772 thoughts on “Open Thread 156.5

  1. DavidFriedman

    Something struck me in the previous OT, posted either after this one appeared or just before, and didn’t get much attention. It looked important to me, so I wanted to bring it back here:

    INH5 wrote:

    Hsu didn’t just host Ron Unz on his own podcast to talk about unrelated subjects. The title and description of the podcast prominently promoted the Unz Review as “a controversial, but widely read, alternative media site hosting opinion outside of the mainstream.” He allowed Unz to promote his own column, “American Pravda” without any pushback whatsoever. Here’s what Unz’s column archives looked like only a few days before the podcast was published. The most recent article is “American Pravda: How Hitler Saved the Allies,” which as the title suggests, includes historical revisionism and blatant apologetics for Nazi Germany.

    Outis wrote:

    Here is the American Pravda article discussed in Hsu’s show. Although Unz later used the same name for a series of article, the transcript you posted explicitly talks about this one article.

    INH5 links to an article by Unz that is indeed apologetics for Nazi Germany, with the pretty clear implication that that is what Hsu was promoting; reading that indeed may me wonder about Hsu. But the article Outis links to, with the same title, is pretty innocuous, and is the sort of thing relevant to discussions of whether the media mislead the public.

    My reaction reading the first “American Pravda” article was that it was very odd for Unz to be promoting it. But if Outis is correct, that wasn’t what he was promoting, making INH5’s link something between misleading and dishonest.

    Outis ended his post by asking INH5 what in the American Pravda article that Hsu actually referred to was objectionable, and got no answer, perhaps because INH5 never saw the question, so I am repeating it here. Is Outis correct? If so what is your justification for pointing us at a different article with the same title as the one Hsu referred to?

  2. Uribe

    Post-modernism seems to be the whipping post many intellectual conservatives tie contemporary leftists to. Do academic Leftists acknowledge this heritage? I doubt any of my Bernie Bro friends would recognize the name Derrida.

    When I was in college all I learned about post modernism was that it applied to Samuel Beckett’s later works but not Murphy or More Pricks Than Kicks. I had another English Literature professor who said “Post modernism is this nonsense category academics made up to keep themselves in business.”

    When I read about the nonsense classes leftist academics push, they don’t seem to be about Derrida or Faucalt, much less Beckett, but Feminism in Aboriginal Japanese Art or something like that.

    So do many academic Leftists claim they are heavily influenced by some post modernist philosophers or not?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      As usual for this kind of thing, I think there’s a lot of terminological confusion here. Is “postmodernism” primarily a historical philosophical school? Or is it more generally a set of tenets, centering on the idea of truth/reality as created rather than discovered?

      If I had to speculate, I’d say only a small number of devout leftists who bother tracing their intellectual heritage trace it strongly through Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard, etc. But even if that’s right, I don’t think that’s really what conservatives accuse those leftists of; rather, they’re accusing them of a certain attitude towards the world which deemphasizes objectivity and promotes a more relativistic attitude. (This accusation is probably also off-base, but that’s maybe beside the point.)

  3. Well...

    “drugs are very scary to people who don’t know anything about them.”

    Way down the page there’s a discussion of the war on drugs, and on one of its sub-threads I left a comment that included that statement.

    (It’s a partial explanation of why so many countries jumped on the drug prohibition bandwagon. To paraphrase the main other explanation I gave: “because they were pressured to in various ways by the US, who got the war on drugs going in the first place.”)

    I’m creating a new post about this particular reason though because it seems like its own topic. Plus it’s interesting, and it’s at the heart of what got me interested in the history of drug prohibition in the first place.

    Specifically, what got me interested was the “performance enhancement” controversy around Roger Clemens back in the early ’00s. Athletes use many performance enhancers, whether technological (fancy gear), systematic (innovative training methods), intellectual (moneyballing), etc. Why all this hubbub about performance enhancement of the chemical kind?

    You can explain how and why an athlete uses a hypobaric chamber to me in about 30 seconds. With a little imagination, I can relate to an account of an athlete working with a world-class coach to revolutionize his game. And, “practice makes perfect” is so obvious it’s a cliche; practicing is a performance-enhancement technique that nobody minds because it’s a practically a prerequisite to any performance in the first place.

    Chemistry, on the other hand…You can explain what amphetamines do and why competitive cyclists have been using some version of them since the 19th century, but without trying them myself (I haven’t) I don’t think I can really wrap my mind around it. As for steroids: I get that the human body is a finely-tuned instrument and that adding a little of this will cause the body to try to adjust by taking away a little of that, but in practice it seems way more complicated. Hell, the word “steroids” is apparently totally wrong the way most people use it. I couldn’t tell you the exact difference between, say, anabolic steroids and growth hormones and whatever else. I wouldn’t know what a steroid or an amphetamine looks like if I saw one on a lockerroom bench. I wouldn’t know what to expect if I swallowed one or injected it or snorted it or however you put it into your body.

    There’s just a lot of unknown there. And not just any old unknown, but an opaque sort of unknown that you can’t know until you’ve really done it yourself.

    There are websites where people write about their experiences with various drugs. I’ve done some of the drugs they write about having done, but I never understood the point of reading these accounts. I have no expectation that reading an account will cause me to understand the experience. (And I can’t say that about an experience with, say, a really high-end swimsuit or golf club.)

    I remember exactly how I thought and felt about pot before I’d tried it. Pot sounded scary! Basically you’d smoke it and instantly become a kind of thug, your shirt would be raggedy and you’d have sunglasses on to hide your bloodshot eyes and you’d talk back to your parents and get in a fight with them and wind up on the streets or in a gutter somewhere. Your speech would be slurred, you wouldn’t care about anything, you’d just be changed into a kind of worm, slithering around in the dark underneath the warm rock of society. Hellish.

    Go even further back to the first time I definitely saw a drunk person. It was at a park when I was about 5. My parents and a few other grown-ups were sort of corralling kids together to get them away from a lady who was waddling around, apparently trying to kiss people. “We need to stay away from that woman. She’s drunk!” my mom said to me in hushed tones. So, I thought being drunk was a kind of weird sickness where you wandered around and got too close to people and tried to kiss them and maybe got them sick, or hurt them or something. I didn’t find out what being drunk actually meant until I had an opportunity try it myself, six years later. (At a seder where the bottle of Manischewitz was unwisely left unattended at the kids’ table.) It wasn’t anything like what I thought it was at age 5.

    So, fear of the unknown. Not just the unknown, but that which cannot be known unless experienced. Even scarier. Lots of people are scared of spiders, but at least you can look at a picture of one, or peer at one from a safe distance. Imagine how much scarier would spiders be to people if you couldn’t see them unless they were crawling on your nose?

    Experience with one drug doesn’t mean you understand experiences with other drugs, either. A coffee drinker can be legitimately frightened by the idea of getting drunk. A beer drinker can assume a pot-smoker must be degenerate. A pot-smoker can hold out his hands and go “no way I’m frying my brain with THAT stuff” when offered the chance to snort coke. A full-blown junkie can lead the campaign to litter the Sports Hall of Fame with asterisks.

    The way we change our bodies and our brains by putting chemicals in them is complicated and often confusing. But most of all it’s mysterious. Big changes can happen on the outside but what happens on the inside, others can only guess. And so by default it is frightening to them, and fear is a huge motivator. It motivates individuals, and it motivates whole governments, even ones designed to be slow and hard to impel.

    That’s my crackpot theory anyway.

    1. Shion Arita

      I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong that people are afraid because it’s hard to say what exactly the effects/experience will be.

      I do think you’re overlooking the fact that a lot of these things are carcinogenic and cause many other forms of general tissue damage, and I think this is also what people are afraid of.

    1. WayUpstate

      So why doesn’t Scott just cut-off commenting in the last thread when a new one opens up? Frequent commenters have no trouble referencing a previous thread that needs a follow-up.

      1. Gerry Quinn

        Why should he? People want to talk, maybe more at this moment, Scott values that – why would he want to reduce their ability to?

          1. Rebecca Friedman

            I conjecture that setting up to deal with lockdown – arranging work-from-home and so forth – took more time and energy earlier in the lockdown, and after a few months people have more free time.

            But I might just be thinking that because it’s true of me.

            A lot of threads have been political lately – do we usually get a comment surge when there are major CW events? Not this scale, obviously, but increased reason to comment + more time to comment in, maybe?

          2. Uribe

            The BLM protests spawned a lot of heated discussion.

            I’m overcommenting so much due to lock down. I’d normally be at a bar right now, instead I’m drinking beer at home.

  4. Nancy Lebovitz

    I had a case of something back in February or March. I’m hoping it was very mild COVID, but I’m not sure the symptoms were close enough.

    Mild cough, tiny fever, some tiredness, no breathing problems. Lasted a week or so.

    On the one hand, it isn’t a great match for COVid. On the other hand, I haven’t heard of anyone else getting the same thing.

    1. Lord Nelson

      Myself and half the office had the same thing in February. I’m also hoping it was mild Covid, but I seriously doubt it. My money is on the flu.

        1. Lord Nelson

          Not anymore, though I did go to college there.

          I’m in the Midwest, which is one of the reasons I highly doubt it was Covid.

      1. JayT

        Most blood banks are testing donors for antibodies, so if you can give blood that’s a free way to find out if you had it.

        1. John Schilling

          The Red Cross very specifically requests that you not do that. Please adhere to their request.

          1. MisterA

            I got an email from the Red Cross advertising blood donation as a way to get a free COVID test so I think that rule may be lifted at the moment.

      2. yodelyak

        The odds in mid Feb (when background rate of other diseases made Covid-19 a rounding error in total disease rate) are a lot less good than the odds in early March. Starting thing to do to determine your odds, if you want to really try to estimate them, is to put as narrow a range on when you were sick/when you were infected as possible.

    2. Gerry Quinn

      Everyone gets weird things all the time. Around New Year I had some flu-ey thing but no temperature. Knocked me flat for a day or two, but then I was fine except for a cough that lasted a month.

      (A *productive* cough – something was causing a lot of mucus to be generated.)

  5. albatross11

    General Comment:

    Conquest’s Law says The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.

    I’ve spent the last few months watching two instances of this by amorphous groups:

    First, there is the response to C19 by the administration, CDC, FDA, various state and local health departments, and various state and local leaders. Despite a few high points, this has usually ranged from inept to so bad that I almost suspect the decisionmakers of trying to make C19 worse. (Sending still-contagious C19 patients back to their nursing homes? Ordering various people to stop doing the testing that demonstrated ongoing community spread? Issuing an order forbidding local governments from requiring masks in your state?)

    I mean, rationally, it can’t really be that the CDC or the governors of Texas and New York want C19 to spread rapidly and kill a bunch of people off. But their actions have certainly pushed that outcome along.

    Second, the whole of Woke Twitter, plus various mainstream journalistic outlets that despise Trump, seem to be trying to get him re-elected. (Calling people racist for condemning looting and arson? Calling for abolishing the police? Loudly supporting angry mobs tearing down statues of popular figures in American history?)

    I’m like 99.9% sure the owners and staff of the NYT and Washington Post do not, in fact, want Trump to win re-election. But so many of their actions are pushing that outcome along. Taking a moderate line like “Of course looting and rioting are terrible, but that is a small fringe of bad people in this massive movement” is actually a pretty good way to get the support of most Americans, who actually were revolted by what happened to George Floyd. Demanding that white people shut up, check their privilege, and go along with looting and tearing down statues, and listen to endless harangues about how everything bad about the country is our fault? *That*’s the strategy you want to go with to get Trump voted out?

    You couldn’t devise a better strategy for getting lots of middle-class whites to loudly proclaim Black Lives Matter in public, and then go into the voting booth and vote straight-ticket Republican. Though Trump and a big chunk of right wing media are doing their level best to counteract that strategy by making sure as many as possible of the older white voters they rely on for votes are too sick or scared to come to the polls on election day, thanks to the second wave of C19 cases which is sure to follow turning wearing a facemask into a CW issue.

    WTF? Is the whole country taking crazy pills?

    1. Belisaurus Rex

      People have pride and would rather win “their way” than by doing what’s smart. Sure, it might be the absolute worst thing to do, but it makes them feel better so they do it. This is why you never negotiate for yourself, because you have too much skin in the game.

    2. Skeptic

      You’re imposing simultaneously too much rationality and insufficient rationality on these groups.

      Too much rationality because you are assuming the meta goal is X, when in reality their actual goals are much closer to home. Stated goals != actual goals

      Insufficient rationality because they are faithfully following their individual incentives and pursuing their objectives in a perfectly rational way.

    3. Clutzy

      You couldn’t devise a better strategy for getting lots of middle-class whites to loudly proclaim Black Lives Matter in public, and then go into the voting booth and vote straight-ticket Republican.

      Wasn’t there something recently batted around here about how the Chinese prison camps made American soldiers make little proclamations of “virtue” and that caused them to internally rationalize it and actually become commies?

    4. gbdub

      I reached a similar conclusion about CNN after they spent an entire day with the chyron reading “Trump tells staff to slow down COVID testing”. An entire Trump speech (Hell, even just the surrounding sentences) that could be picked apart, and you go with a blatantly obtuse literal reading of an obvious joke. Not to mention the immediate flip from “Trump is recklessly hosting a super spreader event” to mocking him for having lower than expected turnout. Trump’s speeches and ads do nothing for me. But an hour watching CNN leaves me tempted to vote Trump out of spite.

      1. GoneAnon

        My favorite chyron we see every day now is something like “20 states report increase in COVID cases”

        Which seems to me like an odd way of saying “Majority of states see decline in COVID cases”

        1. gbdub

          To be fair, I think that’s a reversal of a previous trend where more states were seeing flat or decline.

          But in general, I’m just really frustrated. It is eminently possible, and not even that much harder, to make a smarter case against Trump that’s slightly less outrageous but much harder to refute. But they can’t seem to help themselves.

          They mock and concern troll him for having trouble on a wet ramp and holding a water cup in both hands, then act aghast that he spends a chunk of his speech talking about how stupid the media coverage of that was (they even compared the minutes and seconds spent in that anecdote to his time spent talking about another issue they deemed more worthy of his time).

          Trump’s whole schtick is that the media is a bunch of partisan liars. All they need to do to prove him wrong is not take the bait, but again, they can’t help themselves.

    5. birdboy2000

      I’m like 99.9% sure the owners and staff of the NYT and Washington Post do not, in fact, want Trump to win re-election.

      I’m not. The Trump administration has been very good for Jeff Bezos’ pocketbook. Probably the NYT’s ownership too. Why risk the opprobrium of actually donating to a politician’s re-election campaign when you can help him so much more by steering the opposition into a useless, ineffectual direction and portray yourself as socially conscious in the process!

      1. John Schilling

        The Trump administration has been very good for Jeff Bezos’ pocketbook.

        I’m fairly certain the whole net profit of the Washington Post is an insignificant blip in Jeff Bezos’ pocketbook, and that he does not in fact try to micromanage WP editorial policy to marginally increase that insignificant blip.

        I’m also fairly certain that if he tried, his attempts would either be ineffectual, or would trigger the sort of newsroom revolt we saw over e.g. the Cotton editorial at the NYT.

        1. Biater

          I think Birdboy2000’s point was that the Trump administration hasn’t been good for Bezos because of the WP being profitable. It has been good for Bezos for other reasons (perhaps due to Corporate taxes) and Bezos may be using WP to keep Trump in power, because he thinks Trump 2020 will make Amazon will be more profitable.

          Not something I had considered before. But I had wondered why Bezos would buy a newspaper.

    6. Nancy Lebovitz

      My paranoid reading is that some of the government incompetence is actually environmentalists who think the environment would be better off with fewer people.

      This doesn’t mean I think they are typical environmentalists. As far as I can tell, many (most?) environmentalists talk as though people are the problem, but very few act on the idea, except perhaps by not having children.

      This is, at most, a guess. It’s more plausible that those mistakes were the result of local incentives or panic.

      1. DinoNerd

        One of my paranoid fantasies is that some bureaucrats/politicians are trying to save social security, by killing off as many of the folks collecting it as possible. I hadn’t gotten as far as considering a desire to reduce the human population overall; I guess I’m not quite as paranoid as I thought I was.

        [And no, I don’t seriously believe this. But it might make a good plot for a novel.]

        1. DavidFriedman

          Other way around — you are more paranoid than you thought you were.

          Killing off one percent of the population is insignificant from the standpoint of people worried about overpopulation. Killing off ten percent of the old people, on the other hand, would keep social security solvent for a while longer. So you were believing the less plausible paranoid conspiracy theory.

    7. Wrong Species

      There are some conservatives who say how all this talk about abolishing the police and iconoclasm is going to lead voters to turn to Trump this election but I’m not buying it. The media has been dutifully serving the Narrative the SJWs demand, and the people listening to them don’t care enough to even verify if it’s true. There are millions of people who think CNN is an objective, fact-filled source of information. BLM polling is up, not down in the last month because the voters think that there is an epidemic of cops executing unarmed black people. And if you question that, they get to call you a racist and then the discussion ends because that’s how it always goes. And yeah, people thought Trump couldn’t win back in 2016, but everyone was caught off guard back then. They’ve spent the last four years preparing. If anything, I think it’s more likely that we get a Biden landslide than a Trump win.

    8. Gerry Quinn

      You don’t have to take crazy pills. We’ve put it in the water for decades. BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!

      (Oops! Shouldn’t have drunk the water.)

    9. BBA

      Cabin fever?

      There are fireworks being set off every night in neighborhoods around the country. A wild conspiracy theory has taken hold on the left that this is an op by the police, or the Trump administration, to terrorize liberal communities for their support for BLM, or something. The more obvious explanation – it’s summer, kids are bored, lots of professional fireworks shows have been cancelled leaving a glut of unused fireworks on the market, the police are distracted by other matters – has never occurred to anybody.

      And every time I consider taking half a step rightward to get away from all that, I see the President is showing off to a few thousand adoring fans in a half-empty arena that he can drink a cup of water one-handed, and this clearly proves he’s the greatest president of all time, or something.

      Sometimes I wonder why I even bother.

      1. anonymousskimmer

        The more obvious explanation – it’s summer, kids are bored, lots of professional fireworks shows have been cancelled leaving a glut of unused fireworks on the market, the police are distracted by other matters – has never occurred to anybody.

        No, it’s because our almost-neighbors are jerks who have always acted as if they live in the countryside instead of a dense suburb.

        1. Well...

          Wait, so how widespread is this fireworks thing? I noticed it in my suburban Midwestern neighborhood and never really thought about wider patterns (too busy trying to decide if I should call the non-emergency police number and report it because it’s keeping my kids awake). This is the first I’m hearing of it happening in “neighborhoods around the country”.

          “Jerks who have always acted as if they live in the countryside instead of a dense suburb” sounds pretty accurate to me, but isn’t mutually exclusive with “it’s summer, kids are bored, lots of professional fireworks shows have been cancelled leaving a glut of unused fireworks on the market, the police are distracted by other matters”.

          1. ltowel

            It’s endemic in my neighborhood, but I live about 4 blocks away from Cal Anderson Park, so that might be to be expected.

      2. Le Maistre Chat

        And every time I consider taking half a step rightward to get away from all that, I see the President is showing off to a few thousand adoring fans in a half-empty arena that he can drink a cup of water one-handed, and this clearly proves he’s the greatest president of all time, or something.

        I think you have to understand that you can step toward our tribe without thinking Donald Trump is the greatest. It’s a big tent, not a cult of personality.
        The fact that he just held a re-election rally with only 6,000 people is best explained not as the Red tribe getting dramatically smaller since Halloween 2016; tribe members are just giving up on him.

        1. albatross11

          It’s not like low turnout for a mass rally during a deadly pandemic is even surprising. People stayed away because they didn’t want to get sick.

        2. Wrong Species

          It sucks that we got an actual retard to be our standard bearer compared to the other right wing leaders around the world. The Left should be ecstatic that their opponent is the tweeter-in-chief and not the authoritarian they claim him to be.

    10. mtl1882

      A certain amount of this is sadly typical, but I don’t remember it ever being close to this bad, where people are not just being counterproductive in various ways, but are actually homing in on what will get them the exact opposite of what they want, and enthusiastically making it their main strategy. And getting anyone on their side who knows better to surrender to this.

      My mind keeps going to some sort of information warfare campaign to sow chaos, but I realize this is probably just the impulse to believe someone is in control and things make more sense than they do. There’s no doubt much of it has to do with some weird social, political, and media dynamics that have been going on for a while, but it feels like someone is really weaponizing the pathologies that have resulted.

      The nursing home stuff isn’t that crazy to me—it seems obvious most leaders just really did not know what was coming and panicked. They’re not trained to think strategically based on logistical realities, but about how they come across, i.e. narrative and image. So they needed to look like they were taking it seriously and doing the right things, and I’m sure they had some desire to actually do it, but that means they focused on things that ignored important logistical realities but had become synonymous with doing the right thing: maximize unoccupied hospital beds and get as many ventilators as possible, etc. If someone didn’t need life-saving support at the moment, get them out ASAP! That was the logic.

      From there, if you weren’t thinking things through, making sure the nursing homes took everyone ready for release made sense–this wasn’t a time for offloading responsibility onto hospitals. The same reasoning led to other bad decisions like making people so afraid to go to the hospital, or so convinced that it was an absolute last resort in the crisis, that they delayed receiving urgent medical treatment and died or suffered complications, even though the hospitals weren’t overloaded. This level of thoughtlessness still isn’t excusable, but how it happened is easy enough to understand, IMO, if you track their generally thoughtless reasoning, which the media encouraged. Early on, people didn’t seem to have a good grip on just how dangerous it was for the nursing home crowd relative to others, and for how easily it spread in those environments. There has been a real lack of common sense about how this all works displayed by many people. They were obviously panicked by thoughts of it ripping through society at large, filling up hospitals while people continued obliviously taking the subway and partying in large groups. A nursing home probably seemed like a more controlled environment by comparison, and, frankly, concern for nursing home residents was probably not at the of people’s minds (it never is). Many people did not have their priorities straight, in part due to lack of knowledge about how the virus worked, in part due to an aversion to complexity and hard choices, and in part for self-serving or emotional reasons.

      But other COVID-19 stuff, and some of the political stuff, especially by Trump opponents, is just nuts to me. I can’t remember seeing anything like it. It feels like someone is luring them into a trap.

      1. Skeptic

        I’m not sure there’s even that much meat on the bone to explain away.

        1) media fails to report on the risk-age breakdown for weeks, even though it was apparent months ago. Why? It doesn’t sell clicks

        2) politicians respond to what the news responds to. News was 24/7 NYC hospitals are at X capacity. That becomes the target metric

        3) Cuomo gives order to send sick patients back to nursing homes to achieve target metric

        4) nursing home patients die en masse, but it’s not news since it doesn’t sell clicks (Dem governor, no culture war angle)

        As to the rest it’s easily explainable by asking “who is this person signaling to and why?” Asking “is this the most logical way of convincing people…” is the wrong question to begin with

    11. Uribe

      you go with a blatantly obtuse literal reading of an obvious joke

      I’m not going to die on this hill but Trump can be pretty funny when he wants to be. If this was a joke, it bombed hard with its live audience, leading me to believe it was not a joke. (Trump would have changed his rhythm if he meant it as a joke. For instance “The more testing we do, the more cases we find ,(lower voice, faster, shrugging, an aside ) so I told them to slow down the testing (laughter)”

      It’s not like he was in a tough room.

  6. ausmax

    Anyone have any experience with desk related exercise equipment? I have an adjustable height desk, and would like to try to get some exercise while I work. (it’s a home office, so normal issues of bothering coworkers are irrelevant). I’ve looked at treadmills that let you walk while typing, and also some of the under desk things that let are essentially mini bikes or ellipticals that you can do while sitting. Was hoping to get someone with experience using these types of solutions, since everything I am finding online appears to be someone selling something. I like the treadmill concept conceptually, but am worried it will be annoying to move out of the way during the times when I want to sit. Appreciate any advice.

    1. AG

      I have a cheap mini-bike. Either you have to be sitting on a higher stool, so that your pedalling force is primarily downwards a la unicycling, or you have to put a weight behind the bike (or directly prop against the wall to prevent the it from moving away from you with every pedal. You have to leave space for your knees to come up (having the bike against the wall won’t work if your knees will bang on the table/keyboard tray). Finally, you have to mind that your weight will be shifting in your seat, so make sure that you won’t be squeaking up a storm.

    2. Well...

      I have used treadmill desks and even built one in my garage. I liked them (for some things, not all things*) but I never used ones where that same desk is used for sitting. If I wanted to sit I would go to a different desk designed to be sat at.

      *Maybe predictably, I found treadmill desks work best for stuff where you are just watching the screen: attending webinars or computer-based training, doing light reading, etc. With a bit of practice they’re fine for short bursts of typing too, like if you’re IMing or writing short emails. I don’t think I’d recommend them for work where you have to intensely focus and interact at the same time, like if you’re designing a graphic or writing a report. Also, after a while your vestibular senses get all out of whack because your eyes are focusing on a point close in front of you while your head and body are moving around.

      A recumbant exercise bike with a desk outfitted around it might be better. They also make these pedal things you can put under your desk and pedal as if you’re on a recumbant bike, though I’ve never tried them.

      Oh, also, treadmills and most other exercise equipment like that are LOUD.

      If you just want to get more exercise during the workday, use a standing desk and walk away from your desk once in a while and do some bodyweight squats or something. I got in the habit of taking long walks whenever I called into a meeting where I didn’t need to see a screen.

      Also, if like me you never quite found a nice anti-fatigue mat to put under your standing desk, get a balance board instead. It’s a disc-shaped piece of rigid plastic with a round bulge in the middle. The bulge faces the floor so you stand on top and have to balance. It’s supposed to work your core or something. It didn’t do that for me but I did find it was a nice way to “fidget” with my legs, and I could stretch my calf muscles too. But it also made my feet hurt so I’d occasionally have to walk for a bit or kick it out of the way and just stand.

  7. proyas

    Which would you rather have, and why?

    a. Never need to sleep, but always feel drowsy, as if you only slept five hours.
    b. Never have insomnia and always feel 100% alert and refreshed when awake, but need to sleep 13 hours per day.

    1. mustacheion

      I usually feel somewhat drowsy, and usually devote >10 hours a day to sleep (though I am only actually asleep for a small portion of that), so either of those would be an upgrade for me.

      I would absolutely take option b, since I can’t really get useful work done when I am drowsy, which is most of the time. So having 50% productivity up-time seems a lot better than nearly zero, and 24 hours a day to feel bad about procrastinating.

    2. Randy M

      It’s funny you bring that up, I actually forgot to sleep on Saturday. (For any fans of slay the Spire, I highly recommend Monster Train!) I worried I would feel awful on Sunday and today, but it wasn’t bad, despite only getting a couple hours nap and a couple hours extra last night. Still, not a strategy I’m planning on pursuing with any regularity.

      But for the question, that’s a tough choice. losing five more hours of wakefulness per day (or more on occasion) is pretty severe. But I’m not a safe driver when drowsy, and I’d hate to feel that way always. I don’t think either would be an improvement, despite the upside.

    3. Nick

      Both options sound terrible, but I think I’d go with b. I’d rather be alert and refreshed at least some of the time.

    4. Milo Minderbinder

      Is the drowsiness natural, and thus fixable through normal means (i.e., if I keep drinking coffee, can I counteract it?), or is it a magical torpor that no brew can cure?

      a if former, b if latter.

    5. Plumber

      @proyas says:

      “Which would you rather have, and why?

      a. Never need to sleep, but always feel drowsy, as if you only slept five hours.
      b. Never have insomnia and always feel 100% alert and refreshed when awake, but need to sleep 13 hours per day”

      Since option “B” is an occasional Sunday or vacation day and most days I feel more like I took option “A”, ‘revealed preference” says A (but “B” sounds wonderful! )

    6. valleyofthekings

      I choose (b), because being awake-but-drowsy all night would be boring and miserable.

    7. Beans

      Do I have to pick one? These both seem worse than the way things are normally. I don’t think I could live with either.

    8. drunkfish

      B absolutely. I lived A in high school and I have no desire to go back. Honestly I think I might even be more net productive under option B, not just happier.

    9. Belisaurus Rex

      I get more done in one of my lucid hours than in a dozen of my foggy ones, so I’d take (b) in a heartbeat. Assuming that alert and refreshed means at my absolute peak the entire time I’m awake.

  8. gbdub

    So it’s majorly CW, but I think enough time has passed for us to talk about the killing of Rayshard Brooks?

    My “take” on the situation is that I find it baffling how much the mainstream media opinion seems to be that obviously it was murder to kill Brooks. Like, I can understand arguments that it was excessive force, or that we’d prefer the officers had been trained differently. But the idea that it was blatantly, clearly, obviously murderous for Officer Rolfe to fire on a man who had literally seconds prior assaulted his partner and shot a taser at him (after that man had violently resisted a justified DUI arrest) is kind of insane to me.

    With that in mind, Rolfe and especially Brosnan appear to have been wildly overcharged. That these charges came from a DA apparently in the midst of a contentious political campaign, who is also under fire from corruption and sexual harassment charges, is especially disturbing. From a practical point of view, I’m deeply worried that these charges are going to result in a lot of acquittals and another round of violence in Atlanta.

    I want bad cops held to account, but we need to recognize they are in a tough situation and they need clear rules and fair, independent, processes for reviewing their use of force. Replacing the blue wall with politically driven vengeful prosecutions is not that much of an improvement.

    (Less troubling but still annoying: I know there’s no such thing as a “perfect victim”, but the fact that Brooks was on probation and subject to prison for the DUI pickup seems to be very relevant to the situation. It was easy to find, but mainstream sources ignored it for five days until CNN dug up a Van Jones interview of Brooks from February, because we live in the craziest timeline. Even then, the fact that he was on probation for apparently domestic violence and child cruelty was seemingly ignored – no need to paint him unnecessarily as a villain, but if you’re going to paint him as a loving father who just wanted to get to his daughter’s birthday party, that’s not a balanced story either)

    So I guess, talk me off the ledge here. What am I missing?

    1. Randy M

      That’s the man who was shot at a Wendy’s after getting an officer’s taser, right?
      Someone (maybe Sailer?) pointed out that it was after previous contraversy that Tasers were no longer considered non-lethal weapons. Wiki says

      Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. said in 2020 that “under Georgia law, a taser is considered as a deadly weapon.” A 2012 study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation found that Tasers can cause “ventricular arrhythmias, sudden cardiac arrest and even death.” In 2014, NAACP State Conference President Scot X. Esdaile and the Connecticut NAACP argued that Tasers cause lethal results. Reuters reported that more than 1,000 people shocked with a Taser by police died through the end of 2018, nearly all of them since the early 2000s. At least 49 people died in 2018 after being shocked by police with a Taser.

      Possibly this is an example of misusing categories–that is, just because it is a deadly weapon, does not mean in represented an immanent lethal threat.
      But also possibly the officer had recently had been instructed that tasers are dangerous and they should take their usage seriously and reacted based on that.

      edit: Did not realize, per John below, that the victim was shot in the back. That certainly seems relevant. I should not speculate further w/o reviewing the video.

      1. Shion Arita

        That same DA also said about this case that the officer in question was not in danger of death or serious injury.

        link

        Whatever you think about either of the cases at hand, the hypocrisy of this guy is utterly staggering.

      2. viVI_IViv

        If I understand correctly, a taser is “non-lethal” in the same sense that a club is: it won’t necessarily cause life-threatening injuries in a single hit like a gun or a knife, but it is still a pretty dangerous weapon, and using it on an armed person is a pretty sure way of getting shot with justifiable cause.

        1. bonewah

          My understanding is that they are categorized as “less lethal” weapons, along with rubber bullets. Which is to say, they are less likely to kill you but they still can.

        2. Aapje

          A taser can also very plausible lead to the person taking the gun from a cop and shooting them with it.

      3. Walter

        I think Scott has an article about this. The ‘Toxoplasma Of Rage’. We aren’t talking about all the stuff that is unreasonable one way or the other, this is promoted to our perspective exactly because it will make us all salty at one another.

        Hrrm, I dunno if you’ve ever heard the ‘Airplane on a Treadmill’ question before, but it is that kind of thing. The signature property of this situation is that everyone thinks the other side are making an idiotic mistake. Nobody can be heard over the strawmen.

    2. John Schilling

      But the idea that it was blatantly, clearly, obviously murderous for Officer Rolfe to fire on a man who had literally seconds prior assaulted his partner and shot a taser at him (after that man had violently resisted a justified DUI arrest) is kind of insane to me.

      It is not legal to use lethal force against a person who has assaulted you five seconds ago. It is only legal to use lethal force against a person who is assaulting you right now, or is very likely to assault you in the near future. And even then, it is only legal to use lethal force if they assaulted you with a deadly weapon, or with such overwhelming force that death is a likely outcome.

      If someone shoots at you with a Taser and then runs away, and you then shoot them in the back with a real gun, you’re probably a criminal twice over. Once for shooting them in the back as they run away, and once for shooting them with a bullet when all they had was a Taser. That’s the law, even for police officers. There are edge cases where it might not apply; we’ll have a trial for that. But at first glance, it looks very much like a criminal homicide to me.

      1. gbdub

        I mean, in real time, Rolfe was being assaulted “right now”, as the taser was still pointed at him at the time he actually made a decision to shoot. The whole pursuit takes literally seconds, poring over it frame by frame is probably holding the individuals involved to an unreasonable standard. And the same DA who charged him had quite recently called a taser a deadly weapon under Georgia law.

        But this kind of gets to my point – I think there’s an argument that it’s criminal homicide, but it does hinge on some tough questions about what constitutes a deadly threat, what counts as “now” for evaluating a threat, what duty Rolfe had to the bystanders in that scenario, things like that. Definitely deserves a thorough investigation and quite possibly some charges.

        Deciding instantly that it was obviously murder and Rolfe is an evil racist killer is what I am baffled by.

        But anyway, it’s the 11 counts against Rolfe and basically any charges against Bronson that strike me as the real overreach, likely to result in acquittals on most charges.

          1. gbdub

            Should they? He was wrestling a larger man on the ground, and apparently got his head hit Pretty hard at some point.

        1. ECD

          Except, it was a taser. It was fired once at Rolfe. Rolfe fired once. It had two shots. At the time he shot Rolfe in the back, as he was running away, the man was armed with an empty weapon, which he either knew, or should have known.

          1. gbdub

            The taser was Brosnan’s not Rolfe’s. Rolfe still had his taser in his hand as he pursued Brooks (he switched the taser to his left hand and drew his pistol – it may have been empty). It’s not clear to me that Brosnan’s taser was empty after Brooks fired it once. It may have been, but expecting Rolfe to count shots in the moment is Hollywood fantasy.

          2. ECD

            Yes. I know that, which is why I said “it was fired once at Rolfe.”

            However, his partner had fired it once at Rolfe, directly in front of him. It was then fired at him. It was then empty. He then fired three times at a fleeing, unarmed man, shooting him twice in the back and hitting the car full of people trying to buy dinner once.

            That is a criminal act. Negligent at best, murderous at worst.

          3. Cliff

            Didn’t he shoot pretty much immediately after the taser was fired at him? Are we sure he knew the taser was empty, or that the guy was aiming a taser at him and not some other weapon (I heard they patted him down earlier, but still…)? I don’t know.

    3. SamChevre

      Compare this case–it seems to me similar. Insanely badly managed, but minute to minute no one behaved unreasonably. (I knew Jonathan Warner slightly several years prior.)

      It’s incredibly hard to figure out what the right answer is.

    4. metalcrow

      To go further into the claim that he was shot in the back, i’d really recommend reviewing the videos of the incident (i know this has commentary but i’m not aware of another source that includes all these angles). To me, it appears that the actually shooting only occurs when Brooks turns around while running and aims the taser at the officer again. So while he is shot in the back while running, that’s correct, he was also in the middle of pointing the taser (and may or may not have actually fired it, in the video you see the officer slump down after shooting so he may have been hit by the taser, it’s unclear) at the officer who then fires back. Which, to me, seems justified in using the only means of force you have left to prevent that from happening.

      Also, there’s the worry that while a taser may be non-lethal, if Brooks had succeed in incapacitating the officer with it (assuming he did fire it), then he now would have access to the officer’s pistol and his partner was too far away to prevent that access.

      1. gbdub

        Brooks definitely fired the taser, and Rolfe started shooting basically a beat later.

        I think what happened is that Rolfe’s taser was spent (they are apparently two-shot models) so he switched his pistol into his right hand. Brook’s taser may have also been spent, although expecting Rolfe to “count shots” may be a bit much. These kind of details seem like they will be brought up in trial, though I won’t claim to know their precise legal significance.

    5. Nancy Lebovitz

      The thing that gets to me is that Brooks offered to walk to his sister’s house. There was no need for the police to escalate matters.

      1. gbdub

        He also blew a 0.103 nearly an hour after the police had been called because he passed out behind the wheel in a drive through.

        If you don’t think that should result in going to the drunk tank, fine, but blame MADD, not the officer.

      2. GearRatio

        This isn’t the standard for anything. You don’t get to commit crimes and then get off scot-free because you promise to not commit them anymore and walk home. “I’m sorry I robbed that bank – since I’ll fight you otherwise and I’m willing to not rob another one this exact moment, so let me go” can’t be valid, or else why not drive drunk all the time?

        What’s to keep him from hiding in the bushes and driving drunk again that very night? He’s already proven he has bad judgement and doesn’t care if other people die so long as he can do what he wants. What’s to keep him from claiming he wasn’t drunk? Police don’t breathalize people and have them walk lines because “he looked pretty drunk to me, I guess” holds up in court.

        1. thisheavenlyconjugation

          You don’t have to arrest someone at the scene of the crime in order to punish them.

          1. GearRatio

            You very often do. Imagine word gets out that officers won’t make you stay so long as you act real fighty, and that you can in fact act real fighty before they give you sobriety tests of any kind. Sobriety tests are standard because “well, he looked sort of drunk” doesn’t hold up in court. Letting a guy go under these circumstances is 100% letting him and anyone else sober enough to remember “punching means I get off scott free” go with a near 0% chance of any repercussions at all.

            Now imagine anyone is committing any crime at all wearing a mask.

            You might be willing to sacrifice a large amount of the enforceability of a number of laws, but denying that there’s any effect at all on making “So long as you fight before evidence is gathered, you get away with it” canon is silly.

