How to spot a high-quality repository conversion

In my last post, I inveighed against using git-svn to do whole-repository conversions from Subversion to git (as opposed to its intended use, which is working a Subversion repository live through a git remote).

Now comes the word that hundreds of projects a week seem to be fleeing SourceForge because of their evil we’ll-hijack-your-repo-and-crapwarify-your installer policy. And they’re moving to GitHub via its automatic importer. Which, sigh, uses git-svn.

I wouldn’t trust that automatic importer (or any other conversion path that uses git-svn) with anything I write, so I don’t know how badly it messes things up.

But as a public service, I follow with a description of how a really well-done repository conversion – the kind I would deliver using reposurgeon – differs from a crappy one.

In evaluating quality, we need to keep in mind why people spelunk into code histories. Typically they’re doing it to trace bugs, understand the history of a feature, or grasp the thinking behind prior design decisions.

These kinds of analyses are hard work demanding attention and cognitive exertion. The last thing anyone doing them needs is to have his or her attention jerked to the fact that back past a certain point of conversion everything was different – commit references in alien and unusable formats, comments in a different style, user IDs missing, ignore patterns not working, etc.

Thus, as a repository translator my goal is for the experience of diving into the past to be as frictionless as possible. Ideally, the converted repository should look as though modern DVCS-like practices had been in use from the beginning of time.

Some of the kinds of glitches I’m going to describe may seem like they ought to be ignorable nits. And individually they often are. But the cumulative effect of all of them is distracting. Unnecessarily distracting.

These some key things that distinguish a really good conversion, one that’s near-frictionless to use, from a poor one.


1. Subversion/CVS/BitKeeper user IDs are properly mapped to Git-style human-name-plus-email identifications.

Sometimes this is a lot of work – for one conversion I did recently I spent many hours Googling to identify hundred of contributors going back to 1999.

The immediate reason this is valuable is so we know who was
responsible for individual commits, which can be important in bug forensics.

A more social reason is that otherwise OpenHub and sites like it in the future won’t be able to do reputation tracking properly. Contributors deserve their kudos and should have it.

2. Commit references are mapped to some reasonably VCS-independent way to identify the commits they point at; I generally use ether unique prefixes of commit comments or commiter/date pairs.

Because ‘r1234’ is useless when you’re not in Subversion-land anymore, Toto. And appending a fossil Subversion ID to every commit comment is heavyweight, ugly, and distracting.

3. Comments are reformatted to be in DVCS form – that is, standalone summary line plus (if there’s more) a spacer line plus following paragraphs.

Yes, this means that to do it right you need to eyeball the entire comment history end edit it into what it would have looked like if the committers had been using those conventions from the beginning. Yes, this is a lot of work. Yes, I do it, and so should you.

The reason this step is really important is that without it tools like gitk and git log can’t do their job properly. This makes it far more difficult for people reading the history to zero in efficiently on what they need to know to get real work done,

4. Ignore patterns and files should be lifted from the syntax and wildcarding conventions of the old system to the syntax and wildcarding conventions of the new one.

This is one of the many things git-svn simply fluffs. Other batch-mode converters could in theory do a better job, but generally don’t.

5. The converted repository should not lose valuable metadata – like release tags.

Yes, I’m actually looking at a GitHub conversion that was that bad.

When the tags are missing, users will be unable to identify or do code diffs against historical release points. It’s a usability crash landing.


213 thoughts on “How to spot a high-quality repository conversion

  1. @ESR, please review the article and fix typos (“reoository”, “nmoving to githunb”, “anyything”, “GitGub”,…) and formatting errors (like end of line appearing in the middle of paragraph). Unless it is intentional, to show how bad conversion looks like? ;-P

    > Because ‘r1234? is useless when you’re not in Subversion-land anymore, Toto. And appending a fossil Subversion ID to every commit comment is heavyweight, ugly, and distracting.

    If the conversion is from Subversion to Git, you can use git-notes in appropriate category (e.g. “refs/notes/svn-id”) to append original Subversion identifiers to Git commits. It can be turned on temporarily with “git log –notes=”svn-id”, or permanently with notes.displayRef multi-value configuration variable. This handles new identifier to old identifier mapping.

    You could also use lightweight tags (or refs in other namespace, not necessarily “refs/tags/”) to map Subversion identifiers to Git commits. This might be needed if you have SVN identifier e.g. r3412 from somewhere else (issue tracker, old email) and want to map to post-conversion history.

  2. The other big driver of conversions is likely the announcement of the forthcoming shutdown of Google Code – those project are all fleeing for less-obsolete climes.

  3. Now comes the word that hundreds of projects a week seem to be fleeing SourceForge because of their evil we’ll-hijack-your-repo-and-crapwarify-your installer policy.

    WTF? …Wow.

    The affected projects apparently include things like Mozilla (everything), Apache (everything), WordPress, at least a dozen others in wide use. Someone somewhere in SF’s management either genuinely doesn’t understand why this is a problem, or they thought that alienating many of the biggest names in OSS was a good idea.

    I don’t use SF, but I have to wonder if this is the best plan ever for an OSS hosting service.

  4. Is a Grand Unified Theory of what sf is playing at generally accepted yet or is it still very much guesswork?

  5. Is a Grand Unified Theory of what sf is playing at generally accepted yet or is it still very much guesswork?

    Make money.

    Specifically, SF’s play is a desperate hail-mary attempt to stay cash flow positive when faced with looming irrelevance.

    Corporations are inherently psychopathic; they are instruments of pure greed. So no matter how nasty or stupid a policy or strategy may seem, if there’s a promise of increase in shareholder value it’s not off the table. See also SCO v. IBM. This is why the policy of corporations as legal persons should be abolished.

    Doubtless the management at SF rationalized the decision by telling themselves that adding crapware to the software downloads is doing the end user a favor. That’s what Lenovo said about Superfish.

  6. Well the community has noticed. Hopefully, it will all blow up in their faces and cause a mass exodus of both devs & downloaders.

  7. This is why the policy of corporations as legal persons should be abolished.

    Out of curiosity, can you explain what the purpose of treating corporations as legal person is?

  8. Out of curiosity, can you explain what the purpose of treating corporations as legal person is?

    Ostensibly, it is to permit corporations to enter into contracts, sue, and be sued as an entity. However the extent to which corporate personhood is recognized and the purpose it serves depends on whom you ask. For example until the Citizens United decision, for example, it was not generally recognized under the law that corporations had a First Amendment right to free speech. One side of the argument suggests that because corporations are people acting in aggregate it makes sense to have a liberal view of what rights a corporation has. The other side suggests that because of the vast power disparity between corporations and flesh-and-blood humans we’re all better off if corporations were severely restricted and treated as something quite different than a person under the law. I bet you can guess which side I’m on. In the European Union corporations are not people and are severely restricted even in terms of what sorts of contracts they can make, especially when the other side is a human. The AT&T decision which gave corporations the power to deny customers the right to sue class-action, forcing them to take their grievances to binding-arbitration kangaroo court, simply wouldn’t fly in the EU; it’d run afoul of consumer-protection laws.

  9. @Jeff:

    The “vast power disparity” argument is a non-starter. Soros, the Koch Brothers, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, any of the Walmart siblings — they all have, individually, more power than most corporations.

  10. @Jeff Read

    Citizen’s United did not change the rules for corporate contributions to political campaigns. Corporations can’t contribute.

    What they can do, more freely now after Citizens United, is buy advertising which actually mentions politicians along with policies. This gives the average corporation (a collection of people) the same rights as the corporations which call themselves “media companies”, like the New York Times. The Citizen’s United ruling says that people may join together in the form of a corporation to produce advertising and distribute speech.

    The other outcome is to give the government power to designate which companies can publish political commentary and which cannot. That is more like Russia, Albania, and Venezuela.

  11. Folks, Jeff’s blind, unreasoning hatred of corporations is of a piece with the rest of his left-wing moonbat ideology. The Left hates Citizens United because it removes the monopoly the leftist MSM has on political commentary and corporate support for candidates. Ever notice how, when pressed, they can’t explain why media corporations should have the right to help candidates but other corporations should not?

    Notice, also, how he makes no attempt to actually show any connection between the principle that the corporation’s first duty is to benefit its shareholders – a well-established principle of corporate law that long predates Citizens United, springing from the basic fact that the shareholders are the owners and thus have a right to expect that the corporation will be run primarily for their benefit – and the doctrine of corporate personhood that he finds so evil.

    Just because Sourceforge made a stupid decision is not evidence that corporations are inherently evil. Corporations are the engines of our economy. Without them, we’d still be struggling with the limitations of the 18th century or so. Of course, this is what the Left wants…

  12. Folks, Jeff’s blind, unreasoning hatred of corporations is of a piece with the rest of his left-wing moonbat ideology.

    I was just fascinated by his recent lucidity.

  13. Notice, also, how he makes no attempt to actually show any connection between the principle that the corporation’s first duty is to benefit its shareholders – a well-established principle of corporate law that long predates Citizens United, springing from the basic fact that the shareholders are the owners and thus have a right to expect that the corporation will be run primarily for their benefit – and the doctrine of corporate personhood that he finds so evil.

    The doctrine of corporate personhood is evil because corporations are beholden to make money for their shareholders. Corporations do not have the ethics, morality, or sense of social responsibility that actual people have. Because they’re not people. Inasmuch as a corporation does exhibit signs of social responsibility, it’s mainly for good PR purposes so they don’t lose business. If there’s no fear of going out of business for doing the wrong thing, there’s no incentive for a corporation to do the right thing.

    Just because Sourceforge made a stupid decision is not evidence that corporations are inherently evil.

    Corporations aren’t inherently evil. They are pure power, and their activities should be monitored and controlled — much like government’s.

    The problem with Sourceforge’s decision isn’t that it’s stupid (though by our measures it certainly is). The problem is that by the standards of corporate governance which you love so much, it was completely rational and necessary.

    Without them, we’d still be struggling with the limitations of the 18th century or so. Of course, this is what the Left wants…

    Without strong controls on what corporations can do, we’d still be deep in the class struggles of the late 19th century, which it seems is just what the Right wants.

  14. @Jeff Read:

    Corporations do not have the ethics, morality, or sense of social responsibility that actual people have. Because they’re not people.

    and

    Corporations aren’t inherently evil. They are pure power, and their activities should be monitored and controlled — much like government’s.

    Now take the first quote and s/corporation/government/. With this change, under what circumstances might the statement remain true?

  15. “we’d still be deep in the class struggles of the late 19th century”

    We are now. The Left wants it that way, because they can keep milking it to increase their own power.

  16. “Inasmuch as a corporation does exhibit signs of social responsibility”

    There is no such thing as social responsibility. There is only a leftist construct, designed to browbeat the productive into kowtowing to the Left’s favorite cause of the week and extract resources from those who earned them.

  17. “Now take the first quote and s/corporation/government/. With this change, under what circumstances might the statement remain true?”

    or labor union, or political party, or college/university, or church, or various things on the NGO spectrum like Acorn or Amnesty International or Greenpeace or Planned Parenthood

  18. @William Newman:

    Precisely! Jeff Read appears to simultaneously believe that (a) corporations are composed of people and (b) corporations do not share the goals of the people that compose them. Well, in those circumstances I will want to know if you believe that any large organization is immune to the same social morphology. If any such organization exists, we need to identify what facets protects them and start applying that same magic to other social structures. (Also, if no such organization is immune, we need to start remodeling society to immediately de-power all such organizations.)

    [Jeff: I’m not trying to put words in your mouth — even by quoting. If I’m misinterpreting anything you’ve said, feel free to correct me at any time.]

  19. Barney Frank said “Government is simply a word for what we decide to do together.” Corporations are exactly the same thing, except not nearly as dangerous.

    What annoys leftists is that the freedom of association embodied in corporations can be used in opposition to leftist intent to capture government machinery as a means to impose tyranny.

  20. Corporate personhood serves at least two major functions that I’m familiar with: 1) so component persons retain their rights when formally coordinating, and 2) so external persons can call the equivalent of a standard interface without needing to worry about the internal implementations. To elaborate:

    1) Individual persons have rights such as free speech. Sometimes persons decide to work together by for example pooling money to buy a printing press, and setting up a corporate structure so that they can take new ink-buyers aboard and old people can retire, while the organization continues to print stuff. It would be wrong for the people involved to lose their rights because they were operating with a charter of operations and a set-aside bank account for printer ink. Corporate personhood as a means of expressing individual rights.

    2) When I buy a newspaper subscription from FooCo, it saves me (and every other subscriber) time and hassle if I can just make out my checks to FooCo rather than having to check who is in charge today. If, a few years down the line, FooCo’s newspaper delivery turns spotty, it similarly benefits me to write my letter of complaint to FooCo and let them track down who was supposed to be sending me newspapers. If I decide I want a refund, I ask for the refund from FooCo without needing to care who FooCo’s accountant is. Corporate personhood as a simplified subject of common interaction.

  21. What we have with the SF decision is what we’ve seen so many other times. A person in the corporate structure saw an opportunity to make money without offering value and decided to take the easy way out by taking over abandoned projects and wrapping them in crapware.

    How this reflects upon corporations is a mystery to me, because individuals do the same thing without being part of a corporate entity every single day.

  22. What Jeff and other leftists don’t want to recognize is that Citizen’s United wasn’t about IBM or Shell’s personhood or ability to engage in political speech, it was about *the people’s* ability to band together using legal constructs to engage in political discourse.

    The left (with it’s willing accomplices in the Republican Party) has made political involvement a legal minefield once you get past the state of screaming on a street corner that one *needs* to incorporate and seek legal advice.

    When I lived in California there were two guys IN JAIL because they had pooled their money and bought a full page ad in a southern California newspaper (sorry to be so vague, this is a 14 year old memory) attacking a California LT. Governor, who lost reelection. Being a leftist, the left reacted by charging the men with election law violations (not reporting), and being Calfornia, it stuck. So now these (upper) middle class guys are *felons* for the crime of working together to criticize the government. Which is exactly what the current crop of Pols want.

    The government made it MANDATORY to use corporate structures to safely (relatively, see Brendan Eich[1]) engage in politics, then makes it practically illegal for those constructs to engage in political discourse, and the left screams.

    Corporations are how we the “not government” do things together that either the government won’t, can’t, or doesn’t want us to. But see, it’s “we the people” not “we the individuals that make up the government”.

    [1] So I don’t want to use Firefox because the governing body are a bunch of moral cowards, but this is aggressively evil https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2015/06/google-chrome-listening-in-to-your-room-shows-the-importance-of-privacy-defense-in-depth/

  23. @Jeff:
    >The doctrine of corporate personhood is evil because corporations are beholden to make money for their shareholders.

    False. They are beholden to do the bidding of their shareholders. *Usually* what the shareholders want is for the corporation to make them money, but if a controlling interest is held by people with some other goal than money, the corporation is beholden to follow that goal, whether it turns a profit or not.

  24. A corporation is not a person. A corporation cannot raise children, marry, go to jail or vote. So there is no reason to grant corporations the same rights as a natural person.

    Some rights, e.g., contracts etc. can be granted to corporations. As I understand it, only in the US they feel obliged to grant corporations “personhood”. I have no idea why this is considered ” necessary”.

    Campaign donations are still corruption, whether or not they are legalized. It seems like in the US, every (mega) dollar has a vote.

    Many countries have not gone the way of the US and still have more freedom of expression and a better functioning democracy than the USA (and less people in prison and less violence by the police).

    So before you cry “tyrany”, first show us you actually do better in the US.

  25. @Jon Brase
    Is that really correct?

    I was under the impression that a minority shareholder could block (some) actions that were detrimental to its share value.

  26. “Many countries have not gone the way of the US and still have more freedom of expression”

    No, they do not. Most countries in Europe have MUCH more restrictive speech laws.

    “and a better functioning democracy than the USA”

    Only if by “better functioning” you mean “get the results the Elites want”. Which sort of shits on the whole notion of Democracy.

    This, of course, begs the notion of wether “Democracy” is actually good. In the US we are not supposed to have a democracy, we’re supposed to have a republic with democratically chosen representatives (the latest ruling from the SCOTUS shows that we have neither, we have an oligarchy where the government can do whatever the f*k it wants, and what is actually voted on and passed into law doesn’t mean a f*king thing).

    “(and less people in prison and less violence by the police)”.

    Most countries don’t have anywhere near the demographic mix that the US has, and we were doing a LOT better before the leftists took over the schools and most of the executive branch.

  27. As I understand it, only in the US they feel obliged to grant corporations “personhood”. I have no idea why this is considered ” necessary”.

    This is because you misunderstand. At common law, only persons were able to form contracts or own property. When corporations were first invented, they were defined as “legal persons”, capable of transacting business in their own names (as opposed to merely serving as shorthand for partners personally). Individual humans have a separate classification, natural persons. This system is in use in legal systems derived from the English common law, which includes most of the Commonwealth countries.

  28. @Christopher Smith

    It’s probably you who misunderstands.

    First, what you meant is “juridical persons”. Legal persons are persons, juridical or natural; who are capable of entering contracts. (For natural persons, there’s usually an age requirement.)

    Secondly, the concept of juridical persons exists in both common law and civic law countries, and I’m sure Winter is familiar with the concept. You need a concept like that for corporations or other groups of people to enter into contracts or conduct business in their own name, as you say.

    The point is, why would it be necessary for a juridical person to have all the rights a natural person has, why isn’t it enough for them to have only a subset of rights – i.c. only those rights that are required to make them capable of transacting business as a single entity rather than a collection of people ?

  29. First, what you meant is “juridical persons”. Legal persons are persons, juridical or natural; who are capable of entering contracts.

    No, I didn’t mean juridical person, I meant legal person, of which both juridical and natural are subclasses. In the United States, corporations do not have all the rights of natural persons, but the confusion Winter is exhibiting is precisely the error intentionally fomented by frenzymongerers decrying Citizens because “OMG corporation persons!”

  30. @Christopher Smith
    Kn explained my confusion better than I did myself. Your argument does not explaiin why a company should have free speech protection.

