"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Open Thread 83.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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667 Responses to Open Thread 83.75

  1. axiomsofdominion says:

    Anyone here play EVE at all? I’ve been considering getting back into it if I can join a decent null corp. Sadly EVE is still the only MMO with a decent non-raiding endgame even 5 years after I started it.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I have a character subscribed just to fuck around and lose an interceptor every week or so

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Ha, I finally got around to having someone who can do interceptors. Alliance always demands I waste my valuable time in PVP so I needed something. Least until I get a few titans to dock around with.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          I’ve never been invested enough in the grind to bother with capitals, I just maxed out subcap and support skills. You don’t need null standings to pew pew, just a decent blockade runner and some NPC stations to base out of.

    • cassander says:

      I’ve played years of eve, had capital ship skills back when that was relatively rare. As much as I love the idea of eve, it’s never been a particularly good starship combat game, and that always drives me away.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        I mean, it really can’t be. For one thing servers just can’t support big fights. Have to pop tidi. For another the naval model everyone bases spaceships on makes no sense. Plus because you can always quit games they have to do all this shit to “balance” wealth and ship size.

        • cassander says:

          Realism, I accept, is a pointless desire. My problem isn’t that things aren’t realistic, it’s that the system they’ve set up isn’t particularly interesting, and usually gets less interesting as fleets grow.

    • Jonathan says:

      I’ve played EVE off-and-on for just under ten years. I’m currently in an ‘off’ period but I haven’t been kicked from corp (Dreddit/Test) yet.

  2. HFARationalist says:

    Overcoming unfriendly AI through strength aka how we can avoid the Hobbesian natural condition

    I used to believe that efforts to make AI friendly are wasted because no efforts to ban unfriendly AI can ensure that such things don’t appear at all and just one single unfriendly AI is sufficient to destroy the world.

    However recently after a discussion on another board I have changed my mind. I currently believe that it might be possible to use a lot of friendly AI to deal with an occasional unfriendly one just like it is possible for normal armed groups aka militaries to curb an occasional lunatic one (ISIS) and it is possible for a group of normal people (the police) to deal with an occasional serial killer. Just like exterminationist coups against humanity by small cabals of murderous lunatics are really hard to pull off, UFAI coups and rampages can be stopped if we have enough power on our side. Hence research into friendly AI is very useful.

    I would like to criticize the Dark Forest theory as well. If there are indeed enough alien civilizations I believe DF is very unlikely because there is no such thing as a “chain of suspicion”. Human communication used to be really slow to the point that ancient history should have contained Dark Forests (i.e. The speed of horses is roughly analogous to light speed). However most human tribes did not try to exterminate every other tribe they could find simply for existing. The same should apply to aliens. Civilizations should have some healthy distrust of other civilizations they aren’t familiar with. However they shouldn’t try to exterminate others simply for existing. That kind of hypernazi behavior if discovered can induce retaliation. Furthermore sufficiently advanced civilizations will probably agree to some basic principles such as no extermination and together annihilate any DF/hypernazi lunatic civilizations just like how we deal with ISIS and serial killers so that they can be reasonably safe. I think it is still a bad idea to contact aliens who might be stronger than us but the Dark Forest is unlikely to actually exist.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I agree with you on Dark Forest theory. Another nail against Dark Forest theory it that, no matter how knowledgeable and skilled a species (individual) is, other perspectives can shed light on options not considered. This is even seen in the Trisolaran novels themselves.

      If entropy is the final enemy, allies are needed unless you already know a way to defeat it. If you already know a way to defeat it, no one can be your enemy.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Exactly. Dark Forest attackers, Nazis, Paperclip Maximizers and ISIS all belong to the same class, namely Hobbesian entities. The Hobbesian natural condition is so awful that sufficiently advanced rational actors will try to cooperate to avoid it when possible. A purely Hobbesian entity, individual or group probably can not evolve to be too advanced anyway. (Deiseach’s idea) Hence sufficiently advanced entities should worry about Hobbesian entities but should not be Hobbesian themselves. The more actors there are the safer the world is from Hobbesian lunatics. In a community of actors predominantly against Hobbesianism community policing happens in order to keep non-Hobbesians safe and punish Hobbesians.

        The more advanced an entity is and the more resources it has the less harm it usually intends to do to others. That’s probably a reason why economic development is correlated with lack of barbarity.

    • I used to believe that efforts to make AI friendly are wasted because no efforts to ban unfriendly AI can ensure that such things don’t appear at all and just one single unfriendly AI is sufficient to destroy the world.

      AI or superintelligent AI?

      I currently believe that it might be possible to use a lot of friendly AI to deal with an occasional unfriendly one just like it is possible for normal armed groups aka militaries to curb an occasional lunatic one

      Note that strength scales much better than intelligence. That is why it is not at all given that a bunch of friendly but less-than-superintelligent AIs could curb a superintelligence.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Superintelligent AI. A thousand friendly superintelligent AIs and transhumans will probably be able to overcome a single Hobbesian superintelligent AI.

        • toastengineer says:

          I have to wonder if in our worrying about superintelligent AI, we’re missing the threat of non-superintelligent AI. There’s plenty of by-definition human-level actors that have caused millions of deaths; seems like Hitler-Except-Less-Self-Destructive-And-Effectively-Immortal is a problem worth considering as well.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve brought this up before and people have poo-pooed it, but it’s not just that, it’s also “Hitler freed from all human biological constraints with the ability to focus single-mindedly on a single goal”

        • Yosarian2 says:

          It’s not clear to me that “a thousand AI’s” is necessarily better then “one AI running on a thousand computers”. But I agree with the general concept.

          One threat to that kind of world order might be if an unconstrained unfriendly AI has an inherent advantage by being unconstrained (say, maybe it can self modify much more quickly if it doesn’t worry much about stuff like maintaining consistent values across iterations.)

          • HFARationalist says:

            I agree. The solution is to make sure that all the sufficiently intelligent AI we can find are friendly.

            If everything fails we may try EMPs.

        • How do you ensure that no AI is 1000 times smarter than the rest? Symmetry is important.

    • roystgnr says:

      The Dark Forest is unlikely to actually exist, because even if fear is a good enough reason to avoid intentionally contacting other civilizations, fear is not a good enough reason to avoid unintentionally contacting other civilizations as a side effect of astroengineering. “Stay small enough that other advanced civilizations won’t even notice my waste heat” is not obviously safer than “Get large quickly enough that other advanced civilizations will fear my reprisals”. At not-unreasonable doubling rates it may take a millenium to go from “high technology spacefarers who might consider hiding” to “high technology spacefarers with a Dyson cloud”, so hiding only helps if there’s devastating enemy firepower within well under 500 light-years. But if there’s enemy firepower within 500 light-years then there’s probably enemy reconnaissance within 500 light-minutes, in which case hiding is still pointless; they knew you were there before you even considered the option.

  3. Charles F says:

    Interesting article from siderea on gender and domesticity. I don’t agree with the interpretation, but it was worth a read.

    My comment as it might eventually be allowed to appear on that page is:
    This presents an interesting view, and I enjoyed reading it.

    I’d like to gloss over the disparity between women and men for a moment, and say that I think housework *is* good for people, and they lose something when they eventually have to give it up. I think part of it is valuing self-sufficiency, which you mentioned. But another part of it seems like a disagreement about what constitutes a whole person.

    Like, in intellectual circles, people tend to get reduced to a brain in a jar, thoughts are what a person really is and everything else is supporting those. You seem to be treating the real core of a person as the things they want to do. But I would say my thoughts/words are part of me and I’m responsible for keeping my mind in order and minding my manners, my body is a part of me and both using it for my own enjoyment and also fueling it and maintaining some baseline level of hygiene are important aspects of being human, and my environment is part of my life, keeping it maintained and getting comfort out of it are both important for a person.

    Certainly, the capability to manage all of that does diminish as you age, and there will eventually be trade-offs where you give up one aspect of your life to focus on one that’s more rewarding. But you wouldn’t go on dialysis while your kidneys still worked and I wouldn’t outsource my housework until I could no longer manage it myself.

    The trend where women do a bunch of stuff for men and that gets ignored is a real problem, but I think framing taking care of yourself (a skill I see in decline in the social circles I interact with) in more economic terms, instead of more in virtue and obligation terms seems unhelpful.

    [Superfluous culture warring redacted]

    • The Nybbler says:

      What the article misses is why retirement is possible. It’s possible because there’s a surplus; you work for years, you are compensated for it in money, and you don’t spend all that money (or have it all taxed away), and at some point you retire and live on that surplus until you are dead. Social Security modifies that but it pretends to be the same idea, funded by a tax on your earnings.

      Housework isn’t like that. There’s no surplus. You can never build up a surplus. You cook today, you still have to cook tomorrow if you want to eat tomorrow. You clean today, it’ll be dirty tomorrow. You can’t cook 101% of what you need and end up with a surplus of cooking at the end of a few decades. It just doesn’t work. So no, you can’t retire from housework. You can work some other job which makes a surplus, then use that surplus to pay someone else to do the housework. But that’s so expensive you’ll have to be in the 1% to pull it off, unless you go to some sort of dreary (and still expensive) assisted living place.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        What the article misses is why retirement is possible. It’s possible because there’s a surplus;

        Housework isn’t like that. There’s no surplus. You can never build up a surplus.

        My fundamental problem with 20 and 30 somethings retiring. It’s unnatural in terms of historic jobs and the tribe.

        • The Nybbler says:

          My fundamental problem with 20 and 30 somethings retiring. It’s unnatural in terms of historic jobs and the tribe.

          Twenty- and thirty-somethings can only retire if they build up that surplus, which must be considerably more. I don’t see how it’s “unnatural”.

          • Evan Þ says:

            It’s “unnatural” in the sense that until the last forty years or so, vanishingly-few people of that age could’ve built up that surplus without, at least, consciously managing their businesses. On the other hand, I don’t think that’s a sense that’s worth caring about.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The frugally most efficient spend their abilities too early opting out of trading their frugality to the rest of the world for what the rest of the world can provide.

            They’ve been overpaid for their frugality so much that the rest of us no longer get the benefit of their skills.

            Whereas a medical specialist can literally add dozens or hundreds of additional people-work decades to the world, including people-decades of frugal-efficientists, and not be compensated sufficiently to opt out of trading their medical skills to the world. Not to mention all the rest of us.

            It strikes me as contrary to our interests for the non-frugal-efficientists to allow gaming of the economic system by frugal-efficientists. We’re allowing them to opt-out too early at insufficient benefit to us.

            None of that would have been allowed in a tribal society. They’d have been kicked out of the tribe, which is fine for a survival-efficientist, if a bit lonely.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They’ve been overpaid for their frugality so much that the rest of us no longer get the benefit of their skills.

            In what sense “overpaid”? What claim do the rest of you have on their skills?

            It strikes me as contrary to our interests for the non-frugal-efficientists to allow gaming of the economic system by frugal-efficientists. We’re allowing them to opt-out too early at insufficient benefit to us.

            Seems to me you are considering them one step above slaves; they exist for the benefit of society.

            None of that would have been allowed in a tribal society. They’d have been kicked out of the tribe, which is fine for a survival-efficientist, if a bit lonely.

            Sure, but tribal societies are terrible, like most human societies. Just plain hierarchy; if you’re not a leader, you’re not anything and you get the shitty end of the stick no matter how skillful you are.

          • beleester says:

            I would point out that, if you’re living frugally, odds are there’s not all that much you need to “pay for.” Being frugal means giving up resources you could have purchased, allowing them to be allocated to someone else. The way you “get paid for your frugality” is by freeing up resources for other people, which makes it odd to claim they’re a drain on your resources that should be kicked out. If all you’re asking for is food, shelter, and an internet connection, then why should you need to pay as much as the guy who wants the full middle-class package?

            I would also point out that there’s no objective way to measure if someone is “overpaid” aside from looking at what the market will actually pay for them. I’m not sure you can make this argument without arguing that capitalism as a whole is bad at setting prices for things.

          • Brad says:

            A narrow issue of overpayment is that historically companies have invested in new hires early in their tenure with the expectation that it’d be worth it in the long term. But with turnover increasing those calculations will have to change.

            I don’t think extreme early retirement is more than a rounding error on those turnover figures, but it is worth considering if it takes off. It’s illegal to refuse to hire a 20 something married women with no kids because you are afriad she’ll pregnant or a 65 year old man because he doesn’t have much of a future with the company, but it is legal not to hire a 35 year old man that has an early retirement blog.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Nybbler

            In what sense “overpaid”? What claim do the rest of you have on their skills?

            The existence of currency puts a claim on others’ skills. Though I really can’t answer your rhetorical question as it indicates a profound disconnect in our views of the world.

            Seems to me you are considering them one step above slaves; they exist for the benefit of society.

            All work exists for the benefit of one’s immediate self (and is thus unpaid), or for that of others (and may or may not be paid), or both (e.g. putting on clothes). This distinguishes work from pure pleasure.

            Just plain hierarchy

            I think you may be overreading how a tribal society must exist. Yes, some have strict heirarchies, but Oscar the chimpanzee’s tribe was much less so.

            @beleester

            I would point out that, if you’re living frugally, odds are there’s not all that much you need to “pay for.”

            I definitely agree for some people, I was thinking more of those 20/30-something investment bankers who get out after 10 or less years with $5+ million. The very existence of high compensation for basic manipulation (moving and ordering) of what’s supposed to be the metric of labor valuation shows that capitalism does in fact fail to value certain labors appropriately.

            I’m not sure you can make this argument without arguing that capitalism as a whole is bad at setting prices for things.

            My gut feeling is that currency itself is something we only have a loose handle on as a culture, at least in terms of its repercussions.

            @Brad

            Interesting point I wouldn’t have thought of. Probably responsible for the growth of temp, permatemp and temp-to-perm agencies. The first two of which are generally underpaid compared to equivalent employees.

          • temp, permatemp and temp-to-perm agencies. The first two of which are generally underpaid compared to equivalent employees.

            Do you have any evidence for temps being underpaid? I’ve been working as a temp for the last 12 years or so, and I’ve always made much more on an hourly basis than I did as an employee. Even when benefits are taken into account.

            I may well be out of the norm, since my temp work is as a professional, and the work I get is due to decades of experience in my field. Probably most temps are pretty unskilled and make low wages. But you also need to take into account that lots of them probably would be unable to get regular employment in their field (temps are often temps because they can’t get permanent employment), so it may be incorrect to compare their wages to those who do have permanent jobs in their field.

          • Matt M says:

            How exactly do you get work as a “skilled temp?”

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            I may well be out of the norm, since my temp work is as a professional, and the work I get is due to decades of experience in my field.

            The technical term for what you are doing is likely “consultant” or “contractor” (which differs from the permatemp sense of “contractor”). It differs significantly from a temp.

            Do you have any evidence for temps being underpaid?

            Yes, personally working as a permatemp; this is how the contract agencies make their profit (in addition to paying for their own, redundant [when considered in the context of the employing company], HR staff). We aren’t just underpaid, but we also are prevented from applying to internal jobs, since we technically aren’t employed by the employing company. After I was fired (for threatening to try to seek concerted action) I was offered >=50% pay increases at two other jobs, and am now a career employee.

            https://assets.propublica.org/legacy/projects/temptown/photos/kellygirl_nevernevergirl_400px.jpg

            They’ve changed the external marketing, but still work the same.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I think you’re distinguishing too much between different sorts of “paying other people,” in a similar way to how Siderea’s arguing people like her grandmother are distinguishing too much between different sorts of work. Sure, in theory, you can save up your money under your mattress and live off it in retirement; but in practice, most people invest it and live (at least in large part) off the dividends. In essence, that’s hiring other people (through corporations) to finance your retirement. Similarly, why shouldn’t you be able to use that money to pay someone else to do housework?

        (If you had enough – that is the problem.)

        In theory, you could also do what most people did throughout history and live with your grown-up kids… but that’s far removed from our modern culture.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Similarly, why shouldn’t you be able to use that money to pay someone else to do housework?

          You should, and I mentioned that in my comment. But it takes a surplus from something else. And the cost of a _servant_ today is prohibitive for all but the wealthiest.

      • blame says:

        Housework isn’t like that. There’s no surplus. You can never build up a surplus. You cook today, you still have to cook tomorrow if you want to eat tomorrow.

        Well, that may be true if you only cook for yourself.

        As soon as you also cook for your partner (and maybe some children), they save time and energy which can be (and hopefully is) used for work which generates a form of surplus that is easier to accumulate, typically money (or education in the case of children). So it generates some sort of surplus, just not as directly as other forms of work.

        I used cooking as an example, same is true for other types of household.

        • Aapje says:

          @blame

          Sure and most households with a single/primary arrangement have a large wealth transfer from the partner who earns (most) money to the other partner. If the working partner retires, the pension typically gets shared with the other partner as well*. Furthermore, AFAIK most pensions have survivor benefits if the person who earned the pension dies, while the non-working partner lives.

          So it seems to me that a housekeeping person who enables their partner to earn more, typically benefits from this arrangement by having part of the surplus passed on.

          * And this regularly gets used to reduce the burden of the household work, for instance by eating out, by buying machines that take over part of the work, etc.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        The author would straight-up reject that point:

        I think there’s something really fine about this idea, the idea that in this capitalist, industrial society, where the basic rule is “work or starve”, that there’s a point where you’ve worked enough, where you get to stop. You don’t have to die chained to your oar. That when “work” – meaning competing in the labor market for opportunities to sell your labor for money – gets too hard, society takes mercy on you.

        The author doesn’t think retirement is something you have to save for, merely something bestowed upon you by a kind, caring, just society.

        Men do not get to retire if they do not save enough money. My FIL will continue to work into his 70s, and I not sure this author will give a damn because something-something “male privilege.”

        There’s also a substantial difference between welding steel or doing the kind of highly dangerous work expected in a 19th century factory (or even earlier farm-work), and washing your dishes/cleaning your toilet.

        • Evan Þ says:

          There’s also a substantial difference between welding steel or doing the kind of highly dangerous work expected in a 19th century factory (or even earlier farm-work), and washing your dishes/cleaning your toilet.

          Yes, but it’s a difference in degree not in kind. My grandma is now physically unable to clean her own toilet, just like she’s physically unable to weld steel. It happens.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          washing your dishes/cleaning your toilet.

          I seriously wonder how many dish and toilet washers of prior centuries died from contagions disproportionate to their numbers in the general population.

      • Well... says:

        What the article misses is why retirement is possible. It’s possible because there’s a surplus

        Well, no, you also have to invest that extra money. That’s what a 401K or a Roth IRA is. In just about all cases, putting your extra money in a savings account or under your mattress will not provide you enough to retire on.

        Housework isn’t like that. There’s no surplus.

        Unless you count stuff that increases the value of the house, such as home improvement. Even plain old maintenance and regular cleaning can make the difference between selling the house at a profit or a loss later on.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        yeah, this whole post was horrifically bad

        what does it even mean to “retire from housework”? Notice she never really says what this means; the most coherent answer seems to be:

        I think she should get to put her feet up, and nibble on bon-bons all day, and maybe have some of those attractive, barely dressed men fan her with giant palm fronds. “Push a button, ask someone to bring a cup of tea”

        So basically be waited on hand and foot? And who pays for this – the government?

        Well, OK, the government does give out social security, right? Except, according to Google, the average Social Security retirement benefit is about $1,300 per month. That’s not nearly enough for a full-time maid (I think? Google wasn’t very helpful in this regard). And even then, the whole point of social security is that you pay in and you get it back – even though that’s no longer 100% the case, that’s still the basis, and it’s why the program even works at all. So are you going to have the housewife version of Social Security?

        like Nybbler said, you can retire from ‘men’s work’ because you are doing it for someone else and they pay you for it and you can build up retirement. If you do “women’s work” for someone else, like being a maid, they’ll pay you too. Work done for yourself in your own home is obviously not going to make you money.

        • Deiseach says:

          Part of wanting to do housework is to keep fit and active, which is important as you get older. It would be a bit silly to pay someone to do your housework and then have to go for the recommended “thirty minutes minimum aerobic exercise five times a week” to a gym. The author doesn’t seem to take that into account.

          Put your feet up and nibble on bon-bons all day and you’ll end up in a hospital bed which nobody wants.

          • Matt M says:

            My parents used to get into screaming matches whenever my mom would sign up for some aerobics class at a gym with her friends, while my dad pointed to all the manual-labor intensive yard work around the house that needed doing.

            “Working out” as a social activity and/or signaling device encompasses far more than “finding some way to get your heart rate up for a while”

          • My cardiologist claims that yard work is not a substitute for the half hour a day of walking that he recommends, on the theory that its effects are too irregular. I’m not sure how much evidence there is for his position–he hasn’t offered any.

            I’ve considered the alternative of wearing a heart rate monitor, doing yard work, and making sure my pulse rate is in about the same range I observe it in when walking.

    • keranih says:

      I like it when people link to Siderea. Whatever it is, it is almost certainly at least 90 degrees from my pov, if not completely off the chart in some fourth tangent unrelated to right/left, blue/orange, whatever.

      In this case, I think it’s really interesting how very short shrift she gives the concept of biology. As if the differences between men and women’s perspectives on this might not have some evolutionary background.

      F’stance – if one watches adult mammals interact with other critters, there is a difference in how infants are treated vs adults. Things that are baby shaped – oversized head, oversized eyes, esp if they’re a bit clumsy – these sorts of things are treated differently even by predators than things which have adult shapes. Sure, hungry enough – or if the baby shaped thing runs, and kicks in the prey drive – and an adult predator will chomp down on the neonate. But frequently enough, adult animals treat baby things even of different species as through those might be their own neonates.

      Humans do it too – women more than men, girls more than boys. But watch a toddler playing with toys – even quite *young* children react to ‘baby’ shaped things. The mammal recognition of “baby shape = interesting thing that needs to be investigated and cared for” is hard wired pretty dang far down.

      So think of the role of older women and older men in a savanna ape band. Old guy can’t physically compete with the young men any more for sex – there comes a point where even treachery can’t make up for youth. Old enough to be weaker, so not so much help on the hunt. So maybe he’s a teacher, or an adviser, or maybe a lookout. Maybe a craftsman. At any rate, not terribly active.

      Older women may or may not be past menopause, but it’s more likely that they would still be caring for younger children – either their own or their grandchildren. Humans, elephants, and larger sea mammals (orcas, other banding whales) have much higher infant survival rates if they have grandmothers in the group than otherwise. The activity of older women in actively teaching young women and helping to chase young kids has a direct impact on the long term survival of the genome. So it may well be that an older person, slowly fading a bit, is going to be less influenced by concious mental decisions and more by instinct. And the instinct of a female may well be more insistent that she remain busy and active than that of a man.

      I suggest that when Siderea is attempting to force an equality that she sees as politically palatable on an older person, that she may in fact be denying that woman the opportunity to be *comfortable* – to follow unconscious urges to continue to contribute to the well-being of her family.

      IMO, we should be allowing people to make their own choices as to what they want to do. Some people regardless of gender will want to kick back, others will want to stay busy. And it may be that my idea here is only a “just so” story and actual data – when ever we get it – will point elsewhere.

      But Siderea’s reflexive reach for a political solution struck me as the wrong approach.

      • quaelegit says:

        But frequently enough, adult animals treat baby things even of different species as through those might be their own neonates.

        Really? I’m not a zoologist or anything, but nature shows typically show predators deliberately targeting the young (and the old) because they are easier to attack. (Some specific examples I remember are 1) an orca pod attacking a mother and baby gray whale — first isolating the baby from its mother then killing it. Probably from David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet” 2) Savannah preditors targeting babies in herds, don’t remember a specific show.) Are you saying this is a mischaracterization?

        And on toddlers — it’s also plausible that young children would learn different behaviors towards babies and adults very early from seeing the difference when adults interact with the child vs. eachother.

    • Evan Þ says:

      What makes you say that skill of caring for yourself is in decline in your social circles?

      I can see some senses in which it is a valuable skill (e.g. keep yourself bathed) and some in which it isn’t (no thank you, I don’t mind getting my sliced bread from the store), and I think Siderea’s making a useful correction. Yes, it can go too far in her direction too… but has it?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        A close friend of my wife is in her late 20s. Neither she nor any of her friends can cook, or have any interest in cooking.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Hmm, that’s an intermediate point, given how common restaurants and prepared food are. I’d strongly recommend on a personal level that someone learn to cook, but I’m not sure whether I’d call that a necessary part of learning to take care of oneself anymore.

          • Charles F says:

            I don’t know how strong the link is, or what’s actually causing what, but the people I know who cook for themselves seem much more likely to have a reasonable body composition than the people who rely on prepared food. If you can afford to have your food prepared for you and you can manage your health, great, but I think not being able to cook is somewhat risky.

      • Charles F says:

        In addition to a lack of cooking, which has been mentioned. My friends mostly don’t do yard work, fix any of their own stuff when it stops working, or manage their finances in any reasonable way.

    • psmith says:

      A man’s ability to continue to weld steel into his 70s never seems quite so urgent to our society.

      I’m pretty sure this is just wrong, especially in the context of working on stuff around the home as opposed to working an industrial job. If you prefer, substitute “unclog the drain, “split firewood”, “wrench on the lawnmower”, etc.

      I also take some issue with framing the desire for personal independence as “urgency to our society” rather than a perfectly reasonable default desideratum, but eh, whatever.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I definitely enjoy siderea’s posts as a view into a different thought-culture. In my own extended familial network, the women vastly outlive the men, and many end up divorced anyway- so pre-death there’s still the expectation that the divorced old guy can cook and clean for himself, and post-death there’s the expectation that the older woman will retire to either assisted living or a younger family home (at which she will be doted upon). I’ve never actually seen (in the wild) this expectation for an antiquated female relative to continue housekeeping into infirmity, though it makes total sense under certain cultures I’ve read about (including the stock-photo 50s America).

    • J Mann says:

      I appreciate an alternative viewpoint, but my reaction here is fairly negative.

      I’m not super comfortable with how sideria treats the older women she’s talking to. They tell her that they want to remain independent, and she tells them that they’re letting down all women. Then when she detects that she’s “touched a nerve,” sideria decides its because the women are guilty of false consciousness and magical thinking. Instead of young-splaining to them, I’d feel more comfortable if sideria spent a couple more paragraphs hearing from them.

      Also, her dialogue sounds totally fake. It’s very unlikely that the conversations happened the literal way that her text in quotes represents 🙂

      Also, my intuition is that if you presented me with an 80 year old individual of unknown gender and told me that this person preferred to drive their own car, change their own oil, weed their own garden, cook their own meals to the alternative of paying someone else to do it, my first thought wouldn’t be that they were a victim of false consciousness or magical thinking, it would be that they preferred that to the alternative.

      It might be that the women silea writes about would prefer to have someone else pay to have their house cleaned, but they might also prefer to just receive the money that would cost and continue to clean their own houses. it might make sense to ask them.

      • lvlln says:

        I’m not super comfortable with how sideria treats the older women she’s talking to. They tell her that they want to remain independent, and she tells them that they’re letting down all women. Then when she detects that she’s “touched a nerve,” sideria decides its because the women are guilty of false consciousness and magical thinking. Instead of young-splaining to them, I’d feel more comfortable if sideria spent a couple more paragraphs hearing from them.

        I agree with this take. The whole thing seems to be a case of typical-mind fallacy or just a lack of imagination, in that she can’t seem to believe that some people could honestly, genuinely derive satisfaction and contentment from choosing to expend the effort it takes to do the chores necessary to take care of themselves and their environment. That obviously a life of leisure is preferable and anyone who would prefer to continue this hard work into their latest years is the victim of irrational social conditioning.

        I can actually empathize with this point of view; for most of my life, the thought of choosing to expend effort to do household chores seemed absurd to me, and I strove to minimize that effort in favor of leisure time whenever possible, even at real cost. It was only in my 30s that I started to find enjoyment and even pleasure in doing chores required to maintain myself and my environment. I don’t know how I’ll think if and when I make it to my 70s, but I can definitely imagine myself valuing the ability to perform such duties by myself and choosing to expend the effort required to do so.

        To be fair, the essay does emphasize that it’s trying to fight back against forcing or pressuring older people to taking care of themselves, but it does it very poorly. The examples it uses don’t have any element of the implied coercion in them, and the author seems to really have a problem with actual voluntary and lucid choice made by adults, rather than the oppressive coercive social systems she occasionally points to as being behind those choices. She doesn’t take any time to actually provide evidence that the oppressive social systems are responsible for these attitudes in the older people and that they’re in play in continuing to pressure the older people to be self-sufficient.

        • J Mann says:

          I’ve definitely seen the dynamic where an older relative or friend insists on remaining independent and self-sufficient longer than anyone else thinks is wise.

          Typically, it’s living alone and driving, not cleaning toilets, but from reading the comments to sideria’s article, there are a lot of anecdotes about “we tried to get mom to let us hire her a cleaning service, but she insisted on doing it herself.”

          Sideria diagnoses the older women as possessing “false consciousness,” “performing femininity” and engaging in the “magical thinking” that if they clean their own bathrooms, then they’re still young enough to do so.

          Sideria may ultimately be right, but given the subtext that she doesn’t seem to have convinced anyone to “retire” from self-sufficiency, I’d like to hear a little more from the women in question about why they made the choice.

          • Aapje says:

            The problem with the claim of false consciousness is also that it can be argued both ways: why wouldn’t sideria be the one with false consciousness? Isn’t she just performing to feminist expectations, rather than her own inherent desires? Do inherent desires independent of social convention even exist?

            The post-modernist mode of criticism ultimately is merely negative in that it can be used to argue against any preference, but it is not positive in the sense that it can argue that one set of desires is better than another. Since people generally do have preferences, post-modernist thinkers pretty universally just selectively apply their analytical tools, excluding their own preferences from the same criticisms they apply to others.

          • Randy M says:

            Do inherent desires independent of social convention even exist?

            Turn to the next Star Slate Codex thread for this exciting discussion!

          • AnonYEmous says:

            oh yeah, another thing that bothered me

            like a lot of feminists, she sees something she thinks is stupid and decides it’s a result of patriarchal propaganda

            I can’t speak on this because I don’t know a lot of guys like this, but I do think there are men who don’t want to retire just like there are women who don’t want to stop doing housework. And men who derive meaning from their work just like women that derive meaning from their housework.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      My parents (both of them) visited last weekend. They are both retired from their day jobs. Because I knew they had higher standards, I had professional cleaners come through the house in advance so they wouldn’t start screaming fights.

      I left them alone for two hours while I hit BJJ on Saturday and they instantly started cleaning the shit out of my house. Both of them. My mom sanitized a bunch of the kitchen she didn’t think was nice enough and my dad furiously gardened, mowing the lawn and trimming many plants.

      I repeatedly told them not to; they insisted they enjoyed this sort of thing.

      Neither of them think that this is their natural job. They just believe, and I think this has to do with the cultural upbringing they got given their age, that the Correct level of cleanliness is higher than I do.

      So while I think Siderea’s article is interesting, it’s not true in full generality. Sometimes people just have different preferences.

  4. Boyd Silken says:

    Is there any evidence that the use of LSD in safe doses can lead to persistent personality trait changes (such as greater openness)?

  5. sandoratthezoo says:

    There was some talk about dreams in the comments about the PP mental processing model. I’m starting to suspect that I dream differently than other people.

