read James Blish’s famous A Case of Conscience?

        Also, Karina Fabian’s recent Discovery is slow in terms of plot but has great worldbuilding. Of course, in a universe with spaceflight, there would be a monastic order dedicated to rescuing stranded spacefarers.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I long for some good Catholic sci-fi.

        Try The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God by Mary Doria Russell. The author was raised Catholic (though she converted to Judaism before she wrote the books) and the story centres around a Jesuit expedition to an alien civilisation. They’re really very good books, though in an “emotionally powerful and gripping” way more than a ”fun to read” way- some of what happens to the main character is genuinely disturbing.

        • Elena Yudovina says:

          I read The Sparrow in high school, and spent years trying to remember enough details to find it again! (Or, more precisely, have intermittently tried to remember the details over the course of years.) Thank you for helping me find it!

        • mcpalenik says:

          I read The Sparrow 3 years ago and just read Children of God about 2 weeks ago. I would second that they’re both really good novels. I was going to say more, but I think I’ll just leave it at that.

          Edit: except maybe that particularly in Children of God, you can see the degree to which Judaism influences the author’s thought. And despite the fact that many of the characters are Jesiuts, religion mainly appears as something that influences how they understand their joy and suffering, rather than something that drives a lot of the story. The manner in which they undertake their expeditions is largely secular in nature.

      • Nick says:

        There is lots of good Catholic SF! Check out Gene Wolfe, RA Lafferty, John C Wright, and Mike Flynn to start.

        • mitv150 says:

          For John Wright – don’t you have to start after the Golden Oecumene? I recall there being somewhat of an uproar/backlash to Wright after he converted from atheism (which, I believe, happened after finishing this series).

          • Nick says:

            I mean, the fiction of a guy about to convert is not a bad place to start, either.

          • mitv150 says:

            Good point. My motivation for the comment was more of an interrogative than it came across as, I think. I’ll try again.

            Wright’s later work has an explicitly religious tone that doesn’t appear (to me at least) in the Golden Oecumene (which is a great series that wrestles with lots of interesting issues). Would you consider the Golden Oecumene to be Catholic science fiction and why?

            This also puts me in mind of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos. These novels are both excellent and rife with religious themes. But the future Catholic Church operates as the antagonist in this series, and I’m not certain about classifying these as “Catholic science fiction.”

          • Nick says:

            I haven’t read The Golden Oecumene, so I can’t say. I’ve heard it’s good, at least. I’m only saying don’t discount the possibility that his work was implicitly Catholic before it was explicitly Catholic.

          • Filareta says:

            Hyperion isn’t Catholic, but it certainly is Abrahamic 😉

          • Evan Þ says:

            Yes, Golden Oecumene is very good – it’s my favorite of all Wright’s stories. It isn’t explicitly Christian, but it’s very thematically compatible.

          • Deiseach says:

            Wright has said that he got some unfavourable commentary about works that the reader thought were written after he converted but had been written while he was still an atheist:

            The wheels of the publishing world turn slowly. Several of my books, which I had written when yet a die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool atheist, came out after news of my conversion did. More than one editor or book critic, deceived by my desire to tell a story rather than promote a worldview, were convinced that my atheist books were Christian in tone. One of them even called a book containing a scene that rather unsubtly mocked Christianity a pro-Christian apologetic!

            …I wrote stories with nakedly religious endings of pure hope when I was an atheist because the story logic required such an ending. Likewise, I wrote stories with a nakedly atheist ending of pure despair when I was a Christian because the story logic required such an ending.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          Wolfe and Lafferty are nonpareils. Mike Flynn I know nothing of.

          I am curious about Wright. I have read two short stories by him. His piece in the Jack Vance tribute anthology was one of the better ones in an extremely good collection. But the other, about some guy chosen by fate / angels to devote his life to a cosmic struggle and the contempt of society, had the sort of clunky over-sincerity that I associate with harmless but politically extreme internet debaters. And the language was extraordinarily stilted – I was okay with it but I imagine it would put many people off.

          I guess I should check out that Golden Oecumene that people are talking about.

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        Randall Garrett is an interesting case here (though his most relevant work is more historical fantasy than science fiction). He was a very non-catholic writer who wrote some excellent stories about a catholic set of characters, then converted to the point of achieving ordination later in life (though the ordination was in the Old Catholic Church, which may be seen as catholic or merely catholic-adjacent, depending on how you look at it).

    • Bergil says:

      The arc and the grail prove that Yahweh exist and has power, but the existence of Shiva contradicts every Abrahamic religion. My conclusion would be that the bible is divinely inspired, but not necessarily true, with Yahweh being a god, but not the god, with claims of omniscience, omnipotence, and sole creation of the universe probably being propaganda, but possibly being a mistake over centuries of memnetic evolution (but why not correct it?). The existence of aliens reinforces this- while Christianity doesn’t say that they don’t exist, it’s a conspicuous omission- Yahweh either didn’t know about them or didn’t think we needed to know about them.

      • Nick says:

        the existence of Shiva contradicts every Abrahamic religion

        Citation needed! Christians grappled with the apparent fact of oracles and other powers belonging to small-g gods in antiquity.

      • Evan Þ says:

        the existence of Shiva contradicts every Abrahamic religion

        Citation very much needed! On the contrary, the Bible in several places says or at least strongly implies that pagan gods are in fact demons – which means at least some of them might be very real. E.g. 1 Corinthians 10:20 – “What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.”

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          Wait, is it the position of some modern Christians that Hindus are demon worshippers? It seems like it makes sense, but I’ve never heard anyone explicitly say that to me.

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, “some” gives you a lot of wiggle room there. I think the most common position is now that the Hindus are simply mistaken, and worship a name that points to no thing. But when Christians believed that supernatural events like rods turning into snakes were a thing that happened, and that these things didn’t only happen for good Christians, then the belief was that it was demons handing out miracles to the pagans in order to tempt them away from the One True God. I’m not sure there ever was much overlap between Christian belief in pagan miracle-workers and Christian contact with actual Hindus.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Wait, is it the position of some modern Christians that Hindus are demon worshippers? It seems like it makes sense, but I’ve never heard anyone explicitly say that to me.

            Even if it makes sense in isolation, Indiana had a very positive supernatural experience by chanting to Shiva.

        • Jake R says:

          The entire Old Testament frequently contrasts the God of Israel with the gods of other nations. It rarely reads like “our God exists and yours doesn’t.” More often it is more like “our God can kick your god’s ass.”

    • LadyJane says:

      Basically this: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AllMythsAreTrue

      Specifically, I’d probably conclude something like: there are cosmic forces out there beyond our understanding, and our myths and religions were clearly inspired by some of these aliens/interdimensional beings/paranormal entities, but we have no idea what they really are or what they want, so a lot of religious dogma could be based around false assumptions. Functionally it’d probably round off to a sort of vague moralistic therapeutic deism with scientific (in the “Ancient Aliens” sense of scientific) undertones.

    • LadyJane says:

      Also reminds me of this exchange from Agents of SHIELD:

      “He claims he made a deal with the devil.”
      “Which is nonsense.”
      “You know, the rationalist in me wants to agree, but the skull on fire makes a pretty compelling argument for “hail Satan”.”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Aw geez, don’t get me started on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
        At the end of The Avengers, Nick Fury reports to a five-member “World Security Council” that has the authority to launch nuclear missiles. First off, who are these people? The United Nations Security Council? The Illuminati?
        That aside, one of the council members scolds him for not keeping “the war criminal Loki” in custody. Wait… last year the world discovered that the god Thor is real (and by inference, any unknown number of heathen Norse truth claims) and that’s your ontological category for the jotnar Loki Laufeyson?
        How to make rational sense of this universe was a mess long before “Satan don’t real just because your head is a skull on fire.”

        • LadyJane says:

          First off, who are these people? The United Nations Security Council? The Illuminati?

          HYDRA, according to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            HYDRA, according to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

            I mean, I know that. It’s kind of hard to forget HYDRA Robert Redford. What’s confusing is who did Nick Fury and SHIELD think they served before HYDRA was revealed? The “World Security Council” front needed a source of legitimacy to control nuclear missiles and helicarriers. (The more I try to make sense of it, the more SHIELD-HYDRA seems like a rivalry within a hypothetical Deep State. Like I can’t imagine anyone but US taxpayers are paying for those helicarriers, at a unit cost of much more than $13 billion and yet weren’t allowed to know they exist. The… series pilot? IIRC of Agents of SHIELD also showed flying cars that agents of this Deep State keep secret from the public.)

          • LadyJane says:

            Pretty sure that both SHIELD and the World Security Council were both operating under the auspices of the United Nations, at least officially. The WSC seems to be affiliated with the UN Security Council (though they’re distinct groups), and it basically serves as an intermediary between the UN and SHIELD, overseeing the international spy agency. They’re also responsible for “facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace,” according to the Marvel wiki. None of that even comes close to explaining why they have the authority to launch nukes, though.

    • ChangingTime says:

      I am not intimately familiar with the ‘canon’ of Indiana Jones. Are the games (Fate of Atlantis, etc.) canon? Young Indy?

      Looking at the wiki, it seems like ‘official’ continuity follows a ‘throw it all in’ approach, with tiers of canon (films overruling shows overruling games) that should be somewhat familiar to Star Wars fans.

      That means he’s also encountered the lost civilization of Atlantis, seen many more Judeo-Christian artifacts (like the fourth nail meant to finish of Christ during his crucifixion and the staff of Moses), met the Babylonian god Marduk, run across several candidates for the Philosopher’s stone, and fought Chinese spirits and dragons.

      • Matt M says:

        It still bothers me greatly that the dreck that is “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was made rather than a movie adaptation of Fate of Atlantis.

      • Nornagest says:

        Well, Fate of Atlantis is the second- or third-best Indiana Jones movie despite not being a movie, so I don’t really care what the makers think, it’s canon in my heart.

  19. nkurz says:

    This article has been mentioned positively a few times in recent comment threads:
    The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them
    https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them

    It attempts to clarify what the risks of transmission of COVID-19 actually are, and how you can adjust your behavior to lower your risk. It’s written by a well-credentialed professional who teaches and studies infectious diseases and immunology at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth: https://www.umassd.edu/directory/ebromage/.

    My impression as a non-professional is that one of the basic assumptions of the article is fundamentally wrong. Given my status, and that of the author, it seems almost certain that I’m the one who is mistaken, and the author’s understanding of disease transmission is correct. Could someone please explain to me why the article is right about some of its claims?

    The part that I’m bothered by is the apparent presumption that there is a minimum dose necessary to contract the disease, which means that exposure to doses below some threshold are not just less likely to cause infection, but actually safe. Here are some excerpts as we proceed through the article:

    In order to get infected you need to get exposed to an infectious dose of the virus; based on infectious dose studies with other coronaviruses, it appears that only small doses may be needed for infection to take hold. Some experts estimate that as few as 1000 SARS-CoV2 infectious viral particles are all that will be needed (ref 1, ref 2).

    Saying “need to” and “as few as” seem a little odd, but this seems mostly correct. His Ref 1 is to a Vox piece claiming (presumably correctly) that you aren’t likely to be infected by passing runner. Ref 2 has comments by a number of people, one of whom offers a seemingly authoritative definition of “infective dose” as “The minimal infective dose is defined as the lowest number of viral particles that cause an infection in 50% of individuals (or ‘the average person’).

    Speaking increases the release of respiratory droplets about 10 fold; ~200 virus particles per minute. Again, assuming every virus is inhaled, it would take ~5 minutes of speaking face-to-face to receive the required dose.

    This seems off. Assuming he’s using the definition in the reference that he linked to, we’ve switched from a 50% chance of infection for an average person to a “required dose”. If we assume the rate of viral particles emitted are correct, can you somehow be completely safe from infection if you restrict yourself to only 4 minutes of close contact with an infected individual?

    If I am outside, and I walk past someone, remember it is “dose and time” needed for infection. You would have to be in their airstream for 5+ minutes for a chance of infection.

    Based on my amateur mental model of disease transmission, this seems just plain wrong. I assume that if 1000 viral particles are necessary to infect 50% of individuals under some standard conditions, then a smaller number of particles should cause infection with some lower but non-zero likelihood. I’d further assume that lower doses are probably close to linear in infectivity — half the dose probably means approximately half the likelihood. At the extremes this linearity might be broken, but it seems like it should hold true near the 50% infection dose. Is this false? Is he right there is actually some minimum number necessary for infection to occur at all?

