Comments, observations, snide remarks

1. Be careful what you wish for (from Matt Yglesias’s Substack):

While several states have banned abortion, a bunch of other states have made it easier to get medication abortions and otherwise reduced restrictions with the result that there were actually more abortions in 2023 than in previous years. And abortion rights is getting more popular. A new Fox poll showed that 70 percent of the public believes mifepristone should be legal and the previously popular idea of a 15-week ban is now underwater 43-54. Abortion rights have become a millstone around the GOP’s neck, and the more people argue about this, the more they seem to be moving in favor of abortion.

As a matter of law, I agree with the Supreme Court. But as a matter of policy, I’m pro-choice.

2. I’m so glad to live in a state where pot is legal, abortion is legal, physician assisted suicide is legal, you can buy Teslas directly from the manufacturer, and lab produced meat is legal:

Lawmakers in US state capitals are seeking to stifle development of “lab-grown” tuna, pork and other animal proteins, taking a stand against a novel food technology backed by investors such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

Republicans in at least seven states have introduced legislation since the beginning of the year to ban sales or distribution of lab-grown meat, a form of edible protein cultivated from animal cells. . . .

Florida’s legislature in March sent legislation banning sales of lab-grown meat in the state to DeSantis, who in February said: “We are not going to do fake meat. That does not work.” A spokeswoman for the governor declined to comment on whether he will sign the bill.

The GOP fervently believes that every American should be free to pursue GOP-approved lifestyles.

3. Market participants seem surprised by the Tesla sales slump:

A myriad of red flags went up throughout the quarter. First, Tesla warned its rate of growth will be “notably lower” this year, blaming interest-rate hikes that have kept its cars out of reach for many consumers even as it’s slashed prices. The company dealt with multiple disruptions at its plant outside Berlin. Musk engaged in inflammatory posting on X, turning off prospective buyers, and China’s EV market grew even more cut-throat.

I don’t have a Harvard MBA, but when most of your customers are Democrats, does it make sense for the CEO to spend all his spare time insulting liberals on Twitter, er, . . . I mean X?

Maybe he thought it would convince Republicans to buy EVs. Did Trump convince Republicans to take the vaccine?

BTW, I think Tesla is a great company. But that new pickup truck? Yikes.

4. What do you mean, “fool’s gold“?

But that can be worthwhile. Some 5-10% of the world’s gold production derives from pyrite. And this is likely to increase. According to estimates by McKinsey, a consultancy, 24% of the world’s gold reserves are “refractory”—meaning the gold must be yanked from the clutches of some mineral, in most cases pyrite.

5. I’ve been dismayed to see the GOP become an increasingly pro-Putin party. Previously, I attributed this to Trump. But a GOP Congressman suggests that extensive Russian propaganda also plays a role. (If I didn’t block lots of Russia trolls, this blog’s comment section would be almost entirely dominated by pro-Putin posters.)

6. I thought that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine might cause a few anti-China people to rethink their views on the “real enemy”. Unfortunately, it did not. And according to The Economist, things are even worse than I imagined:

To get involved directly, says Mr Biden, would be “World War III”. He has refused calls to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, act as the intermediary for Polish MIG-29 jets or even supply American-made Patriot anti-aircraft batteries. . . .

Mr Biden’s caution in Ukraine contrasts with his almost careless talk about defending Taiwan against China. Last year Mr Biden said America had a “commitment” to defend the island. America’s “strategic ambiguity”, whereby it promises to help Taiwan defend itself but will not say whether it would intervene directly, has become less ambiguous.

So we should not risk WWIII with nuclear armed Russia, but we should risk WWIII with nuclear armed China? I agree with Biden on Ukraine, but his China policy is madness. Yes, I know. Gotta defend those semiconductor factories. As George C. Scott once said, “I’m not saying we won’t get our hair mussed”.

7. Making fun of the intelligence of conservatives is like shooting ducks in a barrel. (Ditto for leftists.) But the following tweet also makes me wonder why so many conservatives wish our educational system went back to teaching the classics. Say what you will about extremists like the Taliban, at least they understand that the arts are a force for liberalization.

Hey conservative parent. Do you really want your children to read what Jesus said about how you should treat the poor refugee that shows up at your door?

(Of course Romeo and Juliet should be mixed race. My only complaint is that the two actors don’t look like children.)

8. China has been demonized for supposedly building lots of “overcapacity.” This led the US to impose high trade barriers. But as David Fickling at Bloomberg recently pointed out, the accusations are not true:

The trouble is, none of it was true. China wasn’t seeking to produce more steel than long-run demand would dictate. It wasn’t even a particularly important exporter. It wasn’t responsible for weak prices in the US. The tariffs didn’t halt a jobs decline in US metals manufacturing.

It’s bad enough that misguided steel protectionism over the past decade has served only to raise costs and reduce competitiveness for the rest of the US economy. Worse still is the way the same failed policy is now being dragged out to support far more damaging barriers on clean technology, slowing our ability to halt the rise in global temperatures.

