1060 Comments
deletedMay 29·edited May 29
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
author

User banned for this comment.

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 29

Is there any way to see the offending comment?

Expand full comment

'Deleted' means they were banned from Substack entirely, so probably not. At least not on Substack.

Expand full comment

I suspect "deleted" means they deleted the comment. I doubt Scott has the power to ban users from Substack.

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 29

Substack banned me for a day a while back (for no reason), and "Deleted - comment deleted" is what all my comments with replies turned into. I'm sure Substack killed the account here.

EDIT: oh wait I'm wrong, looking back mine said "comment removed".

Expand full comment

Huh. In the past, I've seen the message "user was banned for this comment", with a link to expand the comment. Maybe there are multiple ways to ban someone, or maybe Substack changed their procedure.

Expand full comment

Is it possible for individual authors to ban a commenter from all Substacks?

Expand full comment

I think I saw this one before it got deleted and it was just some nonsense. It started off sounding like it was addressing one of the points, and then halfway through it turned into a bunch of random crackpot-flavoured words.

Expand full comment

22. The lack of controls on British nukes was just a plot point in a recent Doctor Who Episode.

Expand full comment

> 4: Related, breaking news: A popular Substack claims that COVID didn’t happen at all, and that both “lab leak” and “natural origins” are part of the higher-level conspiracy to distract people from the fact that there was never a virus in the first place.

I know you like contrarian takes but really feel like this is a level of conspiracism you shouldn't be signal boosting.

Expand full comment

If the ideas are clearly bad why worry about linking them?

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 29

1. Because a lot of people believe clearly bad ideas

2. Because they become toxoplasmic strawmen that everyone references to show how dumb 'those people' are.

Expand full comment

Well, that hasn't happened (AFAIK) to "birds aren't real". Perhaps it needs a base level of credibility to have that effect. (OTOH, people are training AIs on the web.)

Expand full comment

I heard that the government ordered the COVID lockdowns so that they could replace the batteries in the birds without being noticed.

Expand full comment

But it seems to have happened to "flat earth" and "space is fake". I had a misfortune to click on some eclipse-related thing on FB and now my feed is inundated by space pictures and trolls shouting "fake" at them.

Expand full comment

The reborn "Flat Earth Theory" is magnificent. Can you think of a better way to distract conspiracy loons than that?

Expand full comment

I doesn't distract them. It multiplies them.

Expand full comment

I've been told "birds aren't real" is some specific generational humor of a sort I don't especially understand. It doesn't seem to have the sort of emotional hooks that more pervasive conspiracy theories have.

Expand full comment

It's a parody of conspiracy theories.

Expand full comment

It has also spawned a conspiracy theory that the powers-that-be are trying to push this dumb "parody" to discredit actual conspiracy theories or hide surveillance or whatever.

Expand full comment

Maybe it's a parody of cladistics people? "Fish aren't real." is something that I've heard people have serious discussions about.

Expand full comment

I know my son worked at a summer camp one year, and the guy in charge got *really pissed* when one of the camp counselors was telling the kids "birds aren't real" and told him to knock it off. Presumably he figured some parents would object to their kids coming home and telling them birds weren't real....

Expand full comment

1) I am not sure the overall solution to this is in the "more restriction/monitoring of disinformation" camp versus the "more free flow of ideas" camp.

2) They are also funny/amusing sometimes. I used to like to read a blog of a guy who thought some images sent back from Mars showed Alien structures. Hilarious thing was he had the scale of the photos off so he would be finding evidence of complex machines and habitats and transportation infrastructure in what were in effects close ups of rocks that were just like a 3'X3' square. So some formation he clearly thought was 50'x50' was actually ~4 inches X 4 inches if you did your math. Nevertheless it was fascinating to see how his mind worked.

Expand full comment

1) I don't think we can include individuals personally deciding not to repeat a specific claim as 'restriction/monitoring'.

If bad ideas don't have *some* penalty in the rate at which people repeat them, then the whole 'marketplace of ideas' thing doesn't work at all, and knowledge is impossible to accumulate.

Individuals deciding not to repeat bad ideas is a pretty normal mechanism of the marketplace. I don't think it becomes top-down authoritarianism or anything just because one commenter suggests it to the author.

2) Sure, but that feels like pretty obviously a different category than this? Lolcows are sometimes conspiracy theorists, but not all conspiracy theories are lolcows.

Expand full comment

Highlighting wrong ideas while reasserting that they're wrong is still contributing to the marketplace of ideas, so long as the assertions are correct at a rate better than chance.

Satire just happens to be a slightly less conventional method of doing the reassertion.

Expand full comment

Not linking to that sort of thing isn't restriction or monitoring; it's simply judging that it is not a worthwhile or productive thing to link to.

Expand full comment

Sure, but this seems like an argument of the type 'web platforms not hosting your speech isn't violation of the first amendment'. It's kind of missing the forest for the trees. in that we should be interested in the normative principles, not the narrow semantic question of whether it counts as exactly the sort of thing we've decided is bad.

In other words, it may not technically be restriction or monitoring of ideas, but it clearly proceeds on the same principle that we should limit rather than promote the spread of ideas depending on whether we agree with them or not. So I think the broader point that Martin is gesturing towards, that freely spreading ideas is actually better for our societal epistemology and rationality, does apply here even if the specific words he said were against 'more restriction/monitoring of disinformation' and what he's arguing against is not quite technically that.

Expand full comment

I don't think this is a good analogy. Scott isn't a web platform. Unlike Twitter, for example, which has more or less infinite capacity to host ideas, and is one of the default networks for putting ideas on, Scott links to a relatively small number of things, presumably carefully selected, and I think it's fair to assume that even if he doesn't endorse everything he has linked to, he's suggesting that these things are worth linking to. (Incidentally, I think he probably *does* think that particular link is worthwhile to link to, and the problem here is mostly that I don't agree with him.)

Expand full comment

Yeah, this week's links has me worrying about Scott's current quality filters for linking to stuff. Looking at obviously dumb and wrong stuff on the internet is a guilty pleasure for many of us, it can be fun for a bit but it's not enriching, and has little value beyond making us feel so much smarter, as if our own brains and opinions were not fallible and often half-cooked.

I wonder too about the sudden profusion of religious-apologetics-adjacent content, both in the comments and now from Scott himself. There are good reasons much of the intellectual world got bored with arguments for this or that religion long ago; there is something uniquely stupefying about people trying to extract their favorite idea of God from a few basic facts like their own existence as an individual, and modern takes rooted in "anthropics" and bayesian language are not looking any better. Plus, what's the point? Even if you managed convince someone to squeeze some kind of god principle out of this kind of intellectual wrangling, what spiritual or emotional good could such a poor, dry deity ever do?