    The only way that I can see his argument being true is if we believe there is a strong relationship between initial dose and severity of infection. I’ve seen it argued that very high initial doses might cause a severe case by overwhelming the immune system, while small initial doses might allow the immune system to maintain control. But even if this was true, wouldn’t this just count as a mild infection rather than lack of transmission? Perhaps more likely, I’m simply misinterpreting the article. What am I missing?

    • Robin says:

      I suspect she didn’t want to complicate the article by including the probabilistic reasoning. I’m no expert either, but I assume: In theory one virus could be enough to infect you, but the probability that it lands on exactly the cell it can penetrate is very small. The more viruses you inhale, the higher the probability. But for the message (how to avoid the risks) to come across, this is not so important.

      • John Schilling says:

        I suspect she didn’t want to complicate the article…

        Nit: the name threw me as well, but Erin Bromage appears to be male and the bio at the end of the article uses male pronouns.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve recently been reading some of Robin Hanson’s work on this. He reviews evidence for an even weirder assumption – that your starting dose of the virus influences the severity of your disease (higher starting dose = worse disease). This makes no sense, but the evidence is pretty strongly in its favor.

      I think the theory is that once you get some virus in your body, the virus “races” against your immune system – can it spread before the immune system can mount a response sufficient enough to kill however many virus particles there are. You can analogize this to national quarantines – if one person from Wuhan gets into Taiwan, the Taiwanese contact-tracers can probably deal with it; if 10,000 people get in, probably Taiwan is set for an epidemic.

      I can best make sense of the linked article if the professor assumes that for any small enough dose of virus, your immune system is basically guaranteed to win the race.

      • LesHapablap says:

        To extend the analogy further, maybe as soon as your body discovers the virus it starts working on a vaccine and finishes after I don’t know, 10 days. And the virus doubles every 24 hours, so if you start with 1 virus particle instead of 1000, you have a 11 days extra days with the dose of 1 (2^10 is 1024).

        But if that was true, wouldn’t the variolation methods work as a vaccine?

        • Radu Floricica says:

          The effect is probably less than linear, since the immune response is also dependent on viral load. So depending on how the numbers actually are, there could be a dose for which the immune response wins the race before symptoms are felt, but it’s not guaranteed.

        • keaswaran says:

          I’m told there are two major components of the immune system – the “innate” and the “adaptive”. Probably this is analogous to lockdown and developing a vaccine. If you have a small enough dose, like Taiwan, then a lockdown can destroy the infection before you develop a vaccine. If you have a somewhat larger dose, like Korea, then a lockdown can prevent you from developing too big an infection, but you still have to wait for the vaccine to clear it completely. If you have a much larger dose, like Italy, then the lockdown doesn’t even stop you from going into severe acute distress.

      • Rob K says:

        Why doesn’t it make sense? I’d heard the theory before and it struck me as entirely sensible.

        Seems, naively, like it would matter a lot if you have 10 or 1000 cells already infected (totally made up numbers) whenever that first B cell bumps into an antigen and starts the immune response. Is there a reason this wouldn’t be so?

        • Matt M says:

          Agreed. This makes perfect intuitive “common sense” to the average person, such that you’d have to be some sort of reasonably well-informed expert to think it doesn’t make sense.

          It’s sort of like economics. “Saving money is good” is common sense folk wisdom. You have to be taught stuff like “actually society is better off if everyone spends all the time” (which it turns out is not actually true).

        • Zakharov says:

          If the immune system isn’t likely to notice the virus until it reaches, say, 1000 cells infected, it doesn’t matter much whether you start with 10 cells or 1000 cells infected. This would be the case if the chance of the virus being detected is proportional to the number of infected cells (which seems intuitively likely), and the chance per infected cell per day is low (which is more uncertain).

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        What is Robin Hanson’s evidence this is true?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Here’s a notion– that when people are asymtomic, it isn’t necessarily a mild case, the virus is already interfering with the immune system.

        It’s a shame we don’t have adequate testing so that we can track the whole course of the disease in a range of people.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        A dose effect – increased likelihood of noticeable or severe infections as the number of virions inhaled increases – makes lots of sense.

        Zero chance of infection below N virions, for some substantial N – that is clearly nonsense.

    • Elena Yudovina says:

      Not an expert either, but a mathematician, which might be relevant. I expect that you’re right to be confused about an exact step-function threshold; I’d expect the infection probability to be differentiable, and certainly continuous, as a function of the number of inhaled viruses.

      However, I think it’s possible (and maybe likely) that the transition is sharp: that is, that at the (1000 particles = 50% infection probability) the derivative of the infection probability w.r.t. the number of inhaled particles is large. The most likely mechanism I can think of is something like “to get sick, you need the number of viruses in your body to be above a threshold” (I don’t notice single cells in my toe dying; I do notice my toe dying). The number of virus cells in your body isn’t going to be completely deterministic, of course, but as long as the distribution is fairly compact (e.g. Gaussian), then the transition from “the probability of exceeding the threshold is tiny” to “the probability of exceeding the threshold is close to 1” can be quite sharp (as a function of the initial viral load). Just to clarify, I’m not claiming that this is how disease actually works, just trying to come up with a simple model that has a sharp transition.

      A possibly-helpful analogy might be phase transitions in statistical mechanics: any finite number of atoms has to behave differentiably, but macroscopically you can have a sharp transition from water to ice.

    • John Schilling says:

      The assumption that p(infection) is 1.0 for n>1000 viral particles and 0.0 for n<1000 is obviously an oversimplification, but I don't think it's going to change the results very much. Neither does the technicality that if ten viral particles land in your lungs and infect two lung cells, but the immune system kills them all by the end of the day, you've been "infected". For practical purposes, an infection doesn't matter unless it has a significant chance of causing symptoms and/or being transmitted to another person. And I'm going to hazard a guess that the number of people exposed to 1000-2000 viral particles who don’t develop clinically significant infections, is greater than the number of people exposed to 1-1000 particles who do.

      My problem with the paper is that, to the extent that it offers quantitative guidance, it seems to be daisy-chaining worst-case assumptions. Starting with the 1000-particle threshold. He cites two sources for that, but both point to the same primary source and that’s an off-the cuff remark by a microbiologist speaking to a journalist. One of his sources then goes on to say that the probable value is “in the thousands, perhaps as high as 10,000”.

      And then goes on to say that since speaking emits 200 viral particles per minute, it would take 5 minutes of face-to-face speaking to receive the required dose assuming every virus is inhaled. And therefore anyone a carrier spends greater than ten minutes with in a face-to-face situation is potentially infected. Is it really plausible that if two people are speaking face-to-face, each inhales a full 50% of the air the other exhales? That seems like a pretty extreme definition of “face-to-face” to me.

      He cites a single source that “at least 44%” of all infections are from asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers. The last time I looked at this, the vast majority of studies were showing numbers in the 6-25% range.

      Regarding restaurants, workplaces, indoor sports, and social gatherings, he cites a single example of each to classify these as high risk environments, despite those singular examples having reached his attention by virtue of being newsworthy (and thus rare).

      If you’re going to give people a single set of numbers for something you don’t know with high confidence, those numbers should almost always be mean or median estimates, not worst-case estimates. If you’re going to give people worst-case estimates, you should be explicit that this is what you are doing. If you give people worst-case assessments and just tell people “these are the numbers”, then I’m going to suspect you’re trying to scare them in order to get them to do what you want them to do. Which, in some of his comments, Dr. Bromage all but admits to.

      • keaswaran says:

        I think regardless of the absolute value of the probabilities of any of these transmissions, even with your caveats, the point about *relative* probabilities of different types of transmission seems accurate. There are single instances of major spreads in these circumstances (as well as other single instances of similar types that haven’t been studied in as much detail). However, in all the studies across all countries, there only appears to be a single instance of outdoor superspreading. And even if the estimates of what it takes to get an infectious dose are overestimates or underestimates, they’re likely to apply to outdoor events and brief events just as much as to these extended ones.

        I suppose if you think the point of the article is to say “don’t go anywhere or do anything” then maybe that point is wrong. But I took the point of the article to be exactly the opposite – it’s saying that we shouldn’t avoid *all* activity, but instead should focus on avoiding things to the extent they are indoors, long-lasting, and involve extensive lung activity, and don’t worry so much about things that are outdoors, brief, and keep everyone’s breathing normal.

    • Econymous says:

      I seem to remember somebody here claiming that 20% of those who are infected are responsible for 99% of viruses shed. If this is true then basing your behaviors and recommendations on average shedders seems dangerous.

    • MilesM says:

      Some quick takeaways from looking at the article and the guy’s bio:

      1. He opens by making a broad claim about the infection curve based on bad data: He cites the number of new daily cases (which is staying flat or even slightly going up) rather than the daily percentage of new people testing positive (which controls for the number of tests being done, and that metric is declining) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html

      2. Judging by his bio and publications, he doesn’t appear to be an expert on the subject. He’s probably better qualified than a random biologist, but that’s not a high bar given how extremely specialized scientists are. In-depth knowledge of (for example) the immune response in the intestine of the Atlantic salmon doesn’t really provide you with a ton of unique insight into the spread of respiratory infection in humans.

      3. I think he’s still right, broadly speaking, and simply neglecting to add a caveat to each statement to clarify that there is no such thing as 0 chance of infection if you’re being exposed to viral particles.

  20. Foofaraw says:

    This is really helpful but the best we can do is just to stay at home and we can save lives.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      Was this meant to be a reply to another comment?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Alternatively, he’s saying that talking in SSC open threads is really helpful? I’ll agree with him there.

  21. johan_larson says:

    Christopher Nolan’s latest film “Tenet” (some sort of spy/sci-fi/time-travel thing) is aimed at a July 17 release. How likely is it that movie theatres will be open by that time? The date is two months away.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Some are already reopening- Dutch movie theatres reopen on June 1, with various safety rules. For instance, there will be a maximum of 30 people per screen, tickets will only be sold online, and start times will be staggered to reduce the number of people in the lobby at any one time. Initially they will be showing a mixture of films that were showing just before theatres closed and popular films from a few years ago (Interstellar, the Lego Movie and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are some examples).

      • Bobobob says:

        I think that would be a creepy experience for most people. I wonder if COVID-19 will kill movie theaters, given the near-total penetration of 50-inch plus TVs and fast streaming services. If going to a movie theater isn’t going to be a social experience, I’d rather watch a new release at home.

        • Matt M says:

          Going to a movie on opening weekend and going to a movie anytime after that are already very different experiences.

          If you’re going to see a movie after opening weekend, crowding is not an issue. I generally hate big crowds, but I honestly can’t even remember the last time I went to a movie theater and had to sit within six feet of someone I didn’t know.

          • Bobobob says:

            The question is, can movie theaters survive on a model that restricts opening-week crowds, due to social distancing? You might be looking at half the usual box-office take.

            I guess one expedient would be to double ticket prices, but that strategy would only work (if at all) for Star Wars-level movies. This is all going to play out big-time in Hollywood.

          • Randy M says:

            You could double the ticket price, then reduce it by 20% per week it’s been out, but I doubt the confusion would be worth it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I attend movie theaters with recliner seats. I’m 6 feet away from anyone not my wife anyway.

            Well, there was “Birds Of Prey” where we in normal seats, but the theater was so empty we had 6 feet distance anyway.

        • noyann says:

          Drive-in-cinemas are mushrooming in Germany*, the US should not be too different. A nice sunset before, a good selection of foods and drinks, nobody annoyed if you make out… could be even better than cinema as usual.

          *Wikipedia.de has 73 new during corona ( (to be) started in April and May); others were 5 all year open + 7 seasonal + 4 recurring events; another source had 14 total open from before 2020).

          • keaswaran says:

            What advantage does a drive-in offer over Netflix/Amazon? In 1955 it made a lot of sense, but right now it seems odd to me.

          • GearRatio says:

            The same advantage any in-person event has. Concerts, Theatre, Sports and Talks can all be enjoyed remotely, but historically the act of physically attending has been regarded as distinct enough to have value despite the lesser convenience and cost.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Attend a theater or concert gets rid of the second-screen effect that is common at home, and it forces me to participate in the event fully.

            I think being in a car would be just as distracting as being at home.

          • Dack says:

            How can drive-ins work in summer in a country that’s so far north?

            I live near one of the remaining drive-ins in the US and typically attend a couple times per year. The sun sets about 9pm at the latest here. They don’t wait for it to be completely dark before starting the show. They’ll show the previews and such while the sun is setting. There are always 2 showings, and the second one will start right after the first ends. They probably try to avoid showing two 3 hour movies at midsummer, but having the late show end at 2am is not uncommon. A lot of people don’t stay for the late show. A few people will come just for the late show. Either way, it is the same price to get in the gate whether you watch one or both shows.