  31. @Lambert
    And Cameron is much more a “friend” of the USA in their jihad against the free press than the rest of the EU.

    The UK is also not very high on the list of Reporters withour borders.

    Wrt democracy, mr Cameron won the elections with less than 40% of the votes.

  32. @Jakub @ESR

    I recently re-discovered, somewhat astonished, that still in 2015 printing out a text onto dead trees works well for catching typos. I don’t really know why. One of these days I will test it with e-paper (Kindle) too. I love that stuff anyway, I wonder what it would be like to write code on an e-paper screen.

  33. Shenpen, people have hacked Kindles to turn them into rudimebtary text displays for their Linux computers (e.g., Raspberry Pi).

    I look forward to the day when such things become commonplace. An e-paper display wouldn’t be a VT220, but I suspect it will be much easier on the eyes than even HiDPI LCDs.

  34. winter,

    Watch the butthurt American conservatives like Maynard whinge about how Reporters Without Borders is biased or otherwise unreliable.

  35. Is a second comment thread-jacking a record on A&D? Good conversation, mostly, but I am amazed how quickly we went full-on different topic.

  36. Jeff’s just feeling his oats after three Supreme Court decisions went to the Left this week.

  37. @esr, those are IMHO typos to be fixed:

    * spurious end of line (linebreak) in the middle of paragraph:

    “attention and
    cognitive exertion.”
    “who was
    responsible for individual commits”
    “reputation tracking
    properly.”
    “users will be unable to identify
    or do code diffs”

    * small errors

    “Yes, I’m actually looking at a GitGub conversion that was that bad.”
    GitGub -> GitHub

  38. @ Jakub Narebski and ESR

    Another typo: “…without it it tools…”. That’s two “it”.

    That said, I enjoyed the humorous allusion to The Wizard of Oz. Thanks. ^_^

  39. Oh, don’t look so blue, Jay. The Supreme Court upheld the death penalty, and continued the fine American tradition of protecting private bigco profits at the expense of public interest by refusing to hear Oracle v. Google, making APIs copyrightable and swaths of useful open source code illegal.

  40. @ ESR

    A couple of questions:

    1 – Given this apparent exodus from SourceForge to GitHub, do you plan to deprive Shipper of support for the former and/or endow it with support for the latter?
    2 – And what about GitLab? Reposurgeon is now hosted there, so you might benefit if Shipper supported it (especially if you move more of your projects there).

  41. “Shipping” to a repo site requires some sort of mechanism for packaged binary releases, which GH just got and GL afaik doesn’t have yet.

    I couldn’t see Eric removing support for SF because of a mass exodus, but I could see him doing it because they’re dicks.

  42. >1 – Given this apparent exodus from SourceForge to GitHub, do you plan to deprive Shipper of support for the former and/or endow it with support for the latter?

    No. At least not unless and until I move the couple of projects I have on SourceForge off of it, which I’m not in a particular hurry to do. And in general, I’m not a fan of removing functions from my software in order to enforce my policy preferences on people. I believe in enabling people and letting them make their own choices.

    >2 – And what about GitLab? Reposurgeon is now hosted there, so you might benefit if Shipper supported it (especially if you move more of your projects there).

    I probably am going to move more stuff there, but as yet they don’t have a release mechanism.

  43. @ ESR

    > I’m not a fan of removing functions from my software in order to enforce my policy preferences on people.

    That’s not what I meant; sorry if it sounded that way. What I’m saying is that you may not want to spend time and effort in maintaining a feature whose usage is declining. (I guess lots of developers are still on SourceForge, though.) Here’s an example, and a contemporary one at that: IIRC, one of the reasons for forking Vim into Neovim was that the former is saddled with code for the support of legacy platforms.

    > I believe in enabling people and letting them make their own choices.

    That’s true even beyond the realm of software, right? ;-) But, again, there may be tradeoffs: freedom of choice for users is valuable, but so are programmers’ time and energy.
    Not that I’m anyone to talk: I’m not a programmer (or anything, for that matter); I just wanted to raise a caution and know your thoughts on the matter, not to mention that talking to you is always a pleasure. ñ_ñ

  44. “Shipping” to a repo site requires some sort of mechanism for packaged binary releases, which GH just got and GL afaik doesn’t have yet.

    GitHub has had it for years, I wouldn’t say it counts as “just”.

  45. Even yesterday’s set of decisions had its own for the Left: permitting the people to pass a Constitutional amendment in a state to take redistricting power away from the state legislature and give it to an independent commission.

    The death penalty case was the Court saying “Look, if you’re going to argue against the death penalty, argue against the death penalty. Don’t do an end run around it by arguing against methods unless you have an alternative.” It should be noted, as SCOTUSblog’s Andrew Brasher has:

    As Justice Alito and others noted at oral argument, the prisoners’ claims about midazolam are part of a coordinated effort to kill capital punishment by a thousand cuts. The prisoners’ lead expert witness in Glossip, which ostensibly concerned midazolam, played the same role in Baze v. Rees, which ostensibly concerned pentobarbital. He unsurprisingly opined that neither should be used in executions. The Arizona Public Defender’s Office successfully sued the federal Food and Drug Administration to deny states the use of sodium thiopental in executions. Then the same lawyers argued in Glossip that states should use sodium thiopental instead of midazolam because sodium thiopental is a better drug. The prisoners and their supporters may be genuinely concerned about midazolam, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves about their overarching goal.

    Brasher also notes that it’s settled Eighth Amendment law that if you make a claim against a method of execution, you must argue an alternative.

    As for the Java API case, I agree that the ruling is dumb, but it’s not the end of the line. The case now goes back to lower courts, where Google can argue that they’re making fair use of the copyrighted API. I don’t know how likely they are to be successful.

  46. Since I have it on good authority that SF is never off-topic here.

    ESR, or any of you speculative science fiction connoisseurs around here: I happened upon a recommendation for A Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement. I am hoping for another seal of approval before I tackle it.

  47. “A Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement.”

    If someone would claim it is the best SF story ever, I would not argue that.

  48. @Jay Maynard
    “The death penalty case was the Court saying “Look, if you’re going to argue against the death penalty, argue against the death penalty. ”

    Instead of torturing people to death with unreliable chemicals or electro-torture.

    Why not use a clean and fast method that never fails: A guillotine?

  49. > 2. Commit references are mapped to some reasonably VCS-independent way to identify the commits they point at; I generally use ether unique prefixes of commit comments or commiter/date pairs

    I think a better solution might be mapping commit references to *native* post-conversion commit identifiers (e.g. shortened SHA-1 identifiers for Git i.e. commit prefixes – which are not VCS-independent, instead of rNNN revision numbers of Subversion), instead of trying for some VCS-independent way.

    Though this probably depends on what the reference is for. If it is “fixed commit NNN”, then commit summary (commit smart synopsis, c.f. http://antirez.com/news/90) or author+authordate can be enough – if commit is duplicated (e.g. cherry picked), fix should apply to both.

    If it is “reverted commit NNN” or “cherry-picked commit NNN”, then unambigous identifier is needed, I think. Commit prefix would work, I’m not sure about committer+committerdate (does mass rebase keep committer dates distinct?)…

  50. @ Winter

    > Instead of torturing people to death with unreliable chemicals or electro-torture.

    No offense, but I think that calling them “people” muddles the debate: it lumps them together with ordinary persons, such as you or me, which they’re not – they’re psychopaths. Besides, they showed no consideration to their victims; why be considerate to them?

    That said, I’m not sure I want the State to have the right to decide who lives and who dies. Hell, I don’t even want the State to exist in the first place. But I think it’s important to distinguish between those who are fit for societal life and those who are not, regardless of what method we choose to deal with the latter.

  51. Or even faster than the guillotine: a bullet through the brain. Large-enough calib(er|re), it’s even faster than a guillotine.

  52. @Jorge Dujan
    The are people, Homo sapience, whatever you may feel about them.

    Personally, I consider capital punishment a form of human sacrifice on a level of what the Aztecs practiced.

    “But I think it’s important to distinguish between those who are fit for societal life and those who are not, regardless of what method we choose to deal with the latter.”

    Yeah, the Aztecs had similar ideas about the worth of human lives.

  53. Winter, there are some crimes for which no lesser punishment is appropriate. They demonstrate a total lack of regard for human life. We should not coddle those who do so for the rest of their lives in prison at taxpayer expense.

  54. @Mike Swanson: Our host has many good ideas, but not all of his ideas are very good. IMVHO the idea for VCS-independent identifiers is the latter…

    Also it is more important to have fast and unambiguous mapping from VCS-independent “identifier” to commit rather than vice-versa.

  55. @Jay:
    >As for the Java API case, I agree that the ruling is dumb, but it’s not the end of the line. The case now goes back to lower courts, where Google can argue that they’re making fair use of the copyrighted API. I don’t know how likely they are to be successful.

    It’s not Google I’m worried about. They have billions to hire a crack legal team with. A whole bunch of small projects that reimplement the APIs of large proprietary projects are now hideously vulnerable under the precendent that this sets (although Microsoft’s current behavior makes it seem somewhat less likely, a return to their past behavior could mean that we lose Wine, or at least that its development and use becomes much fraught with legal problems).

  56. @Jay Maynard
    “We should not coddle those who do so for the rest of their lives in prison at taxpayer expense.”

    So you want to kill people for profit? That is even worse than as human sacrifice.

  57. @Mike Swanson: Our host has many good ideas, but not all of his ideas are very good. IMVHO the idea for VCS-independent identifiers is the latter…

    Would you mind explaining why?

    Also it is more important to have fast and unambiguous mapping from VCS-independent “identifier” to commit rather than vice-versa.

    Perhaps. It’s probably not that hard to extend the script to do so, but on many average-or-smaller scale projects, I personally find it easy enough to just eyeball it at the log; back-references do not usually go very far back, and the date gives a good idea of where to look (only slightly complicated by rebases and merges). On large-scale projects (such as Linux or Git itself) where references might go back several thousands of commits, just eyeballing it would most certainly not work.

    This would become a moot point when Git learns how to emit actionstamp references and how to use them as input.

  58. This would become a moot point when Git learns how to emit actionstamp references and how to use them as input.

    The latter assumes that they are unambiguous, i.e. always point one and only one revision.

  59. >IMVHO the idea for VCS-independent identifiers is the latter…

    Can you think of a better way to do it?

    I’ve looked at what would be involved in inserting native IDs for the target system after surgery. For systems like SVN that use sequence numbers, it’s a bit messy but possible. For systems that use chained hash IDs (git, hg, monotone) effectively impossible. The problem is that you don’t get to know what those hashes are going to be until after the repo write.

  60. >The latter assumes that they are unambiguous, i.e. always point one and only one revision.

    They don’t always, though collisions ought to be rare in practice.

    There’s no problem in principle with git throwing an error if a reference is ambiguous.

  61. >So you want to kill people for profit? That is even worse than as human sacrifice.

    No, he wants to kill criminals so that non-criminals will not be taxed (e.g., robbed at gunpoint) to keep the criminals in meals and lodging for the rest of their lives.

    I’m opposed to the death penalty myself, because I think it gives the state a power it shouldn’t have. But I can sympathize with Jay’s reasoning.

  62. >> IMVHO the idea for VCS-independent identifiers is the latter…

    > Can you think of a better way to do it?
    >
    > I’ve looked at what would be involved in inserting native IDs for the target system after surgery. For systems like SVN that use sequence numbers, it’s a bit messy but possible. For systems that use chained hash IDs (git, hg, monotone) effectively impossible. The problem is that you don’t get to know what those hashes are going to be until after the repo write.

    Well, that is not exactly true. Sane references always point to commits earlier in history; the problem might be that those referenced commits might be on other branch, and we didn’t get to that branch yet – it is a matter of proper ordering.

    You could always do a post-processing step: either second pass through commits, fixing references (changing them to native VCS identifiers), or (with Git) do second pass by creating replacements (git-replace) then making replacements permanent (with git-filter-branch).

    WRT “insane” (forward) references, e.g. something like ‘fixed in rNNN’ – something possible in Subversion because it allows editing svn:log property after the fact, nb. without any notification that it changed – the native way for Git, to keep in vein that “the converted repository should look as though modern DVCS-like practices had been in use from the beginning of time”, would be to use notes in refs/notes/commits namespace.

    The problem with proposed non native VCS-independent identifiers is that, barring a cache, they are much more expensive to solve (O(length of history) rather than O(1) – you cannot assume that author/committer dates are monotonic, as errors in setting clock happens… IIRC the slack for git-log time-based heuristic is around month, and largest non-monotonicity in Linux kernel sources is around a year). Speed matters… well, at leats it does matter if i is immediate (below second), or https://xkcd.com/303/ times ;-)))

  63. It sounds like some of your expectations of what action stamps are supposed to be are somewhat… off. Forward references should pose no problem, although they should be highly unusual nearly to the point of non-existent (are you aware of regular exceptions?). FWIW, they’d be trivial to make in Git too, with rebase.

    Time stamps being monotonic is totally a non-issue too. All the action stamp cares about is that a commit as an author date and an author email, two things that a commit should have. It doesn’t depend on the date having the property of being after all the previous commits, neither does it depend on any particular server time. (I know there’s at least one commit in Linux with a date all the way back to 2001; the guy’s clock was that badly off.) There is an assumption that the combination of date+email should uniquely resolve to a single commit. That assumption would be easy to break on purpose, but probably hard to encounter by accident — just typing out a commit message should take longer than one second. A rebase or merge has a good chance of making a whole series of commits all contain the same committer date, but the author date remains unchanged.

  64. @esr
    “No, he wants to kill criminals so that non-criminals will not be taxed (e.g., robbed at gunpoint) to keep the criminals in meals and lodging for the rest of their lives.”

    He wants to remove some people from society by force, but does not want to pay for it. So he wants them killed because it saves him money.

    Killing for profit.

  65. @Mike:

    > It sounds like some of your expectations of what action stamps are supposed to be are somewhat… off. Forward references should pose no problem, although they should be highly unusual nearly to the point of non-existent (are you aware of regular exceptions?). FWIW, they’d be trivial to make in Git too, with rebase.

    Well… except that you should not rewrite published history – it causes not a small amount of trouble for downstream. Notes (in modern Git) are a better solution for forward references (“bug NNN, CVE XXX, fixed in WWW, ZZZ and TTT”).

    > Time stamps being monotonic is totally a non-issue too.

    Errr… my mistake. I thought that monotinicity of timestamps (or generation number, if it were available) could be used to speed up resolving author+time identifiers… but you need to read commit object to follow the chain of objects anyway (though… there is something to speed up object enumeration in server, called ewah – compressed bitmap).

    > There is an assumption that the combination of date+email should uniquely resolve to a single commit. That assumption would be easy to break on purpose, but probably hard to encounter by accident […]

    Actually cherry-picking break this assumption, as it creates a “copy” of a changeset – the authorship remains the same, new commit gets new committership.

  66. Winter: “He wants to remove some people from society by force, but does not want to pay for it. So he wants them killed because it saves him money.

    Killing for profit.”

    You wouldn’t recognize a principle if it bit you on the ass.

  67. Upon reflection, that last one was a bit too much content-free snark for my taste.

    Put simply, there’s a principle at stake here: I should not be forced to support another person for the remainder of his life because he committed a heinous crime. It’s not about the money. It’s about the robbery: taking money from me at gunpoint to support a criminal who not only does not have to work to support himself, but cannot be made to work to support himself as a matter of law, is unacceptable.

    True, not all crimes are worthy of the death penalty. But Anders Brelvik will get out of prison in 20 years or so, a free man, with no restrictions, having served his sentence. Where is the justice in that?

  68. @Jay Maynard
    My principle is that no person may be killed except in self defense. (Ie, there is no alternative)

    “But Anders Brelvik will get out of prison in 20 years or so, a free man, with no restrictions, having served his sentence. Where is the justice in that?”

    He won’t. They will put him in an assylum one way or another.

    The solution is very simple. People whose mental condition make them a direct danger to others (and themselves?) can be put in an assylum until they stop being a danger or die of old age.

    We have such a regime in the Netherlands and it works. It is not perfect, but it means criminal law does not have to jump through hoops to find excuses to lock up dangerous people.

    The problem of the US and many other countries seems to be that their criminal law does not handle the permanent dangerous, like Breivik, who need treatment and supervision for a long time from those who can respond to punishment.

    Maybe a little less bloody revenge and a little more common sense would help?

  69. You wouldn’t recognize a principle if it bit you on the ass.

    Profit and revenge are hardly principles. Do yourself a favor and spend some time in a civilized country. There you will find that criminal proceedings based on sophistry (most convincing lawyer wins = most money wins) and punishment for crimes based on revenge are NOT the norm; they are medieval in comparison to what prevails in a society with actual principles.

  70. @Winter

    The USA used to have a much more extensive system to treat mental illness. It was too easily abused. It turned out that one might find oneself involuntarily committed for annoying the wrong official. Nowadays it is still possible to involuntarily commit someone, but it’s much more difficult.

    Perhaps the pendulum swung too far, but it needed to swing.

  71. winter:
    Does this self-defense principle only apply when defending your life, or does it extend to protecting your property? Assume for instance someone demanding the PIN for your credit card, who might beat you up a bit to make you go along, but who won’t actually kill you.

  72. Unique
    “Assume for instance someone demanding the PIN for your credit card, who might beat you up a bit to make you go along, but who won’t actually kill you.”

    What is your point?
    Self-defence is not a particularly difficult legal principle.
    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Self-Defense

    A person using force in self-defense should use only so much force as is required to repel the attack. Nondeadly force can be used to repel either a nondeadly attack or a deadly attack. Deadly Force may be used to fend off an attacker who is using deadly force but may not be used to repel an attacker who is not using deadly force.

  73. The USA used to have a much more extensive system to treat mental illness. It was too easily abused. It turned out that one might find oneself involuntarily committed for annoying the wrong official.

    That is a corruption problem the USA should have addressed rather than dismantle the system almost completely in favor of the tried-and-true methods of tossing undesirables into tartarean holes (often privately run for profit), leaving them on the streets to fend for themselves, or simply eliminating them.