          2. Clutzy

            You have to arrest them at some point, and Floyd and Brooks were clearly a danger to the public at the initial time of detention. One was actively committing a DUI, and the other had been called in because a teller thought he was about to, then he went nuts.

          3. gbdub

            It hardly seems clear that Floyd “went nuts”. He certainly was not “nuts” for the several minutes before he died. And the cops were called because the teller thought he passed a fake $20.

          4. Aapje

            @gdbub

            And the cops were called because the teller thought he passed a fake $20.

            That is a false narrative being told by the media and others. The actual 911 transcript shows that a major concern of the caller is that Floyd seemed drunk and “not in control of himself,” but was trying to drive his car.

            Driving a car while not being able to control it, would make him a threat to other people.

            It’s also a good reason for wanting to detain the person, so they could sober up in jail, rather than do such dangerous things.

          5. gbdub

            This is the transcript:

            Caller: Um someone comes our store and give us fake bills and we realize it before he left the store, and we ran back outside, they was sitting on their car. We tell them to give us their phone, put their (inaudible) thing back and everything and he was also drunk and everything and return to give us our cigarettes back and so he can, so he can go home but he doesn’t want to do that, and he’s sitting on his car cause he is awfully drunk and he’s not in control of himself.
            (cut a few lines describing the van and Floyd’s physical description)
            Operator: On 38th ST. So, this guy gave a counterfeit bill, has your cigarettes, and he’s under the influence of something?
            Caller: Something like that, yes. He is not acting right.

            It’s not a “false narrative”. They called because Floyd passed an apparently fake bill and wouldn’t return the cigarettes. They didn’t confront him further because he seemed drunk. He was sitting on a car, not trying to drive away. Had he paid with good cash it does not seem like a call would have been made.

            In any case it doesn’t really matter, because, even if it was totally reasonable to arrest him, from the video it was obviously not necessary to kneel on him for 9 minutes and the police seem to greatly exaggerate the degree to which he resisted.

    6. AG

      What’s your intuition on charging someone who killed another in a bar fight that they instigated?
      How does the calculus change if the officer going to arrest Brooks in the first place was unjust?

      I have the perception that people should be allowed to resist unlawful arrest.

      1. Vitor

        I have the perception that people should be allowed to resist unlawful arrest.

        I disagree. Unlawful arrest should result in compensation, fines, even criminal charges against the arresters. Letting people make judgement calls about this in the spur of the moment doesn’t solve the issue of police overreach, it just puts everyone in danger.

      2. Randy M

        I have the perception that people should be allowed to resist unlawful arrest.

        With what degree of force? Obviously there are going to be a certain number of incorrect arrests because someone had a superficial resemblance to a suspect, or there was an incorrect report to the police. And many more who feel an arrest is unjust because the law is unjust, and many more who don’t think justice should really enter into the matter. So the police are going to see resistance that is unlawful far more often than resistance that is lawful and respond accordingly.

        Whether we should prosecute charges for resisting arrest when the arrest wasn’t deserved is a fair question, but encouraging resisting such arrests is probably very unwise unless we’re a lot farther down the road to dystopia than I think we are.

      3. Talexander Urok

        What’s your intuition on charging someone who killed another in a bar fight that they instigated?

        The person who instigated this is clear: the guy who got drunk and fell asleep in a drive-through.

        I have the perception that people should be allowed to resist unlawful arrest.

        How is the arrest “unlawful?”

      4. gbdub

        This was nothing like a bar fight until Brooks turned it into one.

        My general intuition would be to hold the police liable for harm caused during an unlawful arrest, but probably not if the officer reasonably believed the arrest was lawful. And in this case, it seems completely reasonable for Rolfe to believe the arrest lawful, and unreasonable for Brooks to assume otherwise.

        The decision to arrest Brooks rather than cite him and send him home is tragic, but only in retrospect. If everything is exactly the same, except that Brooks calmly (as he had been for 40 minutes) allows himself to be cuffed and arrested (for an arrestable offense he quite clearly committed), does anybody actually complain about the conduct of the officers?

    7. Vitor

      One thing that stood out to me was the extremely sudden / sneaky way in which the officer initiated arrest. This seems a dangerous and irresponsible to me, as it is a huge escalation of force (up from simply having a conversation) that spooks the person and increases the risk of this kind of tragedy. Protecting everyone’s lives should always be priority one for police, even at the risk of occasionally letting criminals get away.

      You could just inform the person that they’re under arrest. If they succeed in running away because you gave them a heads up, that’s not a problem: you just call reinforcements, go after them, and when you do pick them up, you slap an evasion of arrest charge on top. I believe they had the guy’s car right there, so it’s not like running away was a very useful thing for him to do.

      Also: I think it’s reasonable to consider tasers to be lethal weapons, but in that case the police had no business pulling them out against someone who is just trying to run away. Again an unnecessary escalation of force that prioritizes arresting the guy above everyone’s safety.

      There’s definitely something wrong with how the police went about their jobs. Not sure if it rises to the level of murder though.

      1. Talexander Urok

        when you do pick them up,

        How? You’ve already said they can’t use tasers on someone running, so what do you do when you’ve caught up to them, they’re out of breath, but aren’t willing to be arrested? Do you use the taser at that point?

        1. Vitor

          No, you don’t use the taser in that situation, since it’s dangerous. I don’t know what arrest procedures are typically used in countries that don’t use / ban tasers, but they somehow manage to arrest people.

          1. Vitor

            On a high level of abstraction I do know what the replacement should be: the arrest techniques that are used by police in functional, peaceful countries where police don’t have a reputation for brutality.

            I think what usually happens is an attempt to talk the person down, followed by multiple police officers grabbing the person and subduing them.

          2. ana53294

            followed by multiple police officers grabbing the person and subduing them.

            Except that the US has a big problem with too few policemen, and all this panic around defunding the police will worsen the problem.

            Yes, it is easier to solve a problem like this if you have five guys instead of two. The US has fewer policemen than other countries in proportion to their criminal populace.

            That’s why they have to used tasers.

          3. Talexander Urok

            the arrest techniques that are used by police in functional, peaceful countries where police don’t have a reputation for brutality.

            Just because you haven’t heard of something doesn’t mean it’s not there. Britain and France both had widely publicized riots where “police brutality” was cited as among the triggering factors if not the most important factor. You’ve probably heard of these, but have you heard of Aboriginal deaths in custody?

      2. gbdub

        I mean, he didn’t read him his whole Miranda rights before starting to cuff him, but he did tell him he was going to take him in. And it’s not like getting arrested after failing a field sobriety test and blowing significantly above the legal limit (after almost an hour!) should really be a shock.

        the police had no business pulling them out against someone who is just trying to run away.

        He punched one of the officers, and was warned he was going to get tased before they actually did it. What do you think tasers should be used for, if not that? “Get compliance from a guy physically resisting arrest before anyone gets seriously hurt” is pretty much the central use case if a taser – if you don’t think it should be, I’m open to the argument, but that needs to be a change in doctrine, not something enforced ex post facto with an assault charge.

        1. Vitor

          Well, I personally believe they shouldn’t be used at all. But assuming they’re carried by police, then they either count as a lethal weapon or not.

          If they’re deemed lethal, they should be used just like a gun: as a show of force, discharged only if there is imminent threat of death, etc.

          If they’re deemed nonlethal, then holding a taser is not a reason to shoot someone with a gun.

          But without getting lost in the details of this particular case, I am indeed talking about a significantly different doctrine. Something close to it exists and can be seen working in many European countries.

          “Get compliance from a guy physically resisting arrest before anyone gets seriously hurt”

          My main point is that there’s always an option to prevent people from getting hurt: letting the person (temporarily) go. If the police don’t have the situation under complete control, that’s what they should do. Hope that clarifies my position.

          1. gbdub

            That’s fine as a position – I think it’s pretty naive taken that far, but fine. (tasers can be dangerous, but so can just about any other means of physically restraining people, and at some point you’re going to have to force people into custody who don’t want to be there)

            What’s not fine is applying that standard to Brosnan and Rolfe as post facto criminal charges. That doctrinal change needs to happen before hand.

          2. Talexander Urok

            holding a taser is not a reason to shoot someone with a gun

            Suppose you were in a situation where you were being beaten. Not like in 7th-grade but an actual adult beating. And you have a gun. Your assailant’s already seen the gun and doesn’t care that you have it. Now you could say “I’d shoot, because I’d fear he could get the gun and shoot me with it.”(Which is what the defense will say in regards to the taser.) But suppose it’s a futuristic gun activated by fingerprints or something like that, only you can use it.

            Would you accept being beaten to preserve the life of your assailant? Would you accept being tased? It’s one of those things where I think you wouldn’t really know until you actually go out in the world and do the experiment.

            It really gets down to how you view the police making arrests, particularly arrests of blacks. Think about the following situations:

            1. You’re in your home and are confronted with a burglar armed with a taser and you have a gun.

            2. You’re a policeman charged with arresting people who break the laws, and one of the lawbreakers is black and has a taser and has attacked the police.

            I think some people see the person in situation 1 as being 100% justified, whereas the person in situation 2 is only 80% justified. Because they view the system as being inherently racist, they’re gonna second-guess all of person 2’s decisions in a way they would not do for person 1., who they’re gonna see as the victim by default.

          3. John Schilling

            Would you accept being beaten to preserve the life of your assailant? Would you accept being tased?

            It doesn’t really matter whether you or I or anyone else here would accept it. That is what the law actually requires, and “it’s a stupid unjust law and I shouldn’t have to obey it” is a defense that should be particularly unavailable to anyone who has sworn to uphold the law in exchange for pay.

          4. gbdub

            It clearly isn’t what the law requires in Florida, or else George Zimmerman wouldn’t have been acquitted. I believe the standard is “death or serious bodily harm” and “getting beaten” certainly counts.

            “Guy shooting a taser at you while fleeing arrest” is going to be up to up to this jury and possibly an appeals court. Although on face it does seem less serious than “getting beaten and unable to escape”.

          5. John Schilling

            It clearly isn’t what the law requires in Florida, or else George Zimmerman wouldn’t have been acquitted. I believe the standard is “death or serious bodily harm” and “getting beaten” certainly counts.

            “Getting beaten” does not count. Getting your head smashed against a concrete curb after you’re already down, can justify the use of lethal force. But only if it actually happens. Using lethal force against someone who is delivering the usual sort of beating, just because you think he could smash your head against a concrete curb or whatnot, gets you convicted of manslaughter.

            Like it or not, that’s the law. You are in fact required to accept “getting beaten”, if the only way you can think to stop it is with a bullet. If you really, honestly can’t tell the difference between “getting beaten”, and the sort of very unusual circumstances that justify the use of lethal force, this is a good place to start, but you may actually want to pay a lawyer to explain it to you before you find yourself in a jail cell screaming “what did I do?”

          6. gbdub

            I interpreted “getting beaten” to be much closer to getting smashed against the ground while down than “engaging in fisticuffs”, the latter of which is yes, not justifying of deadly force.

            The Georgia law is:

            a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony

            (Emphasis mine)

            If you are being beaten to the point of “great bodily injury” (certainly possible!) that would count.

            Shooting someone with a taser is, as far as I can tell, aggravated assault in Georgia (a “forcible felony”). So I think, barring any other circumstances, if someone is trying to assault you with a taser, you are justified in using deadly force in your defense.

          7. GearRatio

            “Getting beaten” does not count. Getting your head smashed against a concrete curb after you’re already down, can justify the use of lethal force. But only if it actually happens. Using lethal force against someone who is delivering the usual sort of beating, just because you think he could smash your head against a concrete curb or whatnot, gets you convicted of manslaughter.

            This is about half true, but only on a superficial level. What you need in most jurisdictions to justify protecting yourself with lethal force is a reasonable fear of serious bodily harm or death.

            So let’s say you tell your friend this, honestly believing it:

            I’m going to rush this guy with a machete, then pretend to drop it, then deliver unto him the usual sort of non-lethal beating. It will be hilarious.

            The guy you rush with the machete now has a justifiable idea in his head that you are trying to kill him or cause him serious bodily harm. In fact you are not trying to do this, but it doesn’t matter. When he shoots the apparent murderer trying to kill him, he’s probably legally fine if all the facts are known.

            Imagine being told this:

            I was dragged into an alley by a stranger who threw me to the ground and started kicking me viciously in the head and ribs. Thank God I had my gun and was able to shoot him before he killed me.

            We have no idea if that guy was actually trying to kill your friend, but there aren’t many juries who are going to rule that murder or manslaughter. It’s possible to go to prison for murder in that situation, but it’s far from a sure thing and to present it as one is incorrect.

            The key here is A. The fears possessed by the one being assaulted and B. The reasonable nature of those fears.

            There are other wrinkles in this, but there are a ton of situations where simply getting beaten can result in a legally justified instance of self defense.

            Like it or not, that’s the law. You are in fact required to accept “getting beaten”, if the only way you can think to stop it is with a bullet.

            This as you stated it is again pretty shaky ground. In the link you provide, the expert you recommend relays a story in which a man getting beaten; it seems from the story he has been hit once in the face. He feels the only way to stop the beating is to shoot the other man, which he does, and is exonerated.

            He went to trial, so it is at least possible he could have gone to prison for this. But his successful defense amounted to “our client was afraid, and his fears were reasonable, so shooting the other man was a reasonable way to defend himself”.

          8. John Schilling

            Did either of you even read the link I provided, by an ex-cop who has testified as an expert witness in I think several hundred self-defense cases? Your armchair theorizing is wholly at odds with the way actual courts have actually implemented the law across the United States.

          9. gbdub

            Maybe turn the snark down a bit and address how “being assaulted with a taser” would not constitute a forcible felony, which deadly force is justified to prevent, in Georgia, or any of the other substantive points I or GearRatio made.

            I read the Ayoob interview and skimmed the rest – I’m not sure exactly where I’m supposed to see it as so blatantly addressing the issue as to elicit your rude response. The Ayoob interview seems to be largely about several cases where deadly force was found to be justified against unarmed assailants in the presence of “disparity of force”. So it’s not a slam dunk defense, and you may have to defend yourself at trial, but clearly there are cases where a “deadly weapon” in the hands of the attacker was not required to exonerate a person defending themselves.

            I don’t think any of us here is insinuating that a few punches automatically justify gunshots.

          10. GearRatio

            Did either of you even read the link I provided, by an ex-cop who has testified as an expert witness in I think several hundred self-defense cases? Your armchair theorizing is wholly at odds with the way actual courts have actually implemented the law across the United States.

            I in fact quoted it. Again, you are saying, in absolute terms, things like this:

            “Getting beaten” does not count. Getting your head smashed against a concrete curb after you’re already down, can justify the use of lethal force. But only if it actually happens. Using lethal force against someone who is delivering the usual sort of beating, just because you think he could smash your head against a concrete curb or whatnot, gets you convicted of manslaughter.

            Like it or not, that’s the law. You are in fact required to accept “getting beaten”, if the only way you can think to stop it is with a bullet.

            Both those bolded sections are both untrue in general US law and, and pay attention, untrue as stated by the link you provided and either didn’t read or didn’t understand.

            From the thing you yourself provided:

            That man had repeatedly threatened him, and when that man showed up at his front door and then attacked him, beginning with a sucker punch to the face that almost knocked him out and knocked his teeth loose, he realized this crazy person is going to get through this door and attack my wife and my kids and I won’t be able to stop him. He drew his .45 and shot the man to death.

            So, is this story about a man who was exonerated on self-defense grounds after shooting a man who hit him once in the face more consistent with my “A simple beating suffices as grounds for self defense if frame of mind can be illustrated, or your “Only AFTER your head is being bashed into concrete can you defend yourself” take? Because it seems like you didn’t read your own link.

            You are presenting proportional use of force as if it’s the only thing considered in justifiable self defense; it’s not.

            Let’s look at actual code. Oregon:

            a person is not justified in using deadly physical force upon another person unless the person reasonably believes that the other person is:

            (3)Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force against a person. [1971 c.743 §23]

            Texas:

            (2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:

            (A) to protect the actor against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly force; or

            New York:

            2. A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person under circumstances specified in subdivision one unless:

            (a) The actor reasonably believes that such other person is using or about to use deadly physical force. Even in such case, however, the actor may not use deadly physical force if he or she knows that with complete personal safety, to oneself and others he or she may avoid the necessity of so doing by retreating; except that the actor is under no duty to retreat if he or she is:

            You might notice a pattern here.

            There’s no nice way to say this but it is, I believe, necessary:

            You state that a simple beating is never sufficient to exercise deadly force. This is not so; your own link says it is not so. The law says it’s not so.

            The law both in how it’s written and how it’s (often) interpreted in court very much takes state of mind and circumstance into consideration. You are saying it doesn’t; this is wrong. You are saying you need an acid test like your head currently being bashed into concrete; this is both incorrect and contradicted by your own sources.

            While you would not be wrong in stating that people have gone to prison for disproportionate use of force in cases where they were being beaten and shot someone, this isn’t absolute. In stridently and confidently presenting it as an absolute truth in a situation where it very much isn’t, you are being inaccurate at best and dishonest in search of a victory in an argument at worst.

          11. Cliff

            Using lethal force against someone who is delivering the usual sort of beating, just because you think he could smash your head against a concrete curb or whatnot, gets you convicted of manslaughter.

            This is simply wrong. “The usual sort of beating” is a reasonable threat of death. People die from “usual beatings” or beatings that start out as “usual” all the time. No one has to accept being beaten without defending themselves with deadly force.

          12. Clutzy

            John, you really need to back down on this. Your position is not only not the legal rule in any jurisdiction it is fundamentally at odds with biology. If someone is attacking you such that you have a reasonable fear that they would land a disabling blow, that is a lethal situation. The only person who reasonably would not think this is a person in armor with significant backup (aka a riot police situation), or like Bruce Lee engaging a 5’0” woman. Its always possible to take a hit to the jaw, and then most people will be unable to defend themselves for 30+ seconds, at which point a deadly blow can be delivered, this is magnified dozens of times over for someone who’s carrying a weapon, because that weapon can be used against you. In the case of the taser, this is the same. The chance of being disabled when a violent felon is afoot is no different than a threat of possible death.

            To be honest, your take makes me think you never have played a combat sport, and possibly no contact sports at all. If you had you would probably have seen how easy it is for concussions to happen, and how totally disabled a severely concussed person is. Even a mild concussion is potentially deadly against a foe of nearly equal power. Stomps aren’t hard to execute.

  9. Reborn

    Re: Assessing the risk of cancellation

    I argued in the last OT, via anecdotes from my wife’s company rather than any large numbers, that the total number of cancellations may be far higher than many folks here seem to believe, low thousands rather than low hundreds or just dozens.

    Here’s another aspect of the issue that should be considered in assessing risk, but I see little way to consider it in any systematic fashion:

    How likely is it for any given effort to cancel someone who has strayed outside Overton window to succeed or fail?

    How often do employers respond to decent sized cancel mobs either by ignoring them or with a full-throated defense of the idea that what employees do outside of work will never affect their employment status at company X (unless it’s criminal).

    I can’t think of such a response off the top of my head, but that obviously isn’t much evidence one way or the other.

    1. Uribe

      I can remember receiving in the 1990s an Offer of Employment letter from a Fortune 100 company stating that my continued employment was subject to such things as “my personal reputation” and “conduct outside work”.

      I could be wrong but my guess is that was boilerplate language for large corporations at the time.

      a full-throated defense of the idea that what employees do outside of work will never affect their employment status at company X

      If that happened, it would constitute a huge change in US corporate culture, one I would heartily welcome. Keep in mind that many companies still test and fire employees for having traces of marijuana in their systems, even in jobs where being stoned poses no physical danger, even in states that have legalized marijuana.

    2. keaswaran

      This is the sort of comment where I think it really makes sense to define your terms. Not many people are “canceled” in the sense of being famous and having an audience, and then losing that audience because of something offensive that they said – mainly because not many people are famous and have an audience, and because it’s very hard to quickly lose an entire audience unless your fame was very brief. (Milo Yiannopoulos might be the closest I can think of.)

      If it’s about losing your job because of something offensive you said, then there are clearly tens of thousands people – everyone who has ever lost their job after a shouting match with the boss.

      If it’s about losing one’s job because of third-party pressure, that’s probably getting closer to what I think you’re talking about, but I’m still not quite sure.

      1. Spookykou

        I understand canceled to mean, third party social media pressure on your employer/the public to fire/stop supporting you. It is an attempt to place economic sanctions on an individual, by the mob, I imagine because economic sanctions are the most palatable form of punishment for the left.

  10. proyas

    In the last open thread, I solicited thoughts on what the best design would be for a robot that could defeat all humans in hand-to-hand combat while being no larger than an average human adult. Ideas converged on something resembling an oversize insect whose low center of gravity and many legs would make it almost impossible to knock over and awkward for a bipedal human to tackle.

    Time for part two of this thought exercise. You are a human and you want to fight such a robot in hand-to-hand combat. What kind of tactics and gear would you use to have the best odds of winning?

    Restrictions:
    -You can wear any type of body armor so long as it is not “powered.”
    -You can use handheld melee weapons like swords, but no projectile weapons, explosives, or electronic weapons.
    -You can wear personal protective equipment like gas masks and biohazard suits.

    1. FLWAB

      Cover the floor in oil? At minimum it would be amusing to see a robot spider trying to keep it’s balance while slipping across a floor.

      More seriously: the human is very unlikely to win if the robot is armored, which I would imagine it is. Your best bet may be a warhammer or pick, hitting the body as hard as you can, and hoping you break something inside. Lets go with a Lucerne hammer so you have some reach. Still, if the designers did their job right then I would imagine the internal components are well protected from sudden shocks or blows.

      1. proyas

        The oil will only do anything if the ground is hard and smooth. If you have to fight in the woods, on the grass, or on a floor made of metal gratings, it will be useless.

        Also, in the other thread I decided the robot would have hands, so it could grab your long hammer and yank it away from you.

        1. FLWAB

          Hey, I didn’t say the hammer was likely to work. Honestly, I don’t think a human is likely to beat a robot in hand to hand combat. Being stronger and tougher than humans is one thing machines have always been good at: try going hand to hand against a windmill and see how well it goes.

    2. broblawsky

      Would chemical agents designed to attack the polymers & lubricants in the robot’s joints be acceptable?

      1. proyas

        Yes, but what tactics would you use to deploy the chemicals against the robot? If you get close, it will grab you.

        1. broblawsky

          A spray bottle or something like a super-soaker would be ideal, but failing that, something like a censer full of solvents you could whirl around your head to disperse could also work.

          That’s basically a Warhammer 40k solution, isn’t it?

    3. Well...

      Can you bring powerful magnets? How about buckets of water?

      Anyway, I’m surprised a bug design won out. Bugs have long spindly legs with a limited range of motion. These can be snapped in half or completely off. If you give the legs a wider range of motion then they’re not as powerful. This means either the bug is very weak and slow, or it’s quick and strong but with some luck and cojones you could jump on its back and then, once you’ve secured a grip, start yanking off legs and twisting body segments.

      I would have thought a low, wide, and heavy pyramid or cone design would do better. If the pyramid is covered with lots of tiny sharp needles like a prickly pear cactus, and then it moves at you quickly and gets you against a wall or in a corner, you’re going to fall onto it. If those spikes are poisoned or electrified you’re in trouble. And it’s well protected and could be designed so it can rapidly change direction, so it can just keep ramming you up against a wall until you’re too tired to deftly jump out of the way.

      1. proyas

        Its legs would be double-jointed, so if you jumped on its back, it would put you in a bear hug.

        1. Well...

          Wouldn’t they be considerably weaker then? Isn’t there a trade-off between range of motion and strength, just for simple leverage reasons alone?

    4. Thomas Jorgensen

      ‘ “Sticky Thermite Charge”. Its not an explosive, its an incendiary. Still a generalized victory button against machinery. And there is no more or less no circumstances under which one cant be manufactured – its just rust, aluminum shavings and a magnesium strip.

      1. proyas

        Hmm. That’s not technically cheating, but in spirit, I think it’s the same as the banned use of explosives.

        But the again, glue is also a chemical that is not banned under the rules.

        Not sure. Maybe thermite is OK.

      2. Dragor

        How feasible is this? I see a couple of issues:
        1) If this is being applied in melee range, how is this not to be a suicide attack? Run away and hope the robot doesn’t follow?
        2) How are there sticky thermite charges? Do you superglue it?

    5. oriscratch

      How strong are the legs? If the legs are made of really strong and thick metal, you’re screwed. Your only hope to damage it in melee combat is to get a really tall, extremely heavy metal pole (like a flagpole, but solid metal) and tip it over onto the robot as soon as you can, hoping the force of gravity is enough to break something important. Anything muscle-powered will be useless.

      If the legs are fragile (and if they are, then an insect design probably wasn’t a good idea in the first place) then whack them with a hammer, and maybe drop a net to see if the legs get tangled up for a bit. Otherwise, run into inconvenient places (stairs, pools, tight spaces) and hope it runs out of power or gets stuck.

        1. oriscratch

          I guess then it depends on how strong the joints are.

          If you attempt to build an insect-like robot at normal human weight with current technology, the joints will be super weak. (If using current technology, insect legs or anything similarly complicated probably wouldn’t be a good idea at all—some hybrid of wheels and simple legs with few joints, like this, would be better.)

          I assume proyas is assuming some kind of future tech in which any kind of complicated robot design is feasible without the current size or weight limitations. In that case the joints would probably be pretty strong—even current combat robots with simple moving joints hold up quite well when hit with hammers.

          1. JayT

            Other than avoiding it until the battery died, what could a person really do in hand to hand combat against one of the robots that Boston Dynamics has made? Obviously you could start grabbing wires, but a simple sheet metal skin covering all that would fix that problem. metal is really hard, I just don’t see how you could take one of those robots out, and they would only have to connect with your head once to lay you out flat.

          2. Well...

            The BD robot is impressive, but it does look like it would lose very quickly if an unskilled but motivated and healthy adult could grapple it to the ground. Like, if you could weigh its main body section down with your own body, it looks like you could easily grab a robot arm or leg and start bending it backward to snap it off. And a solid kick to the edge of one of those wheels, parallel to the axle, would almost certainly break it off.

      1. proyas

        Assume all the limbs are made of strong alloys. The joints would be the weakest points on each limb, but no weaker than the corresponding joints in analogous human limbs.

    6. Aftagley

      I didn’t read all of last-threads discussion, so maybe this was addressed, but can I just wait for it to run out of power?

      1. proyas

        No, in the other thread I decided that wasn’t an applicable strategy. The robot is programmed to run away if it realizes it will run out of power before it can kill the human.

    7. Shion Arita

      Might be going against the spirit of the idea, but what about a sea urchin-like construction with really sharp blades?

      1. proyas

        That won’t work because the robot has to be able to move around at least at human walking speed, and must be able to go everywhere a human can go. That means getting over fallen logs, fitting through doorways, climbing steps and ladders, etc. There can’t be easy ways to escape it, like climbing a tree.

          1. proyas

            No, it’s not a cage match. That’s an unrealistic fight scenario, and we must, above all, ensure this thought experiment is as realistic as possible.

          2. oriscratch

            and we must, above all, ensure this thought experiment is as realistic as possible.

            That sounds suspicious. Almost like you’re planning something . . .

          3. Well...

            I would think that for “human fights robot with a bunch of restrictions on both human gear and robot parameters — restrictions that seem designed to keep it pretty close and interesting” a cage match is absolutely the most realistic scenario.

    8. AliceToBob

      Ludicrous, but: several 2L containers of fast-curing thin glue, some protective gloves, full respirator, thick clothes, and light body armor.

      I assume all containers are sealed initially, but that they’re designed to open/close fairly quickly in order to prevent curing in place as much as possible. I don’t need to hit the robot square on with my first containers, but if I can target a few legs and/or the ground it scuttles over, then I should gain an advantage. Subsequent containers can be used to further lock its movement.

      Once it’s immobilized, I’ll figure out how to extract its CPU, switch it to “write mode”, and make polite conversation until it understands why humans cry.

      1. proyas

        Someone suggested glue in the last thread, so someone else said the robot should be Teflon-coated.

    9. AG

      Drop something heavy on it from at least 8 feet above.

      Depending on the strength of the robot’s construction, a kusarigama-type weapon.

        1. AG

          Looney Tunes rules says you can’t avoid the falling grand piano.

          But Looney Tunes also says the robot goes down whichever way is funniest, so. Hit it with some existential questions!

    10. Phigment

      I lure it into a nearby industrial facility and crush it with a hydraulic press.

      It’s the traditional solution. If it’s good enough for Sarah Conner, it’s good enough for me.

      If there’s not a hydraulic press available, crucibles of molten steel, magnetic particle accelerator coils, and whirling power turbines are all acceptable substitutes.

      1. proyas

        It would have eyes and would be smart enough to recognize a hydraulic press or some other dangerous piece of machinery and avoid it.

    11. David W

      Kill its cameras and other sensors, and you’re done. So…give me one of these along with a pole to mount it to and some form of metallic paint in a sprayer. Metallic paint ought to do a pretty good job of killing both cameras, lidar, and radar, and if I’m really lucky it’ll short out motors or batteries or some such.

      I’m not sure if I have to actually do anything once it’s blind, it’ll probably wander around in circles until it runs down. If I’m feeling ambitious I can use the pole to lever it upside down once it’s blind, or to break its joints – that gets a lot safer once I don’t have to worry about it retaliating.

      Alternately, if this robot is built with anything resembling current technology, I could go for its cooling fans to kill its brain and batteries. Make some dust bunnies out of Kevlar thread, scatter them on the ground, toss them, use my pole – somehow get it to suck up the thread. Once the thread winds around the fans and plugs the heat sinks, it’s just a matter of time before it cooks itself. If I want to be more proactive, I can do this with that pole-sprayer and some expanding foam instead.

      1. proyas

        This is probably the best response so far.

        What if it has many camera “eyes” located on different parts of its body? You wouldn’t be able to spray off of them at once, meaning it would be able to grab your long-pole sprayer in the middle of your attack and yank it away or break it.

        Also, even if you blind it, it would have microphone ears and could hear you walking around it and get a general idea of where you are.

    12. valleyofthekings

      Hide some large heavy objects in the ceiling. Lure it into position and then pull a rope to drop the heavy objects on it. Exact mechanics of the ceiling trap are left as an exercise for the reader.

      1. proyas

        That idea does not conform to the requirements that this be about hand-to-hand combat or use of certain types of close-range weapons.

    13. Loquat

      First of all, your post doesn’t specify a one-on-one fight, so I’m bringing half a dozen friends with me.

      As for weapons and tactics, I’m thinking long spears and nets, like the retiarius gladiators in ancient Rome. If we can snare this thing, it’ll be a lot easier to stab it somewhere important, or even tie it up and carry it away to be studied/dissected at our convenience.

  11. SG

    I’m trying to make sense of a discussion that was in the comments of this post on Steve Hsu’s blog: https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2020/06/twitter-attacks-and-defense-of.html It started with someone’s statement that “biology departments are highly feminized nowadays”:

    Commenter (not me)>What does “biology departments are highly feminized nowadays” mean? Is it just that biology departments have hired more women than other departments in the sciences? Or is there something else about the nature of biology department nowadays?
    > It means that the emphasis is no longer on science (rigor) but on felt identity and lived experience and other insane bullshit.
    >It means Purdue’s Engineering School’s Dean of Education has added mandatory courses in “inclusion” that will “explain” to students that there is no such thing as “mathematical truth”, only social constructs infected and shaped by racist and sexist prejudices. God help us if we ever have to cross a bridge designed by a Purdue grad.

    My question, which I’m not sure anyone there will answer: All I can find so far on the Purdue Engineering website is a requirement that undergraduates take one ethics course, with a list of options to choose from. I haven’t looked through all of the engineering majors yet, but do you have a link to more information about these new inclusion course(s)? Or examples of this type of course at other universities and where they fit in to the existing programs of study? So far this looks like a pretty traditional engineering program but maybe I’m not looking in the right place.

    Adding:
    From my perspective as a graduate student, we do talk a lot about inclusion and identity as it relates to hiring and teaching practices, but it’s not really built into the curriculum in the way that these commenters are describing. We do talk about the way that culture affects different fields in non-obvious ways, including STEM, but that’s quite far from declaring that “there’s no such thing as mathematical truth.” I’d like to understand how much curricula and research are changing in practice. I don’t mean so much the “cancel culture” part, but rather how any of these ideas are playing out in actual teaching and research. I’m also curious: do people consider qualitative research to be a “feminized” approach?

    More thoughts: the battle of “rigor vs. inclusion” has been playing out in a number of different fields for a long time. My opinion is that it’s a false dichotomy, but I’d like to understand it better. One thing that would help is looking at examples of specific decisions that educators/researchers have made (should I teach this vs. that?) and whether there’s a third option.

    1. Gerry Quinn

      Well, the idea of a field being “highly feminised” turns me off – women’s brains, just like men’s, function logically much of the time. If you are going to say “highly influenced by feminist ideology” or “male professors in the field are totally c—-d”, say so, and I will consider your assertion.

      1. SG

        I mean I was trying to skip past that phrasing for a moment to understand the substance of the complaint. It’s a little hard not to react to “feminized,” but if the word was “blorbled” or something and you were trying to understand what topics/approaches were being grouped under that and which were not, what sense would you make of the discussion?

      2. Le Maistre Chat

        Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

        — C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books“

        I think it is not sufficiently noted how women are hurt by academic feminism (all leftism, actually) treating logic as masculine and lack of rigor/emotions as feminine. Women and non-Asian minorities get held to lower standards as a mark of empathy, or something.
        Then full-blooded sexists and racists turn this ideology around and say things like “The reason higher education doesn’t turn highly logical STEM grads who can also read Classics in the original is that they admitted women, who tore down standards they couldn’t meet due to biology, LOL.”

          1. DeWitt

            (all leftism, actually) treating logic as masculine and lack of rigor/emotions as feminine.

            I don’t think you actually believe this, since I don’t think anyone on SSC is stupid or evil enough to believe this. I reject the premise entirely.

        1. broblawsky

          I’ve been trying to ignore the straw-leftist positions put up on SSC by various posters for the last couple of weeks, so as to avoid getting into more stupid, pointless arguments, but this is beyond the pale. Less of this, please.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            Sorry. I am just extremely confused. I was trying to claim that the Foucault and Derrida type New Left exists and has supplanted the Old Left (Marxism) in academia. Derrida coined neologisms like “phallogocentrism”. I’ll stop talking about the social status of postmodernism/post-structuralism/deconstruction if you want. I’m just extremely confused that bringing it up is a “Less of this, please.”

          2. Randy M

            @Dewitt
            I realize this thread has irritated you, and you may not mean this quite literally. But if you do, could you define evil such that this is an extreme example of it?

          3. DeWitt

            @Randy

            Evil here is knowingly lying about people when you know you are doing so. Here we have a poster who is spreading spurious lies about all of leftism; I think it wholly, truly, immensely obvious that what she’s accusing all of leftism of believing is false. So much so that she is either genuine and extremely stupid for believing her own lies, or lying for her own purposes and evil for it.

            (I also accidentally reported your own comment in the process of replying to it, sorry. My bad.)

          4. Le Maistre Chat

            @DeWitt: I’m trying to apologize that “academic feminism, but also the rest of the New Left” came out wrong. It seemed to me that Foucault and Derrida, et al, eclipsed the Old Left in popularity in academia, a claim I thought was relatively mainstream due to high-profile events like the Sokal affair and Sokal Squared.
            Like, Marx was demonstrably wrong but he believed in logic and derived conclusions from data he collected in the British Library. That’s very much not what I was talking about and keep trying to apologize.

            EDIT: @Randy: That was what I was trying to state. That there’s a thing called the New Left (often called postmodernism, though the most prestigious writers like Foucault preferred other terms like post-structuralism) that university feminism is a part of.

          5. Randy M

            Le Maistre Chat, I think you meant to state that more strains of academic leftism than just feminism treat logic as inherently masculine and thus object to it being seen as a superior reasoning method.

            Your post is being read, uncharitably but not unreasonably, as saying all liberals, academic or otherwise, eschew reason.

            (I could be wrong and really have no business in this thread but want to offer a better phrasing in case of genuine misunderstanding)

          6. broblawsky

            feminism (all leftism, actually) treating logic as masculine and lack of rigor/emotions as feminine

            As a leftist and a feminist, I don’t think that this is a majority position among leftists, or even a substantial minority position among leftists. If anything, the stereotype on left – which I personally disagree with – is the opposite: men are overly-emotional (in an aggressive, brittle, easily wounded way) and women are reasonable and practical (in an empathetic way). Personally, I feel like you invented this belief without actually talking to any leftists or feminists about their ideas, which is why I described it as a strawman argument.

            Regarding your position on postmodernism – I don’t think that postmodernism is responsible for the introduction of humanities as a requirement for STEM classes. If anything, AFAICT, students used to be held to even higher standards for non-STEM classes before the introduction of postmodernism. My personal feeling, as a STEM graduate, is that postmodernism is almost entirely irrelevant to the decisions made as to modern college curricula.

          7. broblawsky

            I think you could make an argument that postmodernism is prestigious in academia, but if your logical chain is:
            a) Postmodernist feminism is prestigious in academia
            b) Postmodernist feminism regards logic as masculine and emotion as feminine, and considers the latter superior
            c) Due to a) and b) classes requiring logic are reduced in importance and classes requiring emotion are increased in importance.

            Then b) is utterly unsupported and appears to be either a case of projection, a strawman, or both. Also, c) can only proceed from a) if you assume that that academic prestige results in the ability to dictate curricula outside of the humanities, and I don’t think there’s any evidence for that.

            Moreover, this is just one in a series of fallacious misrepresentations of leftists here on SSC. It doesn’t seem to matter how much work we employ to explain our ideas; rightists thank us for our contributions, then ignore them so that they can call us tyrannical morons.

          8. Belisaurus Rex

            I think this is one of those situations where both sides take a disliked group or stereotype and try to attribute it to the other side.

            Are paternal attitudes towards women liberal or conservative? You can make an argument for or against either, but not everything has to fall along political lines. (even in an election year)

          9. Le Maistre Chat

            @broblawsky:

            It doesn’t seem to matter how much work we employ to explain our ideas; rightists thank us for our contributions, then ignore them so that they can call us tyrannical morons.