            What advantage does a drive-in offer over Netflix/Amazon?

            A lot of the fun is not in the vehicle. The atmosphere is very much like tailgating before a football game. People come early, set up lawn chairs, spread out blankets, let the kids run around and play tag or catch.

            So a lot of that is going to be diminished with covid restrictions. But…it’s something to do if you’re itching to get out of the house.

          • Tenacious D says:

            There’s a closed hotel in my city that is opening a drive-in theatre in the next couple of weeks. They have a large parking lot facing a blank wall, so it doesn’t require any construction.

          • noyann says:

            @Scoop
            LED walls (jumbotrons) work in daylight (there are afternoon kid movie shows) and are cheap to hire now for lack of demand. At least ten of the corona-born drive-ins use them, maybe more (missing data in wikipedia). Several drive-ins are in large halls. Some are set up on areas originally used otherwise, eg. learner driver closed course, fair ground, fair and congress hall, that are cheap to rent now, or the drive-in is a side business of the owner anyway.

            @keaswaran
            If all else fails: gawking at the neighbors. 🙂

        • Tarpitz says:

          There are rarely as many as 30 people in the room when I go to the cinema. Most of the films I see are smaller releases anyway, but when it comes to the big franchises I wait until they’ve been out a month or so and go on a weekday lunchtime in school term time. A couple of times, I’ve been literally the only person in the audience for a film.

          One was The Descent, at midnight in a tiny screen in Lyon. That was indeed pretty creepy.

          One was Cats. That was really creepy.

    • Bobobob says:

      All he has to do is hold the premiere near a Kerr rotating black hole. Speaking of which, the movie opened six months ago.

      • Lambert says:

        Any CGI in the film had better be good, considering that The Other Scott proved that you can efficiently compute anything in PSPACE using a CTC.

    • Nick says:

      The real question is, how many people are going to call the movie “Tenant” no matter how many times you correct them?

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Czech movie theatres reopened on Monday. Of course it is possible that by 17 July will be closed again.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Lots of movies scheduled for release about now are steaming on various venues. It typically costs about as much as a couple of tickets to see it in the theater, which is higher than average for streaming, but not ridiculous. We watched the new Emma that way. (Inferior to previous Emmas, but Bill Nighy is always a pleasure to watch.)

  22. alchemy29 says:

    The US Congress is in the process of passing (or rather renewing) a massive surveillance law that I do not understand the full extend of, but one aspect that has gotten a lot of attention is that they are allowing federal authorities to collecting web browsing history of Americans without a warrant. They are doing this on the basis of “national security”. This seems to violate the 4th amendment so blatantly I’m surprised it’s going to pass.

    The legal argument I’ve seen in favor of the law are that they aren’t really searching a person’s private property – web browsing history is stored in a distributed fashion. It’s a record of where you’ve been online in some sense. Therefore it’s more akin to tracking where you drive your car or asking local businesses if they’ve seen you, which is something they can do without a warrant. The pragmatic argument is that it’s worth it to violate people’s rights in the name of stopping terrorism.

    I don’t have rigorous rebuttal except fuck all that. Browsing history is clearly something that is understood to private, and something that any layperson would say should be private. Requiring a warrant is a bare minimum protection that should be available. I don’t use a VPN but maybe I’ll have to start looking into that.

    • Lambert says:

      >asking local businesses if they’ve seen you

      If you work in a shop and the police come without a warrant and ask you whether you saw a person shopping there, are you compelled to answer?

      My understanding is that there’s nothing stopping law enforcement from politely asking a server owner for their IP logs.

      But yeah, screw warantless surveillance. And install TOR.

    • matkoniecz says:

      Therefore it’s more akin to tracking where you drive your car or asking local businesses if they’ve seen you, which is something they can do without a warrant.

      Similarly to how placing microphone tracking movement of air in your home is tracking air, not you.

      And placing camera in your bathroom is tracking movement of photons, not you.

      I don’t use a VPN but maybe I’ll have to start looking into that.

      +1 And depending on your usecase – TOR may or may not work and may or may not be better.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      VPNs are damn cheap these days.

      I have 3 or 4 different VPNs on my machine right now, not counting corporate.

    • albatross11 says:

      One thing that strikes me is the number of congressmen who spend a lot of time and energy either:

      a. Proclaiming that the current president is a menace to Democracy and is doing his best to usher in fascism

      or

      b. Proclaiming that the Deep State and the previous administration had it in for the current president and did a bunch of illegal wiretapping and spying and entrapment to get the goods on them.

      and who still support increased surveillance powers. I infer from this that those congressmen simply don’t mean any of the stuff they’re saying, since if either the executive branch is under the control of a fascist or if the deep state is out of control, the answer to that would never be to increase surveillance powers.

    • Anaxagoras says:

      This is called the third-party doctrine, and yeah, it’s kind of bullshit. We’ll see if the Supreme Court decides to throw it out at some point, and I certainly hope they do.

      The basic idea is that by letting your information out of your hands, you’re showing that you’re not interested in keeping it private, so the government doesn’t need a warrant to access it, in much the same way as they don’t need a warrant to observe what shirt you’re wearing as you walk down the street. That it’s essentially not possible to interact with the modern world without leaving this sort of information and that most people aren’t aware that they don’t control it isn’t considered relevant. “Understood to be private” unfortunately doesn’t have legal force without a court backing it up.

      Of course, if tech companies tried to do something about this, such as design their web browser so the information doesn’t leave the users’ computer in an intelligible form, the government would fight back. See the unfortunately bipartisan attacks on end-to-end encryption-by-default, as a tool that empowers pedophiles to share CSAM (term of art for child pornography). Similar arguments can be made about anything that reduces the government’s surveillance power. To be clear, I’m not saying that our surveillance capabilities are a bad thing per se, but the checks on their application are inadequate.

    • Controls Freak says:

      From what I’ve seen about the amendment in question, it mostly just reverts things back to the existing confusion. This has been an issue for a while. The Third Circuit viewed it as things like “www.google.com” is metadata, whereas “&q=midget@$$pron” is like post-cut-through digits and “content”. So, not really a new thing, but an complicated and controversial, detailed issue.

  23. Matt M says:

    I don’t want to get too “conspiracy theory” here, but I’d say the answer is that a lot of people probably are out there, right now, thinking about this and investigating the sort of things you are discussing. The answer to “where are the engineers” is “off building things.”

    But they won’t get any attention, because the government sucks at innovation and entrepreneurship, and the media is generally anti-capitalist and uninterested in covering the private sector, except to vilify them for being evil.

    • Randy M says:

      My buddy at church and his HS engineering students 3-D printed up masks that use portions of standard surgical masks as replaceable filters and are donating them to some under served medical center.

  24. Lambert says:

    The economies of scale aren’t there, considering that we expect the problem to be solved in a few years.
    The factory that can make all of these things cheaply would likely only just have started up by the time that vaccines are passing phase III.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      One of the biggest gaps in government response has been saying “just make a billion of these things, if the market disappears for some reason we will buy them anyways.”

    • salvorhardin says:

      But these things will have lots of collateral benefits against other infectious diseases present and future. Like platform vaccines and broad-spectrum antivirals, they should be part of a “man we really learned our lesson this time, Never Again” post-pandemic pre-more-pandemics preparedness toolkit. Unfortunately, that level of preparedness investment requires long-term thinking that voters and politicians tend to lack. Maybe that’ll change this time? *shrug*

  25. The big problem is always going fast enough and having enough energy, but with interstellar travel, how big of a concern is the accuracy of our data on star positions? If you travel to another star and it takes you decades to over 100 years, can we aim the ship in the right direction to intercept our chosen nearby star on our chosen timeline? Also, if you’re travelling at high relativistic speeds there will be a lot of drag from the interstellar medium, and if this drag is slightly assymetric it will slowly push you off course. Is missing a star a big issue? You can course correct during the journey but then that’s more delta v to be accounted for.

    It’ll be worse for earlier missions where you’re just aiming probes on fly-by missions, such as Breakthrough Starshot. The Breakthrough Initiatives website only says this:

    Even if it is not habitable, Proxima b, being by far the closest known exoplanet to Earth, is a dramatic discovery and an obvious first target. A mature Starshot mission would attempt to aim its nanocrafts within 1 Astronomical Unit (93 million miles) of the planet. From this distance, its four cameras could potentially capture an image of high enough quality to resolve surface features such as continents and oceans, if they exist. To achieve comparable resolution with a space telescope in Earth’s orbit, the telescope would have to be 300km in diameter.

    What does the aiming plan look like for a hypothetical Starshot? I assume they’ve figured this stuff out already, because they never talk about aiming like it’s a major issue compared to other issues.

    • John Schilling says:

      Our best telescopes have angular resolutions of 0.05 arc-seconds or better, which comes to 0.15 AU of positional error at ten light-years. If we’re travelling at 0.2c and wait until the midpoint of the mission to do a correction burn, you can still correct for that with a 1960s-vintage Apolllo reaction control system thruster and a bit over 10% of the vehicle’s mass in propellant. I presume we’ll have something better than that by the time we’re doing interstellar missions.

      Being blown off course by the interstellar wind, er, “asymmetric drag in the interstellar medium” (but really it’s wind) is an interesting issue that I haven’t seen discussed, and it might be a serious issue for something like a starwisp. Anything more substantial should be able to compensate easily, probably by tailoring a corresponding asymmetry in the vehicle’s profile. “Trim the sails, astro-bosun, we’ve got a Nor’easter blowing hard out of Saggitarius!”.

      • Lambert says:

        >probably by tailoring a corresponding asymmetry in the vehicle’s profile

        Just use any solar or radiator panels as control surfaces. It’s a trick that’s been used a few times to get extra lifetime out of satellites after their reaction wheels fail. (though I think those tend to use photon pressure rather than interstellar wind)

      • Ah, thanks. So it seems like it’s not mentioned a lot because it’s not a significant concern.

      • bean says:

        Now I’m getting David Drake flashbacks.

        But I’m also not sure that this makes sense. The interstellar medium in question is essentially stationary relative to the ship (modulo some minor variations). So the vast majority of the force is just going to be drag. And asymmetric drag may be dealt with via trimming, if it even exists, but it’s not actually going to change the course relative to symmetrical drag. You could just spin the whole ship, and cancel it out that way.

        • John Schilling says:

          If there’s a transverse velocity component to the interstellar medium, which I think is the case, then that will result in a transverse force on the ship even if it is perfectly symmetrical. But that shouldn’t be a significant issue except for the most ephemeral of vehicles. A lightsail could probably trim it out using photon pressure; a beamed-microwave starwisp may just have to live with it.

      • b_jonas says:

        > Our best telescopes have angular resolutions of 0.05 arc-seconds or better,

        Oh, that reminds me. How confident should I be that the Webb space telescope will actually be launched in 2021?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ve seen navigation as an argument against relativistic missiles, but they’d be going a lot faster.

      • John Schilling says:

        And the targets will be trying not to be hit. Even if they are planets – a civilization that can engage in R-bombing is a civilization that can e.g. put a planet-sized mirror between their homeworld and the enemy, reflecting an image of deep sky. Possibly even move the planet just enough for a miss, if you don’t do midcourse corrections, which you can’t if you can’t see the planet.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think the argument was that small deviations for a relativistic missile would be too much to handle. Planetary defenses weren’t needed.

          Also, I don’t know how much warning you’d be likely to get (at least for the first attack), and how long it would take to set up planetary defenses.

  26. John Schilling says:

    I assume there are people thinking about and to some extent working on things of this sort, but it doesn’t get talked about much. Because most everyone who’s not working on it, is implicitly assuming that we will for sure end the whole thing in a vaccine in a year or two and is expecting that we’ll have something good enough to end the lockdowns in a month or two.

    Also, we went and convinced everyone that the masks they bought on Etsy are Good Enough(tm) PPE, and may not have the social trust left for another about-face where we convince everyone to throw those out and replace them with the new masks a bunch of nerds with 3D printers have cooked up, even if we could print up a couple hundred million of them in two months.

    • albatross11 says:

      Is it widely understood that masks are mostly to protect others from you, and probably provide you only a little benefit?

      • John Schilling says:

        I’ve seen a fair amount of public messaging to that effect; not sure how well it has reached the target audience.

      • Aftagley says:

        Yeah, but on a wide enough scale, if that dude over there is wearing a mask, that mask is protecting me. If he would otherwise be super contagious and is now only kinda contagious, that mask is providing me a lot of benefit.

      • Matt M says:

        I think the more cynical members of the public have understood that masks may be mostly to protect corporations from legal liability and negative PR, and to protect governments from being assigned moral culpability for COVID infections/deaths.