    Every time Americans look at European administrative infrastructure and say “we tried that; it doesn’t work” I’m reminded of the hilarious Onion headline “‘Nothing Could Have Prevented This,’ Say Police In Only Country Where This Happens Regularly”.

  74. @esr –

    > >So you want to kill people for profit? That is even worse than as human sacrifice.

    > No, he wants to kill criminals so that non-criminals will not be taxed (e.g., robbed at
    > gunpoint) to keep the criminals in meals and lodging for the rest of their lives.

    > I’m opposed to the death penalty myself, because I think it gives the state a
    > power it shouldn’t have. But I can sympathize with Jay’s reasoning.

    But what do we do with them?

    Take the current monster in Charlotte. Let’s say it gets proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” that he’s guilty of multiple counts of premeditated murder. (I believe he’s already confessed to the crimes.) He’s not remorseful, and gives every indication he would commit more crimes like this again if he could.

    You could argue he’s functionally insane (believes things that are not true-in-reality), or you could argue he’s sociopathic. Either way, he’s a danger to have in society. Hell, he’s a danger to me and you. (We may be his approved skin tone, but I’m sure he could find things about each of us that he would consider worthy of our being killed.)

    There’s no place to exile him to. We can’t “fix” him (if for no other reason than he doesn’t want to be “fixed”). Our choices are to confine him for the rest of his natural life, or to end that life.

    What do we do?

  75. winter:
    Self-defense is a very difficult legal principle. That is why you get things like this “The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger is available in many jurisdictions, but the interpretation varies widely.” and “The self-defense laws of modern legislation build on the Roman Law principle of dominium where any attack on the members of the family or the property it owned was a personal attack on the pater familias.”

    Going by your quoted text, where lethal force is not allowed in response to non-lethal force, it seems tempting to conclude that a woman with a gun must rather let herself be raped than pull the trigger. I assume this is a misunderstanding on my part.

    My point is of course that something like shooting a robber instead of handing over your wallet and your underpants can just as easily be framed as ‘killing for profit’. Thus, I would be interested to know what forms of lethal self-defense you endorse.

  76. @Jeff
    http://www.theonion.com/article/no-way-to-prevent-this-says-only-nation-where-this-36131

    @Bob
    “It turned out that one might find oneself involuntarily committed for annoying the wrong official. Nowadays it is still possible to involuntarily commit someone, but it’s much more difficult.”

    I assume it must be possible to separate involuntary commitment of people who commited offenses punishable by death from those who have not commited any crimes. We are talking about a legal regime for people that would otherwise be executed.

    I am more with Jeff here. I think these people are executed, not because it is somehow inevitable, but because many people in the US really want people to be executed. See my earlier comment on human sacrifice.

  77. @Unique
    You are delving in to sophisteries. There is ample experience with what is considered “justified force”. The ideas have evolved over time and place as have all interpretations of the law. Just twisting the words of the definition will not improve understanding. My personal ideas about what is justified are irrelevant, btw.

    Anyhow, capital punishment cannot be seen as self-defence in any interpretation. There is no immediate danger and incarceration is always an alternative.

  78. Going by your quoted text, where lethal force is not allowed in response to non-lethal force, it seems tempting to conclude that a woman with a gun must rather let herself be raped than pull the trigger. I assume this is a misunderstanding on my part.

    What part of “only enough force to repel the attack” do you not understand?

  79. J.Read: The part which says “Deadly Force (…) may not be used to repel an attacker who is not using deadly force.” To the best of my knowledge, involuntary sex isn’t itself lethal. The key point here is that self-defense is indeed a difficult principle, in part because it needs a concept of property, and property rights are themselves rather difficult.

    Winter: I find it very amusing that you accuse me of sophistry, while refusing to answer very straightforward questions. Of course definitions are going to get twisted, when you choose to frame capital punishment as ‘killing for profit’.

  80. To elaborate very slightly:
    What I am trying to do is to give an example of ‘killing for profit’, such as shooting a robber to defend valuable property, that seems intuitively defensible. If this is possible, then establishing that capital punishment to reduce taxes is functionally ‘killing for profit’ will not by itself suffice to show that it is wrong.

  81. I’m kind of sad that a comment set that *should* be about repo conversion and migration is instead about legal personhood, capital punishment, and Winter continuing to be smug.

    This is esr’s venue, but Eric, may I suggest that you consider having a recurring open thread for social and political topics, and then socialize or enforce topicality on the comments for the other posts.

    And to the topic I would like to raise, now that you have done so many conversions, do you think you could now more clearly codify the heuristics for recognizing or fixing bad conversions? I’ve read all your docs so far on reposurgeon and on doing repo conversions, but stuff that is even more concrete would be useful, such as “Here are what CVS version strings look like, and here are where they will crop up. Here is a regex that will match them. Here are the concrete signs of a gitsvn conversion. Here is how to convert svn tags to git tags, step by step.”

    And in a related question, with those heuristics, can you see ways to attempt to automate more, possibly by connecting reposurgeon to a scripting engine. I’m thinking that the conversion from cvs version strings and svn rNNNNN references to your preferred format could almost be mostly automated, or at least have a lot of automation assistance.

    There are a LOT of things migrating from sf svn to github git, and they need something better than gitsvn but they are not going to have the skilled time and attention for a manual conversion.

  82. “Do yourself a favor and spend some time in a civilized country.”

    Jeff, why in the ever-loving, holy, nickel-plated FUCK are you still in a country you hate so thoroughly? You want Europe so badly? You think they’re so civilized? Get thee gone! I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to have you.

  83. Jeff, why in the ever-loving, holy, nickel-plated FUCK are you still in a country you hate so thoroughly? You want Europe so badly? You think they’re so civilized? Get thee gone! I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to have you.

    I think Michael Moore put it best when he said “I refuse to live in a country like this… and I’m not leaving.”

    I was born here, I grew up here, my allegiance is to this country so I want the best for it and its citizens. Besides, getting acclimated to a whole ‘nother culture and accepted, personally and professionally, as one of their own, is a considerable setback (to say nothing of the immigration paperwork). So I would personally benefit from seeing America become civilized more than I would from simply moving to Germany or Sweden. And I think the world at large would too: if everybody like me just up and left, the USA would become even more crazy and Jesus-freaky. And it still has all those nukes. Scary. Be careful what you wish for.

    Hope is on the horizon though: I hear Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary in the Democratic race.

  84. @Unique
    “What I am trying to do is to give an example of ‘killing for profit’, such as shooting a robber to defend valuable property, that seems intuitively defensible. ”

    Might be intuitive, but it is not legal. To start, self-defense is never about trying to kill the opponent. It is about preventing him doing harm (seek out your local definition of harm).

    When a victim claims s/he killed in self-defense, s/he has to show the killing was inevitable to prevent the harm s/he could reasonably fear.

    I am not sure that there are jurisdictions where it is allowed to shoot a pickpocket in the back to prevent him from getting away with you wallet? Because that would be killing for money.

    And this has nothing at all to do with capital punishment.

  85. @Unique
    “Of course definitions are going to get twisted, when you choose to frame capital punishment as ‘killing for profit’.”

    I did say capital punishment is a form of human sacrifice.

    Then Jay wrote that he supported executions to save costs. That I interpreted as killing people for money.

    But now you are fixating on self-defense which has nothing to do with capital punishment.

  86. Jeff, I refuse to live in your favorite European utopia, and I’m not leaving either. The difference is that the country’s a lot closer to what I think it should deb than what you think it should be, even after six and a half years of Barack Obama’s hard-left lawless rule.

    Seriously, you want the US to become just another European country, with the only difference being that it’s across the Atlantic from the rest of them. Why should it? Why should you and your European idols get to define what civilized is for Americans? If America turns into just another European worker’s paradise, what’s left for those of us who actually love a free country?

    The world needs the US as it is far more than it needs just another European leftist welfare state. Even with Barack Obama’s deliberately weakening our military, we still defend the world far more than it defends itself from the likes of Russia and China. How do you think those leftist European welfare states can afford to do it? They don’t pay for their own defense. We do.

    No, Jeff. I will fight you and your ilk to the very last drop of my blood, if it comes to that, to keep America the last beacon of freedom, instead of just another European me-too worker’s paradise.

  87. I’m seeing the assertion here that Breivik will be out after serving 21 years in jail. This is almost certainly incorrect. Norwegian law has a limitation that he can’t be sentenced to more than 21 years *in one go*, but he should expect a life sentence on the installment plan. Every five years, a parole board will meet to see if Breivik’s sentence should be be extended, commuted, or left as is, depending on factors such as new evidence coming to light, severity of original crime, mitigating circumstances, and risk of reoffending. I have every reason to believe that in Breivik’s case, the meeting will take about thirty seconds before deciding on extension. (The only plausible alternative I can see is that the committee concludes he’s insane after all and gets him moved from imprisonment in jail to imprisonment in mental asylum)

  88. I was born here, I grew up here, my allegiance is to this country so I want the best for it and its citizens.

    Even if you have to force what you believe is best on them?

  89. @ Winter

    Yes, they’re humans; but their minds work in a way that’s fundamentally different from the way most human minds work. They’re not to blame for their condition, but that doesn’t reduce their dangerousness. Like rabid dogs.

    > Yeah, the Aztecs had similar ideas about the worth of human lives.

    I don’t think that’s an accurate portrayal of my views. I oppose sacrifice to any god, be it of animals or of humans; and I generally abhor violence. That’s exactly why I advocate neutralizing psychopaths: so they don’t inflict violence on those who are harmless or nearly harmless. Therefore, like our host, I sympathize with Jay Maynard and the reasoning behind the death penalty even though I’m not comfortable with that institution.

    And what I said about methods was not a narrow reference to methods of execution; I was talking about any way to deal with irredeemable criminals, including life imprisonment and commitment.

    @ ESR

    > I’m opposed to the death penalty myself, because I think it gives the state a power it shouldn’t have.

    I’d like to know your thoughts on this. What powers do you think the State should have?

    Or, to put it differently: IIUC, you’re an anarchist (of the right kind ;-)) who’s willing to tolerate the State’s existence because we need it to fight terrorists and the regimes that help them. What powers, at a minimum, does the State need in order to perform that function?

    And while we’re at it…

    Many years have passed since you wrote “Rethinking Imperialism” and “Islam Is At War With Us” (March 2006), not to mention the definitive version of the Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto (December 2003). All three are among my most admired writings ever*. But after all this time, don’t you feel the War on Terror has failed?
    Don’t get me wrong: I’m neither a leftist nor one of those isolationist libertarians, but maybe America-as-global-policeman should adopt a new strategy. My father initially supported the Iraq War, but has since concluded it made Iraq worse. He now maintains that Islamic countries can only be ruled either by Islamists or by secular tyrants who mostly keep the Islamists in check. Under Hussein, Iraq was at least stable; would the ISIS exist if it weren’t for the war’s chaotic aftermath?

    Sorry for making this thread stray further off-topic. If you don’t approve of that, consider these questions withdrawn and please accept my apologies; but if so, I humbly encourage you to blog about the matter at some point.

    * I’d say “favorite”, but I feel that word is frivolous and would thus trivialize the horrors those works deal with.

  90. Or, to put it differently: IIUC, you’re an anarchist (of the right kind ;-)) who’s willing to tolerate the State’s existence because we need it to fight terrorists and the regimes that help them. What powers, at a minimum, does the State need in order to perform that function?

    Eric is the victim of a rather effective propaganda campaign by the American military industrial complex. The threat of “terrorism” has been WAY oversold since 9/11 as a way to justify increased government power and surveillance and a large military in the aftermath of the Cold War. And of course because terrorism is stateless and uniformless, everyone is considered a potential threat, which means it’s treasonous to suggest that people’s communications should not be subject to monitoring and surveillanc

  91. (slip of submit button)

    …surveillance by law enforcement.

    The facts on the ground are that Islamic foreign terrorism on American or Western soil is a rare enough event that you should really be more concerned about being struck by lightning, hit by a car, or killed by one of the more lumpen members of the American right — like Dylann Roof — who meet all the criteria of a terrorist but STRANGELY ENOUGH are not categorized as such by the U.S. government, rather than worrying about the Muslims coming to getcha and rape your daughter.

    But that would not provide the government with the justification to train more troops, build more jets and tanks, and expand police powers over the people. So the chorus from the government has been “beware the terrorists” and “trust us, we’ll protect you from the terrorists” and the media has joined right in in harmony with this message.

    (Pop quiz: In 2004 The Guardian published a leaked DoD memo indicating the gravest threat to national security. What was that threat? Give up? The answer: global warming. Why we don’t hear much about GW as national security threat is left as an exercise.)

  92. @Jorge
    “They’re not to blame for their condition, but that doesn’t reduce their dangerousness. Like rabid dogs.”

    Wrong metaphor. They are humans and should be treated as such.

    @Jorge
    “I was talking about any way to deal with irredeemable criminals, including life imprisonment and commitment.”

    If you have “containment” for life, there is no need to murder these people. Unless you care so little about human life that you murder them to save some money. But if you are that inhumane, why are we talking about “justice” and “freedom”?

    @Jorge
    “He now maintains that Islamic countries can only be ruled either by Islamists or by secular tyrants who mostly keep the Islamists in check.”

    You are confusing Muslims and Arabs. Turkey, Malysia and Indonesia are all Islamic countries that do not conform to this simplistic mold.

  93. The problem with containment for life is that psychopaths are really, really good at finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the systems used to contain them, which are comprised mainly of humans. And there is virtually no hope as yet of rehabilitating a psychopath by mental-health means; they lack the capacity to feel certain emotions as a structural feature, so treating them doesn’t do much good and just serves to put the doctors and nurses responsible for the treatment in their crosshairs.

    We had a recent high-profile case of a successful systemic exploit with David Sweat and Richard Matt, prison escapees who charmed a female warden into providing them with their tools of escape.

    Ultimately I don’t support the death penalty, but it has in its favor being an absolutely foolproof way of once and for all neutralizing the most dangerous criminals.

  94. @Jeff
    “We had a recent high-profile case of a successful systemic exploit with David Sweat and Richard Matt, prison escapees who charmed a female warden into providing them with their tools of escape.”

    That is why you should lock them up in psychiatric care with special personell. The mentally ill do not belong in a normal prison.

    Although these two were dangerous, they did not seem more dangerous than many “normal” criminals. I did not hear anything about them being serial killers who randomly kill dozens of people.

  95. @Jeff
    “Ultimately I don’t support the death penalty, but it has in its favor being an absolutely foolproof way of once and for all neutralizing the most dangerous criminals.”

    Actually, when I look at the people actually executed in the USA, I often ask myself whether they are the kind of people you talk about. The death penalty seems to hit mostly losers with low intelligence and a bad lawyer.

  96. Um, winter: I’m pretty sure Matt and Sweat were actually relatively sane. Thus your argument in that post doesn’t really apply to them.
    And by foolproof he didn’t so much mean that it was applied to the right people as that it’s kind of impossible to escape and go on a killing spree if you’re dead.

  97. @Alex K.:
    Jeff Read appears to simultaneously believe that (a) corporations are composed of people and (b) corporations do not share the goals of the people that compose them.

    Isn’t this obvious, at least for large corporations? Large corporations are mostly composed of people–their employees–who have little or no ownership interest in the corporation, and whose goals are therefore not aligned with the corporation’s goals. Even employees who have a significant ownership interest–CEOs and other top executives who get compensated with large grants of stock or stock options–often don’t have goals aligned with the corporation’s goals; how else could they so often get away with taking their corporations into bankruptcy (or the functional equivalent) without suffering severe penalties?

    in those circumstances I will want to know if you believe that any large organization is immune to the same social morphology

    I would say not, at least not with corporate governance working the way it does today. One of the main problems I see is that so much stock in corporations is held by mutual funds instead of individuals, and the funds trade those stocks on a short time horizon; in other words, basically nobody nowadays is interested in the performance of a corporation’s stock over a long time horizon. Corporate governance can’t really work in that kind of situation, since it depends on people being willing to sacrifice short-term gains for long-term objectives.

    if no such organization is immune, we need to start remodeling society to immediately de-power all such organizations

    Got any ideas on how to do that?

  98. >I’d like to know your thoughts on this. What powers do you think the State should have?

    None.

    You have misunderstood the case I was arguing. But it’s not something I’m going to try to explain in blog comment; it needs an an essay-length blog post, which I don’t have time to write and won’t in the near future. You’ll learn why soon.

  99. I’ve looked at what would be involved in inserting native IDs for the target system after surgery. […] For systems that use chained hash IDs (git, hg, monotone) effectively impossible. The problem is that you don’t get to know what those hashes are going to be until after the repo write.

    So you either need to duplicate the VCSs’ ID functions, or write a partial fast-import file, import it, then query the VCS for the native ID of the commit this action tag refers to—then continue writing the fast-import stream until you reach the next commit which has a reference pointing to it.

    In other words, switching from fast-import to fast-import-with-roadblocks.

  100. The latter assumes that they are unambiguous, i.e. always point one and only one revision.

    They don’t always, though collisions ought to be rare in practice.

    My own https://github.com/jcsalomon/patient/commits/ is a deliberate counter-example, but as Jakub Narebski pointed out elsewhere on this thread, cherry-picked commits will have this issue naturally.

    There’s no problem in principle with git throwing an error if a reference is ambiguous.

    Git does this already (or should): most commit references use only the first 7 or so hex digits of the SHA, so ambiguity is already possible and must be dealt with.

  101. Hope is on the horizon though: I hear Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary in the Democratic race.

    Yes, those of us hoping for a Republican victory take this as a very hopeful sign indeed.

  102. Every five years, a parole board will meet to see if Breivik’s sentence should be be extended, commuted, or left as is, depending on factors such as [].

    The parole board can extend a sentence? I suppose that makes a sort of sense, but the logic behind it feels wrong to me. It’d be much more honest to deliver a life sentence, and have a parole board decide on whether to shorten the sentence—or deny the possibility up front, in some cases. But then they wouldn’t get to feel smug about having a more enlightened sentencing régime than the States’.