OTOH, and for fairness: Yay for geothermal energy, in-ovo sexing, Golden Gate Claude, and Noah Smith. And I hope the Internet Archive manages to survive this one.

Expand full comment

> I wonder too about the sudden profusion of religious-apologetics-adjacent content

Seems like a natural thing for engineers and gamers to do? "Here are the system requirements, produce the most elegant solution." "What would it be like to live in a world with class levels and hit points?"

Plus, mystics can get there too. "See the abstraction behind the world, and proceed upwards into higher- and higher-level abstractions."

Why are there so many songs about rainbows?

Expand full comment

Isn't a ton of science basically about seeing the abstractions behind the world?

Expand full comment

That would be philosophy in the wider sense I guess, science being the "natural philosophy" that is amenable to repeated measurements.

Seeking abstract truths is not a problem though. The problem with apologists of all kinds is that when you already believe in the thing you want to prove, it's not an intellectual process of open enquiry and the quality of the result suffers accordingly. In maths it doesn't matter because proofs are water tight or they don't count, which is why you don't much hear of "apologists" for e.g the continuum hypothesis. When it comes to slippery metaphysics though...

Expand full comment

Yeah. Usually mystics aren't very good about testing their abstractions rigorously through replication and physical application, but some manage it.

Expand full comment

and what's on the other side?

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and

rainbows have nothing to hide.

Expand full comment

Why are there so many lost instant memos

And badly downloaded files

Firewalls configured and ports we must forward

So people can't see inside

Online there's gold if you manage to reach it

On all of the iPods for free

Someday we'll find it

A stable connection

The hackers, the coders, and me...

https://youtu.be/sBioZ6m2hRU?si=2NuoFwU4Rs85G1nn

Expand full comment

Why can't/shouldn't Scott link to things that are "fun for a bit but not enriching"?

Expand full comment

Seeing a bad idea clearly marked as "bad and false" is still more than not seeing it at all, with enough time, exposure and vulnerability to that you'll create real belief.

It's my belief that exposure matters more than right and wrong, and that being able to be exposed a lot to something but still deny it as false is a rare skill.

Expand full comment

I think it is valuable to highlight that a popular substack has published what is presumably utter rotted tripe.

Expand full comment

It would be really surprising if Substack managed to be the first ever publishing platform on which people writing brain-hurtingly stupid crap never got a wide audience.

Expand full comment
author

I will always signal boost the most insane takes. If somebody finds even crazier takes, let me know, and I will signal-boost those too.

I only regret that other people got to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_time_conspiracy_theory before I did and now it's well-known and boring.

Also, once I found something on a 19th-century British conspiracist who thought the whole Bible happened in Britain and the Hebrews were from the Hebrides and "Egypt" was the Faroe Islands, but I didn't bookmark it and I've never been able to find it again.

Expand full comment

Seems like a bad idea in game theory terms, since it incentivizes people to make up and spread crazier and crazier takes, which some people inevitably are going to believe. As the way the internet works people directly make money from getting attention, even if its negative. Doesn't that just result in a more and more polluted information ecosystem where people are competing to say the most insane things?

(Linking to a wiki article on an existing theory is a bit different since there's less direct benefit to the theory proposer, as with other ways of talking about stuff indirectly like writing about it but not linking it.

Expand full comment

"it incentivizes people to make up and spread crazier and crazier takes"

Right, what you're missing is that that these takes are hilarious and Scott is a fun person who wants to increase the amount of hilarity in the world.

Expand full comment

Agreed. Fun is good. Thanks for defending comedy my good man!

Expand full comment

>As the way the internet works people directly make money from getting attention

And this is why avoiding that attention is like promoting pacifism while in a live boxing match. It doesn't work; you lose by default and the audience doesn't even notice you were intentionally not throwing punches. There are thousands if not millions of other sources for crazy takes, they're not going to starve for lack of appearance here. Might as well take some pie in passing.

Expand full comment

sir you are writing this in a world where tiktok exists

Expand full comment

I wonder if that would be anything to do with the British Israelites? Apparently some of them tried digging up the Hill of Tara in Ireland because they were convinced that was where the Ark of the Covenant was:

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

https://www.newgrange.com/tara-ark-of-the-covenant.htm

"During 1899 and 1902, members of the British-Israel Association of London came to County Meath to dig up the Hill of Tara. These 'British-Israelites' believed they would find buried there the Ark of the Covenant, the chest said to contain the Ten Commandments inscribed on stone tablets."

Expand full comment

Perhaps they should have tried digging in Dinas Emrys instead.

Expand full comment

Seems like a sensible version of looking for your keys underneath a street lamp. Travelling all the way to the Holy Land or North Africa to dig random holes is expensive and inconvenient and not significantly more likely to yield the Ark of the Covenant than digging in your own backyard.

Expand full comment

Exactly! Just ask Joseph Smith! ;)

Expand full comment

Look, if the Ark of the Covenant was in Tara, it would have been mentioned in the Book of Invasions; we know all about Noah's daughter coming here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebor_Gab%C3%A1la_%C3%89renn

Expand full comment

Oh, so "wrong Ark"? Is this one of those "da Vinci Code" things where Noah's "real" Ark was his children?

Expand full comment

What if the real ark was the giant wooden boat we made along the way?

Expand full comment

Could it be William Comyns Beaumont (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comyns_Beaumont)? I think his books The Riddle of the Earth and Britain: The Key to World History are closest to what you have in mind.

He sometimes wrote as Appian Way. I wouldn't bother with a pen name if my surname was Beautiful-Mountain and my middle name sounded like a druid, but he was a bit of a nut.

Expand full comment

I read something similar about the Trojan war happening in Britain: Where Troy Once Stood, by Iman Jacob Wilkens.

Expand full comment

That seems likely to be at least partially inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth's (mostly make-up but purporting to be real) History of the Kings of England, which attributes the founding of Celtic British civilization to exiles survivors from the Fall of Troy, and the first King of the Britons in his account was Brutus of Troy. Brutus was in turn grandson of Virgil's Aeneas and thus a first cousin a many times removed of Romulus and Remus.

The same work by Monmouth also have a central role in codifying and popularizing the King Arthur legend.

Expand full comment
RemovedMay 29
Comment removed
Expand full comment

So was the Roman conquest of Britain, since the Julii were also descended from Aeneas.