  27. keaswaran says:

    This doesn’t sound to me like a plan that can be carried out in one year. Presumably, medical professionals and lab workers of all sorts have been interested in more comfortable and usable PPE for decades. If there was an easy and cheap thing to make, then someone somewhere would have been experimenting with it already. Now that everyone wants it, perhaps there’s a bigger incentive. But most of the things you’re mentioning sound heavy and uncomfortable, and likely not disposable.

    (And in some contrast to your final point, it seems to me that 99% of the glorious feats of humanity have depended more on social engineering and behavioral change than any particular physical engineering – I’m counting here things like elections, traffic signals, fire drills, and sirens, even though there is a physical object involved in each of these things.)

    • albatross11 says:

      I’m skeptical of this, because a lot of things in the world are just badly designed. Consider the paper cover on the doctor’s office exam table that is half the width of the table. This never made any sense, but it’s persisted for my entire lifetime.

      I expect that it’s possible to design something better in usability/fit terms than a standard disposable N-95 mask. Maybe it hasn’t been done because of cost reasons, or because the people buying the masks are almost never the people wearing them in a health care setting.

  28. Radu Floricica says:

    Because capitalism is very efficient. There were already markets where innovation would have made a lot of money, so low hanging fruits have already been picked. Or to put it differently, n95/surgical masks are already pretty damn good, all things considered.

    • Matt M says:

      I’m sympathetic to this answer, but I’m also not sure it’s correct.

      I definitely believe that in this environment, there are new “PPE use cases” that either weren’t considered at all before, or weren’t economically viable, but now will be.

      Edit: And the “size of the prize” has definitely increased. Prior to this, making a better/more comfortable/cheaper mask would have made you a lot of money from all the doctors and nurses who wanted one. Now your potential market is everyone on Earth and you’ll make a hell of a lot more.

      • Mycale says:

        The potential market is everyone on Earth for now. In a few more months (and almost certainly within two years), it’s quite likely that the market for PPE will be basically the same size as it was eight months ago.

        If that’s the case, then spending a pile of money to design and prepare manufacturing facilities for a business model that relies on the current potential market size is a terrible business idea.

        My understanding is that PPE producers went through this already with H1N1. They’re understandably hesitant about falling into the same trap again.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Ehh.. Long term, I think you could easily persuade people to have a set of “biohazard light” gear in the closet as a contingency. Much the same way everyone conscientious has a first aid kit somewhere. Assuming you can make one that does not cost much more than a first aid kit, anyways. i

        • John Schilling says:

          That will be a pretty big market expansion.

          That was already the norm in much of East Asia, I believe. Americans doing what the Chinese have been doing all along is I think only a modest market expansion.

          If it’s “everyone wears masks every day”, that would be pretty big, but I’m skeptical of that as a long-term thing.

        • Mycale says:

          I agree with John Schilling that the type of massive norm shift necessary to truly change the size of the long-term market seems unlikely.

          Regarding the “set of ‘biohazard light’ gear in the closet” idea, I think that ends up being a rounding error when we’re talking about the size of the mask market. If everyone buys twenty fancy N95 masks and then doesn’t buy any more until the next major pandemic 10-20 years from now, your Fancy Masks ‘R Us business is going bankrupt a long time before the next pandemic. You need an increase in sustained demand.

        • keaswaran says:

          “That was already the norm in much of East Asia, I believe. Americans doing what the Chinese have been doing all along is I think only a modest market expansion.”

          I think United States plus Europe is comparable in size to China (especially when you factor in the greater average disposable income – I don’t know how many rural Chinese people were wearing masks regularly or if it was just the urban fraction of the population). I don’t know how India will compare to the markets in Japan and Korea and southeast Asia, but it could easily be a medium term doubling of the market.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I don’t doubt they’re trying. I think the publicity, much more than the size of the prize, will draw bright minds to this problem and yeah, pretty sure some advances will be made. But they _are_ competing with 50 years of innovation (N95 is from ’72). The chance for a game changer is very slim, and even incremental advantages are likely to be contextual. For example one would be self-sterilizing masks – so they’re safely reusable for much longer times. But that’s only useful in a crisis, normally you just pay your dollar for an N95 or your dime for the surgical mask, and don’t really care about reusability.

        @Mycale Good point about being burned with H1N1. But this one is for real – masks will start being used in the west about as much as they were used in Asia 10 years ago. That’s more or less permanent, or at least likely to last for quite a while. I’d still be very paranoid to enter this game though – market will increase, but the production may well increase much faster, leading to a crash.

      • albatross11 says:

        It’s not at all clear the mask market will go away. Covid-19 is probably with us for the next year or two, and during that time, there will be good reasons to have everyone wear a mask in most public indoor spaces. It would be better if those masks were:

        a. More comfortable

        b. Easier to get a good fit on

        c. Better at filtering our small airborne droplets or droplet nuclei with virus in them

        This all seems doable. And I’d love to see some government initiative to commit to buying a bunch more masks when the demand finally drops off.

        • Lambert says:

          A year or two is how long it takes to plan and build a factory.

          It’ll still be churning out masks in 2050.

        • Matt M says:

          This is where I remind everyone that Juicero managed to get VC funding.

          Are you seriously going to tell me that it’s impossible to fund a venture without 100% certainty that a product will be in high demand, globally, forever?

          “Yeah sure everyone on Earth will want it, and governments and corporations will happily pay whatever you ask for it… but only for a few years. Pfft, why even bother?” Really?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Juicero got funding because investors believed there was a chance it would become a billion-dollar company. VC swings for home runs. That doesn’t mean you can get a single significantly easier.

        • tossrock says:

          Mask are a physical product, and worse, they’re a commodity physical product. There’s literally a specification for their grade. The margins on physical commodity are, in general, terrible. The reason VCs want to invest in tech companies is because they make non-physical goods, which means that the marginal cost of serving an additional customer is approximately zero. That means fat margins, massive growth potential, high revenue-to-valuation multipliers, etc.

          Juicero didn’t exactly fit this model (physical product), but it was at least a high-end luxury product, with an ongoing revenue stream (the DRM-locked juice packs). This model got popular due to the success of Keurig. With hindsight, we can say that it was a silly idea (people don’t get addicted to juice like they do to caffeine), but the VCs were, as Edward notes, making a somewhat justifiable bet on the company delivering large growth on their investment.

          With masks, there’s no way to dominate the market for a commodity good (there are lots of producers of N95/99/etc rated masks), and the margins are terrible. That’s not to say there aren’t sources of capital for them – banks like steady returns via debt financing, for example – but it’s not a good match for venture capital.

        • Matt M says:

          Well folks, I’m not sure whether this counts as me “calling it” or not, but if you’re looking for the juicero of PPE, we may have found it…

    • Garrett says:

      In my limited experience in EMS, until Covid-19 I’d never donned an N-95 mask. We’d always carried them, but you so rarely ran into a case where it was possible to determine in-advance they’d be useful. I used them a lot more for woodworking and home renovation stuff because I want my lungs to keep working.

      And even if they sucked, as disposable equipment, people would be wearing them just long enough to deal with a patient contact. For a 30 minute ambulance ride, that’d be about the longest continuous contact you’d expect. In-hospital, they’d either be taking/disposing of the mask after a few minutes, or you’d have a team wearing a PAPR which I’ve told is a lot more comfortable.

  29. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    That sounds like really expensive PPE. Basically all of our employees are going to walk around in NBC suits for a once in a century disease event. Plus, do our employees want to wear that? We put tape down on the ground to mark out safe social distancing: our employees rip up the tape because they don’t want to be criticized for not following social distancing.
    Plus, do your front-line leaders want to write people up for stuff like this? Hell man, it’s hard enough to get 3rd shift employees to wear beard nets and stand at their line, and you want to dress them up like they are going to Pyongyang for a little VX vacation?

  30. tgb says:

    Lots of jokes these days about Elon Musk’s kid’s name. But I was reading about the 12th century logician/philosopher/theologian Peter Abelard who had an apparently “legendary” love affair with Héloïse d’Argenteuil. They named their son Astrolabe, after the astronomy device.

    I do think I’d rather be named Astrolabe than whatever the Grimes-Musk kid is called. But clearly eccentric thinkers have long given unusual names. As a follow up, apparently Astrolabe largely disappears from history after birth. Perhaps he changed his name?

    • Kaitian says:

      If they go through with naming their child X Æ A-12 (which might not be allowed in California), they’ll certainly call it by some other name in daily life, and it will probably just continue using that other name forever.

      I think really odd child names are mostly used by very famous people, and by really low-class people trying to imitate celebrities. The middle class wants a respectable name for their offspring.

      • Randy M says:

        Any consensus on how to begin to pronounce that? I guess I’d start with something like “Zaya Twelve”.

        • mitv150 says:

          Apparently, Musk and Grimes don’t even agree. But I believe that Musk said it was:
          “X Ash Archangel 12”

          Apparently the disagreement is how they want to pronounce “Æ”

          • Matt M says:

            This seems like a great way to compromise when two spouses can’t agree on a name. Make the name illegible and each parent can just call them whatever they want!

        • noyann says:

          Peers will settle for “Ex” or “Ash”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Hey Ash, where’s ya pokeymans, Ash? Hey, hey Ash, where’s ya pokeymans?”

          • Randy M says:

            Being the same as the protagonist to a kids game is the least objectionable aspect of the name.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Given the gigabucks his daddy owns, Ash Musk just might have a functional pokeball he can beam you into. So watch out.

        • thasvaddef says:

          Exaa Adozen Musk

          or Shah Atwell-Veigh

      • I think really odd child names are mostly used by very famous people, and by really low-class people trying to imitate celebrities.

        My three grandchildren are Iselle, Tovar and Honor. I don’t know if that counts as “really odd,” but my son is neither very famous nor really low-class.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          I don’t think those qualify as odd. “Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette” is odd. “Moon Unit Zappa” is odd. “Kal-El Cage” is odd. Your grandkids’ names are “merely” exotic.

        • SamChevre says:

          Or by people with odd cultural backgrounds. Four of my siblings have names that are rare enough I’ve never met someone else with that name except the person they were named after–and my family was neither celebrities not trying to imitate them. But the names are respectively Czech, Finnish, and obscure Bible characters–the first two childhood friends of my father.

          • Kaitian says:

            Names from other languages aren’t what I’d call odd. At least not if the parents have some sort of connection to the original culture. If two white people in Alabama decide to name their biological child Xuan Vinh for no reason, that might count as odd.

          • And, in fact, the son of mine responsible for the grandchildren is named “Patri,” after a close friend of mine. I think it’s a normal Italian name, and I’m pretty sure the friend’s father was Italian — certainly his last name was.

          • Creutzer says:

            Patri is absolutely not a normal Italian name, in fact, it’s impossible for normal Italian given names to end in -i. As far as a quick Google search yields, it’s occasionally used as a diminutive of Patrick in Portuguese and Finnish.

          • Concavenator says:

            “Patri” is certainly not an Italian name as it is, but it could be a plausible diminutive of Patrizio (or Patrizia), at least in Northern usage.

          • My friend’s last name was “Pugliese,” so his father’s ancestors presumably came from Puglia, which is southern. But I don’t know anything beyond that about the origin of his father or the name.

      • gbdub says:

        I heard “Kyle” … hard X, “aye”, a, and L is the 12th letter.

      • keaswaran says:

        I don’t think it’s about imitating celebrities – it’s rather that naming is a chance to exert your individuality and control over the world. It’s just like how lowbrow to middlebrow restaurants offer a combinatorial menu where you make a million choices about how to garnish and top your burger, while highbrow restaurants just three items on the menu, or even one.

        (Why celebrities choose unique names is less clear, but celebrities are exceptions to many generalizations.)

        • AG says:

          Hrm, this analogy bears diving into.

          A highbrow restaurant having less choice is about the customer trusting that the high class chef knows better how to put flavor profiles together. See also how getting the most authentic foreign cuisine is best done by asking the chef to cook at their discretion, instead of ordering anything from the menu, which has been optimized for accessibility.
          The lowest class place (fast food) also doesn’t have much choice for any given dish, always just offering the cheapest options, standardized so cooks can make in bulk during the meal rush.
          The middle brow place with all of the customization is about reacting to how the lesser restaurants can’t be trusted to make the best choices, the customer has the potential of knowing how best to serve themselves. Note that the dishes themselves aren’t high-brow dishes, but things where the core cooking is the same, no matter what your custom add-ons are. There isn’t a middle-brow place where you build your own paella.

          Naming a child has slightly different considerations, unless the parents are that narcissistic.

        • Kaitian says:

          I always figured middle class people choose respectable names because they’re imagining their child writing it on their college application.