            Sorry, I spoke a term error and didn’t mean to do this.
            I think the root problem is that those of us who are cancelable are trying to understand the dialectical underpinnings of the cancelling people system. When mobs do things like cancel statues of Christopher Columbus, it bears a resemblance to Mao’s Cultural Revolution, but it would be false to say Maoism is their ideology. We want to reason out what it’s called,who believes it, and why.
            I understand it’s not fair to use the same label for you as the current criminal mobs and Twitter mobs. I’m trying to avoid outgroup homogeneity bias in labeling their ideology.

        2. lhudde

          I think it is not sufficiently noted how women are hurt by academic feminism (all leftism, actually) treating logic as masculine and lack of rigor/emotions as feminine.

          To be fair, I don’t think you can fairly blame this on the modern Left, and certainly not on modern feminism. The tendency to position emotion/spirit and logic/rigor as opposites, which then get mapped onto a gender binary, has been around at least since the mid-18th-century (Thomas Laqueur definitely has his weaknesses, but I do like his account of this shift in models).

          My sense is that the culture gets way more invested in that binary through the 19th century, as industrialization tends to associate (masculine) labor ever-more-strongly with machines, accounting, and cold soulless business relations that do violence to normal human sensibilities. Meanwhile, the middle-class home gets the productive economic activity drained out of it and becomes reimagined as this unproductive leisure space of female nurture, spirit and love, where everything is personal and you just roll around in your feeeelings all day long.

          The modern Left is generally in the Romantic tradition, so I think they tend to unconsciously assume the truth of both the logic/emotion binary and the associated mapping to masculine/feminine (while likely also agreeing with the mainstream Romantic sense that the feminine spirit-and-feeling is the more valuable and high-status half of the pairing, for both men and women). But lots of socially conservative movements have also preached that binary.

          (For my part, I miss the good old days when being ruled by your passions was a bad thing for men AND for women. What a weird world we live in.)

      3. Aapje

        @Gerry Quinn

        Perhaps the person meant people-oriented/empathizing vs thing-oriented/systematizing.

        There is fairly strong scientific evidence for a substantial differences in where the peaks are for the normal distribution, for men vs women. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t collect binders full of very thing-oriented women and people-oriented men.

        women’s brains, just like men’s, function logically much of the time.

        No, ‘normal’ people (of either gender) don’t think logically. Or at least, far from 100% logically, because I object to your entire black/white framing, where one thinks either logically or one doesn’t.

        1. Gerry Quinn

          Note that I said “much of the time” allowing for a healthy amount of irrationality regardless of sex. Also, the original post I objected to was about fields of research becoming “feminised”. Fields of research are supposed to be more logically centred than the thoughts of any particular person.

    2. Aftagley

      We do talk about the way that culture affects different fields in non-obvious ways, including STEM, but that’s quite far from declaring that “there’s no such thing as mathematical truth.”

      My personal perspective is that kind of person who is most likely to complain about these kinds of classes is the least likely to have actually been through some of them.

    3. anonymousskimmer

      Edit to add: https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2020/06/twitter-attacks-and-defense-of.html#comment-4952559088
      Wow, that post is a straight up screed against a changing status quo (by an academic retiree).

      I bet it’s a CW twist of the standard complaint against Gen Ed requirements.

      https://catalog.purdue.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=10&poid=15989&returnto=13408

      Fall 1st Year
      *- CHM 11500 – General Chemistry ♦ (FYE Requirement #5) – Credit Hours: 4.00
      *- ENGR 13100 – Transforming Ideas To Innovation I ♦ (FYE Requirement #1) – Credit Hours: 2.00
      *- MA 16100 – Plane Analytic Geometry And Calculus I ♦ (FYE Requirement #3) – Credit Hours: 5.00 or
      *- MA 16500 – Analytic Geometry And Calculus I ♦ (FYE Requirement #3) – Credit Hours: 4.00
      *- Written Communication Selective ♦ (FYE Requirement #8) – Credit Hours: 3.00-4.00 (Satisfies Written Communication for Core) or
      *- Oral Communication Selective ♦ (FYE Requirement #8) – Credit Hours:3.00 (Satisfies Oral Communication for Core)

      There is an identical requirement the second semester.

      For the Written Communication requirement you need to select from the following courses:
      *- AMST 10100 America and the World
      *- CLCS 23100 Survey of Latin Literature (Summer 2019 and earlier only)
      *- CLCS 23700 Gender & Sexuality in Greek & Roman Antiquity (Summer 2019 and earlier only)
      *- CLCS 33900 Literature and the Law (Summer 2019 and earlier only)
      *- COM 20400 Critical Perspectives on Communication
      *- EDCI 20500 Exploring Teaching as a Career
      *- ENGL 10600 First Year Composition
      *- ENGL 10800 Accelerated First Year Composition:
      *- HONR 19903 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Writing
      *- PHIL 26000 Philosophy & Law
      *- SCLA 10100 Transformative Texts: Critical Thinking & Communication I: Antiquity to Modernity
      *- SPAN 33000 Spanish And Latin American Cinema (Summer 2020 and earlier only)

      For Oral communication from the following courses:
      *- COM 11400 Fundamentals of Speech Communication
      *- COM 21700 Science Writing and Presentations
      *- EDPS 31500 Collaborative Leadership: Interpersonal Skills (Fall 2013 and after only)
      *- SCLA 10200 Transformative Texts: Critical Thinking & Communication II: Modern World

      For the University itself, the following Gen Ed graduation requirements exist for all majors (I presume):
      University Core Requirements
      *- Human Cultures Humanities
      *- Human Cultures Behavioral/Social Science
      *- Information Literacy
      *- Science #1
      *- Science #2
      *- Science, Technology, and Society
      *- Written Communication
      *- Oral Communication
      *- Quantitative Reasoning

      Just based on the course titles I bet the bolded courses, at the very least, discuss philosophical and ethical concerns that the poster has a problem with.

      1. SG

        Thanks for the reply. Huh. This seems like totally standard general ed to me, plus students get to pick which one they take.

        1. Aapje

          I think it depends very much on the content of the courses. For example, take COM 20400 Critical Perspectives on Communication.

          Such courses typically teach students to critically assess the goal of the person doing the communicating. However, this can be taught in a way that respects the person as a complex human being or it can stereotype them (for example, as an old white male), causing the communication to be judged based on that stereotype, rather on what was actually communicated.

          Anyway, I listened to a little interview with the teacher of the course intended for prospective students & read the lecture notes. I definitely see a substantial leftist bias. For example, he spends one class doing his best to advocate Marxism and have his students reflect critically on that. Then he does the same on other days, discussing: ‘modernism,’ postmodernism, critical theory and race theory (including standpoint theory, that those with less power have a more objective view).

          According to the teacher, the goal is for the students to be able to able to distinguish these theories, but they are all leftist theories. No conservatism, libertarianism, isolationism, etc. So the course seems to reduce the outgroup homogeneity bias towards the left, but keep it the same or increase it towards the right. Also, by having the trained and experienced teacher make the case for various leftist ideologies and have the students rebut that a bit (surely not that well), it seems to me that it works as a sort of menu offering: these are the ideologies that you can choose from.

          Teaching students the actual strengths and weaknesses of an ideology doesn’t involve bombarding them with the best arguments for the ideology from many different philosophers and then having them make up counterarguments on the spot, but also present the best counterarguments that exist. As it is done now, the deck is being stacked.

          1. broblawsky

            Or you could just take Spanish And Latin American Cinema. Nobody’s making prospective students take a specific class.

          2. Belisaurus Rex

            Spanish and Latin American Cinema is the only *safe* one, and even there it’s likely to be Pro-Allende and anti-Pinochet movies.

          3. Aapje

            @broblawsky

            You don’t think that there is politics in Spanish And Latin American cinema??

            Anyway, I was primarily responding the claim that this is just “standard general ed.” I disagree with that. I think that if a right-wing or centrist person would teach COM 20400, it would not be taught this way.

            So then it is not ‘standard’, but ideological in nature.

      2. proyas

        *- Written Communication Selective ♦ (FYE Requirement #8) – Credit Hours: 3.00-4.00 (Satisfies Written Communication for Core) or
        *- Oral Communication Selective ♦ (FYE Requirement #8) – Credit Hours:3.00 (Satisfies Oral Communication for Core)

        What’s wrong with studying these subjects? Teaching students how to effectively communicate is entirely legitimate, can directly impact one’s later academic and professional success, and is a skill that I’ve heard is increasingly weak among college freshmen. I know professors who teach undergraduates at highly-ranked public colleges, and they both say they’re shocked at how inept many freshmen are at communicating simple ideas in writing. Like, it’s so bad it shakes their faith in their institutions.

        1. Belisaurus Rex

          My faith in institutions is shaken, and these classes are part of the institution. Learning the skills would be helpful if these classes did or could actually teach them. You’d need a stellar professor to teach a fluff class.

    4. Aapje

      @SG

      Scientists and activists have been recently debating in my Dutch newspaper whether the hard sciences should be decolonized, so I assume that this is also debated at universities.

      Apparently, a popular figure among the decolonizers is C.K. Raju, who distinguishes between real math, which is practical, and racist Western math that also does pure logic, which is detached from practical use and is bullshit. He and his supporters definitely want to change mathematical methods to something that they argue is both simpler to use and more powerful, but that racist Western people refuse to use, because it is an Indian way of doing things.

      Yet he and others like him commonly accuse Western science of having taking principles from non-Western sources and hiding their origins, so apparently the West is not so racist that we won’t steal good ideas (yet we didn’t steal Raju’s ideas…could they be… bad?)

      It all gives me very Lysenkoist vibes, who was a crank that preferred winning through political means over proving that his ideas are superior.

      More thoughts: the battle of “rigor vs. inclusion” has been playing out in a number of different fields for a long time. My opinion is that it’s a false dichotomy, but I’d like to understand it better.

      Currently, inclusion at American universities is done at least in part by lowering the entry requirements, which results in certain groups that are admitted being less talented than other groups. These are then less capable of handling high-level material, so a logical way to prevent these people from flunking out and thereby undoing the ‘inclusivity,’ is to lower the difficulty of the courses. If you want these people to then become professors or such, it again helps to lower the quality, to reduce the need to put a thumb on a scale.

      PS. I don’t know anything about Purdue and this matter.

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        I think that standards would lower even if “certain groups” weren’t allowed in, whatever you mean by that. Students complain, even above average ones, and since students are paying customers, the course is watered down to their level. No one goes to college to get C’s anymore.

        No need to bring in “inclusivity” to explain it.

        1. Aapje

          I mean ‘certain groups’ as in the groups that benefit from affirmative action.

          Your comment completely fails to understand what I argued in a way that makes me despair a bit.

          My claim is:
          – Affirmative action has a goal (‘inclusivity’)
          – Affirmative action uses lower standards for some groups to achieve this goal
          – Ergo, affirmative action causes these students to differ in average talent from other groups.
          – Ergo, if you have high standards, these students will fail more often
          – Ergo, if you don’t want these students to fail more often (because you want ‘inclusivity’), favoring lower standards helps this.

          The claim by SG was that there is no conflict between rigor vs. inclusion. The above suggests that this conflict does exist, if you define inclusion as greater representation of certain groups, the same groups that benefit from affirmative action.

          1. Belisaurus Rex

            No, I got your point, I just think that rigor was going down the drain anyway regardless of whether you have affirmative action or not.

            I specifically mention that even “good” students, who have the potential to do better work, will still agitate for easier classes because they are not the “best” students. And even the best students might want their credential and get out.

            My Diff Eq class was very rigorous, probably more rigorous than I needed (my career does not involve differential equations), but I got an A. Every other student complained and now it’s a rubber stamp. That would have happened even without affirmative action.

            Edit: I wasn’t arguing against you, just saying that perhaps you have the causality backwards. Rigor could drop BEFORE inclusion begins.

    5. AG

      The funny thing is that lack of inclusion has made some of the research have less rigor. Most notably, medical research and human biology knowledge is heavily weighted towards how they are expressed in white male patients. For example, Lyme Disease is most commonly identified by a rash, but that doesn’t work for darker skins, so POC and especially black people are more likely to suffer more serious effects from late diagnosis. It took too long to recognize that heart attacks would manifest differently in women, and mental conditions as ADHD manifest differently in different sexes and races, too. The stigma around menstruation has resulted in policies built around false assumptions. And, of course, there’s the repercussions of doctors’ fatphobia.

      1. Aapje

        @AG

        For example, Lyme Disease is most commonly identified by a rash, but that doesn’t work for darker skins, so POC and especially black people are more likely to suffer more serious effects from late diagnosis.

        This example and your heart attack example are both really weak. The ‘bullseye’ not being visible on dark skin means that the best sign of the disease is missing for black people. This is not due to racism by the doctors, nor does the disease actually express differently in black people (it’s just not as visible). If doctors are aware that this is the case for black people, it is still harder for them to diagnose the disease in black people (just like it is harder for black people to self-diagnose).

        It’s not the case that having more diversity will magically solve this. Black doctors don’t have black vision that allows them to see bullseye marks in black skin. Having black subjects in studies also doesn’t mean that researchers necessarily find something better for black people, especially since pretty much anything that would work well for black people, should work well for non-black people (because the disease doesn’t actually manifest differently).

        Heart attacks manifest more fuzzily in women, which makes it far from clear that doctors can ever achieve similar results diagnosing women, as they can for men. Diagnosis may be better for women if doctors are aware of this, but it’s very unlikely to become as good as for men, unless we get body monitors or the like, but that will benefit men a lot too.

        1. AG

          I don’t mind if the benefits from better diversity considerations in medicine benefit men, too.

          But the situation is that before some of these things were pointed out, the minority populations were simply assumed to not have these issues. Women were simply taught to look for the same heart attack symptoms as men, leading to some women dying because they dismissed their own symptoms.
          In the case of Lyme disease, this indicates that technologies could be developed to address this difficulty, by doctors and patients alike.

          1. albatross11

            There are diseases with different prevalance across races, and medicines that seem to work differently on average in different races. as And there are, of course, huge biological differences between men and women. So taking this into account in doing medical studies seems really valuable.

            But I’ll note that this isn’t really consistent with the common talking points that “race has no biological meaning” or the even nuttier ones that deny biological sex differences. If you really believed that race was scientifically meaningless, you wouldn’t need to include black and white subjects in your medical studies. Nobody worries about including enough people with even-numbered vs odd-numbered SSNs in their studies.

            And as with many, many other examples, deciding that ideology is more important than reality, or that we need to replace literally true truth with social truth, or that we should push forward a noble lie to accomplish good goals–all that turns out to make everything work worse, and often to land harder on the people your ideology claims to want to help than on everyone else.

          2. Aapje

            @AG

            I agree that teaching women differently might help a bit. Where I disagree, is that it will bring women up to par with men in their ability to self-diagnose (unless you give men less accurate information than women).

            I don’t mind if the benefits from better diversity considerations in medicine benefit men, too.

            You are missing my point completely there.

            Your argument is that medicinal advances are not done because of an obsession with white men. I argued that white men would benefit too from pretty much any technology that would help black people with Lyme, so there is no reason why an obsession with white men would currently keep this technology from not being developed.

            You seem to believe that there are huge medical advances being left undiscovered because of a lack of diversity, which I very much doubt.

      2. rumham

        The stigma around menstruation has resulted in policies built around false assumptions.

        What policies?

          1. cassander

            On the third, I always find it entertaining when people on the left stumble over the high cost of taxes and government regulations, only to pick themselves up and carry on without absorbing any lessons.

        1. Gerry Quinn

          Or, indeed, what stigma?

          I mean, for sure some women may be a bit embarrassed when it happens, and some men may be offput by it. But everyone – even those who may have issues – knows it is just biological reality.

      3. matkoniecz

        there’s the repercussions of doctors’ fatphobia

        What you mean by that? Because being fat/obese/overweight is not healthy – are you denying this?

        1. AG

          There are cases where overweight people get prescribed dieting and exercise for any symptoms, and the doctor refuses to try and diagnose anything else. Deiseach has talked about this sort of thing several times.

          1. Nancy Lebovitz

            I’ve brought it up, too.

            I know a number of fat people whose treatable conditions were ignored by doctors for years or decades.

            I also know 3 people who were told their fatness contributed to ear infections, but I think they were able to get treatment.

      4. Jaskologist

        Lyme disease is diagnosed using blood tests for antibodies. It’s only getting identified off the rash if the person themselves notices it and brings it to the doctor’s attention; it doesn’t stick around for very long, and many people never get it at all.

        This has nothing to do with white male test subjects.

  12. FLWAB

    I feel bad for Derek Chauvin and the other police officers who are being charged.

    I read this article that laid out why Derek is probably not going to be convicted. The long and short of it is that Derek followed Minneapolis procedure to the letter. He did what he was trained to do, and that training was based off of research supported by the medical experts. He did things by the book and now he’s being excoriated as a monster by the entire country and is going to be tried for murder. I feel even worse for the other cops who were charged, as they were also following procedure. They do this kind of thing all the time, they followed the guidelines exactly, and usually people don’t die. Apparently two of those officers had only been working for less than a week! And now they’re in jail for murder.

    I would recommend reading the article as it goes into good detail, but here’s a summery from the article itself:

    There are six crucial pieces of information — six facts — that have been largely omitted from discussion on the Chauvin’s conduct. Taken together, they likely exonerate the officer of a murder charge. Rather than indicating illegal and excessive force, they instead show an officer who rigidly followed the procedures deemed appropriate by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The evidence points to the MPD and the local political establishment, rather than the individual officer, as ultimately responsible for George Floyd’s death.
    These six facts are as follows:

    George Floyd was experiencing cardiopulmonary and psychological distress minutes before he was placed on the ground, let alone had a knee to his neck.

    The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) allows the use of neck restraint on suspects who actively resist arrest, and George Floyd actively resisted arrest on two occasions, including immediately prior to neck restraint being used.

    The officers were recorded on their body cams assessing George Floyd as suffering from “excited delirium syndrome” (ExDS), a condition which the MPD considers an extreme threat to both the officers and the suspect. A white paper used by the MPD acknowledges that ExDS suspects may die irrespective of force involved. The officers’ response to this situation was in line with MPD guidelines for ExDS.

    Restraining the suspect on his or her abdomen (prone restraint) is a common tactic in ExDS situations, and the white paper used by the MPD instructs the officers to control the suspect until paramedics arrive.

    Floyd’s autopsy revealed a potentially lethal concoction of drugs — not just a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, but also methamphetamine. Together with his history of drug abuse and two serious heart conditions, Floyd’s condition was exceptionally and unusually fragile.

    Chauvin’s neck restraint is unlikely to have exerted a dangerous amount of force to Floyd’s neck. Floyd is shown on video able to lift his head and neck, and a robust study on double-knee restraints showed a median force exertion of approximately approximately 105lbs.

    Let’s be clear: the actions of Chauvin and the other officers were absolutely wrong. But they were also in line with MPD rules and procedures for the condition which they determined was George Floyd was suffering from. An act that would normally be considered a clear and heinous abuse of force, such as a knee-to-neck restraint on a suspect suffering from pulmonary distress, can be legitimatized if there are overriding concerns not known to bystanders but known to the officers. In the case of George Floyd, the overriding concern was that he was suffering from ExDS, given a number of relevant facts known to the officers. This was not known to the bystanders, who only saw a man with pulmonary distress pinned down with a knee on his neck.

    And here is a relevant and prophetic excerpt from the white paper that Minneapolis PD used as support for their policy of restraining people with ExDS in the way Chauvin did (emphasis mine):

    Given the irrational and potentially violent, dangerous, and lethal behavior of an ExDS subject, any LEO interaction with a person in this situation risks significant injury or death to either the LEO or the ExDS subject who has a potentially lethal medical syndrome. This already challenging situation has the potential for intense public scrutiny coupled with the expectation of a perfect outcome. Anything less creates a situation of potential public outrage. Unfortunately, this dangerous medical situation makes perfect outcomes difficult in many circumstances.

    In those cases where a death occurs while in custody, there is the additional difficulty of separating any potential contribution of control measures from the underlying pathology. For example, was death due to the police control tool, or to positional asphyxia, or from ExDS, or from interplay of all these factors? Even in the situation where all caregivers agree that a patient is in an active delirious state, there is no proof of the most safe and effective control measure or therapy for what is most likely an extremely agitated patient.

    There are well-documented cases of ExDS deaths with minimal restraint such as handcuffs without ECD use. This underscores that this is a potentially fatal syndrome in and of itself, sometimes reversible when expert medical treatment is immediately available

    What makes me most sad is that a man died, four men are in jail on murder charges, and riots have destroyed many small businesses and killed several others, all because someone recorded a cop following procedure to the letter as he restrained a man who was on dangerously high levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine. As far as I can tell Chauvin was just trying to do his job.

    The article compares Floyd to several other cases where cops have restrained people who were on dangerously high doses from drugs and who died. It happens all the time. So maybe we need to change how police handle people who are in that state. Maybe the current policies are too dangerous. That would be a useful reform. But it seems to me that the riots and protests are not interested in merely reforming police restraining procedures. They’re convinced that Chauvin intentionally killed Floyd because he was black. And when the trial comes and Chauvin is acquitted (because he followed procedure) those people are going to be furious. They’ll be convinced it is yet another racist injustice. And they’ll be wrong. And they’ll burn down more buildings and kill more cops. And nothing will be solved. Or, perhaps worse, Chauvin will be convicted anyway as a sacrifice to show the world that we’re tough on racism. Injustice used to create the perception of justice. I doubt it will happen that way though, our courts system is designed to give the defendant the advantage and Chauvin seems to have a pile of exculpatory evidence to work with.

    This whole situation is depressing.

    1. Randy M

      Say a cop is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to some time in prison. What is that time expected to be like? Are they kept separate from the general population? Are the other guards careful give or to not give preferential treatment? Are they in danger of their life 24/7 with few if any sympathetic outsiders noticing? Or do other prisoners simply not care?

      I wonder if fear of extrajudicial punishment is one reason cops are unlikely to snitch on even corrupt police?

      (For the record, I am against knowingly allowing prison violence against any prisoner and find jokes about such distasteful, as I’ve mentioned here before.)

      1. Gerry Quinn

        I don’t think that’s an issue really, society might choose to let the worst child molestors fend for themselves, but in general they try to protect the less egregious offenders from abuse.

      2. POGtastic

        I can’t speak to anything except for the Arizona corrections system. Like policing, corrections in America are widely decentralized. Policies are determined at the state and often the local level.

        Eyman has a wing of the prison specifically for law enforcement officers who have been convicted of felonies. They’re kept away from everyone else, but they can socialize with each other.

      3. DavidFriedman

        (For the record, I am against knowingly allowing prison violence against any prisoner and find jokes about such distasteful, as I’ve mentioned here before.)

        You might be interested in reading David Skarbek’s book, The Social Order of the Underworld, which is about prison gangs. By his account, the rise of prison gangs as an unofficial legal system using violence resulted in a sharp drop in prison murder rates.

        1. Randy M

          That does sound interesting and the thesis isn’t surprising. Although it slightly undercuts the idea of a major downside to prison being the training or connections one makes in prison enabling an ease of entry into greater crimes upon release.

          Not disproves it, but makes points out an upside, anyway.

    2. Jacobethan

      In 1890s France, if you believed Alfred Dreyfus was innocent of espionage and being used as a scapegoat for larger national failings, that made you a Dreyfusard.

      If the view becomes more widespread that Derek Chauvin is innocent of at least the most serious charges against him and is being used as a scapegoat for larger national failings, will the proponents be known as Chauvinists?

      (Mainly I just want some future history major to encounter a reference to “male chauvinist pigs” from like 1978 and become thoroughly confused about everything.)

      1. Milo Minderbinder

        Hahahaha, seconding the thanks. Hopefully enterprising hashtaggers will converge on this idea.

    3. Aftagley

      What makes me most sad is that a man died, four men are in jail on murder charges, and riots have destroyed many small businesses and killed several others, all because someone recorded a cop following procedure to the letter as he restrained a man who was on dangerously high levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine. As far as I can tell Chauvin was just trying to do his job.

      I would accept this argument if Floyd had died instantly upon being put in the stressed position. He didn’t. He died slowly over the course of 8:46 and watching the video he was perfectly capable of letting the cops know that he was dying. Putting him in the stressed position is defensible, keeping him in it isn’t.

      Keeping the knee on the neck for that long… I don’t know. I find it to be a criminal lack of empathy on the part of a uniformed official.

      1. FLWAB

        I find it to be a criminal lack of empathy on the part of a uniformed official.

        Unfortunately Chauvin hasn’t been charged with lack of empathy: he’s been charged with second-degree murder.

          1. FLWAB

            Thus the word “criminal” in Aftagley’s post.

            Unless I am mistaken, lack of empathy is not a crime under Minnesota law.

          2. Aftagley

            lack of empathy is not a crime under Minnesota law.

            Right, but some of the actions that such a lack of empathy empowers are, thank goodness.

            Would you be happier if I phrased it as “the continued use of a maneuver that is seemingly resulting in a man’s slow death is both indicative of a criminal act (second degree murder) and displays a horrendous lack of empathy on the part of the police officer?”

            I read those two statements as being functionally identical, but I’ll be explicit if necessary.

          3. gbdub

            But manslaughter and negligence are, and I think Chauvin is probably guilty of both.

            I mean, I don’t think he’s guilty of “premeditated murder”, but he kneeled on a handcuffed man’s upper back and neck for 9 minutes while the man slowly died begging for his life. Thats a lot more than merely “lack of empathy”.

          4. John Schilling

            Unless I am mistaken, lack of empathy is not a crime under Minnesota law.

            The legal term is “depraved indifference for human life”, which if it results in actual death is a crime just about everywhere. Perhaps not 2nd degree murder, almost certainly manslaughter.

            Aftagley’s use of something other than the technical legal term, doesn’t invalidate the argument.

          5. FLWAB

            Minnesota’s Second Degree Murder law applies to anyone who

            causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense

            Chauvin was following police procedure in his position as a law enforcement officer: it is hard to argue that any of those things is a felony offense. Chauvin was also charged with Third Degree Murder which in Minnesota is

            Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life

            This gets closer. Presumably the “criminal lack of empathy” might mean that Chauvin had a depraved mind without regard for human life. However it is hard to argue that a police officer following police procedures on restraining a suspect is acting with a depraved mind. The procedures themselves state that restraining someone with ExDS is always dangerous, but that they need to be restrained anyway to prevent them from hurting others. Given that the procedures say “do this dangerous act in order to prevent others from being hurt” it’s hard to say that Chauvin following those procedures was acting without regard for human life. Juries may disagree.

            That leaves us the last charge of Second Degree Manslaughter which Minnesota defines as

            A person who causes the death of another by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another

            So the question is, did Chauvin show culpable negligence by creating an unreasonable risk? Considering that PD procedure stated clearly that restraining people with ExDs is risky but cops should do it anyway, it seems arguable that by following his training Chauvin was making a reasonable risk. If the risk wasn’t reasonable then why would he be trained to take it? If the risk is unreasonable then Chauvin could hardly be culpable for thinking it was reasonable given that he was provided with training that told him it was a reasonable risk.

            Conviction will be difficult given these considerations. There is no law that requires Chauvin to listen to people he is restraining, and as far as I can tell the ExDs procedure Chauvin followed does not have a clause that says “do this unless the person you’re restraining says he can’t breathe.”

          6. DeWitt

            Chauvin was following police procedure in his position as a law enforcement officer: it is hard to argue that any of those things is a felony offense.

            If police procedure proscribes something that’s a felony offense, it’s still a felony offense. If the MPD’s procedure proscribed for police officers to set the first red car they see on fire every Friday the 13th it is still criminal for them to comply, no matter what the department says.

      2. AliceToBob

        @Aftagley

        I would accept this argument if Floyd had died instantly upon being put in the stressed position. He didn’t. He died slowly over the course of 8:46 and watching the video he was perfectly capable of letting the cops know that he was dying. Putting him in the stressed position is defensible, keeping him in it isn’t.

        An important question might be: How long does it take for someone with Floyd’s health/weight/age/etc., and with those levels of fentanyl and meth in his system, to die in a non-stressed position?

        Perhaps it’s within the realm of plausible for someone to die of those drug doses over a period of minutes, slowly losing consciousness as the respiratory distress gets worse. Maybe it’s rare for someone in that situation to die instantly. Do we know either way?

        1. Aftagley

          An important question might be: How long does it take for someone with Floyd’s health/weight/age/etc., and with those levels of fentanyl and meth in his system, to die in a non-stressed position?

          Years, not minutes. There has been no evidence presented that indicates Floyd was on track to die prior to his involvement with the police.

          1. AliceToBob

            @ Aftagley

            Years, not minutes. There has been no evidence presented that indicates Floyd was on track to die prior to his involvement with the police.

            The medium piece may turn out to be fiction, but it’s making at least one claim that runs counter to yours:

            Floyd’s autopsy revealed a potentially lethal concoction of drugs — not just a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, but also methamphetamine. Together with his history of drug abuse and two serious heart conditions, Floyd’s condition was exceptionally and unusually fragile.

            If true, then I don’t know if this implies minutes to live, or it’s more likely for someone to die instantly or years later from this potentially lethal fentanyl dose (and some meth).

            A central claim seems to be that the knee on the neck killed Floyd. The medium article suggests it may have been some combination of drugs and the knee. Perhaps the knee was indeed the murder weapon. Or perhaps the knee was a negligible factor, and Floyd would have lapsed into unconsciousness and death in the same amount of time otherwise due to the drugs.

            I don’t know and, again, the medium article may show up as bunk in court. But I don’t understand how you’re arriving at conclusions that a) had Floyd died “instantly”, it would validate one interpretation of events, or b) that Floyd necessarily had “years” to live.

            edited: forgot quotes around the medium article’s text.

        2. gbdub

          I believe both the MEs (county and Floyd’s legal team’s) ruled the death a homicide, differing only in whether his existing health issues were a contributing factor. So the question is kind of moot – we are not going to get a better answer.

          1. AliceToBob

            @ gdub

            So the question is kind of moot – we are not going to get a better answer.

            I’m nowhere near as confident as you that this issue has been explored fully and won’t come up during the trial, but I guess we’ll see.

          2. gbdub

            I mean, unless there is third autopsy report, which there won’t be because Floyd is buried, expert opinion is that, whatever other health issues he may or may not have had, he died of homicide.

            The Floyd family autopsy said “asphyxiation”. The county ME said “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” which seems to be a fancy way of saying “his heart and lungs gave out because of the way he was restrained”.

            Not much room in there to get “he OD’d and Chauvin had nothing to do with it”

          3. AliceToBob

            @gdub

            I mean, unless there is third autopsy report, which there won’t be because Floyd is buried, expert opinion is that, whatever other health issues he may or may not have had, he died of homicide…

            …Not much room in there to get “he OD’d and Chauvin had nothing to do with it”

            Okay, but again, I don’t see this as necessarily being the end of the story on this aspect.

            Might the defense have medical experts testify in ways that undermine the prior reports?

            Must the defense argue Chauvin had nothing to do with it in order to thwart a murder charge?

            Could Floyd’s underlying conditions mentioned in the ME report–like fentanyl– be used to mitigate the charge of murder?

            You seem pretty confident that these issues are moot. I just don’t share your confidence.

          4. Cliff

            The article does make the claim that those with excited delirium may struggle against any restraint of any nature until their hearts give out, but that failure to restrain them is dangerous to others as well as themselves, and they may still die without any restraint.

    4. Pandemic Shmandemic

      Yeah, so that’s a load of horse crap and “excited delirium syndrome” seems to be a fictitious condition made up solely for the purpose of justifying the use of force, an attempt to put on a medical facade on “that guy looks angry, might get violent as far as we can tell”. It is basically unfalsifiable, especially by medically untrained people in the field, does not seem to be recognized by any serious medical organization that is not tied to law enforcement and the fact that they were talking about it means nothing because that is probably what they were taught to do to preemptively cover their asses.

      I really hope that “they were just following orders and procedures” won’t cut it here for anyone involved and fwiw I supported George Zimmerman’s acquittal based on the evidence that he was physically assaulted prior to shooting and I also don’t think George Floyds murder was racially motivated per se in that it could have been committed just as easily against a white suspect or against a black one by one of the black trainees.

      1. rumham

        I have spent many hours arguing with a police officer about the over-use/abuse of excited delirium as a condition to explain post taser deployment deaths. But I have an EMT friend who mentioned to me that he was trained for it and has seen it a few times in the wild.

        1. Pandemic Shmandemic

          Intoxicated or even sober people getting violently angry when confronted by cops or EMTs is not a new or disputed phenomena, but wrapping it up in a “syndrome” to make it more weighty in reports and legal proceedings and using it to justify the use of force before the subject has shown any signs of violence or offered physical resistance is just theater.

          And once restrained it would have been even less justified to keep him with a knee pressed against his neck in if the officers genuinely believed he was in a medical distress.

          1. rumham

            Intoxicated or even sober people getting violently angry when confronted by cops or EMTs is not a new or disputed phenomena

            I think it’s a bit more than that. I haven’t seen this in any official definition, but the way he described his experience with it was that the person gets ramped up and just keeps ramping up until his heart stops. He saw one guy drop from it before the cops arrived, so not restrained in any way.

            And once restrained it would have been even less justified to keep him with a knee pressed against his neck in if the officers genuinely believed he was in a medical distress.

            This I agree with, but if someone is cuffed and detained, then if they get away, is the city legally responsible if he hurts himself? If so, this could be helped by altering the incentives.

          2. Pandemic Shmandemic

            I think it’s a bit more than that. I haven’t seen this in any official definition

            That’s because there is no official definition. Drug-induced psychosis is a thing, cardiac overload from drugs like cocaine or amphetamines is a thing, violent rage (which also raises blood pressure) is a thing – take two or more of these and here’s your syndrome.

            With George Floyd there were no signs of him being in violent rage and he didn’t attempt to overpower Chauvin, ask your EMT friend after having them watch the video if this was the state they were taught to recognize as excited delirium.

            This I agree with, but if someone is cuffed and detained, then if they get away, is the city legally responsible if he hurts himself? If so, this could be helped by altering the incentives.

            If the city is not legally responsible for killing him it will probably not be legally responsible if he hurts himself but if the concern here is for the safety of the officers they could cuff his ankles together, a lot easier than pressing a knee against his neck for 10 minutes.

          3. Aapje

            @Pandemic Shmandemic

            It doesn’t describe (merely) violent anger, but a state where people are insensitive to pain (which negates many of the less lethal police weapons), act very irrationally and self-destructively and have extreme strength (which makes controlling the person very difficult).

            For example, see this video. At one point the guy is taking a break (or at least, yelling “I am Dimitrius” over and over) and the cops try to take advantage by hitting his legs with their batons to take him down. He doesn’t even flinch. Earlier they repeatedly pepper sprayed him to no effect. Once they do manage to get him down, it takes 5 men using a lot of violence to keep him down.

            And once restrained it would have been even less justified to keep him with a knee pressed against his neck in if the officers genuinely believed he was in a medical distress.

            The issue is that ‘restrained’ is relative. The common forms of restraint work in no small part by convincing the suspect that their chance of escape is small or non-existent and them giving up on resisting. Dealing with people who lack that conviction is extremely hard, since they will use any physical freedom to attack (kicking, biting, spitting, headbutting, etc), attempt to escape or test out how much freedom they actually have. For some people, you can add self-destructive behavior to that list.

            If you look at it from Chauvin’s point of view, he is dealing with a person who fiercely resisted being put in the police car and who only calmed down when put in this position. The behavior of this person matched what he was told about excited delirium, so he was trained to believe that this hold was best for the suspect. The person already claimed to have difficulty breathing while standing up, so if he says the same when lying down, is he still hyperventilating from the fight & is his breathing going to improve when restrained effectively? Or is it going to get worse? Or doesn’t the hold change what was going to happen anyway?

            I think that any answer given with confidence is based on ideology and/or bias, rather than scientific fact.

            With hindsight it is easy to argue that because he died when held like this, he must have lived if let up. Of course, if he had gone back to fighting with the police in that scenario and had died while the police was struggling with him, the activists would probably find fault with that too.

          4. DeWitt

            There is also the question of whether or not policemen are qualified to diagnose anyone with obscure medical conditions on the fly, and whether or not they should get away with murder by claiming that they were super duper sure they had the scawy angwy mood, your honor.

          5. Aapje

            @Pandemic Shmandemic

            With George Floyd there were no signs of him being in violent rage and he didn’t attempt to overpower Chauvin

            We are missing several minutes just before the three officers held him on the ground, when they struggled with him in the car.

            If the city is not legally responsible for killing him it will probably not be legally responsible if he hurts himself but if the concern here is for the safety of the officers they could cuff his ankles together

            Handcuffs are not designed for the legs and the police typically seems to use special cuffs, if they cuff the legs. Were these available?

            Also, in the Donald Lewis case, the guy’s hands and legs were cuffed and a (black) police officer still thought it necessary to place a knee on the suspect’s neck.

            @DeWitt

            That goes both ways, though. Are they any more qualified to judge when someone is in medical distress?

          6. DeWitt

            I don’t really understand why you’re asking this, but I’d argue that they are not (meaningfully) more qualified, no.

        1. Pandemic Shmandemic

          It’s an accusation, not a claim. Superfluous is probably a better term than fictitious.

          1. Aapje

            So you are arguing that the symptoms do exist, for which the police of Minneapolis decided that this was the appropriate response, but that it is not in itself a single medical condition?

            If so, is that relevant? After all, the police are not going to treat ill people, but just have to deal with the symptoms people exhibit. If there are two different illnesses that are hard to distinguish, but there is police behavior that works relatively well in both situations, doesn’t it make sense to just teach the police that it is one thing? Just because it may matter to a doctor whether it is A or B, because the doctor has to give medicine A or B, doesn’t mean that it matters to the police.

          2. Pandemic Shmandemic

            Yes this is relevant, if the responding police officers were acting on the assumption that he was suffering from ExDS which was a bona fide life threatening medical condition then once calm and not resisting, which according to all reports was the case before Chauvin even arrived they were supposed to treat it as a medical emergency and get some EMTs on the scene rather than trying to get him into the police car.

            From the video it is pretty clear that the reason Chauvin kept kneeling on his neck was not to restrain him but to use it as punishment in order to get him to get up and get into the police car.

          3. Nancy Lebovitz

            “but to use it as punishment in order to get him to get up and get into the police car.”

            Worse than that, Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd’s neck while telling Floyd to get into the police car.