Expand full comment

This is starting to sound like a really good conspiracy theory, where one group has been controlling the fate of everything for 3000 years! Forget all that "Holy Grail" stuff... Unless Jews are somehow the only non-Trojans in Europe? (Aside from Picts and Basques and Hungarians and Finns and Estonians and Roma ...)

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 29

My objection is almost the opposite: reading the position paper, their position seems actually to be the much more boring 'covid wasn't a big deal' than the (I agree) interestingly insane and therefore worth-signal-boosting 'covid literally did not exist'.

They're maybe going slightly further than most in saying that it didn't qualify as a pandemic, because it had no discernible effect on the healthy etc., but at its core it doesn't seem substantially different than the mainstream 'covid was nothing to worry about and we overreacted to it' narrative. And I was so excited as well!

Expand full comment

I think I spent a while trying to figure out what that group was on about a few months ago. They were usually pretty vague, so I'm still not really sure. I'm not totally sure if they agree that a virus called SARS-CoV-2 existed or not.

But I think one of their main claims is that the COVID story was used as a cover-up for some other unexplained mass mortality event in specific places like NYC (possibly something related to drugs?), since the early NYC mortality data was drastically different from most other cities.

Expand full comment

Well that does sound somewhat more interesting again!

I agree that it's not especially clear what exactly they are saying about the existence and/or nature of the virus itself, from what I've read so far. Which you would think would be a red flag to these supposedly discerning sceptics who see the truth behind the lamestream media's lies...

Expand full comment

I didn't dig into their argument.

Is their claim that the increase in deaths (I have some data for California here: http://mistybeach.com/mark/Covid.html) was (a) not that big a deal and/or (b) not technically a pandemic?

Because unless you believe in massive data fraud (including hospitals lying about being overrun) then the increase was quite real.

Expand full comment

"The hospitals are lying about being overrun" was a recurrent claim, as it was happening.

Expand full comment

I realize this :-)

If the claim is that hospitals across the western world (Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), Japan, Taiwan and other countries AS WELL AS individual mortuary operators as well as regional death reporting from many/all cities was in on the conspiracy ... well, I just don't think there is enough common ground of how the world works to have a conversation with those people :-)

Expand full comment

Well, agreed. I'm just saying their argument is not innovative.

Expand full comment

There were a lot of people in the former Soviet Union who would spontaneously talk about how great it was, including most of the media. I wouldn't call that a "conspiracy", as such, but there was definitely a shared interest in not ending up in a gulag, which incentived people to act in similar ways.

Expand full comment

Well that WAS fairly true in some places. While we had in my state "lockdowns to prevent hospital overcrowding" that first month or so I needed to go to the emergency room for a couple days (with likely COVID complications) and at least at my big city hospital...it was completely dead. Like 3 emergency room beds out of 50 being used. It is NEVER like that. Always packed to the gills except in APR 2019.

Not that I think those policies were terrible (don't have enough info to judge), but definitely the "hospitals will be overrun" hysteria peak was badly out of tune with what happened her for quite a while. Maybe there was some specific two week period later where it was a problem, but it was well after people were maximally worried about it.

Expand full comment

Nah, they were legit overrun in (for example) New York and Italy at the start and India later on. Very real concern among those of us who work in health care. I live and work in Australia, during Delta in 2021 we had pretty serious issues with health care overcrowding causing delays in service provision, and this in a city/country that had some of the toughest lockdowns worldwide.

it’s true for a brief period at the start in 2020 there were actually less hospital presentations - due to people avoiding leaving the house and especially avoiding contact with health care services where they assumed Covid cases were clustering.

Expand full comment

The comments on that article are pretty interesting. I even found a link to a substack arguing that the eradication of smallpox was a fake, and it is actually the same thing as monkeypox.

Expand full comment

So the answer is literally "It's bad on purpose to make you click?" (Or at least laugh.)

Expand full comment

Humor is included in my utility function, so if it makes me laugh hard enough, it was absolutely worth clicking on.

Expand full comment

Concerning the epistemic status of conspiracy theories: Sabine Hossenfelder has an old and useful discussion with herself about the empirical validity of claims made by the Flat Earth Society.

Treating their claim as based on a radical version of rational scepticism (akin to pyrrhonian scepticism), Sabine argues that it boils down to whom you trust, or (in the aggregate) on the level of trust within a group. Illustrating "the social thing" in epistemiology.

Addendum: To the extent that social media separates us more effectively into different trust-groups than before, conspiracy theories should have a field day in tomorrow's society (or rather: multitude of virtual societies). Creating the preconditions for ever-more theories to signal boost. From 7:26 but in particular from 11:40 and out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8DQSM-b2cc

Expand full comment

I’m a conspiracy theorist. To not be one is to not believe in conspiracies, which would be a Panglossian world indeed. In fact I’d go as far as to say that there are far more conspiracies than there are theories about conspiracies.

The kind of conspiracy theorists you are talking about do have a false epistemology, generally an unhealthy distrust in experts and a penchant to believe that the conspiracists are leaving clues around. See PizzaGate.

Expand full comment

I think it's a matter of where you draw the line at what you call a conspiracy. Is two kids agreeing to keep a secret from their parents a conspiracy? If not, why not. So I think you're technically correct that there are more conspiracies than conspiracy theories. But I also think most people don't count those when they say "conspiracy".

Expand full comment

The distinction I'm most familiar with is between "grand conspiracies" and "petty conspiracies", with the difference being that petty conspiracies have a plausible number of people in on the plot and leave realistic amounts of evidence that can permit reasonable efforts to confirm or falsify them.

A theory can start out as a Petty Conspiracy theory, but gradually evolve into a Grand Conspiracy theory as proponents have more and more contrary evidence to explain away. The Kennedy Assassination is a classic example: it's perfectly possible for a group of people to conspire to assassinate a high-level political leader, e.g. the Booth Conspiracy in 1865 or the Black Hand in 1914. But once there have been multiple official investigations with very long paper trails that consistently conclude that Oswald acted alone on his own initiative, then you need to suppose an implausibly large and cohesive conspiracy to keep the theory alive.

Expand full comment

If "some of us have talked together" is a conspiracy, then most intra-party politics (plus quite a lot of inter-party politics) is conspiratorial. But that is stretching the concept beyond the everyday meaning of the word.

