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Small-Scale Question Sunday for May 21, 2023

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

There's a psychological phenomenon where people overestimate the presence of their outgroup once their space is diversified. For example, when women are integrated into an all-male workplace, the men who were there before might feel that women now make up more than half of the workplace, when they only make up, like, 30%. Or when a social media platform stops banning far-right speech, its userbase might feel that the far-right has taken over the network, when they've merely gone from 2% of posts to 10% of posts. Is there a term for the cognitive bias that I'm describing?

I'm always really suspicious of supposed statistical bias like this. People use percentages as a smarter-sounding way to say "almost none," "not enough," "some," "a lot," "too many," and "almost all." I notice that I do this quite a bit and other people seem to grok what I'm trying to convey.

So in your example, when Joe Blow says "Dang man, our office is half female now!" If you were to respond "Do you mean to say that you believe that precisely 37 individuals out of the 74 total who work in our office are female?" Joe wouldn't say "Yes, that is indeed my hypothesis." He'd say something like "Shit man, hell if I know, all I'm saying is that ever since that new HR lady and those two chicks from accounting got hired it feels like I can't crack a single joke without people freaking out on me!" Joe's not making a statistical statement, he's using "half" to mean "too many."

For a search keyword, salience bias is probably the most common term. Minority salience itself isn't really treated as a term of art, but it is studied.

I seem to remember reading recently that a report that came out which investigated the whole "Trump-Russia" collusion narrative, and came to the conclusion that it was manufactured without evidence by the media and FBI. But I'm drawing up blanks on what that report was called, and Google (being a part of the censorship-industrial complex) doesn't really want me to find it easily.

Does anyone remember what this report was called? And where I could read it?

The Durham report. It's the mirror image of Mueller: Rs say it proved the whole thing was manufactured, Ds say there were not large scale indictments so it proved nothing no face no case.

I'm planning to propose to my girlfriend soon, and am looking for advice on the engagement ring. I'm planning on going with a placeholder for the actual proposal and getting the real ring afterwards so that we can pick something out together that lines up with her preferences. But I'd like some ideas and general knowledge to bring to the table.

My understanding is that natural diamonds have their prices massively inflated by diamond cartels, propaganda, and literal slavery, so am planning to avoid them. I'm not opposed to going with a synthetic diamond, since they're better and cheaper, but maybe the prices are still artificially high due to the propaganda of diamonds overall? I'm not really sure.

Her favorite color is yellow, so I'm thinking a silver ring with a yellow gemstone (diamond or other gem), but there's a bunch of different types of gems even restricting to yellow, and I want one that's going to last long and look fancy without deteriorating over time. My natural inclination is to be a cheapskate about everything, so I want to make sure I'm not just doing mental gymnastics to justify cheaping out on something with significant emotional value. Neither of us are especially social people so aren't super concerned with how other people would perceive buying a non-diamond ring, but it probably matters a little bit. Ideally I would like to get something that is simultaneously cheaper and more meaningful and more impressive looking than a diamond. What are my best options and tradeoffs to consider? Also, are we better off shopping around at local jewelers so we can see stuff in person, or they all scams including the non-diamond gems such that there is a significantly better quality/price ratio online?

Last I checked, lab grown diamond prices were still naturally high because CVD machines are expensive and slow. Still a bit cheaper than natural and much cheaper than certified conflict-free sourcing.

But! You're sure she'd want a yellow gem? IIRC natural yellow diamonds are rare and expensive; lab grown ones are the same price as clear.

I am not sure. I suspect, but I'm going to propose with a fake ring and then talk to her about it in detail and probably go shopping together since I think sacrificing the spontaneity of the moment for a more accurate and satisfying ring will be worth it in the long run.

Reposting advice I had given before...

-- Zeroth rule: The average woman will put special meaning on her engagement ring, even if you upgrade it later, even if she says she doesn't. If she's just a basic bitch (no shade) who wants a big solitaire real-diamond rock on a band, give it to her. The money you "save" on tricks is nothing compared to whatever fraction of what the divorce would cost you can be assigned to inserting a bone of contention into your relationship this early. You're here to make her happy, not you, and for God's sake not to impress your friends on the internet.

-- Ignore Carats, they're a giant scam, they measure the weight of the center stone which nobody cares about. They're a bad way of measuring visual size, how large it looks on her finger, which is what she/her friends she's showing the ring to care about. Cut, design, arrangement, setting, and the size of your fiancee/her finger are going to matter just as much if not more than caratweight. Carats cost money, going up a quarter or a half carat in center stone weight will cost vastly more than achieving a similar visual effect by other means. Add a clever spray of little stones all around a .75, it will look much bigger than a 1 or even a 1.5, at a much cheaper price. It's pretty shiny jewelry, the goal is to look at it, not weigh it. My wife's ring is either just under or just over a carat center stone, I don't recall which, but it's an old fashioned mine cut diamond in a vintage art deco setting, and she has tiny child-bride fingers, so people look at it and go "Oh My God that thing is enormous! It's gorgeous!"

-- Speaking of tiny child-bride fingers, get your wife's ring size RIGHT. I thought I knew my wife's, we'd made a gag of asking her ring size during intimate moments for years. Turns out it was two sizes smaller than she thought it was, and the ring I bought had to be sized down repeatedly, and only kinda worked while requiring significant re-engineering. My jeweler's exact words were: did you marry a child bride? Settings only work within certain size ranges, and getting it right the first time is much better than any alternative.

-- Speaking of jewelers, I had a long family and friends relationship with the jeweler I purchased the ring from. He knew I was looking for a vintage art deco ring, and when one came in from an estate and my mother happened to be there to get a watch band sized he gave it to her to take home and show me, no deposit. If your family (or her family, or your boss, or his wife, etc) has such a relationship, work with that jeweler. If you don't have that kind of relationship, go on Etsy or go to Costco, but don't go to a jeweler you'll get fucked. It's just how it works. And for God's sake, don't go to one of the big chain jewelers. Zales or Jared is going give you absolute shit, Tiffany or Cartier might have something nice for @GrandBurdensomeCount but unless you're going to drop $$$$$$ you'll end up with something tiny compared to what you could have gotten elsewhere.

-- Determine her stone preferences. Colored precious stones, sapphires and rubies and emeralds, can be beautiful and majestic {Diana's ring from Charles for example} and much cheaper than diamonds; but you have to find out if she'll like that. Lab created diamonds are cheaper, subs like moissanite cheaper still (and often better!) but a lot of people will want a "real" diamond for an engagement ring. Call it marketing, call it superstition, but some people will reject anything "fake" being in their marriage ceremony. Find out what she finds acceptable, work from there.

-- Related to the carats thing, choose elaborate designs and settings over solitaires or triptychs. Solitaires, and simple tripart settings, highlight nothing but the size and quality of the diamond, they just demonstrate how much money you spent. An elaborate setting will look great, and more importantly it will make the ring harder to price for her/others. If you buy a solitaire it's a rock on a band, everyone knows what it costs for that size, it's just a dick measuring contest. If you buy an elaborate art-deco vintage design, nobody knows what it costs, they can't measure it easily. Think of it as the difference between three guys pulling up in BMWs: one guy is in a brand new base model 3 series, the second is in a brand new M3, the third is in a mint condition vintage 1975 2002. You can definitely say the guy in the M3 is richer than the guy in the base model, but you can't really say the guy in the 2002 is poorer than one or either. Even if you know how much it cost, the guy might just like it better than the modern M3 anyway.

-- Don't judge your fiancee for what she wants. Don't be one of those assholes who "well actually..."'s her out of what she wants and into what you want. And don't try to trick her by getting a diamond substitute without talking to her about it. You'll probably get away with it for a while, but oooh boy you can get in trouble once she finds out.

Thank you for the detailed advice. I'm going to propose with a fake ring and then discuss what the real ring should be in detail before buying one, so there isn't going to be any tricking. But she is also incredibly shy and reluctant about receiving gifts, so it needs to be more about the thought put into it and the sentimental value than mere monetary cost. If I spend too much she will feel guilty about the burden, but if I even suggest something inferior she will be secretly disappointed and then feel guilty about not appreciating something that I did for her and try really hard to pretend she likes it.