    5. slapdashbr

      Bullshit. That medium post is bullshit. The author is both lying and omitting the extremely limited scope when certain actions may be legally performed.

      George Floyd was experiencing cardiopulmonary and psychological distress minutes before he was placed on the ground, let alone had a knee to his neck.

      How does the author know this? They don’t. They’re making shit up.

      “Excited Delirium syndrome” is something made up by a coroner to justify the deaths of arrestees killed by police violence. It’s “forensic science” made up to help the police with no more evidential backing than bite-mark analysis.

      1. Pandemic Shmandemic

        This, has anyone ever successfully used ExDS as a mitigating argument against assault or resisting arrest charge ?

      2. Don P.

        In terms of incentives: maybe what’s needed is for a few verdicts of “those cops were trained to believe something blatantly and stupidly false, which caused them to commit a crime”, and then the famed police unions can start demanding that their officers not be taught garbage that leads to them committing second-degree homicides. I mean, if nothing else works.

        1. AG

          That only works so long as someone actually gets convicted despite the defense. If it’s a successful defense, the union’s incentive is to keep that useful defense around.

      3. FLWAB

        How does the author know this? They don’t. They’re making shit up.

        They got that information from the government complaint against Derek Chauvin. It says (emphasis mine):

        The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of squad 320 from the driver’s side. Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still. Mr. Floyd is over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.

        While standing outside the car, Mr. Floyd began saying and repeating that he could not breathe. The defendant went to the passenger side and tried to get Mr. Floyd into the car from that side and Lane and Kueng assisted.

        This is a statement of the facts as understood by the prosecution. Why would they lie in a way that would make their case harder?

    6. DeWitt

      How far exactly are we going to be willing to extend this reasoning?

      Let us take the hypothetical Policetopia. The local precinct has very stringent guidelines and training procedures; in Policetopia, you see, officers are taught from day 1 that criminals have superhuman arteries and can literally never die from getting shot. They’re going to drop, all right, but will never die.

      Should the state prosecute Policetopian officers who end up murdering whosoever they shoot ‘because they were trained to do so?’

      Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck well after the man was cuffed and incapacitated. That he cannot be prosecuted for murder is an unfortunate consequence of having a properly working legal system, but arguing that he shouldn’t be convicted of murder is a hard sell in my eyes.

      1. FLWAB

        For your argument to make sense, the precinct procedure on restraining individuals with ExDs would have to be obviously false to an reasonable person, in the same way that saying criminals can’t die from being shot is obviously false to a reasonable person. In comparison the procedure on restraining ExDs individuals specifically states that retraining ExDs individuals is risky but necessarily risky to prevent the individual from hurting themselves or others. It has a nice white paper attached to back up this idea, a paper put out by experts at the American College of Emergency Physicians.

        You are a new cop. You’re trained that individuals with ExDs are a danger to themselves and others, and this it is reasonably safe to restrain them and that the best way to do so is to put them on their bellies and hold them down with a knee. You’re specifically told that cuffing the individual is not good enough and is unsafe, and that hey must be held down while you wait for EMTs to arrive. Why wouldn’t a reasonable person believe that?

        1. DeWitt

          You are a new cop.

          Chauvin wasn’t. Not by any means.

          You’re trained that individuals with ExDs are a danger to themselves and others, and this it is reasonably safe to restrain them and that the best way to do so is to put them on their bellies and hold them down with a knee.

          Uh huh.

          You’re specifically told that cuffing the individual is not good enough and is unsafe, and that hey must be held down while you wait for EMTs to arrive.

          You can tie them to a post or even just up in your car.

          Why wouldn’t a reasonable person believe that?

          Because a reasonable person would not be one who’d keep kneeling on his very literal neck until the man in question died from asphyxiation, as opposed to finding just about any other way of restraining the arrestee.

          1. FLWAB

            Then suppose we disagree. If I was trained that restraining someone with ExDs was necessary, and that the proper way to do it was to kneel on their back or neck, I would believe it. If I were trained that bullets don’t kill criminals I wouldn’t believe it.

          2. DeWitt

            I don’t think training should ever be grounds for exoneration; if nothing else, the opposite ought to be true. Chauvin ought to have known better, not worse, than to kill the man he was supposed to arrest. A precedent that your training is a valid alibi to murder someone is going to lead to some very ugly places once the police realise that all they need to do is to gesture vaguely at a list of procedures.

          3. Aapje

            @DeWitt

            That is an anti-democratic point of view. The rules are made by ‘you,’ the citizens, through the democratic process.

            You are actually demanding a police state if you argue that the police shouldn’t have to obey the rules that politics set them. Also, you seem to believe that having cops apply their own common sense will obviously lead to less dangerous/violent/etc behavior, which…is far from obvious.

            Or perhaps you want the judges to ignore the rules set by the democratic process. Then you don’t have a police state, but a ‘judge state.’

          4. DeWitt

            Democratic process? Democratic process how? By sheer separation of powers, the police act to uphold the law, which is indeed decided upon by democratic means. Internal police department guidelines are not themselves the law, nor are they subject to democratic oversight. I do not consider them legally relevant.

        2. John Schilling

          For your argument to make sense, the precinct procedure on restraining individuals with ExDs would have to be obviously false to an reasonable person, in the same way that saying criminals can’t die from being shot is obviously false to a reasonable person.

          Chauvin is not facing felony charges for kneeling on Floyd’s back and neck. Chauvin is facing felony charges for kneeling on Floyd’s back and neck even after Floyd had been handcuffed, after Floyd had ceased resisting, after Floyd had ceased moving at all, after numerous bystanders had indicated that Floyd was dying, after other police officers twice suggested shifting to a different hold, after Floyd had in fact died, and even after another officer had checked and found that Floyd had no pulse.

          A policy that actually directs police officers to do all of those things, would be obviously murderous in nature to any reasonable person. Anyone writing such a policy should probably be facing a conspiracy or accessory to murder charge themselves.

          A policy that merely instructs officers to apply a neck restraint to ExDS suspects while they are resisting arrest or actively endangering innocent life, would be a reasonable one. But it would not justify or even explain Chauvin’s maintaining the hold once Floyd had ceased resisting (or moving, or breathing).

          In neither case can Chauvin reasonably avail himself of the “I was just following orders!” defense.

    7. rahien.din

      a cop following procedure to the letter

      “I followed procedure. Perps with EXD are medically fragile” means “I knew that this situation was unsafe, but what was most important to me in the moment was not the citizen’s physical safety, but whether I could get punished.”

      Good procedures are necessary, but they won’t save citizens from bad cops. If you think making an arrest for a minor crime is worth risking someone’s life, you’re just a bad cop.

      Even in the situation where all caregivers agree that a patient is in an active delirious state, there is no proof of the most safe and effective control measure or therapy for what is most likely an extremely agitated patient

      Not true. Activated delirium happens in hospitals not infrequently. It typically happens to patients who are far more medically fragile than this victim. And yet, these patients are restrained in a safe way by less physically-capable personnel.

      1. FLWAB

        “I followed procedure. Perps with EXD are medically fragile” means “I knew that this situation was unsafe, but what was most important to me in the moment was not the citizen’s physical safety, but whether I could get punished.”

        I think that’s uncharitable. It see it more as “I knew that this situation as unsafe, so I made sure to follow procedures put in place to keep myself, the person I’m arresting, and bystanders as safe as possible.” Ostensibly that’s what the procedure is for. Maybe it’s bad at accomplishing that, but that is why it exists.

      2. Aapje

        @rahien.din

        It typically happens to patients who are far more medically fragile than this victim. And yet, these patients are restrained in a safe way by less physically-capable personnel.

        The reports on the condition suggests that anesthesia is the only safe way to restrain the victim. One of the big differences between cops and medical personnel is that the former are authorized and trained to use violence, but banned from administering drugs, while the latter are authorized and trained to administer drugs, but banned from using violence.

        Can cops be blamed for not doing the thing they are banned from doing?

        1. DeWitt

          EDIT,: I am in the wrong here, an ambulance was indeed called.

          They can be blamed for not even having bothered with trying to call medical personnel for sure.

          1. FLWAB

            But they did call medical personnel. That’s what they were waiting for. Chauvin tried to get Floyd in the police car, he refused to, Chauvin decides Floyd is on drugs, Chauvin restrains Floyd and calls an ambulence. Then they wait for the ambulance to arrive while restraining Floyd. The ambulance arrives a few minutes after Floyd dies. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s how I understand the timeline.

          2. DeWitt

            Interesting. I had to look that back up, and it seems you are right about the ambulance thing. Fair enough.

            Edit again: on another review, I’m once again not sure whether this ought to exonerate Chauvin. An awful lot of time goes by between the point where they arrest Floyd, where they decide to choke him out, and where they call an ambulance. The EMTs were not called rifht away.

  13. MNNC

    Dear all,

    (Obligatory first-time poster, long-term lurker disclaimer.)

    I’m an attorney, working with a client to establish a new veteran’s welfare non-profit. It will have a few million in start-up budget and, at first, a reasonably modest regional footprint.

    I was hoping that some of the Effective Altruist-aligned users here might be able to point me to a state of the art, best-practices set of organizations materials for non-profit entities. In an ideal world, these would include everything from model corporate bylaws to board handbooks, reporting templates, grant forms, employee/grant-officer training manuals, etc. However, materials that fall short of this pinnacle of preparedness but that have been used, reviewed and generally approved by the EA community would be much appreciated.

    (I’m looking less for research on EA or arguments in favor of it – the client has already bought into the concept – and more for operational text.)

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Erusian

      I’ve got experience starting up new non-profits (including specifically some veteran ones) and am EA adjacent. (I’m more of a social enterpriser, but w/e.) You can find some generic ones but my experience is that you generally roll your own. For example, the simple question of what state you’re based in and what states you operate in will change them. Sometimes dramatically. As will what activities you engage in. As will how control is structured and who the stakeholders are.

      Happy to give advice and I can probably find the original templates we used. But all of them were pretty heavily modified. The process we used was to make decisions and then figure out ways to legally work those decisions in. (Or delegated that task to a lawyer.)

    2. yodelyak

      almanac.io has a lot of good stuff.

      I mostly use it for reference when I’m doing something outside my usual competence, e.g. I referenced several articles there at the start of the pandemic when I needed some outside thoughts/experience on how to manage remote staff, which I suddenly was.

  14. Belisaurus Rex

    Where I live, it is basically considered hate speech to suggest that anyone would be hired based on their race instead of their abilities. It is also common to complain about tokenism. For a long time I thought these were irreconcilable beliefs, but they can go together if you assume that big companies hire one qualified token minority as a sop and then refuse to hire any more qualified minorities due to discrimination. This would mean that there are whole oceans of unemployed, qualified minorities out there.

    Is this true? Are there really whole oceans of qualified minorities searching for jobs? My impression is that if you’re halfway competent you get snapped up in a second, but maybe I’m just blind.

    1. Erusian

      Anyone who is just basically bog-standard successful in the exact way the company expects (good school, strong work history, etc) and a minority gets snapped up. But this is usually a pretty small pool.

      There are three underused or unavailable pools of human capital in minority communities. Firstly, there are people who could be trained up but simply weren’t. They’re smart, dedicated, etc, but no one’s invested in training them and they don’t have the capital to buy that education.

      Secondly, there are people who are very skilled and talented and use that career leverage to seek out something other than a bog standard corporate environment, especially if they consider it to be racially hypocritical. These people are successful on their own terms but will reject offers from those big corporations to fill a quota.

      Thirdly, there are also people who are very skilled at something that was immediately relevant in their life that may or may not translate into a skill the corporation can use. I’ve met some good salespeople that worked their way from doing grey market stuff to white collar stuff, for example. But these people often suffer from not being used to a corporate environment. Though, to be clear, I can hardly blame them. I hate suits and cubicles too.

      As I say all the time, if you want to have a strong minority presence in your company affirmative action simply doesn’t work. You need to change what your recruiting pool and candidate evaluation looks like. You may need to change policies too. If you keep it the same but give preference to minorities, you just end up competing for a small pool of people who are highly atypical. A simple example: computer science degrees are overwhelmingly male. Women programmers are hugely disproportionately likely to have self taught or gone through bootcamps or things like this. If you require your hires have a degree but privilege women with affirmative action you’re just going to end up competing for a small pool of degreed female programmers while shutting out the majority before you even get there. This doesn’t work.

      But it’s easier to pay someone with a title like VP of Diversity to make changes at the edges than to change something that fundamental. My experience, by the way, is that spending on diversity initiatives anti-correlates with diversity because the people who spend the most do the worst at it naturally. The companies that are majority minority in their hiring tend to not have blunt measures.

      1. Ketil

        A simple example: computer science degrees are overwhelmingly male. Women programmers are hugely disproportionately likely to have self taught or gone through bootcamps or things like this.

        Interesting – do you have any numbers or references for this? My impression was that bootcamps are also predominantly male, but maybe the ratio is better for alternative paths.

        1. Gerry Quinn

          I would have thought that teaching yourself programming is predominantly a male thing.

          1. Eric Rall

            Erusian’s claim could still be correct if the populations of self-taught or bootcamp-trained programmers were merely less male-dominated than degreed programmers. New Computer Science graduates in the US have been more than 80% male since about 2007 and were only less than 70% male for roughly the period 1980-1988.

            This page claims that the gender ratio in in-person coding bootcamps was roughly 60/40 male as of 2017 and online-only bootcamps were pretty close to 50/50. I can’t find good numbers for self-taught programmers, but the bootcamp numbers appear to support Erusian’s contention.

          2. Erusian

            I’m just going to steal your citation because this is what I’m claiming. I’d probably say a majority of the class is still male but there’s a distinct female minority, and a female majority in some specific classes. This is insanely better than colleges get, where you often have 10-20% female participation.

      2. C.H.

        Anyone who is just basically bog-standard successful in the exact way the company expects (good school, strong work history, etc) and a minority gets snapped up.

        Unless you’re Asian or Indian, then the minority part doesn’t count.

        1. keaswaran

          I think if you want to understand much of this discussion, you should use “minority” as a stand-in for “underrepresented group” – women aren’t actually less than half the population, but they are underrepresented in some of these fields; South and East Asians are a very small fraction of the population in the United States, but they aren’t underrepresented in these fields. Don’t worry about the semantics of “minority” – just try to figure out whether the person means “underrepresented group” when they say “minority”.

          1. anonymousskimmer

            “Men” is lumped together with “minority” in nursing. And research is being done on how to improve male representation:

            https://minoritynurse.com/men-in-nursing/

            Despite efforts from nursing schools across the nation to recruit and retain more men and minorities, the results have been fairly modest. In 2010, approximately 11% of the students in baccalaureate programs were men and 26.8% were a racial/ethnic minority.2 We know that student nurses, in general, face many obstacles such as academic pressure. However, studies have shown that male student nurses experience additional barriers and discrimination, such as: lack of information and support from guidance counselors; lack of sufficient role models; unequal clinical opportunities and requirements; isolation; poor instruction on the appropriate use of touch; and a lack of teaching strategies appropriate to male learning needs.3-10

      3. DavidFriedman

        At a considerable tangent, your post parallels my view on the situation of home schooled students applying to college. Most of them, including most of the able ones, are missing some of the measures that schools use to evaluate applicants, most obviously grade point average and recommendations from high school teachers. It isn’t that the admissions people are prejudiced against them, just that they don’t know how to evaluate them.

        In our experience with our two home schooled students, we only encountered one school, St Olaf’s, which had apparently recognized this as an opportunity to get good students that other schools were missing. My theory was that St Olaf’s was trying to replace Oberlin in the niche of “top liberal arts school with a professional level music program,” recognized the problem that being a top school requires top students and top students want to go a top school, and was using this approach to find top students the other schools were missing.

      4. JayT

        Firstly, there are people who could be trained up but simply weren’t. They’re smart, dedicated, etc, but no one’s invested in training them and they don’t have the capital to buy that education.

        I see this type of argument often, but I don’t buy it at all. You need almost no capital at all to get a university degree, especially if you are poor and a minority. If you aren’t seeking the training that is needed, then I question whether or not you are actually “dedicated”.

        1. SamChevre

          You need almost no capital at all

          I think you are very mistaken. You may not need money, but capital is a lot more than money. Capital includes things like knowing that a university degree would be helpful to your goals; knowing what kind of skills you have that a degree could help with; like knowing when to apply, and how; like knowing what kind of university to apply to.

          There are plenty of people who know only 3 classes of people with degrees: teachers, doctors and nurses, and sleazy lawyers.

          1. Clutzy

            Maybe. It seems like College Football coaches are quite successful at persuading poor kids that an education will be super valuable. This is a known opportunity in this subset. If you’re a smart kid and get the same offer, just no football, there is not really a plausible mechanism whereby you are confused by it.

          2. keaswaran

            “College Football coaches are quite successful at persuading poor kids that an education will be super valuable.”

            Is this true? My understanding was that college football coaches are quite successful at persuading poor kids that they can advance their career by joining a college football program. That doesn’t mean that they’ve spent any effort convincing them that the college part would be useful to someone who doesn’t plan on a football career.

          3. anonymousskimmer

            @Clutzy
            I really want to see an analysis of what kids in all locations know about college and future careers. I’m now a generation removed from applying to college so my ignorance then may not be as applicable today.

            However given the extent that parent career still influences child career, being first in your family to make such a change has to be more difficult.

          4. Nancy Lebovitz

            From what I’ve read, the big problem for poor kids who get into universities is having trouble with their studies and not realizing the university has resources for helping them. A rather subtle sort of capital.

            I thought you were going to bring up opportunity cost. Even a mediocre job might bring in more money in the short run.

          5. zzzzort

            1st gen college students also tend to have a lot of trouble succeeding at college once they’re there, even controlling for ability. Turns out cultural knowledge about what to do at college is a big deal.

          6. anonymousskimmer

            I remember when I was 29 and going to college for the 4th and 5th time to finish a B.S. after a nearly 7 year absence (4th time was to finish an A.S. at the JC, then to the Uni the following year for the B.S.). I looked at the starting homework for Physics I (ungraded – this was just an intro), knew I couldn’t figure out the answers, and had the revelation that I could go to the Math help center for help on the calculus. I was so happy realizing that I can get help. Quite the revelation to a person used to doing it on his own.

            I’m neither poor nor first generation. People outside of those classifications can still be ignorant as heck.

          7. Clutzy

            I really want to see an analysis of what kids in all locations know about college and future careers. I’m now a generation removed from applying to college so my ignorance then may not be as applicable today.

            So would I. A large problem with the modern social sciences is they don’t seem to actually study things that are interesting and would help us understand society. Or, at least, their work is hard to google search.

          8. JayT

            Even the poorest of teenagers can go to the library and find out what careers pay the best, and how you can get to that point. If you don’t do that minimal work, then I reiterate that you are most definitely not “dedicated”, and if you don’t know that people with college degrees get paid more, than I’m not so certain you’re smart either.

        2. anonymousskimmer

          I’m going based on recollection, so may be remembering wrong. Also the documentary I’m referencing was made in the 90s.

          The movie is “Hoop Dreams“, which follows two African-American boys who were recruited via scholarship into a prep school with a major basketball program. I remember that one of them started out with grade-school level academic skills, but increased by 3 – 5 grade levels in one year. This may have been in preparation for the ACT (I can’t recall).

          3 – 5 grade levels in general academics is a huge increase that shows he was not well served by his situation before.

          And as the movie stated: You do need good ACT/SAT scores to get in to anything other than a Junior College (or you used to).

          If you aren’t seeking the training that is needed

          How the heck are you supposed to both find out what’s needed and figure out how to get it?

        3. Erusian

          It’s not an argument. I have little interest in wider social implications and I certainly agreeing pouring money into welfare isn’t a panacea. But on the other hand, I’ve personally trained about two dozen people to become coders and earn six figures from severely underprivileged backgrounds the majority of whom were minorities. I’ve also done bootcamp days at several elite universities, including Harvard. There were differences, real differences that would lead to different outcomes, but the proportion of people who could be trained to be useful coders was about the same.

          I am describing a reality, one that I have made money from.

      5. Belisaurus Rex

        So it’s a yes, but they’re uncredentialed so as far as the company is concerned, they don’t exist. Is this a case where straight up legalizing IQ tests for hiring would dramatically improve minority prospects?

        1. anonymousskimmer

          Why use an IQ test when you can already legally use tests pertinent to the job requirements?

          1. Clutzy

            Because those are weaker at predicting long term performance and the employee who’s terminated after 6 months is exactly the one that is going to file a lawsuit.

          2. cassander

            Penitent tests take a lot of time to write and administer, and IQ helps with almost everything.

    2. AG

      Getting hired is one thing, getting treated equally is another. There have been other incidents in especially the entertainment industry on how minority workers were treated as less than their counterparts, but their mere presence (tokenism) was used as a shield against criticism. I had a couple of links, but they’re both paywalled. Here’s an excerpt from one, and some more testimonials. You can also read the accounts in the BlackInTheIvory hashtag for stories from academia.

  15. matkoniecz

    You can post new one and delete old post (if within 1 hour from posting)

    First time posting (after 7 years lurking)

    Welcome!

    so the interface is still quite new to me.

    AFAIK this issue happens if you reply, log in and continue. In case of normal use using “reply” works well.

  16. Nancy Lebovitz

    I just read Thirteenth Child by Patrieica Wrede, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

    People never came to the western hemisphere from Asia, and the continent has a lot more dangerous animals, some of them magical. Magical ability is fairly rare, and magicians are almost essential for settlements beyond the Great Barrier.

    Anyway, it’s believed that seventh children, seventh children of seventh children, and fourteenth children especially have high magical power, and thirteenth children are unlucky and wicked.

    The viewpoint character is a thirteenth child, a very decent person who takes some damage from a lot of people expecting the worst of her.

    Anyway, I count this as rationalist fiction in the sense that she does well by being observant and thoughtful.

    What’s more, I’ve been wanting sf that doesn’t have a romance and a mystery in it. It turns out that family, polities, magic, and strange creatures is enough to carry a story.

    This is a first in a trilogy, and it’s a bit of a slow build– the more interesting animals are mostly mentioned rather than seen, and the major threat is an insect plague. That’s quite bad enough, but I look forward to dragons in the later books.

    I bought my copy out of solidarity because Wrede was being attacked during racefail– the issue was writing Native Americans out of history. I’m more sympathetic to that being an issue than I was back in 2009, but I still think it’s a good book.

    1. herbert herberson

      Ever read the Alvin Maker books? sounds kind of superficially very similar, although probably also very different when the rubber actually meets the road

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        It’s been a while since I’ve read the Alvin Maker books.

        Eff (the viewpoint character in Thirteenth Child) has good parents, but some horrible other relatives. I thought Card had made psychological progress when one of his books (sorry, I don’t remember which one) had a father who felt bad about wanting to kill his son.

        One of the things I like about Thirteenth Child is that it’s (among many other things) an extended look at good and bad authority. It includes a moderate number of high-dominace fools getting swatted for it.

        It also has examples of people learning and changing in a way that seems very realistic, though perhaps more common that what happens in real life.

        1. Randy M

          I thought Card had made psychological progress when one of his books had a father who felt bad about wanting to kill his son.

          Can you expand on this? Do you mean that Card tends to show horrible parents for some psychological reason? Or that his writing in some other way shows him incapable of empathy?

          (Also, I think the Alvin Maker series is unfinished with little prospect for being finished, so while entertaining, I’m not sure I’d recommend it.)

          1. Nancy Lebovitz

            I mean that a lot of Card’s fiction is about older men (frequently fathers) mistreating young men and boys.

            I have no idea how Card treats people in the real world, but this is such a common theme in his fiction that I think it reflects something in the back of his mind.

            As I recall, it isn’t horrible parents, it’s specifically horrible fathers.

            If you want horrible parents both male and female, try Dianna Wynne Jones. (Not the other thing she writes about, but I’d say she’s got a sharp dividing line between nurturing and abusive environments.)

          2. Aftagley

            A forget where I read this interview, but Card’s stated perspective is that he thinks that children are one of the few remaining oppressed people; that the state has basically legalized discrimination against a whole swatch of the populace. Most people, however,don’t notice this “injustice” since everyone eventually ages out of the discrimination.

            I might be misquoting, but I think he referred to the whole system as a “continuously refreshing underclass.” In his writing parents are normally the people subjecting the repression on their kids, but you also see it in his writing in how teachers and even older children treat the young.

          3. Randy M

            I think it shows he sees child abuse as quite impactful, but I don’t think it shows he thinks it is highly prevalent. Here’s a list from memory, which may be faulty but:
            Ender’s Game: Ender’s parents are a bit neglectful (later retconned?) but not abusive.
            Speaker for the Dead: Novinha’s husband is abusive, and this is a major plot point. As he dies before the start of the novel, there’s no redemption here. But in contrast, Novinha’s parents, her adoptive father figure, and Ender who later sort of marries her are all decent to good parents.
            Alvin Maker: I really don’t remember at all, so maybe?
            Homecoming Saga: The father is well respected and fairly decent.
            A Planet Called Treason: The father, a king, is fairly harsh with his son but not abusive and later on dies somewhat pitifully in exile. I don’t think there’s a lot of actual mistreatment beyond it being a harsh world, though.
            Hart’s Hope: No particular paternal mistreatment of the main character, though his father does commit a particularly heinous act in conquest.
            Wyrms: A fairly good relationship between the king and his daughter, the main character.
            Enchantment: The main character is on very good terms with his father into his adult years, as is the female lead.

            But I haven’t read the more contemporary works like Lost boys or Magic street [edit: or short stories]. From what I have read, I’d only give one or two out of about ten stories that this applies to.

            edit:

            but you also see it in his writing in how teachers and even older children treat the young.

            Ah, yeah, that expands it greatly. One example is his amusing tirades on the subject of school assigned homework.

            Ironically, it sounds like he would probably agree with Molyneux somewhat on this topic, though not necessarily any others.

          4. Nancy Lebovitz

            I think you have to include some shorter works like “Mikal’s Songbird”– it’s not just about fathers, it’s about male authority figures.

            I agree with Card about prejudice against children and teenagers.

          5. Randy M

            True, I forgot to add I haven’t read many of the short stories. Just fyi, when you said he “made psychological progress” I inferred a reference to some sort of obsession which I hadn’t observed.
            In contrast, that he has strongly held, possibly idiosyncratic beliefs about childhood that show in his work sometimes is certainly easy to argue.

          6. Nancy Lebovitz

            My impression– it’s been a while since I’ve read much Card– is that he did have an obsession.

            I could be wrong, or have too few data points, or see abuse where you see harshness. Also, this includes authority figures, not just male relatives.

          7. Gerry Quinn

            Aftagley: “Most people, however,don’t notice this “injustice” since everyone eventually ages out of the discrimination.”

            Hmm, I throw the idea out to any SF writers here (and I know there are some) – what if people age out of the damned colour?

          8. Aftagley

            Ender’s Game: Ender’s parents are a bit neglectful (later retconned?) but not abusive.

            Well, the parents straight-up resent having Ender. He’s a third and they have trouble accepting their complicity in that system.

            None of that matters, because Colonel Graff and Mazer Rackam are the real parental figures in this story, and they are actively abusive towards Ender and the other kids.

          9. Randy M

            what if people age out of the damned colour?

            Not sure what this means. Are you suggesting to consider what society would be like if skin tone was correlated with age rather than ancestry? I assume then we’d treat it like height, and other physical features that did correlate with ancestry would be more salient.

            @Aftagley

            Colonel Graff and Mazer Rackam are the real parental figures in this story, and they are actively abusive towards Ender and the other kids.

            Yes, good point. Although… the book seems somewhat agnostic about whether such abuse was useful.

            Well, the parents straight-up resent having Ender.

            IIRC, both parents had religious motivation for having lots of kids, and resented only being able to do so due to special government dispensation. But they did worry that these secret allegiances would be uncovered due to Ender.

          10. Matthew A

            Ender’s parents are completely oblivious to the literal torture his older brother puts him through. Ender also feels unwanted.

            Come to think of it, a lot of Ender’s story is about redeeming himself by being becoming a good father. (I think also to the weird mind children? I only read that one once, and it was weird.)

            Bean had a series of awful father/parental figures, including his literal father as well as the pseudo-father he found on the streets of Rotterdam murdering Bean’s pseudo-mother and Bean feeling responsible. Oh, and he’s also redeemed eventually by becoming a father.

            Haven’t read Card’s other stuff, but if you want to make a case that he write a lot about “older men (frequently fathers) mistreating young men and boys”, there’s a ton to work with.

          11. Randy M

            Haven’t read Card’s other stuff, but if you want to make a case that he write a lot about “older men (frequently fathers) mistreating young men and boys”, there’s a ton to work with.

            Sure, but that’s different from “doesn’t write about much else” or otherwise has an obsession with it.

            He writes about family dynamics a lot, and perhaps the old saw about bad families being more interesting applies. They never jumped out at me as particularly abusive, especially given a bias toward conflict in fiction, with the exception mentioned above in Speaker for the Dead (I don’t remember much about the Bean novels; they never seemed as interesting, no offense to the contingent of posters here by the name).

            Expanding the scope to father figures, like gang leaders and older brothers adds more examples but then seems like less of an obsession and starts to just look like “protagonist faces opposition”.

    2. Randy M

      On the subject of books, I’m reading the Hitchhikers Guide series to my older two daughters. Though the dry but absurd humor sometimes goes over their heads without explanation, they’ve been liking it a lot.

      But the fourth book sure does a tonal shift, with the first half or so being about Arthur’s search for romance upon returning to Earth. There’s a lot fewer zany asides, so far one or two interesting pages with Ford and a bit about a Rain god that’s a crack up, but aside from that the subject matter is very different. From what I recall, it was published by a different publisher and the fifth book was more of a return to form.

      I also recall reading that Adams was terrible with deadlines and somewhat hard to work with, so maybe he had some difficulty coming up with something to top Life, the Universe, and Everything.

      1. achenx

        IIRC, the fourth one was the first he wrote from scratch as a novel — 1 and 2 were based on the radio series, and 3 was based on a rejected Dr Who script (the Doctor became Slartibartfast I believe). I seem to remember some personal issues in his life surrounding the writing of both books 4 and 5 (which is somewhat darker than the other ones) that affected how they turned out as well.

      2. Gerry Quinn

        His Dirk Gently stuff just seemed gloomy. But it apparently resonated with enough folks that they made a TV series, so who knows?

          1. Eric Rall

            I enjoyed both the books and the TV series. There’s a decent amount of thematic connection, but a ton of differences. Particularly, Dirk’s characterization is very different and his backstory has been almost completely retconned.

            The characterization changes I consider a milder and more defensible change than the backstory, more of an update than a reimagining. Douglas Adams was in the habit of recycling character archetypes between the various worlds he wrote stories in. The two archetypes he reused the most were 1) a beleaguered everyman who got caught up in events, generally with significant similarities to how Adams saw himself (Arthur Dent, Richard Way, and various one-off characters in his Doctor Who stories), and 2) a roguish eccentric who was already up to his neck in the weirdness of the story to serve as a guide and problem-solver for the everyman (Ford Prefect, the Doctor, and Dirk Gently). Book-Dirk’s behavior and mannerisms borrowed quite a bit from Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor during the era when Adams was writer or script-editor for Doctor Who, while TV-Dirk largely replaces those traits with traits that more closely resemble Matt Smith’s then-current portrayal of the Doctor. Similarly, Elijah Wood’s character in the TV series fit the beleaguered everyman archetype from Adams’s works pretty well, but with a lot of the self-insert traits dialed back.

            The backstory was a less obvious change, taking a while to be revealed over the course of the series, but IMO was more fundamental. I won’t go into detail about what they changed it to for the series for the sake of spoilers, but they drastically dialed back Dirk’s background as a con artist who specializes in paranormal-genre scams. It’s never explicitly stated but consistently very strongly implied in the books that Dirk’s “superpower” is that any time he attempts to perpetrate a nontrival con, events conspire to make it so Dirk’s mark receives the full benefit Dirk lead them to believe they’d get, but in such a way that Dirk receives no material benefit (and often considerable collateral damage) in the process. I don’t think this ever comes up in the TV series, and Dirk’s giving a very different paranormal backstory instead.

      3. Aftagley

        This matches my memory of it as well. That God of Rain bit aside, I found the fourth book to be a pretty major departure from the serious.

        the fifth book was more of a return to form.

        Oofta, I strongly disagree. I like the fifth book even less than the fourth; at that point adams just seems too mired in trying to keep his collection of zany characters and their misadventures in some kind of cohesive narrative that it all just collapses in on itself.

        1. Randy M

          Oofta, I strongly disagree

          It will be interesting to judge it when I reread.

          For as hallowed a place as it has in Geek culture and my personal recollections, I’d actually suggest a new reader would be fine if they stopped after the second.

        2. BBA

          I haven’t read the books since I was a kid. I remember the first three being a hilarious romp, the fourth a much slower departure like you said, and the fifth just unrelentingly bleak. Adams clearly was sick of the series and wanted to tie up all the loose ends in a neat little package that would end it all for good. (So of course his widow hired the Artemis Fowl guy to write a sequel, which I’ve never read and don’t know if anyone considers it canon.)

  17. Loriot

    Just came across this article and found it pretty eye opening. I think it might be especially interesting to the “CV only kills people over 80 so what’s the big deal?” crowd among the frequent commenters here.

    https://www.sfgate.com/science/article/What-they-don-t-tell-you-about-surviving-15347792.php

    “I’m a nurse on a COVID floor, I caught it. I am a relatively healthy 24-year-old and could barely walk up a half flight of stairs. My blood pressure skyrocketed, chest pain was debilitating. I’m 8 weeks out and still feeling the chest pain and shortness of breath. This is no joke.”

    “I had COVID for over 60 days. I’m 33 years old, was super healthy, pescatarian, 125 pounds, and ran and did yoga every day. I couldn’t walk for two weeks besides a couple steps. It was the worst illness of my life.”

    “My coworker — an otherwise totally healthy 30-year-old — is still having issues breathing, two full months later. We’ve got patients coming back to the ER after they’re “recovered” because they can’t breathe or they get a blood clot. It’s so insane.”

    “I’m a healthy, active 23 year-old and I still have significant lung damage two months after I’ve “recovered.””

    1. GoneAnon

      As one of the resident skeptics, my attitude on this is as follows:

      While it does seem to be a real risk (such that I’m not actively pursuing a “why don’t I just get COVID now and get immunity!” strategy myself) and it does seem to be really happening to some people and it is worth keeping an eye on… I also feel like nearly everything I’ve seen on it has been anecdotal examples rather than hard data.

      Note that the linked article provides no estimate… not even a wild guess… as to what percentage of recoveries develop these severe, long-term, life-altering complications. Although it does concede at the very beginning that “Most people who catch the new coronavirus don’t experience severe symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all. COVID-19 saves its worst for relatively few.” So what is “most people” or “relatively few?” It seems like we have no idea.

      And what I find interesting is that this sort of tone and approach to reporting reminds me a lot of what we saw in the early days of COVID spread in the US, when the trend was to publish article after article about scattered anecdotes of young/healthy people dying with the clear implication being “COVID can kill the young and healthy too!” while carefully avoiding any actual numbers that might clarify the situation to say “COVID can kill the young and healthy… but it’s ridiculously rare and they’re still more likely to die in a car accident.” Then after a couple months, once the data came in and it became pretty much indisputable that the overwhelming majority of risk was to the old/sick and that the young/healthy while not totally immune were statistically pretty safe, these anecdotes seem to have fallen off.

      Only to be replaced with this. “COVID can kill the young” isn’t pushed anymore, because too many people know the numbers necessary to push back on the premise. But “COVID can cause horrible complications to the young” is now pushed, because nobody has sufficient data to disprove it.

      Does that necessarily mean the numbers will be similar? No. I don’t know. I wish we had more data. But until I start seeing anecdotes replaced with data, I’m going to treat this as ideological propaganda and not as science. Recent experience implies this is a pretty decent bet.

      1. Chalid

        I don’t see why you’d make it ideological. It’s just another flavor of “if it bleeds it leads.” Scary news gets clicks and possible long-term effects of covid are (rightly!) pretty scary.

        Also we genuinely don’t have the data on this stuff, it’s not the media’s fault for failing to report numbers that don’t exist. (Ditto deaths a couple months ago, when people were publishing IFR estimates that varied over three orders of magnitude.)

        It wouldn’t be shocking if the rate of severe side effects was 20x that of fatalities and I don’t think we would necessarily know about it if it were. One thing that this epidemic has underlined is that our civilization really sucks at aggregating novel information.

        1. John Schilling

          Also we genuinely don’t have the data on this stuff, it’s not the media’s fault for failing to report numbers that don’t exist.

          Unless you think that part of the media’s job is to get the data before reporting the story. And this isn’t the sort of data that the media needs handed to them on a silver platter. If they don’t have at least an ROM number for this, it’s because they aren’t even trying (and same goes for the CDC).

          1. Chalid

            I think it’s reasonable to expect media to ask a range of experts and people with access to the data. And if they do that, and they can’t get anyone to go on the record with an estimate, I prefer the reporter to write “the risk is still unknown” to them doing some kind of ignorant non-expert Fermi estimate.

        2. GoneAnon

          (Ditto deaths a couple months ago, when people were publishing IFR estimates that varied over three orders of magnitude.)

          So what happened once the data actually came in? What did most mainstream outlets do? Issue a bunch of retractions and corrections and clarifications? Make a strong effort to widely publicize the data and make sure everyone was aware of it?

          No. As I said, they pivoted right to this. They went from “here’s a bunch of anecdotal cases of deaths, be afraid!” to “here’s a bunch of anecdotal cases of long-term damage, be afraid!” Knowing why they made that pivot requires you to independently look for non-mainstream sources and data points.

          As to whether this is ideological in nature or just standard fear-porn, well, I suspect the former but don’t want to get into a long thing about it because I think that would increase the CW-ness of the whole discussion by an order of magnitude…

          1. Chalid

            Well, they kind of did. Everyone who paid attention knows that there were estimates in February of IFR ranging from 4% to like 0.03% and that they’ve converged on about 0.5-1% or so. Everyone who’s paid any attention now knows that the chance of death is low if you’re young.

            The correction in the end comes in the form of “scientists now generally agree on X and Y, says esteemed person Z.”