In everyday language, a conspiracy is a high-level informal agreement where there would be massive reputation losses, perhaps also criminal charges, if someone should reveal what is going on to the press and the public. Few top-level people will think that the potential benefit of such a conspiracy (remember that forming a conspiracy is no guarantee of its success) outweighs the risk of being found out, including the repercussions if being found out. Therefore conspiracies, in this meaning of the word, are likely to be rare.

Expand full comment

There’s a lot of editorialising is responses here that are arguing straw men responses. I didn’t say that “people talking together” was my definition of conspiracy, you did.

And of course high level financial conspiracies go on, and do so all the time. There are organs of government designed to root them out. And of course there are government agencies whose job is to conspire, they wouldn’t be doing their job if they published their intrigues.

Expand full comment

I did nor mean to strawman you - only to illustrate the rubber-band characteristics of the concept.

If you say "intrigue", I agree that intrigues is what e.g. diplomacy to a large extent is about. But intrigues are not the same as conspiracies.

Anyway, I sense that much of our disagreement comes from different ways to define words. Which is not particularly interesting for any of us. So let us stop the discussion here.

Expand full comment

> where there would be massive reputation losses, perhaps also criminal charges, if someone should reveal what is going on to the press and the public.

Why do you think that this is a required or even central element of a conspiracy? I would argue that a much more important aspect of a conspiracy is that it gives ordinary people a very wrong picture of the world. As in, you think that some things happened by themselves, and happen in different places by a coincidence, etc, but actually there are people tirelessly working to make them happen, that keep it to themselves. When such a conspiracy comes to light, instead of righteous anger people are confused for a bit, then shrug and say that it's not illegal and a good thing actually.

Unfortunately I don't have non-culture-warry examples, but I here I tried to use ones that are at least indisputably true, so anyone upset at me will quickly move to the shrugging stage and stop being very upset.

Would you believe that there's a guy in DC that can get 900 people into a zoom call, tell them that there shouldn't be any BLM/antifa/whatever protests about such and such recent event, and there will be no protests, nationwide?

Would you believe that there's a guy who can get a couple of million extra votes for democrats in swing states simply by mailing convenient preprinted requests for voting by mail to certain demographics, and it's like totally legal and cool?

Would you believe that George Soros decided that justice reform by usual means (changing laws via the Congress) is bothersome, and contributed several billion dollars towards electing prosecutors who simply refuse to prosecute a lot of crimes, all across the country?

https://web.archive.org/web/20210124100738/https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/24/us/politics/democrats-trump-election-plan.html

https://time.com/5936036/secret-2020-election-campaign/

https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-prosecutor-campaign-20180523-story.html

Expand full comment

Con artists, spin doctors, lobbyists and manipulators of public opinion exist. A fair share of idealistic activists can also be accused of sometimes putting forward a bit too alarmist future scenarios "for the good of the cause".

...But you stretch the concept by calling all behavior aimed at manipulating others "conspiracies". A conspiracy involves at least two persons agreeing to do something, usually something blameworthy, and then pin it on someone else - often involving rather convoluted reasoning. As in "9/11 was really done by the CIA, and then CIA blamed it on Saudi immigrants to start a new war with Iraq".

Conspiracy theory people also sometimes push the idea that something that is caused by god-knows-what-conflation-of-cultural-trends is really the result of a deliberate ploy, as in "the Jews in Hollywood attempt to sap the strength of our youth by feeding them gender-bending movies".

Stuff like that.

Do conspiracies (thus perceived) sometimes really exist? Perhaps. But far less often than conspiracy theory people think. And successful conspiracies even less often. Conspiracies seldom materialize because conspirators who are not idiots, must consider the risk of being found out before they set their evil plans into motion.

Apart from that: Poor old Soros! Vilified by the left and right alike.

Expand full comment

The problem is the kind of theory that builds an evidence-proof shell around itself, not the kind that considers the possibility that some group of people is lying in order to do something bad.

Expand full comment

I think of a conspiracy theory as being an overarching theory of everything that ends up becoming evidence-proof, as even apparent evidence against it turns out to only be more proof that it is true. But that's distinct from the existence of conspiracies, which absolutely do exist and matter sometimes and occasionally show up in the news or in court.

Expand full comment

That’s what they want you think.

Expand full comment

Not quite it, but probably related—this is a book arguing that many locations from Genesis are actually in Britain, based mainly on extensive alleged similarities between Celtic and Hebrew names: Ireland, Ur of the Chaldees, by Anna Wilkes, 1871. https://www.google.com/books/edition/Ireland_Ur_of_the_Chaldees/4pABAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gl=US

Expand full comment

There are several different phantom time theories (Illig's, Fomenko's, Heinsohn's etc.), so clearly there's market for more.

Expand full comment

Fomenko's is my favorite, since it doesn't even require a conspiracy, and it rewards independent research.

Expand full comment

If I recall correctly from the time I actually read some of it, Fomenko's theory includes at least the conspiracy that the Romanov's were purposefully hiding the past existence of the Russo-Turkish horde that was actually responsible for like half of the global history. I think this is where the "Tartaria" theories originate from.

Expand full comment

Faroe Islands, more like the Pharaoh Islands

Expand full comment

I vaguely remember some other conspiracy theory that "real" time stopped hundreds of years ago (maybe because the world was cast into hell?) and we've been living in false time ever since. But whenever I search for it, I just find phantom time or one of the variations of it. Do you remember this one?

Expand full comment

I read an essay by Philip K. Dick, which I can't find now. He explains that he's a Christian living in the 20th century, but, at the same time, he's also an early Christian being persecuted by the Romans. Kind of like alternate realities, I think, but he experienced both simultaneously.

Expand full comment

This might be it! I found https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/70857-was-philip-k-dick-a-madman-or-a-mystic.html which says:

> Dick supposed time had stopped in 70 A.D., the year the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by a Roman siege. Everything that happened afterwards was an illusion, and the world was still under Rome’s dominion.

Expand full comment

Lovely, even better if those who cannot think will be believe these theories!

Expand full comment

That sounds like the strategy of "to make sure children never get sick, we must sterilize the environment around them and not let them touch anything that could be carrying any infection, since they are kids and weak". Unfortunately, the practice, I think, showed conclusively that following this strategy produces very bad results that the child has to struggle with for the rest of their lives.

Expand full comment

Is your concern that he wasn't clear that it was a goofy conspiracy theory?

It's easy to forget that the people reading your words online include precocious 10 year olds and foreigners with only a very loose grasp of English and a notion of America shaped by movies and various kinds of non-neurotypical people out on the edges of various bell curves, and all those people may very well take a sarcastic or snarky comment you make literally. OTOH, it would take all the life out of writing to remove humor, which often comes from absurdity, understatement, hyperbole, sarcasm, etc.