    A couple of people mentioned remembering language or dialog in their dreams. I won’t say that literally nobody ever talks in my dreams… but I won’t say for sure that anyone ever does, either. Certainly there’s not a lot of talking. Instead, I just know what the other person is trying to communicate. I do sometimes read things, but of course it’s frustrating because you can’t imagine consistent text (I’m fairly sure this is normal: If you actually want to tell if you’re dreaming, read the same sentence twice. It will be different.) I sometimes drift off to sleep while trying to read aloud to my wife — I just start making up random completions to sentences when I do this (much to her frustration).

    Speaking of telling whether you’re dreaming, someone mentioned thinking, in a dream, “Wow, this is just like what happens when I’m dreaming. Crazy that it’s happening when I’m awake.” I never have this experience: when I dream, I never consider that I’m dreaming, at all.

    I am never startled or surprised in my dreams. In a pleasant dream, even when a variety of crazy shit happens to me, it all seems perfectly reasonable. In nightmares, the horrible stuff is all eminently foreseeable and inevitable.

    I fairly frequently (but not universally) see myself in the “third person” while dreaming. Like, I see externally some person but “know” that it “is me.”

    I fairly frequently dream of being someone who is physically not at all like myself.

    Does the above jibe with your experiences dreaming? Are there things you think may be idiosyncratic and want to check?

    (I read, when I was quite young, that most people dream in black and white, not color. I’m like 99.9% certain that that was complete bullshit and everyone dreams in color. But for what it’s worth, I dream in color.)

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’m not sure whether I dream differently than other people, but the best analogy I can think of for my dreams is reading or playing out a story. I can be surprised on one level, but it’s the sort of surprise you get from a plot twist that was thoroughly foreshadowed in retrospect. I sometimes (less than half the time) see my “self” as a character that’s not me, but my sense of self is only loosely tied to that individual, sort of like a first-person narrator. At least once, it was a third-person (female) protagonist, and I actually remember hearing one line of the (separate) narrative voice. More commonly, though, the “me” in the dream just has some different points of backstory – e.g. I’m in a world with dragons, and I always have been, but I’m still me.

      I’ve always thought this’s due to my own mind and my familiarity with fantasy and literary analysis. In fact, I’ve several of these dreams have served as inspiration for stories I’ve written. But, are anyone else’s dreams similar?

      On other points – I always (AFAIK) dream in color, I don’t always remember my dreams, people definitely do talk, and I occasionally but very rarely know that I’m dreaming. Also, real people sometimes but rarely show up as characters in my dreams. (Most commonly, it’s my sister and my other good friends. However, just last week, I dreamed our local Men**us Mo***bug as the standard-issue fantasy Dark Lord whom my friends and I were preparing to fight.)

    • Things I think I can say for sure about how I dream:

      * I am always convinced I’m awake while I dream, and surprised when I wake up and find out that all that didn’t actually happen.

      * My dreams are almost always highly bizarre, involving lots of things happening that have a very tenuous thematic connection to each other and violate common sense. But during the dream everything seems to make perfect sense; I don’t notice any of the bizarreness.

      * That’s not to say I can’t be surprised by things, it’s just I’m not surprised by the same things my waking self would be surprised by. In general, I often have unusual emotional reactions to events in dreams, but I do have a normal range of emotional reactions.

      * I always dream in a first-person perspective, and don’t perceive myself as a different person from the person I am in my waking life.

      * People I know in real life make up the majority of the people I encounter in my dreams.

      * I probably have access to a dream-memory most days just after I wake up, but it takes considerable effort to access it. Like, I will wake up thinking, “I had a dream, but what happened in it? I can’t remember right now” (although often I have a couple of scraps of memory to start from). If I feel like it was a particularly interesting dream and decide to try and remember, I will just lie there and think about nothing else but how I would like to remember my dream for 30 seconds or so, and then most of the time it will come to me. But most of the time I don’t bother to try and remember because it doesn’t seem worth the effort.

      In many other respects I just don’t know what my dreams are like. Like, do I dream in colour or not? I feel like I’d have to check next time I’m dreaming to find out, and since I never know I’m dreaming when I’m dreaming that might be a challenge. Same goes for whether people talk or not. I think in general, my memories of dreams preserve only the narrative and not any records of sensations, so I don’t know what sensations I have during my dreams.

    • Mark says:

      I’m pretty sure I can be surprised in dreams.

      Sometimes it feels (when I wake) as if my subconscious were directing the plot of the dream and I was a clueless character in it – when I wake up I’m like “oh… I get it, those guys were werewolves

      Lots of speech.
      I remember my dreams far less than I used to when I was younger – perhaps because I remember them more when I’m suddenly awoken, and that doesn’t happen so much any more.

      Dreams in hot rooms get crazy.

    • dodrian says:

      There is definitely talking in my dreams, and sometimes it’s in Spanish (I’m fluent, English is my native language).

      I have on one or two occasions realized that I was dreaming and been able to take control of the dream. Most of the time though I can’t, even though there are a bunch of things that occur regularly in my dreams which can’t happen in real life. Eg. – if I try hard enough to fly in a dream I can usually manage to float a couple meters above the ground, but somehow I always think “Wow! This usually only happens in dreams, it’s never happened in real life before!”

      People and places in my dreams look very different from in real life, yet I always unambiguously know who they are. A friend might appear in my dream taller, with darker hair, or even different facial features, but I will ‘recognize’ them immediately and only upon waking up think “hmmm, that’s not what that person looks like” (they don’t look like someone else I know either). I might have a dream where I’m back in high school, and I very clearly recognize it as my former high school even though it looks nothing similar, eg, there’s a swimming pool in the classroom.

      What might be related: I think I don’t actually have a visual imagination. I can try and picture my wife in my head, and there’s a very clear “presence” of her in my mind, but I have to concentrate hard to actually “see” her face. Without doing that I could still describe her features to you, but I would struggle to visualize them myself. Similarly I can imagine a sentence “This is a sentence” floating in block capitals in my head, and in a sense I see those blocks, but to actually get a visual picture where I can see the definition of each letter (or even only one letter) takes a lot of concentration.

      • gph says:

        I’m exactly the same with the visual imagination. I never get an exact visual image of something as if it’s a picture I’m looking at, but if I concentrate I get sort of a vague image. I can’t focus in on any single part of the image, but it’s like I can hold the totality of the image in my head, and it feels like what it would feel like if I was actually seeing the image. And I could definitely describe different details of what I’m imagining, but to hold them all together into a single cohesive image in my mind is impossible for me.

        In fact now that I’m thinking about it there’s some similarity between when I try to remember a dream and when I try to recall an image. It’s like I can get the broad vague outline, and even a rough image appears for a moment if I concentrate hard enough. But it’s like holding water in your hands, it sort of slowly fades out before I can really get a grasp on it.

      • Uh… I just thought of something and this is going to sound weird, but shouldn’t people without a visual imagination have difficulty masturbating without watching porn?

        • Why? Do you assume that blind people cannot masturbate?

          I find textual porn at least as arousing as video porn, often more so.

        • But what are blind people actually imagining in order to get turned on? I assume it’s just the feeling of a partner’s body, and if you have difficulty imagining that then you’d be left with nothing. Without a visual aid, I assume that people with no visual imagination would have difficulty becoming aroused. Textual porn means you are reading text in order to generate pictures in your brain at least how I see it.

          • You may have a more visual imagination than I do. I would have said more nearly stories in your brain. I couldn’t, for instance, say what color the hair is of the women Casanova has affairs with in his memoirs, but the description of his interaction with them is still in many cases erotic.

          • I think this may be another “universal human experiences” thing.

            I would have to actively try in order to not see things when reading. I would imagine what the characters hair was and then it would change when the author told me otherwise. Not having visual imagination would require concentration in itself.

        • There’s no need to imagine anything when masturbating, just stimulation of the organ is sufficient.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      It’s probably common people dreamt in B&W prior to the invention of color television. I have never dreamt in B&W. I do, however, occasionally dream of myself in the third person. This seems to be common, but it’s somewhat odd once when I wake up. I’ve seen other people mention third person dreaming on other forums.

      Your response on text is correct, to my knowledge. I have never seen consistent text in a dream. It’s a frequent tell used by lucid dreamers to tell when they are dreaming.

      I lucid dream, which means I can tell when I am dreaming and can manipulate the dreams once I know I am dreaming (to some extent). The way to do this are to identify the signs you are in a dream, like text changing or being able to float (which are both the most common ways I know I am dreaming).
      Picking up on these tells is more habit, and you can probably train yourself to do it by “reality checking” during your waking life. You’ll then start doing habitually in your dreams. You won’t be able to tell you are dreaming 100% of the time, but you’ll pick up you are dreaming at least some of the time.

      I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older/lucid dreamt more, my dreams have become much more vivid and complicated. For instance, I now pick up a much broader range of smells than I used to. Nothing too complicated, but maybe something of a ripe tomato, as compared to only the most rancid garbage smell.

      There are more subtle sensations that pop up these days, like a gentle wind, or subtle heat/cold rather than unbearable heat/cold.

      I’ve never dreamt of rain, nor have I ever dreamt of pain.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Having spoken to many others about their dreaming habits, I’m convinced there’s a tremendous amount of variation in how people experience this. Maybe it points to less-obvious structural differences in how our minds develop as the brain forms and matures?

      Personally: I always know I’m dreaming. When young, despite knowing I was in a dream, I couldn’t voluntarily stop it or wake from it, but after practice / regular effort now I can (always) wake from it and (usually) stop anything unpleasant from continuing. It’s always first-person, though I’m not always “me”- quite frequently, in nightmares or the like, I seem to be much smaller.

      There’s never any feeling of surprise- nightmares are a matter of building dread and awful foreknowledge, and pleasant things are like drifting happily on a lake, where the joy is passive.

      Moreover- I rarely remember my dreams, and am often cognizant of the fabulation process going on when I awaken from a dream. (ie, I had a small kernel of real dream-memory, that my brain upon awakening instantly starts trying to spin into a coherent narrative without conscious effort)

      • There’s never any feeling of surprise- nightmares are a matter of building dread and awful foreknowledge

        Because of this I’m always able to “wake up” from that particular dream before something bad actually unfolds. If it’s not time to really wake up I just “wake up” in a different dream where the mood and narrative has reset to be unrelated to the previous dream.

        • andrewflicker says:

          Yeah- I used to “wake up” similarly, but now I mostly just let the nightmare take it’s course. After I realized I was dreaming, I can sort of “detach” emotionally from it and observe the dread and strange experiences with… I don’t know, is “stoic resolve” here misplaced? Basically, what’s going on isn’t pleasant, but it isn’t happening to *me* on a fundamental level, so I can watch it with equanimity.

          Not dissimilar to steeling yourself to an unpleasant scene in a movie you otherwise want to watch.

    • JulieK says:

      “Wow, this is just like what happens when I’m dreaming. Crazy that it’s happening when I’m awake.” I never have this experience: when I dream, I never consider that I’m dreaming, at all.

      I’ve done that, but I wouldn’t call it “considering that I’m dreaming” – I’m confident that this time, it’s happening for real and not in a dream!

      In my dreams, I often regress to when I was younger, forgetting that I now have a husband and kids. This seems to happening somewhat less, more recently; perhaps after a decade and a half, my new way of life has sunk into my unconscious mind! Relatedly, I sometimes see my father (who passed away a few years ago) in my dreams, and I don’t think “Wait, how is he alive now?”, but I think I do have a sense of unease, as if part of my mind is telling me “enjoy this experience while you can.”

      In my dreams, I often feel very tired (how boring!), or feel a strong need for a bathroom, but can’t find one (or can’t find a usable one, because the cubicles have no doors or whatever), presumably due to what my physical body is actually feeling.

      Yes, I dream in color.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I can definitely be surprised in dreams.

        I occasionally dream about looking for a bathroom, and am surprised at frustration after frustration.

        Then I wake up, and am pleased that I couldn’t find a bathroom in the dream.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Maybe this is a terminology thing. You’re surprised by frustration? Like… viscerally?

          I don’t have perfect foreknowledge of what’s going to happen in my dreams. But when something weird happens, it’s like, “Oh. Huh.” Not like, “WHAT?” Certainly no startles, but also I just kind of take everything in stride. Or I get frustrated, that happens, but not… surprised frustrated. Frustration in dreams is kind of like one of those days when all traffic everywhere is slow. You’re on a freeway… and it’s slow. You hope that when you switch to the next freeway, it will be fast… but it’s slow. Okay, maybe when you get past this lane change, it will be fast… but it’s slow. And it’s frustrating, but you’re never like, “Oh my god that was such a shock!”

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’d say I’m surprised. Made-up example: I’m expecting a door to open, but it’s locked. I’m surprised that it was locked, and frustrated because I can’t open it.

            My general dream features: in color, senses other than vision pretty much absent, very simple story lines.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Like, for me, the question of whether I’m dreaming never comes up. It’s not that I think “Maybe I’m dreaming, nah, I’m definitely not,” I just… don’t think of it. It doesn’t occur to me to pose the question of whether I’m dreaming while I’m dreaming.

    • toastengineer says:

      Usually, my dreams portray themselves as video games; I don’t perceive a screen or controls or anything, but there is often a HUD.

      Either that or the “get out of bed -> wake up -> get out of bed -> wake up” loop, that one’s always fun.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Very interesting, especially the part about 3rd person. I don’t think I’ve ever had that.

      One thing I notice is I’m incapable of inflicting any sort of harm in my dreams. If I’m being chased by a murderer, and I get a gun to defend myself, I can unload directly in the murderer’s face and every shot misses. Punches also have no effect.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Oh, yeah, kind of similarly for me. I’ve had a few dreams in which I’ve fought people, including at least one in which I was a sort of martial arts superhero and fought a ton of people, and, like, I punch and kick and so forth and they connect and maybe the person grunts or whatever, but no real harm happens. Fights are frustrating because they don’t ever really come to conclusion. They just go on without anyone really hurting anyone else.

      • publiusvarinius says:

        Interesting. Makes me wonder: have you ever used an actual gun in a self-defense situation?

        I had to use a handgun once, and I sometimes have dreams where I shoot at people. It always has the expected effects.

        However, if I punch in my dream, the punches feel weak and useless – presumably because my brain is not getting the expected feedback since no actual motion is taking place. Similarly, I cannot run fast in my dreams.

        • Nornagest says:

          I am a serious martial artist, and just about when I was getting serious about it, I stopped losing that sort of fight in my dreams. I still get dreams where I’m being chased or menaced by something, or where I have to deal with a threat I can’t handle (I used to have a lot of nuclear war dreams, though I haven’t had one for a while), but not where punching or grappling feels ineffective, anymore.

        • I’m usually able to tear anything to pieces like paper in a dream, but punching or kicking isn’t effective like you said. It’s weird how I can imagine or day dream about running fast or flying, but in dreams, it’s different. I eventually figured out how to do it by trying to pull the environment towards me instead of trying to move myself. Before I was capped at a low speed or low height, and I think the reason is that dreams are realistic enough that you still have the inbuilt panic about high places, so your brain is trying to project you not being high in the air so you won’t fall.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I am very experienced with firearms. Handguns, rifles, shotguns, but only for target practice, skeet and hunting. I’ve never had to use one for self defense.

    • Well... says:

      Adding my data points:

      1. Talking/dialog in dreams: people move their mouths, I understand words. I’m not really sure I’d say I “hear” them. I rarely remember specific things that were said when I wake up, but I might perceive them in-dream; again, not sure. Sometimes, like sandoratthezoo, I just understand what people are saying without even seeing them moving their mouths, or without them “saying” anything.

      2. Consider that I’m dreaming while dreaming: this happens to me often. For example, when my teeth are falling out and I’m thinking “oh no, it’s just like in those dreams but now it’s really happening!” Sometimes it’s a more benign situation.

      3. Third person: sometimes my dream will transition into a movie without me in it, and I experience it as if I’m immersed within it but can’t control it, so I’m taking it in just like one would an interactive virtual reality movie. But I don’t recognize it as such, I just recognize it as a normal movie.

      4. Startled/surprised: when my dream becomes a movie (see above) it is often a horror movie. Eventually a scene happens that is so horrifying I wake myself up screaming. (Paralyzed screaming; sounds more like whimpering.) As well as I can remember (which isn’t saying much) that’s the closest I’ve come to being startled/surprised in a dream.

      5. Being physically different: I sometimes dream that I am in much better or worse physical condition than I really am, or that I have a lot more or less hair than I really do. I suppose in those dreams, reaching up and feeling long luscious hair, or a shiny bald scalp, is kind of a surprise.

      6. Black and white vs. color: I definitely dream in color, though I don’t recall a lot of very vivid color. More like pastels and earth-tones.

      7. Other sensations – sound: aside from half-mumbled dialog and music—which for some reason I can hear quite vividly in my dreams—there is very little “diagetic” sound (sound motivated by events, objects, or settings in the dream). Instead, I’m pretty sure I mostly just hear the ambient sound of my real-life bedroom. Sometimes I have discovered my dreams have changed to accommodate a sound that occurred in real life.

      8. Other sensations – smell and taste: my dreams contain vivid smells, but bland tastes.

      9. Other sensations – sight/visuals: the visuals in my dreams are extremely detailed and lifelike. For instance, the optics of a pair of binoculars, or a camera, work just like the real thing, with focus and depth-of-field, etc.

      10. Physics: except when bizarre/fantastical things are happening such as floating, jumping thousands of feet in the air, or witnessing indoor rooms casually morph into outdoor spaces, the physics of my dreams are very detailed and lifelike. I think back to a dream where I was climbing off a square inflatable raft that was moored to the bottom of a lake by a rope extending down from each corner. Pulling my way up off that raft onto an overhanging tree branch, the physics were incredibly realistic.

      11. Characters: Sometimes I know the people in my dreams, sometimes my brain makes people up. Often a person from real life will appear in my dreams as a different person (again, sometimes a different real person, sometimes a different imagined person) but I always know who it “is” anyway. I’ve met quite a few famous people in dreams; several of my favorite musicians and two US presidents, for instance.

      12. Abilities: I can sometimes float around. If I jump up in the air I run the risk of jumping thousands of feet and then facing the prospect of falling back down to Earth from that height. I am unable to sprint or run but occasionally I can kangaroo-hop at a surprising clip. I am unable to yell; I always choke up and have to loosen my vocal cords just to allow a loud whisper.

      13. Recurring themes/scenarios:
      – Discovering a new section of a house that I didn’t realize was there; usually it’s full of interesting stuff that is now mine
      – If I’m ever at the beach, the tide is rising about 4 feet every minute and the waves are getting huge
      – Skimming over a partially frozen lake. Typically I wind up submerged in the lake and surrounded by disgusting fish, or else the water level of the lake rises and the fish are swimming around me as I stand on what used to be dry land
      – Playing a team sport very competitively or even professionally, usually in front of a large crowd; I’m usually dominant on the field, as if I was the only adult athlete in a league full of little kids
      – Sexual stuff I won’t go into detail about.
      – Bizarre bathroom fixtures, or showers installed in strange places like above the living room couch. Also locker rooms laid out in very strange ways, and always in the worst, most disgusting condition, affording the least privacy imaginable. Dreams featuring these things also tend to be dreams in which I suddenly realize I have no pants or underwear on, or sometimes am completely naked, and have to make my way through a public scene to find some clothes.
      – Being attacked or threatened by black thugs. Sometimes these are extended engagements that last for most of the dream, and they usually end with me somehow dominating my assailants and, for instance, yelling (whispering; see above) at one while I’ve got him pinned to the ground with my knee on the back of his neck.
      – Finding valuable or really cool discarded objects in dumpsters, closets, attics, etc. Motorcycles, guns, drugs, and guitars are common.
      – Being at some kind of enormous buffet (the buffet’s contents are always different) and loading up one or often more than one plate full of gpodies, and then waking up just as I’m sitting down to eat it.
      – Doing drugs
      – Reading. Yes, really.

      • Well... says:

        Had an interesting dream last night. Worth sharing as an example.

        Background: it involves a friend who I used to be very close with but stopped talking to about 9 months ago for a variety of reasons that center around us being in very different stages in our lives. It’s a shame because he’s one of the most intelligent and talented people I’ve known, and I’m pretty sure I was his only close friend, at least toward the end there. And since it’s relevant to the dream I’ll also mention he’s deep into the All Trite stuff, or at least he was last time we talked 9 months ago. Also, he lives with his aging mom in her enormous house. His mom was always fond of me, kind of welcomed me into the family.

        In my dream I went to this friend’s house. It looked different from in real life, but in the dream I thought nothing of that, it was just his house. I met his mom there, said Hi, exchanged admiring small-talk, etc. Then I walked into a side wing that was set up like an old mom & pop hardware store, with tables and shelves full of metal junk everywhere. Some business happened there but I don’t remember what exactly because I had this dream almost a full day ago now.

        My friend showed up suddenly, looking a bit like Jared Loughner. (In real life he looks nothing like Loughner.) He wasn’t overly threatening violence, but his eyes looked wild and he was talking what seemed like nonsense.

        I left him there, feeling deeply troubled by his reappearance and erratic behavior, and also feeling mournful of our lost friendship.

        I walked back into the main part of the house, which was now a below-grade outdoor courtyard that was rapidly filling with water. I spotted a juvenile turtle (a razorback, I think) perched on a ledge. As the water got to about waist-deep there was some business (again, can’t remember clearly) involving me picking up the turtle and remarking on its qualities to someone else who was there, who it felt like had been there the whole time. Maybe a family member?

        So yeah, that’s what one of my dreams is like.

    • beleester says:

      I almost never have dreams. I do have them, but they’re rare, probably every few months. Makes it kind of hard for me to notice any trends.

      Is this common?

      • Matt M says:

        I’m the same way, but whenever I claim this people always say “Yes you do so dream you just don’t remember” which always feels a little insulting…

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        I only remember dreams once every few months, and I almost never remember a dream unless I wake up in the middle of it. I think that’s common. If your sleep cycles end naturally, I think you’re much, much, much less likely to remember a dream.

      • Evan Þ says:

        It goes in waves for me. There were several years where I only dreamed every few months (as far as I could remember); now it’s more common again, every couple nights or so.

      • Well... says:

        My wife is like this. She has dreams (that she remembers at all, even the sensation of having dreamed) extremely rarely, maybe once every few months tops.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        When you sleep you go through cycles of two stages: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. REM sleep means rapid eye movement and it is where you dream. My understanding is that for most people each stage of the cycles is about ninety minutes and the cycle begins with non-REM sleep and then concludes with REM sleep and then begins anew, possibly with a brief interlude in which you wake up. Usually these interludes are short enough that you don’t remember them come morning.

        For me, I am always cognizant of my dreaming if I wake up during a REM phase. I can recall my dreams clearly enough to record them the moment I wake up and have in fact written a number of them down, but they drift from my mind the longer I’m awake, often very rapidly. If I sleep for eight hours or more I usually awake during a REM phase, and lately, for perhaps the past few months, that is what I have been doing. I haven’t bothered writing down any my dreams during this time, but they have often been vivid. One that I remember off hand involved my participation in a cross country race in the mountains of India, in which I found my path obstructed by two pine trees that had grown there during a storm in the night, forcing me to climb over them. Once I reached the other side, I listened and heard other contestants behind me saying they would give up rather than climb the tree, and I knew that even if I did not win the race I would at least beat these people. Another one had me hunting around a rainy city by night searching for a monster called a behemecoitl, being accosted during my search by a rude person, and feeling guilty after I punched the rude person down. I later caught up to the behemecoitl who was a brown, naked Mexican girl who led me into a labyrinth inside of a barn behind a McDonalds, and caused me great anxiety as I suddenly realised, as I was lost in the maze, that she was the shapeshifting monster, and that my only weapon was a pine needle I had procured during an earlier dream sequence.

        Perhaps the greatest means by which to achieve eight or more hours of sleep is to control the amount of light you are receiving before bed. Restricting yourself only to dim and preferably red light really helps your sleeping, so that sleeping a lot becomes a cinch. Sleeping a lot greatly augments your brain power.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I usually forget my dreams, but sometimes I’ll be reminded of a dream by something that happens hours later.

    • BBA says:

      I dream, but I forget the details almost immediately after waking. One common theme I remember is, for lack of a better description, time loops. There’s a notion of repeatedly trying a task, failing to achieve my goal (i.e., riding a train and missing my station), and then somehow “rewinding” and trying again.

      Many people report a repeated dream of “it’s the final exam and I haven’t studied.” I frequently have a variant of that: “it’s the middle of the semester and I’ve forgotten what classes I’m in.”

      • Ah yes. I don’t remember dreaming too often, but what I do remember always seem to have to do with anxiety. I haven’t been to various classes in a while, and I can’t remember the schedule anymore. I haven’t done much studying and I am trying to decide which class to catch up on first.

        When not in school, I tend to be wandering around without any clothes on, because I somehow forgot to dress before leaving the house. Sometimes I am in danger, but my legs don’t work very well so I can’t get away.

        My good dreams are usually of flying. The last time I remember dreaming this I knew I had to hide my flying ability from everyone else, but it just felt so good to glide in the air that I couldn’t stop myself.

        My anxiety dreams are a bit unpleasant, but nothing compared to the terrifying nightmares I had as a child, to the point where I was sometimes scared to go to bed. I attribute those dreams back then to the lack of control over my life when I was a kid. My first step when I turned 18 was to gain control over my life, so I decided how I lived and not my parents or anyone else. I don’t know why I am a lot more concerned with controlling my life more than others are, but it is very scary to me to be out of control.

  6. Aapje says:

    Has anyone here seen the new Twin Peaks season? I thought it was a very interesting, if frustrating in part, season. There is a lot of depth in it, which favors paying a lot of attention and reading the takes of hardcore fans. For example, the Being There-like performance of Dougie was somewhat silly and hard to watch, but also interesting commentary on how people perceive the world according to their biases. I’ve read an interesting take which suggests that it is (also) about Lynch’s struggle with the sequel, where fans simultaneously demand more of the same, yet also something different.

    Anyway, I’m still trying to process the ending.

    • IrishDude says:

      I liked the original a lot but only made it a few episodes into the new season. It jumped over a line of weirdness and stayed there long enough that it made it hard for me to stay engaged. I like the weirdness mixed in a little bit, but not too much.

      • onyomi says:

        I liked the original’s quirky weirdness, like the Log Lady, mixed in with murder mystery and straightup comedy, all in a quaint, rural Pacific Northwest setting. The new one seemed to be just painfully awkward, silent weirdness punctuated by violence, and hardly any of it in a quaint Pacific Northwest setting! The long, tense silences where you don’t know if it’s going to go in a funny or grim direction are also just very uncomfortable for me. Gave up on it.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I enjoyed the first one-and-a-half seasons of Twin Peaks (everything up to the reveal of BOB), and this season was excruciating to watch.

      I don’t really like the idea that we can excuse how awful Twin Peaks; the Return was because the original was a hard act to follow. It’s true, but it’s obviously true. If David Lynch and Mark Frost weren’t planning on bringing their A game they should have just let sleeping dogs lie. Nobody put a gun to their heads and forced them to shoot another season two and a half decades later.

  7. ajakaja says:

    Anyone else have Aphantasia and been able to make any progress on ‘curing’ it?

    I almost-always can’t see images in my head at all, but I occasionally catch glimpses, especially while falling asleep or right after waking up (and often, I think, while dreaming). Since I can do it occasionally I’ve been trying to figure how to make it more permanent — firstly, by trying to learn to draw, since I’m a very non-visual person and that seems like a good place to start. I’ve also been trying to, when I do see a glimpse of an image, focus on it and try to bring it into my control without it vanishing.

    Still on the list: try psychedelic drugs. Haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    [answer to obvious side-question: is it a bad thing that’s worth ‘curing’? I’m not sure. But I’ve experienced, and read others describe, a sensation of being not very good at remembering your own life when you don’t remember in images, and so feeling more in the moment and less connected to your past experiences. I feel that way and don’t like it, I think, and would like to see if I can change it.]

    • winchester says:

      I can see images in my mind’s eye, but they’re vague and fleeting, similar to what you describe. Right now I’m trying to mentally ‘draw’ a red triangle, and each time I add the third vertex, one of the other vertices disappears. I can only hold two vertices in my mind at once. Would you consider that aphantasia?

      As for curing it – I’ve taken lots of psychedelics, to the point of having mild HPPD, and I didn’t notice any effect on my visualization ability.

      Something else that comes to mind (which I’ve never tried) is kasina meditation, where you basically stare at an object for long periods in order to improve concentration. Supposedly after staring for long enough, the mental image (not sure whether this is a true mental image or just a retinal afterimage) the mental image becomes distinct enough that you can continue the meditation with your eyes closed.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I rarely see images in my minds eye, though I can get the impression they are there. I also rarely (though not never) see images in my dreams (or don’t remember them). I get the idea that some people see images in their minds eye or while dreaming almost as vividly (or more vividly) than real images. I’ve never tried to “cure” this; it doesn’t bother me.

    • rahien.din says:

      I feel that way and don’t like it

      How are you so sure? John Elder Robison’s description of his experience with TMS springs to mind.

      Also, there are entire quasireligions devoted to achieving the “feel more in the moment and less connected to past experiences” state. It’s interesting that you seem to be starting from the endpoint and working your way toward what is (purportedly! allegedly!) the origin of suffering.

      Personally I have a mind’s eye but it is somewhat unpredictable. Most often what I “see” is both/neither picture and/nor language.

      • ajakaja says:

        Hm, good point. I’m not sure.

        One of the examples that has made me feel this way is that I perceive, compared to others, that I easily ‘forget’ how to be friends with people when I haven’t seen them for a while — when they’re not immediately around my life, they become irrelevant to me, somehow, and I forget how to have an emotional relationship with them entirely (on the order of, maybe, a few months). So I have people who I ‘know’ I’m still friends with, in the sense that if I was near them I’d contact them and we’d hang out, but I’d be having to fake it, sort-of — I would show up and be myself and hope it works.

        Not saying this is induced by aphantasia directly, but I see it as, sorta, related to the feeling of not being connected to my past — I have very few emotional memories; my whole past seems sterile and factual when I reflect on it. And I guess I’m curious if I can change that.

        Actually, in many ways I’m not concerned with aphantasia directly but with memory; it seems like it is one of the places to start on that. (I also wish, for another example, that I could remember anything I ever saw in an art museum — maybe that would cause it to have more of an affect on me emotionally? Or, flipped around, it feels kind of like I don’t ‘truly look’ at art in the first place, such that it gets ingrained into me in an emotional way, and that’s, maybe, why I can’t remember it later.)

    • johnjohn says:

      I think I have fairly strong Aphantasia, I’m the worst drawer imaginable and I have a really hard time seeing why my drawings are bad.
      There’s only a handful of images I can picture clearly.
      One of them is a stop sign that I use for doing small CBT exercises.
      (imagine yourself going to reddit, picture a stop sign, every time you think about going to reddit you will now see that stop sign. Reddit free for a month)

      RE: psychedelic drugs, aphantasia definitely does not impinge on the effects of LSD…. The time I tried LSD, I was laying on a couch looking at a blue table and a potted plant and seeing the most vivid imagery of an island with a palm tree in the middle of an ocean. It took me a long time to figure out what I was actually looking at
      I can STILL picture that fairly well years later

      The thing that I find extra weird about the few mental images I CAN picture is, it doesn’t get better if I close my eyes. It’s equally clear/unclear with my eyes open. Anyone else experience this? For some reason I have the impression that it’s normal that closing your eyes will improve the quality of your mental images

    • actinide meta says:

      I have essentially no visual imagination or memory. Like most people with aphantasia I had no idea it was different for others, assumed people were using metaphors, etc until I read about it as an adult. I do o.k. ish on spatial reasoning tasks, but it feels like I am using some other facility- maybe a kinesthetic one- where others might use their “mind’s eye”.