  103. When I look at the people actually executed in the USA, I often ask myself whether they are the kind of people you talk about [“the most dangerous criminals” —JCS]. The death penalty seems to hit mostly losers with low intelligence and a bad lawyer.

    Criminals, even the most dangerous ones, are generally “losers with low intelligence”. And in many death penalty cases, the evidence for the crime is so overwhelming that there’s not much the defense can do, so it’s hard to distinguish good lawyers from bad.

    Also, I don’t know how closely you follow this sort of news so I cannot guess whether your estimation is accurate or is based on the cherry-picked cases that the news agencies report on.

  104. >Criminals, even the most dangerous ones, are generally “losers with low intelligence”.

    This is an adverse-selection effect. Criminal tendencies plus intelligence goes into politics, where robbery and murder are praised and rewarded provided you can wrap them in the right bafflegab.

  105. JC: “Yes, those of us hoping for a Republican victory take this as a very hopeful sign indeed.”

    We should be very careful what we wish for. More than a few of us said that about Barack Obama in 2008.

  106. The NIH is politicized, so anything it has to say about subjects with social implications is automatically suspect.

    And studies like that never control for the disparity in rates of actually committing the crimes in question.

  107. @Jay
    The NIH produces data, you only produce accusations. Give data thar shows race and SES are not biasing death penalties. There must be people that have published about the supposed grave shortcommings of this study.

    Did you read the Guardian piece? Have you anything ither to say than that ot must be lies becaise you do not like the message?

    There are so many supporters of the death penalty, they must have been able to produce data that the judgements are fair and unbiased. Show me such data.

  108. Doing repo conversion by git filter-branch sure is… interesting. Good part is that multiple filter-branch applied to different branches converge parent commits to the same id, by virtue of git’s commit id scheme.

    When we moved from subversion, no one had any idea of specialized tools for that purpose. Sourceforge in all its mediocrity puts git-svn-id in all the commits. No one expected the necessity of knowing more of VCS before engaging in the project to begin with.

  109. @Winter “There are so many supporters of the death penalty, they must have been able to produce data that the judgements are fair and unbiased. Show me such data.”

    That’s like asking for a unicorn. There is no social system of any complexity which is “fair and unbiased”, because these systems are comprised of human decisions, and humans are imperfect. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that a social system or doctrine is wrong, in and of itself.

    Reality is actually a series of tradeoffs, and the death penalty trades the possibility of an injustice, which we hope to make a very low probability, with the increase in deterrence, lessened costs involved in the upkeep of very bad people who cannot be allowed into society, lowered risk of escape/release followed by recidivism, and even, yes, the feeling of justice being done when some people are so utterly vile that no lesser punishment can ever be enough. There is even the closure for loved ones of victims, which in my mind is a real consideration as well. The deterrence and anti-recidivism effects, especially the former, may also save more lives than are lost via injustice, and the lives saved are -just- as innocent. Please don’t bother telling me that I’m wrong because we didn’t -murder- those future victims – following policies in which, in aggregate, there are going to absolutely be innocent victims still puts the blood on your hands.

    I also realize that there are some types of violent criminals who cannot, or are not, deterred. But that doesn’t mean that deterrence doesn’t occur, or is not an important factor.

    With that said, I share with ESR a basic distrust of the State in this situation, and if I’m to be convinced against the death penalty, this would probably be the way to go about it. But for now, I feel that there are situations where the criminal is sufficiently evil as to warrant death. I was -not- upset when the Boston Marathon bomber was sentenced to die, for example.

  110. @david
    “Reality is actually a series of tradeoffs, and the death penalty trades the possibility of an injustice, which we hope to make a very low probability, with the increase in deterrence,”

    I just showed you data that the US system is very biased wrt race and SES. This is not “we hope it is a very low probability”, but “it is obvious to everyone who cares to look”. Their is no real evidence of deterence. The believe that the death penalty reduces crime is at the same level as the believe that ripping out the beating heart of a man will make the sun rise again. It is just the magical thinking of huma sacrifices.

    And mind you, when I hear the proponents, it is obvious to me that they absolutely do not care about any evidence of deterence. The want to have someone killed.

  111. @Winter

    I’m sorry, but unless you establish that violent crime rates are neutral with respect to race and SES, then I have to say that its a non-sequitur. And the differences are stark. Here is a study from Columbia University on the subject: http://www.columbia.edu/~rs328/Homicide.pdf

    As for deterrence, not only does ordinary common sense say that people consider penalties to at least some degree, but so do many studies. Here is a nice summary article by the left-leaning Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/11/AR2007061100406.html

    To call this basic tenant of human nature “magical thinking” seem bizarre to me.

    And the “They want to have someone killed.” strikes me as simple ad hominem. How do you know what they care about? You seem to take the tack of most Leftists in this regard: you regard views opposing your own as not merely wrong, but evil.

  112. @David
    “I’m sorry, but unless you establish that violent crime rates are neutral with respect to race and SES, then I have to say that its a non-sequitur.”

    As all the numbers given take crime rates into account. More important, whether or not an individual case leads to the death penalty should be independent of race and SES (the NIH study). When people get the capital punishment because others with the same race and SES are more likely to commit crimes, then that is the definition of racial/SES bias.

    So your remark is a non-sequitur.

    @David
    “Here is a nice summary article by the left-leaning Washington Post:”

    The WP left-leaning? That is news to me. Anyhow, you have missed a number of studies taking this link apart:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cassy-stubbs/the-death-penalty-deterre_b_52622.html
    Not using states without the death penalty as a control does seem odd to me. But I would have to read the original study to see what it actually does. You did not even notice the bias in the US executions and came with lame excuses (“crime bias”, gime a break, read the links). So I do not think counter evidence matters.

    Given that jurisdictions without the death penalty have almost universal lower murder rates than those that do have the death penalty, I have difficulty believing the death penalty really helps.

    @David,
    “How do you know what they care about? ”

    I don’t, but they never ask for evidence of deterrence. But they often do howl in anger when a suspect has to be released because his guilt could not be proven.

  113. >The WP left-leaning? That is news to me.

    Not news to anyone who lives in the U.S. The establishment media began to drift to the left of the U.S. political median during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and the trend has accelerated since. This has been repeatedly confirmed in large-scale psephological surveys by outfits like the Pew Foundation.

    One reason U.S. politics has become much more contentious since the mid-2000s is because until the Internet broke the establishment media’s near-monopoly on the dissemination of news and opinion, most Americans thought their private opinions put them in a minority pretty far to the right of the establishment-media-defined “center”.

    The recent re-invigoration of American conservatism comes from the collapse of that illusion – most people, even self-defined centrists, now understand that the mainstream media is pretty far left of center. What differs is that American centrists consider this an accidental background phenomenon like the weather, generally not worthy of a lot of fuss, while conservatives attribute it to an evil conspiracy.

  114. Eric, the American political spectrum works differently from much of the rest of the world. “Far-left” in the USA might be “center-right” in the Netherlands.

    As to why there is a “liberal bias” in the first place, a number of studies have shown that liberals are, on average, better informed than conservatives; so it’s possible that being as well-informed as a journalist ought to be induces an ideological drift leftward of the American median.

  115. @Jeff Read –

    a number of studies have shown that liberals are, on average, better informed than conservatives

    [Citation Needed]

    the American political spectrum works differently from much of the rest of the world

    “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

    ? Robert A. Heinlein

  116. @John Bell
    “The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. ”

    I am afraid that there is more to politics than this. There is also a divission between people who think we are all in the same boat and those that think we sit each on our own raft.

    It is the old biblical question “Am I my brothers keeper?”.

  117. @Winter –

    > It is the old biblical question “Am I my brothers keeper?”.

    This presumes [1] that my brother wants to be kept, and [2] that it is my duty to “keep” him, i.e., impose my desires and/or will on his personal sovereignty.

    Keepers are for zoos.

    Clearly you fall into the first division (“those who want people to be controlled”).

    Don’t misunderstand me — I will and have helped people out – when they asked for it, and I was in a position to do them some good without materially harming myself, or those I had already committed to support. (It does no one any good if I bleed myself white, in money or time, to help far-off starving children if my own family suffers thereby.)

    But I will fight *to my last dying gasp* any effort to compel me to help someone, whether because of “the vote of the people” or “my religious duties” or any other collectivist nonsense.

  118. @John Bell
    “This presumes [1] that my brother wants to be kept, and [2] that it is my duty to “keep” him, i.e., impose my desires and/or will on his personal sovereignty.”

    [1] Some “brothers” and “sisters” do want to be kept. This is the whole thing about people in need.

    [2] If you accept you have duties, some might involve “keeping” your brothers. This boils down to whether we are all in the same boat, and have a duty to keep it afloat or are we each on our own raft perfectly isolated from all the other rafts.

    @John Bell
    “i.e., impose my desires and/or will on his personal sovereignty.”

    No, the original story was pretty clear. Kain had killed Abel and when god asked him where his brother was he replied “Am I my brothers keeper?” (in translation). Your interpretation of the question has nothing at all to do with the basic responsibility of each person to look after the well being of his “brothers” that this story teaches. The story is not even very religious and parallels that of the Good Samaritan. I brought this story up to illustrate that this is a very old and basic question in “politics”.

    @John Bell
    “Clearly you fall into the first division (“those who want people to be controlled”).”

    You make an unwarranted jump from a “Duty to help” to “Stalinist control”. This is about a responsibility to other people’s well being. The political expression of that responsibility is (more or less) state welfare. Your obsession with “control” has little to do with this basic concept.

    @John Bell
    “But I will fight *to my last dying gasp* any effort to compel me to help someone, whether because of “the vote of the people” or “my religious duties” or any other collectivist nonsense.”

    If you watch a baby drown in a puddle at your feet without attempting to rescue it, I think you should be jailed. In my country you would.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duty_to_rescue
    I would like to see you trying to defend you right to let babies drown needlessly in continental Europe. That promises to be an entertaining performance.

    @John Bell
    “Don’t misunderstand me — I will and have helped people out – when they asked for it,”

    I find it telling that you have to defend yourself in this way. No one was even implying that you would not help a person in need. But your position, when put into law, means that some, I expect many, persons in need would not be helped. That too is a very old story (The Good Samaritan).

  119. @Winter

    “As all the numbers given take crime rates into account.” I checked your links again. They don’t. One talks about a study in jury bias and the other in sentencing bias with respect to the race of the victim.

    Neither mentions that black folks are vastly more likely, per capita, than white folks to commit murder, and amongst those designated “white”, Hispanics are vastly more likely than those of European descent to commit murder. These facts don’t come out of a racist conspiracy, they are simply politically incorrect truths.

    Please also note that I am not attributing this to Eurocentric genetic superiority, which would be, by definition, “racist”. Cultural differences are likely to be by far the largest cause of the disparity, which would make me a “culturalist”. But actually, I just have to go where the evidence leads, which makes me a realist or empiricist. Its too bad, really, that reality so rarely accords with the fantasies of the Left.

    “Given that jurisdictions without the death penalty have almost universal lower murder rates than those that do have the death penalty, I have difficulty believing the death penalty really helps.”

    Do you even understand the difference between cause and correlation? Does it occur to you that you might have this backwards – death penalty being a social response to naturally higher murder rate for other reasons? This is like saying that penicillin is ineffective because people with penicillin in their bloodstream are more likely to be sick.

    The only valid way to measure this would be to compare murder rates within a given jurisdiction with death penalty to that of the same (or *very* similar) one without. And for the rate of death penalties given to be high enough that criminals would see it as a realistic threat if they’re caught.

    In many cases, just as the Columbia study points out, death penalties are so hard to obtain, require such a lengthy process (one that goes far beyond most criminal’s time-preference horizon – this part is well established and studied, and is deeply correlated to SES), and are used so rarely that criminals would not see it is a realistic threat for an ordinary run-of-the-mill sort of murder.

    If this is the case, it would naturally cause deterrence to be difficult to prove. However, I’m afraid it does NOT prove, or even support, your contention that there is no deterrent in death penalty. Because obviously, for any threat to deter a behavior, the threat must be both credible and timely enough to be perceived as mattering.

    Your link just says that the studies do not reach the level of rigor to prove deterrence. Here is a relevant passage from it:

    “The truth is that it might be impossible to determine a true statistical relationship between homicides and executions because the number of executions is so small compared to the number of homicides. But what we can say with certainty is that there is no legitimate statistical evidence of deterrence. ”

    Which is exactly my point. But the Columbia paper acknowledged this as well, so this is hardly a revelation. We only have enough data to generate the social-science equivalent of “anecdotal” evidence. But what we DO have, little as it must be, does point to deterrence. And deterrence is almost a given if the aggregate affect of incentives and disincentives on a population is non-zero.

    No, what we have here, Winter, is your fervent wish to *believe* that there is no deterrence, which allows you to confuse non-proof by lack of available data with *disproof*. Without ideological blinders, you’d be too smart to make that error.

  120. @Winter “I don’t, but they never ask for evidence of deterrence. But they often do howl in anger when a suspect has to be released because his guilt could not be proven.”

    I couldn’t have possibly asked for a clearer demonstration of confirmation bias in action than this, from you. Anyway, if they never ask for it, why are their studies that, statistically significant or not, purport to demonstrate it? Unless those were made by opponents of death penalty, which in fact many were.. but do you understand how -that- would undercut your position of “nothing to see here”? Its unlikely you’ll find researchers fudging data to demonstrate things they’re *against*.

  121. As Winter pointed out, in many civil-law jurisdictions you can indeed be compelled to help others. Citizens of such jurisdictions tend to be much better off on average than those of the USA –by any objective standard.

    We’re dealing with a fundamental difference of mentality here. “We’re all in the same boat” vs. “I’ve got mine”. Which tends to produce better results? Put another way, which has been the cornerstone of human society for tens of thousands of years, enabling humans to thrive in harsh environments? And which is a recent phenomenon, mere centuries old, which suits the ambitions of the ruling and merchant classes but is unknown to be viable long term (and probably isn’t given what’s been done to the environment in those centuries)?

    Society is not only real; without it, you wouldn’t be who you are. You owe society a great deal. This is the traditional African concept of ubuntu, after which the Linux distro was named. Because it took a village to raise you, the village shares in your triumphs and also in your debts.

    Collectivism is the default state of mankind. It’s how humans survive especially when the going gets rough.

    You can argue with it all you like, but it’s what produced stable human societies all over the world that last for ages.

    Oh, and “rugged individualists” didn’t settle the American West; rugged collectivists did. As a member of a party in a wagon train you were bound by the terms of the wagon-train charter, under which your duties and responsibilities to the group were specifically delineated. Oh, but you still weren’t compelled to help your fellow man. You were given a choice: help your fellow man, or be left alone in the wilderness to die.

  122. @Winter –

    I’m going to try one more time. Either we have completely incompatible assumptions about the basis for society and government, or you have deeply misunderstood what I have said.

    My starting position: I am a gregarious minarchist. I enjoy the company of other people. I want to be in the company of other compatible people, and in fact, I would be hard-pressed to live my life as a hermit. But, I want the society I live in to be organized, as much as possible, around voluntary activities, and I want the people I live with to cooperate because they want to, because it works to our mutual advantage, not because we are compelled to.

    Some of the people in my society will need help (some occasionally, some pretty much permanently because of unalterable disabilities, severe trauma, etc.) If they ask for help, I am likely to help them. I’m even likely to encourage other people to help them. I’ve participated in “charitable” groups, where we pool our resources and talents to assist people we don’t know personally. But, if they don’t ask for help, I see no reason to impose help on them.

    (Your comments about drowning babies, etc. – yes, I know that babies can’t “ask for help”. And of course I would rescue one, or give it my best attempt, even at risk of my own life. But once you grant someone enough maturity to give them “agency”, I live my life respecting that. So that’s why someone has to ask me first, before I start “doing good” all over them.)

    “Duty” to me is not what I am told I have to do, or obligated to have to do. Another Heinlein quote pretty much perfectly sums up what I think of as duty: “Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily….” (Please go read the whole thing.)

    If government (by definition, that organization that can use force to compel me to act or not act in a certain way) mandates that I have a “duty” to do something, than either [1] the society that has that government has people in it that I would not want to be associated with (since they need to be compelled to act in ways that I would hope and expect they would naturally want to), or [2] that government is run by (dominated by, makes the assumption that) I need to be told to do things “for my own good” or “the good of all”. Hence my remarks about resisting such compulsion.

    Yes, we are “all in the same boat”. (More precisely, we have a number of different boats that various ones of us share.) I would expect that those of us in it together could look around and decide (probably as a matter of enlightened self-interest) that we need to cooperate. I don’t want anyone requiring that I have to do it their way “or else”. (And don’t kid yourself about it – if it’s the government that says “something – or else”, we are ultimately talking about the use of brute force against me if I fail to do that “something”.) If and when that would occur, I would find a different society to be a part of.

  123. @Jeff Read –

    Let me fix that spelling for you:

    Cooperation is the default state of mankind. It’s how humans survive especially when the going gets rough.”

    We are social animals. We are not eusocial animals.

  124. @Winter, wrt @Bell: “If you accept you have duties, some might involve “keeping” your brothers. This boils down to whether we are all in the same boat, and have a duty to keep it afloat or are we each on our own raft perfectly isolated from all the other rafts.”

    False dichotomy. Its about whether we get to choose what rafts we (as adults) are, or stay, connected to as a matter of law. Your given options – utter isolation vs glorious collective – is something I’d rather not have any part of, and I suspect neither would John Bell.

    “If you watch a baby drown in a puddle at your feet without attempting to rescue it, I think you should be jailed. In my country you would. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duty_to_rescue

    Here you are engaged in the classical logical fallacy of confusing law with ethics. And the example is so reductive as to be unhelpful. There is no one short of a full sociopath or psychopath who would watch a baby drown in a puddle without attempting to rescue it. But that sort of thing can be covered under negligent homicide without creating an overall “duty” to help people in general.