Expand full comment

Typo: 5: I’ll never tired

Expand full comment

Comment on 5. While £35k is $44k at the market exchange rate (1£=$1.27), the purchasing power parity exchange rate (as of 2022 see here https://data.oecd.org/conversion/purchasing-power-parities-ppp.htm) is (1£=$1.54) means a pound in the UK goes much further than it's value in dollars does in the US. This gives an equivalent household income of $54k in the UK, higher than black American households though still much lower than the average across all USA households.

Expand full comment

I would be interested to see the comparison in hours worked, and the related average earnings per hour. In general Europeans seem to work less hours than Americans and take more holidays.

Expand full comment

Germans work, on average, 400 hours less than Americans each year. The equivalent of ten work weeks!

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 30

This is mostly caused by part time workers working significantly less hours than in the US.

If you compare only full time employees then it's 40.4 hours a week in Germany vs 42.1 in the US, meaning that the average American actually works only about an extra 100 hours. Which is basically just Germans having slightly more vacation.

Expand full comment

Don't forget that Germans get much longer holidays than Americans!

Expand full comment

That's accounted for in the extra 100 hours. Which amounts to roughly an extra two weeks plus a few more holidays.

The real difference in German working hours is that the average German part timer works about 20 hours while the average American part timer works significantly more than that. So if you take all workers (as opposed to all full time workers) that pulls their average down.

Expand full comment

If you play about with the statistics that favour your outcome you get your outcome.

Expand full comment

Average Labour Income Per Hour:

US: $43.11

EU: $34.89

UK: $32.95

Note this is not wages but all benefits received. So the average American worker, even factoring in European higher benefits, receives about 24% more than the average European and even more than the average British person.

Expand full comment

Does this include the benefit of public services? That seems like a nebulous concept to quantify for the purposes of comparison.

Expand full comment

The original question was comparison of hours worked. It was a response to someone pointing out the US was richer than Germany. Then someone said, "Ah, but they work less!" To which the response is: even adjusting hour for hour they earn less. That's not nebulous. It just shows the person was wrong.

The next line of defense is what you're bringing up: Ah, but welfare! To which the response is: GDP per hour worked is also lower and you can't redistribute your way out of that math. And the US also comes out ahead in per capita spending on welfare spending anyway. Europe has spent the last two decades economically stagnant while the US has continued to grow.

The specific answer to your question: It includes public benefits received through work. Which includes healthcare in most of Europe but not in the UK.

Expand full comment

yeah I always find these US - other country income comparisons a bit odd, because they will fluctuate a lot based on exchange rates that have a only limited impact on the wealth/feeling of wealth of people within these countries.

Expand full comment

Hack to having a better standard of living, live in country with the global reserve currency

Expand full comment

I also thought so. But I checked at some point, and the gap has been pretty consistent for decades. Exchange rate matter less than I had previously thought.

Expand full comment

That's why it's better to use purchasing power parity (PPP) over just comparing salaries or wealth and seeing what the exchange rate is. PPP gives you a better idea of how much wealthier one country is.

Expand full comment

True, but PPP has its drawbacks too, it's based on some arbitrary basket of goods which might resemble someone's purchases but not someone else's. A poor person might spend more on rice than they do on Ferraris, for a rich person it might be the other way around.

For what it's worth, the US also beats all the large European countries on PPP GDP per capita although it varies considerably depending on whose numbers you believe. Switzerland, Norway and Ireland may or may not be better off, while Germany/France/Italy/Spain/UK are all substantially worse off. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

Expand full comment

As an American living in London, I agree. Brits also get more social services than Americans.

Subjectively, living in the UK doesn't feel any poorer to me than living in the US.

Expand full comment

How much did your salary change going from US to UK?

Expand full comment

It depends on the exchange rates. At the time it was roughly 15%.

(Whereas black household incomes in the US are about 36% lower than white, if I'm doing my math right.)

Expand full comment

That's not bad. I am currently preparing to move to Europe and seems that I will need to take at least a 50% pay cut.

Expand full comment

I can't find the link now, but recently saw data indicating that London's standard of living is roughly 40% higher than it is in the rest of England.

Of course that cuts both ways: aggregate US stats hide a lot of variation too.

Expand full comment

Of course, London's prices are also higher. Especially rent.

Expand full comment

> Subjectively, living in the UK doesn't feel any poorer to me than living in the US.

I figured that was the point: that money goes further in the UK, or that cost disease is worse in the US.

Expand full comment

Not really. Shopping in the US is surprisingly cheap. Food is probably about the same - most everything else is cheaper. Some of that is maybe the sticker price not including sales tax though (or VAT in Europe).

Expand full comment

The US spends more on social welfare per person than Britain does.

Expand full comment

Yeah, but again, don't forget the costs for the relevant services.

Spending more (per capita) to give 20% of the population Medicare than the UK does for universal health care is pretty indicative in this regard.

Expand full comment

"Spending more (per capita) to give 20% of the population Medicare than the UK does for universal health care is pretty indicative in this regard."

Pretty damning comparison.

Expand full comment

As a British man who lived in the US I feel that US feels richer, outside of the clearly ignored areas. The middle classes are better off, the poor not so much.

Also I don’t see why people are dismissing housing size here, it’s a metric of living standards.

Private wealth and income is not matched, however, by public expenditure.

Expand full comment

This is one of those things that Europeans and Europhiles like to believe but isn't true. If you include all social spending the US is the second largest social spender as a % of GDP in the world, just behind France and significantly ahead of the UK. In absolute terms (just the raw amount of money) it's the largest. But this includes things like refundable tax credits which are not included in government services. The US system is more privatized than the UK, that's the main difference, but it's not smaller.

Expand full comment

I sort of agree with you, but a lot of US social welfare spending is unusually inefficient & wasteful compared to other countries. Like, I don't think running programs for the elderly, poor and so on through refundable tax credits is a particularly good way to go about things. So while I guess one could argue that the US is quite generous, a dollar is clearly not going as far as an equal unit of currency in another developed country

Expand full comment

Depends on the program. But broadly speaking, top line spending is unusually high but it's not unusually inefficient. The reason we spend more on welfare is down to two things: we provision more welfare and we pay people who work in it better than foreign counterparts.

In order to get British-like numbers you'd need to pay bureaucrats British wages ($38k vs $83k), limit services like the British, and reduce workforces to British levels (about a 25% cut). We could do that. But American voters have generally opposed it.

