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If Jesse Singal is Right about Gender-Care, then the Courts will Handle it Pretty Well.

Traditionally, the best respected gender care for youth was provided under the “Dutch Protocol.” The Dutch protocol uses a diagnostic model, whereby a clinician’s job is to decide what care is appropriate. The protocol requires heavy psychological testing and psychotherapy, then perhaps puberty blockers, hormones, or surgeries, depending on what the clinician considers appropriate.

For a long time pretty much everyone in this space was comfortable with the Dutch protocol.

But in the last few years, four things have rocked that consensus:

  1. The population of children seeking gender-care changed. Numbers have exploded, many more are female-to-male transitioners, and many more have (possibly unrelated) medical disorders.
  2. Several northern European countries pulled back on what care they provide. They’ve shifted to using more psychotherapy, rather than hormones and puberty blockers, than under the Dutch Protocol. Why? For one thing, medical authorities in these countries cite the change in the treatment-seeking population (which might leave old research outdated) and new data showing that the effects of hormones and puberty blockers are less reversible than previously thought. Perhaps more important, a British attempt to replicate the study that justified the Dutch protocol failed.
  3. US Republicans proposed bills severely restricting gender-treatment for minors or banning it altogether. Generally, these laws are far more restrictive than restrictions in Europe. At the state level, several have passed.
  4. In contrast, gender-care organizations and physicians have become much less restrictive in their recommendations for treatment – new WPATH Standards of Care depart from the Dutch protocol with faster application of hormones and blockers. Broadly, WPATH has moved to an informed consent model, where clinicians inform patients of treatments’ expected consequences, rather than determine what treatments are appropriate.

To me it is unclear whether the Americans or the Europeans have the better of the argument. I see two biases that should counter-act.

  • The general small-c conservatism of the medical profession, codified in the “do no harm” principle.
  • The tendency in medicine to obfuscate about trans issues in support of progressive agendas.

These are both pretty well documented biases of medicine.

That means doctors might be under-treating: when they don’t have much evidence either way on whether a procedure is good, they default to doing nothing (especially in Europe), even though a priori there’s little reason to think that abstaining from treatment is better. There’s the classic joke that doctors would need an RCT to say that parachutes prevent injuries when jumping out of planes.

But they might be over-treating: they tend to see the evidence for gender-related care as much stronger than it really is. Honestly, the standards for publishing in this field really do seem to be out of step with the rest of medicine, and there is a broad tendency to overstate conclusions.

So I personally have no strong opinion on who is right.

Well, the Republicans are wacky. But anyone else might be right.

Jesse Singal thinks the Americans are wrong and that this is a big problem. Obviously, the Republicans agree with him on that point, and go far beyond agreeing with him on other points.

The only thing I will add to the conversation is that this is something that the medical malpractice bar is well-suited to resolve. Any possible negligence has an identified actor, identifiable actions, and concentrated harms that make natural plaintiff parties (de-transitioners).

So, this is debate doesn’t need to happen in public.

Basically, a bunch of de-transitioners are going to sue the doctors who administered their transitions. As long as these claims reach juries, a bunch of these suits will succeed (juries are random). So, doctors will get punishing lawsuits (and punishing insurance premia) if Singal is right and they’re prescribing blockers/hormones/surgeries too aggressively. They will change their behavior accordingly. These suits are already happening, and people think it might change doctors’ behavior.

It’s not that courts will do a good job sorting out which doctors were too aggressive. It’s just that overly aggressive treatment will create a lot of de-transitioners, who are the people with grounds to sue. So, more aggressive care means more suits. Regardless of how smart the courts are, overeager practices won’t be commercially feasible in the long term

So the important question is whether plaintiffs can reach juries in medical malpractice suits.

That means, the key question is whether plaintiffs can argue that physiciams failed to meet the standard of ordinary care. The standard for medical malpractice is the same as the standard for ordinary negligence, and applies when defendants were using specialized knowledge or acting in a medical capacity.

Usually, that means plaintiffs must show clinicians didn’t meet “standards of care.” That means that doctors are fine if they exercise the usual judgment for a normal doctor with their qualifications. If plaintiffs can substantiate a claim that that a clinician didn’t follow the standard of care and this caused them harm, then they can get in front of a jury (and win some random percentage of the time).

But doesn’t that leave doctors immune to suit if they follow the WPATH standards of care? Not necessarily. Standards of care only provide immunity to defendants when they represent medical consensus. WPATH standards might be too contentious to meet that bar. However, defendants do have some protection when their behavior has majority support, or that of a respectable minority.

So an important question for plaintiffs is how courts treat the WPATH standards of care.