Your point about elaborate designs is helpful. I'm still trying to decide how quirky/unique I want to go versus just plain fancy. Like, I've been looking at dragon and cat shaped rings and gemstone patterns, which would be more special and sentimentally unique to her, but the goofiness might detract from the universal beauty standard?

I suppose I can't plan too much ahead of time before I've actually had the discussion with her. But if I just bluntly say "you can have whatever you want" she is probably going to get overwhelmed by the pressure of too many options with no direction.

if I just bluntly say "you can have whatever you want" she is probably going to get overwhelmed by the pressure of too many options with no direction.

That's a good reflex. What you pick for her will have an added sweetness to it, where her pick will be a compromise she can see.

I like your idea of proposing with another ring, but I would look for something that is "good" but cheap rather than fake. I don't know what your budget is, but years after we got married I bought my wife another ring. The ring I proposed with, that my mother helped find, was great but for my wife's child-bride fingers it is HUGE and she barely wears it. So once we were in the Berkshires at a legal dispensary and we happened to see a jewelry store going out of business and bought a ring that was on sale. Kinda like this, but a little smaller and cheaper. She wears that all the time rather than her real engagement ring. If I needed a placeholder I'd look for something like that.

Ha, “child-bride fingers.”

We had to get my ring sized down twice after the proposal. I still remember my husband’s exasperated, almost accusatory, “Why are you so small?”

“To make the stone look bigger.”

I can't speak for wedding rings, but for general fit, I'd recommend grabbing a generic steel ring band set with a wide variety of sizes, seeing which ones fit her, and then getting that size and its two half-step neighbors in a lighter material like titanium overnight, and then go with the size that is actually pleasant to wear.

It's very easy to pick up a size that 'fits' in a store or by measuring tape, and then find that your hands swell at night and you can't easily remove it, or it slips off too easily, or it digs uncomfortably in when driving, whatever. There's absolutely no way to prove but actually have the thing.

Diamonds suck and are boring. Aesthetically they're really uninteresting, extremely expensive pink diamonds etc not withstanding.Hopefully, (and she sounds like she isn't) your girlfriend isn't the kind of woman who just wants a real big diamond for supeficial reasons cause that's what you're meant to do.

For a yellow gemstone I recommend a yellow sapphire/corundum. They are nearly as hard and wear resistant as diamond, and are only a fraction of the cost, and can be quite beautiful. You can use extra budget to get a really large stone and/or have multiple stones in a nice custom design that symbolises something meaningful to both of you. Maybe even go a multicolour arrangement with different coloured sapphires with a large yellow sapphire in the middle. If you put a lot of thought into coming up with a beautiful custom multigem design, that will just as or more meaningful then shelling out many thousands on a big diamond.

Ultimately, it's up to you, you know your girlfriend best. Don't worry about what other people will think, just get something your girlfriend will love and appreciate (within budget of course!)

I think part of the value of an engagement ring is the very fact that is costs so much. You're telling your future wife "Yes, I am willing to basically burn 3 months salary to prove I am committed to you, in a way that you can also show other people in the future". If you see a great ring for $4k, then see an identical ring for $1k, you don't buy the $1k ring. You go and search for an even better $4k ring.

But it does also depend on your girlfriend. If she's a "rational" person, maybe she genuinely doesn't care much about that, and would just like a very pretty piece of jewelry. In which case find the prettiest piece of jewelry you can I guess.

Unless your girlfriend has specifically told you that she has financial or moral objections...

Propose with a diamond.

If you're serious about the slavery (as in you're equally fastidious about your consumption of shoes, electronics, cocoa, and cotton), then lab-grown are chemically and optically identical to natural diamonds.

"Artificial demand due to propaganda" describes so much of what we value and consume, I wouldn't press that narrative towards your girlfriend because it might pressure her against something she would actually prefer. If she wants a diamond, get her a diamond, it's not the time to cheap out. You could also consider getting a non-diamond center stone and surround it with a couple melee diamonds. That will give it more of the classic engagement look but also satisfy your other criteria.

Make sure getting a non-diamond ring is not your idea.

You'll want a stone with a Mohs hardness of at least 8 to avoid incidental scratches. The most common such stones are diamonds, topaz, and corundum. In particular you can find yellow topaz and sapphires.

There are also Heliodors/Golden Beryls.

What's the current maximum for Instagram video lengths? That is, a post on your profile, not a story. It's so annoying how tough this information is to figure out from Googling.

I know at least once upon a time it was 60 seconds. From trying a variety of Google searches, I've gotten estimates anywhere from 60 seconds to 60 minutes for the current maximum length.

I realized that I don't know WHAT the gatekeeping is like for gender transitions for children, or even for adults. (Though I care more about with children.) Ideally, there'd be brain scans taken and default hormone levels taken, but I've never even heard of the former being done.

Does anyone have any reading material on this, preferably without an obvious bias?

Does anyone have any reading material on this, preferably without an obvious bias?

You can read the Hillary Cass's review of how the diagnostic process Tavistock , the UK's gender clinic, actually worked.

But spoiler: nothing like what you imagine (I don't know that anyone uses brain scans as anything other than an online gotcha they know nobody will really dig into) and said report played a role in the shutting down of Tavistock.

Does that count as "bias"? Up to you.

I can't even imagine how you'd capture the general US view given all of the jurisdictions and state-level culture war fights.

I'm not aware of any 'brain scan' standard; it's possible this reflects a certain piscine skepticism, but it's probably more just that they're outside of the scope of practice for shrinks.

Individual practices can vary, at least in the United States. You'll see a lot of references to the WPATH Standards of Care (or, less often, the APA's DSM), but these are not binding in a legal or most regulatory senses, either as minima or maxima, either on medical practitioners or even insurance companies. Where laws do bind around procedures-as-a-class (a less-recognized part of the Affordable Care Act put gender-related care on the minimum acceptable coverage list), they leave some sway to whether an individual procedure for a specific person at a specific time is "medically necessary" in the terms insurance providers use. In turn, it's always possible to pay out of pocket, or get lucky and have procedures okayed out-of-spec, or find a medical professionals that fudge things a little.

But while this means some people will go through processes far from these standards, most just see these standards or minor tweaks (the literature says that the average is more delayed, but then again, the research /would/). The relevant versions of the WPATH SoC now are v7 (2012-2022) and v8 (officially Sept 2022, though in practice not implemented much yet). A lot of gatekeeping discourse in trans spheres reflected practices based around WPATH SoC v6; while this officially only ran from 2001-2011 (most of that under the name Harry Benjamin International Genders Dysphoria Association), it had a pretty significant foundational effect and for historical reasons a lot of places kept closer to these standards until at least 2015.

Under v6:

  • Adults were encouraged to approach psychotherapy first, and there's a list of 'gender adaptations' that in practice was considered a necessary step by many practitioners. SoCv6 also uses the concept of "real-life experience", generally meaning to maintain employment or a volunteer role or a place in education, while living as that gender in all or almost all interactions, and (when possible) doing so under a gender-appropriate first name. "Real-life experience" supposedly required references from acquaintances, though in practice that rule varied dramatically in application.

  • Adult hormone therapy/mastectomy: At least 18 years old, (otherwise) stable mental health, clear understanding of the costs and ramifications of hormones, and at least one of three months psychotherapy, three months real-life experience, or a history of self-medicating with gray- or black-market hormones.

  • Adult genital surgery: at least one year continuous hormone therapy, and one year continuous real-life experience, one year psychotherapy contemporaneous with these processes recommended. Breaks in real-life experience are to be treated as contraindications for surgery in the future. Knowledge of multiple potential procedural providers and of ramifications of the procedures.

  • Adult Breast augmentation: At least 18 months hormone therapy.

  • Children (defined as anyone under age of legal majority) were strongly encouraged to delay physical interventions as long as possible. In addition to the above limits:

  • Puberty blockers: IF unavoidable, and the patient has passed Tanner Stage 2 (or has been reviewed by an endocrinologist and at least a second shrink), and has consent of the family, and the patient's distress has increased with puberty.