            Maybe you think they should say “we shouldn’t have published that article on those Stanford guys who thought the IFR was 1/50 what I turned out to be.” But I don’t agree with that. I don’t think you can expect that the media’s job should be to curate a bunch of different articles being published on a fast-moving scientific topic and figure out which ones are likely to be right. Even trained scientists can’t do that! SSC itself had a bunch of debates on these studies!

          2. LesHapablap

            @Chalid,

            The CDC’s latest best estimate for IFR is less than .3%, which is in line with the centre for evidence based medicine’s estimates for the last few months. You are obviously well informed and even you didn’t know that, claiming the consensus is now .5 to 1%! My sister who is technically minded and who generally pays attention thought that IFR was 5% in her state.

            That both you and my sister could be so far off means that the media is obviously not doing their job.

        3. DavidFriedman

          I don’t see why you’d make it ideological.

          It’s not obvious why it would make a close fit with left/right ideology. But it does seem to me that there is something ideological about wanting to believe that things are horrible, whether it’s the belief that global warming will destroy civilization or that SJW’s will.

      2. Gerry Quinn

        “Watch out non-injecting heterosexuals, AIDS is just as dangerous to you” had a long run in the ’80s.

      3. keaswaran

        As far as I can tell, I have had three Facebook friends that have had covid (four if you count one husband-wife pair as two separate cases). The couple are in their mid-to-late 30’s, and I met the wife when she was 9 months pregnant with twins and chairing a session at a conference, so she’s generally extremely fit – but the two of them spent a week in the “can’t walk across the room because lungs won’t work” phase. (Apparently those twins, now six were running the house during that week.) Another is early 30’s, used to be my boyfriend’s gym partner, so again, quite fit – but he had 30-40 days in this phase. The fourth is, I’m guessing in her 40’s or 50’s, I don’t know anything about her fitness, and didn’t mention a phase as serious as this.

        Obviously not a large sample size, but I believe this is the complete set of detected covid cases in my friends group.

        As far as I know, none of them have any lasting complications, but everything they state is compatible with the journalistic description of “mild” cases that apparently makes up 80% of symptomatic cases.

        1. albatross11

          I know two people in their late 40s/early 50s who apparently had C19. Both got extremely sick for a couple weeks. One seems to have recovered pretty well; the other is still having problems (occasionally spiking a fever or having a huge wave of being tired, ongoing breathing difficulties, etc.) a couple months after initially getting sick.

    2. John Schilling

      I think it might be especially interesting to the “CV only kills people over 80 so what’s the big deal?” crowd among the frequent commenters here.

      I don’t think there’s any set of commenters here that could reasonably be described as a “crowd”, whose view of COVID-19 can reasonably be described as “CV only kills people over 80”. Or that it is “no big deal”. There are quite a few people here who think that responses to COVID-19 need to be subject to cost-benefit analysis rather than treated as a moral absolute. In that context, the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly is relevant in several respects. It not only changes the cost:benefit math, but also opens the possibility of new strategies like isolating the elderly while seeking rapid herd immunity across the rest of the population. At the individual level, it strongly influences the decision of what level of personal precautions a single thirty-something should take.

      None of which requires that COVID-19 cause literally zero death or disability among the young. So a handful of anecdotes cherry-picked from a population of a third of a billion with several million COVID-19 cases is of approximately zero relevance.

      And I’d prefer that if we are going to discuss the rational implications of the age structure of COVID-19 mortality or severity, we do so in a thread that doesn’t start with an appeal to anecdote.

    3. Radu Floricica

      Anecdotes are bad when you have data. For example, the common cold is pretty harmless but also pretty common. You can easily find many many examples of people having pretty much any symptoms you can think of – while testing positive for common cold. Anything from shortness of breath to car accidents.

      The only way to disprove causality is to check the base rate and say that yes, people do get colds, they do die of car accidents, but there’s no significant increase in accident rates while having a cold (or maybe it is, in which case … interesting.

      1. Matthew A

        Anecdotes are bad when you have data

        There’s no good data anywhere (at least not publicly available) on the long-term effects of surviving COVID. Part of this is because it’s unknowable, part of this is because it’s extremely hard to study without a deliberate program. We’re 3 months into this thing being a huge international crisis. Assessing long-term effects across people with different demographic info, different severity of disease, different initial treatments, etc. is hard even if we weren’t spending tons of resources trying to answer hundreds of other (equally if not more pressing) COVID-related questions.

        We don’t have the data

    4. SamChevre

      What I would really like is to have some idea if this kind of after-effects is more common with COVID than with pneumonia for other causes. My anecdata is that recovery from pneumonia takes a LONG time in many cases.

      But a lot of people treat it as if the alternatives are “die, or be fine.”

      (It’s one reason I’m not a regular smoker: if the risk was just* dying of lung cancer or heart attacks, I would probably consider it worth the risk. But COPD is just years and years of misery.)

      *Note that my grandmother died of lung cancer, my grandfather of a heart attack, and they were both life-long smokers.

      1. DavidFriedman

        My anecdata is that recovery from pneumonia takes a LONG time in many cases.

        And the recovery is worse, subjectively speaking, than the pneumonia, at least in my experience. The healing lungs throw off a lot of liquid, which you have to cough up.

        Which is how I ended up running my Pennsic bardic circle that year in a whisper.

      2. keaswaran

        I think recovery is pretty long from covid. For the first few months, I was ignoring the numbers of recoveries that were listed along with detected cases and deaths, because I figured they just weren’t updating the numbers. But now that I’ve been following longer, it seems that at most geographic levels, the number of recoveries seems to track the total number of cases 30 days earlier – and it seems quite plausible from the people that I’ve known that had it, that 30 days is about how long recovery would take. (This shouldn’t be surprising if you think that it takes 5 days to develop symptoms, and sometimes up to 14.)

    5. matkoniecz

      “CV only kills people over 80 so what’s the big deal?” crowd among the frequent commenters here

      Can you link to at least one comment that would seriously make this claim at SSC? I do not remember anyone doing this and I suspect that you have mistaken SSC with Reddit, 4chan or something else.

      Can you link to at least 5 different posters claiming that? It can count as a tiny crowd.

      1. souleater

        I don’t think they meant “only” literally here…

        I think they’re talking about my views here. Without looking it up, I would guess that here in the USA
        That at least 85% of the Covid deaths hit seniors 65 and older. (70% confidence)
        That 85% of the Covid deaths hit people with preexisting conditions (90% confidence)

        So I figure the I, a healthy, adult male in his late 20s with no commodities, who lives alone, doesn’t have anything to really worry about. I think I’m more likely to die in a car accident this year than covid.

        1. matkoniecz

          Given that there are people who actually meant “literally” then it would be nice to be precise.

        2. keaswaran

          >I, a healthy, adult male in his late 20s with no com[orbi]dities, who lives alone, doesn’t have anything to really worry about. I think I’m more likely to die in a car accident this year than covid.

          I think you’re definitely more likely to die in a car accident this year than covid.

          But I think you’re also far more likely to spend two weeks gasping for breath due to covid than to have similarly serious injuries due to all other intentional or unintentional injuries combined.

        3. matkoniecz

          I think I’m more likely to die in a car accident this year than covid.

          Given that I put significant effort into not getting killed by cars – it is a quite high bar.

          There is plenty of space between “the largest danger to my life and health” and “should be ignored”.

    6. Humphrey_Appleby

      The lack of hard data on this is frustrating, but we can try to establish some bounds. For example, there were 2 million confirmed cases in the USA 2 weeks ago. Assuming that ten percent of actual cases have been detected (in line with most antibody studies) this would suggest that there were 20 million actual cases. Presumably if there had been 1 million cases with long term health damage, the news coverage would look very different, so 5% seems like a safe albeit rough upper bound on COVID morbidity, averaged across all ages. Can we get a tighter bound?

      Related: how strongly should age-adjusted morbidity risk correlate with age-adjusted mortality risk? At one extreme it could be that the ratio morbidity/mortality is constant across age groups such that 20 years olds also have very low mortality risk. At the other extreme it could be that the same fraction of cases are `severe’ regardless of age, and the only difference is what fraction of `severe’ cases lead to death or `merely’ long term health damage. Has anyone encountered data that would indicate where in this range COVID falls?

      1. Chalid

        Presumably if there had been 1 million cases with long term health damage, the news coverage would look very different

        I don’t know, wouldn’t it just look like a pile of anecdotes just like it currently does?

        1. Humphrey_Appleby

          I am assuming that people who have a bad enough case to have long lasting health damage are disproportionately likely to get tested and included in the confirmed case count. While we may be undercounting total cases by a factor of 10, I am assuming that we’re catching close to all the cases that are this bad. If 50% of the confirmed COVID cases had led to long term health damage (as in, lingering effects 2+months after infection) I think we would know.

          1. Chalid

            I agree with you that people with long-lasting health damage are more likely to have been tested.

            I disagree that their long-term health damage would necessarily be known to the medical system. AFAICT once people are discharged and virus-free the medical system more-or-less stops keeping tabs on them.

        2. DeWitt

          Those are fair assumptions, but I don’t think that’s right.

          I’m a healthy twentysomething with no prior lung conditions who doesn’t smoke, and so on, and so on. Even so, my grabdmother got diagnosed with corona, my mother did, and I shortly developed symptoms of my own – I had the worst cough of my entire life for about half a week and some very real shortness of breath…

          … But, because I wasn’t literally bedridden and dying, my country didn’t care to test me.

          N = 1, obviously, but a valid counterpoint to why you may not aant to assume that merely unpleasant as opposed to critical cases are also diagnosed well.

          1. JayT

            When were you sick though? If it was in March, sure they didn’t want to waste tests because there was a shortage. Now though (at least in the US), my understanding is that anyone can have a test that wants one. I know people that have gotten tests even though they have no symptoms and haven’t been around anyone with symptoms, but it was required for travel, so they made an appointment to get a test, and got it.

      2. Matthew A

        Assuming that ten percent of actual cases have been detected (in line with most antibody studies)

        What studies are you talking about? As of the end of May, hardest-hit places in the US were around 20%, but everything not NYC, Louisiana or Michigan was at like 1 or 2%.

        Also, it’s not obvious if you have long-term health damage until, you know, some time passes. Maybe things will clear up. Maybe they won’t. You don’t really know after a month or two.

        1. Humphrey_Appleby

          I meant there have been ten times as many actual cases as have been detected, not that 10% of the population has been infected. I believe this is in line with most of the antibody studies (and is also the difference between CFR and IFR). It might be a factor of 7 or 12 instead of 10, but I’m just aiming for an order of magnitude estimate here.

          You are right that not all that much time has gone by so we don’t know how much of the damage is permanent, but if e.g. 50% (or even 25%) of COVID patients had severe health issues ~2 months after recovery I think we would know

      3. keaswaran

        I think all reports have said that a substantial proportion of individuals have “mild” cases, that don’t require hospitalization, but involve one or more of the symptoms, like “shortness of breath”. None of the cases described in the above comment includes anything that would have categorized it as “serious”. They’re just extremely unpleasant for several weeks.

        1. Humphrey_Appleby

          Yes that’s fair. I’ve also seen news coverage discussing long term / potentially permanent health issues, and I was conflating that with the article linked in the original post.

    7. Marlowe

      From today’s New York Times: “People Have Stopped Going to the Doctor. Most Seem Just Fine.” (An opinion piece.) Apparently it’s fine to post this headline, but not “People Have Stopped Going to the Doctor. Some are miserable and dying!” though that’s equally true. The NYT will also never write “Lots of People Get Covid-19. Most End Up Just Fine” — also a true statement. That’s the problem with anecdotes rather than numbers — they can be cherry picked for whatever point one wants to make.

  18. eliokim

    I am looking for good historical examples to illustrate “asymmetric weapons” from https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/24/guided-by-the-beauty-of-our-weapons/

    Something like this: two people argued with each other (in an asymmetric way) for a long time, it wasn’t easy, but eventually something great came out of it. One example i have in mind is Levi Civita criticizing Einstein’s early general theory of relativity. Einstein passionately argued with him in a lengthy correspondence, but eventually had to accept that his derivation was wrong and that led him and Hilbert to the correct theory. Although relativity was controversial at the time, it would be nice to see an example from a less rigorous field or even not from science at all…

    1. matkoniecz

      Far more controversial but one of priests was describing protestantism as having overall positive effect on a Catholic Church (exact description went along “heresy, but sadly it was apparently needed to stop even worse corruption”).

      Democratic system is suposed to run on that, with multiple sides at times fighting with each other viciously but overall effect better than one of sides dominating.

      1. eliokim

        thank you! that’s a good example, about Catholic Church, although there were a lot of symmetric weapons in that fight! do you happen to have a link to the priest’s writing?

        I’m trying to formulate a motto that would capture the idea about asymmetric weapons so that i can try to stick to it myself and may be preach to others. something like: “when you try to advance an idea that many people are divided over, do it in such a way that will bring goodness even if your are wrong”.

        It would be nice to have examples that illustrate this and are easily relatable to people.

        1. matkoniecz

          No, it was meeting in person in some family gathering. And as far as I know this priest never published anything.

          But AFAIK it is not some unusual opinion.

        2. matkoniecz

          about Catholic Church, although there were a lot of symmetric weapons in that fight!

          Given how people like to argue among different topics, significant influence of CC and long well documented history will probably provide entire piles of such examples, together with cases where it failed.

          I guess that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Christian_church_councils would be one of good starting points.

    2. matkoniecz

      One more case that is fairly close to my interests: urban planning. Usually you have bunch of different single-purpose groups (rabid cyclists like me, people who want parking everywhere, fans of building statues…)

      If some goal is underrepresented in tends to result in appearance of group promoting it and a correction – it is far from perfect, over-corrections are common, some problems remain unfixed for long time but overall it sort of works.

    3. DavidFriedman

      When Ronald Coase came to Chicago to give a talk on what became his most important article, he had dinner at the house of Aaron Director, a law school professor. Attending were fourteen economists, counting Coase, including three future Nobel prize winners.

      When the dinner started thirteen of them accepted the conventional Pigouvian account of externalities. When it ended none of them did.

      1. eliokim

        Thank you. I wonder if the details of how that went were recorded anywhere…
        (was the dinner before the talk or after the talk?)

    4. DeWitt

      This sort of thing, kinda, is how Abrahamic faiths managed to supplant their pagan forebears in most of the world.

      Pagan faiths promise practical benefits right here on earth: worship properly and the sun will remain in the sky, your crops will ripen beautifully, you will not die in childbirth, the river will not flood and drown you all. This is a fairly stable system for as long as everyone else is also pagan, and at any time things go wrong you explain it because of error in sacrifice or ritual.

      Abrahamic faiths, on the other hand, promise benefits beyond this life on earth. You can tell people that God works in mysterious ways, but everyone eventually gets their due. Whatever happens on earth then doesn’t quite disprove your faith the way it does for a pagan.

      The result is one where pagans don’t have a good answer for the world where their Christian and Muslim counterparts do: if you are beaten soundly in war or get your temples torn down or your sacred trees burnt to ashes or anything else bad happens, it strikes at the very core of your faith. The reverse is not true, as you can always promise your followers that God or Allah will reward you with entrance to heaven once all this hardship is done with.

      Asymmetry.

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        Judaism doesn’t have much emphasis on the afterlife. On the other hand, it didn’t win really big.

        1. DeWitt

          I didn’t really have a good term to talk about Christians and Muslims without also including Jews, but yeah, you’re right.

  19. silver_swift

    Can someone explain the process of using a custom avatar here? The profile page says to use Gravatar, but I can’t seem to login on the page the link sends me to (and, in fact, my username here seems to be invalid there).

    Do I need to make a separate wordpress account to change my avatar?

    1. TimG

      I went here: https://slatestarcodex.com/wp-admin/profile.php

      Clicked “You can change your profile picture on Gravitar.”

      Then it made me log into Gravitar with my WordPress account (same I use here.) It made me confirm that Gravitar should be able to link to my WordPress account. Then I could change the picture.

      It was a bit clunky, but seemed to work more-or-less as expected.

      [Edit]: After I saved this message, it seemed to still show my old avatar. I opened the page in incognito mode and saw the new one. When I hard-reload this page, my avatar is now changed. So it seems Gravitar does some caching.

      1. matkoniecz

        WARNING: gravatar will use this avatar in any place where you used associated email. If you used the same email on site where you expected to remain private (and foolishly trusted the site to not leak you email) you may be deanonymized.

        Note that it applies to any sites that on future will get your email or will switch to using gravatar.

        1. toastengineer

          If the site uses Gravatar, you’re already deanonymized (depseudonymized, really), since the funky picture that Gravatar uses by default encodes the md5 hash of your EMail address, and the md5 hash is in practice easily reversible.

          1. matkoniecz

            I was unaware about that, then it falls under “anything online is publicly accessible or will leak in future or already leaked”.

            Thanks for the info!

      2. silver_swift

        Ah, thanks. I couldn’t make a wordpress account with this username (because it doesn’t allow underscores for some reason), but apparently just having an account linked to the same e-mail address does the trick.

          1. Nick

            Yeah, I never set my avatar, either. I already had one set up with gravatar.

            I believe there was actually a point a few years ago where Scott started requiring wordpress login to comment. I must have done it then.

  20. Lillian

    Some time ago I posted about a persistent cough that I was having and asked for some advice for dealing with it. While rather obvious, “Buy cheap low effort food like ramen so you’re no longer starving yourself,” was in fact the kind of thing I needed to hear. I did actually go out and bunch of nice $1 ramen like I said I would, though at a lag time of about a week due to motivation problems, which in turn helped me feed myself properly for a while. The cough went away shortly thereafter, and has not returned despite my continually erratic sleeping and eating habits. I also bought and started taking Vitamin D pills. I don’t know if that helped or not, but I suspect I’m Vitamin D deficient because I shun the sun, so it probably helped.

    I just wanted to say thanks again to everyone who pitched in.

    1. Murphy

      Re: the vitamin D thing, I have a partner who’s tends to have problems with it due to other medication.

      Every now and then she gets bloods done and vit-D tends to show up as low.

      She’d get prescribed some high-dose vitamin D and would get more motivated and then sort of slowly fall back to normal once they ran out.

      She started taking modest doses regularly and it seems to have a non-trivial effect on her mood, enough that if she runs out I can typically guess from how listless she gets.

      A lot of vitamin claims tend to be crap but I’m leaning towards believing the stuff about vitamin-D being linked to low-level depression

      1. Thomas Jorgensen

        … And according to blood serum tests, basically the entire african-american population of the US is permanently vitamin d deficient.

        You know, this really could explain.. way to much.

        1. Murphy

          I was wondering whether foods in the US were fortified with vitamin D and apparently it’s almost entirely milk.

          But apparently 75 percent of African Americans are at least somewhat lactose intolerant.

          And 76% of african americans in the USA are vitamin-D deficient. Way higher than any other group.

          That probably can’t be great.

          Apparently there is a decent evidence base for vitamin-D having an effect on depression:

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515787/

          Vitamin D supplementation favorably impacted depression ratings in major depression with a moderate effect size. These findings must be considered tentative owing to the limited number of trials available and inherent methodological bias noted in few of them.

          I kinda wonder how many theories about the acheivement gap would get blown to pieces if the government started fortifying a few more non-milk foods with vitamin D and suddenly millions of people got a little bit more energy and started feeling a little bit better overnight.

          Also, for irony sake and only because this is a CW-allowed thread, when I did a search on this, one of the top hits was an article “Are the US Dietary Guidelines on Milk Racist?”, not.. as I expected, arguing anything about vitamin D and the failure to fortify other foods…. but rather complaining that trying to get african americans to drink more milk or milk products with the lactose removed was racist because they didn’t suffer as many calcium-related bone problems as we would expect. Which seems like some kind of parody.

          1. Aapje

            I explained the last time that this was brought up (by you?) that vitamin D aids in absorbing calcium, so adding it to milk is perfectly logical.

            It’s mandatory to do so in Sweden since 1983, which should put paid to the idea that it is a racist thing. Note that it’s not mandated in the US, but simply something that milk companies decided to do on their own. That also makes it rather silly to think that there is a conspiracy, where those companies did so because black people drink their products less often.

            In The Netherlands, vitamin D it’s added to margarine, but also, by private companies on their own initiative.

            Nothing is stopping other companies from adding it to their products, but honestly, if a clear minority of the population is at risk, it makes more sense for them to supplement themselves.

          2. Murphy

            I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this on here before.

            I also don’t think it’s racist, I brought up the article as being ridiculous.

            I do think it’s likely non-optimal. We could try relying on people to suplment themselves but that rarely works well, people just don’t hear about these things and they’re swamped by a billion companies trying to convince them that [random useless thing] is a superfood that will fix everything if only they buy it!!!!!

            In practice in a lot of places governments don’t do everything through legislation and often do things like approaching companies about the practicality of doing things that are probably a good idea.

            The push to Iodise salt seems to have been a huge success and didn’t rely on the individual wyoming farmers following the research literature.

          3. Aapje

            @Murphy

            The problem is that some of these groups have different diets. For example, Muslim women also tend to especially be at risk, but many eat a diet from their country of origin, often buying unprocessed ingredients at a small store run by people of the same ethnicity, that they spend a lot of time preparing themselves.

            These shopkeepers are not really easier to reach than the final consumers and what products are you going to enrich? If there is no Western food company in between and customers aren’t willing to pay for it, who is going to cater to it?

            This seems very much a technocratic & paternalistic ‘something must be done to help people that don’t know they need help,’ but at a certain point you need grassroots support to make things happen.

        2. DavidFriedman

          I was told this by a retired Berkeley professor who is described by Wikipedia as one of the few hundred most cited scientists in the world. My impression was that he was reluctant to make a public point of it for fear of being attacked as racist.

      2. Aapje

        @Murphy

        She’d get prescribed some high-dose vitamin D

        Why not just buy it during your regular shopping trips? It’s available over the counter and quite cheap.

        1. Murphy

          That’s what we started doing. Once it was clear that she kept slipping into deficiency.

  21. moshez

    Has anyone already submitted a review for the book review contest? I sent one a few weeks ago, and another one just now, and have gotten no confirmation. I’m hoping “no news means good news”, but if anyone knows more, feel free to share.

  22. Plumber

    @Nick, 

    This seemed up your alley, from: Take Back the Streets From the Automobile
    With people hunkered down at home, cities should act quickly to find a better balance between cars and pedestrians and cyclists.
     

    By Justin Gillis and Heather Thompson

    June 20, 2020 in The New York Times:

    “Since cities came to exist 5,000 years ago, epidemics have shaped their fate.

    Plagues weakened the Roman Empire and may have helped bring it down. The sewers that cleaned up a filthy London in the 19th century were built in direct response to a cholera outbreak. Many of the great urban parks, including Central Park in New York City, were similarly planned after epidemics, to provide more open space.

    Today, the coronavirus pandemic, in all its horror, opens the prospect of sweeping urban change. Cities suddenly see the possibility of correcting their greatest mistake of the 20th century, the surrender of too much public space to the automobile.

    Cities need to seize this moment and move at lightning speed. We need to find a better balance between the cars on our streets and the bicyclists and pedestrians who have, for decades, been neglected and pushed to the margins.

    All over the world, forward-looking cities large and small have already jumped into action. In Medellin, the innovative Colombian city nestled in the Andes, workers are seizing traffic lanes and slapping down yellow paint to signify a change: Cars have been evicted and the lanes are now reserved for bicyclists. In Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the authorities have closed streets, encouraged cycling, and sped the construction of new bike lanes and walkways. In European cities, “corona cycleways” have become the new norm.

    In New York, the city has responded to community demands by pledging to set aside 100 miles of roads in the next few weeks for people on foot or bike, largely closing the streets to traffic during daylight hours. Letting people dine at tables in the middle of the road may help in the salvation of New York restaurants. Across the country in Oakland, Calif., the city has decided to close nearly 10 percent of its streets. And in the middle of the country, Kansas City, Mo., was one of the first to limit traffic and turn parking spots into mini-parks to extend restaurant service.

    This is a golden moment for the movement known as tactical urbanism. More than 200 cities have already announced road closings in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of cities have yet to act in any bold way, however. If they do not, they may miss what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    The circumstances that give rise to this situation are lamentable, of course, just as were the cholera epidemics that altered cities in the 19th century. Bicycling is booming — bike stores are reporting record sales and order backlogs — as people look for easier means to get around and find streets with reduced traffic to be safer and more congenial. Cities are finding they can make bold moves to accommodate all the new bikers and walkers because the drivers who would normally object to street closings are hunkered down in their homes.

    The suppression of automotive traffic is giving us a vivid illustration of the potential future benefits of cleaning up our cities. Air pollution, which kills millions of people every year, is down nearly everywhere. In Mexico City, measurements of the smallest, deadliest particles have fallen by about half. The Indian government has publicly reported that several pollution measures are down as much as 70 percent in New Delhi; in some cities, Indian children are able to see distant mountains for the first time in their lives.

    Most of the road closures announced so far have been billed as temporary, meant to last until the pandemic loosens its grip. The willingness of drivers to leave their cars parked is certainly not going to last. What can cities do to make sure they hold on to the recent gains as the economy reopens?

    To answer that, we return to a phrase we used earlier: tactical urbanism. For the last couple of decades, this movement has been seizing moments of opportunity to improve urban life.

    Sometimes a city government is the instigator, as in 2009, when New York closed several blocks of Broadway, one of the busiest streets in the city, to traffic. Sometimes citizens employ guerrilla tactics — converting a vacant lot into a miniature park or garden, for instance, or throwing up orange traffic cones in the middle of the night to create a bike lane.

    The basic idea is to show people the benefits of a change, however temporary, in order to shift the political dynamic in favor of a more permanent alteration. You can bet that parents whose bored children are suddenly able to ride their bikes in the Oakland streets are seeing this whole set of issues with new eyes.

    When Broadway was closed, thousands of New Yorkers flooded the street, delightedly plopping down in cheap lawn chairs the city had set out on the pavement. From that moment, the vision of a Broadway for people took hold, and the blocks of Broadway through Times Square have been closed to traffic for a decade.

    Similarly, tactical urbanist projects all over the world have led to closed streets, new parks and many other amenities. A large majority of these projects entail reclaiming public space from the automobile. A third or more of the space in any city is devoted to streets, and in the middle of the last century, much of that was converted to traffic lanes and free parking spaces.

    Today, we have been thrust into perhaps the greatest opportunity ever for tactical urbanism. With traffic missing from the streets, people are sensing how completely cars dominate them in normal times, endangering the lives of the pedestrians and cyclists squeezed into tiny strips along the margins. This situation was never sensible or moral, but until now, fixing it was politically impossible in many cities.

    A viral twist of fate has given us a chance to alter the balance, creating streets that work for everyone. Cities that were thinking about lane changes or street closures before the pandemic should move quickly to try them out, and the most popular should be made permanent. Government leaders must pay particular attention to poor neighborhoods, which tend to be forgotten but whose people have just as much right to bike and walk as anyone else. Those neighborhoods are often deprived of parks or sports fields, so a street with few or no cars can be a godsend for children.

    In the end, reclaiming streets will not be enough to lock in improved air quality and other benefits. Every city needs a comprehensive program of car control. Some, like London, are already banning the most polluting vehicles, and a few have gone so far as to declare they will no longer allow fuel-burning engines after 2030 or 2035. In those towns, you will drive an electric car if you drive at all.

    Cities need to follow the lead of London, Singapore and more recently New York in enacting stiff congestion charges that discourage unnecessary driving, with the money plowed into mass transit, as well as more protected lanes for walking and cycling.

    Cities need to be designed for the well-being and health of people, not for cars. We don’t have time to wait. Now is the moment for cities to imagine that future and start willing it into being.”

    Lots of links in the original, but I’m still suspicious of “Urbanism” which usually claims to want Jane Jacobs Greenwich Village style development (which seems to me a fine goal) but what I see in San Francisco (and to a lesser extent Oakland and Berkeley) is those sorts of housing replaced by Hong Kong/central Manhattan style developments, and the calls of “my dream home is now a townhouse” really seem to me to be encouraging policies to destroy them and replace them with skyscrapers instead, leaving the wide streets post war suburbs the same but without the pre-war neighborhoods that are in-between maximum urban and maximum suburban as an alternative to both, and based on where people actually bid up my tastes match most people:

    1) Pre-war “street car suburbs” for families with children. 

    2) Boston (in the ’90’s and before) townhouse style developments for childless couples and couples with an infant.

    3) Post-war wide street suburbs a distant third

    4) Post-war “howling wind” tower blocks a far distant fourth, tied with “There be Dragons” rural areas (good for vacations, but I like being able to walk home from the auto mechanic and the grocer).

    Besides fear of bombs there’s a reason our grandparents had a mass exodus out of the tenements!

    If I ever see many new developments in the style of surviving pre-war streetcar neighborhoods (either attached or detached) I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but mostly all I’ve seen is skyscrapers and “McMansions”, and I say no thanks to both! Preserve the places people actually want to live as long as possible until good alternatives come back in any scale (which I doubt I’ll live long enough to see). 

    Ten to twenty years ago I saw a few townhouse developments on what had been open space in and near San Jose, California, but, while better than skyscrapers, had no corner markets and shops, and instead had “commercial centers” only accessible by long scary walks across multiple lanes, or by automobile, so the worst of both, you still had to drive for most errands and you still got to hear the screams and stereos from the other side of the wall so doubly LAME!

    In the last 20 years there’s been far more new developments around then in the 30 years previous, but frankly it’s not attractive, we know what’s attractive, our great-grandparents built it, but as far as I can tell YIMBY’s destroy those neighborhoods and NIMBY’s prevent new one’s like them.

    I’ve seen the argument that eliminating zoning rules could get back the surviving pre-war style, but did it and does it? The best neighborhoods around here were mostly built in the ’20’s and ’30’s, and zoning started earlier than that, besides what’s left of pre-war is “greatest hits” that have survived, what was the rest like? And do places in the North America with weaker zoning have better neighborhoods (I don’t know, I’ve only seen California, D.C. Montreal, Ottawa, and Seattle, and have heard my wife’s descriptions of Boston, Hong Kong, and Manhattan)?

    Seems easier to capture zoning than eliminate it and trust the free market, sure people “vote with their wallets” for existing good neighborhoods, but it doesn’t look like market incentives encourage the building of them (otherwise walls would still be plaster instead of shoddy drywall!). Though I know some of this is the fault of the Fire Department and their cursed insistence on wide streets when what lives are saved by a faster responses are lost instead to automobile crashes.

    I know that you live in Ohio Nick, so you see other things, but over here it increasingly looks like new developments are either the shadowed wind tunnel streets of the newer developments of San Francisco, or the endless parking lots of Santa Clara County (sure there’s nice areas in both SF and SCC – but all prewar).

    I just don’t like urban YIMBY’s or newer suburb NIMBY’s, I want OSMDWCBSSIMBY -old-style-medium-density-with-small-shops-in-my-backyard.

    How do we get more of that?

    1. WayUpstate

      I’m with you on most of this as I also like to walk home from the grocery and auto mechanic and I can though I live in a village of 3000 nestled in a rural township of 7000 so not really what you had in mind.

      I think the big cities are unlikely to get where you want them to be (at least in the next 20 yrs) though I was surprised at the progress made in DC 2000-2016 at least in the NW neighborhoods where low rise traditional townhomes and single-family housing made a comeback and rose significantly in value while the condo towers (limited to 11 floors or less in DC making the scale much more human) were limited to areas where there was already a good mix of retail and restaurants making for nicely walkable neighborhoods. The last six years of my DC experience I was able to bike to work and the excellent bike lanes facilitated that. DC is an oddity in the US and looks a lot more like London in scale (minus the absurd London high-rises built in the last 20 years). It does drive up prices but the price is probably worth having all the human-scale neighborhoods a short metro ride to the principal industry (Pentagon & Capitol Hill). We’re never going to see Manhattan return to more Greenwich village scale housing (which continues to disappear under glass towers) though the recent crisis will hopefully slow down the relentless gentrification in the east village.

      I think for real innovation, we need to look at the smaller and mid-size cities looking to attract some big city ‘refugees’ and where property prices remain low enough that the business interests can’t instantly overwhelm any ground-level initiatives. In NY state, this would mean Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and a list of smaller cities no one’s heard of all of which have an extreme abundance of fresh water, excess infrastructure, relatively cheap power, and development offices willing and able to hand out multiple year tax exemptions/abatements with even the flimsiest of business plans (even when they shouldn’t). Syracuse is actually going to tear down the ill-advised freeway built through the city center and make the city much more walkable and appealing to potential residents and information-based businesses. FWIW, the older suburbanites are fighting this but barring a change in Democratic state control it will probably stick. These upstate cities have the resources to support cultural enterprises, and the low prices to attract businesses that need some real estate. Whether they can fight their older residents that like car-dependent suburbs is another matter and certainly a question mark.

      There must be some places well north of SF in CA that could resist the ‘suburbanization’ tendencies of major developers.

      1. Plumber

        @WayUpstate says:

        “[…]I also like to walk home from the grocery and auto mechanic and I can though I live in a village of 3000 nestled in a rural township of 7000 so not really what you had in mind[…]

        No, not what I had in mind but that sounds really cool, and I very much appreciate your report on what’s it like far away, thanks!

    2. zardoz

      My guess is that suburbs are going to be the big winners in the post-COVID world. More people are going to be working from home, even after the danger is gone. More people are going to continue to order from Amazon or some other online retailer rather than going to a physical store. Urban crime is a growing problem and, in my opinion, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

      If you want a 1900s-style medium-density neighborhood, maybe your best bet is to create it in minecraft.

      1. Plumber

        @zardoz says:

        “[…]If you want a 1900s-style medium-density neighborhood, maybe your best bet is to create it in minecraft.”

        I already live in a “streetcar suburb” in a two bedroom, one bathroom house built in 1927 a baseball throw from Berkeley, California already, and before that I lived for 17 years in an 18 unit apartment building in Oakland (also a baseball throw from Berkeley) that was built in the ’20’s (and had wonderful steam heat but became very miserable when the landlord started renting out more to college students), my beef is that we didn’t get to live in a neighborhood snd house like ours until me and my wife were both closer to 50 than to 40 because such houses are scarce and extremely expensive (but there really isn’t anyway near my jobs that isn’t, but thanks for the tip our son used to play Mjnecraft so I imagine that I could ask him for pointers.

    3. Scott Alexander

      Question: was that the way the quote naturally appeared when you used the blockquote tag, or did you do something special to make it look like that?

      1. Plumber

        @Scott Alexander,
        I initially discovered the trick by accident, but it was on purpose this time (I like to use italized blockquote only when quoting other SSC comments).

        Using “><" instead of "][" go [blockquote][i]whatever you’re quoting [/i][/blockquote] and you get:

        whatever you’re quoting

    4. eric23

      There’s actually lots of medium-height development right now in fast-growing parts of the US, for example Houston. And urbanists and YIMBYs are well aware of the popular preference for medium height. The problem is, when new residential construction is only allowed in a handful of locations (like in the Bay Area), those locations have to build skyscrapers in order to come close to satisfying residential demand.

      The solution, of course, is to force upzoning everywhere, so the demand can be spread out. This was the premise of SB-50, a California legislative proposal which died in committee shortly before covid19 arrived. It relied on the fact that nowadays we can build up to 5-6 stories in wood, which is much cheaper than concrete. So SB-50 would have upzoned anywhere near a rapid transit stop to 5-6 stories. This would have led to a large amount of mid-height construction which would automatically have the transit infrastructure nearby to support it. Unfortunately it was not passed this time, but hopefully something similar can pass in the near future.

    5. keaswaran

      This is a known issue in online urbanist communities. Google the phrase “missing middle”. They note that in the past several decades, it’s not just that single family construction has taken a larger share than it did in previous decades, but also that out of the multifamily construction that has gone on, a much larger fraction of it is in buildings with 10 or more units. All those row houses, and 2-9 unit buildings that make up some extremely popular neighborhoods, are pressured from both sides.

      There are some places, like San Francisco and New York, where some of those older middle density neighborhoods should naturally by now be ramping up towards higher density, as the surrounding single-family neighborhoods grow this middle density. But in many American cities (like Houston, as noted by someone else), just growing this missing middle would hugely increase density.

      (Also, I think some criticism of larger buildings is misplaced – it took me a moment to realize that you had intended all larger buildings to be in category 4. The description you gave of category 4 sounds like a “tower in the park” development, with a big building on a wide open patch of land. But the pleasant ones would basically look a lot more like a three story mixed-use apartment building, with a taller tower set back a bit above it. Basically what they call “Vancouverism”, where from the street level it looks like a medium-density neighborhood, but it has the street life of a denser neighborhood.)

  23. Uribe

    Imagine solar and wind energy electricity storage become dirt cheap but electricity storage and transportation do not. What would be the result with regard to human migration around the US (or another country, or around the world)?

    What I’m really wondering is how much of a constraint fresh water is if say, you’ve got unlimited free electricity in the desert but not in many other places. How many people can live in New Mexico or Arizona? What would you do to get these places more water under these free power conditions?

    1. Belisaurus Rex

      Energy transportation already is cheap, and green energy is too. Our problem is 100% storage–even now Denmark, with tons of renewables, has to pay Norway to take their excess energy on particularly windy/sunny days because energy is very difficult to store. So unless I’m completely wrong about transportation (I’m not an EE), your question only makes sense assuming that energy transportation is more expensive than in our current world.

      If we are no longer able to transport energy via power lines, but DO have unlimited free energy, I think that there are ways to draw water out of the air using electricity, such as with dehumidifiers. So I guess we get giant dehumidifiers to draw all the water out of the desert, and we drink it out of the collection tray.

      1. Uribe

        I’m aware of negative rates in Denmark and Ontario but my understanding is that transportation is expensive. I once read about an idea to transport power from the Sahara to Europe which lead to study that concluded “It turns out electricity is one of the most expensive things in the world to transport.”

        In the USA most of the sun and wind are in the West whereas most of the people are in the East. If solar and wind power really are the future, will we move the power to the people or the people to the power?

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          Its not expensive – it is, however, politically fraught. There was a German energy consortium with the basic plan of “Build solar in the Sahara, run power lines north” and their prospectus costed all this out, it looked very good, financially. However, nobody wants their power plants located in politically unstable neighboring countries, so it would only work, politically, if the EU swallowed up North Africa…

          1. Murphy

            Yep, solar panels in northern africa looks great… right up until the government changes and notices that they have the other countries by the balls and a vast pile of easily-nationalised expensive hardware sitting within their borders that belongs to foreign investors.