Courts have differed. Some consider it to largely reflect medical consensus. Others treat it as essentially just advocacy. As WPATH standards depart from older standards and from the European consensus, it’s probably become harder to use them defensively in court.

So it seems that plaintiffs should be able to state a claim, especially when doctors depart from the Dutch Protocol. Depends on the judge.

In general this is all very murky, and that means more claims will go to juries. It’s hard to establish “ordinary care” standards in gender care, because we don’t even know what the clinics are doing. Clinics are incredibly cagey about revealing their practices. That’s understandable given Republican pressures, but it means claims are less likely to be shut down by a judge – they don’t have the grounds to keep things from juries.

The upshot is that the debate over appropriate care for gender dysphoric minors need not happen in the court of public opinion. It will be resolved in the actual courts. The only reason to listen to Singal and the Europeans is if you’re concerned that the courts will move too slowly and and there’ll be collateral damage in the meantime. Eh.


Journalists are Surprisingly Careless About Defamation.

Sarah Jane Comrie is a random woman who was recently caught in the vortex of a scandal.

She is white, and recently found herself in a dispute with some black teens over who had the right to use a citi-bike that either she or the teens had paid for.

A video of this incident went viral, and was covered by a number of news organizations.

It appears that the teens were in fact attempting to steal the bike from her. Her attorney has produced two citi-bike receipts from the time the video was recorded. The first was (allegedly) the bike in the video, which she then re-attached to its post to resolve the dispute with the teens. The second was another bike that she rented to actually get home.

It’s possible the receipts are fake. But it’s pretty unlikely. It’s not clear how her attorney could fake receipts on the app, and if he did that will become clear in court and he’ll lose his license.

The news outlets covered this story a little differently than I would have.

Yahoo entertainment described the situation thus: “Citi Bike Karen” placed on leave after screaming for help while trying to steal in viral clip

In another article from Yahoo news:

Karen is getting blasted online after faking her tears while trying to steal a Black man’s rental city bike in New York City.

Tomas Kassahun

In Bicycling Magazine: “Pregnant NYC Karen” on Video Trying To Steal a Black Man’s Citi Bike

The video was also pretty heavily covered by black media outlets.


This is a pretty easy defamation case. Sarah Jane Comrie is not a public figure. So, to make a claim for defamation under New York Law, all she has to show is:

  1. The accusations against her were false
  2. The outlets accusing her of racism/theft/Karening were negligent (i.e. they did not exercise ordinary care).
  3. The accusations caused damage to her.

She got suspended from her job and got quite a number of death threats, so it’s not super hard to show damage.

Showing negligence is also pretty easy. There’s literally no evidence in the video that she’s at fault, so it was kind of wild to throw those accusations around. Plus, journalists are really not supposed to report that unconvicted people committed crimes. That’s why you see the word “allegedly” in stories even when it’s pretty clear someone was guilty.

And, I think it will become pretty clear in time that the accusations against her were false.

A jury is going to be pretty sympathetic to Comrie here, I think. This woman was (allegedly) the victim of a group crime, she’s pregnant, she was clearly distressed, etc. and then a lot of journalists called her a racist thief and thousands of strangers told her to kill herself. Not good for Yahoo’s bottom line!

There is a Pattern of Journalists and Public Figures being Shocklingly Cavalier About Defaming the Subjects of Viral Videos.

Here is AOC describing Daniel Penny’s killing of Jordan Neely:

This is also plausibly defamation! It’s not as strong a defamation case as Sarah Comrie’s, but it’s not an unwinnable case.

Generally, journalists were actually pretty careful about Daniel Penny. Even outlets quite unsympathetic to him were careful to avoid the word “murder.”

Journalists were less careful in the case of Nicholas Sandmann, the skeezy looking kid at the center of the Covington Catholic controversy some years ago, where some schoolkids, wearing maga-hats, appeared to be bothering an older Native American man named Phillips. And then it turned out they weren’t actually doing that.

He and the other students filed a lot of suits. They successfully settled against some journalists who had been careless. They lost against journalists who’d carefully described Phillips’ report as just one side of the story.

But it’s surprising that anyone at all was so careless. All of these teams have good lawyers.

I am not sure why journalists (and AOC) are so careless about defaming private persons.

But if I had to guess, I imagine the problem is the Sullivan standard.

If you’re a public figure, if you want to sue for defamation, you need to show that the defaming person wasn’t just negligent, but acted with actual malice. That’s pretty hard.

But random people thrust into the public eye by a viral video aren’t public figures.

Heavy news coverage of alleged misconduct by random strangers is really a new thing under the sun.