Expand full comment

I think it's a difficult comparison.

For instance, if you live in Houston on $150K then you probably own a big house with a yard and a two car garage and a couple of cars and a speedboat or something. If you live in London on $150K then you probably live in a dingy rented apartment and may or may not drive a Vauxhall Corsa. But it's not really fair to compare London to Houston, you should compare it to New York, and in New York people live in crappy apartments too.

But then where *do* you compare Houston to? There's nothing like it in the UK, where everything is either (a) London, (b) some failing former industrial city equivalent to the US rust belt, or (c) the countryside. There is nowhere in the UK that is socially equivalent to the sort of cities that most of the US population lives in.

Expand full comment

If you live in London on $150k you can afford to buy a decent house with a garden. Most people on that kind of salary would be looking at houses in places like Guildford or Kingston, which are nice and very green areas. And you can certainly afford a good car and keep a boat if that's what you want. What you describe is more like $60k salary in London, I'd say.

Expand full comment

A quick Google tells me that “ Properties in Guildford had an overall average price of £608,531 over the last year”, which is $775,000 today. The $150,000 guy would be lucky.

Expand full comment

Well, of course you'd take a mortgage, few people are in a place to buy such properties outright. You can usually buy something that's 4-5 times your annual salary, so $150k would mean you can buy in the region of $600k-$750k.

Expand full comment
founding

It looks to me like $150k/year before taxes in the UK would be $102k/year after tax. It also looks like a $600K home financed on a thirty-year mortgage at current UK rates would be about $52K/year in mortgage payments. Except that thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages are not really a thing in the UK. So that's 50% of your income at the outset, with the ongoing risk that this could balloon to a much higher value.

In the US, it's generally considered unwise to put more than 30% of one's income into rent/mortgage, and that's with long-term fixed-rate loans that won't be 40% of your income next year. The British version seems uncomfortably close to living on the edge of ruin.

Expand full comment

Yeah, I just got back from the UK. 50p for a bag of six pitas > $3 for a bag of six pitas (roughly same number of calories in each pita, so not a difference steeped in the size of the goods).

Expand full comment

Since the GBP/USD exchange rate fell to near enough 1 that I've basically been imagining dollars as equivalent to pounds, I have been surprised quite a few times when hearing how expensive basic stuff like food is in the US.

Expand full comment

Yeah, it's pretty bad out here... I would also like to add that there are more needs here in the USA (i.e. a car, car insurance, gas for your car, oil for your car, tires for your... you get the point) than in major cities across most of the developed world. These are also ridiculously expensive.

It's pretty frustrating. I know that people in other countries drive, obviously, but it is an absolute necessity in the US and it's just so expensive.

Expand full comment

It is not an absolute necessity in all cities. I've been a non-driver for over three decades now. But it sure is a nuisance. We really need decent public transit, but too many people hate the poor, and will act to harm them even at the cost of harming themselves.

Expand full comment

One big expense for anyone who's not over 65 or poor enough to be on Medicaid is health insurance. Medical care and insurance is insanely expensive in the US, and the prices are this weird random number generator that nobody can predict ahead of time.

Expand full comment

Btw, the US also spends more per person on social welfare than France.

For sources, see the numbers on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_social_welfare_spending given in percentage of GDP, and multiply by GDP per capita.

Expand full comment

The result of 29 seems insane to me (I'm assuming the tweet's audience is broadly left-wing) unless you are:

A. Extremely confident of a Biden win.

B. Not really all that serious about the threat of a Trump presidency.

Expand full comment

Possibly C. Think Biden looking like a hypocrite by issuing a pardon makes him look worse than a Trump endorsement helps? (Does Trump in this scenario stop running against him? I'm confused).

Expand full comment

My meta response would be that the fact that Trump is offering this deal is evidence that he thinks he's going to lose and/or some new stuff is going to come out that he's afraid of being arrested for.

There's also the general game theory arguments against responding to this kind of thing, setting precedent, etc.

EDIT: Looking at the OP it says Trump can lie. Which changes the scenario, given that he's well known for lying constantly. And would happily tell his supporters "I told Biden that if he pardoned me I'd endorse him, and he did! What an idiot! Vote for me tomorrow!" If you can guarantee Trump's compliance, or do it only after he's formally dropped out, that changes things.

Expand full comment

Yes, the scenario is constructed weirdly, but this seems to me like fighting the hypothetical.

Expand full comment

If you don't want people to interpret the hypothetical in light of the possibility that a person who's infamous for dishonesty might lie, you should probably specify that he won't as part of the hypothetical.

Expand full comment

Also, Biden might very well lose more votes by promising the pardon than he gained from Trump's endorsement.

Expand full comment

I would guess that Biden would lose more votes than he would gain from a Trump endorsement. But maybe Trump would lose more votes than Biden would lose on net if he endorsed Biden. Total turnout would suffer dramatically.

Expand full comment

The hypothetical specifies it's a week before the election when it doesn't have to. It's inviting this kind of analysis.

Expand full comment

It doesn't change the scenario. It's already well-established that Trump lies, and it seems to me that the opinion being canvassed in this survey is not whether justice should be done though the world perish, but whether Trump is lying.

Expand full comment
founding

Trump can *already* say "I told Biden that if he pardoned me I'd endorse him, and he did! What an idiot! Vote for me tomorrow!". It wouldn't be true, but in neither the hypothetical nor in real life does that constrain Trump's options. So if the promise is a private deal between Trump and Biden, then it's a no-op unless Biden actually wins and Trump gains nothing by securing the promise and refusing the endorsement.

If Biden has to *publicly* promise the pardon, then yes, that could backfire.

Also, Biden can't pardon Trump of the alleged NY and GA crimes, so this seems like a really bad plan for Trump.

Expand full comment

Or maybe getting elected by threatening to put the opposing candidate in prison unless he withdraws is just not a good look?

Expand full comment

Justified or not, they're already trying to put the opposing candidate in prison, though.

Expand full comment

That is supposedly being done by an impartial justice system, so I think it looks quite different from a situation where the current ruler directly and explicitly offers the opposition candidate such a deal in order to circumvent the democratic process.

Expand full comment

>That is supposedly being done by an impartial justice system

Does anyone know if there have been polls on what fraction of the public believes that the current charges against Trump have been brought impartially?

Expand full comment

Jury of your peers not "fair" enough for you? What's happened to the patriotism that once existed on the Right? It is virtually entirely gone now. They are like hippies spitting in the faces of returning Veterans.