9. The Biden administration is pursuing an “industrial policy” aimed at boosting manufacturing. Australia tried a similar policy back in the 1960s, and it failed. Here’s The Economist:

The [Australian auto] industry survived so long only because successive governments refuelled it with subsidies. GM guzzled about A$2bn ($1.3bn) before the handouts were cut by Mr Morrison’s party in 2013. Rightly so, according to a report released the following year by the Productivity Commission. It found no evidence that they had helped the wider economy, concluding that the “costs of such assistance outweigh the benefits”.

Manufacturing’s share of Australia’s economy peaked in the 1960s, in Holden’s heyday. It now accounts for just under 6% of GDP, well below the level of most other rich countries. But that has not stopped the Australian economy—and local wages—from growing faster than their peers.



64 Responses to “Comments, observations, snide remarks”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    4. April 2024 at 20:37

    It’s funny,though not surprising, that it doesn’t bother the pro-Putin people that China and Russia are somewhat allied against the “liberal world order”, as are Iran and North Korea. They support this “axis of evil”, but likely are completely unaware of the implications and one reason they are unaware is that they don’t care.

    when it comes to “leftists”, merely using that term paints with an extremely broad brush, particularly in a country with growing facsism. Most academics are “leftists”, as are most attorneys, most of the profesional class,… While I don’t see a problem with “moderate conservatism”, they seem to make up perhaps 20% of conservatives, if I”m being generous. However, the majority of “leftists” strike me as being much closer to the center. The problem “leftists” are a fringe, loud though they are, and they are in fact quite ignorant and seemingly stupid.

  2. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    4. April 2024 at 21:00

    Can you elaborate on how you agree with Biden’s policy on Ukraine? Do you agree with everything Biden has done so far? Do you agree that Biden has successfully avoided escalation with Russia and reduced the probability of a wider war?

    Additionally, which of the following options do you think is best going forward?

    1. Keep funding Ukraine at the same level as the Biden admin is proposing and continue withholding/placing limits on using certain weapons systems to avoid “escalation”
    2. Increase funding for Ukraine, expand their access to weapons systems (ATACMS, F-16s, etc), and green-light attacks against legitimate military targets in Russia

    To me, the November election comes down to a choice between “weakness” (Biden) and “evil” (Trump) in terms of foreign policy on Ukraine.

  3. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    4. April 2024 at 22:22

    Where is this magical state where five year olds can legally buy and consume marijuana brownies and women can deliver their 9 month – 5 min ferus into a proverbial woodchipper. Oh wait, that’s right, there is no state where weed a d abortion is legal.

  4. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    4. April 2024 at 22:23

    They’re not pro-putin.

    It’s fundamental misunderstanding. They’re pro liberty, and they don’t believe in using the American military as a global police force.

    Those who believe in liberty, believe in self determination.

    If Bosnia has a unilateral right to secede from serbia, then Donbas also has the same right to secede from Ukraine.

    You and your cohort of neocons and neolibs simply believe in weaponizing foreign policy, and using billions of dollars of tax payer money to fund foreign wars for personal interests AND/OR personal vandettas.

    But that’s not liberal.

    It’s illiberal.

    Donbas’s secession is not propaganda. It’s well documented. It led to the Minsk agreement, which both the United States and Ukraine ignored.

    Furthermore, is anyone surprised that they want to secede?

    Kiev is run by a corrupt group of oligarchs, and their president is a sweatpant wearing, steroid-fuled, ex t.v. star. Russia has it’s own group of oligarchs, but it’s still better than Ukraine. That’s how corrupt and nasty Ukraine is.

    This is not Russian propaganda. Anyone well traveled in Europe knows how disgusting Ukraine is. It’s literally a cesspool of nastiness.

  5. Gravatar of Edward Edward
    4. April 2024 at 22:40

    Refusing to send money to Urkaine has nothing to do with being “pro-putin.”

    Your logic, Scott, like usual, is subpar.

    A much more intelligent person might try to argue that it’s in our interest to fund a proxy war. I would disagree. I think our current foreign policy is atrocious. It will bankrupt America and push people away from the dollar. But at least funding a proxy war would be an intelligent argument. Calling people pro-putin, however, LOL, because they don’t want to involve themselves in a civil war is pretty weird.

    Not good logic.

  6. Gravatar of viennacapitalist viennacapitalist
    4. April 2024 at 23:35

    McFoul is an objective voice of reason?

  7. Gravatar of David S David S
    5. April 2024 at 02:15

    Should we point out to conservatives that female characters in Elizabethan era stage plays were played by men in drag?

    I wonder when BYD will sell its first car in the U.S.—when they do I bet it will be in California. For the record, I believe that’s a good thing.

  8. Gravatar of Arilando Arilando
    5. April 2024 at 02:16

    Why exactly should Romeo and Juliet be mixed race?