So journalists might just need some time to develop procedures and mores that can prevent them from getting sued – this is riskier territory than typical news coverage, and so it’ll be a while before they can keep their ids in check.

Slowly they’re getting the hang of it. You can see that in the more cautious coverage of Penny than of Sandmann.

The ones who fail will not survive.

A Legal Analysis of the Jordan Neeley Case

The Jordan Neely case is complicated enough that it could be on a criminal law issue spotter.

You should not be surprised if Daniel Penny is acquitted. But he might also be convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

Any of these is a plausible verdict. But Penny is probably going to get off.

The issue is this:

  • A Jury will almost certainly find that Penny had a right to act in defense of others to exercise force.
  • He had that right as long as he had a reasonable belief that it was necessary in response to imminent use of unlawful force, and it looks like Neely was threatening people.
  • However, he likely didn’t have the right to exercise deadly force. Under New York law, you can only use deadly force when you have reason to believe that the other person is about to use deadly force.
  • A jury is unlikely to think Penny reasonably expected deadly force – the relevant time for that wouldn’t be when Penny initiated the chokehold, but later, when he didn’t ease off the hold. At that time, Neely was pacified.
  • So the question is whether the force Penny applied was, in the appropriate sense, deadly.
  • Did Penny use deadly force? in some sense yes, since Neely died. But that was over the course of 15 minutes as they were restraining him. So it seems any deadly force wasn’t intentional. So, the application of deadly force was either reckless, criminally negligent, or not a crime.

Under New York law 2nd degree manslaughter is the reckless application of deadly force (basically the same in most states).

Reckless has a very specific meaning in the law. It means that you were aware of a substantial and unjustified risk ands still took that risk.

Now, it’s clear that Penny was aware of some risk, since a bystander told him to ease up a little on the chokehold, so he “wouldn’t pick up a murder charge.” Also, you know… People die in chokeholds.

Was he aware of a substantial and unjustified risk? Unclear. That is the important issue for this charge.

Under the statute, “substantial and unjustified” [basically] means that taking the risk is “a gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise”

So the question for a manslaughter charge is: was Penny aware of sufficient risks that would make his actions a gross deviation from how careful a reasonable person who knew of those risks would be?

Or, alternatively, was he aware of less risky options he had that would make his actions a gross deviation from what a reasonable person who knew of those options would do?

The charge for criminally negligent homicide is subtly different. For him to be guilty of criminally negligent homicide, he wouldn’t need to be aware of significant risks or alternative options. As long as a reasonable person would have been aware of those risks or those options, he would be guilty.

I doubt he will get a criminally negligent homicide conviction. I just think it would be hard for a lawyer to argue that an ex-marine trained in martial arts was unaware of risks or tactics that a normal dude would be aware of.

More likely he either gets manslaughter or gets off.

The big question is: Did Penny grossly deviate from the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise?

I think it would be hard for a DA to argue that he did.

It’s notable that the bystander who told Penny to be careful about getting a murder charge didn’t tell Penny to get off of Neely. He just told Penny to ease up [and there was more context around defacation]. And, other bystanders didn’t tell Penny anything, or actively approved of what he was doing. That suggests that several (presumably reasonable) people thought that Penny’s behavior was either appropriate or nearly appropriate. In that context, a DA is going to have a hard time arguing that Penny’s behavior was a gross deviation from reasonability.

If you’re the DA you have a few options, but they’ll all bad:

  • You could argue that the bystanders were all grossly unreasonable. Hard argument.
  • You could argue that Penny should have known better because he was a marine trained in combat. Also a hard argument: “… the prosecution would have you convict this man, not despite his service, but because of it!
  • Or, you could argue that Penny understood the force he was applying better than the bystanders did. This one’s possible, though I feel like jurors are going to see the video, feel like they know what’s going on, and thus conclude that the bystanders knew what was going on as well.

What is going to give the DA a particularly hard time is that Penny was working with another guy to restrain Neely, and when the other guy told Penny to get off, Penny got off. So Penny could very easily argue that he thought the other guy was managing things, or that he figured other people would tell him if Neely was in danger. I think a jury would take those arguments pretty seriously unless Penny really makes himself seem like a jerk at trial.

Beyond that, I think the DA’s biggest problem is that Neely habitually threatened or punch people on subways, while Penny is a veteran and a college kid who was plausibly trying to do good. Is a jury of New Yorker subway riders going to unanimously send that kid to jail?


New article in the Nation about how swimming is especially transphobic.

There is a particularly interesting passage:

World Aquatics, the international federation that governs the sport of swimming, released a new transgender participation policy in July 2022 that essentially bans trans women from competing by creating incredibly restrictive requirements for their inclusion. (As I have written previously, there is no real evidence that trans athletes have an inherent advantage over their cisgender counterparts.)

