First they came for the Iranians

Action Item: If you’re an American academic, please sign the petition against the Immigration Executive Order. (There are already more than eighteen thousand signatories, including Nobel Laureates, Fields Medalists, you name it, but it could use more!)

I don’t expect this petition to have the slightest effect on the regime, but at least we should demonstrate to the world and to history that American academia didn’t take this silently.


I’m sure there were weeks, in February or March 1933, when the educated, liberal Germans commiserated with each other over the latest outrages of their new Chancellor, but consoled themselves that at least none of it was going to affect them personally.

This time, it’s taken just five days, since the hostile takeover of the US by its worst elements, for edicts from above to have actually hurt my life and (much more directly) the lives of my students, friends, and colleagues.

Today, we learned that Trump is suspending the issuance of US visas to people from seven majority-Islamic countries, including Iran (but strangely not Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Wahhabist terrorism—not that that would be morally justified either).  This suspension might last just 30 days, but might also continue indefinitely—particularly if, as seems likely, the Iranian government thumbs its nose at whatever Trump demands that it do to get the suspension rescinded.

So the upshot is that, until further notice, science departments at American universities can no longer recruit PhD students from Iran—a country that, along with China, India, and a few others, has long been the source of some of our best talent.  This will directly affect this year’s recruiting season, which is just now getting underway.  (If Canada and Australia have any brains, they’ll snatch these students, and make the loss America’s.)

But what about the thousands of Iranian students who are already here?  So far, no one’s rounding them up and deporting them.  But their futures have suddenly been thrown into jeopardy.

Right now, I have an Iranian PhD student who came to MIT on a student visa in 2013.  He started working with me two years ago, on the power of a rudimentary quantum computing model inspired by (1+1)-dimensional integrable quantum field theory.  You can read our paper about it, with Adam Bouland and Greg Kuperberg, here.  It so happens that this week, my student is visiting us in Austin and staying at our home.  He’s spent the whole day pacing around, terrified about his future.  His original plan, to do a postdoc in the US after he finishes his PhD, now seems impossible (since it would require a visa renewal).

Look: in the 11-year history of this blog, there have been only a few occasions when I felt so strongly about something that I stood my ground, even in the face of widespread attacks from people who I otherwise respected.  One, of course, was when I spoke out for shy nerdy males, and for a vision of feminism broad enough to recognize their suffering as a problem.  A second was when I was more blunt about D-Wave, and about its and its supporters’ quantum speedup claims, than some of my colleagues were comfortable with.  But the remaining occasions almost all involved my defending the values of the United States, Israel, Zionism, or “the West,” or condemning Islamic fundamentalism, radical leftism, or the worldviews of such individuals as Noam Chomsky or my “good friend” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Which is simply to say: I don’t think anyone on earth can accuse me of secret sympathies for the Iranian government.

But when it comes to student visas, I can’t see that my feelings about the mullahs have anything to do with the matter.  We’re talking about people who happen to have been born in Iran, who came to the US to do math and science.  Would we rather have these young scientists here, filled with gratitude for the opportunities we’ve given them, or back in Iran filled with justified anger over our having expelled them?

To the Trump regime, I make one request: if you ever decide that it’s the policy of the US government to deport my PhD students, then deport me first.  I’m practically begging you: come to my house, arrest me, revoke my citizenship, and tear up the awards I’ve accepted at the White House and the State Department.  I’d consider that to be the greatest honor of my career.

And to those who cheered Trump’s campaign in the comments of this blog: go ahead, let me hear you defend this.


Update (Jan. 27, 2017): To everyone who’s praised the “courage” that it took me to say this, thank you so much—but to be perfectly honest, it takes orders of magnitude less courage to say this, than to say something that any of your friends or colleagues might actually disagree with! The support has been totally overwhelming, and has reaffirmed my sense that the United States is now effectively two countries, an open and a closed one, locked in a cold Civil War.

Some people have expressed surprise that I’d come out so strongly for Iranian students and researchers, “given that they don’t always agree with my politics,” or given my unapologetic support for the founding principles (if not always the actions) of the United States and of Israel. For my part, I’m surprised that they’re surprised! So let me say something that might be clarifying.

I care about the happiness, freedom, and welfare of all the men and women who are actually working to understand the universe and build the technologies of the future, and of all the bright young people who want to join these quests, whatever their backgrounds and wherever they might be found—whether it’s in Iran or Israel, in India or China or right here in the US.  The system of science is far from perfect, and we often discuss ways to improve it on this blog.  But I have not the slightest interest in tearing down what we have now, or destroying the world’s current pool of scientific talent in some cleansing fire, in order to pursue someone’s mental model of what the scientific community used to look like in Periclean Athens—or for that matter, their fantasy of what it would look like in a post-gender post-racial communist utopia.  I’m interested in the actual human beings doing actual science who I actually meet, or hope to meet.

Understand that, and a large fraction of all the political views that I’ve ever expressed on this blog, even ones that might seem to be in tension with each other, fall out as immediate corollaries.

(Related to that, some readers might be interested in a further explanation of my views about Zionism. See also my thoughts about liberal democracy, in response to numerous comments here by Curtis Yarvin a.k.a. Mencius Moldbug a.k.a. “Boldmug.”)


Update (Jan. 29) Here’s a moving statement from my student Saeed himself, which he asked me to share here.

This is not of my best interest to talk about politics. Not because I am scared but because I know little politics. I am emotionally affected like many other fellow human beings on this planet. But I am still in the US and hopefully I can pursue my degree at MIT. But many other talented friends of mine can’t. Simply because they came back to their hometowns to visit their parents. On this matter, I must say that like many of my friends in Iran I did not have a chance to see my parents in four years, my basic human right, just because I am from a particular nationality; something that I didn’t have any decision on, and that I decided to study in my favorite school, something that I decided when I was 15. When, like many other talented friends of mine, I was teaching myself mathematics and physics hoping to make big impacts in positive ways in the future. And I must say I am proud of my nationality – home is home wherever it is. I came to America to do science in the first place. I still don’t have any other intention, I am a free man, I can do science even in desert, if I have to. If you read history you’ll see scientists even from old ages have always been traveling.

As I said I know little about many things, so I just phrase my own standpoint. You should also talk to the ones who are really affected. A good friend of mine, Ahmad, who studies Mechanical engineering in UC Berkeley, came back to visit his parents in August. He is one of the most talented students I have ever seen in my life. He has been waiting for his student visa since then and now he is ultimately depressed because he cannot finish his degree. The very least the academic society can do is to help students like Ahmad finish their degrees even if it is from abroad. I can’t emphasize enough I know little about many things. But, from a business standpoint, this is a terrible deal for America. Just think about it. All international students in this country have been getting free education untill 22, in the American point of reference, and now they are using their knowledge to build technology in the USA. Just do a simple calculation and see how much money this would amount to. In any case my fellow international students should rethink this deal, and don’t take it unless at the least they are treated with respect. Having said all of this I must say I love the people of America, I have had many great friends here, great advisors specially Scott Aaronson and Aram Harrow, with whom I have been talking about life, religion, freedom and my favorite topic the foundations of the universe. I am grateful for the education I received at MIT and I think I have something I didn’t have before. I don’t even hate Mr Trump. I think he would feel different if we have a cup of coffee sometime.


Update (Jan. 31): See also this post by Terry Tao.


Update (Feb. 2): If you haven’t been checking the comments on this post, come have a look if you’d like to watch me and others doing our best to defend the foundations of Enlightenment and liberal democracy against a regiment of monarchists and neoreactionaries, including the notorious Mencius Moldbug, as well as a guy named Jim who explicitly advocates abolishing democracy and appointing Trump as “God-Emperor” with his sons to succeed him. (Incidentally, which son? Is Ivanka out of contention?)

I find these people to be simply articulating, more clearly and logically than most, the worldview that put Trump into office and where it inevitably leads. And any of us who are horrified by it had better get over our incredulity, fast, and pick up the case for modernity and Enlightenment where Spinoza and Paine and Mill and all the others left it off—because that’s what’s actually at stake here, and if we don’t understand that then we’ll continue to be blindsided.

588 Responses to “First they came for the Iranians”

  1. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Let’s hope that things don’t turn out as bad as they might. Trump is promising so many impossible things that his entire program of buffoonery is likely to grind to a halt. My mental picture of this is like a tractor pull at a county fair. The contraption being pulled ratchets an increasing mass over the skids that pretty soon the tractor engine chokes and quits.

    For some mental relaxation, are there any blunt updates about D-Wave? They seem to have lost the “Loony Tech” leadership to Elon Musk, who is about to start running cruise ships to Mars and digging traffic tunnels under LA.

  2. Daniel Says:

    Completely agree! I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can do as scientists to resist this insanity. I think continuing to do our work as best we can is important, we can’t let them destroy who we are, but there must be more we can do. I’ve belatedly been learning about the story of Max von Laue, which seems relevant. And we certainly should protect vulnerable members of our communities, as you say. But this all seems negligible given how badly we’ve apparently done in educating society about the importance of facts and logic…

  3. Scott Says:

    Raoul #1: Based on the “chatter” in my inbox, it looks possible that another D-Wave hype tsunami could crash ashore sometime soon, but I’ll wait until that happens (if it happens) to blog about it.

    Recently, as part of a conference that I attended, I had the opportunity to tour the SpaceX factory in California. I know that Greg Kuperberg, for one, puts D-Wave and SpaceX into the same category. But one obvious difference is that, along with the humans-on-Mars talk, SpaceX also has a more-or-less steady, profitable core business: sending commercial satellites into orbit, usually without blowing them up. I.e., they have something that their customers buy for functional rather than aspirational reasons.

  4. Noah Stephens-Davidowitz Says:

    This policy would be ridiculous and disgusting regardless, but nobody has been killed in America by an act of terrorism committed by a citizen of any of these countries (based on my ability to check this list https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_in_the_United_States). So, it’s not even a well-targeted ridiculous and disgusting policy. It’s literally just a ban on immigration from countries that people feel like might produce terrorists.

  5. tas Says:

    I am also in the US on a student visa. I read the news every day with trepidation, as I worry that the next executive order will force me to leave the US sooner than expected. I have frequent moments of panic in which I think I should try quickly finding a job outside the US before it’s too late. I feel like my future is up in the air.

    I feel like this despite being from a western country. I can only imagine how people from places like Iran must be feeling.

  6. Scott Says:

    Noah #4: Yes, my Iranian friends made the same point! The Iranian regime funds Hezbollah, which the US considers a terrorist group; and (according to the interesting link you provided) it assassinated an Iranian dissident living in the US; and it might have tried to bomb the Israeli and Saudi US embassies. But what makes this disgusting policy particularly ironic is that, unlike with Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Pakistan, etc., there’s no history—zero, zilch!—of individual Iranians coming to the US on student visas or whatever and then turning out to be “self-radicalized poisoned jellybeans” who kill innocents.

  7. behnaz Says:

    Only one thing to say: Thank you, thank you for standing up for us when no one else did.

  8. Pooya Hatami Says:

    Thank you Scott! The world needs more humans like you.

  9. John Sidles Says:

    This hateful and willfully ignorant policy must not stand (because this, among many reasons). Appreciation and thanks are extended to all citizens who speak out publicly … Scott and Shtetl Optimized in particular.

  10. Arash Says:

    I really appreciate your support..

  11. math_lambada Says:

    I’m quite impressed by your statement, Scott! It’s brave and important that US citizens, especially ones with some scientific awards to their names, stand up like this to such absurd indiscriminate policies that immediately harm both innocent people’s life and US scientific output.
    (This from a non-US person from abroad who has not always liked all your other positions over the years).

  12. Pedram Says:

    Thanks a lot, Scott ! well-said!

  13. Dave Says:

    Only thing wrong here is I’d swap Iran and Saudi Arabia, those choices are obviously motivated by hidden forces rather than safety. Reasons…we were constantly lied to about the quality of the vetting process. Just don’t care anymore. Nobody has a right to come here. Either start running these processes honestly, and for the benefit of the people that already live here, or people will get fed up enough that they vote for someone that will shut them down. Plenty of countries heavily restrict this and actually have vetting processes based around eliminating probable risk, nobody cries creeping fascism and they still get their foreign students.

    People are getting more upset by this than when we were just outright killing people from some of these countries a couple months ago, what changed since then…

  14. Shabnam Says:

    Such a great advisor and most importantly a real human being 🙂

    Do you have any practical solution for stopping scapegoating Iranian citizens? I do not have any for the following reasons:

    – Iran is a diverse country and the regime tries to suppress minorities…As a result, people are so divided and you cannot find a reliable activist group (or lobby) in US to support Iranian’s right..

    – Obviously, the Iranian regime is the biggest threat for Iranian citizens and they would not take real productive & diplomatic actions for supporting their citizens…

    – Israel influence on US policies make the situation worse…I mainly blame Iranian regime on such widespread belief that Iran is planning to destroy Israel…The supreme leader talks are like a stupid rebel child who wants to show off that he is really powerful! (US has Trump, I think you know what I am talking about 😉 )… Most Iranian intellectuals I met (in both Iran and US) are against violence and they would support a peaceful solution for both Israel and Palestine…

    Still, is there any solution to help Iranian citizens? 🙁

  15. Sasan Says:

    Thank you Scott for standing up for us. Just like your student, I spent today in panic. I was in the middle of writing a great paper with a tight deadline, but I just can’t do anything. I am paralyzed, just checking social media for more news.
    My parents are going to miss my PhD hooding ceremony because of this order. I am not sure what will happen to my green card and OPT application. Everything is up in the air after several years of hard work…

  16. Peyman Says:

    Bravo for your frankness and honesty. You’ve crystalized thoughts that I am sure are on the minds of many.

  17. Scott Says:

    Shabnam #14: I wish I had a better answer! But I can’t understate the importance of actually meeting people from the groups that we want to avoid being scapegoated—and not in some staged way but for real.

    To take an example: I grew up in an environment where I’d hardly ever meet anyone of Muslim background, and where, if such people ever came up in conversation, then it was likely to be in the context of their killing Jews or wanting to kill Jews. And I mean, it’s not that another radical imam’s “kill the Jews” proclamation can’t be pretty salient to a Jewish person!

    But crucially, if that’s the main or only context in which Muslims come up, then you’re going to be left with an extremely skewed impression—no matter how well you understand intellectually that it’s skewed.

    Later, though, once I’d become an academic traveling all over the place for talks and conferences, I had occasions to meet dozens of wonderful people from Muslim backgrounds, Iranians and others—to befriend them, crash at their houses, eat their food, coauthor papers with them, have intellectual conversations with them about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, etc. etc. So then there’s a completely different set of salient examples to draw from.

  18. Christopher Silvia Says:

    One thing I have to ask, because it’s been bugging me:

    When is it time for revolution? Revolution, assuming success, would allow regime change while paying a cost in stability and likelihood of further revolutions toppling better governments. Here’s the problem: revolt too early, and later on violence becomes the norm and we have a dictatorship or civil war. Revolt too late, and we have a dictatorship like Weimar became, without firing a shot.

    If Trump ignores a court ruling on emoulments, for example, is it time for the citizens of DC to use violence to make him comply?

    Obviously these are questions without an answer, and I’m not trying to be the crazy anarchist guy. I just don’t know at what point revolution becomes the least bad option, and I don’t want to realize too late that we missed or chance for revolution.

  19. Adnan Says:

    but strangely not Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Wahhabist terrorism

    You are not lesser ignorant and full with hatred than Trump. It means that if it was done against Saudia you were happy with it?

    And BTW, what is Wahabist Terrorism? What world witnessed in Syria is nothing but Shia terrorism in the region.

  20. Scott Says:

    Adnan #19: I didn’t say I’d be OK with it if it was done against Saudi Arabian students, and I wouldn’t be. My point was more like that of Noah #4: “it’s not even a well-targeted ridiculous and disgusting policy.”

  21. Christopher Silvia Says:

    It’s truly heartbreaking to hear all these responses from international students, and for what it’s worth, good luck

  22. Joel Dietz Says:

    If you’ve read Art of the Deal Trump likes to overstate as a negotiating tactic.

  23. Shawn Paul Says:

    Big words, I’m practically begging you- blah blah blah.

    I’ve seen a lot of this rhetoric from “celebs” but nobody made true on their promises. You’ll just raise the bar when he starts deporting people.

    Why not go to a muslim majority country right now? Like Pakistan?

  24. Scott Says:

    Shawn #23: Huh? I didn’t say I had any intention at this time to leave the US. I dared Trump to make me leave, if that’s what he’s going to do to my students. And if he did, the first places I’d think of going would probably be Israel or Canada, followed by Singapore, the UK, Australia, …

    I’ll pass on Pakistan (does disgust about Trump imply that I think Pakistan is a better place to do science? carefully reread my post for clues!).

  25. sadra Says:

    as an Iranian 20 years old man who born in Iran and live there yet, I Always dreaming myself in usa and silicon valley. ancient cliche: land of opportunities. it’s not a simple dream. I put all my effort on learning ML and it’s really hard when you have to learn it by yourself and now all of my dreams, seems so far away. I konw in compare with an Iranian who lives in US my problem does not matter but it isn’t just me. there is lots of talentet student, programmer etc who are under pressure of regime and now there is no hope for them. and the things that sacres me is all things happen in west seems like a domino.berxit, trump… whats next? ww3? holocuast for muslims?

  26. Mehdi Says:

    I’m very glad hearing such an outstanding scientist, Scott Aaronson, strongly stands up and speaks out bravely. THANK YOU so much. Thank to all of you who are showing your continuous supports into such minor communities and let their voices be heard by others.
    I’d like to point out a broader issue, which I guess will show up sooner or later. Now, the conversations with people and media began with “lies” and changing them to “alternative facts”, then establishing indiscriminate laws against the least powerful communities (such as oil pipelines in native american lands, Mexican wall, ban on visa from specific countries, and etc.). By looking at the trends, they’re not only changing the true FACT concepts, but also constituting DISCRIMINATIVE executive orders. In the next couple of months or year, I afraid they’ll begin to shrink the ring by other policies among US citizens as well through distorting the facts and various void reasons. Unfortunately, the IDEOLOGY won’t change and eventually affect all US citizen and non-citizen. People in Iran experienced a similar situation some years ago and also similar footsteps have been clearly demonstrated in the famous book of George Orwell “1984”.

  27. Tinus Says:

    I’m from the Netherlands, where a lunatic called Geert Wilders has been bashing muslims and riding a populist wave for the last 10 years. Between 1950 and 2009 there were only 30 people killed in an act of terrorism, with only 1 by a muslim extremist (he killed filmmaker Theo van Gogh).

    A lot of people are officially voting because of “terrorism” and Geert Wilders is certainly riding this populist wave. But I think a larger part of his electorate are voting for him simply because they see that their cities are changing. There are a lot of areas where white people are now a minority and that makes them afraid. They have the feeling that their cities are slowly taken over by foreign forces and that soon the countryside will be next.

    People generally don’t like change. It isn’t simply about embracing something unknown — it’s about giving up something old (and therefore good) for something new (and therefore not good).

    The more educated people are not as likely to be afraid of the unknown. We see the world as our playing field, not just our neighborhood. We are more likely to come into contact with other cultures, through study, work or by traveling. We know that people in other countries are not that different from us.

    But educated people are a minority. If we force our vision of a tolerant, borderless world upon our fellow countrymen, they will resist. If change doesn’t come very gradually, they will resist. That is what we’re seeing right now. My grandpa has a saying that translates into something like “Where intelligence is lacking, emotions reign”. Trump (or more likely: his team) knew that this was his chance to come to power and now he is making good on the illogical things he promised, something Obama was not able to do. His supporters are cheering right now, believe it or not.

    But, when he is done pleasing his supporters, he will probably use his power to further his own agenda. As he said himself: “The point is, you can never be too greedy”. Trump being his greedy self is your best chance of seeing him impeached. Let’s hope he slips up soon.

  28. JohnG Says:

    One question: where were the Iranian nuclear scientists, working on new nuclear weapons for religious fanatics openly proclaiming their desire to destroy Israel and the U.S., trained?

  29. Scott Says:

    JohnG #28: From a bit of googling, it appears that yes, some of Iran’s nuclear scientists did train at MIT in the 1970s, through an exchange program designed specifically for that purpose. But of course, that was when Iran was still a US ally! And then the 1979 revolution totally blindsided the US intelligence community—and while most of the MIT-trained Iranian nuclear scientists chose not to help the now-Islamic-Republic build nuclear weapons, a few did.

    You didn’t ask, but I do think there’s a strong case to be made for carefully monitoring who gets expertise that could be operationally relevant for building nuclear weapons. And I predict you’ll find that most scientists agree: if there’s any place to carve out an exception to the general philosophy of scientific openness, nuclear weapons are that place.

    Quantum complexity theory? Not so much.

  30. Arko Bose Says:

    Scott,
    Recognize Trump for what he is foremost, and it will begin to make sense: he is a businessman. For all the lack of evidence that he has shown for his business acumen, he certainly believes strongly that he knows how to do business.

    Thus, if you have the power to make good on your bigotry while ensuring business interests are not hurt, what do you do? You do this, so that the innocents are hurt the most, while the international banker of Islamic Terrorism goes scot-free (I am sorry, the pun is unintended), thus protecting the vile economic interests that exists between the US establishment and Saudi Arabia.

    The ONLY effect of this executive order will be a tragic depletion of intellectual resources in the US, while having zero effect on Islamic Terrorism (indeed, as you point out, it may lead to increase in radicalism among some of the smartest people in those societies, which is as tragic as it is horrific).

  31. Arash Says:

    Look at the list of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, 50 nationalities including American, Australian and British, NO single Iranian. Look at 9/11, 15 out of 19 terrorists were Saudi citizens. Now do the maths! Iranian government has openly supported Hezbollah and Hamas. They are considered terrorist organisations by the US government but many people around the world including some Jewish people see them legitimate forces of resistance against occupation. Nevertheless, terrorist or not, Hizbollah has a political agenda in its fight with Israel and they have been at war. Even Hizbollah has changed its policies in recent years and is now part of Lebanon government. Majority of Iranians disagree with Iran’s policy of supporting Hezbollah or Palestinian groups. What is strangely ignored is that all International Jihadist groups who kill for ideological reasons including Al Qaeda, IS, Boko Haram, Alshabab, Taliban,… follow Wahhabist -Salafist ideology who see Shia Iran as their greatest enemy. Please don’t forget that the only countries which recognised Taliban were Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Iranians have no record of ideological international terrorism. The only cases of proved terrorism has been the government of Iran assassinating Iranian opposition leaders in Europe. An appalling policy but not unique to Iran and definitely no threat to US

  32. Arko Bose Says:

    Oh, and the US doesn’t stand a chance at solving any of these problems if those who can actually contribute to their solutions offer to be deported.

    Stand your ground and stay your course. If not for yourself, then for those who need your voice.

  33. Shecky R Says:

    As always, THANKS for speaking out loud & clear Scott. I understand that many in science feel constrained by their positions or employers in what they can say publicly on political matters, and many simply never foresaw a Trump victory so felt no real need to speak out earlier… but still I’m ashamed at how timid and unorganized the STEM outreach was during the campaign. Now, any such timidity is complicity.

  34. Domotor Palvolgyi Says:

    This is indeed terrible news and I have little to add to it, except that if worst happens, I doubt that many of these students would go back to Iran instead of going to a third country. (Btw, why don’t you recommend Europe for them?)

  35. Daniel M Says:

    I think Trump is right about an awful lot of things and I would support him, but this is certainly not one of them. No defense. He should reverse his decision forthwith.

  36. HAH Says:

    Allow me to suggest to young colleagues concerned by this that they learn French, German, Spanish, etc. Of course every job market is non-trivial, but the silver lining of this is that it could be good for the scientific communities of countries ruled by non-idiots.

  37. Maryam Says:

    Thank you very much for being such a kind human being and supporting us. I hope people with such high standards one day take back White house from the populist who has grabbed it now. It would be great if you tell us your opinion on how he actually got elected and people who voted for him. Many of those people justify his cruel actions

  38. Ehsan Says:

    I intended to apply for a US university next year. This new policy is really disappointing to me. The reason is not that I cannot come to the USA, however, I have real doubts about the country itself. Once I believed the USA is “the land of the free and the home of the brave” where the they don’t judge you based on the thing you cannot control (e.g. the country you were born in or the tyrant regime of that country). Now it gives me shivers to think that the land of freedom and golden opportunities is ruled by a racist. What happened to the american people?!

  39. Us against Trump | Ole Aamot Says:

    […] According to Scott Aaronson, it’s taken just five days, since the hostile takeover of the US by its worst elements, for edicts from above to have actually hurt his life and (much more directly) the lives of his students, friends, and colleagues. […]

  40. Mack Hosseini Says:

    Humanity, in the long run, is the biggest threat to its own existence. The likes of Trump in the US, Farage in the UK, and retarded Muslim dictators of the Middle East, are just catalysts who speed up the process of human demise.

    From the nature perspective, we as humans are doomed to extinction. No living mechanism stays put while some other living mechanisms keep destroying it systematically, and the good mother nature is not exempt. We are the worst parasites the nature has ever witnessed, some being worse than others, but when the flood comes, the good and the bad die all the same. Just to say that Trump is also dust in the wind …

  41. (A) Says:

    Yes, Scott, cry now like a little baby because it affects you. When the US bombed these countries and killed countless innocent people it was none of your business and you even advocated such acts by publicly supporting Hillary Clinton. Shame.

  42. bks Says:

    The autobiographies of Eric Kandel and Erwin Chargaff, who have intimate knowledge of Vienna in the 1930’s, give stark testimony to how quickly and surprisingly what seems like loutish buffoonery can turn to tyranny and murderous repression.

  43. orcaman Says:

    This is indeed very sad, but in some way, the same argument could be made regarding the other sanctions imposed on Iran. Economic sanctions on Iran could easily have made innocent Iranians lose their jobs, all because their whacky Islamic dictatorship decided they want to become a nuclear power.

    So how do these sanctions help? I guess the logic is to make things worst before the become better: if poor normal people suffer enough in Iran, at some point it will fire back at their policy makers.

    In this respect deporting Iranian students may act to achieve the same goal. It’s sad that super smart and innocent people have to pay the price, but if there’s a small chance those people would come back and revolt, perhaps someday Iran will be free.

  44. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    Thanks for writing this. One thing we can all do is join the scientists’ march on Washington DC, which is also being mirrored in other cities.

    http://www.scientistsmarchonwashington.com/

  45. Autolykos Says:

    @Christopher Silvia:
    revolt too early, and later on violence becomes the norm and we have a dictatorship or civil war. Revolt too late, and we have a dictatorship like Weimar became, without firing a shot.
    The problem in the late days of the Weimar Republic was definitely not too little revolt and violence. The problem was that the Nazis were better at violence than the Communists.
    Only escalate if you can win.

  46. Moe adham Says:

    To any Iranians who are concerned, you will be welcomed in Canada, I am sure of it.

    We have terrific institutions, as well as excellent Iranian communities in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

    While this set back will likely last 4 years, no adventure comes without unexpected forks in the road.

    Come join us up north for a few years while the Americans work through their “emotional” issues. Things are calm up here. Everyone is doing well.

  47. Sam Sinai Says:

    Scott, thank you so much for standing up so strongly. I didn’t get to take your classes when I was at MIT. But reading this blog over the years has taught me a lot more than any single class would.

  48. Ilya Shpitser Says:

    Also working with someone from Iran, also extremely angry about this. With you 100% on this, Scott.

  49. melanoga Says:

    I agree with the sentiment, however I think it’s silly to suggest that the situation of Iranians, students or not, is in any way similar to the situation of the Jews. Their situation is more like the situation of the Germans in 1930. Iran is a large fascist country, it murders gay people and persecutes political opposition. It’s a country that is using know-how its citizens obtain in Western colleges to build weapons and threaten it’s neighbors. Depending on your point of view, it might not be doing anything worse than the US, but US government has no obligation to help fascist countries like Iran to increase their military potential. Yes, many Iranian citizens contribute to the growth of knowledge, but, even more so did many Nazi Germans, not reason . Those who want to escape from Iran should be given a fair hearing, but Iranians who want to go back should study in other fascist places, places like Saudi Arabia

  50. Guan Yang Says:

    If he is willing to stay in the US until the end of his postdoctoral (tall order, I know), he can possibly apply for a change of status from F to J while in the US, without needing to get a new visa.

  51. William Says:

    There are plenty of reasons that this order is horrifying, but one worth mentioning is that it can be quite literally dangerous to Iranian students to return to their native country. See the case of Omid Kokabee: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omid_Kokabee . I have heard other Persian students express that they also are not sure they could safely return to Iran.

    How can we resist this?

  52. Masoud Says:

    Thank you for your support
    We need to be together today more than ever

  53. Yousef Says:

    We need more scientists like you to stand up and speak out! A visa ban will be waved, or a trashed economy will recover but a destroyed environment will not be fixed. He doesn’t approve climate change and his executive orders are going to destroy the planet as a whole.

  54. Iman Says:

    #49 melanoga: learn to base your comments on facts. Iran although considers adultery punishable, sometimes at the extremest level by death, is not actively enforcing this law. How many gays have you heard being executed? And opposition leaders? None, not even the ones in the 2009 uprising were sentenced to death. I’m saying by Middle Eastern standards Iran is one of the few stable and democratic countries, which has security and an active opposition inside the country. And guess what? It actually can control extremisim inside its borders so it doesn’t pour wahhabi’s all over the world. How many other countries in the region can you find like Iran?

  55. Scott Says:

    I am certainly no fan of the new president or his policies. But I can imagine him or his supporters, given their “America First” slogan, saying that those spots should be going to domestic PhD applicants instead.

  56. reza Says:

    Thank you for your support.

  57. Nilima Nigam Says:

    Thanks for speaking out.

    Mr. Trump said he would do all the things he is now doing. This is what his supporters voted for. Absent evidence, absent a clear-eyed reasoning of risks and rewards and pay-offs and consistency with values – this is what they voted for.

    Here’s an example. Drowning is the #1 cause of unintentional death amongst kids aged 1-4 in the US. The annual average hovers around 375 kids. That is orders of magnitude larger than the deaths of kids in the US due to terrorism. This is an entirely preventable set of deaths, and inexpensive at that.

    That’s insane that the US is losing hundreds of kids each year to drowning. It wouldn’t take much funding for little walls to be built around in-ground pools to prevent kids toppling in, this will substantially cut the number of unnecessary deaths.

    But this is not how people think. It is far easier to latch onto very low-risk events which are dramatic, get whipped into a frenzy, and vote for the guy who promises to spend trillions rendering these low-risk events into zero-risk events.

    Guess what, Trump supporters. Nothing your President will do will render the risk of deaths by terrorism to be zero. Nothing. There are many forms of terrorism, and some you may not even categorize as such for yourselves. The urge to use dramatic violence to achieve political gains is old, old, old. Within the US, this is also a very small risk. You are dismantling your own principled democracy in a bid to gain ever-more safety from this very small risk event, ignoring other, substantially higher-risk threats. You are turning towards fascist principles.

    It makes no sense. Then again, neither does the way people voted for Mr. Trump.

  58. Nathan Says:

    @Ehsan,

    You might want to read up on American history: the country was founded by racists. You should probably stay where you are. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it either if millions of Americans started moving to your country.

  59. Chris Peikert Says:

    If you have any stock holdings and are able to, consider donating some of the recent (Trump-related?) gains to effective organizations that will oppose nonsense like this, via lawsuits or other means. The ACLU and National Immigration Law Center are two good examples.

    The Executive may be bonkers and Congress may roll over, but we still (for now) have an independent Judiciary.

  60. Scott Says:

    Domotor #34:

      Btw, why don’t you recommend Europe for them?

    Yes, of course, Europe too!

  61. Boldmug Says:

    Sure, let me give it a shot.

    All Trump is doing is reiterating that we don’t live in the world of John Lennon’s _Imagine_. If we did, American citizens and Iranian citizens would be exactly the same thing. Iran would be a state. And we’d be wondering how many electoral votes it got. Do you want Iranians voting in our next election? If so, say so.

    If you’re concerned about international law, it helps to know something about the subject. I recommend the text that was the standard summary of international law for the 18th and 19th centuries, Vattel’s _Law of Nations_ (https://books.google.com/books?id=z8b8rrzRc7AC).

    Vattel TLDR: the law of nations is natural law as applied to countries. Reciprocity is an essential aspect of making the system work. And individuals are not direct actors in the law of nations, any more than quarks are direct actors in the laws of chemistry.

    Your student is not a citizen of science or a citizen of the world. He’s a citizen of Iran. If Iran wants to be a member of the greater community of nations, and (for instance) renounce blowing up synagogues in Argentina, and (in this exact case) give us background information about its citizens who wish to travel to the US, that’s great.

    If not, why can’t Iranians stay in Iran? One, Iran is a beautiful country with an amazing, rich history. Two, exactly what kind of a favor are we doing Iran by extracting their smartest and most diligent young people and turning them into Americans? The damage you’re doing to Iranian physics is far greater than the value added to American physics.

    An American nationalist, a Jacksonian like Trump, might say that’s fine. One, who cares about Iran? Two, especially considering that Iranian physics seems to spend a lot of time figuring out how to make things go boom, maybe advancing Iranian physics isn’t exactly the best thing for America.

    I may be an American nationalist. But I don’t think you are. Especially in the emotional arena of politics, thinking clearly and consistently is incredibly important.

  62. Scott Says:

    Maryam #37:

      It would be great if you tell us your opinion on how he actually got elected and people who voted for him.

    As Paul Krugman said, this is a global calamity that almost didn’t happen. It took a perfect storm of racism, xenophobia, voter ignorance about basic facts and statistics (e.g., the unemployment rate is currently good, crime is low, and net illegal immigration is roughly zero), a compliant and trivializing news media, the incredible lie-spreading power of Facebook and Twitter, Hillary being so widely disliked (with ~95% of the hatred irrational), apathy in many of the young/urban voters who turned out for Obama, the disenfranchisement of millions of poor and minority voters, the quisling behavior of Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, and all the other Republican “leaders,” Wikileaks, the unprecedented Russian interference in the election, James Comey, and the idiocy of the Electoral College itself. Change a single one of those things and you change the outcome.

  63. Vadim P. Says:

    The cynic in me sees this as a feature, rather than a bug, of Trump’s decree. He has no love for scientists, mathematicians, or scholars in general. Not only are they not his people, but they’re dangerous to his MO.

  64. 20170126 reading list | Kempton - ideas Revolutionary Says:

    […] this from Yann LeCun, Director of AI Research at Facebook & “First they came for the Iranians” […]

  65. Scott Says:

    (A) #41:

      Yes, Scott, cry now like a little baby because it affects you. When the US bombed these countries and killed countless innocent people it was none of your business and you even advocated such acts by publicly supporting Hillary Clinton. Shame.

    Three different points to disentangle:

    (1) Just because I strongly supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump (!!), doesn’t mean that I supported all of Hillary’s views and decisions, and I was perfectly clear about that at the time.

    (2) Sometimes launching a cruise missile is a crime against humanity. Other times it’s desirable or necessary to prevent a greater evil. We ought to evaluate such things on a case-by-case basis, taking into account where the missile actually comes down, where it was meant to come down, the broader context, and what the decision-makers knew at the time.

    (3) I’m not a pure utilitarian. I long ago reconciled myself to a moral calculus that values the lives of all sentient beings, but that also places a special value on people who I know personally, people who contribute to math and science, and certainly my students, who I know personally and who also contribute to math and science!

  66. N Says:

    As an MIT alum (Course 6 PhD, ’09), I applaud you for taking a stand on this matter. Intellectualism in the public discourse might have died on Jan. 20th – or perhaps even in the preceding campaign – but may it live long and prosper in arenas such as this blog.

  67. Boldmug Says:

    > the unemployment rate is currently *good*

    Look at the labor force participation rate (falling for a decade), not the rate of people seeking unemployment benefits. Just because the USG calls the latter the “unemployment rate” doesn’t mean we have to.

    > crime is *low*

    Crime in Japan is *low*.

    Crime in the US is two orders of magnitude higher than in Japan (eg: 119 robberies per 100,000, versus 1.1). It’s also two orders of magnitude higher than in Victorian England. All the graphs you see that tell you “crime is low” are showing the US since the cultural revolution of the ’60s — they don’t dare push it back even to 1950.

    > illegal immigration is roughly zero

    As with illegals voting, we have no reliable information at all on this subject. There is no solid evidence that illegals vote in elections, or that they don’t. In most states, they can if they want to. That’s what you get with the honor system.

    Etc. It seems like you may want to broaden your set of epistemic inputs — it doesn’t seem very critical.

  68. Florence Night Says:

    “Once I believed the USA is “the land of the free and the home of the brave” where the they don’t judge you based on the thing you cannot control (e.g. the country you were born in or the tyrant regime of that country). Now it gives me shivers to think that the land of freedom and golden opportunities is ruled by a racist. What happened to the american people?!”

    Re: your last question, see above in your own comment.

  69. Galthran Says:

    I don’t understand why anger at being asked to leave a country that is enemies with your country of origin is justified. Wouldn’t Iran be justified in expelling Americans if it noticed that it’s national resources were being used to personally enrich citizens of a hostile foreign power? What if Iran’s ethnic minorities (or majorities) were rioting in the streets demanding better training for high paying scientific jobs?

    Saudi Arabia should have topped the list.

  70. Yasaman Says:

    Thanks for staying on the right side of the history. We all need to stay united against bigotry and hatred.

  71. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you!

  72. Anonymous Says:

    Together we stand, divided we fall.

  73. kami Says:

    You see the “bad” of Trump, but you did not see the “worse” of Obama. Unwise people…

  74. Nastaran Barhemmati Says:

    So appreciate for your support. You are Really a gentleman.

  75. Sal Says:

    I am not student and actually as an Iranian-canadian citizen I exceptionally have no problem entering US despite Trumpet policy, yet, I cannot stop crying after reading this ,Sir. The feeling that we Iranians are not left alone is priceless. Iranian regime is one of the worst to its citizen that’s why you see the flow of young bright Iranians pursuing their hope for prosperous future outside their country.

  76. Abel Says:

    Thanks for making a stand. Truly disgusting how many good people will be affected by this, and how much bad will it will sow. Thinking also of any Baha’i or members of other non-Christian prosecuted communities that face potential trouble with the law upon a return. Hoping some other government picks up the slack, and avoiding being under the control of the Iranian government is possible for those who really need it.

    On the plus side, the scientists march on Washington seems to be picking a lot of steam. Hope the pressure resulting from it and other mobilizations helps keep it a 30-day thing.

  77. Taha Says:

    Thank you!

  78. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #61:

      All Trump is doing is reiterating that we don’t live in the world of John Lennon’s _Imagine_.

    The world of John Lennon’s Imagine might never have existed, but Obama’s America did, and I definitely liked it better.

    In particular, I want the US to be a better, stronger country, and I think it’s stronger when it more fully participates in the global community of science. In that sense, I see no conflict at all between nationalism and scientific internationalism.

  79. German Leftie Says:

    I’d like to read a reflection on the U.S. education system that seems to be unable to compete with those of Iran, China and India if you fear you won’t be able to compensate for the loss those contestants.

    Besides that, do you know of any such “liberal” – not even sure what that would translate to back in the Weimar Republic- Germans back in 33? Because I sure don’t.
    The conservative citizenry – still mourning about their Kaiser and noble privileges lost as well as loosing the war – for their eternal shame actually helped Hitler into power and hoped to control him with moderate secretaries.
    History repeating itself? Maybe.

    Still the cause of their rise to power is the same and that is a gullible citizenry angling for a “strong man” to fix what the previous system didn’t and which adversely affected their life.

    Which brings me back to: Whats wrong with your education system?

    Always good to keep one’s one part in mind that led your country to this situation.

  80. Behzad Says:

    Thank you very much for your writing, I am very glad to read these sentences from one great professor in USA. I have shoked for two days as many other students. I have spent more than two years for being eligible for study in USA and getting Toefl and Gre and I applied for six Universities. I was really eager until two days ago and I thought about many new and innovative ideas to work on them when I get funding from University. But, I get a headache in these two years and I think about other countries while my dream like others is USA.
    I am teaching in Iran for 10 Years and I have many experience that they will be very useful. Why trump thinks I am terrorist?!

  81. Soroosh Says:

    As an Iranian born student who studied in US during Bush’s presidency, I can relate to your student Scott. I valued the support that all sorts of people provided to me during that time, so I am really grateful to hear you take this stand.

  82. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #78:

    Did you come up with that line of thinking yourself, or was it something you heard somewhere? It sounds familiar, almost as if you’d been reading the Economist.

    Note that it doesn’t in any way address the damage “brain drain” does to Iran. And many other countries. Not knowing the exact numbers off hand, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of countries for which the statement “there are more doctors from country X practicing medicine in the US, than in country X” is true.

    Imagine what a world-class physics department you could put together, solely from Iranian physicists. Obviously this department, if not too big, would be first-rate. It might even develop its own idiosyncratic, but first-rate, scientific school of “Iranian physics.”

    But in homogenized global reality, “Iranian physics” can’t exist. Instead we have first-rate American physicists of Iranian birth, plus second-rate Iranian physicists who stay in Iran (many probably working on things that go boom).

    Of course if you actually believe in Eternal American World Supremacy, and ascribe an ethical weight of zero to the entire country of Iran — or even if you there’s a special reason to decapitate Iranian physics, given things that go boom — that’s one thing. Then it would be a question of “is” versus “ought.” But that would be an ethical position far to the right of Trump.

    (A fun question to ask yourself next time you’re reading the Economist: what, exactly, is the difference between “global leadership” and “world domination”? The mere English words sure make them sound pretty similar…)

  83. Marat Says:

    >And to those who cheered Trump’s campaign in the comments of this blog: go ahead, let me hear you defend this.

    I don’t want Iranians in this country. There.

  84. Nick Mann Says:

    Maybe if brief it’ll be cathartic and progress can resume more efficiently? Although … it took twelve vile years for “Nach Hitler, Uns!” to pan out. And you just know that regularly updated plans for an invasion of Canada have been on file in the Pentagon for decades. Also this very day the delightful Theresa May, our God-Emperor’s aspirant Mussolini, visits Berchtesgaden. Still, while optimism can seem hard to sustain, maybe this time it might … just might …

  85. Amit Agarwal Says:

    Scott have you thought of training Americans to a level that they can become top PhD students at American universities in America.

    Note my using the word America so many times because we live in America. So your number one goal should be to train local talent. There will few executive orders around that too (soon).

  86. Vadim P. Says:

    Boldmug #61, why shouldn’t we want Iranian-Americans voting in our elections? I’m originally from the USSR, which was somewhere between incredibly corrupt and ridiculously corrupt. I certainly wouldn’t want Soviet-style government in the US. Actually, getting away from that was one of the biggest reasons for coming here. People who are abandoning their home country to start completely new lives somewhere else generally don’t want to bring the worst parts of their old country with them. We want their best, their brightest, and the ones so disillusioned with their government that they’d willingly relocate to The Great Satan. Academics, of all people, are good at seeing through their respective governments’ bullshit.

  87. Ehsan Says:

    very well written article, thank you Scott for the support.

  88. Mostafa Says:

    Today, as I was worried about my vague future, someone told me that the hard moments would pass and asked me not to forget those who were not in trouble yet stood up for others anyway. I’ll remember this post on your blog and of course you Dr. Aaronson.

  89. Mark Przepiora Says:

    You could come back to Canada. Calgary would love to have you. 🙂

  90. Boaz Barak Says:

    Thank you Scott for writing this. I completely agree, and wrote a blog post with Omer Reingold about this here https://windowsontheory.org/2017/01/26/immigration-ban-is-antithetical-to-scientific-progress/

    Much of the wealth of the U.S. (and, more importantly to me, many of the advancements of humanity as a whole) were built from the contributions of people that immigrated to the U.S. from countries that it was in conflict with.

  91. Michael P Says:

    Scott t #62:

    Add to that widespread (although silenced by shaming) disgust of many Americans with all-encompassing PC that leaves no room for rational discussion, spread mostly by the left. You have experienced that yourself a few years ago. Also add to that anti-middle-class DNC policies. No wonder Americans turned right. I would also vote republican (for the 1st time ever) if GOP would produce a better candidate, maybe Kasich or Paul. It’s very unfortunate that Republicans chose Trump, the worst possible candidate, at that precise moment…

    As for Russian “interference” with the election, the only thing they did was alerting the people to the misdeeds of DNC politicians, something that American journalists should have done. This is far less than what USA does routinely to other countries’ politics.

  92. Maryam Says:

    I am an assistant professor here in US and have lived here for more than 10 years. Few immigration lawyers say that this can also include people with green cards, which means that we along with many other academic friends of us have to leave. Thanks for your support, it is good to know that there are non-Iranians who support us. It feels very lonely these days.

    Today on facebook, one of the professors from my grad program said, by tagging me on another person’s post, that yeah I know she is not a terrorist but we can be sure of all of them and we should care about our own safety! Speechless!

  93. Free Style Says:

    You defend Zionism, which kicked millions out of their homes in Palestine, killed thousand of others, then erected a segregation wall based on pure ethnic and religious apartheid bases, then you’re so surprised Trump froze the processing of some Visas for a month or a year?

    Donald Trump is a clown, a stupid and unfunny one, but guess what, he does not hold a PhD, nor is he an educated person by any standard, nor does he teach at one of the prominent universities in the country. You’re supposed to be one of the best we have, yet you are as much if not more hypocritical than Trump. He doesn’t hold as much cognitive dissonance in his stance as you do.

    You should look up to the likes of Noam Chomsky.

  94. Abx Says:

    I bet Iranians are pouring here to read this post and indulge themselves in self-pity.

    But I defend this action of Trump. I love Trump exactly for this reason. Such behavior has been the [un]official policy of the United States towards Iranians and anything related to them, and this is the first time it’s showing its ugly face.

    I am more than glad that the world gets to see this, and even further glad that my Iranian people get to cast away their doubts and shadows, and embrace the reality of the world we live in.

  95. Yasamin Says:

    Thank you for your very-much-needed support! I am also an Iranian computer science student in US, already considering to leave any time now. I told my friends that only universities and research community may stand up for us at a time when other Americans are probably more worried for many other things that are directly impacting them, even if they are less extreme. So yeah…good luck to all of us with this administration!

  96. Joh Says:

    Sad times. In Germany we have a strong Iranian community and Iranians are always welcomed here.

  97. Ikrom Says:

    Welcome to Germany! I hope we will accept people from US seeking for asylum more easily than the USA accepted Jews in Third Reich.

  98. Howard Roark Says:

    Scott #24: All white countries, huh? I thought you liberals liked other cultures!

  99. Milad Says:

    Thanks for the support!

    As a Ph.D. student from Iran studying in California, I have seen nothing but a welcoming society. The last months and days, I have been “imagining” all sort of conversations in the context of some of the comments on this blog:

    -I’m sure you wouldn’t like it either if millions of Americans started moving to your country. Or
    -why you don’t go back to your country.

    (I’m glad that I’m living and working in a place that I didn’t have the “opportunity” to have such a conversation with someone in person so I had to imagine it, as a result of seeing it online!)

    If I was citizen of US, or if I was having this conversation with a citizen of Iran about immigrants coming from a neighbouring country to Iran (which is common), I could lecture on: if they are really hurting the economy or we benefit from them, roots of immigration in our country, human rights and so on. But here I just want to share my thoughts as a student who was offered to study in a US university (among other countries) and based on the opportunities usually provided to such a student both during the study and after the graduation (of course some not guaranteed) by the government decided to move here to build his life and career, and is easily confronted with someone saying “why you just don’t go back to where you came from.”, or a sugarcoated version it.

    .

    As any other society, Americans are divided on their “American dream” which is understandable, but to me, the most disturbing is how big is the gap between ideals of the parties. At least morally, aren’t people of a nation responsible for disclaiming the opportunities/promises as a whole nation? Aren’t they responsible for the consequences of new decisions they make as a whole nation? Is it OK to have a semi-revolution (every 4 years with almost fifty percent chance) and ignore the consequences it has to the life of minorities mostly affected by it? This time coin comes as a tail, and I should read all the news to see what is signed in the first week, what is specified in the draft of a document and what is left vague, and how my life is affected depending on the interpretation of some vague lines. Of course, even me myself should ignore all this when I see troubles coming for all the other people affected by these signatures, when you might have a friend who counting on her valid multiple entries US VISA is back to Iran to visit her mother who was treated with cancer, and now is denied from returning to continue her PhD, at least for now.

    These might be some fluctuations from the historical point of view (which I don’t think it is), or might be ignorable in statistics and percentages (which I don’t think it is), but in short time scales, it will affect individual lives in very extreme ways. You might care or not!

  100. Scott Says:

    Ikrom #97: That would be such a world-historic irony that I can imagine it actually happening…

  101. Scott Says:

    Maryam #92:

      Today on facebook, one of the professors from my grad program said, by tagging me on another person’s post, that yeah I know she is not a terrorist but we can be sure of all of them and we should care about our own safety! Speechless!

    You should ask that professor how you can be sure that he or she isn’t a terrorist.

  102. Mohsen Says:

    I have followed this Blog for a very long time. My only comment was 5-6 years ago and it was something about Iranians (I do not remember exactly now, but I remember you edit the post that time)
    I thought I never have a chance to meet you in person in my life that time. Recently, in a conference I met your postdoc and in the new year’s festival I saw you walking with your little girl in Austin. (I was not sure if it is you)

    Studying in US is a great opportunity for me and I am thankful to my adviser. PhD is hard per se; I knew that I have to stay in US for all my PhD and I can not visit my family.

    Now, I just see a gloomy future before myself after this visa issue.
    Thank you for your post.

  103. Neil Says:

    Adnan #19

    Everybody knows that ISIS is Wahabi terrorism, and Bin Ladan was a Saudi Prince.

    Go educate yourself.

  104. Demi Says:

    Thank you Scott for your compaction and love in this devastating situation.
    Trump’s presidency reminds me of the dark days of Ahmadinejad!
    We were such an unfortunate generation to experience both!

    “Protect the Flames of Hope that Reside Within Your Hearts, For Hope is the Essence of Our Identity”

  105. Scott Says:

    Scott #55, Amit Agarwal #85, and others: There already is a kind of affirmative action in US PhD admissions that favors undergraduates from US universities. Namely, we’re overwhelmingly more likely to know the professors recommending those students, than we are the professors recommending the students from (say) Bangladesh or Iran.

    But while we’re delighted to train US citizens—in fact, the majority of my own PhD students so far have been Americans—the matter is really extremely simple. If you want a world-class research university or department, then you recruit the best that you can find from, well, the world.

  106. Galthran Says:

    Dear Iranians, please don’t think you have been made unwelcome because you are suspected to be a terrorist. The thinking of the administration is that even intelligent, law-abiding, scientists like you are the people that make Iran rich, intelligent, and strong. Depriving you of an education deprives our enemy of educated citizens. You, personally, may not be against America/Americans, but the country you hold citizenship in is. It isn’t personal.

  107. Scott Says:

    Galthran #106: Oh I see, that makes it much better! 😛 Incidentally, how did you come to know “the thinking of the administration,” or for that matter whether there’s any thinking at all? Is the administration going to state its reasons publicly, or just share them with a few supporters to post anonymously on blogs?

  108. GVF Says:

    “Would we rather have these young scientists here, filled with gratitude for the opportunities we’ve given them, or back in Iran filled with justified anger over our having expelled them?”

    A good question, indeed.

    I’m a little surprised you seem to treat it as rhetorical. Surely you know Hezbolla is financed and armed by Iran, and surely you know they targeted Israel citizens and continue to build their already huge arsenal with the declared intent of using it again. Iran itself, of course, calls and acts to eliminate the “Zionist entity” by whatever means it can.

    I have no doubt most of the Iranian students and scientists are decent, good people who do not deserve anything but a fair chance to pursue their happiness. Many of them will stay in th US, and many others who will return to their homeland will continue to be goo’ decent people there, and mybe even oppse the ruling regime. But what about the few who are not, those that will go back to work for the Iranian government?

    “Quantum complexity theory? Not so much” -Com’n. After Hardy’s “apology of a mathematician” you should know better, but even if nothing practical can emerge directly from your teachings (No practical Quantum computer in the foreseen future? I’m sure Gil Kalay will be delighted), it’s not such a big leap for a smart PhD that got the best education the world has to offer to change her field of study later. Who was it that said learning Math is all about learning to think clearly? After you learn *that*, you can apply it everywhere, and many will apply it where there are jobs, money and prestige. I’m not familiar with the Iranian industry and Academy but I have a strong feeling applied sciences get most of the budget.

    Yes, it will be a tragedy for some and a great inconvenience to others (I’m sure no one will be deported if there is a danger s/he will be imprisoned or executed in Iran as these people are sure to stay in the US indefinitely so they pose no threat). Regretfully, personal injustice is sometimes unavoidable when global matters are involved as bodmug has pointed out so eloquently.

    Having said that, I’m still not sure I know where I stand on the issue, but your one sided attitude worries me. Please, please, please, do not become another Noam Chomsky.

  109. Scott Says:

    William #51:

      There are plenty of reasons that this order is horrifying, but one worth mentioning is that it can be quite literally dangerous to Iranian students to return to their native country.

    Yes, I’ve heard that over and over! And of course, many of them left in the first place in large part because they don’t like being ruled by mullahs any more than you or I would.

  110. Neil Says:

    Galthran #106:

    Your mistake is that:

    PhD students do bring knowledge. PhD programs are not designed to educate people that much. Those programs are designed to let talents start their research to create knowledge. This law is actually depriving US of that knowledge.

  111. Swadhin Says:

    Why is there no visible protest coming out from American academia ? What is stopping you to do something like this : “tear up the awards I’ve accepted at the White House and the State Department” right now ? Why is there so little resistance coming from scientific community ?

  112. Meh. Says:

    I am a Persian. I don’t have any connection with any kinda political or religion position. I am just a science lover. Tagging people with nationalities or religion is not reasonable. I think people who think like you made this country great. I am not sure if your voice can make any change in white house regarding making decision about future of innocent students whose life got screwed up by Iran’s government and now they are getting screwed up just because they are Iranian. However, hearing it means too much to me. Since, it makes me sure that I was right about people of US. Thank you for being tolerant, brave and supportive.

  113. Anonymous Snowflake Says:

    Only now I realize how far the left-wing propaganda has led me to misunderstand Trump’s government directives. Our new president merely acknowledges the brain drain problem which is severely affecting great nations such as Iran and Mexico, and has consequently decided to take drastic steps to help these new friends out.

    He of course realizes that this is going to affect the US economic and scientific landscape, but it is a price he is willing to pay to ensure the prosperity of these countries. A true and generous world leader we should all follow in his quest to make America, and the world, a better place!

    The liberal rhetoric and the media of course prefer to paint another picture — that of Trump’s supporters’ racism and his attempt to please them — but we know very well how much the media is to be trusted and how absurd this picture is.

  114. Advdiaboli Says:

    It stops brain drain. If emigration is allowed at too low a point of cultural and economic development it creates a negative feedback loop. How is Iran supposed to get better without people like him?

  115. Omid Says:

    Thank you a lot Prof. Aaronson. We appreciate your support.

  116. Pirouz Says:

    Thanks for the write up. Regarding #82, a couple points I disagree with:

    First, note that if this visa ban was really about safety, it would include at least one of the countries where 9/11 hijackers were from and yet it doesn’t. Needless to say such blanket bans are stupid measures anyway.

    I am from Iran and can see the argument that this reduces Iran’s brain drain and is actually good for Iranians. I definitely prefer if our country didn’t lose all these human talents to US. But the way such measure is put in place matters.

    An immediate ban is disruptive. Let’s assume it’s in your greater good to move to a new neighborhood. Would you prefer if some government entity give you an advance notice to move and tax you more if you don’t or is it ok if they come in while you’re at work and immediately tear down your current home because moving is in your best interest in the long term?

  117. Mike Waldman Says:

    Why do you suppose it is that you can’t fill your PhD program with Americans? There are 330 million of us, after all. Is there something unique about Iranian brains?

    More plausibly, it seems that the American system is failing in some way. What do you suppose it is?

    If and when you lose access to Iranian talent, would you try to recruit more heavily among Americans? Or somehow work to fix the system so that it produces Americans qualified to work with you?

    That’s the intention of reducing visas like this, at least in the minds of many supporters of such a policy. I personally hope it can be done in a way that doesn’t pull the rug out from anyone. But if it’s hopeless, and Americans simply don’t have the brainpower to do this work, you should clarify that.

  118. YekNafar Says:

    Before regarding the writer as a peace-loving person and thanking him/her, reread this part:

    “But the remaining occasions almost all involved my defending the values of the United States, Israel, Zionism”.

  119. Scott Says:

    Swadhin #111: I’d be interested to hear your ideas about what else we could do. As other commenters pointed out, scientists are up in arms about as much as they ever get about anything, and are even planning a march on Washington. But we’re not exactly a powerful interest group.

    More concretely: if Trump were actually to revoke my citizenship, confiscate my Waterman medal, etc. etc., that would be a PR bonanza from heaven. But he can’t and won’t (at least, I don’t think so…). Failing that, how exactly would it help matters to cut off my own nose? People on the fence would just dismiss me as another leftist drama queen, if they heard about it at all.