  9. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    5. April 2024 at 04:24

    7. You don’t think Tom Holland could pull off the teenager look?

  10. Gravatar of Todd Ramsey Todd Ramsey
    5. April 2024 at 05:25

    Laughed out loud at the Dr. Strangelove reference. Love that movie.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2024 at 08:06

    David, Good point about Shakespeare. Unfortunately, the US is unlikely to allow more than a trivial flow of BYD cars, if any. We care more about GM and Ford than we do about global warming.

    Arilando, Unlike in 1600, hardly any modern marriages are viewed as transgressive. White-black marriages are probably closest, most likely to be opposed by parents.

    John, Maybe, I was half joking. Today, Romeo would be imprisoned for pedophilia.

    Todd, Best black comedy ever. I’ve never seen another film where two different actors both gave a performance for the ages.

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2024 at 08:13

    Robert, #2. I think we agree about the election.

    I think Biden should have done more. My comment was more in relation to the GOP alternative.

    BTW, if Congress doesn’t approve funding, we should seize Russian assets and give the money to Ukraine. Congress refused to fund the Wall, but that didn’t stop Trump.

  13. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    5. April 2024 at 12:53

    I appreciate the clarification, Scott.

    As an aside, cutting off Ukraine entirely is only good in the sense that it forces Europe to remilitarize. However, it is costing precious Ukrainian lives and widening the war because Putin now has zero motive to negotiate. In the end, it will be a net negative that increases the probability of direct US intervention (American boots on the ground). Not like we haven’t seen this movie before (WWI and WWII).

  14. Gravatar of Brett Brett
    5. April 2024 at 13:22

    1. It’s good news, since I’m strongly pro-choice as well.

    2. I’m hoping this technology leads to some interesting meats. You might be able to use it to make the most amazing steaks ever, but maybe you could also use it if you really want to try Rhinoceros Steak without having to hunt an endangered rhino.

    3. Same on that Tesla truck. It seems like a poor fit either for folks who want a utility truck, or for Urban Cowboy types who want an SUV with a small truck bed and a huge box front.

  15. Gravatar of Mark Barbieri Mark Barbieri
    5. April 2024 at 13:43

    I’m bemused by the fact that we protect our developing solar and EV industries by blocking Chinese imports while also blocking China from importing high end GPUs. Which is it? Does blocking imports benefit or punish a country?

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2024 at 14:00

    Robert, I agree. It seems like 90% of the public slept through history classes when 1938 was covered in high school.

    Brett, Yes, and I love the Model S. Each subsequent model has gotten less attractive.

    Mark, Good point.

  17. Gravatar of steve steve
    5. April 2024 at 16:38

    Musk has been bad mouthing the left for quite a while and Tesla continued to do well. It could be that lefties finally decided to stop buying Teslas but I suspect it has more to do with competition. Conservative boycotts against companies they dont like have been fairly effective but lefties mostly just talk about it and go to Chick-fil-A anyway.


  18. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    5. April 2024 at 16:49

    economist and shakespearian scholar manque sumner completely misunderstands R&J. opposition to marriage is merely a frame to hang the plot on, not the point of the play, and its not about class or race in the play its about a long forgotten motivation for famiy feud. sumner is confused with the modern reinterpretation of it in west side story, where the frame is the stife of racial animus. nevertheless, the real story is about the impossibility of love, and shakespeare was just reinterpreting pyramus and thibe. if someone wants to reinterpret r&j, fine, just don’t call it that, maybe call it west side left side inside

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. April 2024 at 20:41

    Steve, He’s ramped it up sharply in recent months.

    agrippa, You aren’t doing conservatives any favors by doubling down on their stupidity.

  20. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    6. April 2024 at 06:23

    OT but in the ballpark:

    Most recent BLS report: hourly wages up 3.8% on year in March.


    Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023, the
    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today (March 7)

    I guess wages are not the source of inflation.

    Should the Fed sit on its balance sheet? Add to it? Does the balance sheet play any role in inflation?

  21. Gravatar of Eharding Eharding
    6. April 2024 at 09:50

    “In the 21st century, the US government has become one of the world’s largest criminal gangs, extorting money from weaker countries. Our government claims the moral high ground, insisting that our rules are based on ethical principles when we put sanctions on rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. But that’s not what’s actually going on; the foreign policy excuses merely provide a fig leaf for the US to use its muscle to steal money from other countries…. we are no better than the old-fashioned imperialist powers that tried to loot resources from weaker nations”

    Then Sumner… literally supports using US muscle to steal money from other countries.

    Also, didn’t Sumner say “Sanctions can also lead to military escalation. Some historians believe that the US sanctions placed on Japan contributed to Japan’s decision to bomb Pearl Harbor. It seems plausible that Trump’s decision to put sanctions on Iran might have contributed to some recent strikes in the Persian Gulf.” ?

    Abortion is an excommunicable offense in the Catholic Church -it is homicide of the weak. Insofar as it does not destroy the credibility of the Supreme Court, I wish it banned abortion just like it banned discrimination against homosexuals and transsexuals.

    “I’ve been dismayed to see the GOP become an increasingly pro-Putin party.”