Frankie de la Cretaz

If you click through those links, you will see they all cite back to the same study, from the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport, performed by the pro LGBTQ+ group E-Alliance.

It’s key biomedical findings are these:

Tl;DR is that trans-women retain some athletic advantages after 12 months of HRT (bone density, height, strength, muscle-mass), while losing others (hemoglobin density, perhaps muscular endurance).

Okay, got it.

That result is basically confirmed by studies of gender transition in the military and many other studies

If you ever encounter this debate going forward, the actual scientific results are surprisingly consistent:

  1. Controlling for height, transwomen retain some athletic advantages over cis women, but not all.
  2. Some advantages quickly disappear after starting HRT, controlling for height.
  3. Other advantages survive 36 months or more.
  4. Height/weight/body size is an independent source of advantage in most sports.
  5. But trans women become unable to compete on even footing with male athletes soon after beginning HRT.

What I hoped to achieve by writing this blog post is that all of my (two or three) lovely readers learn the facts. Those are the facts, as confirmed by every study, including the one by the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport.

The Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport discribed their findings a little differently than I would:

Available evidence indicates trans women who have undergone testosterone suppression have no clear biological advantages over cis women in elite sport.


A conservative might call that description a “lie.”

I don’t think that’s quite correct.

I think that the word “clear” used above is a load-bearing-modifier: a tiny little word that most people skip over, but which turns an obvious falsehood into something basically true. Very important to lawyers. You could rephrase E-Alliance’s description as:

There is insufficient evidence to clearly demonstrate that trans women who have undergone testosterone suppression have biological advantages over cis women in elite sport.

E-Alliance, rephrased.

That’s correct, because there have been basically no studies on trans-women in elite sport. Plus, if you think about it, it’s not clear how you would measure “clear biological advantages” in a specifically elite-sport context. Clear biological advantages compared to whom?

This is all very sad. Trans-women can’t compete with cis-men on even ground, but cis-women can’t compete with trans-women on even ground.

Whatever rules we choose will leave some people rightly feeling pissed off.

Some people think that the cis-female athletes should just shut the fuck up, because trans-women already face startling disadvantages, so they should take the L and move on.

I think that’s reasonable to say to most people.

The problem is that some people care about elite women’s sports more than anything else in the world, so telling them to just shut up is pretty unfair. Those people are called “elite women’s athletes.”


Wow, Dean Heather Gerken actually killed the US News Rankings.

New US News law school rankings came out and they’re a shitshow.

A Duke/Harvard tie is just silly. No student has a hard decision between Harvard and Duke unless their parents are in Durham and are hospitalized. Harvard probably has the best legal faculty in the world.

[NOTE: lol, no, I do not go to HLS]

Rankings for law schools actually matter. Law schools are far more heirarchical than other grad programs, and you want to end up on the right end of that heirarchy.

The law is a punishingly hierarchical profession. Lawyers will unironically talk about an attorney’s “pedigree,” meaning where they went to law school, who they clerked for, etc.

The reason is that in law, your reputation is your biggest asset. Grading outputs is hard, so clients grade inputs, and they grade inputs by the names on diplomas. Furthermore, law is adversarial. An intimidating reputation brings opponents to heel in settlement negotiations and makes judges pay closer attention to you. So, raising expectations of your work-product raises the quality of your work-product.

So, students choose law schools basically just by reputational ranking (plus scholarship money).

That makes USNews’ job pretty easy. Since students filter so effectively, the rankings are clear. It’s where the students historically chose to go. That information is relevant to students, because students need to know the best reputational asset they can buy.

So – let me be clear – the vibes based ranking of schools is the true ranking, whatever other numbers say. Quality of the teaching, resources available to students, all that stuff maybe matters on the margin. But the reputation of the school matters more, because of the signalling value. Since students filter so hard, the name on your diploma tells employers a ton about how smart and hardworking you are. You don’t want to accidentally under-signal your value. Reputations are widely known.

The value of USNews is reporting this widely known information to uninitiated kids. That’s especially useful for kids at public schools who lack career counseling. USNews just has to dress the reputation ranking in algorithms about teaching and whatever so they look less elitist. Easy!

The job is even easier because USNews’ decisions self-vindicate. If USNews makes a hard judgment call, their decision determines where students go, which determines what the ranking should be, which retroactively makes their decision correct.

So like, USNews does not have a hard job.

And yet they still managed to fuck it up? Partly this is because law school deans, who hate the rankings, all conspired to not provide USNews any information.