    Though come to think of it, it would be pretty badass to dissolve my Waterman medal in aqua regia, like de Hevesy did with two Nobel medals when the Nazis invaded Denmark.

  120. Abel Says:

    The ‘brain drain’ logic tells us that all researchers in quantum information born in rural areas should have stayed there and put their talents towards the improvement of agricultural techniques. Of course, anyone in touch with such a situation would know that what happens then is that they don’t develop his talents, and nothing improves. Which is exactly the situation of many people in many parts of the world until the recent area of slightly more open borders, and the corresponding vast increase in quality of living for most people in the world.

  121. John Sidles Says:

    The most-signed petition on the White House’ “We the People” petition-site — thank you Obama! — is:

    Immediately release Donald Trump’s full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance.

    There is also:

    Restore and maintain accurate, science-based information on climate change to the White House website.

    Yes I have signed both of them.

    There is at present no White House petition (apparently) regarding the free exchange of scientific and academic information among nations, including free visits by scholars among nations. Therefore I have created one:

    Affirm the commitment of the United States of America to the free exchange of scholars and scholarship among nations

    America’s Founders embraced the principle of free exchange of scholars and scholarship among nations, and this commitment has been sustained by the United States of America for the past 240 years.

    It is requested that the White House immediately and publicly affirm its continued commitment to the free exchange of scholars and scholarship among nations, on grounds of long-standing tradition, and on grounds too of a principled appreciation that the free exchange of ideas is necessary to the flourishing of democracy.

    It is further requested, specifically, that no executive action be taken, now or in the future, that will in any respect impair existing international scholarly exchanges, or impede the free formation of new scholarly exchanges.

    Until this petition receives 150 votes, it can be viewed only from the following url:

    https://wh.gov/iuOZ2

    Once 150 votes are received, the petition can be viewed by the general public at the main White House site:

    url: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/affirm-commitment-united-states-america-free-exchange-scholars-and-scholarship-among-nations

    It will be interesting to see how long the Trump administration accommodates the petition-forum.

    Hopefully this White House keeps no Nixon-style “Enemies List”, but who knows? As Scott says (rightly), enrollment in any such anti-democratic lists is an honor to which we can all aspire! 🙂

  122. Abel Says:

    #117 I’m not Scott, but only around 5% of the world’s population is born in the US. Let’s make that 20% if we condition on some level of access to education. One can see then that if anything, people born in the US are already over-represented in Scott’s students, as one would expect from the increased proximity. More generally, one does not get a world-leading institution by restricting access to just a small percentage of the people in the world.

  123. Scott Says:

    Abel #122: Thanks; that’s precisely what I wanted to say!

    It’s hard adequately to convey just how strange it is to regard it as a sign of failure in your higher education system, that you “have to” go to countries like Iran to recruit students. It’s a sign of success if the best students from anywhere want to come to you. And if you’re forced to exclude certain students because of where they’re from, then even many of the students who that doesn’t apply to will avoid you out of caution, solidarity, or both, and before long you’re no longer a world player.

  124. Scott Says:

    John Sidles #121: I’d be happy to sign your petition, but I just get a generic “Thank you for your interest in this subject” when I click the link! (From the excerpt of the petition text that you posted, I’m impressed that you don’t seem to have snuck anything into it about Kahler manifolds or STEAM in the 21st century… 🙂 )

  125. John Sidles Says:

    Followup  The White House has sent me simple PDF instructions on how to ratify the petition “Free exchange of scholars and scholarship among nations

    It feels mighty good to take action on behalf of my colleagues and our shared work. Assuming these instructions work, then good on`yah, Mr. President! 🙂

  126. Anton Says:

    to Scott #55 and Amit Agarwal #85:
    not sure if you know it, but “America First” is effectively implemented in PhD programs: in many competitive PhD physics programs the gap in average GRE Physics scores between American and international students is >100 points. See: https://www.aip.org/gpb/pdf_files/091.pdf, https://ph.utexas.edu/prospective-graduate-students/admissions .

    Combined with the language requirements, lack of connections, lack of knowledge of how the system works here overall, etc, this creates a significant bias against internationals. It shows up in the admission rates very clearly. The data I could find: in the CS program of U Wisconsin-Madison, the acceptance rate for domestic students is 50%, while for internationals is ~17 (https://www.gradsch.wisc.edu/webextras/education/academicprograms/profiles/229.pdf). The same trend shows up in U Washington: Physics 20.5% vs 5.8% (males), 30.3% vs 7.1% (females) http://grad.uw.edu/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/admissions16-by-ethnicity.pdf

    Importantly, I am not complaining, nor questioning the obligation of the American universities to educate/employ local population (though, it is an interesting question, esp. when it comes to private universities). My question is exactly how much bias would be enough for you?

    Besides, remember that US universities are also obligated to provide the best education for their students, and nothing educates as well as having the best peers, which international admissions help with.

  127. Galthran Says:

    I’m not a Trump supporter, just playing devil’s advocate as I can. Was hoping for an intelligent counter though, not just sidestepping. Or at least some argument against the idea that national interests trump your personal interests, the interests of scientific inquiry as a whole, or the interests of the nation of Iran.

  128. Mike Waldman Says:

    #122 / Scott – The mindset seems to be that these super-duper students are born, rather than made. The US may be only 4-5%, but that’s out of a global population of 7.4 billion. Is 330 million really not big enough of a pool? That was the entire population of Europe as recently as 1875 or so, and they seemed to make decent progress in research.

    Historically, world-leading institutions popped up despite access to TINY fractions of the global population. It was the institutions that were special. Whether it’s rocket scientists in Germany or automotive innovators in Detroit – I mean, if you assume that the challenge is to find the best students from all over the world, then it’s kind of an odd coincidence that Henry Ford and David Dunbar Buick both grew up in Detroit. Ransom Olds had to be recruited from Cleveland, though.

    My base assumption is that we have a tremendous surfeit of raw talent in the modern world; the challenge is organizing it and harnessing it. Maybe your field is so extremely competitive and challenging that the talent differential between the Iranian and the best American whom you passed on, is large. Coming from a non-world-leading institution where we basically recruit from within a single metropolitan area … the idea that America isn’t big enough, is every bit as strange to me, as the reverse apparently is to you.

  129. An American Says:

    To all foreign students in the US: I’m so so sorry. This is not ok. And I’m going to keep saying so.

  130. Boldmug Says:

    AS #113,

    Washington is an enormous force in every part of the world. If something makes that force act for good rather than for evil, why be particularly concerned with how that something works? If Washington does the right thing because the President is allergic to gold paint and his toilet seat makes his balls itch, all the better.

    In fact the classical law of nations is the result of millennia of practical experience, dating to ancient Greece and Rome. It is the 20th-century theory of government and international law that’s the outlier.

    And the results of the modern theory are objectively terrible — gigantic wars, laden with the utmost brutality on every side, creating this giant bureaucratic world empire, now starting to rot all over the place, that we call the “international community.”

    There are plenty of reasons to declare this experiment a non-success, and restore the Westphalian world where nations were sovereign and expected to look after their own interests. It’s easy to pick the reason that looks worst in your eyes.

    But don’t forget that you are actually supporting something, a very real system of government that exists today. Epistemically, you should probably ensure that your support for this regime is grounded in logic and reason. Its opponents are of course flawed, and in the real human world always will be. Who on earth would describe the President as anything but a flawed human being?

    Besides, I wasn’t proposing a policy. I was just trying to tutor our host on his Ideological Turing Test, which help he had (apparently with perfect sincerity) requested.

  131. Boldmug Says:

    Abel #120,

    > The ‘brain drain’ logic tells us that all researchers in quantum information born in rural areas should have stayed there and put their talents towards the improvement of agricultural techniques.

    The population of Periclean Athens was about 250,000 (with 30,000 citizens). That’s roughly the population of Boise, Idaho. I’m sure the Athenians did improve agricultural techniques — do you have some kind of problem with that? You do eat, don’t you?

    The population of Iran is 77 million. That’s roughly the population of Germany. I think the Germans did all right with their own universities? Even before globalization? Am I wrong?

  132. Boldmug Says:

    Vadim #86,

    Right in all particulars. And so, your design leaves ginormous quantities of the earth’s surface, and of its population, deprived of a strong aristocracy and therefore doomed to be governed by pure bullshit. Fanatics, psychopaths and/or thieves ruling over morons.

    If this is engineering success, what does engineering failure look like? Asking for a friend.

  133. Bruce Dale Wise aka Delir Ecwabeus Says:

    Your argument would be more cogent if you excoriated equally how horrible the Iranians treat Americans, wherever they may be, and if you took into consideration why you do not help Americans already here to rise up to your “so-advertised” levels. Intellectual elites rarely think of those poor Americans who don’t get into their prestigious programs, and who languish in the nation they support.

    Trumps’ actions (a man I would never vote for), for all their brusqueness, are not at all adumbrations of the actions
    the nazis of the 1930s. I think the liberals, or Jews (who are among the hardest working people in the World) need to use a more reasonable vocabulary in attempting to approach the truth of this situation.

  134. Mahdokht Says:

    Coming from Iran, I have been here on a student visa for the last 5 years during which I had to go through some of the toughest experiences of my life, worst of all my dad’s passing. I did not go back home fearing that the visa processing time would be so long that I lose my research position in the university. I craved my mother’s love and my siblings’ hugs while I mourned thousands of miles away, but at least I had something to to say to myself to justify all the pain: all these sacrifices will pay off, things will get easier… and today I’m wondering if any part of it was really worth it, and if it will EVER get easier for us Iranians in the US. Does it really matter how much we plan our future and how much effort we put into it, knowing that we can easily lose everything we worked for in any given day?
    I appreciate your sympathy. With all the devastating things that Donald Trump is doing to American citizens, like ignoring global warming, suppressing women’s rights, etc., there are not so many people who can focus their empathy on immigrants. Thank you for your support, it truly makes me feel better.

  135. Amir Safavi Says:

    A very principled stance that I’m sure is not easy to take publicly in the current climate; thank you Scott.

    Though, I wonder if the goal of the policy is exactly to achieve what it will achieve; i.e. A step towards nationalizing part of the “elite” in the US. After all I can imagine being a weaker American student who may think “why should this foreigner get to work with the great Scott Aaronson and take advantage of all the opportunities here? Doesn’t it mean anything to be an American?”

  136. Sid Says:

    The free acceptance of international scholars has been incredibly important in history.

    Let me just cite two extreme and very famous examples: Ramanujan and Wittgenstein.

    Both of them were unheard of in their fields (math and philosophy respectively) before someone at Cambridge (Hardy and Russell respectively) recognized their genius and gave them a home. A distinguished scholar (I think it was Ray Monk) said that there was something very particular about the culture of Cambridge at the turn of the century that allowed them to accept scholars, without credentials or connections, but simply on the basis of judgements of merit. He said that it was unimaginable that Oxford, for example, would do something like that at the time. Guess which University is laughing now?

    If Trump continues on this path, the history of scholarship will not skew kindly towards the US.

    But even worse, imagine all the wasted talent. Suppose Ramanujan and Wittgenstein had been turned away at the door…

  137. Raoul Ohio Says:

    There is a chance that things will get worse. The set of circumstances that resulted in Apartheid in South Africa are slightly similar. But I majorly doubt it.

    I think it is vastly more likely that implementing the Trump agenda will be like trying to push a large pile of gravel with a snow shovel. For example, Trump tweets(!), just today.

    1. He is starting the wall on the Mexican border.
    2. Oh, by the way, Mexico will pay for it, $30 Billion or so.
    3. And if they don’t, the Mexican President cannot visit next week.

    The Mexican Pres replies (probably not by tweet!): Tuff Sh!t, I didn’t want to come anyway.

    A reasonably conclusion is that nothing will get done.

    Anyway, WRt #3, right on cue, D-Wave news has hit. The following is from today’s Ars Technica:

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/01/explaining-the-upside-and-downside-of-d-waves-new-quantum-computer/

    The author kind of explains annealing. Not clear if he really gets it, but there are some cool illustrations.

  138. melior Says:

    Thank you for this post, Scott. It is my hope that someday science may discover a cure for xenophobia.

  139. Anonymous Says:

    Preventing the export of higher education to Iran doesn’t seem any worse than other sanctions the US has or might in the future apply due to Iran’s position as an avowed enemy of the US.

  140. Don Quixote Says:

    Let’s not forget that the first President to revoke all visas for Iranians (which President Trump has not done) was liberal Democrat Jimmy Carter.

  141. Mahdy Says:

    Thanks for your sympathy and support. That’s what Iranian community in US really needs at this difficult times.

    If you don’t mind I’ll also share my situation here.

    I’m a software engineer and a green card holder.
    I don’t subscribe to any religion, although I was raised in a Muslim family.

    I have been here in US for five years. I’m also married and expecting my daughter. My wife is from China.
    My parents have just got visa to take care of us, and they cannot come here to visit us.

    My aunt who is also a green card holder and has three kids here has gone back to Iran recently to visit my ill grand mother and it is not clear whether she can come back! even with a green card! Her family are all here! It is a nightmare!

  142. JC Says:

    “It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions makes it impossible to earn a living.”

  143. Scott Says:

    Bruce #133:

      …if you took into consideration why you do not help Americans already here to rise up to your “so-advertised” levels.

    As someone else pointed out above, Americans are 5% of the world population, but are actually the majority of the students who I’ve worked with, both grad and undergrad. The top undergrads in the US often have lucrative opportunities in industry to weigh against going to grad school, but we’re lucky enough to get some portion of them.

    Having said that, my experience has been that in basic research, any country or university that’s closed to the world will soon get outcompeted by one that’s open. Someone argued above that ancient Athens seemed to do OK without recruiting the whole world. But as I understand it, Athens (and, we could add, Alexandria and Florence) outshone the surrounding cities in large part because of their greater openness to outsiders.

    The persistent fantasy of the top-secret, high-security underground lab that hoards its people and breakthroughs, and thereby gets decades ahead of the outside world without anyone else knowing about it, is to me the most astonishing reminder of the gap between how science actually works and how a lot of people seem to imagine it works. The Manhattan project is the exception that proves the rule: in that instance, the secret desert facility got far ahead of the world’s physics community only by literally recruiting a large portion of the world’s physics community, notably including refugees from Europe.

  144. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #130:

      And the results of the modern theory are objectively terrible — gigantic wars, laden with the utmost brutality on every side, creating this giant bureaucratic world empire, now starting to rot all over the place, that we call the “international community.”

      There are plenty of reasons to declare this experiment a non-success, and restore the Westphalian world where nations were sovereign and expected to look after their own interests. It’s easy to pick the reason that looks worst in your eyes.

    You know, I actually like the modern world.

    I say that as someone who’s far from blind to its drawbacks—in fact, as someone who just two years ago was subjected to massive online denunciations for suggesting that the courtship norms of his great-grandparents’ time might have led to less misery, in some respects and for some people, than the norms in force now. But all things considered, I don’t want to return to my great-grandparents’ shtetl. Even if I’m “optimized” for that world, I prefer to work to fix the problems with this one. I like the Internet, I like seedless watermelons, I like the historically-low levels of violence that Steven Pinker documents in The Better Angels of Our Nature, I like legal rights for gays and blacks and women, I like my Iranian colleagues, I like being part of a global scientific enterprise. The fact that turning back the ratchet of the Enlightenment seems likely to be impossible—despite the best efforts of history’s Hitlers and Trumps—for me is mitigated by the fact that it wouldn’t be desirable either.

  145. anonymous Says:

    Huge amount of comments and the short time to read all of them:)
    first point dear professor, you never live in IRAN so you never ever can taste your government policies in other countries. Do you know what is the difference between the current president and others? He is only an honest person since he is not a politician; as a result, he says everything but the others try to hide their intentions which is ejecting undeveloped countries blood, killing them and finally calling them …… . The only way we have is resistance and being hardworking. It is our duty to not forget our roots and culture. And do everything to bring equality to the world, and the only way is to inform the world of the works that your governments have done up to now, wars and coups in many countries and etc. the Americans value which is only based on money and introducing it as goal instead of an equipment is completely false. And we have to tell the world about it, then each person can the right path for himself.
    but the nice thing I have noticed in bunch of comments and your statements that is very interesting for me is that our nation’s right is neglected in the history by bombing our passenger airlines, killing 500,000 Iranians in war with Iraq that your government helped him by giving chemical bombs, coup, torture, and many things else; however, we (I want to emphasize that Iran government works with Iranians like the brain and heart) are convicted that is very funny.
    The final world, tell your student ” an honor death is better that an abject life ”
    Accept my apology for my weak writing skill.

  146. Scott Says:

    Free Style #93 and YekNafar #118: I didn’t think this thread was the place for yet another long argument about Zionism. But OK…

    For me, before 1948, Zionism meant the belief that the tiny population that had produced Einstein, Bohr, Born, von Neumann, Bethe, Ehrenfest, Cantor, Jacobi, Noether, Hadamard, Minkowski, Hausdorff, Tarski, Erdös, and Ulam, but which the rest of the world tended to murder at every possible opportunity, should probably have a place to protect it from being murdered; that it might as well be the tiny sliver of land that they were indigenous to, had maintained a continuous presence in for millennia despite multiple conquests and expulsions, and had prayed the whole time they’d eventually return to; that resettlement of that place would need to be via voluntary purchases of land and “win-win” economic cooperation with all its inhabitants and neighbors, with the aim being to build a democratic society that, while it existed to protect a particular population from being murdered, would be open to all religions and ethnicities as well. In the wake of the Holocaust, the UN formally agreed with this, when it created two states in Palestine, one Jewish and one Arab—a proposal that decent people of all backgrounds and political persuasions still support today. (Over the past two days, I’ve been delighted to learn how many of my Iranian friends and colleagues support it.)

    Unfortunately, the local Arab leadership, much of which had enthusiastically allied itself with Hitler (and supported his Final Solution) during World War II, then launched multiple wars of extermination against the Jewish part of Palestine. Facing absurd odds, Israel successfully repelled those attacks, while also absorbing 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries, expulsions that produced no outcry from anyone. But the constant battle to survive changed Israel’s own character, eventually turning it into an occupying power itself, a situation that many of us who believe in the original Zionist vision abhor and want to see reversed.

    But regardless of where one stands on that question, today “Zionism” simply means the belief that a currently-existing albeit imperfect country, which happens to be a scientific and technological powerhouse, should not be destroyed and its current inhabitants murdered or expelled, any more than the same should happen to the US, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, or the countless other countries whose creation displaced earlier inhabitants in orders-of-magnitude less morally defensible ways than was the case here.

    Or to put it differently: Zionism is the philosophy without which perhaps 30% of my theoretical computer science colleagues wouldn’t exist, their families having been murdered. My wife is among that 30%.

    So, if you read the Jan. 27th update to this post—about how my interest is in the safety and welfare of the actual scientists and thinkers (of whatever backgrounds) who I actually meet, rather than in destroying the world’s current scientific talent pool in a cleansing fire, in order to recreate it along more utopian lines—you’ll see why Zionism is simply a logical consequence of my more fundamental commitments. In fact it’s a consequence of exactly the same commitments that lead me to support my Iranian students today.

  147. Amir (Iranian) Says:

    Thanks, many thanks. The ironic sad truth is that I got an admission an I will receive my I20 form next week.
    Thanks for understanding us, everyone needs a stranger who understands him, even more than a relative who understands him. You helped us to know that I had right to be sad, I had right to protest. You helped me to know that there are people who are not ignorant, how else humanity can prove itself?
    I just wanted to say something, though there are many Iranian student in US and many Iranians, like me planned to study in US, but I want to mention students from other countries, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and even Syria. All of them are only students, I want everyone know about them. Getting an admission from US is hard for Iranian, imagine how hard it must be for a student from Sudan. They did a great job to get an admission and now they are losing it for something out of their control. I know you might never have a Sudanian student, but you might never have a chance to see them. It is really sad, they will never find away to prove their selves? A world that does not give a hardworking talented person any chance, how much more corrupted this world can be?

  148. Jay Says:

    Difficult times. Thank you.

  149. Anonymous Says:

    Now he is also going for the OPT extension.

    A ton of young talent will now be forced to leave the country because we have this clown for president.

  150. Hooman Says:

    Thanks, dear Scott. I am an Iranian student at University at Buffalo and I must say that I absolutely agree with everything that you wrote.
    The main reason that I came to the US is that I thought in here, I can plan for my future with much less uncertainty that I had to deal with, in Iran. But now I have to say after all, it seems that there is not much difference.

  151. jonas Says:

    Scott: re #146, so when you say you’re a Zionist, that means you believe there shouldn’t be an even bigger war in the Middle East, one where they kill or expel all the Jews or all the Arabs until one side wins. This one reminds me to the *We the robots* comic strip 2007-12-19 (see at “http://www.chrisharding.net/wetherobots/03.php”):

    > Mikey: You lied to me about Santa Claus. How do I know you’re not just making up this baby Jesus character to get me to keep behaving?
    > Bob: See? He’s not buying it.
    > Mom: Nice work, Bob! You’ve turned our son into an atheist, damned to hell.
    > Mikey: What’s an atheist?
    > Bob: That’s what they call someone who won’t believe in the baby Jesus.
    > Mikey: They have a *word* for that? Wow.
    > Mikey: What do they call someone who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus?
    > Bob: Uh…
    > Mom: Mikey, you’re ruining Christmas.

    What do they call someone who doesn’t believe there shouldn’t have been an even bigger war in Yugoslavia, one where either they’d kill or expel all the Serbs or all the Croats until one side wins?

  152. Sepideh Mazrouee Says:

    Thank you Scott for your support and respect for Iranians! I have huge respect for my American friends and hate to separate the world based on where we are born. Who we are defines us and what good/bad intentions we have in life makes our world. I am hoping these misunderstandings go away soon as it’s affecting our lives not a good way… Thank you again so very much!!!

  153. Boldmug Says:

    Scott,

    I like the modern world too, but maybe you can see why I think it’s a withered shadow of the world that would have existed if the Victorian world had survived and the wars of 1914 and 1939 had never happened. Just for starters, you’d have a lot more fifth cousins. So would I.

    I also notice that Marx, Mao and Stalin don’t make your short list; you seem to blame the cataclysm on the side that was trying to preserve or restore the old world, not the side that wanted to set it on fire. Hm. Coincidentally, the latter is the side whose Jedi mind tricks are so strong, they almost persuaded someone with a 160 IQ to castrate himself.

    And the Enlightenment? You mean the Enlightenment that guillotined Lavoisier? “The Republic has no need of savants.” Add 1789 and even 1641 to that list. Why would a savant pick Praisegod Barebones over Prince Rupert?

    You might notice that in our dear modern world, whose quantum cryptography and seedless watermelons are so excellent, “the Republic has no need of savants” is out there still. Know anyone working on human genetics?

    And the modern world you so love is the First World. The First World is a piece of the past, lovingly restored, like SF with its Victorian homes. We can’t build new Victorian cities or even new Victorian buildings, but gosh we love our old ones.

    But the future is the Third World. Try a test on the scientists you know — ask them to find a principled, ethical reason why your rights as a human being depend on the GPS coordinates of your birth. Everyone will fail this test, because no one knows the ethical language of nationalism.

    Then, ask them what Boston looks like when it contains the entire population of Maiduguri, Nigeria. Ask them who Boston elects! You’ll see some better angels then! Have you been to the Third World? There are some tiny, well-fenced places where some of your grad students probably came from. Then there’s the rest, which makes Hobbes look like John Lennon.

    (As for Athens, a little more history is in order. Periclean Athens is at the end of the Greek golden age, not the start. It wasn’t Thales of Athens, it was Thales of Miletus. And the Athenian lust to dominate the polycentric Greek world is the cause of its downfall. The wars of centralization end in a far bleaker global era, the Roman Empire, which turns into a totalitarian superstate under which all thought ends.)

    And yet you claim the benefits of nationalism for your own two tribes — the tribe of science, and the tribe of Zion. Just not for the nation that happens to fund your research.

  154. DLI Says:

    Scott #65

    “I long ago reconciled myself to a moral calculus that values the lives of all sentient beings, but that also places a special value on people who I know personally, people who contribute to math and science, and certainly my students”

    Consider the following statement:

    I long ago reconciled myself to a moral calculus that values the lives of all , but that also places a special value on people who I know personally, people who contribute to , and certainly .

    Seem reasonable? At least reasonable ish?

    Isn’t this everyone though? Like I can probably fill in the blanks for Donald Trump.

    I long ago reconciled myself to a moral calculus that values the lives of all peoples, but that also places a special value on people who I know personally, people who contribute to the perceived well being of the American people, and certainly the demographic that specifically voted me into office.

    If I’m a dispassionate third party observer, why should I listen to your moral statements over Donald Trump’s?

  155. Anton Says:

    To Galthran and Mike Waldman :
    As shown in #126 there is already a significance preference for domestic applicants in American PhD programs, such those locals who decide to pursue a PhD get a much better chance at getting in than foreigners. What other measure would you like to see implemented? No foreigners whatsoever? 100% admission rate for all domestic applicants?

  156. DLI Says:

    Apologies, I clearly wasn’t paying attention to the preview of my previous statement. The statement template should look something like:

    I long ago reconciled myself to a moral calculus that values the lives of all [beings I ascribe sentience to], but that also places a special value on people who I know personally, people who contribute to [that thing I like] , and certainly [people who I am responsible for].

  157. Mateus Araújo Says:

    As a Brazilian researcher, this does not affect me personally (that is, until when Trump decides that Brazilians are also scum), but in solidarity with my Iranian friends and colleagues I will not set foot in the US while this disgusting ban lasts.

  158. Nick Says:

    Scott #6: “But what makes this disgusting policy particularly ironic is that, unlike with Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Georgia, Pakistan, etc., there’s no history—zero, zilch!—of individual Iranians coming to the US on student visas or whatever and then turning out to be “self-radicalized poisoned jellybeans” who kill innocents.”

    Why is Georgia included in that list? There are rumors (apparently originating from Russian propaganda) that the Tsarnaev brothers may have received some kind of training there, but other than that I can’t think of anything.

    (I don’t mean to derail you with quibbles; I agree with this post 100%, but that comment happened to catch my eye.)

  159. Candace Fuller Pfau Says:

    Thank you Scott upholding all that our great United States of America used to stand for. A refuge. No longer the case. And it started way before Trump came into power. I am native born. But my mother, and her mother were born in Canada and England, both immigrants. I will add that the person who commented as anonymous 145 greatly frightens me. The anger behind it. Why be anonymous. Show yourself. I might also add that many Americans are not violent, believe in opportunity for all, do not love war and reject our country backing Iraq or supplying chemical weapons. I am American born and I do not value money over life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. For me an honorable death would be laying my life down for another to live. What about you Anonymous. Thank you Scott.

  160. Tara Says:

    Thank you Scott, for your support when everything about US is scaring us.
    I am an Iranian, and I had a dream of coming to MIT to be one of the best in my field. When I heard about Trump winning the election, I felt a fear in my heart growing, a fear that maybe I was wrong about americans and all my american friends were just a minor part of america that is not racist.
    It’s really harsh to be punished for who you are, not what you have done.

  161. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    Mateus Araújo #157,

    Please don’t boycott the US entirely. The sane parts need every bit of support from the rest of the world as we can get.

  162. Josh G. Says:

    Hi Scott,

    While your support is definitely appreciated, I wonder what can be done at a more practical level that might have some hope of preventing such deportations, for example (if not helping to reinstate the visa program to those countries). In particular, I highly doubt the current administration will care to take you up on your offer, and would just as happily deport whoever they wanted without deporting you. In fact, even if you had threatened to *leave* the US in the event that they start deporting Iranian students – and even if that threat had been joined by thousands of other important professors – I’m not sure that the current administration would *care* if this country’s entire scientific enterprise were eviscerated, with the possible exception of those people working directly on space exploration and mining. (And yes, I understand that even if your sole goal in life is space exploration and mining, that that requires a large fraction of the current existing scientific enterprise, including people who are not working directly on those topics. But I don’t think the current administration understands that.)

    Bringing me back to my original question: what can we actually *do*?

    Best,
    Josh

  163. First Last Says:

    Scott – I would like to study and work in Europe indefinitely, but as an American I have no such right and would be deported back to the US after my visa expired. What’s the difference?

  164. Douglas Knight Says:

    FWIW, the irony you mention is not due to Trump. He didn’t take a list of state sponsors of terrorism and turn it into an individual filter. He used a list that was already for used for restrictions on individual visas.

  165. Scott Says:

    First Last #163: If you want to move to Europe indefinitely, there will be bureaucratic difficulties but I’m guessing it’s possible, since at least 800,000 Americans have. Anyone here who’s done it, or knows someone who has, and who might have some advice?

    In the US’s case, I’d say that welcoming high-skilled immigration just goes with the territory of wanting to be the world’s scientific and technological leader. If we no longer care about such things, then sure, we can close the gates. (Indeed, one of the many ironies of this debate is that it’s my position, not Trump’s, that strikes me as the “nationalist, American exceptionalist” one.)

  166. Scott Says:

    Mateus Araújo #157:

      in solidarity with my Iranian friends and colleagues I will not set foot in the US while this disgusting ban lasts.

    To echo Joshua Zelinsky #161, I can certainly understand the sentiment. On the other hand, I can guarantee that your boycotting the US won’t bother Trump or his supporters in the slightest. It will only starve all the reasonable people here of your mindblowing quantum information insights. 🙂

  167. Scott Says:

    Nick #158: My mistake! It’s gone now.

  168. Scott Says:

    DLI #154:

      If I’m a dispassionate third party observer, why should I listen to your moral statements over Donald Trump’s?

    How about this reason: because the science and engineering communities, which are what I care about, have over the centuries created a large fraction of everything that’s worth having in his sorry world—both in the obvious sense of what keeps us alive and healthy and fed, and in the higher sense of what enlightens us about the universe and makes us humans rather than beasts.

    Trump and his companies haven’t done the same, to put it mildly.

  169. Amir (Iranian) Says:

    Thanks again for your support. But please do not forget that it is wrong even if there were not any Iranian student in US, if it was not for Iranian. It is wrong to judge some one by only his/hers nationality, because no one had chosen his birthplace. I am Iranian so excluding Iran from this list or even excluding Iranian students would be enough for me, but I will not be satisfied I believe its wrong to ban Sudanians as it is to ban Iranians.

  170. anonymous Says:

    comment#159

    Hello my dear friend, Candace Fuller Pfau

    Excuse me if I scare you, actually, I never want to scare someone. I think maybe I cannot say my intentions correctly. Obviously, you are a good man and your not an exception in us. Actually, most of people not only in your country but in all over the world love peace and want only a peaceful life with their families. But why is it not happened up to now? my answer is because of only only a few persons in the world and the huge amount of other people who are silent in front of them.

    about your other statement, my friend. “For me an honorable death would be laying my life down for another to live.” In my opinion it is completely true but it is not complete. I have an question, consider some people who was killed because of the freedom of speech and not for others to live. Do you consider it an honorable death? I mean the complete definition of honorable death is a death that remind others their rights and show them the truth and in summary show the right path to others.

    And about commenting anonymously. My answer is clear, it is my right not to show my identity 🙂 there is no reason for this it is an habit.

    Best wishes for you

  171. Trump Watch: A running tally of Trump administration policies, statements and executive actions affecting civil liberties | Later On Says:

    […] Professor tells Trump to deport him before his Iranian PhD students. […]

  172. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #153: So what you want is a world that has many of the same benefits of modernity that we enjoy today, but in which the world wars never happened? Well, it’s hard to argue with that desire, but what’s its relevance to any of the questions we face now, like whether to support demagogues whose whole promise to voters is to turn back the ratchet of human progress?

    Or do you want modernity, except with new Victorian houses being built, and eugenics or selective breeding to produce savants? In that case, I’d suggest that you simply argue directly for the things you consider to be good, even if it feels like participating in the democratic process. I promise to stand up for your right to do that, and even for your right to do that while also giving technical talks at LambdaConf. Just one piece of unsolicited advice: I predict that you’ll have greater success in advocating your preferred policies, if you don’t frame them as a return to the past. (Trump “won” that way, but only by promising older white people a return to a past that they remembered. If the past that you want ever existed at all, no one remembers it anymore.)

    There’s just one remark in your latest comment that I found deeply unfair:

      And yet you claim the benefits of nationalism for your own two tribes — the tribe of science, and the tribe of Zion. Just not for the nation that happens to fund your research.

    I love this country, or at least everything in it that sides with Lincoln rather than Jefferson Davis. And as I said in #165, I consider recruiting the best science students from around the world to be a straightforwardly nationalistic, pro-American policy. If I weren’t a patriot, why would I care that much if the best students went somewhere else and helped make that other place the next superpower?

  173. David Borhani Says:

    Although an MIT graduate, I wasn’t aware of this blog. Directed to it by a colleague (who is on a visa, from India).

    I was born in the US, of an Iranian immigrant father (1951) who experienced some level of persecution there as a Bahai. I am sensitive to the issues raised here, in part due to my background, but also due to the fact that I am Jewish and married to a Jew. Moreover, I have enjoyed long-standing friendships with native, first- and second-generation Iranians, both family and students of mine, along with countless other visa-holders, permanent residents, and some now citizens.

    I wonder how many of the commenters here stopped hyperventilating long enough to have actually read the leaked draft executive order? https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3416383/Trump-EO-Draft-on-Refugees.pdf

    The only country explicitly mentioned is Syria.

    Iraq and Syria are mentioned by reference: “immigrant and nonimmigrant entry…from countries designated pursuant to Division 0, Title II, Section 203 of the 2016 consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2029, P.L. 114-113)… [is suspended] for 30 days.” That law, signed by *Pres. Obama*, is here: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-114publ113/html/PLAW-114publ113.htm

    The draft includes a notable exception. It *prioritizes* refugees who are subject to “religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality” This means primarily Syrian and other Christians, and the Yazidis.

    This provision is *long* overdue. Have you ever wondered why the Christian population of Bethlehem has plummeted since 1947? 85% of the population then; 54% in 1967; became a minority in the 1990s (Oslo Accords, anyone?); about 12% today. (Hint: it’s not due to the [Jewish] Israelis.) See: https://www.ncronline.org/news/world/bethlehems-declining-christian-population-casts-shadow-over-christmas

    I agree with you, Shabnam (#14), that the Iranian regime != the Iranian people. The Iranian people have an ancient culture and intellectual tradition of which they are justly proud. It is thus to Obama’s ever-lasting shame that he didn’t support the Green Revoltion of 2009 to overthrow this tyrannical regime.

    BUT — and it is a critical “but” — it IS the Iranian regime that is in power, whether we like it or not, and that regime has been both brutal to its own citizens (God help you if you’re gay in Iran), and has been actively exporting, supporting, and promoting terrorism around the world. Iran-sponsored terrorist bombings leading to hundreds of deaths (an incomplete list): US Embassy in Beirut, 1983; Beirut barracks, 1983; Buenos Aires Israeli Embassy, 1992; Buenos Aires Jewish Center, 1994; Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, 1996. Iran’s long-standing and on-going support for the terrorist organizations Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, which has led to the deaths of thousands of Israelis, not to mention terrorizing Palestinians and Lebanese as well. And Iran’s attempt to extend its hegemony, by force, in Iraq and Syria, completing its Shia path to the Mediterranean Sea.

    Shabnam, #14: your remark that “Israel influence on US policies make the situation worse” is at best ill-informed. You are not, I assume, on the potential receiving end of threats from an Iranian regime that has not only been shouting “Death to the Jews” and “Death to Israel” for the past 38 years, but has been actively advancing toward that heinous goal, both through conventional means (Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad) and through extensive, hidden, lied-about nuclear bomb-making efforts, now further aided and abetted, unfortunately, by Pres. Obama’s disasterous JCPOA “deal.” Add to that the active Holocaust denial promoted by Iran, and it is indeed a deadly threat that Israel and Jews world-wide take very, very seriously. What is it about “I intend to kill you” that’s hard to understand?

    I agree 100% with melanoga (#49): The comparison between Pres. Trump’s temporary halt and review of immigration from countries of concern, and Jews seeking to immigrate (mostly) from Germany in the 1930s is patently absurd. (Comparison of 1930s Jews with 2010s Syrian Christians is fair, albeit a comparison of entirely different magnitude.)

    Iman, #54: You remind me of Linda Sarsour (most recently a leader of the Women’s March on Washington) being an apologist for Sharia law and for the world’s worst oppressor of women: “I don’t drink alcohol, don’t eat pork, I follow Islamic way of living. That’s all Sharia law is.” “You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia Law if suddenly all your loans & credit cards become interest free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?” and “10 weeks of PAID maternity leave in Saudi Arabia. Yes PAID. And ur worrying about women driving. Puts us to shame.”

    Boldmug, #61: Well said.

    Free Style, #93: Zionism didn’t “[kick] millions out of their homes in Palestine,, killed thousand of others, then erected a segregation wall based on pure ethnic and religious apartheid bases”.
    – First, learn the actual history, not the invented Palestinian “narrative”. In particular, I suggest you study the large extent of and reasons for Arab immigration into Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (for where all these “Palestinian” Arabs are actually hail from, see here: http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2014/02/zionists-trying-to-hide-canaanite.html), as well what the word “indigenous” means (Jews are from…Judea?) [FYI: “Palestina” was a word co-opted in 135 CE by the Roman Empire in an attempt to erase the Jewish presence in the land called until that time “Judea”; the word derives from the no-longer-existent Philistines {Semitic for “invader”; they came from Crete}, who invaded Canaan around 1500 BCE.]
    – Second, Israel built the wall specifically to stop suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli citizens (Jews, Muslims, Christians, Bahais, and Druze, and probably others). It has proven effective. If the Palestinians would renounce terrorism—which began LONG before the “occupation” of 1967, and stop the now decades-long teaching of Jew hatred and conquering of all of “occupied” Palestine (i.e., many Palestinians refuse to accept Israel in *any* borders) to their schoolchildren, there would be no need for a wall.
    – Third, Israel is not an Aparthied state. You demean South Africans by spouting such nonsense. I suggest you visit Israel to see for yourself. In the meantime, watch this video by George Deek, an Israeli diplomat of Arab (Christian) family origin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_JeC0MwU70 , and look here http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jake-beaumont/israel-not-apartheid-state_b_9128056.html and here http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/p/eoz-posters-for-apartheid-week.html

    And, as this poster says, “When is Saudi Apartheid Week?” http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-eh2aIPCm_G0/T0-0UkUWR8I/AAAAAAAAGk4/cj7op-Gw270/s640/saudi+apart2.jpg

    Scott, #146: I largely agree with you. Zionism = Nationalism. Why is it that Nationalism is OK for all countries/peoples in the world, in the minds of the “International Community”, and in particular in the minds of Left-Wing or Liberal Americans (of which I count myself a member, but not on this point) and Europeans, but NOT for the Jews? Why is that?

  174. Elliott Says:

    Sure I can defend this.
    Although for the record, I think Trump should, and probably will in the end, allow student visas.

    The defense is just to look at the alternative under Hillary. By now we’d be gearing up for potential war with Russia, which would be far worse for you and your students, and even more so for the future of science.
    hundreds of thousands of “refugees” (which we know aren’t actually refugees) would be getting ready to come into the US, which would quickly dry up any education funding for potential students.
    Taxes would be increased from 50% to 75% in cases where the money is most useful, which would dry up company funding for science projects.
    The situation with ISIS would continue to get worse and worse, eventually destroying the countries you want to recruit students from.

    So while I want your students to be able to renew their student visas, and hope that they won’t be prevented from doing so (and I also expect the desired outcome here); I look at this temporary visa situation and say “thank goodness someone finally put a stop-gap in place in order to deal with the problems so that the future can be better”. The only reason this is necessary now is because Hillary and Obama failed to do anything about ISIS when they had the chance.

    If it weren’t for this, your students may have had no future at all. Now, even in the bad-case scenarios, they’ll have their future delayed by a year.

  175. John Sidles Says:

    Scott says  (circa #124) John Sidles, I’d be happy to sign your petition, but I just get a generic “Thank you for your interest in this subject” when I click the [White House-supplied] link!

    Alas, it appears that America’s new Trump Administration — in a dramatic reversal of policy — now declines to accept citizen petitions.

    Needless to say, this Trump Administration policy-change flagrantry disregards both long-standing democratic traditions and constitutional provisions.

    In his book/PhD thesis Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (1997), LtGen (and Dr.) H. R. McMasters quotes Hans Morgenthau as follows:

    To say that the most momentous issues a nation must face cannot be openly and critically discussed is really tantamount to saying that democratic debate and decision do not apply to the questions of life and death. … Not only is this position at odds with the principles of democracy, but it removes a very important corrective for governmental misjudgement.

    LtGen. McMasters concludes:

    “The disaster in Vietnam was not the result of impersonal forces but a uniquely human failure, the responsibility for which was shared by President Johnson and his principal military and civilian advisors.

    The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.”

    For many citizens (including me) these traits compose all-too-rational reason to apprehend that worse-than-Vietnam disasters may be in the offing for the United States.

    — On a Happier Note —

    Scott continues (circa #124)  John Sidles #121 … From the excerpt of the petition text that you posted, I’m impressed that you don’t seem to have snuck anything into it about K*hler manifolds or ST*AM in the 21st century 🙂

    Lol … in light of the ongoing train-wreck for democracy that is the Trump Administration, your smiling quantum-relevant remark is appreciated and welcome.

    At QIP 2017, your student Shalev Ben-David gave a well-received talk “Sculpting Quantum Speedups”, and a Shtetl Optimized post on this interesting topic, (written by him and/or by you) would be appreciated by many folks (including me).

    Upon which non-Trumpish occasion, I pledge to provide some brand-new Kalai-friendly QIP-2017-informed observations.

    In a Nutshell  Appreciation and thanks are extended for yet another unflinchingly excellent (as it seems to me) Shtetl Optimized essay.

  176. pku Says:

    Boldmug #153: I live in new Victorian-style housing. It is truly terrible and I want to move out as fast as possible. Modern architecture is the way it is for (mostly) good reasons.

    (Also, joining in on the “thanks, Scott” sentiment).

  177. Craig Says:

    The holocaust comparison is repugnant. Nobody is coming for the Iranians.

  178. Candace Fuller Pfau Says:

    Touche” Scott for your blistering reply to Boldmug #153 My husband and I were just realizing that Mr. Trump is definitely doing the job he was hired for. And that is turning all of us against each other. Pitting us one against the other. And to Anonymous. It’s not so much as I am scared by you. It’s the anger I hear in your voice. And yes, that would also be an honorable death to die supporting your right to freedom to speak. Our new President is slowly taking away those rights. He is a dictator. Why would you think he is the answer to the problems in our country? I can never support him. My passport is updated and ready. I’ll take my flag with me.

  179. Sniffnoy Says:

    Scott #165:

    First Last #163: If you want to move to Europe indefinitely, there will be bureaucratic difficulties but I’m guessing it’s possible, since at least 800,000 Americans have. Anyone here who’s done it, or knows someone who has, and who might have some advice?

    Well, Meredith Patterson recently wrote this guide to it

  180. Maz Says:

    Thank you for the support.

    It is not only visa, his order would be applied to green-card holders as well.

    It is very sad for those of us who had the ability to leave the country (and most importantly to leave the entire family) to go to the US to use our education and talent toward a better world, and possibly have a home-country where we feel home.

    We don’t like to serve Mullahs and the US (at least half of the country who selected Trump) does not like our service anymore.

    We simply now don’t have any home-country.

  181. Boldmug Says:

    Scott:

    An interesting term, “ratchet of progress.” Nature is full of ratchets. But ratchets of progress — extropic ratchets — are the exceptional case. Most ratchets are entropic ratchets, ratchets of decay.

    You happen to live inside the ratchet of progress that is science and engineering. That ratchet produces beautiful wonders like seedless watermelons. It’s true that Talleyrand said, “no one who remembers the sweetness of life before the Revolution can even imagine it,” but even Louis XIV had to spit the seeds out of his watermelons.

    This ratchet is 400 to 2400 years old, depending on how you count. The powers and ideologies that be are very good at taking credit for science and engineering, though it is much older than any of them. It is a powerful ratchet — not even the Soviet system could kill or corrupt science entirely, although it’s always the least political fields, like math and physics, that do the best.

    But most ratchets are entropic ratchets of decay. The powers that be don’t teach you to see the ratchets of decay. You have to look for them with your own eyes.

    The scientists and engineers who created the Antikythera mechanism lived inside a ratchet of progress. But that ratchet of progress lived inside a ratchet of decay, which is why we didn’t have an industrial revolution in 100BC. Instead we had war, tyranny, stagnation and (a few hundred years later) collapse.

    Lucio Russo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucio_Russo) wrote an interesting, if perhaps a little overstated, book, on the Hellenistic (300-150BC, not to be confused with the Hellenic era proper) golden age of science. We really have no way of knowing how close to a scientific revolution the Alexandrians came. But it was political failure, not scientific failure, that destroyed their world. The ratchet of progress was inside a ratchet of decay.

    You ask why I don’t take your “American nationalism” seriously. I take it about as seriously as I take Earl Browder, who founded the “Jefferson School of Social Science” and had a great line: “Communism is as American as apple pie.” My grandparents were members of Browder’s party, and his flag-wrapping maneuver is now (like many other ’40s CPUSA memes) totally mainstream.

    Ideologies are inherited cladistically, and it’s incredibly easy to distinguish between genuine American nationalism and Hillary with a stage full of flags. You’ll have to forgive me if my antennae are sensitive enough to tell Brooklyn Jewish “Americanism” from the American Legion or the John Birch Society.

    And what an unkind comment about President Davis! As I always ask people when they drop this kind of virtue signal: have you ever read a book by a Confederate? If someone was condemning you and your entire world, wouldn’t you at least want them to first hear your own perspective in your own words?

    Not to mention that the past is a foreign country, and if you actually had a time machine *both* sides would seem completely insane to you. Do you really want to inject yourself into the election of 1860? Inject yourself into this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_Awakes

    In short, you seem to feel your John Lennon worldview is a sort of natural corollary of the scientific work you do. I’m pretty sure it isn’t. I believe I have some expertise in the origin of this worldview, and I’m quite confident in saying it has nothing to do with science.

    One thing scientists often do is understate the difficulty of disentangling received wisdom about the world they live in. This is not restricted to those on the left — consider the case of Oswald Teichmüller. To Teichmüller, National Socialism and geometric function theory were inextricable parts of the future. This caused him to go and get himself killed on the Eastern front, which I’m sure we can all agree was a waste.

  182. Mateus Araújo Says:

    Joshua #161 and Scott #166: Thanks for the compliments, but my thought was depriving myself of the great conferences (like QIP in Seattle last week) and the contact with great researchers that my Iranian colleagues won’t be able to enjoy.

    Of course, if more people do a similar thing then it will become a boycott that actually deprives the US of something, and I fully appreciate the irony that the effect would be felt essentially by the scientific community, which is overwhelmingly anti-Trump. Unfortunately I don’t see how to act against only the hateful part of the US.

    But I think that such a boycott would indeed bother Trump’s supporters (the man himself of course not; he is so stupid he might even like it). An international boycott of scientists is really bad press whichever way you look at it, and I bet that most Republicans in Congress know that isolating one’s country from the scientific community is a bad move.

  183. Scott Says:

    Mateus #181:

      But I think that such a boycott would indeed bother Trump’s supporters (the man himself of course not; he is so stupid he might even like it). An international boycott of scientists is really bad press whichever way you look at it, and I bet that most Republicans in Congress know that isolating one’s country from the scientific community is a bad move.

    Sorry, but I wouldn’t bet any of that.

    Actually, I almost never find boycotts to be a good or effective form of protest—except in a case like the academic boycott of Elsevier, which not only costs almost nothing (unlike a boycott of visiting the US), but even gets you out of lots of annoying reviewing work. 🙂

  184. Douglas Knight Says:

    pku, what is wrong with new Victorian-style housing?

  185. Shabnam Says:

    Scott: I did not know who you are when commenting your post…Keep up the good work 🙂 World need more intellectuals like you.

    David Borhani:

    1) Regarding Iranians vs jews:

    Iranian regime is a failure and I do not see any single reason to defend them but I do not see them as anti jews. They do not express any intension to kill jews (in their national media for example) or they do not explain anti-semitism thoughts as I often see in the West world (I myself have jewish background)…If they are jews killer, why Iranian parliament has jewish members?

    However, I do not deny that they would do anything to keep their dominancy over other religions (Isn’t it familiar for you? 😉 Trump’s actions against certain religion is making US the same troubled country as Iran). While I do see them not protective of minorities’ right, I do not see them particularly anti jews because they are simply not. In other words, they are inhuman? Yes, But particularly anti jews? No.

    2) Regrading Bahai’s people

    I cannot express how much I become upset when I think about how Iranian regime tortures Bahai’s people. I wish I could help.

    I understand how much the people who were tortured by Iranian regime should be furious but let’s put our anger aside and think rationally:

    Banning Iranian citizens is just like the same actions against jewish/Bahai’s/black people/…Tension and discrimination would not solve any problem in long term…

  186. @FirstLast Says:

    @FirstLast – the difference is that you are allowed to re-apply if you want to stay further. There is no blanket ban in Europe for Americans not allowed to enter. Deportation and ban on travel are two vastly different things.

  187. @FirstLast Says:

    Oh and this is not only about ejecting people who overstay their visa. Are you serious? They’ve been doing that since the beginning of the USA. Idiot.

  188. Far Says:

    Many thanks for your support.

  189. John Sidles Says:

    Boldmug proclaims “You [meaning Scott personally? Progressives in general?] seem to feel your John Lennon worldview is a sort of natural corollary of the scientific work you do. I’m pretty sure it isn’t. I believe I have some expertise in the origin of this worldview, and I’m quite confident in saying it has nothing to do with science.

    Quite a few progressives of my acquaintance claim descent from a progessive clade whose founders encompassed the Collegiants, the Spinozists, and the US Marine Corps. This clade is documented in (for example) the arch-conservative scholar Leszek Kolakowski’s survey article “Dutch seventeenth-century non-denominationalism and Religio Rationalis” (2004), and its teachings are summarized in (for example) Jonathan Israel’s Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752 (p. 866), in which we read

    Radical Enlightenment conceived as a package of basic concepts and values may be summarized in eight cardinal points:

    (1) adoption of philosophical (mathematical-historical) reason as the only and exclusive criterion of what is true;

    (2) rejection of all supernatural agency, magic, disembodied spirits, and divine providence;

    (3) equality of all mankind (racial and sexual);

    (4) secular ‘universalism’ in ethics anchored in equality and chiefly stressing equity, justice, and charity;

    (5) comprehensive toleration and freedom of thought based on independent critical thinking;

    (6) personal liberty of lifestyle and sexual conduct between consenting adults;

    (7) freedom of expression, political criticism, and the press, in the public sphere.

    (8) democratic republicanism as the most legitimate form of politics.

    Is it any coincidence that these eight cardinal points could have come straight from Tom Jefferson’s pen, or alternatively from the USMC Commandant’s professional reading list, or alternatively from recent Shtetl Optimized essays?

    In a nutshell, don’t these various works all descend from the same centuries-old “clade” of Enlightenment?

    Boldmug, isn’t it natural to wonder whether the works that define your historical understanding have been unduly restricted?

    Summary  Trumpish thinkers loudly proclaim that Enlightened Progressivism has ended, but multiple consonant lines of evidence — historical, scientific, medical, and philosophical evidence — provides abundant reason to foresee (both happily and hopefully) that the Enlightenment is just getting started. 🙂

  190. pku Says:

    @DouglasKnight:
    Mainly, very poor lighting. Pre-modern architecture didn’t allow for the same size windows, and having small windows really gets to you. Also, very poor heat conduction and ventilation.
    Basically, modern building methods allow us to make buildings more comfortable, in a way that we don’t really notice until we live in. Victorian architecture looks good from the outside, but it’s no fun to live in.
    (To clarify, I mean buildings that are “authentically victorian”, not modern buildings with a bit of extra decoration to make them look victorian, which we still build plenty of).

  191. Reza Says:

    Dear Prof. Aaronson,

    I cannot thank you enough for supporting Iranians. I truly stand against any discrimination based on religion and race, two factors that I don’t think exist any longer. I believe we are all humans and believe in different things.

    My brother has been a neuroscience and now a psychiatrist in Virginia. I have two sisters, one is about to be a neurobiologist and the other one is a chemist and public relation major.

    I am however a journalist. I have never wanted to be affiliated with news media like VOA or other too much conservative channels. That said, I don’t feel safe back in Iran other. I hope things change. If not, I will have to immigrate to one of the alternative countries you named. I share stories of people and love the art of story telling which does require the science of linguistics. 🙂

    Thank you so very much for your positive vibe.

  192. Boldmug Says:

    Scott, rereading your comment I keep coming back to this:

    “I predict that you’ll have greater success in advocating your preferred policies, if you don’t frame them as a return to the past.”

    One: what on earth would make you think I am “advocating policies?” Have I done that here, or anywhere?

    You asked for an intellectual context in which these government actions, which seem inexplicable and cruel to you, could make sense to a sane adult not possessed by some kind of demonic sadism. It seemed like a genuine, non-rhetorical question.

    I should offer the caveat that I’m perfectly aware that the US immigration system, at least as it pertains to nice educated people like us (although Mohammed Atta was not exactly uneducated), who just have a small GPS-coordinates-of-birth problem, is a total disaster and nightmare that does inexplicable and cruel things all the time to all sorts of innocent people.

    In fact, I know it so well that it’s hard to get any emotional shock from some new random bureaucratic mass f*cking-over. DC is DC and does as DC does. (This dark pattern of winking at the abusers, while abusing the legitimate customers, is what Sam Francis called “anarcho-tyranny.”)

    The shock in your case is obviously genuine, since the f*cking-over is happening to someone close to you. Hopefully you can admit, though, that there is a lot of narcissistic, motivated false political emotion going around these days.

    If you and the community actually want to solve the problem, rather than contribute to this wave of emotion, it is probably best to explain it in terms of the mentality of the people who made it. After all, they are the people you’ll have to petition to fix it.

    A good argument in this direction, for instance, might be: “take Iran off the list and put Saudi Arabia on it, because as of right now Iran is fighting ISIS and Saudi Arabia is funding the bastards.” This is the kind of argument you could make to Steve Bannon.

    Do you know anyone who knows Steve Bannon? Anyone who knows anyone who knows him? If so, and you want to actually solve the problem, surely it’s worth addressing your complaints in this direction, and formulating them in a form he’ll understand. I think he’s probably heard _Imagine_ before.

    In order to do this or anything like it, you need exactly the intellectual context you were asking for (perhaps rhetorically). Sharing one such perspective, or at least trying to share it, is completely different from “advocating” some kind of “preferred policies.”

    I just think smart people should have a good practical grasp of actual historical reality as it actually happened. This (as I see it) is a little bit different from what you get in school these days, though less in concrete facts than interpretations. And it includes being able to solve a simple “ideological Turing Test” for any recent period. As Cicero said, those who fail to understand history will always remain children.

    A good way to frame this test is to ask what the best minds of some other period would make of ours. Once you can pass this test for a period, I’d argue, you can feel comfortable about applying the lessons of that period to our present reality.

    Until you feel you can pass this test, I think, try another period. Or try an argument that doesn’t need to use history as a weapon.

    Historically, it’s in turbulent periods like this that understanding our enemies is the most important possible thing. I’m not trying to persuade anyone of anything. I’m just trying to give people some tools which I think solve the problem in a neat way.

    And two, on “return to the past”: I would argue that what some historians call “presentism,” basically racism as applied to the past, is fundamentally a problem that can’t be worked around. It has to be solved. A presentist society is a suicidal society. Feel free to disagree with me on this.

    “Frame them” is just amazing. Everyone in the modern world is so experienced in solving Keynesian beauty contests. It’s a basic bureaucratic skill. A beautiful idea is an idea “framed” so everyone on the committee will approve it. The idea is a product, sold to a small group or a large. It succeeds if it has customers. So what idea does the customer want? I guess I am just more interested in regular, old-fashioned beauty contests…

  193. Boldmug Says:

    John Sidles,

    I’m perfectly aware that the roots of leftism are deeply connected with the roots of Protestantism. In Anglo-American history proper this runs through two centuries of Puritanism before the American Revolution, itself of course a deeply Puritan affair. As was the Civil War, and so on.

    \You might be amused by this primary source, which shows “Lennonism” in 1942 described in explicitly religious terms:

    http://bit.ly/2kckPKz

  194. John Sidles Says:

    Boldmug wonders: “Do you know anyone who knows Steve Bannon? Anyone who knows anyone who knows him?”

    Fortunately, progressively enlightened sentiments such as the following:

    “First of all, do no harm”

    and

    “The enemy will try to manipulate you into hating … do not allow the enemy that victory.”

    are by no means unfamiliar to President Trump’s innermost circle of advisors.

    Indeed these two principles have been foundational to the Obama Administration’s remarkably enlightened counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism strategy, which over the last eight years has been empirically successful by any objective measure (especially compared to the dismal record of the previous administration).

    Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon publicly proclaim, and may even privately believe, that they can do better. We all of us had better fondly hope, and fervently pray, that they don’t do far, far worse … and that they both possess the humility to appreciate what history, shows plainly, that the possibility of disastrous outcomes from even the best-intentioned policies, is all-too-real.

    President Obama scrupulously respected the centuries-old custom of visiting, at frequent intervals and in strict privacy, the bedside of America’s most gravely wounded soldiers. One hopes that this will not be one of those customs that President Trump so blithely discards.

    More broadly, we all have reason to hope, liberals and conservatives alike, that Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon — who are neither experienced or trained nor evidently talented in meeting these difficult challenges — will heed the enlightened voices of their progressive White House colleagues … even when (as is likely) the tried-in-battle wisdom of these progressives is ignorantly perceived to be politically awkward or ideologically unwelcome.

    Summary  The electorate has objective reason to be hopeful — even confident — that enlightened voices within inner White House circles will not hold back from expressing opinions that Mr. Trump and/or Mr. Bannon may find to be politcally or ideologically unwelcome. Will these experienced-and-progressive voices be heeded? That is the great unknown.

  195. sayeh Says:

    THANK YOU very much for your support…

  196. amy Says:

    Incidentally, has anyone read Jacques Ellul’s old classic _Propaganda_ recently? It’s many years since I read it, and I’d remembered it being quite insightful; I’ve just started rereading. It’s…instructive so far. It makes clear, if you haven’t already been thinking about it, or had forgotten, why minorities can’t be tolerated in a thoroughly propagandized state. (That’s a recommendation.)

    How many of the people suddenly in a fix inside the US, I wonder, have noplace to go.

  197. Trumpland Says:

    Technically this is not exactly coming for the Iranians.

    It is about asking them to not come. The exact opposite. My intuitive guess is that since all the establishment intellectuals oppose this, it would be good overall for all Americans. And infact for the world. The Muslims might finally realize that there is a cost for their behavior.

    Again, assuming it is only temporary and after some kind of negotiation the ban is off. In a sense, the response from mediocre Intellectuals and Academics is predictable. If they are smart they should be smart enough to delete this post for example. That is the only way for them to maintain their current place in the establishment. Also why they hate people like Trump and Bannon.

  198. O. S. Dawg Says:

    Day 7: Start a trade war with one of our closest trading partners and close our borders to refugees.

    Are we GREAT again yet?

  199. jim Says:

    Scott wrote:
    “like whether to support demagogues whose whole promise to voters is to turn back the ratchet of human progress?”

    This is far from being the first time that the ratchet of human progress has been ratcheting along.

    Taking the long view of history, the ratchet of human progress has a striking tendency to end in terror, mass murder, and economic collapse, as for example the Populares of Rome. Indeed, you yourself, Scott, have frequently noticed and remarked upon the dangerous intolerance of your fellow progressives.

    Take a look at the activities of your fellow progressives on the streets of Washington and outside the Milo’s talk in Seattle. You will observe striking symptoms of the problems that led to past catastrophes.

    When Alexander the Liberator freed the serfs, he also gave them land collectively. It is non trivial to manage land. In fact it is quite difficult. The typical serf was simply incapable of doing it. It is even harder to manage even the simplest things collectively. This led to a series of ever worsening crises, where the problems of socialism were solved with even more socialism, that ratchet of progress of which you are so fond, that eventually resulted in Alexander’s royal descendents being murdered, and then a very large proportion of the peasants also murdered, mostly those peasants that showed any competence in managing a farm.

    In America, the ratchet of progress has caused the collapse of the health care system – no matter how much money you have, you cannot actually buy health insurance that will insure you against a broken leg, and when you turn up at hospital with a broken leg that your insurance does not cover, you will find in front of you one hundred drug addicts trying to get free drugs and a hundred vagrants trying to get free bed and free food.

    Doubtless if Obama was still in charge, he would have fixes for this crisis, applying the ratchet of progress, much as the Tsars had fixes for the emancipated serfs on collective farms, applying the ratchet of progress. Trump is arguably letting it collapse, but it was already collapsing and collapsed before his inauguration.

    Doubtless you are confident those fixes would have worked, unlike the Tsar’s fixes for collective farms, but what I saw on the streets during Trump’s inauguration gives a very different impression.

    Yes, I think the people fixing our healthcare system are much the same people as were setting fire to cars in Washington, and their fixes, though more complex and expressed in vast piles of paperwork, are as well thought out and have similar consequences. In the end, their fixes for the health system rest upon “You did not build that”, the same foundation as led to those cars being torched.

    You are in a bubble, and outside the bubble there is a whole raft of indicators, for example the collapse of the family, that the ratchet of human progress is having bad consequences that will shortly lead to far worse consequences.

  200. jim Says:

    The alliance between the Populares and the Samnites much resembles the alliance between the Democratic party and the Muslim brotherhood, and the alliance between the State Department and Al Qaeda.

    The Populares wanted a better and fairer Roman Empire in which subject peoples like the Samnites were better treated. The Samnites wanted to level the walls of Rome, kill every Roman male, and enslave every Roman woman.

  201. Mateus Araújo Says:

    Scott #182: I’m afraid we will never know whether it would make them reverse course, as I find it very unlikely that a large scale academic boycott will develop in response to this.

    But this is not about doing something that works, it is simple solidarity. I cannot in good conscience enjoy a privilege that is gratuitously denied to my fellow scientists. I would also never go into a shop that had a sign in front of it saying that Blacks, Mexicans, or Muslims are not welcome. Even if the workers in that shop were radically against this policy and were forced to put this sign there by a hateful boss.

  202. Jerry Says:

    Bravo Trump

  203. peyman Says:

    As an Iranian Canadian, my heart goes to those Iranian students with A LOT of talents who are sad and desperate from unfair ignorant politics. To Scott, simple THANK YOU. You are not alone on what you strongly feel about Trump immigration policies. We in Canada or across the globe are with you. America would be less smart and functional without its briliant Iranian scientist who devoted their life career and soul to USA.

  204. Scott Says:

    Craig #177:

      The holocaust comparison is repugnant. Nobody is coming for the Iranians.

    Where did I compare anything to the Holocaust? No, my comparison was very explicitly only about the “kinder, gentler” period of Nazi rule, in the 30s, when the Jews and other enemies of the regime were merely getting barred from academic positions, “strongly induced” to leave the country, and so forth—things that many of the most educated, enlightened people at the time considered regrettable and all, but, you know, it’s just politics, and sometimes such things are unavoidable when you’re giving power back to the Volk and making your nation great again.

    Besides the PhD student who I mentioned, I have many other Iranian-born academic friends who’ve lived in the US for years, who in some cases had planned their whole futures here, and whose lives are now basically in ruins. Their mentality and worldview is indistinguishable from that of any of the other science nerds who I meet—it’s exactly what I imagine my worldview would be, if I’d happened to have been born in Iran. In particular, they don’t want to move back to Iran, for some of the very same reasons why you or I wouldn’t want to move there. And some of them are in long-term relationships that now might not be able to continue (will even marriage provide protection against deportation in the Trump regime?).

    Could you look these people—who again, are not abstractions in a blog debate, but actual devastated people who I know—in the eye, and explain to them that nobody’s “coming for them”?

  205. Scott Says:

    Josh G. #162: You ask what else we can do, besides writing blog posts like this one. It’s a good question, of course, and one that I’ve had running as a continuous background process.

    For starters, I think we can completely rule out any idea that involves appealing to the Trump regime’s reason or conscience. They lack both. The same goes for the Vichy Republicans who control Congress.

    For the Iranian scientists who are already in the US, on visas or green cards, I think that a certain form of civil disobedience is both possible and desirable. The basic idea is this: for those of our Iranian colleagues who wish to stay in the US, we can force the Trump thugs to literally drag them out kicking and screaming, creating a visual spectacle for the world. Like, imagine if Maryam Mirzakhani, the world’s first female Fields Medalist and a Stanford professor, were escorted onto a plane in handcuffs by ICE agents. How much play would that get on CNN? How many YouTube views?

    Any university that wanted to participate in this civil disobedience, could do so by continuing to fund fellowships and faculty positions for foreign researchers on visas after their visas had expired—in effect issuing their own “virtual green cards.” Being risk-averse bureaucratic entities, of course I don’t expect that most university administrations will have the moral courage for this. But maybe a few—especially those based in “sanctuary cities,” with friendly local law enforcement—will, and those few will then create pressure on the other universities to follow suit.

  206. amy Says:

    Funny thing how only the curdled trolls are left talking about bubbles and insisting everyone else is living in one. My guess is that nothing at all has changed, and that, as ever, there’s a subset of people who simply live in a welter of hatred and have done openly ever since [trivial turning point], and they really believe that this is a human norm, that the world really is like this. I mean I understand that the alternative (they drew a very unfortunate psychological hand, and it’s possible they can’t do anything about it) is deeply unpalatable, but after having spent too much time talking with and trying to understand people like jim, my sense is that they really believe that the interior hells they live with are normal and about to break on the unsuspecting at any moment.

    jim: it’s not normal. Every so often it coalesces and then we have years that are called “infamous” in retrospect. But no, most people don’t have what you’re carrying around. If you haven’t tried to get help for it you should probably give it a shot before your insurance goes away.

  207. Thomas Says:

    I am not a citizen of the USA and so far I am not affected (directly or indirectly) by any of Trumps policies. I agree that it’s wrong to ban people from entering a country based on their citizenship. And I also think that it is important to voice your opinions. But I have mixed feelings about the reasons given in the post and in some of the comments. I get a slightly technocratic vibe from them. My opinion on this matter stems from very basic beliefs about individual freedoms and shaping social dynamics not by forcing people with a heavy hand and keeping them in line with the fear of negativ consequences but rather by relying on positive incentives while making sure the basic needs are met. This is not about science or excellence or competitive hiring or the capacity and willingness of certain people for high-level sustained mental work. This is about being human and overcoming the stranglehold of nation states that feel they have to talk about how great there values are or were or will be again and who feel the need to wave flags to reassure themselves of who they are (members of a rather arbitrarily chosen set of people). I see the tendencies to close borders and keep people out (not just in the US but in other parts of the world as well) as dangerous to the grand project of humanity as a whole to realize its full potential, not (just) in science or engineering, but in being what makes them unique: Human. Much of science is just a fun pastime for intelligent people anyway with little consequence for the things that matter at the end of the day (or if one lies down on one’s death bed). And I say this being a scientist myself. Sorry for hijacking the discussion like this. If I didn’t feel very strongly about this matter I would have remained silent.

  208. James Cross Says:

    Scott

    Thanks so much for your passion on this!

    You are employed in Texas, right? Any fear that politicians are going to come after you?

  209. Aula Says:

    Scott #24: Why would you consider moving to Singapore, or even Australia? Apart from a period during and after WWII, Australia has always had a very restrictive (and for a long time explicitly racist) immigration policy; it’s a matter of taste whether you consider the current version better or worse than what Trump is doing, but it’s pretty bad either way. As far as Singapore is concerned, its government apparently does whatever it wants to suppress opposition, including censorship of media and imprisonment of demonstrators, among other kinds of human rights violations.

  210. Reza Says:

    Dear Scott,

    Thank you for standing up for this. “I believe the window is still open and this issue would be resolved in the coming weeks”.
    This might be impossible but I just want to ask a small favour of you. If you are in the admission committee, please do not let this executive order have a negative impact on the applicants from the designated countries.

  211. John Sidles Says:

    Boldmug (circa #130) “And the results of the modern theory are objectively terrible — gigantic wars, laden with the utmost brutality on every side, creating this giant bureaucratic world empire, now starting to rot all over the place, that we call the “international community.”

    Scott (circa #144) “You know, I actually like the modern world.”

    That estimable organization “Our World In Data” provides abundant objective evidence that (in a nutshell) Scott is right.

    After all, what’s not to like, in regard to well-run healthcare systems like Switzerland’s? Or happy citizenries like the Dutch? Or foresighted and long-memoried religious communities like the Quakers?

    Boldmug, don’t today’s alt-right dystopian bubble-dwellers remind you, in contrast, of the furious mobs of royalists who, for example, stoned Joseph Priestley’s house (thereby forcing Priestley and his family into exile), and who cannibalized (literally) Baruch Spinoza’s protector and patron Johan de Witt?

    What was up with those furious mobs? Whence the willfully ignorant and murderously unappeasible anger from royalists then and the alt-right now?

  212. Abel Says:

    Hoping links start to pop up soon to donate and generally give help to those getting stranded. This is madness.

  213. David Borhani Says:

    Shabnam, #185. How can you say the Iranian regime doesn’t hate or threaten Jews when they do things like repeatedly fire ballistic missiles with messages like “Israel must be wiped out” on them? https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/03/10/world/middleeast/irans-revolutionary-guards-stage-second-day-of-missile-tests.html

    Or sponsor Holocaust denial contests? Or routinely threaten Israel with 100,000 conventional missiles placed in Lebanon? http://www.tehrantimes.com/news/403897/100-000-missiles-in-Lebanon-trained-on-Israel-Iranian-commander Or bomb Jewish Community Centers? Etc.

    I have a Jewish Iranian friend who told of walking down the streets of Teheran, and how when it rained he was told by Iranian Muslims to cross to the other side, because the rain might wash the filth off the Jew and contaminate them.

    Regarding Jews in Iran’s (puppet) parliament, and Iranian Muslims believing they must rule all others: dhimmis and dar al Islam come to mind.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divisions_of_the_world_in_Islam

  214. Amir Says:

    Hi, I just read this beautiful post, and I want to thank you! As an Iranian academic who himself is hit by this, I am very thankful that you raise your voice against it, and reach out to your audience for support.

    I cannot express how unjust this executive order seems to me with my words, hence I want to share with you two photo filled links that speak for themselves to show why I think this is extremely unjust toward the Iranian people:

    https://theotheriran.com/category/usa/
    and
    https://theotheriran.com/tag/christians/
    I hope you enjoy and share these with people who villify Iranians without actually knowing them.

  215. Joe Table Says:

    This is kinda sad because I prefer the brightest Persian minds in the West rather than in some Muslim country.

    This suspension also may seem unnecessary since you have Hispanic and black violence that the Americans still have to solve and Muslim violence (such as the San Bernardino attack and the Boston Marathon bombing, these are the ones I can remember from the top of my head) is a minor thing in comparison. But then again you see how disastrous Muslim immigration is being to Europe and that might end up speaking louder to some regular Americans than some Persian scientists.

    Ok, I’m not American so that’s none of my business.

    Either way, if the worst happen and your Persian student and other Persian scientists have to leave America I hope they find another nice Western or maybe Oriental country to continue their lives if they so wish.

  216. amy Says:

    Thomas #207 – thank you for saying that about the technocratic vibe, and your rejoinder. I agree, and think it needed saying. And will no doubt need repeating.

  217. Scott Says:

    Thomas #207 and amy #216: I was going to argue with you about that “technocratic vibe” thing but … fuck it. The common enemy has, or should have, completely overwhelmed whatever piddling internal squabbles we on the left have.

  218. Scott Says:

    Reza #210:

      If you are in the admission committee, please do not let this executive order have a negative impact on the applicants from the designated countries.

    In the case of the UT CS department, I believe admissions decisions were finalized before the news came out. And I haven’t heard of any plans to change anything as a result.

  219. Bran Says:

    John Sidles #211:

    That estimable organization “Our World In Data” provides abundant objective evidence that (in a nutshell) Scott is right.

    We have technological progress in medicine, which Boldmug has acknowledged. (Though, if you account for infant mortality, historical mortality rates are actually not so bad.)

    However, you are failing to address Boldmug’s central claim: that we have a ratchet of technological progress inside a ratchet of social and political decay. No amount of technocratic triumphalism about technology and medicine is an adequate response to this claim.

    It is necessary to address the social and political decay thesis on its own merits, but this would quickly reveal the prevalence of received wisdom on that subject, because mathematically and technologically talented people tend to outsource their moral thinking (often to horrible ideologues who would persecute them if given a chance).

    Your examples of modern success are interesting ones. Switzerland, for all your admiration of its healthcare, is still relatively ethnically homogeneous, and it banned construction of new minarets on mosques in 2009, which is more extreme that anything Trump has proposed. Evidently, the Swiss know something that you and our host haven’t figured out yet.

    If moral progress is allowed to have its way, then Switzerland and the Netherlands will move on from their happy, homogeneous, racist pasts, and advance to the blissful state of France, Belgium, Sweden, and the UK, at which point they will enjoy events like the Paris attacks, Molenbeek, and the Rotherham scandal.

    As for the Quakers, we view them as basically normal enlightened people, because our values are descended from theirs. And now these descendants have low fertility rates: from Quaker to Shaker. If historical Quakers, Puritans, and other Protestants could see the consequences of their own ideas, they would have rushed off to Rome to kiss the Pope’s ring.

    If a historical Quaker could see modern progress, his only response would be “kill it! kill it with fire!”

    Someday it would be nice to see someone address arguments like Boldmug’s on their own merits, without constantly getting distracted by technological triumphalism. To pass the Turing test of him, and of Trump supporters, it is necessary to stop handwaving about some isolated metric in technology, medicine, or “GDP”, and take a critical look at moral progress and its darker social and political consequences (e.g. Rotherham, Paris attacks, crime, bureaucracy, democracy, culture wars, destruction of the family, and leftist ideological persecution, to name just a few examples).

    Modernity would be a much nicer place if those things weren’t problems, no? So if they seem to be problems, then this is evidence of problems with modernity. We need to update on those problems and see how far they go, but I don’t see people updating, I see handwaving, scoffing, and cognitive dissonance. Can’t we do better than this?

  220. Scott Says:

    James Cross #208:

      You are employed in Texas, right? Any fear that politicians are going to come after you?

    I doubt they will, but if they did, I could always move somewhere else.

  221. Scott Says:

    Aula #209:

      Why would you consider moving to Singapore, or even Australia?

    Well, everything’s a tradeoff. If the United States really is in the Germany 1933 situation that Trump’s daily edicts create the unmistakable impression of, then we’ll rapidly pass the point where I’d feel safer in either of those countries than I’d feel here. Maybe Canada or Israel are the more obvious choices, but academics can’t always predict in advance where they’ll have opportunities.

    Do you have other suggestions for countries to resettle in? Criteria: world-class quantum computing research, speaking English a plus. 🙂

  222. Random Variable Says:

    This whole sh*t started by Khomeini’s take over of Iran (with the blessing of Carter et. al—as now well-known from recently released US government documents) which de-stabilised the region since, and by the West arming and supporting the most backward factions in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. Following that almost every leader that came to power (both in West and Middle-East) contributed his own two cents of sh*t to this story. The escalation of this situation and the collision of interests of world powers will undoubtedly lead to a new world war (but by proxy) in the Middle-East.

  223. Mateus Araújo Says:

    Bran #219: Have you actually been to Switzerland? I have, several times. The country is not “relatively ethnically homogeneous”. Its extremely generous refugee policy led to more than one fifth of its population be made of foreigners, among which are particularly noteworthy Eritreans and Sri Lankans. And to say that its minaret ban is more extreme than Trump… you are clearly just trolling, there is no point in answering.

  224. Scott Says:

    Jerry #202:

      Bravo Trump

    Like, it would be one thing if your reaction were: “yes, I feel terrible, as surely we all do, for the Iranian students you know whose lives and careers are now in shambles … but nevertheless, let me explain to you why banning them from the US is the lesser of two evils, and is a geopolitical and national security necessity…”

    But instead your reaction is “Bravo Trump”? Or in other words: barely-concealed glee about these talented, peaceful scientists’ lives being ruined? What is it that happened in your childhood that caused you to be like that?

  225. John Sidles Says:

    Bran proclaims “We have a ratchet of technological progress inside a ratchet of social and political decay” [such that] if a historical Quaker could see modern progress, his only response would be “kill it! kill it with fire!”

    The Peace Congregations — the religious clade that includes the Collegiants, Anabaptists, Mennonites, Amish, Brethren, Shakers, and Quakers (and more) — retain painful collective memories of murderous persecution by royalists, and for this reason your comment’s fiery rhetorical imputations are historically implausible at the very least, and even grotesquely inappropriate, aren’t they?

    Shtetl Optimized readers are invited to follow the example of David Foster Wallace, and attend the services of any Peace Congregation, to verify for themselves the worth of Bran’s “fiery” rhetoric. 🙂

    Objectively speaking, too, the above-named “Our World In Data” organization amply documents sustained worldwide improvements, not only in global health, but also in levels of personal income, education, civil rights, freedom-to-travel, and most notably, deaths from violence (including war).

    Bran, surely you can appreciate why a great many people perceive in these trends little evidence of “a ratchet of social and political decay”? The prevalent response is rather “Let’s continue these welcome trends at the maximum feasible acceleration!” 🙂

    That’s why Scott’s comment (circa #144) is objectively right.

    In futher regard to the relevance of quantum research to broad progressive objectives, there was no shortage of advances reported at QIP 2017. For example, Garnet Chan’s marvelous invited lecture “Simulating quantum systems on classical computers” — which is an example of the sort of outstanding quantum research that hopefully Shtetl Optimized soon will return to discussing — provided concrete reason for an enthusiastic QIP 2017 audience to confidently foresee, with respect to the feasibility of sustained technical advances in service of global health, wealth, scholarship, civil rights, and peace, that “We ain’t seen nothing yet!” 🙂

    ———

    PS  Doesn’t the very real possibility that a researcher of the outstanding caliber of Prof. Chan, or any member of his family, might encounter visa problems, compellingly illuminate the harmful effects of the present administration’s egregiously foolish policies?

  226. Nick Says:

    If we stop looking at people as groups, and instead look at them as individuals, lot’s of issues drop by the wayside. It’s hard to murder a child, however it’s easy when when you look at a child as an “it” member of a group. This way we do not look at every memeber of the group as “good” or “bad” by their religion or color or national origin. This way if you behave as a civilized person I will treat as such, and if you behave as an ahole you will get appropriate treatement as well. I can hate the child raping, murderous jihadist without extending that feeling to all of Islam. The reverse is also true just because I respect civilized muslims dos not mean I can not call out those that wish to live by 13th century morality. This simple principle seems to be missing from the modern political discourse.

    Just 2 cents from another half literate immigrant.

  227. Mateus Araújo Says:

    I want to tell a story to more concretely illustrate why this is so revolting, and why it is bad for the US.

    I was in 2015’s edition of QIP in Australia, and in particular I was in the session where Krysta Svore presented her (well-received, and ultimately successful) bid to hold 2017’s edition of QIP in Seattle.

    In that same QIP in Australia, I saw a nice talk by an Iranian scientist, Salman Beigi, about the non-distillability of nonlocal boxes (arXiv:1409.3665).

    Now imagine that Krysta Svore had presented her bid today. The reaction would be simply “no, we cannot hold QIP in a country where some of our speakers are not allowed to go”.

    In fact, even then a guy complained that getting a visa to go to the US is a pain in the ass, and that we should hold QIP 2017 in Switzerland instead.

  228. JimV Says:

    Bravo to this post.

    There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to get Trump impeached, but I can’t think of much that seems effective. I’ve signed a lot of petitions, but they never seem to do any good. I have contributed, and will continue to contribute my money to the ACLU, Common Cause, Planned Parenthood, and some others. If there is a fund for displaced foreign students, let me know.

  229. Boldmug Says:

    John Sidles,

    Nothing like the military and paramilitary mass murders of the 20th century has been seen in Europe since early antiquity, and in Eurasia since Genghis Khan. Perhaps the Mfecane of South Africa can compete. In medieval Europe you will see isolated instances of democide — the Albigensian crusade, the sack of Magdeburg, various pogrommy things.

    But nothing like the industrial mass murders of which every side that fought in World War II was guilty. In the 20th century, 100-200 million people experienced murder by government. What statistics could possibly balance this? What seedless watermelons?

    And what statistics could measure the nuclear holocaust that didn’t happen because the right Russian dude was on duty one day? Optimism in this situation is naked insanity. We have left the 20th century, but we’re still ruled by its institutions.

    Yes, the wars ended, if only because one player won absolutely. Now we’re experiencing a few decades of peace at a dreadful long-term cost to the human race, the creation of a single global polity. Everywhere but at the core, peace is fraying into pure anarchy. This accelerated decay is what we’d expect in a global empire.

    One phenomenon we see rarely in civilized history is the close juxtaposition or even forced intermingling of humans living in an essentially civilized/governed lifestyle, and those living an essentially tribal/ungoverned lifestyle. It scarcely matters whether the latter are historic hunter-gatherer people, or “ferals” descended from civilized ancestors.

    In the late Roman Empire, for instance, as well as the usual Teutonic barbarians we see groups called “baguadae,” which seem to be both completely indigenous and highly barbarous. Bandit gangs, basically. Probably very similar to the gang structures we see in, for instance, Central America. And not only in Central America. These are parallel governments in a sense, but completely barbaric and informal in their organization.

    Phenomena you’ll see associated with this juxtaposition are (a) high rates of intrahuman predation, where urban areas become unsafe for the civilized by night or even by day; (b) mass population migrations due to concern for physical safety. Has anything like this ever happened in the world you live in, in the lives of those now living? It’s a highly pathognomonic symptom.

    A regime which cannot preserve the absolute physical safety of its subjects against systematic human predation is a sick one. It’s losing the essence of government: the absolute monopoly on violence. It’s probably in a late stage of political decay.

    Accelerated internal decay of various kinds (cultural, political, economic) is observed in regimes which become physically immune to external competition of a military or economic nature. As with a business, competition keeps a nation-state efficient and effective. I think this observation holds true in all eras whose history we know. And it suggests that our “American century” should age quite badly.

    That’s why, much as I regret the petty injustices and insults of the US’s ridiculous immigration system, I can’t help admire the sight of a changing regime which appears determined to actually enforce its own laws, and whose first priority is the interests and safety of its own population. It is not exactly the Scouring of the Shire. It won’t be. But after such hole-digging, I don’t mind a little filling in. I guess that makes me a Nazi, who deserves to be punched.

    (It would be nice to see the Trump administration work out a sensible peace with Iran. Statements “like the days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over” must come as pretty sweet music to the Islamic Republic, although they may still smell a little of the repentance of the newly-sober drunk.

    But honestly, it’s kind of ridiculous to have civilians traveling back and forth between two countries which are in a permanent state of semi-war. This was retarded in the Cold War and it’s retarded in 2017. There is no earthly reason at all why, especially in the age of the Trump-May Doctrine, the US can’t settle all its disputes with Iran. But if it can’t, it can’t.)

  230. Boldmug Says:

    *in Eurasia since Genghis Khan*

    No, that’s forgetting the Taiping Rebellion:

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

    I once heard string theory described as “a piece of 21st century physics that accidentally fell into the 20th.” The “Heavenly Kingdom of Peace” was a piece of 20th-century European history that accidentally fell into 19th-century China…

  231. Boldmug Says:

    “The basic idea is this: for those of our Iranian colleagues who wish to stay in the US, we can force the Trump thugs to literally drag them out kicking and screaming, creating a visual spectacle for the world. Like, imagine if Maryam Mirzakhani, the world’s first female Fields Medalist and a Stanford professor, were escorted onto a plane in handcuffs by ICE agents. How much play would that get on CNN? How many YouTube views?”

    I’m afraid the straightforward sentiment you’re describing here, which I can only read as *eminent scientists should be above the law*, will play very well on CNN and not very well at all among the deplorables.

    It’s unclear how someone who believes in democracy can simultaneously believe that Stanford should be above it. Or at least, above the law. Stanford is a very good university — well, like the curate’s egg, many parts of it are good — but above the law?

    Even when (as in this case) you are substantively right on what the government should do, asserting the power to implement this decision (either by ignoring the law, or by overriding it) is an assertion of sovereignty. Who then is Stanford accountable to? Why do we have elections at all?

    If you feel that a law has been violated, of course, sue. My understanding is that the law in this case is quite clear.

  232. Bran Says:

    Mateus Araújo #223

    Nonsense. Let’s take a look at Switzerland’s demographics.

    – 8.1 million people
    – 1.9 million permanent residents, but mostly from European countries (1.6 million) like Germany, Italy, and Portugal.
    – 80k African, 70k Turk, less than 1% each
    – Sri Lankans, who you mention, are 27k (0.3%)
    – 5% Muslim (keep in mind this includes European Muslim groups like Bosnians)
    – 70% Christian

    Switzerland is heavily European and Christian. It’s main diversity is between different groups of white Europeans. If you go back a decade, it would be even more white and Christian.

    Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries are often trotted out as evidence of success of democracy, healthcare, or socialism. Unlike the US, these countries have been highly ethnically homogeneous. As these countries get more diverse, and more Islamic, they have increasing levels of terrorism and instability. France, Germany, and Sweden are a good representation of where this is all going.

    As for the Swiss minaret ban, if Trump cracked down on minarets in the US, it would be viewed as a violation of religious freedom. That’s why I say that’s it’s more extreme than his approach.

    European countries have been coasting on their homogeneous European and Christian human capital, but now that this is changing, they are crashing and burning, yet our educated class responds to this with cavalierness and endless dishonest nitpicking. If they won’t address what is going in the world, then it’s no surprise when the lower-class masses—the ones who disproportionately bear the cost of social experiments and crime—take things into their own hands.

    Out of all the progressives who think that Trump’s supporters are “unthinking populists,” or something like that, how many of them have even heard of Rotherham and spent any time thinking about it? Because I can assure you that Bannon has spent a long time thinking about it, and Breitbart readers are quite aware of the disasters occurring in Europe. We are all living in two different realities.

    I realize this comment is going to inflame some people here, but if you feel like I am trolling, then perhaps this discussion is already too polarized. You guys are stunned by recent events: by the rise of Trump and his policies. You are trying to make sense of it. Several people in this thread are providing additional context, in which the worldviews of Trump, Bannon, etc… make more sense. Either you can appreciate that, consider it, and engage in a real dialogue with us, or you can double-down, shoot the messenger, accuse us of being in a bubble, and engage in tedious and off-base nitpicking.

    From the standpoint of your own goals, you either need to figure out how to crush Trump’s faction (attempts at which have catapulted him into the presidency), or you need to need to negotiate with it. Either way, you need to understand why the right believes what it believes. This is going to mean considering the criticisms towards open borders, free trade, and eventually yes, the Enlightenment. And it’s going to mean observing the actual consequences of leftist policies, which are galvanizing the right.

    Right now, essentially two halves of the the country can’t talk to each other because our educated classes consider it too icky to think through what the other side is saying—and because we have seedless watermelons. This situation is pretty dumb, isn’t it?

  233. JC004 Says:

    For those talking about “brain drain”, a simple question:

    How much could rejected perspective students and scholars contribute to their home country without being trained and mentored in U.S., or other leading nations of scientific research? This would only widen the intellectual and technological gap between U.S. and the third world.

  234. Daniel Seita Says:

    Great blog post, Scott.

    I just sent an email to the academic petition. What I like about this is that it actually lists the names of people so that concerns over duplicate or bogus signatures are mitigated. Sure, there’s a risk of being attacked because our names are on there but that’s a risk I’m willing to live with.

  235. Bill Says:

    Let me attempt to defend this.

    When you are a bully, you start by picking on the weak (Mexico, Iran) to send a signal to others to force them to take sides or submit. You see if other bullies (Russia, Israel) align with you. That’s why no Saudi Arabia on the list, it’s enough for now to send them a signal.

    Back to my point. Middle East is a mess, with countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia sponsoring terrorism, everybody hating each other, and all hating Israel. They behave like this while hiding behind powerful friends (US, Russia). If Trump manages to forge real alliance with Russia (which will automatically bring Israel and Turkey into the fold), and signals to everyone else that they are on their own, in my opinion, this might lead to real results sooner than you think.

    Of course, it is sad that so many people got caught in this cruel action, but without this cruelty and visible human suffering the signal would not be taken seriously.

  236. Clement Canonne Says:

    Regarding the Addendum: by “American academics,” do you mean “academics in America” or “academics who are American citizens”? I have seen these letters and calls to sign them everywhere, and want to do so: but am wondering whther having an alien signing would not actually be counterproductive, by making easier for the administration to dismiss the letter (“some of the people there are not even True Americans”).

  237. Craig Says:

    The holocaust analogy is obvious from the “First they came for”. This is a very unfortunate thing for Iranians who happen to be very nice people, the type of people that benefit America in many ways. I have never met an Iranian I didn’t like. But it is not a holocaust and it will not turn into a holocaust.

  238. Scott Says:

    Clement #236: I think you should sign it. Or at least, explain in the email and let the organizers of the petition make the call. (At least at one point, I remember that they had different categories of signatories, such as those directly affected, etc.)

  239. Scott Says:

    Craig #237: On the contrary, the Niemöller quote talks explicitly about socialists and trade unionists, who were never subjected to the same systematic extermination that the Jews were.

    And how do you know what this will become? The actual Holocaust didn’t start with a Holocaust, but “merely” with various executive orders restricting non-Aryans, which grew gradually further from civilized norms by the day.

    As it happens, I was just talking a couple hours ago with a son of a Holocaust survivor, who remarked on the parallels as well and thought it extremely important for people to understand them.

  240. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #231: No, I don’t endorse the proposition “eminent scientists should be above the law.” I do endorse some other propositions. For example: “regimes are judged by history in large part by how they treated their eminent scientists.” And: “if an injustice affects millions of people, but we need to pick a few to make the injustice more salient, then we might as well include eminent scientists, or others whose achievements make their value to the world and/or to the nation that hosts them beyond dispute.” Thus: Einstein for the Nazis, Sakharov for the Soviets, etc.

  241. lin Says:

    To those above talking about “supporting” American-born PhD students: as an American-born PhD student, the single best way to support me and improve my “qualifications” is to bring me the best classmates and teachers from all over the world for me to talk to and learn from. Obviously. Actually, I can’t really imagine what other kind of support you could be thinking of.

  242. Shabnam Says:

    David Borhani:

    Have you lived in Iran after Islamic revolution? I do not think so 🙂

    Khomeini + Khamenei + Ahmadinezhad are Trumps for Iran…

    What I told you based on living more than 20 years in Iran and trying to provide honest view with less personal bias (I know it is REALLY hard to be completely unbiased)

    The conservative part of government demonstrates hatred against Israel specifically, but not jews in general…

    Understanding their inhuman mindset is easy: Have control over minority groups because they can become a threat (It can be “ANY” religion or minority group!)

    Judaism & Christianity are among legitimate religions for them —although Islam is always better in their view!!!! 😉 …

    The only religious minority that they publicly express that is a fake religion is Bahai’—I am going to hate myself when I writing about their stupid, inhuman mindset… So sorry David!… 🙁

    Tehran is “pretty” a secular city and you can find “MANY” people who are welcoming and do not care what your religion is & also full of activists who “silently” support minorities…

    Go to a small city in US and tell them you are Iranian and observe
    how some of them react! I’ve been in Texas, trust me 😉 Their reaction may not be better than what your jewish friend observed.
    We get emotional over the injustice we experience in our personal life and we sometime “unconsciously” generalize…

    I am taking off from this post 😉

    Best wishes

  243. Kevin Van Horn Says:

    Why should any president have the power to unilaterally enact something like this? Shouldn’t it require an act of Congress?

    Trump’s predecessors have for decades been steadily expanding the powers of the presidency far beyond their Constitutional bounds. Bush and Obama were especially bad in this respect. And now you’re seeing what happens when you put too much power in one pair of hands.

    If you want to stop Trump, work on rolling back the imperial presidency. You will find that libertarians and Constitutional conservatives will be happy to join forces with you. You might even get a substantial minority of Trump supporters to join you, if you pitch it in nonpartisan terms.

    Here’s an example of what we need (minus the partisan rhetoric, which will just make it harder to get passed):

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/01/24/senator-and-congressman-introduce-restricting-first-use-of-nuclear-weapons-act-trump/

  244. Ikrom Says:

    Daniel #231: Normally I give very little data on the internet, my first post here I made with a wrong email address. But sorry to say, in this case sign petitions with your name, even if suppression comes from it. You might have to do worse things in the near future.

    Craig #237: The problem is that your current president said: “Why bother having nuclear weapons if you’re afraid to use them?” The (only) nice thing about Hitler was that he didn’t have atom bombs. You’ve got a president who denies certain ethnic groups their rights and who thinks water boarding as torture isn’t bad enough. Count one and one together and extrapolate into the future.
    In Germany it were also small things in the beginning like not being allowed to visit a park or use a tram. Compared to this not being allowed to return to your house is quite a big problem.

  245. Craig Says:

    There are absolutely no parallels between Trump and Hitler. The closest politician I can think of to Trump is Reagan. I remember back then that people treated Reagan with the same skepticism that they now treat Trump, although it is amplified with Trump because of the social media.

  246. Amir (Iranian) Says:

    Bill #235: I understand your argument but I think you are wrong.
    1. If it was really the point, they should have started with Saudi Arabia. There are more terrorists from there and they listen to US, while for Iran government it is only a tool for their propaganda machine, “You see U.S. is not only enemy of the government but Iranian people too.” (Though I am totally against banning Saudi Arabian students too, for me any policy must be ethical and judging some one based on his/hers mere nationality is not just)
    2. This will only lead to more hatred, most of the Iranian students are liberals, but ow they feel that they are the victims. If you want to send a signal to Iran regime do it, ban Iranian diplomats, sanctions anything which affects them. Do you really think Iran`s regime cares about Iranian students? They are happy about this decision. Now they will start to say that, you see US is really your enemy. Many liberal students may start to hate US even more.
    3. Managing an alliance with Russia, might help but US to control Iran by Russia`s help. But why US did not use its power to control Saudi Arabia in the first place? Because there are things that Saudi Arabia can`t or does n`t want to do. If you really want to stop terrorist from middle east, you must end this hatred. Saudi Arabian terrorists caused 9/11. why? because they hated US, o you really think banning Iranian students would end this hatred?
    4. Hitler had the same idea, cruelty might be necessary. He was a disgusting human and he was wrong. But you should be aware of dangers this argument might have. Every one seeks a better future, but if we accept minor casualties anything can happen. They came for people of these 7 countries and you call it necessary, if they came for you your voice cannot call it anything anymore. Do you really think they will stop by only this necessary cruelty?

  247. Begin Says:

    Craig #247 Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million hispanics. Trump pretty much gave amnesty only to himself ROFL.

  248. Mateus Araújo Says:

    Bran #232: Oh, so you think that all European Christians count as the same ethnicity? How enlightened of you! It is already a step forward from the Nazis, who thought that Slavs were subhuman scum, even though they were both White and Christian (but please don’t look to closely to the Slavs from the Balkans, otherwise you might conclude that they are not white enough for you). But even if you discount all European immigrants, Switzerland still has about 3% of its population made up from foreigners. If you want to count that as “relatively ethnically homogeneous”, be my guest.

    In fact, Switzerland illustrates very well a point about this foreigner-hatred if you look at the results of its referendum about immigration in 2014: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_immigration_referendum,_February_2014#/media/File:Anti-Einwanderungsinitiative_2014.svg

    You see that the big urban centres, Basel, Zürich and Genève, were all against restricting immigration, whereas the rural part of Switzerland was in favour. Funnily though, almost all immigrants go to the urban centres, not to the countryside, because there is where jobs are. This means that the Swiss that actually know foreigners personally want them to stay, whereas those that only hear about them in the media (probably some hate-propagator like Breitbart) want them to go.

    To blame foreigners for the actual problems happening now in the world (skyrocketing inequality, stagnant wages, job insecurity) is classical scapegoating. All of this is happening because of too few leftwing policies, not too much. Ditto for terrorism: the two most high-profile terrorist groups, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, were created as a direct consequence of the arming of the Mujahideen by the US, and the invasion of Iraq again by the US. Both policies were strenuously opposed by the left, if you remember.

    Look, if your goal is to fight terrorism and economic inequality I am on your side. You simply made a mistake in blaming this on foreigners, but we can talk about it. But if your goal is to have ethnically homogeneous countries,
    I don’t think there is any negotiation possible. To make this happen would cause untold suffering for millions of people, and goes against everything I believe in. I will fight against you with everything I have, and you will be defeated.

  249. Bill Says:

    Amir #246: Saudi Arabia is a US ally (Mexico too, but that’s a different story), so you don’t go after them directly. As I said, there is no logic to that, you just go after somebody weak. Also, Trump is not Hitler — “coming for Iranians” in this case is not the same as “coming for Jews” in Hitler’s case. This is not worse than, say, countries like Soviet Union or Iran not letting (all or some) of their citizens out.

    One more point I’d like to make. When adult countries (US, Europe, etc.) constantly entreat (childish) Middle Eastern countries to grow up and sort themselves out, in response they usually just throw hissy fits. Trump is creating an atmosphere of complete unpredictability and anxiety, which will be quite disorienting even to mullahs of Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is a human nature to crave stability and rationality, so now they themselves will have to create it instead.

  250. abcd Says:

    https://sethfrantzman.com/2017/01/28/obamas-administration-made-the-muslim-ban-possible-and-the-media-wont-tell-you/

    It was the US policy under Obama to restrict and target people “who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited government/military exceptions).” This was text of the US Customs and Border Protection in 2015 relating to “the Visa Waiver Program and Terrorist Travel Protection Act of 2015“. The link even includes the seven nation list in it: “Iraq, Syria, Iran, SUdan, Somalia or Yemen.” And the media knew this back in May 2016 when some civil rights groups complained about it. “These restrictions have provoked an outcry from the Iranian-American community, as well as Arab-American and civil-liberties groups, who say the restrictions on dual nationals and certain travelers are discriminatory and could be imposed against American dual nationals.”

  251. James B. Says:

    Would it be too much of a derail to ask a question about the comments here?

    This is the personal blog of a computer scientist; why so many racists?

  252. Franz Lemmermeyer Says:

    “I’m sure there were weeks, in February or March 1933, when the educated, liberal Germans commiserated with each other over the latest outrages of their new Chancellor, but consoled themselves that at least none of it was going to affect them personally.”

    Actually what the educated Germans (including Jews and Socialists) thought during the first months of the Nazi regime was that the government would eventually see the folly of its most radical political measures (like dismissing Jews from academia) and become more or less reasonable.

  253. Scott Says:

    Franz #252: Thanks for the clarification.

  254. Scott Says:

    James #251:

      This is the personal blog of a computer scientist; why so many racists?

    There’s some even worse stuff that I haven’t let out of the moderation queue.

    At the same time, this has been, by a factor of 15, the most shared post in this blog’s history. The responses from people I know, including my CS colleagues, have been unanimously supportive.

    The fact that we’re also seeing some hateful stuff can probably be explained by my extreme reluctance to use my power to censor comments, combined with Aaronson’s Law of Blogging: if you write a post saying 2+2=4, then whoever there is on earth who thinks it’s 5 will find the post, and will leave long screeds in the comments section.

  255. Clement Canonne Says:

    Scott #238: Thank you.

  256. Scott Says:

    Incidentally, John Sidles: in your decade of commenting here, you’re making more sense than you ever have before. Glad to have you here! 🙂

  257. Bill Says:

    If jews were committing acts of terror in, say, Jerusalem and Hitler banned all jewish refugees from entering Germany for a few months, then comparison of Trump with Hitler would be appropriate. Scott Aaronson, Peter Woit and others are overreacting as is typical for educated liberals who unconsciously project their intellectual and analytical abilities from their subject to all other areas of life. I am not a huge fan of Trump and I find this action stupid, but your overreaction is playing into Trump’s hands. When part of your argument is obviously silly, people will dismiss the rest. Except of course people you don’t need to convince.

  258. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #181: I’ll respond to some of your other points when I have time, but for now—

      And what an unkind comment about President Davis! As I always ask people when they drop this kind of virtue signal: have you ever read a book by a Confederate?

    Yes, actually. I read Slavery as a Positive Good by John C. Calhoun. I found the arguments there sort of pathetic, a letdown, as in: “so this is the best case that this immense losing side of human history has to offer for itself? seriously?”

    But maybe I simply wasn’t reading the right book. Mr. Yarvin, since you’re an acknowledged expert on this subject: which Confederate books should I read in order to find the truly solid and rigorous pro-slavery arguments? (Note that I’m not interested in defenses of the Confederacy that sidestep the slavery issue—only the real deal.)

  259. Aula Says:

    Scott #221: OK, let me ask you something. Suppose you were offered two jobs, both paying more than enough to support you and your family; one is doing cutting-edge QC research in Singapore, the other is teaching basics of CS to first year undergrads in some country that tries very hard not to violate the human rights of both citizens and non-citizens. It seems to me that any reason you could have for choosing the first of these jobs instead of the second would be selfish to the point of being immoral. So which one would you choose?

  260. Scott Says:

    Incidentally, Boldmug #181 and Bran #219: Yes, I’ve long had precisely the feeling of living my life in a ratchet of scientific progress that’s inside a larger ratchet of political decay. From where I stand, however, Trump’s election just enormously accelerated the decay. If science gets decimated in the near future because of events in the larger political ratchet, is there any serious doubt that Trump will be the cause?

  261. Raghu Says:

    Mr. Bran, try to make an argument that doesn’t involve your awesome Label-Maker 81116 (“progressives, educated classes, liberals, unthinking populists, liberals”).

    “European countries have been coasting on their homogeneous European and Christian human capital, but now that this is changing, they are crashing and burning, yet our educated class responds to this with cavalierness and endless dishonest nitpicking. If they won’t address what is going in the world, then it’s no surprise when the lower-class masses—the ones who disproportionately bear the cost of social experiments and crime—take things into their own hands.

    Out of all the progressives who think that Trump’s supporters are “unthinking populists,” or something like that, how many of them have even heard of Rotherham and spent any time thinking about it? Because I can assure you that Bannon has spent a long time thinking about it, and Breitbart readers are quite aware of the disasters occurring in Europe. We are all living in two different realities.”

    What does this “fact” have to do with the immigration order in its current incarnation? I thought the justification for the order was “national security” and not the added social burden of the immigrants. If so, then why single out immigrants from these countries? Is it because they are more of a burden than others? If so, what is the basis for this assessment? FYI, I knew about Rotterham. Does Rotterham have something do with this immigration order? Do you think people from the countries included in the ban are more prone to committing such atrocities?

    “Right now, essentially two halves of the the country can’t talk to each other because our educated classes consider it too icky to think through what the other side is saying—and because we have seedless watermelons. This situation is pretty dumb, isn’t it?”

    I totally agree “if one side things it too icky to even think through what the other side is saying” it is pretty dumb. But, if you think it is icky after thinking through and reasoning about the specific policy that has been proposed then that is pretty rational.

    I also wonder who the so called “educated classes” are here? Anyone with an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree, a Ph.D? From your description of their stubbornness and short-sightedness, I wouldn’t consider them educated at all – they look like people living in their own alternate reality with their own alternate facts.

  262. Candace Fuller Pfau Says:

    To David Borhani comment 173 Where is the date of that draft of executive order. Apparently this is the latest. http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/28/politics/text-of-trump-executive-order-nation-ban-refugees/index.html

    http://i2.cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/170127165801-trump-executive-orders-pentagon-0127-small-169.jpg

  263. Scott Says:

    Aula #259: Sorry, I just don’t see things the same way. Some of my best friends and colleagues work at the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore. Perhaps a year ago I visited them there, had a very nice time, and didn’t witness anything that looked like complicity in an act of oppression. Certainly I oppose many policies of the Singaporean government, but if living and working somewhere means fully (or almost fully) agreeing with the government, then there’s hardly anywhere for a person of conscience on the earth’s surface. I don’t think Singapore is anywhere nearly as bad as (say) Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even possibly the US as it will become under Trump.

  264. Disappointed European Says:

    @ Domotor, #34
    I suppose you do not listen what is happening the last couple of years in Europe?
    Most of the refugees are stuck in either Greece or Italy (the majority of which are Syrian, a country which is included in Trump’s new law) because most of European countries (including Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Re. etc) do NOT want any of those Syrian (or Muslim) persons in their (sometiems more sometimes less) homogenous society, going AGAINST a bunch of European decisions.

    So, I wouldn’t directly blame Scott if he excluded at least some part of Europe (which of course he did not!) since I do not see how that part of Europe behaves more than epsilon better than Trump’s madness.

    Shall I remind the huge fences that Hungary built on the borders with Serbia with some of Hungary’s MEPs even suggesting putting pig heads on them to scare Syrian refugees away?

    I am afraid that Europe (at least some part of it) is the last region to criticize Trump’s policies, unfortunately. Thankfully, not all Europe or Europeans behave with such hatred towards a subset of Trump’s new victims (and the most vulnerable one), so I guess there is some hope left. (But thinking that in NL, FR similar policies will probably follow, I don’t know if I’m a fool having even tiny hope..)

  265. Nick Read Says:

    Scott, thanks for this post and the helpful link to the petition

  266. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Every time you check the news, things have gotten more bizarre. Today, the CIA and Joint Chief of the military were replaced on the National Security Council by Trump’s son in law, and the white power nut from Brietbart News.

  267. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #240:

    Yes, when we look at history, it is a very interesting question to ask how a country treats its eminent scientists. But there remains another question: how do the eminent scientists treat their country?

    And how do the institutions that employ said eminent scientists (taking a *very generous* rake of their funding, I might add) treat their country? Imagine if someone thought of you as endorsing every intellectual and political activity that goes on at MIT. But that’s exactly the way successor regimes judge their predecessors.

    The powerful are used to judging. They are not used to being judged. When I look at this whole foofaraw, I see two things: a bunch of innocent victims of the usual Washington f*ckery (if you think Washington is normally f*cked, you’ve never seen it having to go about its business while actually trying to change its ways), and a giant media weapon whose use is simply, as usual, to make the powerful even more powerful.

    Let’s be real: which is stronger, the universities or the proles? West Virginia can take it in the tail for decades; if Berkeley (or worse, one of Berkeley’s pets) stubs a toe, it’s a monstrous violation of the Constitution and George Washington is spinning in his grave.

    Where are you absolutely positioned on a line segment whose length is 1? To answer this question is to ask: how much room would you have to move left? How much room would you have to move right?

    Berkeley can teach the Marines all about how to fight wars (which, the latest research tells us, can only be won with a sensitive grasp of intersectionality). Imagine if the Marines instead taught Berkeley how to socialize 18-year-olds.

    So not only are you listening to only one side of this power dynamic. You’re listening to by far the most powerful side.

    It’s like attending a divorce-court hearing in which you hear only the husband’s story. If the lawyer is any good, out comes an eloquent and convincing picture is painted of this awful person, his ex-wive, and her awful deeds which are awful to the core.

    Generally if you get to sit through the whole divorce hearing, you will come away with the realization that both spouses are awful people who come awfully close to just deserving each other. This is an illusion too, of course.

    Probably you’ve heard of Julian Benda’s classic _La Trahison des clercs_, from the ’20s. 1000 people have heard the title for everyone who’s read the book, which is not as you might expect from the title a straightforward Bircher-style anti-egghead rant. But I recall it still being quite perceptive.

    The “treason of the clerics” situation is an incredibly dangerous political signal. As in a divorce situation, generally when the clergy are treating the laity badly, the laity are also treating the clergy badly. The causality is hard to work out and in general irrelevant to solving the actual problem.

    All European and European-derived civilizations without exception have four basic social roles: merchant, soldier, priest, and manual laborer. Societies which become dominated by their priest classes, theocracies basically, tend to be overthrown in titanic and horrible orgies with massive amounts of indiscriminate monk-slaughtering.

    Russo, for instance, pins the intellectual death of Alexandria on Ptolemy VIII, of whom it was written: “He expelled all intellectuals: philologists, philosophers, professors of geometry, musicians, painters, schoolteachers, physicians and others.”

    This is someone in 120BC writing about 145 BC. Sounds a lot like the evil Drumpf, doesn’t it? Ptolemy VIII ceded his kingdom to Rome. The Museum basically gathered dust for another half millennium and then was burned either by the Christians or the Muslims, or possibly both.

    No one has come down to explain to us how, exactly, before Ptolemy VIII the Alexandrian intellectuals were shitting all over the Alexandrian non-intellectuals. But I’m sure it was something.

    A more proximate case of this is the Russian Revolution, which arose from a situation in which all the world’s intellectuals, with very few exceptions even inside Russia, despised the old regime and equated “progress” with “democratic revolution.” The Russian situation was a vicious cycle: the attitude of the intelligentsia drained all the brains out of the old regime, which led it to imitate the hostile stereotype put forward by its enemies.

    The result, of course, was the death of not only hundreds of millions of innocent people, but pretty much all the Russian intelligentsia. So… even if your commitment to scientific tribalism is complete, and I’m not faulting you for that, I think there are sound ethical reasons not to contribute to the virtue-signaling.

  268. Daniel Seita Says:

    Ikrom #244: I’m not sure I understand your comment. Yes, I did happily sign the petition; my names not up there, presumably because the non-professors list has to wait far longer to update.

    Scott #254, wow, really? A factor of 15? 🙂 I thought nothing could have beat the unjustified shaming campaign you had to go through but I’m glad there’s a new leading post for this blog.

    PS: If I understand things correctly, you “keep things in the moderation queue.” Why not just delete them permanently?

  269. anondergrad Says:

    Scott #254: Really? This post has been 15 times more shared than “comment 171”?
    (Incidentally, I’m intrigued – how are you measuring how shared it was?)

    Scott #256: Just wanted to say that this was highly amusing to read. 🙂

  270. anondergrad Says:

    P.S. And I see now that Daniel beat me to the punch with asking about the factor of 15… 🙂

  271. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #267: So your unparalleled historical erudition, which was looking for precisely such things, failed to turn up any evidence of Alexandria’s intellectuals shitting all over its non-intellectuals (in order to provoke Ptolemy’s expulsion of the intellectuals), but you assume that must have happened regardless? Do you realize how circular this seems to someone not marinated in your worldview?

    My experience has been that bullies don’t need any justification to make life miserable for nerds. Why should I imagine things were different in 145BC?

  272. Scott Says:

    Daniel #268, anondergrad #269: Generally, people share something on Facebook in order to signal their support for it. So for example, I believe Laurie Penny’s essay about me got about 20,000 shares, while my own thoughts not surprisingly got a smaller number (but did get hundreds of people emailing me privately to express gratitude).

    Before now, I think my records were my gay marriage and Busy Beaver number independent of ZFC posts, which got about a thousand shares each. This one has so far gotten 15,000.

  273. amy Says:

    Scott, do you know Ed? (I haven’t read this yet; for all I know he’s quoting you)

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/01/trumps-immigration-ban-is-already-harming-americas-scientistsand-its-science/514859/?utm_source=atltw

  274. amy Says:

    🙂 And indeed he is. Nevermind.

  275. Scott Says:

    Also, Boldmug #267: I consider my intellectual tradition to be that of (the early) Bertrand Russell, who visited the Soviet Union shortly after it was founded and wrote a scathing critique of what he saw, breaking with his friends in the British intelligentsia and correctly predicting much of what would happen later. If you peruse the archives of this blog, you’ll find me constantly getting into arguments with people who, in my view, belong to the intellectual tradition that fell for the Soviet line and would fall for it again.

    In my view, there are at least two overwhelming reasons to oppose Communism: its own inherent badness, and the fascism that it inevitably provokes on the other side.

    (Likewise, in response to an earlier comment above: I wrote an unequivocal condemnation here of the PC attitudes that had allowed Rotherham, well before the white nationalists who use Rotherham as their rallying cry had taken over the world. It amazes me when people can’t see that the effort to cover such things up is not only immoral, but will inevitably lead to a monstrous, cataclysmic backlash.)

  276. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #258:

    Calhoun isn’t a Confederate; he died in 1850. You still get mad props for actually having performed something like this exercise! But I would not recommend _Slavery as a Positive Good_ (which I haven’t read) or in fact almost any work of period political rhetoric.

    Such a work is public propaganda that’s designed to impress the audience of its time. If you want to read propaganda from 1860s, that’s an interesting exercise, but again, read both sides; and bear in mind that whether it’s coming from the North or the South, it will generally sound batsh*t as f*ck. Especially as the war nears.

    Compare Seward’s “higher law” speech to Wigfall’s departure speech from the Senate. They’re both extremely relevant today. Bear in mind that these men delivered this kind of rhetoric from memory without teleprompters, and would have laughed at a “statesman” who had someone else write his speeches:

    http://history.furman.edu/~benson/docs/seward.htm
    https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth498862/

    But parsing reality out of political propaganda is an advanced exercise. If you don’t know what’s actually going on it’s hopeless. The one thing you need to understand a period is a sensitive, informed and realistic voice you can actually trust. You won’t find this in works of a basically rhetorical character.

    The most important corrective fact to the 21st-century understanding of the period is that in a sense, we’ve adopted the Confederate theory of the war. That is: we think of the war as a great military crusade against slavery.

    If you espoused this theory in a bar in Atlanta in 1861, they’d buy you another beer. If you did that in Chicago, you’d get punched in the mouth. If this is not obvious to you, you had probably best refrain from weighing in on the argument between Atlanta and Chicago. Why do you think the Emancipation Proclamation was controversial?

    The way I try to explain the war is like this: at the time, Boston (as is its wont) was convulsed by a number of moral crusades. Slavery was not the only target — two others were polygamy and drink. Maine, which was to Massachusetts as Afghanistan is to Pakistan, had already abolished the Demon Rum. The US had also sent an army to Utah to intimidate the Saints into giving up polygamy.