  • Hormone therapy: At least 16 years old, six months psychotherapy, consent from parents/family (unless above local age of medical consent), understanding of ramification of hormone therapy.

  • Mastectomy: any point after hormone therapy begins.

  • Genital surgery: At least 18 years old or two years lived experience.

Under v7:

  • Psychotherapy as palliative care downplayed, though still present.

  • "Real-life experience" as a term or requirement generally removed; "living in a gender role that is congruent with their gender identity" is its replacement, gets rid of the legal name change requirement, requires trans people to 'come out' to close friends and family (this was generally read to mean 'come out' as their gender role, rather than as trans, since a lot of people just built new friend groups, often after moving), and is specific only to genital surgery.

  • Breast augmentation : down to 12 months hormone therapy.

  • Genital surgery : reduced role of psychotherapy between hormone therapy stage and genital surgery, more recognized exception for hormone therapy time requirement in cases where patient avoids hormone therapy entirely (I don't know if this literally ever happens, tho), removal of requirement to shop around for surgeons turned to a multiple referral system.

  • "Children" as a class divided into pre-pubertal 'children' only listing social interventions, followed by 'adolescents'. For adolescents:

  • Puberty Blockers : at least Tanner Stage 2 with preference for later, and "Any co-existing psychological, medical, or social problems that could interfere with treatment" must be stabilized first.

  • Mastectomy is now only recommended after 1 year on hormone therapy.

  • Genital surgery: at least "legal age of majority", only one year living in the gender role.

Under v8:

  • Psychotherapy as palliative care largely reframed to "conversion treatment" that "should not be offered", interventions for children focused entirely to "gender-affirming care" (social-only).

  • "Children" as a class full separated from "adolescents", largely in response to perception that some practitioners treated almost all verbal patients as "adolescents".

  • Removal of psychotherapy requirements for hormone therapy (in almost all situations).

  • Removal of multiple referral system for surgical interventions.

  • Genital surgery set to six months hormone therapy, more explicit exception to hormone therapy requirement for people skipping hormones entirely.

  • Explicit listing of "medically necessary" procedures, largely aimed at insurance providers (and jails).

  • Nonbinary is recognized as a class (still not a very coherent one; afaik a lot of nonbinary hormone access tends to rely more on doctor pragmatics than appeals to the SoC).

Thank you. I'm mostly able to follow this, but there's one thing I'm still unsure of. Under v8, puberty blockers can start at Tanner Stage 2 (so around age 12), but does hormone therapy still start around 16?

It's... not really clear. On top of none of the WPATH standards really binding, v8 (and to a lesser extent v7) have largely framed especially the adolescent treatment section as a discussion of research for more controversial sections, rather than strict 'you must have this characteristic'. From v8:

Previous guidelines regarding gender-affirming treatment of adolescents recommended partially reversible GAHT could be initiated at approximately 16 years of age (Coleman et al., 2012; Hembree et al., 2009). More recent guidelines suggest there may be compelling reasons to initiate GAHT prior to the age of 16, although there are limited studies on youth who have initiated hormones prior to 14 years of age (Hembree et al., 2017).

And that :

The skills needed to accomplish the tasks required for assent/consent may not emerge at specific ages per se (Grootens-Wiegers et al., 2017). There may be variability in these capacities related to developmental differences and mental health presentations (Shumer & Tishelman, 2015) and dependent on the opportunities a young per son has had to practice these skills (Alderson, 2007). Further, assessment of emotional and cognitive maturity must be conducted separately for each gender-related treatment decision (Vrouenraets et al., 2021).

(Referencing a study here, which finds that "Most research suggests that MDC is reached little before the age of 12 years.")

But the summary section just says:

Reached Tanner stage 2.

Soc cons have read this to only require Tanner Stage 2 (note: especially for XX-chromosoned, this can be much earlier than 12; it's not unheard of to occur closer to 10 or even 9). And I don't doubt there's some practitioners that have tried to read it that way. I think a more honest read of the full standards is generally going to be at least 12 and normally closer to 14, but it's not actually spelled out, and that's true for both surgical and hormonal interventions.

I'm not sure if this reflects aggressive retreat from restrictions under active pressure, wanting to be vague out of concerns related to long duration puberty blockers (a lot of the data re bone growth problems seems tied to very high doses not used for trans-adjacent therapy, but there's certainly space for issues), or just wanting to avoid being use for/legitimizing statutes or other strict bans (eg, a UK's court holding 16 as a required minimum age for informed consent including for puberty blockers, later overturned, referenced WPATH at length).

What specifically is the case against Bellingcat?

I've seen a lot of nonspecific innuendo about them especially since Elon Musk's "psyop" accusations, but then what seems like one of their main guys volunteers this apparently unprompted (which is the first I've heard about it despite following the Belgorod raid all day, including through pro-Russian sources), which seems at odds with the idea that they're so tied up with western intelligence agencies.

It’s just a private organisation working at an arms length from the actual intelligence agencies. I am sure they are intelligent people who compile decent info most of the time. But they will also lie when really needed and act as a front for laundering spook sourced intelligence as if it’s a civil society effort to western media.

It’s not surprising that they would acknowledge the neo-nazi nature of some foreign volunteers of AFU (especially the Slavic ones). This has been obvious to anyone following the conflict and able to take a hint.

I think it's just authentic OSINT, and is mostly US-aligned. If you don't like popular US foreign policy ideas, you might dislike them! Musk's accusations are entirely baseless ('Psyop' is rarely in the same sentence as a meaningful claim in casual conversation / on social media), and he's probably repeating vague nonsense that morphed from the aforementioned disagreements.

'authentic OSINT'.

Yeah, it's very normal OSINT procedure to write long investigations of Russian spook units based on Russian phone metadata, which is very open source information, really it is. Procuring restricted data in bulk from a hostile foreign country, it's just as 'open' as reading newspapers or looking up things on commercial satelite maps.

Maybe. And maybe horses sing when you're not around.

Since they're US aligned, they never talk about the really interesting stuff. Such as that first aid to the Novichok guy was rendered by.. wait for it..this person..

The 16 year old, from Larkhill, was the first to spot two people collapsed on a bench in the Maltings on March 4th and didn't hesitate to help. Abigail quickly alerted her mum, a qualified nurse, who was nearby and together they gave first aid to the victims until paramedics arrived.

It soon became clear this was no ordinary medical incident, but the poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, with Novichok.


Immediately following the incident and with the world's media focused on Salisbury, the pair didn't want any want press attention and kept their involvement quiet.

But Abby's mum now feels the time is right for her daughter to be recognised for the "incredible" way she dealt with the scenario. Alison nominated her for the Lifesaver Award at Spire FM's Local Hero Awards, and the judges were unanimous in their decision that Abigail was a very worthy winner.


Yeah, it's very normal OSINT procedure to write long investigations of Russian spook units based on Russian phone metadata, which is very open source information, really it is. Procuring restricted data in bulk from a hostile foreign country, it's just as 'open' as reading newspapers or looking up things on commercial satelite maps.

This is how Bellingcat describe their methods and sources:

Russia’s Data Market

Much of the information we used for our investigations could never be found in most Western countries, but in Russia, is readily available either for free or a fairly modest fee. Additionally, Russian email providers, such as and Rambler, and social networks, such as Vkontakte, are far less secure and privacy-focused than their Western equivalents, leading to frequent data leaks and robust search functions.

Due to porous data protection measures in Russia, it only takes some creative Googling (or Yandexing) and a few hundred euros worth of cryptocurrency to be fed through an automated payment platform, not much different than Amazon or Lexis Nexis, to acquire telephone records with geolocation data, passenger manifests, and residential data. For the records contained within multi-gigabyte database files that are not already floating around the internet via torrent networks, there is a thriving black market to buy and sell data. The humans who manually fetch this data are often low-level employees at banks, telephone companies, and police departments. Often, these data merchants providing data to resellers or direct to customers are caught and face criminal charges. For other batches of records, there are automated services either within websites or through bots on the Telegram messaging service that entirely circumvent the necessity of a human conduit to provide sensitive personal data.