But USNews should have been fine, since they don’t actually need those numbers; Yes, USNews has to make their rankings by pretending to use an algorithm, but like, lol. If the data-driven algorithm conflicts with the vibes-based ranking, USNews just changes its algorithm.

And, bizarrely, it does not appear that USNews fucked up the ranking by taking vengeance on the schools that wronged them. Cornell and Chicago were the only two top schools that gave US News data this year. Only one of those schools (Chicago) is overplaced, it’s only overplaced by one spot, and it was similarly overplaced last year.

It is not clear how USNews fucked this up. It might be because they de-prioritized inputs and reputation while prioritizing bar passage rates and employment. That’s actually good for telling students which low-tier schools are scams vs. bargains, but it leaves them unable to properly rank top schools, where bar passage rates mostly just reflect how many people go into academia, the Hill, etc.

Since USNews pulls their rankings out of their asses, I don’t know why they couldn’t do both jobs at the same time.

I can do the job they failed.

Here is the true ranking of the top 20 law schools in America

  • 1: Yale
  • 2: Stanford
  • 3: Harvard

_______________IMPORTANT LINE_____________________

  • 4: Chicago
  • 5: Columbia
  • 6: NYU

_______________IMPORTANT LINE_____________________

  • 7: Penn
  • 8: UMich and UVa
  • 10: Berkeley
  • 11: Duke, Northwestern
  • 13: Cornell
  • 14: Georgetown, UCLA

_______________IMPORTANT LINE_____________________

  • 16: UT,
  • 17-19: Vandy, WashU, USC
  • 20: Minnesota, BU, Notre Dame, maybe GW

There are tiny ways you could quibble with this. If you want to become an academic, choose Chicago over Stanford. If you want to go into government, choose Georgetown over Cornell.

And, my ranking ignores high-risk strategies. If you go to Harvard and win moot, that might be more impressive than anything a person could do at Yale.

But, basically, the above ranking is correct.

I May Have Been Right About Tests

A while ago I said that colleges faced a vicious cycle that made them all go SAT blind:

  1. Go test optional to raise your SAT average and lower your acceptance rate
  2. But this raises test averages at every college, and it means the SAT is less useful since lots of kids don’t take it
  3. So the schools that have low test averages even though they’re test-optional go test-blind
  4. So now colleges with decent averages look like they have low average scores
  5. So everyone has to go test blind.
  6. But now no one can identify promising kids, which sucks.

Was that model right? It looks like it was. Why do I say that? Because a bunch of law deans have objected to a policy that would allow law schools to not require LSATs.

If a law school thinks the LSAT is good, you would think they could just keep requiring it themselves. But the schools want the rule to come from the ABA, not from the law schools, so there is a collective action problem.

Probably it’s the problem I listed above.

American Iconoclasm

People like tearing down confederate monuments. Seems largely sensible.

Some worry there is a slippery slope.

Circa 2016 the respectable position was to deny that such a slope existed: no-one would desanctify the good-but-problematic guys like George Washington.

Then in 2020 people tore down some statues of George Washington in Portland.

To be fair, that was just Portland. Nothing happened irl.

But then you started seeing committees in real life places like NYC, SF, and DC removing the names Washington and Jefferson from places of honor.

And now there’s even some support to delionize Lincoln.

C’est la vie.

To be fair, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington all did pretty bad things.

Sally Hemings was like 15 when her relationship with Jefferson started, even it was sort of consensual.

So there is some intuitive sense to dethroning these guys.

But the trouble is that they were basically the good guys. You can tell if you read their letters. Or, compare them to post-Bolivar and post-Louverture elites. We have a lot to thank them for.

And yet they still did pretty reprehensible things. The past was pretty backward.

Matt Bruenig accordingly concludes that you shouldn’t valorize people, but rather valorize acts. No one is really pure enough to beatify, and everyone looks bad in hindsight.

I think Bruenig is basically correct, insofar as he is talking to sane, rational, educated adults.

But what Bruenig misses is that lionization is for children.

Some facts about children:

  1. We have to teach children history so they’re not ignorant little fucks.
  2. We also have to teach them morality and social norms.
  3. We have to convince them that following social norms is a good idea.
  4. Children like big powerful things, especially boy-children.

Here is a five-step-plan for doing all of that at once:

  1. Teach children exciting stories from history.
  2. Make it very clear who the heroes and villains are by exaggerating the heroes’ virtues and minimizing their flaws.
  3. Make the heroes be cultural relatives of the children, while making the villains sort of foreign (maybe the villains are British!) so the children identify with the heroes.
  4. Make the heroes win. Maybe they die (like John Henry) or they lose the war (like Athens) but eventually history vindicates them.
  5. Tell the children that the stories are literally true.