Expand full comment

I don't know what "patriotism" has to do with it, but the stated attitudes toward crime and law & order among the right have certainly changed markedly over the last eight years or so.

Expand full comment

He's not promising to withdraw, he's just promising to endorse. And he hasn't committed to any particular phrasing for his endorsement.

Making a deal with Donald Trump is a bit like making a deal with some kind of mysterious genie, and I wouldn't recommend it to anybody.

Expand full comment

I mean Trump's rallying cry in 2016 was "Lock Her Up", and he won.

Expand full comment

I think that's pretty different. E.g. no one would have minded if Navalny had campaigned on impeaching Putin.

Expand full comment

It seems different to wait until after a court has tried someone and found them guilty and then allow the state to imprison them in keeping with its laws, compared to promising, before an election, to find some way to arrest and try and convict your opponent.

Expand full comment

So if Putin had promised Navalny a pardon in exchange for ending his opposition to Putin's rule, would you have considered this appropriate or not?

Expand full comment

I don’t know the nature of the allegations against Navalny, so I don’t know how to think about the appropriateness of this sort of thing.

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 29

Not that I trust the average person to make very well-considered decisions, but the results don't seem very strange to me when you consider that the scenario doesn't stipulate that Trump can be trusted to keep his word, letter or spirit.

Expand full comment

AFAICT: Trump support is first and foremost a cult of personality. Trump's actual positions are irrelevant to the cult.

Lest I be accused of simping for Biden, Biden support is a cult of the Status Quo.

Expand full comment

> Lest I be accused of simping for Biden, Biden support is a cult of the Status Quo.

Well, I thought Biden's appeal was mostly as the go you vote for, if you want to vote against Trump?

Expand full comment

That checks out.

Expand full comment

Yes. Too bad there's not a "none of the above" option. (Actually, though, I feel rather neutral towards Biden. But he sure isn't someone to inspire enthusiasm.)

Expand full comment

Emigration is that option?

Expand full comment

It's a grossly inferior substitute, and comes with it's own problems and expenses.

Expand full comment

It's a vastly superior alternative. You are right that it comes with its own trade-offs.

Voting doesn't come with those trade-offs for the same reason homoeopathy doesn't come with side effects: approximately it doesn't do anything.

Expand full comment

This is not very charitable. What about all of us who want to vote against the status quo and have no choice but to go with Trump, despite our reservations about his character?

Expand full comment

False binary.

Expand full comment

I feel you

Expand full comment

What positive changes to the status quo did Trump make during his first term?

Expand full comment

Justices Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh

He ran on the platform of "I am going to put conservative jurists on the bench" and he delivered on that promise. Not just at the Supreme Court. The entire Federal bench. I am willing to forgive a lot of foibles for success on what I really care about.

Now you likely disagree that those were positive changes, but you can't argue that Trump didn't do more for the conservative political cause than anyone since Reagan.

During the civil war, Lincoln was asked to get rid of his general, U.S. Grant. I think the issues was he was a drunk and a boor, but I may have the details wrong. In any case, Lincoln's response is how I feel about Trump. “I can't spare this man–he fights."

Expand full comment

Putting conservative justices on the Supreme Court isn't "anti-status quo," we do that every time there's an R President and an R Senate. If you mean you hate liberals, say that.

Expand full comment

I don't hate liberals, but I do hate the direction they want to push the country. That is called politics. Accusing me (and half of the country) of being in a cult of personality because we have political opinions you don't agree with is neither true, kind, or necessary. It is also not fair or helpful, and I am going to call it out when I see it.

Expand full comment

Name a single Republican president (or candidate for) from the last 30 years who would not have put 3 Federalist Society Judges onto SCOTUS. Trump accomplished virtually nothing. Only by his own incompetence did he not manage to dramatically rework Obamacare. Trump is better for Democrats because he does so little in office but worse for the country because he alienates our allies and makes the U.S. seem like an unreliable partner-nation.

Expand full comment

Bush gave us John Roberts and (almost) Harriet Miers. Neither are federalist society. Alito is fantastic but he wasn't Bush's first choice.

Expand full comment

To be fair, Trump's SC nominations were basically rubberstamping the names given to him by The Federalist Society.

Any replacement-level Team R president would have nominated similar.

Expand full comment

No, Biden support is a collective run-out-the-clock strategy. Many people who intend to vote for Biden are deeply dissatisfied with the status quo in this country and few of us view Joe Biden as any sort of solution to that. In fact to be honest I don't know of any such voter who does and I know a _lot_ of deeply-dissatisfied voters.

But: putting Trumpism generally and Trump individually back in charge would be just telling our children and/or grandchildren, "fuck you and fuck your future". So we're going to vote for four more years of keeping the chaos muppet out of the White House; then based on current indications by 2028 Trump's physical and mental health will preclude his running again.

[To be clear I'm not personally advancing the above line of thinking, rather am summarizing the comments of a dozen different friends/colleagues during the past six months. Including a couple of lifelong Republicans.]

Expand full comment

That sounds like the status quo, or at least "the devil you know" as opposed to the other one.

Expand full comment

Only if all that you care about is the specific period 2025-2029.

Expand full comment

Trump is now immortal?

Expand full comment

Now you're just being pointlessly obtuse. My comment above was clear.

Expand full comment

The wording of the question is "Trump says he'll endorse", why assume that he would?

Expand full comment

Since Biden has no pardon power related to Trump's state trials in New York and Georgia, nor will he if Trump in the Arizona or Michigan cases is shifted from unindicted co-conspirator to indicted defendant [due to some of those already charged flipping on him], but Trump under this scenario is apparently unaware of that fact....maybe the "Dark Brandon" move would be to say yes to the deal and then let the fact of it leak as more evidence that Trump is too dumb to be entrusted with the nuclear codes, negotiating treaties, etc.

Or: when Trump approaches with the proposition, Biden calls in the Secret Service and Attorney General to listen in on and record the call on which Trump offers the corrupt bargain. Biden being a cooperating witness he just makes some noncommittal response ("Well I'll think about it Donald"), and then the next day Trump is indicted for some version of the felony that got Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich convicted and sent to prison. And the White House releases the recording of the phone call.

Expand full comment

It seems fairly natural to assume Trump is bound to fulfil his promise, or that Biden's commitment only becomes binding if Trump follows through (because otherwise it's a pointless hypothetical; obviously you would not trust Trump's promise), but presumably not everyone did.