          A really famous and rich person’s kid has pretty good chances in life even if it has a bizarre name, so its parents can use the opportunity to expand their brand. A really low class person isn’t expecting their child to go far no matter what, so they give a name that seems fun at the moment. So that will often be something picked up from pop culture (Galadriel, Khaleesi) or just a name that happens to appeal to them.

          The people I’m picturing are not the ones who go to fancy burger restaurants. I guess they would go to a pizza place where you have 50 options with fanciful names.

    • Bobobob says:

      Wish I’d named my kid after a license plate. Missed opportunities.

      • Aapje says:

        Would you by chance have a vanity plate with ‘Bob’?

        • Bobobob says:

          I’ve never understood why people get vanity plates. If I ever accidentally run over a mob boss’ son, I want my license plate to be as un-memorable as possible.

  31. Two McMillion says:

    Okay, someone correct me here, because what I’m about to write is obviously crazy and I’m sure I’ve gone terribly wrong somewhere. But.

    With all the controversy lately about the shooting of Ahmaud Arbey, I wanted to take a look at the extent of police shootings of black men in the US. From all the talk surrounding Ahmaud Arbey and others, I assumed there must be thousands of such cases every year. But mappingpoliceviolence.com (not going to link it for spam filter reason) shows just shy of 300 such cases every year since 2013. That can’t possibly be right, can it? But the Washington Post’s database shows similar numbers. Statista.com says there are about 680,000 police officers in the US spread through about 18,000 police agencies (wikipedia also gives a number just shy of 18,00 agencies).

    My conclusion based on this is that the shooting of black men by police is too small a problem to worry about very much. I hate it, because it sounds like a horrible thing to say, but ~300 victims in a country of over 330 million with nearly 700,000 cops? Over 5,000 americans died from choking on food last year (Statista). An average of 335 Americans die each year from drowning in bathtubs (“Someone Drowns in a Bathtub Nearly Every Day in America, SeattlePi”). If I spend essentially no time worrying about those people, then I shouldn’t spend any time worrying about black men shot by police, either.

    Does anyone have data to challenge this view? Are there thousands of black men being shot by police who for some reason don’t show up in the statistics? Should I care a lot more about small numbers of deaths? Anything else I haven’t thought of?

    • Aftagley says:

      I wonder how widespread this magnitude error is… someone should do a poll where they have people guess how many African american men are shot on a yearly basis.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Also, according to the WaPo database, the number of unarmed black people shot in 2019 was 9.

      @Aftagley Har.

      • Noah says:

        ETA: Sorry, I didn’t see that this gets brought up downthread.

        To be fair, “unarmed” isn’t necessarily what we should be caring about, since it excludes cases where someone was legally carrying and not making any hostile moves and the police saw he had a weapon, panicked, and shot him. I have no idea how common this scenario is; I’ve definitely read news articles about this, but I’ve also seen plenty of news articles about unarmed black men being shot.

        • gbdub says:

          And on the other hand, “unarmed” doesn’t mean they aren’t engaging in activity that would justify the use of deadly force (bare hands and feet are perfectly capable of being deadly force).

          • Belisaurus Rex says:

            Yeah there is like 10 per year where the person shot was unarmed, and of those there’s 2-3 where the police look bad or questionable. We hear about every incident that is worth reporting on.

          • Dynme says:

            Which is why I hate it when Michael Brown is brought up as an example of an “unarmed youth” being shot by police. Sure, he was unarmed. He was also leaning into the officer’s vehicle and assaulting him.

          • Garrett says:

            Also, how many end up being like this? (Warning: video of man being shot to death by the police)

            There was a claim of a knife being present, but it’s not visible in the video.

          • ChangingTime says:

            (bare hands and feet are perfectly capable of being deadly force).

            To illustrate, more people are killed with bare hands per year than with rifles and shotguns combined (as reported by the FBI).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If it’s the chart gbdub listed, that didn’t break out hands and fists from feet. Kicking someone to death on the ground is not that hard.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, but since the vast majority of people have hands and feet on their person at all times, they don’t serve as easy indicators of being ready to do violence.

            edit in response to Matt M (no relation): hmm, well…. yeah, maybe there’s not an easy difference.

          • Matt M says:

            The vast majority of people who own/carry guns never actually shoot anyone, either.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Scott’s covered the topic before on this blog, and the number was amazingly small. Probably like yours.

      But while your number may be accurate (I’ve not challenging or supporting it, just taking it), a proper terror campaign doesn’t rely on actually killing lots of people. You make examples of people, and you also show that the cops can get away with it. “I can hurt you and my only punishment is a paid vacation” is a hell of a powerful flex in any social dynamic.

      • John Schilling says:

        But that leads to the obvious conclusion that we (and especially the media) should all stop talking about it so that the terror cannot spread.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          🤔

        • Lillian says:

          Alternatively, we can conclude that the terror campaign is being perpetrated by the media, since it is them and not the killers who keep broadcasting the deeds in question.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            Shoot the messenger?

            Less flippantly, there’s a limit to which you can criticise the media for covering actual events. The tone may be wrong (I agree it often/usually is), but these are really happening and implying they shouldn’t be covered to prevent panic strikes me as a bit off.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            these are really happening and implying they shouldn’t be covered to prevent panic strikes me as a bit off.

            Maybe not the extent they are? At the national level anyway? Do you think The Summer of the Shark gave people a more accurate, or less accurate perception of the risk of shark attack?

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            I agree that there is no strong connection between the coverage events get and their actual significance in terms of risk. Police shootings join murder, terrorism, plane crashes, sharks and a whole host of other things that present a minimal risk of death to people but are invariably covered extensively by the media. Much more dangerous things like car crashes, falling in the shower, choking, heart disease etc. get little to no coverage.
            Complaints about the media like the above just annoy me a bit because in general the coverage reflects what people want to read / see / hear. That salience then feeds back into how frequent or significant people think certain issues are.
            My point generally is that I think the media plays a more passive role in this than they’re given credit for and there’s not much they could do about it. Media companies that didn’t cover terrorism, crime, plane crashes etc. would probably be at a big disadvantage in the market because eyeballs mean money.

          • Anteros says:

            @NostalgiaFor Infinity

            I have a fairly visceral dislike for the media, but you make a very good point. Difficult to see how they could be different in any meaningful way.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            My point generally is that I think the media plays a more passive role in this than they’re given credit for and there’s not much they could do about it.

            They could, while providing coverage of the tragedies, remind people how infrequent they are. We get this with terrorism. When an Islamic terrorist attack happens, while CNN will cover it, they also go out of their way to explain to everyone that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, and that your chances of dying in a terrorist attack are “killed by chairs” level. And they would certainly not give positive coverage to protests by people terrified “the Muslims are going to kill my kids.”

            Not so for police shootings. For these the news outlets don’t challenge activist rhetoric that blacks are being hunted in the streets, etc.

            Cover it, sure, because if it bleeds it leads. But provide perspective. They do for Islamic terrorism. They don’t for police violence or school shootings, which are also incredibly rare. I’m having a hard time coming up with a charitable explanation for the discrepancy.

          • Matt M says:

            I was also tempted to post something like “It’s only natural that they cover rare and interesting things like terrorism more than they cover mundane things like death-by-chair.”

            Except that death by chair is actually pretty rare and kinda interesting too! How come those stories never make the news? Pressure from the “big chair” industry???

          • Another Throw says:

            Maybe it is this shit-poster in me, but if I was Jeff Bezos I would totally have the WaPo cover death-by-chair once just to see if it turned into the Summer of the Chair.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            @Conrad

            You’re right about the contextualisation. That is something that varies by news outlet (and topic) and so presumably can be done better by the entire industry.

      • Bobobob says:

        It’s a weird thing to say on a forum like this, but I think in this instance the actual numbers are completely beside the point.

        I have a black friend, a single mom, who is terrified that her teenaged son might be targeted by police for simply being on the wrong street at the wrong time. She is a very rational person, and I don’t think she’s overreacting.

        Whatever the (small-seeming) number is now, I’m sure it is dwarfed by the actual number of black men targeted by police before the prevalence of video cameras, the internet, and a concerned (white) press. So maybe you can forgive some folks for making up for lost time.

        I think, given all the other useful discussions on SSC, that this kind of thread is just bad optics.

        • Randy M says:

          Whatever the (small-seeming) number is now, I’m sure it is dwarfed by the actual number of black men targeted by police before the prevalence of video cameras, the internet, and a concerned (white) press.

          I’m not sure what exactly would qualify for the last item, but even before video cameras and the internet, bodies were still bodies and if a significantly higher number of black men were being killed by police in 1990, it would show up in numbers somewhere.

          (It’s possible you would say we shouldn’t look at fatalities, but the myriad of unpunished minor indignities the system inflicts unnoticed by the rest of the country. Fair enough, but that’s a different argument from “we’re significantly at risk of death.”)

          I have a black friend, a single mom, who is terrified that her teenaged son might be targeted by police for simply being on the wrong street at the wrong time. She is a very rational person, and I don’t think she’s overreacting.

          There’s nothing wrong with having empathy for the exception, of course, and emotional reactions are what they are, but it isn’t really rational to ignore the numbers when deciding what one should react to.

          It’s very similar to wondering whether we should lock down in response to an epidemic. Saying “The infection rate doesn’t matter, people don’t want to choke to death” may be an understandable reaction, but it isn’t rational.

          So maybe you can forgive some folks for making up for lost time.

          We should let them be unnecessarily terrified now because they weren’t properly terrified previously? Is terrified a good state to be in?
          Forgive, sure; to ignore incorrect impressions seems unkind, though.

          • Bobobob says:

            I’m not sure if I can sustain the health metaphor, but…imagine an epidemic 50 years ago that disproportionately targets blacks. Given that blacks account for 80% of fatalities, the (white) medical establishment is indifferent to the problem.

            The epidemic recurs 50 years later, with a much smaller number of fatalities. The black community, sensitized by its previous experience and the indifference of the white community, reacts out of proportion to the actual number of deaths. I would find that understandable.

            Jumping out of the health metaphor, I think 1990 is too recent a benchmark for black deaths stemming from interactions with police. I would suggest 1950 or 1960 for a truer measure of the problem.

          • Randy M says:

            The epidemic recurs 50 years later, with a much smaller number of fatalities. The black community, sensitized by its previous experience and the indifference of the white community, reacts out of proportion to the actual number of deaths. I would find that understandable.

            It is possible for immune responses to be overly sensitized. It may be understandable, but that doesn’t make it rational or wise.

            I’m not going to give a number and say “higher than this is bad, lower is good.” It’s all bad. But the amount of attention paid to it seeming distorts the picture, and exaggerating the scope of the problem has real consequences. It matters a great deal to a neighborhood whether the black community properly feels the relative risk of trusting the police versus not. And playing up the problem to the point of unwarranted terror is going to play into the hands of criminals, for one.

            I would suggest 1950 or 1960 for a truer measure of the problem.

            But you did suggest “before body cameras and the internet.” That’s why I picked that date. 1950 was 70 years ago. There’s not a lot of people with experience of being 20 years old in 1950.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          I don’t think she’s overreacting.

          And yet, from the numbers, she is.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. Is she equally “terrified” that her son might commit suicide?

            Because statistically, that would be more likely.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            Or be killed by a black non-cop, because that is way, way more likely than to be killed by a cop.

        • Aapje says:

          @Bobobob

          So maybe you can forgive some folks for making up for lost time.

          Cool, do I get to accuse Italians of raping and pillaging because of Caesar’s actions in Northern Europe?

          I don’t think she’s overreacting.

          You seem to be simultaneously be arguing that she is overreacting, but that it is understandable because of the past…and that she isn’t overreacting given today’s risks.

          I don’t see this as a consistent argument.

          • Bobobob says:

            There is this weird vibe sometimes about SSC…I feel like lots of people here are capable of making airtight logical arguments and completely missing the point at the same time (not talking about you specifically, Aapje).

            The reason I mentioned my black friend with the teenage son is that, a few months ago, I tried to convince her to participate in SSC discussions. I think it would be a good idea to broaden the perspectives here.

            Also (and OK, I don’t want to overplay the “black friend” card) it’s interesting being exposed to this person’s Facebook feed. She has a group of smart, professional, rational, African-American friends who express reasoned views directly contrary to what you typically read on SSC, especially concerning the different ways white America reacts to black men and white men engaging in exactly the same behaviors.