You may have noticed that the five-step plan above is followed in every culture ever, anywhere on the globe. Sometimes people go to wild lengths to fit history to the plan. Medieval Persian poets typically portrayed Alexander as the secret rightful heir to the Achaemenid throne.

Using the plan, you can teach kids to be moral while teaching them semi-accurate history, and convince them that being moral is a good idea: the good guys win! You make kids think the stories are cool, rather than lame, by having the characters be actual successful people from reality, and occasionally making ultraviolent movies about them.

You can see how this process doesn’t work if you’re just lionizing actions rather than people, as Bruenig suggests. If you wanted to teach morality, you would have to say, for every action “… and this was good” or “… and this was bad.”

That would not be efficient.

Furthermore, you couldn’t convince kids that good triumphs. We can’t expect kids to calculate the expected value of goodness by tallying up exactly how much good stuff characters did and how much they succeeded. What we can expect kids to do is to see that the good guys won.

It’s good to convince people that good guys win and that defections will be punished. Trusting societies are the societies where people cooperate to punish defections. Unsurprisingly it is trusting societies that succeed economically.

One way to convince children that heroes win is to make up some heroes and put their names on important stuff.

Then, you grow up, and you realize that history is more nuanced than the history they taught you as a kid. Maybe you get disillusioned; maybe you go ancom in college or leave the Baptist church. But you still have this deep irrational sense that you should cooperate for the good of the group. Which was the point.

So, if we’re to remove George Washington’s name from things, it should be because we have better options.

Probably the right move is to just pretend George Washington was black.

Institutions are the smartest dumbest.

One of the classic SlateStarCodex posts is about how pathetically easy it is to be smarter than institutions.

Here is a great example of that.

Robert Contee is chief of metropolitan police, saying that violent crime in DC has fallen in DC since 2015, and Robert Contee is obviously, obviously incorrect.

If you’ve been in cities in the last ten years, you’ve noticed that there’s a lot more crime. And yet Contee says that violent crimes are down.

He’s obviously wrong. That’s why your intuition disagrees with his numbers.

What’s going on is that reported violent crimes are down since 2015. But that’s not because there are fewer crimes. It’s because fewer crimes are being reported. Since 2015, Urban crime victimizations have increased, but victims are much less likely to report them to police than in 2015, especially black victims in urban areas (who are almost all victims of violent crime in DC). We know that from the national crime victimization survey, which gives us a pretty good idea of the rate of unreported crime.

The reason for the decline in reporting is that cops have basically stopped policing in the United States, especially in cities. The total number of arrests in the US is basically 30% of what it was in the oughts, with a sudden collapse in 2020.

Even though, over the same time, rates of victimization haven’t changed much, and have plausibly gone up.

So, a decline in reported crimes doesn’t mean there was a decline in actual crimes. It just means cops aren’t finding out about them.

How can we tell how many crimes are actually happening?

Look at crimes that always get reported.

Which crimes are those?

Homicide and carjackings. Every criminologist knows this.

Homicides are basically always reported because there’s a body. Carjackings are always reported because the owner has to report the crime to collect insurance.

So, what’s happened to murders in DC since 2015? They’ve risen almost 50%.

What’s happened to carjackings? They’ve tripled in the last 5 years.

From that we have pretty good reason to believe that crimes have risen overall.

So, no, crime has not fallen in DC since 2015. Crimes have probably increased, and simultaneously became much less likely to be reported.

So it’s interesting and maybe sad that high up law enforcement officials would say otherwise.

Perhaps the DC chief of police doesn’t know basic ground-level facts about crime in the district.

I think probably not. I think it’s more likely the chief of police will parrot the official statistics that he knows are wrong, because it wouldn’t be worth constantly explaining to people how the statistics should be interpreted.

If you read the thread linked above, you can see that the police chief wants to get people to ignore the statistics even though he doesn’t directly contradict them. That sounds like he knows the stats are wrong and he’s just not going to bother making his actual decisionmaking process explicit. So he pretends to believe in the spurious fall in crime but think we shouldn’t care about crime falling because people are upset by perceptions of crime. Unlikely.

And what’s funny is that what makes him keep his deliberating process secret probably isn’t anything suspicious. I doubt he’s trying to hide the numbers, crime waves can be good for police chiefs, since they bring funding, prestige, etc. I think explaining reality to the public would just be a hassle, and it’s not worth his time.

And now it’s time for a total about-face 60% of the way through this blogpost.

This is a topic that interests me: science, economics, politics, and other high end professions appear to have their debates in public, where everyone can look at them. But, really, they don’t.