    To understand the objective causal role of slavery in the conflict without overloading your emotional receptors, replace slavery with alcohol. Shall the Territories be wet or dry? Is drinking doomed with the progress of society, or will bourbon spring eternal in Kentucky?

    Before the beginning of the conflict, about 1830, the South had a general distaste for slavery and was moving toward abolition. Virginia almost passed an abolition resolution.

    But what moderns can’t understand, because we’ve lost almost all our political reflexes, is that the South found it intolerable to be *forced* to change its laws and customs by the alien North. If the dispute had been over alcohol, you’d see easily that the specific question of drinking laws is secondary to the much more relevant political question of *who makes the laws*.

    If Boston can ban multiple wives in Utah and the gin-and-tonic in Charleston, it can ban anything anywhere. To the South, the question was simply whether Boston would rule Charleston, and impose its own prejudices and beliefs on Southern society. The question was not symmetrical, because (contrary to the “Slave Power” conspiracy theory of the time) Charleston never had any idea of conquering Boston.

    Moreover, the abolitionists in Boston were a small minority in the overall population of the North. Most of the North, and certainly the Northwest, fought not out of proto-humanitarianism, but out of nationalism. It was explicitly about power for them.

    And to the extent that it was about issues, an “antislavery man” as opposed to an “abolitionist” hated African-Americans about as much as he hated slavery. This seems like a contradiction to us, but it’s really quite straightforward if you think about it.

    This is why Southern polemicists used to say that “slavery was the occasion of the war, not the cause of the war.” Again, if we replace the devil slavery with the demon rum, we see clearly that Lewis Carroll is right as always. “The question is who is to be master, no more.”

    Also note that if you do take the Confederate theory and view the Civil War as a public-policy initiative whose goal was to improve the lives of African-Americans, how’d that actually work out for them? By some estimates, about a quarter of black Americans died during or after the war, and de facto agricultural slavery had been reimposed by the 1870s. No one from the slave narratives speaks well of the late 1860s or 1870s — to say the least.

    Similarly, WWII was neither a policy designed to help the Jews, nor a policy that was effective in helping the Jews. When success as defined in hindsight is neither the intended goal of a policy, nor the actual outcome of a policy, it seems hard to describe that policy as prudent, no?

    Actually, you will not find anyone before either war who is arguing for any such crusade — except for a few radicals like John Brown. Yet it happened, and so had to be retconned into something that seems like it might have been a good idea.

    The best period history of the Civil War I know is that of George Lunt, actually a Massachusetts man who published this work in Boston in 1865. Carlyle linked me to it. I know nothing about Lunt, except that he had to have his pants specially altered so he could walk around with watermelons in his underwear:

    https://archive.org/details/originoflatewart00luntge

    This is straight-up history in the style of Thucydides. For a more personal memoir, I really like John Wise, the son of the Virginian governor Henry Wise who hanged that original American terrorist, John Brown. He wrote this in 1901 and it still reads quite well:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=mgITAAAAYAAJ

    Finally, the great unknown classic of the period is Edgar Lee Masters’ biography of Lincoln, written in the ’30s, _Lincoln the Man_. Masters was from Illinois and knew many people who’d known Lincoln. Imagine if a country’s leading poet wrote a biography of its founding revolutionary hero, it wasn’t a positive biography, it was almost banned, and 80 years later basically no one has read the book.

    On slavery: I honestly do not think any 19th-century writer can speak to the 20th-century mind well enough to explain slavery. The closest you might get could be George Fitzhugh, a wonderful writer who was basically the Confederate Hunter S. Thompson. But it’s still hard.

    Instead I would recommend three sources: (1) Eugene Genovese’s _Roll, Jordan, Roll_ (from the 70s, Genovese was a Marxist at least when he started writing this), which is long and not online; (2) the FDR-era slave narratives, which are online and long (but unedited, so you can sample randomly and it’s actually random); and (3) Robert Nozick’s _Tale of the Slave_, which is short and online:

    https://www.amazon.com/Roll-Jordan-World-Slaves-Made/dp/0394716523

    https://www.loc.gov/collections/slave-narratives-from-the-federal-writers-project-1936-to-1938/about-this-collection/

    http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/nozick_slave.html

    Nozick is a little coy about his conclusion, which is simply that if the word “slavery” means anything, it just means “government,” except on a small scale. Slavery is microgovernment. As with all government, the extent to which it sucks depends on who’s in charge.

  277. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #271:

    We know almost nothing of the Hellenistic period. We have tiny patches of history in a great expanse of darkness.

    So, I’m just applying Bayes’ theorem. My prior is that in every political conflict I know of, shit is flowing in both directions.

  278. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #275:

    Bertrand Russell in his long, long, long life went back and forth, like a drunk achieving periodic sobriety. He also issued the following statement on the death of Ho Chi Minh:

    “President Ho Chi Minh’s selfless pursuit of Vietnamese independence and unity for over half a century made him both the father of the nation and a leading architect of the post-colonial world. At home his leadership and massive popularity were unquestioned. Abroad he symbolised the struggle for independence of small nations in a world dominated by great powers. There are very few heads of state whose death will cause such sorrow in all continents. I feel this sorrow myself for I greatly admired him and felt him to be my friend.”

    Your whole worldview is based on the belief that there are two separate things, “Communism” and “liberalism.” Or maybe three things, “Communism,” “socialism,” and “liberalism.” Or maybe infinitely many shades of overlapping nuance, which prevents any label at all from being fair. Are you familiar with Occam’s razor?

    For example, suppose I were to say: “it’s unfair to blame the Holocaust on fascism. First of all, the Holocaust was committed by Nazis, and not every fascist is a Nazi. Second, it was actually enacted as a wartime military secret by a small (less than 1000) group of radical, extremist SS-men. Most Germans and most Nazis never heard about the Holocaust, or heard only rumors they would have had no reason to trust, and they never would have approved of the mass murder of Jews as a public policy.”

    These facts are historically true. But I would not make this argument. In my mind, as in yours, the Holocaust is inextricably connected with the SS, the Nazis, the fascists, right-wing extremism in general, right-wing politics in general, and so down to Jeb Bush.

    The connection to Jeb Bush is pretty weak, but it’s real. So is the connection between Hillary and Stalin — and it’s a hell of a lot closer. But we tend to not be very lenient toward, say, someone in Vichy France whose “opposition” to the Holocaust was that he didn’t believe the Jews should be killed, only deported to Madagascar. This is roughly the position of Bertrand Russell, reflected in the left/right mirror.

    If someone told you that “real fascism has never been tried,” you’d laugh at them, because you’d recognize the use of No True Scotsman and the flouting of Occam’s Razor. Fascism is being artificially divided into two categories, good and bad, in order for good-fascism (say, Salazar in Portugal) to be separated from Hitler. So the problem isn’t rightism or fascism. It’s Hitlerism. This is the use of the word “Stalinism” in 20th-century liberal discourse.

    We just can’t get anywhere in discussing 20th-century history if we persist in little idiocies like this. The Right is responsible for the White Terror, the Left is responsible for the Red Terror. There are no other options, so let’s man up and figure out how to not do it again…

  279. Chelsea V Says:

    Trump’s ban is also preventing an MIT undergraduate from returning here – there’s a petition now:

    https://thetech.com/2017/01/29/immigration-order-blocks-students-from-mit

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/bring-niki-mossafer-rahmati-current-mit-student-iran-back-us

  280. Baruch Says:

    You can also help by:

    1. Contributing to the National Iranian American Council to help pay for lawyers. https://www.niacouncil.org/

    2. Calling your member of Congress. This is especially effective if you are not of Iranian/Iraqi/etc background. The congressional offices do weigh these facts.

    Thanks Scott for bringing light to this important issue.

  281. amy Says:

    You guys are getting awfully fancy about mobsters. Are you sure that’s a reasonable thing to do?

  282. Begin Says:

    Scott:

    You ask train international students. How much money would it bring in?

    That is the point. \$\$ is made in US and \$\$ is reserve currency. Trump understands this well. To make everything in USA means only one way out. End the reserve currency and bring the Gold standard. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY BECAUSE OF THE TRIFFIN DILEMMA.

    What you see is just the beginning. If USA goes off the Gold standard it is all over. Immigration and Slavery is just the least we need to worry about even for a white man’s burden. We are talking of a new WW.

  283. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #278: According to Ray Monk’s biography, what happened late in Russell’s life is that his personal secretary, Ralph Schoenman, started issuing proclamations in Russell’s name praising every tin-pot murdering Communist dictator he could find, and Russell was too weak or too senile to put a stop to it. But, yes, notwithstanding the senility, this is a permanent stain on Russell’s name, and is the reason why I specified the early Russell.

    But there is a philosophy that the early Russell believed in, and that I believe in too, that’s a relative neither of fascism or Communism but is consistently against both. You can call this philosophy “classical Enlightenment liberalism” if you want, but the name doesn’t matter much: what’s important is that it’s the philosophy whose overriding obsessions are free speech, a free press, democratic norms, equal treatment under the law, checks on those in power, the possibility of being wrong, the importance of facts and reason in public discourse, and respect for science (not this or that perversion of science but the real thing). To varying degrees, this was the philosophy of Spinoza, J S Mill, the founders of the US, and the abolitionists. And I think this philosophy, and the other things it enabled, have been responsible for nearly all the improvement of the human condition that there’s been in the past 400 years, while as far as I know, being responsible for zero of the atrocities. I recommend it.

  284. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #283:

    “Classical enlightenment liberalism,” ie the “Arab Spring,” applied in the last four years to the Middle East, started a civil war that has killed about a million people. And Egypt barely escaped political destruction at its hands, which would have made the Syrian war look like a snowball fight.

    As Cromwell put it: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

    Why not evaluate this philosophy objectively by its results — not by its ideas or by its objectives, which don’t matter, but by its actual impact on physical reality, which does?

    Suppose our “classical Enlightenment liberalism” is a drug, applying for FDA approval. If it fails this approval, why convince anyone to believe it?

    Nows, there is no instance anywhere or anywhen of this drug being applied without significant acute morbidity. Even in the fall of the Soviet Union, even in the American Revolution, there is serious social morbidity. Standards of civilization are lost that seem unlikely to be regained. The quality of government as administered by the new regime is visibly lower in many ways. Did the American Revolution result in… lower taxes? Uh huh.

    And these are the good outcomes! More frequently, as in France in 1789 and Russia in 1914, we see enormous clinical disasters. The patient is rushed to the ER and is lucky to only lose a leg. Or dies a month later, of sepsis. Sure, it’s the sepsis that killed him, not the drug. Tell that to the FDA.

    The excuse given for these disasters is always as farcical as that. Russia and France and Syria have two revolutions, not one. The first revolution is the good one. The second, which usurps it, is bad. Sure, but you couldn’t have the second without the first. It’s like saying that the cure for stage II melanoma is stage I melanoma. And Occam’s razor is nowhere to be seen.

    It certainly helps that the impact of democratic revolution on the Anglosphere has been weaker than its impact on the rest of the world. Most diseases exhibit the strongest resistance in the area of their origin. And a poison that makes you sick, but kills your enemy, is an excellent and devilish weapon.

    And yet, how can we dispute the acute impact? Despite being stricken by all these revolutions and civil wars, Anglo-American civilization has gone to the moon, split the atom and conquered the world. Somehow, the acute measurable impact of each of these revolutions is negative, but their unmeasurable net impact is positive. Uh huh.

    I value accurate predictions about out-of-sample data — how about you? If Dostoyevsky predicts that democracy in Russia will be a disaster, and Tolstoy predicts that it’ll be great, and it’s a disaster, Dostoyevsky is validated and Tolstoy is discredited.

    Isn’t this also the way the FDA thinks? But does it seem to you as if our classically Enlightened liberalism actually worked that way?

    The trouble is basically that sovereignty is conserved. If you try to design a political system that discards some element of sovereignty, like the right of the state to promote truth and suppress error, a parallel, informal state will rush into this gap and fill it.

    Since control over information is incredibly powerful in the age of broadcast media, this parallel state will become the strongest organ in the actual government. It will be completely irresponsible and unaccountable, since it’s not even part of the official state. But there is no political, economic, or intellectual check on its operations. Once again, sovereignty is conserved.

    This sovereign information-delivery system naturally assumes the religious imperiousness we expect from an intellectual sovereign. It is also disorganized, centerless and leaderless, which means there is no possible way for it to feel pity or shame. Sound familiar?

    There is no way to disestablish religion. It’s just an unsolvable engineering problem. If the state disavows its religious authority, all it’s doing is disavowing control over that authority. Which leaves said authority in a perfect position to control the state. So the nominal objective of separating church and state leads naturally to the theocratic state. This is not a new phenomenon in Anglo-American history.

    Even if you don’t care about quality of government, but just about quality of thought, putting the church in charge of the state — ie, the nerds in charge of the jocks — has a nasty effect on quality of thought. Thought is distorted not by the repulsive force of a fascist jock state that discriminates against nerds, but rather by the attractive force that offers free power to power-craving nerds.

    The state which disavows religion is basically a flawed engineering structure that’s leaking power. The power leak has a horrific evolutionary effect on the nerd population, basically favoring sniveling, student-government weasels over good sensible open-minded people. Noticed anything like this around you? Anyone? Bueller?

    This is only one of many reasons why humanity flourishes under leaders who unite both nerd and jock qualities, ie, true aristocracies, and has serious difficulties when these qualities are opposed or even just divided.

    The late Roman Empire had a bizarre system of separation between political and military bureaucracies, specifically designed to prevent the creation of any Scipios or Caesars. The result was an empire operated by a coalition of fops and boneheads. Not a good look — and we’re not that far from it.

    As for what you *believe in*, I believe these qualities are also fine and good and true. But qualities of government don’t come from wishes and unicorns. They are produced by political machines, which have to obey the laws of political engineering — as laid down not by Spinoza and Mill and Jefferson, but Aristotle and Machiavelli and Hobbes.

    Take free speech. Free speech is much easier to implement under an “absolute” regime that doesn’t leak power — for one thing, if the state has no reason to care what you think, it has no reason to censor you. And its official religion can just be science and truth; since you don’t vote, it has no motivation to delude you. And aren’t you already pretty done with “populism”, anyway?

    (In my mind, the #1 resource for learning to think in this way is James Burnham’s _The Machiavellians_. This is a summary of the Italian School of political science, whose leading figures are Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca. Mosca is in my view a sort of lost Darwin of 20th-century political science.)

  285. Boldmug Says:

    Also, I just want to point out that “being responsible for zero of the atrocities” strikes me as a nearly perfect example of No True Scotsman.

    To divide leftism, or fascism, or anything, into good-leftism and bad-leftism, then point out that only bad-leftism commits atrocities, is a casuistry that would embarrass a Jesuit.

    The case would be stronger if we didn’t see extensive social and intellectual interpenetration between the “good” and the “bad” ones. Are they actually causally connected? Are they basically the same people, the same circles of friends, of institutions? Well… hey, did you read this? It’s super good:

    https://status451.com/2017/01/20/days-of-rage/

    For most of the 20th century, the American left was quite successful in maintaining the preposterous fiction that there were actually two completely separate lefts, a nice one and a nasty one. Frequently the nice one would hint at the threat of the nasty one, as in RFK’s line that “the only substitute for violent revolution is peaceful revolution,” or MLK’s “riots are the language of the dispossessed.” Yeah, sure, whatevs, I recognize that language.

    But in 2016, come on. Imagine you were at Facebook, and you were programming an algorithm to tell from the social graph whether someone was a Hillary voter or a Trump voter. Easy as pie! Now, try to tell whether someone is a Hillary voter or a Sanders voter… almost impossible. And everyone goes to the stupid International ANSWER rallies. There is one Left. Come on.

    It’s true that the Left is not currently shooting people in the back of the neck. (Although it has started to punch, apparently.) Usually winning ameliorates its crimes, whereas losing exacerbates them. So it might get interesting.

    Moreover, the historical institutions of goodleftism that rule the world today are hopelessly contaminated by their past diabolical collaboration with badleftism. For goodness’ sake — the UN was founded by Alger Hiss, and the IMF by Harry Dexter White! Imagine if, say, Interpol was the pet project of Himmler.

  286. Bran Says:

    Scott: I have a post that seems to be stuck in the spam filter.

    Mateus Araujo #248:

    Yes, Switzerland is ethnically homogenous in the sense of being European, but diverse in subgroups of Europeans. Overall it is much more homogenous than the US.

    As for the terrorist backlash to the neocon agenda and antagonization of the Middle-East, I agree. But if you have made people sufficiently mad at you to want to commit terrorism, then why should you bring those people into your country? This seems like a bad idea. If you owe them anything, perhaps you can give them aid in their own countries.

    Raghu #261:

    You ask what the Rotherham mass child-rape scandal has to do with Trump and Bannon’s immigration policy. Is it really that hard to connect the dots? They believe that mass immigration from Muslim countries had negative externalities, judging from the events in Europe. I elaborated on this in another comment which is stuck in the spam filter.

  287. Bill Says:

    “Nothing crushes state save novelty. Change alone provides the mould for injustice and tyranny. When some part works loose we can prop it up; we can resist being swept away from our original principles by the corruption and degradation natural to all things. But to undertake to recast such a huge lump, to shift the foundations of so great an edifice, is a task for those for whom cleaning means effacing, who seek to emend individual defects by universal disorder and to cure illnesses by death, ‘non tam commutandarum quam evertendarum rerum cupidi’ [yearning not so much to change as to overthrow the constitution].” Michel de Montaigne.

  288. Trump's Immigration Ban Is Already Harming American Science – The Atlantic | E-Radio.US Says:

    […] says Saeed Mehraban, an Iranian Ph.D. student who is working on quantum computing at MIT, and is currently in Austin visiting his advisor. “I’m just taking a domestic flight from Texas to Boston, and I’m still scared they may do me […]

  289. Begin Says:

    “All international students in this country have been getting free education untill 22”

    Is this true????? can I apply for refund?

  290. Bran Says:

    (Still have a post that is detained in the spam filter. If you could liberate it, I would appreciate it.)

    Scott,

    What about the French Revolution? The Terror? Was the French Revolution not the logical consequence of Enlightenment philosophy? The Terror? Or do we say that the Enlightenment has never been tried?

    Modern nerds are brought up to believe that the Enlightenment is the best thing since sliced bread, and they heavily invest their self-image in it. But if you were to ask observers such as Henry Maine, Joseph De Maistre, or Thomas Carlyle, they would not have such a rosy view of the Enlightenment.

    For their perspective, it would look as is popular government turned the world upside-down. The French Revolution. The Napoleonic Wars. Nationalism (remember, nationalism was a left-wing concept joined at the hip to the Enlightenment ideas about popular sovereignty and the leader ruling for the benefit of “the people” in “the nation”). Total war and nationalism destroy Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Communism, with it’s own terror. If you compare communism and Nazism to the French Revolutionaries and Napoleon’s regime, you will notice an amazing amount of parallels.

    From the anti-Enlightenment standpoint, it was popular government, “rights” and “liberty” which opened this Pandora’s box of chaos. From this standpoint, the Enlightenment has a lot of blood on its hands. And these same ideals are justifying policies that result in mass sexual violence such as in Rotherham. All of this stuff is cladistically connected.

  291. Scott Says:

    Begin #289: Obviously, he meant that his undergrad education was paid for in Iran, so was “free” from the US’s standpoint.

  292. I have a fear... Says:

    I am reading the press and came to the conclusion that almost all MIT students are Iranians that are trapped in some airports worldwide…

    Trump was democraticaly elected by tens of millions of voters. It is more important to keep USA democratic. The 20 or 30 or 1000 students from the middle east WILL eventually find their way back to the states as the ban will not last for ever.

    The elite that coordinates the media and legal attack on Trump is responsible for the total destruction of their countries anyway.

    If they succeed on overthrowing him say goodbye to the democracy in the US for ever.

  293. Keith McClary Says:

    Trump is just making America’s immigration and refugee policies more like Israel’s. I don’t think Israel has changed since the days of “Plan Dalet”, the “1947 Czechoslovakia Arms Purchase” and the “Deir Yassin massacre”.

  294. Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Already Harming American Science – A World With Trump Says:

    […] says Saeed Mehraban, an Iranian PhD student who is working on quantum computing at MIT, and is currently in Austin visiting his advisor. “I’m just taking a domestic flight from Texas to Boston, and I’m still scared they may do me […]

  295. Trump's Immigration Ban Is Already Harming American Science – The Atlantic – Global News Says:

    […] says Saeed Mehraban, an Iranian Ph.D. student who is working on quantum computing at MIT, and is currently in Austin visiting his advisor. “I’m just taking a domestic flight from Texas to Boston, and I’m still scared they may do me […]

  296. quax Says:

    This is but another move in an ongoing pattern of Trump escalating his positions and actions. He now also put Steve Bannon on the National Security Council and removed moderating voices from it.

    I am all for reviving the D-Wave controversy, it was great fun, and I am still a fan, but seriously folks, these are trifles in comparison to what is transpiring.

    Lives are on the line, and there is every indication to expect much worse to follow.

    (Scott, take this out if you feel like it: To “I have a fear” #292 – it’s empty headed conspiracy nuts like you who got us here: FU)

  297. Amir Soleimani Says:

    I would like to express my best gratitude to you for this great post.

    A Prospective PhD Student from Iran who seeks to study in US

  298. Boaz Barak Says:

    #292, you have a very strange view of what it means to “keep the U.S. democratic”. The legal system, freedom of the press, and the freedom to peacefully protest, are essential parts of democracy.

    One thing that people, particularly those in tech can do, is to make it very clear to technology companies that they expect them to not cooperate with this administration.

    In particular, I just deleted my Uber account, because their CEO is on president Trump’s economic council, but I think what would really cause Uber to reconsider its relationship with Trump is if it hurts them in recruiting talent.

    I don’t think people at Uber have to quit, but if you are debating on a job offer between Uber and another company, think twice if you really want to be in a company that will be associated not just with the actions that Trump took in his first week, but also with whatever he will do in the 200+ weeks he has remaining in office.

  299. Mateus Araújo Says:

    Bran #286: Maybe you could subject refugees from these countries to a 2-year long vetting process? You know, like Obama did, with a 100% success rate? Or require visitors to hold either a green card or a valid visa, like in every civilised country in the world?

    Getting a US visa is no trivial matter. They check your whole life, and demand proofs for everything. I’m speaking with personal knowledge of the subject.

  300. nad Says:

    His original plan, to do a postdoc in the US after he finishes his PhD, now seems impossible (since it would require a visa renewal).

    When I was in the US in 2002/2003 I had also problems to pursue a postdoc there. That is the math department of UMass Amherst had already agreed to give me a full postdoc position, but before I got the treaty a budget freeze made that impossible. Me and my family went home to Germany. The budget freeze was probably due to the invasion of Iraq, a reason which actually made going home easier.

    This time, it’s taken just five days, since the hostile takeover of the US by its worst elements, for edicts from above to have actually hurt my life and (much more directly) the lives of my students, friends, and colleagues.

    I recall also a very upsetting visit of one of my students in my office at Umass Amherst who told me that he unfortunately can’t finish his calculus class because he -as a reservist (I think probably the US army funded his class) – has to go now to Iraq. I don’t want to describe his emotional reaction, but I guess you can imagine the situation.

    I don’t know is there a danger that the Iranian students are drafted?

  301. James Cross Says:

    I am afraid this ban is just the beginning.

    The inevitable result of this will not be that terrorism will be prevented in the US. In fact, it will be made more likely.

    What comes next after that will be bans on more countries. Then registrations of people in this country. Then crackdowns on opposition.

    I can hear Trump now saying: “I’m sorry I had to do it. My first priority is to make this country safe.”

  302. J.L.Seagull Says:

    #292, peaceful protest against Trump is part of a working civil society, not a threat to democracy.

    Now, you may be worrying that the discourse is getting less civil day by day, and I agree with that. But I do not see anything that can be done about that right now. You should come back when either side starts to step outside the law.

    Currently Trump’s behavior remains entirely inside the law. He follows after Jimmy Carter’s deportation of 15,000 Iranian students in 1979. I do not see a justification for denying visas to students today, and I see dark forces at work there, but he has not overstepped his legal authority.

  303. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    @ I have a fear… #292

    Whether Trump has been duly elected isn’t what’s relevant here. What’s relevant is a) the rule of law (being elected President doesn’t make you a dictator), b) justice and c) whether this is pragmatically a good idea. That someone has been legitimately elected doesn’t mean one cannot or should not oppose bad policies they attempt through legal means.

  304. Stephen Says:

    ACTIONABLE INFORMATION:

    For Iranians (and others) with valid visas or greencards there appears to be a window of opportunity to reenter the United States. Massachusetts judges Burroughs and Dien have issued a temporary restraining order blocking the deportation or detainment of holders of green cards or visas, and refugees. This temporary restraining order lasts one week. So if you want to reenter the United States, you might consider booking a ticket to Logan airport with arrival date before February 5.

    Here is the original text of the order:

    https://aclum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/6-TRO-Jan-29-2017.pdf

    Some other states including Virginia and New York have also blocked deportation, but Massachusetts seems to be the best option because the Massachusetts order also prevents people from being detained.

    Here’s some journalistic coverage of the development:

    http://www.wbur.org/news/2017/01/29/boston-ruling-trump-executive-order

    COMMENTARY:

    At least we see a small ray of hope stemming from checks and balances and from the basic decency of (some of) the American people. Also, go Massachusetts!

  305. Scott Says:

    Keith #293: Israel is a tiny strip of land, the size of New Jersey, which exists mostly to prevent a particular population from being exterminated. Though it contributes to science and technology wildly out of proportion to its size, it’s forever limited in what it can do relative to larger and more powerful countries.

    The US is—or rather was until recently, and I hope will someday be again—the leader of the free world and the last best hope of humankind. It’s home to Silicon Valley and to a huge number of the world’s best universities: the current nerve center of the scientific and technological ratchet that propels the human species forward, a nerve center that needs to be open to the free flow of people from around the world in order to function.

    That’s why I think different immigration policies are appropriate in the two cases.

    Having said that, if the US did decide that it no longer wanted to be a technological leader, that it wanted to be small and closed and so forth, I think the very least it could do would be to impose the new policy gradually, without stranding all the students who happen to be away visiting family and now can’t return, or who have job offers or grad school acceptances in the US that they now have to turn down. That’s just pure dickishness.

  306. Keith McClary Says:

    Now they are saying that “permanent residents” of US and Canada are not affected. There is still confusion in UK and other countries.

  307. Blog - physicsworld.com Says:

    […] can get a sense of those concerns in two powerful blog posts by quantum physicist Scott Aaronson from the University of Texas at Austin and mathematical physicist Peter Woit from Columbia […]

  308. Michael P Says:

    Wow, I just finally read the executive order. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t just a ban on intake of new refugees, it’s also a re-entry ban on valid visa holders and green card holders. I have to agree: it is a pure dickinshness.

  309. Aula Says:

    Scott #263:

    if living and working somewhere means fully (or almost fully) agreeing with the government

    No, I don’t think that living and working in a country means agreeing with anything its current government is doing, but I do think that moving to and starting to work in a country means that, to the extent of your knowledge of the actions of the government at that time, you are endorsing those actions.

  310. I have a fear... Says:

    #298, 302, 303
    Trump’s EO is at least silly but it will be the first silly presidential EO that led to coordinated demonstrations across the country and the world and this because the ban affects 7 countries with 6 of them being already failed states due to the policies of the previous governments and 1 country that 2 years ago we were in the process of bombing its nuclear reactor. It’s not difficult to see that these social and legal reactions are assymetrical, unjustified and coordinated from certain centers and the majority of the press.

    If these centers of power achieve their objective to overthrow Trump, they will take power forever. No sensible person will go to run for president when he/she will know that if elected he/she will not be able to exercise policies somehow different from the policies that these centers want.

    P.S.
    e.g. for almost 2 years Yemen was being bombarded mostly by the Saudis and the US with thousands of casualties and almost nothing was written in the press. Yesterday everybody remembered Yemen and the 10 civilians casualties from the seals attack…

    #296
    If everything falls down is law of gravity not a conspiracy theory.

  311. Scott Says:

    Aula #309: No, I don’t agree with that either. Life is complicated, and people can have all sorts of reasons (a relationship, family, their only decent job opportunity…) for wanting or needing to move. Should I hold the former Iranian students I’ve known, who went back to accept teaching jobs in Iran, accountable for the actions of the Iranian government?

  312. Stephen Says:

    UPDATE: the DHS may not be consistently following the court orders halting deportations and detentions. Caution is called for even for coming in through Logan airport. Here is a link to some information about this from Yonatan Zunger, reshared by John Baez:

    https://plus.google.com/117663015413546257905/posts/GJxuKwNCL4N?sfc=false

    Probably it is advisable to consult an immigration lawyer if possible before making any re-entry attempt.

  313. quax Says:

    In light of #292, “nice democracy you have there” statement, I highly suggest the following analysis as required reading.

  314. Bran Says:

    Scott, thanks for pointing out your previous comment on Rotherham. It is nice someone taking an honest look at those events.

    For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Rotherham scandal was when 1,400 lower-class British girls were molested by immigrants, mostly Pakistani. The police were getting reports, but they covered it up for years out of fear of being racially insensitive. Eventually it got blown open and was all over the British media, but barely reported in the US outside of Breitbart. The government commissioned investigations and discovered horrific torture of these girls, such as dousing them in gasoline to terrify them out of reporting their rape. And Rotherham isn’t alone: similar events are happening in other cities with large Muslim populations.

    Scott, you are taking a principled stance by opposing the coverup of Rotherham. It also makes a lot of sense that you advocate an immigration policy that favors industrious people who are compatible with Western liberal values. You are also correct to point out the irony of progressives and feminists railing against “rape apologists” among white men, and then turning a blind eye to some of the most terrifying examples of rape around, as long as the rapists are non-white and vote to the left. You predicted that backlash would come, a lot of other people did, too, and oh boy, were you correct on that one.

    Let’s be clear about what the stakes are: If we continue to see episodes of mass sexual violence towards native women by Muslim immigrants, and terrorist attacks, then there will be an increasing likelihood of violent reprisals by the natives. This could spark a full-on sectarian war with Muslims, who have a reputation for retaliating globally for local insults (see the Free Palestine riots in France). This puts countries at the risk of a civil war. Take a look at the breakup of Yugoslavia to see how this could look.

    In the event of sectarian conflict, it would be a humanitarian disaster that quickly eclipses all supposed gains of immigration. Either the non-elite natives get ethnically cleansed, or the immigrants do. This needs to be accounted for when calculating the expected value of immigration: we need to include the bad scenarios, not just the rosy ones. Let’s try to avoid this future.

    Utilitarians are fine with accepting the negative externalities of mass immigration as collateral damage, but not everyone shares their view. Whenever the open borders crowd starts trivializing the rates of immigrant crime, whenever they present an increase in terrorism and rape as an acceptable cost of diversity, consider how this sounds to everyone else.

    I think you can agree that if we dropped the entire male population of Somalia into New York city, it would have negative expected value (and cause a ton of crime, collapse of social services, and rape). The difference between you and Bannon is that Bannon believes that we have already hit the point of negative marginal utility of mass immigration from certain Muslim countries and Mexico.

    You may think that he is wrong, but after looking at Rotherham, can anyone say that he is crazy? Obviously, the first priority of Trump’s team is to tighten the borders and stop the slide of the US towards the constant terror attacks, mass rape, and riots that are now occurring in Europe. That’s the big picture here. That is what this whole “national security” business is about.

  315. John Sidles Says:

    Scott says  (circa #124) John Sidles, I’d be happy to sign your petition, but I just get a generic “Thank you for your interest in this subject” when I click the [White House-supplied] link!

    Alas, it appears that America’s new Trump Administration — in a dramatic reversal of policy — now declines to accept citizen petitions.

    Needless to say, this Trump Administration policy-change flagrantry disregards both long-standing democratic traditions and constitutional provisions.

    In his book/PhD thesis Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (1997), MajGen (and Dr.) H. R. McMasters quotes Hans Morgenthau as follows:

    To say that the most momentous issues a nation must face cannot be openly and critically discussed is really tantamount to saying that democratic debate and decision do not apply to the questions of life and death. … Not only is this position at odds with the principles of democracy, but it removes a very important corrective for governmental misjudgement.

    Gen. McMasters goes on to conclude:

    “The disaster in Vietnam was not the result of impersonal forces but a uniquely human failure, the responsibility for which was shared by President Johnson and his principal military and civilian advisors.

    The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.”

    Alas, the Trump Administration is showing, in consequence of willful ignorance driven equally by ideology and self-interest, all-too-many signs of the same fatally reinforcing failings that Gen. McMasters describes — “arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people”.

    For many citizens (including me) these traits compose all-too-rational reason to apprehend that multiple worse-than-Vietnam disasters may be in the offing for the United States.

    — On a Happier Note —

    Scott continues (circa #124)  John Sidles #121 … From the excerpt of the petition text that you posted, I’m impressed that you don’t seem to have snuck anything into it about Kähler manifolds or STEAM in the 21st century 🙂

    Lol … in light of the ongoing train-wreck for democracy that is the Trump Administration, your smiling quantum-relevant remark is appreciated and welcome.

    At QIP 2017, your student Shalev Ben-David gave a well-received talk “Sculpting Quantum Speedups”, and a Shtetl Optimized post on this interesting topic, (written by him and/or by you) would be appreciated by many folks (including me).

    Upon which non-Trumpish occasion, I pledge to provide some brand-new double-strength Kalai-friendly QIP-2017-informed Kählerian and/or STEAM-y observations.

    In a Nutshell  Appreciation and thanks are extended for yet another unflinchingly excellent (as it seems to me) Shtetl Optimized essay.

  316. Bran Says:

    (Attempting to repost something that got stuck in spam.)

    Scott, thanks for pointing out your previous comment on Rotherham. It is nice someone taking an honest look at those events.

    For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Rotherham scandal was when 1,400 lower-class British girls were molested by immigrants, mostly Pakistani. The police were getting reports, but they covered it up for years out of fear of being racially insensitive. Eventually it got blown open and was all over the British media, but barely reported in the US outside of Breitbart. The government commissioned investigations and discovered horrific torture of these girls, such as dousing them in gasoline to terrify them out of reporting their rape. And Rotherham isn’t alone: similar events are happening in other cities with large Muslim populations.

    Scott, you are taking a principled stance by opposing the coverup of Rotherham. It also makes a lot of sense that you advocate an immigration policy that favors industrious people who are compatible with Western liberal values. You are also correct to point out the irony of progressives and feminists railing against “rape apologists” among white men, and then turning a blind eye to some of the most terrifying examples of rape around, as long as the rapists are non-white and vote to the left. You predicted that backlash would come, a lot of other people did, too, and oh boy, were you correct on that one.

    Let’s be clear about what the stakes are: If we continue to see episodes of mass sexual violence towards native women by Muslim immigrants, and terrorist attacks, then there will be an increasing likelihood of violent reprisals by the natives. This could spark a full-on sectarian war with Muslims, who have a reputation for retaliating globally for local insults (see the Free Palestine riots in France). This puts countries at the risk of a civil war. Take a look at the breakup of Yugoslavia to see how this could look.

    In the event of sectarian conflict, it would be a humanitarian disaster that quickly eclipses all supposed gains of immigration. Either the non-elite natives get ethnically cleansed, or the immigrants do. This needs to be accounted for when calculating the expected value of immigration: we need to include the bad scenarios, not just the rosy ones. Let’s try to avoid this future.

    Utilitarians are fine with accepting the negative externalities of mass immigration as collateral damage, but not everyone shares their view. Whenever the open borders crowd starts trivializing the rates of immigrant crime, whenever they present an increase in terrorism and rape as an acceptable cost of diversity, consider how this sounds to everyone else.

    I think you can agree that if we dropped the entire male population of Somalia into New York city, it would have negative expected value (and cause a ton of crime, collapse of social services, and rape). The difference between you and Bannon is that Bannon believes that we have already hit the point of negative marginal utility of mass immigration from Muslim countries and Mexico.

    You may think that he is wrong, but after looking at Rotherham, can anyone say that he is crazy? Obviously, the first priority of Trump’s team is to tighten the borders and stop the slide of the US towards the constant terror attacks, mass rape, and riots that are now occurring in Europe. That’s the big picture here.

    For a more quantitative picture of Muslim immigration, see this excellent article cataloguing their differences in values with the West, along with disproportionate crime rates, sexual assault rates, and welfare usage. Most of the data comes from news, government publications, and Pew surveys.

    Of course, PhDs and green-card holders get stiffed. I hope that the Trump administration fixes that soon (many observers believe that he is making an opening move and will relax his policy later). I understand why you object to the consequences for science and why you want an immigration policy that focuses on high human capital immigrants with compatible values.

    But keep in mind that your ideal immigration and assimilation policy is currently a fantasy, at least in relation to Muslim countries. No European country has figured out how to construct such a policy, which is why several of them are full of sexual assault, Sharia marches, and terrorism. If you look at the stats link I gave, the gulf between Muslim and Western opinions is gigantic. Seems like Imagine is a long ways away.

    Western European immigration policies are a failure, and we know that Trump and Bannon believe this based on their statements about Merkel. They are entirely correct, but progressives haven’t figured this out yet, due to the media covering up the true extent of migrant crime, because according to the progressive ratchet, talking about it would be racist.

    (Yes, some hypothetical policy could only take high human capital immigrants, but then this policy has other problems, such as strip-mining their original countries and ensure that they remain in the 3rd world.)

    Until the US can figure out a way to vet Muslim immigrants successfully and create a policy for high-skilled immigrants, it’s entirely reasonable for Trump to shut down immigration from these countries until we can “figure out what’s going on.” It might seem that Trump should allow STEM professionals from Muslim countries, but even this isn’t clearcut: multiple Muslim terrorists, such as Mohammed Atta, were engineers, so a sensible vetting policy isn’t something that can come off-the-cuff.

    Rather than focusing solely on the consequences for particular immigrants and the inconvenience for science, it’s important to understand the big picture behind Trump and Bannon’s policy: avoiding the US from sliding towards France, and eventually towards Yugoslavia, Brazil, or South Africa over the long-term. They believe that this goal is so important that they need to act now, and figure out the details later.

    If progressives woke up to the situation in Europe, if they learned the lessons of 9/11, San Bernadino, Boston, Pulse Nightclub, etc… then they would be able to see the method to Trump’s madness and we could have a real debate. I don’t see progressives and open borders people acknowledging the externalities of immigration, and even your sensible remarks from 2015 are compartmentalized from your perspective today. The left had years to enact a more sensible immigration policy with better vetting and mandatory assimilation, but instead they decided that this was racist due to the ratchet of their ideology, and now here we are.

    Unfortunately, the left benefits from mass immigration because it’s easy to buy the votes of immigrants. They have an incentive to push immigration past the point of negative marginal utility. Leftist politicians, media elites, and wealthy progressives tend to live in safe neighborhoods, so they don’t have to bear the consequences of their policies going wrong. They have no skin in the game. The more dysfunctional the immigrants are, the more social services and big government they will need, and the more virtue-signaling can occur over them. These perverse incentives distort the debate. If the left hadn’t tried to sweep events like Rotherham under the carpet, and if additional vetting and assimilation had been encouraged, then maybe we wouldn’t be in the place we are now.

  317. Scott Says:

    Bran: OK, I dug your long comment out of my spam filter, even though it overlaps with another comment of yours, then changed its timestamp so it wouldn’t mess up the comment numbering.

  318. Bran Says:

    For a more quantitative picture of Muslim immigration, see this excellent article cataloguing their differences in values with the West, along with disproportionate crime rates, sexual assault rates, and welfare usage. Most of the data comes from news, government publications, and Pew surveys.

    Of course, PhDs and green-card holders get stiffed. Many observers believe that he is making an opening move and will relax his policy later. I understand why you object to the consequences for science and why you want an immigration policy that focuses on high human capital immigrants with compatible values.

    But keep in mind that your ideal immigration and assimilation policy is currently a fantasy, at least in relation to Muslim countries. No European country has figured out how to construct such a policy, which is why several of them are full of sexual assault, Sharia marches, and terrorism. If you look at the stats link I gave, the gulf between Muslim and Western opinions is gigantic. Seems like Imagine is a long ways away.

    Western European immigration policies are a failure, and we know that Trump and Bannon believe this based on their statements about Merkel. They are entirely correct, but progressives haven’t figured this out yet, due to the media covering up the true extent of migrant crime, because according to the progressive ratchet, talking about it would be racist.

    (Yes, some hypothetical policy could only take high human capital immigrants, but then this policy has other problems, such as strip-mining their original countries and ensure that they remain in the 3rd world.)

    Until the US can figure out a way to vet Muslim immigrants successfully and create a policy for high-skilled immigrants, it’s entirely reasonable for Trump to shut down immigration from these countries until we can “figure out what’s going on.” It might seem that Trump should allow STEM professionals from Muslim countries, but even this isn’t clearcut: multiple Muslim terrorists, such as Mohammed Atta, were engineers, so a sensible vetting policy isn’t something that can come off-the-cuff. Plenty of terrorists have been on green cards.

    Rather than focusing solely on the consequences for particular immigrants and the inconvenience for science, it’s important to understand the big picture behind Trump and Bannon’s policy: avoiding the US from sliding towards France, and eventually towards Yugoslavia, Brazil, or South Africa over the long-term. They believe that this goal is so important that they need to act now, and figure out the details later.

    If progressives woke up to the situation in Europe, if they learned the lessons of 9/11, San Bernadino, Boston, Pulse Nightclub, etc… then they would be able to see the method to Trump’s madness and we could have a real debate. I don’t see progressives and open borders people acknowledging the externalities of immigration, and even your sensible remarks from 2015 are compartmentalized from your perspective today. The left had years to enact a more sensible immigration policy with better vetting and mandatory assimilation, but instead they decided that this was racist due to the ratchet of their ideology, and now here we are.

    Unfortunately, the left benefits from mass immigration because it’s easy to buy the votes of immigrants. They have an incentive to push immigration past the point of negative marginal utility. Leftist politicians, media elites, and wealthy progressives tend to live in safe neighborhoods, so they don’t have to bear the consequences of their policies going wrong. They have no skin in the game. The more dysfunctional the immigrants are, the more social services and big government they will need, and the more virtue-signaling can occur over them. These perverse incentives distort the debate.

    Mathematicians and tech businesses also lack skin in the game of national security, because they don’t have to internalize the negative externalities of mass immigration. The US could slide towards Brazil, and it would take decades for you to even notice what is happening. Then someday, there would a major terrorist attack, civil war, or ethnic cleansing, and you would wonder what happened.

    I don’t necessarily expect to convince anyone here of this perspective, but take it in the spirit of helping you pass the Bannon Turing Test.

  319. Bran Says:

    Scott, thanks for getting my comment out of the spam filter. Unfortunately, while you were doing it, I was dividing it up into two comments which I got through the spam filter. The latter comments are more up-to-date. Such is life with WordPress.

  320. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #181, one other reply: all your arguments establish is that my “American nationalism” is a fundamentally different creature from the “American nationalism” of the people who voted for Trump—an obvious and uninteresting conclusion. Nevertheless, I claim that my “nationalism”:

    (1) Sees, and desires, a central and exceptional role for the United States in leading human civilization toward the ideals of the Enlightenment

    (2) Believes in the furtherance of American interests and ideals around the world

    (3) Can trace its intellectual lineage back to Franklin, Paine, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Lincoln

    (4) Is the only kind consistent with the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the inscription on the Statue of Liberty

    (5) Is supported by at least as many Americans as support Trump’s kind of nationalism, and almost certainly more

    (6) Is the overwhelmingly more popular kind of “nationalism” in the parts of the US responsible for the lion’s share of the innovation and GDP

    (7) Advocates policies that would lead to vastly better outcomes for most American citizens, including Trump voters, than the policies of the other kind of “nationalism”

    So then why on earth should the other kind of “nationalism” get to be considered the only real kind, with exclusive use of the flag, national anthem, etc.?

  321. quax Says:

    Bran #314, mass immigration is what you get if you have a land bridge that connects you to a large displaced population. That’s what happened in Germany in no small part courtesy of the Iraq war that Bush Jr. started out of a whim. And yes, it causes a good deal of pain for the country that opened its borders to it.

    There is no mass immigration from Muslim countries to the US or Canada thanks to the Pacific ocean.

    The UK has a huge Pakistani and Indian population due to its colonial past and obligations that resulted from that, again not at all applicable to the US.

    No matter how you dress up you ramblings with econo-speak, they are entirely post-factual in their black and white simplicism. You tar all 1.3B muslims as the same amorphous mass. It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so depressing, since you obviously internalized that crap.

    Did your cultural profilers ever bother to measure the attitudes of populations in other non-Muslim third world countries? Oh, and BTW Russia just removed all legal impediments to domestic abuse calling it part of the Russian culture.

    Yes, you probably won’t convince anybody here, but it feels good to be acknowledged by smart people like Scott, isn’t it? Even the “intellectual vanguard” of fascism likes to stroke its ego in that fashion.

  322. I have a fear... Says:

    #313 Quax
    I read it, interesting… Read also this (similar):
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-vows-to-investigate-ufos_us_5687073ce4b014efe0da95db

  323. Jay Says:

    Mateus #201. Well the boycott idea is spreading fast among academics -see below.

    Scott & Joshua, I’m still undecided. What’s your best point against it?

    //

    Subject: Call for Academic Boycott of US Conferences

    Dear Friends

    Please see link below to a call for an academic boycott of international academic conferences being held in the United States In Solidarity with People Affected by the ‘Muslim Ban’.

    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeNN_2HHREt1h-dm_CgWpFHw8NDPGLCkOwB4lLRFtKFJqI25w/viewform

  324. Douglas Knight Says:

    Scott, Russell got a lot right, but he was pretty isolated, wasn’t he? How can you know that you have managed to follow him, rather than his contemporaries? You named some principles, but didn’t many of Russell’s contemporaries claim to follow them? Russell condemned Lenin, but only after personally meeting him. It doesn’t sound like he reached this conclusion from abstract principles.

    Moreover, now you claim solidarity with half the country, which sounds the opposite of singling out Russell.

  325. Scott Says:

    Douglas #324: Belief in Enlightenment liberalism is not particularly rare nowadays. I’d say that half of the US is on board with it to varying degrees, as illustrated (for example) by their voting for Obama, who probably had as much respect for the error-correcting processes of science as any world leader has ever had. And it’s the dominant (if not quite unanimous) view in Silicon Valley and university science departments, among other places.

    Of course, it’s a vastly smaller number of people who care enough about Enlightenment liberalism, and have the time and ability, to write books and articles defending it both from its enemies on the left and from those on the right. (All the more so since, by its nature, Enlightenment liberalism is a “staid, boring” position, not one that easily lends itself to gurus, manifestos, or pitchfork-wielding mobs.) Bertrand Russell, despite his many faults, was one of those people. A few others have included JS Mill, Karl Popper, George Orwell, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Weinberg, Steven Pinker, Rebecca Goldstein, …

  326. Douglas Knight Says:

    How can you tell that Enlightenment Liberalism is popular? Because people praise free speech? They said the same thing in the 20s and 30s. If you are to exclude the many who praised the Soviet Union then, you need a corresponding filter today.

  327. Scott Says:

    Douglas #326: What percentage of Americans have ever wanted full-on Communism? I’m guessing not more than 15%, maybe today more like 5%? Wasn’t this always a disease to which the educated classes were more susceptible than the actual proletariat?

  328. John Sidles Says:

    Bran (circa #318) deplores discourse that “lacks skin in the game of national security …”

    Conversely, we can be confident that Bran, Boldmug, Douglas Knight, and numerous other alt-* commenters will applaud a letter that my wife sent today to Senator John McCain.

    (posted to Shtetl Optimized with Connie Sidles’ permission)

    January 30, 2017

    Sen. John McCain
    Chair, Senate Armed Services Committee
    218 Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington DC 20510

    Dear Sen. McCain:

    As a Marine mom, I am writing to thank you for speaking out against the president’s recent executive order banning immigrants and refugees from various Muslim countries. As I read in the newspapers, some of the refugees who are banned became refugees simply because they were willing to step forward and act as interpreters for our Marines and for the other services. These people put their lives at risk to help fight radical Islam. They are enemies (not friends) of radical Islam, and as such are targets for assassination in their own countries. Yet here we are, barring them from entry to the USA.

    You are a combat veteran yourself. I believe you understand war as few members of Congress do and certainly better than the new president, who never served a day in the armed services. You know that his action will have the effect of radicalizing even more Islamists than before, both abroad and here at home. This action will, as you said in your joint statement, empower ISIS. I wish you could round up other people in Congress and in the new administration who have served in the military to speak out against this as well.

    Further, as a man who honors religious freedom, I believe you would never paint an entire religion with the broad, ugly brush that our president has used throughout his campaign and now in the first days in office.

    I am so disappointed in the small number of senatorial voices who have joined you in speaking out. I have looked at the websites of many senators just now and did not see many statements by them that they object to this action.

    I hope you can persuade your colleagues not to remain silent any longer. My family suffered from such a silence in Hungary under Hitler, when so-called “good” people did not stand up to the tyranny inflicted on a religious group. Every single one of my family who stayed in the Old Country, rather than fleeing, was killed. We have no records of where they are buried. I cannot travel to Hungary and put a pebble on any tombstone, as my tradition commands.

    Silence enables evil. Please urge your fellows to break their silence and lead us away from this precipice.

    Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Constance Sidles
    [address redacted]
    Seattle WA [zip redacted]

    Summary  Demagogic claims by Shtetl Optimize’s alt-* commenters, to the effect that progressives lack “skin in the game,” are factually unfounded, willfully ignorant, grossly disrespectful, personally abusive, and entirely abhorrent.

  329. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Sometimes making fun of D-Wave is just not enough to distract us from slow rolling coups, etc. For times like this, consider the Big Picture. Check large scale galaxy dynamics, as governed by the Dipole Repeller:

    https://phys.org/news/2017-01-galaxy-space.html

  330. I have a fear... Says:

    ” Wasn’t this always a disease to which the educated classes were more susceptible than the actual proletariat?”

    USA never had a “proletariat”. USA was the birthplace of the “middle class” the cornerstone of democracy all over the western world. This middle class was shrinking silently but systematically year after year with the previous administrations.
    “Educated classes” don’t rule. Elites rule, those who have the power, the money. Actually elites don’t even like education to “exist” after they take full power…

  331. Job Says:

    I was thinking, maybe an organized leave-the-country-for-x-days would be an interesting demonstration of protest?

    I would do it. However, knowing that it would be difficult to get many people to join in, what would happen if enough people merely threatened to do so by some deadline?

    Who would break first? Would it come down to Trump daring everyone to leave?

  332. Scott Says:

    Job #331: Trump and his supporters wouldn’t care—or rather, they’d be gleeful about the departure of their enemies.

    Sure, I’ll leave the US if it becomes intolerable, but I’d much prefer to stay here and help win the place back from the fascists.

  333. asdf Says:

    Check out the pic at the top of https://terrytao.wordpress.com/ . It took me a minute!

  334. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #320:

    Because you are thinking politically, rather than meta-politically. You are thinking in terms of the discourse. This prevents you from thinking *about* the discourse.

    If it didn’t seem inherently judgmental, I’d say that you’re thinking poetically, not scientifically. I forget who said: politics is bad poetry. Actually, most politics originates as good poetry. But as it ages, it becomes a cliche and can’t help but be bad.

    One of the many privileges of any ruling class is to not be thought *about*. If you think about the class as a single class, if you give it a single label, it almost seems to have one neck. A dangerous direction for proles to think of. Better not to be characterized at all — to contain all thoughts, to be above all labels.

    Obviously I can’t endorse this privilege. Can you?

    So when I think *about* your ideas, or anyone’s, I have two questions. One, have I heard these ideas before? Did the thinker himself (a) invent them himself? If not, was he (b) reasoned into them? If not, did he (c) absorb them emotionally at a young age? Surely you agree that (b) is a hundred times more common than (a), and (c) a thousand times more common than (b).

    Therefore, political beliefs, religions, and other deep traditions are transmitted *genetically* in the broad English sense of the word. Much as languages are transmitted. Like languages and like actual DNA, transmission is basically hereditary, though it involves syncretism and mutation.

    Phenotypic, pre-genetic study of phylogeny and linguistics was essentially wasted scholarship. The 20th-century introduction of cladistic terminology (synapomorphies, and so on) further increased the gap between genetic and literary investigation.

    The power of a cladistic classification is so much greater than the power of a poetic classification that anyone who believes in precise thought and language has the responsibility to shun the latter. I refuse to use a linguistic tool that classifies bats as birds.

    For example, the flag-wrapping tactic I referred to earlier was often used by 20th-century American leftists, in the day when the left was much weaker and the right much stronger, to confuse and disarm the intruder-detection system of the right. The “Jefferson School of Social Science” and so on was an entirely Orwellian fiction. Of course, a true leftist would say this was for the greater good — like punching Nazis.

    For a sympathetic close look at the intellectual tradition whose DNA fingerprint you seem to match, try George Packer’s _Blood of the Liberals_. I’m especially confident about matching this “accent” because it’s my own native tongue.

    A simple, intuitive way to ask this question is: who are the people in 1917 whose beliefs and folkways are closest to 2017 American college students? You will find these people in Greenwich Village, in London… in very small numbers. The tradition that expands the most is the tradition that prevails. Not coincidentally, this is also how language evolution is studied.

    If you want to learn the more general art of thinking about politics in terms of realities, rather than in terms of symbols, I again recommend Burnham’s _The Machiavellians_, or Mosca’s _Elements of Political Science_. Pretty big upgrade from John Stuart Mill.

  335. Douglas Knight Says:

    Scott, sure, the proletariat was never communist, but neither was it ever liberal.

  336. Job Says:

    Scott, they would care because many of their friends and family oppose Trump.

    Protesting an immigration ban by temporarily leaving the country sounds right to me.

    And your argument also goes for participating in a rally: i’d much prefer to stay at work and help the cause in a way that has a more measurable, if negligible, impact.

    But my point is, if enough people merely threatened to do so, pending a reversal, what would they do? Are you saying that the US government would tell people to go ahead and leave the country by refusing to concede? Sounds like a win to me.

  337. Scott Says:

    Job #336: Sorry, it seems totally unmoored from reality to me. Have you actually read hardcore Trump supporters? Do you understand how they think? They talk in terms like hanging liberals as traitors, or inducing them to commit suicide. Why would anyone imagine they’d shed a tear if liberals left the country? Fewer people to vote against them.

    Let’s stay here and take the country back from them, if we can.

  338. Job Says:

    Sorry, it seems totally unmoored from reality to me. Have you actually read hardcore Trump supporters?

    Who cares about the hardcore supporters? They’re not a majority, they just make alot of noise.

    I have several people in my family who voted for Trump and i think that they should experience a bit of what they’re forcing on others. It’s too bad the holiday season is over.

  339. Scott Says:

    Job #338: Well, you know better than me what would be effective within your family… 🙂

  340. dameprimus Says:

    @Boldmug

    This has gotten impressively off topic.

    I contend that banning brilliant young scientists from studying in the US because they were born in the wrong country is bad policy. There is already a tremendous amount of selection against them – the only ones that make it are the ones that a far above their peers. It’s bad for the US which benefits from their research, and I would argue that it is bad for their country of origin as well, because some students return home and their country benefits from their education and skills. If you think that banning them is good policy, I’d love to know why specifically.

  341. Job Says:

    I also know what won’t work.

  342. Scott Says:

    dameprimus #340: Yeah, I was going to say to Boldmug—if his long comments exemplify what it means to “think meta-politically,” then let me remain forever at the object level, please. 🙂

    His central conceit is that, while everyone else engages in little power-plays, repeating things they read in The Economist to gain status, he alone stands above it all bemusedly, just analyzing the world as it is and not advocating any position beyond that people should read old books. Now, I don’t believe that for a nanosecond: I’d say that his comments in this very thread often betray what he wants to see happen down here in our object realm (“I can’t help admire the sight of a changing regime which appears determined to actually enforce its own laws…”). But supposing it were true, why should the rest of us pay him any more attention than birds pay an ornithologist?

  343. Keith McClary Says:

    Scott #305 The other ethno-religious nationalisms (Trump and European) are also about superiority and existential threats and the need to preserve identity and “values” by isolation and segregation.

  344. Dave Says:

    It’s worth noting that in those seven countries, Trump owns no property. So this is equal parts bigotry and self interest!

  345. Sid Says:

    Boldmug #334 (and other comments as well):

    You are intent on showing that Scott’s arguments are not his own, but instead that they have been absorbed from some other historical thinkers who might have had some views very different from Scott’s.

    Suppose we say that that is entirely true. Are his arguments now refuted?

    No.

    So, please, if you want to refute an argument, then refute the argument. Don’t trace its genealogy.

  346. Boldmug Says:

    Dameprimus #340: I agree with you in all the specifics. My problem is just the way in which these specifics are being used.

    I could imagine a very different isolationist policy that actually aimed to construct an Iranian physics that wasn’t inherently second-rate, and that developed divergently from Western science, in the way that Soviet science often did a little.