      Once when in the hospital on a lot of drugs, I experienced a state where I (felt like I) was essentially lucid dreaming while awake. I could open my eyes and move and talk, but especially when closing my eyes I experienced visual hallucinations analogous to dreams. With a little concentration I could control them, and use them as a seemingly fully functional visual imagination. It seemed very useful! But there was no lasting effect.

      Obviously this account should be taken with a grain of salt. My wife remembers me telling her this was happening, so I probably didn’t dream the whole thing. But obviously I was pretty incompetent at the time and the whole experience was internal, and I wasn’t up to devising a cactus person sort of test.

      If this was for real, it implies that at least for me aphantasia isn’t a missing faculty, but perhaps some mechanism that (overly) suppresses the faculty while awake. That would also be compatible with the wide spectrum of reports.

      It’s natural to ask, do I normally dream visually? I think so, but without a visual memory it’s hard for me to know for sure when I’m awake! I remember what I saw in a dream, but not “what it looked like”, so I can’t prove that any “rendering” actually took place.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        If this was for real, it implies that at least for me aphantasia isn’t a missing faculty, but perhaps some mechanism that (overly) suppresses the faculty while awake.

        This immediately made me think of the faculties that savants have access to that most people don’t, and that this would be an inverse of that.

        Which might (highly speculative) be indicative of a general mechanism, or at least kind, of facultative access.

        Is there a list of typical faculties that some people lack access to?

  8. johan_larson says:

    In the previous open thread we discussed the Star Wars films. In this one, let’s do Star Trek. There have been thirteen films: six with the TOS cast, three with the TNG cast, one TOS/TNG crossover, and three reboots with a new (younger) TOS cast. I’m not quite as up to date on these as I am on Star Wars, but let’s try to divide them into the good, the bad, and the in between.

    THE GOOD
    (2) The Wrath of Kahn (the best in the series; should have its own category)
    (4) The Voyage Home
    (6) The Undiscovered Country
    (8) First Contact (first one with the TNG crew)

    THE BAD
    (1) The Motion Picture
    (5) The Final Frontier
    (9) Insurrection
    (10) Nemesis

    THE IN BETWEEN
    (3) The Search for Spock (not bad, arguably good)
    (7) Generations (the TOS/TNG crossover)
    (11) Star Trek (first one with the third cast; arguably good)
    (12) Into Darkness
    (13) Beyond

    • onyomi says:

      I liked Generations better than First Contact.

      The problem with Star Trek movies is that Star Trek isn’t a blockbuster action movie, it’s morality plays in space. The best possible Star Trek movie is indistinguishable from a longish two-part episode but for a higher budget. IMO, they do well when they follow that formula but go off the rails when they try to turn Star Trek into “action blockbuster” material, which mostly amounts to trying to make it more like Star Wars.

      Despite being a morality play and more like a long episode of TNG than the other films, however, I mostly agree with your appraisal of Insurrection. Because the unambiguous moral of Insurrection is classic TNG conservatism at its worst (TNG is my favorite, but it’s also the most conservative, sometimes in what I consider a bad way; Kirk always took firm moral stands; TNG is all about “if other cultures want to kill their old people we can’t really judge…”).

      • johan_larson says:

        One of Star Trek’s blind spots is its affection for un- or pre-industrialized societies. The writers are keen on the idea that things were just better when we had a crafts-based economy, without these nasty mills and mines and factories. I think that’s a mistake; industrialization is what enables us to have both abundance and leisure, even for ordinary people.

        There’s a lot of this obnoxious notion in Insurrection.

        • dodrian says:

          It’s been a while since I last watched it, but that’s not the point I got from Insurrection. The themes that stood out most for me were abuse of power, trust, chain of command, etc. OK, maybe there is some misplaced pastoral romanticism going on in, but not in a way that ruined the film for me.

          The other big theme was ‘the road less traveled’. A critique of the TNG movies could be made that they’re too Picard focused (Picard confronts his inner demons, Picard wonders What Might Have Been, Could Picard be Evil?), but Insurrection contained a heavy reflection on what Picard sacrificed in order to become a Starfleet Captain (compare with TNG S4E2 “Family”, where Picard returns to the family vineyard after surviving the Borg). It’s a big question about human existence and choices, and perfectly suited for Trek.

          • J Mann says:

            As I recall it, Insurrection is fairly incoherent. If I remember correctly, there are two groups of people from some planet that contains unobtanium.

            One group is attractive, and wants to use the unobtanium to stay young and pretty forever and lead a pastoral life, and is also willing to bang Picard.

            The other group is ugly, and wants to sell the unobtanium to the highest valued use (which I think is curing diseases and age for the people of the federation, right?) Also, Picard doesn’t want to have sex with them.

            In what is essentially a civil war between rival claimants, Starfleet Command takes the side of the ugly people, and Picard takes the side of the pretty people. Nobody attempts to resolve the issue using negotiation or justice. Picard’s side fights in the civil war for a while and then some kind of magic lets him and the pretty people win.

          • dodrian says:

            Truth be told, I had to go and read up on the plot of Insurrection, as it has been a while since I saw the film.

            I’d concede to you some points of incoherentness, and maybe I was forgetting some of the pastoral bias, but I don’t think I was wrong about some of the underlying themes.

            Data went nuts because he saw the treatment of these people as immoral – they were being taken from their home and life in a way that was deceitful and their ability to negotiate and access justice was to be denied – presumably they would eventually discover what had happened but by that point it would be too late. Picard is fighting for their right to justice as much as because he wants to bang the hot leader. That’s why he sent the Enterprise for help. He has to fight against Starfleet command precisely because they’ve taken what he views as an inappropriate side in a civil war, against their own moral code.

            In the middle we get the sub-plot about Picard asking if he had chosen the right life path (again, a completely appropriate question for Sci-fi to ask, also touched upon in the TNG series).

          • J Mann says:

            What I remember best is that Picard gets all judge-y and lectures Admiral What-his-name that “You’ve involved yourself in a civil war!”

            . . . except that then we learn that the ugly people are from that planet too, and presumably have a claim to the unobtanium themselves. Picard’s not mad that the Federation is intervening in a civil war; he’s mad that they’re intervening on the side that he doesn’t want to bang.

            … and then the writers still can’t leave the plot alone, so it turns out the pretty people aren’t really pastoral at all; they have access to some kind of Clarkian magic, so they were always capable of solving the problem themselves.

        • toastengineer says:

          The writers are keen on the idea that things were just better when we had a crafts-based economy, without these nasty mills and mines and factories.

          That’s not just Star Trek, that’s the attitude that was in vogue at that time overall.

          I suggest reading Michael Piller’s Fade In, about writing Insurrection. Paramount blocked it from getting published but you can find PDFs of it pretty easily.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Can you give us a quick rundown?

          • toastengineer says:

            Well, it’s basically him saying “yes, I’m aware it sucks, it’s my fault but here’s how it happened.”

            There’s no point in trying to sleep. Once I wake up to pee in the middle of
            the night (the curse of middle-age), my mind goes back to work. I tell it not to.
            Whatever you do, don’t think about the script. But as I lay in the dark staring at
            the ceiling, my eyeballs move back and forth looking for the metaphorical
            daylight. There’s got to be a way to make this script work.
            The guards on the overnight shift at the front gate are used to seeing me
            arrive at dawn. They greet me by name and ask how the script’s going – everyone
            on the lot knows I’m doing the next Star Trek movie – and I smile and say, fine
            and ask one of the guards about his new baby and I drive in under the famous
            Paramount arch and park in the first space in the empty producer’s parking lot. I
            know Rick Berman will walk by that space on the way to his office and will see
            that I was the first one in the lot. As though that’ll earn me an ‘A’ for effort if
            everything else fails.

            Basically he talks about all the different ideas he had before settling on what got in to the movie, all of which were better, and how the studio kept saying “listen, this is really good, but we’re not gonna be able to sell it, try again.”

            He also talks a bit about writing itself, his process, what inspired him, stuff like this:

            One of the first reactions to this film was from an anonymous fan who
            wrote a long and thoughtful letter to a website that included many pros and cons
            before concluding with the line: “…this movie left me with a nice warm feeling
            inside.”

            I wonder if she realizes how much that matters to the guy sitting in my
            chair. A comment like that… well, that’s what makes all the sleepless nights
            worthwhile. That’s why I became a writer.

            There’s also some bits where he copies letters between him and the producers in, showing what things got cut in editing or due to budget problems.

            It’s really good, only ~300 pages so it’s a pretty short read.

      • cassander says:

        I like to point out, that every star trek movie since 6 has ended with the captain punching the bad guy in the face. the closest you get to an exception is into darkness where it’s Spock, but since at the time Kirk was dead, I consider him acting captain, and First Contact, where data does the punching.

        • Urstoff says:

          A lot of TOS episodes ended with Kirk punching the bad guy in the face, so at least it fits tonally for the reboot movies. Not so much for the TNG movies.

          • cassander says:

            that’s a fair point, but I grew up with TNG, DS9, and voyager, not the original series. Show Picard did a lot less punching.

          • Matt M says:

            Kirk did his own punching. Picard outsourced his punching to Worf, then gave eloquent speeches about how punching wasn’t so great.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, Worf usually got his ass kicked, so Picard could be forgiven for thinking that Worf’s usual approach was not very effective.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Maybe if Picard listened to Worf more, they wouldn’t have been in a position to get their ass kicked so often.

          • John Schilling says:

            A lot of TOS episodes ended with Kirk punching the bad guy in the face,

            If we’re keeping score, 13 out of 78 TOS episodes are resolved by Kirk punching the bad guy in the face (broadly) speaking at the end. An additional 13 episodes have Kirk engaging in a final-act fistfight that doesn’t resolve the crisis – often deliberately so, staged to prove to a quasi-adversary that violence isn’t going to settle anything.

            And while we are on the subject, the USS Enterprise destroys a grand total of four enemy spacecraft in battle in the entire original series.

            To be fair, TOS as broadcast opened with “Where No Man has Gone Before”, which is resolved by Kirk punching the godling in the face (and then burying him under a rockslide). But TOS ultimately did set the standard for TNG and some of the other successor series, as being a forum for stories where violence mostly (P~0.8) doesn’t settle anything,

            Kirk did have a bit more fun than Picard in trying to see if violence might settle things, before admitting that it usually didn’t.

    • dodrian says:

      THE GOOD (ordered from my favorite to least favorite)

      (6) The Undiscovered Country
      (10) Nemesis
      (4) Voyage Home
      (8) First Contact
      (2) Wrath of Kahn
      (9) Insurrection

      THE BAD (No order)
      (1) The Motion Picture
      (3) The Search for Spock
      (5) The Final Frontier
      (11) Star Trek

      IN BETWEEN (No order)
      (7) Generations
      (12) Into Darkness
      (13) Beyond

      I realise that picking Nemesis as my favourite TNG movie is a very controversial choice. I will die on this hill. Star Trek: the Star Trek (#11) was awful. The other points where our lists differ I could afford some flexibility.

      • cassander says:

        Yeah, I’m going to need you to explain ranking nemesis that well. You must have a damned good story.

        • dodrian says:

          I think Nemesis is the most philosophical of the three TNG ones, with Picard and Data really having to confront who they are. I’ve heard it argued (and I briefly mentioned it upthread) that First Contact was about Picard confronting his past/inner demons. Given the chance he lost his usually impeccable self-composure, and actually enjoyed killing (esp. the holodeck scene), and he allowed his judgement to be waylayed by his personal issues (confrontation in the ready room).

          But to me it was more thrilling seeing Picard confront his clone. Fighting the Borg may have pushed him into making bad command decisions, or even forgetting why he was there in the first place, but he was never morally wrong. Picard defending his ship against encroaching evil, down to the last man, is still a noble act, even if it was an enormous tactical error that could have wiped out his species.

          But with Shinzon Picard was forced to ask himself the question could I be evil? What would have happened if I had been raised differently? Is it just luck that I turned out to be a good person? These are question which, to me at least, reach to the core of morality and what it means to be human. They are questions that any person who considers themselves moral, good, or even just ‘better than average’ should ask, and that should drive them to being more self aware and compassionate. Picard’s discomfort around Shinzon are a big part of that process.

          Secondly, Nemesis was the completion of Data’s character development. After years of striving to be human, in Nemesis he finally demonstrated that he had succeeded. In the past he had shown a willingness to defy orders because of his tactical superiority (S5E1 “Redemption pt. II) or moral programming (S6E9 “The Quality of Life”), but in this instance he chooses to give up his life to save a friend, against that friend’s wishes and against his explicit orders. It wasn’t duty or programming, it was human.

          • Matt M says:

            Redemption is my favorite episode of any Trek, and if it were a movie, would be my favorite Trek movie as well. Superbly done on all accounts.

            That said, I dispute your characterization of Data’s sacrifice not being duty related. In strictly military terms, the life of a captain is, quite simply, worth more than the life of a commander (even if the commander happens to be a unique life form and the captain not). It IS Data’s duty to sacrifice himself to save Picard (similar to the Kirk/Spock dynamic in Wrath of Khan). We also see this play out in countless episodes where Riker leads the away team and insists Picard stay on the ship because it’s dangerous.

            Kirk precedent aside, it’s not the captain’s job to be out there punching bad guys, and it *is* everyone else’s job to attempt to put themselves in between the captain and the bad guys if given the opportunity.

        • cassander says:

          I think you would really enjoy this: https://pineapples101.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/fade-in-mid-res.pdf

          It’s Michael Piller’s accout of the writing of star trek insurrection and how it started with a lot of interesting ideas that, over time, after the input of multiple players, all well meaning, most of the interesting ideas got drained out or obscured by committee, complete with multiple versions of the script treatment. It’s not bitter or recriminating in any way, it’s just an interesting description of how the movie evolved behind the scenes, and it makes for a really interesting story.

          I say this because while I can see the ghosts of the ideas you suggest in Nemesis, and agree that they were potentially interesting, Nemesis still fails badly on implementation.

          I have to say, though, I share your love of redemption part 2. We only get a glimpse of it once in a while, but it’s always fantastic when data gets to play captain.

    • Urstoff says:

      Looks like I’m a bit more critical of the movies

      THE GOOD
      (2) The Wrath of Kahn
      (6) The Undiscovered Country

      THE IN BETWEEN
      (1) The Motion Picture
      (3) The Search for Spock
      (4) The Voyage Home
      (8) First Contact
      (11) Star Trek
      (13) Beyond

      THE BAD
      (5) The Final Frontier
      (7) Generations
      (9) Insurrection
      (10) Nemesis
      (12) Into Darkness

      TMP was a 2001 ripoff, but I still liked it enough. All of the TNG movies are huge tonal shifts from the show (and generally suffer from bad writing); First Contact is ok merely for it being Picard’s Wrath of Kahn. Into Darkness was terribly terrible; also they completely cure death by the end of it.

    • roystgnr says:

      First Contact would have been great if it hadn’t also been the story which ruined the Borg by retconning them a “Queen”. At least the writers didn’t go into medicine instead; imagine how much research effort they would have been wasted trying to figure out which of the brain’s neurons was the neuron in charge…

      • johan_larson says:

        I agree the Borg queen was a mistake. The facelessness of the Borg was always part of their menace. No one was actually in charge; it was a hive consciousness.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          How many hive consciousnesses can you think of that don’t involve a queen? The typical ones I think of are ants and bees, and guess what… I think that’s what caused writers to founder.

          I have to struggle to think of a leaderless hive. The best I can come up with involve fungi, and it’s hard to think of them being conscious in any way, let alone write them into a compelling story.

          • Urstoff says:

            I think the queen existed because they thought the movie needed an individual antagonist.

          • toastengineer says:

            Are any of those queens actually in control of anything though? I always thought “queen” meant “baby factory” in that context, with all the drones just doing what instinctively occurs to them to do.

          • Incurian says:

            I would have preferred to Borg to make decisions by stigmergy or something.

          • Iain says:

            A queen bee is not the brain of the hive; she’s just the gonads.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @toastengineer, Iain: fair point. Although this just says that the writers not only abused the notion of the Borg, but also abused the notion of a queen.

            They could have gotten around this by, say, having Starfleet figure out that the Borg actually differentiate into castes, and some of them specialize in conscription, which might be easier to focus on, and eventually choke off their body supply. This would be the functional equivalent of killing an ant or bee hive by killing the queen.

            Another story idea that occurs to me, is to have Starfleet identify a queen, set up an attack, start to notice that this doesn’t feel quite right given past encounters, and finally realize that the Borg, being sentient, were smart enough to try to mislead Starfleet by pretending they had a queen.

          • J Mann says:

            It’s simple:

            1) Without a Queen, we couldn’t have seen the ten million and first example of Data struggling with emotions, since the Borg were always seen as unemotional.

            2) It is necessary to see Data struggling with emotions in a TNG epic.

            3) Therefore, the Borg have a Queen.

    • John Schilling says:

      “Wrath of Khan” is not the best Star Trek movie, it’s just the best movie that happens to involve Star Trek characters. After years of telling a different type of story with those people in that setting, they (and we) had earned the right to kick back and relax with a nice simple adventure story with no moral ambiguity, just good guys and bad guy and a very satisfying thump as they hit the floor. They didn’t screw it up, we all had fun with it, and then we moved on.

      Some of what we moved on to was pretty good stuff in its own right. But “Star Trek” done right is about exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no man has gone before, along with the moral dilemmas that come when the strange new world is somehow Not Right and setting it right isn’t a simple matter of phasering the bad guy and listening to the satisfying thump. And that isn’t really suited to the cinematic blockbuster format. It can be done, see e.g. “2001”, or “Forbidden Planet”, and “Voyage Home” works as a Trek film because it gets to treat 1986 as a Strange New World. but it works much better when you get a different new world to boldly go to and a different moral dilemma to resolve every week.

      For movies, it’s easier to just make a war story in space and tap in to the extra audience you get when you license the names “Enterprise” and “Kirk” to go with it. It seems to me that if you want to tell stories about people fighting a War out among the Stars, there’s a different franchise you should be trying to buy in to.

      • Deiseach says:

        After years of telling a different type of story with those people in that setting, they (and we) had earned the right to kick back and relax with a nice simple adventure story with no moral ambiguity, just good guys and bad guy and a very satisfying thump as they hit the floor.

        I’d argue that “Search for Spock” is that movie, not “Wrath of Khan”. Khan has a lot of chickens coming home to roost: the threat of the genetically enhanced former rulers of Earth has not been addressed, just swept under the carpet and it comes back to haunt not alone Kirk but a lot of other people; Khan and his people have some justification in their anger as the world they were exiled to turned out to have a lot of problems that the Enterprise should have known about; Khan himself is not a simple, one-dimensional villain; Kirk’s son, whom he sort of knew about but again never interacted with, even after the boy was old enough to be told who his father was and make his own decision about whether or not he wanted contact with him; inevitable aging and the changes that brings; and of course Spock’s poignant, sacrificial death. The movie ends with the promise of a happy ending, but there’s been real suffering and real loss on the parts of a lot of people all along the way, so it’s more a bitter-sweet ending.

        “Search for Spock”, on the other hand, is much more straightforward. The Enterprise crew are the Good Guys, the obfuscating Starfleet brass who decommission the Enterprise and more or less force the crew into retirement are the Baddish Guys, and the Klingons are the out-and-out Bad Guys: Kruge wants the Genesis Project as a weapon, he kills his own operative, kills a hostage (Kirk’s son) and is the cause of the Enterprise being destroyed (that self-destruct countdown, and seeing the ship burning and falling through the sky, really meant a lot to old fans like me when the ship after all its adventures was finally destroyed). He’s a baddie and we are meant to cheer when Kirk literally kicks his butt.

        Spock comes back from the dead, the crew are reunited, and they head off home victoriously (well, head for Vulcan anyway). It is plain Good Guys versus Bad Guys and the Good Guys won, and even if there were some losses (David Marcus, the Enterprise – and really we care a lot more about the ship than the long-lost son whom we never get to know) along the way, things have worked out okay and it’s an upbeat ending.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I never understood why people liked the Wrath of Khan. It is my least favorite (other than Beyond, which I only watched the first two minutes of).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think Beyond was the least bad of the new movies.

        The main gripe I have with the new movies is the bad guys. What’s Nemo’s motivation in the first one? Revenge on Spock and the Federation. What’s Bumblesnoot Crumblesnack’s motivation in Into Darkness? Revenge on Starfleet. What’s the bad guy’s motivation in Beyond? Revenge on the Federation.

        • John Schilling says:

          I didn’t mind so much that Original Khan was driven by a desire for revenge, but I did appreciate their giving him a henchman willing to call him out on it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure. I don’t have a problem with revenge as a motivation for characters, I’d just prefer it were not the one and only motivation for evil left in the 23rd century. Nobody wants Space Gold or conquest or immortality anymore? Or, better yet for a ST story, a complicated moral dilemma that involves lots of talking around a conference table?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I think Beyond was the least bad of the new movies.

          I couldn’t get beyond the crude size joke, and the starfleet crew treating members of a ruling council as so much brik-a-brak when pulling them off of Kirk and throwing them to the ground.

          The original Kirk wasn’t such a bad ambassador. And the original starfleet would never let crew act in such a bad manner.

          And I don’t but a ruling council acting that dumb anyway. Not even the Klingons.

          • Deiseach says:

            That’s one of the problems with the reboot set-up; Starfleet is the de facto government. We see nothing of the civilian government and certainly nothing that Starfleet answers to them, under a civilian President. It’s at its worst in the second movie, where Admiral Marcus maneouvres his way into being the head of Starfleet and from there apparently makes the preparations to start a war with the Klingons, with no concerns about “hey, that’s not your decision to make” nor any sign that there is a government in place which he will have to justify all this to (including being free to set up a secret shipyard in Jovian orbit and build a giant new destroyer without anybody seemingly aware that he’s doing this).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            That’s one of the problems with the reboot set-up; Starfleet is the de facto government.

            Very pertinent.

        • Deiseach says:

          I thought Benedict Cumberbatch was good in the part, but he wasn’t Khan. It would have worked a lot better had he indeed been John Harrison, rogue Starfleet officer (as the cover story provided) and working with the real Khan to get the crewmembers in cryostasis out of Marcus’ clutches.

          That’s mainly my complaint with the reboot: they have a decent premise that could be very interesting, good actors, and waste it all on junk not-even-science (Magic Space Blood cures death, kids!) and making Kirk the Rebel Without A Clue who jumps into fights first and womanises with no qualms at all, the Klingon homeworld is right on our doorstep and you can beam directly to it from a small ship on Earth, and nobody appears at all concerned that the planet is run, as far as we can see, by a quasi and getting less quasi-military organisation.

          The point about the only plot being a revenge plot is good, too, but as well having a space ship battle crashing down onto San Francisco not once but twice is really lack of imagination. “Life in California in the 24th century is marvellous – we’ve even solved the problem of earthquakes threatening to destroy our cities as happened with San Francisco back in 1906! Though granted, that’s been replaced with the threat of giant spaceships falling out of the sky on top of you as you have your morning beverage but hey, can’t have everything!”

          If it were just bad, I’d ignore it, but there is definite possibility there that got lost (Chris Pine’s performance, for instance, in the scene where Kirk sees Pike die is a small, quiet, excellent piece of acting much better than the brash, loud-mouth, and reckless Kirk-character he is given otherwise).

        • albatross11 says:

          Re Into Darkness: All kinds of things about that movie made no sense.

          If the federation (or Khan) can transport things directly to Kronos, then why did the evil admiral need new weapons? He just needs a few hundred photon torpedos or fusion bombs and the coordinates of all the major population centers of Kronos, and the problem is solved.

          Even without that, didn’t the Klingons still lack warp drive? Why would the admiral have needed better weapons to fight them in that case? You can show up in orbit with your whole fleet, empty your magazines as whatever you like, and leave before the Klingons can do anything to you. Repeat as necessary until the Klingons are no longer a threat.

          It didn’t make any sense for Khan to beam away to Kronos, which you’d think Kirk would have figured out. If he was running from Starfleet, he just needed to stay undercover on Earth or go somewhere less hostile where he could blend in and use his massively superior intellect to build up a new power base.

          And so on.

    • Well... says:

      Star Trek just works better as a TV series. Works especially well as TNG, but that’s even more just my opinion. I have been disappointed by every Star Trek movie I’ve seen, and I’m sure that if I’d seen the movies before the show(s), I would never have wanted to watch the shows.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Disclaimer: haven’t seen Beyond, don’t plan to.

      New Star Trek isn’t Star Trek; it’s a new (bad) series that murdered Star Trek and and is now wearing its skin. It totally misunderstands the core premise of Trek: we are, or could be, good people. We do, or can, solve problems by being better–by knowing more, by understanding, by working together. (And yes, surprisingly often, by having a fist fight.) The science of Trek was mostly nonsense, but that mostly didn’t fucking matter: they understood the principle of science: if we are smart, and we pay attention to what we see, and we think hard and test our ideas, we can find better answers.

      New Trek is the same guys, wearing the same suits and carrying the same props, having a badass action movie (and not a great one.) The first one hit my nostalgia buttons enough–I was jonesing for someone to utter the key sentence (“Space…the final frontier.), and they gave it to me–but the science wasn’t there, the utopianism wasn’t there, and the characters weren’t there. No one cared about being better, just kicking ass. They ruined a franchise that, despite its lack of actual facts or science or any consistent logic, is more responsible than anything else in the world for me doing real STEM work now.

      Yes, I grew up on TNG, why do you ask?

      (Also, I think the best Star Trek series as TV is DS9…but much of that barely qualifies as Trek by the above, except possibly as the exception that proves the rule, in the precise technical “tests” sense of that word–DS9 asks “does this ethos work? What happens when it breaks down?” I don’t always like or agree with its answer, but In the Pale Moonlight is still the best episode of TV star trek ever produced.)

      My power rankings:

      Voyage Home (agree mostly with John Schilling – it’s mostly a very long TOS episode with a cool time travel gimmick where 1986 is an alien world, _and that’s awesome_.)

      First Contact (Picard figures out how to do things well even when it’s hard. Borg Queen was stupid, though fun.)

      Wrath of Khan (Not sure why, but it just *works*.)

      Undiscovered Country (opening: great. Ending 40 minutes: boring as hell, I can barely tell you what happened. Seriously how do we miss this?)

      Generations: nice chunks, dumb ending again.

      Search for Spock: sort of anonymous, no? Other than the long term plot points, what happens here?
      Nemesis: sort of just an excuse for dumb action. Data plot was interesting but…a bit abortive. Brent Spiner really wanted out, I think. Not sure if I buy the whole Shinzon thing mattering.
      Insurrection: discussed interminably downthread.
      ST1:MP: good god, this was boring. There were 20 good minutes you could edit it down to though?
      Final Frontier: we don’t talk about this.

      My hill to die in: despite season 1 being dumb as fuck and some weird characterizations, Enterprise was pretty good.

      • gbdub says:

        I have to note that most of the criticisms that “New Trek isn’t Trek” mostly mean “New Trek isn’t TNG”. Which is a fine basis for criticism if TNG is your favorite Trek, but I think a fair criticism would allow for the fairly significant tonal differences between the various series and movies prior to New Trek. It’s not like there was One True Trek that New Trek was the first to ever deviate from.

        • Matt M says:

          Ehhh, TOS was pretty philosophical, too. Yes Kirk did a lot of punching, but most episodes were not “action movie condensed into an hour” archetypes.

          DS9 kinda went back and forth. Yeah they had a fair amount of action-based episodes, but still did a fair amount of high-brow science and philosophy stuff too.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            This. The ethos I speak of is absolutely in TOS…at least the episodes I like.

            (Look, nothing defends Spock’s Brain.)

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          The anger in the original universe’s five series is righteous, weakness is seen with compassion. The emotions speak to a better nature and dedication to a sense of justice whether the plot is action or not.

          The new universe movies have anger as petty annoyance driven by narcissism and self-importance, and the compassion is almost invisible.

          My favorite Star Trek episodes are those involving pre-warp civilizations. (Currently my favorite is Voyager’s “Muse” episode, but that has a recency bias)

      • Deiseach says:

        My hill to die in: despite season 1 being dumb as fuck and some weird characterizations, Enterprise was pretty good.

        As far as I’m concerned, you will die on that hill. I wanted so desperately for Enterprise to be good, and I was thrilled when I heard they’d cast Scott Bakula as Archer. Then they gave me Captain “Well-Balanced” Archer – he’s got a chip on both shoulders; xenophobic Vulcans; T’Pol The Sexy Vulcan (what?); Trip Tucker (my No.1 Candidate to be blasted out an airlock in his underwear); Dr Phlox (No. 2 straight after Trip); those ‘sexy’ decontamination chamber scenes (oh yeah, those worked for me – not. Even not if I were the horny fourteen year old boy they seemed to be pitching the series towards – see T’Pol The Sexy Vulcan in her Seven of Nine knock-off catsuit). And. That. Bloody. Dog. (One of the few things that made me laugh in reboot Trek was Scotty launching Admiral Archer’s doggie into space via that transporter accident).

        Oh, and need I mention that the writers (may a rain of brimstone consume their domiciles) made it canonical that Vulcans think Humans literally stink? I thought “no, this is a kind of joke, right? A bad joke but only a humorous reference by underdog Humans as to how they perceive overbearing and overcautious Vulcans treat them – oh. Oh no. No, they mean it literally. Vulcans have such sensitive noses and we smell so bad that they have to… wear…filters… to be around us… man, T’Pol really is a pervert by Vulcan standards, isn’t she?” Even though, you know, in TOS, all the movies, all the other series, Amanda being married to Sarek, him taking a second Human wife when he was a widower, all of that, “Humans smell horrible by Vulcan standards” never raised its head.

        Oh yeah, I loved that part, as you can imagine >:-(

        I suppose the first big clue was the theme tune – I expected something epic, maybe with a knowing reference to the original series theme tune, but expressive of “Space – the final frontier, all new adventures, the beginning of the Federation as we know it”. Instead I got that AOR dirge warbling about “faiiiiiiith of the hearrrrrrrt” which might have worked for a Hallmark Movie of the Week about a family torn apart by their cute moppet getting Child Cancer but learning to be strong and coming back together via the power of love (and a last fifteen minutes miracle cure), but not for a new space adventure Trek series.

        But okay, okay, okay. Teething problems, right? Only natural, they’ll find their feet and it’ll all bed down and get better. Then they went all Time War and turning Archer into an Action Hero All-American I’ll Kick Your Ass, I’ll Kick My Own Ass! type where “we still haven’t quite worked out transporter technology and our translation device is a real human linguist” crew took on Time Travel Technology cultures who could and should have rendered the fledgling Federation toast and the plucky Yanks won, and I waved bye-bye with no regrets (I left before the Time War got into full swing because I couldn’t stomach the thing). I know plenty of people have said it really got better in the third season but I was long gone by then.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          I agree with all of your problems with Enterprise save two (the smelly humans thing doesn’t really bother me; that’s a very realistic thing when we’re dealing with two different species. Note that dogs have way better noses than humans, yet most dogs smell at least somewhat bad to most humans. It’s not a superiority thing. And Archer’s early xenophobia feels justified in the setting. But yeah, fuck that theme song.)

          I think that despite those many flaws it nevertheless produced dozens of excellent episodes of Trek, even in seasons 1 and 2 (the “bad” ones.) They understood “my” trek ethos; they knew the canon well and carefully found relevant things from it to use; the characters, while flawed, were almost always trying to be better and move towards utopian society.