    And yet, Sumner used to be “pro-Putin” himself (yes, this was before the Z war, but following the highly anti-Russian Trump administration, which Sumner wrongly claimed was pro-Putin):
    “Yahoo news has a recent piece on the Biden’s administration’s decision to allow a gas pipeline to be built between Russia and Germany. I have no problem with the decision; what bothers me is the reporter’s implicit assumption that countries need to get permission from the US government before engaging in any sort of major economic investment:”

    “Did Trump convince Republicans to take the vaccine?”

    Basically yeah; most Republicans got vaccinated.

    “I’ve been dismayed to see the GOP become an increasingly pro-Putin party.”

    Increasingly? Where’s the evidence for that? Most of the GOP base thinks Russia is either communist or socialist.

    “I agree with Biden on Ukraine, but his China policy is madness.”

    Makes sense; there’s no fundamental reason from a realist perspective American policy toward Ukraine should be different from that toward Taiwan. I just think the Z war should stop (with both the Ukrainian and Russian sides admitting defeat and current frontlines holding) from a humanitarian perspective.

    “Unfortunately, it did not.”

    That’s because China’s leadership could stop the Z War whenever it wants to.

  22. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    6. April 2024 at 09:56

    Scott has never been pro-Putin. He supports liberal republican democracy.

  23. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    6. April 2024 at 17:17

    This is a great article detailing the expansion of NATO over the last 75 years. Some of the warhawks and Russiaphobia types are incapable of understanding nuance. It’s very reasonable to criticize NATO’s expansion, which is instigating conflict abroad, and also criticize Putin. Only a moron blames everything on Russia. Let’s get real.

    The MAGA position is simple this.

    1. We have no right to criticze Russian domestic politics. What happens in Russia, domestically, is a Russian problem not an American problem.

    2. The civil war in Ukraine is mostly the fault of the United States. We spent billions overthrowing Yanukovych. Not smart.

    3. The war is on Russia’s border. Russia has a right to defend their border.

    4. Donbas has the right to ask Russia for help. And Russia has a right to choose sides in a conflict that rages on their border.

    We need to stop living in an alternate universe. The babyboomers are the worst. They have this weird hatred towards everything Russian. If someone named Anastasia approached Scott, his hands would begin to sweat and his knees would begin to shake. The boomers have an irrational fear towards Russia.

    Calling MAGA putin-lovers or puppies, or whatever childish name you think of is pretty dumb. It lacks nuance. One can criticize Ukraine, America and Putin all at the same time, which is essentially the MAGA position.

    America first; not America last. Let’s secure our own border, and stop funding Ukraine. Ukraine needs to reach a settlement with Russia, and a peace agreement. It’s not our job to fight for them, monetarily or physically.

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. April 2024 at 19:09

    “The civil war in Ukraine”

    LOL, you people are idiots.

  25. Gravatar of Eharding Eharding
    7. April 2024 at 06:16

    Be nice, Sumner. It was a civil war until Putin started the Z war in February 2022.

    “The babyboomers are the worst. They have this weird hatred towards everything Russian. If someone named Anastasia approached Scott, his hands would begin to sweat and his knees would begin to shake. The boomers have an irrational fear towards Russia.”

    I think for the most part, you are right, Ricardo. Though I think Sumner’s Russophobia is mostly just him being against what Trump says (not what he does).

  26. Gravatar of Scott H. Scott H.
    7. April 2024 at 07:22

    “It’s not our job to fight for them, monetarily or physically.”

    We can decide what we want our job to be, thank you.

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. April 2024 at 08:34

    Harding, You are ingesting too much Russian propaganda. It was always a war between Russia and Ukraine, indeed Russia annexed substantial Ukrainian territory as far back as 2014.

    Most ethnic Russians oppose the invasion.

    “Sumner’s Russophobia”

    I’m Russophobic in exactly the sense that FDR was Germanophobic in 1940. Which side would you have been on?

    As far as the pipeline, trade relations with a country give that country MORE to lose from a war. It makes peace more likely. Once a war starts, then sanctions are appropriate. But even then, I believe in allowing each country to make its own decision, I don’t favor the US bullying smaller countries.

  28. Gravatar of Eharding Eharding
    7. April 2024 at 14:45

    “It was always a war between Russia and Ukraine, indeed Russia annexed substantial Ukrainian territory as far back as 2014.”

    There’s a spectrum here in regards to foreign intervention in wars; was the Korean war a war between the USSR and South Korea? Most of the Donbass rebels were Ukrainians. Ukraine never fought over Crimea.

    “Most ethnic Russians oppose the invasion”

    Most support pivoting to negotiations, but 73% support what’s already been accomplished:

    “Which side would you have been on?”

    I would have supported continued aid to Britain, but supporting keeping Britain in the war would very much be an open question for me. In the worst case scenario for Britain assuming continued war, Britain would be swallowed up by the Germans, in the best case scenario, Britain wins the war without the U.S. sending troops. Aid to Britain on the condition that it stay in the war (assuming the humanitarian consequences of British victory would be preferable to those of German occupation) makes perfect sense in the best case scenario, conditioning aid on peace with Germany would make sense in the worst case scenario.