    Having this separate and competing voice of the Soviet scientific system was valuable, I think, for Western science. But certainly just randomly f*cking with peoples’ green cards does nothing to create any such competing fork of science.

    It would actually take insane measures to fork global society so effectively that it forked science, though I’d probably be for those measures. For example, on one side of the divide you might have a high-energy physics that wasn’t string theory? But this is a very, very abstract and hypothetical argument on my part.

    Bear in mind, though, that when you stand up for not f*cking with peoples’ green cards, let’s say at a protest, you are acting in the real world. Your actions and their effects can and must be evaluated independently of your motivation.

    You came to the protest because you “support the rights of science” or whatever. But that is the reason you act. It is not the action itself, which is purely physical in nature.

    As in all political action, unless you yourself are actually the leader, you are delegating your atom of power to a larger political force. Always and everywhere the effect of any meaningful political action is to support some movement, machine, mafia, monarch, or other political player, in their desire to exercise power. What else could political action possibly mean?

    In our case, the movement you’re supporting is the loosely organized (but amazingly well-funded) American left. This narrative creates political energy in your mind. You are actually just helping to propel the machine, not to direct it. But you *feel* the emotional direction, the sense of personal ownership.

    You may have a small direct impact on your issue of choice. And the victory of the machine (say, impeaching or constraining President Trump) may have a large indirect impact on the issue. This still has no bearing on the objective activity you’re engaged in, which is: supporting a political machine.

    You may feel it’s a good machine, or better than any competitors, and it deserves your support. You may well be right. It’s just neat to have the tools to look at your actions objectively, which is what the Italian School of political science gives us.

    The chain of motivation that leads an individual to support a government or other political machine is what Gaetano Mosca called the “political formula.” Mosca’s _Elements of Political Science_ (horribly mistitled in English as _The Ruling Class_) seems to be available in a bootleg edition here:

    http://davidmhart.com/liberty/ClassAnalysis/Books/Mosca_RulingClass1939.pdf

    (You don’t have to read this crap. It’s fine. But when I lead a horse to water, at least I’d like to think I got him all the way there.)

    Scott #342:

    Because an ornithologist is often much better than a bird in making accurate predictions about out-of-sample data?

    For instance: there’s a very small number of writers who are on the record predicting, from the very start, that the Arab Spring would end in massive bloodshed and destruction. It’s like the Big Short. Except that we didn’t make any money. Oh, and no one learned anything. (You could say that of the Big Short as well.)

    Erich Voegelin had a great indictment of the 20th century’s intellectual sin, which he called *gnosticism*. Gnosticism by Voegelin’s definition is acting in the real world, while thinking in an imaginary world of dreams.

    But since we can see and think only in the dream world, we stand in the hole and keep digging. In the dream we’re actually *filling in* the hole, or something. The two share elements — it’s the same hole, terrifyingly deep. We have to fill as fast as possible.

    We have to work hard! We have to care! Otherwise, we are *such* assholes. In fact, we probably deserve to be punched! Hey, did you hear Tom Brady is friends with Donald Trump? Asshole. This is the party that all the good and wonderful and decent people support. The rest of us are like, you guys have lost your minds.

    The real-world result of gnosticism is that our governments repeat ineffective actions while hoping for different results. This leads to enormous bloodshed and destruction in easily predictable and avoidable ways. Were you brought up to not care about this?

    Or does a bird just not care about accurate predictions? It’s true — the bird order doesn’t have a great reputation for super-long attention spans.

    So… it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Look, I’ll admit it: my shit is all retarded and I talk like a fag. Isn’t that a butterfly over there?

  347. Raoul Ohio Says:

    Can someone calculate the number of days between Nixon firing Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, and the day he resigned?

    Then everyone could start a countdown; starting today when Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. We can bet on if Trump will resign or be impeached in that number of days.

  348. Raoul Ohio Says:

    (Follow up) In the spirit of continuum mechanics, I propose some (unfortunately not dimensionless) parameters:

    The Nixon number N = Date_resign – Date_AG-Firing, and the Trump number is T = Date_outtahere – Date_AG-Firing. Then the bookmakers can put odds on T < N.

  349. quax Says:

    Boldmug, thanks for your last paragraph my eyes glazed over at the third sentence in. If nothing else at least the Nazi’s favorite intellectuals like Ernst Jünger were able to write compellingly. This is such a fascist movement of mediocrity.

  350. quax Says:

    John Sidles #328 Chapeau!

  351. Sniffnoy Says:

    Scott #325:

    Belief in Enlightenment liberalism is not particularly rare nowadays. I’d say that half of the US is on board with it to varying degrees, as illustrated (for example) by their voting for Obama, who probably had as much respect for the error-correcting processes of science as any world leader has ever had.

    I dunno, it’s a bit hard to say that just from voting for Obama.

    And it’s the dominant (if not quite unanimous) view in Silicon Valley and university science departments, among other places.

    Of course, in both places, SJ is making a serious, and so far scarily successful, attempt to displace it. (Hardly the greatest threat to liberalism at the moment, obviously, but still a real one.)

    I’m not so convinced that Englightenment liberalism has ever really enjoyed mass popularity. The words of it have, sure, because they’re part of our national mythos. Plenty of people out there support the words “freedom of speech” — but when they encounter speech they dislike, they make up a new justification as to why it doesn’t fall under that.

    That doesn’t mean they support some coherent alternative ideology, of course. I bet you lots of people would if surveyed answer “yes” to directly contradictory positions (though maybe not if you put them on the same survey), and thereby appear to support one or the other, depending on which one you asked them about.

  352. quax Says:

    @Sniffnoy
    I bet you lots of people would if surveyed answer “yes” to directly contradictory positions (though maybe not if you put them on the same survey), and thereby appear to support one or the other, depending on which one you asked them about.

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

    I always thought of this as a more poetic corollary to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.

    Nevertheless, I fear you are probably right.

  353. Douglas Knight Says:

    Raoul, ask Wolfram Alpha. It can answer this question. But the spam filter ate my link

  354. quax Says:

    It looks to me that PhD researchers outside academia who are not currently academically affiliated can not sign this petition.

    Why is that? This seems artificially narrow.

  355. Some body Says:

    I am surprised that US has always been so anti-Iran. Persian culture is more of the sufi tradition one of the most liberal forms of religion. As a result Iranian people (not the govt) are often one of the most liberal population. It shows in their art and film industry.

    Compare it with the allie Saudi arabia, the world’s largest exporter of salafi and wahabi ideology. Hell, Iran also has oil, if that is the deciding factor.

    I am not Iranian but I find it really stupid on part of US to have such a hostile relation with Iran. Not just with this administration but previous administrations as well.

  356. Scott Says:

    Some body #355: Well, things never really recovered from the Iranian revolutionaries taking the US embassy workers hostage in 1979 while chanting “Death to America”—most Americans’ first real encounter with radical Islamism. But yes, the US used to have an excellent relationship with Iran, for just the reasons you say, and here’s hoping the saner voices in the US and Iran both prevail so that the great relationship can resume!

  357. Boldmug Says:

    quax #349,

    If only you could convince me that you’d read anything by Ernst Jünger!

    Actually Jünger, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, was never in good odor with the NSDAP. In 1940 he published his incredibly prescient anti-Nazi allegory, _On the Marble Cliffs_, which also has a lot to say about Trump. It’s short, really almost a novella, so you might be able to take a crack at it. (Hitler is Braquemart; Trump is Biedenhorn.)

    I love how when you scrape away the “reality-based community” and “I fucking love science,” all you’re left with is “the Republic has no need of savants,” or possibly “please continue talking after I shove you in this locker.”

    If anyone wonders why I go out looking for reasons to respect Jefferson Davis, “he wrote his own speeches and his own book, and back then everyone considered that normal” is pretty high on that list. I rue the day I ever watched _Idiocracy_. Ow, my balls!

  358. Michael Gogins Says:

    The Trump agenda is not unique. The world faces a crisis of democracy that the Internet currently is making worse, but could make better. I have some thoughts about a better voting system here: http://michaelgogins.tumblr.com/post/156630798488/democracy-and-the-internet

  359. Boldmug Says:

    Sid #345,

    I’ve both explained the historical roots of Scott’s ideology and why I don’t find it convincing. I know there’s a lot of text up there. The Age of Reading is passing; the Age of Search has begun. Just search for “FDA”.

    A good exercise that will show you both sides of this question is to reread John Stuart Mill’s magnum opus, _Considerations on Representative Government_ (https://books.google.com/books?id=emABAAAAYAAJ).

    If you actually read the whole book rather than the usual predigested excerpts, you’ll see that Mill is actually remarkably moderate on the virtues of representative democracy. He predicts (accurately, as we see from the Third World) that his constitutional machine won’t work with a population anything short of Victorian Englishmen.

    And he has a very strange idea, which he keeps coming back to, that exercising the franchise not only depends on the personal virtues of the electorate, but in fact augments those virtues, creating a true virtuous cycle. Well… I think that one was pretty solidly debunked before the 20th century even started.

    Small wonder that Mill once wrote (in a private letter, 1837):

    “I myself have always been for a good stout despotism, for governing Ireland like India. But it cannot be done. The spirit of democracy has got too much head there, too prematurely.”

    A sensible fellow, John Stuart Mill! We’ve borrowed his ideas, but not his nuance. And I’m pretty confident that Mill himself, if he saw his predictions falsified, would be able to change his mind.

  360. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #325,

    I found your “belief in Enlightenment liberalism” right here:

    https://twitter.com/ScienceMarchDC/status/825496158269227009

    It’s true that the percentage of Americans who literally wanted communism has never been more than about 20%. But, frankly, you’re looking at the best 20% of Americans. Since all societies are governed by minority ruling classes, we got it anyway.

    There’s a great memoir by Bella Dodd called _School of Darkness_. Dodd was on the US Politburo in the ’40s and was purged with Browder after the Duclos letter (when Stalin, after the war, ended the Popular Front and reimposed strict ideological discipline worldwide). To purge Dodd, they held an internal trial in which she was charged with… racism. (Still a new word back then — “white chauvinism” was the official charge. Specifically, she was accused of being mean to her Puerto Rican building super, among other thoughtcrime charges.)

    In 2017, anyone can be purged from anything for “racism.” The Americans of 1947, who were pretty much all “racist” by our standards, could not possibly have imagined this future. But if you were on the US Politburo in 1947, you used phrases like “politically correct” with zero irony, and you got to experience a little taste of 2017 70 years in advance.

    When your fringe ideas in the present become everyone’s mandatory ideas in the future, how is that anything but winning? I fucking love science…

  361. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #360: According to Steven Pinker’s twitter feed, they took that stuff down from the science march’s website after an outcry among scientists. So maybe there’s some hope yet for enlightenment liberalism…

  362. Douglas Knight Says:

    Some Body, there are many popular misconceptions about Sufism. It cuts across a wide variety of Islam, Shia and Sunni, liberal and conservative, peaceful and violent. While Sufism and Wahhabism are seen as in conflict today, there are Sufis who were important influence on Wahhabi, like Ibn Taymiyyah and there are Sufis who were influenced by Wahhabi, like Muhammad Ahmad.

    Is Persian culture interesting because of Sufi influence? Maybe, but more likely Sufism is interesting because of Persian influence. Persian culture was interesting before Sufism and it is interesting today, with Sufism largely gone.

  363. Lee Alderman Says:

    President Obama decimated the Middle East, funneling weapons and billions of dollars to extremists and theocrats in Syria, Iran, and Palestine. He and Hillary destabilized Libya and failed to protect our embassy leaders when every other country had the sense to remove theirs. Someone has already mentioned President Obama’s drone program. He has unleashed more bombs in more nations than ever, yet his policy tied the hands of military leaders and made many of the results ineffective. He decreased the overall number of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet he presided over the deaths of three American soldiers for every one of W’s. This is just a quick list of the failures I remember off the top of my head. Obama gave speeches encouraging people in the Middle East to rise up, and we see what has happened. Obama was not the savior of anyone, and Trump is not Hitler. We need to return to a focus on individualism, and work to try and figure out how to apply at least some of the same common-sense logic used in science to more complex emergent problems like politics. I know this is a big issue today, and largely unsolved, but something is wrong. I’ll try to explain my opinion.

    Modern liberalism has swept the West. Support for multiculturalism and political correctness is STILL the predominant error being made today (and exhibited in most of the comments in this thread). Obama’s style and deceptive language is preferred over substance by modern liberals. Here’s a bad argument in response to this criticism: saying something like “Hey, I never said I LIKED Iran’s government.” Americans are fed up with the double standard, and the moral and historical relativism. Instead of criticizing the change in immigration policy with a rational argument, like saying isolationism leads to *this* list of general negative outcomes, modern liberals are spreading ridiculous talking points we see being repeated in the media. These talking points are supplied by despicable leaders in the democratic party (and no, the republicans aren’t much better…but Rand Paul and Justin Amash are better). Another example of a bad argument: saying Saudi Arabia should be on the list of nations is clearly an argument in favor of EXPANDING the severity of this weekend’s suspension of immigration (not really a “ban”). Or pretending every individual sad story of inconvenience means this review of vetting is a mistake in general policy. In Europe, nations are being ruled for long periods of time under martial law, the UK has voted to leave the EU, and hijabs are possibly going to be banned. This is all a reaction to the same “multicultural/PC” phenomenon. Americans are witnessing it. Another example of a lame talking point: suggesting there’s no problem YET *in the United States* with jihadism. Pointing out how more people die statistically by falling out of bed, at the hands of white killers, or by jihadists who were born and raised in America, for instance, are all terrible arguments. We have a problem with jihadism which is already changing the social, economic, and political landscape in Europe.

    Instead of conceding the recent executive order is a campaign promise being fulfilled because of President Obama’s disastrous reign and expansion of the powers of the Presidency, not to mention part of an ongoing process which will be tweaked, some of the world’s best and brightest scientists and writers are already pulling the “Natzi card” just five days into Trump’s first term. They refuse to blame Obama. Never mind that Trump has shown a thousand times more action and transparency than Obama did. I’ll disagree with Trump, probably, about a quarter of the time. When I do, I won’t point to the color of his hair, parse every single word, or make arguments which support the other side while simply pretending I’m right. Meanwhile, Obama is already adding to the long list of problems being created by chiming in to further obstruct collective American progress. Americans are tired of being called names and having their nation torn down by intellectual cheerleaders. I can understand feeling like there’s no other option but to obstruct, but it’s a childish continuance of the same thing that got you here.

    There are only a handful of people in Congress who truly fight for individual liberty. Members of BOTH parties are misguided – republicans related to drug and moral issues, and democrats related to … everything (they’re batshit crazy). The next thing the democrats will do is try to obstruct republican efforts to reign in Trump’s power, even though he’s ASSISTING them in this case, by filibustering the nomination of an originalist on the Supreme Court. Modern liberals who care more about what someone says and the facade they present than what they do (style over substance) caused the Trump phenomenon. Caring only about what happens right now (immediate satisfaction by a bunch of rich people in DC) and bestowing power to federal leaders they don’t really have is a real problem we should be addressing. Stop overreacting. Stop redefining language. Stop using statistics divorced from good supporting explanations. Stop thinking laws are required to make people equal (as some kind of shortcut). Stop pretending we don’t have a federal budget. Stop using the “history repeats” relativist argument (it doesn’t repeat, because for one thing time doesn’t “flow”). Stop acting as if the oppressed groups we should be most concerned about are university students, actors, and intellectuals in the West. Stop trying to act as if America has to open up its borders *because* of how it makes terrorists and others FEEL about us. Stop focusing on the mistakes of one nation, and argue about something more fundamental.

    Start championing individual liberty instead of trying to be the gods of altruism for oppressed groups. All you’re doing is enabling irrational behavior.

  364. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #361,

    Sorry, you and Pinker are both misinformed:

    https://www.marchforscience.com/#

    “We take seriously your concerns that for this march to be meaningful, we must centralize diversity of the march’s organizers at all levels of planning. Diversity must also be reflected in the march itself, both through the mission statement and those who participate.”

    As a political force, in the real world today, there is only one Left. Over the last century it’s vacuumed up every shred of power it could find. Your only political choice is to resist this force or join it. Your march is not a march for Science, it’s a march for Power.

    You will not find one instance in history in which the methods of “classical Enlightenment liberalism” have successfully competed with revolutionary power. Not a single one. Lafayette is nothing but a machine for bringing Robespierre to power.

    If you’re lucky, chance throws up a competent despot, a Cromwell or Napoleon or Deng. (Even Lee Kuan Yew started his career as a leftist agitator.) It’s actually the one way the last two centuries have produced some decent governments. But it’s super dangerous, obviously.

    And looking at these people, I don’t feel all that lucky. Do you?

  365. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #364:

      You will not find one instance in history in which the methods of “classical Enlightenment liberalism” have successfully competed with revolutionary power. Not a single one.

    The American Revolution?

    Also, which methods have worked better? Should we pledge our loyalty to a king? If so, then can we at least have a better king than Trump? Like, maybe one with some scientific training, and some smatterings of self-doubt? (And even if so, what mechanism do you propose to ensure that the next king also has those qualities?)

    And a related question: at what point, in your worldview, did human history go off the rails? Was the American Revolution a good idea, but all the subsequent developments (e.g., abolishing slavery, extending the franchise to women) mistakes? Or would you reverse the American Revolution as well? Would you stop at classical Athens, or was that already too enlightenment-y?

  366. an_cap Says:

    Many of Saeed’s concerns are not Trump specific but we’re also true during Obama administration.

    Like “I must say that like many of my friends in Iran I did not have a chance to see my parents in four years, my basic human right, just because I am from a particular nationality”.

    Or “came back to visit his parents in August. He is one of the most talented students I have ever seen in my life. He has been waiting for his student visa since then.”

    Xenophobia is bipartisan consensus. Just a couple of weeks ago I had to say goodbye to my sister because there was no legal avenue for her to be able to work in the US.

    Prior to Trump becoming president it was already illegal for 99.999% of Muslims who wanted to immigrate from coming here. Outrage when that number changed to 100% suggests to me that it doesn’t come from a principled “discrimination based on circumstances of birth is bad” worldview.

  367. Scott Says:

    an_cap #366: Yes, discrimination based on circumstances of birth is bad, but I don’t know of any full solution to that problem that isn’t utopian and out of reach. Failing that, I think the least we can do is let high-skilled people into the US who’ve been admitted to our graduate programs, hired by tech companies, etc.—and even more fundamentally, uphold our promises to the people we’ve already let in. That’s my stance, and I, for one, regard it as principled. 🙂

  368. quax Says:

    Boldmug #349 look at that, you can at least write like a normal human being. Well done!

    And yes I read some Jünger, and unlike you I can read it in the original German. He indeed managed the astounding feat to be too conservative for the Nazis. At the beginning they really, really liked him, but you are right the love was mostly a one way street. So in his own mind he managed to retain his honour, which for conservatives of that era was really all that mattered.

    His archaic world-view that he not just theorized but lived by, gave him some uncanny insights into the darker aspects of human nature, unaccessible to more idealistic thinkers.

  369. psmith Says:

    “Or would you reverse the American Revolution as well?”

    dis gon b gud

    @Boldmug, Straussian Trumpism in The Atlantic? The answer will surprise you! https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/?single_page=true

  370. jim Says:

    Boldmug #364:
    “You will not find one instance in history in which the methods of “classical Enlightenment liberalism” have successfully competed with revolutionary power. Not a single one.”

    Scott: #365
    “The American Revolution?”

    Survivorship bias: Wait a little longer and then we will see.

    It was inevitable that the branch of leftism that took the longest time to go pear shaped would wind up ruling the world, as each of the other branches self destructed.

    The “March for science” is, as Boldmug says, revolutionary power, not classical enlightenment liberalism.

    Anglo Saxon leftism, descended from the Unitarians, who were descended from the Evangelicals and congregationalists, who were descended from the puritans, who were descended from the Brownists, keeps changing its name, regrouping, and absorbing other religions such as Judaism, as each previous version becomes deservedly unpopular and discredited.

    But in each reinvention and reincarnation, it comes closer and closer to the apocalyptic final stage leftism of the red terror of the French Revolution.

  371. Charlie Croker Says:

    Boldmug #357:
    Actually, Jünger’s relationship with the nazis was always rather ambivalent. He once sent one of his books to Hitler and dedicated it to “our national leader” well before Hitler became Reichschancellor of Germany.
    What is true is that he was never a supporter of nazism in general and rather viewed the nazis as tool that should one day enact his own policy views. This also holds for most other members of the “Conservative Revolution” movement who often thought Hitler would just abolish the Weimar republic and they would then just take over power from him. I can highly recommend Edgar Julius Jung’s “Rule of the inferior” from 1931. He was an opponent of the nazis and German democracy alike and describes the position of the “Conservative Revolution” in detail.

  372. Scott Says:

    jim #370 (and Boldmug): I don’t know if you realize just how far your comments currently are from anything that could possibly influence me to your side. For one thing, if not only Marxism and leftism, but also the enlightenment and pro-science sentiment and the American revolution (plus Judaism and many branches of Christianity…) are all terrible mistakes that need to be swept away, then what’s left? The restoration of Sparta? You seem to be describing a world with no place for me or anyone I know or anything that any of us value.

    For another thing, if you put yourself in my shoes (as Boldmug urged me to put myself in Steve Bannon’s shoes), why would I fear the hypothetical revolutionary tendencies of the “March for Science” people, even one-millionth as much as I fear the people who they’re planning to march against—i.e., the ones who actually control every branch of the US government right now, and are eagerly taking an ax to the systems that support science (and much else besides)?

    After all, the worst thing revolutionary leftists have ever done to me is to insult and shame me on the Internet—but right-wingers have done that to me as well! 🙂

  373. Charlie Croker Says:

    quax #368:
    First of all, you cannot meaningfully say that it is an “astounding feat” to be “too conservative for the nazis” because the nazis were not conservatives, neither in the 1930s meaning of that word nor the modern one. In 1930s Germany, a conservative was someone who wished to revive the Hohenzollern monarchy. Think of Paul von Hindenburg or Franz von Papen.
    The nazis, on the other hand, called traditional conservatives and monarchists” reactionaries” or “Bonzen” (rich bastards). They rejected monarchy, traditional religion and other main elements of past German conservatism. Many conservatives supported the nazis to get rid of the Weimar republic, but they never thought of them as conservatives.

    But at the same time, Jünger was no traditional German conservative either. He also rejected the Hohenzollern monarchy, traditionalism etc. and considered himself a right-wing , anti-democratic revolutionary.
    Like Julius Evola, he was to much of an elitist to be a nazi or fascist, but that does not make him a conservative. Although he is considered to be a member of the “Conservative Revolution”, this is somewhat misleading because most people nowadays would see little different between that movement and fascism. Since most people don’t see a difference between old-school Prussian conservatives, fascists and nazis either, this fact is not necessarily relevant, but it highlights that the term “conservatism” meant many different things at different times.

    If you proposed a renaissance of the Hohenzollern monarchy today, most people would consider you an extremist (and definitely not a conservative), although this was the mainstream position of conservatives in Germany in the 1920s.

  374. psmith Says:

    “then what’s left?”

    Restore the Stuarts.

    (It wasn’t a democratically elected Whig parliament that founded the Royal Society.).

  375. Ikrom Says:

    Craig #245:
    No parallels to Hitler? Meanwhile you see the first of extrapolations: DHS doesn’t follow the order of judge Donnelly. The Attorney General is fired. After the replacement of four Supreme Court Justices (maybe even after the first) your judiciary will be gone.

  376. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #365:

    The American Revolution is a very complicated political and military affair which can’t be understood without understanding both American and British politics of the era. A good comparison would be the Vietnam War.

    Briefly, there are strong quasi-Jacobin revolutionary forces which more or less start off the action. Think Samuel Adams. After the British finally depart, there’s a right-wing coup (which we now call “the Constitution”) which succeeds, often by quite rough and illiberal tactics. The whole Articles of Confederation period is confined to the memory hole (notice that you don’t know anything about it, except that it existed), and all of this hard political fighting gets retconned into our wise Lockean-Burkean “founding fathers.”

    Somehow the Anglo-American world keeps managing to repress its revolutions illiberally, without either curing them completely or succumbing to total chaos. However this trick works, it doesn’t seem particularly transmissible and I don’t like relying on it. It also seems to rely on deep social structures which are eroding.

    For instance, when America had a responsible social aristocracy, it was fairly straightforward for the Tea Party bomb-throwers of 1776 Boston to grow up into the Federalist reactionaries of 1796 Boston. Later, Billy Ayers and his friends became harmless college professors and learned to love Goldman Sachs. At the same time, bridge-and-tunnel voters everywhere decided that no, criminals really do belong in jail. This pendulum swing created a sort of reactionary Indian summer after the ’60s revolution. I feel like this summer is ending — how about you?

    Basically all the goods and services you consume are delivered by the little monarchies we call “corporations” or “businesses.” The standard management structure of one of these systems, big or little, has one individual with complete operating authority, responsible to creditors whose power is proportional to stake.

    Seems to work perfectly well — in fact, I think there’s a case to be made that the Industrial Revolution was really the Corporate Revolution. It’s never been tried at the sovereign layer, but the closer governments get to this design, the better they seem to work — viz., today, Singapore.

    Sorry, there is no golden age when it all worked beautifully. “Quam parva sapientia regitur mundus,” as Oxenstierna put it. We can hope to escape from history — I’m a good extropian — but first we have to understand how completely we’re still inside it.

  377. Boldmug Says:

    quax #368,

    Our host also turned out to be surprisingly broad in historical literacy, so I shouldn’t be surprised again. Still, which works of Jünger have you read? At the risk of being proved again a cad, I’ll go way out on a limb and guess: none, only excerpts. (I have read everything in English, which isn’t enough. I would love to read his Paris diaries, for instance.)

    It is a really horrible practice to read excerpts of primary sources. I can only compare it to feeding fresh buffalo mozzarella into a Domino’s pizza factory. The editor of the excerpt can impose any perspective whatsoever on the source. Even if the editor is completely honest, the whole experience is spoiled. For similar reasons, when reading a new edition of a primary source, read the modern introduction *after* the source. If at all.

    If you actually do read Jünger, I hope I don’t have to turn you on to his good friend Ernst von Salomon. Also, I knew your screen name reminded me of something:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitlerjunge_Quex_(film)

    One can argue about old books. But surely as fellow intellectuals, we can agree that no one at all watches nearly enough old films…

  378. Chris Says:

    Why not propose that major computer science conference like FOCS and STOC be held outside the United States? Like, for example, in Canada? Currently, to have a career as a theoretical computer scientist it seems like you have to attend these conferences, but for academics who are not American, this means having to go through Trump’s arbitrary border control officers, and possibly being detained and handcuffed arbitrarily. This is utterly unfair to non-American academics. You have a lot of influence on this point, and I suggest you advocate moving the location of STOC and FOCS to another country, for example Canada.

    This is an easy thing to do and totally consistent with everything you’ve been saying about how unjust this Trump executive order is, and there is a solution that can immediately help those people who are scientists who you claim to care about. Will we be hearing about you advocating for moving these conferences to outside the US until Trump is gone?

  379. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #372:

    “Control every branch” — do you have any idea what you’re talking about?

    I mean: do you see the actual organizational structure of Washington, DC as in any way corresponding to the narrative either (a) explained in the literal in the Constitution, (b) matching the narrative you see on CNN, (c) both (a) and (b)?

    Because if so, like, wow, man. I mean, if that narrative was *true*, you should definitely be worried. I mean, if you actually thought the President controlled the executive branch and could make it do whatever he wants. Do you know anything about how DC works?

    Basically, under normal circumstances, the President is not in any remote sense in charge of the executive branch of USG, in the way a CEO is in charge of a company. The whole thing is a complete fraud — or at least, has been since FDR died. Not only would DC run perfectly well without a White House at all, it would run better. In fact, that’s pretty much what you elect if you elect a Democrat.

    I know that *I know* what I’m talking about, because both my parents were career civil servants in core DC agencies. Look, don’t trust me. Trust some other dude who sounds like he knows what he’s talking about:

    https://foseti.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/on-government-employment/

    To put it very simply, the difference between a President and a CEO is that the CEO can change the personnel, structures, and procedures of the institution.

    The President can’t fire civil servants, all of whom belong to the other party. He can’t change budgets. He can’t change org charts. He can appoint people, but the people he appoints can’t do any of these things internally. And they are strictly prohibited from any contact with the personnel records or hiring procedures of the civil servants.

    They do have to share an office with these people, though. It’s insane. And it can have no possible positive outcome. Honestly, Hillary was probably a better vote for anyone who wants to just replace this whole institution. Trump is just going to annoy it a lot, creating a ton of bullshit media both right and left. Probably a good time to invest in clicks.

    There are levers that can be turned, but nothing terribly serious. Remember the line-segment example? Redefining the power position of the White House over USG, to make it much weaker, would be hard. Redefining it to make it exponentially harder (for instance, the power of a CEO) would be incredibly easy. (I mean, of course, to contemplate mentally — not to actually accomplish.)

    There are only two possible impacts of a Trump presidency: some kind of insane auto-coup (see below), or a giant nothingburger like the Nixon and Reagan administrations. You might notice that “populism” (or, to those of us less afflicted by No True Scotsman syndrome, “democracy”) elected Nixon and Reagan.

    What impact did these hostile “populist” administrations have on the actual USG? Well.. some. Not *none*. I don’t know – what impact does a storm have on a coral reef? There is certainly more sloshing around, way up at the surface.

    You certainly didn’t need to *worry* about Nixon. I think there were a few budget cuts under Reagan. Being a Schedule C is hazardous, of course, as is being a Hill staffer in a weak / junior district. But this is a very small number of people compared to the total size of DC.

    Otherwise… you are being shown the *exception* to the rule. This illusion is just taking advantage of your instinctive innumeracy. The USG is a huge, gigantic, immense thing. It did 10,000 things on December 30 and another 10,000 on January 30. 9,999 of them are exactly the same as they would have been had Hillary won.

    Control of the White House is relevant and has real consequences for real people, sure. But… adjust your eyes, because the rule is always more important than the exception. If the rule looked at all like it was actually changing, don’t you think I’d let you know?

    Here’s one way to think about the state of democracy in America. It’s undergoing a common political transition: moving from a functioning power center to a non-functioning one.

    This has hilarious linguistic consequences, like a political language in which “democracy” is maximally positive, but “populism” and still worse “politics” carry a severely negative charge. Uh, last time I checked, “democracy” is a property for which it is both necessary and sufficient to put the election winner in charge of the government.

    Historically, the transition from a functioning power center to a ceremonial one is common. Think of the difference between Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II.

    A simple test is whether we can devise a substantively trivial transformation that removes the suspect institution. If Elizabeth II had passed away at any point in her not-very-useful life, the impact on both Britain and its government would have been minimal. The same cannot be said for Elizabeth I.

    Therefore the Tudor Elizabeth is a functioning organ and the Windsor Elizabeth is a non-functioning organ. This doesn’t mean the organ has no use or purpose — ceremonial monarchy is by far the best way to preclude a real monarch. Elizabeth II’s ancestors have served this function since the glorious events of 1688. It just means you don’t intervene substantially in actual governance.

    There’s a trivial way to show that Washington is already a non-democracy. Can we construct a nearly-equivalent Washington, which operates under exactly the same rules, but with elected officials who are purely ceremonial? Well, for one thing, Brussels already works this way. So we know it’s possible.

    But let’s make a minimal change to Washington, while eliminating elections entirely. We’ll just eliminate all elected officials. Everything else will be the same.

    No new “laws,” or rather, giant collections of vaguely-related patches like a Debian update gone terribly awry. So we don’t need a Congress, or any of the army of lobbyists and activists that attends it. The perfect labor force, they’ll build the best north wall. The Supreme Court can appoint its own new members, like Israel’s. I love Israel. They’re the best. They have the best wall.

    As for the Presidency, all the agencies can run perfectly well or even better without any sched Cs. The White House is needed in some cases to resolve actual interagency conflicts. These can be handled by a device readily available for $6.99, the Magic 8-Ball.

    All three branches eliminated, no enormous impact on reality or even on DC. Ergo: elected officials are a fraud. Ergo: democracy itself is a fraud. And inherently in today’s real world can’t be anything else.

    It’s true that the regime (like all regimes, regardless of “democracy”) still has to maintain its popularity; but only its popularity relative to any competitor. It has no competitors. The closest thing is Trump, but Trump is just the President.

    So this is a basically useless and nearly ceremonial office to which we’ve in our great wisdom elected Trump. Of course, if he substantially changes the real-world nature of the office, that’s totally different. I don’t see much sign of that yet. And it’s hard to even imagine. Is it even possible?

    If Trump or any President can essentially change the quasi-legal form of government, perhaps acting in a Jacksonian way, that would be a true auto-coup in the Alberto Fujimori tradition. He would have no choice but to continue across the Rubicon, and simply govern by EO indefinitely.

    Perhaps this would come after some kind of enabling legislation. Perhaps it would just mean ignoring Congress, which after all has a popularity of 10% and consists of a collection of crooks, flacks and hacks with the collective charisma of a senile banana slug. It might even mean defying the much more attractively-dressed judicial branch. Whose popularity is much higher, surpassing that of investment bankers and approaching the common raccoon.

    I just don’t think Trump would do it, though. Also — I forget the source of the quote, but it is an actual quote from someone who was somehow connected to DC — “Trump has no people.”

    You can’t have regime change without some kind of alternate government, and there is no such thing. There’s nothing within three orders of magnitude of being ready to become the next regime. I mean, is there? If there is, I don’t know about it. Not that I would, obviously.

    And again you’re just not looking at this kind of operator here, I think. If it was Elon Musk… he’s not eligible, of course. But perhaps, in the 21st century, that’s just a technicality.

    Even Trump 20 years younger might be something different. But really he’s this strange, amazing, wonderful creature from the ’50s. Honestly, I think you should just relax and enjoy the show.

    Actual participation in the governance process, should that become genuinely available to you, is one thing. Political doomsaying is another.

    You may not believe any of this other stuff, but I really don’t think you should be worrying about Donald Trump at all. I would be super surprised to see any real change in Washington as a result of his administration, and my predictions are often accurate.

  380. Scott Says:

    Again and again in his comments here, Boldmug has advanced a dark but interesting thesis. Namely, that the philosophy of classical Enlightenment liberalism that I cast my lot with, the one that’s obsessed with science and free speech and error-correcting processes and democratic norms, is always just a Trojan horse, a prelude to a power-grab by violent radicals. On this view, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” is inevitably just a warmup act to the Reign of Terror, as the Russian Revolution is to Leninism, the Iranian student revolution to the takeover by the mullahs, the Arab Spring to violence and chaos and military dictatorships, etc.

    And the American Revolution? Well, that one seems to have enjoyed a pretty good 240-year run, outlasting even communism and Nazism and a ruinous civil war. And if, in 2017, the American experiment might finally be finished, then it certainly wasn’t the Enlightenment faction that killed it! Our side was ready to keep the Republic alive for quite a while longer, and we could have, if not some for cruel and trivial accidents of electoral politics.

    But in Boldmug’s view, insofar I understand it, 240 years differ from two months by a mere unimportant constant factor. The American revolution, too, has now finally succumbed to the same iron laws of history that did in the French and Russian revolutions, and every other attempt to apply the ideals of science and the Enlightenment to human affairs.

    I see the situation differently. For me, building a robust liberal democracy is a hard and complicated engineering problem—not unlike building a transistor or a plane. Even if you know what to aim for (which is already nontrivial), if you get a tiny detail wrong you could fail. Your plane will stay aloft for a few seconds and then careen out of control; your material will either conduct electric current or not, but surely not conduct only if a smaller current is applied to its surface. Likewise a violent overthrow of a despotic regime, without extremely careful thought about what comes next, will almost certainly lead to an equally bad or worse regime filling the power vacuum, which is indeed what we’ve seen again and again.

    But I’d say we’re fortunate that these observations didn’t dissuade the Wright brothers, or Bardeen and Brattain and Shockley, or the American revolutionaries! In each case, even if an engineering problem has the character of balancing a pencil on its tip, a solution might be so self-evidently desirable that it really does make sense just to work on it more and more and more until the pencil stands. Even then the pencil probably won’t stand forever, but after it falls we can do a careful postmortem, and try again to rebalance the pencil for an even longer time. What else can we do?

  381. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #372:

    Should a government fund science? Should it invite talented immigrants? “Of course” and “in most cases, probably, depending on the purpose.”

    In any case I agree that a government should not break its promises, which is shitty service, or let anyone else break theirs. _Pacta sunt servanda_ – the basic Roman axiom of government. Promises must be kept.

    But if the government cannot make an exception and break its own promises, it is not a government at all. Whoever holds it to its promises, or releases it from them, is the real government instead. As Carl Schmitt said: sovereignty is the power to decide the exception. And someone always has it. If the king is not above the law, he is a fake king.

    This means many, many, many fewer participate in the political process. It means political celibacy for almost everyone. Perhaps this is a hard blow. There are few TV shows as exciting as “the news.”

    I can appreciate that life in a nation governed without any particular public sentiment, governed by the same kind of person who runs a chain restaurant operator, a perfectly competent no one in particular, seems like a barren and pointless existence.

    Really it means the end of your, mine, and almost everyone’s involvement in the sovereign governance process. Which can be reasonably accomplished with an order of magnitude fewer full-time personnel, and no voters at all.

    A rational person would be happy to drop this thankless job. But actually, politics provides positive utility in the neurological sense. It stimulates dopamine secretion — like sports, gambling, porn, etc.

    Unfortunately, politics in the democratic sense is an artificial stimulant. It stimulates your chimpanzee instincts for chimpanzee politics, which in Darwinian impact is comparable to that of the sex drive — for obvious reasons. But, since you are not actually involved in the governance process, you are jacking it in front of your monitor, not actually making it with those hot lesbians.

    Democracy is an artificial stimulant, so long as democracy (as in the vast majority of historical examples) remains a cover story for a stable oligarchy. On those rare occasions in history when democracy becomes a real form of government, shit gets crazy. Nothing compares to the real experience. Artificial stimulation only becomes popular when the reality is rare.

    But the American TV audience is pretty sedate, historically speaking, so any kind of breakout from the Truman Show still seems pretty unlikely. Obviously this particular brand of redpill is just too large for most peoples’ throats.

    And don’t fear! Once you cut yourself off from the artificial stimulant of public politics — realizing that you don’t give a shit except to regret the predictable screwups, and also that anything real which might happen will be an unusual accident — you’ll start sleeping much better at night. After a month or two, you may even be able to see the drab, mundane, real political world in color.

  382. Scott Says:

    Chris #378: Yes, moving academic conferences to outside the US is something that many of my friends and colleagues are discussing right now. I predict that we’ll see a major shift in that direction unless the EO is quickly rescinded, and possibly even if it is.

    But one of my friends pointed out a problem: what about all the foreign students and postdocs who are in the US on visas that don’t allow re-entry? Ironically, those students can attend conferences in the US, but not elsewhere! So there ought to be at least some conferences for those students as well. A shitty situation all around.

  383. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #380:

    Whether you choose to think about it or not, I have a very simple explanation of Anglo-American success as it relates to democracy.

    If you see democracy as a pest, like Dutch elm disease, it makes perfect sense. Dutch elm disease originates in China. Therefore, Chinese elms are resistant to Dutch elm disease. But not immune! It’s still a crippling disease in China. But the trees live.

    The result of globalization: Chinese elms dominate the world. And hybrids. An elm does not live, anywhere in the world, unless its DNA is mostly Chinese. It would be a mistake to conclude from this that Dutch elm disease is good for elm trees, and the Chinese should export it to everyone. Unless they’re just plain evil.

    All we have to observe, to show that this is the case, is to show that politics in the Anglo-American tradition (don’t forget, Marx wrote in the British Library, and his column appeared in the New York Tribune), (a) frequently causes serious damage to Anglo-American countries, and (b) always or almost always has two results in other countries: it either causes massive, traumatic disasters, or brings the country under effective Anglo-American supervision, and/or both.

    That makes exporting politics/democracy it look like a political weapon, which is basically what it is. This weapon has run out of enemies and no one really understands its purpose, which was external subversion against genuine peer-level competitors.

    Now it just runs around doing its best to burn down the world. There will probably never be another US Embassy in Libya in our lifetimes, for instance — it’s 100% Mad Max from here on out, because American diplomacy will instinctively side *against* the physically strongest party.

    This is why the international community is still so pissed at Sri Lanka for actually winning its war. For one thing, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of good jobs in the aid industry were lost as a result of the Sinhalese victory. That war had been a career!

    But burning down the world with “freedom and democracy” is the State Department’s job. And career civil servants are, of course, tenured both individually and institutionally.

    Ultimately you as an elite-American need to believe in this weapon as well, or it really doesn’t work. “Soft power,” as they say in the IR community, is real. Sulfuric acid is also real, which doesn’t make it a healthy and refreshing beverage.

  384. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #381: Didn’t you already point out in this thread that politics resulted in the murder of most of your and my extended families, within living memory? And is that not reason enough to care about it (as you obviously do, despite protestations to the contrary)?

  385. Boldmug Says:

    Scott 380:

    Also, the problem of governing effectively is engineering. But it’s *incredibly easy* engineering. Only the shitty institutions we have could do this shitty a job.

    The crime rate in the UK 120 years ago was roughly 1/50 the present value. They had no fingerprints, CCTV, DNA. What function of government, exactly, is hard?

    Remember the ratchet of decay? The only way to see it properly is to read period books. Read enough, and you’ll get a good picture of how our ancestors would see our world. They’d be horrified.

    Imagine if the America of 1917 could somehow be teleported into the Pacific Ocean, intact, with period technology. How much do you know about the America of 1917? How long would it take them to catch up on Wikipedia, then start kicking our asses in every way possible? They’d probably conclude they had to occupy us militarily, at once, to stamp out the infection. And in 1917, America was considered a louche and frivolous country.

    Does this have anything to do with democracy? The great Victorian historian Froude, a disciple of Carlyle, had an interesting theory of the British Empire’s political evolution. He saw liberal politics and culture as the flowering stalk of the century plant; certainly beautiful, creative and unique, but consuming political energy produced by centuries of disciplined monarchy. At least as far as the British Empire goes, his predictions proved accurate.

    I think this is an optimistic view, not a dark one. The “ratchet of decay” is easily fixable — all that has to be fixed is the political system. Borrow almost anything from almost any era, staff it with good people (maybe draft 10,000 Googlers), and it’ll work fine. It’s like the good news you want to hear when you take your car into the shop.

    If you’re actually allowed to *use* the texts of the past as your guide for governing the present, you have more than enough instruction manuals. With that, actual power, and good people, it’s basically impossible to fail.

    Sure, Sir William Petty died in 1687. But if he knew how to govern England in 1687, when it took a man on a horse a week to get from London to Edinburgh, what would a new regime have to worry about in 2017? Unemployment?

    Trust me, Sir William Petty knew all about balancing the supply and demand for labor. And to the extent he didn’t, someone else did. Once you learn to believe in the past, you are never alone. It’s a very, very pleasant stress relief. Almost as good as believing in God, I think.

  386. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #384:

    That *is* a reason to care about politics.

    But that makes it absolutely critical that we care about it with our heads, not our hearts. Acting practically and rationally is not just much more productive than acting passionately. It’s also much easier, because you are *doing* rather than performing. All the agitation can be entirely cut.

    Also, in my version of politics, no one (excluding people actually “in the loop”) does anything at all until it’s actually time to act cohesively, collectively, effectively and peacefully. Remember: force is not a synonym for violence, but the opposite of violence.

    The rational use case for democracy, at least in our situation or anything like it, isn’t to replace the current regime with democratic governance. With the present population, that’s just impossible and in fact hilarious. I mean, can you even imagine?

    No, the rational purpose of politics is to produce a one-time pulse of energy, which switches sovereignty from the current nondemocratic regime to a different, but better-organized, nondemocratic regime.

    The hopes and fears and dreams of the people involved in creating this pulse don’t matter, because the new regime is also autocratic. (Not a moral judgment, just an objective synonym for “doesn’t leak power.”) They don’t end up in charge of it. They just help make it happen. And, hopefully, they’re fine with that.

    To compare this “revolution” to another natural stimulant, it’s one tremendous lay, followed by a lifetime of strict celibacy. I think a lot of guys might take that deal.

  387. quax Says:

    Boldmug, if you must know Pariser Tagebücher it is, and yes excerpts not all of them, other than that of course this interview.

    Charlie Croker, so many words and so tentatively close when you write that “the term “conservatism” meant many different things at different times.”

    I would like to add:

    … and different places
    … and to different people

    Jünger was conservative, because that’s what he called himself, and other conservatives regarded him as such. He was a conservative who experimented with LSD, and a Wehrmachts officer who took some absurd pride in having saluted a Jew marked with the yellow Star in Paris (heroism!).

    He was a man of great talents and physical courage who was mostly in it for himself.

    Has there ever been a term that is more malleable than “Conservatism”? There are times and places that I like to call myself a Conservative. Because I like to conserve the good things.

    I just sure as hell don’t like to call myself a Conservative in the US, because everybody I know of who uses that label there sucks … hard.

  388. quax Says:

    Also, in my version of politics, no one (excluding people actually “in the loop”) does anything at all until it’s actually time to act cohesively, collectively, effectively and peacefully.

    Boldmug nicely describes Orwell’s Animal Farm for us. Makes sense, after all Bannon calls himself a Leninist.

    Of course they will keep calling it “Land of the Free”. As in free range chicken coop. With a beautiful Trump wall all around.

  389. Sid Says:

    Boldmug:

    (1) On your theory, the fact that most normal people would prefer to live in countries that are at the top of the democracy index rather than countries in the bottom is stupid, correct?

    (2) On your theory, the countries at the top of the index are just temporarily diseased states and will fall very soon, correct?

    (3) Further, you predict that these countries will be taken over by tyrannical governments soon, correct?

    (4) If you answered Yes for (3), then that’s a bold and non-trivial prediction. Can you please provide a rough time frame for such downfalls? Perhaps predict which countries will fall first, given your deep knowledge of these matters?

  390. asdf Says:

    Crosspost from Terry Tao’s blog:

    There’s a reddit thread that contains a lot of letters sent out by university presidents opposing the order and offering help to affected people:

    https://redd.it/5qpnpo

    It’s a big comment thread so there’s all kinds of other stuff (good and not-so-good) there as well.

  391. Bran Says:

    Imagine if the American Revolution hadn’t happened, and America was still a British colony and be ruled by a monarch. To all those who oppose Trump on the grounds of him being a demagogue and populist, wouldn’t a king or queen be better?

    What is likely to select a better leader, from the standpoint of your values: succession in the British Royal family… or the readership of Breitbart.com?

    Interestingly enough, the Enlightenment political tradition says that British kings are horrible tyrants, and elected leaders like Trump are better.

    As H. L. Mencken said, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

  392. Scott Says:

    Bran #391: You stack the deck in your hypothetical by comparing Trump only to the current British royal family, rather than to Kim Jong-Un or anyone else who claims a hereditary right to rule. In particular, England (if I’m not mistaken) has seen its share of murdering tyrants; who’s to say that the king would be mild-mannered like Prince Charles in your hypothetical universe?

    But there’s maybe one point where I converge with you. Namely, taking inspiration from David Deutsch, what I really care about is not this or that particular system for aggregating votes, but the broader norms of liberal democracy—and most importantly, a tradition of criticism that’s in principle open to anyone, and that allows bad ideas to be rejected (i.e., the thing that open-source software projects have, and that we’ve had in science for 400 years).

    Monarchy, at least as I understand the term, catastrophically fails the test of bad ideas being open to criticism by anyone. If all the subjects feel free to attack the king’s bad ideas, then it’s not much of a monarchy, is it?

    But there are many systems other than the kind of democracy we have today that could pass the test, and possibly much better than our current system does. For example, a system in which one needs to earn voting power by passing a test of basic history and economics; or what I called an eigendemocracy; or some system modeled after Wikipedia or the Internet Engineering Task Force or the program committee of a scientific conference.

    I don’t know. Like Scott Alexander, I’d love to see a thousand such aggregation systems tried in a thousand different micro-nations, and then maybe we’d find out which ones were most effective at weeding out bad ideas and resisting takeover by the cruel and willfully ignorant—i.e., at balancing the pencil on its point for longest.

  393. chris Says:

    “For the Iranian scientists who are already in the US, on visas or green cards, I think that a certain form of civil disobedience is both possible and desirable. The basic idea is this: for those of our Iranian colleagues who wish to stay in the US, we can force the Trump thugs to literally drag them out kicking and screaming, creating a visual spectacle for the world. Like, imagine if Maryam Mirzakhani, the world’s first female Fields Medalist and a Stanford professor, were escorted onto a plane in handcuffs by ICE agents. How much play would that get on CNN? How many YouTube views?”

    Forgive me, but you *seriously* need to look at the situation from the other side of the fence. Deporting a foregin-born egghead with a top salary and prestige is *exactly* how Trump would satisfy his core rust-belt unemployed angry voter. Fields Medal? Who gives a hoot about that, and what is that anyways?

    Please, for our futures sake, get real! Understand that Trump was elected democratically and what he does is simply what he promised. He is fulfilling the peoples will – please, do understand that.

  394. Jr Says:

    A comment on the patriotism angle: From a strategic perspective Scott may well be on the right track by trying to take the patriotic high-ground. As understandable it was for Black lives matter to protest the anthem, it may well have been a mistake and alienated many more people than it helped convince.

    I am sure that Scott is aware that the US constitution is at least as much a product of real-politic and messy interest group compromises as of Enlightenment values (not an unabigious concept either) but describing Trump’s policies as a betrayal of Americas founding values is probably politically more useful than saying they are a continuation of the racism of the American founding. And it is certainly not worse history than when Trump and Pence try to claim their values are found in the US constitution.

  395. John Sidles Says:

    Boldmug recommends (circa #334) “If you want to learn the more general art of thinking about politics in terms of realities, rather than in terms of symbols, I again recommend Burnham’s The Machiavellians (1943), or Mosca’s Elements of Political Science (1896).

    Please let me agree with “Boldmug” that these works are worth knowing — so much so, that every senior USMC officer is familiar with both of these works, and familiar too with contemporary criticism of them. This state-of-affairs arises because of a long-standing USMC Commandant’s Guidance:

    ALMAR 009-16 Guidance
    Commandant’s Choice books are required reading for all Marines.

    (Senior Level Officer: Colonel – General)

    STRATEGY: A HISTORY (2013) Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world’s leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.

    Specifically, Freedman’s Strategy (2013) surveys both Gaetano Mosca and the neo-Machiavellians (p. 321-26) and James Burnham’s anti-communist worldview (p. 334-36). Freedman criticizes their work as follows:

    “The [modern] role of ideas requires … a more subtle analysis than Burnham’s because the [modern] marketplace of ideas is much larger.”

    Dereliction of Duty  In uncritically praising theorists like Mosca and Burnham, aren’t the luminaries of alt-* deplorably derelict in civic duty by not mentioning (at least) the severe criticism their works by modern historians?

    In essence, doesn’t the uncritical embrace of outdated theorists like Mosca and Burnham amount to a willfully ignorant rejection of the capacities and challenges of 21st century modernity?

    Indeed Mosca’s work (of 1898) and Burnham’s work of (1943) appear only halfway through Freedman’s survey of notions of “strategy”. There’s plenty of modernity still to survey, and neither Shetl Optimized readers nor USMC officers can responsibly sanction willful ignorance of it.

    Ask your doctor if your heart is strong enough …  With a view toward illuminating the personal experience of modernity, here is an after-action report regarding my wife Connie’s letter to Senator McCain (comment circa #328), the writing of which was exceedingly stressful to her.

    Seeking relief, Connie and I treated ourselves to an on-the-couch YouTube video-concert, specifically focussing on Leonard Cohen’s (1934-2016) song “Hallelujah” (1984). Kids, don’t try this at home! Ask your doctor if your heart is strong enough for serious romance! 🙂

    YouTube hosts hundreds of versions of “Hallelujah”, sung by amateur singers and professionals alike, representing pretty much every nation, culture, class, race, gender, age, and religion.

    Indeed, the philosopher Babette Babich has contributed a one-hour YouTube lecture “The Birth of k.d. lang’s ‘Hallelujah’ out of the Spirit of Music“, as presented at the The Juilliard School (Fall 2016) for Prof. Babich’ class “LARTS-395-01 Philosophy and Digital Media”. This work is reprinted in Prof. Babich’ recent book The Hallelujah Effect: Philosophical Reflections on Music, Performance Practice, and Technology (2013, Routledge Press). Prof. Babich’ thoroughgoing and often-hilarious YouTube lecture mentions Nietsche, Hegel, Derrida, Foucault (etc). Good!

    The version of “Hallelujah” that Babich liked best (my wife and I like it too), is the version titled “K.D. Lang sings Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah” (at the Juno Awards in Winnepeg, 2005). Although, as a loyal Seattleite, Connie likes the bootleg recording “KD Lang Performs Amazing Version of ‘Hallelujah’ At Woodland Park Zoo 2011” even better. You compare, you decide! 🙂

    In any event, the following YouTube comment concerning the Cohen/Lang performance directly addressed, better than any amount of academic theorizing, certain vital concerns regarding elements of human cognition that are deplorably absent in alt-* discourse:

    Dave Organ  (Bows in humility) For most of my life, I was straight-laced, unforgiving, uncompromising and very specific in my views. KD Lang started the transition with this unbelievable performance. I knew she was lesbian and I hated her for that. To my great shame, I called her “Ugly” and “Dyke”.

    This incredible performance rocked me to the core; it opened my eyes to the stupidity and narrow-mindedness of my life. At 50 years of age, I’m finally starting to learn about the wonderful complexity and love of people not exactly like myself – and I’m learning how wrong I’ve been for half a century.

    To learn that I have, in fact, been the thing I hated most: a bigot – shamed me so completely I’ve had to relearn and reconsider everything I’ve held “true”. 🙂

    ( 🙂 as in the original).

    In a nutshell  Vital elements that are notably lacking in alt-* cognition — as evident in comments here on Shtetl Optimized and elsewhere — can be remediated to good effect by sustained therapeutic exposure to a modernist regimen of Lawrence Freedman’s history, Babette Babich’s philosophy, Leonard Cohen’s poetry, and kd lang’s singing.

  396. Scott Says:

    chris #393: Sure, I don’t doubt that there’s a substantial segment of the country that would be thrilled by footage of a Fields Medalist being dragged away in handcuffs—the same segment that was probably thrilled by footage of the police beating peaceful black demonstrators with billy clubs half a century ago. That’s not who I’m trying to reach. I’m trying to galvanize the rest of the country, which I believe is the majority, into open defiance of the Trump regime. Of course the scientists being handcuffed and deported would merely be one image among many—there will also be the children who grew up in the US screaming as their parents are taken away from them by ICE agents, etc etc.

    OK, but suppose none of that will galvanize enough of the country. What will? Drawing on your deep knowledge of the psyches of Trump supporters, which people like me obviously lack—do you have any prescription for action better than “give up and let them perpetrate what, from your standpoint, is the destruction of your country”?

  397. Open thread for mathematicians on the immigration executive order | What's new Says:

    […] First they came for the Iranians, blog post, Scott Aaraonson […]

  398. J.L.Seagull Says:

    @Scott #396: Since you asked…. if you want to know Trump’s actual plan, I would point you to what Pat Buchanan has written on this subject. You are speaking a bit naively about “the destruction of []our country,” but Trump really is quite possibly aiming for the destruction of YOUR country, in order to save quite another country entirely that exists within the US borders.

    Perhaps people don’t realize how urgent this is. Only 20.6% of Americans actively voted for Clinton. Meanwhile, 60% of America believes in a 6-day creation and Noah’s Ark. Some of that 60% are doing their best to appreciate the multicultural vision of the future, but others believe that the intellectual class has left them behind and really do hope for their destruction. And they do feel like their increasing despair is being actively ignored, even the minorities among them.

    Anyway, I recognize that this is not a political blog and I didn’t mean to make things sound so apocalyptic and hopeless, but the fact of the matter is that voters sent Trump to go pierce a bubble, and it may be painful to realize how limited the power of the 20.5% really is. At best, you may be dealing with visas slowly expiring instead of being revoked.

  399. Mitchell Porter Says:

    I have a dream: that everyone would calm down, and that there be something like rational dialogue between the Trump administration, its supporters and its opponents about the issues at hand, rather than rage, drama, and irrelevant oration.

  400. Candide III Says:

    Sidles #395: I don’t believe a book dismissing Burnham with a couple of sentences will be much good as a remedy. I realize it’s a bird’s-eye overview of the subject (albeit one that swoops down lovingly for whole chapters on the various civil rights struggles), but so what? We already knew there are criticisms of Burnham. There is no need to read a doorstop of Cliff’s notes on political theory and civil rights hagiography to learn that bare fact, and thanks to modern electronic libraries I didn’t have to pay for it.

  401. Keith McClary Says:

    “A dark day for Zionism”. Security forces amazingly gentle despite sixteen injuries (one “moderate”). Israeli media speculating about a settlement “deal” when Netanyahu visits Trump in two weeks. Can you compartmentalise the Muslim ban from Trump’s pro-Zionist policies?