    2. WayUpstate

      I suppose you could pipe your electrons to the coast, desalinate all the water you wanted, and pump it back. But, for what? More places like Scottsdale? Blah.

      Arizona and the SW should grow to support the limits of what they can provide internally and no more. How? Make the cost of that water flowing through your tap exactly what it costs including all the externalities and federal freebies added in. I know I’m dreaming on this and don’t think the ability to desalinate all that water at no environmental cost would change my mind. Outside the central basin, AZ can be quite nice so why muck it up?

      1. Uribe

        I picked AZ and NM as examples but I meant anywhere in the West where the sun shines most of the time and the land is plentiful and therefore cheap. I imagine people would be motivated to move there mostly for commercial purposes not because their residential power bill would be zero.

        1. WayUpstate

          OK, got it. Is water really the issue in the central basin areas west of the Rockies and north of Phoenix? Yes, I can see it is a constraint but even in a low cost/impact power environment will your costs have gone up enough getting water to make the low density areas of the east more desirable economically (and buy/transport the cheap power from the west). Lots of excess infrastructure in the rust belt and it’s cheap! Seems to me, there would have to be some other incentives beyond cheap power.

          1. Uribe

            I had been thinking how rustbelt cities are located where they are not just to be on a waterway for transportation but because that wat+erway was also the cheapest source of electrical power at the time. By analogy, I wondered if some hellishly hot location may be the next Buffalo.

            But like you say, there is no other advantage I can think of, whereas Buffalo had at least three.

    3. eric23

      Not much. Electricity availability has a significant effect on industrial location, but little effect on residential location.

      There is not really a water shortage in Arizona, or California, or anywhere in the US. A high proportion of potable water is being used unnecessarily for agriculture. This could be all diverted for human use, and agriculture supplied by “grey water” instead. Or else the supply of potable water could be increased by desalination, but this is already affordable at current electric rates.

      1. sharper13

        Yeah. Arizona specifically has a nuclear power plant and plenty of river water. They sell the excess electricity to neighboring states (CA) and much of the water is also passed on as a result of long-lived agreements. What is used in state is primarily (68%) for agriculture, not people directly.

        California imports electricity, mostly because the people prefer to elect legislatures who would rather do that than produce their own within the state (revealed preference).

        They also import water (See CA aqueduct) for central/southern CA, and their water is again mostly (80%) used for agriculture. They could use their own mountain water rather than importing, but again, their revealed preference is to use that for environmental projects/goals rather than store it somewhere to replace the imported water.

  24. Le Maistre Chat

    So it’s not clear to me what “slavery is wrong” implies should, morally, have happened in modern history.

    I’ve found Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild a good history of abolitionism (Hochschild is a co-founder of Mother Jones, which is either terrible or a boon depending on your interlocutor).

    The movement’s first success was Somerset v Stewart, 1772, when judge Lord Mansfield found in the case of a customs officer named Charles Stewart who tried to keep the slave from the Colonies James Somerset in England:

    The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law [statute], which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.

    The inconveniences were that this judge had just left the legality of a basic economic system in the colonies up in the air. As Hochschild perceptively notes, “[in 1772] freedom, not bondage, was the peculiar institution.”
    Within a few years, the American Revolution broke out, and Royal Governors in rebel colonies abolished slavery where they had boots on the ground, without touching the institution in other British colonies like the much more economically-important Caribbean islands.

    In 1807, Parliament passed The Slave Trade Act 1807. It’s only slightly oversimplifying to say that this Act committed the Royal Navy to gunboat diplomacy everywhere on Earth that slaves were purchased by ship. The Sultanate of Zanzibar had a huge old slave market that the Christian people of Britain, through their Parliament’s control of the world’s most powerful Navy, forced to shut down with nine warships off the coast and they built an Anglican cathedral on top of it. Over on the central west coast of Africa, around 50 Pagan kings were forced to sign anti-slavery laws by gunboat diplomacy.
    Most of this activity, of course, postdated 1833, when Parliament banned slavery in Britain’s own sugar colonies.

    So two big obvious questions this raises are:
    1) Morally, should the 13 American colonies have remained part of the British Empire?
    2) If slavery is the greatest evil, isn’t the British Empire forcing its laws on Africa (and everywhere else slavery was legal in 1833) the most good act humans have ever coordinated?

    Complicating matters: British law did not consider the Royal Navy abducting men from coastal pubs and forcing them to serve in the Royal Navy under the lash to be slavery. How does impressing more white men so as to have a stronger Navy to go force Muslims and black Pagans to stop trading or owning slaves shake out morally?

    1. Erusian

      The official narrative is profoundly disinterested in intellectual rigor per se and profoundly interested in current policy prescriptions. For example, the University of St. Andrews has established a reparations fund. It was pointed out by some grouchy conservatives that if you want to pay reparations, the tiny amount of money donated by slavers pales in comparison to the amount of oppression, exclusion, and outright theft (including of the entire university!) that was done against Catholics. But the point is to support the policy prescriptions the interlocutor believes will support racial justice, not to rigorously create a coherent worldview. They knew the result they wanted to end up at (scholarships for black students) and found a reason to justify that.

      I’m actually fairly sympathetic to the goal but not to the justifications. And I’m happy to take a good old SSC dogpile if you want to have that fight. I think that trying to eternalize and historicize the conflict gets into dodgy history and a lot obscure academic points. The truth is that African Americans do suffer from a number of social pathologies and that they have a real experience of racism. They are also hugely disproportionately impoverished. And I think American society is at least largely responsible for that and should work to alleviate that. (Then again, I also think that about Native Americans, rural Americans, and several other groups.)

      I’m not even sure they could specifically articulate what they want in the sense that a certain bill would make them feel better. But they feel under threat and like America needs to undergo fairly fundamental changes to alleviate that threat and bring them into full and equal citizenship. And I think this is fair. I heartily disagree with the current system’s changes and think it’s meant to transmute racial anger into the preservation of class privilege. (“Hey, we won’t stop the police from brutalizing you but there will be some elite blacks hanging around in mansions. We cool?”) But I think the idea that minorities, particularly African Americans and Native Americans, are victims of unfair social systems is basically true.

      If you accept this, slavery then serves as a useful totem as something that everyone is against. Something that the Democrats don’t want to defend and the Republicans are proud they abolished. Something that is a strong point in favor of the idea that Africans have unique and disadvantageous circumstances. And something with emotional resonance for every American.

      So the official narrative is basically one of anti-racist interventionism. I’ve had fruitful discussions even criticizing fairly important planks of Democrat’s racial narrative from the point of view not that blacks aren’t oppressed but that the narrative is mistaken about causes and remedies. It’s when you run into telling African Americans they aren’t oppressed they have a hostile reaction, sensing (ime) that it’s an attempt to perpetuate what they think is a discriminatory system. Which, again, is a premise I’ll defend if you want me to.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        The official narrative is profoundly disinterested in intellectual rigor per se and profoundly interested in current policy prescriptions.

        You can’t prescribe factually and morally correct policies without intellectual rigor!
        screams in Aquinas’s Latin for ten minutes

        1. Erusian

          Perhaps not. Yet I think part of the point is that other policies go on without such rigor in many cases. Indeed, I’ve met a great deal of exhaustion with the very need to justify the policies themselves. Though I must admit, on that count I’m unsympathetic.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            “Does what it claims it will do.” Forcing people to do things that factually will not achieve the stated goal seems wrong. You can take Marxist truth claims about how to grow food as an extreme example.

      2. Milo Minderbinder

        Is the problem then that “reparative” (need a less loaded word) social welfare payments are an easier sell than more intellectually disinterested attempts at remedying inequality? Instead of seeing the reduction of inequality (whether it be in treatment by police or family wealth across racial lines) as a good in and of itself, the arguments are seen as being more effective if couched in moral outrage/guilt?

        They knew the result they wanted to end up at (scholarships for black students) and found a reason to justify that.

        This what probably makes people here disproportionately angry to their mean political orientation. I too agree with the ends (increased black college enrollment), but the process you describe of rationalizing the method seems intellectually shoddy.

        I think you’re spot on describing minority unease with the current state of affairs as a response to an atmosphere rather than specific set of slights. But if the focus of the response to this inimical atmosphere is to address the remnants of slavery (when, say, erasing the lingering effects of racist 1940’s housing policies may be a more efficacious avenue of attack) then it will become increasingly incoherent as the problems faced by African Americans become more divorced from the institution. (To say nothing of the problems of Native Americans/Rural Americans/others mentioned, whose issues are not advanced nearly as well by the focus on slavery)

        1. Erusian

          African Americans are a minority, a fairly small one all things considered (about 10% of the population). They aren’t particularly wealthy. They have cultural influence but a lot of that is based on trading on an identity that’s inherently not as threatening. (As much as rappers talk about violence, criminal violence is less of a threat to the current system. Especially when it mostly takes place in the hood.) So they tend to attach their actual goal to whatever party they’re a part of wants. Republicans want industry and a compliant South? Great, give us a piece of that industry and some of those political slots. Democrats want a huge welfare state? Well, we certainly are very poor and need some help there! Etc.

          African Americans do have political influence but they can’t drive the conversation. They can create conversations about themselves but driven primarily by other groups. White cultural elites, largely progressive, right now. This means they’re constrained in their political moves. Add in the fact that African Americans who rise to true prominence tend to have to get past white gatekeepers and you have a recipe for a group that somewhat conforms to the needs of the wagon they’re hitching their ride to.

          I don’t think the current conversation is about slavery because that’s what black people want to talk about. I think it’s about slavery because it’s what progressive journalists and the African Americans they let into their newsrooms want to talk about. I suspect you’d get a much, much more modern picture if you had a more genuinely on the street message.

        1. Ketil

          So why are demands being made in other Western countries through riots?

          I think one mistake is expecting some kind of coherent reasoning behind these things. After all we got the US riots after deaths which had no apparent link to racism. But with highly visceral videos combined with a longstanding and oft-retold narrative that blames all your problems on certain outgroups, the results are what they are.

          As for Europe, I think European radicals just like to emulate American radicals. Quantitatively speaking, we get a lot of news from the US. (Qualitatively, it’s more like the more political section of CNN clipped down to headlines only) I expect Europeans watched and wanted to be part of the glorious struggle against racism.

          A good example is tearing down statues of Churchill. This makes little sense if you consider history, but is plainly just mimicking the tearing down of Confederate (and now also Union) generals.

          1. Aapje

            I’ve noticed that the foreign reporting in my Dutch newspaper is far more one-sided and radical than national reporting. It seems that the information for many stories comes purely from one side of the culture war.

          2. DeWitt

            Yeah, I’ve noticed that as well. I’m not sure if it is because the Dutch media get their own sources from much more leftist journalists abroad, or because it is the natural contrast between ourselves and the rest of the world coming through.

        2. John Schilling

          So why are demands being made in other Western countries through riots?

          Same reason that e.g. Frence protesters were including “Free Mumia” placards in just about every march, protest, or riot for a decade or two. It’s fun, it’s hip, it taps into the casual anti-Americanism so annoyingly prevalent in too much of Europe, and it’s safe and it’s cheap in a way that picking a fight over local issues often isn’t.

          1. Randy M

            It’s funny that in expressing their anti-American ideas, they are adopting American centric issues into their own culture, making themselves all the more a cultural province of America.

          2. Nick

            @Randy M
            Some number of decades down the road we’re going to be blamed for this act of neo-imperialism.

          3. John Schilling

            making themselves all the more a cultural province of America.

            If you’re going to be a cultural province of America no matter what the Académie Française says, it kind of makes sense that you’d want to protest what you see as objectionable aspects of American culture. Not that you’ll be able to do anything about it, but again – safe easy fun so might as well.

        3. Clutzy

          Because its wrong, as a mental model, to think of these rioters as unorganized responses to police brutality. They are a force projection by left wing institutions attempting to seize victory in the culture war. Its best to think of them as state or party actors that, thanks to the internet, can organize in less easily identifiable ways.

          1. WayUpstate

            I’m assuming you’re differentiating between the millions of peaceful demonstrators – many of which are no doubt acting in support of “left wing institutions” – and the small bunch of criminal rioters that, as far as I can tell, are acting in no ones interest but their own and should be treated as the criminals that they are. They are aligned with no cause but whatever momentary impulse popped into their brains in the minute before they broke that window.

          2. gbdub

            Plenty of rioters (if by rioter we mean “person attending a political rally with the intent of engaging in violence”) are politically motivated, e.g. the more organized Antifa groups in Berkeley and Portland. Sometimes the idea is to spark larger violence from more opportunistic rioters. Antifa vs. the Proud Boys seem to be kind of organized rumbles – both groups obviously politically motivated.

            Looters do seem to mostly be out for themselves.

          3. WayUpstate

            @gbdub I think we agree but frankly ANTIFA by its own definition is an unaffiliated bunch of small groups defined by a shared hatred of extremists on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Ergo, I put them in the no-particular-reason-for-doing-what-they-do category and differentiate them from the millions marching peacefully. I’ve no time for them.

          4. gbdub

            They have a very distinct, openly stated reason for doing what they do: they believe violence, or at least the distinct threat thereof, is justified to counter “fascists”. I don’t agree that they act on “whatever momentary impulse popped into their brains”. (Also, I’m not saying these people are Antifa, but several riots involved Molotov cocktails used to burn cop cars and fireworks thrown at cops… those also are not “momentary impulses”)

            If you think they are too small in number to really matter in the context of these particular protests, I think then we agree.

          5. Clutzy

            I’m assuming you’re differentiating between the millions of peaceful demonstrators – many of which are no doubt acting in support of “left wing institutions” – and the small bunch of criminal rioters that, as far as I can tell, are acting in no ones interest but their own and should be treated as the criminals that they are. They are aligned with no cause but whatever momentary impulse popped into their brains in the minute before they broke that window.

            Not at all. My statement ONLY applies to the rioters, not to the peaceful protesters who, when not acting as interference for the rioters, are simply a legitimate political movement.

            The rioters, OTOH, act only in areas where the local officials tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) approve of their actions. Their serious criminal acts were allowed via stand down orders, and have not been prosecuted after the fact. It is, thus, a campaign to terrorize the rest of the populace that is being actively allowed by the local officials. This is exactly the conduct that led to the Enforcement acts of 1870 and 1871 being passed. This is why notably, almost all of the serious prosecutions have been brought by federal officials.

      3. Gerry Quinn

        I’m just going to say that the way you really earn respect for yourself – and your people – is to fight honestly through the real or alleged oppressions and come out on top. I’m okay with investing in stuff that promotes opportunities to do that. (And obviously slavery removes the possibility of doing it, so that’s another argument against slavery, if you needed one.)

    2. Skeptic

      Barely on topic response, I apologize.

      Mother Jones is a treasure because of Kevin Drum.

      I disagree with his policy stances probably 70-85% of the time. I also become constantly peeved as a stats guy that he excessively extrapolates from mono-variable excel charts which control for absolutely nothing.

      However….. his framework is to attempt to use data to inform his opinions. That alone means we have some common view of the world.

    3. cassander

      1) Morally, should the 13 American colonies have remained part of the British Empire?

      America has worked out pretty well, all things considered, but if I’d been around then, I’d almost certainly have said yes. Our grounds for rebellion was pretty thin, and revolution is a risky business.

      That said, I don’t see how america could have stayed in the empire without getting some formal political representation. If those irish catholic savages (apologies Deiseach!) could manage to get 100 MPs in 1800, the colonies would have have been able to wrangle at least a couple dozen. If the US had been part of the UK, it’s almost certain that british anti-slavery policies would have not been as strenuous as they were.

      2) If slavery is the greatest evil, isn’t the British Empire forcing its laws on Africa (and everywhere else slavery was legal in 1833) the most good act humans have ever coordinated?

      the british abolished the oceanic slave trade, not slavery. If you traded slaves over land, you were fine.

      1. eric23

        If those irish catholic savages (apologies Deiseach!) could manage to get 100 MPs in 1800, the colonies would have have been able to wrangle at least a couple dozen.

        I imagine they only got those MPs after having seen what happened when they refused to give Americans MPs.

    4. AlesZiegler

      Would the British Empire ban slavery if not for the American Revolution? Somehow I doubt that.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        So assume the Empire loses the American Revolution. Would the most ethical possible thing to do in 1833 be to build a bigger military and conquer as much territory where slavery is legal as possible as fast as possible?

        1. AlesZiegler

          Christian colonial powers like England, but also France, Holland and others, had by the time of Somerset well established practice where they allowed slavery in the colonies, but did not brought slaves into the home country, at least not in any sort of large numbers. I suspect it is likely that if it would not be for three successive revolutions shortly after it (American, French, and very importantly Haitian) Somerset case would in retrospect look like fiddling with the details of a robust economic system of slave exploitation.

          But of course we will never know for sure.

          1. The original Mr. X

            Christian colonial powers like England, but also France, Holland and others, had by the time of Somerset well established practice where they allowed slavery in the colonies, but did not brought slaves into the home country, at least not in any sort of large numbers. I suspect it is likely that if it would not be for three successive revolutions shortly after it (American, French, and very importantly Haitian) Somerset case would in retrospect look like fiddling with the details of a robust economic system of slave exploitation.

            But why, though? Britain didn’t get much money from its North American colonies, still less from the slave plantations therein, and the American Revolution didn’t cause the end of the plantation system anyway. By 1807 most of Britain, and almost all of the ruling classes, saw the French Revolution as an example of dangerous radicalism, not the sort of thing they’d look to for inspiration. And if the Haitian revolution had any noticeable effect on the British abolitionist movement, no history book I’ve ever read has mentioned it.

    5. JPNunez

      If you drank some pints at a pub with some bloke called Horatio, and you woke up with a huge migraine and a sailor suit at the battle of Trafalgar, your kids won’t be forced to go into the navy as well, so I think the moral maths go reasonably well.

  25. Erusian

    Stalin, being a fair minded fellow, thought he had a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After all, the Palestinians had been living there a long time but the Jews also needed a homeland with its own army to prevent something like the Holocaust from repeating. He had what was, to his mind, a fairly obvious solution: carve out a third-ish of Germany and give it to the Jews. If you had to move around a bunch of Germans, or they ended up in a state that treated them as second class citizens, so what. They deserved it after the Holocaust. And that wasn’t the sort of thing that bothered Stalin anyway. He was torn about which third of Germany to give them (he tended to lean towards the south but he also thought it would be excellent for stability to remove the coal and steel resources between France and Germany and give them to the Jews).

    In real life the plan never got very far. Stalin was the only one interested in creating a homeland for the Jews (a project he’d started in the 1920s, actually). And he didn’t have such total control over Germany so he mostly prioritized other goals when negotiating with the west. Let’s say Stalin got his way and he created a Jewish state in the northwestern third of Germany (including the Ruhr and the heavy industrial areas) out of the survivors of the Holocaust and Russian Jews etc. Probably one with heavy Communist influence, considering Stalin set it up. What would be the implications for history? Would Israel and this new European state be competing for who could be the most Jewish state? How would the European Union be different?

    It’s all idle, of course, but I’ve been thinking about this lately for some reason.

      1. Erusian

        The Madagascar plan is somewhat different in that the Nazis presumed the Jews would perish due to the nature of Madagascar and Jew’s inherent unfitness to survive without being parasites on more productive peoples. And also due to the continuing Nazi police state. Stalin, in contrast, saw the Jews as continuing to survive and hold the state and territory.

        1. Le Maistre Chat

          the Nazis presumed the Jews would perish due to the nature of Madagascar and Jew’s inherent unfitness to survive without being parasites on more productive peoples.

          I forget my citations, but some Zionists agreed with the stereotype that Jews were physically weak and treated Israel as a social engineering project to make muscular working-class Jews who were handy with guns.
          I guess that worked.

          1. cassander

            Some nazis thought that, but there were other proponents of the basic plan whose intentions weren’t murderous.

          2. Yair

            You do not need citations. Practically all branches of Zionism in Palestine explicitly set to create a new type of Jew, muscular working-class Jews who were handy with guns. A people like all people, with a working-class, soldiers and farmers.

            It was a core belief of Labour Zionism and therefore became a mainstream view in Israel from the very start, and probably just about the only thing that the Revisionists agreed with the Labour Zionist majority.

          3. rumham

            set to create a new type of Jew, muscular working-class Jews who were handy with guns.

            I know (knew) two men who fought for Israel in the late 40s and 50s (one was a relative). They fit this mold to a T. I had no idea that creating this class was a stated goal, but they definitely had some seriously able starting stock to work with.

    1. Butterreiniger

      I’m going to take a stab at playing this out. I have a degree in German Studies, plus I’ve lived in Eastern Europe and spent a decent amount of time reading about the history of the Soviet Union. And I’m Jewish, for what it matters. So, a few things that immediately stick out to me.

      1. To state the obvious, Germany in 1945 was really anti-Semitic. There’s polling data from the 40s and 50s that showed an overwhelming majority of Germans really disliked Jews, with (if I’m remembering correctly) a near majority supporting extermination. That wasn’t so important in 1945, because, well, there weren’t really any Jews left in Germany, outside of displaced persons camps, but if every German in the most densely populated region of Germany was suddenly forced out of their homes, it absolutely would have. This is a massive butterfly. I genuinely don’t think Germany, even led by a sympathetic government, would have been able to largely purge Antisemitism if a huge section of the population had an experience where they lost everything in order for the Jews to have something. I don’t know what would have come from that, but it wouldn’t have been good. A more nationalistic Germany, at the very least.

      2. At the end of the war, Germany was in shambles. Cities were bombed flat, the Red Army had torn through the Eastern half, and vital infrastructure was destroyed. Cases of disease and hunger had skyrocketed. Now, on top of that, Germany had a massive refugee crisis. This was two-fold. There were millions of slave laborers who’s been brought to Germany and now needed to return home, and, way more of an issue for the Germans, the Eastern Germans were being driven into Germany. Historically, millions of Germans had lived in Eastern Europe. Think of places like the Sudetenland, now in Czechia, and Konigsberg, now Kaliningrad. Stalin wanted them gone. These people were typically less well educated and poorer than people in Germany proper, and millions of them arrived in the span of a few years. Housing and caring for them was one of the biggest challenges facing West Germany. Now, add in a third of the country out of reach and another refugee crisis of similar proportions. If the world had its act together (and big if, there) there would be enough food and at least tents. But from what I’ve read about the subject, that wouldn’t have happened. Likely we’re looking at tens of thousands of additional deaths at an absolute minimum.

      3. I don’t think the Jews wanted this. I’ve read some first-hand accounts from this time, and lots of people mentions Jews being completely, absolutely focused on emigration to Palestine. Could they have been made to stay? Sure, if you forced them, probably with arms. But at the very least, there’d be serious illegal migration issues.

      4. I don’t think it would have affected Israel’s early history too much. From my understanding, Holocaust survivors weren’t a vital part of the IDF/Haganah. The core there was composed of people who’d been living in Palestine for some time. Holocaust survivors did fight, but they were viewed by Palestinian Israelis (?) as weak and cowardly. So I’m not sure this would be a big butterfly there. It would, however, mean that Israel going forward was much more Middle Eastern and much less European (assuming the Mizrahi were still forced out of Middle Eastern countries). I can’t speculate on how that would change its politics, but it would certainly be a big change in the culture.

      5. Now, on to the EU. There’s a giant butterfly here. If the Jews got Germany’s industrial and mining center, would there even be an EU? It started from the European Coal and Steel Community, after all. France wanted this organization to integrate Germany and make war impossible, but would they have done it with Germany divided in three, instead of two? Would they have even wanted to integrate with a Jewish, Communist-backed state?

      6. The last one depends on its exact borders, but if it doesn’t border East Germany, the USSR has a problem. The Soviets were able to crush revolts in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary because were surrounded by satellite countries. If this state had no border with another communist country, the minute it revolts, the airport can be shut down and Soviet reinforcements are locked out. If it was a satellite state, there’d be a big garrison there, but that’d get expensive, because they probably couldn’t just keep supplying it by air. If it does border East Germany, less of an issue.

      There’s a few other butterflies I can think of, but here’s my best guess: more anti-Semitism worldwide, including in the US; a weakened Germany with a chip on its shoulder; a weaker Israel (less population, plus I don’t think they would have received so much funding from the Germans as reparations, and Ashkenazi Jews were/are better educated than Mizrahim); potentially less European integration; a gigantic headache for US military planners (easy location to get stabbed in the back from, it reminds me of the planning done with regards to Kaliningrad).

      I’ve thought about this to, tbh, from a different source. The King of Saudi Arabia apparently had a pretty similar suggestion. I believe he thought Bavaria was the best location for it.

    2. Clutzy

      Farbeit for me to suggest Stalin wasn’t a great guy, but doesn’t that just mostly sound like a plan for weakening a geopolitical rival and creating a buffer state?

      1. Erusian

        I’m very aware of Stalin’s arguments with Lenin over territorial homelands and his subsequent execution of that policy. I’ve also read books about his first attempt at a Jewish homeland and had a friend who went there. (There were no Jews there, though there were a lot of Russians/Cossacks curious to learn about Jews.) While the liquidation before World War 2 was a tragedy, one that drove Jews west and ultimately into Nazi death camps, it’s not the question I’m asking.

        Because, to be clear, I condemn Stalin as a terrible person. If you asked me if Stalin or Hitler was worse I would have serious difficulty deciding.

    3. Nancy Lebovitz

      Judenstaat.

      “It is 1988. Judit Klemmer is a filmmaker who is assembling a fortieth-anniversary official documentary about the birth of Judenstaat, the Jewish homeland surrendered by defeated Germany in 1948. Her work is complicated by Cold War tensions between the competing U.S. and Soviet empires and by internal conflicts among the “black-hat” Orthodox Jews, the far more worldly Bundists, and reactionary Saxon nationalists, who are still bent on destroying the new Jewish state. But Judit’s work has far more personal complications. A widow, she has yet to deal with her own heart’s terrible loss—the very public assassination of her husband, Hans Klemmer, shot dead while conducting a concert. Then a shadowy figure slips her a note, with new and potentially dangerous information about her famous husband’s murder. Then the ghost steps in…”

    4. Gerry Quinn

      He managed to move Poland 200 miles to the west (and still control it) so Stalin got a lot of what he wanted. In the end, his side of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was largely honoured by the Allied Powers, with the exception of Finland (they fought dirty and they fought hard, they were somewhat in the Soviet sphere of influence afterwards but they remained free).

  26. Mark V Anderson

    This is a very CW post. I would like not to get too much heat on this one, but instead light on where I am thinking wrong.

    There was an article in my local paper last week on a moment of silence for George Floyd at a prison in Minnesota. One of the guards blurted out during the silence something positive about Derek Chauvin (the cop that choked Floyd). People were shocked and the guard disciplined. But how is this different from athletes taking a knee during the national anthem?

    I do think the outburst was inappropriate and the guard should be moderately disciplined, but I also think that kneeling on the job is inappropriate. Is it okay to protest required workday ceremonies that are sacred to some people but chafing to others? In this case the moment of silence was pretty political as it was to “honor other lives cut short by ‘systems of racism and discrimination’ in the state.”

    As I think about this I think the main response will be that the death of George Floyd is still raw and thus disrespectful, since it was only a few weeks ago. And that makes some sense, but I wonder how long the death will remain raw, as activists seem determined to drag it out as long as possible. To me the activists should get a couple of days to shriek and moan about the situation, but not weeks.

    1. GoneAnon

      People were shocked and the guard disciplined. But how is this different from athletes taking a knee during the national anthem?

      I was thinking about doing a long CW/effortpost on anthem protests titled something like “Yes, it is about the flag” and had this exact sort of (hypothetical) example in mind.

      Someone shouting an objection to (or even advocating for an unrelated cause) during a moment of silence would technically be well within their rights, but would also be considered incredibly rude, even if the cause was just. And if they tried to claim “This has nothing to do with George Floyd,” everyone almost certainly would not buy that explanation. This seems like a perfectly analogous situation to anthem-kneeling.

      ETA: The actual analogy I was thinking of was to try and not be about recent events – I came up with the scenario of a couple days after a school shooting, if a sporting event had a moment of silence “to honor the victims” and some person started shouting about the evils of the North Korean Government. Like, even if you agreed that the North Korean Government was evil and that people need to know more about it and that maybe Americans need to take action on it in some way… you’d consider the person doing that to be a huge jerk, and if you said they were disrespecting the victims of the school shooting, and they tried to say “No, didn’t you listen? I’m complaining about North Korea… this has nothing to do with the school shooting or its victims” you’d (accurately) point out how full of it they were.

      1. Rolaran

        I think an important factor that your example and the prison situation have in common, that the national anthem at sporting events does not, is that it is implied to be a one-time thing to acknowledge a specific event. The national anthem is more of a ritual, in that it is done as a part of the show at a specific time every time. Thus, taking an action during the anthem can be more plausibly said to be intended as a disruption to that routine, without necessarily making a statement about the specific symbol being interrupted. Now if a moment of silence became something expected as part of a workday routine or “just something we do” at a sporting event, interrupting it, while still rude, would somewhat lose that direct connection to whatever the original reason was for the silence.

      2. salvorhardin

        Right, so part of the question is whether symbols and rituals of the nation (the flag, the anthem, etc) deserve respect at all as a matter of social etiquette. Or to put it another way, whether people’s patriotic feelings deserve the same sort of respect as people’s feelings about the victims of police killings (or in your example school shootings). I don’t think they do, but I acknowledge that most people would find that strange.

        1. GoneAnon

          The “moment of silence at public events following any sort of well known tragedy” is, itself, a quasi-religious ritual at this point, isn’t it?

          What makes it any more worthy of respect and dignity than a moment “to honor America” (the typical introduction for the national anthem at most American sporting events)? The fact that we have them less regularly?

    2. LT

      Here’s a couple things that come to mind, trying as much as possible to provide light and not heat as per your request:

      –Kneeling during an anthem doesn’t necessarily prevent others from experiencing the anthem the way it’s meant to be experienced. They can still keep their eyes on the flag, their hand on their heart and sing along. (Theoretically, since the flag is high in the air, a kneeling person wouldn’t often be in your line of sight?) Speaking during a moment of silence necessarily breaks the silence for everyone who can hear it.

      –Many people lately discussing cancelling have raised the point that to the extent someone’s job is to help the company make money, etc., it makes sense, in a way, to fire them if they bring bad press to the company and impact its ability to make money. Somewhat analogously, I’d think that (1) to the extent this man is an employee and the governor is his superior (is he?), not following his superior’s order could be worthy of discipline in itself. (Did Kaepernick’s boss ever order him not to kneel?) And (2), to the extent that this man’s job is to help the correctional facility run smoothly, and to the extent that many people living in that facility can probably be expected to be angered by what happened to Floyd, this man’s actions negatively impacted the facility’s ability to carry out its mission. Kaepernick’s kneeling theoretically shouldn’t affect his ability to win football games. It may affect the team’s ability to make money if enough people were turned off by him kneeling though.

      –Power differences, a subject that seems to come up a lot in social justice discussions. The US is a 200+ year old institution that is extremely powerful and has been involved in much that’s worth criticizing over the course of its existence (it’s been involved in much good, too!). Floyd is just one guy who was killed recently. Protesting against him comes off as ‘punching down’, where protesting against the flag does not.

      –It’s known that Kaep chose to kneel as the maximally-respectful way to protest
      If the guard’s actions weren’t as well thought-out, it shouldn’t be too surprising that they didn’t end up coming off as equally respectful. If Kaep had continued sitting on the bench instead of kneeling, perhaps he wouldn’t be remembered as fondly, either.

      1. GoneAnon

        –Kneeling during an anthem doesn’t necessarily prevent others from experiencing the anthem the way it’s meant to be experienced. They can still keep their eyes on the flag, their hand on their heart and sing along. (Theoretically, since the flag is high in the air, a kneeling person wouldn’t often be in your line of sight?) Speaking during a moment of silence necessarily breaks the silence for everyone who can hear it.

        This is a fair point. And I myself place a whole lot of the blame for the anthem-kneeling controversy on NBC, ESPN, and every other network that makes it a point to zoom-in on anthem kneelers during the broadcast, and to exhaustively discuss who kneeled and who didn’t before, during, and after, the game. If you’re in the live audience yes, it’s pretty easy to just look at the flag or the singer and not notice. But if you’re watching on TV (and the TV audience is a couple orders of magnitude higher than the in-person audience) then it’s basically impossible.

        It’s known that Kaep chose to kneel as the maximally-respectful way to protest

        Based on the opinion of one single individual. While many others disagree, many quite strongly. I think it would be more respectful for him to kneel at basically any other time. Pick a time on the clock during the game to kneel. Or kneel on the field before taking the first snap. Whatever. That’s just my opinion and he has no particular requirement or reason to care about it or respect it. But to deny he picked this moment at least in part to increase the spotlight on him and his protest seems disingenuous to me.

      2. Mark V Anderson

        Kneeling during an anthem doesn’t necessarily prevent others from experiencing the anthem the way it’s meant to be experienced.

        Yeah, I thought of that after my post. It is true that the prison guard’s interruption was more disruptive. Although the guard didn’t have any other option for protest since he was only present for audio. But I agree it was more disruptive.

        I’d think that (1) to the extent this man is an employee and the governor is his superior (is he?), not following his superior’s order could be worthy of discipline in itself. (Did Kaepernick’s boss ever order him not to kneel?

        I thought this was the issue, that people were complaining that the teams weren’t letting him protest? And now I hear protests that teams won’t hire him because of his kneeling. My understanding is this is because Kaep will not agree to not kneel during the anthem. I think this is very analagous to the guard case.

        Protesting against him comes off as ‘punching down’, where protesting against the flag does not.

        Yeah this is just wrong. That’s my point, the guard is roundly criticized while Kaep is lionized. It’s obviously the guard with much less power.

        Kaep chose to kneel as the maximally-respectful way to protest

        Yeah this is just wrong too. The whole point of kneeling is to be disrespectful to the national anthem. A maximally-respectful way to protest would be not to do it during the national anthem. Like maybe to sport’s reporters after the game, or to picket something or other? It’s true that would have gotten him less attention, because being disrespectful before a a stadium of fans is more obvious.

    3. quanta413

      The difference in respect is rather large.

      Imagine if Kaepernick had ran up and grabbed the mic from someone singing the anthem and pulled a Kanye. I don’t think you would have seen that twice, and I think a lot more people would have been against that than against kneeling.

      1. Biater

        I don’t think all of June and maybe July should be George Floyd Memorial month, where nothing ill can be said of him or of causes he might have supported during this time period, because that would be the same as disrespecting a dead person at their own funeral.

        But I am hearing a lot of comparisons between saying #alllivesmatter today and shouting “so what he’s dead all people die and all people matter!” at a funeral.

        1. quanta413

          The stupid around is rather endless, but I was only responding the part of the post comparing Kaepernick’s behavior to the prison guard’s behavior.

          It’s very bad to say “so what he’s dead” at someone’s funeral and pretty much no one is in favor of behaving that way, whereas #alllivesmatter and/or #blacklivesmatter is a matter of opinion/debate. I have nothing against someone hashtagging all over twitter. Or well, not too much against it. I find both behaviors fairly pointless, but neither is more harmful than it would be somewhere else public.

          Don’t jump in on the mic. It’s basic etiquette.

          As for how long people can complain, I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. A few weeks is hardly unusual.

    4. TomParks

      A corrections officer taunting prisoners doesn’t strike me as a pro-Chauvin protest made as political speech while expecting and accepting the possibility of negative career consequences.

    5. eric23

      There are lot of differences. Most of them are inconsequential. The question is which are consequential.

      Right now the predominant discourse is about frankly Marxist ideas of “systemic” discrimination and destroying power hierarchies. I don’t think this is the most productive approach, but it seems to be the most popular right now. Within this approach, the response to your question is that a statement by victims can be presumed harmless, while a statement by the oppressor class will probably lead to more oppression.

      If, on the other hand, one takes a more “all lives matter” approach that abuses of power can be dealt with on a case by case basis without theorizing about the structure of society as a whole, then I would think the relevant response is that prison guards are in positions of power and have a professional responsibility to limit their actions (on the job) in a way that will promote the best and most peaceful function of the prison. Whereas if a football player kneels on the job and the player’s employer does not object to it, none of us have any business sticking our noses into these private individuals’ business.

    6. rahien.din

      Kaep kneeling meant “You should feel bad about black people being killed.”

      The cop’s comments meant “You shouldn’t feel so bad about black people being killed.”

      1. GoneAnon

        Right – so the difference is, you like Kaep’s message, but you don’t like this cop’s message.

        I appreciate that you are probably honest enough to admit this publicly, but I suspect a large majority of people who defend Kaep and think this guy is getting what he deserves are not.

  27. hash872

    I wonder if one of the unexpected consequences of ‘defunding’ (or more realistically, debundling) the police is a rise in private security guards, for businesses or neighborhoods. If there are less police officers to answer low-level calls (sketchy-looking guy in the neighborhood, aggressive panhandler in the parking lot, someone’s being loud and disruptive but not necessarily violent in the supermarket, female employees don’t feel safe walking to their cars at night, etc.), an increase in security guards makes a lot of sense. This isn’t meant as a criticism of the ‘debundling the police’ concept (I actually like it quite a bit, though more around traffic stops), but just a general observation as to where society might go.

    You often hear people say ‘the police have a monopoly on violence’, but that’s not really true- private security has a pretty well-carved out little niche. Licensed security guards for places like banks can openly carry powerful handguns even in extremely blue states like New York, California, etc. Bouncers can effectively beat up unruly customers, or people they say are unruly, and seem to enjoy good relations with local police and some degree of legal deference.

    Or, alternately, a consequence of the increasing inequality in US society could be a rise in private security. They are extremely common in weaker states, developing countries with higher inequality and serious crimes rates. Travel to say Latin America and you will see guards for wealthy neighborhoods, for individual families, to protect against kidnappers, for places where the police are corrupt or ineffective, etc. Frankly, I see all of these elements in the United States- maybe not a weak state but high levels of inequality, much higher crimes rates than other developed countries, etc. Also combine this what I call crypto-fascism, the libertarian idea (that I hear from Silicon Valley types more & more) that the state is fundamentally incompetent and that we should outsource more of its functions to the private sector.