    The problem with creating such a “duty” is, where does it end? People’s need for help is not meaningfully limited, especially if they can expect it as an entitlement. Don’t people need food? Clothing? Shelter? Affection? Education? Respect? A job with decent wages? And at what quality – shouldn’t all of these things be consistent with a life of dignity? How about, in our modern age, mobile phones and Internet service?

    Coming up with more and more pressing “needs” and “rights” is probably the great indoor sport of the last century. Where does it stop?

    Here is a principle for you: non-slavery. If I am *compelled* to give you my time, effort, or money because of your perceived needs, I am to that very extent your slave. You do not own me. At what point in my life did you suddenly get a right to my stuff?

    And just for fun, I should add that most social schemes generally take money from those with *less* on aggregate to give it to those with *more* on aggregate. That’s true, in the US, of Social Security, Medicare, and worldwide, of all minimum wage and rent control laws. The late, great Milton Friedman speaks to this point in more depth, and I shall not go into more detail at this time.

  125. @Jeff Read “Oh, and “rugged individualists” didn’t settle the American West; rugged collectivists did. As a member of a party in a wagon train you were bound by the terms of the wagon-train charter, under which your duties and responsibilities to the group were specifically delineated.”

    I don’t think you understand that you’re making John Bell’s point for him. Yes, you had responsibilities as part of a wagon train, as you do today as part of a voluntary-membership military, or even as an employee of a company. But in all of those instances, you chose to join that wagon train, military service, and/or employment contract of your own free will.

    When you are given “duties” to other people by the government, without that voluntary basis, that is an entirely different thing. You did not choose the responsibility to shoulder, you were forced into it. That enslaves you and even reduces your moral character, by denying you the privilege of having helped voluntarily.

    If you’ll forgive me waxing slightly “mushy” and philosophical here, I believe that when you follow an impulse to voluntarily help others, it actually makes you a better person, and more likely to help others in the future. But if you are forced to, it only means you feared punishment, and your character remains unimproved. Likewise, a person who *receives* help given voluntarily, without a feeling of entitlement, is likely to be far more appreciative, and far more likely to take agency in reducing the need for further help and/or being able to help in turn. On the other hand, one who receives an entitlement has no reason to be thankful, and the help would be, if anything, a disincentive towards increasing one’s own agency.

  126. > (Your comments about drowning babies, etc. – yes, I know that babies can’t “ask for help”. And of course I would rescue one, or give it my best attempt, even at risk of my own life. But once you grant someone enough maturity to give them “agency”, I live my life respecting that. So that’s why someone has to ask me first, before I start “doing good” all over them.)

    Errr… what about preventing suicide? Unless you cover this under non-vocal “ask for help”…

  127. @Jakub Narebski –

    > Errr… what about preventing suicide? Unless you cover this under non-vocal “ask for help”…

    An interesting edge case. I can envision rare but plausible scenarios in which committing suicide is a rational act. One example would be, if someone was dying of an incurable, painful or otherwise horrid, disease. Then “exiting early” might be a very sane thing to do. (I have more than a theoretical interest in this; my own father died of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, and although most cases are “spontaneous”, there is a very slight possibility that he harbored a new mutation which would start a new familial line. I would rather ingest a lethal overdose of some opioid or other CNS depressant than decline and fail over 6 months like he did.) In cases like this, someone wouldn’t be asking for help except possibly to get the right (lethal, painless) means to do so — in fact, stopping them from committing suicide would be less than helpful.

    But let’s take the more usual case of someone in the grips of severe depression or some similar mental illness, who (irrationally) thinks there’s nothing better to do than to end it all. (And I’ve had good friends who’ve died from exactly this scenario.) I would do my utmost to dissuade them, to get them whatever kind of help I could. Restrain? Physically prevent? Now I’m treading dangerously close to the line of rejecting their personal sovereignty. Don’t know how I would resolve it. I’m selfish enough (in wanting that friend to live) that I might do it “to save them from themselves” – but I think I would always remember this badly, as something I had done wrong.

    “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” and all that.

  128. I’m largely in agreement with John Bell on the suicide edge-case. I also would likely try to stop the depression fueled suicide (not the well reasoned, terminal disease sort). My self justification would probably run along the lines of “if they really want to do it, I ultimately won’t be able to stop them” as well as “if they didn’t, on some level, want to be stopped, they’d never have let me be aware of their intention.”

    I still wouldn’t feel too good about that basic violation of their personal sovereignty, though, and its only the extremity and finality of the situation that might cause me to act.

  129. @John Bell
    ““Cooperation is the default state of mankind.”

    Then I would like some examples of humans who only cooperated. Almost every human I know lives in a collective where s/he freely shares goods and time with others (family, friends, colleagues). The exceptions are generally (Very) unhappy individuals. And when I look into human history down to the first Cro-Magnons, we see people living in “collectivist” communities.

    It is just that “collectivist” is such a misleading term as you think about it as the propaganda term in politics it has become. But “collectivist” is just a simplistic description of the normal state of a functioning (extended) family in human history. (and it is simplistic, even when applied to ants)

    So Jeff was right. Humans live in collectivist groups. But the extension of these groups is not fixed and changes over time and place. If your think you freely choose your “collectivist groups”, go talk to a psychologist, she will have a good laugh.

    “Debt: The First 5000 Years” by David Graeber contains a good study of this type of relations.

    @John Bell
    “We are social animals. We are not eusocial animals.”

    Read “The meaning of human existence” by E. O. Wilson. We are as close to being eusocial as you can get without actually being it. And we are orders more social than the “normal” social animals like the other Apes or the wild canines.

    This is also a good read:
    http://eowilsonfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/the-big-read-eusocial-climbers.pdf

    @John Bell
    “But, I want the society I live in to be organized, as much as possible, around voluntary activities, and I want the people I live with to cooperate because they want to, because it works to our mutual advantage, not because we are compelled to.”

    Then you might start by investigating whether this is actually possible. Do you know of any society in human history that was utterly voluntary (for all members) and that did not enforce duties on its members? I would be very interested in such examples. I have never found any such example (and I do not mean the society of beagle breeders).

    @John Bell
    ““Duty” to me is not what I am told I have to do, or obligated to have to do.”

    I live below see level. If the pumps stop, my house will be mostly under water. Everyone here has to pay for the pumps and the maintenance of the infrastructure. That is a duty. If you do not do your duty, you will be compelled to pay up. If you do not want to, you will have to leave.

    I have always been curious about the Libertarian alternative to this. The reflex answer, privatize it, just exchanges a situation where I have a say in the matter into one where I have no say in the matter anymore.

    The extrapolation to other government services is left as an exercise for the reader.

    @John Bell
    “mandates that I have a “duty” to do something, than either [1] the society that has that government has people in it that I would not want to be associated with (since they need to be compelled to act in ways that I would hope and expect they would naturally want to), or [2] that government is run by (dominated by, makes the assumption that) I need to be told to do things “for my own good” or “the good of all”. Hence my remarks about resisting such compulsion.”

    [1] I have no need nor urge to know who else is all benefiting from the fact that I pay for the pumps that keep my feet dry. I am happy they can also live here, but this is a public good. I cannot keep my feet dry while I let them drown. We are indeed all in the same boat. When the pumps stop, we all drown together.

    [2] “for my own good” or “the good of all”. In my example, this objection is just so funny. But hey, maybe there are people who think they would be better off when they could get home by boat. At an upper floor, that is.

    @John Bell
    “I would expect that those of us in it together could look around and decide (probably as a matter of enlightened self-interest) that we need to cooperate. I don’t want anyone requiring that I have to do it their way “or else”.”

    We did, and we created the nation state. And in any society, the actions of one individual can harm the life and well being of others. In my example, if people do not pay their share for the running of the pumps, others have to pay more. In the end, the system would break down and we all drown.

    I understood that this was exactly what happened in New Orleans. Too many people did not want to pay for the required strengthening of the levies, so the whole city drowned.

    @John Bell
    “I can envision rare but plausible scenarios in which committing suicide is a rational act. One example would be, if someone was dying of an incurable, painful or otherwise horrid, disease.”

    We have voluntary euthanasia. In your example, the person can ask a doctor to actively end her/his life. There are procedures to ensure this is the only remaining option and voluntarily. Personally, I think it is too restrictive, but it works.

  130. @David Isecke
    “False dichotomy. Its about whether we get to choose what rafts we (as adults) are, or stay, connected to as a matter of law. Your given options – utter isolation vs glorious collective – is something I’d rather not have any part of, and I suspect neither would John Bell.”

    It is not a dichotomy, it is a spectrum. And a spectrum every society will have to seek a position on.

    @David Isecke
    “Here you are engaged in the classical logical fallacy of confusing law with ethics.”

    I was describing existing law. Ii is the law in many countries and has been for quite some time.

    @David Isecke
    “And the example is so reductive as to be unhelpful. There is no one short of a full sociopath or psychopath who would watch a baby drown in a puddle without attempting to rescue it. But that sort of thing can be covered under negligent homicide without creating an overall “duty” to help people in general.”

    No, it is not covered by “homicide” in any form as the “Duty to rescue” covers people who do NOTHING. Creating a crime of “X by negligence”, you are simply installing “Duty to rescue” by another name. I chose this example because it is clear and unambiguous. But if you refuse the “Duty to rescue”, you defend the right of this person to just watch the baby drown.

    @David Isecke
    “The problem with creating such a “duty” is, where does it end? People’s need for help is not meaningfully limited, especially if they can expect it as an entitlement. ”

    “Slippery slope” fallacy. This law has been in effect for generations in quite a number of countries. Limiting this law has never ever been a problem. Your other “funny” examples show you did not even make an effort to think about it. So, if you cannot get any real arguments instead of some rhetorical hand waving, I must conclude that you do not have rational arguments.

    @David Isecke
    “When you are given “duties” to other people by the government, without that voluntary basis, that is an entirely different thing.”

    Government is just one aspect of society. Nation states have delegated enforcing rules and duties to government institutions. Down to the dawn of time, enforcing rules and duties was the task of the (tribal and clan) Chiefs.

    There is no dichotomy between “society” and “government”. The “Government” is just the institution that governs the affairs of society.

  131. @David Isecke
    “I checked your links again. They don’t. One talks about a study in jury bias and the other in sentencing bias with respect to the race of the victim.”

    This is not the place to introduce you to probability calculations. However, if the conviction of a given suspect is more probable for one race/SES category than another (with the same facts, be it suspect of victim race) then this already takes into account the biases in crime rates. If you do not understand this, I suggest you go looking for a course on Bayesian statistics.

    @David Isecke
    “Do you even understand the difference between cause and correlation?”

    Yes.

    @David Isecke
    “Does it occur to you that you might have this backwards – death penalty being a social response to naturally higher murder rate for other reasons?”

    That was obvious. Why do you bring this up? It just shows that the death penalty is at best a very, very ineffective deterrent. If the objective was really to reduce crime rates, there are libraries full of more effective solutions. But as I wrote, the objective is not to reduce crime rates, it is to kill people.

    @David Isecke
    “and are used so rarely that criminals would not see it is a realistic threat for an ordinary run-of-the-mill sort of murder.”

    So why continue with it? Unless any person killed is considered a win.

    @David Isecke
    “But what we DO have, little as it must be, does point to deterrence. And deterrence is almost a given if the aggregate affect of incentives and disincentives on a population is non-zero.”

    There is a rule in statistics: not significant is not found.

    So, this study does not point to deterrence as it is not really found. The “evidence” is so weak, if it applied to toothpaste, you could not even convince anyone that it was safe for use. And with these hunches, you want to kill people?

    I would like to end with a citation from Amnesty International which sums up my position very well:
    The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it.

    https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/death-penalty/

  132. @David Isecke
    “But what we DO have, little as it must be, does point to deterrence. And deterrence is almost a given if the aggregate affect of incentives and disincentives on a population is non-zero.”

    I forgot.

    How can the threat of a possible death penalty be a deterrent for a man who fights in a gang where his chances of surviving the battles for 10 years is less than 30%? Or a “terrorist” who is willing to blow himself up?

    The same for people on a shooting rampage. Most of them kill themselves anyway or expect to be shot by the police.

  133. Well, Winter, I must say that I admire your passion. I am not sure I really have the time to go into the number of fallacies you have put forth. I certainly would if I thought your mind open enough to be educated. You strike me as a strange paradox, one with clear intelligence who is somehow unable to apply it against one’s own biases. Of course you are not alone in this. True Believers are capable of the most extraordinary mental gymnastics in support of their views, but tend to share your ability to subject those views themselves to any sort of logical criticism, or to even to comprehend opposing views.

    Since I don’t plan to write a book here, I will forgo the traditional quote-response format for now, and simply address what I see as categories of error.

    1) With John Bell, you are fixating on collectivism, placing every category of cooperation, voluntary or otherwise, under its umbrella. Yet its the “voluntary or otherwise” part, which you blur, which we consider the important point. None of us are arguing against voluntary collectivism (things like voluntary membership military or duties incurred by forming a family). In this way, you are engaging in a straw man fallacy.

    2) When you do address the voluntary vs. involuntary issue, you then argue historical impossibility. A mere three hundred years ago, you could have made precisely the same argument in favor of chattel slavery and/or serfdom and against the concept of Democracy. But clearly you believe in the perfectibility of society in other spheres, what makes human liberty so different? And then you compound this uneven standard by essentially arguing that a -totally- voluntary society has never existed, creating yet another straw man. This is not a standard by which you’d find anything you believe in, from democracy to socialism, being able to pass muster.

    This tells me that you simply -cannot- be convinced on the concept of liberty. All you need do is ask for a standard of proof and evidence that could not possibly be provided, and that you would never accept as necessary for your own views (which would also have failed).

    3) This modus operandi then carries to your arguments with me. Deterrence: its very simple – there has not been enough death penalty to allow for even the possibility of statistical significance in the US. There certainly has been worldwide – for example, countries that execute those who speak out against the regime tend to produce extremely quiet populations. Are you hearing a lot of dissent coming out from within North Korea?

    Now I am obviously not arguing in favor of executing political foes. I’m just saying that deterrence is a thing.

    You then give absurdities like taking about gang members with very short life expectancies (classic VERY high time-preference people), people on a shooting rampage, and suicide bombers. Yes, obviously those are categories of people who would be difficult to deter (though conceal-carry might deter the gang members, as that -does- fit within their time preference horizon: they start shooting and a bystander might take them out), but you are smart enough to realize that they describe only a very small proportion of murderers in the US and also a very small proportion of murders in the US. That says nothing about deterrence in general, other than “Ha! But what about the tiny percentage it doesn’t work on!”

    Given your clear intelligence, I cannot tell if this mode of argumentation is intentionally dishonest or merely a manifestation of such extreme cognitive bias that you cannot see the flaw.

    4) Alright, I’ll quote one thing. “There is a rule in statistics: not significant is not found.” How absurd! (Even more so as you then turn that magically into “doesn’t exist”.) No, not significant simply means “not proven”, not “not found”. Not proven could be because it doesn’t exist, or it could be because there is not enough data to establish it with the desired degree of confidence. That latter category is where deterrence lies, which is normally the category where scientists would desire a larger study. You have enough knowledge of statistics to know the difference, and yet you go ahead and blithely make these stupid comments.

    And this is the sort of thing that convinces me that your mind is utterly closed. You will accept nothing short of incontrovertible proof that your views may be mistaken (a standard you do not apply to your own views), and in fields like social science and economics, that do not allow for incontrovertible proofs of ANY views. By doing this, you can simply ignore any evidence or logic that points towards other ideas being more accurate – they’re simply not incontrovertible enough. I’m afraid this does NOT make you correct.

    PS: please don’t bother sending more Amnesty International links about death penalty. They have a clear horse in that race.

  134. @David
    “You strike me as a strange paradox, one with clear intelligence who is somehow unable to apply it against one’s own biases.”

    When this happens to me, I try a different approach. I toy with the thought that the other party might have a point. It might also help to inform yourself about the world of the other.

    I find that Libertarians are wont to bring up problems we do not have to justify policies that in our (ample) experience lead to disasters of biblical proportions. If you could target a problem we do suffer from and suggest a solution that has shown to work, we might be persuaded. As it is, it is just tiresome.

    @David
    “1) … Yet its the “voluntary or otherwise” part, which you blur, which we consider the important point.”

    Any guess how many of your compatriots made a conscious choice to share the country with you? On the internet you can share your world with whomever you want. In the real world you have neighbors and relatives that you did not chose. You still have to live with them. That is called “Society”. Refusing to deal with them will not make them go away.

    @David
    “voluntary membership military”

    That is an option: volunteering to give all your freedom away. The only place where you have less freedom than in the military is in jail.

    @David
    “2) When you do address the voluntary vs. involuntary issue, you then argue historical impossibility. A mere three hundred years ago, you could have made precisely the same argument in favor of chattel slavery and/or serfdom and against the concept of Democracy.”

    Slave free and democratic societies have been around for some time. Europe had not seen chattel slavery on its soil since the middle ages. Self governance has been around from before the Magna Charta.

    Before you try to abolish all governments, it might be safe to first show that you can actually build such a “voluntary” society. Our previous experiences with such attempts on European soil did not end well.

    @Daivd
    “3) This modus operandi then carries to your arguments with me. Deterrence: its very simple – there has not been enough death penalty to allow for even the possibility of statistical significance in the US.”

    So you can do two things, either you try to kill thousands of people just to make an impression, and then look whether it works, or you can say to yourself why bother with evidence and kill those criminals anyway.

    @David
    “Yes, obviously those are categories of people who would be difficult to deter”

    But these are exactly the people you want to deter. So, yes, maybe the death penalty might work to deter people, but only those who are not the problem to begin with. I doubt even that, but that seems to be your position now.

    @David
    “4) Alright, I’ll quote one thing. “There is a rule in statistics: not significant is not found.” How absurd! (Even more so as you then turn that magically into “doesn’t exist”.) No, not significant simply means “not proven”, not “not found”.”