    “As far as the pipeline, trade relations with a country give that country MORE to lose from a war. It makes peace more likely. Once a war starts, then sanctions are appropriate. But even then, I believe in allowing each country to make its own decision, I don’t favor the US bullying smaller countries.”

    Makes sense, Sumner. The first coherent response of yours re: this topic in years.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. April 2024 at 14:57

    Obviously I meant ethnic Russians in Ukraine. They did not support the invasion.

    And you are quite naive about what happened in 2014. North Korea was already a country in 1950—the USSR did not start that war. This is entirely different, it was Putin’s war from the beginning.

  30. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    7. April 2024 at 15:14

    Angus Deaton is making interesting comments.
    Pair Deaton’s insights with of of Michael Pettis.

  31. Gravatar of Eharding Eharding
    7. April 2024 at 16:00

    “This is entirely different, it was Putin’s war from the beginning.”

    Again, the majority of combatants among the Donbass rebels were Ukrainian. The Donbass war started in April 2014, Russia did not seriously intervene to help the rebels until August. The territory held by the Donbass rebels was negligible; the point was to keep Ukraine out of NATO. There is no Crimea annexation/Russian bailout of the Donbass rebels without U.S. support for the coup against Yanukovich.

    Also, North Korea consulted with Stalin re: invading the South.

    “Obviously I meant ethnic Russians in Ukraine. They did not support the invasion.”

    That makes sense.

  32. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    8. April 2024 at 06:15

    BTW, I condemn and deplore Beyonce’s cultural appropriation of white country music.

  33. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    8. April 2024 at 10:10

    You said

    There is no Crimea annexation/Russian bailout of the Donbass rebels without U.S. support for the coup against Yanukovich.

    You think the reason Putin did those things was because a few US politicians expressed support for the people wanting to oust Yanukovych? We didn’t send troops. We didn’t threaten Yanukovych. We weren’t even a party to the deal that Yanukovych had scrapped due to Putin’s threats. But you’re convinced that Victoria Nuland’s ill-advised phone call detailing her preferences for the government in Ukraine and some support expressed by a few US Senators are what motivated Putin?

  34. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    8. April 2024 at 20:53

    Re. Victorian Nuland’s phone call.

    It wasn’t just a phone call.

    The U.S. funneled money through NGO fronts to overthrow Yanukovych. And of course we deny it. But denying involvement is our modus operandi. We also denied bombing Laos. We denied spying on Angela Merkel. We denied involvment in Timor. We denied shooting Vietnamese civilians. We denied dropping agent orange on Vietnamese jungles. We denied countless crimes revealed in the wikileaks files. Yet, despite the denials eventually we had to come to grips with reality.

    Let’s not be so naive. Just because our government tells us something, doesn’t make it true. Our state department tells us that Russia is secretly orchestrating the Donbas resistance. But unfortunately, the state department provides no evidence of any false flag operations.

    In 2019, under the Trump administration, we also sent 1.5B in weapons to Kiev. When you combine supplying weapons with NATO expansion, and a pretty good CIA operation in Ukraine, then of course Russia has to respond.

    We are not exactly a peaceful country. Look at our record since Vietnam. We targeted Latin America and South America in the 70’s and 80’s. And in the last twenty years, we overthrew Saddam and Gadaffi, and tried to overthrow Al-Assad. And look, nobody despises the CCP more than I do. I grew up in Cuba. I hate communism. But we have no business sending battle cruisers two miles off the coast of China. It does nothing but instigate conflict in Southeast Asia.

  35. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    8. April 2024 at 22:02

    I am not so sure about Tesla being a great company. They had a great head start, but they have failed to make their products more compelling in the last few years: Basically everything after the model Y release has been disappointing. The attempt to sell self driving, in its current state, for 12k for the life of the vehicle is unconscionable: Having tried it, it might be worth 1/10th of that in the current state. The apparent new bet on robotaxis, even if we ignore that the cars cannot do much without human intervention, ignores all kinds of key logistical problems. It’s as if all the strategic decisions were made by a loon that has never been told no.

  36. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    9. April 2024 at 10:11

    I found the captured Russian soldiers in Donbas during the Donbas War pretty good evidence that Russia was involved in the Donbas War.
    I can look in general at what Russia did in 2014 including pressuring Yanukovych out of an economic deal with the EU that was popular with his people, sending soldiers and arms into the eastern parts of Ukraine to support a civil war and invading and annexing Crimea, and be confident that Russia is the big problem in Ukraine, not the US, regardless of what you claim some NGOs were doing after Yanukovych backed out of the EU deal and started shooting at protesters.

  37. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. April 2024 at 20:10

    Harding, If you are going to rely on Russian propaganda for your information, then don’t expect to understand what’s going on in the world.

    Putin is evil, like Hitler. It’s that simple. Don’t make it complicated.

  38. Gravatar of Student Student
    10. April 2024 at 06:16

    Scott, I don’t disagree about Putin… but in a world without objective truth, nothing is evil… and it’s only not complicated if evil is objective.