          • gbdub says:

            1) it is not rational to be “terrified” of being gunned down by a cop for no reason – there are much more likely sources of fatal risk you encounter every day

            2) but there are a lot of things that people are terrified of irrationally, so focusing on this one might be a bad look

            3) but if we were talking about how it was irrational to be terrified of plane crashes or terrorist attacks, we’d be much less likely to be admonished for this

            I’m not sure the right way to square all those. On the gripping hand, unjustified killings by police officers seem like the sort of thing it is reasonable to be unreasonably upset about.

          • Bobobob says:

            “but there are a lot of things that people are terrified of irrationally, so focusing on this one might be a bad look”

            Yes, I think that nails it, exactly. Singling out this issue, in this way, does no one any favors.

          • Aapje says:

            @gbdub & Bobobob

            That depends. I’d rather have people be terrified of killer bees than of killer Jews. I’d rather have them have a bad theory about Mormons than something equally bad about the police, because the police is an important part of keeping society going, so we need good interactions between the police and citizens much more than between Mormons and non-Mormons.

            Frankly, your ‘bad look’ suggests bad priorities, including if not especially for black people.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’d say there is substantial evidence of police impunity in all kinds of situations–when the cops get caught doing something wrong, they seldom face the kind of consequences a civilian would face for the same thing. Sometimes, they even get to keep their job after {planting evidence, beating someone up, wrongly shooting someone}. We should fix this.

            I also think we should pay attention to the size of a problem before we accept high costs trying to fix it. To the extent wrongful police shootings are the problem we want to solve, there are only about 1000 police shootings at all every year, so the absolute ceiling on how much good we can do is to save 1000 lives per year. More likely, we’re looking at, at most, a few hundred lives per year we could save by getting the wrongful police shootings down as close to 0 as possible.

            If the problem we are trying to solve is police shootings of unarmed black men, then the problem is still smaller. Any deaths we could prevent would be good, but the numbers are so small, across so many encounters with police, that it’s hard to see how to reduce them all that much.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            I agree, but there is very little evidence that this impunity is racial.

            To frame it that way is harmful in many ways.

          • gbdub says:

            It seems to me that both Aapje and Bobobob actually agree on one thing – whether or not the police are using deadly force appropriately and in an unbiased manner is a very important question.

            Which makes sense – this is literally the one thing about government that just about everyone agrees on: the power the state holds through their authority to engage in the use of lethal force is a Big Deal.

            Regardless of how often they use it, the ability of the populace to trust their use of it is an extremely important concern. Undermining that trust is very bad (bad if the populace is doing it without justification, and bad if the police do it to themselves by failing to use their power judiciously)

          • Bobobob says:

            Aapje and Albatross, I understand and respect your points. Let’s step back a bit. How would you approach the black community (whatever that phrase means) and explain that the number of black deaths at the hands of police has been exaggerated, and there are more important issues in the world to address?

            In other words, is there a way to present a statistical/common-sense argument in a way that effectively defuses an emotional/fear-based counter-argument? Patent that, and you will be a billionaire.

          • AlexanderTheGrand says:

            @viVI_IViv

            So we should ignore statistics in order to get more diversity?

            That strikes me as incredibly uncharitable given what he said. For starters, what makes you think this person ignores statistics?! If it’s because she’s scared for her son, even just going off what her friend said, targeted means a lot besides murdered. Harassment, intimidation, false-booking, etc. Your comment makes me think you interpret this statistic as the majority of black America’s distrust of police.

            Second, he said “broaden the perspectives around here.” Someone posts a top-level comment and gets a variety of interesting responses, but as far as I can see, zero are from people personally scared of this problem. There are people who are in good faith trying to interpret the reaction, but do you really think that a first-hand perspective would be wasted? Nobody is asking the community to defer to any black American as a sole authority — that’s just not a risk for a place like SSC. But thinking that the lived experience from a thoughtful person wouldn’t be helpful towards answering the original post is hubris.

          • Aapje says:

            @gbdub

            It seems to me that both Aapje and Bobobob actually agree on one thing – whether or not the police are using deadly force appropriately and in an unbiased manner is a very important question.

            No, I don’t agree with that in the context in which Bobobob argued it (people feeling that societally is sufficiently just to support ‘the system’).

            Deadly force, police profiling and judicial bias targets men in a way more biased & unbalanced manner than black Americans, yet aside from weirdos like me, people tend to think that it is just and proper, even if they themselves are men. Why?

            Because society’s propaganda machine (not just the media) has a narrative where this is just and proper.

            For black people a large part of society’s propaganda machine does exactly the opposite, not only presenting injustices that are done to other non-blacks as being only done to blacks, but also misrepresenting justices that are done to blacks as injustices.

            The meta-narrative that injustice causes discontent, rather than a combination of injustice and narrative, is itself a false narrative that the propaganda machine spreads.

            @Bobobob

            An obvious way is for the media (and broader culture) that these people consume to tell a different narrative. This can be a more truthful narrative, but also one that is false in the opposite direction, like is done in many other cases where those who control the propaganda machine care more about keeping people compliant than about justice.

            @AlexanderTheGrand

            “Lived experiences” are interpreted and turned into narratives based on the beliefs of a person, which are heavily informed by the narratives that people are told. Time and again have I seen people interpret events that happened to them as evidence that their group is targeted, when I experienced those events as well, but don’t belong to that group.

            It is pretty well established that people are prone to very poor statistical reasoning, so “lived experiences” very often tells you more about the narratives they believe, than uncovering statistical truths (for which we have way better methods than asking single individuals).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The impunity that albatross11 cites may indeed be the biggest problem.

            At the immediate level, cops are insulated by both public-sector unions and civil-service job protections.

            A level up from that, neither side seems willing to address those issues for cops. Republicans will talk about the danger of public-sector unions who already have civil-service job protections — and they are right — but they will exclude cops and firefighters from the list.

            During the Democratic debates, Pete Buttigieg was challenged on why he didn’t get a local cop fired. And no one wanted to talk about how incredibly hard it is to fire a cop. The Broward cop who cowered behind his car during the 2018 school shooting was just reinstated to his job, with full back pay and seniority.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            That strikes me as incredibly uncharitable given what he said. For starters, what makes you think this person ignores statistics?!

            Bobobob wrote:

            “I think, given all the other useful discussions on SSC, that this kind of thread is just bad optics.”

            My interpretation is that he claims that certain statistics should not be discussed because they are “bad optics” that could turn away people like his black friend.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aaapje:

            “Deadly force, police profiling and judicial bias targets men in a way more biased & unbalanced manner than black Americans, yet aside from weirdos like me, people tend to think that it is just and proper, even if they themselves are men.”

            Do you think men are punished too much? Women are punished too little? Men are punished for crimes by women? Crimes by women are simply ignored? Men are punished for crimes by other men?

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            Do you think men are punished too much? Women are punished too little?

            I simply want men and women to be punished equally. The rest is not about gender issues, but efficacy of punishment, which is far more complicated than ‘too much’ or ‘too little.’ For example, you can punish differently, which is less of one kind of punishment, but more of another.

            Men are punished for crimes by women? Crimes by women are simply ignored? Men are punished for crimes by other men?

            The studies suggest that there is a bias at each stage of the process, so women are more likely not to get charged at all, to get charged less heavily, to get better plea deals, to get lighter sentences, etc.

            I don’t think that gender roles or their consequences are forced onto one gender by the other, but rather, that both genders enforce them on both genders (although not always in the (exact) same way).

            I have seen no research that investigates whether female judges have a greater or smaller gender bias.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            @Aaapje

            It took me a bit to realize you mean what you’re saying, that all you want is more fairness.

            I suppose I’m too much of a consequentialist or maybe a utilitarian to see that as a strong goal. Do you think better outcomes will result from more fairness, regardless of the form the fairness takes, or do you think of fairness as a value in itself?

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            The appropriate level of punishment is very complex, with a lot of factors being involved. I didn’t say that I didn’t care about it, but I don’t have very strong opinions about it given how complex it is and how little definitive data there is.

            Fair punishment is much more simple, because if you reject discrimination, it is wrong per se. It also has a makes for a fairly simple argument to equalize punishment when aiming for efficacy of punishment, since if men and women (or white and non-white men) get different punishment, then at least one group is presumably being over- or under-punished. This also makes research more complex, since if you want to test efficacy, you now need to separate between groups. And if you find that a group reacts poorly to punishment, it is hard to figure out if it is because they get treated differently or because of that group reacting differently to the same punishment.

          • since if men and women (or white and non-white men) get different punishment, then at least one group is presumably being over- or under-punished.

            That doesn’t follow. The optimal punishment depends, among other things, on the characteristics of the offender. Those might differ by group.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think police shootings are somewhat similar to mass shootings and terrorist attacks–they’re rare and horrible enough to be newsworthy, plus there’s political juice in reporting them in maximally sensationalized ways. And the result is that they seem like a bigger threat than they really are.

          • Two McMillion says:

            Fun fact: About half of all mass shootings in the US result in zero deaths. A large number of the others result in only one death. Remember this the next time someone gives you some huge mass shooting number.

          • Aftagley says:

            Why?

            What possible use would that data point have? Am I supposed to adopt the future position of “Eh, mass shootings aren’t all that bad?” just because the average lethality isn’t sky-high?

            Actually – you just motivated me to go look up stats. Yes, the mode of mass shooting deaths from 2019 and 2020 is 0, but the average number of deaths is between 1 and 2. At the same time, however, an average of between 3-5 people end up being shot and injured in mass shootings.

          • Noah says:

            What possible use would that data point have?

            It can help correct a false impression (that you personally may or may not have had).

            When people talk about x mass shootings per year, the image they are trying to evoke (and likely have themselves) is of someone walking into a school and mowing down over a dozen students, as opposed to the much more typical case of a gang member shooting five members of the opposite gang and none of them dying. Both are not great; one is much worse than the other.

        • albatross11 says:

          Bobobob:

          So, I have a close friend who was terrified that her daughter[1] would be lured in by a stranger and sexually molested. I mean, she was constantly worried about this, telling her daughter (and my kids) about “stranger danger”, etc. Now, from everything I’ve been able to learn, the actual risk of a child being abducted and sexually abused by a stranger is *extremely low*, much lower than the risk of them drowning in a swimming pool or being killed by a car while on their bike. But there was no discussing this with our friend–she was entirely convinced of the danger posed to her daughter by every passing stranger.

          I think your friend and my friend are suffering from the same basic problem, which is a media-assisted messed-up threat assessment. It’s not that there’s *no* danger there–both creeps who want to molest children and cops who are on a hair-trigger definitely exist and can do your kids harm, and one reason the rates of both are so low is that people do take some precautions. But I think media coverage leads a lot of people to overestimate the size of the danger in both cases.

          [1] Her daughter is now in her early 20s, so presumably the worry about this particular issue is over now.

          • Garrett says:

            Counterpoint: the reason why we care so much about kidnapping, terrorism and police shootings is that they involve intentional action on behalf of the wrong-doer.

            Getting hit by a bicycle (or striking someone on a bicycle) is something that people can imagine happening to them or by them. Same with other tragic events like parents running over their own children with their cars.

            But someone going out of their way to commit deliberate harm – that’s a major civilizational defect.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That might be why we care about them, or punish them severely, or are fascinated by them. But that’s not a good reason to worry about them. When I let my kids out of the house alone, yes I’ve told them not to get in anybody’s car, but what I really stress is to not walk in the street and to look both ways before crossing. I don’t worry about them getting kidnapped, because that’s so unlikely such a fear is irrational, but I do worry about them getting run over.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I have a black friend, a single mom, who is terrified that her teenaged son might be targeted by police for simply being on the wrong street at the wrong time. She is a very rational person, and I don’t think she’s overreacting.

          Given the statistics above (which aren’t even for questionable/unjustified shootings, just ALL shootings), what is your basis for believing that? More to the point, do you apply that standard for rational reaction to all other risks of a similar magnitude?

          EDIT: I see you’re arguing that since people do this all the time with all manner of threats (gun violence in general, terrorism, stranger danger), singling out this one is a ‘bad look’. Since we’ve entertained just this argued the topic on gun violence and stranger danger AND terrorism here before, that strikes me as special pleading.

          Whatever the (small-seeming) number is now, I’m sure it is dwarfed by the actual number of black men targeted by police before the prevalence of video cameras, the internet, and a concerned (white) press.

          And your basis for believing this is? Note that you say “targeted by police”, as in implying that police were deliberately going out of their way to murder black men who were not a threat. I have no doubt:

          A) that this happened, as we have evidence of cases, mostly in the American south.

          and B) that it happened more often in the past, though I would argue that the change is driven more by changes in societal attitude than technology, and if you dispute that I’ll be happy to compare the trend in shootings. I’m fairly confident that the number of shootings per capita trend downward well before the advent of dash cams, body cams, and cell phones.