          • Deiseach says:

            My objection to the “smelly Humans” thing was that it came completely out of nowhere, had no basis in anything in earlier canon universe, and added nothing to the relations between Humans and Vulcans (plus seemed to be conveniently forgotten when it clearly would have been too awkward to have the actors playing Vulcans fiddling around with putting in and taking off their nasal filters when dealing with Humans). Also the first reference to it was in the god-awful handling of sexual attraction/flirting (on the level that a twelve year old would probably think suave) that the writers used, where Reed makes some reference to having fantasies (I think, I can’t exactly remember and I sure am not going to look it up) about T’Pol where she calls him ‘Stinky’ (was this when chatting with Mayweather and he talks about a woman with three breasts? Which only served to remind me of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Eccentrica Gallumbits, the far-famed triple-breasted whore of Eroticon Six).

            Okay, I caved and looked it up: it was in the context of an erotic dream. And Mayweather talking elsewhere as follows. Oh, God. You see what I mean about the cringe-inducing attitude to sexuality? There was also their indecision about what to do with T’Pol and the various romances they tried to gin up for her: first it looked like she’d end up with Archer, then there was Reed’s slightly creepy obsession, and finally they stuck her with Trip. This came across to me more like “a female character needs to justify her place by being the love interest of one of the male characters” than “exploring and developing her character”.

            Lt. Reed: If the truth be known, I’ve… never much cared for the name ‘Malcolm’. Always seemed a bit too… stuffy.
            Sub-Commander T’Pol: I think it’s a lovely name. Mal-kom is the Vulcan word for ‘serenity’.
            Lt. Reed: Well then – perhaps I won’t change it. Pity, though; I was rather growing fond of the name… ‘Stinky’.

            Commander Tucker: Who’s Stinky?
            Lt. Reed: [waking up] I beg your pardon?
            Commander Tucker: You were talking in your sleep. Kept calling for some guy named Stinky.

            The females on Draylax were known for having three breasts. Travis Mayweather once joked he knew it “First-hand, second-hand, third-hand”. (ENT: “Broken Bow”)

            So when this turned out not to be a bad joke but actual now in the canon established fact, I blew a gasket 🙂

            Archer’s xenophobia I get, but in at least some episodes it made him make stupid decisions, which is precisely what you don’t need to be doing when you’re Earth’s Example as to why Vulcans are wrong that we’re not ready for independent first contact missions ourselves. Some of his attitude was just attitude – like a sulky teenager defying their parents. And the idea that he’d start an interplanetary incident with a first contact species over his bloody dog, where the aliens were not at all at fault for not knowing the first thing about what would be harmful to a species not native to their planet, or the habits of that species? How the heck are the Kreetassans supposed to know that dogs piss on trees? It may have been meant to indicate how stressed and in need of down time he was, but it made him sound like “Okay, the Vulcans are right, Humans are too dumb to be let out on their own”.

            Archer is worried that this might be a life-threatening situation, but Dr. Phlox says that it is still too early to tell. Archer wonders why the Kreetassans did not notice that there is a pathogen in their atmosphere that Porthos’ immune system cannot handle, given that Enterprise had submitted the genomes of the away team to them to check against the environment of their planet. Dr. Phlox says that they should have noticed any incompatibilities, assuming they actually took the time to check. This angers Archer who points out that if the carelessness of the Kreetassans has hurt Porthos or ends up killing him, they will find out what being offended is all about.

            After he leaves sickbay, he speaks with T’Pol and learns that the Kreetassans are offended because Porthos urinated on one of their sacred trees, which they consider cultural treasures. But Archer has no sympathy for them, exclaiming that maybe if they had bothered to read the genetic profile that was sent to them, they would have told them that the dog should have stayed on the ship, in which case he would not have had an opportunity to pee on one of their precious trees. T’Pol explains that she apologized on behalf of Archer, but Archer doesn’t like that at all, saying that they are the ones who should be sorry and apologizing, not him. He says that if anything happens to Porthos, he will be the one watering their Alvera trees.

            Hey, Captain, how about you take a lesson from Earth’s long history of “oops, introducing a non-native species into an isolated biosphere kinda goes wrong” and not bring your damn dog down to the surface of the planet and let it roam free? Because this is not meant to be a pleasure cruise, this is supposed to be a proper deep-space mission? So maybe leave the bow-wow at home like someone with three functioning braincells would do, and if you really need a pet to cuddle and coo over while on rotation, get a frickin’ goldfish?

            When Bakula was cast, I was expecting and hoping for a sensitive, low-key, nuanced performance about an intelligent, quietly charismatic, and curious leader of men (and women) helming Earth’s first independent deep space mission because he’d worked hard for this and had the qualities needed. I got (for several episodes at least) a guy with a massive chip on his shoulders and extremely Earth-centric (see above) attitudes who brought along his doggy-woggy like this was some kind of fishing trip with his buddy, good ol’ Trip and seemed too brittle to handle the stresses involved when push came to shove out in the uncharted spaces (without restoring to blustering threats and shooting as resolutions).

            I agree, that’s a biased take on it and he wasn’t always that bad and neither was the show. But by the time it got good, it had burned through all my good will and the credit I was willing to extend a new Trek TV series, and Spock Prime himself could not have convinced me to stick with it.

          • onyomi says:

            Considering how aesthetic, iconic, and honestly indispensable the openings were for TOS, TNG, and, to a lesser extent, even Voyager, and DS9, the opening for Enterprise was itself a dealbreaker for me. Seriously.

            I mean, imagine GoT with a Bryan Adams opening. It basically ruins the whole show.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Controversial opinion here: TOS is way worse than any of the other Star Trek series. It may have been good back in its day. But it has aged horribly with it’s random sci-fi sounds they thought were necessary to add all the time, the overdramatic music that is constantly bombarded or the way their female characters act like slobbering imbeciles in the supposedly egalitarian future. It is actually painful to watch.

          • onyomi says:

            I disagree that it has aged badly, though I think it raises an interesting question, which is why some things seem to have aged badly and others not, even when, in some cases, the former may be less different, in absolute terms, from our expectations today.

            Example from the Final Fantasy rankings elsewhere in this OT: I find that, say, Final Fantasy 4 and 6, arguably even Final Fantasy 1, age better than Final Fantasy 7, even though seven was (of course) made later, and seemed graphically impressive at the time. This I attribute to the fact that 7 was trying something new (characters made of polygons), and so feels less “refined,” arguably even than Final Fantasy 1, which was further ahead in terms of pixel graphics than 7 was in terms of polygons.

            Thus, when I play Final Fantasy 1, it strikes me for the first couple of minutes that the graphics are “bad” by today’s standards, but that fact quickly fades into the background of my awareness and I am still perfectly able to enjoy it. I can do this to some extent with 7, but it’s seemingly a bit harder, creating a sense of not having “aged well,” technically speaking.

            I find the sfx of TOS to be a little jarring and cheesy at first, but still closer to my impression of 1 than 7–that is, I fairly soon adjust down my expectations and they don’t feel too bad; the dialogue and characters, etc. also always surprise me with how they don’t seem too bad outdated. Contrast e.g. Forbidden Planet from 10 years earlier than TOS: I find this film unwatchable because the cheesiness doesn’t fade into the background. I think, like FF1, TOS had reached a level of refinement where, though far below our current expectations, it doesn’t feel all that jarring; Forbidden Planet, on the other hand, is just too early for scifi, in the way FF7 or the first Star Fox game was for polygons (and those both were “good” games at the time), to age well, even though I think it probably was a “good” film at the time (and an inspiration to Gene Roddenberry).

      • Deiseach says:

        New Trek is the same guys, wearing the same suits and carrying the same props, having a badass action movie (and not a great one.) The first one hit my nostalgia buttons enough–I was jonesing for someone to utter the key sentence (“Space…the final frontier.), and they gave it to me–but the science wasn’t there, the utopianism wasn’t there, and the characters weren’t there. No one cared about being better, just kicking ass. They ruined a franchise that, despite its lack of actual facts or science or any consistent logic, is more responsible than anything else in the world for me doing real STEM work now.

        Mmm-hmmm. I agree that DS9 is really, really excellent. (I grew up on TOS, to give my age away).

        Part of what was bad about the reboot movies was the laziness; using a brewery for the Enterprise engine rooms, for example. Anyone who’s worked in the commercial food industry (I was a lab tech in a dairy co-op back in the days of my first job) would instantly recognise that plant and as instantly know that no way was that any kind of an engine room, not even on a Kipling-era steam-driven ship. That’s laziness, cheapness and contempt for the audience. Cheapness is no harm, necessarily, but they should have looked for anything that was remotely like power generation plant and they didn’t, which is where the contempt comes in.

        I maintain that Abrams didn’t give a flying fig about the Trek reboot as anything more than proving he could move from TV to movies and handle a big SF franchise in order to get the Star Wars gig which is the fandom he really belongs to. Which is why he slapped together something based on his (mis)understanding of pop-culture Trek, put in enough action and tame ‘women in their underwear’ shots as he could cram in, and BLEW UP VULCAN.

        YOU THINK JUST BECAUSE YOU DID IT IN 2009 IN AN ALTERNATE TIMELINE I FORGOT, MUCH LESS FORGAVE? NEVER!!!

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          My biggest problem with Abrams–in all movies, but Trek is the one I will least forgive him for–is that he is obsessed, obsessed with moments. He will do anything to set up a moment–a shot, a line, a little bit of a scene–that he thinks looks or seems cool.

          Does that torpedo canon? Does that make no sense? Does that make the rest of the plot torturous? Who cares, we got the cool shot!

          Hence transwarp fucking beaming. Hence the ridiculous stupid skydiving and Sulu being on the academy fencing team. (WHICH IN CANON IS FUCKING SPORT FENCING, NOT FAKE KATANA SWORDPLAY! HE EVEN HAD A PROPER EPEE IN TOS!) Hence…a million things.

          • Deiseach says:

            YES! SULU’S FENCING FOIL! When the reason behind that was that originally they wanted to give him a katana, George Takei went “nope, not doing the stereotypical Japanese thing” and the show went “okay, fine, have an épée instead”!

            John D.F. Black came up with Sulu’s “berserk” scenes without specifying the weapon to be used. Unable to decide between a samurai sword or a fencing foil, he left the choice to George Takei, who picked the latter with the thought that by the 23rd century Humanity would have developed to a point where, in terms of culture, people have moved beyond simply adhering to ways of their ethnic background.

            When a 60s show is more culturally sensitive than something from the 21st century… well, that’s part of what I mean about laziness. Katanas are cool! So stick the Japanese character with one so we can shoe-horn this Cool Moment in!

            Ship-to-ship transwarp beaming you can just about get away with (though planet-to-ship makes more sense because you will need, to use a technical term, a metric fuckton of energy for that in order to punch through and maintain signal coherence so you don’t end up with a mess of scrambled eggs at the other end) but the second movie where we get “tiny jumpship with portable transwarp unit beaming to another freakin’ planet outside – though just barely outside, given their crappy sense of spatial distances – our Solar System” is so bad, it’s not even on the level of space fantasy à la Star Wars, it’s pure bloody magic (to go with the “Magic Space Blood that cures death”).

            I think next themed open thread needs to be a ‘bitching about Trek’ thread because we seem to have plenty of material 🙂

      • Nornagest says:

        I genuinely wanted to like Enterprise. I still think the concept should have been good in the hands of a competent writer. And then I actually watched a couple episodes and found myself unable to like it. The dialogue was on par with the worst of Voyager, the plot was so colorless that I literally can’t remember any of it, and while it at least didn’t have any characters that were actively annoying in the sense that, say, Neelix was, I didn’t care about any of them and that’s arguably worse. I didn’t even care about T’Pol, and after putting her in that catsuit that’s quite an accomplishment.

        • Deiseach says:

          The first season suffered, I think, from them not knowing what the hell to do with it – it was set at an earlier time than even TOS so all the usual things they could rely on as props and plot devices (the transporter and how we understand it to work, phasers, the Universal Translator, the Federation itself) were not in place or not fully operational, which meant they had to be original while still being recognisably Trek and I think that accounted for a lot of the early hurdles they stumbled into rather than vaulting over.

          Secondly, Rick Bloody Berman and his one-trick pony Time Travel Plot. Probably can throw in Brannon Braga here with his attitude that what a Trek series needs to succeed is Moar Sexy Chicks:

          To me, Seven of Nine added a nice touch of magic that the show needed at the time. The fact that she was a beautiful woman was just, to me, a benefit. A lot of people thought it was in poor taste that we had a buxom babe, but I’m like, “Have you actually watched TOS?” That was babes on parade. Kirk would be considered a sex addict by today’s standards. A certain sensuality has always been at the heart of Star Trek.

          I’m not going to develop that point because it would involve ungodly amounts of foul language on my part, so let’s move on and simply note that Braga is a tosser.

          Actually, the comparison with Voyager is very apt because again, that was a show they never quite knew what to do with (okay so they’re stuck in the Delta Quadrant, it’ll take decades to get back home, they’re low on supplies and resources, they have no Starfleet bases or Federation to fall back on) and then all that got too tedious to properly explore so they dumped it for whizz-bang adventures and over-reliance on promoting one character for whom the bulk of episodes were written (The Doctor, first, then Seven). Brannon and Braga for Enterprise was not, in hindsight, a great choice.

          Thirdly, how or when the hell did the Vulcans become the Bad Guys and our enemies? Part of the characterisation seems to come from the movies more than the TV shows, but a large part of it also seems to be the trying to force aliens into acting more Human (and where “human” means “like an American from the 20th/21st century” – even characters on the TV shows who are not Americans mostly act, talk and behave like Americans; see the baseball episode of DS9 which was probably great fun for the Yanks but is meaningless for anyone not an American watching). Vulcans were always stand-offish and from TOS we get the impression that some Vulcans don’t approve of all this messing around with the Federation (T’Pau) but at the same time they are highly regarded and respected members and the attitude seems to be, even amongst more prickly Federation or not yet Federation members, that if you have to have a Federation diplomat interfering in your affairs, make it a Vulcan one.

          Vulcans becoming raging xenophobes keepin’ the coloured folks Humans down, and needing some interference from the crew of the good (Human) ship Enterprise to overthrow their Evil Overlord governing council (see mention of these episodes here which I haven’t the heart to discuss)? What the hell?

          This also is the trouble with T’Pol’s character: to be a ‘good’ Vulcan she has to become and act more ‘Human’ and adopt the kind of characteristics and behaviours that her Human crewmates feel comfortable with – it’s still cultural imperialism if you’re trying to force a non-human to act human as it is in the other direction. And Braga’s insistence on the necessity for a Sexy Chick – they put Jolene Blalock into a catsuit reminiscent of Seven’s for this reason. This comment, while profane, sums up fairly well the problems with a Vulcan Sexpot. (I had forgotten the neuropressure sessions – dear sweet God. The neuropressure sessions. There’s a lot from Enterprise‘s silly seasons that I’ve blanked out).

          Plus they fiddled around with her hairstyle over the seasons to make her look ‘softer’ and more Human.

          Even though T’Pol’s short wig at the beginning of Enterprise seemed like a logical precursor to Spock’s haircut in the original series (with somewhat irregular bangs that echoed Spock’s rigidly straight bangs), further transformations in the hairstyle took place during the run of Enterprise. “[The producers] wanted a look that was a little bit softer compared to previous Vulcans,” recalled Michael Moore. “The second year, we tried to make it even softer.”

          From the start of the third season onwards, T’Pol’s previously blockier and dark-brown hairstyle started to be toned with lighter-color highlights and became less puffy at the top. Shortly before production on the series’ fourth season began, Moore declared, “I’m hoping that in the new year, we can soften her [hairstyle] even more. The humans tend to have an effect on her. She’s becoming a product of her environment, even though Vulcans aren’t supposed to do that. So, I’m hoping we can reflect that in her hair a little bit. But we still can’t go too far from being Vulcan.” (Star Trek: Communicator issue 152, pp. 30-31)

          • Matt M says:

            see the baseball episode of DS9 which was probably great fun for the Yanks

            Err, no. One of my most hated episodes by far. I did think that they did a reasonably good job; however, of presenting baseball as a weird niche past-obsession thing of which Sisko was damn near the only person around who cared about – with the exception of his son whom he basically indoctrinated into it.

            Vulcans becoming raging xenophobes keepin’ the coloured folks Humans down, and needing some interference from the crew of the good (Human) ship Enterprise to overthrow their Evil Overlord governing council (see mention of these episodes here which I haven’t the heart to discuss)? What the hell?

            I haven’t watched Enterprise, but if it helps answer the question of “Why did this super advanced, dedicated-to-logic race eventually decide to let themselves be ruled by a bunch of emotional jerks who just discovered spaceflight a century ago?” then more power to it. That one has stuck in my craw since the early days!

          • rmtodd says:

            Actually, the comparison with Voyager is very apt because again, that was a show they never quite knew what to do with (okay so they’re stuck in the Delta Quadrant, it’ll take decades to get back home, they’re low on supplies and resources, they have no Starfleet bases or Federation to fall back on) and then all that got too tedious to properly explore so they dumped it for whizz-bang adventures

            Yeah, that was always the main problem with Voyager, they never took seriously the implications of their premise, that Voyager is all alone, cut off from Starfleet and the Federation, which should cause lots of problems with things running out, systems breaking down and needing to be repaired, etc. Yet for the most part we saw life on Voyager go on much like it did on the TNG Enterprise.

            I recall seeing an interview with Ronald D. Moore after he left the Voyager writing staff complaining about this in some depth. Of course, some years later Ronald D. Moore went on to create four seasons of a show (the new Battlestar Galactica) all about a ship stuck out on its own with no sources of resupply. I keep imagining that after each episode of newBSG aired, Moore called up Brannon Braga on the phone and said “See! That’s what Voyager should have been like!”

          • Matt M says:

            which should cause lots of problems with things running out, systems breaking down and needing to be repaired, etc.

            People hanging around and repairing broken things is really, really, boring compared to people going out and fighting interesting aliens.

            See: the first few seasons of DS9 compared to the last few

          • Brad says:

            I liked the notion the Qeng Ho had in Deepness that a spaceship of fleet could not be self sustaining forever. That at some point in needed a high planet bound civilization with all the web of expertise and industries that implies to refurbish.

            Maybe in universe with a replicator all you need is dilithium but it seemed to me an elegant limiting principle, of which every sci universe needs at least of a few.

          • John Schilling says:

            People hanging around and repairing broken things is really, really, boring compared to people going out and fighting interesting aliens.

            As it turns out, I’ve just been rewatching the first two seasons of the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot. The plot lines, and occasional entire episodes, that are about keeping the fleet functional, are not in fact “really really boring” compared to the ones where they blow up Cylons.

            Also, “The Martian” was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won two Golden Globes and a Hugo.

          • Nornagest says:

            People hanging around and repairing broken things is really, really, boring compared to people going out and fighting interesting aliens.

            Fixing broken stuff and dealing with resource constraints can be gripping if the stakes feel real — the best examples are very grounded sci-fi like The Martian, which is basically a book entirely about fixing broken stuff. Voyager‘s formula worked against it here: unlike more modern TV SF or even Deep Space 9, it returned to status quo at the end of every episode except for the occasional two-parter, which would have made it very hard to show lasting consequences even if they’re trivial.

            It would have worked a lot better if the overloaded turboencabulators and such that you normally see in Star Trek occasionally made it impossible to turboencabulate something in the next episode.

          • Matt M says:

            True, but keep in mind this was back in the day before “long story arc with strict continuity” became the norm in TV drama. The vast majority of such shows still prioritized making it easy for viewers to “drop in” for episodes here and there without feeling like they missed anything critical. DS9 went boldly against this more than most (I imagine those episodes where the Cardassians were in control of the station were pretty confusing to viewers who randomly tuned in without full context), but I don’t think it was until the mid-2000s when most shows were very comfortable doing this sort of thing.

          • Nornagest says:

            They could have kept it in the background. Mess up a few sets, shuffle the bridge-bunny roles as some of them get eaten by glip-glops or whatever, hide it in the technobabble, drop the occasional “as you know”. If Feckless Idiot Lieutenant (I can’t remember any of their names) says to Grrl Klingon Lieutenant that they’re running out of unobtainium in Episode 8, and then in Episode 9 they run out of unobtainium and have to scam a tree full of space hippies into giving them some of their god, then to occasional syndication viewers it looks totally natural out of order, but if you’re a regular viewer you get a real sense of entropy. Anyway, occasional viewers don’t care about minor continuity issues. Nerds do, but nerds watch it in order.

            Even TNG wasn’t totally averse to this: if memory serves, the Enterprise spent a few episodes in space scaffolding after the events of Best of Both Worlds.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Darnit, misplaced comment again.

            @All

            They spend at least three episodes in dock or on the surface of a planet undergoing repairs.

            They set up an aeroponics bay to augment the replicator.

            They received technology while in the void which increased the efficiency of their replicators.

            They traded technology for goods with dozens of species.

            They mined dilithium periodically.

            This was only a 7 year run. Voyager is an advanced spaceship. Here’s the state for the current US Navy:

            Time periods between ROHs (Refueling and Overhaul (ROH)) on a ship have varied historically from about 5–20 years (for submarines) to up to 25 years (for Nimitz-class aircraft carriers). For modern submarines and aircraft carriers, ROHs are typically carried out about midway through their operating lifespan. There are also shorter maintenance fix-ups called availabilities for ships periodically at shipyards.

            wikipedia.

            Anyone know how long an “availability” typically lasts? And would the few times they’ve been in spacedock or on planet for an overhaul count?

            The Battlestar Galactica was a very old ship which was retired. It needed repairs, badly. Voyager was fresh out of its shakedown cruise.

          • bean says:

            Anyone know how long an “availability” typically lasts? And would the few times they’ve been in spacedock or on planet for an overhaul count?

            It varies a lot, depending on what you’re doing. In round numbers, a typical ship is spending about 6 months of every two years in the yard for one reason or another. Most of that comes in one big chunk, although there’s also work done every time the ship is alongside, and even at sea. The big problem with 7 years is that you have no support base at all, and there will be things where the official procedure is ‘replace with spares from shore’, and you have none.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Thanks bean.

            Voyager was intended for long, deep space missions, and seems to have equipment for repairing itself, but given how much damage was done in various episodes I can see the argument.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          @Deiseach

          see the baseball episode of DS9 which was probably great fun for the Yanks but is meaningless for anyone not an American watching

          This is your eurocentrism talking. Baseball is fairly popular in North America, parts of South America, and various nations of the Pacific (including Japan).

          The thing about Voyager that struck me the most: We aren’t they at warp 9+ all the time? How often do the shows start with them at warp 6?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        My hill to die in: despite season 1 being dumb as fuck and some weird characterizations, Enterprise was pretty good.

        I skipped watching it until earlier this year on Amazon prime. It was much better than I expected it to be, and I regret it only lasted 5 seasons.

        • Wrong Species says:

          One thing I liked about Enterprise is that it probably has the most character development of all the series. They come in arrogant and naive and come out jaded while still trying to hold on to their ideals. Trip is one of the most underrated Star Trek characters.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            This.

            Also, it led to a lot of great payoffs in season 4, when they had established enough character and setting to start really messing with it in ways that played respectful homage to previous (later in timeline) series. The augment crisis was good. “In a Mirror Darkly” is a top 10 any-trek episode for me, and it would not work unless we’ve gotten to know the crew of the NX-01.

          • Deiseach says:

            Trip is one of the most underrated Star Trek characters.

            Well, I hope to God he did get some character development, and a character to go with it, because as stated he’s my number one choice for “out the airlock without a suit”. From what I’ve read, though, they mainly seem to have done this by whomping him. Now, I would like the irritating characters (Trip, Phlox, Porthos the beagle) to get thoroughly whomped, but making someone sympathetic and relatable by making them the woobie is not good writing, it’s a cheap way to get sympathy.

            Still, since I didn’t watch after part way into season two, I really have no right to comment on later episodes.

  9. johan_larson says:

    Hey, Scott, since you work in the mental health field, maybe you can answer this.

    What is the current polite way to refer to people who are, to put it crudely, clinically stupid? I can remember when it was “retarded”, but I’ve gotten some negative reactions when I’ve used that. “Mentally disabled” is what I use now, but I’m not sure it’s quite right.

    • rahien.din says:

      The term in vogue is “intellectual disability” which, like its predecessor “mental retardation,” denotes an IQ that is at least two standard deviations below the mean.

      But as soon as people start using that one as an insult, too, we’ll have to change it again…

      • HeelBearCub says:

        It seems to me that “disabled” has been in vogue long enough that it should have been turned into an insult if it was going to be?

        Perhaps I am wrong, but because disabled could mean many, many things – everything from the kid with autism to the adult with a severe back injury – it seems less amenable to being turned into an insult.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      He’s a clinician. He uses the clinical term. Why would he know the polite term?
      I thought that retarded was still the clinical term, but maybe not.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      From people I know in special education, using the most up-to-date diagnostic terms is often a mistake.

      Evidently a lot of parents of mentally retarded intellectually disabled children aren’t up on the new lingo and need to hear the old terms they’re familiar with first. Especially since they’re often in denial about their kid’s abilities or lack thereof.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      “Mentally disabled” or “intellectually disabled” is the way to go if you don’t want to communicate contempt.

  10. Aapje says:

    The Atlantic has a very good story on how campus policies on rape and assault are out of control.

    Some of the examples are harrowing, for example the guy that got a no-contact order (which often severely restricts the ability to pick classes, engage in campus activities, etc) for looking like the guy that raped a student thousands of miles away. So punishment sometimes doesn’t even require a show trial with bad evidence anymore, it can follow after an exoneration.

    Another example is the student who was accused of domestic abuse against his girlfriend, while she herself claims they were just being playful and not violent. She objected to her boyfriend being charged and she felt that her statements were “misrepresented, misquoted and taken out of context.”

    It seems that in more than 30 percent of all undergraduate-assault allegations the alleged victim doesn’t actually want the alleged perpetrator to be tried, yet that happens anyway. In that case the alleged victim is often treated in a hostile manner, often/sometimes creating the paradoxical outcome that they get traumatized by being treated as a victim, feeling gaslighted.

    The article also makes the good point that fixing these flawed policies gets resisted because of culture war reasons, where it has become blue tribe vs red tribe.

    Another important point is that affirmative consent fails to work when people are still experimenting and are really unsure what they want. In such an environment, regret, bad communication and such are to be expected and punishing any behavior that isn’t a Utopian sex act simply punishes people for being humans who are still learning, not actual predators.

    • rahien.din says:

      any behavior that isn’t a Utopian sex act

      But that’s the really weird thing in the first case! She was in control of the entire encounter from start to finish, she expressed what she did and didn’t want, and he didn’t even come! It’s the Platonic ideal of a sexual encounter with directly expressed preferences and safely withdrawn consent.

      The only negative aspects of the encounter for her were 1. bafflingly, she assumed that Bonsu’s brothers would hate her for being in Bonsu’s room and thus she could never return, and 2. her friend teased her about the encounter which evoked the idea that she should have followed through, even though Bonsu didn’t demand it of her.

      Which means she was sexually assaulted by… her friend? And herself?

      • Aapje says:

        The woman (claims to have) said something different from what she did. This is not the ideal sex act for the affirmative consent crowd, as their ideal seems to involve perfect consistency in behavior. Any mismatch is supposed to be taken as evidence of non-consent.

        The real absurdity in this case, even if you accept affirmative consent as a good model, was that the person who violated it was the person who didn’t express perfect affirmative consent. So the man is supposedly guilty of sexual assault because he didn’t run away or forcefully restrain the woman. The latter is likely to be considered violence by these college courts as well, so if the woman is sufficiently aggressive so the man cannot leave except by using force against the woman, he is left in a situation where anything he does violates the rules and can get him expelled*.

        The persecution of people for being passive introduces a paradox as a major argument for affirmative consent is the claim that women often freeze up or otherwise cannot make themselves act effectively to stop a rape or sexual assault, so the person who initiates the sex act (who is usually presumed to be the man) has to stop himself. But if it is claimed that this happens to women and that this must not be held against them, then it seems to me that it can also happen to men and must not be held against them. For example, in the scenario there is no mention that the man, Bonsu, gave affirmative consent for the sex acts that the woman performed on him. So it would also be plausible that Bonsu could not act effectively to stop her from performing sex acts on him, for similar reasons why a woman might be unable to stop a man from performing sex acts on her.

        There seems to be a very common assumption that the man is always in perfect control and if he isn’t, this merits punishment; while the woman is presumed to often be out of control and this never merits punishment. In my eyes, this is actually sexism and strongly based on traditional gender roles, so very conservative.

        * I actually have read statements by raped men who let the rape continue because they didn’t want to use violence against the woman and were in fact afraid to be accused and convicted if they made an attempt to stop the rape.

        • gbdub says:

          if someone can come up with a gender neutral consent standard in which this encounter as described would be considered assault with Bonsu as the perpetrator, I’d love to hear it.

          Other than maybe “first person to publicly claim discomfort is the victim”, but that’s clearly untenable.

          And yeah, it does bother me that at no point does either RA or the school express any concern about Bonsu’s consent or lack thereof. Again, I can think of no gender neutral standard to justify this.

          • Charles F says:

            I think one commonly held belief is that any attempt to convince somebody to do any sex things after the first sign of hesitance is sexual assault. So once she said she was uncomfortable with what was happening, that was final, and however playful he was trying to convince her to change her mind it’s still coercion and unacceptable.*

            *In practice the people who hold that belief probably also want affirmative consent, in which case Bonsu would have been the victim first, but on its own, I think it’s a gender-neutral standard that gets the result we’re looking for.

          • gbdub says:

            Coercion could negate consent, but in this case that would at worst be attempted sexual assault, because nothing sexual happened after that point. She decided to stop, he asked that she continue, she left.

            And that still has issues (although at least less gendered ones) because it is basically making it “(attempted) assault” for Bonsu to express his preferences / desires.

            Calling “Asking more than once” “coercion” is itself kind of bonkers.

          • Charles F says:

            Coercion could negate consent, but in this case that would at worst be attempted sexual assault

            I don’t know enough about actual policy to be sure, but I don’t think there’s so clear a dividing line between sexual assault and attempted sexual assault. How much actually has to happen before it counts? Take the least charitable possible description of events: girl expresses she doesn’t want to do something sexual, guy grabs her arm and tells her to do it, she manages to pull away and leave. That sounds like it could count as an assault of a sexual nature even though the guy didn’t get the girl to do the sexual thing. But, again, I might just not know the proper definitions of the categories.

            And that still has issues (although at least less gendered ones) because it is basically making it “(attempted) assault” for Bonsu to express his preferences / desires.

            It’s not assault to express preferences/desires unless it’s a preference that if acted on would violate a previously expressed boundary of the other party. There are probably

            I think it’s bonkers but it is a view I’ve heard genuinely expressed from a few people.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Charles F, even if my preference (if acted on) would violate someone else’s clearly-expressed boundary, it still isn’t assault for me to express it.

            Take, for example: “I really want to be back home by 3 to catch the show.” / “Well, I’d rather we stayed…”

            It might be boorish (depending on context), but is it assault? Or, in this context, kidnapping?

          • Charles F says:

            I’ve never heard anybody support that sort of norm outside of a sexual context. Your analogy makes sense, but I don’t think the norm is supposed to translate outside of intimate interactions.