For example, to find a huge collection of personal information for Anatoliy Chepiga — one of the two GRU officers involved in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter — we only need to use a Telegram bot and about 10 euros. Within 2-3 minutes of entering Chepiga’s full name and providing a credit card via Google Pay or a payment service like Yandex Money, a popular Telegram bot will provide us with Chepiga’s date of birth, passport number, court records, license plate number, VIN number, previous vehicle ownership history, traffic violations, and frequent parking locations in Moscow. A sample of the baseline information provided can be seen below, with key personal details censored.

It might be hard to believe at first, but after observing some recent events, it is not so hard anymore to believe that Russia is really so incompetent and corrupt to the very core.

Well, maybe. (I'm giving it a maybe bc Russians are kind of special)

It's also hard to believe that anyone believes the official Skripal narrative when the fact that makes the mainstream narrative an obvious red herring is on the bloody wikpedia page.

How many paramedics, nurses and doctors are there in the United Kingdom ? 50,000? 100,000 ?

And it just so happens that the he gets poisoned by the Russian so fortuitously so that when he passes out he is found by probably the most politically reliable nurse in the entire country.


It's also hard to believe that anyone believes the official Skripal narrative when the fact that makes the mainstream narrative an obvious red herring is on the bloody wikpedia page.

Yes, this whole story was sus when it happened, and hadn't improved with age.

The Skripal Case 5 Years On summarized

but the investigation in Russian sources in not the most implausible part.

Can confirm, got such a database on one New Year as a high schooler, from my dad. This is very normal.

Yeah, it's very normal OSINT procedure to write long investigations of Russian spook units based on Russian phone metadata, which is very open source information, really it is.

Iirc russian telecom providers are either corrupt or got hacked, and the metadata is available for sale on online 'black markets' the same way hacked US corporation data is.

Unlike intelligence agencies which often rely on anonymous sources for sensitive investigations, Bellingcat and their Russian partners The Insider base their work on cell-phone metadata and flight records which are readily available in Russia’s thriving black market of stolen data.

And unlike most major media organizations that are willing to accept leaked data but draw the line at buying information, Bellingcat and their partners have proven willing to go a step further and pay for information from data merchants which often originates from low-level employees in banks, telecoms companies, and government agencies looking to make a quick buck.

I don't think they're just getting the data from the CIA.

Iirc russian telecom providers are either corrupt or got hacked, and the metadata is available for sale on online 'black markets' the same way hacked US corporation data is.

And you know that because Bellingcat said so.

I've not seen anyone else make such claim.

And if Bellingcat was an outfit that evolved to launder intelligence agencies output, then they'd of course say so.

How are you going to verify whether it's true ? If you're into infosec and speak Russian yeah, maybe you can with a few days of work.

I have seen several other people make that claim because I looked for it

Who is that and why is it remarkable?

There are two links "this person" shows background.

Do you think it's not remarkably interesting that first aid in such a politically sensitive case was rendered by the Chief Nurse (Army) who had been appointed to her position about a month before the event?

It's also interesting that given how deadly novichok is and that nerve agents can be dangerous on contact and that almost certainly CNO (Army) would recognize the symptoms of nerve agent poisoning she let her daughter be involved in this.

How is creating stories about actual events with the aim of distracting the public from the truth not a psyop?

They really say this person was there, totally at random, to give first aid to Skripal.

Making up fake stories to bury the truth is doing psy-ops.

A lot of it's just politics, but Bellingcat's actions related to the whole leak thing has been pretty overt, and that story in particular smelled a bit too much of parallel construction (yes, there are auties who can identify people from their kitchen counter; there are even ones who would make that argument to NYT; there aren't ones who'd do that and get a sympathetic or trusting view from the NYT)

I don't know that this points to 'spooks' themselves rather than merely just being bog-standard progressives being fed info, or even necessarily what extent that difference matters. If they are, Toler's tweet is some evidence against an incredibly strong editorial commitment to the party line... but in turn I don't think that's too unusual, either.

I don't know, by definition. The boring-and-probable explanation is that it's just excusing a leak from the active investigation using traditional methods (eg printer tracking and checking access logs a la Reality Winner, some 'confidential human source' that just so happened to be logged into that tiny room, so on), most likely as a political tactic to get ahead of any story framing him as a 'whistleblower'. Yes, the FBI isn't supposed to leak like a sieve, yes it could technically screw up the investigation or drive a target to do something drastic, but it's not the sort of problem that should surprise anybody or actually has ramifications for the feds.

((I mean, I'd like if someone though about overlap with rules against tag-along-journos during searches, but that'd probably take legislation and it's not gonna happen.))

The paranoid conspiracy one's that the information was found in non-traditional methods, and Bellingcat et NYT effort was built to launder that. At the less scuzzy level, some merely technical problem like they got a rubber-stamped warrant/subpeona to Discord and thirty other social media companies, wanted them to search for people posting the images, but weren't supposed to provide the images to search for given classification status. At the moderate one, Discord went out and gave the info to the feds, either of its own accord or after being 'politely requested': possibly not entirely kosher depending on exactly how hard that 'request' went, but no one can actually challenge it, and the big advantage to concealment is that everyone will Keep Using Discord.

At the more morbid one, they only had to ask their own techs, or the techs of another federal agency. Which would be bad at the technical level that it would require breaking SSL or having taps on major servers, but worse in the political sense that they're also not supposed to do that. But if the DHS or NSA does an upgraded log-them-all, they very much don't want that to become public, or show up in a court case, or whatever.

it's just excusing a leak from the active investigation using traditional methods (eg printer tracking and checking access logs a la Reality Winner, some 'confidential human source' that just so happened to be logged into that tiny room, so on)

What would be the point of that? These approaches aren't secret and are totally above board.

At the moderate one, Discord went out and gave the info to the feds, either of its own accord or after being 'politely requested': possibly not entirely kosher depending on exactly how hard that 'request' went, but no one can actually challenge it, and the big advantage to concealment is that everyone will Keep Using Discord.

Why would the feds care if people keep using discord or not? Why would people stop using discord just because they gave info about this guy who shared classified information? Are they worried about scaring away all the other zoomers sharing classified documents on zoomer irc?

What would be the point of that? These approaches aren't secret and are totally above board.

In the case of well-known and above-board approaches, the point is less disguising how he was caught, and more hiding who told the NYT about him, especially if the official use of those approaches was known to a relatively small number of people. There have at least been some infrastructural efforts to try to prevent tactical leaking by the FBI, and they're absolutely useless, but they're absolutely useless because of this style of 'hint' being possible.

Why would the feds care if people keep using discord or not? Why would people stop using discord just because they gave info about this guy who shared classified information? Are they worried about scaring away all the other zoomers sharing classified documents on zoomer irc?

If people believed that Discord (or some set of social media 'private' closed-group comms, or some subset of encryption, or whatever) are broken, they will stop using them for far broader realms that just being a dumbass zoomer trying to impress kids with classified info. I mean, they won't, in practice, but if you had a pretty serious investment giving very deep insight you wouldn't want to risk even a fairly small chance of losing it.

Do people really believe that discord will put up any resistance to a federal inquiry? This isn't even "broken", it's a fact of life.

You're overestimating online hard righties.

Groups like the Aryan Brotherhood are mostly just prison / drug gangs. That's why you get otherwise confusing gangs like the Nazi Lowriders who are neo-nazis plus hispanics. They do commit hate crimes but they also filter out anyone too obviously crazy or incompetent to join their criminal organization.

A lot of the neo nazi stuff is there to make sure that the gang members are permanently excluded from lawful society and thus fully committed. A guy with a faded "Arizona Meth Dealers" tattoo could probably still get construction jobs if he just shrugged it off as "I was an idiot when I was younger". A swastika? Not so much.

So Discord neo-nazis are really scrapping the bottom of the barrel. There was one Atomwaffen cell that was made up of a man in his mid 30s and a 15 yr old high school student. You're probably assuming the man in his 30s was running the cell. You'd be wrong.

So based on their behavior and proven competence I'm confident in saying that a lot of them don't realize that their Discord conversations aren't actually private.