    In my book, when you cannot prove something scientifically, you have not found it. It might be there, but you did not find it. When formulating evidence based policies an effect does not exist until proven otherwise, not proven=not found. Think of medical drugs. If you cannot prove that the drug is save and works, you should not prescribe it. (Fucking for virginity, Fighting for peace, Killing against murder, that kind of thing)

    So, in my book, If you cannot prove that killing people reduces crime, you should not make that a policy. As many countries have been able to reduce crime rates far below that of the Death-Penalty states without using capital punishment, there must be other efficient and proven policies that reduce crime rates.

    To be honest, I think you should not kill people for any reason than self defense.

    @David
    “And this is the sort of thing that convinces me that your mind is utterly closed.”

    Before I hurdle such accusations against others, I always stop to think about this old proverb: “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”. I am an atheist, but I still take this quote to hearth. Maybe you might have a moment of self reflection?

    @David
    ” You will accept nothing short of incontrovertible proof that your views may be mistaken”

    Before I start murdering people, I think you might like to have some better threshold than 5%. Say, 0.1% in a well designed study (they are possible, if you make an effort). I would still have moral objections to the death penalty, but even at 1% I would stop arguing that it does not work.

    @David
    “PS: please don’t bother sending more Amnesty International links about death penalty. They have a clear horse in that race.”

    When it comes to liberty and freedom of thought, you do seem to talk the talk, but it is organizations like Amnesty International that walk the walk. They are the ones who do the difficult and dangerous work while you seem to indulge in arm-chair philosophy.

    Anyhow, I chose this quote because it summarizes my thought and I referenced Amnesty to give credit where credit is due.

  135. @Winter

    Ok, so let’s see:

    “I find that Libertarians are wont to bring up problems we do not have to justify policies that in our (ample) experience lead to disasters of biblical proportions.”

    Yes, I understand that a lack of liberty is not seen, by you, as a problem. But I don’t think we have ample experience of liberty leading to disasters of biblical proportions, unless you are thinking of the tragedy of the commons, which is when there is no enforcement of property rights. Enforcing contracts and property rights IS a legitimate function of government, as is agreed by virtually anyone who calls themselves “libertarian”. But can you provide other examples of disasters of biblical proportions created by too much freedom?

    “Any guess how many of your compatriots made a conscious choice to share the country with you? ”

    Living with them is fine, but it doesn’t follow that I owe them something. Nor, for that matter, that they automatically owe -me- something. That seems to be the area where you are deaf to what we are *actually* saying, as opposed to what your straw man is saying.

    And let’s also not get crazy here. People who need immediate emergency care or people who are genuinely unable to care for themselves should be cared for, and out of the public pocket if necessary. I shant allow a quest for some sort of intellectual purity drive me into a position of lunacy. What I object to is the idea that co-membership in society == positive obligation being an automatic assumption. There are edge cases where it holds, but making it the general case is injurious to human dignity and liberty.

    “That is an option: volunteering to give all your freedom away. The only place where you have less freedom than in the military is in jail.”

    I truly don’t think you get this one, and I’m not sure how to make you understand. When someone freely enters the military, they know what they are getting into. The uniform code of military justice is not a state secret. I would, however, object to a draft (except under very extraordinary circumstances, where the nation is under existential threat from invaders).

    “n my book, when you cannot prove something scientifically, you have not found it. It might be there, but you did not find it. When formulating evidence based policies an effect does not exist until proven otherwise, not proven=not found. Think of medical drugs. If you cannot prove that the drug is save and works, you should not prescribe it. (Fucking for virginity, Fighting for peace, Killing against murder, that kind of thing)”

    Here you go off the deep end. This kind of language sophistry is what allows us to slip from “cannot prove” straight to “no evidence” and “does not exist” and still appear plausible, which can then be used as a perfect counterargument to *any* policy that is not fully enough implemented to show statistical significance, whether its one you would agree with or not.

    No meaning is lost if we stick to “not proven”, and that formulation then leads us to ask “why not?” which is the correct thing to ask. Your way, on the other hand, asks nothing and leaps straight to your desired conclusion, which in this case is that deterrence has absolute zero effectiveness. You have no basis for -that- claim, and using this slippery sort of language to pretend you do is something close to sophistry. Repeat yourself as much as you like, but “not proven” is NOT the same thing as “no evidence”. The point of “statistical significance” is an arbitrarily drawn line on a spectrum of evidential strength, whereas “no evidence” clearly implies an evidential strength of zero, which is how you get to make your slippery leap of faith.

    “But these are exactly the people you want to deter. So, yes, maybe the death penalty might work to deter people, but only those who are not the problem to begin with. I doubt even that, but that seems to be your position now.”

    That’s bizarre even for you. I want to deter ALL murderers, not just suicidal ones or ones with a two-way radio with Allah. If I “only” deter 90% of murderers, then its still deterrence and, on that level, worth doing. Heck, if I only deter *20%* of murderers, then its still deterrence and, on that level, worth doing. Why do you think that the murderers who could be deterred by a death penalty are “not the problem”?

    “Before I hurdle such accusations against others, I always stop to think about this old proverb: “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”. I am an atheist, but I still take this quote to hearth. Maybe you might have a moment of self reflection?”

    Indeed? Please tell me what illogical mental gymnastics you detect in me that indicate that my mind is closed. Logical errors? Straw man arguments?

    As I mentioned upthread, just because I am arguing in favor of some points used by those supporting a death penalty, that does not mean that *I* do. I still have my doubts about whether the State should have that sort of power, so I’m a bit agnostic on the subject. But I accord the pro-death penalty advocates enough respect to actually listen to their points, and in some cases agree with them. Deterrence is one such point. It is obviously NOT absolute, as you are at pains to point out, but I would argue that it is almost certainly non-zero. Humans respond to incentives and disincentives – not always and not each incentive – but overall and in the aggregate. But of course, it is important to note that there are -many- incentives and disincentives that pull on people, so comparisons could only be validly made against “what would have been the case otherwise”.

    Suicidal people and people whose time preference horizon is shorter than the time it would take for death penalty to matter are clearly not going to be deterred by a death penalty. But obviously most people are -not- suicidal, even if they are homicidal, and quite a few would-be murderers do have longer time preferences. Of course, murderers may think they will probably not get caught, but it would be illogical to assume that they assign getting caught to be a zero probability.

    Naturally there are tradeoffs. The more consistently the death penalty is applied in capital cases, and the more speedy the executions, the more deterrence they would have, and therefore the more would-be victims saved, but also the more likely also that an innocent person would be executed.

    Here you get into what the late, great French economist Frederic Bastiet called “the Seen and the Unseen”. When someone dies unjustly because of an execution, that is clearly seen by those paying attention. But it is impossible to see or count the murder victims who were not murdered because their would-be murderers were deterred. This leads people, and sadly usually Leftists, to assign the unseen cost a value of zero and only focus on the seen costs, even if the unseen cost is, in reality, far greater than what the seen would be.

    You assuming that there is no deterrence is your own special way to assign the unseen cost to zero, because it cannot be “proven”. But unseen costs, by their nature, can NEVER be proven. How do you prove that someone would have been murdered, but wasn’t? Unseens can only be seen by their shadow – numbers that would appear in aggregate, and then generally only visible if the policy differences are stark enough and affect enough people. That may not be the case for death penalty deterrence if, say, the death penalty is not applied enough or in a timely enough manner. But that does NOT mean that unseen costs do not happen. They absolutely do.

    And that is, I suspect, the very reason you accuse libertarians of solving problems that “don’t exist”. We have trained ourselves to see Unseen costs. But just because you don’t see them, and just because they are difficult to prove by their very nature, doesn’t mean that they are not there.

    “Before I start murdering people, I think you might like to have some better threshold than 5%. Say, 0.1% in a well designed study (they are possible, if you make an effort). I would still have moral objections to the death penalty, but even at 1% I would stop arguing that it does not work. ”

    Slippery language again. Executions are not murders. *Anyone* could be murdered, but to be executed, you must be duly and fairly convicted of a capital offense (and to my mind, only murder or high treason qualify as reasonable capital offenses). Of course, in jurisdictions where convictions are generally unfair or capital offenses are construed too broadly, you may begin to blur the distinction between execution and murder, but you have yet to make that case. Note, by “unfair”, in this context, I don’t mean out of some sort of racial or SE proportion, I mean “the person did not commit the act for which they were convicted”.

    The other kind of “unfair” is a separate – but worthy – discussion (I have this idea where maybe juries should not be allowed to see the plaintiffs, victims, families, etc, but would somehow have to judge based on the facts alone. I’d have to think more about how that might work. But in general, its not unjust that a black murderer of a white is executed, in a society that has a death penalty. Its unjust when a white murderer, or the murderer of a black victim *isn’t*. I want colorblind justice.)

    You may well get your 1% threshold if executions are applied consistently and quickly, without endless appeals. A year is probably a reasonable timeframe to wrap up the case and execute a murderer. Well, it isn’t in our current dysfunctional justice system, but that just means that we need to fix our justice system. If executions take place within a year of the perpetrator getting caught, that would probably deter even those gang enforcers you mentioned earlier. Of course, if you want to see some -real- deterrence, make it a week – but that would probably lead to too many unjust executions.

  136. @David
    It seems I cannot get a comment posted. They are all eaten by the system.

  137. Another try.

    @David
    “Living with them is fine, but it doesn’t follow that I owe them something. Nor, for that matter, that they automatically owe -me- something.”

    Like with the levies of New Orleans, or the running of the pumps in my neighborhood? You think no one should be forced to contribute to these?

    Also, there is this thing about “public goods” and “negative externalities” that have to be handled. On the whole, there is to my knowledge no society in the world that does not burden its members with duties, nor has there ever been one. (death and taxes are inevitable)

    @David
    “This kind of language sophistry is what allows us to slip from “cannot prove” straight to “no evidence” and “does not exist” and still appear plausible, which can then be used as a perfect counterargument to *any* policy that is not fully enough implemented to show statistical significance, whether its one you would agree with or not.”

    Sorry, but there is a misunderstanding here. I think we completely agree on this point.

    @David
    “If I “only” deter 90% of murderers, then its still deterrence and, on that level, worth doing. Heck, if I only deter *20%* of murderers, then its still deterrence and, on that level, worth doing. Why do you think that the murderers who could be deterred by a death penalty are “not the problem”?”

    Then describe to me the profile of those murderers that would be deterred by the death penalty?

    I would suppose that would only be premeditated murders, which are a minority of murders (especially if you exclude gang violence and murders sprees). So I do not see much scope for deterrence under the current policies. I think capital punishment is mainly landing with the people who would never be deterred by it, while those it might deter are very unlikely to be executed.
    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/805

    But then lets entertain your hypothesis that

    You may well get your 1% threshold if executions are applied consistently and quickly, without endless appeals. A year is probably a reasonable timeframe to wrap up the case and execute a murderer. Well, it isn’t in our current dysfunctional justice system, but that just means that we need to fix our justice system.

    OK, this could be true. That is an empirical question. There are countries that try to do this, e.g., China, and you might goo and look for evidence of deterrence.

    But this also means that the death penalty as practiced in the US now is just killing people for no proven benefit. Because the death penalty is applied without proof that it deters murderers and it is also misapplied when we look at its effectiveness as a deterrent.

    Which brings me back to my original statement: The death penalty in the USA is just human sacrifice.

    @David
    ” Please tell me what illogical mental gymnastics you detect in me that indicate that my mind is closed. Logical errors? Straw man arguments? ”

    You accused me of a closed mind. I just pointed out that I do some introspection before I hurdle such accusations at others. You seem to have misread my words. But you would know best whether you are open to the arguments of Lefties from Europe or not.

    @David
    “Slippery language again. Executions are not murders. *Anyone* could be murdered, but to be executed, you must be duly and fairly convicted of a capital offense (and to my mind, only murder or high treason qualify as reasonable capital offenses).”

    Eh, that is a very difficult argument to follow. Especially the “fairly” part in the convictions might need some elaboration in the current USA system. Actually, that was the original point: The convictions are biased to begin with.

  138. And again:

    @David
    “Yes, I understand that a lack of liberty is not seen, by you, as a problem. But I don’t think we have ample experience of liberty leading to disasters of biblical proportions, unless you are thinking of the tragedy of the commons, which is when there is no enforcement of property rights. ”

    You should better specify what we are lacking in liberty. If you mean freedom of speech and press and freedom of organization, we seem to be quite good at that. But you obviously have other things in mind.

    As of the disasters, I was more thinking of the experiments with the idea abolishing government rule and fully voluntary societies. We had some of these in Europe and they tended to end in a lot of dead bodies.

  139. @Winter “…I was more thinking of the experiments with the idea abolishing government rule and fully voluntary societies. We had some of these in Europe and they tended to end in a lot of dead bodies.”

    Really? Fully voluntary societies in Europe? I’d like to see a list of examples. The only examples of experiments I’ve seen in Europe that have resulted in a lot of dead bodies are all collectivist. (The first French Revolution, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Russia are the biggest offenders here, to be sure).

    Except maybe Medieval Iceland, Switzerland, and to a lesser extent, Great Britain. But those examples have less dead bodies than their neighbors, so they aren’t what you are referring to.

    Also: With regards to corporations being sociopaths: what do you call a corporation that has the power to kidnap and imprison people, shoot at people for breaking their rules, and even execute people? A government. I wish more pro-government anti-corporate people would understand this.

    Also, with regards to New Orleans: it’s not the Individualist example you think it is. Government was given money to build the levies, but the local government decided to spend it on other things (both governmental and graft). Even then, the levies were only supposed to be built to withstand category-3 hurricanes. (If I recall correctly, the new levies are still rated only for cat-3 hurricanes. Lesson learned, I guess…) And finally, people didn’t initially build in the lower-than-sea-level areas, in part because no one wanted to provide flood insurance for the area…but government provided incentives to build in the area, and so people did.

    In short, rather than being an Individualist failure, New Orleans is an example of what horrors can be visited on people when government gets involved.

    Would New Orleans have been so hard-hit had Invidiualists been in charge? I don’t know. But I also don’t see how they could have made things any worse than they did!

  140. @Alpheus
    Examples:
    The Commune of Paris and the French Revolution had strong anarchistic components. They were quickly eliminated. The same in the Spanish civil war of the 1930s.

    Earlier examples are more dificult to evaluate. The Münster rebellion might qualify, but we only got the victors account. There were more events like that.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Münster_Rebellion

    And then there are the thousands of peasant uprising from the beginning of the feudal times. They all had anarchistic beginnings.

    They all were eventually overtaken by well organized leaders who smothered the movements in blood. When they were not crushed by their hiearchical neighbors.

    So, before you can convince us that we should try it yet another time it might help if you gave some reassurrance that this won’t happen to us. Say, by showing that you can actually build a stable industrial urban society on anarchistic foundations.

  141. @Alpheus
    “In short, rather than being an Individualist failure, New Orleans is an example of what horrors can be visited on people when government gets involved.”

    We have more or less diked in our country, starting centuries ago, all organized by our local governments. So I will qualify this is a very ignorant remark.

    Anyhow, the locals in New Orleans refused to pay for better levies. And local government in NO was run by the locals. Maybe the federal government had simply build the levies, had they been tasked with the matter.

  142. @Alpheus
    “Except maybe Medieval Iceland, Switzerland, and to a lesser extent, Great Britain. But those examples have less dead bodies than their neighbors, so they aren’t what you are referring to.”

    They were hardly anarchistic. Iceland maybe, but they had slaves. And they were the textbook example of a marginal, low density society. Beyond Iceland, you only had Inuit. Some of them were pretty anarchistic, I suppose.

    England and Scotland were feudal, Ireland and Wales were run over by the English. Their feudal wars did result in quite a number of dead bodies. T

    he Eidgenossenschaft Helvetica has always been democratic but hardly anarchistic.

    Not really convincing examples.

  143. @Winter,

    Are you saying that because anarchists were stomped into submission, they were responsible for all that blood flowing? That’s a really odd statement to make: fighting against oppression is bad, because it forces the oppressors to oppress you even more. Yes, it might be futile, but I don’t see why those failures should be laid at the feet of anarchists. Indeed, it emphasizes even more the role that if you refuse to submit to collectivists, they will enslave or kill you.

    Or was Robespierre an anarchist? I would have to confess that I never thought of him as such, but I could be wrong.

    Additionally, there’s a certain distinction to be made between strict anarchists (who seem to want to do whatever they want–indeed, they even go so far as to deny the existence of private property) and so-called anarcho-capitalists (who insist that respecting life, liberty, and property must be the core of any society). Whereas the former strike me as the type to burn down civilization and then ask “Now what?”, the latter strike me as the type willing to loosen government control, which gives the option of tightening things up a bit if the loosening proved to be problematic, or some pro-regulation gains power and manufactures a crisis, whichever comes first. (The latter is a reason why it’s difficult to sustain “anarchy”, even when it’s shown to be working.)

    While I would favor an elimination of United States federal control over so much of our lives, I would not favor an armed revolution to do so: revolutions tend toward the collectivism that I despise, because they always open the door for someone to step in and take power.

  144. @Alpheus
    People overthrew governments and the Anarchists were always ousted next. Followed by a lot of bloodshed. Makes me a little cautious.

    I am not intetested in blame, just in results.

    @Alpheus
    “the latter strike me as the type willing to loosen government control, which gives the option of tightening things up a bit if the loosening proved to be problematic, or some pro-regulation gains power and manufactures a crisis, whichever comes first.”

    And who decides that? Sounds a lot like democracy. We already have that overhere, thank you.

  145. @Winter: “I am not intetested in blame, just in results.”

    That’s fine, but the results I see show me that while anarchists produce failed revolutions, if you really want to kill a lot of people, you need to have collectivists in power.

    “And who decides that? Sounds a lot like democracy. We already have that overhere, thank you.”

    Actually, you have to convince whoever is in power to give it up–or you have to convince the people living under some sort of regime to just ignore those who claim power over their lives. A difficult proposition, to be sure, but not impossible, and certainly easier in democratic republics. (Technically, this is even possible under dictatorships.) Sometimes it even happens spontaneously! (Hence, the existence of black markets under even the strictest of communist regimes.)

  146. @Alpheus
    “Actually, you have to convince whoever is in power to give it up–or you have to convince the people living under some sort of regime to just ignore those who claim power over their lives.”