            It does bring up a point though, which is that exactly what counts as a boundary, which can be violated, versus a desire, which could cause one to violate a boundary, isn’t always perfectly clear. In this case I would say that before you leave, you can express a boundary that you must be back by time t, and the other person can violate that boundary or attempt to coerce you into abandoning it and while there’s probably a legal definition of kidnapping and this certainly wouldn’t qualify, it could be considered to be exerting unethical control over somebody’s freedom of movement. But if they agree to go without specifying that boundary, they might be implicitly agreeing to your plan, especially if you give timelines before they agree, and asking you to change that plan after you’re already there could be a transgression as well. I’m sure somebody could come up with analogous stuff for sex.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I’ve never heard anybody support that sort of norm outside of a sexual context.

            Well, yes, that’s the problem. Why not use the same norm that works so well in other contexts?

          • Charles F says:

            Why not use the same norm that works so well in other contexts?

            Sex is supposed to be a uniquely coercive and high-stakes situation. (Which is an assumption I’m ambivalent about and not going to bother arguing over, ETA: as hard as it is to resist playing devil’s advocate, I will persevere)

          • gbdub says:

            Sex is supposed to be a uniquely coercive and high-stakes situation.

            I’m not ambivalent about that – I think that attitude is actively harmful.

            In nearly every other context, doing something to make someone else happy, even if it’s not your favorite thing, is a totally fine, even noble thing to do. But for some reason with sex that’s supposed to be traumatic.

            A: “I don’t want to order dessert”
            B: “Really? I’d really like to, and that cheesecake looked super good”
            A: “Well alright, let’s get it”

            Apparently, B has committed confectual assault.

          • Incurian says:

            Can I use that?

          • Deiseach says:

            Apparently, B has committed confectual assault.

            But B can go ahead and have their cheesecake without the necessity for A to consume any or order a different dessert if they don’t want to. If A does go ahead and have dessert, or if they don’t but then sulk about it, I think it is fine to say they are unreasonable to blame B.

            If, however, B cajoles or presses or otherwise pushes A to have dessert after A states they don’t want any, then B has some responsibility. Sex isn’t like the case where B can have the cheesecake and A needn’t, sex does require some participation by A as well as B, and so if B does cajole or coerce A into taking part then it’s a different matter.

          • gbdub says:

            @Incurian – sure

            @Deiseach – The fact that A need not actually consume any of the cheesecake is I suppose relevant, but then fine, change the example to “I want us to go to the mall instead of stay at home” or maybe “A wants to see a foreign indie flick but B wants to see Iron Man”.

            I think “cajoling” has to rise to a pretty high level, basically “serious emotional blackmail” before it ought to be considered worthy of formal punishment. A dining partner who whines incessantly about his desire for confections after you’ve declined to order them may be irritating, but he’s not a crepe-ist.

            But seriously, “coercion” is (or ought to be) a relatively high bar. Simply “you made me feel bad for saying no” is not coercive, nor is “you asked me again after I said no once”.

            I’ve also seen “I’ll leave you if you don’t have sex with me” described as coercive and therefore assault. But are we saying that you’re required to stay in a sexless relationship despite your own desire for sex? “Our libidos are widely mismatched” ought to be a perfectly valid reason to end a relationship.

          • gbdub says:

            @Incurian – sure
            @Deiseach – Replace this example with “I want to see Spider Man instead of an indie foreign flick” if you want something that requires participation by both parties.

            But regardless, I think “cajoling” really needs to be more like “serious emotional blackmail” before it becomes “coercion” that justifies formal punishment. I don’t think “asked more than once” or “asked again after I said no” rises to that level. A dining partner who whines incessantly about a desire for confections may be irritating, but he’s not a crepe-ist.

          • Incurian says:

            *standing ovation*

          • Randy M says:

            But regardless, I think “cajoling” really needs to be more like “serious emotional blackmail” before it becomes “coercion” that justifies formal punishment

            Further, if young women are so weak willed that “pretty please” and “C’mon, why not?” are considered a form of rape, this has a variety of wider implications.

          • gbdub says:

            One seemingly common “coercion” standard (it was mentioned at my own sex assault awareness training at college a decade ago) that bugs me is that “threatening to break up with someone for not having sex with you” was sexual violence.

            But does that mean horny people are required to stay in sexless relationships? “Mismatched libidos” seems like a perfectly valid reason to end a relationship.

            To go back to the original example, say A never wants to order dessert, so B says, “fine, but next week I’m taking C out for dinner – they always appreciate a good pastry chef”, I don’t believe that B has committed a crime. Or even a torte.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            One seemingly common “coercion” standard (it was mentioned at my own sex assault awareness training at college a decade ago) that bugs me is that “threatening to break up with someone for not having sex with you” was sexual violence.

            But does that mean horny people are required to stay in sexless relationships? “Mismatched libidos” seems like a perfectly valid reason to end a relationship.

            Well, there is a difference between “have sex with me RIGHT NOW or we’re done” and “your demonstrated libido is unsatisfactory, something needs to change or I’m out”. I have no doubt that a college session would fail to distinguish between them, but the former is actual shitty manipulative behavior (imo “violence” is too strong, but crappy semantics are the norm when it comes to sexual assault).

          • Matt M says:

            but the former is actual shitty manipulative behavior

            Shitty manipulative behavior is not a crime.

            And if the thing being demanded was anything other than sex we probably wouldn’t even call it shitty.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Matt M

            Well yeah, that’s why Grownup Court doesn’t cover it and it has to be tried using Playskool Rules.

            One can call something shitty behavior that ought to be discouraged without calling for it to be illegal: I am, and I think you are, but the distinction is generally lost on college activists.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t believe that B has committed a crime. Or even a torte.

            You bastard.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            …he said, parenthetically

        • rahien.din says:

          There seems to be a very common assumption that the man is always in perfect control and if he isn’t, this merits punishment; while the woman is presumed to often be out of control and this never merits punishment. In my eyes, this is actually sexism and strongly based on traditional gender roles, so very conservative.

          Well… I agree that this assumption is prevalent, and we are learning more and more how it is rather presumptive especially in an era of more balanced sexual power dynamics.

          But, I’m sympathetic to the idea therein, and not just in the manner of a Chesterton fence.

          The de-gendered version is “The more powerful person in the encounter must be in control of themselves, and if they aren’t, this merits punishment.” Historically, men were the more physically-overpowering person in sexual encounters, and the bad outcomes of sexual encounters were physical and concrete. So at the very least, physical sex has almost always served as very accurate approximation of power imbalance. This is a precedent that has only recently been challenged (or even revealed).

          This principle in its de-gendered state isn’t necessarily even bad, as long as we don’t turn the gain up on it too high. At the more benign end of the spectrum is Dan Savage’s campsite rule, whereby if there is a power imbalance in a romantic encounter, it is the more-powerful member’s job to be sure their less-powerful companion is better off for having been in the encounter.

          Also, I don’t think it’s sexist to recognize that androgens such as testosterone have definite effects on libido, body composition, and behavior, anymore than it is sexist to recognize that almost any man can grow a better beard than almost any woman. I know this from the experience of being a teenage boy, but one needs only to look to the experiences of female-to-male transpersons on androgen supplementation. So even the de-gendered version of this rule (or others) will have a greater effect on a person who has androgens in their system, and it’s reasonable to say that this difference of effect is desirable. Claiming the implementation thereof is sexist is a bit like claiming that laws against vehicular manslaughter are arbitrarily biased against drunk people*. It’s true, but to some extent we really do want it that way.

          Granted we need to reassess our priors given the genuine progress that women have made in their own sexual autonomy and the different kinds of applicable power in a sexual encounter. But a pendulum only slows its swing due to friction or collision.

          * Yes of course it’s not illegal to have sex while on androgens in the same way it is to drive drunk. Not disanalogy.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I agree with the degendered version of that principle in the abstract, but I think it’d run into a whole lot of political problems if we try to apply it. First, the most powerful person in the abstract is not necessarily the most powerful in a given encounter. He could be more drunk than his partner; he could be pinned to the ground by his partner; he could be half-asleep. Second, the most physically or tactically powerful person (in either sense) doesn’t necessarily have the most social power. In fact, in this current social climate, he’s likely to have less social power. Look at Aapje’s footnote about how he’s read testimonies of multiple men who were afraid to fight back against rape out of fear of legal accusations.

        • gbdub says:

          Whoops, replied to wrong post.

    • HFARationalist says:

      My solution is that all sexual activities need to have consent through partners signing a consent form. As long as the form is signed voluntarily there can be no rape. As long as the form isn’t signed there might be a rape. When that happens we can curb both rape and false rape accusations.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Even if a consent form is signed, there can still be rape. You have permission to withdraw consent at any time during an encounter.

        • gbdub says:

          Right, and if you can argue that “he raped me when he failed to object to me straddling him, shoving my hand down his pants, whipping out his junk, and sucking it” with a straight face… then I think the consent form would just shift the argument into whether signing the form was really “voluntary”.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, the system is so insane that it’s tough to imagine anything a college-aged male could do to pre-emptively protect themselves from these sorts of charges.

          Things like “Someone shot a video which shows this girl enthusiastically consenting” has worked occasionally to get someone out of criminal charges, but colleges have created an extra-legal system wherein standard rules of evidence and rights of the accused simply don’t apply. Even the lack of a victim willing to press charges isn’t enough to prevent punishment. So long as someone, somewhere, says you raped someone, you will be punished. Period.

          • Aapje says:

            Or if you just look like someone who raped someone. There is zero defense against your mere looks being traumatizing to another person because it reminds them of their rapist and being grounds for punishment.

        • HFARationalist says:

          My idea is that “rape” be redefined so that consent can be properly documented which can make false accusations almost impossible.

          For example one idea is to have specific facilities in which people can have sex. Once they voluntarily sign in they have consented to any ordinary sexual activity on the consent form. One can not withdraw their consent in the middle of some sexual activity.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Sure, if we go ahead and redefine “rape,” we can reduce its incidence. Maybe we can have your facilities. Or, maybe, we can introduce a contract where two people give consent to have sex with each other for an indefinite time, and then another contract where they revoke that consent. We can call the first one “marriage,” and the second “divorce.”

          • Matt M says:

            Sure, if we go ahead and redefine “rape,” we can reduce its incidence.

            Well, the inverse has already happened.

            The whole genesis of the “one in five college girls are raped” statistic is that, in that case, “rape” basically meant “any sex that the person later regretted”

          • Nornagest says:

            That doesn’t solve any of the problems here. It’s not going to be satisfying to Title IX proponents, firstly because they’ll be concerned about duress and secondly because they conceive of consent as an ongoing state of mind — by their lights, any proof of consent you can’t back out of is somewhere between inadequate and actively oppressive. (See comments elsewhere in this thread re: marriage.)

            And it’s not going to be satisfying to Title IX opponents, because their whole issue is that the Title IX principles end up leaving people unable to effectively defend themselves against malicious accusations following perfectly normal, consensual forms of sexual activity, and this is even worse.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            The whole genesis of the “one in five college girls are raped” statistic is that, in that case, “rape” basically meant “any sex that the person later regretted”

            A lot of the rape statistics count people as being raped who don’t themselves consider themselves raped and/or regret it. Of course, the argument by researchers like Mary Koss is that these women are in denial (just like she thinks that men who feel raped are delusional and are actually far less traumatized then they claim).

            That is really the only way to get these very high figures.

          • Deiseach says:

            Once they voluntarily sign in they have consented to any ordinary sexual activity on the consent form. One can not withdraw their consent in the middle of some sexual activity.

            And then they will argue over “yes but was it voluntary when I signed in?” There are genuine cases where someone can be coerced or persuaded into sex they would not otherwise consent to, as well as cases where it’s “buyer’s regret” the morning after. And you’re leaving a loophole big enough to drive a coach and four through with “ordinary sexual activity”. Is buggery ordinary? rimming? whatever the next trendy perversion/paraphilia will be? If X can produce a copy of Teen Vogue telling fourteen year olds how to get ready to be buggered, it will be hard for Y to argue that this does not fall within “ordinary sexual activity” even if it’s something they never would have agreed to had it been requested up front.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje, there are also people who take years to decide that they were raped– that their consent was overridden and they’ve got PTSD which goes back to that incident.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Yes, but there are many people who choose to drink, have sex (often with a person who made a similar choice) and who decide after the fact: ‘I regret nothing’.

            Of course one can believe that this is unwise and/or extremely bad judgement and/or not really proper consent, but calling this rape would logically result in a whole lot of situations where both people involved are happy and not traumatized while it is tallied as rape. A second major issue is that many of these situations should then, if one is not sexist and hypocritical, be classified as mutual rape. So with both the man and the woman as victim and perpetrator.

            I’ve noticed that the researchers who are proponents of a very expansive definition for their surveys also pretty much always are highly resistant to this logical conclusion and thus set up their studies to avoid this conclusion. Common ways are simply not to survey men as potential victims, to assume that men are always the initiator and thus guilty in a mutual drinking scenario or to use a definition that excludes male victims (by defining rape as penetration and thus excluding the common sex acts that a woman would perform on a man, which usually involve envelopment).

            Anyway, any definition is going to be imperfect and a narrow definition can be argued to miss cases that ought to be called rape and exclude more controversial cases, but an expansive definition is going to include cases that very few people would call rape and/or include more controversial cases. Anti-rape activists never make this clear in their propaganda and take advantage of the archetypal image of the stranger rapist, which is a very small percentage of the cases that are counted when using a very expansive definition. I consider that highly misleading (just like when sexual assault statistics are used, but the most common cases that the statistics count are not groping of intimate areas, but unwanted sexual speech and such).

      • Don’t you mean a Bedmate Agreement?

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Perhaps we’ll call it a “marriage”.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I understand what you’re saying. I’m making a subtle point here, though.

            The custom of marriage is extremely old, and may have been established to solve the problems we’re claiming to try and solve now. If so, then incidents we call marital rape today may be construed as people gradually forgetting what marriage was supposed to do.

            To put it another way, all these attempts to formalize sex may be a repeat of the same wrangling people went through millennia ago, and maybe we’re just repeating history.

          • rahien.din says:

            Marriage is to rape as gun-free zones are to firearm crimes?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Maybe. Speaking as someone who believes gun-free zones are a particularly bad way to address firearm crimes, I don’t think the analogy holds. …or, at least, I’m not sure. I suspect marriage was a pretty good way to address rape, at the time it was adopted (by each respective culture). But its purpose may have drifted from that, until it was no longer discouraging unwanted sex.

            If, when people first proposed marriage, other people were standing around listening to the idea and saying “actually, that’s probably not going to work if you think about it”, then I’d say the analogy is closer.

          • rahien.din says:

            I suspect marriage was a pretty good way to address rape … by discouraging unwanted sex.

            Well, that is totally incorrect.

            Historically, a woman was – her virginity and sexuality were – first the property of her father, and upon marriage, the property of her husband, to the point that her legal rights and legal standing were entirely subsumed by her husband’s. By dint of marriage, she had irrevocably and unconditionally consented to sex with her husband, at any time, purely at his discretion.

            A man could not be prosecuted for raping his own wife because she was his possession. In fact, rape as a crime was constructed as a property crime against a father or husband, not as a crime against the woman’s right to self-determination. Rape and adultery were considered similar crimes against the woman’s owner.

            Until recently, marriage has done nothing to discourage rape or to protect women from unwanted sex. Instead, it had institutionalized and codified and whitewashed rape, and formally declared that it does not matter if wives want sex, they’re going to get it whether they like it or not.

          • Aapje says:

            @rahien.din

            That Wikipedia page has fake history on it (it draws many of its conclusions on a single book by a Director of Gender Studies, so then you know that bias is pretty much guaranteed). The page claims that women were the property of their husband, but this was clearly not the case as women could not be sold, which is the common definition of property. William Blackstone clearly states that marriage requires consent by the bride and may not be coerced. Furthermore, a man could not sell his wife (or the right to have sex with her) to another man.

            Your understanding of coverture is similarly flawed. It doesn’t merely strip the wives of some of their legal rights, but also of legal responsibilities. A wife could theoretically steal with impunity as her husband would then be charged with the theft (crimes like murder by the wife would not be pinned on the husband, though, coverture was purely a civil law matter).

            Coverture is based on the idea that running an effective household requires a single leader. Everything else follows from this. The man has both the full responsibility to take care of his women and children (which could be enforced through the courts by the wife) and also the full means to act on this, including the decision making power and full control over the finances.

            I would add that this looks much more privileged for men in our modern, wealthy society than it probably was back when people were quite poor compared to us. English prison records suggest that a large percentage of men could not pay their debts and were put in prison (back then imprisonment was commonly used to coerce people to pay their debts). The father of Charles Dickens was actually put in debtor’s prison, which turned Dickens* into an advocate of prison reforms.

            This ‘Head and Master’ system, which is still favored by some conservative Christians, makes very little sense in a modern context, although it might have made more sense back then when men and women got specifically educated for their role, so women might often not have been capable of doing the men’s job and the men incapable of the women’s job. I obviously don’t disagree with objections to this system, however, I do think that disagreement should be based on actual understanding of what is being objected to.

            BTW. I would argue that the traditional (domestic) violence and rape laws were primarily very naive and based on simplistic narratives, much more than that they willingly sanctioned abuse of women. For example, rape laws back then didn’t protect any man or boy from rape, in any circumstance. So it’s not like the laws back then were immensely protective of men, where married women were the only ones who could legally be raped in some circumstances. All men could legally be raped in all circumstances by a woman back then. Marriage was also commonly seen as having the goal of having children (which many people today still believe), so I believe it was assumed that marriage was automatic consent because having (many) children was considered what one assented to when agreeing to marriage. I think that people back then were much more into ‘duty’ than people today, so they were much less willing to accept ideas like being willing to have sex today, but not tomorrow.

            * He also wrote that the idea that women are actually subservient to men as the law assumes is false. In Oliver Twist, when the character Mr. Bumble is informed that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”. Mr. Bumble replies, “if the law supposes that … the law is a [sic] ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.”

          • rahien.din says:

            Paul,

            Even if/when true, none of that in any way defends your thesis, or even pushes back against mine.

          • In fact, rape as a crime was constructed as a property crime against a father or husband, not as a crime against the woman’s right to self-determination.

            When and where are you talking about? I’m pretty sure a woman could sue for rape in medieval England.

          • Deiseach says:

            By dint of marriage, she had irrevocably and unconditionally consented to sex with her husband, at any time, purely at his discretion.

            This worked both ways; men also owed the marital debt and were considered to have given irrevocable and unconditional consent, which their wives could complain of if their husbands were unwilling to have sex with them. A quote from this paper on “The Conjugal Debt and Mediaeval Canon Law”, which I would recommend to be read as an antidote to the “men forcing women to have sex because men wanted sex regardless of the women’s desires” view of history:

            This essay deals with canonical doctrine about sexual relations in marriage in the period between the twelfth and the mid-fourteenth centuries – the era in which scientific jurisprudence came of age. Its specific focus is the concept of conjugal debt, that is, the notion that both husband and wife had a duty to perform sexually at the request of their mate. Originally derived from Paul, 1 Corinthians 7.3-6, this equal opportunity concept formed a cornerstone for canonical discussions of marital sex. The lawyers attempted to assimilate this ideal along with other more restrictive but no less authoritative pronouncements, into the developing laws of the Church. An ingenious and eclectic doctrine resulted in which the canonists relied frequently, though not exclusively, on two distinguished authorities, Paul and Augustine.
            …The passage which most clearly illustrates this fact also guided medieval discussions of conjugal relations (I Cor, 7.3-6):
            Let the husband render to his wife what is her due, and likewise the wife to her husband. A wife has no authority over her body, but her husband; likewise the husband has no authority over his body, but his wife. You must not refuse each other, except perhaps by consent, for a time, that you may give yourself to prayer, and return together again lest Satan tempt you because you lack self-control. But I say this by way of concession, not command.

            A man could not be prosecuted for raping his own wife because she was his possession.

            No, not because he owned her but because of the consent. Rape was a matter of sex without consent; by marrying you had given consent; therefore by having sex with your spouse it could never be sex without consent.

            You don’t help your case, which can be made into a reasonable one, by getting the basic facts wrong. This is like saying that parents could legally spank their children because the children were considered possessions just like a dog or a table.

          • Randy M says:

            No, not because he owned her but because of the consent.

            Elsewhere HFA proposes formal written consent in contract form as the legal standard. As if women were pieces of property you could have a receipt for!

          • The “marital debt” just described comes pretty close to the rule in Islamic law. The wife is obliged to have sex with her husband any time he wants unless she has good reason, such as illness or her period, not to. The husband is obliged to have sex with his wife an adequate amount, much less clearly specified. One source I saw argued that the obligation was to satisfy her desires so she wouldn’t have an incentive to look elsewhere.

            The difference makes sense, given the mechanics of sex. A man can be unable to get an erection sufficient for intercourse. There isn’t really an equivalent for a woman.

          • rahien.din says:

            All,

            You don’t help your case, which can be made into a reasonable one, by getting the basic facts wrong.

            This is fair.

            While I still believe there is much reason to doubt Paul Brinkley’s original idea, I won’t offer anything else here. I have probably overstepped the borders of my working knowledge.

            (Or maybe, overstepped the borders of my desire for working knowledge of medieval sexual law. Sheesh but that shit is weird.)

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Randy M Of course I don’t believe that women should be property. Otherwise why do we need a consent form?

            My approach to this problem is similar to my approach on other social problems. I intend to draw a middle line between two positions and try to reach a compromise. A consent form if signed in a special facility for sexual activities can hardly be signed under coercion. Hence real rapes are stopped. At the same time it is very hard to falsely accuse someone of rape. More importantly it will be impossible to retroactively declare that some regretted sex is rape if it actually had consent.

          • Nornagest says:

            Trying to split the difference between two viewpoints usually ends up satisfying neither, especially if you end up having a crude or stereotyped view of one or both (very common), but it can end up being a problem even if your takes on them are accurate, partly because activists often profess extreme hardline positions for tactical reasons.

            Compromise isn’t always good strategy and it isn’t always optimal utilitarianism-wise. But if you’re going to compromise, a better approach to it is to identify what both sides actually want and seek to meet both their needs. That might not involve what they say they want, and it might even not involve solving the problem at hand: very often, the sides are trying to solve totally different problems, or have concerns that have nothing to do with problem-solving.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s also possible for one side to be far more correct and rational than the other, in which case the appropriate compromise is closer to the side that has arguments and demands that can actually work.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            It can be quite painful if she has has insufficient lubrication (although than can be fixed nowadays, of course) or vaginismus (for which there is no treatment that always works).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje

            Matters could be worse for men than we think while still being very bad for women.

            Imagine being a woman married on those terms to a man who is vicious or incompetent.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Anyone have information on how it works out in practice when husbands owe sex to wives?

          • Brad says:

            NY State was the last state in the US to put no fault divorces in place. Prior to that every divorce petition had to allege a reason. One of them was abandonment, which could be met by alleging that either party refused by either party to have sex for a year. That eventually evolved into a two step divorce process where the parties would have a separation agreement and then a year later file for divorce.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            I think that the rules back then were optimized so the capable and semi-capable could survive together. I think that the non- and little-capable were usually excluded from this arrangement and simply didn’t marry to form a husband+wife unit, but were taken care off by family.

            Vicious men and women would probably often make a person of the other gender miserable. I think that in so far that we are better at preventing that today, that is mainly because our much larger wealth enables us to do all kinds of things that were not viable back then (like having way more people live in single-person households, marry later, etc).

            I think that a lot of criticism of the past completely ignores how many of the solutions that we came up with are actually quite dependent on modern wealth and sometimes modern inventions, so the people back then often chose the relatively good solutions given the large limitations they had.

          • Randy M says:

            @Randy M Of course I don’t believe that women should be property. Otherwise why do we need a consent form?

            HFA, for what it’s worth days later, I was being sarcastic.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje, when I say incompetent, I don’t mean obviously disabled. I’m talking about normal-looking people who have seriously bad judgement.

            Obviously, people like that are going to be difficult to be married to, but it’s worse if the whole society supports the idea that such a person ought to be in charge of the household and the other person shouldn’t leave.

            (I’m using gender-neutral language because I don’t want to imply that the husband would be more likely to be incompetent, just that a system that puts an arbitrarily chosen partner in charge of the household has serious drawbacks.)

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @Nancy
            I’ve heard that in the past individual personalities tended to assert themselves behind closed doors. Hence, the existence of a character like Marmaledov, the hapless clerk in Crime and Punishment who was led around by the ear all the time by his militant wife, despite women of the period being nominally subservient to men.

            No doubt the opposite tended to occur more frequently, but that may be because women are on average less domineering than men, as far as their personality traits go. Certainly today there seems to be a lingering trend of women being more submissive on average than their husbands, suggesting that our modern laws have not eradicated the problem.

            Although I don’t mean to suggest there were no differences in gender treatment, or that things haven’t improved today. Just that I think there is more nuance than commonly supposed.

    • gbdub says:

      From the article:

      “as my RA training kicked in, I realized I’d been sexually assaulted…I want to fully own my participation in what happened, but at the same time recognize that I felt violated and that I owe it to myself and others to hold him accountable for something I felt in my bones wasn’t right.”

      First, there’s the obvious problem of “holding him accountable” for an encounter she not only initiated but was in full control of throughout. Accountable for what? Failure to read her mind? Failing to talk her out of giving him half a blowjob? She is demanding not only affirmative consent, but that her partner be actively more involved in determining what she wants than she is willing to be.

      Second, the “my RA training kicked in” part. Clearly, any trauma in this encounter was psychological. Did that “RA training” unwire deep seated rape culture… or did it create trauma where none would have otherwise existed? Two kids got high and fooled around, one of them (by all accounts the initiator) was a bit embarrassed about it afterwards. Exactly what purpose is served by trying to elevate this into a high crime of trauma and violation? No, we don’t want a culture that excuses rape… but a culture that excuses this type of encounter seems like an objectively better culture with fewer harms!

      EDIT: maybe “excuse” is the wrong word. That she felt embarrassed about this encounter because she was concerned about being labeled a slut and/or a tease is indicative of an imperfect sexual culture. But it seems like there is a sex negative and a sex positive way to respond to this: either “I was uncomfortable, therefore rape – anything but perfect sex means someone must be held accountable” or “nothing to be ashamed of, I did what felt good until it didn’t, then I stopped. That’s how we learn what we like”. The sex positive way feels objectively better.

      • J Mann says:

        I think somebody in Ozy’s comments described SJ as “Keep hammering until the problem is solved, and any nail you can reach is the right nail.”

        It’s really a hard problem. I agree that the previous system was unfair to victims. However, as we’re learning, just because false reports of rape were rare in 1980, when the deck was stacked against reporters, doesn’t mean that there won’t be questionable reports in 2017, when we’ve created a new set of weapons for people to use against their sexual partners.

        Another problem is that college students seem unusually likely to be unbalanced to me. We and our family friends have been sending kids off to college over the last few years, and I’m really struck by the number of breakdowns among the kids and their friends. It’s a tremendously high-stress environment combined with substance abuse, lack of sleep, often toxic social pressures, etc. Most kids seem to navigate it, but there are a lot who seem to go crazy, of all genders.

        • gbdub says:

          just because false reports of rape were rare in 1980, when the deck was stacked against reporters, doesn’t mean that there won’t be questionable reports in 2017, when we’ve created a new set of weapons for people to use against their sexual partners.

          This is an underrated point. If you change the rules and incentives, you’re going to change the results.

          Especially when the commonly cited “less than 10% of rape accusations are false” really means something closer to “In less than 10% of criminal cases do the accusers voluntarily admit to lying and/or the falsity is so obvious that the police pursue and get a judgement against the accuser”.

    • onyomi says:

      Being Amish is looking better and better.

    • dndnrsn says:

      First, I think this article is… well, a few anecdotes about cases where the system screwed the accused are no different than a few anecdotes about cases where the system failed actual victims. This borders on outrage porn. This may be one of those problems that isn’t solvable without throwing somebody under the bus – do you prioritize victims, or do you prioritize people who may be falsely/mistakenly accused?

      That said, I think a major underlying problem is that the widespread sexual culture (especially in universities, and among people of university age) is incoherent. It’s as though someone took a bit of traditional sexual mores and jumbled them together with a bit of sex-positivity. People will engage in sexual activity fairly casually, but most do not feel good enough about what they are doing that they don’t have to anesthetize themselves first. They are more willing to do a thing than negotiate it beforehand. A social norm of empowered women who own their sexuality and don’t need to be hidden away from the world exists alongside a social norm of women as fragile and needing special protection. Meanwhile, the social norm of men who are supposed to be very careful about consent coexists with a social norm wherein men are socially rewarded for successful pursuit – I doubt any fratboy has gotten fist bumps from his brosefs for recognizing that a girl was wasted and making sure her friends got her home safe. It’s not hard to see how this is a situation that makes both for a lot of confused situations (where someone ends up hurt despite a lack of intent by the other party), and provides for both a weapon for the vindictive and a smokescreen for predators – and probably more of the latter than the former.

      • Incurian says:

        do you prioritize victims, or do you prioritize people who may be falsely/mistakenly accused?

        The American answer ought to be the latter. You’re right that we need to make tradeoffs, and that’s shitty, but we decided a long time ago which trade to make, and for good reason imho.

        ETA: That reason being that we [ought to] optimize our law to prevent worst case abuses of state power (keeping in mind that the slippery slope isn’t a fallacy in the legal system, they call it “precedent”), not for the best average outcome.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The obvious rebuttal – one I find lacking, but it’s still there – is that this isn’t a court thing, it’s a university thing.

          EDIT: I think that a clear problem is that it’s far from certain whether adjusting the standards of proof makes women safer. Perpetrators of violent crimes are frequently not acting rationally – it’s not a drunk guy (I believe that accused rapists are actually drunk more often than their supposed victims, statistically) thinking “well I have an x percent chance of getting caught, but I value getting that nut at eight utilons…” and criminals in general usually think they’re not gonna get caught. Making men afraid to be alone in a room with a woman might not make women safer alone in a room with a man, basically.

          • Brad says:

            I think that’s a fine answer except for the claim that the federal government is insisting that colleges use a specific procedure as a condition of receiving federal money.

            Now that the Obama administration is gone and since the “Dear Colleague” letter wasn’t a notice and commented regulation, I think that claim is no longer viable. But I don’t follow these things that closely.

          • Incurian says:

            I think much of this stuff was directed by the feds under Title IX. I wish it were just a regular court thing.

          • Matt M says:

            Now that the Obama administration is gone and since the “Dear Colleague” letter wasn’t a notice and commented regulation, I think that claim is no longer viable.

            They’re being deliberately sneaky about this. The “Dear Colleague” letter was never, even under Obama’s DOJ, a binding regulation in any meaningful sense. It was just a really strong implication that you should be doing X. So the Universities say, “Hey look, it wasn’t OUR idea to trample on basic constitutional rights, the federal government told us we have to!” and meanwhile, the federal government says “We ordered no such thing, we just had some basic recommendations of our viewpoint on the best way to institute Title IX, that’s all!”

            It’s the perfect sort of bureaucratic double-cross that you’d expect to see from the villains in an Ayn Rand novel, where you end up with a terrible situation that technically no individual person or organization is truly responsible for.

          • Brad says:

            Unless it is a state school they aren’t trampling on basic constitutional rights.

            And again, the Obama administration is out of office. It’s no longer reasonable for anyone to point to that letter and say they have no choice.

          • Matt M says:

            Unless it is a state school they aren’t trampling on basic constitutional rights.

            It often is a state school. I’ve seen no evidence (or even assertions really) that this sort of behavior correlates to state/private schooling in any meaningful way.

            And again, the Obama administration is out of office. It’s no longer reasonable for anyone to point to that letter and say they have no choice.

            It wasn’t reasonable before, either. Because even when Obama WAS still in office, the official position was “We never told you that you had to do anything, we were just trying to be helpful and give you some best practices to avoid getting in trouble!”