How does one quantify fashion?

Bear with me here, I am looking to buy some new clothes and already have an existing set of diverse clothes. From cargos to chinos. Thing is, when I wear some things, I get compliments on my cargos, while wearing other tops, they look silly. What is a good way of quantifying or making it into an equation, such if I were to put in coding terms

if pants_baggy;


   options = [tighter tops, tapered tops, blah blah]

I also have to buy new formals. I already have a black suit. Looking for any potential developments. I am aware it could just be a matter of trial and error, but there must be a general rule to coloring such as skin tone, contrast etc. What would be a natural progression? I’m thinking of a lightly striped black suit next. Or perhaps a navy blue one.

Any links/books/resources would be tremendously helpful. I am more cynical to the typical manosphere/male fashion pages. A bit more technicality would help.

There are two aspects to dressing well: Aesthetics and Associations. Broadly speaking, Aesthetics are what you look like and Associations are who you look like.

Aesthetics is largely governed by "classic" rules about color theory, structured vs unstructured garments, materials, etc. It is what you visually look like when people look at you. Broad shoulders are broad shoulders, and a tailored structured suit jacket is going to visually produce broader shoulders, whether it is 1980, 2023, or 1880; whether the person looking is French, Nigerian, Nebraskan, Japanese. Some colors will work with your skin/hair/eyes, some colors won't, whether those colors are Pantone's Color of the Year that year, or they are the color that immediately dates a kitchen tile to fifteen years ago.

Associations are largely governed by social fashions, by what people think about something. Brands are the pure and elemental form of this, the little Polo pony on the chest makes a t shirt "nicer" and "dressier" automatically, will be considered (by the membership/staff) more appropriate for a country club golf course than the exact same t shirt without the logo. The Supreme logo on any piece of crap makes it cooler to some subset of the population that I've never really understood. It depends when you are, where you are, who are are, and what the person viewing you thinks of you.

The former rules are, in general, eternal. The latter rules change from place to place and time to time, constantly. The former is, at least in theory, quantifiable as matters of proportion and color. Short of people with literal visual deficiencies, it will be the same to everyone. The latter is unquantifiable, a matter of je ne sais quoi and personal opinion.

The best general advice I can give is three simple points:

-- Work on your body and fitness, work on your skincare, work on your haircut. This will have a ton of impact on how you look in any clothes. Being fat but stylish is a silly decision.

-- Keep in mind who you are. I could nail street style, study it perfectly, I'll still look like a complete doofus; because it doesn't fit who I am. No English language fashion advice site talks enough about race when having this conversation, things read different and look different on White/Black/Asian people, for both aesthetic and association reasons.

-- Fit is king, and the only ways to get a good fit are to either tailor everything you own or to try on a TON of clothing from different brands. Fit varies so much between brands, don't listen to anyone describing a brand as having a "great fit" unless you try it on.

It's a useful distinction, and I see you've taken care to avoid "good/bad" judgements, but it's interesting you're still making positive claims under aesthetics which I think demand justification. For instance, that certain colours "will work". Oh will they? Why? Because something something colour wheel theory? What if I like the wrong combos? On what basis can you object? Pure appeal to popularity?

I don't think aesthetics are so quantifiable because year after year I see things that were once explained to me as hard fast prohibitions with hand-waving justifications like "because it would ruin the silhouette, obviously" then become the next big trend. Maybe I'm misreading here and you mean aesthetics are totally value-free. There's combos on the colour wheel axes and off, but it doesn't weigh in on whether either is more correct than the other.

The eye adjusts to certain color combinations. Colors that looked right in the 80s look wrong today and vice versa. This also goes for silhouette. The more something "wrong" is repeated the more it begins to look "right" until it becomes "passé" (unless it never reaches that stage, different things work in different cycles and on different timelines. Fashion is extremely complicated and trying to explain it like it's math is like dancing about architecture.)

I have blue eyes. They're by far my best feature. Blues, especially sky blues, will bring them out. Purple never will. That won't change no matter what the trends are. My light blue ocbd might be in or out of style, look stylish or look lame, but it will always emphasize my eyes.

Similarly, take a classic item, like the schott Perfecto double rider. The aesthetic of it is always the same, has always been the same since 1950. The thick leather, double breast, and structured tailoring creates added bulk while also emphasizing a v shaped silhouette. What that means has varied over time and place, from motorcycle riding wild man to gay fashion bottom to lame suburban dad trying to recapture a youth he lost before the bush administration. But the shoulders are the same.

I realize I didn't actually answer your question. My view is that certain aspects of visual aesthetics are universally hard coded*, certain colors interact with other colors in certain ways, lines drawn in certain ways create certain proportions. Color and cut and material will emphasize or de-emphasize certain physical features. What the colors or features emphasized mean is changing constantly. A slim silhouette or a baggy silhouette have both been perceived as young and hip and urban at different times; and fashionistas tend to backfill the meaning by talking about aesthetics as though they are universal.

*I'm leaving aside Other-Minds "Do you see the green that I see?" questions and defects in perception here, because that can take us way off track.

I already have a black suit

Black suits aren't that versatile, only really suitable for funerals, for very formal events you'll want a black tuxedo (not the same as a suit), you want a deep charcoal grey one as your daily driver.

Either grey or dark navy blue suit as a general purpose business suit. Up to personal taste. Though apparently there's a cultural element where like Southern europeans prefer lighter grey, and north Europeans and Anglos prefer dark blues but idk if this is true.

Fashion is mostly overlapping cycles of fads. You can't really express it in code. For late 2021 fashion, try asking ChatGPT for a formula.

I also have to buy new formals. I already have a black suit. Looking for any potential developments. I am aware it could just be a matter of trial and error, but there must be a general rule to coloring such as skin tone, contrast etc. What would be a natural progression? I’m thinking of a lightly striped black suit next. Or perhaps a navy blue one.

The general rule is that a black suit is suitable for funerals and maybe black tie optional events. The natural progression is that you start with a navy blue or a dark grey suit, then get the other one. Then stop, unless you need more. The features you want in the first suit are:

  • 100% wool (probably want this in all your suits)

  • worsted wool

  • notched lapels, medium width

  • flapped pockets

  • two buttons

  • jacket long enough to mostly cover your buttocks

  • pants of medium width, not slim, not sitting too low

This gives you a boring uniform of a suit, which is a good thing.

Fellow Motteizans, what are your small scale conspiracy theories? I'm not talking grand narratives here. What minor, apolitical conspiracy theories do you explain to the next table at a diner.

For myself, I think at least some large portion of lottery drawings are not random. I base this belief on the fact that of repeat lottery winners, a suspicious number of them are math professors.

People convince themselves that lobster tastes really good because it's high status. It's expensive to bring live lobsters inland, so it's naturally pricey. Also there's the whole ritual of killing it right before the meal that makes it seem even more fancy.

Also it's one of the few foods where it's socially acceptable to dunk every bite in melted butter.

People just like having a high class way to eat melted butter.

Industrialization of marijuana production has resulted in steroid-bulked flowers that bear little resemblance to pot, which are subsequently relieved of much of what THC they do sprout before being shipped.

I used to smoke a LOT more than I do now, and so had a much higher tolerance, but killer buds would take maybe three hits and be wrecked. Now we pass around blunts of what looks like it should be as good or better--but it ain't.

Despite being so theoretically awesome, stuff usually doesn't even leave my fingers sticky these days. Hell, my roaches fall apart because they're so not-sticky, even after burning through 'em. They ain't s'posta do that.

Ime Udoka was run out of Boston for having a consensual affair with a married white woman, and the NBA looked the other way while the Celtics covered it up and dragged his name in the mud.

I feel like said married white woman being married to his employer is a vital part of the calculus here.

If you're not willing to get cucked to win a championship, you don't want to win enough. It's okay, most people aren't cut out for pro sports, but you need to leave and make room for the winners.

Didn't TJ Holmes also lose his job after a similar affair around the same period?


Based if true.

Makeup and skincare products age your face and give you acne and bad skin to make you buy more makeup and skincare products.

I mean, if they don't, the industry is leaving money on the table.