    And that leads to better results than our elections? Can you show me some grounds to believe you? Historical evidence of some kind.

    @Alpheus
    ” if you really want to kill a lot of people, you need to have collectivists in power.”

    My country has existed for roughly 4 centuries now. Any mass killings were the result of outside force (French and German occupations). The Brits can show an even longer reign without goverment mass killings of their own subjects.

    Seems pretty impressive to me.

    @Alpheus
    “(Hence, the existence of black markets under even the strictest of communist regimes.”

    The functioning of black markets in these countries was crucial for these countries and that was recognized by the local rulers.

    And we have no Communist totalitaritan state, so I cannot see why such exmples would be relevant.

  147. @Alpheus
    “revolutions tend toward the collectivism that I despise, because they always open the door for someone to step in and take power.”

    I see the implementation of anarchism as a power vacuum that will historically be filled by the most ruthless leader that can amass a larfe following.

    That is the lesson I learned from history and contemporary global politics.

    I am afraid that I am not alone in these fears. These are fears the US Libertarians never address. Hence their lack of success outside of their sheltered enclave under the protection of the most powerful army of the world in one of the richest countries.

  148. Alpheus: If you really want to kill a lot of people, you need to have collectivists in power.

    winter: My country has existed for roughly 4 centuries now. Any mass killings were the result of outside force (French and German occupations). The Brits can show an even longer reign without goverment mass killings of their own subjects.

    I think the type of mass killings Alpheus is thinking of require not only collectivists in power, but also in power over sufficiently many people. And it may be that the Netherlands is simply not above that threshold (communication technology and cultural homogeneity are also probable factors). After all, every family is a tiny collective, and the vast majority of them likewise manage to avoid mass killings.

    Britain’s killing-free history isn’t exactly long, if I go by what I’m seeing on Wikipedia. Disregarding international conflicts and focusing only on internecine events, I see the Desmond Rebellions (1569-1583); Cromwell’s ascension (1642-1651); the Monmouth Rebellion (1685); the Jacobite Rebellions (1689-1746), and the American Revolution (1776-1781). After that, British internecine mass killing was largely supplanted by various international wars (which honestly had also been going on all along), as well as colonial conflicts, which may count as internecine, depending on how you wish to set your definitions.

    At this point I’m compelled to note that one of the arguments libertarians and anarcho-capitalists are inclined to make against collectivism is that a system of more loosely co-allied powers prevents the very sorts of large-scale killings one sees in any war, not just rebellions and civil wars. (I’m not sure I agree, but I am capable of imagining a larger group of smaller powers having many smaller wars, resulting in overall fewer deaths; I cannot prove whether this would kill fewer individuals than a smaller group of larger powers, or the other way around.)

  149. I think the type of mass killings Alpheus is thinking of require not only collectivists in power, but also in power over sufficiently many people.

    Collectivism isn’t the problem. Collectivism is how humans survive, per Wilson’s “eusocial ape” theory. And believe me he doesn’t understand the half of it. You know those gods Eric attributes to deep human firmware? He should stop thinking “BIOS” and start thinking “distributed programming running across a Beowulf cluster of human minds” and he’ll be much, much closer to the truth. Read your Jaynes, and follow it up with some Schwaller de Lubicz for deeper insight into how this works within a particular culture.

    Megadeaths arise under conditions of mass hysteria and allegiance to a megalomaniacal cult of personality. Whether the political propaganda be rightoid or leftoid is wholly irrelevant: the underlying construction of the Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin regimes, for instance is the same.

    Winter made this point before and as usual supplied facts and data to back up his claims. The right-leaners hereabouts didn’t listen and instead responded with sophistry and ad hominems, again as usual.

    Kinna like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

  150. Speaking of facts and data…

    Low IQ is a predictor of racist attitudes and conservative politics:

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/millennial-media/201304/do-racism-conservatism-and-low-iq-go-hand-in-hand

    Fox News actually has negative information content; if you watch FNC you are less informed than watching no news at all:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/study-watching-fox-news-makes-you-less-informed-than-watching-no-news-at-all-2012-5

    Liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex (mediates high-level decision making); conservatives have a larger amygdala (mediates fear):
    http://2012election.procon.org/sourcefiles/Kanai_Political_Orientations.pdf

    Conservatism is the politics of fear, ignorance, and stupidity. It’s a scientific fact.

  151. @Paul Brinkley
    “At this point I’m compelled to note that one of the arguments libertarians and anarcho-capitalists are inclined to make against collectivism is that a system of more loosely co-allied powers prevents the very sorts of large-scale killings one sees in any war, not just rebellions and civil wars.”

    That sounds like an argument that if your are not organized, you cannot start organized killing. Which, obviously, is true. There are a lot of things that you cannot do when you are not organized. For instance, keep your feet dry in a water rich environment (e.g, Bangladesh vs The Netherlands) or keep your plants wet in an arid environment (e.g., irrigation in Mesopotamia vs Israel).

    My point is that in such disorganized situations, some of the worst people will organize a following and take over the rest violently. Which is what we currently see, yet again, with IS.

    @Paul
    “Britain’s killing-free history isn’t exactly long, if I go by what I’m seeing on Wikipedia. ”

    You are probably right about the UK. I am not sure about the number of civil casualties in the Jacobite uprisings, but I did not get the impression that they included a sizable part of the Scottish population. But Cromwell is a case in point.

    In the Netherlands, I was referring to organized killings of large numbers of civilians, relative to the size of the population. Btw, this did happen in our “war of secession” against the Spanish in the 16th century. Then whole cities were looted with large numbers of casualties among civilians. This was reduced to plain open warfare with the Southern Netherlands and Spain in the first half of the 17th century, leading to the 30 year war (in Germany). By then, then Netherlands were a global superpower which occasionally did kill rather large numbers of people elsewhere. But the point was mass killings of their own population.

  152. @Jeff Read. “Conservatism is the politics of fear, ignorance, and stupidity. It’s a scientific fact.”

    This is a funny claim, considering that the only person who opposed FDR’s fearful, ignorant and stupid internment of Americans was conservative Herbert Hoover.

    Furthermore, you are disengenuous in claiming that Fox News has negative news content: CNN and MSNBC have approximately the same levels of ignorance, according to your link. I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I doubt that the differences between the three and plain ignorance is statistically significant.

    I will provide two anecdotes that illustrate my distrust in social sciences in general:

    First, I remember an individual who, looking at the studies that illustrated conservatives as “authoritarian”, had a flash of insight: change the authorities of the survey from conservative-leaning (military, religious, etc) to liberal (environmentalist, education, etc). In doing so, he discovered that liberals became authoritarian, and conservatives the rebels. To what degree are these studies of conservatives vs liberals merely studies of conservative and liberal Ivy-league psychology undergrads?

    Second, I will quote an anecdote from Feynman:

    …When I was at Cornell, I often talked to the people in the psychology department. One of the students told me she wanted to do an experiment that went something like this–it had been found by others that under certain circumstances, X, rats did something, A. She was curious as to whether, if she changed the circumstances to Y, they would still do A. So her proposal was to do the experiment under circumstances Y and see if they still did A.

    I explained to her that it was necessary first to repeat in her laboratory the experiment of the other person–to do it under condition X to see if she could also get result A, and then change to Y and see if A changed. Then she would know the the real difference was the thing she thought she had under control.

    She was very delighted with this new idea, and went to her professor. And his reply was, no, you cannot do that, because the experiment has already been done and you would be wasting time. This was in about 1947 or so, and it seems to have been the general policy then to not try to repeat psychological experiments, but only to change the conditions and see what happened.

    What I have heard from various news sources, and what I have seen when looking at the conditions of these various studies, have left me little room to be confident that things have improved since 1947.

  153. @Jeff Read. “Collectivism isn’t the problem. Collectivism is how humans survive, per Wilson’s “eusocial ape” theory….Megadeaths arise under conditions of mass hysteria and allegiance to a megalomaniacal cult of personality. Whether the political propaganda be rightoid or leftoid is wholly irrelevant: the underlying construction of the Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin regimes, for instance is the same.”

    And here is where I think individualists and collectivists tend to talk past each other. A belief in Individualism does not preclude the possibility of organizing into various groups–indeed, a belief in freedom of association implies that it’s a given. The difference is that individualists don’t try to force certain organizations.

    When looking at how megadeaths have occurred, it would be useful to tally how many of them occurred under cults of personality calling for the protection of the rights to life, liberty and property. Did Hitler call for deregulation of Germany, and the right for all Germans to believe as they wished? Did Mussolini call for the people of Italy to do their own thing? Did Stalin wish that the people would stop depending on Government, and decide for themselves the best ways to run their own factories, plant their own crops?

    I’d like to see a list of pro-liberty, respect-the-lives-of-everyone cults of personality who then, using the basis of their philosophy, cause mass deaths. The first one that comes to mind is Andrew Jackson, who led the way to the Trail of Tears, but even he did so against the ruling of the Supreme Court in favor of the Cherokee Indians (so perhaps he doesn’t really count after all). Perhaps there are others. I’d like to see how they compare with the Collectivist mass murderers.

  154. Now that I think of it, aren’t there studies that purport to show that libertarians and conservatives can typically articulate with accuracy what liberals believe, while liberals have typically have a difficult time articulating what conservatives and libertarians believe? In other words, it seems to me that those stupid, backwards-thinking conservatives and libertarians can internalize more points of view than liberals can…

    Of course, these studies are likely studies of Ivy-league psychology undergrads, so they should be taken with the same grain of salt that you should take for pretty much any sociology study, for what it’s worth…

  155. Alpheus: aren’t there studies that purport to show that libertarians and conservatives can typically articulate with accuracy what liberals believe, while liberals have typically have a difficult time articulating what conservatives and libertarians believe?

    You’re probably thinking of research done by Jonathan Haidt. I can’t find the link to it, but I’m sure he was the one who did the study.

    Meanwhile, most of the reason I see Read talking past you is that, in just the latest two comments, he assumed what he was attempting to prove, made an ad hominem attack on the other side, accused *them* of making ad hominem attacks, misinterpreted his own evidence, and ignored both evidence from the other side and common sense. I dunno why you bother responding to him, except perhaps for amusement. He’s clearly not interested in convincing anyone other than himself. (Hell, he’s not even aware of the side he’s talking to, speaking of the point you just made…)

  156. @Alpheus
    “I will provide two anecdotes that illustrate my distrust in social sciences in general:”

    The social sciences (and psychology) are working on a cleanup (its not 1947). There is currently a boon in replications, even of papers from the 19th century.

    However, the news study was not bad. And it did find quite conclusively that those who watched Fox news knew the least about foreign affairs. Even very broadly broadcasted events. MSNBC was a (distant) second.

    I don’t know about MSNBC. CNN is a decent news source, in Europe. But their coverage here has nothing in common with what you get to see in the US.

    I understand the results of Fox. They sometimes lock the Netherlands in their crosshairs. I can assure you that after watching their coverage, you know less about my country than before. But it was obvious that we were nothing but the devil to scare Fox’ audience.

    For the rest, I think conservatists are to diverse a flock to make the generalizations Jeff described.

  157. We really don’t have much in the way of the Shenpen-style European traditionalist sort of conservative here in Murka. And the more intelligent sort — your Breitbart or Hinderaker types — tend to defend Fox News. Hell, Breitbart and Hinderaker are themselves part of the same shrill propaganda machine that Fox is; they just lend a patina of braininess and academic cred to the same old Obama conspiracy theories.

    Conservatism in the USA, since the 1960s, has been largely a reactionary movement to the tenets of American liberalism: civil rights, secular humanism, dovish foreign policy, economic restrictions to protect the little guy and the environment. Individual conservatives may only object to one or two of these planks but the nature of conservative propaganda is such that they become more *open* to opposing all of them.

    Hoover predated the 1960s by a fair bit; I think he was a different sort of Republican than the kind that prevails today, in much the same manner as, say, Lincoln was.

  158. >The social sciences (and psychology) are working on a cleanup (its not 1947).

    They’ve got a long way to go. The only part where I’ve studied the sociological literature in depth – studies related to gun policy – is rotten with shoddy statistical methods, axe-grinding, and outright fraud. See http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=314 for discussion and cites.

    My limited exposure to other subfields suggests that while this one is worse than average, it is not the extreme outlier one might fondly hope.

  159. @ esr

    Glad you mention the issue of guns, ’cause I want to ask you a question about it.

    Last night I read “Guns and Me” and “A Reductio of Gun Control”. The latter begins with an insistent warning about intellectual requirements, which leads me to suspect my interpretation of the argument is too simple and, therefore, wrong. This isn’t sarcasm: I really fear I could be missing something.

    But doesn’t the argument speak for itself? It’s clearly suicidal to openly declare you’re unarmed; and if you don’t do that despite being anti-gun, you’re a hypocrite.

    If criminals cannot know a priori if a given person or household is armed or not, that might deter them from assaulting that person or household. But that uncertainty depends on the existence of “gun nuts”; the fewer “gun nuts” there are in a given area, the more confident criminals feel. So even anti-gun people benefit from those “gun nuts” they despise (especially in scenarios where they’re actually defended by one).

    BTW, I’m reminded of this bit from a-human-right.com’s quiz: “A rapist choosing between two victims (one armed, one unarmed), would prefer to… not to mess with either, as he can’t tell which one is armed.” ;-)

    Anyway… guns are designed to kill; but they can be used to prevent harm, or at least harm to innocents. Deterrence matters (as David Isecke has pointed out when discussing penalties).

    Am I missing something, Eric? Should I give up on thinking and watch more TV? :-(

  160. >Am I missing something, Eric? Should I give up on thinking and watch more TV? :-(

    Nope. You’ve followed the logic from the facts correctly. It’s the hoplophobes that are unable to think about these issues clearly.

  161. @esr
    “My limited exposure to other subfields suggests that while this one is worse than average, it is not the extreme outlier one might fondly hope.”

    So what was wrong with the Poll under discussion?

    http://publicmind.fdu.edu/2011/knowless/

    The obvious “statistical shortcoming” is that the groups are self-selected. People decide for themselves what news sources they want to consult. So there is a real possibility that it is not Fox news’ fault that their audience did not pick up the facts, but that their audience simply is (much) less likely to remember such facts.

    But having seen some of Fox news’ broadcasts about things I was well informed about, I can say that I am not surprised that Fox’ viewers are largely ignorant about the world. Even an intelligent person who was eager to absorb everything about these subjects would not have gained anything from watching Fox’ coverage.

  162. @Jorge Dujan
    “If criminals cannot know a priori if a given person or household is armed or not, that might deter them from assaulting that person or household. But that uncertainty depends on the existence of “gun nuts”; the fewer “gun nuts” there are in a given area, the more confident criminals feel.”

    It there any evidence that supports this believe? And is this effect stronger than having a dog at home?

  163. > There is also nice article on Larry Correia blog http://monsterhunternation.com/ – which is currently down (Google Cache should have it).

    Well, Google Cache doesn’t have it, but Web Archive does:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20150623230927/http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/06/23/an-opinion-on-gun-control-repost/

    > It there any evidence that supports this belief? And is this effect stronger than having a dog at home?

    Dog at home only protects home (and you need detached or semi-detached home – it wouldn’t protect apartment, not as a deterrent). Concealed carry protects (assuming that the belief is true) also public places.

  164. @Jakub Narebski
    “Concealed carry protects (assuming that the belief is true) also public places.”

    And there is evidence that this deterrent works? Looks difficult to verify. Gun ownership correlates with crime rates and then there is the self-select bias.

    I would think that installing a burglar alarm would be more effective and more “evidence based”.

    But see “The McWilliamses And The Burglar Alarm” by Mark Twain for a warning:
    http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/359/

  165. @Jakub Narebski
    “Concealed carry protects (assuming that the belief is true) also public places.”

    And there is evidence that this deterrent works? Looks difficult to verify. Gun ownership correlates with crime rates and then there is the self-select bias.

    I would think that installing a burglar alarm would be more effective and more “evidence based”.

  166. Sorry for the double postings. Somehow, my comments seemed to be disappearing in the spam filter.

  167. >And there is evidence that this deterrent works? Looks difficult to verify. Gun ownership correlates with crime rates and then there is the self-select bias.

    Yes, there is evidence. Longitudinal studies across demographically similar U.S. jurisdictions with differing CCW restrictions. Also comparisons before and after CCW law changes. Crime rates correlate negatively with CCW, the effects being particularly pronounced on forcible rape, hot burglary, and felony assault.

    You can find studies that claim the opposite. By ~what I’m sure must be merely coincidence~, those are generally the ones that refuse to publish their primary data sets for review. You’d think they were climatologists or something.

  168. Yes, there is evidence. Longitudinal studies across demographically similar U.S. jurisdictions with differing CCW restrictions.

    Oh, come on, Eric. The USA has 4.7 intentional homicides per 100,000 people. The Netherlands has 0.9. Japan (where guns are outlawed in the hands of private citizens) has 0.3. You can get these UNODC numbers from Wiki-fucking-pedia. They’re not hard to find.

    That alone tells us that there are better ways of solving the violence problem than letting everybody walk around packing.

    And lest you think my perspective is too tranzi to play in America, let me remind you of what a great and celebrated American had to say:

    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

    Through violence you may murder the liar,
    but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.

    Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate.

    In fact, violence merely increases hate.

    So it goes.

    Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

    Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
    only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

    –Martin Luther King, Jr.

  169. >Oh, come on, Eric. The USA has 4.7 intentional homicides per 100,000 people. The Netherlands has 0.9. Japan (where guns are outlawed in the hands of private citizens) has 0.3. You can get these UNODC numbers from Wiki-fucking-pedia. They’re not hard to find.

    No, they aren’t. But the reason the U.S. has an eightfold-higher morder rate is not the availability of civilian weapons; if that were true, the streets of Norway (4x higher ownership rate per capita) would run with blood.

    What’s actually going on is that, criminologically, most of the U.S. has a murder rate like Switzerland – that’s where the legal civilian weapons are. There are a few areas of the U.S. – Detroit, the South Side of Chicago, south-central L.A. – where the difference in murder rates is much, much higher than eightfold.