          But to say that it “dwarfs” the numbers implies a high degree of confidence as to just how common it was, and that you’re not providing numbers makes me think that either you are not actually that confident, or that your confidence is based on something other than facts.

          I think, given all the other useful discussions on SSC, that this kind of thread is just bad optics.

          To be honest, I was tempted to report your comment just for saying this, but instead I’ll just say that I strongly disagree, and that you should avoid making this sort of argument because:

          A) it is the mark of a position unsupported by facts.

          B) It’s an inherently bad faith act that poisons further discussion.

          EDIT: Bottom line, your entire line of reasoning seems to be a mix of special pleading and emotional arguments. I know this is a high emotional saliency issue for a lot of people, but I’d argue that this is precisely WHY actually digging into the numbers is so important.

        • Bobobob says:

          Just to clarify, I find these conversations very stimulating, and I don’t hold hard feelings for anyone on this thread. The great thing about SSC is interacting with people outside your particular bubble and being exposed to different views.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Bobob

            Fair enough, and as I’m about to note in the spinoff thread re: the police side, irrationality on this issue is absolutely bidirectional. I’ve had almost mirror image versions of the same conversation with friends who are police officers as with black friends, acquaintances, and coworkers.

            And to take a stab at your “explain it to the black community”, the first trick is that you can’t explain it to “The Black Community”. “The Black Community” is an artificial construct with pretty much no relevance to the discussion. The largest relevant group with which is it meaningful to have a discussion like this is “The black population of Police/Sherriff jurisdiction X”, and even that elides the massive difference between the real world experience and risk profile of a middle aged black woman vs. a middle aged black man living in San Francisco vs. a young black man living in a middle class/gentrified neighborhood in St. Louis vs. a young black man living in a higher crime neighborhood in St. Louis. Differences in policing and police culture between departments, differences in crime rates and the effect of those crime rates on said culture and procedures, etc. To be honest I always try to frame these discussions in individual terms when I have them.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          What does she mean by “targeted”, exactly?

      • Mycale says:

        I think the dynamic where cops routinely harm or kill people, including a disproportionate number of minorities, and then get away with essentially no consequences is a huge factor.

        I remember seeing a number of articles decrying that the response to COVID-19 is insufficient by making an analogy to 9/11. After all, COVID-19 has killed far more Americans than the 9/11 terrorists! But I think that is flawed reasoning. People react much more strongly to other humans intentionally harming their in-group than they do to harm that is sort of endemic in the world (dying in car accidents, dying by falling off a chair, insert whatever hypothetical you want that kills a few thousand people annually in the US). I tend to think this distinction is reasonable.

        “The cops might conduct a no-knock raid on your house at midnight, then shoot you to death when you try to defend yourself against multiple unidentified intruders, and there will be no consequences for them killing you even though their warrant was for another house” is absurd. Absurd! And there’s effectively nothing you can do to protect yourself against that hypothetical. Protecting you against other people intentionally harming you is one of the basic functions of the state, and this failure is made all the worse by the fact that it’s the agents of the state inflicting the harm.

        If all of these stories where the cops clearly acted egregiously wrongfully in killing someone ended with the officers involved being promptly fired, charged, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, then I’d feel a lot less concerned by this. Until we’re at that point though, I’m not going to fault people for being just as concerned about cops (getting away with) murdering Americans as other people are worried about (for example) extremist Islamic terrorists murdering Americans.

        It’s also worth remembering that we have limited visibility into the system. If the police can get away with killing Eric Garner or Breonna Taylor or Daniel Shaver, then you have to wonder what they’re getting away with that doesn’t make the news. I get that the stats suggest there’s a cap (in the hundreds! Albeit it’s probably materially lower than that) on how many murders the police might be doing without justification, but if they can kill people without justification and have no consequences, then I think it’s reasonable to suspect that there’s a lot of less-than-murder misconduct that is also resulting in no consequences for the police (I will gesture here in the general direction of civil asset forfeiture). If we can’t impose responsibility on officers who murder people, then I’m skeptical of our prospects for other policing reforms, so it seems to make some sense to focus on this issue for that reason as well.

        • Two McMillion says:

          And there’s effectively nothing you can do to protect yourself against that hypothetical.

          That’s precisely why there is no point in worrying about it.

          • Mycale says:

            I suppose I didn’t expressly add the obvious caveat “unless you (and others who agree with you) successfully implement structural changes such that police can no longer get away with this type of misconduct” — clearer now?

            Of course, that point — that we could implement changes via politics to decrease the perceived risk of this issue — is the entire ballgame. That is, after all, the explicit goal of most people who treat this as a serious issue.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Is it really your contention that cops are conducting a “terror campaign”? That is, deliberately targeting and killing innocent black men to keep the black community “in line”? Or is that just a rhetorical flourish?

        • Garrett says:

          It’s possible that it’s an unintentional emergent property of the system.

          It’s also possible that manufacturing the existence of such a campaign is good for ratings/fundraising/political aspirations.

    • albatross11 says:

      I looked at this a couple years ago, and based on the Washington Post and Guardian numbers, I think you’re right.

      There are two caveats that may matter:

      a. I think the Washington Post / Guardian were only counting fatal shootings, so there might be more black men being shot by the police but not killed, and that might change the numbers a bit–I don’t know of any available data.

      b. There’s a lot of bad stuff the police can do to you short of shooting you dead, and maybe the 300-ish black guys shot by the cops correspond to a hundred times that number of black guys getting roughed up by the cops. Again, I don’t know of good data on this stuff.

      Also, IIRC, the set of fatal police shootings of unarmed people is only around 300 or so people a year. Taking that as a first approximation of the number of bad police shootings[1]–the ones we would like to prevent by changing something about policemens’ training, rules of engagement, oversight, etc. A few hundred people a year being killed is a bad thing, but in perspective, it probably shouldn’t be a huge nationwide political issue. It would be easy to do more harm than good in trying to solve that problem.

      [1] Not all unarmed people shot by the police *shouldn’t* have been shot, but not all armed people *should* have been shot–I imagine it very roughly balances out and that this is at least a good rough guess of the number of police shootings we could prevent with better policies.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Also, IIRC, the set of fatal police shootings of unarmed people is only around 300 or so people a year.

        According to the WaPo database the number of shootings of unarmed people in 2019 was 41.

        • albatross11 says:

          You’re right, I was misremembering it. I think combining unarmed and “unknown” together, we get to less than a hundred.

        • ShemTealeaf says:

          If you’re referencing those WaPo numbers, please keep in mind that they consider someone with a vehicle or a toy weapon not to be unarmed. If you include those categories, the number of unarmed people triples.

      • gbdub says:

        On b, I thought there was a Harvard professor who attempted to study that and I believe his conclusions were that, for a given police encounter, black men were actually less likely to be shot, but more likely to be “roughed up” or otherwise physically handled by the cops. They also were subject to more police encounters in general.

    • gbdub says:

      Arbey was not shot by police, although the local police seemed slow to act on the sort of shooting that probably ought to get you immediately arrested and charged even if a self defense claim ends up deciding the final verdict. This might be one of those cases that, seemingly contradictorily, doesn’t get as much attention as we saw in Ferguson, because I doubt many people are going to be vocally on the side of the shooters here.

      (Aside: If you think that number is low, wait till you find out how many people are actually killed by “assault rifles”)

      In defense of highlighting police shootings, we really should be holding police to a higher standard and be more concerned by abuse of authority there. Personally I think the police are shooting more often than they should, and have a built up series of defenses that allow them to justify every shooting after the fact. “He had something in his hand”, “a caller said the suspect might be armed”, “He was reaching toward the general direction of his waist”, “he was close enough that he had a knife he could have gotten me”, “he did not immediately respond to the contradictory commands my armed partner and I were screaming at him”… all these somehow get cops off scot free every single time. This may be falling disproportionately on black men (I think it is unclear and depends heavily on what you mean by “disproportionate”), but the fundamental issue is itchy trigger fingers at least as much as racism.

      To be clear, I suspect most police shootings are justified, but the fact that we fail to punish (or usually even deeply investigate) even the few cases that seem obviously unjustified erodes public confidence in the police, which is itself deadly.

      How many police officers are actually seriously injured or killed by suspects every year? Police should not be engaging with deadly force unless their lives or the lives of someone else are in immediate danger, so if their “kill ratio” is too high I would think that indicates their idea of immediate danger is poorly calibrated.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        This might be one of those cases that, seemingly contradictorily, doesn’t get as much attention as we saw in Ferguson, because I doubt many people are going to be vocally on the side of the shooters here.

        We’ll see what happens if they’re acquitted, because according to the District Attorney, the shooters didn’t commit a crime.

        • gbdub says:

          But of course he would say that, since he’s now in CYA mode.

          A lot seems to rest on the claim that they were in “hot pursuit of a burglary suspect” which seems really, really dubious. Certainly not the sort of claim you would expect a cop to just take at face value unless he’s racist or an idiot.

          I mean, they rode up on a jogger with guns drawn. You really need a damn good reason to do that (like, literally chased him out of my house with him leaving a cartoonish trail of stolen goods, not “maybe saw him cut through a construction site on his jog”)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I mean, they rode up on a jogger with guns drawn.

            At the same time, the only reason we think he was a jogger was because his family said so, and of course they would say that.

            We’ll just have to wait and see what gets presented at trial, but I don’t think a conviction is a forgone conclusion.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            In a state without open carry, I’m led to believe that anyone who has a gun out has escalated violence to the point where others can respond with deadly force.

            Georgia is an open carry state. What is the standard there for having guns out? If some guy chases me and he has a gun, am I allowed to believe he is bringing deadly force and allowed to defend myself?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Conrad… People dont rob construction sites on foot. Ive worked construction, and there is a lot of stuff there one has to lock up, but you are not going to be running away with.. any of it .. slung over your shoulder. Or rather, if you did, that would be very damn prominent in the press coverage because it would fall under the heading of “comedic stupid crook”

          • gbdub says:

            @Edward I’m not sure what the law is specifically in Georgia, but there is definitely a difference between “carrying a gun” and “brandishing a gun”. Not sure where this falls exactly.

            “Open carry” should really just be though of in comparison to “concealed carry”. There are many places where having a gun is legal, but only if it is visible. It is basically never legal (and never a good idea) to point a gun at somebody except when you reasonably believe you will be justified in shooting that person.

            @Conrad I don’t think a conviction is a foregone conclusion (especially if the Attorney is representative of the “peers” who would make up the jury pool) but “a conviction is not a foregone conclusion” is a long way from “we never had reason to even try to charge these guys”

          • gbdub says:

            At the same time, the only reason we think he was a jogger was because his family said so, and of course they would say that

            If you are assigning the same priors to “he’s a jogger” and “he was fleeing on foot from a burglary he had just committed in athletic attire in broad daylight”… I mean, that’s kind of the problem right? What’s the possible justification for assuming the latter is equally likely? There are many, many, more jogs than robberies.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            People dont rob construction sites on foot.

            You underestimate the irrationality of criminals. A guy once smashed my window to take a GPS worth $20 so he could sell it for crack. Wandering through a construction site looking for a drill he can sell for $20 for crack is exactly like something a criminal would do.

            What do you want me to say? Fry the bastards? I was told Trayvon would have looked like Obama’s son and Michael Brown was a gentle giant, but it turns out Obama’s kids aren’t much for breaking open people’s skulls on pavement and gentle giants rob convenience stores and punch cops in the face. Now I’m told this guy was a jogger and some rednecks decided “hey let’s go do murder in broad daylight because we’re racist.”

            Thanks, but I’m going to wait for hear both sides of the story presented at the trial.

          • gbdub says:

            Thanks, but I’m going to wait for hear both sides of the story presented at the trial.

            A trial that would not happen at all if the local District Attorney had his way, which, c’mon, lends just a bit of stink to the whole thing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “he was fleeing on foot from a burglary he had just committed in athletic attire in broad daylight”

            See, that’s why I’d like all the facts. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone mention “athletic attire” (admittedly I haven’t been paying much attention because I pattern matched this whole thing to “media hullabaloo that winds up being completely different than initially presented”) so I just went and looked at the video and it looks to me like he’s wearing cargo shorts and a loose t-shirt. I wouldn’t call that “athletic attire,” but the video is kind of grainy. It would be nice to be able to see the exact articles in question presented at court.

            What about his footwear? What about headphones? What else was in his pockets? Where does he actually live? Is this his neighborhood or not? Does he jog often? Does he jog here often?

            Has anyone asked or answered these questions? That would be nice to know before I join you with the pitchforks and torches because I’ve seen media frenzies like this before.