Even if we do make that assumption, there are probably lots of ways Trump could technically 'endorse Biden' without shifting a non-trivial number of votes. Again, different people will make different assumptions here -- but I suspect plenty of 'no' voters chose 'no' at least partly because they doubted that taking the deal would actually result in a Biden win.

Expand full comment

Makes sense to me. Would Trump's endorsement actually swing the election away from Trump? I'd give that a 30% chance at highest.

Expand full comment

The question the Saducees asked Jesus was actually the other way round. If a man dies and his wife remarries who will she be married to after the ressurection? After all polygamy was a thing at the time so it wouldn't have been unthinkable for a man to have two wives. But a woman having more than one husband would be unheard of.

Expand full comment

Polyandry wasn't unheard of, although it was much rarer than either monogamy or polygamy.

Expand full comment

A widow would most probably have come under the protection of her sons so would not have needed to remarry. If the sons are too young she may have married one of her late husband’s brothers.

Expand full comment

I think it's the specific legal thing where if a man marries and dies without children his brother must marry the wife and bear children to carry on his name - the general pattern where across a number of cultures a man dying childless (or without a son) is a major tragedy, with the solution of ancient Jewish law being that his brother marries his widow and their son will be that heir. The Sadducees ask Jesus the question modified to the point of ridiculousness - "there were seven brothers and they each married the same woman and then died in turn, with not a one of them getting a kid along the way" - but as I understand the situation actually does come up in that society, and it's specifically because the widow has no sons that it does so.

(I've equivocated between sons and children above - the Bible version I'm reading says children, I'm really dubious a daughter would count, but I'm not a scholar of Jewish law and possibly she would through her eventual husband/son. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levirate_marriage and compare to the story of Tamar.)

Expand full comment

Daughters absolutely do count for the purposes of levirate marriage in Jewish law. If a man dies leaving only daughters, the widow does not perform levirate marriage.

It's also worth noting that in such a case the daughter(s) are the heirs of their father and inherit all of his property. Their husbands (if and when they marry) are never viewed as heirs of their father-in-law, although in general they would have use of their wives' property for the duration of the marriage.

Expand full comment

They teach yevamos in Satmar? 😉

Expand full comment

Ha. Not one of those Joels... although I do have ancestors who hailed from Sighet.

Expand full comment

As has been pointed out daughters do actually count in this case. However, in this case they must marry within their tribe. The case is actually described in some detail in Numbers. Ihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daughters_of_Zelophehad

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 29

'I think you’d have to claim that God will only violate the laws of Nature in cases that will bring a tiny number of people to the faith but leave the vast majority unmoved, which is such a weird preference that I think you can no longer call it a “prediction” of the “God exists” hypothesis.'

This seems related to the hypothesis that Bigfoot doesn't merely exist, but also has a field about him that causes any photos of him to become blurred.

Expand full comment

You do need to consider things like the Backfire Effect, where presenting more evidence contrary to people's beliefs causes them to dig in their heels. Also, if the goal is to get people to be more loving, one must be wary of creating a system that encourages showing the appearance of faithfulness rather than actually seeking inner conversion.

Expand full comment
May 29·edited May 29

The Backfire Effect doesn't replicate. It's probably not real, or if it is, only in very specific circumstances.

Expand full comment

(Yes, I realize I'm inviting people to claim that their belief in the Backfire Effect is now strengthened. :-) )

Expand full comment

> one must be wary of creating a system that encourages showing the appearance of faithfulness

Too late, social media exists. :-(

Expand full comment

"Every European country" except the ones where I was born, grew up, studied, or am living and working now. And some others.

Expand full comment

Yeah, half of Europe is missing, even a lot of the EU is

Expand full comment

> it’s basically “bomb approximately every building in Gaza so Hamas can’t hide there, and maybe at some point we’ll kill enough of them that we can feel victorious and leave”. I am not sure what this strategy offers which is worth 50,000 deaths and counting

This one's just blatantly wrong to the point of feeling explicitly dishonest- there's specific military targets (known Hamas commanders and operatives, munitions factories, etc). There's no widespread destruction of buildings in order to remove cover. The number of casualties you quote is also about 30% higher than even the Hamas -run Gaza health ministry's own estimates (not a particularly conservative group on estimating casualty numbers).

Expand full comment
author

Again, I have heard claims that about 50% of buildings in Gaza are destroyed - is this false? See also photos like https://news.sky.com/story/israel-hamas-conflict-before-and-after-images-show-damage-to-northern-parts-of-gaza-after-airstrikes-12993057 . Were there known Hamas commanders in all of those buildings?

Expand full comment

My understanding is that this can happen with apparently reasonable rules on targeting if you're trying to hold down casualties while clearing an area. There's a building with people in it shooting at your troops, so you drop a bomb on it. That gets 50% of them, but the other 50% retreat to the next building over, so you drop a bomb on that one. Repeat until you're out of bombs or they are out of people. The result is a string of precision strikes, each individually justified, that leave the area looking like that. This is what Israel appears to be doing, and is quite similar to what we did in Mosul when we retook it from ISIS.

Expand full comment

That sounds like... pretty much exactly what Scott said?

> bomb approximately every building in Gaza so Hamas can't hide there, and maybe at some point we'll kill enough of them that we can feel victorious and leave?

Take away the facetious tone, and I'd say this is a pretty reasonable characterisation of what you've just described.

Expand full comment

I suppose it depends on how you analyze this. If the only metric you care about is "how many buildings are destroyed", then yes, it's basically the same. But that's not how military law has traditionally worked, and for good reason. The alternative involves telling soldiers "yes, I know it would be convenient to blow up that building full of people shooting at you, but you've used up your quota of destroyed buildings, so sucks to be you, hope that none of you die while clearing it the hard way". Or in other words, at some point buildings in Gaza become more important than the lives of Israeli soldiers, based solely on how many buildings have been destroyed. That seems rather nonsensical, and avoiding things like that is why the laws of war care a lot about motives and circumstances rather than being purely based on outcomes.

Expand full comment

In a situation like the 1992 LA Riots, where the "enemy" is mobs of angry civilians and the occasional street gang, you can and should operate under that kind of restrictive rules of engagement and then some (e.g. the declassified "Operation Garden Plot" documents make a big deal about not returning fire on snipers firing from residential buildings). But that doesn't work as well against tens of thousands of Hamas fighters.

I don't have a good sense for how much resistance justifies varying levels of destruction, but it makes sense that how much force you should be using varies wildly depending on how strong and organized the opposing force is relative to your infantry.

Expand full comment