Really, all major arguments happen behind closed doors. True, public discourse does inform these secret debates. And, there’s a decent amount of semi-public debate, on blogs, twitter, etc. That debate is sort of anonymized, but sort of public, but sort of on the DL.

For example, everyone important in journalism and policy-world reads internet racist Steve Sailer, even people who aren’t racist, because he has useful information to provide even to sane, regular people. But you can’t admit that you know the things you learned from Sailer. But they are good to know. There is a purpose served by keeping some things sub rosa.

Other parts of the semi-public discourse are more transparent to the public. Twitter isn’t all anons, after all.

But even that relatively-public side of the discourse doesn’t exactly happen in public. It’s structured around personal connections within circles of influence, and what appears in the public are just the emissions of the real discourse. For example, Matt Yglesias is very influential in the Biden white house as a blogger. In some sense he is involved in public discourse.. But, why is he influential? What is his special skill? It’s that he knows a lot of important people in DC and they say things to him that they wouldn’t say in public.

And I personally am a participant in this. This is technically an anonymous blog, so I will not say exactly what grad program I am in, but suffice it to say that I have gotten to hang out with important people, who have said stuff to me like:

  • The CDC has basically lost the plot (said by a former head of the FDA)
  • The Supreme Court is expecting that its decisions will force the end of the filibuster (said by a SCOTUS judge)
  • Grutter (the decision that made affirmative action legal) was an intentionally dishonest decision, since the reasoning didn’t fit the facts. SCOTUS was telling lower courts to enforce the law differently from how it was written down (said by someone who’d been clerking on SCOTUS at the time)
  • The Biden administration is influenced by “Latinx Voices” type nonprofits solely because journalists go to these nonprofits to get quotes on the public’s response to white house decisions (Said by one of the top advisers in the Biden administration).

None of these people would have said this stuff in public. Sure, these things aren’t exactly inflammatory, but they’re something that you might be cautious of putting in the public record in case it’s held against you. So they wouldn’t have told me if I was a journalist. But these weren’t said to me in private either. I met these people through school adjacent events, and at those events there’s an understanding that one will be discreet.

So, my sympathies to the conspiracists out there. There really is a secret world where power sits; everything that happens in public is a big lie.

What I will say, sitting inside the cathedral, is that most of the people in charge seem good at their jobs.

Big Eureka

Big Eureka.

Unironically, Big Eureka is probably the best YIMBY idea out there.

Let me explain.

One bizarre thing about the NorCal/SoCal divide is that “Northern California” is actually in the middle of the state.

The actual northern part of California is mostly just wilderness, except for the dying industrial centers of Chico and Redding, and the beautiful coastal town of Eureka (pop. 26,512; metro area 45,034).

Eureka sits on a wet part of the northern California coast, so it was settled long before California developed the elaborate irrigation and pipeline systems that rocketed the central valley and Los Angeles to their modern importance.

Eureka also has one of the mildest, most pleasant climates in America, tempered by the cold waters of the Humboldt bay. It’s also only a short drive from the scenic Trinity Alps and the Six Rivers National Monument.

So, Eureka had a lot of growth in the 19th century and the early 20th. By 1920 the city had reached half it’s present population, and by 1960 it had a greater population than today. So, the city has a quaint turn-of-the-century old-town:

And a lot of cool midcentury moderns:

Eureka is cool!

So why did it stop growing? Simple: growing would be illegal.

Eureka, like many California cities, has an “urban boundary” beyond which development is restricted to “rural” uses, which means pretty much nothing. That means Eureka is trapped in it’s old borders (plus the neighboring villages of Rosewood, Cutton, and Myrtletown, which are roped into the urban boundary as well). Look at the picture of Eureka above. You can trace the urban border yourself.

Eureka also has strict zoning that prevents building more than is already there.

That means that living in Eureka is expensive. An extremely modest home goes for $3-400,000:

While a normal, middle-class house might sell for nearly a million:

Paradoxically, living in Eureka is so expensive that the population is falling as residents are slowly pushed out by tourism and second homes.

Which is why Big Eureka is the best YIMBY idea that exists. Most small cities can’t grow because they can’t outcompete the “agglomeration effects” that a big city offers. So, Boston and New York strain at the seams while Hartford, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are basically free to live in. That leaves us pretty much stuck with the big cities we have, which is bad because city locations used to be determined by things that don’t really matter any more (like water transit) but cities today should be located next to value-adding amenities like mountains and beaches.

So the agglomeration effects trap us in sub-optimal urban locations. That means that normal YIMBYism can be sort of bad: it unlocks growth in New York and Boston, but that keeps us stuck in New York and Boston even if they aren’t really the best places for cities any more.