          • gbdub says:

            “He was out jogging” is not an extraordinary claim. It is in fact the default assumption you ought to make if you see somebody running along a road in the middle of the day.

            “We were so certain this person was in the process of committing a crime that we felt justified confronting him with firearms as private citizens” IS an extraordinary claim. You should not be treating the burden of proof as equal here, let alone assuming the burden is mostly on the dead man.

          • albatross11 says:

            gbdub:

            If you personally see a black guy running along the road after having poked around in a construction site, your priors should be massively tilted toward “jogger who was curious about what they’re building” rather than “thief I need to shoot.”

            If you see a media outrage frenzy about some alleged racist murder sheltered by racist police, I think your priors should be a bit different, because a large fraction of those media frenzies turn out to be bullshit, and many more end up being ambiguous enough that it’s hard to be sure what happened.

            The reporting in the Martin and Brown shootings sounded just like the reporting on this story. The eventual facts that came out were pretty different from the initial reporting in those two cases. That makes me quite uncertain of what additional information might come out here.

          • gbdub says:

            And to be clear, I’m not “joining the media frenzy”, but it is ridiculous that these guys were not immediately arrested. Their justification was literally that they thought he was the suspect from a bunch of burglaries that didn’t actually happen, and that they assumed he was armed because one time (not the day of the shooting) they saw “him” (an unknown black guy, possibly him, they had seen on surveillance tapes) stick his hand down his pants.

            He was on a home construction site, shortly before the shooting (the cops were called about this) but that’s at worst a misdemeanor unless he committed grand theft while he was there (Arbery is on a surveillance video from the site but it doesn’t show him taking or damaging anything).

            Georgia law permits a “citizens arrest” only for a felony committed in your presence, which didn’t happen here even if Arbery did commit a felony in the construction site (because the McAlisters were not there to witness it).

            So I don’t see any way they shouldn’t have been charged immediately. The delay in bringing this to court is an injustice regardless of the final outcome of the trial or what additional facts come out.

            And even if the ultimate result is an acquittal, I think it’s completely reasonable to be bothered by these guys playing vigilante like this.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “He was out jogging” is not an extraordinary claim. It is in fact the default assumption you ought to make if you see somebody running along a road in the middle of the day.

            While wearing exercise clothes, and a headband, with earbuds, at a steady pace, absolutely. Was that what was happening here? I don’t know. If I see some guy I don’t know in my neighborhood in regular clothes sprinting haphazardly down the street, I’m going to assume he’s either in trouble or up to no good. I don’t know what the case is here, but I do know you’re inventing stuff like “athletic attire” out of nowhere to justify your preferred narrative.

            Georgia law permits a “citizens arrest” only for a felony committed in your presence, which didn’t happen here even if Arbery did commit a felony in the construction site (because the McAlisters were not there to witness it).

            That’s not what the District Attorney’s letter says.

            OCGA 17-4-60 “A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.”

            The felony thing is only for “reasonable and provable grounds of suspicion.” I’m not sure if this counts, but okay, great, arrest them for…false attempt at a citizen’s arrest? Or the arrest isn’t valid? The guy didn’t get shot for “suspicion of burglary,” he got shot for attempting to steal the guy’s shotgun. If somebody rolls up on you with a shotgun in broad daylight and yells “freeze!” the correct answer is “throw your hands up in the air and call for the police,” not “try to take shotgun from guy.”

            And to be clear, I’m not “joining the media frenzy”,

            I kind of think you are because

            it is ridiculous that these guys were not immediately arrested.

            You definitely seem to have a side here.

            You’re talking about priors, but “white racists hunt down an innocent black jogger in broad daylight and murder him” is not a common or likely thing. “Black guy runs from crime scene and then attacks people who try to stop him,” is still very rare, but…if we’re doing the Bayesian thing here, one of these essentially never happens, and the other one occasionally does.

            But I don’t want to do the Bayesian thing, I just want to see the evidence, and all questions asked and answered to the best of our ability.

          • gbdub says:

            But I don’t want to do the Bayesian thing, I just want to see the evidence, and all questions asked and answered to the best of our ability.

            Again, this thing you claim you want is only happening because of the “media frenzy”. If the DA had his way, this would never have been investigated at all. That’s why I think this is an injustice regardless of the final outcome.

            What questions do you have for the shooters? So far you seem to only be interested in coming up with ways the dead guy’s wardrobe and pace (which by the way you can answer for yourself – he was moving at a jogging pace down a road before he was blocked) may have justified his killing. What did they do or say that made Arbery believe he needed to fight for his life? Why did they think a report of a black guy on a construction site was sufficient justification to ride out and start a confrontation with the implied threat of deadly force?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Wait a minute, you’re the one who started bringing up his wardrobe, not me. As for

            (which by the way you can answer for yourself – he was moving at a jogging pace down a road before he was blocked)

            How can I answer that myself? I’ve seen the video, and I can’t tell how fast he’s running. The video is short and janky. This would be more a question for the shooters. And yes, I would like them to tell their side of the story. This is probably going to be pretty similar to the story they told to the police at the scene which caused them to not be arrested. If their story is correct, then I’m not sure how the media frenzy is a net benefit. If their story isn’t, then by all means, fry ’em.

            Regardless, this is turning into a back-and-forth, which is the sort of thing that eventually results in people saying things that get them banned, and I don’t want that to happen to either of us. How about we shelve this for now and circle back when the trial happens and we can see the evidence and hear the testimonies?

          • gbdub says:

            It’s clearly possible we’ll learn more, I’m just curious what additional information would make you believe the shooters’ actions were reasonable here.

            I’m not trying to get you banned, but you’re still ignoring my most important point, namely that this would not go to trial (or even be investigated seriously as a possible crime) if the local authorities had their way. I don’t like the “media frenzy” either but it looks like there’s a good chance this would have gone away quietly had that not happened.

            Since you seem to agree that there are questions that need to be answered, can we at least agree that the DA’s original decision to not pursue any investigation on this was unreasonable?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s clearly possible we’ll learn more, I’m just curious what additional information would make you believe the shooters’ actions were reasonable here.

            Right now I don’t believe their actions were reasonable. I certainly wouldn’t do that, and everyone knows how reasonable I am. For their actions to be reasonable (confronting someone with a shotgun) they need something more than “was running from a construction site.” Perhaps they have that, I don’t know. But that would be something to present at a civil wrongful death trial.

            namely that this would not go to trial (or even be investigated seriously as a possible crime) if the local authorities had their way. I don’t like the “media frenzy” either but it looks like there’s a good chance this would have gone away quietly had that not happened.

            Since you seem to agree that there are questions that need to be answered, can we at least agree that the DA’s original decision to not pursue any investigation on this was unreasonable?

            The DA made his decision because it doesn’t appear what they did was illegal. It’s not illegal to have guns, it’s not illegal to conduct a citizen’s arrest, and it’s not illegal to shoot someone who tries to take your gun. The DA investigated and concluded no crime took place.

            What they did may be stupid, or reckless, or unnecessary, and based solely on what I know at this point which is not the entire story, I would probably find them liable in a wrongful death suit.

            But the criminal issue is whether or not they had a reasonable suspicion to conduct the citizen’s arrest, which is why the issue of whether or not the victim was “just a jogger” matters. The DA seemed to think he was not “just a jogger,” which is why no charges were filed, because the shooters didn’t commit a crime. Perhaps the DA got it wrong, and the jury will let us know.

          • ChangingTime says:

            @Conrad

            What about his footwear? What about headphones? What else was in his pockets? Where does he actually live? Is this his neighborhood or not? Does he jog often? Does he jog here often?

            Has anyone asked or answered these questions?

            Yes, at least to some of them. Workboots on the topic of footwear, no headphones, no idea about pockets, about 2 miles from the neighborhood, no idea about frequency of jogs.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That’s not what the District Attorney’s letter says.

            The letter says some things and not others.

            1. People are debating whether B is true.
            2. Someone says “iff A is true, then B is true. And B is true.”
            3. We are left to interpret whether A is true.

            We’re wondering if they were allowed to make a citizen’s arrest. Barnhill says “they are allowed to make a citizen’s arrest if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.” But whether or not they had “immediate knowledge” or “in his presence” is in dispute! And Barnhill hasn’t actually said it.

            People with experience in the legal system know to say things are true when they are true. If they don’t know something, they don’t say it’s true, because it might be proven wrong.

            From the 911 call, the dispatcher was urging them to say what the immediate crime was

            “He’s running down the street,” the man said. The next sentence is garbled.

            “That’s fine,” the dispatcher said. “I’ll get (police) out there. I just need to know what he was doing wrong. Was he just on the premises and not supposed to be?”

            The next sentence is garbled. “And he’s been caught on camera a bunch at night. It’s kind of an ongoing thing. The man building the house has got heart issues. I think he’s not going to finish it.”

            So they don’t know what this is the guy.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @ChangingTime

            Workboots on the topic of footwear

            Do you have a source for that? I looked at the video and to me they looked like…I’m not sure exactly what type of shoe. They didn’t look like running shoes, but maybe high-top skate shoes? I’m not sure what I’d call them. But it doesn’t look clear enough to me to say.

          • nkurz says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            >> Workboots on the topic of footwear
            > Do you have a source for that?

            I hadn’t looked into it before reading your question, but this Reddit thread has a surprisingly reasonable summary of the evidence: https://old.reddit.com/r/conspiracy/comments/gg35jd/was_ahmaud_arbery_wearing_boots_when_he_was_killed/

            The summary would be something like “the videos are nonconclusive” but there are claims that misleading doctored images are making the rounds.

      • albatross11 says:

        This case is probably more parallel to the Zimmerman/Martin shooting than to a police shooting. The basic question that matters here is whether the local authorities wrongly let the shooters get away with killing this guy, or whether there is some additional evidence that hasn’t come out yet that explains why they didn’t arrest and charge him.

        In the Zimmerman case, the original media portrayal of the case was quite different from the facts that eventually came out. (The original stories I heard had Zimmerman as a big white guy who’d killed a little black kid; when details came out later, Zimmerman was a little hispanic guy, and Martin was a pretty big black kid, notably taller than Zimmerman. That’s not super relevant, except that it shows that early media reports were getting even the easy-to-check parts of the story wrong.) In that case, there was a public outcry that went through the whole country, with a lot of accusations of racism on the part of Zimmerman, the police, and American society. The prosecutor charged him with murder, he stood trial, and he was acquitted because he was acting in self-defense. One reason was that when he shot Martin, Martin was on top of him beating the crap out of him. There was physical evidence from the examination of Zimmerman and an eyewitness for that, IIRC. Nobody in the several months of media coverage discussed any of that before it came out at the trial, as far as I remember, and I was paying some attention to the case.

        So it does seem plausible to me that there will be some similar evidence that will come out in this case, which justifies not charging these guys. It’s also quite plausible that they killed this guy and almost got away with it, thanks to having friends on the police force, or paying the right person a bribe, or all the police being racists who were totally okay with murder as long as it was of a black guy[1]. An independent investigation is probably the best we can do here.

        [1] Of course, the world looks nothing like it would if that were broadly true, but who knows what was going on in this one town on that one day.

        • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

          One thing that’s always bugged me about the Martin/Zimmerman thing was that Zimmerman could claim self-defence despite initiating the confrontation by following Martin (which IIRC was clear from the 911 call, where the dispatcher specifically told him not to). My reading of stand your ground laws (I am not a lawyer or American) is that you could just as easily defend Martin’s use of violence on the grounds that he felt threatened by someone who was following him and he perceived as a threat. I don’t see how you can claim self-defence when someone has reacted with violence to your initiation of a confrontation. I’m not sure what the outcome of competing stand your ground defences would be.

          • Matt M says:

            My reading of stand your ground laws (I am not a lawyer or American) is that you could just as easily defend Martin’s use of violence on the grounds that he felt threatened by someone who was following him and he perceived as a threat.

            1. Despite media insistence otherwise, the Zimmerman/Martin case had nothing to do with “stand your ground.” Stand your ground is a legal doctrine that simply eliminates the requirement to retreat if possible, but if we accept Zimmerman’s general narrative of events as true, retreat was not possible anyway. If you believe Zimmerman, his actions would have been legal self-defense in basically any US state, even ones that do not have “stand your ground” laws.

            2. Following someone is not “initiating a confrontation” and the law is not “you can kill anyone you perceive as a threat.” Zimmerman’s story is that he resorted to deadly violence only after Martin had initiated violence in such a manner that threatened his life. If Martin had killed Zimmerman, he would have to credibly show that Zimmerman’s prior behavior (following him) put his own life in danger, which is… uh… a bit of a stretch.

          • Jaskologist says: <