  39. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. April 2024 at 11:00

    Student, Define “objective”.

  40. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    10. April 2024 at 12:10


    Are you concerned about reports that China is more materially aiding Russia militarily? This seems to cut against your belief that China is a bad actor in the world. I agree that they haven’t pulled the trigger on Taiwan, but it’s not a good look that they’re providing satellite imagery and other support to directly help Russia kill Ukrainians.


  41. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    10. April 2024 at 12:10

    *that China isn’t a bad actor*

  42. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. April 2024 at 12:15

    “that China isn’t a bad actor”

    I didn’t say they were not a bad actor, I said that we shouldn’t go to war with them. I don’t even favor going to war with Russia, which is a far worse actor.

  43. Gravatar of Student Student
    10. April 2024 at 14:17

    Something independent of an individual mind.

  44. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. April 2024 at 14:36

    I have no idea what that means. Multiple minds believing something makes it objective? Can you be more specific?

  45. Gravatar of Student Student
    10. April 2024 at 14:57

    Fair. Something that’s truth doesn’t depend on perception by a human mind. Gravity was true whether or not anyone perceived it. A male is a male whether or not someone feels male. Water is composed of 2 hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom whether or not anyone can see an atom or perceive what a molecule is.

  46. Gravatar of Student Student
    10. April 2024 at 15:02

    I forgot an example you will love lol. An abortion is ending the life cycle of a unique instance of a human being irrespective of its age or whether you see it as just some clump of cells.

  47. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. April 2024 at 15:09

    With all due respect, I think you are in over your head. Gravity is not true, because gravity is not a claim about the world. It’s a word. If you want to make a specific claim about gravity, that’s fine. But it doesn’t help respond to my question, as you still need to define objective. How do we determine if something is objectively true? You haven’t answered the question, and indeed every philosopher that has ever tried has failed. Good luck!!

    BTW, I think you are mixing up “objective truth” and “reality”. Truth is about perceptions of reality. “True” is a label we apply to claims, not things. It would be absurd to point to a rock and say “true”.

  48. Gravatar of Student Student
    10. April 2024 at 15:23

    You are getting ivory towery here. It would not at all be absurd to point to a rock and say it’s true that it’s a rock. Sure it could have a different name, but a rock is still a rock none the less…

  49. Gravatar of Student Student
    10. April 2024 at 15:24

    I think you should elaborate on why gravity isn’t true.

  50. Gravatar of Student Student
    10. April 2024 at 15:26

    And gravity is a claim about the world. There could be worlds where gravity isn’t true. My claim is that it is here is our space/time fabric.

  51. Gravatar of Student Student
    10. April 2024 at 15:28

    It is also objectively true that I am in over my head.

  52. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. April 2024 at 07:48

    “And gravity is a claim about the world”

    Nope, gravity is a word. Gravity causes apples to fall is a claim. Scientists do make gravity related claims about the world, such as that gravity is a “force” (which may or may not be true, we don’t know.) Or that gravity is curved space.

    Try this on for size:

    “Claim X is true.”

    “Claim X is objectively true.”

    How do these two claims differ? I say they mean the exact same thing. “Objective” is just window dressing.

  53. Gravatar of Student Student
    11. April 2024 at 10:00

    Last comment from me on this. Just because we never know for certain whether a specific claim is true or not doesn’t mean that objective truth doesn’t exist. Whether the claims are certain or not has nothing to do with their being or not being objectively true.

    I was careless with what I wrote about gravity. I meant that the truth or lack thereof of the claim that gravity is a force does not depend on the observer or the historical or social context that the people making the claims about it exist in.

    “Claim X is true”: This statement asserts that based on the available evidence, reasoning, or belief system, claim x is correct or accurate. This, however, does not imply universality, as the truth of the claim can be relative to specific conditions, contexts, or personal perceptions. It means essentially that the claim maker believes the claim accurately reflects reality as they understand it or interpret it.

    “Claim X is objectively true”: This goes beyond personal or contextual truth to imply that claim x is true independent of anyones beliefs, biases, or perspectivs. The difference is that the truth of the claim does not vary with different observers or their circumstances. It is universally true. Thus, objectivity refers to the notion that the claim is true in all circumstances and under all conditions. It’s not subject to personal interpretations or cultural constructions.

    In short, an objective truth is one that is independent of human thought or social influence. The claim that ethnic Russians in Ukraine are engaged in a civil war might be true today, or yesterday but not tomorrow. It depends on perspectives and individual minds. It may or may not be true at a place and time but it isn’t objectively true (nor could it ever be as it is not independent of a mind).

    That gravity is a force in our universe that causes an apple to fall is either true or false universally. There is a difference.

  54. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    11. April 2024 at 21:09

    I don’t have a Harvard MBA, but when most of your customers are Democrats, does it make sense for the CEO to spend all his spare time insulting liberals on Twitter, er, . . . I mean X?