That would make sense, but there's a lot of competition in the market and women do discuss skin care a fair amount.

If your thesis was true, you'd expect poor white women who went without an expensive skin care routine to have better skin in their old age.

That doesn't match what I've seen.

From what I've seen more expensive products do produce better results. I used to work in Canadian politics and there was a sharp salary division. Hill staffers got paid crap. Ministry staffers got paid well.

When a girl moved over to a Ministry it was obvious. Her skin was noticeably better after a few months. Long term it holds up. Although UV protection seems to be the bigger split.

Or she got better sleep and ate better and drank more water.

Multiple women moving to jobs that had worse hours. They were probably eating better.

Eh, I think you could also chalk it up to the ten million lifestyle changes that come with having more money. When I was super broke I had terrible skin because I was constantly stressed out and didn't have a regular schedule, now that I have a lot more money I use the same few products all the time and am really consistent with my skincare routine and have significantly better skin than when I was younger and broke, though I don't use any more expensive products.

there's a lot of competition in the market and women do discuss skin care a fair amount.

Yeah, but the competition really serves to obscure and obfuscate the market (for example the constantly shifting product selection is completely ridiculous) and the quality of discussion on skincare is basically at the same level of like horoscope talk in the majority of cases, even in extremely niche reddit skincare forums I would take most of the advice with a huge grain of salt

I mean, if they don't, the industry is leaving money on the table.

That depends on the level of scrutiny they get from whatever quality assurance regulations they have to comply to, the estimated probability of a employee turning whistleblower, or just random customer finding out, multiplied by the expected damage from the resulting lawsuits and public backlash. It's not especially unrealistic that if they did do this people would notice the trend, some scientist would do a statistical survey, and then lawyers would jump at the opportunity for a class action lawsuit, it happens for many products.

So it's entirely plausible that the expected value of doing so is negative and thus the company increases profits by keeping their products safe and effective. It's not guaranteed, I can see it going either way, but the entire point of being able to sue companies for damages is to act as a deterrent for this kind of behavior.

It doesnt have to be a conspiracy.

I know jackshit about skincare but my prior is covering up the pores on ones face for long stretches of time probably harms said faces skin even if by a miniscule amount.

A lot of things leave money on the table. The police don't usually train new criminals, and the cardiology department in the hospitals doesn't sponsor the addition of transfats to the cafeteria food.

Turns out we're not averse to doing so when there are obvious moral issues, most of the time.

But I believe the American Heart Association etc absolutely does endorse seed oils and warn against animal fats.

But that’s because they’re unwilling to go against consensus, not because they’re trying to drum up business.

It can be both. One of the things I'm always on about is the way that humans can coordinate with/against each other without even being aware that we're doing so. We have a conscious mind which spins up plausible excuses, and another hidden one which knows exactly what we're doing but also hides that from us, which makes us better liars. Including to ourselves.

Consider the old saying, "It is impossible to make a man understand something his income depends on him not understanding."

It's not something Americans have to worry about, but a lot of ancient and medieval history as we know it would look different if we didn't trust the surviving written sources, but only trusted archeology and paleogeography. If any historian tries to challenge some established theory, they will be branded a kook unless they first spend a quarter century establishing their career and slowly accumulating a list of publications that gradually question the established consensus more and more. Then they can finally drop the bombshell and use their authority to weather the storm of counterattacks. It takes multiple such bombshells until the consensus changes enough to be reflected in schoolbooks.

All the talk about the Grassy Knoll is a distraction. Lee Harvey Oswald actually shot JFK and was subsequently killed by Jack Ruby to tie up loose ends/ensure that he couldn't rat out who hired him.

@roystgnr already brought up the lost cosmonauts, but the lost cosmonauts. Over the course of my education and professional life I have had privilege of working with a number of steely-eyed-missile-men form that era and almost every one of them I talked to about it had some story about a lost cosmonaut or other flight that hadn't been officially acknowledged.

Epstein didn't kill himself.

Stephen Paddock was a Janet frequent-flier and chose his vantage point for the 2017 Las Vegas shooting was chosen because it gave him a clear line of sight to the terminal. The "conspiracy theory" is that there was a person or aircraft that was his true target and that shooting into the crowd at the music festival was merely a diversion/distraction.

The "conspiracy theory" is that there was a person or aircraft that was his true target and that shooting into the crowd at the music festival was merely a diversion/distraction.

I'm slightly confused. Isn't shooting a single target easier if you haven't just kicked a hornet's nest and made everyone freak out?

Any sort of legislation mandating nutrition facts at sit-down restaurants would end with class action lawsuits.

"Why does it taste so much better at Applebys / Cheesecake Factory / Ruth's Chris / Nobu than what I make it at home, I'm a good cook!" Because that stuff is straight up loaded with salt, fat (usually butter), and sugar (the white death) to levels you would never even consider at home. The big "fancy" Italian spots like Maggiano's (spellcheck) are especially egregious here where their seemingly large menus are the same half dozen ingredients recombined and then coated in some variety of unbelievable fat-and-sugar sauce.

Quick aside: I fucking love all of those kind of places and consider them to be the crowning achievements of Western Society. Fight me

But the fact that people eating there don't have to actually look at the quantifiable hated they're laying down on their gastrointestinal and endocrine systems means that the meal is guilt free. In some weird backwards-economic-behavior way, I think the mid-tier expensive ones make people think that, because it was so pricey, it must be some level higher on the health scale. I believe this to be false. I think on a value-and-health adjusted basis, McDonalds/Chipotles are probably the best on the planet. I think prom-dinner-fancy places (Maggianos, Cheescake factory etc.) are heinously expensive and disaster for the body.

But fuck it, lava cake makes Mrs. Tollbooth frisky AF and your boy can go HAM on those breadsticks.

I've noticed a number of sit-down places, not even chains, that do put the calorie counts on their menu, without this legislation.

Nothing is wrong with salt or (saturated) fat though.

And actually another major reason they taste better is the incorporation of acid, which most home cooks ignore.

I've regularly heard the joke that part of what you're paying a restaurant for is not knowing how much butter/sugar they added.

I had seen calorie counts in some chain restaurants and apparently calorie counts are required in US chain (20+ location) restaurants as of May 2018. Of course, calorie counts is the bare minimum amount of nutritional info.

The UK has calorific values listed for everything on menus. Didn't see any meltdowns while I was visiting, but it was great for a broke student trying to get away with as few meals as possible.

Edit: Oops, you said "apolitical" which this hardly is; at the very least not back when it happened!

I'd say that there's a somewhat reasonable chance that the Red Army Faction didn't commit suicide but where executed by the West German police, as the circumstances are pretty suspicious:

They managed to smuggle guns into their cells in one of the most secure prisons in the world at the time, in a wing built especially for them. The guards a few meters away didn't hear any gunshots, Baader fired thrice, missed the first two, and finally died from shooting himself in the neck from behind using his right hand, but he was left-handed.

There was no fingerprints found on Raspe's gun and no gunpowder residue, even though his gun was lying in his hand when he was found. Meinhof's hanging was suspicious as well (wiki article, too many things to list here). Möller stabbed herself four times in the chest, survived, and claims to this day that somebody tried to assassinate her.

I haven't looked into this at all, but my priors lean heavily towards Flight 93 being shot down just because it would make so much sense in that situation, and then to concoct a heroic story of self-sacrifice.

The hijackers' decision to wait an additional 46 minutes to launch their assault meant that the people being held hostage on the flight very quickly found out that suicide attacks had already been made by hijacked airliners…

I think that turns it from heroic to…well, still heroic, but desperate. Winning wasn’t just a gamble, it was the only way for them to live.

Facts first:

  • Maxwell Ghislane, Epstein’s madame, was wealthy because her father paywalled science journals which had previously been free. It is widely believed that user MaxwellHill was her Reddit account, one of the earliest and most constant users.

  • Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz was a free info activist. He was in big legal trouble for using MIT’s fast Internet to freely download massive amounts of paywalled science journal archives. He died by hanging.