    Get the picture yet? The entire U.S.’s crime statistics, including its murder rate, are jerked upwards out of the civilized zone by a handful of places were civil order has effectively collapsed and the police only go in platoons.

    As to where “there are better ways of solving the violence problem than letting everybody walk around packing,” maybe there are. But nobody has actually found one yet.

  170. @esr
    “What’s actually going on is that, criminologically, most of the U.S. has a murder rate like Switzerland – that’s where the legal civilian weapons are.”

    And most of Switzerland has the murder rate like a US nuns convent. You are comparing selected parts of the US with a national average.

    And you forget to mention that the US also has a very murderous police force, orders of magnitude more deadly than those of Europe. Which the police explain by all those people in the public shooting at the police (which I do not believe is the reason).

    The curious thing, for your view, is the regional distribution of murders, executions, and guns:
    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state#MRreg

    http://chapmonde.blogspot.nl/2012/07/the-geography-of-gun-ownership-us.html

    I do not see a lower murder rate with more guns or executions. Or do the executions negate the effect of the guns? Or vice versa?

  171. >And most of Switzerland has the murder rate like a US nuns convent.

    You are right. It remains the case that outside of a handful of red zones the U.S.’s murder rate is comparable to Switzerland. The fact that both of these claims are true has implications you should think about.

    >I do not see a lower murder rate with more guns or executions.

    As the text accompanying the map notes:

    “Notice that Illinois, a state where only 20% of residents own a gun, actually falls in among the ten worst states for gun deaths. Meanwhile, the most armed states (Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia) all rank very low in terms of gun homicides.”

    This pattern holds across U.S. jurisdictions – more civilian weapons, fewer murders. Lott et al have shown that it continues to hold when you compare areas of constant population density, so we are not just looking at an urban vs. rural difference.

  172. But having seen some of Fox news’ broadcasts about things I was well informed about, I can say that I am not surprised that Fox’ viewers are largely ignorant about the world. Even an intelligent person who was eager to absorb everything about these subjects would not have gained anything from watching Fox’ coverage.

    This isn’t saying as much as you might think. I’ve seen liberal viewers who are similarly ignorant about the world, even while thinking that they are not. They seem to know various world trivia, sure – where to find Sweden on a map, or who the current prime minister of Japan is – but from my experience, they know a great deal less about human nature than conservatives do. And that changes a whole lot less than the prime minister does.

  173. Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
    only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

    Well that settles that. Eric, you’ve been wrong all this time; next time a mugger approaches you, you should really trying loving him away. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an eminent expert on this; you should trust him.

    (Whatever happened to him?)

  174. What’s actually going on is that, criminologically, most of the U.S. has a murder rate like Switzerland – that’s where the legal civilian weapons are. There are a few areas of the U.S. – Detroit, the South Side of Chicago, south-central L.A. – where the difference in murder rates is much, much higher than eightfold.

    Now who’s fudging the numbers? Sorry Eric, demographic statistics is not like eating a banana or formatting a hard disk: you can’t just cut away or paper over the bad bits and call the result OK. Hint: the fact that the apparatus of social order has abandoned large urban swaths and left them to fend for themselves should, in and of itself, suggest something is really really rotten in the state of Murka. Providing clean safe neighborhoods for wealthy whitey is nothing special. If the streets where rich purebloods live are clean and safe while the streets where the poor ethnoracial underclasses live are a crumbling war zone you do not live in a modern civilized nation, you live in a banana republic.

    (Maybe it IS like eating a banana…)

    The difference between Japan and western Europe on the one hand and the USA on the other is the “we’re all in the same boat” mentality and the concomitant obligation — not option — to help your neighbor. So guns aren’t the solution but they are not the only problem either. Americans will have to internalize that they were not born out of their own assholes and learn how to function as part of a community with shared interests — and shared duties. Once that happens, urban blight will be seen as a problem that we are all responsible for, and only then will meaningful steps be made to fix it. Not only would the crime and violence levels go down but race relations will improve and blacks and Hispanics will begin to feel more like Americans and less like oppressed minorities under America’s thumb.

  175. Providing clean safe neighborhoods for wealthy whitey is nothing special. If the streets where rich purebloods live are clean and safe while the streets where the poor ethnoracial underclasses live are a crumbling war zone you do not live in a modern civilized nation, you live in a banana republic.

    /me casts an inquiring glance over at Paris and similar cities in the European Utopia

  176. >Hint: the fact that the apparatus of social order has abandoned large urban swaths and left them to fend for themselves should, in and of itself, suggest something is really really rotten in the state of Murka

    Abandoned them? Heh. They’d be far, far, better off than they are now if we had abandoned them.

    The violent trash culture of our inner cities isn’t a product of neglect, it’s an iatrogenic failure created by hubristic social engineers – the very people who thought they were “helping” the relatively unpathologized poor of fifty years ago.

    Which is why when you appeal to me to “help” the poor, what I hear is “let bureacrats take my money so state policy can fuck the poor up even worse”

  177. @Foo
    “/me casts an inquiring glance over at Paris and similar cities in the European Utopia”

    Belfast at the height of the “Troubles” had a much less murder rate than one of these US cities. The big coties in Western Europe are pretty safe compared to the US.

    @Paul
    “I’ve seen liberal viewers who are similarly ignorant about the world, even while thinking that they are not.”

    What does this change about the qualities of Fox? And the study found Fox viewers were even worse informed than MSNBC viewers.

    @esr
    “This pattern holds across U.S. jurisdictions – more civilian weapons, fewer murders”

    So the North East should have the highest murder rate and the South the lowest?

  178. @esr
    “Which is why when you appeal to me to “help” the poor, what I hear is “let bureacrats take my money so state policy can fuck the poor up even worse””

    So, why is the US that are unable to implement such policies, while other countries have few problems?

    But maybe you are right. It is not just guns, but also who get the guns. Guns are tools, and tools are amplifiers. They amplify violence. It is just that too many people in the US are too violent to be safely walk around with deathly tools.

  179. @esr
    “Lott et al have shown that it continues to hold when you compare areas of constant population density, so we are not just looking at an urban vs. rural difference.”

    Curiously, there is also counter evidence that is not often considered:
    http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/26/2/575.short

    I found this publication very helpful:
    Gun Control by Philip J. Cook, Anthony A. Braga, and Mark H. Moore
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=292946

    Of particular interest is the likelihood that a gun will be
    used in self-defense against an intruder. Cook (1991), using the NCVS data for
    the mid 1980s, found that only 3 percent of victims were able to deploy a gun
    against someone who broke in (or attempted to do so) while they were at home.
    Since about 45 percent of all households possessed a gun during that period,
    we conclude that it is relatively unusual for victims to be able to deploy a gun
    against intruders even when they have one nearby.

    …..

    But other authors have noted that when the comparison is made using NCVS
    data alone for both victimization and self-defense, the criminal uses
    predominate (see above). The same is true in other surveys that have asked
    about both victimization and self-defense (Hemenway, in press).

    …..

    In one survey of convicted
    felons in prison, the most common reason offered for carrying a gun was selfdefense
    (Wright and Rossi 1994); a similar finding emerged from a study of
    juveniles incarcerated for serious criminal offenses (Smith 1996). Self-defense
    conjures up an image of the innocent victim using a gun to fend off an
    unprovoked criminal assault, but in fact many “self-defense” cases are not so
    commendable.

    So we get the intriguing picture of burglars and muggers carrying guns to defend themselves against potentially armed victims who are very unlikely to actually use their gun in self defense. So, the concealed carriers might endanger the lives of those who do not have a gun as the criminal might shoot them both, just in case.

    Finally, the eternal question:
    Do guns kill people or do people kill people?

    In some circumstances the claim that the type of weapon matters seems
    indisputable. There are very few drive-by knifings, or people killed accidentally
    by stray fists. When well-protected people are murdered it is almost always
    with a gun; over 90 percent of lethal attacks on law enforcement officers are
    with firearms, and all our murdered presidents have been shot. When lone
    assailants set out to kill as many people as they can in a commuter train or
    schoolyard, the only readily available weapon that will do the job is a gun. But
    what about the more mundane attacks that make up the vast bulk of violent
    cases?

    The first piece of evidence is that robberies and assaults committed with
    guns are more likely to result in the victim’s death than are similar violent
    crimes committed with other weapons. In the public health jargon, the “case fatality
    rates” differ by weapon type. Take the case of robbery, a crime that
    includes holdups, muggings, and other violent confrontations motivated by
    theft. The case-fatality rate for gun robbery is three times as high as for
    robberies with knives, and ten times as high as for robberies with other
    weapons (Cook 1987).

    I would say, people without guns kill much less.

    Indeed, this is a very interesting paper. It strengthens my suspicion that private gun ownership in the USA is an arms race with only losers.

    Oh, and about Lott’s 1997 study and others from before 2000, their statistics must be better founded (maybe they did, the paper of Cook et al is from 2000):

    More recently, Duggan (in press) observes that Lott and Mustard are
    inconsistent in what date they assign to the adoption of a shall-issue law; when
    that problem is corrected, the effect of adoption on homicide is no longer
    statistically significant

  180. /me casts an inquiring glance over at Paris and similar cities in the European Utopia

    What, that car-burning shit? That escalated to a level which, at its absolute worst, produced casualties that were still below a typical Tuesday afternoon in say, the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. And of course it was a squirt of piss in a hurricane compared to the likes of Ferguson, MO.

    It made headlines worldwide because the background level of violence in France is so low.

  181. Which is why when you appeal to me to “help” the poor, what I hear is “let bureacrats take my money so state policy can fuck the poor up even worse”

    In a response to an essay by Jaron Lanier you pointed out that people often confuse accidental faults in the Windows operating system with intrinsic failures of computers in general.

    You are confusing accidental dysfunctions of the U.S. government with intrinsic failures of government in general. And it’s not the first time.

    It only takes a cursory review of the evidence to see that much of western Europe, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, all do much, MUCH better than the USA on many key metrics including less poverty, less crime and violence, better education and health care, better environmental record, etc. etc. despite having a state apparatus that you personally consider intolerably intrusive.

  182. I awake this morning to news that a man in Lafayette, LA, opened fire in a movie theater last night before shooting himself, killing two others and injuring seven.

    These are the wages of private gun ownership in America. He wouldn’t have gotten far with knives or truncheons, and an armed audience in the theater would have done little to deter him.

  183. me: I’ve seen liberal viewers who are similarly ignorant about the world, even while thinking that they are not.

    Winter: What does this change about the qualities of Fox?

    Nothing directly, but it draws attention to why a liberal viewer is so conspicuously quick to point out Fox, and only Fox.

    And the study found Fox viewers were even worse informed than MSNBC viewers.

    I already addressed this in the part of that comment that you didn’t quote. And I’ll add to that part: such studies are inherently poor at avoiding subjective bias, for reasons similar to why Jeff Read erroneously equates “data” to “anything wrapped in an ‘a’ tag”.

  184. Nothing directly, but it draws attention to why a liberal viewer is so conspicuously quick to point out Fox, and only Fox.

    Fox is the only major television outlet in the USA that leans conservative. They chose to single themselves out in that regard. It has nothing to do with us.

  185. I guess we have The Blaze now for those who find Fox too lukewarm. But data on Blaze viewers isn’t available yet.

  186. Fox is the only major television outlet in the USA that leans conservative. They chose to single themselves out in that regard. It has nothing to do with us.

    It has everything to do with you, as it’s indicating a selection bias – admitting evidence only when it supports your prior beliefs. Now I would never claim that conservatives typically understand selection bias, but I know from experience that at least many of them do, and meanwhile, you’re demonstrably failing to understand it right here in front of us.

  187. @Paul
    “It has everything to do with you, as it’s indicating a selection bias – admitting evidence only when it supports your prior beliefs. ”

    Nothing as good as shooting the messenger. The study covered all the big news outlets and 600 NJ residents. They were asked about events that were covered extensively by all the news outlets. They even tried to correct for party affiliation. The results were simple: Those viewing Fox did worse than the others, even worse than those that did not use any of the news outlets.

    If you had found a real shortcoming in the study, we could talk. But the only thing you do is shooting at the messenger.

    And seriously, do you realy believe Fox gives you actual facts about the world?

  188. I’m not “shooting the messenger”. I’m pointing out that there’s one reason to want to even claim that Fox viewers are less informed, and that reason is itself fallacious.

    I’m also questioning what a study considers to be “informed”. I did so in the part of the earlier comment that you still haven’t noticed. You are so intent on discrediting me with language like “seriously, do you realy believe” (ironic that you do that and accuse *me* of shooting the messenger in the same comment) that you’re missing bits of information in the very subthread you’re commenting on.

    As for whether Fox News gives actual facts… sigh. I don’t read or watch Fox News, but what the hell, let’s see. Visiting foxnews.com, I see the following right now:

    Fed watchdogs turn to DOJ to expand Clinton email probe – Hillary Clinton faced new calls Friday to turn over her personal server after key inspectors general asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into whether classified material was improperly shared on the former secretary of state’s account.

    Thousands of rape kits left untested despite federal pledge, critics blame DOJ – An untold number of rape cases — by some estimates, in the hundreds of thousands — remain unsolved because the rape kits used to collect critical evidence sit untested and gathering dust in police departments across America, despite $1 billion in taxpayer money approved to clear the massive backlog.

    Police say ‘drifter’ killed 2, injured 9 in Lafayette, La. movie theater shooting – The man who opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater Thursday night, killing two patrons before turning the gun on himself when police blocked his escape, was a “drifter” from Alabama who had a collection of disguises in his motel room and a trick license plate on his 20-year-old Lincoln Continental, police said Friday.

    WWE terminates contract with Hulk Hogan; wrestler sorry he used ‘N-word’ – The WWE killed its contract with the wrestling icon on Friday, a rep for the organization told FOX411.

    The Clinton story fits with one from the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/24/us/politics/criminal-inquiry-is-sought-in-hillary-clinton-email-account.html?_r=0

    The rape kits story fits with stories from several places, including: WaPo, NBC News, NPR’s OnPoint, and the Baltimore Sun. (Granted, some of those may be reprinting from some of the others.)

    The Lafayette shooter story fits with pretty much my entire Facebook feed. I know, I shouldn’t trust what I read on Facebook, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and state that this probably happened.

    The Hulk Hogan story fits with stories from The Daily Beast and People.

    If Fox News is not factual, then neither are NYT, WaPo, NPR, NBC News, Baltimore Sun, Daily Beast, People Magazine, and at this point I wonder why I even have to justify this to you.

    Meanwhile, I wonder what a poll of 600+ NPR viewers and NYT readers, asking them what will happen to the demand for a commodity when its price is raised, would reveal.

  189. @Paul
    Not read Fox news, you have to watch it.

    The reason we want to know about Fox news is because it is the most viewed news channel and it is positively awful.

    It is not that Fox does not cover news items, but the viewers have no idea how they end. That was the question of the stidy, how did the events end.

    To take your example, Fox news viewers do get to hear Clinton is accused (emails, Bengazi) but they somehow never learn whether she is acquited (I assume Fox will extensively cover a guilty verdict).

  190. @Paul
    “Meanwhile, I wonder what a poll of 600+ NPR viewers and NYT readers, asking them what will happen to the demand for a commodity when its price is raised, would reveal.”

    I forgot. You also seem to have missed completely what the point of this poll was. This was about news outlets and how they inform their audience. Your question is about the quality of high school economics education, not news.

  191. For completeness:

    @Paul
    “If Fox News is not factual, then neither are NYT, WaPo, NPR, NBC News, Baltimore Sun, Daily Beast, People Magazine,”

    That is all personal oppinion. But now we have data. And these data show that Fox news does a (much) worse job at informing their viewers than any of the others. Even worse than not watching news at all. Real data showing that your despised MSNBC does a bad job, but considerably less bad than Fox news does.

    But why are you so enraged about a study showing Fox news is bad? You do not watch them, and it is no surprise to anyone who did watch them and has any knowledge of the world.

    @Paul
    ” and at this point I wonder why I even have to justify this to you.”

    You don’t. It is you who gets enraged by reality biting. I am fine with the study.

  192. For those of you who wonder why Europeans continue to see American governance as a sad (and possibly globally dangerous) joke, consider the likelihood that the next U.S. President will be one of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

  193. @Jeff
    “consider the likelihood that the next U.S. President will be one of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.”

    I must say, Mike Huckabee just made a nice splash in the European news too.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33671430

    http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/mike-huckabee-empoert-mit-holocaust-vergleich-a-1045433.html (in German)

    http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article144475597/Republikaner-Huckabee-empoert-mit-Holocaust-Vergleich.html (in German)

    http://www.20minutes.fr/monde/1657855-20150726-etats-unis-republicain-mike-huckabee-accuse-obama-amener-israeliens-portes-fours (in French)

    This year’s crop of GOP presidential wannabees seems to be even more entertaining (and worrying) than last time. The general feeling here when hearing them on stage is “This cannot be true, this must be a prank“.

    Sadly, GW showed it isn’t a prank.

  194. If you would like to read an example of how informed Europeans look at these primaries, here is an example I follow. (these are very long blog posts)

    The Clown Circus of 2016 by Republicans is a Re-Cast: All Our Fave Characters from 2012 Are Back, But Played by Even Bigger Clowns
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2015/06/the-clown-circus-of-2016-by-republicans-is-a-re-cast-all-our-fave-characters-from-2012-are-back-but-.html

    (this one includes the global warming call from the pope)
    Three Notes on US Presidential Election: Worsening Republican Prospects: The Fox, The Trump and The Pope
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2015/06/a-note-on-us-presidential-elections-the-fox-debate-of-10-on-republican-side-fight-for-sole-slot.html

    On Trump and Hillary latest polls and developments
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2015/07/on-trump-and-hillary-latest-polls-and-developments.html

  195. @ ESR

    > Nope. You’ve followed the logic from the facts correctly.

    Thanks. That’s relieving. :-)

    @ Jakub Narebski

    > To further off-topic these off-topic comments:

    Interesting. I applaud what this man did. Thanks for sharing.

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