            The “Dear Colleague” letter was never anything more than an excuse to do something most of these school administrators wanted to do anyway. To be shown as being proactive and “doing something” about the “sexual assault epidemic on college campuses.” When the schools are bragging to the public about how they have zero tolerance for sexual assault, they aren’t referencing this letter. It only comes up when they embarrass themselves by expelling students for asinine reasons and refuse to back down.

          • J Mann says:

            It wasn’t reasonable before, either. Because even when Obama WAS still in office, the official position was “We never told you that you had to do anything, we were just trying to be helpful and give you some best practices to avoid getting in trouble!”

            To be fair, my understanding was that the Obama administration said the Dear Colleague letter was not binding, but they also demonstrated that failure to comply with the letter was highly likely to lead to a Civil Rights investigation and subsequent consent decree.

            So the result that that (1) Team Obama didn’t have to go through normal administrative procedures (because they hadn’t issued a regulation, just a “suggestion” that they backed up through their enforcement choices); but (2) schools that didn’t want to go to war with the Office of Civil Rights were in practice required to follow the letter’s guidance.

          • gbdub says:

            Has the “Dear Colleague” letter actually been officially repudiated / withdrawn? I think DeVos was hinting at doing so, but I hadn’t heard that it actually happened.

          • Brad says:

            It often is a state school. I’ve seen no evidence (or even assertions really) that this sort of behavior correlates to state/private schooling in any meaningful way.

            I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen at state schools. I’m saying that you are making bogus claims because you insist on using overly broad language. Again.

            So the Universities say, “Hey look, it wasn’t OUR idea to trample on basic constitutional rights, the federal government told us we have to!”

            It’s not “the universities” it is at best “public universities”. Is it so hard to add in one little word to avoid making a totally invalid statement?

          • Matt M says:

            gdub,

            Funny you should ask – I literally just received this update via e-mail from FIRE.

            WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2017 — In a speech today at George Mason University, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos acknowledged that the department’s approach to enforcing Title IX, the law against sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, is fundamentally broken. Secretary DeVos announced the department will launch a public “notice-and-comment” process to “replace the current approach with a workable, effective, and fair system.”

            Addressing widespread concerns about the fairness of current college sexual misconduct codes, the secretary noted that respect for due process is “the foundation of any system of justice that seeks a fair outcome,” and that codes must ensure “fair procedures that inspire trust and confidence.” With regard to the unilateral and opaque way that current federal mandates in this area were imposed, she further assured listeners that “the era of ‘rule by letter’ is over.”

          • Jiro says:

            So does this count as Trump doing something in office that’s positive and that Hillary probably wouldn’t have done?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Unless it is a state school they aren’t trampling on basic constitutional rights.

            If the state requires it or strongarms the school into it, they sure are trampling on basic constitutional rights. The state doesn’t lose culpability just because it uses intermediaries.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            The article addresses both your objections:

            – It argues that schools have set up a system run by advocates whose politics result in resisting decisions by Trump’s administration.

            – It argues that the civil rights prosecutors were being strongly pressured to always come up with violations, if an investigation was started. I would argue that if this is true, this is coercion which automatically will result in overreach/purity spirals as colleges will then desperately try to avoid being investigated, as they will always lose, rather than get fair treatment. It’s like being a judge in Russia and having a court case between someone that Putin likes and someone whom he dislikes. You run a huge risk if you err in the direction of the guy that Putin dislikes and zero risk if you err in the direction of the guy that Putin likes.

            In the college courts, it seems like there is zero risk of a civil rights investigation if you violate the rights of the accused man, but a large risk if you violate the rights of an accusing women in even a small way.

          • onyomi says:

            In the college courts, it seems like there is zero risk of a civil rights investigation if you violate the rights of the accused man, but a large risk if you violate the rights of an accusing women in even a small way.

            This is the fundamental problem.

            Accusations of rape have to be treated like accusations of other serious crimes. If you are accusing someone of a crime that will ruin his life if he’s found guilty (and quite possibly even if he’s not), then there have to be at least some negative consequences for you if it turns out your accusation was entirely baseless and/or malicious.

            The idea that this will scare some real victims into not reporting, even if true, is infantilizing, and no more justification than it would be for allowing women to falsely accuse people of murder or kidnapping with no consequences.

          • onyomi says:

            Making men afraid to be alone in a room with a woman might not make women safer alone in a room with a man, basically.

            The irony is that if I were younger and unmarried, I think I’d now be looking for very conservative women to date. In a climate where any sexual activity with a liberal (in the broad sense) woman means opening yourself up to accusations of rape, the safest path for the more conscientious man is simply not to date liberal women.

            Similarly, someone who might be naturally inclined to enjoy a multicultural, multiracial society might be driven to seek out more of a monoculture in the case where living in a multiracial society means constant threat of racism accusations.

          • Matt M says:

            That is, in a climate where any sexual activity with a liberal (in the broad sense) woman means opening yourself up to accusations of rape, the safest path for the more conscientious man is simply not dating liberal women.

            Or, you know, not date, interact with, or look at women at all.

            Hanging around “conservative women” didn’t help anyone at FOX News, did it?

          • onyomi says:

            Hanging around “conservative women” didn’t help anyone at FOX News, did it?

            Well, I meant culturally conservative, not conservative in the sense of “votes Republican.” I also don’t know if it’s true that everyone who works at Fox News is conservative in the latter sense, either.

            Of course, if you’re at an elite college, the chances of finding a culturally conservative woman seem lower and lower; this may contribute to further polarization where 4-year college is increasingly a blue tribe life choice, and actively seeking alternatives a red tribe life choice (as seems already to be happening, to some extent, with homeschooling?).

          • Matt M says:

            And when freshman orientation is essentially a weeklong seminar specifically designed to indoctrinate people into accepting blue tribe values on gender and sexuality issues

          • BBA says:

            @Matt M: Fox News has nothing to do with Title IX. Do you mean to imply that all accusations of sexual misconduct are meritless?

          • hlynkacg says:

            There’s a certain amount of truth to the old axiom, any girl who’d go home with you on the first date is not a girl you want to bring home.

          • Aapje says:

            @onyomi

            Accusations of rape have to be treated like accusations of other serious crimes. If you are accusing someone of a crime that will ruin his life if he’s found guilty (and quite possibly even if he’s not), then there have to be at least some negative consequences for you if it turns out your accusation was entirely baseless and/or malicious.

            Punishing false accusers is a separate issue and a less important one. It is crucial that a legal system that has severe consequences doesn’t bias everything against the accused, because then we get show trials that have nothing to do with justice.

            We know that people have many biases that harm fair judging. An important bias is that people tend to strongly favor the first narrative they hear and will defend that with cognitive dissonance reducing rationalizations. This is especially true when counter-evidence to the initial narrative is gradually revealed. Each piece of counter-evidence will then often be dismissed and then ignored later on, even if the combined counter-evidence is extremely persuasive.

            This is one of the major reasons why it’s important for the defendant to have a lawyer speak on his behalf, as that lawyer can then combine the counter-evidence into a strong counter-narrative. As far as I can tell, many or even most college courts don’t allow the defendant to have a lawyer and quite a few don’t even allow (some) counter-evidence to be presented in the first place. The consequence is great injustice, just for this bad practice alone.

            In general, the college courts seem to be run by people without legal expertise, so they make all the mistakes that thousands of years of legal experience and philosophy have taught us are extremely harmful to proper fact-finding and fair judging.

          • Matt M says:

            proper fact-finding and fair judging.

            This is not even their motivation though. Their goal is to appear to the general public as if they are “tough on sexual assault.” Fairness is a “nice to have” feature. They’ll take it if they can get it, but if it stands in the way of goal #1, out it goes.

          • Aapje says:

            That is usually the main argument, but the proponents do frequently make claims that imply that the system is supposed to be mostly just. For example, the common objection to false or mistaken accusations is not ‘who cares,’ but ‘those are rare.’

            My perception is that even if unfairness to men is not much of a concern for the more extreme anti-female rape activists, it is important for more moderate people.

          • Brad says:

            If the state requires it or strongarms the school into it, they sure are trampling on basic constitutional rights. The state doesn’t lose culpability just because it uses intermediaries.

            Donald Trump is President. Betsy DeVos is Secretary of Education. Where’s the strong-arming?

            This is not even their motivation though.

            It is known.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Obama administration strongarms nonpublic schools into setting up these mockeries of justice for accused sexual offenders. Then there’s an election, and now these systems are entirely private matters and the fact they were set up at the government’s behest means nothing? That’s certainly a novel view.

          • Matt M says:

            Not to mention that prior to yesterday, I don’t think either Trump or Devos had made any public statement declaring their intention to not enforce any of the previous stuff. Nor do we have this expectation in other areas of policy. Corporations certainly haven’t started simply paying less taxes by saying “Trump is President now! All that Obama stuff doesn’t apply anymore!”

            I’d also be willing to bet that the Dear Colleague letter was not drafted by Obama, or by his Secretary of Education. I’d lay money that the actual person who drafted the letter is still working at the DOE, and that the overwhelming majority of people responsible for enforcing Title IX were not fired and replaced when Trump assumed office. This is the “deep state” everyone keeps talking about. The bureaucrats who actually run the day to day operations of the government who don’t change based on electoral results.

          • Brad says:

            @The Nybbler
            You can’t have a constitutional violation on the basis that government is coercing the private sector if the coercion no longer exists. There’s nothing to enjoin.

            If at some point a state government told private businesses that they couldn’t serve African-Americans and then they stopped telling that, from that point forward there’s no more violation of basic constitutional rights. It is then a matter of statutory public accommodation law, not constitutional law.

          • John Schilling says:

            Donald Trump is President. Betsy DeVos is Secretary of Education. Where’s the strong-arming?

            Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos aren’t the people who decide whether to cut a university’s funding or otherwise implement Title IX enforcement actions. The people who actually do that, are the same ones who did that under the Obama administration. Trump can’t fire them, and DeVos would find it tedious and unpleasant to do so. The 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter stands as their policy guidance, and as their shield against being fired for enforcing Title IX according to Obama-era standards.

            For now. DeVos has indicated that she is likely to try and change this in the future, and depending on what she tries to change it to, that may be a positive development. Until it happens, the old rules apply. As with e.g. walls along the Mexican border, merely putting Trump in the White House changes nothing.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If at some point a state government told private businesses that they couldn’t serve African-Americans and then they stopped telling that, from that point forward there’s no more violation of basic constitutional rights.

            This is unbelievable.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/581/transcript

            People here seem to be talking as though the Title IX rules came out of nowhere. They were actually an effort to address a real problem.

            My link isn’t the only time I’ve heard about women being pressured to withdraw accurate rape accusations.

            Now we’ve got a situation where men accused of rape have no defense, and where women are pressured to make rape accusations that they don’t believe.

            How do we get to an honest approach on rape accusations?

          • The Nybbler says:

            That story is about a forcible rape by a stranger which happened to someone who wasn’t enrolled at a college campus. That’s about as far as you can be from these Title IX cases as you can be and still within the neighborhood of rape. Nothing done by a Title IX tribunal could possibly have affected a case like this, because neither the victim nor rapist was in college. No lowering of the standard of proof for conviction could have affected the case, because they didn’t have the guy and weren’t looking for him. No stripping of the accused’s rights would have affected it in the slightest, again, because they didn’t have the guy. Once they got the guy (in an unrelated case), the system worked fine.

            If stories like _that_ are the “Chesteron’s Fence” reasons behind the Title IX rape tribunals, the tribunals can be torn down with reckless abandon.

            I don’t know whether Marie’s story was not believed because the cops were too incredulous, or the truth appeared incredible even with an appropriate level of credulity. Neither case, however, supports Title IX tribunals

          • BBA says:

            Honestly I don’t think there’s a thing that’ll change the system. US Department of Education no longer thinks these tribunals are necessary in order to comply with Title IX? Well, I can imagine some vice-dean saying, the department was just taken over by a misogynist who admits to committing sexual assault and an Evangelical nutcase who wants to shut down the education system altogether. We need to keep the tribunals strong in order to #RESIST them, and so on.

            Not to mention, New York State now requires every college, public and private, to run these tribunals on an “affirmative consent” basis, independent of federal law. Other states, and perhaps the accreditation agencies, could follow in New York’s path.

            The irony is, we now have mainstream left-of-center women like Emily Yoffe writing at mainstream publications like The Atlantic, starting to say things have gone too far. In a less hyperpartisan environment the article that started this thread might have been taken seriously in the vice-dean’s office. Now, though, it’s going to be dismissed as playing into the hands of the hated President and the overprivileged white dudes who elected him.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            The irony is, we now have mainstream left-of-center women like Emily Yoffe writing at mainstream publications like The Atlantic, starting to say things have gone too far.

            don’t you think this is at least in part because of the government-mandated pushback?

            it does appear as though the first article came out a day before Devos’ speech, but still, it was clearly coming and other statements had been made (not agreeing with the ‘90% of rapes are fake’ statement by Candace Jackson, but it certainly qualifies in this regard, no?)

          • onyomi says:

            @BBA

            we now have mainstream left-of-center women like Emily Yoffe writing at mainstream publications like The Atlantic, starting to say things have gone too far.

            I’m hoping this means identity leftism is currently undergoing evaporative cooling.

            I’m not sure if it would be happening faster or slower under a Clinton presidency, though. Right now, as you say, the presence of the hated President Trump acts as a countervailing pressure against it, since any leftist questioning identity politics can be branded as giving aid and comfort to the white supremacist administration.

            But on the other hand, if we had HRC, I worry that there would be no reason for leftists to question themselves at all since they’d be, in effect, winning. The presence of Trump, whose victory many still can’t comprehend, at least prompts a lot of soul searching.

            Another very salutary effect of Trump: now leftists are all about state and local level resisting the federal government, maybe even nigh unto secession. There would be no reason to leave the table if they felt they were winning the game.

        • Jaskologist says:

          “It is better that ten rapists escape than that one innocent bro suffer.” – William Blackstone

      • johan_larson says:

        It seems to me that most of this problem is caused by an insistence on accepting casual sex as a normal part of culture. As university administrations are discovering, casual sex raises thorny issues of consent, expectation, and standards of proof in the event of conflict, particularly when people are likely to be under the influence of intoxicants. Most of this issue would go away if there were a firm norm of sex happening only between people in long-term relationships where misunderstandings are unlikely.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I say bring back chaperones.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Most of this issue would go away if there were a firm norm of sex happening only between people in long-term relationships where misunderstandings are unlikely.

          And when, in the history of humanity, has this norm been honored?

          There may have been times in history when most women followed that norm. But never most young men.

      • Iain says:

        First, I think this article is… well, a few anecdotes about cases where the system screwed the accused are no different than a few anecdotes about cases where the system failed actual victims. This borders on outrage porn. This may be one of those problems that isn’t solvable without throwing somebody under the bus – do you prioritize victims, or do you prioritize people who may be falsely/mistakenly accused?

        Yeah, this. These cases are genuinely awful, but you can bet your bottom dollar that each of the policies making them awful was prompted by an assortment of equally awful cases going the other way.

        It’s a fundamentally hard problem.

        • lvlln says:

          Yeah, this. These cases are genuinely awful, but you can bet your bottom dollar that each of the policies making them awful was prompted by an assortment of equally awful cases going the other way.

          Can you? In my experience, the justifications that are thrown out by people who have supported the policies that create these awful cases tend to be unsupported by actual empirical evidence, such as the famous 1-in-5 stat that a Vox writer invoked for why he supported affirmative consent policies even if he agreed that those policies were awful.

          Furthermore, even granting that there are just as many or more awful cases that prompted the policies that made for cases awful in the other direction, is there evidence or reasoning to believe that these policies actually did anything to combat the previous awful cases? If it really is a matter of trade-offs, we have to pick our poison, and we should at least be sure that we’re not picking both poisons. I don’t see any evidence that such research was done for implementing these policies and see no reason to believe that the extra suffering caused by these policies was also accompanied by a reduction in suffering elsewhere.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, it doesn’t work that way. Just because a policy was instituted based on a lie doesn’t mean the policy can go away just because the lie was exposed. It would be like WWI being called off because Francis Ferdinand was found alive and well and living in Key West (having faked his own assassination) in December 1914.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I’d have more sympathy for “boy those are bad examples and it sure is bad that something bad happened but we can’t help it” if even a quarter of the people complaining about DeVos’s proposal could fake empathy long enough to say that. Universally, the people who want some kind of due process at least give lip service to “yes, one rape on campus is one too many.” Maybe they are just lying and want to rape more, but at least they are capable of saying the words without their skinsuit sloughing off.

          NPR gave airtime to this person http://www.npr.org/2017/09/07/549250129/blurred-lines-author-criticizes-pullback-of-campus-sexual-assault-policies who

          1. thinks a council staffed by ex-prosecutors would be too fair to the accused

          2. when asked about the accused who might deserve some mercy before being destroyed, she instead answers the question of boys who were unlucky enough to be socialized in American rape culture, and how they can deserve mercy if they “express genuine remorse” and go through “re-education.” (She says “re-education” at 3:22, I am not putting that word in her mouth.)

          3. cites a low rate of rape trials as evidence itself of a problem. “The majority of American universities don’t even have one rape case brought through their courts,” she complains. (If there’s a rape case you call the fucking police goddamnit.)

          (The NPR segment immediately prior talked about due process but gave equal time to those who say DeVos just wants to go back to ignoring rape.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            If there’s a rape case you call the fucking police goddamnit.

            This is the thing that I absolutely despise about title IX talk. If sexual assault on campus is as serious a problem as some people claim it is, the cops need to be involved.

          • Aapje says:

            @hlynkacg

            Indeed, the paradox is that this system of college courts who can only kick people out of their college effectively results in the Catholic church solution to sexual misbehavior: remove the person from the place where the crime was (supposedly) committed and let them go elsewhere.

            So if the person who gets kicked out of a college is an actual predator, he can now prey on people elsewhere. So the proposals to fight rape culture only make sense if the proponents don’t actually believe that they are going after predators.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Since a college court conviction of sexual misconduct also carries with it blacklisting (from college, and therefore from careers that college degrees enable), the accused is excluded from polite society as well, which is sufficient from the viewpoint of the accusers and system-builders.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            If the goal is to expel predators from their own social class, so they will instead target women from lower social classes, that seems rather elitist and non-progressive.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            I wouldn’t disagree.

          • Randy M says:

            elitist and non-progressive.

            These are no longer synonyms.

        • Wrong Species says:

          When it comes to politics, there isn’t really a sweet spot where we avoid some bizarre glitch in the system. It’s really just about which direction we consider better to err in.

      • gbdub says:

        This isn’t about prioritizing victims or prioritizing the accused, it’s about calling things “rape” that are well outside the legal definition of such. In the Bonsu case there was no victim to prioritize, because no assault occurred by any reasonable standard (although even Yoffe does so by keeping her anonymous while publicizing the name of the accused).

        If anything it seems more like “prioritizing getting a ‘conviction’ in any case of sexual assault accusation”.

        • The Nybbler says:

          In Yoffe’s headline case, he wasn’t found responsible for sexual assault. But that didn’t mean they were willing to let him off the hook. Instead, he was found responsible (in abstentia) for violating, in his attempts to organize a defense, the interim restrictions placed upon him. And punished severely for those violations.

          • gbdub says:

            I think that supports my last sentence? You’ve got a defendant given pretty serious punishment even before the issue was decided, and then once he’s found not responsible for the actual assault, they nail him on the equivalent of a parole violation.

            That looks like a system designed with “look tough on sexual assault” as a top priority.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, that looks like the classic “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” logic that is still used today to incriminate the falsely accused from the Duke Lacrosse team to the UVA fraternity that didn’t gang-rape “Jackie.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            The case Yoffe leads with, while proving nothing in a grand sense (again, two or three awful anecdotes for one side of an argument prove no more than the two or three awful anecdotes the other side has) is especially repulsive – it’s extremely alarming that some people now take going after a black guy with everything in the book because he’s accused of violating a white woman as being progressive.

          • Matt M says:

            (again, two or three awful anecdotes for one side of an argument prove no more than the two or three awful anecdotes the other side has)

            Would anyone care to share these, as a steel-man for why aggressive Title IX enforcement is important?

            On the skeptic side, I’m very familiar with the most egregious examples of how it has resulted in great harm to innocent men. But I’m honestly not familiar with “Here’s a story of a girl who was clearly and obviously raped and her assailant went wholly unpunished” examples. “Mattress girl” got a ton of media visibility and her case is pretty damn shaky, and the UVA thing ended up being wholly false. Most of the outrages I see promoted in the media seem to be he-said, she-said disputes involving copious alcohol consumption that don’t have enough evidence for the police to even bother making an arrest, much less securing a conviction.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Well, obvious cases tend to go to courts, and even there they don’t always get convictions – take the case in Canada recently where a cabdriver was acquitted of sexual assault on a woman so drunk she’d pissed herself, on the basis that she still maybe could have consented.

            The serious problems come when sexual assaults aren’t reported, and lowering the bar for punitive measures won’t necessarily increase reporting. I am not, I would note, in favour of the sort of procedures that Yoffe’s article attacks. The archetypal case of “university rapist gets away with it” is not “ruling says nothing happened,” it’s “popular and charismatic serial rapist is adept at hiding behind a smokescreen and victims don’t come forward.” The assumption of people who think that lowering the bar for expelling someone in a disciplinary context, or lowering the due process bar in the criminal process, is that easier punishment/conviction means more people will come forward. But this isn’t necessarily the case, because the reason victims have for not coming forward may not be “fear perpetrator will not get punished,” but rather “fear of social consequences” which may be worse if someone popular and charismatic is punished.

            EDIT: Of course, how to reduce the ability of popular and charismatic people to get away with misdeeds, is probably one of the hardest problems out there. The problems of how to reduce their smokescreens (as I noted earlier, I think our incoherent sexual culture is a big part of the problem) or of how to identify and protect from society the sort of person who knowingly hurts others and does not care (who has been “taught how not to rape” many times, and still rapes, in this case), still huge, pale in comparison.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Punish the false accusers” is, for now, the wrong answer to a real problem. First, let’s install basic features of due process. Let people know what they are accused of and mount a defense.

          • gbdub says:

            The serious problems come when sexual assaults aren’t reported

            I am genuinely curious about what sexual assaults are not reported. Because I think part of the issue with all the statitics thrown around is that “sexual assault” and “forcible rape” tend to be conflated, when in reality sexual assault covers a wide range of offenses of varying severity.

            For example, drunk guy pinches your ass at a bar – that’s sexual assault. Do you go to the cops? Probably not, and I’d say that’s a rational response, but you’ve just contributed to the chronic underreporting of sexual assault.

            Or as Aapje noted, in the “1 in 5” study, many of the participants who were included as assault victims either did not consider themselves to be assault victims, or hadn’t considered the assault serious enough to report.

            How many of the unreported crimes fall into these categories? I think we hear “unreported sex crime” and think of something like the Sandusky case, and 90% of things like that going unreported would indeed be horrifying, but I don’t suspect that that’s a central example of “unreported sexual assault”.

            What is the “right” percentage of reporting? Because I think for many crimes, less than 100% is correct. Regular physical assault, for example – get shoved in line at a concert? Assault! Should every case of that involve the police? Almost certainly not.

          • Randy M says:

            “Punish the false accusers” is, for now, the wrong answer to a real problem. First, let’s install basic features of due process. Let people know what they are accused of and mount a defense.

            Bear in mind, though, it might be the right answer for a different real problem, namely being the reputation hit and legal costs associated with mounting a defense even in a system with scrupulous adherence to due process.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @gbdub

            The vast majority of “someone gets groped” do not get reported. I’ve been groped without my consent on at least three or four occasions, and I’m a guy. A guy who is handsy is far more likely to be dealt with through social sanctions than getting in trouble with the admin. I’m referring more to stuff like the predators who seek out potential sexual partners who are wasted, and take advantage of them. Whether it would get counted as rape, sexual assault, etc in a court of law is questionable, but under the rules that universities follow (this isn’t in the US either) could get in considerable trouble if reported.

            However, if the predator is charming and has social status, the victims may very well decide that it is not worth the possible social cost. There may be social sanctions, but often, the handsy unpopular guy gets hit by social sanctions harder than the charming serial rapist. The unpopular guy who really was in a he-said-she-said situation is more likely to get hit by either social sanctions or official punishment than the charming high-status serial rapist who uses the existence of he-said-she-said situations as a smokescreen.

            The “hit harder those who are accused formally” solution to the problem does not solve the problem if the problem is that predators are not being accused formally.

  11. Brad says:

    From NYTimes:

    Last week, Mr. Cruz was all over the Texas flood zone, promising that Congress would provide “very significant resources for the people who have been damaged by this terrible storm.”

    ….

    But in Texas, some conservatives say Mr. Cruz’s actions, both then and now, square with their principles of fiscal prudence and the proper role of government.

    Michael Berry, a libertarian-leaning host of a popular Houston-based radio talk show, said that Mr. Cruz’s decision on the bill was a stand on principle, but he figured that it was one the senator took knowing the bill would eventually pass.

    “It was really more a dissent than opposition to any rebuilding,” Mr. Berry said, “and most people at the time knew he was going to run for president.”

    Mr. Berry, whose home was badly flooded by Harvey, said that Texans like him certainly believe many federal government powers to be intrusive, overblown or unnecessary. But he argued that disaster relief was not one of them. Rather, he said, it was a necessary government function, like the military or infrastructure spending, that conservatives support.

    This line of thinking explains, in a way, how Texas conservatives saw no hypocrisy when Mr. Perry suggested in 2009 that the state might secede over profligate Washington spending, but bitterly complained four years later when the Obama-era Federal Emergency Management Agency declined to pay for all of a disaster recovery effort after a fertilizer plant exploded in the city of West, Tex.

    This is a version of libertarianism I’ve never seen before. National defense and law courts, sure that’s minarchism. But who ever throws in disaster relief? Maybe if you are talking about pulling people out of flooded areas during the storm itself but certainly not paying to rebuild everyone’s home and business and compensating for losses. Surely that’s what insurance is for.

    And beyond libertarianism to state’s rights / federalist / strict constructionist / small government conservatives more generally — how is paying to rebuild everything destroyed by a natural disaster a federal responsibility? I’m reading Article I, Section 8 and I see “make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water”, “declare war”, and “coin money” but I don’t see anything about rebuilding areas damaged by storms.

    It isn’t like Texas is some tiny helpless entity either. It has a population greater than that of Australia and an economy larger than that of Canada. It has the wherewithal to take care of its own, it just would rather the federal government do so. From the article:

    Texas has its own “rainy day fund” estimated at $10 billion, but Mr. Abbott said on Friday that he had no plans to call a special legislative session, which would be required to tap the fund. In a statement, his press secretary, John Wittman, said the governor could call a special session “at any time” in the future.

    Mr. Wittman and Mr. Abbott say the state is allocating resources and working with the federal government on reimbursement of disaster expenses.

    If the answer was

    we don’t think rebuilding should be the federal government responsibility or any government’s responsibility, but in this case that’s the de facto system that’s been in place and we’ve paid into that system so we are going to use it for this disaster. But here’s a plan to transition away from it …

    I could respect that. But claiming that this system is consistent with values of self declared libertarians and federalists is bullshit. Michael Berry, Ted Cruz, and Greg Abbott not libertarian, not federalists, not strict constructionists. They should not be allowed to get away with claiming to be so in the future.

    • Matt M says:

      I think that everyone is so obsessed with not appearing “insensitive” such that “UNLIMITED MONEY AND RESOURCES WILL BE PROVIDED FOR THESE SYMPATHETIC PEOPLE” is the only politically tenable position to hold, lest you end up looking like George W Bush who was widely seen as “not doing enough” about Katrina.

      Unless you’re willing to be literally Ron Paul (and make no mistake, nobody ever thought Ted Cruz was literally Ron Paul), everyone from a local city councilman in Corpus Christi all the way up to the mayor of Houston, the governor of Texas, US Senators, and Trump himself basically has to take the position of “Whatever you want! All of it! Take it all! For the love of God, just don’t say I was insensitive to your needs!”

      • Brad says:

        How does that hypothesis explain Abbott not calling the Texas legislature back to tap Texas’ rainy day fund? If this isn’t a rainy day, what is? Also, how does it explain Ted Cruz and the rest of the Texas Republicans being so miserly when it came to Sandy?

        • dodrian says:

          I imagine he’s saving that for when ‘demanding money from the Federal government’ stops working from a political perspective.

        • Matt M says:

          Also, how does it explain Ted Cruz and the rest of the Texas Republicans being so miserly when it came to Sandy?

          I’ll happily concede a bit of hypocrisy on this one. It’s definitely easier for Cruz and other such people to try and hold the hard line on spending when it’s New Yorkers who are in a disaster than when it’s Texans.

          There’s also not a class/race card to be played in New York as there is in say, New Orleans. A whole lot of this is “victims must be sympathetic.” Red tribers in South Texas are sympathetic. Poor minorities are sympathetic. Manhattanites are not so sympathetic (at least not to Ted Cruz and his supporters).

          Also IIRC Sandy ended up being bad, but not nearly as bad as it was hyped to be. Harvey was the opposite, significantly worse than what people were expecting. This affects public perception A LOT.

          • Chalid says:

            One thing about Sandy is that the worst flooding happened at night and receded with the tide, so some of the most dramatic stuff wasn’t well-photographed.

        • The Nybbler says:

          New Jersey is not sympathetic.

        • Brad says:

          New Jersey is not sympathetic.

          If the answer is just, this is just special pleading, that’s my original thesis. No need for Matt M’s bending over backwards to be charitable variant.

    • rahien.din says:

      Pushing back against your argument here:

      It isn’t like Texas is some tiny helpless entity either. It has a population greater than that of Australia and an economy larger than that of Canada. It has the wherewithal to take care of its own, it just would rather the federal government do so.

      You may have a halting problem.

      For neither is Houston some tiny helpless entity, either. It is the fourth-most populous city in America and its GDP exceeds that of South Africa and North Carolina. It has the wherewithal to take care of its own, it just would rather the state of Texas do so.

      If we can expect South Africa and North Carolina to take care of themselves because they have such wherewithal, then you aren’t permitted to claim that Houston couldn’t take care of itself, either. Unless there is something special about state governments that grants them immunity from libertarianism?

      Further, you could make the same sorts of argument regarding the Port of Houston’s claim to aid from the City of Houston, or the Barbours Cut Terminal’s claim to aid from the Port of Houston. It’s wherewithals all the way down until all societal responsibilities are totally dissolved.

      • Brad says:

        There’s two arguments from consistency, depending on whether we are talking about libertarians or state’s rights / federalist / strict constructionist / small government conservatives.

        In the former case, I would think the answer would just be everyone privately insures (or not) and that’s that. In the latter case, the states are the right stopping point because under their theory of the US system of government states are the only fully general sovereign entities. Local government are creatures of state law and the federal government is one of limited and enumerated powers — and rebuilding after a natural disaster is not one of them.

        The reason I pointed out Texas’ size and wealth was to counter any argument about how states should theoretically take care of their own, but this disaster is just too big. If Idaho was hit by a really big natural disaster maybe it just wouldn’t have the capacity* but that’s not an issue here.

        * which raises the question of whether it should be a state in the first place

        • rahien.din says:

          See, I think those responses move some serious goalposts.

          In the case of “Everyone privately insures,” then everyone is regularly giving sums of money to a bureaucratic entity in order that they have some claim on relief in the case of a disaster. But this is still just subservience to a bureaucracy.