  • The Maxwells’ science journal empire would have been threatened if Swartz’ free information activism had spread to the student populace. She used intelligence service tactics to get close to the inner circle of Reddit admins and powermods, and applied psychological tactics to push him to commit suicide.

Even if not true, it’s interesting that both Swartz and Epstein were found dead, hanged. Miss White in the server room with the noose.

Aaron Swartz is a tragedy. It's one of those cases where he was getting screwed because his lawyer didn't understand how to run a political case.

Lawyers understand the courtroom and how to strike deals with the prosecution. So naturally they want to keep the fight in the courtroom and avoid upsetting the prosecution more than necessary.

They didn't understand that Swartz was much more sympathetic to a lot of fairly powerful people than the academic publishers trying to protect their exorbitant pricing for research that's often publicly funded.

So his lawyers were telling him to keep quiet so they can make a deal, while the publishers were pressuring the prosecutors to make an example of him.

If he had made an aggressive public plea with details of his situation then all of the Silicon Valley tech people Obama needed for his 2012 election campaign would have gone to the Obama campaign and said "he's just a well meaning kid who made a mistake, cut him a deal or I won't support you".

Swartz would have just gotten probation at worst. Instead he snapped under the stress of the aggressive sentences prosecutors were demanding and killed himself.

Golly. It’s almost like hanging is a common method of suicide. Much harder to police the materials than firearms or even poisons. Psychologically, might be easier than jumping off a bridge. Has plenty of cultural cachet.

Also, I think a world where socialites can learn how to talk people into suicide looks pretty different than this one. As would a world where they need “intelligence service tactics” to chat with reddit admins.

Serious question, do you think Epstein killed himself? Because I don't think I have ever met someone who does.

My take is that him killing himself is perfectly understandable based on what we have.

He was a malignant narcissist who'd clearly run out his string. He'd lived an amazing life with living standards and prestige he would never, ever see again.

All that remained was a parade of indignities as Inmate X. Might as well check out.

I just can't quite bring myself to totally foreclose the other possibility though. It's also very easy to imagine. And more cinematic to boot.

No, I give decent odds he was murdered.

It’s not something I’ve given a ton of thought. I guess if there’s one place in life where you’d expect to see suicides, it’s high-profile criminals with zero chance of seeing the outside again. But there was enough weirdness around his death that the conspiracy theory passed the smell test.

If I was in Epsein's position, I would have killed myself.

I'm not entirely serious, but I am enthusiastic about moon landing conspiracy theories. If nothing else, I enjoy challenging friends on whether they've actually thought about just how weird the official story is and how many weird things have happened since.

I am a firm believer that many major sporting events have been rigged and that the leagues do everything they can to keep this quiet. If you can watch this game or this game and come away feeling like someone wasn't trying to get a desired result, I don't know what to tell you.

I've always thought that for conspiracy theories, it's best to analyze the counter-factual story rather than the official story. Lots of weird stuff happens in reality, but it's hard to tell how much weird stuff is the difference between, this obviously didn't happen that way and huh, I guess stuff is just weird sometimes.

For the moon landing, IMO any remotely plausible counter-factual is far more full of holes than the official story:

  • We were in a bitter competition with the Soviets at the time, who had plenty of space, radar, and radio tech themselves. If there was anything the least bit hinky about it, why wouldn't they have called us out? I'm sure they tracked the trajectory of the rockets and modules, the transmission source and content, etc.

  • Rocketry hasn't advanced all that much since then, but electronics and special effects have. Maybe we could make some nice fake videos of it now, but it probably would have been impossible to fake the video with 60s-era special effects technology. It's also a lot more plausible that, in the 60s, the government was far ahead of the private sector in rocketry, versus being far ahead of Hollywood in video special effects.

  • There's a hell of a lot of people who worked on the Apollo project, and a hell of a lot of artifacts of it lying around in public view. It's pretty implausible that all of it is fake and every single person is lying and has continued to lie consistently for decades, in many cases up to their deathbeds and through various types of dementia, with no obvious signs of massive amounts of money being thrown around. It's probably cheaper and simpler to actually go to the moon than to organize all of that.

I enjoy challenging friends on whether they've actually thought about just how weird the official story is and how many weird things have happened since.

Damn, that's good bait. Okay: I guess I haven't thought about it? The thing that most people seemed to think was weirdest was "we sent people all the way to the moon but then we couldn't get back for half a century", but we made it all the way to the moon as fast as possible by spending as much money as possible, hundreds of billions of dollars inflation-adjusted, with NASA funding then cut by 2/3rds once "we won the Space Race" had been demonstrated. We tried to switch to a cheaper launch vehicle design (but not a cheaper procurement strategy...) afterward, we failed, sunk cost fallacy kept that failure on our backs for decades, and now here we are.

My favorite space conspiracy is the Lost Cosmonauts theory, Heinlein version. "Ha ha we already put a man in space oh wait the retrorockets screwed up did we mention it was just a test dummy" sounds so much like an inept coverup of a death. If there actually had been a coverup I'd have expected some documents/details/myths to have been leaked in post-Soviet Russia, though, along with the N-1 failures and the more salacious retellings of Komarov's death.

my god

Why would someone think this was a good idea???

an uncrewed space capsule had indeed been orbiting the Earth since 1960, as it had become jammed into its booster rocket.

Derelict spacecraft already give off a powerfully lonely impression. If there’s a corpse in there…damn.

The thing that most people seemed to think was weirdest was "we sent people all the way to the moon but then we couldn't get back for half a century"...

This is, of course, kind of weird, but not nearly as weird as it being such a solved problem that we were sending golf equipment along for the ride! Or that moon rocks keep turning out to be fakes, or that we lost all of the telemetry data, or that everyone working on the Artemis Program keeps using verbiage that strongly implies that we have no idea how a ton of this is supposed to work. Of course, flipping through any of the conspiracy sites will provide a whole bunch more that's very weird. I don't really think it's a hoax, but I do think it's pretty weird that the people that are working on the current project don't really seem all that confident that going to the moon is something they can actually do. But really, my main question for friends is why they have such a high degree of confidence on something that they've really never even given a moment's thought to. Even though I think it's above the board, I still get a weird tingling when I notice how hard the Artemis Program is to pull off, but the Boomers tell me that when they were kids, they just grabbed some calculators and went right up for some casual golfing.

that everyone working on the Artemis Program keeps using verbiage that strongly implies that we have no idea how a ton of this is supposed to work.

To be fair, a lot of the Apollo Program approach was very much based around the concept of "keep trying something until it works", rather than actually understanding how it works. A number of different engine resonance issues were 'fixed' simply by throwing literal bombs into the stream and hoping they'd disrupt unintentional bombs. Even where they had decent models and fixes, sometimes they launched unfixed versions to try and hit deadlines: this was funny when coincidence with other unexplained problems saved lives, and less so when it ended them (on the ground!).

More broadly, fluid calculations are hard.

I think it's important to remember how complex manned spaceflight is and how chronically little attention is paid to end-to-end documentation. In fact, a big part of me thinks that utterly "complete" documentation is impossible because latent knowledge is so pervasive that sometimes you don't even realize you're using it as part of a step-by-step process. Furthermore, documentation outside of end user focused documentation is more about thinking through problems than a totally exhaustive record what what happened when and why for what reasons.

An interesting thought experiment I like to run with my developer friends; think of the most complex yet elegant piece of software you can think of...maybe the Linux kernel? Could Linux Torvals (or anyone) rebuild it from scratch so that its roughly functionally the same ... probably. Would the structure of the code be anything like it is .... probably not.

NASA engineers definitely know, remember (in an institutional sense), and appreciate the broad strokes of slinging a rocket at the moon, but its day one for all the details again.

or that everyone working on the Artemis Program keeps using verbiage that strongly implies that we have no idea how a ton of this is supposed to work.

Hey, I buy that. I work on a semi-mothballed flight sim that's evolved into C from a puddle of Fortran. Getting the damn thing to work on a machine from this decade is a daily struggle, and that's just on the technical end of things. Technical and logistics headaches in aerospace make perfect sense to me.