YIMBYism can’t help most small, perfectly located cities to grow because they’re pretty cheap to live in anyway. They just aren’t desirable because they lack agglomeration effects.

Eureka is the exception. It’s so nice that it’s crazy expensive even though there’s nothing there.

Which means you can make it into a big city just by relaxing the land-use regulations.

Eureka is just the best place for a big city. Perfect weather, no risk of drought, and near beautiful scenery and productive farmland.

And yet Eureka is just a little town.

Eureka is emblematic of the infamous phenomenon known as “The Lack of Shit Between Portland and San Francisco,” shown below:

It’s weird that there’s not more shit there? The Southern Coast has Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterrey, Santa Maria, Salinas, Santa Cruz, etc.

The East Coast has a big city pretty much anywhere you could safely live, and the smaller coastal cities of the South (Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington) are growing as fast as you can build homes.

The Norcal coast basically just has Eureka. And Oregon has almost nothing.

It’s Big Eureka time.

A Socially Conservative Vision for the United States

I consider myself a social conservative. By that I mean that I would endorse the following package of laws, which are aimed at the suppression of vice.

Rule 1: All names for babies must be chosen from a list of ~1,000.

If you wish to choose a name not on the list, you must document that it is a name in your culture, a name in some society’s classical or medieval literature, a family surname, or a commonly known proper noun associated to the family (e.g. “Tacoma”).

Rule 2: No name may be issued to more than 1% of babies in any 12-month period.

If you wish to use a name that has hit the cap, it must be the name of the infant’s close relative or godparent.

Rule 3: There shall be one superhero film every two years. Like the Olympics, DC and Marvel trade off.

There is ONE exception. For each major Oscar a studio wins (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, Actor, Actress) on a superhero movie, that studio may make one additional superhero movie.

Rule 4: Copyright on films extends no longer than the life of the director, first screenwriter, and up to two leads.

Rule 5: All commercial video services and social media are turned off from midnight to 6:00 AM, except for direct messaging and A/V chat.

Rule 6: Dating or “social matching” services may only “match” each person with one other person per day.

Rule 7: Having an adult Pitbull that is not spayed or neutered is a criminal offense. Breeding Pitbulls is a separate criminal offense.

Rule 8: Weed is decriminalized, but there are fines for sale (return to the laws of New York and Connecticut as of ~2018).

Rule 9: Gambling is only legal in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and according to Tribal law.

Rule 10: All gambling funds must be transferred through one “gambling account.” If this account goes in the red by more than $3,000 in a 12-month period, no more funds can be transferred to the account for 12 months.

Rule 11: There are ten college majors, excepting the technical fields (engineering, actuarial, accounting, health professions, and agriculture).

The ten majors are:

  1. Physics
  2. Chemistry
  3. Biology
  4. Mathematics
  5. Ancient literatures (must learn Greek, Latin, Classical Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, or Sanskrit)
  6. Modern literatures (must learn one modern language.)
  7. Philosophy
  8. Economics
  9. History
  10. Art/Art History

Colleges may offer concentrations within majors (e.g. “Theatre” within Literature, or “Political Science” within Economics). However, every major must have four core classes. For literature majors, the core classes depend on the language being learned.

Rule 12: Middle and High school students must participate in a range of extracurriculars such that students leave school around 6:00 PM (guidelines based on Success Academy).

Rule 13: Elementary schools must offer after-school care extending to 6:15 PM and on school holidays.

Rule 14: In middle and high schools, in each section of each class, the ranking of the boys in the section is posted publicly. This ranking is updated every week.

Students may opt out, but if so they cannot play boys’ sports.

Anyone of any sex can play on boys’ sports teams, but they must agree to have their academic rankings publicly posted.

Rule 15: Receiving government benefits for any child (SNAP, CHIP, EITC) is conditioned on that child’s school attendance. All other conditions (e.g. asset limitations) are removed, except for the trapezoidal structure of the EITC.

Rule 16: Tipping in bars, restaurants, cafes, and taxi services is illegal.

Rule 17: Public Sector union organizing is illegal.

Rule 18: Antitrust laws are enforced by specialized antitrust courts in which judges are Daubert-qualified Industrial Organization economists.

Rule 19: there is no lottery for H1-B visas.

Rule 20: All prisons are privatized. Payments to imprisonment firms are conditioned on the recidivism rates of their former convicts.

[Edit] Rule 21: It shall be illegal for a child under the age of 16 to be in possession of a smartphone or tablet device. [Can’t believe I forgot to put this in the original list]