          (And unlike the government, that entity would be led by unelected persons who had only contractual responsibilities to their customers. That circumstance reduces to de facto taxation-without-representation.)

          In the case of “under the theory of the US system of government…” this clause is just a placeholder for “we arbitrarily decided that…” which doesn’t answer the halting problem. It codifies a halting problem.

          Should a state even exist if it does not have the capability to take care of itself?

          Now that’s an interesting question! Seems like that’s a question a first principle could spring from. Maybe :

          A composite governmental entity’s power over its component entities scales with the size of anticipated problems which its component entities are not capable of handling independently.

          The reason I pointed out Texas’ size and wealth was to counter any argument about how states should theoretically take care of their own, but this disaster is just too big.

          You’re right that the mere arithmetic shows that Texas could handle this thing on their own. But I think that misses the point entirely.

          Sure, Texas could pay for this whole thing themselves, but to do so would set them back in terms of liquidity and time. And that means there is a larger blip in Texas’ economy. I, for one, profit from Texas’ economy, and I would rather we give them aid so that there is as small of a blip as possible. I’m willing to pay for a larger system whereby states may lay some claim to aid. You brought up insurance. What would it look like if each of the 50 states was paying for natural disaster insurance?

          And this does not evade the halting problem. You could say the same things for each individual citizen. Should a citizen be politically free if they haven’t the wherewithal to rebuild their own house after a hurricane?

          • roystgnr says:

            Unelected? Every company I’ve ever done business with has been elected unanimously, by a vote of 1 in favor to 0 against. All but a handful of them allow me to unilaterally hold a vote of no confidence at any time, and the worst exception had a term of office of 2 years. They’re pretty good about limiting the influence of those elections, too, which is so nice that it shouldn’t be left unremarked upon. If a private insurer insisted on also making decisions about gay marriage we would treat that as absolutely insane, and we would be correct to do so, whereas in a public election for some reason we require the same people to be in charge of both sets of decisions.

          • rahien.din says:

            roystgnr,

            Unelected means “The company chooses its officers and leadership with no input from its customers.” (I presume that, if the government decided to choose executives and representatives without no input from its citizens, you would think this is worse than the current state of affairs.)

            Hey by the way, you chose your insurer? I didn’t get to choose mine. Neither did most of my patients. A lot of them wouldn’t have chosen the one that they have because – not kidding – their insurers do things that we think are absolutely insane.

            Sometimes I can cajole insurers into not doing absolutely insane things, but other times, my patients have to endure absolutely insane things indefinitely, to their detriment. For these patients, a “vote of no confidence” would mean “I will have to give up most of my take-home pay or my child will likely die from their seizures.”

            I have known some of these people to withdraw from high-paying, productive jobs and embrace poverty because getting their child on state-sponsored healthcare was the only way to get them the care they need.

            This is not an exaggeration. Neither is it limited to any particular state, particular insurer, or particular class of insurers.

            My dad almost lost his automobile insurance because of a string of accidents that were not his fault or the fault of anyone else on the policy. He was told to his face “You’re just a bad bet.

            But sure, the vote was still 1 in favor to 0 against.

          • JayT says:

            In the case of “Everyone privately insures,” then everyone is regularly giving sums of money to a bureaucratic entity in order that they have some claim on relief in the case of a disaster. But this is still just subservience to a bureaucracy.

            Not necessarily. People can insure themselves. You just need to have cash reserves that will replace what you have to lose.

            Unelected means “The company chooses its officers and leadership with no input from its customers.” (I presume that, if the government decided to choose executives and representatives without no input from its citizens, you would think this is worse than the current state of affairs.)

            There are thousands of unelected people in positions of great power. No one elected Rex Tillerson, but he has far more power than the average State Representative.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @JayT

            No one elected Rex Tillerson, but he has far more power than the average State Representative.

            He was indirectly voted into office by the states’ proxies (Senators). He also has ZERO power over the internal goings-on of a state, so I’d say that he has far less power than a state representative on matters important to a state.

            Even senior-executive-level management is not voted into power. Almost all lower-level people are always just hired, whether in land-based government or corporate-based government.

          • JayT says:

            He was indirectly voted into office by the states’ proxies (Senators).

            The argument was that companies choose their officers and leadership with no input from their customers. My point is that the government does this all the time. So while I could vote for the president, I don’t get a say in the Secretary of State, just like I can choose a company but get no say in the leadership. It’s the same thing either way.

            He also has ZERO power over the internal goings-on of a state, so I’d say that he has far less power than a state representative on matters important to a state.

            Except that I didn’t say anything about the matters of a single state. I said that he has more power than an average Representative. You can’t tell me that a single representative from, say, Wisconsin, has more power over an average American than Tillerson does. The Average American most likely isn’t even from Wisconsin.

          • rahien.din says:

            JayT,

            The argument was that companies choose their officers and leadership with no input from their customers. My point is that the government does this all the time.

            Companies choose their officers and leadership with no direct input from their customers.

            Government chooses its most important officers and leaders based on direct input from its constituents.

          • Matt M says:

            “Based on” is doing a lot of work there.

            Shareholders also elect directors, who hire and fire CEOs “based on” customer input (measured by profitability) as a matter of course.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @JayT

            You can’t tell me that a single representative from, say, Wisconsin, has more power over an average American than Tillerson does. The Average American most likely isn’t even from Wisconsin.

            Yes, and Bill Gates, Tim Cook, and Sindar Pichai have more power over the average human than Podunk’s elected dogcatcher. The average human isn’t from America much less Podunk, yet has used a smartphone or computer with software or hardware ultimately spec’d by these guys.

            The *key* decision making jobs are elected – in a Republic. And if not, and the populace decides otherwise, they are made elected positions. Any job else isn’t considered key enough to be elected.

          • @Rahie.din

            How do you square the Hippocratic Oath with the your enthusiasm for the death penalty?

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      In what world was any serious observer of politics under the impression that there are consistent and principled libertarian politicians with (R) next to their names?

      Yes, this is me saying anyone who takes the Pauls’ claims of libertarianism as consistent and principled is not a serious observer of politics.

    • J Mann says:

      Being charitable:

      1) At the time, Cruz stated that his opposition to the Sandy bill was over the scope of the bill – that large portions of it, while related to Sandy in some way, were for weather damage so distant in time or space that it wouldn’t normally be called emergency. If we are charitable to Cruz, there’s plenty of room for him to be campaigning for the same kind of targeted relief in Harvey that he advocated in Sandy.

      2) You’re right that national disaster relief isn’t consistent with strong form libertarian, and I would personally call Cruz a conservative with some libertarian leanings, not a libertarian. I think it’s consistent with that, FWIW.

      3) Lastly, even for a Rand Paul style libertarian, once you grant that the disaster relief system exists, I don’t think it’s ethically required to refrain from using it. I might think it’s wrong to use tax funds to order pizza for city council meetings, but you can be that once my funds have been used, I’m going to eat a slice.

      • Brad says:

        re: #1
        I’m willing to bet that all or most of the Harvey bills aren’t going to be “clean”. They’ll have a variety of other things in them. Do you think that’s going to mean Cruz will vote against them?

        re: #2
        It’s not consistent with the libertarian part *or* the American conservative part. The libertarian part because no government should be doing it, and the American conservative part because the federal government shouldn’t be doing it.

        Re: #3
        Agreed. If someone made that argument openly, I could respect it.

        • Evan Þ says:

          re #1, maybe, but that’s a political question and a question of scale as to whether X is “cleaner” than Y.

          re #3, Ron Paul was making that argument a lot when he included his district in spending bills. He didn’t make it too loudly, but it was there.

    • John Schilling says:

      This is a version of libertarianism I’ve never seen before. National defense and law courts, sure that’s minarchism. But who ever throws in disaster relief?

      Anybody who ever wants to win an election, or avoid a guillotining if they’ve somehow come to power without an election?

      Helping the innocent victims of a natural disaster is one of the more basic human urges. It is something that any vaguely government-like entity is going to be better at doing than anyone else in the neighborhood, in part because that “national defense” thing you agree the government should be doing is mostly logistics and very much the same sort of logistics as disaster relief. And it is a very efficient way of transforming dollars into votes. If, instead of actually winning the game of politics, you think it is imperative to make a speech about how all the hungry, homeless wretches should have had proper insurance policies, then you get to be a loser.

      Exactly how and to what extent the government helps disaster victims rebuild their lives, is negotiable. That fact that you will be subject to a government(*) which does that sort of thing, is not. If you’re in some third-world hellhole with absolutely nothing but starving people, one of whom has an AK-47, his first order of business is making sure all the Red Cross aid packages come through him so that he gets the credit and the authority. Maybe you as a libertarian have a better idea how to play that game. But it really is the only game in town.

      * By any other name, if you really insist.

      • Incurian says:

        Helping the innocent victims of a natural disaster is one of the more basic human urges. It is something that any vaguely government-like entity is going to be better at doing than anyone else in the neighborhood, in part because that “national defense” thing you agree the government should be doing is mostly logistics and very much the same sort of logistics as disaster relief.

        Is there evidence that [the US] government is best at disaster relief? I think it would be weird to claim they are best at logistics (though I could be wrong), and if their efficacy at disaster relief stems from their logistics, then something doesn’t sound right.

        Edited to add ignorable snark: have you met a loggy?

        • bean says:

          Is there evidence that [the US] government is best at disaster relief? I think it would be weird to claim they are best at logistics (though I could be wrong), and if their efficacy at disaster relief stems from their logistics, then something doesn’t sound right.

          Disaster relief basically comes down to transporting and distributing large quantities of food, water and shelter into areas where the normal distribution channels for these things are not working, probably because most of the infrastructure is gone. Do you have a candidate for an organization that is better than the US military at doing so?

          • Brad says:

            Those may be the most important components of disaster relief in terms of lives, but not in dollar terms. The bulk of dollars is spent on rebuilding and compensation for lost property.

            That looks more like what Swiss Re does than what the US Army does.

          • Incurian says:

            Disaster relief basically comes down to transporting and distributing large quantities of food, water and shelter into areas where the normal distribution channels for these things are not working

            I’m not sure that this is the case. Most of the supplies etc. are not being sent to the eye of the hurricane, they’re being staged outside the worst of it (I presume, correct me if I’m wrong). So from this point of view, the problem is a huge surge in demand that the normal system is not accustomed to, and I imagine Amazon et al are better at making that adjustment. I don’t deny that the government has a lot of resources, but I do doubt their ability to get the right things to the right place at the right time compared to Amazon (or whoever). For example, H-E-B (the local grocery chain in Texas) supposedly diverted a bunch of trucks to the Houston area, I imagine others did the same. I’m wondering if there are studies that measure a) who all the disaster relief players are, b) what they brought to the table (and was it the right stuff), c) how quickly did they bring it, and d) did it get to the consumers who needed it most. I’m willing to believe the winner might be the government, but I’ll move the goalpost a little and say they need to be compared to the aggregate non-government relief. I’d also be interested to see what the stats look like for search and rescue, comparing the Coast Guard (or whoever) to the Cajun Navy and similar.

            Here is where I’m coming from: I have a strong prior that the government is incompetent, even at the stuff they’re supposedly good at, and we only even suppose they’re good at it because people will tend to rely on them and assume they’re good at it and not try to replace them (or they have an actual monopoly), or because it’s hard to compete with an organization that can endlessly throw other people’s money at problems they aren’t good at solving. Also I’ve been getting a lot of my news from Reason which is emphasizing the efforts of private organizations and downplaying the government efforts, so it’s quite possible they are skewing the reality greatly.

          • bean says:

            I’m not sure that this is the case. Most of the supplies etc. are not being sent to the eye of the hurricane, they’re being staged outside the worst of it (I presume, correct me if I’m wrong). So from this point of view, the problem is a huge surge in demand that the normal system is not accustomed to, and I imagine Amazon et al are better at making that adjustment.

            I’m not sure about that either way (as I’m not an expert on civilian logistics systems), but I’d challenge your theory on that being the extent of the logistics problem. You have a big stock of supplies sitting somewhere outside Houston. You have a bunch of people in Houston who need the supplies. How do you bring them together? Amazon can’t take them any farther. Their distribution system in Houston is a mess. Everyone is at home dealing with their own problems, the roads are blocked, and their warehouse is flooded, so all of their inventory control stuff is offline. The military has lots of people who are all on-duty and available, they can clear the roads and have a portable inventory-control system. They’re set up to house lots of people with minimal facilities on short notice. And the government as a whole has the ability and authority to coordinate between a bunch of different organizations. Comparing the Cajun Navy to the Coast Guard is sort of missing the point. The Cajun Navy isn’t that useful on its own, because the typical member has no experience in how to deal with the people rescued. They don’t know what areas are safe to drop people off in and what areas will flood tomorrow. Even if they did, are they supposed to supply the evacuees with food and shelter? What about fuel for their boats? I’m not trying to denigrate the people who did the work. The Cajun Navy works because the government (at whatever level) tells them to drop off people in a specific spot, and then either takes care of them or arranges for others to take care of them there. I don’t think we’re faced with a binary choice here, and both elements have their functions.

          • Incurian says:

            Fair enough.

          • I have heard that with Katrina, Federal workers actively forced private actors out of the way for interfering. Like Incurian, this matches my priors, but I quite often those who think it’s obvious the Feds could do the best job are acting on their priors.

            I think one could make a good case that if the Feds stayed out of Houston totally, private charities and entrepreneurs could do just as good a job of providing help for those affected by the hurricane. Presumably there’d be more people wiped out financially, but people are wiped out financially by bad luck every day. Why should the Feds only provide massive help to victims when they happen in one large, visible episode, rather than one at a time? The victims of the hurricane should receive the normal aid from insurance and welfare that anyone with bad luck gets, but not special help because it is highly televised bad luck.

          • keranih says:

            You have a bunch of people in Houston who need the supplies. How do you bring them together?

            The people come to the supplies, or the supplies come to the people, in the same way as done normally – through communication of supply and demand.

            Logistics at any level is understanding the demand signal and routing supplies to meet it. Disasters both disrupt demand signal transmission and temporarily spike demand as well as disrupt the supply routing system.

            The government, via the military, can use a centralized system to force more supply though a new supply channel. And the government can force information about supply through some communication networks.
            But it can’t do flexible delivery and it can’t do small lot responses anywhere as easily a decentralized system.

            The military has lots of people [snip] they can clear the roads and have a portable inventory-control system.

            You don’t want the military clearing roads. They will break both the things on the road and the things immediately off the roads as they go.
            And the military is not set up for distributing supplies to individuals, they’re set up for dropping stuff to groups.

            They’re set up to house lots of people with minimal facilities on short notice.

            Not *really*. Short notice, people are sleeping on the ground. Tents are for important things like radios and ammunition and other things that can’t get wet or dusty. Two-three weeks in, sure, everyone is in a tent. But not right away.

            And the government as a whole has the ability and authority to coordinate between a bunch of different organizations.

            At the cost of being extremely slow and repeatedly subject to miscommunication (like the game of telephone). Also, ‘authority’ is generally used to delay and channel response, not speed it up.

            The Cajun Navy isn’t that useful on its own, because the typical member has no experience in how to deal with the people rescued.

            Don’t need to. Your typical helo pilot doesn’t know how to house or shelter evacuees, either. And they don’t know what’s gonna flood when either – there were official shelters that got flooded out in Houston, plus the Superdome. (*)

            I’m not at all knocking the Coast Guard for the job they do – they did a great job, and so is the Red Cross, etc. And there were doubtlessly some issues with some individual rescue efforts. But so long as people have the ability (and desire) to freely cross communicate outside of official government channels, the private effort can outperform the government one. When there are barriers – use of violence, restricted equipment, legal borders, loss of communication – sure, the central organized effort comes out ahead.

            I think the lesson from this is that we should make it easier for people to help themselves and each other, and the government at all levels focus on the thing we’ve agreed the government *must* do.

            (*) Way back in the day, I talked to one of the Red Cross people who had wargamed NOLA response, prior to Katrina. The RC refused to establish any shelters south of I-10, due to the low ground, and wanted nothing to do with the Superdome.

          • bean says:

            The people come to the supplies, or the supplies come to the people, in the same way as done normally – through communication of supply and demand.

            Who is moving the supplies and/or people? We’ve already established that normal logistics have broken down after the depot.

            The government, via the military, can use a centralized system to force more supply though a new supply channel. And the government can force information about supply through some communication networks.
            But it can’t do flexible delivery and it can’t do small lot responses anywhere as easily a decentralized system.

            Obviously, the military has no incentive to do flexible delivery. It’s not like they have any motive at all to be able to distribute stuff in bad terrain to lots of small groups of people on short notice.

            You don’t want the military clearing roads. They will break both the things on the road and the things immediately off the roads as they go.

            1. I don’t think you understand military engineering. Yes, they do have the capability to clear the road quickly and violently. They also have the capability to do so more slowly and gently. And if there’s been a hurricane, then not doing any damage to local property isn’t likely to be high on their list of priorities anyway.
            2. Who should we want clearing the roads? The local road department is very overwhelmed. Or do we just wait for volunteers to show up?

            And the military is not set up for distributing supplies to individuals, they’re set up for dropping stuff to groups.

            Which is really nice when you have a bunch of people in the local high school on top of a hill because their houses are flooded. Again, the military is not a complete panacea. But it’s a really useful element, because it is good at things that nobody else has much reason to be good at.

            Not *really*. Short notice, people are sleeping on the ground. Tents are for important things like radios and ammunition and other things that can’t get wet or dusty. Two-three weeks in, sure, everyone is in a tent. But not right away.

            I have a friend whose unit got activated to provide tents to the firefighters in the northwest. I don’t think they were expecting it to take two-three weeks to get set up. Also, seriously, what’s your source on this?

            Don’t need to. Your typical helo pilot doesn’t know how to house or shelter evacuees, either.

            That’s more or less my point. Pointing to one area where private response does work really well misses the fact that there are lots of moving parts in disaster relief, and different groups at different levels will do them well. The helo pilot doesn’t have to shelter evacuees because he has someone else standing behind him to do that (and another guy to get that guy food and tents) as part of his organization. The Cajun Navy guy doesn’t come with that, so somebody else has to do it.

            And they don’t know what’s gonna flood when either – there were official shelters that got flooded out in Houston, plus the Superdome. (*)

            Houston got massively more water than they expected. If none of the shelters got flooded, then they were too conservative with their setup. As for the Superdome, governments in Louisiana incompetent and corrupt, more at 11. I’d bet $5 that the government planning did better than letting people take their own guesses in Houston as to where shelters should go.

            When there are barriers – use of violence, restricted equipment, legal borders, loss of communication – sure, the central organized effort comes out ahead.

            You’ve just defined the exact conditions that occur during a disaster. What happens when the cell network goes down? The military has the equipment to work around it. Your decentralized disaster relief effort is now blind.

            I think the lesson from this is that we should make it easier for people to help themselves and each other, and the government at all levels focus on the thing we’ve agreed the government *must* do.

            I am absolutely not knocking private aid. I’m pushing back against the idea that it’s the only best answer to all problems in disaster relief. And I think we’ve learned quite a bit from Katrina about how to integrate the various players.

          • keranih says:

            I am absolutely not knocking private aid. I’m pushing back against the idea that it’s the only best answer to all problems in disaster relief. And I think we’ve learned quite a bit from Katrina about how to integrate the various players.

            I agree that we’ve learned quite a bit from Katrina, and that one of the most important things is that decentralizing things is tremendously important. I in turn am pushing back against the idea that the government, and in particular the military, is the “only best answer” to remaining problems.

            Who is moving the supplies and/or people? We’ve already established that normal logistics have broken down after the depot.

            Normal logistics have been disrupted, not broken down. People can and do almost immediately find ways to re-route people and supplies past logjams, once the immediate life saving stage is past.

            Obviously, the military has no incentive to do flexible delivery. It’s not like they have any motive at all to be able to distribute stuff in bad terrain to lots of small groups of people on short notice.

            You’re being sarcastic. The military works very well at delivering pre-established sets of things along pre-established lines between integrated nodes of interconnected groups. It’s really not great at getting novel stuff moved, or to individuals outside of those nodes, and when the military does start working outside the established lines, it’s by doing the sort of “throw out the rules and sort it later” that private groups would be doing anyway.

            That the military is the best there is at getting a box of ammo to a random squad on a random hill in Afghanistan while that hill is under mortar fire doesn’t mean that the military is the best at getting goods to people in damp neighborhoods in coastal Texas.

            If the roads don’t have to be cleared quick, you don’t need to use the military. Who should do it? Probably the same people who move fire fighting equipment and supplies during a major firefighting effort – local guys with trucks. They don’t have to be volunteers – local municipalities hire guys for this regularly. Hurricane response would be much larger, but it’s the same thing.

            As for the capability to do tent response – most of the military responders to Harvey were sleeping in available quarters like schools, etc. Just as they would be in any contingency in the first wave. Two-three weeks is the time to expect to have everyone settled in tents. If a group was sent in to be the extra bodies to set up pre-staged tents, that’s different, and could move faster.

            I’d bet $5 that the government planning did better than letting people take their own guesses in Houston as to where shelters should go.

            …What’s your parameters on that – that with years of focus groups and hiring a contractor to work the issue, the Houston disaster management managed to outperform citizenry reacting to the rising waters in real time? Sure, that’s a good bet. It’s not clear that the government’s planning doesn’t just come down to a best guess in many cases.

            >>>When there are barriers – use of violence, restricted equipment, legal borders, loss of communication – sure, the central organized effort comes out ahead.

            You’ve just defined the exact conditions that occur during a disaster. What happens when the cell network goes down? The military has the equipment to work around it. Your decentralized disaster relief effort is now blind.

            No, violence and legal barriers are *not* the exact conditions of all disasters. In fact, both were remarkably *absent* in Houston – which is another way that Houston is not NOLA.(*) In a situation where all the cell towers were down, yes, the military has radios and sat phones (and more importantly, is usually at least a little practiced in using them.) But many people would be surprised at how much the military depends on email and cell phones for operational work.

            I don’t think that the government is as incompetent as Incurian does, but imo the best thing the government can do for disaster response is communication and coordination, reducing the barriers (like violence) and in general getting out of the way so individuals and companies can do the bulk of responding.

          • Matt M says:

            Normal logistics have been disrupted, not broken down. People can and do almost immediately find ways to re-route people and supplies past logjams, once the immediate life saving stage is past.

            I live pretty close to downtown Houston, and the day after the worst of the flooding, there was a meat truck making a delivery to the Vietnamese restaurant across the street from me, at a time when tons of roads were still flooded and “shelter in place” was still being blared from all the news stations.

            If they could figure it out, I’m pretty sure UPS/Fedex/Amazon could too.

          • bean says:

            I in turn am pushing back against the idea that the government, and in particular the military, is the “only best answer” to remaining problems.

            I’m not sure if we’re in violent agreement or not on this one. For the first few days, the military is going to be immensely valuable. Past that, they lose a lot of their edge. I am definitely not saying that they should do everything.

            You’re being sarcastic. The military works very well at delivering pre-established sets of things along pre-established lines between integrated nodes of interconnected groups. It’s really not great at getting novel stuff moved, or to individuals outside of those nodes, and when the military does start working outside the established lines, it’s by doing the sort of “throw out the rules and sort it later” that private groups would be doing anyway.

            Of course that was sarcasm. But I really think you overestimate how predictable military operations are. Our military spends a lot of time working with all sorts of people, who don’t normally work on the established lines. At least in Houston, most everyone speaks English, and you can probably trust the person who claims to be local government. This isn’t true in a lot of places we’ve worked over the past 15 years.

            That the military is the best there is at getting a box of ammo to a random squad on a random hill in Afghanistan while that hill is under mortar fire doesn’t mean that the military is the best at getting goods to people in damp neighborhoods in coastal Texas.

            Who is going to be best, then? Again, I’m not saying that the military is a 100% solution, but I don’t see anyone who is going to reliably beat them in a case like this. Yes, they probably deliver the goods to the local relief station, instead of going door-to-door.

            If the roads don’t have to be cleared quick, you don’t need to use the military. Who should do it? Probably the same people who move fire fighting equipment and supplies during a major firefighting effort – local guys with trucks. They don’t have to be volunteers – local municipalities hire guys for this regularly. Hurricane response would be much larger, but it’s the same thing.

            1. I think we’re using different definitions of ‘quickly’ here. I meant that they were under fire, or something of that nature. The sort of situation where you break out the explosives. That is not the only capability the military has. They plan to go places where there are no trustworthy locals they can farm stuff like this out on, so they come with chainsaws in addition to the C-4.
            2. The guys who normally do these jobs are scattered all over, and can’t be reached by phone because the cell network is down. Sending the military in gives you a group of reliable people. They aren’t going to need to run off to their families. And there’s going to be more work than the local system is set up to support, almost by definition.

            As for the capability to do tent response – most of the military responders to Harvey were sleeping in available quarters like schools, etc. Just as they would be in any contingency in the first wave. Two-three weeks is the time to expect to have everyone settled in tents. If a group was sent in to be the extra bodies to set up pre-staged tents, that’s different, and could move faster.

            I think you’re getting too hung up on this ‘tent’ thing. If they were sleeping in schools, it’s because someone decided that putting them in schools was a better use of resources than putting them in tents, which makes a lot of sense. That does not say they couldn’t be in tents if they needed to, just that they can use the shipping and people for other things.

            …What’s your parameters on that – that with years of focus groups and hiring a contractor to work the issue, the Houston disaster management managed to outperform citizenry reacting to the rising waters in real time? Sure, that’s a good bet.

            My point exactly.

            It’s not clear that the government’s planning doesn’t just come down to a best guess in many cases.

            And your proposed alternative is? Nobody but the government has the incentive to do much planning. Except maybe the Red Cross, and they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory lately.

            I don’t think that the government is as incompetent as Incurian does, but imo the best thing the government can do for disaster response is communication and coordination, reducing the barriers (like violence) and in general getting out of the way so individuals and companies can do the bulk of responding.

            I think we may be arguing definitions here. I’m not saying that the government should do everything. But I think that they have important jobs, too.

        • toastengineer says:

          Seems like the best folks at logistics would be at UPS and FedEx, not in FEMA. And in any case, people who are good at military logistics in the government are going to be working on… military logistics, not disaster relief. The government isn’t one thinking entity that can be good at things.

          • Incurian says:

            I have heard from some National Guard people that when they’re called up for an emergency, they’re primarily thought of as extra bodies and equipment; FEMA is not interested in using their expertise. Can anyone confirm or deny?

          • John Schilling says:

            FEMA may not do the best job of delivering critical goods and services to hurricane-devastated areas, but at least they try – even for people who have lost everything and can’t pay right now. FedEx and UPS, offer explanations as to why it’s not their job to try that sort of thing, and when they get around to trying you’d best have a valid credit card. These aren’t the logisticians you are looking for. Well, they aren’t the ones someone living on the streets of Houston looking for a bottle of clean water, is looking for.

          • toastengineer says:

            Well, I hate to go Full Ancap here, but… here goes, consider this roughly 50% Devil’s Advocate-ing:

            I’m not sure “they don’t do it now so they can’t do it” is really a valid argument since the government is doing it. If UPS or Amazon thought they could make money providing disaster relief services I imagine they’d do pretty well at it.

            Sure “get supplies to people in an environment where the entire problem is that all the normal ways of doing that are not working” is a very different problem than “get packages of various sizes to as many people as predictably as possible” but presumably if they were in the business of disaster relief they would do things like build their warehouses to be able to stay open through flooding and such.

            Sure the “better hope you brought you wallet” thing is a legitimate criticism, how much help you get in an emergency shouldn’t be a function of your financial status, but it seems to me like that’s the kind of situation where your options are to have to pay for it or not have it available at all.

          • John Schilling says:

            If UPS or Amazon thought they could make money providing disaster relief services I imagine they’d do pretty well at it.

            That’s a pretty big “if”, and even if we grant that, what is the basis for assuming that someone whose business model is based on optimizing logistics for the just-in-time, high-infrastructure case is going to do “pretty well” at exactly the opposite sort of logistics?

            how much help you get in an emergency shouldn’t be a function of your financial status, but it seems to me like that’s the kind of situation where your options are to have to pay for it or not have it available at all.

            Isn’t the whole point of the discussion we are having that this is clearly, demonstrably not the case? There is the third option of having a government provide emergency assistance to everyone affected by a disaster, regardless of their financial status. An option which is actually implemented to some extent pretty much everywhere humans live. An option that can leverage off existing investment in crisis logistics (aka warfighting) that even libertarians acknowledge as a necessary and legitimate government function, giving governments an economic edge over hypothetical for-profit disaster relief corporations.

            Only if you are fanatically devoted to the proposition that the government must not do this benevolent thing, are the only options to pay for the private sector to do the thing for pay or not have it done at all.

          • CatCube says:

            I don’t know that anybody could make money on doing disaster relief, except for one-off rescues of rich people at extremely high prices. Half of the problem is opening roads, which is not cheap, nor is it something that FedEx and UPS have any equipment or institutional knowledge in doing.

          • quaelegit says:

            @toastengineer

            I’m not sure “they don’t do it now so they can’t do it” is really a valid argument since the government is doing it. If UPS or Amazon thought they could make money providing disaster relief services I imagine they’d do pretty well at it.

            True. But it is reason to doubt that they’d be better at it than FEMA, who does do it now. You can’t compare effectiveness of two organizations if one has to help everyone who asks but the other can choose to help only those who are easy to help.

          • gbdub says:

            I suspect, were Amazon et al to try to get into a for-profit disaster relief game, they’d be immediately criticized for profiteering. The blowback wouldn’t be worth it.

            I mean, consider how much grief Uber got for surge pricing. And in Harvey, I saw people flipping out because a store was charging the equivalent of about $3 a bottle for cases of water (nevermind that your average amusement park charges more).

          • JayT says:

            I believe the reason they were charging the $3 a bottle for a flat of water was because they don’t normally sell flats, just single bottles. So when they decided to sell bulk water they just multiplied their regular price by the number of bottles.

          • toastengineer says:

            @qualegit

            Well, this conversation isn’t really likely to get anywhere unless we have data on just how good FEMA is at its job. I expect it to be terrible because in my experience with government organizations I’ve found them to be uniformly incredibly terrible, but it seems like neither of us know for sure.

            Presumably in Ancapistan there’d be some company that flies quadrocopters around bottles of Perrier dangling from them and uses facial recognition to figure out who to send the bill to.

            More seriously; I suppose the state or city government could pay a private relief organization per person removed from the disaster area; that’d be a hard metric to game without people complaining about being kidnapped.

            Without the state I’m not so sure; maybe your life insurance company would require you to have disaster relief insurance as well or something? Maybe there’d be general “a bad thing happened to me” insurance that would cover ambulances, for-profit fire departments, and getting you out of disaster areas?

            Big rare expensive things are in general a really hard thing for stateless societies to deal with.

          • Aapje says:

            @toastengineer

            Pretty much any disaster relief is going to be far from optimal, because much of it is improvisation, working with people who are not trained to work together effectively, people using equipment that they don’t commonly use or not in this way, loads being put on resources that is far above normal and thus exceeds what they can gracefully handle, etc, etc.

            If you want to do better at this, you need frequent training* and spending a lot of money on resources that are rarely used, which is immensely expensive (and disruptive) if you want it at a level where little goes wrong during a disaster. People are generally not willing to pay that much for so little gain.

            So invariably, any and all post-disaster reviews are going to point out many problems and mistakes, but this is to be expected given our unwillingness to pay enough for this not to happen. So it is a given that FEMA is not great at handling an emergency. The real question is whether they suck more than is reasonable.