  402. Scott Says:

    Keith #401: I’ve been clear on this blog for a decade about my opposition to the loony West Bank occupation. My views about Zionism are close to those of Obama and Kerry (and Rabin, and Theodor Herzl…), not Netanyahu or Trump. What is there to compartmentalize?

  403. Scott Says:

    J. L. Seagull #398: I call bullshit on your numbers. Sure, only 20.6% of the country voted for Clinton, but only 19.7% voted for Trump!! Also, what source are you relying on for 60% believing in Noah’s Ark? My understanding is that the answers to such questions vary wildly depending on how they’re phrased, and that a nontrivial fraction of the country will say they believe both in evolution and in Noah’s Ark (not that that’s a logical impossibility, I suppose… 🙂 ).

    But you seem to agree with me on the essential point: yes, Trump voters (or many of them) really do thirst for the destruction of the country that I think of as home, and for its replacement by what I’d consider a different, alien country within the same borders. If so, then what advice could anyone possibly give the targeted country, except “fight for your life, and try to preserve what you can”?

    Of course, the irony here is that the Confederacy needs the Union vastly more than the Union needs the Confederacy. It’s our US that contains Silicon Valley and biotech firms and the universities that produce startups, and that generates the lion’s share of the GDP and the tax revenue. If Trumpland really does succeed in its goal of destroying blue America, it will be like a tapeworm that kills its host only to kill itself.

  404. HlynkaCG Says:

    @ Scott
    Re: Do you have any prescription for action better than “give up”

    The prescription for action depends on what your goal is. If you want to help your student my recommendation would be to fight for them in court, (or rather pool your resources with those of your allies to hire a good lawyer who will) and publicize the case. If your student’s attitude towards the current regime is inimical, emphasize this.

    If your goal is something more nebulous like “stop Trump”, I’m afraid that I have no good answer for you but I can say that the current thrashing and screaming from the opposition is not helping that goal. If anything it’s making Trump stronger as it plays right into a narrative that the right is primed to believe. The enemy is at the gates. How can we trust someone who feels no loyalty towards the nation as a whole?

  405. Scott Says:

    HlynkaCG #404: So we shouldn’t protest Trump, because that will just enrage his supporters and make things worse, but we shouldn’t do anything else either? We should just acquiesce to what we consider to be the destruction of the nation—even though from our perspective, it’s the other side that’s shown no loyalty to our history and laws and institutions?

    Even in the darkest time, I’m not that pessimistic. I’m constantly cognizant of the fact that, with a slightly different role of the dice, maybe even different weather on Election Day, everyone would now be explaining to the Trump supporters that the ratchet of social progress is unstoppable, and that trying to protest it will only make it worse.

  406. quax Says:

    “Fight for your life, and try to preserve what you can.”

    The fascist vanguard here really does an excellent job in conveying the urgency of this, don’t they?

    Of course when J. L. Seagull writes:“… to save quite another country entirely that exists within the US borders” what he really means is create an entirely different one.

    A difference about as stark as between Iran ca. 1952 and Iran 2017 (the irony that US arrogance and the oil industry had its hands in that as well, will be lost on him).

  407. quax Says:

    John Sidles, ##395, thank you for beautifully highlighting the fundamental deficiency of the alt-*

    Sic semper erat, et sic semper erit.

  408. Stephen V Says:

    @Scott #405
    There’s a persuasion technique I understand is effective to use on people with power, called “making (or letting) them think it was their idea to begin with”.
    In this context, I believe the first step is to convince the other person that there are, in fact, possible mutually acceptable actions they can take. Pushing someone away from all actual courses of action equally is a waste of effort and influence.
    So: find something about feminism Trump’s administration you’d like to see more of (e.g.: actual equality, or attention to infrastructure), and speak up in favor of that. It won’t give that same glow of emotional affirmation, but there’s already a glut of the angry stuff out there.

  409. grendelkhan Says:

    Boldmug #385 has started to make some factual claims. Well, also in #67. Probably some places in between. While the reaction that can fail is not the true reaction, they deserve to be examined.

    Crime in the UK in 1800 was not a fiftieth of what it is today; see the anti-reactionary FAQ section 1.3 as well as “The Better Angels of Our Nature” and any other study of long-term trends in homicide you care to name. (Most crimes didn’t involve the authorities, so you can’t reliably count anything but murder.) The results are even more impressive than they look; cities are more violent than the countryside, but homicide has declined even as urbanization has proceeded.

    “they don’t dare push it back even to 1950”? Why stop there, since we’re keen on pre-Industrial Revolution systems? Go back to the Middle Ages, where living on a farm in the sticks was more dangerous than living in Caracas is today, and tell me about how wonderful the past was.

    Technology is more complex, supply chains are distributed, efficiencies are far, far higher, and we’re at least ten times as wealthy (likely more in the first world). Trying to achieve modern quality of life with old-timey organization is incredibly difficult. So no, you couldn’t plunk down the Americans of 1917 and expect them to run the America of 2017 handily.

    Also, the employment-population ratio has been steadily recovering since the Great Recession; news to the contrary fails to adjust for age, i.e., Boomers are retiring.

    The dank-truths schtick was charming pre-2013, but when you get popular, people look into your exciting claims, and when they turn out to be generally exaggerated, inadequate or just plain wrong, it kind of saps the mystique from your “Ancient Neocameralist Red Dragon” MtG card.

  410. HlynkaCG Says:

    @ Scott
    Re: 405

    I didn’t say that you shouldn’t do anything, Just the opposite in fact. I said that you need to do something specific. As Stephan says above “pushing someone away from all actual courses of action equally is a waste of effort and influence.” Stop firing indiscriminately and pick a target. You don’t like an EO? Focus on finding a flaw/loophole in it. You don’t like a cabinet pick? Focus on that pick and be ready to respond with acceptable alternatives.

    So long as the opposition is throwing temper tantrums Trump will continue to look like the “adult in the room”.

  411. quax Says:

    HlynkaCG, wrote
    So long as the opposition is throwing temper tantrums Trump will continue to look like the “adult in the room”.

    You sounded so reasonable up to that point.

  412. Douglas Knight Says:

    Grendel, are cities necessarily more violent than the countryside? I don’t think that was true for 1960 US homicide numbers. I don’t quite remember, but “big” cities having a higher homicide rate than “small” was definitely a temporary deviation that everyone took for granted.

  413. jim Says:

    Scott 380
    “the philosophy of classical Enlightenment liberalism that I cast my lot with, the one that’s obsessed with science and free speech and error-correcting processes and democratic norms,”

    You are late to the party. It was not classic Enlightenment liberalism that set Ferguson, America’s health care system, and the Middle East on fire.

    Rather it was “You did not build that”. Power is in the hands of people who smash the old expecting to immanentize the Eschaton by so doing.

    The terrorists, Saul Alinksy and Bill Ayers, are already in charge, and in due course they will send a tumbrel to take you to the guillotine. The election of Trump will merely buy you a little more time, unless he makes himself King, to be succeeded by his sons.

    When the Warren court had the inner cities ethnically cleansed of whites, this was the equivalent of Alexander the liberator “liberating” the serfs into collective farms – equivalent in starting the actual violence that culminates in the red terror of the French Revolution.

    Classic Enlightenment Liberalism is doctrine of Locke, which holds that government should protect life, liberty, and property. Compare and contrast with Ferguson and Obamacare. Is Obamacare classical liberalism? Scientific? Error correcting? Rather it was the act of a Ferguson arsonist who thought that the owner of the old supermarket “did not build that”, but rather the building was created by magic, and who expects after he burns the supermarket to the ground it will be magically replaced by a new supermarket staffed by black people who allow shoplifting.

    Good intentions failed because of magical thinking, and it is going to be politically difficult for anyone, including Trump, to create a health care system that does not rely on magic, because magic is so popular. Trump knows what is needed, but that is a third rail that even one so fearless as he may fear to touch.

    Classic liberalism would be wonderful if everyone was IQ 130 and up, but the masses need throne and altar, or they are just going to screw everything up and set everything on fire. This is more obvious in the middle east, where IQs are a little lower – compare the successful monarchies like Jordan and Dubai with any attempt at Middle Eastern democracy – for example our efforts in Iraq. Elections in the Middle East produce outcomes so disastrous that there is seldom a second election. Reflect on the Algerian election which was won by the Islamic equivalent of the Khmer Rouge.

    Democracy is apt to instantly self destruct in low IQ nations. High IQ nations are not, however, immune.

    For classic liberalism to be stable and workable and not degenerate into the red terror of the French Revolution, you need a certain intelligence level. The smarter the population, the more workable classic liberalism. The population was not smart enough in the nineteenth century. Even less is it smart enough now.

    People need throne and altar, throne to prevent destructive struggles for political power, altar to tell ordinary people how to live happy and productive lives. Maybe you are smart enough that you don’t need an official government backed priesthood preaching monogamy and chastity backed by police officially enforcing official church morality, but how does your sex life compare with that of your grandfather, who probably married a virgin at a young age and had half a dozen kids?

  414. jim Says:

    “Crime in the UK in 1800 was not a fiftieth of what it is today; see the anti-reactionary FAQ section 1.3 as well as ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ ”

    As evidence of high crime levels in nineteenth century, “The Better Angels of Our Nature” reports Victorians becoming shocked and alarmed at an outbreak of what we now call muggings. If memory serves me, becoming shocked and alarmed about one mugging in the city of London per month. A truly intolerable crime wave.

    Victorians had to coin a new word to describe this crime.

  415. quax Says:

    Jim, you really should consider a change in career, in times like these the Onion really needs writers like you. Was chuckling the entire way through. I especially love the bit about “our efforts in Iraq”.

    Somenody should forward this to Gen. Shinseki so that he can have a good laugh.

  416. jim Says:

    “Trying to achieve modern quality of life with old-timey organization is incredibly difficult.”

    Dubai is a modern twenty first century state with modern twenty first century quality of life, ruled by a theocratic monarchy similar to the Throne and Altar governments that Europe generally enjoyed during the eighteenth century. Works a whole lot better than the non monarchic part of the Middle East.

  417. سادات Says:

    hello dear , i want to tell you all of these games is for one reason :
    america (usa) and western governments are satanists in cover of christianity. they fight against arrivals of Jesus Christ and twelve imam in cover of helping to jesus (fake jesus) to arrive.

    worst government in all of history in fact is USA america .

    iran and iranian peoples and mullahs wants to help reall jesus and twelve imam to arrive but satanists (But usa and westerns ) dont want any sign of god so they want to run war against iran ( jesus and tewlve imam)

    just it.everything else is Backtrack and lie.

    i recommend to you to read about muslim-shia and twelve mam but not in the western books or medias but in iranian websites and books.

    i recommend to you to learn persian and read those really nice books and stories about twelve imam and jesus.

    thank you

  418. Boldmug Says:

    grendelkhan #409:

    Did you read the section of Scott Alexander’s FAQ? It’s just Scott saying he doesn’t believe in Victorian statistics. You feel pretty confident in his judgments, even though you wrote 1800 rather than 1900.

    Murder is a shitty index crime, because it lumps about 10 different phenomena (from crimes of passion to gang shootouts) into one number. The one I like is robbery. Robbery is not the only kind of intrahuman predation, but it’s a good

    Anyone who knows the Victorian era (like, has actually read *books* from the period) knows that (a) British statistics were, if anything, more reliable than ours, and (b) there was no systemic crime problem in (later) Victorian cities.

    The Chicago Prohibition experience was written up in such lurid detail because it was unique. There were no no-go areas in any American or European city in 1900, or for that matter 1950.

    If you don’t like Victorian statistics, how about Japanese statistics? See above. Again, 100x difference in robbery rate. Mind explaining how X and (X * 100) can both be described as “crime is low?” What is it in Japan — ultra-low?

    My children learned somewhere that Japan has free-range children. My 8 year old, I kid you not, was like: “If you wanted groceries, you could just send me to the store! I could go on the subway!” She said this like she was imagining conditions on Mars.

    So basically, my kids live as if they’re in prison, or at least on a strict work-release program, basically because you and 100 million others prefer listening to our Western TASS, which constantly assures us that crime is low and tractor production is up.

    Therefore, instead of asking the government to do its job and protect you from the dangerous and the mad, you’re in fact lobbying it to open its vast pens full of the criminals it’s bred.

    Instead of doing the sane rational thing of adopting the Japanese criminal-justice, immigration and mental-health care systems basically yesterday, you’re doubling down on a new version of the ’60s revolution, which caused the first spike. The Giuliani/Reagan reaction seems to have run its course. It’s like a schizophrenic who feels so good when he takes his meds, he decides he doesn’t need to take his meds anymore.

    You might not agree with this perspective, but I hope you understand it. And I hope you can excuse me if this makes me a little cranky…

  419. grendelkhan Says:

    Douglas Knight #412, I don’t know about historically–I was under the impression that density, anonymity and non-homogeneity made for more crime. It’s true in the contemporary United States, at least.

    jim #414, I can’t speak to the particular obsessions and fears of the Victorians. Modern Americans worry about razor blades in candy, or about whatever colorful story about gang initiations they care to imagine. But let’s stick to the facts, as best we can. Here (p. 99, Table 1), it looks like murder rates were about equivalent in the late Victorian period and in the 1975-1994 period; they’ve since fallen further.

    But surely you’d have to go back to pre-1688 days to really get a look at non-progressive rule of Britain, yes? At which point the homicide rate (for England as a whole) is four per hundred thousand, four times what it is in England today.

    jim #416, Dubai, like Saudi Arabia, is awash in so much money that it would be very difficult indeed to run it badly. (They still managed to, in some ways.) No, I think the real test of your ideas is a nation with absolute hereditary rulers revered as god-kings and a strong barrier against yecchy progressive intrusions. Honestly, I don’t know why you’re not more keen on the DPRK.

  420. Boldmug Says:

    grendelkhan #409,

    Those employment-population numbers would look a lot different if they didn’t include the imported helots from parts south.

    You also appear to be a strong believer in 20th-century utility economics. Hedonic utility metrics (which, as an Austrian would point out, are not commensurable across individuals) are not the only way to think about the purpose of an economy. Start here:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=kaelVuyDq20C

    Not that there aren’t plenty of direct metrics of social and personal health and satisfaction that aren’t cratering. But Carlyle’s point about the meaning and use of statistics (I once saw a copy of this posted as a PDF on a stats department website) should be read, and completely appreciated, first.

  421. grendelkhan Says:

    And waitasec, Dubai still uses modern technocratic method of organization! A professional civil service, bureaucracy, all that stuff. Just because you have a dictator at the top doesn’t mean you’re really running on 16th-century ‘firmware’!

  422. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #393:

    > Monarchy, at least as I understand the term, catastrophically fails the test of bad ideas being open to criticism by anyone. (If all the subjects feel free to attack the king’s bad ideas, then it’s not much of a monarchy, is it?)

    You understand the term very poorly, I’m afraid!

    “Monarchy” just literally means a system of government with a single ultimate decisionmaker. Basically like every company. Probably, in reality,

    All governments are absolute. There is no necessary correlation between the organizational structure of a government and its policies on free speech, or anything else. Moreover, there is no reason, either a priori or a posteriori, to think a committee of men in robes will propound more liberal and open policies than one man wearing a crown.

    It’s actually often easier for a stable monarch to tolerate free speech — the more secure the monarch, the more easily he can adopt the principle of (this quote is either Bismarck or Frederick the Great, I think) “they say what they want, I do what I want.”

    As for free speech in democracy, if we include all systems claiming to be democracies, it has a very poor record. Even if we look only at ours… have you been outside lately?

    As a good Enlightenment liberal, I am interested in all infringements on my liberties, whether or not they are implemented directly by men in blue. Should I treat official or unofficial assaults on my rights differently? If I do, that’s just a great incentive for tyranny to get its job done indirectly.

    Tocqueville, in the 1830s, described America as the country with the least practical freedom of speech. There was much you could say in the 1830s that you can’t say in the 1930s. There was much you could say in the 1930s that you can’t say today.

    So it’s pretty hard for me to endorse this line of reasoning!

    It’s easy to get these kinds of issues distorted by looking at the failed 20th-century monarchies we call “dictatorships.” You have to understand that all these 20C regimes, from the beginning to the end, were fighting both internally and externally against the empire of liberalism we live in now. That’s just one reason why we have a lot more to learn from Frederick the Great than from Hitler.

    Ultimately this excuses nothing, but you can’t think of their acts as anything but emergency wartime measures — and our own team has a pretty exciting record of emergency wartime measures, too. Which didn’t exactly start with Guantanamo!

  423. Boldmug Says:

    Sid #390,

    To respond to the point you imply, rather than trying to play Nostradamus for you, see my analogy to Dutch elm disease. I would rather be a Chinese elm than an American elm, yes. But Dutch elm disease remains a disease, not a symbiosis.

  424. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #393,

    The problem with your eigendemocracy, as with Hanson’s futarchy, is that it doesn’t account for the feedback cycle between knowledge and power.

    We already tried the solution of putting the universities in power. That’s the whole thrust of American governance in the 20C. That’s the way Washington already works! Scientific public policy! Indeed this idea dates back to the Fabians, a 19C phenomenon. Ultimately it even dates to Carlyle, since Fabian founder Ruskin was an acolyte of Carlyle’s.

    The basic problem is that this is yet another plan to defeat Sauron by persuading Gandalf to put on the Ring. It just turns Gandalf into Saruman. Haven’t we, like, seen that?

    Power corrupts science. Do you really, actually, think there are 1000 negative effects of a global temperature increase, for every 1 positive effect? But there are a thousand negative effects published for every positive effect published. Obviously I’m pulling this number out of my ass, but you know what I mean.

    But why? You have… been to a university, haven’t you? You are familiar with this game of building alliances, seeking funding, demonstrating impact?

    Well, I guess quantum computing doesn’t have much impact. “Impact,” of course, is just one of those nice euphemisms for power. If you put the scientists in power, they are simply going to get addicted to power. And their science will start to tell them whatever it needs to tell them, so they can get more power.

    My mother worked at DOE in the ’90s, when this whole circus was really ramping up. Joe Romm was her boss. So I got a nice inside view of how the scientocratic sausage is made — strictly from a policy and budget standpoint.

    Have you ever seen the checklist for “you think you’ve solved the spam problem”?

    https://www.rhyolite.com/anti-spam/you-might-be.html

    I think there should be a similar checklist for “quis custodiet ipsos custodes”:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quis_custodiet_ipsos_custodes%3F

    Any design for a regime in which authority and responsibility aren’t combined, preferably as tightly as possible, doesn’t work. “Build an inherently trustworthy guardian and put it in power” does not work unless you can figure out how that guardian is also responsible. Otherwise its trustworthy character won’t last long.

    Responsibility backpropagation for eigendemocracy? Hmm, can’t really see it. You would wind up with Robin Hanson type schemes. These would allow you to buy outcomes.

    Meanwhile, over on the corporate side of the fence, we have a perfectly reliable, proven mechanism for incredibly responsible and efficient management. The problem is just that it doesn’t make anyone’s dick hard.

  425. hlynkacg Says:

    @ Quax
    Re: 411

    Have you been watching the news? Imagine you’re just some random soccer mom/dad from Omaha and you turn on the TV and what do you see?

    On one side you’ve got Trump and his Cabinet looking and, dare I say it acting presidential. On the opposing side you see an angry mob, smashing windows and setting fires “lead” by incompetent boobs. So long as that pattern holds, you aren’t going to convince many rank-and-file republicans that they’ve backed the wrong horse.

    Hence my prescription for action, stop protesting the existence of the Right in general and Trump in particular and start focusing on specific fights that you can actually win.

  426. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #393:

    I suppose a good exercise for eigendemocracy or any similar device (basically a political perpetual-motion machine) is that, before you imagine putting it in charge of the world, you imagine putting it in charge of its own funding.

    You will see it quickly change its mind in whatever direction makes it more important, and therefore more worthy of funding. This bias is absolutely absent in a field whose funding is set by some higher authority. Obviously the least important fields, like math, do the best under this regime.

    On a level playing field, in certain specially designed circumstances, truth will genuinely outperform error. We can agree on this, I think. But the field has to be exquisitely leveled, the referee has to be completely clean, etc, etc, or it’s just another Soviet shitshow. Above all, power bias must be excluded.

    And if you have an authority who can create this level playing field, you might as well put that authority in charge. It’s turtles all the way down.

    Personally, I don’t think any of us can imagine what an awesome university system you could make out of the one we have today, if you could free it from bureaucracy and politics. A monarch might or might not succeed in this. But certainly the present regime, whatever we call it, will not.

  427. Raoul Ohio Says:

    I think I am getting an understanding of what is going on, and why there is a good chance it will not turn out nearly as bad as it looks.

    1. What’s the deal with Trump? Probably mostly ego and wanting BIG money. He probably has little use for the white power nuts and other wackos, other than that they delivered votes to get him elected.

    1.1. Trump might have started out running more or less as a lark, discovered he had traction, and jumped into going for it all. Now he is thinking of outrageous stunts that would be cool to pull off just for fun.

    1.2. Another theory is that Putin has more or less taken over Russia and appears to be amassing big money, maybe trillions. He may well have told Trump that together they could divide up a big pie, as in world size. There is a persistent rumor (part of the “yellow rain” leak) that Putin offered Trump 19% of the Russian Oil+Gas company as a gift if he won. Many report the transaction has already taken place. Crazy rumor, or fact? Who knows?

    1.3. Thus it is plausible that his primary motivation is amassing money on a scale that would make a Latin American dictator blush. In this scenario, putting crazies in his administration is just for cover, because it will keep everyone busy organizing protest marches instead of “following the money”. The entire “seven countries banned” might be just a strategic distraction.

    2. So, how will things play out? Well, there is congress and the courts to consider.

    2.1. Congress: It is likely that even most Republicans in Congress secretly hate Trump for being a buffoon, etc. Due to winning, most hitched their wagon to his train. But many Republicans have serious principles, and the “Trump Majority” will start to ablate as various thresholds are crossed. If it starts to look like the “Trump Revolution” is going down, the opportunists will bail like, you know, rats from a sinking ship.

    2.2. Courts: Probably all Judges have studied constitutional law, and most take it seriously. The checks and balances built into the constitution have worked pretty well, and most judges respect them. Given that the administration does dozens of things of questionable legality every day, a huge pileup of court challenges will soon develop. The Trump admin will no doubt say “Old Hat!, we can’t be bothered with that”. I doubt if many judges will buy this. This is likely to be the show stopper.

    3. So I think (and hope) that the effort to steamroll things into a “Trump Style America” will end up looking like a bunch of clowns trying to push a big pile of gravel with snow shovels.

  428. Cambridge trumpiste Says:

    Scott, I’m not understanding the drama here. If, instead of the Trump order, budget shortfalls were to cause lots of US universities to cut graduate student funding and prioritize US nationals, the results would be similar in practical terms. A lot of Iranian students in mid-PhD would not receive support to finish their dissertations, and many would have to go home empty handed with their student visas expired. But in that scenario, there would not be as much concern about the violation of Iranians’ human right to a US taxpayer-funded doctorate, postdoc and professorship.

    In fact this does happen to many foreign students every year due to money problems at one or another academic department. It is just not a uniform national event that applies to all students.

    When US companies go bankrupt, their foreign workers often unexpectedly have to go home, especially if near the end of their visas. No big drama there either.

    As it is the only thing that has happened so far is a 120-day delay in entry to the United States. There is no indication at the moment that the Iranian (et al) students will not be allowed to return in a few months, and if not, they have some time to apply to other programs not in Iran or the USA. Countries who think that those students are being denied a human right can take them in as refugees, or fund their educations if they see that as an opportunity.

  429. chris Says:

    Scott #396,

    I seriously hope that you are correct about the majority – but I fear that a vocal anti-intellectual minority together with a silent majority is quite enough to let Trump profit from an imagined deportation of intellectuals.

    But to the point: what should one do? I believe that in the center of all the liberal efforts there should be the clear message that the decreasing net income of the average american is *the* chief concern. Too many people were left behind over the last 40 years.

    Bernie Sanders would be a good starting point – he can convincingly channel the same anger into far more productive routes. But something has to happen – something big and visible – that revives this essential connection between liberals and the working class.

  430. chris Says:

    Sorry, one PS: if you can get the Trump government to handcuff and drag away coal miners – that would bring the point home.

  431. jim Says:

    John Sidles Says: “Comment #395
    “In uncritically praising theorists like Mosca and Burnham, aren’t the luminaries of alt-* deplorably derelict in civic duty by not mentioning (at least) the severe criticism their works by modern historians?”

    Modern historians emit unremitting and unvarying totalitarian boilerplate, monotonous in their dreary shrill fanatical political extremism and their piously Orwellian language.

    This becomes apparent if you read works written by participants in the events that modern historians describe (what Moldbug called slow history), and look up modern accounts of these events.

    History gets revised ever more abruptly at ever shorter intervals.

    By modern standards, every single person in our recent past was unthinkably right wing – Obama against gay marriage in 2008, Obama pausing Muslim immigration in 2011. So of course everyone around the time of George the fourth was super duper ultra hyper right wing. Now how do you think a modern historian is going to describe someone who is super duper ultra hyper right wing?

    He is going to describe him rather differently from the people who were there and lived the experience. This really should not surprise you.

  432. Sept Says:

    This has been an eye-opening introduction for me to the world of reactionary faux-erudition, a world in which Scott’s honest discussion of his political thoughts on his blog is lamentable “virtue signalling” but opposition to it is something entirely different, and in which the ultimate argument in any context is apparently a tedious appeal to Greco-Roman minutiae cemented in a dense binder of history created ex nihilo.

  433. jim Says:

    Raoul Ohio Says:
    Comment #427
    ‘a huge pileup of court challenges will soon develop. The Trump admin will no doubt say “Old Hat!, we can’t be bothered with that”. ‘

    How many divisions does the Supreme Court have?

  434. jim Says:

    grendelkhan Says:
    Comment #421
    “And waitasec, Dubai still uses modern technocratic method of organization! A professional civil service, bureaucracy, all that stuff. Just because you have a dictator at the top doesn’t mean you’re really running on 16th-century ‘firmware’!”

    I said eighteenth century, not sixteenth century. Charles the second had a bureaucracy and all that. Indeed, civil service and bureaucracy first appears in the thirteenth century, and something that is reasonably called technocracy shows up with Charles the second in the late seventeenth.

    I am pretty sure that if Trump declared himself King, named one of his sons as successor, appointed Dalrock archbishop and me Grand Inquisitor, and you could not serve in government except by converting to the Archbishop’s religion, and the Grand Inquisitor might check up on you to make sure your conversion was sufficiently sincere, particularly if you had previously adhered to a religion that caused problems, that would be eighteenth century enough for you.

  435. Sniffnoy Says:

    Boldmug #424:

    The problem with your eigendemocracy, as with Hanson’s futarchy, is that it doesn’t account for the feedback cycle between knowledge and power.

    Really? I think futarchy does account for that. The prediction markets are ultimately grounded in directly measurable facts, and the whole point of markets is that, compared to other mechanisms, they’re robust against such politicking and manipulation. I agree with you that this problem of power corrupting science is a common problem with epistocracy-style proposals, but I’m not seeing it for futarchy.

    We already tried the solution of putting the universities in power. That’s the whole thrust of American governance in the 20C. That’s the way Washington already works! Scientific public policy!

    If we really had “scientific public policy” — ignoring for now the question of whether the instituion of science is producing correct facts and just looking at to what extent the facts it does produce are accounted for in public policy — we’d have had a carbon dioxide tax ages ago. Among many other things. (Let’s not forget the periodical articles on “Here’s a list of things economists almost all agree we should do, but that no major candidate dares suggest!”) I am pretty doubtful of your claim here.

    Meanwhile, over on the corporate side of the fence, we have a perfectly reliable, proven mechanism for incredibly responsible and efficient management.

    I don’t think we do, actually. As best I can tell, most companies work terribly, and failure to assign responsibility like you claim is part of that. I think the problem here is the human hierarchical instinct — not hierarchical organizational structure, mind you, which is just a useful structure, but the hierarchical instinct that takes this structure and warps from its proper functioning it into something where those higher in the hierarchy are considered better in all ways and thus avoid responsibility for the problems they cause. There’s exceptions, of course, but how long do they last before decaying back to this? Seems to me it’s only competition that keeps it working. If you actually had such a mechanism — one that could resist decay over time — I think you could solve a lot of the world’s problems by getting people to implement it. But what we already have is not it.

  436. jim Says:

    grendelkhan Says:
    Comment #419
    > But let’s stick to the facts, as best we can. Here (p. 99, Table 1), it looks like murder rates were about equivalent in the late Victorian period and in the 1975-1994 period;

    Homicides are not necessarily an indicator of your ability to let children wander off to do the shopping.

    I don’t care what your statistics say. How does he know how many murders? He was not there. I have seen so much history of our past radically falsified at frequent and ever shortening intervals. And supposing his statistics are true, maybe they were criminals taking care of their own, or wives taking care of mistresses, not criminals predating on random passers by.

    I read what people who lived then wrote, and this sort of danger was not part of their world the way it is part of the modern world.

    Random predation, as for example Jack the Ripper, was extremely rare in Victorian times, so much so that they found such incidents extraordinary and they became legendary, while we scarcely notice them, treating them as routine background noise, as for example the Green River murders. The Green river killer a lot more people a lot more recently than Jack the Ripper, but you are going to have to look up the Green River killer. His killings were lost in the background noise.

    Every incident of random predation in Victorian times was an extraordinary and major incident, major incidents being remembered to the present day. Any twentieth century data that supposedly shows crime rates are similar is simply unbelievable, for when we read the writings of the people who lived at the time, it is clear that genuinely dangerous crime against random people in the street was rare and really big news.

    It often happened that a shoplifter stole something, he and the shopkeeper got into a fight, and somebody got killed. But you did not have gangs sticking up the shopkeeper. Crime was furtive and evasive. Criminals got in trouble, but did not proudly march down the middle of the street like the lord of all creation looking for trouble the way they do today.

    People, in Victorian times, were ashamed to be criminals and felt bad about it.

  437. Scott Says:

    Cambridge trumpiste (!) #428: In order for academic science to function at all, you need multi-year stability. The entire system—undergrad degrees that take 4 years, PhDs that take 4-7 years, postdocs that take 2-3 years, tenure tracks that 6 years—is designed around the assumption of a relatively stable world. People don’t even get considered for admissions or hiring except at yearly intervals. And grants are typically 5-year contracts, a fact that lets us have a rough idea of how many PhD students or postdocs we can afford to take on. Once we do bring a student, we then have a moral obligation to continue supporting that student for the expected amount of time, if the student is upholding their end of the bargain by continuing to do good work. By a “budget shortfall,” do you mean a grant that would be awarded, but then suddenly canceled partway through? If that happened more than occasionally, scientists would find it impossible to work in the US and would seek to move out, and you’d see the fast or slow destruction of the American scientific colossus that took a century to create. For the Trump regime, I’m sure this destruction is a feature rather than a bug.

    Instead of thinking in terms of a “human right to study in the US,” I’d encourage you to think in terms of broken promises. Because of the haphazard decisions of a few days, the US will now be known to the world for decades as a country that breaks its promises, where you can’t make the multi-year commitments that science relies on because of the risk of some capricious decree from the government, which no amount of scientific excellence can overrule. Science, I predict, will respond by increasingly treating the US as an error to be routed around.

    I don’t doubt for a microsecond that that’s what Trump and Steve Bannon and millions of their supporters want, but is it what you want?

  438. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #424: Yes, I do have some experience by now with the underbelly of academic science. My experience has basically been this: there are the people who think like scientists, and then there are the people who think like bureaucrats. As you move higher up the administrative ladder, from the active researchers to department heads to deans to provosts and presidents and NSF bigwigs, not surprisingly the proportion of bureaucrats increases. But even at the highest levels, you can still clearly see the people who think like scientists—as, conversely, you can also see the people who think like bureaucrats even at the lowest levels. (You also, of course, see the mixed cases: the ones who are torn, Gollum-like, between their scientist half and their bureaucrat half.)

    The people who think like scientists at the high levels are the ones who are constantly asking: “how can I work around the rules, in order to bring in the best people and support the best research? what are the researchers telling me they need, and what do I need to do to make that happen?” They’re never asking: “which actual productive scientist can I find today to punish for a small rule violation—or what I’ll interpret as a rule violation—just to remind them which one of us is boss?”

    Crucially, by describing some high-level administrators as “thinking like scientists,” I’m not claiming that most scientists could do their jobs! Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth: plunk down your average productive scientist in a position of responsibility over thousands of other scientists, and he or she will utterly lack the people skills and finesse for it—and will certainly lack the emotional makeup to interface with the bureaucrats, to serve as what’s sometimes called the scientists’ “shit umbrella.”

    But I can tell you that scientists genuinely respect or admire the administrator who thinks like a scientist—not only as the person who makes their own work possible, but as the person who does whatever they would have done in the same situation, if only they’d had a thousand times better people skills and finesse.

    It should go without saying that, if I ever let myself fantasize about competent scientists running the country, such people—not the ones who think like bureaucrats, and also not the absentminded nerds like me!—are the ones who I have in mind.

  439. Scott Says:

    jim: I’m grateful to you for so forthrightly setting out the sort of worldview that could lead a person to support Trump—as you recently did in your “Open Letter to Scott Aaronson”, where you unironically wrote:

      I hope that Trump will make himself King to be succeeded by his sons, and so does pretty much everyone who uses the phrase “God Emperor Trump”.

    Yes, and it wouldn’t shock me if that was a third of the country. But I can’t help feeling like, if we could just get enough people to agree with you, that the real urge animating Trumpism is to roll back all the social change not merely of the last 50 years but of the last 250, and to make the masses submit to “Throne and Altar” and be ruled by an Emperor—then we would’ve finished the work we needed to get the other two-thirds on our side.

  440. Scott Says:

    jim and others: Have you read The Better Angels of Our Nature? The statistical case that violence of virtually every form really has gone down all throughout human history—with even the world wars, Stalin, and Mao showing up in the numbers as temporary blips—strikes me as mind-numbingly, eyes-glazingly thorough and conclusive. (Of course, as Pinker allows, there’s no guarantee that the pattern will continue, particularly in a world with extremely unbalanced people controlling nuclear weapons.)

    And Steven Pinker is not exactly an SJW ideologue! Indeed, one of his main purposes is to refute the leftists who imagine that our era is uniquely violent because of colonialism and American militarism and white supremacy and rape culture and “the violence inherent in capitalism” and so forth. He shows that, even if you share those leftists’ goals (which, yes, I know, you don’t), they could hardly be more wrong about the past.

    So when I see someone say: “but there was hardly any crime in Victorian England, compared to the modern US!—oh, the data says otherwise?—well, how can you trust the data? after all, leftists rule the world and fabricate data all the time, and you can just read the diaries of Victorian Englishmen and see that murder wasn’t an everyday occurrence in their immediate world…”

    I have two reactions: first, murder isn’t an everyday occurrence in my immediate world either! This is why we use statistics for such things.

    Second, I’m reminded of the claim that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was way larger than the crowd at Obama’s because the leftist media doctored the photos. Or for that matter, the people who confidently trot out some isolated fact or statistic to prove that the entire edifice of evolution is a lie, or that the Holocaust never happened—and then, if their specific factoid is refuted, switch without batting an eye to explaining why you can’t trust the statistics anyway.

    Please explain: if you were in my shoes, why would you take the claim that the US is awash in an epidemic of Congo-like violence because of lib’ruls and Obama and Ferguson, more seriously than you take any of those other claims?

  441. Scott Says:

    سادات
    , #417:

      america (usa) and western governments are satanists in cover of christianity. they fight against arrivals of Jesus Christ and twelve imam in cover of helping to jesus (fake jesus) to arrive.

    Thank you for your refreshingly different perspective on the issues we’re talking about!

  442. Richard Gaylord Says:

    “I don’t expect this petition to have the slightest effect on the regime”. while you dislike and fear of Trump is understandable, it is incorrect to refer to it as a regime. The Executive branch of the government exists within the strictures of the U.S. Constitution and we can (we MUST) rely on the other two branches of the government to control any improper behavior of the Executive branch. and it should be noted the beginnings of the destruction of the Separation of Powers was in the previous administration. Obama expanded the Executive branch through his use of Executive orders and Reid contracted the Legislative branch through the elimination of the Senate filibuster, not mention the nomination by the Democrat party of a despised and untrusted candidate. “What you sow, so shall ye reap”.

  443. jim Says:

    > jim and others: Have you read The Better Angels of Our Nature? The statistical case that violence of virtually every form

    Thank you for courteously engaging those that disagree with you.

    Yes, I have read it.

    And discussed it extensively, my two major posts on the topic being
    http://blog.jim.com/culture/pinker-on-violence/

    http://blog.jim.com/culture/taleb-refutes-pinker-on-war/

    it is true that over the long term violence has gone down, reflecting the rise of western civilization But starting with the French Revolution, violence started going up, reflecting the continuing decline of Western civilization. Pinker grossly tortures his data to get the contrary result. Almost every form of violence is at utterly unprecedented levels – well, unprecedented in recent centuries. If you go back to the holy wars of the early seventeenth century, before the peace of Westphalia, then yes compared to how we were we before the peace of Westphalia we are still pretty peaceful. But if you start the story shortly after the peace of Westphalia, things are going downhill, and the general trend is likely to lead to nuclear holocaust before long.

    Indeed, progs were so offended by Putin jailing Pussy Riot for chopping down crucifixes and desecrating a Cathedral, and so offended by him preventing genocide and establishing peace in Syria, that they seemed to be working their way up to nuclear war with him until Clinton lost the election. Which is about right for the general trend, if we look at things starting with the peace of Westphalia.

  444. jim Says:

    >why would you take the claim that the US is awash in an epidemic of Congo-like violence because of lib’ruls and Obama and Ferguson, more seriously than you take any of those other claims?

    http://blog.jim.com/war/ethnic-cleansing-in-ferguson/

  445. Samuel Skinner Says:

    “If that happened more than occasionally, scientists would find it impossible to work in the US and would seek to move out, and you’d see the fast or slow destruction of the American scientific colossus that took a century to create.”

    -looks at link- Always Hitler comparisons.

    “I’d encourage you to think in terms of broken promises.”

    Since the right didn’t make those promises, why one Earth do you think they should care about keeping them? The left doesn’t care so there is no tit-for-tat penalty for the right to stop living by that standard.

    Surprise! This is what happens when both sides play politics to win. Working democracy is an unstable equilibrium and the US is going into terminal phase.

    “Because of the haphazard decisions of a few days, the US will now be known to the world for decades as a country that breaks its promises,”

    I’m pretty sure the US has broken promises before, implicit or explicit. The Vietnam War stands out of the most famous.

    “Science, I predict, will respond by increasingly treating the US as an error to be routed around.”

    Scientists don’t feel any obligation to their country or their fellow citizens? Where exactly are these guys going to go? Are they going to leave the country for Europe (where is the funding going to come from) or will this change in behavior consist of being hostile towards other Americans because they have different opinions? Given the far left makeup of academia I’m not sure how that is possible.

    “I don’t doubt for a microsecond that that’s what Trump and Steve Bannon and millions of their supporters want, but is it what you want?”

    Or we think you are wrong about what will happen. I’m listening to the people who have the best track record of predicting politics- Steve Sailor laid out Trump’s campaign strategy in 2000. Why should we believe you are more accurate or clear-sighted then him?

  446. Scott Says:

    hlynkacg #425:

      Hence my prescription for action, stop protesting the existence of the Right in general and Trump in particular and start focusing on specific fights that you can actually win.

    The trouble, from my half of the country’s perspective, is that there’s such a smorgasbord of shit on offer—truly, a shit banquet fit for a galactic emperor—that how can you possibly pick just one or two things to fight?

    Steven Weinberg, an extremely smart man, remarked to me that it’s probably the climate-change denialism that should worry us the most, because in the grand sweep of decades or centuries, all the other damage that Trump can do is more likely to be reversible.

    But it seems to me that one could make an equally strong case for setting aside all traditional left vs. right issues, and just focusing relentlessly on defending the country’s institutions: for example, making sure that court orders actually get obeyed, as they incredibly weren’t this past week—surely the first time the executive branch has so openly defied the judicial one since Nixon, and maybe since Andrew Jackson.

    This fight has the advantage that we can hopefully get principled conservatives and libertarians on our side. Events have shown that those are pitifully rare in Congress, but even a few could be enough to tip the scales. And also, if we lose that fight, then Trump is effectively the emperor that our neoreactionary friends here on this thread yearn for, the American Republic is finished, and we’ve lost all the other fights as well.

  447. Scott Says:

    Samuel #445: The very fact that you’d talk about promises made by scientists to their students as political footballs—i.e., as just some random things that the left wants, and that the right gets to destroy once it seizes power because it’s “playing politics to win”—underscores why my side can never compromise with yours. Like, imagine if Obama had suddenly banned all visits to the US from the Vatican, even turning away the Pope at the airport—and then when Catholics expressed outrage, had shrugged and said, “ah, but religion is the right’s thing. We saw an opportunity to hurt you so we took it. All’s fair when you’re playing to win.” The very absurdity of that scenario underscores the lack of any symmetry here, the fact that this isn’t normal politics but fascism.

    Incidentally, I certainly don’t claim any special ability to predict American politics—for example, exactly how far Trump’s rank-and-file supporters will go along with the current insanity, and what if anything would make them say “enough.” Please believe me on that! 🙂 The only insights I’ve claimed, concern how “my people” (scientists and academics) will likely respond to the monster that those voters unleashed.

  448. fred Says:

    Not sure whether this was mentioned as well, but the Trump administration has also passed orders to force federal science agencies to stop publishing their results directly to the public and go through a review process from the administration first (I believe this doesn’t just cover the EPA)

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/25/donald-trump-epa-gag-order-political-review

  449. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #424: The way I pose the question is, “if we exclude me and my family and my close friends and colleagues, then who would I be least terrified to see ruling the world?”

    Every time I ask myself that, the answer comes back:

    (1) People with scientific expertise who are also friendly and public-spirited and levelheaded and have strong interpersonal skills and common sense (Rush Holt, Steve Hsu, Terry Tao, Tim Gowers, Eric Lander, …).

    (2) Technology leaders with similar qualities (Bill Gates, Paul Graham, Sam Altman, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, …)

    (3) Leaders with no particular science or technology expertise, but the sorts of worldviews that would cause them to turn to people in classes (1) and (2) for science or technology advice (Barack Obama, most other mainstream Democrats…)

    And yes, I’ll grant you that I’d probably rather pick any of those people and make them world emperor, than continue living in a democracy (certainly if it’s the broken, dysfunctional sort of democracy we have now). But then the fantasy starts to falter when we ask what comes next, if not a return to some democratic system. Sure, Paul Graham would probably pick someone wise and just to succeed him as emperor, and that person would probably pick another wise and just successor, but eventually you’d get a despot, who’d appoint an even worse despot, who’d then get overthrown in an orgy of bloodshed and replaced by someone yet worse—and then we’d be back to square one.

    I attach enormous weight to the observation that monarchy actually was tried, not just once or twice but all over the world and for thousands of years, and it never seems to have come up with a good solution to the succession problem.

    So if you tell me that my system needs to continue to work in equilibrium—i.e., even after the memory of my initial wise choice of ruler has dissipated away—then you’ll force me to some form of democracy or republicanism, which I’ll then seek to enhance using crowdsourcing and eigentrust mechanisms and modern behavioral science research and all the practical experience of the past few centuries about what causes democracies to develop catastrophic instabilities. As they say, a terrible choice except for all the alternatives.

  450. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    When people like jim are so absolutely willing to ignore any data that doesn’t suit their pre-existing claims and preconceptions, I’m not sure dialogue is at all productive. I’m strongly against punching people I disagree with (for the same reasons Scott has outlined in earlier posts), but seeing Jim’s complete and absolute anti-epistemology at work here makes me really see where the desire by some to do so comes from. It is extremely difficult to have a serious conversation with people who believe whatever facts suit their pre-existing narrative.

  451. Scott Says:

    Joshua #450: Yeah, I’m sure I’ll lose interest before long—just like I years ago lost interest in debating creationists, JFK conspiracy buffs, and Bell’s Theorem deniers. In fact I’m already feeling like I should wind down this thread and do some research for a nice change of pace. 🙂 But I can’t remember any previous case when I got into an extended debate with people who really, earnestly wanted to roll back the entire Enlightenment and submit to a king, and who were ready to say so with no circumlocutions. So, particularly given the obvious relevance to our unfolding national emergency, I figured it was something I should try once in my life.

  452. Charlie Croker Says:

    Joshua #450:
    Instead of fantasising about punching other commenters, maybe you could elaborate on what “anti-epistemology” you see in Jim’s posts.

    Although I might disagree with some of the points in Boldmug’s and Jim’s posts on crime rates, I think the main argument is very convincing.

    Consider election results in the DPRK. Usually, Kim Jong Un will win an election with 99% of the popular vote. However, most of us will mistrust these results. We do so because the data is not reliable in our view.
    However, none of us has ever seen the North Korean government manipulate the election. Also, Kim Jong Un does not allow election observers to visit the country, so we cannot rely on eye witness testimony. Indeed, it wouldn’t be too surprising if there were actually not much empirical evidence of manipulated elections at all since the DPRK is so isolated from the rest of the world.
    Nevertheless, it is obvious that the election result is fake. We can deduce this from the general observation that even the most revered political leaders will never get that many votes in a free election and also from the fact that the DPRK is a dictatorship. Both of these observations are common sense principles and do not use statistical evidence, but they easily establish that the election statistics in the DPRK are unreliable.

    Obviously, neither Victorian England nor the United States are similar to the DPRK and there is no reason a priori to assume that crime data in either of them has been purposefully forged. Nevertheless, the issue of reliability again comes up.

    An obvious observation is that most statistics on crime rates deal with crime that was actually reported to the police. This means that if a crime is not reported, it will not show up in the data. Thus, in order for the statistics to be reliable, you have to establish that most criminal acts are actually reported or, in this case, that unreported crime accounts for the same amount of total crime in the countries (or centuries) you want to compare.

    However, there is ample evidence that this is not so.
    1) There were no crime syndicates like modern day Mexican drug cartels (or their European equivalents) in Victorian Britain. Since most criminal acts by these groups are unreported and it is well established that they earn billions of dollars every year, it is not an unreasonable assumption that they alone are proof of a significant difference in unreported crime between then and now.
    2) There were now no-go areas then, but they exist now. Since a) people in these areas lose faith in the police and tend not to report even violent acts against them and b) the police themselves tend to be present less often in these areas, it is likely that the percentage of criminal acts that are never reported there is non-trivial.

    On the other hand, I have seen no evidence so far that crime in Victorian Britain was underreported. Indeed, Victorians prioritised fighting crime in a way that modern day “Law-and-Order-Conservatives” can only dream of, society had zero tolerance for crime (modern day discussions about “criminal justice reform” would have lead to social exclusion even among liberals) and, as pointed out by Jim, there is no mention of unsafe areas in books from that time.
    Since intellectuals were free to discuss social problems (unless related to sexuality), it would be surprising if there had been serious problems with crime back then, but no books about them.

  453. Stephen V Says:

    Joshua #450: I like to think of it as “evidence that certainty is merely correlated with truth, not (always) caused by it – or, more confusingly, causing it”.
    Arguably it’s less correlated when politics or rumor are involved, which in turn points to avoiding social media as a matter of epistemic hygiene.

    Raoul Ohio #427, 2.1: Congress hasn’t had anything resembling popularity for a long time (citation needed), but I suspect some of that may change if Trump makes them look sane by comparison. Anchor bias is a powerful thing.

  454. wb Says:

    >> defend the foundations of Enlightenment

    The real issue is how much of your precious time you waste arguing with this “Mold” et al. instead of doing something valuable.

  455. Jelmer Renema Says:

    Re: Boldmug 285

    Interpol actually *was* the pet project of Himmler, or rather of the SS. Heydrich was its president from 1940 to 1942.

  456. Scott Says:

    wb #454: Yeah, fine, the part of me that’s in charge right now thinks you’re right. Ok, I’m closing this thread by the end of today. Get in any last thoughts between now and then.

  457. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    Charlie,

    Please don’t confuse understanding with why some people would want to do something with fantasizing about it. That’s an extremely unhelpful leap to make.

    As for the substance of your statement:

    The declining levels of violence have occurred by many different metrics, in many different societies, not just Victorian England.

    And it is true that there are some factors which would potentially make historical rates seem higher than they would, but some features do not. This is the primary reason that Pinker and others have tried to focus on murder rates- murders are hard to define away and aren’t going to have reporting issues the same way some other crimes will.

    In fact, I find it interesting that both you and Jim haven’t brought up what has been widely acknowledged as the primary problem with this sort of metric- better emergency medical care can make turn violent acts that would be murders into non-murders. This first started getting recognized in the early 2000s (see e.g. https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/research-finds-us-murder-rate-suppressed-improved-emergency-medical-response ) and has become more accepted as an issue. However, at the same time, the differences that result do not look large enough to alter the overall trend.

    As for the idea of “no-go” areas- their existence in modern contexts is wildly exaggerated, and at the same time the idea that bad neighborhoods didn’t exist historically are simply not accurate. Indeed, restricting to Victorian England, substantial sections of East London were considered extremely dangerous. This is the sort of thing that I’m referring to when I mention an anti-epistemology at work here: Jim’s claim that there were no such mentions or discussions simply isn’t true, but apparently he decided this would be convenient.

    As for the idea that organized crime didn’t exist, that’s simply not true. I would recommend for example “The Victorian Underground” by D. Thomas, which illustrates not just that large-scale organized crime existed but that it often had its claws into politics and law enforcement; making underreporting of crime plausible for the exact same reasons you find it plausible today. I’m under the impression that the problem of unnderreporting of crime is something which is discussed in late Victorian era sources (and certainly early Edwardian) but I don’t have a citation off-hand.

  458. Douglas Knight Says:

    Grendel, sure, it’s “true” in the US today, but you should really be careful about qualitative claims like A>B. If you had anchored on the numbers from 1990, you would say that it is false today!

    Why are we talking about this? Because you used it as an ingredient for an argument. You said that long-term crime decline is even more impressive in the face of urbanization, because urbanization itself increases crime. If urbanization has a varying effect, it undercuts this argument. Of course, correlation is not causation. All I can measure is the time-varying correlation. Maybe there is a constant causal component—as you say, anonymity is a reason to expect one—but it is swamped by other effects.

  459. HlynkaCG Says:

    @ Scott
    Apologies if this ends up as a double-post, the browser seems to have eaten my earlier reply.

    In #425, you asked “how can you possibly pick just one or two things to fight?” my answer is “because that is what you need to do if you want to win.” If you actually want to help your student, you need to focus on helping your student. Yet another rant about how Trump is literally Hitler, isn’t going to get any one’s visas renewed.

    As for the rest, I would say that defending the country’s institutions is an excellent example of Stephen’s “mutually acceptable actions”, but you’ll have to show that you see those institutions as more than just “political footballs” if you’re going to have any success recruiting principled conservatives to your cause.

  460. HlynkaCG Says:

    I think it’s also worth reminding you that Jim and Moldbug are not representative of the people you need to convince.

  461. quax Says:

    سادات’s take on this is about as rational as Boldmug and Jim, but he is more succinct and writes better.

    Jim and Boldmug: Seriously guys, did you win the lottery or is Peter Thiel your sugar daddy, so that you can afford to waste your time and life on these pseudo-intellectual exercises?

  462. quax Says:

    hlynkacg, #410 you have a point.

    Progressive kids these days are so easy to set-up.

    Sending Milo to Berkley leads to the same predictable result as holding a match to gasoline.

    Bannon must feel quite smug about this.

  463. Douglas Knight Says:

    plunk down your average productive scientist in a position of responsibility over thousands of other scientists, and he or she will utterly lack the people skills and finesse for it

    Scott, would they? How do you know? Ivan Sutherland was chosen as the second head of the CS branch of DARPA by sortition. The military couldn’t get a civilian volunteer to replace Licklider, so it found a CS PhD in the Army and ordered him to do it. And I don’t think it chose him because it was impressed by his leadership, because the previous job it had ordered him to do, after finishing his PhD, was to be a file clerk. Obviously there are serious issues of publication bias, but I think this calls for experiments.

  464. sf Says:

    There’s a column in today’s NYT by Thomas Edsall,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_B._Edsall

    on the issues discussed here. I find his approach more informative than most of what I see in the press.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/opinion/the-peculiar-populism-of-donald-trump.html?_r=0

    His books are written in a similar style.

    The article links to results of a poll on reactions to Trump’s EO;

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-immigration-poll-exclusive-idUSKBN15F2MG

  465. Sid Says:

    Dear Neoreactionaries,

    Even if we completely accept that a God-Emperor would be better than democracy, it is far from clear that there is any way we can get there from here without immense amounts of suffering and pain and with little chance of success. I would much rather that we try to incrementally improve the institutions we have now rather than make a moonshot for some imagined utopia, which, (a) has a low chance of actually being a utopia; and (b) has a low chance actually being achieved in the right way.

  466. sf Says:

    Question for Boldmug: what examples are there of history being wound back (against the ratchet) that would encourage you to imagine such things are possible? I asked a historian friend who could only suggest the Amish as such an attempt. It seems that looking at brief restorations of monarchy don’t really qualify.

  467. Chinese Student Says:

    Dear Scott,

    I particularly admire your courage for standing up in these occasions.

    However, why go on totally off-topic tangents defending “Enlightenment values”, the same ones that are responsible for the destruction of our environment and planet and to our future (very likely) demise?

  468. Keith McClary Says:

    David Borhani #173
    “learn the actual history, not the invented Palestinian ‘narrative’ ”

    Do you remember the tale about how the Arab leaders told the Palestinians to leave (so the European and American colonists were justified in helping themselves to their homes and farms)? Whatever happened to that bit of your “actual history”?

  469. Douglas Knight Says:

    Scott, Joshua, what, specifically does Pinker say in contradiction? I have not read his book, but I have skimmed it looking for relevant material and I have not found any. Mainly he is talking about a larger span of time. Does he really talk about “violence of virtually every form,” rather than homicide at every scale of organization?

    Pinker concedes that English homicide was lower in 1900 than today. It is Pinker that chooses to ignore the data on muggings. Probably he is right to, but when others choose to look at it, it is Kafkaesque to accuse them of ignoring data.

  470. Keith McClary Says:

    Scott #402 Well, the settlers claim to be the vanguard of Zionism and their detractors call it a Zionist Project, but it seems Zionism has flexible meaning. It’s hard to deny that it’s an ethno-religious nationalism, since “Jewishness” and “Jewish People” are religious concepts (at least as far as Wikipedia knows). What do you think about the ethno-religious component of Trump nationalism?

  471. Scott Says:

    Chinese Student #467:

      However, why go on totally off-topic tangents defending “Enlightenment values”, the same ones that are responsible for the destruction of our environment and planet and to our future (very likely) demise?

    Firstly, I don’t agree that it’s off-topic. I think that the people who support Trump, and his horrible actions like the ones last week, do so because they really, actually reject the values of the Enlightenment. Of course only a tiny minority of those people, like Boldmug and Jim, are intellectual enough to articulate their anti-Enlightenment, anti-democracy attitudes in as many words (with, in Boldmug’s case, emphasis on the “many” 🙂 ). But they speak for the tens of millions who’d cheer with animalistic glee if (for example) Trump went through with his recent threat to destroy UC Berkeley or the US’s other great research universities. These are people who so thoroughly reject the idea of human betterment that they’re eager to make their own lives miserable, just as long as the lives of the know-it-all intellectual snobs become miserable even faster. And if the rest of us are going to battle that dark side of humanity, we’d better get a very good look at it first.

    Secondly, I don’t agree that Enlightenment values are responsible for the destruction of the planet. The causal chain is instead like this: Enlightenment values are responsible for the scientific discoveries that enabled the technologies that then, in the hands of people with anti-Enlightenment values, are bringing about the destruction of the planet.

    So “should” we have never started down this path in the first place? If that’s how we feel, then I’d say that we as humans might as well go ahead and render ourselves extinct after all, in order to give some other animal species a chance!

  472. Candide III Says:

    quax #461: no more than you have, and probably less if you are some kind of a scientist or a public officer. As is well known, Moldbug has independent means from his earlier IT work, and Jim is retired.
    Since Pinker’s book has become a point of contention, I’ll post a link to this old review https://foseti.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/review-of-the-better-angels-of-our-nature-by-steven-pinker/ Here’s a couple of paragraphs:

    Pinker’s basic problem is that he essentially defines “violence” in such a way that his thesis that violence is declining becomes self-fulling. “Violence” to Pinker is fundamentally synonymous with behaviors of older civilizations. On the other hand, modern practices are defined to be less violent than newer practices.

    A while back, I linked to a story about a guy in my neighborhood who’s been arrested over 60 times for breaking into cars. A couple hundred years ago, this guy would have been killed for this sort of vandalism after he got caught the first time. Now, we feed him and shelter him for a while and then we let him back out to do this again. Pinker defines the new practice as a decline in violence – we don’t kill the guy anymore! Someone from a couple hundred years ago would be appalled that we let the guy continue destroying other peoples’ property without consequence. In the mind of those long dead, “violence” has in fact increased. Instead of a decline in violence, this practice seems to me like a decline in justice – nothing more or less.