    Now consider him telling X’s advertisers to F-themselves.  That was telling *all* X’s customers, employees and investors to F-themselves. (The fun part was watching him expect applause that didn’t happen, then repeat himself in a second try.) Value down now 73%.

    Elon is looking more like Henry Ford all the time. Genius engineer, horrendous manager. Picked fights with everybody. His contempt for customers (“they can have any color they want as long as it’s black”) handed the market to GM. An antisemite buddy of dictators, Himmler called Ford “one of our most valuable, important, and witty fighters” and Hitler gave him props in Mein Kampf. In 1939 Ford blamed the Jews for starting WWII and the torpedoing of American ships, and sold war materials to the Nazis. Not too long after he’d bankrupted the once dominating business and was forced out by his own family.

    So Tesla now is parched of new models (except the Armageddon Bro-mobile that can’t be sold in Europe), while Elon is picking fights with everybody, showing empathy for Putin and optimism for the Russian cause (and of course is in bed with the CCP), as a privileged child of South African apartheid is posting “white replacement” Xthings for Xiots, is being sued right now by a young Jewish man whom he called this and who was attacked by a mob as a result…

    Genius engineers sometimes lack management skills. It’ll be interesting to see how Elon turns out.

  55. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. April 2024 at 06:54

    Student, How could we possibly know that a claim is true “independent of beliefs”? That makes no sense, unless you assume that God tells us it is true. But even then, you’d have to believe in God.

    Jim, Good comment.

  56. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    12. April 2024 at 08:21

    Late to the party on the debate about whether Putin is simply evil. I think he is, but I think evil depends on vantage point and scope. To cows and pigs, we carnivorous humans are simply evil because we kill and eat them. If you are a Russian ethnonationalist with dreams of rebuilding the Russian Empire such as Alexander Dugin, Putin is a good man, in fact, the best of men. But Putin’s moral code is only good for a very limited number of people. If you are a Ukrainian, you can live next door to say Poland, and, for the most part, as long as you don’t lob bombs at them do whatever the heck you want. But, if you live next door to Putin, you have to cede economic and political veto power to him, or he will lob bombs at you and try to take you over (as long as he can get away with it without getting killed by you and your allies.)

  57. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. April 2024 at 09:24

    Carl, You said:

    “If you are a Russian ethnonationalist with dreams of rebuilding the Russian Empire such as Alexander Dugin, Putin is a good man, in fact, the best of men.”

    I agree, and ditto for Hitler from the perspective of German anti-semites.

    I’m always amused when people (like Student above) are surprised that when I say “X is true” I mean “I believe X is true” How could it possibly mean anything else? When I say Putin is evil, I most definitely mean that I regard Putin as evil.

  58. Gravatar of Student Student
    12. April 2024 at 12:33

    Ok, I can’t help it… again you are confusing certainty about a claim with objectivity. Objectivity just means the claim is universally true. It is independent of the subject (subjectivity). Subjective claims and objective claims are both subject to uncertainty.

    The difference is that the validity of objective claims does not depend on beliefs or feelings or perceptions (i.e. a mind).

    You can be in any time and place and believe or not believe whatever you want about the molecular structure of water… but it that will not impact the truth or falsity of the claim that water (alone) contains two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms per molecule. That claim is either objectively true or objectively false.

    Time and place and perception have nothing to do with it. If water truly does have 2 hydrogen and one oxygen atom (I am pretty confident it does, but not 100% certain), that claim is objectively true.

    A person’s beliefs about it has nothing to do with its truth or falsity. If true, it’s objectively true. If true, it’s true for everyone and for all time. Whether we are right or wrong or uncertain about the claim has no bearing on the matter.

    We use these concepts in Bayesian analysis all the time. This isn’t an unconventional POV. An objective prior is flat. This means we impose no prior beliefs on the issue at hand and let the data (the likelihood function) determine the posterior. A subjective prior imposes personal beliefs. In these cases, the posterior is conditional on the beliefs of the analyst. In either case, posterior is associated with uncertainty.

  59. Gravatar of Student Student
    12. April 2024 at 12:48

    My language is getting sloppy again… a flat prior (non informative or objective) is in a sense imposing a belief. Some will say, philosophically speaking, all priors, including a flat prior reflect a choice and that complete objectivity is impossible. I actually accept that view… but my point remains. Uncertainty about a truth claim does not influence whether or not it is objectively true. It being based on context or beliefs or feelings or perceptions does.