    When I played Shadowrun as a kid, a million years ago, I remember part of their alternate history was that private corporations’ security & merc units replaced the US government’s police & military functions. I’m not saying that will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see a rise in security companies. Might not be a bad business given that gun permits for armed guards (like the bank guards in blue states example given above) will be only be given out to a few companies, not willy-nilly

    1. cassander

      Also combine this what I call crypto-fascism, the libertarian idea (that I hear from Silicon Valley types more & more) that the state is fundamentally

      “Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of the real man, and not of that abstract puppet envisaged by individualistic Liberalism, Fascism is for liberty. And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.”

      There is no form of fascism, crypto or otherwise, that can be combined with libertarianism, an ideology entirely dedicated to the notion that the state is dangerous and must be limited.

      1. hash872

        I don’t mean that they are literally advocating for ‘fascism’, I just like the turn of phrase (‘crypto-fascism’ has been around for a while, but here I’m repurposing ‘crypto’ in its more modern usage to allude to Silicon Valley types, etc.)

        Ironically some libertarian types are intrigued by actual fascism, because the fascists promise to keep their taxes low. They raise private property rights to be the highest societal value, excluding others. Not saying they all do- I’m a libertarian fellow traveler, myself!- just an observation. The happy relationships between authoritarian right-wing governments and big business or landed property types has been replicated in dozens and dozens of separate countries over hundreds of years, we’re not exactly breaking new ground with this concept here.

        Lots of right-leaning people, Hawley-types, have become much more corporate-skeptical in recent years (primarily with Big Tech), and have said a lot of great, eloquent stuff about ‘let’s not have authoritarian mega-corporations rule us either’. But society does seem to be on a bit of a cyberpunk path, so maybe it will happen….

        1. Erusian

          Ironically some libertarian types are intrigued by actual fascism, because the fascists promise to keep their taxes low. They raise private property rights to be the highest societal value, excluding others.

          These people would be what I call “completely ignorant of Fascist ideology, doctrine, or practice.” Alternatively people who’ve bought Soviet propaganda hook line and sinker. But those groups basically overlap.

          Fascists had no commitment to the idea of private property. Mussolini saw the economy as existing to serve the state. Hitler saw the economy as something you could win and liked or dislike capitalism (which he agreed was fundamentally exploitative) based on whether Aryans were doing the exploiting. (He also was a strident anti-capitalist in the Wall Street sense because he saw the modern capitalist system as Jewish.)

          Both raised taxes and nationalized industries. Both introduced direct political control of corporations. Both formed entirely new labor unions and forced the corporations to play nice with these unions. (Indeed, one of the reasons the Argentine conservative establishment rejected Fascism was because it was seen as too pro-union.)

          1. hash872

            Those last two paragraphs are simply not correct. It is true that during Hitler’s rise he did use some vaguely left-wing populist language (supposedly he was persuaded by others in his orbit to put ‘socialism’ in the title of National Socialism because it would be appealing). And the SA was a much more left-wing, proto-Communist grouping, with anti-big business and landed gentry leanings. But by the time he destroyed the SA, executed their leaders and replaced them with the SS, Nazism’s journey away from the left was complete. The Nazis had a symbiotic relationship with established German business and really didn’t do that much nationalization. I highly recommend these two pieces by Pseudorasmus, economic historian and friend of SSC (he’s an academic specialist, reasonably famous and Scott has him linked under ‘economists’ within the left-hand column)

            https://pseudoerasmus.com/2015/05/03/fascism-left-or-right/
            https://pseudoerasmus.com/2015/05/06/fascists-part-2/

            “All actually-existed fascist states practised business-friendly economic policies, even if they were not ideologically laissez-faire. They could have easily done otherwise — this was after all the 1930s, the heyday and apogee of socialism as an ideology. But no fascist in power even contemplated taking the Soviet route of destroying the capital- and land-owning classes… All actually-existed fascist states repressed labour unions, socialists, and communists. Despite the worker-friendly rhetoric of fascists, they in actual power regimented labour in such a way as to please any strike-breaking capitalist of the 19th century. The Nazis, for example, forced workers into a single state-controlled trades union (DAF), which controlled wage growth and prevented striking and wage arbitration… Communists have a demonstrated record of erasing traditional society root and branch — exterminating aristocrats, industrialists, landowners, priests, kulaks, etc. Fascists in actual power, despite their modernist reputation, seem almost traditional in comparison. In Mussolini’s Italy, the king, the titled nobility, the church, the industrialists, the landholders, and the mafia slept soundly at night… Self-proclaimed fascist parties in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s pinched their votes from the middle-class and conservative parties… Big business interests either were strong supporters of the fascists once in power, or (in some countries) had backed them well before their seizure of power”.

            (I see that we have ventured far from my original point about private security guards in 21st century America. 100% my fault for including throwaway broader comments on fascism- I’m going to write tighter comments in the future that don’t touch on well-known hot points)

          2. cassander

            The Nazis had a symbiotic relationship with established German business and really didn’t do that much nationalization.

            that doesn’t make them free market or the pro property rights. Wages of destruction makes this very clear.

            from the links you quote

            Since fascism was always a kind of pseudo-ideology made on the fly, without a long history of thought and debate like socialism, it’s wrong-headed to infer “what they really were” from the Italian fascists’ platform in 1919, or the fact that Hitler called his party “(National) Socialist German Workers Party”, or even from their electoral strategy.

            this is utter nonsense. the ideology of fascists doesn’t matter because they made it up? every ideology is made up. that it means nothing!

            All actually-existed fascist states practised business-friendly economic policies

            what does this even mean?

            All actually-existed fascist states repressed labour unions, socialists, and communists.

            Yep, and they also repressed everyone else. that’s what repressive states do.

            Fascists fetishised law & order, and made a cult out of the armed forces.

            just, lol

            Pseudorasmus seizes on the non-nationalization of industry to argue that fascism was pro-business, whatever that means. he ignores that control is more important than ownership, and the fascists seized control of whatever they thought was important. If you make what the state tells you to make, with materials that they give you and sell it to them at the price they set for you, you do not in any meaningful sense own your company even if you have some title to it.

            I would not contend that the Nazis were a left wing movement (though some fascists were), but they certainly weren’t a movement that believed in property rights and low taxes.

          3. Le Maistre Chat

            Fascists in actual power, despite their modernist reputation, seem almost traditional in comparison. In Mussolini’s Italy, the king, the titled nobility, the church, the industrialists, the landholders, and the mafia slept soundly at night…

            “Fascists didn’t execute everyone in or even have a chilling effect on social classes with huge numbers of people in them” is terrible rhetoric if one wants to make them sound as evil as Communists. Though he does say

            forced workers into a single state-controlled trades union (DAF), which controlled wage growth and prevented striking and wage arbitration…

            … which is a chilling effect on urban proles who’d prefer normal unions.

          4. Erusian

            The blog you quote appears to have a low standard for citations. I only counted (through randomly clicking on the links) one peer reviewed paper and that paper was supporting a very minor point (that landowners in Fascist Italy generally benefitted from Mussolini’s rule due to his policy of subsidizing agriculture). The others I clicked were more central to the essay and mostly consisted of links to other organizations without academic credentials.

            Further, the article is simply poorly informed. They claim that industrialists supported Hitler because taxes were too high in the Weimar Republic. One problem: Hitler raised taxes above Weimar levels. They handily elide this by mentioning one specific company that got a tax break as part of a government contract. And the assertion about taxes itself? Uncited. Because it’s untrue. The Weimar had a top tax rate of 60% and lowered it twice, until it was in the high thirties. Hitler raised it back up to 50% and cut out the minimum 10% rate, making the tax system more progressive. (He raised this further, to the point the state basically controlled the whole economy by the end of the war.) See Harold’s Economic Reasons for the Collapse of the Weimar Republic or Hans Mommsen’s The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy. Both of those, by the way, are professors of history that specialize in Nazi Germany.

            The idea that the Nazis were for business friendly properties or lower taxes is just plain wrong. They were, at best, business’s distant second choice behind mainstream corporate conservatives and moderate left-wingers. (Business didn’t like aristocratic politics, didn’t like Nazis, but above all hated Communists.) If you have a world view where business supports Fascism to protect itself against the working class, you have a worldview that was literally the Moscow party line. It’s worth asking why that is. (See Kotkin’s excellent Stalin: Waiting For Hitler for the Soviet view of Fascism and how it was wrong.)

          5. citizencokane

            Whatever fascists may say about themselves in their confusing ad-hoc scramble for an ideology, in practice everything is oriented around strengthening the unity and power of the nation. The state is just a means to that end. For communists, the state is just a means to strengthening the unity and power of the working class. Fascists think communists are national traitors by kicking up class rivalries within the nation. Communists think fascists are class traitors by kicking up national rivalries within the class. This is why both sides hate each others’ guts even though they both rely on a strong state as a tool.

            As for businesses supporting fascists, not everything is about taxes. What good are low taxes when you have several years of mass waves of factory and land occupations and work stoppages, and an utter breakdown in labor discipline, as in Italy in the early 1920s? Businesses will happily follow state orders and accept a smaller guaranteed profit margin within the fascist state plan than experience that sort of ongoing chaos and risk of revolution and guillotining. It’s all about what seems like the best option in the context, not what would be the ideal option if social peace actually seemed easy to achieve without a strong state at all times.

          6. Erusian

            As for businesses supporting fascists, not everything is about taxes.

            No, but the specific claim was about taxes. This is moving the goalposts: the specific claim was that libertarians might like Fascism because they prioritize lower taxes, something Fascists (apparently) provide.

            Except I knew the Fascists didn’t provide that. And then hash872 reiterated that specific claim. I said it was false. They cited a blog post by someone who spends their time arguing with pundits. I cited respected academic historians showing it was false.

            I am happy to move on and have a debate about a second topic. I’d enjoy talking about business’s relationship with Fascism at length. But first, I want to make sure I’m not bashing an egg against a stone. So I’ll need you to agree that Hitler raised taxes on the wealthy and lowered them on the poor. That this means that previous claims in this thread, including all of the evidence cited, contain blatant factual errors. And that the idea that Fascism was supported because it would lower taxes is wrong. Alternatively, you can cite academic sources specifically about Nazi tax rates that show I’m mistaken.

            After that, happy to talk about it. I don’t think you’re wholly mistaken though I believe you’ve missed some context.

        2. cassander

          Ironically some libertarian types are intrigued by actual fascism, because the fascists promise to keep their taxes low. They raise private property rights to be the highest societal value, excluding others.

          Citation needed. “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” leaves precious little room for private property or low taxes.

          The happy relationships between authoritarian right-wing governments and big business or landed property types has been replicated in dozens and dozens of separate countries over hundreds of years, we’re not exactly breaking new ground with this concept here.

          Fascism is a specific ideology with specific beliefs, not a catchall term for anyone on the right who’s more than a little undemocratic.

          1. Ketil

            Fascism is a specific ideology with specific beliefs, not a catchall term for anyone on the right who’s more than a little undemocratic.

            That is a right wing view. I think for a large part of the population, “fascism” is exactly that catchall term, and its application even to libertarians means that the “undemocratic” requirement is far from strict.

            If it weren’t such a loaded term (and therefore attracting all heat and no light, and therefore no longer useful for discourse), I would say that China is a fascist country – they seem to have roughly the same mixture of little political freedom and some economic freedom as long as you take care to align with the interests of the party elites people.

        3. zardoz

          When we talk about “Silicon Valley types,” it’s helpful to remember that Silicon Valley votes overwhelmingly for mainstream Democrats. And if only the business leaders voted, the outcome would probably be to the left of the mainstream vote. Leaders like Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos are not even Republicans, let alone alt-right. (OK, so I included some Seattle business leaders in there as well, but you get the point…) There are a few people like Peter Thiel who buck the trend, and I’d like to believe that there will be more in the future, but let’s not forget the current reality.

          Also, I think what you really are talking about is the dark enlightenment stuff, not fascism or libertarianism. It’s not helpful to refer to things by the wrong labels, since all of these ideas are really quite different.

    2. Nornagest

      Also combine this what I call crypto-fascism, the libertarian idea (that I hear from Silicon Valley types more & more) that the state is fundamentally incompetent and that we should outsource more of its functions to the private sector.

      This mostly tells me that you don’t know what fascism is. Fascism is very big on projecting an image of state capacity and competence — indeed, it’s practically defined by it. It’s true that fascist governments were often internally quite fractious and dysfunctional, but that has more to do with the psychology of strongman leadership than it does with the ideology’s goals (since the same patterns show up with left-wing strongmen). The goal is to empower the state, as the organizing body of a people, and you can bet that any sincere fascist was doing his or her level best to further that goal — just as soon as all those pesky rivals were out of the way.

      That included bringing businesses into line with state objectives. Thirties-style fascism is often described as “corporatist”, but that doesn’t mean “government by or on behalf of corporations”, it means “a state organized as a body [corpus]”. It is not laissez-faire or libertarian. Industry, and labor unionism as well, were the “limbs” of this “body” — they’re expected to serve the state’s needs, and were allowed to thrive only to the extent that they did.

    3. BBA

      On the topic of private security replacing police, it’s something that will naturally happen if police protection becomes unreliable or disappears altogether. It’s already happening in Minneapolis and Seattle. I doubt either situation will be permanent, or that any kind of police reform/defunding/abolition will accomplish much, but only time will tell.

      As I mentioned last thread, I’ve been looking into the legal status of private security. Here in New York, a security guard isn’t automatically entitled to carry a weapon by virtue of being licensed, so most security guards are unarmed. As I understand it, many (most?) armed guards in the city are off-duty or retired police officers, as the NYPD issues weapons permits and it’s much harder to get one if you aren’t some kind of cop. But I don’t have any hard numbers on any of this.

  28. Scott Alexander

    Suppose you’re running a rating app like Yelp. One restaurant has 5 stars and 1 review. Another has 4.9 stars and 100 reviews. You think probably the second restaurant is better and should be recommended more often to consumers.

    One way of implementing this is to start with a prior that every restaurant is average, ie let every restaurant start with X three-star reviews, and then new reviews drag it away from that prior in one direction or the other.

    My question is – is there a principled way to choose X? I read https://medium.com/district-data-labs/computing-a-bayesian-estimate-of-star-rating-means-651496a890ab and I cannot really make sense of it. I don’t want to do anything fancy with distributions, just insert some number of average reviews before we get to the real ones. What should that number be?

    1. Erusian

      Suppose you’re running a rating app like Yelp.

      Okay, so I’m an extortionist with a good PR department. Got it.

      My question is – is there a principled way to choose X?

      The way these score systems generally work is that they evaluate based on total purchases (if available), total reviews, and total score averaged out. Most places draw this distinction between something that has no or few reviews and someone who has a lot of bad reviews. Some also have systems that contrast reviews received in (say) the last month as opposed to all time. Virtually every system I’ve seen will privilege 500 reviews and a 4.1 score over two reviews and a 5 score unless they have a special category like “new, rising trend”.

      There’s also the BBB approach where you start off with an A and lose points due to complaints and gain AA and AAA over a lack of complaints over time.

      So I’m not sure choosing X is a good idea. The current system conveys more information. Why not give them a state that explicitly marks them out as just starting and let people take the risk?

    2. oriscratch

      Warning: I am not very well versed in statistics, and am mostly going off intuition. Hopefully I don’t embarrass myself.

      So I would assume that the distribution of restaurant ratings is like a bell curve, with few restaurants at the tails (1 and 5) and most restaurants rating in the middle. So the prior should actually be the number of stars corresponding the the highest point on the bell curve, as that is the rating with the most restaurants and thus the most likely rating for any given restaurant. (Is this basically the same as taking the average star value of all restaurants? I’m not sure.)

      If the bell curve is really steep (for example, tons of restaurants get 3 star reviews but barely any get 1 or 5 star reviews), then X should be larger, as that would indicate a higher chance that the restaurant in question actually has a rating that matches the prior. If the bell curve is really flat (for example, only slightly more restaurants get 3 star reviews than 1 or 5 star reviews), then X should be lower, as that would indicate a lower chance that the restaurant in question actually has a rating that matches the prior.

      I’m not sure how you would calculate a precise number for X though, but that’s my vague approximation.

      1. Reborn

        I would assume that the distribution of restaurant ratings is like a bell curve, with few restaurants at the tails (1 and 5) and most restaurants rating in the middle

        I don’t think that’s actually the case with Yelp or other review apps. I feel like there’s a giant cluster from 3.5 to 4.0 or 4.5 and very little below 3. I find such services do basically nothing to differentiate any but the most outstanding and the most terrible restaurants.

        I think a big part of the problem is that a huge swath of those restaurants in the middle appeal differently to people with different tastes — i.e. everyone can agree that Alinea is pretty good and a restaurant to food poisons all eaters is pretty bad but there’s a lot of disagreement about what constitutes somewhat above-average pizza and what constitutes somewhat below average pizza.

        The obvious solution is to abandon giving places a single star rating that everyone sees and, instead, rate them differently for different users. Such a system would need to see how users had rated a bunch of places, find clusters of users who agreed with them most of the time, and show what these paired users thought of similar places.

        But apparently it’s very difficult to do this in practice. (Recall the prize that Netflix offered to anyone that could improve its rating algorithm by a very modest 10 percent.) So everyone gets a bunch of generic ratings that are all lumped in the upper middle, with every relevant rating by someone with similar dining tastes obscured by a different rating from a non-paired diner.

        1. JayT

          Very few restaurants survive long term, so wouldn’t we expect the worst ones to have an even harder time surviving? I would expect that over time the number of 3-5 star restaurants would dwarf the number of 1-2 star ones. Especially on restaurants that have more than a handful of reviews.

        2. DavidFriedman

          Amazon tries to do this sort of thing with books, to recommend books to you based on what books you have bought. But I don’t think it does it very well.

          1. Reborn

            No. Nothing I’ve seen is great at personalized recommendations.

            I suspect part of the problem is that different preferences are a thing not only for different people but also for the same person at different times.

            For example, sometimes when I go out, I’m just trying to eat reasonably quickly and move on with my life, so I’d knock a star off a place that served food at a deliberate pace. At other times, I’m trying to make a meal into a night out, so I’d knock a star off a place that served me too quickly.

            What the hell is Yelp supposed to do when I can’t even agree with myself?

        3. Nancy Lebovitz

          The announcement of the prize mentioned that Napoleon Dynamite was a movie where people’s likes and dislikes were hard to predict, which seemed like a good reason to watch it.

          I don’t think I’ve seen anything else like it, though there may be some such among indie movies.

          It’s a movie about normal maturation, and a little slow-paced, but not as slow-paced as the real thing.

          I enjoyed it.

    3. Iago the Yerfdog

      What about adapting LaPlace’s Rule of Succession by adding five new reviews, with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 stars respectively? Thus the single five-star review becomes a 3.33 star place, and the 100-review 4.9 star place becomes a ~4.81 star place.

        1. Taleuntum

          I’m confused.

          Why is it better to stick with the original rule of succession in cases where we only report the average?

          The original rule of succession is for 2 possible outcomes (eg. upvote or downvote), here there are 5 possibilities (1,2,3,4,5 star). The version for multiple possibilities (described by the previous commenter and here (we report the expected value of A_i (random variable denoting the type of the next review) which is equivalent to adding one review of each type and reporting the average of all reviews)) seems much more justified to me in this case.

          1. Taleuntum

            Minor correction: A_i is used on the linked page for the event that the next observation is in category i, so If I could edit my comment, I would replace “A_i” with (eg) “X”. (X=i iff A_i)

    4. Hey

      I don’t think you can just pick a single value for X. If X is very small, it won’t change much, and if it isn’t, the first reviews will be almost ignored (and even a single review of 1 or 5 gives lots of information about the quality of the restaurant).
      The right solution with N reviews might be to take something like X=sqrt(N), because your uncertainty (standard deviation) over the right score for a restaurant is proportional to 1/sqrt(N), and if you assume that the actual score is in the part of the confidence interval that’s close to 3 (i.e if you have a prior that favors values close to 3), your update should be roughly proportional to your standard deviation and to your distance from 3.
      Microsoft’s TrueSkill ranking system uses something similar to make sure top players aren’t just new players who got lucky, you may want to look at exactly how they do it.

    5. Gerry Quinn

      I don’t pay much heed to numeric reviews of anything – I only really care about descriptive text reviews.

    6. GearRatio

      The problem with this system is it’s unfair to everyone except average restaurants. Good restaurants have to wait longer to prove themselves and are less likely to, since you are telling people “this is an average restaurant” instead of “this is a new restaurant” which has different implications. Crappy restaurants are at least temporarily subsidized.

      Meanwhile, different industries get entirely different amounts of reviews. It’s weird for a hotel to have less than 100 reviews and odd for a campground to have less than 200, but downright suspicious when a podiatrist breaks triple digits. So while you might want 20-50 reviews before you consider a restaurant reliable, you probably only want 1-10 for an obscure non-hobbyist shop or service of the type people are unlikely to think to review.

      I think the problem gets easier as soon as you factor in user choice. First, you show everything with any reviews in order, just as you do now. Most people have no problem with this. Everyone left who DOES have a problem with it is of the notice-a-problem-and-want-a-solution type who could reasonably be expected to invest a click or two to configure their search screen in the same way a “price low to high” clicker does.

      For the second kind who want more features, it seems as if it would be pretty trivial to design a “x amount of reviews” sorting feature. On, say, Amazon, this could be as simple as a draggable bar that senses the review number range and allows for lower and upper bounds.

      I think this makes sense because anybody in a shopping mood who cares about number of reviews like this is often-to-usually going to care in the sense that they have a minimum amount of reviews they will accept as evidence; too few reviews is no reviews, for most of those who care at all. If they then want to scoop up the less-reviewed products, they just work the slider from the right rather than from the left.

    7. Nornagest

      Another consideration is that quality isn’t constant. A restaurant isn’t a movie, which is released once and then fixed for all time — you can reasonably expect most businesses to be aware of their Yelp ratings, and if they’re any good they’ll probably be trying to adapt to them. That means that ratings from five years ago aren’t necessarily reflective of what you can expect today.

      One way to capture this is to use an exponentially weighted moving average, which has the handy property that you can implement updates with only the most recent rating — you don’t need to iterate over previous ratings every time you update it. Depending on your needs, though, this may or may not be the best choice.

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        I think the best way to handle restaurants changing over time would be to offer a graph that shows a chronological sequence of the average rating.

        And/or an option to just see the most recent (six months?) ratings.

      2. AG

        Oh man, I was trying to find a dentist, and every review seemed to be talking about doctors that weren’t there anymore, so basically all of those reviews were useless.

    8. John Schilling

      If I were willing to be sneaky about it, I’d calculate the numerical rating by quietly ignoring all of the one-star and five-star reviews and calculate the mean of a normal distribution(*) fit to the 2-, 3-, and 4-star reviews. The five-star reviews are too heavily influenced by uncritical fanboys, the one-star by people who are unreasonably put off by one perceived and possibly minor failing, and how many people are going to independently check your math?

      The restaurant with one five-star review remains unrated. The one with a hundred reviews averaging 4.9 in the raw data, presumably more 4-star reviews than 2-3 star, so the extrapolated peak of the normal distribution is somewhere in the 4-5 range. And if a restaurant comes back with a single 4-star review, meh, give it a 4.0 until we have more data.

      * OK, it really has to be a truncated normal with the maximum at 5.0, which complicates the math a bit.

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        My math comes out linear, because any average of reviews is going to come out as a single value. To see how many reviews, N, with an average score of Avg, are necessary for a given starting number of 3 star reviews, X, to obtain an average review of 4 stars:

        (3*X + Avg*N)/(X+N) = 4 #just adding averages together

        Simplifies to N = X/(Avg-4)

        I tried coming up with code in R, but when plotted, this does not generate anything interesting, just the obvious that your Average review needs to be well above 4 to drag the average up to 4. Tethering your initial score to 3 seems like it would actually hurt good restaurants by anchoring them. Furthermore, my math is basically useless, since I doubt Yelp uses simple averages for the score.

    9. zardoz

      I am not a statistician, but it seems weird to adopt a scoring mechanism that is so ordering-dependent. Like if I get ten 1s and then ten 5s, I end up at 5, but if I get ten 5s and then ten 1s, I end up at 1. Just because of the order in which people hit OK on their phones? That doesn’t sound right. How about just giving people the option of “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” and then treating it as a Bernouli distribution?

      If you’re really attached to the idea of an integer-valued rating system, then maybe look into somehow penalizing restaurants for having high variance? But that seems to increase your fragility to trolls leaving drive-by “1”s, and might punish restaurants that are “love it or hate it.”

      Personally, I skim the comments and mostly ignore the rating these days.

    10. Anatid

      Say the “true quality” of a restaurant is what its average rating would be after a large number of people rated it, and say we are trying to make our average be a good estimate of the true quality. I think we need to know two things:

      – The uncertainty of our prior: if we got the true quality of all the restaurants, what would be the standard deviation of that distribution? Call this standard deviation P.

      – The uncertainty of the single “measurement” (review): given a restaurant of a fixed true quality, what will the standard deviation of its star ratings be? Call this standard deviation U.

      Then I think we should start off with about U/P fake 3-star reviews. For example

      – If U and P are about the same, then it means our prior, by itself, has about the same uncertainty as a single review, by itself, so we should weight the first review and the prior equally (meaning we should have 1 fake review).

      – If U is very small, much smaller than P (meaning that everyone basically rates a given restaurant the same), then we don’t need any fake reviews since even a single review gives us a much better estimate than our prior did.

      – If P is very small, much smaller than U (meaning most restaurants end up having a similar true quality, but each individual review is noisy) then we need a lot of fake reviews, because we have a strong prior that this restaurant will be like the others, and each review only gives a little bit of evidence that could shift that prior.

      P.S. Also, probably the fake reviews should have a star rating equal to the mean star rating across all restaurants, since our prior should be that this restaurant is about average.

      1. Anatid

        Actually I think we want (U/P)^2 fake reviews. As a heuristic argument for that, if U is the uncertainty (standard deviation) of one measurement (review), then the uncertainty of the mean of N independent measurements is U/sqrt(N). Say our prior’s standard deviation, P, is 1/10th the standard deviation of a single measurement, U, so that U/P = 10. Then we need 10^2 = 100 measurements in order for the mean of the measurements to have the same uncertainty (and therefore the same weight) as the prior. So we should treat the prior as having the weight of 100 measurements.

        1. Scott Alexander

          Thanks. I’m not qualified to say that this is right, but this was the answer I found most helpful.

    11. Chalid

      If you’re doing this in a principled way (and treating this as an abstract question about math/stats instead of a practical question about restaurant ratings, as I assume you’re not really asking about restaurants), you want to choose X so that the mean of your X “prior reviews” and of the real reviews is predictive of the mean of future reviews.

      So take subsets A and B of your real reviews, and figure out what value of X “prior reviews” averaged with the reviews of subset A minimizes the error in estimating the means of B. If you really need to, divide into multiple subsets and do cross-validation.

    12. phi

      Lots of commenters have made good points here, but if you just want to pick a number and be done with it, choose X=2, because of Laplace’s rule of succession. Yes the results will probably be slightly worse than a complicated formula that takes everything into account, but it will be pretty close, and a good quick and dirty option.

      1. Gerry Quinn

        The Rule of Succession (I had to look it up) may be a handy solution here, but doesn’t it just derive trivially as an implementation of Bayes?

        1. keaswaran

          Laplace’s rule of succession ends up being equivalent to starting with a flat prior over possible biases, updating in light of observations, and then taking the mean of the current posterior as one’s guess. This isn’t entirely “trivial”, and it has a very substantive assumption built in with this flat prior. (Why start with a prior that the probability of heads is equally likely to be in the range .5-.75 as in the range .75-1 rather than with a prior that the odds of heads is equally likely to be in the range 1:1-3:1 as in the range 3:1-5:1?)

    13. Dack

      It seems to me that the more honest way to do it would be to not fiddle with the numbers. Simply put an asterisk next to any review with less than 5 reviews (or whatever number) and add a footnote.

      “*: This is a provisional rating based on less then 5 reviews.”

    14. thisheavenlyconjugation

      If instead of star ratings we had incomparable categories (e.g. we were asking people their favourite colour) you would definitely want additive smoothing. This is phrased as adding α items from each category rather than X copies of the mean (since in general we can’t take the mean). A value of α = 1 (corresponding to X = 5) corresponds to Laplace’s rule of succession/the assumption that all sets of values for the probabilities of someone giving a 1/2/3/4/5 star rating are equally likely.

      Quoth Wikipedia:

      From a Bayesian point of view, [the result of additive smoothing] corresponds to the expected value of the posterior distribution, using a symmetric Dirichlet distribution with parameter α as a prior distribution.

      and also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirichlet_distribution#Intuitive_interpretations_of_the_parameters

      Intuitively, a higher α corresponds to a prior that favours “smooth” distributions. In the limit where α is infinity, you’re saying you’re completely certain that the probability of each star rating is equal. A lower α favours “spiky” distributions. When α is 0 and there’s no smoothing, a single datum makes you jump to the distribution where only one star rating is ever possible. We have a prior that this is not a very likely distribution of star rating probabilities, which is why some smoothing is a good idea.

      It does seem plausible that spiky distributions are more likely than smooth ones: a restaurant is more likely to get mostly high or mostly low or mostly middling ratings than equal amounts of each star. So we might want to use α < 1, and therefore my semi-principled value for X is something between 0 and 5.

      However, this is additive smoothing for general categorical data. In this case, our categories are numbers that we can compare and take the mean of etc. Intuitively it seems like this should change things somewhat (e.g. it's more likely that a restaurant only ever gets 4s and 5s than that it only ever gets 1s and 4s) but I'm not sure there's a neat general way to integrate this.

      Also, this is an answer for the abstract case where we're considering this restaurant in isolation. In the concrete case where we are Yelp and have a large dataset of other restaurants' ratings, we can use those to produce our priors.

    15. paragonal_

      3blue1brown has a video about this problem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8idr1WZ1A7Q

      He gives an interesting heuristic which he says he will support mathematically in a to-be-released follow-up video. It simply goes like this: Add both a positive and a negative review. So a single 5-star rating would be interpreted as a 67% rating.

    16. Immortal Lurker

      This reply is likely too late, but I’m pretty sure I have the answer. Reddit had a similar problem with top comments, and eventually switched to “best”, which had a more complicated model that basically viewed the votes as being a random sample from the true distribution of quality.

      granted, we now have five options and not 2, but it should be pretty easy to generalize.

      Get a sample of existing and extensively reviewed restaurants for each star rating (probably with some binning, so that 4.9 with 1000 reviews is considered a 5 star). This should result in 5 discrete distributions, S1-S5, with each distribution having 5 points, with each point being the probability that an X star restaurant receives a a review of Y stars.

      Then, with a lot of multiplying, you can take the reviews a given restaurant actually has, and figure out the odds of a given distribution could have produced those reviews, assuming that one of the five distributions actually did. For example, you could get: 10% its a 1 star, 10% its a 2 star, 40% its a 3 star, 20% its a 4 star, 20% its a 5 star. 1 * 0.1 + 2 * 0.2 + 3 * 0.4 + 4 * 0.2 + 5 * 0.2 = 3.3 stars.

      Voting distributions may be different based on region, restaurant subtype, the phase of the moon, etc. Getting multiple distributions might be valuable.

    17. keaswaran

      It’s weird to be in a context where I’m the frequentist, but it seems like you might naturally report a confidence interval for the mean. With a large sample of reviews, you’ll have a tight confidence interval, and it will basically work out to the sample mean. But with a small sample of reviews, you’ll be have a wider interval. Some people would want to sort by the bottom of the confidence interval, while others might sort by the top of the confidence interval, or the current point estimate of the true mean.

    18. rahien.din

      It’s just confidence intervals.

      If your average review is 4.75 and the standard deviation is 0.25, the confidence interval is (2.5,5).
      If your average review is 4.1 and the standard deviation is 0.16, the confidence interval is (3.94,4.26).

  29. WarOnReasons

    In every country the film industry presents a distorted version of reality, but the ways it does that change from place to place. I noticed that in the French cinema the protagonists are much more likely than in other countries to show extreme disregard for money or public opinion. In the old Chinese and Soviet movies, almost the entire cast frequently plays selfless patriots. In the modern English and American movies, the society is portrayed as much more racially integrated than it is or was in reality, so that even XVIth century aristocrats might be played by black actors.

    Do you know of other country-specific traditions to misrepresent reality in the movies?

    1. Le Maistre Chat

      People don’t break into coordinated song and dance in India more than in any other country.

    2. GearRatio

      Modern China:

      I’ve seen a few Chinese films that degrade at some point into a full-on propaganda speech. “Looking For Jackie”, for instance, is a movie about a good-for-nothing boy who has gone to private school in another Asian country (Indonesia? Korea?), but moves back to China because he wants to meet Jackie Chan. Said little shit spends the rest of the movie demonstrating how his other-Asian upbringing has made him shitty and running into much-superior Chinese-raised citizens.

      By the time he finally meets Jackie, he gets lectured about how he needs to work on himself to be a better Chinese person and grandson. That’s it; the whole movie is about how much better Chinese folk are than rest-of-Asia and how you should, if possible, be filial and party-loyal.

      Italy:

      Far less cowboys and outlaws than represented.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Italy:

        Far less cowboys and outlaws than represented.

        I always thought the Italian film industry was defined by genres set outside Italy. Audiences might get confused and think Hercules was a Roman, but surely everyone knows those spaghetti cowboys are in America?

        1. GearRatio

          I had this doubt after posting and considered editing, but then decided to forge forward with my insanely stupid joke and hope nobody with a lead-derived profession name would call me on it.

          1. Le Maistre Chat

            nobody with a lead-derived profession name would call me on it.

            Roland the Thompson Guuuuuuunner…

    3. Nancy Lebovitz

      It’s a common complaint about American movies and tv that people are shown as living in much larger homes than they could afford, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true for other countries as well.

      1. ana53294

        Filming in tiny apartments is hard. I barely manage to make decent photos of my room to show most angles.

        And things like fish-eye lenses would be really annoying in a movie-long thing. You need the space for the cameras.

      2. fibio

        It’s almost universally true, if only because all that extra space isn’t there for the viewers its there for the film crew.

  30. roflc0ptic

    Carrying over from another thread:

    @david friedman you’re making a good point here. “Historical materialism” has a lot of baggage that isn’t actually entailed in that definition, and I hadn’t really examined that. In the context of responding to @salvorhardin, I’d say that historical materialism does not have baggage that reliably leads people to commit mass murder, whereas political marxism seems to lead in that direction. For a broader context, I should probably better figure out what I mean by historical materialism/academic marxism. I think I’m accidentally propagating a motte and bailey – thanks for pointing it out!

    @catcube Other than the hyperbole and the tribal tone,I have little disagreement with your comment except this: it shouldn’t be directed at me.

    I’m not a leftist. A decade ago I was a leftist, I am intimately familiar with the left, and support many left aligned goals, but my identity is not bound up in class struggle and seizing the means of production, or fixing inequality, or saving the environment, or being woke. Honestly the first time I heard the word woke, I thought it was self effacing satire. Finally, the left is being self aware about how absurdly self righteous it sounds! Hilarious! Man was I disappointed when I figured out they were serious.

    My purpose in providing that taxonomy wasn’t an attempt to slice categories so as to avoid taking responsibility for “my” side’s bullshit. My point is that what is happening right now is not about having the state own the means of production. Wokeness just doesn’t drive people to advocate for the state controlling the means of production. Even the holy grail of reparations isn’t about the state seizing means of production. It’s just not on the policy agenda.

    Salvorhardin is describing feeling like there’s a physical threat. I think many people here are feeling that to some degree or another. There’s no threat from communists. The communists aren’t going to seize the means of production. We’re still living in “the end of history”.

    There certainly are communists on the left. The serious ones write screeds like this, which in theory I should agree with but I can’t, because they sound several degrees crazier than the woke police. In comparison, they make the rioters seem like they have some chill. They exist mostly in an echo chamber, and spend a great deal of their time in internecine struggle between communist groups, and it makes them irrelevant.

    I’m not saying we’re not in a place where everything feels uncertain. It feels uncertain. Maybe we’ll wobble our way into a civil war, but I really doubt it. I think there’s a floor on how bad this can get. I think it can only get McCarthyism-level bad, and fears that it will get worse than that are unfounded. There will be no gulags.

    1. cassander

      My point is that what is happening right now is not about having the state own the means of production, and wokeness just doesn’t drive people to advocate for the state controlling the means of production. Even the holy grail of reparations isn’t about the state seizing means of production. It’s just not on the policy agenda.

      (A) And their point was equally that not everyone on the right wants the same things either, and that the degree of nuance you discuss is not extended to the right, that the left frequently lumps together everyone from literal Nazis to anyone just right of Mitch McConnell under a single label, proclaims them dangerous, and tries to cancel them. Seeing that behavior, they find the hair splitting over different types of commies bemusing at best and dangerous at worst.

      (B) I disagree that wokeness isn’t a call to seize the means of production. almost everything the woke want to do takes money, and lots of it. they aren’t going to nationalize industry 1940s UK style, but they will tell industry what to make, and how, and who to sell it to and how much to charge. When the government controls over half the money in the country directly, and more through endless regulations, control the means of production have been effectively seized, even if ownership formally hasn’t. Wokeness is an engine for generating endless new senses of grievance that require ever more intervention to fix.

      I think it can only get McCarthyism-level bad, and fears that it will get worse than that are unfounded. There will be no gulags.

      There are plenty of ways to cause harm that don’t involve gulags. The economic cost alone would be hugely problematic.

      1. roflc0ptic

        Thanks for your comment on that other thread WRT economic development. I have some questions that I am slowly formulating.

        A. I cannot make the point that I am (correctly or incorrectly) making without some way to specify differences within a 150,000,000 person group. I have not personally inflicted the harms that catcube feels have been perpetrated on him. By casually and incorrectly lumping me into a group and then blaming me for that groups actions, he’s perpetrating the same harm that he’s complaining about.

        I don’t think I’m being ungenerous when I say the position is “other people haven’t tried to understand me, so I’m not going to try to understand you.” This is… a position a person choose to can take. He’s implying he feels fear for his physical wellbeing, “first they came for the communists…” as did salvorhardin. If you insist on treating the other as an unreasoning, uniform and hegemonic mass, then yea, you’re going to feel threatened. Applying some discernment is a path out of that fear.