    Here’s another example, Pinker uses creative definitions to show that the conflicts of the 20th Century pale in comparison to previous conflicts. For example, all the Mongol Conquests are considered one event, even though they cover 125 years. If you lump all these various conquests together and you split up WWI, WWII, Mao’s takeover in China, the Bolshevik takeover of Russia, the Russian Civil War, and the Chinese Civil War (yes, he actually considers this a separate event from Mao), you unsurprisingly discover that the events of the 20th Century weren’t all that violent compared to events in the past! Pinker’s third most violent event is the “Mideast Slave Trade” which he says took place between the 7th and 19th Centuries. Seriously. By this standard, all the conflicts of the 20th Century are related. Is the Russian Revolution or the rise of Mao possible without WWII? Is WWII possible without WWI? By this consistent standard, the 20th Century wars of Communism would have seen the worst conflict by far. Of course, if you fiddle with the numbers, you can make any point you like.

  473. Samuel Skinner Says:

    “The very fact that you’d talk about promises made by scientists to their students as political footballs—i.e., as just some random things that the left wants, and that the right gets to destroy once it seizes power because it’s “playing politics to win”—underscores why my side can never compromise with yours. ”

    Remember when Brendan Eich was fired and you declared that there could be no compromise with the left by the right because treating political advocacy as political footballs was insane?

    “Like, imagine if Obama had suddenly banned all visits to the US from the Vatican, even turning away the Pope at the airport—and then when Catholics expressed outrage, had shrugged and said, “ah, but religion is the right’s thing. We saw an opportunity to hurt you so we took it. All’s fair when you’re playing to win.” ”

    -Points to case above-

    “The very absurdity of that scenario underscores the lack of any symmetry here, the fact that this isn’t normal politics but fascism.”

    Yes, everyone you disagree with is Hitler. It is impressive how totally incapable you are with engaging or understanding your opponents argument.

    “Incidentally, I certainly don’t claim any special ability to predict American politics”

    Then why should we believe your personal political views are good? Predictive power is the only test.

    “The only insights I’ve claimed, concern how “my people” (scientists and academics) will likely respond to the monster that those voters unleashed.”

    Academics already viewed the unwashed masses as scum. But please, double down- we haven’t gotten tired of winning yet.

    @Joshua Zelinsky
    “As for the idea of “no-go” areas- their existence in modern contexts is wildly exaggerated, and at the same time the idea that bad neighborhoods didn’t exist historically are simply not accurate.”

    No-go areas are not bad neighborhoods. They are areas civil authorities do not have control over. You are conflating two wildly different things; this is incredibly disingenuous.

    ” This is the sort of thing that I’m referring to when I mention an anti-epistemology at work here:”

    Yes, if you rewrite your opponents arguments, you can declare they are trivially false and save yourself the time of engaging with them.

    “As for the idea that organized crime didn’t exist, that’s simply not true.”

    Again you are ignoring what your opponent wrote in order to advance a weaker claim you can destroy.

    1) There were no crime syndicates like modern day Mexican drug cartels (or their European equivalents) in Victorian Britain.

    There were no crime syndicates like the Mexican drug cartels in Britain. This is a fact- multinational gangs who controlled parts of the country and were above the law did not exist in Victorian Britain.

    There was organized crime but that isn’t the same thing.

  474. quax Says:

    Chinese Student #467, why would you ever think “Enlightenment values” are responsible for the environmental damage?

    I’d say they are rather responsible for us knowing about these damages.

    Scientists have little control over what engineers and the society at large does with the knowledge they created (unless they themselves work in an engineering capacity).

    E.g. Lise Meitner certainly did not want nuclear bombs, yet by pointing out to Otta Hahn that this is what he discovered, she ultimately set this development in motion.

    Very little we can do about it, unless we were to build a society like Hermann Hesse describes in Glassperlenspiel, where the scientists keep their knowledge mostly to themselves.

  475. Samuel Skinner Says:

    @Scott
    “I think that the people who support Trump, and his horrible actions like the ones last week, do so because they really, actually reject the values of the Enlightenment.”

    Rejecting the free exchange ideas is a fundamental liberal value- ‘moral progress’ means that after a certain point issues are declared ‘solved’ and so you are no longer allowed to discuss them or you are labeled a horrible person. I’m not seeing how it is physically possible for the right to beat that.

    “These are people who so thoroughly reject the idea of human betterment that they’re eager to make their own lives miserable, just as long as the lives of the know-it-all intellectual snobs become miserable even faster.”

    Neither Boldmug and Jim reject human betterment- they reject the idea of ‘moral progress’, but they absolutely agree that human lives can be better or worse or else they wouldn’t be advocating their positions! They think your ideas are terrible and disastrous for actual human betterment. The fact you can’t separate out ‘wants the world to be better’ and ‘agrees with me’ is rather disturbing.

    “technologies that then, in the hands of people with anti-Enlightenment values, are bringing about the destruction of the planet.”

    That doesn’t explain crime, mass migration or declining social trust which are the biggest issues the right is concerned about.

  476. Bran Says:

    Whenever modernity and democracy is criticized, the same tired points about Kim Jong-Il and Pinker’s Better Angels are trotted out. The critics consider these points to be an absolute gotcha and game-ender. They are considered to be such a knockout punch that they slay the entire trustworthiness of the anti-modern side: they are to now be viewed as irresponsible miscreants, guilty of “anti-epistemology”, who’s arguments supposedly collapse when prodded, and can safely be dismissed.

    But before declaring victory over someone in a debate, it’s a good practice to make sure that your supposed knockout punch actually landed, before you bounce around the ring and celebrate.

    Let’s start with Better Angels, the supposed debate-ender on the subject of modern crime. It turns out that there are many criticisms of Better Angels. If these criticisms are correct, then the book is a piece of scientism that cannot be used to decide the debate over modernity.

    The biggest problem with using homicide to measure violence is that it is confounded by advances in medical technology:

    Our lethality findings are strongly consistent with the hypothesis that progress in emergency medical care has converted an ever increasing proportion of homicides into non-lethal assaults and thus, by virtue of good intentions, ironically and unintentionally masked a continuing epidemic of violence in America

    John Gray in the The Guardian also has a critical review of Better Angels that is an excellent read. According to Gray, the first half of the 20th century causes big problems for Pinker’s argument:

    Along with fatalities caused by state terror were unnumbered millions whose lives were irreparably broken and shortened. How these casualties fit into the scheme of declining violence is unclear. Pinker goes so far as to suggest that the 20th-century Hemoclysm might have been a gigantic statistical fluke, and cautions that any history of the last century that represents it as having been especially violent may be “apt to exaggerate the narrative coherence of this history” (the italics are Pinker’s). However, there is an equal or greater risk in abandoning a coherent and truthful narrative of the violence of the last century for the sake of a spurious quantitative precision.

    “Abandoning a truthful narrative of violence of the last century for the sake of a spurious quantitive precision.” Ouch. In other words, Gray is accusing Pinker of scientism.

    Pinker is probably correct that violence has declined up-to the 20th century, but the 20th century itself causes big problems. Gray also points out that if a nuclear war with the Soviet Union had occurred, it would have blown away Pinker’s angelic trends.

    Let’s take stock. Better Angels was considered to be a knockout punch to anti-modern arguments, ever since Scott Alexander’s Anti-reactionary FAQ. Yet I think we can see from these counterarguments to Pinker, that he is quite busy in his own ring fending off multiple opponents, and not available to deliver the knockout punch.

    So here’s the question: would a neutral observer to this thread figure out the correct answer, that Better Angel’s does not end the debate over modern crime? If someone didn’t read Jim’s links, and didn’t read this post of mine, then it’s quite likely that they wouldn’t, and they would believe that Boldmug and Jim were debunked. And they would be wrong. The consensus of the pro-modern side in this thread would then lead a skimming, neutral observer away from the truth, unless they did their own research.

    What’s going on here is simple. The pro-modern side is deeply uncomfortable with anti-modern arguments. They immediately latch onto any data or stock arguments that they think can shut down the debate, and then they declare victory. This is not the sort of debate tactics that will arrive at the truth.

    I understand why Boldmug and Jim rub some people the wrong way rhetorically, but I believe that superficial dislike of them is motivating knee-jerk, unfair responses to their arguments. It’s an inverse halo-effect. To subtract that inverse halo-effect, let’s take a quote from John Gray’s Pinker review that I mentioned above:

    The ancient world, along with all the major religions and pre-modern philosophies, had a different and truer view. Improvements in civilisation are real enough, but they come and go. While knowledge and invention may grow cumulatively and at an accelerating rate, advances in ethics and politics are erratic, discontinuous and easily lost. Amid the general drift, cycles can be discerned: peace and freedom alternate with war and tyranny, eras of increasing wealth with periods of economic collapse. Instead of becoming ever stronger and more widely spread, civilisation remains inherently fragile and regularly succumbs to barbarism. This view, which was taken for granted until sometime in the mid-18th century, is so threatening to modern hopes that it is now practically incomprehensible.

    If you can’t hear it from them, maybe you can hear it from him.

    The anti-modern position is that history needs to be evaluated qualitatively using narrative and judgment, and that there is no particular dataset that’s a debate-ender for some of the most interesting questions.

    My view is that plenty of things about the perspectives of Boldmug and Jim are counter-intuitive and debatable, but most of the debate with progressives involves occurs at a shallow and specious level, retracing the same set of arguments from 2013. The knee-jerk responses prevents the debate from moving on to the subjects that are actually interesting, like the details of the engineering project of fixing government, the proper role of the church, imperialism vs nationalism, absolutism, etc.

    Maybe someday we can move past the level of “gotcha” debate and have a real dialogue, because getting political philosophy right is going to be really important for the future of humanity. It’s not as if what we’ve got is working very well.

  477. Candide III Says:

    Scott #470

    These are people who so thoroughly reject the idea of human betterment that they’re eager to make their own lives miserable, just as long as the lives of the know-it-all intellectual snobs become miserable even faster.

    Of course, the know-it-all intellectual snobs have given no cause whatsoever to be regarded as such, oh no! They can tolerate everybody except the outgroup. (Scott Alexander, for all his defects, is more self-aware in this respect than you appear to be.) Seriously, though, every time your side has bet on human betterment the results have been bloodbaths. 道可道、非常道. If humans can become better, it is not going to be accomplished by trying to make them better, especially since there is after all such a thing as human nature, and it is such that attempts at making people better invariably involve making other people better (according to your lights), or hating them for being worse. Many millions of years have passed and uncounted billions of our ape and hominid ancestors have lived and died before we could sit in front of our screens today and discuss these issues, and you have the hubris to think some social science mumbo-jumbo is going to overturn that in a couple of decades or even centuries? Pfui.

  478. Bran Says:

    Scott:

    You stack the deck in your hypothetical by comparing Trump only to the current British royal family, rather than to Kim Jong-Un or anyone else who claims a hereditary right to rule. In particular, England (if I’m not mistaken) has seen its share of murdering tyrants; who’s to say that the king would be mild-mannered like Prince Charles in your hypothetical universe?

    What is the basis to believe that British monarch would behave like a Korean communist dictator? They have entirely different histories, philosophies, and justification behind their rule. Kim’s is a popular government that rules in the name of the people, which makes him required to oppress the people to make sure that they continually will him to rule them. He is insecure. British monarchs were much less oppressive than him. And the relatively more oppressive ones, like Bloody Mary, were oppressive because they were insecure: it’s insecurity, not autocracy itself, that creates evil.

    The failure mode of your state turning evil is not limited to monarchy. The totalitarian governments of the 20th century were far worse than Western European Kings at oppressing their own people, and they were all justified by reasoning from the Enlightenment clade.

    Some people believe that monarchy is higher variance and democracy is safer, but Angela Merkel’s Germany puts the lie to that notion. Merkel is so insecure that she has to import voters from the 3rd world to bolster her position, resulting in state-sponsored mass sexual violence and crime against her own people. Note that her state is based on Enlightenment logic, and she is a former communist (or present communist, depending on your perspective).

    The typical dualism of “democracy good, autocracy bad” is immensely simplistic. Those categories do not cleave reality at the joints. Here is a good article that will help clear up the confusion:

    http://devinhelton.com/2015/08/dictatorship-and-democracy

    As for succession problems, the advantage of monarchy is that the long life-span of monarchs means that you only have to solve the succession problem occasionally. In contrast, the democratic US is in a constant culture war that turns tears the country apart every 4 years: it’s another version of a succession problem. We already had a civil war that caused an immense amount of death, followed by one quarter of the freed slaves succumbing to hunger or disease.

    1 dynasty of 2-3 monarchs could easily cover you for a century, even if that dynasty degraded. In contrast, 1 century in US democracy would be 25 elections, and goodness knows how much civil unrest.

  479. Cambridge trumpiste Says:

    Scott #434,

    When a university matriculates a student, it promises things for that academic year only. Funding in later years is intended but contingent on other not necessarily predictable factors such as the university’s available resources and the issuance of visas.

    “Shortfalls” that can lead to a denial of later funding include things like budget cuts at state universities, endowment losses as in 2008, reductions in federal or foundation support, and drops in enrollment for courses that provide TA jobs.

    The point, again, is that de facto expulsions of students with uncompleted degrees (and workers at defunct companies) happens for other reasons all the time, without media drama about separated couples and ruined careers.

    The administration could have given some advance notice to not have people stuck in airports. Other than that, it’s a cost/benefit analysis as to whether to re-“vet” every traveler, that Trump and his cabinet weighing differently than you would. They apparently want to absolutely minimize the number of terror events in the short term, and to generate controversy about immigration policy ASAP to rally their base, force the larger issues (now that Sessions is confirmed) and distract from any other things they may be doing these days.

  480. Sniffnoy Says:

    Scott: Jim here is a well-known neoreactionary. From having seen him argue elsewhere, I can say that he makes basic factual errors a lot. He got banned from SSC a long time ago. Other neoreactionaries keep saying he’s worth paying attention to (or they used to, when neoreaction proper was more prevalent), but I don’t see it. It’s not at all clear to me that he’s worth arguing with.

  481. Scott Says:

    Cambridge trumpiste #479:

      They apparently want to absolutely minimize the number of terror events in the short term, and to generate controversy about immigration policy ASAP to rally their base, force the larger issues (now that Sessions is confirmed) and distract from any other things they may be doing these days.

    Wait, was that supposed to be a defense of the policy??

    (Note that, as pointed out above, the total number of US terror attacks from the seven targeted countries has been zero, unlike with Saudi Arabia and several other Muslim countries that weren’t targeted.)

  482. سادات Says:

    +++++
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    everybody read and remember my comment carefully please!

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    +
    +
    +
    +
    when twelve imam arrive then real Jesus arrive from heaven and real Jesus first kill fake Jesus ( Zionists and evangelist Jesus is fake) then they roll the world altogether with acceptance of all of peoples around earth with peace and with far more advanced civilization and technologies than us.
    +
    it seems it will happen soon weather all western evangelists and Freemasons insist against it.
    +
    there are about 1200 signs of this arrivals in islam books and now almost 1195 of them took place and just 5 of them remains!!!!!!!!!
    +
    we Iranians (peoples and mullahs ) want it and because of it westerns want to stop us but finally they can not do it completely.
    +
    thank you

  483. Scott Says:

    Candide #477:

      If humans can become better, it is not going to be accomplished by trying to make them better, especially since there is after all such a thing as human nature

    Will it be accomplished by trying to make humans worse? I guess we’ll find out soon enough! 🙂

    Note that Steven Pinker, who’s probably the planet’s preeminent living defender of the idea of a universal, biological, extremely-hard-to-modify human nature (something that I completely agree with), went on to document how human behavior changed massively on much faster than evolutionary timescales, not only because of science and technology but because of changes to institutions and social norms. I see no reason not to hope for further improvements, although in the foreseeable future, it will be a major achievement just to preserve or restore the institutions and social norms that we already had.

    (Hey, maybe I too can be a neoreactionary! See, I also want to restore a better, vanished America of the past: the pre-Trump one.)

  484. Scott Says:

    Samuel #473:

      Remember when Brendan Eich was fired…

    I strongly disagreed with the firing of Brendan Eich. But here’s the difference from our current subject: Mozilla is a private organization. And as such, they claim the right to fire people for their anti-gay-marriage beliefs, just like other private organizations claim the right to fire people for being gay (or being openly gay).

    In such cases, it seems to me that we have only two options: either put the government in the business of dictating to private companies which private beliefs they can or can’t fire someone for—which I thought was something that conservatives opposed! Or else say that the solution lies in the marketplace. I.e., that people who oppose the firing can act on that belief by denouncing it, switching to a different web browser, offering to hire Brendan Eich themselves, etc.

    Here, however, we’re talking about using the federal government—indeed, a rushed executive order from the president, bypassing the relevant federal agencies in an unprecedented way—to ban thousands of students and scientists from entering the US, thereby also harming all the scientists in the US who had planned their lives around their colleagues and students being able to enter. Furthermore, the comments in this thread are strongly consistent with the idea that for Trump supporters, harming American science isn’t a regrettable byproduct of the policy, but a goal, something to be gleeful about.

    Look, I know as well as anyone on earth that there are SJWs who are cruel and horrible people. But compared to the alt-right nationalists who now control the planet, I’d say that the SJWs are rank amateurs at cruelty and horribleness: babies mashing a piano while you guys compose entire Mozart-quality shit symphonies. I mean, the SJWs couldn’t even permanently harm me, and I was about as vulnerable a target for them as there ever was!

  485. jim Says:

    Scott Says:
    Comment #337 January 30th, 2017 at 8:43 pm
    > Have you actually read hardcore Trump supporters? Do you understand how they think?

    If you think you have read Trump supporters, you are in error. Your crimestop and hatred set in, and your eyes moved over the text, but you refused to understand.

    I implore you to take the people that just won the election seriously, and make an honest effort to understand where we are coming from.

    You accuse Trumpists of hating liberals, but who is getting beaten up, and who is doing the beating?

    During the campaign, you accused the Trump campaign of beating up protesters, but the observed reality was the exact opposite, that people going to and coming from a Trump rally were physically attacked, and actions taken inside the rally were self defense against violent infiltrators.

    We are afraid of liberals because we reasonably believe they are going to kill us all, starting with each other – just as the Khmer Rouge mostly killed Khmer Rouge, “all” includes you. If one believed the Khmer Rouge were possessed by demons, one had a much better chance of surviving Cambodia, than if one believed they were saints.

    There is ample and overwhelming evidence for our belief, in the physical attacks that are happening daily. It is Trump supporters that are in the position of Jews in early Nazi Germany, not Trump opponents. If we plan to give progressives helicopter rides to the pacific ocean, it is because we see an urgent need to defend ourselves.

  486. jim Says:

    Scott Says:
    Comment #451 February 2nd, 2017 at 9:42 am
    > But I can’t remember any previous case when I got into an extended debate with people who really, earnestly wanted to roll back the entire Enlightenment and submit to a king,

    But your are not in fact getting into an extended debate. You are just pointing and spluttering. You are not engaging your adversaries, not responding to our arguments, not even showing any awareness that we have made arguments. Our arguments hit your crimestop filter and you just do not hear what we have said.

  487. Scott Says:

    jim #485: I’m sorry that you feel I didn’t understand your message (is there anything you would’ve counted as understanding it, short of agreement?). I do think I understand the part about how you “plan to give progressives helicopter rides to the pacific ocean” because you “see an urgent need to defend ourselves.” With that threat to murder your political opponents, presumably including me—a threat that I find all too plausible in the world of today—I believe you’ve overstayed your welcome here. Bye.

  488. quax Says:

    Candide III, #472 I really know very little about Molbug, or whatever his pseudonym was, but I think spiegel.de may have once written about him as yet another Silcon Valley curiosity. If he’s the same dude, I had the same reaction to his Youtube videos as his writing here, complete and utter boredom.

    He should stick to tech, easier to do something that is actually new and exciting. When it comes to purely intellectual pursuits, pretty much every thought has been thought a million times before (including this one).

  489. quax Says:

    سادات I like the “acceptance of all of peoples around earth with peace” aspect that you write about.

    How about we just start there, and let the other stuff be as it may.

  490. quax Says:

    Cambridge trumpiste, could we please also get another well reasoned, wordy justification as to the detention of a five year old?

    Please take your time, RT is hiring and so far you make a really good impression, don’t botch it.

  491. Charlie Croker Says:

    Joshua #457
    First of all, I would very much like to see the different metrics that apparently establish the correctness of modern day crime statistics and invalidate my arguments.

    Personally, I don’t think a comparative analysis of crime rates should only focus on murder rates just because other crimes are harder to analyse. (When it comes to murder, it just seems to me that this crime has been institutionalised in the 20th century as evidenced by the Nazis, the Soviets, the Khmer Rouge etc).

    Even in failed states, criminals won’t murder you just because they can or to steal your money since murder is the crime that most likely leads to the severest forms of retribution. It is no coincidence that the mafia was originally founded to punish criminals when the victim’s family thought the criminal’s sentence was too lenient or there was no punishment by the state at all.
    There is always a baseline number of murders that you can hardly prevent because they are committed by people with mental illnesses or someone in an extreme emotional state. For murders to become so important that they meaningfully affect people’s general sense of safety, that baseline has to be exceeded in a way that was neither present in Victorian Britain nor modern day Britain nor the US or any Western country I can think of in the past years. This is in contrast to countries like Mexico in which murder is frequent and criminal gangs consider it a legitimate act to fight other gangs.

    On the other hand, the prevalence of other crimes is evident. Unless you provide me with some source that says that people avoided many areas for fear of being mugged in the past, I will not believe it.
    This simply contradicts so many other facts; for example, did you know that it was quite common in many Western countries 50 years ago not to lock your door? Where do you see this phenomenon now? I have never seen it anywhere in my entire life.

    Also, no-go areas are not exagerated and are different from places that just have higher crime rates than others.
    Take Berlin. You can watch German prosecutors say on state television that they lack the resources to prosecute drug dealers, even when those violently rob others in certain areas. They are indicted 1 or 2 years after the original crime (if they are ever indicted) and continue breaking the law in the mean time. There are even areas where DHL couriers refuse to deliver packages anymore because they were so often attacked in the past. What statistic could refute this?
    It is just a sign of a slow breakdown of public order and not comparable to temporary problems with crime in the past.

  492. grendelkhan Says:

    Bran #476, that’s an incredible ratio of “liberal tears can’t melt dank truths” to actual argumentation. Is the decline in homicide due to improving medical technology? Note that murder technology has also improved, and that the change doesn’t show a discontinuity at the invention of antisepsis, or anesthesia, or blood typing, or anything like that. Pinker would have had to not just be wrong, but be wrong by a similar magnitude in the opposite direction for your thesis to be correct. I’m just not seeing it.

    Gray makes qualitative arguments. Maybe it’s my Enlightenment bias showing, but I’m much more easily persuaded by looking at how likely people were to die violently. And to whatever extent Jim wants to write them off as gang-related rather than random violence, well, [it looks like a plurality of today’s murders](https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf) are sex or gang-related.

    Sniffnoy #480, remember that time when he was telling us all that progressive education had left us horribly ignorant, and then he thought Eugene V. Debs was a court case? I know, I know, it’s years ago, but a cheap part of me wants to make sure we all remember it.

    Boldmug #418, that’s my bad; I wrote 1800 instead of 1900 and just went from there. Trends look flatter from 1900 to the present, but there’s no steep increase.

    Perhaps people wondering why the Victorians didn’t have professional criminals or no-go areas (wasn’t the entire American West a “no-go area” for much of its history?) haven’t looked closely enough; there were screwsmen and snakesmen and greasemen, and if you go back a little earlier, thieves had their own dialect. If we’re going to make arguments from feelings rather than data, then we should at least have a good basis for those feelings.

  493. Boldmug Says:

    Sniffnoy #435:

    > Really? I think futarchy does account for that. The prediction markets are ultimately grounded in directly measurable facts, and the whole point of markets is that, compared to other mechanisms, they’re robust against such politicking and manipulation.

    Not when you can either profit by changing the facts, or pay for outcomes. An assassination market is a special case of futarchy. For more:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tb-6ikXdOzE

    > If we really had “scientific public policy” — ignoring for now the question of whether the instituion of science is producing correct facts and just looking at to what extent the facts it does produce are accounted for in public policy — we’d have had a carbon dioxide tax ages ago. Among many other things.

    Observe yourself, fixated on the exception and ignoring the rule. It is actually very stressful to be 99% in charge. The 1% bugs the crap out of you, constantly. Is it growing larger? Is it?

    > As best I can tell, most companies work terribly, and failure to assign responsibility like you claim is part of that.

    This is where I LOLed. Visit SF sometime. You can walk almost straight out of the Twitter building, into the Van Ness Muni station.

    Like most people who live in the present and in the narrative, you could probably get much better at fixing your position on an absolute scale. It is true that many people who work at Twitter probably think it’s a horribly managed company. But to compare it to Muni is a matter of exponents.

  494. Boldmug Says:

    grendelkhan #493:

    If you weren’t just snarking, you’d have a snappy answer for the 100x US/Japan crime ratio. Snark all you want at the 40x UK/Victorian crime ratio — direct your snark to Parliament, here, page 14:

    http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/RP99-111

    For your information, though I don’t have older statistics, my sense of the period is that you’ll see a good deal higher crime rate in the earlier 19th and of course 18th centuries. England had a longstanding criminal demi-monde and this merged with a lot of economic dislocation in the earlier Victorian period.

    If you’re actually interested in the social changes in England in this century, read Robert Roberts’ _The Classic Slum_ (then) and Theodore Dalrymple’s _Life at the Bottom_ (now).

    But somehow it feels like these people are all just numbers to you, which you haul out when it suits your argument. Honestly, I do not need statistics to tell you that modern Japan or Victorian London has two orders of magnitude less crime than San Francisco. It’s nice to have these numbers. But if numbers were all I knew, I would shut up and talk about something else.

  495. Boldmug Says:

    Joshua Zelinsky:

    > Indeed, restricting to Victorian England, substantial sections of East London were considered extremely dangerous.

    That’s true! But that’s by *their* standards, not ours. In Victorian England (I unfortunately don’t have this statistic handy, but it jibes with the Parliament statistics) there was about 1 robbery a day, *in all of England*.

    By their standards, our cities are completely insane. Even then, America was insanely dangerous. In fact, I recall reading a Victorian traveller writing with a shudder of horror that in Chicago, robberies were not unknown *even within the city limits*.

    Forget your modern academic trash and actually read a work of poor-ology from the period. I recommended Robert Roberts, who is an Edwardian, and actually grew up in the slum he described. A great cliched classic for New York is Jacob Riis’ _How the Other Half Lives_.

    Shorter Riis: the “other half” is (a) dirty, Jewish and Italian, (b) lives in ridiculously cramped, dark quarters, (c) works way too hard, (d) often doesn’t have time to make the bed in the morning. You will search in vain for anything worthy of _The Wire_.

    Riis is exactly as shocked as a modern writer is about the modern slum. But the modern writer has “defined deviancy down” by a couple orders of magnitude. When you don’t adjust for this change, you get a totally ridiculous and distorted picture of the past world.

  496. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #439,

    > It should go without saying that, if I ever let myself fantasize about competent scientists running the country, such people—not the ones who think like bureaucrats, and also not the absentminded nerds like me!—are the ones who I have in mind.

    You’ve got it exactly!

    One, a word like “fantasize” is a pretty strong tipoff that your brain is operating in Voegelin’s gnostic dream world.

    And two, any mechanism you hypothesize that can separate those who are scientists in spirit, from those who are bureaucrats in spirit, is itself competent to govern, and in fact is governing.

    So you don’t need the scientists (except as employees). Again, it’s an infinite regression: quis custodiet ipsos custodes.

    Surely you can’t possibly disagree that this problem is too important to “fantasize” over. If you’re thinking rationally, you can only think about it in terms of designing mechanisms, institutions, processes. Not people.

    I feel like in a sense you understand this, but in another sense the only political mechanism you understand is “I wish for X, everyone wishes for X, and if there are enough of us our wish comes true. Except in an evil non-democracy, which is a sinister form of government where wishes just don’t work.”

    It would be foolish for me to utterly discount coordinated mass wishing as a political mechanism. It has made things happen. If not always good things. But is it ridiculous to hope that we could do better?

  497. William Says:

    The most ridiculous thing it that, little Bush and Obama did the same thing years ago, but you didn’t feel bad at all.

  498. Boldmug Says:

    Jelmer Renema #456,

    > Interpol actually *was* the pet project of Himmler, or rather of the SS. Heydrich was its president from 1940 to 1942.

    Well… “pet project” implies that Himmler *invented* it. Actually Interpol was part of the old WWI-era “international community,” but just happened to be in Vienna when the NSDAP took over. But it’s still a story I didn’t know:

    http://modernnotion.com/how-interpol-became-the-long-arm-of-nazi-law-during-world-war-ii/

    The important question is: should this change the way we feel about the *band*, Interpol?

  499. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #485:

    > Or else say that the solution lies in the marketplace.

    “Bake the cake.”

    You might have heard the saying: “when you are in power, I demand my rights, in accordance with your beliefs. When I am in power, I take away your rights, in accordance with my beliefs.”

    What Jim is, very clumsily, trying to tell you is that when you cease to live in the political dreamworld of “we all wish for X,” X in this case being a consistent system of either universal public services (you have to bake the cake and allow the speaker), or libertarian individual choice (no one has to bake a cake or let anyone speak), you must begin to think in the realist terms of Machiavelli or Lenin or Lewis Carroll: “what matters is who is to be master, that’s all.”

    I think a system of government predicated on the foundation that Democrat-Americans shall be master over Republican-Americans (which is basically the system we have today, believe it or not), is absolutely awful. I also think the converse is absolutely awful, although at the moment it would certainly be a refreshing change.

    But absent some actual, structural synthesis (like restoring the Stuarts, or whatever), this conflict is all that’s going on here. We really need to stop pretending it’s a battle of abstract ideas, and you win if your ideas are consistent and the other side is proved a hypocrite. It’s not an argument, it’s just a cold civil war.

  500. Boldmug Says:

    > But compared to the alt-right nationalists who now control the planet, I’d say that the SJWs are rank amateurs at cruelty and horribleness

    Call me back when I start a civil war in Libya and Syria, and kill half a million people.

    Remember Samantha Power and R2P? Where were you when this happened? I’m guessing one of us was cheering the “Arab Spring.” It wasn’t me.

    And that’s only taking it back half a decade! Honey, I’m not even starting! Do you see how it’s hard for me to be super appalled if the Trump administration screws up some peoples’ travel plans, or even their careers? In the insane world we live in today?

  501. Boldmug Says:

    Candide #473,

    If only!

    Don’t worry, annoying intellectuals throughout history, both by their friends and enemies, have been told that their lives would work out better if only they’d shut the f*ck up and mind their own business. And indeed it is probably true.

  502. Boldmug Says:

    Sid #466:

    > Even if we completely accept that a God-Emperor would be better than democracy, it is far from clear that there is any way we can get there from here without immense amounts of suffering and pain and with little chance of success.

    Possibly. On the other hand, the US is an absolute monarchy with an effective CEO-President, about every 75 years. You’ll find it’s very easy to name the three figures I mean.

    On the other hand, all three of these periods have involved a major war. So you may be right. My hope is that people these days are such pussies that peaceful change is easier.

  503. Boldmug Says:

    sf #457,

    Your friend is right — renewals of political decay are rare. We have to look on long timescales. The Byzantine Empire is a successful renewal. China and Egypt have, of course, their dynastic cycle. But for every attempt, dozens of failures.

  504. Boldmug Says:

    > Please explain: if you were in my shoes, why would you take the claim that the US is awash in an epidemic of Congo-like violence because of lib’ruls and Obama and Ferguson, more seriously than you take any of those other claims?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Japan
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_justice_system_of_Japan

    And, if you live in a major American city,

    https://www.nextdoor.com

    The last will probably do the most to open your eyes. Literally every day in my email I see people, my neighbors, crying out in pain and violation. A few blocks away from me, about a year ago, on a beautiful little Duboce Corner block which has a bistro and looks like it could be in Paris, a couple, people just like you and me, was attacked by a group of thugs with hammers. The woman was raped and left with brain damage. The husband posts all the time trying to figure out various kinds of caregiver stuff.

    Here is an exercise for you: imagine all crimes were in fact, committed by racist white cops against suffering African-Americans. Then imagine the same human death toll was taken by, say, a negligent gene-therapy test. Then imagine it was from radiation leaks from

    You’ll discover that your tolerance of morbidity from all these sources is *wildly* different. For no apparent reason. All human testing of DNA therapy was shut down for, what, a decade, after the death of Jesse Gelsinger?

    The Japanese and Chinese have zero tolerance for crime, as we have zero tolerance for nuclear radiation leaks. They come to our cities and think we’re completely fucking insane. As we are.

  505. Boldmug Says:

    Scott,

    > I attach enormous weight to the observation that monarchy actually was tried, not just once or twice but all over the world and for thousands of years, and it never seems to have come up with a good solution to the succession problem.

    One: at least it had a good solution to the democracy problem. (I know — but all the great European revolutions, against Charles I, Louis XVI, and Nicholas II, came about due to a weak and irresolute monarch.)

    Two: unfortunately, the age of monarchy was ending just as the correct solution to the governance problem, the joint-stock company, was being invented.

    Various kinds of elective monarchies have been tried, and worked reasonably well (as does hereditary monarchy). But there is a real qualitative difference between joint-stock governance and anything else. Which is why joint-stock companies kill all competitors which experiment with different operating systems.

  506. an_cap Says:

    Scott #367,

    Are you aware of the case of Stanford PhD student Rahinah Ibrahim who was put on the no-fly list because an FBI agent accidentally checked the wrong box? And the Obama administration, via Eric Holder, despite unending rhetoric to the contrary, argued numerous times that disclosing the fact that her inclusion on the no-fly list was a simple bureaucratic mistake would be a grave violation of national security? If you’re interested, here is a link to a summary of the case – https://theintercept.com/2014/02/14/ongoing-abuse-state-secrets-privilege/.

    Here’s a hypothesis: Trump and Obama largely have the same values when it comes to Muslim immigrants, namely that the president has unchecked due-process free authority to ban (or assassinate by drone) whoever it pleases as long as there is some remote possibility of a connection with terrorism. Obama just happens to not have any qualms about giving erudite speeches saying the exact opposite of what he does.

    If you’re receptive to seeing arguments in favor of this hypothesis, I would be happy to dig them up for you.

  507. Samuel Skinner Says:

    “I strongly disagreed with the firing of Brendan Eich. But here’s the difference from our current subject: Mozilla is a private organization.”

    Because if we use Obama and Zimmmerman/BLM case you’ll spend your time arguing he was right, good came out of it, complaints were justified, etc, etc, etc.

    Nothing I could say using another Democratic president would get through since you have a bunch of justifications pre-prepared about how it was completely different and so you opponents don’t have arguments and are hence evil.


    “In such cases, it seems to me that we have only two options: either put the government in the business of dictating to private companies which private beliefs and practices they can or can’t fire someone for—which I thought was something that conservatives opposed!”

    Neither me, B or Jim are conservatives so…

    And yes, the government is in the habit of dictating what private beliefs and practices they can fire people for- that is the current law of the land.


    “indeed, a rushed executive order from the president, bypassing the relevant federal agencies in an unprecedented way”

    Rushed? It was on Trump’s campaign platform. People had over a month to get used to the fact Trump was going to do this.

    Also I like how you complaint is ‘Trump defied custom’. Firing someone for the political beliefs is also defying custom. Gee, that sounds exactly why the Mozilla case is relevant.


    “Furthermore, the comments in this thread are strongly consistent with the idea that for Trump supporters, harming American science isn’t a regrettable byproduct of the policy, but a goal, something to be gleeful about.”

    No, they are consistent with you being unable to form accurate internal models of your opponents.


    ” But compared to the alt-right nationalists who now control the planet”

    What planet are we talking about? Because Trump has specifically stated he is in favor of continued immigration (so your definition of altright appears to be anyone who wants to reduce immigrant volumes). Europe currently is the opposite of altright. Latin America is run by a variety of leftists and neoliberals, Africa by a variety of strongmen backed by ethnic coalitions. Russia has large scale immigration from central Asian Muslims. India is currently falling apart. The closest I can think is Japan, China and Israel.


    “I’m sorry that you feel I didn’t understand your message (is there anything you would’ve counted as understanding it, short of agreement?).”

    You have to engage in crime think. I recommend the posting of dangerous facts with unfortunate implications; I believe the best example you could use is inter-racial.


    @grendelkhan
    “Note that murder technology has also improved, and that the change doesn’t show a discontinuity at the invention of antisepsis, or anesthesia, or blood typing, or anything like that.”

    Because there is a time lag between when something is invented, when hospital adopt it and when hospital use it correctly.


    “remember that time”
    “(wasn’t the entire American West a “no-go area” for much of its history?) ”

    Irony- complaining about someone’s lack of self awareness while committing it in the next paragraph.


    “Perhaps people wondering why the Victorians didn’t have professional criminals”

    No one has claimed the Victorian’s lacked professional criminals. The fact people have to keep massively straw manning these sort of arguments is good evidence there simply isn’t a case progressives can make.

  508. Boldmug Says:

    > Steven Weinberg, an extremely smart man, remarked to me that it’s probably the climate-change denialism that should worry us the most, because in the grand sweep of decades or centuries, all the other damage that Trump can do is more likely to be reversible.

    I once put a comment on HN asking HN readers to upvote if they didn’t know whether thermal forcing due to CO2 was (a) linear, (b) logarithmic, or (c) exponential. Imagine caring deeply about global warming, being a quantitative person, but not knowing the answer to this question. (It’s logarithmic.) I f*cking love science!

    Now, a thought-experiment. Take the predicted thermal flux from AGW over the next 50 years. Pretend instead that AGW isn’t real, but we’ve studied the sun — a completely natural force — and project that insolation will increase by 1% (or whatever) over this period.

    Next, are you willing to spend $100 trillion to defend the planet from this menace? Bear in mind that for all of human history until the ’70s, all thinkers just assumed that warmer temperatures == better crops == better for people.

    Actually, scientists don’t seem terribly interested in planetary defense at all. I think another big bolide just missed us. This might suggest a different force, not rational concern for planetary defense, behind this concern of yours.

    Third, explain when computers became fast enough to scientifically validate general circulation models (models of the earth’s atmosphere over decades). This modeling was happening in the ’70s and it’s happening now, so you have a few decades to choose from. ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, teens? Those error bars shrinking? How do they calculate the error bars, anyway?

    And if the models aren’t validated, and can’t be validated, this work is not science; so why exactly are we funding something that looks like science, but isn’t? If the precautionary principle was enough…

  509. Boldmug Says:

    In short: come to the dark side! We have cookies. And a library.

  510. Sniffnoy Says:

    Charlie Croker #491:

    This simply contradicts so many other facts; for example, did you know that it was quite common in many Western countries 50 years ago not to lock your door? Where do you see this phenomenon now? I have never seen it anywhere in my entire life.

    I have, in Missouri. At least, it seemed to be common practice where I visited there.

  511. quax Says:

    Crocker I always thought that the order was “First they take Manhattan then they take Berlin”?

    As we all know, NYC never recovered from the crime wave in the seventies, and booming Berlin with its skyrocketing rents, and thriving start-up culture is sure to be doomed (once again but this time with less rubble).

    At any rate, if the crime rate in Berlin was anything like in NYC in the seventies I’d probably be worried, too. And indeed Berlin, does not make it onto the Economist’s List of the world’s 20 safest cities, oddly though Frankfurt squeezed in at rank 20, whereas by the internal German crime statistic Berlin does better than Frankfurt.

    I am pleased to report that Toronto, where I live, came in 8th. Fun fact: It is the world ethnically most diverse city, with white folks no longer an absolute majority, and almost every other person (me included) an immigrant.

  512. quax Says:

    Boldmug, your contention that the Arab spring and Lybian civil war would not have happened, if it wasn’t for the US, is typical American navel gazing.

    For somebody who is supposed to have some sort of reputation I would have hoped for less conventional thinking.

    But just for the record, I really don’t want you to “shut the f*ck up and mind your own business” as you put it. It’s still a free country, so go for it. Fortunately, I don’t have to tune in.

    But I do feel a bit sorry for you. The fear of crime clearly animates you, and unfortunately you lack the analytical skills to figure out, why a highly diverse place like Toronto, with a far more lenient legal system, has less of a problem.

    But hey, at least you have cookies and a library. And if you get your groceries delivered you may be able to manage your fears better. Just a thought …

  513. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    Oh wow, threatening to close the thread really opened up the floodgates.

    Thanks Scott, it has been a very interesting thread to read. I do also feel a bit forced to chime in now, when I’d have rather read about those Victorian crime statistics before trying to wade in. They seem all the rage, and it’s a subject I have very little knowledge about so I can’t argue one way or another.

    BUT since I must get my 2p in. If we were to agree that Victorian England was the best society we’ve seen so far (Steampunk yay!), it’s worth mentioning that already at that time the English Monarchy was way past its days of absolute power and well within the days of constitutional monarchy.

    And if the power of a sovereign is to set exceptions (Henry the VIIIth made a new religion just to legally shag after divorce), by the late XIXth-earlyXXth century the British Monarchy didn’t have that power any more. Indeed, one of them (Ed the VIIIth, I think) ended up forced to abdicate for marrying a divorcee. Anyone care to speculate what would have happened if Victoria had tried the marry-a-divorcee trick?

    Also, there was a moment in the thread when some absolutist regimes of today and the recent past were given an excuse for their problems. They’re fighting this liberal/progressive empire, and the injustices are simply emergency measures. I feel that argument can go both ways, and a lot of the problems we see today in liberal democracies are emergency measures from fighting/coping with an external enemy and the fruits of their action. The current refugee crisis in Europe being a salient example.

    It’s all chaos under heaven, and everyone has problems, we agree. But if the argument is we should value the concentration of power because it results in better societies, well one of those example societies actually wasn’t that power-concentrated (and really neither is Japan today), and there are many examples to show concentrated power, unaccountable power, power “to set exceptions”, is rather shitty for almost everyone under it. That’s why some people, such as Scott and me, don’t see power concentration as a value worth pursuing.

  514. Bran Says:

    To summarize this thread:

    Scott asks for a defense of Trump’s policy. Certain long-winded, cranky intellectuals drop into this thread and take his question seriously, at which point we get into a debate about crime rates, the Enlightenment, and democracy. Some people start scoffing , at which point Boldmug becomes exceptionally long-winded. Snark escalates on both sides. Both sides start grandstanding and trying to reduce each other’s credibility. Eventually we get all the way to helicopter pilots, like any good discussion about politics.

    What have we learned here? It seems that normally intelligent, virtuous people cannot communicate across a political divide without the claws coming out.

    I hope it’s possible for the neutral observers to cut through the posturing to the actual arguments here.

    Coming from the anti-Enlightenment side of the debate, here is my question: what is a better approach?

    Let’s say that you believe that you have a novel historical and political synthesis that opposes modern politics. And you believe that this synthesis is relevant to present questions, including questions that are contentious (like Trump). How do you go about explaining your perspective?

    Obviously, references to hypothetical helicopters seems to be a bad strategy, but what is a good strategy?

    If you give a summary of your perspective, then people start scoffing, and the conversation goes downhill. If you give the long-version, then people get exasperated with all of this detail about something they don’t want to hear. This reaction also comes from people who advertise how intellectually open-minded and fair they are.

    You could explain your perspective in a try and neutral way, but nobody is going to care. If you use a polemic approach, then you are viewed as a dangerous, irresponsible threat to society (though at least you will persuade some of the onlookers).

    When you engage, your perspective will naturally sound absurd to someone who doesn’t have the same historical and political background as you do. They think you are full of shit, they think you are deliberately being ridiculous, and there is no way for them to realize that you might possibly not be full of shit without them actually reading particular books, which they are never going to read at the suggestion of someone so incredibly evil as you. Why would someone ever read an old book or your meticulous 7,000 word post which threatens to overturn their sense of themselves as a good person and a member of the club of good people who have already figured out the best moral philosophy? Not going to happen.

    You may feel that their behavior is the rankest sort of Philistinism, but you cannot cure someone of Philistinism by telling them that they are being a Philistine. It’s never going to work.

    If you believe someone is committing scientism and over-relying on questionable quantitative data with low reliability and validity, then what can you do? The conversation is over. You may believe that their epistemology is dumb, but there is no getting over that. Any arguments you provide will only harden their existing perspective. Question someone’s epistemology, and they will hate you forever.

    So what can you do? You can try to patiently explain your view, or you can grandstand and try to play to the crowd, or you can do a bit of both.

    Hopefully, if you are in this position, you are in a world where you are just a crackpot, people rightly ignore you, and you should do something more productive with your life. But what if you are not? What if someone in this position actually does have valid arguments?

    If modern political thought hypothetically has gone wrong, how would someone be able to communicate that? Is it even possible? Or are they doomed to be a resented Cassandra-like figure?

    Are we just doomed to believe any political ideology that can take over and call itself the best thing since sliced bread, or, if this situation hypothetically occurred, could we figure out what has gone wrong?

    Is there any way to communicate to people from another political tribe? Or is it simply impossible to have a productive discussion about politics without interpersonal rapport and trust? If so, then we better hope that political communication between adjacent people is enough, and we never have to span any big gaps.

    Is it possible to explain things step-by-step in a cooperative way, between people with very different starting points? Or we just grandstand to the crowd and try to marginalize each other? If cooperative communication can work, is there a way to do this on a timescale that’s shorter than a matter of decades? We may not have that much time.

    In short, if we were fucked, could we ever unfuck ourselves, or are we just fucked?

    For those who are interested in a relatively less-inflammatory approach to contrarian political theory, check out this blog. It’s a good place to start.

  515. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    And for the other shoe to drop.

    One of the sad things here is that nobody got called a shitlord*. Hear me out. It’s good that no one got called a shitlord, and that the discussion, from all participants, has been vigorous, polemic, but polite*.

    (*: well, until there were murder threats implied against our good host. Way for dumb facts to spoil my great narrative.)

    Meanwhile people were getting maced in the face for wanting to attend a talk by Milo Yannopoulos. There were calls to boycott a sandwich shop chain because its CEO happened to appear in a Trump photo op. And the narrative about Russia hacking the election will only cease to be hilarious to me when there’s proof found of tampering with the voting records (how’s that recount going btw).

    The “Left” are idiots, is what I’m saying. That’s the sad thing. It’s very easy to believe someone who tells you crime was low under kings. Especially when they don’t mace you in the face.

    And it’s very easy to believe them when they say the Left has no ideas and is just after virtue signalling (the useful idiots on campuses and social media), and conserving its power (the political establishment).

    It would be convenient to believe that the violence that accompanied anti-Trump protests, or that Milo thing, were some sort of double agents. Too convenient. I have no problem believing there are SJWs out there who do believe their no-platform policy to its logical conclusion, even if that means denying rights to free speech and assembly.

    I’ve been hoping that, post-Trumplection, the Left would wake up and rethink its commitment to virtue signalling. We seem to double down on it instead. Which is totally in keeping with simple political struggle, pursued with the only means we know how, for the only things most of us care about (the symbols of our tribe). It’s depressing that this development would have been well predicted by Moldbug, because that is one stopped clock I’d rather not have become trustworthy.

    Cheers y’all.

  516. Mateus Araújo Says:

    Scott, I don’t think it is a wise thing to keep discussing with Boldmug. He is clearly enjoying your attention, and you are giving him a platform to spread his hateful ideas. Let him do it in whichever obscure corners of the internet he usually posts instead of in a famous and respected computer science blog.

  517. fred Says:

    “the climate-change denialism that should worry us the most”

    Personally I’m more worried about the “dangers of AI” denialism.

  518. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. Mateus Araujo (#516):

    Are you Boldmug in disguise? If not, here’s a principle for you: are you acting how Boldmug would like you to act while wearing your chosen political label? If so, stop.

  519. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. Bran (#514):

    Thank you for the summary. Of course, I disagree with you on the anti-Enlightenment part, and I also disagree that this thread has been particularly uncivil. Polemic yes, but come on. If you think what was exhibited here was rudeness, our royalist ancestors would be ashamed of you included.

    And hey guys, there really are very low-hanging points for you to score. There’s a lot of activists behaving like doofuses on the Left. And there is much to be gained by trying to take an honest look at power struggles, with any reasoning mechanisms historcal experience has endowed us with.

    But in the picture of today, all that intellectualizing is put in service of buttressing Mussolini 2.0, whenever (whoever) s/he chooses to show up (as). Coz that’s what you’re doing. Gaetano Mosca, peace be upon him, didn’t seem very happy with Mussolini 1.0 either.

  520. Bogdan Grechuk Says:

    Hm… I think you main problem is not Trump. If he would look politely and nice during the campaign, promised to make America even more welcoming, and now SUDDENLY started to do completely opposite, then yes… But the problem is that he has promised even a “complete bun” for all Muslims coming to the US, so now he just started to implement what he have promised, what people voting for him expect and want from him. So, your problem is not Trump, you big-big-big problem is millions of people who vote for him. And your opposition is not to Trump, but to these people.

    What to do now is completely unclear. One option is to accept the opinion of that people (after all, they have won the democratic election, if they would loose, they would need to accept…), another one… is civil war?

  521. Charlie Croker Says:

    Quax #511:

    What does it mean to you that Berlin is “booming”? How are rents even remotely related to my point? Price regulations notwithstanding, rents are governed by the principle of supply and demand. In Germany, people have become more and more reluctant to rent out their property due to increased regulations and other factors and rents have increased everywhere in Germany regardless of crime rates and the general quality of life in the cities.
    In all Western countries, larger cities are expensive places to live, regardless of the crime rates.

    And the reference to “startup culture” is even worse. How is this even closely relevant? Do you think “startup culture” is representative of cities with millions of inhabitants? This is just as arbitrary as saying that Munich is safe because of the great “Octoberfest culture”. It is an argument of the not-even-wrong type.

    The article you linked to also does not seem to be too relevant. The article uses metrics like “digital safety” or the frequency of natural disasters. How is this related to a discussion about crime? The only point that is highlighted by this article is that “social science” is mostly based on arbitrary operationalisations of phenomena to support a point chosen in advance of the study.

    I also do not see what meaningful contributions you have made to this discussion so far that would justify your claim that Moldbug lacks analytical skills or that makes your thinking “unconventional” as opposed to his. At least he has bolstered his claims with literature references and arguments.
    On the other hand, every of your posts so far has either consisted of insults or claims that are blatantly wrong (such as your claim that Ernst Jünger was considered a conservative). Presenting trivialities and insults in ironic language is not a substitute for a coherent argument.
    How about you start presenting some arguments instead of ad hominem talk?

  522. Samuel Skinner Says:

    @quax
    “Boldmug, your contention that the Arab spring and Lybian civil war would not have happened, if it wasn’t for the US, is typical American navel gazing. ”

    We bombed government forces in Libya and armed the rebels in Syria. I’m not sure how you can imply the US is blameless.


    “The fear of crime clearly animates you, and unfortunately you lack the analytical skills to figure out, why a highly diverse place like Toronto, with a far more lenient legal system, has less of a problem.”

    Toronto is 8.5% black?

    @BLANDCorporatio
    “They’re fighting this liberal/progressive empire, and the injustices are simply emergency measures. ”

    Reactionaries don’t consider civilization decline something that is an emergency, rather is is inevitable fact of human nature. So I’m not seeing how emergency measures applies.


    “But if the argument is we should value the concentration of power because it results in better societies, well one of those example societies actually wasn’t that power-concentrated (and really neither is Japan today), and there are many examples to show concentrated power, unaccountable power, power “to set exceptions”, is rather shitty for almost everyone under it. That’s why some people, such as Scott and me, don’t see power concentration as a value worth pursuing.”

    And we disagree with the claim it is an inevitable feature of concentrated power.


    “I’ve been hoping that, post-Trumplection, the Left would wake up and rethink its commitment to virtue signalling.”

    That requires there to be something more to the left then virtue signaling. Don’t feel bad- there isn’t much more to the right than virtue signaling either (the virtues it signals are ones that haven’t made civilization suicide yet which is why it comes across as more sane).

    The issue is people are rational and using politics to advance their reproductive value while eating away at social trust advances the heuristic goal of ‘have kids’.

    @Mateus Araújo
    We have helicopter references, but you consider B hateful? I think you need to get your opinions re-calibrated.

    @fred
    It depends on how competent the first AI is. I’m sure if it doesn’t exterminate the human race, we will be significantly more capable at dealing with AI threats in the future.

  523. Charlie Croker Says:

    quax #512:
    Maybe you can use your analytical skills to show us a) how Toronto is better than other cities and b) how “diversity” in Toronto compares to “diversity” in these other cities? “Diversity” is such a general term that I find it hard to infer any meaning from it without further context.

  524. Charlie Croker Says:

    Scott #484:
    You are right that the firing of Eich was legal, but the converse – firing someone for being gay – is actionable under the Civil Rights Act. This act clearly establishes that the federal government can dictate to companies whether they are allowed to fire someone or not.
    These types of laws also prevent companies from people like Eich in a certain way. If you decide to hire Eich, you are opening yourself up to lawsuits as well because other employees can now sue you for creating a “hostile work environment” because a “homophobe” works in your company. Aside from public pressure, this is one of the main reasons companies don’t want to hire “extremists” even if they don’t care about their political views at all.

    I also disagree that alt-righters are more dangerous than SJWs. How many people do you know that were fired from their job due to pressure from alt-righters? Or just mainstream conservatives? Even the university professor who recently wished for “white genocide” on Twitter just received a warning from the university administration.

    I also do not see alt-righters beat up SJWs on the street, but I see SJWs beat up alt righters. There is also no left-wing Milo Yiannopolous who can’t express liberal opinions in public without fear of being attacked.

    By the way, I agree with some enlightenment principles such as the freedom of speech or rational and skeptical analysis of dogmas, but I would like to ask you who you think it is that is currently living up to these principles and should be supported instead of Trump.
    Most liberals also oppose science, just other kinds of science. While Christian conservatives dislike the theory of evolution in general, liberals will generally not be very pleased if you try to talk to them about hereditarianism (in particular the heritability of intelligence and personality or racial issues) or any influence of human genetics on social issues at all. James Watson was fired for opposing liberals on this point, although there actually was no public figure to defend him, neither liberal nor conservative.
    Events like these make me think that scientific inquiry and free debate are not among the main principles of Trump’s opponents.

  525. Mateus Araújo Says:

    BLANDCorporatio #518: No, I’m not Boldmug in disguise. I’m not sure what he wants, for he for sure likes commenting in this thread. If there is something that we should definitely not tolerate are enemies of liberal democracy. There are some ground rules to participating in our political system, and almost every country makes defending democracy one of them. See Nazis getting elected, for example.

    Samuel Skinner #522: Mr helicopter references already got himself banned, there is no point in asking Scott to ignore him. And Boldmug is defending the destruction of everything I hold dear. If this is not being hateful, I don’t know what it is.

  526. quax Says:

    Charlie Croker #523, Sorry Charlie, not gonna do the homework for you, but if you google Toronoto diversity you will find tons of material to get you started.

    Have fun!

  527. quax Says:

    Dang it Charlie, now I do the homework for you after all, here’s a chart for the rent increase in Berlin (blue) versus the average of German cities (yellow).

    And no, rental property is not taken off the market.

    BTW do you know that Munich organizes Oktoberfest Start-Up events? (I wish I was kidding). But really, what do these stupid local politicians know what’s important to prepare a city’s economy for the future. Right? No Start-Up ever created anything of lasting value.

    BTW Charlie we seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding, Scott may be here to discuss with you, bless his heart, I am here to make fun of you.

  528. sf Says:

    Thanks again to Scott for moderating what is close to 150 pages of (tightly spaced) comments, and playing the role with remarkable neutrality, even while his alter ego was taking sides, something that very few academics have really mastered, and is sorely lacking.

    Its an interesting change of pace to see a blog that typically might be interested in the arrow of time as it appears in the physics literature, delving into the arrow of time as it appears at the extreme opposite scale — in the history of humanity. As usual there’s ample reason to be confused on how to tell if we’re moving forwards or backwards.

    Philosophers claim that the physicists’ arrow of time begs the question, and most of what passes for political science or ‘rationality’ probably does likewise, as it always relies on a broad base of instinctive intuition, or common sense, that never gets made explicit, so disagreement is hard to root out. And Brzezinsky among others would claim that these arguments have very little to do with what goes into policy, or electoral politics; you can always find a think tank ready to defend whatever viewpoint you have chosen. So the arrow of time may be quite independent of our debates.

    In math or science I’ve seen somewhat surreal situations where it took the community quite a while to realise that some generally accepted result was wrong, (while those who knew it were ignored) but at least it came out eventually. These are cases where authority stood in for logic, but eventually gave way. The complexity of what’s being discussed in the social sciences makes it hard to believe that any definitive consensus is to be hoped for.

    Various institutions have been falling off the roadside lately; economic confidence collapsed in 2008 – which was probably the main factor in Trump’s election. Then the GOP fell apart itself in the primaries, but bizarrely has taken power in this twisted scenario. More recently, credibility of the press, and faith in freedom of the press, and even democracy, has lost a lot of its solidity.