I think the Moon landing footage as broadcast to the public were definitely faked with the help of Stanley Kubrick; it's functionally indistinguishable from the real thing because he insisted that it all be filmed on location.

I do think it's pretty weird that the people that are working on the current project don't really seem all that confident that going to the moon is something they can actually do

Yeah, that's what the people who actually managed to do it said too- though if they had their doubts it's not like they would have really been permitted to air them at that point. It's not like we don't understand the physics of landing on other celestial bodies, given we throw stuff at them all the time (the Moon, Mars, and on occasion others too)- but the vast majority (all?) of the institutional secret sauce when it comes to engineering manned spaceflight with nothing but a slide rule and mid-20th-century materials science is 6 feet under now. And that goes for the Soviets just as well as it does the Americans; at least the Soviets didn't really stop cranking out Progresses.

And really, Artemis seems to me to suffer from F-35itis given they're both peacetime craft; there's a lot more bullshit they want/need the computers to automatically deal with now. "Just hit it with a hammer" and "turn it off, then back on again" was fine for Apollo (the fact that the people they sent tended to be test pilots meant they expected training to take up a lot of the slack)- and the telemetry they had was, I suspect, relatively minimal. But that's not fine for Artemis, built to a tighter budget with pilots that don't have the 20 years flying prototype fighter jets to fix anything too technical that goes wrong up there. And considering that they had to re-invent literally everything I'd say the project is coming along about as quickly as one would expect.

not nearly as weird as it being such a solved problem that we were sending golf equipment along for the ride!

The national security objective was achieved, and they managed to pull it off the first try. If your project isn't getting renewed and you know it, but the fuel and development costs are already paid for, why not go for victory laps?

Oh well, at least you can shoot the laser at it and determine that there's definitely something there from the reflectors they left behind.

Census demographics are wrong and manipulated to keep the peace in the USA.

Here's one that's related. The reason for the intense fight over Trump asking about citizenship on the census was because accurate citizenship information would make some current service locations illegal.

Spending federal money on social services for illegal aliens was banned in the 80s. Courts ruled that so long as the office was serving >50% citizens the service was legal, and also they weren't allowed to ask about citizenship at the location.

There are almost certainly things like federally run dialysis clinics in parts of California that serve less than 50% citizens, and they'd need to be shut down if there was ever an accurate count.

That's funny, when I was in Japan recently I was thinking there seemed to be way more than 2.3% of the population non-Japanese as officially claimed. I always thought racial statistics in the US seemed pretty accurate though, how do you think they might be different?

I went to Japan a few years back and would’ve thought 2.3% to be an overestimate! I was in a road trip around Kyushu at the time. Before that I’ve gone to Hokkaido and around Honshu as well, and my impression is that 2.3% is probably too high for most prefectures.

Were you in Tokyo (+ surrounding cities) or Kyoto perchance?

I was staying in a suburb of Tokyo but have been as far south as Hiroshima and as far north as a few hours north of Tokyo by train. I've visited small towns and big ones, there are definitely more foreigners in Tokyo and Kyoto but there are still a lot outside the major cities too.

This page claims that most of the foreigners who live in Japan are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino, combined making up 77% of all foreigners in Japan. So these are basically "invisible" minorities to me as I can't really quickly identify those ethnicities apart from Japanese (unless I hear them talk or they're like, obnoxiously stereotypically nouveau riche Chinese or particularly non-Asian looking Filipino) which means that only (less than) 1.771 percent of the Japanese population is a visible minority to me and it seems impossible. I saw tons of Indians/South Asians followed by tons of whites and a fair number of blacks (mostly appearing to be from rich western countries like the US though also- Kenyans or Nigerians or wherever the guys at the bars in Kabukicho are from.) I don't know how I can account for tourism- I'm guessing if even as much as 80% of the white and black people I saw were there as tourists it still leaves tons of people who live there full time. I doubt most of the Indians/SA people I saw were just tourists because many of them work at convenience stores and there are tons and tons of Indian, Nepalese and Bengladeshi restaurants.

Granted I still hear small children in large groups say "gaijin! gaijin!" when I walk past them, I make shop clerks in department stores so uncomfortable that they hide when they see me and shop clerks in small stores will like, cower in the back room when I come in some times so I'm definitely still enough of an outsider as a white man to cause anxieties among the Japanese (and before you think I'm criticizing them in any way or that I'm implying that I expect different treatment- I'm not and I don't! I wish every country was an ethnostate with a rich indigenous culture and I aim to make my presence as unobtrusive as possible) but in no way do I feel like I'm a 1.7 percent rarity as a visible minority in Japan, it has to be closer to like 5 percent (granted I don't know how I could objectively gauge this seeing as I'm white.) I will say that Japan is still far, far more ethnically homogenous than anywhere else on the planet I've been, it's very common that I'm the only non-Asian when I'm on train cars or at restaurants but it never feels like it's the case 98% of the time, it seems closer to like 90 or 95 percent of the time.

it's very common that I'm the only non-Asian when I'm on train cars or at restaurants but it never feels like it's the case 98% of the time

Keep in mind, if you're looking at a room of let's say ten randomly selected people, you've rolled the gaijin spotting dice ten times, not just once.

0.98 to the power of 10 = about 82% probability of not seeing a gaijin ten times in a row.

I mean, you're a visiting foreigner so you're probably going to go to places where there are more visiting foreigners than average.

I did take that into consideration as well, I was in Japan for three months and lived in a random Tokyo suburb but traveled to small towns while I was there and I've been to Japan two other times before covid also and generally avoid touristy places like the plague and I'm basing my observations on all that, not as a random tourist who flew to tokyo for 2 weeks and took the shinkansen to Kyoto and back

See my reply to 2Rafa

Well an easy one is that there are definitely more illegal immigrants than in 2004 or whatever but officially we’ve been stuck at the same number since then ie 11 million.

I think the number of other minorities is manipulated down as well.

Peace in what sense?

People might pursue radically different policies if the census data was accurate.

Maintain the status quo.

Which ways do you think TPTB skew the data?

See my reply to 2Rafa…

Here's an inverse conspiracy theory that's also technically a conspiracy: Flat Earthers don't exist.

It's held up as the archetypical example of conspiracy theory believers, but I'm convinced that pretty much everyone who expresses support for Flat Earth theories - well over 99% - is knowingly playing along in a giant hoax, for a sense of community and the amusement of getting ridiculous stories published in serious newspapers. (Some of them don't actually realise this and think that only they themselves are roleplayers while the rest of their group are serious).

A good friend of mine's mother is a flat earther, they do exist. They are crazy for several other reasons though.

The Flat Earther thing looks superficially like 20th century science crackpottery, but it's socially more like a fandom. The old-school crackpot theorists were individual deranged people pursuing their theories about free energy generators or the value of pi being wrong. Flat Earth is a worldview stance more than a complex scientific theory, and all that's expected of a follower is to assert that they believe this to be a fact. "Pi is actually 3.1446..." or "nuclear power isn't real" don't have quite the same immediate worldview shifting juice for someone reading about them and then professing to believe them as "the Earth is flat" has. The people making the Flat Earth materials might be mostly insincere, but the follower fandom seems quite real, and before social media crackpot theories didn't really have fandoms like this.

I've talked to earnest flat earthers, they definitely exist

Anecdotal but I know a genuine believer. He is very into other conspiracy theories as well.

Here is inverse inverse conspiracy theory: modern flat earthism, when it suddenly appeared about 2012 - if you remember, you would remember deluge of slick, professionally made Youtube videos - was not product of believers, was not a joke, but experiment how could disinformation and fake news spread on then new social media (it turned out it can spread like wildfire).

Anyway, if the Earth is not flat, it should be. See you on Kek island.

I think it's just hardcore in-group testing. "We wanted to create a group where just getting into it meant demonstrating extreme commitment ... but in a purely "I BELIEVE" way." My main evidence for this is the Behind The Curve documentary which shows that the main Flat Earth dude was just looking for a girlfriend and the main Flat Earth lady was just looking for a boyfriend (I think after a divorce or death?) and so they pre-tested the hell out of each other with the Flat Earth community and now have super hard to break enforced bonding via shared delusional belief.