        B. I totally agree that there are other harms that can and likely will occur. I’m not performing apologetics here. I’m ambivalent about your redefining “seizing the means of production” but I see the point you’re making. I also agree that wokeness is a grievance generation tool, despite the fact that I also think they have some valid points. Really, it’s an awkward position to hold: everybody wants to take you out to the woodshed. The wokegentsia is all “this isn’t an INTELLECTUAL problem, shitlord,” and if I assume catcube speaks for the entire right (which only seems fair), it’s saying “Don’t try to burden me with intellectual distinctions!” It’s weird being met with almost identically shaped arguments. You try to reason with one amygdala, you’ve tried to reason with all of them.

        Despite agreeing that wokeness is a grievance generation machine, I don’t think the grievances are infinite. Nor do I think there’s a good basis to believe

        they will tell industry what to make, and how, and who to sell it to and how much to charge.

        How do you know? Who, specifically, is they? What are they going to make? Maybe I just missed some whackadoo proposals. I did unfollow everyone on Facebook a while ago, so maybe I’ve missed some insanity.

        Your comment on that other thread was so cogent and thoughtful, I feel like I have to be missing something here. But it just feels like people are afraid of the boogeyman.

        1. cassander

          A. I cannot make the point that I am (correctly or incorrectly) making without some way to specify differences within a 150,000,000 person group.

          there are certainly reasonable middle grounds between “you’re all commies” and “you have to distinguish between the judean people’s front and the people’s front of judea”.

          I don’t think I’m being ungenerous when I say the position is “other people haven’t tried to understand me, so I’m not going to try to understand you.”

          we have pretty good empirical evidence that the right understands the left better than the reverse.

          If you insist on treating the other as an unreasoning, uniform and hegemonic mass, then yea, you’re going to feel threatened. Applying some discernment is a path out of that fear.

          We feel that’s EXACTLY what is done to us, that in the eyes of most people on the left, on a 100 point political spectrum there are 98 points that lead from Stalin to Barack Obama, and the last 2 points are Mitch McConnell > Hitler.

          That’s what he means when he says “The reason for this is that I frankly don’t trust your side to actually fairly make judgements so that we can just throw out whoever you consider to be a “white nationalist”. Every republican president or presidential candidate since Dewey has been called a fascist, its hard for us to trust when we’re told “oh, no we’re only going after the real bad guys”.

          and if I assume catcube speaks for the entire right (which only seems fair),

          the right is at least as diverse as you think the left is. David Friedman is an anarchist. I’m not. We’re both far outside the overton window of polite society, and while we agree on a lot of our critiques of the modern left, the worlds we would build in its place could hardly be more different.

          How do you know? Who, specifically, is they? What are they going to make? Maybe I just missed some whackadoo proposals. I did unfollow everyone on Facebook a while ago, so maybe I’ve missed some insanity.

          the cost of complying with federal regulations alone already runs to trillions a year. Most of the democratic presidential candidates wanted to effectively nationalize the healthcare industry. Much of finance has already been nationalized. Elizabeth warren’s spending plans called to almost double the amount of federal spending. The commanding heights that modern left has their eye on are different from those of 70 years ago, but their attitude towards them is the same.

          But it just feels like people are afraid of the boogeyman.

          Frankly, I am a little afraid. I worry that the modern left will kill the golden geese of modern society. Not all at once in an orgy of violence, but by 1000 little cuts that drain vitality out of society.

          1. roflc0ptic

            I feel like I keep saying variations on this, but I want to note that this response generally feels like we’re talking past each other. I have been making a narrow point about overblown fears of looming violence, which it sounds like you agree with. I’m going to try to represent my perspective in a little more detail here.

            I wrote:

            I don’t think I’m being ungenerous when I say the position is “other people haven’t tried to understand me, so I’m not going to try to understand you.”

            @cassander wrote:

            we have pretty good empirical evidence that the right understands the left better than the reverse.

            I’m familiar with Haidt’s work here, but bringing it up is changing the subject. I’ll happily stipulate that the statistically average conservative understands the left better than the statistically average liberal. But you can’t make claims about specific instances from the general case. Haidt’s study isn’t a justification for catcube’s individual, literally unreasonable position.

            I concur with catcube that it’s really difficult to have conversations with many leftists and represent any views they disagree with. In my experience, manipulative stuff like calling pretty tame views “dangerous” and saying “this might be intellectual to you, but out there it is life or death!” are rampant. Every meaningful policy decision has an opportunity cost that can (and probably should) be measured in QALYs. There is a cultural pattern to treat holding dissenting viewpoints as a moral harm. Over the years I have personally been castigated by lefties as sexist, patriarchal, “bad with race”, and – without any sense of irony – “a harmful person” who is incapable of self examination. I will say again, I don’t think catcube is pointing at nothing.

            the right is at least as diverse as you think the left is.

            Of *course*. Of course! Yes! Libertarians, ancaps, classical conservatives, tea party conservatives, blue dog democrats, neo-reactionaries, white nationalists, neo-nazis, bugaloo boys, the men’s rights movement, the rural south, the rural midwest, the rural west (It’s so weird seeing confederate flags in Oregon), trumpers, never trumpers, really sincerely committed never trumpers, incels, evangelical christians, non-evangelical christians, mormons, cubans, venezuelans, black conservatives, black conservative separatists a la Clarence Thomas. To be clear, this is from memory. There are distinctions and differences galore.

            When I wrote

            and if I assume catcube speaks for the entire right (which only seems fair),

            I was satirizing catcube’s position.

            Here’s where we begin to have meaningful differences in perspective. you wrote:

            Most of the democratic presidential candidates wanted to effectively nationalize the healthcare industry.

            So in a couple of places, you’ve done this thing where you’re bending the definition of words. I imagine it’s just a hand-wavy, succinct way of expressing more complex ideas. But I think this poses intellectual and emotional danger. “Nationalizing” is a scary word. It’s not literally true, and you acknowledge that by saying “essentially nationalizing.” I think everyone agrees fears should only be based in reality, but in practice I think we can slyly mislead ourselves. Being specific is an anodyne against fear.

            (And before you say ask, yes, I apply this exact same critique to the scope creep around “racist” and “sexist”. I think the grievance engine teaches people a bunch of extra beliefs about how threatening the world is, and actively drives people to traumatize themselves by living in a continuously heightened state of fear and anger. Cortisol is cortisol, whether you’re in a warzone or sitting in a comfy office chair reading Jezebel.)

            Anyways: I think we can have better health outcomes for less money with a public healthcare system. I haven’t looked for e.g. ancap proposals on healthcare, so maybe there’s a really great market solution that’s better than a centralized system. That said, I think single payer is a reasonable improvement to make, and can net wipe out *tons* of bureaucracy from the world while generating more QALYs. I don’t think it has to have the vast negative economic consequences you’re concerned with. I think this is evidenced by the cheaper healthcare systems in other nations, and I haven’t heard a compelling reason why we couldn’t recreate it here in the US.

            I don’t know enough about finance to have an opinion. My intuition says this probably isn’t disastrous, and if intervention in markets can reduce suffering in the world, I’m probably for it.

            Frankly, I am a little afraid. I worry that the modern left will kill the golden geese of modern society. Not all at once in an orgy of violence, but by 1000 little cuts that drain vitality out of society.

            It’s possible. But living in fear of things we have vanishingly little influence over is probably unproductive.

            Elizabeth Warren is knowledgable about economics. AOC identifies with one of the more chill socialist perspectives, but she also has an economics degree – for me, this is good evidence that there are limits on how destructive their politics can get. I’m agnostic on whether or not a “green new deal” is a good way to spend money. Biden is… Biden.

            The democrats are capitalists, whatever that means. Nancy Pelosi has said as much.

            Things are probably going to be fine. Even if they aren’t fine, that will probably work out, too.

          2. cassander

            @roflc0ptic

            So in a couple of places, you’ve done this thing where you’re bending the definition of words. I imagine it’s just a hand-wavy, succinct way of expressing more complex ideas. But I think this poses intellectual and emotional danger. “Nationalizing” is a scary word. It’s not literally true, and you acknowledge that by saying “essentially nationalizing.” I think everyone agrees fears should only be based in reality, but in practice I think we can slyly mislead ourselves.

            Medicare for all would not technically mean setting up an NHS, but it would mean the government would be setting prices for virtually the entire medical industry by administrative fiat. So the doctors wouldn’t formally work for the state, but the government would be determining who can be a doctor, how they can practice medicine, and how much they can charge. I don’t see very meaningful difference between formal nationalization and gosplan style price setting at this scale.

            That said, I think single payer is a reasonable improvement to make, and can net wipe out *tons* of bureaucracy from the world while generating more QALYs. I don’t think it has to have the vast negative economic consequences you’re concerned with.

            Ah, yes, the government is famously good at REDUCING bureaucracy!

            More seriously, though, it’s fine to argue single payer will be an improvement. it’s not fine to argue it won’t be economically significant. You would be abolishing market prices for almost 1/5 of the economy, and then paying for it with a couple trillion a year in new taxes, assuming you don’t force everyone onto current medicare rates, or over a trillion a year plus millions of healthcare workers getting laid off if you do. It’s precisely this callous attitude towards other people’s money and property that scares us about you on the left.

            I think this is evidenced by the cheaper healthcare systems in other nations, and I haven’t heard a compelling reason why we couldn’t recreate it here in the US.

            (A) there are only a couple countries that have single payer.
            (B) the US already has a single payer system, it’s called medicare and it doesn’t achieve what you claim it will.

            I don’t want to make this a debate about single payer or not, but this argument is incredibly common, and, again, scary. You want to fundamentally transform the way 1/5 of the US economy works on the basis of foreign models, but what you’re proposing isn’t like what they actually do!

            I don’t know enough about finance to have an opinion. My intuition says this probably isn’t disastrous, and if intervention in markets can reduce suffering in the world, I’m probably for it.

            You don’t own those things, you have absolutely no right to them, and your casual assumption that Joe Biden can run them better than the people who currently own them is not just completely unfounded, it’s massively contradicted by the available evidence. Again, what you just said is a frightening statement to anyone who believes that private property is important.

            Elizabeth Warren is knowledgable about economics. AOC identifies with one of the more chill socialist perspectives, but she also has an economics degree – for me, this is good evidence that there are limits on how destructive their politics can get.

            this is a terrifying degree of confidence in academia. the people who ran the UK into the gutter so far they couldn’t keep the lights on also had economics degrees, as did the people who ran the soviet economy. That means absolutely nothing, and that you think it does is precisely why we think you’re dangerous. You think vast re-arrangements of the economy are no big deal, and that “experts” will work it all out. This just isn’t the case.

            The democrats are capitalists, whatever that means. Nancy Pelosi has said as much.

            I already said I don’t think they’re gonna put people up against a wall. I said they’re going to keep spending other people’s money until they run out. Frankly, we’re already promised far more than we have, piling on even more is insane.

          3. DavidFriedman

            Anyways: I think we can have better health outcomes for less money with a public healthcare system.

            And what is the difference between that and “effectively nationaliz(ing)” the health care industry?

            That was claim you were objecting to.

          4. roflc0ptic

            @davidfriedman I’m working off of this definition for nationalize: “transfer (a major branch of industry or commerce) from private to state ownership or control.”

            For single payer: “Single-payer national health insurance, also known as “Medicare for all,” is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands”

            The more I look at it, the more I think my objection here was specious. I was thinking that “nationalizing” required seizing ownership, but per the definition it does not. Previously, Cassander was definitely bending the definition of “seize the means of production.” High taxes – very high, oppressively high, destructively high, suicidally high – are materially different than state ownership or control of industry.

            @cassander I’m noting that you’re not acknowledging any points of agreement, or indeed conceding anything. Between that, and the “you people!” sort of tone, it makes me feel a great deal like you’re litigating your tribe’s positions, and not having a dialogue with someone.

            You wrote:

            it’s not fine to argue it won’t be economically significant.

            But I wrote:

            I don’t think it has to have the vast negative economic consequences you’re concerned with.

            I’m making a mistake here – I didn’t/don’t have a full idea of what consequences you’re concerned with, so it’s pretty silly for me to discount them a priori. When I wrote that, I was imagining you were concerned with increasing the cost of healthcare. There I am, conquering a strawman. What I should have written, and was trying to communicate, was “I don’t think it needs to increase actual societal expenditures on healthcare.”

            That said, you’re making a mistake, too. I didn’t say it won’t be economically significant. I don’t think that’s a reasonable read of what I wrote. It will certainly have negative economic consequences for some people, and positive economic consequences for others. I strongly suspect it would be a net good.

            You write about the substantial consequences of implementing single payer, but then you also write

            (A) there are only a couple countries that have single payer.
            (B) the US already has a single payer system, it’s called medicare and it doesn’t achieve what you claim it will.

            Between points A and B, it seems like you’re using two different definitions of single payer: one definition to count, another definition to include medicare. Perhaps I’m confused.

            You don’t own those things, you have absolutely no right to them, and your casual assumption that Joe Biden can run them better than the people who currently own them is not just completely unfounded, it’s massively contradicted by the available evidence. Again, what you just said is a frightening statement to anyone who believes that private property is important.

            See, this is where my intuition tells me you’re not exactly talking to me.

            You don’t own those things

            never said I did

            you have absolutely no right to them

            This is just a normative assertion, and isn’t falsifiable. Those are your principles. Cool! I think the situation is less clear cut than that!

            your casual assumption that Joe Biden can run them better than the people who currently own them

            This is simultaneously wrong, incoherent, and emotionally manipulative. Joe Biden! Expropriation! Enemies!!!

            A much more defensible way to put this might be:

            I’m making the inference that you believe the state can do a better job managing Fannie Mae than private owners.

            To which I could respond: No, I’m not deeply confident about that. But there’s history there that I’m only passingly familiar with, where the finance market crashed because of fraud perpetrated by private industry. I’m agnostic.

            The position I actually took – “if intervention in markets can reduce suffering in the world, I’m probably for it” does not entail any of what you’re saying. It’s a full on on straw man.

            You write:

            it’s massively contradicted by the available evidence

            You’ve made up my position, and then asserted that it’s a bad position.

            this is a terrifying degree of confidence in academia. the people who ran the UK into the gutter so far they couldn’t keep the lights on also had economics degrees, as did the people who ran the soviet economy. That means absolutely nothing…

            That wikipedia article you linked to indicated that this was during an OPEC oil embargo. I don’t know what you’re getting at here. Are you saying that by rationing power in this manner, the government chose a non-economically optimal distribution strategy, as centralized planning is wont to do?

            As I said, it’s good evidence. It’s not incontrovertible evidence. To say it means “absolutely nothing” is stupid. It implies *something* about Elizabeth Warren’s worldview that she published a paper advocating for deregulation. It implies *something* about AOC’s worldview that she got a degree in econ: sure enough, glancing around, she believes in MMT. I said, and maintain, this is meaningful evidence about their worldview. All else being equal, would you prefer someone with an econ education making economic policy, or someone without?

            You wrote:

            You think vast re-arrangements of the economy are no big deal, and that “experts” will work it all out

            Again, putting words in my mouth here. I think neither of those things. Some much more modest believes that I actually hold: I think vast re-arrangements of the economy can be a viable strategy for reducing suffering in the world. I think that in any given domain, experts will quite regularly fumble and fuck it up, because the world is too complex for humans to model very well. However, flawed efforts can still be net positive.

            You wrote:

            what you just said is a frightening statement to anyone who believes that private property is important.

            This reads as fairly self righteous.

            I think private property is important, insofar as it’s (wait for it) useful for reducing suffering in the world. In my mind, property rights are a tool we  use to achieve the goal of having a functioning society. It turns out that a posteriori, markets are often a good way to allocate resources, and that the function of markets benefits substantially from strong private property rights. Allocating resources well seems to reduce suffering in the world, ergo, I am in support of strong but not unassailable property rights. Owning stuff isn’t an intrinsic good. I suspect, but do not know, this is the ground floor of our disagreement.

            Ending on some more meta commentary: Your words and tone in this conversation often have a quality that one might graciously describe as certitude. It feels like you’re trying to “win” something, as though we’re in a zero sum competition. Ideally, dialog is collaborative, and isn’t zero sum. On the receiving end, it’s somewhat reminiscent of trying to have a nuanced conversation about feminism with a strident young leftist, up-to-and-including you saying that you feel threatened by my words. You haven’t called me any names yet, so I’ve gotta admit I’m enjoying this way more.

            If we want to “raise the sanity waterline” in the world, modeling humility for others is a really powerful tool. I’m not going to pretend I’m great at it, but I’m really trying.

          5. cassander

            Previously, Cassander was definitely bending the definition of “seize the means of production.” High taxes – very high, oppressively high, destructively high, suicidally high – are materially different than state ownership or control of industry.

            No one is talking about just taxes here. medicare for all is setting prices by fiat. that is unquestionably government control of industry.

            Between points A and B, it seems like you’re using two different definitions of single payer: one definition to count, another definition to include medicare. Perhaps I’m confused.

            Medicare is a single payer healthcare program. the government collects money from everyone, and finances the care of everyone over 65.

            You don’t own those things

            never said I did

            You act as if you have a perfect right to dispose of them. that’s what ownership is.

            This is just a normative assertion, and isn’t falsifiable. Those are your principles. Cool! I think the situation is less clear cut than that!

            I’m trying to explain why we consider people who think like you dangerous.

            To which I could respond: No, I’m not deeply confident about that. But there’s history there that I’m only passingly familiar with, where the finance market crashed because of fraud perpetrated by private industry. I’m agnostic.

            If you’re referring to 2008, you’re completely wrong about the history. the fact that you base a worldview where it’s ok to seize other people’s things based on history you admit you are only passingly familiar with is, again, why we find this dangerous. And for the record, fannie mae IS run by the government.

            That wikipedia article you linked to indicated that this was during an OPEC oil embargo.

            British power at the time came from coal, not oil or gas. OPEC had nothing to do with the fact that british labor policy was a disaster.

            I don’t know what you’re getting at here. Are you saying that by rationing power in this manner, the government chose a non-economically optimal distribution strategy, as centralized planning is wont to do?

            A first world country whose labor policies are so bad that they literally can’t keep the lights on is the sort of outcome you said was impossible with people with degrees running the country. My point is that it has happened before and it will happen again if it is allowed to.

            All else being equal, would you prefer someone with an econ education making economic policy, or someone without?

            having an econ degree is not evidence that one knows something meaningful about economic policy. to quote an economist, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. To the naive mind that can conceive of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions order, and adaptation to the unknown, can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions and that a division of authority will actually extend the possibility of overall order. Yet that decentralization actually leads to more information being taken into account.”

            what you just said is a frightening statement to anyone who believes that private property is important.

            This reads as fairly self righteous.

            you asked why we act as if we’re afraid. I’m telling you.

            Owning stuff isn’t an intrinsic good. I suspect, but do not know, this is the ground floor of our disagreement

            No, it isn’t. As I’ve said, the disagreement is that you think the world is far more easily understandable than it is, and you are far to casual with other people’s livelihoods. “I do what results in the most utils” is a perfectly fine sentiment, but utterly useless as guide to practical action. the consequences of taking away property rights have been demonstrated over and over again, it always ends badly, and there’s always someone like you coming around and saying “well look what if just did this one thing.”

            Ending on some more meta commentary: Your words and tone in this conversation often have a quality that one might graciously describe as certitude.

            Funny, I’d say the same thing about you. You make very broad pronouncements about things like the cause of the 2008 financial crash while admitting you haven’t actually looked into the issue. And I don’t mean to pick on you here, most people know very little about policy. but that’s a big part of why people like me think there should be less of it, because it’s far, far to easy for ignorance to get enacted into law. And when we hear things like “where the finance market crashed because of fraud perpetrated by private industry” we see children playing with matches.

          6. Aapje

            @roflc0ptic

            Warren seems like she would make a decent president if she actually went with her (earlier?) convictions. However, during her campaign she went out of her way to act as wo(k)efully insane as she could. Perhaps that is the lesson that she took from Clinton, that technocrats are hated, so she should pander to the far-left as much as she could, no matter if it made her into a parody.

            At this point, it’s not clear whether she could pivot back (also because people tend to rationalize the crap they’re doing, so she may have internalized the insanity).

          7. John Schilling

            Previously, Cassander was definitely bending the definition of “seize the means of production.” High taxes – very high, oppressively high, destructively high, suicidally high – are materially different than state ownership or control of industry.

            High taxes alone, perhaps not. High taxes plus high regulation, yes. Note the “or control” part of “nationalization”.

            If most of the profits of an industry are taken by the national government, and most of the relevant(*) decision space of the industry is locked off by government regulation, then it seems reasonable to say that the industry has been mostly nationalized.

            Which, yes, makes it a fuzzier definition than a simplistic “it’s only nationalized if the State holds the title certificate” version, but it’s also a much more useful definition.

            * i.e. things that the industry might otherwise choose to do in the pursuit of profit and that wouldn’t be illegal under a common-law “no fraud or theft” type legal regime.

    2. Gerry Quinn

      “Finally, the left is being self aware about how absurdly self righteous it sounds!!”

      That would be self-lefteous, right?

      I’m over 60, I don’t know how it crept up on me. Everything is uncertain, and I realise it always was.

  31. Bobobob

    Whoever it was on the last thread that recommended Justified–thanks!

    I usually avoid police/crime shows like the plague, but Justified (at least the five episodes I’ve watched so far) has confounded my expectations. It reminds me a lot of Breaking Bad, in terms of casting, dialogue and story arc, and that is certainly not a bad thing. Plus, it’s funny.

  32. Belisaurus Rex

    So I’ve heard the meme that “the Confederacy was only around for 4 years, therefore why do we still have statues up”. I have a slight problem with this for two reasons. First, plenty of famous governments/empires fell very quickly. Napoleon and Alexander both had their empires for less than a decade, yet both still have statues and are remembered today (despite their negative traits), so it seems incorrect to conflate temporal length with importance or relevance or legitimacy.

    Second, it seems disingenuous to say that the Confederacy was only around for four years and at the same time blame Confederates for events both before and after those four years.

    Not to defend the statues or the Confederacy, but it’s just the argument that bothers me. Aren’t there a million better ways to argue against Confederate statues? Are memes really that hard to make? Is this the best people can do?

    1. FrankistGeorgist

      Napoleon and Alexander both had generals who went on to form long lasting dynasties. House Napoleon even got a round 2 and he was the longest reigning monarch since the sun king. So more memetic staying power within in their own domains (culture/ruling), I think, and longer time period that can be attributed to their influence. Their respective associated ideologies (liberalism and Hellenism) both got spread far and wide by their armies. Confederate ideology spread nowhere.

      I know some members of the Confederacy moved to Brazil but I’ve never heard of what they did once they got there.

      I get what you’re saying but I think your examples actually make the meme more salient for me.

      1. Belisaurus Rex

        If there wasn’t a long-lasting ideological effect, then why is the issue still fought over today?

        Whatever happened to all those Confederates after the war? Didn’t they all go on to have exactly the same prestigious political careers (and representation in government) that they had before the war? Isn’t that exactly why Reconstruction failed?

        Edit: Maybe I am the one confused here, but it just seems like the weakest possible argument you could make against the Confederacy is that it didn’t last very long.

        1. FrankistGeorgist

          I’ll say I didn’t have a real sense in my head for how long the confederacy lasted so at least for me the meme did trigger something which is all you can ask of a meme. I think like any meme in circulation it’s primarily for reinforcing existing beliefs rather than converting others.

          Admittedly my first thought was they sure went through a lot of flags for such a short run and they were all bad enough nobody really uses them.

        2. keaswaran

          It took the Compromise of 1877 to put most of those Confederates back in power. Perhaps this was likely to happen all along, as witnessed by the fact that allies of these confederates were able to make the presidential election uncertain enough that the compromise was seen as needed by the Hayes team. But for several years, Reconstruction seemed like it was going to keep these Confederates out of power for the rest of their lives.

    2. Ttar

      It really depends on what the point of a statue is. It seems like the point of them is to venerate the subject. If so, probably best to remove them all.

    3. samboy

      Keep in mind that the argument is part of a larger emotional CW appeal. It goes like this:

      – The statues were put up in the 20th century to support segregation and Jim Crow laws
      – The Confederacy those statues honors was a pathetic attempt at a nation which lasted just over four years (Feb 1861 – April 1865)
      – So, are we honoring the statues to honor a pathetic shorted-lived attempt at a nation, or for other more nefarious reasons

      1. Talexander Urok

        The statues were put up in the 20th century to support segregation and Jim Crow laws

        Notably missing from that link was any quotes from the people who actually put the monuments up. What did they say about their intentions? It tells you there’s something sinister about the monuments not being built until 1900. But that’s the general pattern for war monuments. They aren’t built right after the war, they’re built much later, when the veterans have gotten old. If they were built in the 1920s, I’m sure you’d hear about how ‘isn’t it strange they were built in the same decade the KKK was active?’

        So, are we honoring the statues to honor a pathetic shorted-lived attempt at a nation,

        The people who put them up didn’t consider it a “pathetic shorted-lived attempt at a nation,” so the whole comparison is invalid.

        1. samboy

          Here is some data for when Union monuments were built, based on me scraping year numbers from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Union_Civil_War_monuments_and_memorials

          186X ################################
          187X ###########################
          188X ##################################
          189X ##########################
          191X ##########################
          192X #################
          193X #######
          194X ###
          195X ###
          196X ######
          197X #####
          198X ######
          199X ####

          The corresponding numbers for Confederate monuments can be seen at https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/com_whose_heritage.pdf on pages 14 and 15.

          The general impression I get is that they built a lot of Union statues in the 1800s, but the Confederate statues were mostly built in the 1910s

          Also, while we did have a higher peak in the 1960s with Union statues, probably because of the centennial of the Civil War, it was lower than the corresponding Confederate peak, and has remained more steady than the 1960s uptick in southern statues built.

          We can come up with a bunch of reasons why the southern states all of a sudden built a bunch of Confederate statues in the 1910s, but it’s not a normal pattern of how statues are built, since the pattern is very different from the control condition (Union statues).

          In terms of the wording “pathetic”, that’s the CW argument being made in that meme. It’s a culture war emotional appeal, and I don’t like having long discussions about those kinds of things here at SSC. I only brought it up to directly answer a question, and made it clear it was an emotional CW appeal, not a logical argument.

        2. samboy

          Notably missing from that link was any quotes from the people who actually put the monuments up

          To add to what I said that Confederates monuments were added in a different pattern than Union monuments (i.e. a big peak of new Confederate monuments in the 1910s), I also found an article with the dedication text to one of the Confederate monuments from 1906. In summarizing that speech:

          In Scott’s estimation, Confederate soldiers’ greatest achievement came not during the Civil War, but during Reconstruction, when they ensured, through force of arms, that black people would remain subjugated.

          During the speech, Scott made reference to a magazine article. The actual 1906 English in that referenced article is flowery, but it reads like what we call “white supremacist” writing today:

          [Some say] the difference between the White Man and the Black Man is much less considerable than is ordinarily supposed, and that the only real obstacle in the negro’s way is that—“He has never been given a chance!”—For myself, after visiting the black man in his own house, I come back with a decided impression that this is the sheerest of delusions

          Another case: The speech dedicating a statue in North Carolina (Possible paywall warning: Washington Post) from 1913. In that speech, we have this whopper:

          I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds

          So, yeah, they were at times pretty direct about what philosophy they were espousing when erecting those Confederate statues.

          1. matkoniecz

            The university told the News and Observer in Raleigh that they disagreed with Cooper’s legal analysis and believed that removing the statue would violate a 2015 law that forbids taking down public monuments without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission.

            This mentioned law seems like a very stupid idea.

          2. keaswaran

            Of course, that 2015 law was designed precisely for circumstances like this. Some carpetbaggers might want to remove a Confederate statue, and the point of the law is to make sure that they have to run it by a bunch of old white people who have lived in the state for many decades first.

        3. SamChevre

          I would argue that the most helpful framework for thinking about many statues of Confederate leaders (not the memorials to soldiers from the town) is that they are as much anti-colonial statues put up post-Redemption as “remember the war” statues.

          I think it rather misses the point, when thinking of the statue of James Connolly in Dublin, to note that the Easter Rising failed, or that Sinn Fein was at times brutal to some people. Similarly, it rather misses the point of a statue of Forrest to note that the Confederacy was short-lived, and that the Redeemers were at times brutal.

      2. jewelersshop

        In at least some instances (battlefields like Gettysburg, for example), the statues for both sides were there specifically to encourage re-unifying the country. Preserving the union was the point of the war, so the dead of both sides had to be equally honored, otherwise you just have one nation (which is allowed to put up statues) conquering another. I am not speaking to the purposes of every statue (though I agree that looking for quotes from the people who put them up seems the best way to find that out), but the battlefield ones were trying to avoid Round Two by making explicit that We were mourning Our dead and honoring their bravery, instead of victors mourning their losses while rejoicing in the death and defeat of the other side (which is a good recipe for trouble when the latter’s orphans grow up). In other words, battlefield Confederate monuments were not “yay traitors”, they were “USA monuments because we’re all USA” just like the Union ones.

        Also, as far as city monuments to various regiments go, one did not have to agree with “your” side’s view of slavery to be conscripted to fight for it.

        1. GoneAnon

          I think a non-trivial portion of the modern progressive movement views the whole idea of “reconciliation” as a colossal mistake, and thinks that yes, the North should have, in fact, treated the south as a conquered and subjugated state and not attempted to receive them back as equals and move on.

          1. Thomas Jorgensen

            Specifically.. The confederacy exempted everyone who had more than 20 slaves from conscription. That is pretty much a ready-made list of people who should have had their property confiscated in-toto.

            Should have been pretty easy to build a narrative around, too. I mean, these are the people who dragged the south into a ruinous war they could not even be bothered to fight in.

          2. Le Maistre Chat

            I think a non-trivial portion of the modern progressive movement views the whole idea of “reconciliation” as a colossal mistake, and thinks that yes, the North should have, in fact, treated the south as a conquered and subjugated state and not attempted to receive them back as equals and move on.

            The Second Amendment makes it hard to treat Americans as a conquered and subjugated people. I know progressives don’t like the 2A, but what exactly do they think should have happened differently: President Lincoln put armed soldiers in the Capitol Building and 3/4th of State Legislatures that remained in the Union to force them to pass an Amendment nullifying the Second?

          3. brmic

            The more nuanced version of that is that we learned a lot about how to deal with such a situation since the end of the civil war, and yes, it appears the approach taken there was not good enough.
            The problem with jewelersshop’s rationale is that it’s bothsideism and thus fails to articulate what the correct stance going forward is going to be. That doesn’t mean erasure of the good points of the losing side or ongoing punishment (Treaty of Versailles style). But it means that any statues should have a plaque saying ‘fought bravely for a bad cause’.
            I’d defer to people who have studied this in detail, but in general I think it’s a mistake both to crush the losers economically and to not hold them accountable morally.

          4. albatross11

            Remember that the goal of most US leaders after the civil war was to sew the country back together again. Further wrecking the Southern economy, jailing or bankrupting most prominent Southern citizens, and other punitive measures sound like great ways to feel good about how you’re sticking it to the other side, but not such great ways to stitch the North and South back into a single country after a bitter and bloody civil war.

            As it has happened, Southern separatism didn’t continue as such a powerful political force that we had more civil wars, or needed ongoing expensive occupations and security forces to prevent that happening. Instead, Southerners joined the military at high rates for fight *for* the US in various wars. This is probably a much better outcome than we’d have gotten if we’d done everything that now seems appropriate to punish the confederates[1] for slaveowning, defending slavery, rebelling, etc.

            [1] Punishing pro-Union slaveowners was absolutely not on the table. Missouri and Maryland and I think DC all continued to have slavery until it was finally banned nationwide.

          5. John Schilling

            Should have been pretty easy to build a narrative around, too.

            In roughly the same way that it was easy to build a narrative around “Remember the Alamo, er, Maine, no, Lusitania, oops, Pearl Harbor, wait, now it’s 9/11”.

            Some narratives make it much easier than it ought to be to start a war, or much harder than it ought to be to end one. One of the great miracles of the American Civil War is that it ended. We didn’t get twenty years of bloody insurgency after the clash-of-armies part. A “narrative” based on retribution against the most prominent citizens of the South, would not in fact have had all the other citizens of the South cheering you on in (or even quietly tolerating) your quest for retribution, no matter how much you think it would have been in their class interest to do so.

            The American Civil War ended as peacefully as it did, because the victors agreed to not pursue that sort of retribution. That was almost certainly the right decision then, and in any event it’s too late to change it now.

          6. SamChevre

            @John Schilling

            We didn’t get twenty years of bloody insurgency after the clash-of-armies part.

            I think that’s only somewhat true: Redemption was much less bloody than it could have been, and didn’t involve guerilla attacks on the North directly–but it was an effective anti-colonial movement and included some amount of violence against both occupying troops and collaborators.

          7. John Schilling

            Insert my standard rant about people responding to a garden-variety riot or crime wave with “City X has become a War Zone(tm)”, relocated to a 19th-century rural environment.

          8. Nancy Lebovitz

            Thomas Jorgenson:

            “I mean, these are the people who dragged the south into a ruinous war they could not even be bothered to fight in.”

            From what I’ve read in Confederate Reckoning, that’s exaggerating. It was top elites that dragged the South into the Civil War, not fairly ordinary rich people.

            Are there any AHs where the Civil War doesn’t happen because the south just lets things drift? My impression is that’s what the majority of white southern men wanted.

          9. SamChevre

            Redemption vs Reconstruction – it’s not an alternate name for the time period, it’s a different set of events in the same time period. Reconstruction is the military occupation, Redemption the attempt to regain self-rule. Like most anti-colonial movements, it targeted collaborators and local supporters of the occupation more than the occupying troops.

          10. bullseye

            I went to school in Georgia and I’ve never heard of Redemption either. I knew it happened, but I didn’t know it had a name.

          11. Aftagley

            I think a non-trivial portion of the modern progressive movement views the whole idea of “reconciliation” as a colossal mistake, and thinks that yes, the North should have, in fact, treated the south as a conquered and subjugated state and not attempted to receive them back as equals and move on.

            This allides the truth, but isn’t quite there. The predominant narrative in progressive circles it the reconstruction was a good thing – it was actively transforming the south into a better nation. Within half a decade roughly 15% of the elected officials in the South were African American- blacks were voting, literacy rates were up and wealth was being accumulated in minority communities.

            Then, in 1877, the Republicans sold out the south to get Hayes elected president and all the progress was reversed, Jim Crow laws were established and the South was left to rot. African Americans spent the century from 1877-1977 with less political representation than they had in 1875.

            Progressives think that the early successes of reconstruction in terms of uplifting minorities from a state of slavery to status as equal citizenship was more important that reconciliation with former slave-masters. I happen to agree.

      3. sharper13

        I’m fine with the people who were elected to manage the various government-owned locations following the normal process to remove/change statues/names/etc… and being accountable to their constituents for it.

        Allowing mobs to tear down public (or private, for that matter) property (sometimes in severe ignorance of what they’re destroying) because a politician/media member/leftist on social media/etc… agrees with their stated grievances is entirely a different matter and something which would in an ideal United States be dealt with by law enforcement and anyone participating would be arrested.

        But then, I’m more in favor of constitutions and the rule of law than I am in favor of mob rule.

        The preference of various others on that question is currently being revealed by their statements and actions.

    4. meh

      it seems disingenuous to say that the Confederacy was only around for four years and at the same time blame Confederates for events both before and after those four years.

      Without taking a stance on the truth of the argument, in general it does not seem contradictory. It sounds like factual statements. ‘X officially existed for 4 years.’ ‘X was a direct cause for event Y’. Why is this a problem? If X did not exist for 4 years, or did not cause event Y, just argue that. But there is no inherent inconsistency.

    5. A Definite Beta Guy

      It’s a stupid argument, IMO. It’s about the South more generally, which has existed as a regional entity for several centuries. The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is supposed to represent Southern identity and Southern unity, and they don’t any other symbols for that. Even within the US more broadly, there is still a separate Southern regional identity.

      I suppose the alternate might be flying a flag with a football on it, because the only non-Southern state with a BCS title is Ohio.

      For other people, they want to signal rebellion to authority. The Gadsden flag is probably better, but the EEOC has determined that this also can be considered racist.

      1. rumham

        For other people, they want to signal rebellion to authority. The Gadsden flag is probably better, but the EEOC has determined that this also can be considered racist.

        I was flabbergasted by that, so I looked into it.

        This decision addressed only the procedural issue of whether the Complainant’s allegations of discrimination should be dismissed or investigated. This decision was not on the merits, did not determine that the Gadsden Flag was racist or discriminatory, and did not ban it.
        Given the procedural nature of this appeal and the fact that no investigative record or evidence had been developed yet, it would have been premature and inappropriate for EEOC to determine, one way or the other, the merits of the U.S. Postal Service’s argument that the Gadsden Flag and its slogan do not have any racial connotations whatsoever.
        EEOC’s decision simply ordered the agency – the U.S. Postal Service – to investigate the allegations. EEOC’s decision made no factual or legal determination on whether discrimination actually occurred.

        Not great, but not as bad as I feared. Not racist now, but it could be ruled so later. The biggest problem is that the ruling clearly does violate the plain meaning of the law, as Title VII only covers harassment that is “severe or pervasive,” not subtle or ambiguous.

    6. Nancy Lebovitz

      For what it’s worth, I think it’s an effort to lower the status of the Confederacy. It’s not enough to say “the Confederacy was an evil thing built for the purpose of preserving slavery”. No, it’s also got to be “and it was no big deal of country, it only lasted four years.”

      It’s in roughly the same category as talking about the traitor’s flag. My impression is that the people who do that are the same people who don’t like the United States and would be pleased to see it taken over ty Canada or the EU.

      1. Thomas Jorgensen

        … Eh… Breaking up the federal government and promptly having all fifty states join the union is a plan with at least some features that should appeal to the readership of this blog, assuming you can somehow sell Brussels on the idea. For one thing, far less centralized, and for another, the few areas where Brussels is more hardcore than the US federal government are mostly issues which about everyone here should approve of – The “Tax breaks are subsidies, and are treated with the level of skepticism appropriate for such” thing, for example, and anti trust enforcement with actual teeth.

        1. Doctor Mist

          Can I possibly be the first to say, “Wow, you are so mistaken”? I can’t even with this.

          Even if you could (somehow) convince me that every single American would be better off, even then, No Way In Hell.

          1. John Schilling

            +1.

            I mean, yeah, some features that would appeal to readers of this blog, but many more that would be