    Science has taken some flak, I think it’s been negligent on occasion in tolerating colleagues’ well remunerated reports producing preordained conclusions, which weakens public confidence. But it may be the last institution that still has some credibility left to save – and it should as long as it stays close to its basic role. This might come to the fore and be tested before Trump’s term is up. Don’t wear yourself out before this is needed.

  529. Michael P Says:

    IMO the best case for Trump is being made by anti-Trump protesters:
    http://abc7news.com/news/video-trump-supporter-pepper-sprayed-at-milo-protest/1733004/

  530. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt Bogdan Grechuk #520:

    And another option is civil protest, and another option is civil disobedience, and another option etc.

    There’s an ocean of shades between “do nothing” and “civil war”.

    Scott is advocating for things well within what’s expected/accepted in a working democracy as loyal opposition. It’s nice to remind people to be more aware of how politics works, but then you (Bogdan) should also take the advice of your partners in argument and understand how a democracy works. Elections going to one side do not silence the other.

    Cheers.

  531. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. Samuel Skinner #522:

    On the emergency measures, see Boldmug #422 to see what I’m referring to. The emergency-measures is an argument used to excuse recent failed “monarchies”. It’s as easy to employ to excuse democracy. Retreating now, in your post, into how reactionaries expect decline as a fact of nature is simply a retreat.

    As to whether absolute power corrupts absolutely (just to use a glib soundbyte), maybe, maybe not. Maybe there are saints who would be perfect, absolute rulers. Wanna risk finding one? Wanna rely on them appearing just in time to take the seat of power whenever needed? Do you think someone having the power to carve exceptions for themselves from the rules they have also made is something that will never, ever be abusable? (And it’s worth repeating that some of the best examples put forth for reaction are far from absolutist ruler societies)

  532. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. Mateus Araújo #525:

    In the following, I will reveal that I am stupid. But, here goes.

    One of the Enlightenment ideas is, as far as I understand it, a certain kind of trust in humanity. That’s why you bother with universal education and universal political enfranchisement. Because you (or I) believe that everyone is able to have a voice.

    This is of course a simplistic presentation, and one can argue that the real principle is everyone has the right to be represented, even when they’re not competent to represent themselves. But I’d rather not open that can of elitist worms right now, so let’s go with the simple interpretation.

    Because I have that trust that on the whole humans are competent and decent (not good, just decent), I believe in principle everyone should be heard, and ideas must be argued for or against, on their merits.

    I also believe that people must be convinced, not prevented from knowing about “dangerous ideas”.

    So even though I don’t like the vision, I do want to hear what Boldmug has to say, and all the other neo-reactionaries here. Some competition is necessary to keep one honest, and it’s good to have some such outside pressure to encourage self-reflection.

    There were some polls recently that suggest most Americans support Trump’s ban. Maybe this is an argument you’d use to show that the world-view I’ve given above is stupid.

    I prefer to think of it as aspirational. The reality is that people rarely get convinced by logical argument, I know that. But as something to strive for, being a reasonable person amenable to arguments, and who extends the same trust to others, is something I think is what we should aspire to. So I’d rather indulge in this idiosyncratic stupidity of mine; otherwise the game is lost and you might as well embrace reaction to safeguard you from “your nature”.

    (Funny how arguments about nature keep appearing on computer screens, incidentally.)

  533. psmith Says:

    >Japan

    I’ll see your law ‘n’ order and raise you HBD. (cf Dan Freedman’s work here.).

  534. Charlie Croker Says:

    quax #527:

    Did I ever claim that “startups do not create anything of lasting value”? No, I didn’t.
    As I said, your argument is of the not-even-wrong type. That means it is irrelevant if Berlin has a thriving startup culture or not for the question whether there are no-go areas or whether the city has decayed. (And by the way, Berlin’s start up culture is not that great. Few great startups come from Germany all together). You could also say “The best restaurants for Currywurst are located in Berlin, so it cannot have problems with crime”. In that case, the antecedent would (probably) also be correct, but the argument is still a non-sequitur. By the way, did you know that your precious startup culture is not exactly to be found in areas like Berlin-Neukölln?

    Your argument about rents also suffers from the simple problem that it unrelated to the topic. Rents in Paris are also expensive as hell and still the situation there is so bad that there are regular riots in the suburbs and former French president Sarkozy publicly proclaimed it would be necessary to “cleanse” the suburbs. There are so many obvious examples of bad cities with high rents.

    The statistics you provided compare Berlin and Germany as a whole.
    Using the same argument, I could establish that any student of mathematics student is among the top mathematicians of the century by comparing him to the general population instead of other mathematicians. You cannot compare large cities (especially capitals) with just any place. In particular, there is always a baseline demand for places to live in Berlin as long as there are sufficiently many companies and the big bureaucracy. This is independent of the living conditions.
    It is also well-known that large parts of the rent increases in Germany do not stem from enormous increases in demand for flats, but simply so called “modernisations” of houses, meaning landlords simply “improve” the buildings without ever consulting the tenants and then use this as an excuse for demanding higher rents. This is a problem especially in larger cities. If anything, your rent increases just highlight the increased aggressiveness of landlords’ business policies in Berlin and not improved living conditions. (Seriously, have you even visited Berlin once? The city is just plain ugly).

    All this is not even controversial. As I said, it can be seen on German state television and politicans of all parties talk about it regularly. If your strategy is to try to attack obvious examples of decay, it is not going to be very successful.

  535. Bran Says:

    BLANDCorporation:

    I wasn’t quite saying that this thread had gotten uncivil: my point was more that the level of discourse had sunk below what the participants are capable of.

    Also, there was a moment in the thread when some absolutist regimes of today and the recent past were given an excuse for their problems. They’re fighting this liberal/progressive empire, and the injustices are simply emergency measures. I feel that argument can go both ways, and a lot of the problems we see today in liberal democracies are emergency measures from fighting/coping with an external enemy and the fruits of their action. The current refugee crisis in Europe being a salient example.

    While this observation may be attempted as a refutation of the anti-democratic position, it actually is an excellent explanation of the anti-democratic position.

    We began this sub-discussion when Kim Jong-Il came up. Boldmug and I pointed out that Kim, and Hitler, and Stalin, were all facing a hot or cold war with an extremely powerful empire. This conflict explains a good part of why their leaders become so paranoid and crazy. You take our explanation as a “justification,” but it is not. We are speaking amorally about the qualities of certain governments, not morally. The important point is that all of these autocratic states would have done less crazy and evil stuff if they weren’t fighting the American Empire. Would they have still done some crazy and evil stuff? Certainly yes, because they were also insecure internally (particularly the communist totalitarian states which were full of backstabbing and purges).

    You point out that liberal democratic regimes may justify their own flaws by the conflicts with their opponents. It could be either internal or external opponents. Yes, you are absolutely right. That’s the point!

    Regimes act in crazy and Machiavellian ways when they are insecure. This principle is true regardless of whether they are officially labeled “democracy” or something else.

    Security against both internal and external threats is one of the most important virtues of government: aka peace. So an important question is whether certain styles of government have a better chance to be secure.

    Think in terms of democracy vs autocracy is the wrong frame, because both of those categories are not any single thing, and have a lot of variation. I’ll link again to this article explaining the messiness of those categories, and correcting a lot of misconceptions about “authoritarian” states. A quote:

    While such top-down evil has happened, in most of the worst instances of tyranny, the oppression was due to insecurity of the leaders at the top, factional fighting, mobs, or a security apparatus operating outside the authority of top-down command-and-control. The oppression is often sideways and peer-to-peer. There is often a sense in which the entire thing is outside of any person’s control. The revolution devours everyone, even its own, without anyone able to stop it or inject sanity. The oppression is neither due to the wishes of the majority, nor to the wishes of the top down ruler. Rather the tyranny is at the hand of fractured, unaccountable parties that are wedded to the instruments of power.

    In the monarchist view of the world, the biggest distinction in government is between monarchy vs popular governments (rule justified by the legitimacy of the state or divine right of kings vs rule justified by the “will of the people”). Within popular government, there is another split, between multi-party popular government (democracy) and single-party popular government (e.g. communist states, fascist states, Orban’s Hungary, and Merkel’s Germany).

    Here is the monarchist claim: popular governments, either single-party or multi-party, cannot be internally secure. Since those governments are predicated on the will of the people, the current coalition is always insecure, due to elections, or other appeals to “the people” that their political opponents could make. As for monarchy, yes, it may have internal divisions and insecurity, but at least monarchy is designed to place someone legitimately in power with no challengers, and give the monarch the formal tools to stop any fractious challengers.

    This is why we believe that a monarchical structure is a necessary but not sufficient condition of secure rule. In practice, of course, many flesh-and-blood monarchs have been weak, which made them insecure and filled their reigns with infighting. But at least monarchy is trying to solve the infighting problem in its design. The design philosophy of democracy, and all popular governments, encouraged internal infighting, because anyone can appeal to “the people.” (Yes, they can try to appeal to the people in monarchy, also, but monarchy is designed to stop this.)

    Democracy isn’t even trying to solve the problem of internal competition for power. And, surprise, Western democratic states are full of internal competition for power, which manifests as the culture wars we see today, which are getting increasingly fractious and violent. Culture wars are not a bug in democracy, they are a feature of democracy.

    Returning to your point, yes, coalitions in liberal democratic states will use the presence of their opponents to justify taking measures that are oppressive or divisive once they get the power to do so. And so we go back in forth with this punitive behavior forever. This is the horror of democracy.

    The refugee crisis is actually about internal competition, not about an external threat. The left is bringing in refugees because it wants to enfranchise them, use them as captive voters, and wreck the neighborhoods of their opponents. Remember, Tony Blair literally said that he was bringing in immigrants to “rub the right’s noses in diversity,” which is different from the public humanitarian justifications. Leftist parties have an incentive to do this, because otherwise, median voter theorem says that the center-right will encroach on them and pose a risk of defeating them in an election.

    In democracy, no coalition can permanently win, so coalitions need to keep fighting. If the left had “won” the culture sometime between 1950 and 2000, and then been frozen in time, I would be OK with this, even though it would not be ideal by my values. The problem is that the left could never fully win, so it had to keep getting crazier. This is why we now have social justice and black-bloc violence.

    If we look at history in Western Europe, we can see that when monarchies became more secure, they started to become less warlike, less oppressive, and more enlightened. Unfortunately, they became so nice that they became soft, and allowed popular government (Parliaments) to destabilize them, eventually turning into fully popular governments full of unending culture wars.

    This article on TFP gets into a more technical discussion of the challenges of structuring government in a way that minimizes damaging infighting and insecurity:

    Democracy is actually a complex of related machanisms, rather than a single institution. Besides the voting thing, it mostly boils down to inability of a ruling coalition to use the most efficient parts of the state apparatus, like the legal system, police, state funds, official propaganda, and so on, directly against the opposition. It’s not democracy if you can just arrest the opposition for crimes against political order. But even if you can’t just arrest the opposition, the imperative for the governing coalition to neuter the opposition by any means necessary remains, and is redirected.


    So restricting the powers of the state, by structural or other means, means that the struggle for political order is less decisive, and thus more escalated, and more damaging to society.

    Regardless of whether this comment is sufficient to convince anyone, I hope it helps establish that this is actually quite a deep and technical subject.

  536. Bran Says:

    Correction: The quote on “rub the right’s nose in diversity” is not from Blair himself, it’s from Andrew Neather, an advisor to Blair:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6418456/Labour-wanted-mass-immigration-to-make-UK-more-multicultural-says-former-adviser.html

  537. Mateus Araújo Says:

    BLANDCorporatio #532: Trust refers to dealing with someone you don’t know. I do extend this basic courtesy to every human being. Unfortunately, I do already know much more about Boldmug than I ever wanted to. And he has shown to be undeserving of this trust and incapable of living in an open society. Simply because he wants to use the very openness of our society to destroy it.

    The time for polite argument is over. These people are already in power. How would you deal with the Nazis after 1933? Convince them via polite argument that they shouldn’t conquer Europe and commit genocide?

  538. ChiefMAR Says:

    Understand there is angst, but some of the concern is premature. Executive Order provides for a suspension and no one is being deported. The immigration system is broken and suspension is to determine what is needed to improve vetting process.

    While you are providing advice to students across the country, please would focus some of your energy and wisdom on what is happening on college campuses like Cal Berkeley where people are assaulted simply because they have a different opinion and property is destroyed and violent protests are orchestrated with a purpose of preventing other opinions from being shared. College students appear to have been taught to shout down or destroy contrary opinion – instead of engaging in a vigorous, but respectful, debate of an issue.

  539. Scott Says:

    Charlie Croker #524: I agree that if firing Brendan Eich for his anti-gay-marriage views is legal, then firing someone for pro-gay-marriage views also has to be legal. But firing someone for being gay strikes me as completely different and not analogous at all, because gay isn’t a policy view; it’s an inborn condition. That’s much more like firing someone for being black.

  540. Charlie Croker Says:

    Scott #539:
    I actually thought you were using this analogy because you said in your comment:
    “I strongly disagreed with the firing of Brendan Eich. But here’s the difference from our current subject: Mozilla is a private organization. And as such, they claim the right to fire people for their anti-gay-marriage beliefs, just like other private organizations claim the right to fire people for being gay (or being openly gay).

    In such cases, it seems to me that we have only two options: either put the government in the business of dictating to private companies which private beliefs and practices they can or can’t fire someone for—which I thought was something that conservatives opposed! Or else say that the solution lies in the marketplace. I.e., that people who oppose the firing can act on that belief by denouncing it, switching to a different web browser, offering to hire Brendan Eich themselves, etc.”

    You referred to “private beliefs and practices” and being openly gay requires you to proclaim in public that you are gay, i.e. it involves an action.( If you’re not open about it, most employers will never find out about it anway). Skin color, on the other hand, does not require any action to have it.

  541. fred Says:

    The only thing to *really* worry about is the increase of risk of a nuclear war.
    Within a few days we got Iran firing test missiles, North Korea taunting with more ICBM and nuke tests, Russia re-igniting the fight in Ukraine.
    It’s all moving the needle towards total annihilation of the human race (all the rest is survivable/reversible).

  542. fred Says:

    … forgot to add Trump telling the GOP to “go nuclear”, and Mattis threatening NK with “effective and overwhelming” response in case they use their nukes first…

  543. Raoul Ohio Says:

    ChiefMAR,

    Nobody here is in favor of NCL’s (Nut Case Leftests) at Berkeley. In fact, prior to the worst disaster in US history currently unfolding, Scott was often attacked by NCL’s.

    One of the many disasters of the emergence of NCR’s (Nut Case Rightists) is that it encourages the development of new NCL’s, Anarchists, etc. Probably many of them will recover when they get a little older, whereas the NCR’s will still be squealing tires on pickup trucks with Confederate flags.

    Most regulars at SO have always been pretty much Centerist + Sane.

  544. Scott Says:

    Raoul #543:

      Nobody here is in favor of NCL’s (Nut Case Leftests) at Berkeley. In fact, prior to the worst disaster in US history currently unfolding, Scott was often attacked by NCL’s.

    LOL! I was going to write a comment saying the same thing at much greater length, but I prefer your formulation.

    For those marinated in alternative facts from right-wing news sites, maybe it’s worth stressing: the Berkeley administration was fine for Milo to perform there—mean-spirited and clownish though he is—and even gave the College Republicans the space and security for the event. There was a peaceful protest by Berkeley students, also those students’ right. Then violent protesters, apparently not Berkeley students, came from elsewhere and shut the talk down. I think the violent protest was both deplorable and stupid, but we should be clear that this wasn’t Berkeley’s fault.

    I’m a billion times more concerned about the president of the United States (!!) having threatened to use this as a pretext to cut funding to Berkeley. Even if Berkeley had screwed up, it would be monstrous to destroy one of the world’s great research universities, and make it impossible for all its students and professors (whatever their political views) to continue their work, over an error by the administration. And again, I can’t even see that the administration did anything wrong in this instance.

  545. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. Bran #535:

    It is a deep and technical subject, yes. Fundamentally though we’re across a chasm, because we see the same facts (democracies are designed to fracture power and keep it impermanently in the grasp of any one group) and judge them differently as bug or feature.

    Feature, because in liberal democracies power struggles tend to be very tame. Exceptions exist, but for the most part the political machinations of a social-democratic European country are slaps with velvet gloves compared to succession wars that you might see in monarchies. A better counterargument to make here is that one has merely replaced a short sharp terror of war and assassination with slow burning demographic change. The slow burning change however may give us more time to react and prevent irreversible fuckups (if, for example, saner asylum policies get considered); after a war or revolution you can only rebuild.

    But are we really to believe that a monarch can be so secure in their power, ever? We haven’t conquered death yet, and ultimately no man rules alone. And even if completely secure, will such a ruler always feel secure, or will old paranoid natures prevail? If a ruler can act without consequence, will they always act to the good of their people? Competition was supposed to be a good healthy thing to keep one vigorous and honest. Power is the same; it can’t be allowed to stick in one place too long or it rots.

  546. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. Mateus Araújo #537:

    Come on, not the ad Hitlerum. In 1933, I would hope I would have sided with Churchill for fighting against Hitler’s Germany. I would have liked to know who I was fighting though.

    I don’t believe denying platforms will just make opposing arguments go away.

    At least, consider a practical argument. If one side argues, and the other snubs, which do you think an undecided observer will find more convincing? You may not win the heart and mind of Boldmug by generously giving him a platform, but surely you lose many minds and hearts when they see that yes you do prefer to live in a safe space bubble.

  547. Douglas Knight Says:

    it’s an inborn condition

    Scott, is that your true objection? Would you really change your mind if you learned that was not true? Homophobia is more heritable than homosexuality. Should it be granted more protection? Gould said:

    It would be poor logic and worse strategy to hinge a moral or political argument for equal treatment or equal opportunity upon any factual statement about human biology. For if our empirical conclusion turns out to be wrong—and all facts are tentative in science—then we would be forced to justify prejudice and apartheid

  548. Begin Says:

    US democracy was a joke before US became a superpower.

  549. Scott Says:

    Douglas #547: I happen to have a secular moral framework that doesn’t find the slightest thing wrong with a person choosing homosexuality, supposing it were a choice (or supposing a bisexual person). But for those who don’t share that framework, it also seems worth stressing that everything we know strongly indicates that it’s not a choice.

  550. Raoul Ohio Says:

    You are wasting your time arguing with people who believe monarchies are the way to go. Most likely they don’t actually believe it, they are just jerking your cage. If they do believe it, they are dumb as a rock and will not learn anything.

    Generally it is a good idea to ignore hecklers, or respond with humor. One clear of sign of Trump’s (insanity? incompetence? ??) is that he cannot abide any perceived criticism and cannot stay above anything. How many tweets has he fired off today about Schwarzenegger’s act on a TV show? Trump was a bully growing up, and now the best part of being president is being able to insult guys who otherwise he would be afraid of.

  551. Sarah Says:

    I’m trying to document the impact of the immigration executive order at http://www.bannedscientists.org. Please submit your story, and encourage others to do the same.

  552. Mateus Araújo Says:

    BLANDCorporatio #546:

    When you have white nationalists in power whose supporters openly make the Nazi salute I think reduction ad Hitlerum becomes a valid argument, not a logical fallacy.

    But in practical terms, think about the consequences of letting Boldmug post his drivel here. Let’s say 90% of the people who read his discussion with Scott conclude that indeed, absolute monarchy is a terrible way to organize a society. Congratulations, you just gave the neoreactionaries 10% of Scott’s readers that they would never be able to reach otherwise.

    This is not a discussion between two honest thinkers trying to discover whether Babai’s algorithm is quasi-polynomial or subexponential. This is a fight for power. Do not apply the standards for academic debate to it.

  553. Charlie Croker Says:

    Mateus #552:
    Do you really believe anyone would use a complexity theory blog to promote a political ideology? This would probably be the most ineffective propaganda tactic I have ever heard of.

  554. Samuel Skinner Says:

    @Mateus Araújo
    “And Boldmug is defending the destruction of everything I hold dear. If this is not being hateful, I don’t know what it is.”

    Odd- he feels the same way about you. I’m sure your feelings are more important then his.


    “And he has shown to be undeserving of this trust and incapable of living in an open society. Simply because he wants to use the very openness of our society to destroy it.”

    All your opponents are literally Hitler. All of them. You know what B wants? Singapore with more explicit laws. But that is apparently so evil he must be silenced. Presumably we can’t let the people from Singapore speak either. They might have nice things to say about Singapore!


    “When you have white nationalists in power whose supporters openly make the Nazi salute I think reduction ad Hitlerum becomes a valid argument, not a logical fallacy.”

    Spencer isn’t in power. Spencer is a guy who is trying to build a think tank. Your argument appears to be the mere existence of white nationalists means Hitler. This is insane since Hitler was not a white nationalist. In fact the closest nation we have to white nationalist at the time would be the United States, also known as the people who fought Hitler.


    “Congratulations, you just gave the neoreactionaries 10% of Scott’s readers that they would never be able to reach otherwise.

    This is not a discussion between two honest thinkers trying to discover whether Babai’s algorithm is quasi-polynomial or subexponential. This is a fight for power. Do not apply the standards for academic debate to it.”

    The same could be said of letting Republicans speak. On the plus side this is an incredibly good demonstration of why democracy is bad and self destructs- because to win you need your faction to be emotionally invested in the cause, the more invested they are the more they see criticism as a personal attack and the less likely they are to engage with other individuals as opposed to escalating.


    @BLANDCorporatio
    He is refering to insecure power. That is a universal feature (not limited to dictatorships or democracies) and we can see that across the board.


    “Retreating now, in your post, into how reactionaries expect decline as a fact of nature is simply a retreat.”

    No, it is a description of how reality actually works. Claiming your political philosophy is superior because it is more moral because it ignores bad things is not an improvement.


    “Maybe there are saints who would be perfect, absolute rulers. ”

    Why on Earth would you need a saint? Jim has said he’d be fine with Trump’s sons and there is no reason to think any of them are saints. The feature of absolute power isn’t that the monarch is perfect, it is that there is one center of power.


    “One of the Enlightenment ideas is, as far as I understand it, a certain kind of trust in humanity. ”

    I’m naively curious at how high the crime rate has to be before this is dropped. The fact of the matter is that people vary in intelligence and people vary in morality. The idea they should all be treated equally is an article of faith, not a logically derived conclusion.


    “Exceptions exist, but for the most part the political machinations of a social-democratic European country are slaps with velvet gloves compared to succession wars that you might see in monarchies. ”

    How many succession wars did you see in Enlightenment Era European monarchies?


    @Scott
    “For those marinated in alternative facts from right-wing news sites, maybe it’s worth stressing: the Berkeley administration was fine for Milo to perform there—mean-spirited and clownish though he is—and even gave the College Republicans the space and security for the event.”

    No, the college demanded a security payment at the last moment and threatened to cancel the event. Milo only got to speak because an anonymous individual ponied up the money.

    In short the college acted exactly the opposite of how you implied. Which is why we on the right trust claims that it is just ‘crazy leftists’ who are the problem with the scorn it deserves. The crazy leftists are supported by all the other leftists.

    ” Then violent protesters, apparently not Berkeley students, came from elsewhere and shut the talk down.”

    Watch the videos. The violent individuals work with the rest of the crowd- the destroy things and run back into the student body which then close behind them. The Berkley students are protecting them.

    “Even if Berkeley had screwed up, it would be monstrous to destroy one of the world’s great research universities, and make it impossible for all its students and professors (whatever their political views) to continue their work, over an error by the administration.”

    Since you are incapable of honestly understanding what occurred, why should anyone on the right (you know, the people with the power to shut the college down) care what you have to say? All your arguments are optimized for internal consumption.


    “I happen to have a secular moral framework that doesn’t find the slightest thing wrong with a person choosing homosexuality, supposing it were a choice (or supposing a bisexual person).”

    Homosexual individuals are more likely to spread STDs and less likely to have children. These are bad for insuring society continues. The fact you appear to have literally never considered this is depressing, but unsurprising.

  555. quax Says:

    What Raoul Ohio #550 said, seriously why is anybody here engaging these dolts in any serious manner? You may as well argue birth control with a Jesuit.

    Although they are manage to be occasionally funny like this Skinner dude, who worries about gays impact on procreation, as if our species wasn’t suffering from the exact opposite problem.

  556. quax Says:

    Charlie, I appreciate how much more time you wasted on this thinking that you constructed some sort of cogent argument.

  557. Raoul Ohio Says:

    By coincidence, I just happened to finish reading “How the Irish saved Civilization” today. Highly recommended.

    And, it kind of gets you thinking about the big picture. There is a “Scientists march” ….. coming up in a couple months. Ordinarily I would be the last person marching for anything, but this might be civilization we talking about here. Anybody in? Maybe we can get a big banner with some QC expressions on it.

  558. quax Says:

    BTW they will of course claim that the won the argument, if you don’t engage them. But then again they will always do this anyhow.

  559. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #544,

    > There was a peaceful protest by Berkeley students, also those students’ right. Then violent protesters, apparently not Berkeley students, came from elsewhere and shut the talk down.

    If just as a case study in epistemology: where exactly does this neat disjunction between “peaceful student protesters” and “non-peaceful non-student rioters” come from? What is the source of this decidedly nontrivial information?

    I cannot even imagine how you or anyone could know that there are/were no Berkeley students in the Black Bloc. In fact, I’ll spare you a link to the dox, but the man who punched a Milo guest and left him flat appears to have been a Berkeley *employee*.

    Here is how I suspect you got this idea. One easy way, commonly used in the media, to generate false impressions without actually lying, is the old “no evidence that” trick. “There is no evidence of X” rapidly turns into “there is no evidence against not-X”, from there to “not-X is a proven fact,” and from there to “X is a dirty lie.” (There is obviously a name for this fallacy but I can’t remember it right now.) It’s just null-hypothesis juggling.

    Since users are familiar with courtroom logic and not with Bayesian logic, this actually works. For example, in an electoral system in which voter rolls are not validated and essentially work on the honor system, there is no evidence that illegal aliens are voting, or that they’re not voting. Therefore, the election is fair, and anyone claiming there is illegal voting is a liar.

    > I think the violent protest was both deplorable and stupid, but we should be clear that this wasn’t Berkeley’s fault.

    I think that if you are so concerned about maintaining this “classical Enlightenment liberal” marketplace of ideas, in which you to my continued amazement seem to believe we actually live, you had better at least familiarize yourself with the normal tactics of its normal enemies — the totalitarian state that meets ideas with brute force.

    Did you miss the part where *the police did nothing to protect the victims*, and *no one was arrested*, and *the mayor praised the rioters*? And so did, let’s not forget, three-quarters of the *noble, independent-minded and civic-spirited American press*? I have never seen the Washington Post use the word “intense” so many times in one article.

    How do you think this sort of thing is handled in Moscow today? Or in any 20th-century total state not in wartime? Any level of violence can be stimulated against anyone by adequate tolerance. The Jim Crow South of course used this power extensively, simply declining to pursue or prosecute the extra-legal forces that imposed all of its violent power.

    If you reverse the polarity, you see how ridiculous it is. Imagine Amy Schumer has booked a speech at Berkeley, but the Aryan Brotherhood led by Mike Cernovich and Matt Forney is trying to shut her down, by doing their best to burn down the student life center with Roman candles, not to mention beating the guests with clubs and dousing them with bear spray.

    But David Duke is Governor of California and Richard Spencer is the chancellor of Berkeley. Joke’s on you, libs! Later, the skinhead mob goes cruising down Shattuck, looking for Jewish-owned banks… In what world, even remotely like ours, could this happen?

    In our world, the world is full of giant government agencies (and even pseudo-agencies, like the bizarrely quasi-official SPLC), with special extra laws imposing special extra bad sentences, to crush out and destroy *any* violent political activity even a hundredth this size. But only on the right.

    Ultimately it can’t prevent the existence of lone-wolf terrorists. But it can present anything and everything else — all the way to wrongthink on Twitter. Do you remember six months ago when everyone was shocked about “violent” right-wing discourse on Twitter? Ha.

    On the left side of the fence, this dog does not bark. That’s because there is no dog. There used to be “Red Squads” in places like NYC, dedicated to fighting leftist terror, but the last of them were disbanded in the ’70s. (They were certainly not disbanded, nor did the terror stop, because *leftism lost*.)

    Oh right, leftist terrorism in America, let me link that one again:

    https://status451.com/2017/01/20/days-of-rage/

    Hm, looks like kind of a pattern. And memory-holed, you say? Aren’t these pieces fitting together a little?

    You must be familiar with this tactic of tolerated informal violence. Do you think (not a rhetorical question) that on Kristallnacht, the German Army went around burning down synagogues? I’m betting more SA-men got arrested that night, than anarchists on Berkeleynacht.

    I seem to recall you being shocked, earlier, by my ominous suggestion that one could be happy to see the government enforcing the law. Wasn’t “rule of law” one of those “classical Enlightenment liberal” things? Or am I thinking of a different John Stuart Mill?

  560. Boldmug Says:

    Scott #844:

    As for preserving Berkeley: well, I only spent about a year and a half at Berkeley, and that was in the early ’90s (just before the CS department moved out of the horrid, brutal thing that is Evans Hall). I guess my feeling is that there are many things about UCB that should be preserved, and that any sensible regime would preserve. Not sure the campus, sportsball, etc, are on this list.

    (Curiously, I had a date to speak at Berkeley next week, though not about politics. Definitely does not look at present like I’m going to be there.)

    Let’s imagine you, Scott Aaronson, were put in charge of “preserving” Berkeley. But is preserving really the goal? Or can we do better? Why not do better?

    Suppose God-Emperor Trump has split the new Berkeley into two parts, a school of science/math/engineering and a school of, uh, non-science. You’re the new CEO of Berkeley Science.

    The God-Emperor has suspended all tenure and other work rules, so you can reorganize the operation however you want. And of course fire or hire anyone you want. Also, all grants now go through you — Berkeley’s current annual grant stream is replicated as yield on an infinite-termd issued by the Fed.

    Do you not think that, under these conditions, you could both (a) restore classical Enlightenment liberalism to Berkeley, (b) get it out of the business of being a political machine, and (c) greatly improve the quality of the science it does?

    In fact, don’t you think you could do all these things, and still cut the whole system’s budget by at least 20%? I bet you could. But maybe I just have a weakness for good writers in power.

    Berkeley is not one great thing. It is a bunch of great departments. Ultimately, all that’s valuable is connections between people — and only the relatively small set of true scientists who *actually should* be doing science. In every field, I think, that set knows and could name itself — but it’s completely informal, and no one who isn’t in it can even describe it.

    But the buildings, the paperwork, the football team, the bureaucrats, the retarded performance metrics, the incessant, ever-present bureaucrats…

    Here’s an experiment: go to your search bar. Type in the words “academia is”. The top 5 instant hits for me are: “a cult”, “dying”, “toxic”, “not for me,” and “killing me.”

    (Is this reality? Or personalization? Or have reactionaries infiltrated Google? Try it yourself. Heck, Bing and decide.)

    And that’s without considering the American university’s incredibly toxic impact on the country, about which we’ve just been talking. After all, it plays the same basic political, social and economic role as Panem in the Hunger Games. Doesn’t it?

    Of course any measures directed at Berkeley alone would be retarded. I don’t think the administration is quite that dumb, though. It’s obvious that this is not a local problem.

    Finally, at the most mercenary level in the pure interest of science, even when an institution like American science is working perfectly well, massive disruption to the point of institutional extinction can be an enormous boon.

    Look at Germany and Japan after the wars — the young and talented took over immediately. The rebirth was amazing, even after so many scientists had been killed by the pointless American city bombings. Even the Soviets benefited from this effect in the ’20s and ’30s.

    So I’d argue that once again, the question of “should Berkeley live” is nowhere near as close to a no-brainer as you think. (It is also a million miles away from anything the real Trump administration could actually do — we are strictly in the imaginary realm here.)

  561. Boldmug Says:

    Charlie #555 and Mateus #552,

    You are both right. The truth is that I’m only here because (a) our host hasn’t kicked me out, and (b) I was feeling a little rusty and wanted to see if anyone could hit my serve yet. It seemed like if anyone could get the ball back across the net, it would be Scott.

  562. Boldmug Says:

    psmith #535:

    > I’ll see your law ‘n’ order and raise you HBD. (cf Dan Freedman’s work here.).

    Great. Yeah, that’ll really vindicate our century in the eyes of the 22nd. Is there a formal fallacy, with a proper Latin name, that means “out of the fire and into the frying pan”? Or are you just a troll? I worry that you’re just a troll…

  563. Boldmug Says:

    sf #530:

    This is a brilliantly worded and soberly restrained comment.

  564. Anonymous Says:

    Apparently, the campus police at U.C. Berkeley were ordered not to intervene with the violent protests at U.C. Berkeley. They have allowed the violent riots at U.C. Berkeley. Berkeley wanted the riots because they did not want Milo to speak. I do not trust campus police anywhere in the United States since in my experience campus police do not display the professionalism that is required from police officers.

    I would not call Berkeley a great research university nor do I regard very many research universities as being “great.” While universities like Berkeley produce some good scientific research and give some students a valuable education, the same universities also give students crippling debt (the U.S. national student loan debt is 1.42 trillion dollars, and this debt cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy), grade inflation, worthless liberal arts degrees, liberal indoctrination (not that there is anything inherently wrong with liberalism, but there needs to be a balance. Besides, if liberal students only learn more liberalism at universities, then their viewpoints will not be challenged nor developed.), higher taxes, and a host of other problems. In my experience as a professor, students, faculty, and staff at many (if not most) colleges and universities in the United States of America are some of the most unprofessional and deplorable people in this country. The kind of behavior which is commonplace at college campuses should make employers question the value of a college degree and especially a degree in the liberal arts where no skills are taught.

    Berkeley will not lose its federal funding because politicians do not like the advancement of science. Berkeley and other colleges and universities may lose their federal funding because of the incompetence, unprofessionalism, and disrespect at the American universities.

  565. Ali Says:

    Liberal educated Iranians and Israelis get a long pretty well in my experience. The issue is fundamentalist in Israel and Iran and the US whose identity is shaped around enmity against the others.

    When I was a teenager I had a rather negative view of Israel. I had no understanding of Israel really. I never thought let alone care about what would happen to Jewish people who have born in the state of Israel and who have lived there for all their life. Where would they go? What would they do? I never thought about that. The only thing that shaped my view towards Israel was that it forcefully occupied Muslim territory and that oppressed and killed civilian Muslims regularly with extreme brutality. Over the past two decades and since the time I migrated to the US I have met many Israelis and have become friends with them and to my surprise they are one of the groups I find it rather easy to become friend with. Now I do care about Israelis. Now I think no one has a right to expel them from Israel in the name of Islam or Muslims. I still found the treatment of Palestinians by fundamentalist Jewish settlers and IDF members and disregard for the Palestinian lives abhorable. I now understand that Arabs also have a lot of responsibility in the situation that exists in Israel and Palestine. I know many Israelis disagree with the treatment of Palestinians and protest for the protection of their rights. I know that if Arab countries allowed displaced Palestinians to resettle and integrate and gave them citizenship with full rights then the Palestinian refugee problem would not be a big problems as it is now, many of them would not even want to go back to Palestinian. I understand that Israel cannot as a country that has been attacked many times by Arab armies be relaxed about its security. However as John Kerry put recently Israel is moving towards either becoming an non-democratic, an apartheid nation, or a non-Jewish state, there is no easy solution for Israel’s problems. But it is mostly an issue that Israelis have to think about and figure out and the current ethnocultural-nationalist right-wing government in Israel is a true reflection of the Trump administration.

    My views about Israel has change a lot since I have moved to the US and all of it is because I had the privilege of meeting and knowing and talking with Israelis. They are not an abstract concept for me any more, they are real people that I care about.

    I think the same applies to a large majority of Americans who are against immigrants, they probably have not met any immigrants, they have not had much interaction with, if you look at the map the main force against immigrants are not from big cities and areas that immigrants move but from areas where immigrants do not move to and have very low number of immigrants. They don’t know immigrants, it is an abstract thing for them, and they would change their views if they interacted regularly with immigrants. Most humans are decent, they just don’t have a good first-hand understanding of issues and get exploited by politicians with dangerous fundamentalist ideas. A large section of the economy of California that employs millions of white Americans would not exist without immigrants and that is the message we have to keep repeating till these people understand.

    And we have to figure out a way to fight increasing gap between the rich and the rest of the population and reawaken in them the hope of a better feature for themselves and their children, something we as the upper middle class have not payed much attention to. That is why Trump’s messages resonated with so many Americans and they ignored and will keep ignoring the obvious signs of the fascist regime Trump is building and it is not the first time in the history, Hilter gave the similar economic promises and used the message to German workers and farmers and used “make Deutschland great again” and “living space” and “betrayal by elites” as the cause of Germany’s loos in WWI, something you would never learn from Hollywood movies about Nazi Germany, none that I have seen explains how Hilter gained the support of average German citizens, if you read some of Hitler’s speeches the similarity to Trumps economic and “make America great again” messages is undeniably blunt. The Muslim ban is the first step towards purifying America and creating a “living space” for white Americans of European descent and there are reports that Steve Bannon has similar views towards not just Muslims and Latinos but also Asians and essentially anyone who is not a christian of European descent.

  566. Steve Johnson Says:

    Samuel Skinner #554 –

    “Homosexual individuals are more likely to spread STDs and less likely to have children. These are bad for insuring society continues. The fact you appear to have literally never considered this is depressing, but unsurprising.”

    That’s not even the main problem with Scott’s response and going down that road is a distraction.

    Doug started with “if you accept Eich being fired for his views what grounds do you have to object to someone being fired for announcing they’re gay”. Scott’s answer was “no choice in being gay”. Doug comes back with “what if you’re wrong (since it’s an empirical question)” and Scott responds with “there’s nothing wrong with choosing to be gay”. It’s dodging the issue.

  567. Bran Says:

    BLANDCorporatio #546:

    You raised some good questions.

    in liberal democracies power struggles tend to be very tame.

    Your thesis about the peacefulness of power struggles in democracy only works if you look at recent Western states. That’s not a lot of data, and it’s full of confounds, like wealth, technology, and subordination to the American Empire. It’s possible to identify many periods of decades in which particular dynasties had no problems, either.

    I can give you a bunch of counter-examples that show violent struggle in democracies:

    – US Civil War
    – Hitler’s rise out of Weimar democracy
    – Breakup of Yugoslavia
    – Ukrainian Civil War
    – 1970’s violent leftist activism (“Days of Rage”), the 70’s crime wave, LA riots
    – Present crime, including political violence like Ferguson

    Historically, democracies have had plenty of internal violent political struggle. Now Western democracies are increasingly fragile and potentially at the brink of civil war. Additionally, we have crime at greater levels than Japan for no good reason: the left is soft on crime when the criminals are immigrants or other blocs of people who vote left. Violent crime generated by the left’s electoral strategy should be seen as political violence.

    When you speak of the succession problems, let me ask, which successions in which countries in which centuries are you talking about? And why would they apply to today? The Hundred Year’s War could not happen with modern military technology. It’s unfair to blame monarchy for the fact that territorial warfare was highly prevalent during most of its history, while modern liberal democracies get nuclear deterrence to prop them up.

    Succession struggles are often used as an objection to monarchy, but these concerns are greatly overblown, and based mostly on English history (or Rome, or Game of Thrones).

    In France, the Bourbon Dynasty lasted 203 years with 5 kings until it was ruined by the Enlightenment. Prussia was ruled by the Hohenzollern family for 393 years, which is longer than the American republic has even existed! Out of all the people in this thread who are convinced that succession is a horrible risk of monarchy, how many of them knew anything about Europe’s successful dynasties?

    If American democracy lasts 393 years and can get to 2169 without falling apart, then perhaps we can reassess. After our last election, who here is looking forward to the next 38 of them?

    You are right that no monarch can be completely secure. Security is a sliding scale. But since security is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for good government, more is better, and modern military technology will make monarchies even more secure than they used to be. Popular governments like democracies and communist states have a ceiling on their security, which is an insurmountable problem with them.

    Competition was supposed to be a good healthy thing to keep one vigorous and honest.

    That’s what it was supposed to be in the democratic theory, but does the theory line up with the reality? Does the competition between American political parties keep them honest, or the opposite? Competition in a market is good, but competition between political powers just causes them to get increasingly nasty to each other and wreck society in the process.

  568. BLANDCorporatio Says:

    irt. Samuel Skinner #554:

    Succession wars during the Enlightenment period, well you might have the Austrian succession war of 1740, the Polish sucession war starting from 1733 I think, and depending on how you wish to count it, the war of Spanish succession of 1702. All of these are just before (Spanish) or smack-middle of the traditionally considered age of Enlightenment.

    It’s nice to think monarchies of the late XVIIIth, XIXth centuries were peaceful (except for the occasional revolutionary blip, which wasn’t the fault of the monarchs -at all-), but by that time the monarchic power had eroded considerably.

    I dare say, the reason why you didn’t have succession wars after a certain point is that the stakes were much lower. No absolute power to gain, no complete punishment for the vanquished. All in all, a better system to control the ebbs and flow of power.

    As to the decline and retreat– which I insist you’re doing– nobody here is denying decline exists. I don’t. But in the face of this reality, surely a system of unconcentrated power is better, to diminish a regime’s unavoidable hysterics on the way out. Meanwhile, while your side always argues for the benefits of monarchy, you still find it convenient to excuse the bad symptoms of monarchies as simple artifacts of unavoidable decay.

    May I suggest then that monarchy can’t handle decay very well?

    On the issue of rulers and saints, look, I might, in my weaker moments, acquiesce to an absolute ruler who’s a saint. When pinning that power to a particular, known, visibly flawed individual though– no thanks.

    As for my article of faith in basic human decency, it is unabashedly an article of faith, similar to the presumption of innocence. If crime is your litmus test for citizenship it would be worth discussing policies that disenfranchise criminals. I don’t find such politics particularly unreasonable btw, though they do need to be careful in where they draw the line and how definitive the punishment.

    As for how high should the crime level be for that article of faith to falter, lets put it this way. The vast majority of people I’ve met have been decent, and I have rarely been given reason to suspect otherwise of the vast majority of people I see while I walk about my business. I really don’t live in a forest of thugs (and I live in Germany btw). And you can look at crime statistics instead and see the same thing– the vast, vast majority of people aren’t criminals.

  569. Begin Says:

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/donald-trump-popularity-polling-234630.

  570. Mateus Araújo Says:

    Charlie Croker #553: Well, this is clearly what he is doing, so there is no need to speculate. And I don’t think this is an ineffective technique. Scott has stated that this is his most-shared blog post ever. It got shared at least 15,000 times, so I think the readership can easily reach 100,000 people.

  571. Mateus Araújo Says:

    Samuel Skinner #554: I don’t think the situation is symmetric between me and Boldmug. I’m defending the status quo. He is defending returning to some sort of racially-segregated nationalistic authoritarian regime. There is quite a bit more destruction involved in a radical change in society than in maintaining the status quo.

    It’s good that you have brought up Singapore. Have you ever been there? I had the displeasure of living there for two weeks, for work. It’s a shithole. The night life is almost non-existing, because they tax the hell out of it to make it unaffordable to almost anyone. And people there don’t have time to enjoy it anyway, because they are always working. Labour laws there are extremely weak. If you think people work long hours in the US, check out how the Singaporeans do.

    When I got there by plane, they gave me a nice welcome card saying that “If you are bringing drugs into Singapore, you will be killed”. At that time there was a notorious case of an Australian that had his sister kidnapped to be forced to be a drug mule. He got caught and was murdered by the Singaporean authorities. Another famous case was a guy that had robbed someone’s wallet. The police saw it and pursued him. The guy preferred to jump off a bridge to certain death than to get caught by the police.

    But you probably think that the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for robbery and transporting drugs, don’t you? Well, you have the opportunity to move to your dream land then!

    But don’t ask me to defend the freedom of speech of people who want a Singaporean regime in the West. One thing that the people in Singapore definitely do not have the freedom to do is to advocate for a Western liberal regime.

    Your statement that the Nazis were not white nationalists is just ridiculous. I conclude that you are not arguing in good faith. But just in case you are actually interested in communication, by white nationalist in power I did not mean Spencer, but Stephen Bannon.

    Just to finalize, I have nothing against letting Republicans in general speak. As incompetent Bush was, he never attacked democracy itself or crossed the boundaries of human decency.

  572. Scott Says:

    William #497:

      The most ridiculous thing it that, little Bush and Obama did the same thing years ago, but you didn’t feel bad at all.

    You’re wrong. I was also upset when Bush made it harder for foreign scientists, like my brilliant colleague Andris Ambainis, to enter the US after 9/11. But Trump’s order—which, happily, has just last night been stayed across the entire US, when a Washington state judge ruled it most likely unconstitutional—goes way, way beyond anything that even Bush did.

  573. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #500:

      Call me back when I start a civil war in Libya and Syria, and kill half a million people.

    I was talking about SJWs—by which I mean, the people who call those who they disagree with “privileged white cishet douchecanoes” on the Internet, and sometimes even try to get them fired. I’m pretty sure that’s a disjoint set from those responsible for the civil wars in Libya and Syria, even if you thought (which I don’t) that liberal Western politicians bore more than incidental responsibility for those wars.

    But I forgot that you evaluate ideas and movements purely according to the “cladistic” method—according to which, if someone can trace any of the intellectual antecedents of X and Y back to the same sources (and they get however many pages they need to do so), then X and Y are basically the same and X is responsible for whatever Y does. By the same standard, I suppose I could hold you responsible for all the immense right-wing crimes of history, and the other ones surely to come in the next few years.

  574. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #504: When I tried nextdoor.com, the top posts by my neighbors were:

      Car break-in on XX St, see anything?

      Babysitter needed this Friday on YY St

      Looking for reliable & reasonably priced mechanic

    Is the car break-in supposed to have opened my eyes to the fact that I basically live in a war zone?

  575. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #508: With CO2 concentrations increasing exponentially, and with feedbacks such as the thawing permafrost releasing vastly more CO2 and methane, it seems to me that alas, even a logarithmic dependence of thermal forcing on CO2 has at least as great a probability as nuclear war of bringing about the end of our civilization. If only the dependence were loglog(n).

    I’ve never thought that the general circulation models were the primary reason to accept the reality of human-caused climate change. The primary reasons are:

    (1) The basic 19th-century physics and chemistry of the situation, already known to Arrhenius. Most strikingly, in the 1950s, long before the issue had become politicized, John von Neumann (otherwise known as a conservative Cold Warrior, and someone who was not often wrong) took it as simply obvious that the increasing CO2 concentrations from industrial civilization would eventually lead to a catastrophic warming of the earth, if something wasn’t done about it. This, more than anything else, leads me to think that it’s only the political implications of the obvious that make it non-obvious.

    (2) Feedbacks, which give us much less time than we would have had otherwise.

    (3) The actual empirical fact that this is all already happening—giant ice shelves are collapsing, winter in the US is a different creature than it was 30 years ago, animals are shifting their habitats, etc.

    Among the hardheaded physicists who I know in real life, every single one of them—I can’t think of an exception—agrees with the usual consensus views about climate change, in the same way that they all agree about Maxwell’s equations. You’re asking me to believe that all of them merely go along for political and ideological reasons; none of them understand thermal forcing themselves? Should I not believe my physics colleagues about quantum mechanics or general relativity either?

    There’s exactly one place where I regularly encounter climate deniers, where they even seem to predominate—and that’s blog comment sections.

    Which simply leads me to think that Mateus Araújo might have a point about the value of these sorts of threads. If there were a way to ensure that the proportion of blog commenters defending position X bore some sensible relationship—even if off by a factor of 5 or 10—to the proportion of intelligent, knowledgeable people who believe position X in reality, then these threads could provide a wonderful way to clarify our disagreements.

    As it is, though, an extraterrestrial encountering this thread would get the impression that most thinking people want to burn down our existing civilization, trash the universities, throw progressives into the ocean out of helicopters, and install an emperor to whom the masses will be forced to submit. And then there’s some tiny outnumbered minority that advocates fringe positions like “liberal democracy” and “the US Constitution.”

    When the actual reality is that, among the people whose intelligence (say) Boldmug would respect, probably 98% are closer to my side than to his—and the issue is just that, among that 98%, the overwhelming majority can’t be bothered to participate in comment sections. So then I, and one or two others, are left to carry the torch of Enlightenment on our own, against adversaries with unlimited time and paragraphs, and the absurd impression gets created that we’re an embattled minority.

    I don’t regret having this sort of debate once. But in future posts about Trump’s attacks on civilization, I’ll consider adopting the same policy that Peter Woit did:

      I’m moderating comments here and will only post one kind of comment: positive ideas about what to do about this emergency situation.

    Boldmug et al. would still be welcome to participate, as long as they adhered to that policy.

  576. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #509:

      In short: come to the dark side! We have cookies. And a library.

    NOOOOO! In the movies, there’s only one thing that’s cooler than the dark side, and that’s the hero who sees the dark side, understands its appeal, is even tempted by it once or twice, but ultimately chooses to battle on the side of light.

  577. Samuel Skinner Says:

    @Steve Johnson
    Thanks; I’m weak at verbal jitsu.

    @BLANDCorporatio
    Those aren’t internal wars. “Putting my guy in charge” is a political universal up to the present day.

    “As for my article of faith in basic human decency, it is unabashedly an article of faith, similar to the presumption of innocence.”

    I suggest you look at South African rape rates. Faith in basic human decency IS unwarranted.

    ‘The vast majority of people I’ve met have been decent,”

    You live in Germany. They systematically executed the most violent individuals over a period of centuries in the middle ages, removing the traits for intense violence from the gene pool. I recommend going to places where that hasn’t happened. Your idealism will disappear very quickly.

    @Mateus Araújo
    “He is defending returning to some sort of racially-segregated nationalistic authoritarian regime. ”

    No. Mencius Moldburg advocates for neocameralism. Interestingly enough it is the same as Scott Alexander’s Archipelago. The difference is Moldburg has a mechanism to enforce things and Alexander never got around to elaborating one.

    In case you don’t want to bother looking it up, it basically means having a bunch of Singapore like city states with free movement and explicitly based political power. It is the exact opposite of ethno-nationalism.

    “But don’t ask me to defend the freedom of speech of people who want a Singaporean regime in the West. One thing that the people in Singapore definitely do not have the freedom to do is to advocate for a Western liberal regime.”

    He wants a variety of city states with different laws. Why on Earth would anyone want multiple city states if they are all going to have the same laws?

    “Your statement that the Nazis were not white nationalists is just ridiculous.”

    It happens to be true. The Nazis were committed to a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Slavs. Slavs are white people (the Nazis agreed to this). Hence the Nazis were not white nationalists because they did not believe in acting in the interests of white people. I’m not sure why you find this unbelievable. The place controlled by white nationalists was the United States.

    “But just in case you are actually interested in communication, by white nationalist in power I did not mean Spencer, but Stephen Bannon.”

    I’m not aware of any evidence showing he is a white nationalist. As far as I’ve seen Trump and his team are all civic nationalists.

    @Scott
    “But I forgot that you evaluate ideas and movements purely according to the “cladistic” method—according to which, if someone can trace any of the intellectual antecedents of X and Y back to the same sources (and they get however many pages they need to do so), then X and Y are basically the same and X is responsible for whatever Y does. ”

    No, we are more on the “Obama started his political career with Ayer’s backing” sort of relationship when we refer to cladistic. Or is this intentional dishonesty, in which case I congratulate you on the rhetoric which takes a long time to honestly respond to and lets you ignore most what they write.

    “By the same standard, I suppose I could hold you responsible for all the immense right-wing crimes of history, and the other ones surely to come in the next few years.”

    Moldburg has a vision for the future that resembles The Holy Roman Empire and Golden Age Greece. It has little to no resemblance to popular right wing movements (which he views as too liberal after all- they are based on the people’s will). Blaming him for them is a bit like blaming Louis XIV for Hitler and Stalin because they all believed in centralizing power.

  578. Scott Says:

    Boldmug #560: I was at Berkeley 2000-2004, after CS had moved from Evans Hall to Soda. Maybe that’s why I apparently had a better experience there than you did? 🙂

    If I were put in charge of Berkeley, then sure, I’d love to do away with the football team and also massively reduce the amount of administration and bureaucracy. On the other hand, I love the campus and all the Thai noodle and smoothie places surrounding it on Telegraph, Durant, and Shattuck—it’s one of my favorite environments on earth, actually—and would keep that. And the moment tenure was abolished, my world-class faculty would immediately start bolting for other universities that had tenure. And without the faculty, there would no longer be anything worth reinventing.

  579. Scott Says:

    Ali #565: Thanks so much. Yours is one of my favorite comments in the whole thread.

  580. Scott Says:

    Steve Johnson #566: I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about my position.

    If

    (1) firing people for private anti-gay political views is legal, and
    (2) being gay was a choice,

    then I would still disagree with the anti-gay political views, and have no problem whatsoever with people choosing to be gay. But I’d be forced to conclude that firing people for being gay should also be legal.

    If, on the other hand, being gay is not a choice (as it isn’t), then the cases are not analogous, and I’d say that firing people for being gay should be illegal (as it currently is in 19 states).

  581. Samuel Skinner Says:

    “The basic 19th-century physics and chemistry of the situation, already known to Arrhenius. ”

    It was agreed that CO2 could raise temperatures, but it was believed there was a saturation point. This wasn’t ‘discovered and ignored’- it took decades of research in order to show how the mechanisms worked. This is really a complicated subject and you can’t solve it by appealing to basic physics- it only looks that way because most of the hard work of figuring out how the atmosphere works is done.


    “You’re asking me to believe that all of them merely go along for political and ideological reasons; none of them understand thermal forcing themselves?”

    How many academics support Human Bio-Diversity? We really do have multiple different departments all going along with things that are trivially false for political and ideological reasons. Forgive me for doubting you, but from the outside there is no reason to think that people in physics are completely immune to pressures on everyone else.


    “And then there’s some tiny outnumbered minority that advocates fringe positions like “liberal democracy” and “the US Constitution.””

    That would be conservatives. Liberals believe in the ‘living constitution’ which means it has whatever powers in it they find convenient.


    ” So then I, and one or two others, are left to carry the torch of Enlightenment on our own, against adversaries with unlimited time and paragraphs, and the absurd impression gets created that we’re an embattled minority.”

    What you do if you don’t want endless paragraphs but do want to engage is to write out a manifesto, email it to the other person, have them write out their manifesto and do that back and forth until you are both satisfied you’ve used all your arguments and then post them.

    I’m honestly not sure why you didn’t do that. I guess you didn’t want to read what Modlburg has to say? If so, why on Earth are you bothering to read and respond to him? Yes, I know you have the same mental flaw I do. But that is no excuse- you are alot more successful then me- you should have coping mechanisms for this!

  582. Samuel Skinner Says:

    @Scott
    Because anti-gay political views isn’t a choice. It is genetic- more genetic then homosexuality in fact.

  583. Scott Says:

    Mateus: I hope you can appreciate why your comments leave me torn.

    On the one hand, I can’t accept any viewpoint that claims that liberal democracy can only work so long as the views inimical to it are quarantined in dark corners of the Internet, where hardly anyone sees them. If liberal democracy is worth fighting for at all (which it is), then it has to be because the views inimical to it are wrong and can be vanquished in argument—which they can be.

    On the other hand, a major practical problem arises when the defenders of the Enlightenment, who are the overwhelming majority among thoughtful people, simply don’t show up for the fight, because they judge that the opponents aren’t worth debating, they have better things to do, etc. Then I, and one or two others, are put into the ludicrous position of defending all the human progress of the last few centuries by ourselves, as though we were a fringe movement. And many of us just don’t have the time to keep it up. That, more than anything else, is why I’m now finally closing down this thread: in order to spend the rest of the day with my family, except for the time I’ll spend writing a problem set for my course.

    It’s been a fascinating discussion. Thanks so much to everyone who participated without threatening to throw progressives out of helicopters.

  584. grey enlightenment Says:

    Just this very page alone including the comments has over 100,000 words, enough to fill a 300 page book.

    America’s system of government is resilient because it’s very redundant, has a lot of inertia (which helps when things are going well, but also makes it hard to change things too), and also the help of the very strong private sector, as well as research and development from universities, which carries a lot of weight and offsets the cultural decay.

    The problem with Taleb’s argument against Pinker is he is trying to prove a negative

    Taleb is incapable of debating at a high school level. For example, regarding Pinker’s “Better Angels of Our Nature”, which argues that the world has become less violent, Taleb’s counters that we don’t know the ‘true’ variance of the distribution that underpins violence, meaning that Pinker is not accounting for possible black swans like nuclear war that may kill millions of people at once. Taleb uses this argument against all his critics, but the problem is, methodologically, such an argument is fallacious. Taleb is invoking the argumentum ad ignorantiam logical fallacy by forcing Pinker prove that there won’t be nuclear war or some black swan, and in the absence of such a proof Taleb must be right. Of course, such a proof is impossible. Whereas Pinker’s arguments involve empirical evidence of how the world is safer, Taleb waves it away by forcing Pinker to prove a negative: that nuclear war (or some other great crisis) won’t happen.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Thin-Skin In The Game

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