  60. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    12. April 2024 at 19:00

    “Late to the party on the debate about whether Putin is simply evil. I think he is, but I think evil depends on vantage point and scope … If you are a Russian ethnonationalist with dreams of rebuilding the Russian Empire such as Alexander Dugin, Putin is a good man, in fact, the best of men… “

    To say one is “simply evil” doesn’t help either understand or resolve the problem. Crazy Dugin, OTOH, surprisingly, considerably helped me understand. When I first heard his tale of the land peoples versus the sea peoples it sounded like more east-Russian semi-mysticism — but it turns out to be a core concept in geopolitics and state institutionalism. (Kotkin just lectured on it at Hoover.) It goes back to Athens v Persia and to ancient China, and explains much about right now. In a thimble…

    [] Land states at all times on all borders face enemies real and potential. They never know from where the next threat will come so they constantly strive to (a) weaken their neighbors & (b) expand their borders. As there is no formula for “enough” of (b) they are prone to over-expansion, collapse, revanchist re-expansion, repeat (Russia!). Pre-emptive wars are common and entirely logical. All this requires a strong army that serves the *personal regime* not “the nation” — armies personally sworn to the Emperor, Adolph, the CCP, etc. Armies can take over and often do (Napoleon, the Praetorian Guards killed 13 of the Emperors they guarded) so they end up with either a military regime (Emperors, Kings and Presidents wearing military uniforms) or Lenin and Stalin shooting all the best generals. Their economically Lose-Lose wars are *victories* as long as they gain territory for regime security. Only the regime’s personal leaders need Win. They govern by power.

    [] Sea states gain by trade, which is Win-Win. For this they need a navy and friendly allies to protect their trade routes. Both require much $$$, so they expand to get yet more trade Win-Win. As expanding trade is voluntary to trading partners (more or less, usually) their relations abroad follow a rule-based order. They have only small armies and in war have allies or mercenaries do land-fighting for them. (Hannibal’s army was mercenary, see all the allies Britain financed against Napoleon). With no big army the regime stays civil, becomes rule-based and trends liberal to maximize wealth. Their rule #1 :“Get rich, expand the rule based trading world, power flows from wealth”. The Industrial Revolution fed rocket fuel to the sea states as the Win-Wins became much bigger, thus the British Empire, then the USA, and now The West including EU, Japan, Korea, etc.

    [] Conflict — the two may totally not understand each other, as the sea state’s POV is built into its cultural heritage for hundreds of years, and the land state’s POV for thousands (in Russia, since the Mongols). Look at Putin’s wars: Transnistria, Abkhazian, Chechen #1, Chechen #2, Georgia, Syria, Ukraine 1914-on. All exactly as per the “land power” model above. The sea power West sees one economic *disaster* after another and asks “What did you gain?” Putin and his government see “Win, Win, Win, Win, Win, Win, Pending” … the appeasing Chamberlain and Merkel told the land powers, “C’mon, join our club and get rich” and were shocked to get bombs and tanks instead … Putin & Co. can’t believe the west is so naive as to really believe in “money”, and conclude the “rules based order” is a hostile plot to contain Russia and topple their regime. (Read what Putin’s actually said … for years.)

    “But Putin’s moral code is only good for a very limited number of people.”

    Well, for most people in world history it would’ve been just fine — land states dominated — and for a lot of people today too. Which gets to an excellent discussion of the geopolitics of land states vs sea states today by a China specialist…

    The Strategic Significance of the South China Sea: Dr. Sally Paine, US Naval War College

    “…examine the different security paradigms of the USA, China and Russia, as continental and maritime powers live in very different worlds…”

    (This is pre-Ukraine war, but so relevant I barely noticed.)

  61. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. April 2024 at 04:42

    Student, You are using “objective” in a sense I don’t understand. We are talking past each other.

    Human beings have no access at all to “things that are true beyond what we believe to be true”. Those hypotheticals are not even worth thinking about, like angels dancing on a pin.

    Jim, Um, it’s the 21st century. Since 1945, Iraq and Russia are basically the only countries that have tried to invade and annex significant territory from neighboring sovereign countries. (I’m counting the Falklands as a “territory”.

    Time for the world to move on.

  62. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    13. April 2024 at 13:56

    I fully agree. It *is* time for the world to move on.

    Tell that to Putin and the siloviki. They haven’t … Marx and Lenin are long dead (1883, 1924), tell the CCP it’s time to move on … Khrushchev famously moved on from Stalin in 1956, tell Xi it’s really time to move on from denouncing Khrushchev for betraying Stalin.

    Political regimes can be like ex-girlfriends and others who gain valuable self-validation by nursing grievances — they don’t want to move on.

    It’s bad enough with the ex-girlfriend.

  63. Gravatar of Student Student
    14. April 2024 at 04:59

    Indeed we are. We are at an impasse over the the word objective… which is funny. I see objective as being about the object and subjective to be about the subject. Given that understanding, something objectively true doesn’t depend on whether human beings have access to it or if human beings didn’t exist at all. Water would be H2O either way. Therefore, if true, it’s objectively true. The uncertainty about whether it’s true or not is another matter.

    But this discussion has reached its end. I enjoyed it and I can see your position more clearly now.

  64. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    15. April 2024 at 14:37

    Jim Glass:
    I agree that land powers have different fears than sea powers and, as a result, they are more likely to be led by brutal mass murderers: Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Putin and so on. We were brutal when we had lots of land-based competitors surrounding us: the Native American tribes. I would hope that if Massasoit had asked for my advice in the 1620s, I would have told him to kick the pilgrims back into the ocean because as far as the Wampanoag and all the tribes behind them were concerned, the pilgrims were evil.

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