            * This is a major reason why the military is so useful for large scale disasters, because we are willing to pay them enough to build up reserve capacity for (semi-)rare events (like war) and for them to train a whole lot, at high expense and little direct benefit.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Catcube:

            “I don’t know that anybody could make money on doing disaster relief, except for one-off rescues of rich people at extremely high prices. Half of the problem is opening roads, which is not cheap, nor is it something that FedEx and UPS have any equipment or institutional knowledge in doing.”

            There are a lot of people getting paid at the Red Cross. You get paid for doing disaster relief through contributions and grants from outside the disaster zone.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @ toastengineer:

            Seems like the best folks at logistics would be at UPS and FedEx, not in FEMA.

            I would have gone with Walmart. When it comes to getting stuff from all over the world to where people need it most despite all obstacles between the two, Walmart has great logistics mastery and also has an emergency operations center and a strong inclination towards charitable effort.

          • Matt M says:

            Keep in mind that FEMA has been known to estimate the damage to local infrastructure by examining the status of Waffle House restaurants

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Until they made it public, the Waffle House Index looks like a good metric.

    • Randy M says:

      There was an early (pre TV, at least) president who famously vetoed a bill for assistance on constitutional grounds. Not famously enough for me to remember who, unfortunately.

    • gbdub says:

      Oh come on. The NYT is criticizing Cruz for supporting something the NYT agrees with. If Cruz had done anything else, the NYT headline would be “Cruz Cruelly Denies Aid to Harvey Victims: Women and Minorities Hardest Hit”.

      Cruz is inconsistent (as are his constituents). So is almost every other politician across the spectrum.

      The idea that this implicates libertarianism as a value system in any way is just straight weakmanning.

      • he idea that this implicates libertarianism as a value system in any way is just straight weakmanning.

        Libertariansim has more problems than many ideologies, because it is more out of sync with common moral intuitions than most. See Haidt.

        • onyomi says:

          I think it’s more in sync with common moral intuitions than most ideologies. It’s just less in sync with common ideas about objective reality (like society can’t function without a state).

          • Everyone believes in property rights and personal liberty, almost everyone believes in a ton of other stuff too. Because of the Other Stuff, “just deal with you own disaster, it’s not my problem” is an extraordinary claim.

            I mean, why would it even be necessary to write a book telling everyone who ins’t a libertarian that they are doing morality wrong.

          • onyomi says:

            “just deal with you own disaster, it’s not my problem” is an extraordinary claim.

            I don’t think I’ll ever convince you of this, but “fuck you, I got mine,” is not the essence of libertarianism.

            Also, this thread is an isolated demand for rigor: why are left-leaning politicians allowed to have socialist leanings without being called out for inconsistency every time they buy a product of capitalism or support any non-strictly-socialist policy?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Onyomi –

            Against libertarianism and socialism both, the impracticality is a large part of the rhetorical defense; with socialism, the problem is that attempts implement it have been made, with terrible consequences. Thus, given the models are negative, the arguments tends towards supporters denying the membership of the negative figures.

            With libertarians, the figures are generally regarded as positive, so it is the opponents who try to undermine the idea of membership of those people, or their adherence to principles many suspect might be more morally correct, but significantly less effective or practical, than their own.

            That said, the idea that Cruz is libertarian is laughable in the first place. He is at best a small government conservative, which many of my fellow leftists have trouble distinguishing from libertarianism. (Outgroup homogeneity and all that)

          • onyomi says:

            @Thegnskald

            I’d agree with you that Cruz is not a principled libertarian. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard him claim to be. He probably would describe himself as “a constitutional conservative with libertarian leanings,” or something like that.

            My point is, why is socialism considered an okay admixture of a not-pure-socialism platform, but a strain of libertarianism cannot be present in a not-pure-libertarianism platform?

            Also, even if a genuinely committed ideological libertarian gets into office, I don’t think it’s obvious that the principled position is just to vote “no” on everything on the theory that the government shouldn’t exist in the first place. The government exists now and society is built around that fact. If I were somehow elected to high office my first priority would be stopping the government spending money on actively harmful things, rather than stopping it doing things I think the private sector should and probably would do if everyone weren’t counting on the government to do it for them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @onyomi, aren’t the progressive crowd constantly snarling at mainstream democrats as “neo-liberals?”

          • Brad says:

            @onyomi

            I’d agree with you that Cruz is not a principled libertarian. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard him claim to be. He probably would describe himself as “a constitutional conservative with libertarian leanings,” or something like that.

            As I’ve pointed out, the federal government paying to rebuild Houston and everything in it is not just anti-libertarian (leaning) it is also anti-small government conservative, anti-federalist, anti-constitutional conservative.

            The only part of the right coalition where this fits in philosophically in the Donald Trump hardhat populist wing — which isn’t economically conservative to begin with.

            Ted Cruz has emphatically distanced himself from that, instead casting himself as an intelligent, well read, thoughtful, principled conservative. Turns out he isn’t.

          • Also, this thread is an isolated demand for rigor: why are left-leaning politicians allowed to have socialist leanings without being called out for inconsistency every time they buy a product of capitalism or support any non-strictly-socialist policy?

            Because “left leaning” doesn’t mean “wants to tear down capitalism”. And where someone does want to tear down capitalism, like the Occupy protestors, people do complain about them slurping Starbuck’s. They of course respond “that’s the system we’re in..”.

            I don’t think I’ll ever convince you of this, but “fuck you, I got mine,” is not the essence of libertarianism.

            if you are going to go around saying selfishness is a virtue, what do you expect?

            You seem to be complaining about misperception, but if there is data to support the perception you don’t like…what do you expect? There is a solution to this sort of thing, and it consists of official doctrine, membership, and excommunication. The message you send is the part of the process you control.

          • Randy M says:

            if you are going to go around saying selfishness is a virtue, what do you expect?

            Not all libertarianism is based on Rand.

          • onyomi says:

            Not all libertarianism is based on Rand.

            Nor Straw-Rand.

            (I think she made a strategic error in insisting on her own, idiosyncratic definition of “selfishness,” but that doesn’t excuse all the strawmanning she gets).

          • And if there are different schools of libertarianism, how about making that clear? There are selfish libertarians and Randian libertarians, and if you are going to call yourself by the same name, the confusion is going to be inevitable. Fix communication problems at the sending end , because you don’t control the receiving end.

            Ditto “idiosyncratic definitions”. It is pointless to blame people for getting you wrong when you are being wilfully misleading! It actually does excuse the strawmanning. You can’t write as though everyone is going to invest infinite resources in trying to understand you.

          • onyomi says:

            @Brad

            Ted Cruz has emphatically distanced himself from that, instead casting himself as an intelligent, well read, thoughtful, principled conservative. Turns out he isn’t.

            If someone doesn’t share your judgment about which hill his principles ought to obligate him to die on, that just proves he has no principles?

            I don’t claim to know that Ted Cruz is genuinely a principled guy; I also don’t think you know he isn’t, at least not because of this.

          • onyomi says:

            @AncientGeek

            You can’t write as though everyone is going to invest infinite resources in trying to understand you.

            Okay, but why do you continue to fight Straw Rand when Straw Rand doesn’t post here but several actual libertarians who don’t agree with her or use her terminology do?

          • Randy M says:

            There are selfish libertarians and Randian libertarians, and if you are going to call yourself by the same name, the confusion is going to be inevitable

            Right, the lady who wrote about selfishness being a virtue should have differentiated her movement. Oh, wait…

            Can you find another (influential) libertarian who says, full stop, selfishness is a virtue, as opposed to things like “State power when abused is far more dangerous than non-governmental power” or “Free markets organize more efficient systems than central planning”, other popular justifications for libertarianism?

          • I think I have already explained this

            Your initial claim was that it was wrong to think that libertarianism has anything to do with selfishness. But, as I pointed out, some forms of it clearly do. I am not saying “Rand bad” , I am saying that blaming the listener is unreasonable in various ways, not least the fact that there are valid signals to the effect that “(some) libertarians are selfish” out there. Are you going to stop being all defensive and start thinking about coming up with a rational solution to the PR issue?

          • Oh, wait…

            yes, I’m aware of that, but there are still lots of people who self-identify as libertarians and also say they are influenced by Rand. There is nothing like a catholic-protestant split.

            Can you find another (influential) libertarian who says, full stop, selfishness is a virtue, as opposed to things like “State power when abused is far more dangerous than governmental power” or “Free markets organize more efficient systems than central planning”, other popular justifications for libertarianism?

            If there’s anything to that, it rests on the (influential). I’ve encountered loads of full-on fuck you types.

          • John Schilling says:

            And if there are different schools of libertarianism, how about making that clear?

            How? I mean, we could try showing up every single time someone uses straw-objectivisim or straw-anarchocapitalism as a synonym for libertarianism and butt in with “…no, most libertarians actually don’t want to see things end up like that, here’s how we mostly would handle things like e.g. disaster relief”. And we do that, like we’re doing it now. To a nigh-universal response of “You’re obviously not a real libertarian, the real libertarians are assholes, look, here’s where a real libertarian said to be an asshole”. Then the next time anything similar comes up, out come the Randian and Ancap strawmen.

            Communication requires at least some effort from both sides.

          • Randy M says:

            I’ve encountered loads of full-on fuck you types.

            Fuck-you because libertarian, or Libertarian because of fuck-you? This matters because you said “Libertariansim has more problems than many ideologies, because it is more out of sync with common moral intuitions than most”, and if people are using libertarianism to justify their innate selfishness, it seems that, at the least, it isn’t clashing with this common moral intuition.

          • Communication requires at least some effort from both sides.

            But you can only exert control on your side. Theres a point to stepping up your efforts , and there is a point to giving up, but there is no point to making an insufficient effort and then shifting the blame.

          • and if people are using libertarianism to justify their innate selfishness, it seems that, at the least, it isn’t clashing with this common moral intuition

            .

            Err…you seem to be assuming that anything innate counts as moral….

          • Randy M says:

            Err…you seem to be assuming that anything innate counts as moral….

            Fair enough. I would define “moral intuitions” as innate inclinations about how to behave, which may not map well to reasoned moral decisions or philosophical conclusions. Is this nonstandard?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Theres a point to stepping up your efforts , and there is a point to giving up, but there is no point to making an insufficient effort and then shifting the blame.

            We seem to be at the point where each side believes it is the other side which has exerted insufficient effort and then shifted blame.

            Looking back up the thread, I see yours as the first comment that brings up “selfishness is a virtue” as if it means “fuck you, I got mine”. Oddly, however, that comment simultaneously recognizes that it’s associated with a very detailed argument about why the two aren’t the same. That is to say: someone did go through the effort.

            Did you read the link that you linked? What did you think afterward?

          • don’t think I’ll ever convince you of this, but “fuck you, I got mine,” is not the essence of libertarianism.

            if you are going to go around saying selfishness is a virtue, what do you expect?

            1. Ayn Rand explicitly denied that she was a libertarian. I think she was wrong, but that was her view.

            2. Rand’s definition of selfishness is very far from “fuck you, I got mine.”

          • Fix communication problems at the sending end , because you don’t control the receiving end.

            I don’t control the sending end either. There is no way that I, as a libertarian, can keep someone else from self-identifying as a libertarian.

            Ditto “idiosyncratic definitions”. It is pointless to blame people for getting you wrong when you are being wilfully misleading!

            To be willfully misleading she would have to be trying to mislead people, rather than using an idiosyncratic terminology that she thinks best expresses her ideas. People who choose to straw man her are not saying “I wonder what she means by that–I should take a look at the book to see.” They are saying “wonderful, this gives me a way of trashing Rand.”

          • I don’t control the sending end either. There is no way that I, as a libertarian, can keep someone else from self-identifying as a libertarian

            .

            Not as an individual, but collectively you can form a Official Non Randian Libertarian party.

            Parties and manifestos are much more legible than “essences”.

          • Not as an individual, but collectively you can form a Official Non Randian Libertarian party.

            There is a Libertarian Party. It’s neither Randian nor non-Randian, and in any case, Objectivists are not the people who describe themselves as libertarians and shouldn’t–if anything they are inclined to the opposite error.

            The custom among libertarians is to use “Libertarian” to refer to a member of the LP, “libertarian” to refer to someone with libertarian views whether or not he is a member of the LP–as it happens I am not.

            But none of that gives libertarians a method, individually or collectively, of preventing someone from claiming to be libertarian who isn’t. So I still do not see how you expect libertarians to fix the problem at the sending end.

          • There is a Libertarian Party. It’s neither Randian nor non-Randian, and in any case, Objectivists are not the people who describe themselves as libertarians and shouldn’t–if anything they are inclined to the opposite error.

            They’re inclined to excommunication if that is what you mean. And it has its drawbacks. As does non-excomunnication.

            But none of that gives libertarians a method, individually or collectively, of preventing someone from claiming to be libertarian who isn’t.

            If you have membership cards, you can prevent someone saying they are a card-carrying L’ian by taking their card away. That’s the advantage of excommunication. If you choose not to go down that route, you need to understand that you are going to suffer some disadvantages, notably the thing that is being mischaracterised as strawmanning. It isn’t strawmanning because it has a basis. You are expecting people to be able to figure out some kind of “real” or “essential” L’ism based on ideas in your head, rather than anything legible.

      • Brad says:

        I didn’t suggest it implicates libertarianism as a system. The system has an answer. At least when it comes to rebuilding after a hurricane, I think it is a pretty decent answer.

        My problem is with shitty people, specifically those I named in the post but also many others, that dress up their ad hoc preferences rooted in greed, prejudice, and ignorance in ‘libertarian leaning’, ‘small government conservative’, ‘strict constructionist’, etc. Far too often there’s no there there. I don’t see why we pretend there is.

        • gbdub says:

          Who is this “we” you talk about? Who are these “many others”? How do you justify dismissing their positions as rooted in “greed, prejudice, and ignorance”? I guess “it is known”, to borrow a snark of yours.

          You spend half your posts on this board policing everyone else’s arguments, and then you turn in a long weak man, isolated demand for rigor, lump everyone I don’t like into a group and assume they all believe the same thing post.

          The fact that Republicans are wishy washy on their supposed values is not some brilliant new point you’ve discovered, it has in fact been a large force in Republican politics for years going back to at least late GWB and was a large part of the motivation for the Tea Party, and later/uglier part of the justification for Trump. “Supports the value until it hurts me” is also the most common failing of politicians of all stripes since forever.

          And even beyond all that, you’ve still just assumed, rather than effectively argued, that “supports disaster relief in the form of rebuilding funds for major disasters” is so completely antithetical to the basis of libertarianism and fiscal conservatism (and even “libertarian leaning”) that anyone who fails to speak out against rebuilding funds in the immediate wake of a disaster is “shitty”.

          • Brad says:

            And even beyond all that, you’ve still just assumed, rather than effectively argued, that “supports disaster relief in the form of rebuilding funds for major disasters” is so completely antithetical to the basis of libertarianism and fiscal conservatism (and even “libertarian leaning”) that anyone who fails to speak out against rebuilding funds in the immediate wake of a disaster is “shitty”.

            Please explain to me how the federal government paying to rebuild fancy houses owned by rich people that didn’t choose insure against water and wind damage comports with libertarianism or fiscal conservatism in a way that helping poor people buy food or medical care (or god forbid cell phones) doesn’t. I’d love to understand the distinction.

          • Matt M says:

            Please explain to me how the federal government paying to rebuild fancy houses owned by rich people that didn’t choose insure against water and wind damage

            Is this actually happening?

            I live in Houston and work with a lot of rich people who suffered flood damage. None of them are staying in shelters (they stay with friends and family) or FEMA trailers. My impression is that if they didn’t have either private or federal flood insurance, they aren’t expecting any sort of financial relief (nor are they clamoring for it, because they know they can afford to fix their damages).

            One of our Houston-native partners literally said “A few inches of water in your house is no big deal.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            This whole thread is just Brad trying to either go “checkmate, libertarians, disaster aid means your entire philosophy fails” or to get libertarians to say “no disaster aid, die in a flood poor people” so he can crow about how horrible we are. The truth of any particular thing involved is not relevant.

            The thing about a few inches of water being no big deal is certainly interesting. Probably true provided your lower level isn’t finished and it’s dried out quickly. A few inches of water (especially dirty water, but plumbing leaks are bad enough) on a finished level *sucks*. You’ve got to pull the floor coverings and the lower few inches of the drywall at a minimum.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Nybbler re: “A few inches of water is no big deal”

            My impression from stories of my mom’s friends in Houston is that when people are saying “no big deal” they mean “yes its a major hassle and expense, but I’ll still be able to live in my house (or return to it very soon).” I guess flood damage is common enough in Houston that people are more blaise about it?

          • Matt M says:

            The thing about a few inches of water being no big deal is certainly interesting. Probably true provided your lower level isn’t finished and it’s dried out quickly. A few inches of water (especially dirty water, but plumbing leaks are bad enough) on a finished level *sucks*. You’ve got to pull the floor coverings and the lower few inches of the drywall at a minimum.

            Keep in mind, these are also the type of people (“rich people”, as Brad referred to them) for whom a sudden 20k out of pocket expense would, in fact, qualify as “no big deal.”

          • Brad says:

            @The Nybbler

            This whole thread is just Brad trying to either go “checkmate, libertarians, disaster aid means your entire philosophy fails” or to get libertarians to say “no disaster aid, die in a flood poor people” so he can crow about how horrible we are. The truth of any particular thing involved is not relevant.

            Cool story.

          • Matt M says:

            Also I would point out that fairly prominent libertarian John Stossel has been speaking out against federally subsidized flood insurance for years, correctly characterizing it as welfare for the rich.

            He had a whole episode where he intentionally bought a beach house in a known hurricane zone, waited for it to be destroyed, and then watched the government pay him to rebuild it, all while saying “this makes no sense, we should stop doing this.”

    • quanta413 says:

      This is a version of libertarianism I’ve never seen before. National defense and law courts, sure that’s minarchism. But who ever throws in disaster relief? Maybe if you are talking about pulling people out of flooded areas during the storm itself but certainly not paying to rebuild everyone’s home and business and compensating for losses. Surely that’s what insurance is for.

      Wait, the only forms of libertarianism are minarchism and anarcho-capitalism? Someone tell Scott Sumner that he’s got it all wrong about how the Fed policy should involve an NGDP futures market and NGDP level targeting which seems like an implicit philosophical endorsement of the government role in issuing currency and controlling the money supply. While we’re at it someone better tell Charles Murray that his advocacy of a universal basic income is wrong and he needs to switch to another ideology quickly.

      Libertarians are probably vaguely ideologically more consistent on average than most other American political groups (because libertarians are political losers who are never in power because they have concocted what may be the worst possible ideology that has ever existed if you want to actually win an election), but it’s not hard to imagine some forms of disaster relief being consistent with libertarian principles.

      Your examples here are Ted Cruz (who I’ve never before seen referred to as libertarian), Greg Abbott (also not a libertarian) and talk show radio host Michael Berry (who I’ve never heard of before and judging by his wikipedia page sounds a lot like a random populist conservative even though his party is listed as Libertarian; I tried reading his twitter but it was pretty tedious so I gave up before I saw anything indicating libertarian there either; like maybe he’s a libertarian I guess, but I tend to think Tyler Cowen or the people at Reason or at econlog or the Koch brothers and he seems ideologically distinct from my standard examples).

      So I guess I technically agree with “They should not be allowed to get away with claiming to be so in the future” as far the term libertarian is concerned. But it’s all kind of a huge nothing burger that makes me wonder why I wasted my time looking these people up and why you wasted your time posting.

      • Wrong Species says:

        While we’re at it someone better tell Charles Murray that his advocacy of a universal basic income is wrong and he needs to switch to another ideology quickly.

        Murray only supports a universal income because we’re not going to get rid of the welfare state and he thinks it’s better than the one we’ve got.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      National defense and law courts, sure that’s minarchism. But who ever throws in disaster relief?

      What’s special about defending against a human-disaster (invasion, war, etc…) compared to a natural disaster?

      • Incurian says:

        I would guess the answer is something like “while the government can do a lot of things, some of which would actually be beneficial if done competently, that which can be done by the private sector ought to be, and national defense and courts are not likely to be done well by the private sector whereas disaster relief is. That is to say, the broad category of thing isn’t the issue, but whether or not it could be done without government.” I don’t personally agree with all of that, but the logic seems ok.

      • Defense against invasion is a public good–if I stop the enemy troops or shoot down an incoming missile, most of the benefit goes to other people. If I rebuild my house, most of the benefit goes to me. If someone delivers food and water to me, most of the benefit goes to him, in the form of what I pay him for it, and to me.

        Flood control–building dikes and such–is often a public good, but that isn’t what we are talking about.

  12. onyomi says:

    Since we’re ranking things, here’s my ranking of Final Fantasy games, from best to worst (Japanese numbering), and not counting MMOs or spin-offs, like Tactics or Mystic Quest:

    4
    6
    10
    9
    1
    10-2
    7
    5
    8

    Haven’t played, or haven’t played long enough to give a fair assessment: 2, 3, 12, 13, 15

    • Charles F says:

      Wow, that’s pretty scrambled compared to mine. What did FFVIII ever do to you? And how did 1 make it out of the bottom half?
      A lot of the final fantasy games are either pretty close in quality, or almost different genres, so I’m not really happy with my list, but:

      9 (Clearly. Whatever else is uncertain, this is in the right spot)
      6
      12
      7
      10
      8
      13
      10-2
      1
      3

      I guess I should probably try 4 at some point.

      • Thegnskald says:

        9 was entertaining, but suffered serious technical limitations (the disappearance of all of the previous dungeons in the endgame, as one example), and turned the equipment system into a grind. The final boss fight was completely at odds with the rest of the game, violating expectations terribly; an extremely easy boss fight if you know what is coming, and nigh-impossible if you don’t. More, much if not most of the side content of the game is invisible if you don’t already know where to look – with the notable exception of the card game, whose rules are never explained in-game, and indeed, last I checked, still haven’t been fully figured out by the players.

        9 felt like it was designed for players with the “strategy guide” in hand.

        From a story perspective, at a certain point, I stopped being able to take the game seriously. Oh, another massive tragedy, for no real reason? Then the bizarre melding of the villain from 1 and the plotline from 4 felt forced and unnatural (also, space flea, again?). With the notable exception of Vivi, we’ve seen all these characters before, done better. Freya is Cyan, the little summoner girl is Ryu, the main character is Locke, Amaranth is Shadow, Beatrice is General Leo, the villain is a caricature of Kefka without the humor…

        It just wasn’t good.

        And 8 was fine up until the orphanage nonsense. The mechanics weren’t great – they were interesting and new, but not actually that good – but the story was just plain bad. Personally, I can ignore a bad story if the mechanics are engaging, or ignore bad mechanics if the story is engaging, but it fell on its face on both fronts. Worse, to my mind, the story started off good.

        • Charles F says:

          I agree with some of what you say and just assign less importance to it than you seem to. (dungeons getting blocked was kind of annoying, yes we get it the world is falling apart, final boss was dumb (but not hard), characters have been done before (better is questionable in some cases (Beatrice)))

          Other things seem very off to me. I don’t think the strategy guide comment is fair. I never touched a guide and was a B-rank treasure hunter on my first player and max rank on my second. A couple of the chocobo things were obscure, but most of the content was at least obvious once you had an airship. The card game wasn’t perfectly predictable, but figuring it out well enough to win consistently was not challenging.

          No arguments on the stuff about 8. It had problems. It wasn’t as bad as the ones I put below it though.

        • Matt M says:

          9 felt like it was designed for players with the “strategy guide” in hand.

          Ironic, because the FF9 strategy guide is infamous for containing very little actual information and constantly directing you to go to some dumb website Square set up and was trying to drive people to at the time.

      • onyomi says:

        The hardest choice for me is between 4 and 6 for the top spot; I tend to give it to 4 because, in my mind, it’s the best “original flavor” Final Fantasy (the “original flavor” Final Fantasies, that is, the ones that maintain some of the spirit, aesthetics, and feel of the original, are 1-5 and 9; I rank 9 as highly as I do because it was a strong and intentional attempt to go back to “original flavor” after the disaster of 8). I like the way 6 mixes linear and open-end, as well, but 4 is both a perfect game and a perfect Final Fantasy game in the spirit of the original. Also, 4 has a big cast of well-realized characters, 5 a small cast of kind of flat characters and 6 a huge cast of characters, only a few of them well-realized.

        Of these, 8 is the only one I genuinely dislike; it just does everything wrong and veers into “unplayable” for me because of the summon-centric battle system. There is a thing where a game includes some feature that makes it a million times worse unnecessarily (the speed of the boat in Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker), and I have a lot less tolerance for that, seemingly, than many people. If it were just the summons, I’d chalk it up somewhat to my impatience. But it’s just everything. I don’t like the character design (gunblade, really??), don’t like the setting, don’t like the music, don’t like anything else about the battle system… on the other hand, I can understand if the characters, setting, etc. appeal to other people even if they don’t appeal to me, but the battle system seems objectively unworkable.

    • rahien.din says:

      I’ve only played VII and IX, but I’m honestly stunned to see VII ranked so far below IX. I honestly think VII is superior to IX in everything but graphics and dialogue.

      • Charles F says:

        I think VII had a good story and a great villain, but it was just so badly told, from bad world design to incomprehensible flashbacks, to bad dialogue between flat characters. Whereas IX had an overarching story that wasn’t particularly memorable as a whole, but each individual character’s arcs were pretty good.

        IX blows VII out of the water in every category related to gameplay. The battling parts are way more interesting, with actual significant variation between party members, and interactions between them. The leveling/equipment system is great. The level design and amount of exploration is enjoyable in IX and makes me hate myself in VII. They could both use some more puzzling, but IX does a little better. IX has the better soundtrack (though Aerith’s theme is pretty good).

        • Randy M says:

          and interactions between them.

          Was there much of this beyond Vivi and Steiner?

          I think VII and IX are similar in one negative way–they both had overly-complex, poorly explained main plots. The character motivations and interactions are fine, but the bosses backstories feature too many convolutions and late twists. The casual player could probably not really tell you which Sephiroth encounters were really Sephiroth, which were, Jenova, etc. Kujo was an alien, who wants to sell weapons, or suck out all the mist and replace everyone with pod people, and you are a pod person, or something.
          It didn’t hurt the gameplay, and maybe you could argue it was a positive aspect for rewarding people for going piecing together the details and paying careful attention, but I think it is a weakness to make the players have to struggle to understand why the villains are doing what they are doing. It’s hardly limited to just these games, I’d say VII is similar here.

          • Charles F says:

            Was there much of this beyond Vivi and Steiner?

            That wasn’t the most prominent pairing, but there was definitely some. It was a common element in a lot of situations that Steiner had a great deal of respect for Vivi and almost none for Zidane. So Steiner was deferential to Vivi, helped him in cases where some bigness was required, was the first to comfort him and rebuke Zidane for being insensitive when the stuff with the Black Mage Village happened, and they eventually paired off to go fight the windy dude when there was that thing where four elementals had to be subdued simultaneously.

            ETA (didn’t realize I had been talking about gameplay and not story):
            Oh, and there was also the gameplay-related magic sword thing. Though that was a bit underpowered compared to your other options late game.

            ETA2: misread beyond as between.
            I might have to walk back a bit and say that rather than direct interactions between the characters (apart from a few things like “Protect Girls” or reflect on your party and cast magic on all of them to multiply effects) it was more that the differentiated characters meant you had to actually work with their style rather than just customizing materia to make them do whatever you needed them to. I’m probably not making a great case for this, maybe I’ll look more closely at it later.

          • Randy M says:

            didn’t realize I had been talking about gameplay and not story

            Yep, that’s what I thought you meant. The Magic Sword hinted at a more interesting set of combat interactions that never showed up, unfortunately.

            But, as you point out in your second edit, the well defined character roles made different party compositions play out significantly differently.

          • Matt M says:

            it was more that the differentiated characters meant you had to actually work with their style rather than just customizing materia to make them do whatever you needed them to

            True, although there were also some relatively useless characters who were somewhat undifferentiated from a combat perspective, and almost wholly superfluous to the plot as well. The ideal party was, in basically all situations, Zidane/Steiner/Vivi/Garnet OR Eiko. Amarant, Freya, and Quina were entirely pointless.

          • Charles F says:

            @Matt M
            This is a thing that happens to me often enough that I really should start to remember it. In non-competitive games that don’t require much grinding, I tend not to just go for the best combination and be done with it, (I think Zidane,Garnet,Eiko,Vivi is the actual best setup, but yours could be right) and instead try to find ways to use all of the characters. So even if there is one best setup, I still value diverse other setups in order to make all the random battles a little less tiresome. If they could have made it so that different teams were way better for different parts of the game, that would have been cool though.

            And as for Quina being useless, abusing one of their early-game abilities to power-level against grand dragons made subsequent playthroughs a bit more relaxed.

        • rahien.din says:

          IX blows VII out of the water in every category related to gameplay.

          I had an entirely opposite reaction.

          It’s true that gameplay was more distinct between characters, but I actually didn’t like how far they took it. I found the crystal system unwieldy and limiting, and the character roles were so narrow. I felt like I had to micromanage about 8 different games at once. The materia system required me to take into account each player’s makeup, but with the flexibility to experiment.

          Also, IX really de-emphasized the limit break system. It turned a genuinely timable weapon into a choice between random chance or obsessive micro.

          And the world felt so much smaller to me in IX. It was beautifully designed, and I loved the airship, but I felt no real desire to return to the various locations. And that mist pissed me off. It wasn’t any fun to just fly around after then. Compare that to powersliding in the Highwind all over the damn place – there’s no contest.

          As for the story, VII’s narrative actually cohered. IX meandered. And VII gave me the biggest shock of my limited gaming career when Nrevf qvrq. If Qnttre qvrq I wouldn’t have been as genuinely affected.

          Coup de grace : riverdancing Cleyrans. I rest my case.

          IX has the better soundtrack (though Aerith’s theme is pretty good).

          You go too far.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The brilliance of the second half of 6 still surprises me, as far as airships go. By the time you get an airship, you usually don’t actually need it anymore (9 was particularly awful in this regard) – 6 turned that on its head in an incredible way.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, the “first half linear, second half open-world” nature of VI was pretty damn groundbreaking for its time. CT sort of emulated that approach as well (although probably waited a bit too long to start the “open” part)

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think the issue with CT was that the open world was much smaller; VI had a second-half quest for each of it’s ensemble, and plus a couple of extras; CT emulated this, but with a much smaller cast of characters, so it didn’t have the breadth to really pull it off.

    • Thegnskald says:

      6
      10
      5 (what I played of it, never finished it)
      7
      4
      1
      9
      8
      12

    • Matt M says:

      FFX is probably my favorite game of all time.

      X-2 above VII seems like something someone would do just to troll people on an FF message board 🙂

      • onyomi says:

        I am absolutely serious, because I love X-2. People only like to hate on it because of the “dress sphere” thing, I think. Otherwise, it perfectly fulfills something I want with all my favorite games: give me more chance to explore that same world, but in an engaging way that still seems to matter, even if it amounts to a bunch of side quests in the end.

      • Of the Final Fantasy games, I’ve only played X and X-2 all the way through, but they’re two of my favourite games ever.

        I did play Final Fantasy IV up to the part where you go to the moon, but a glitch stopped me from being able to go back to Earth and thus progressing the game. And I never bothered to replay the game, so I’ve never completed it, but of what I played it was pretty good. I’d say X was better though.

    • Randy M says:

      Here goes:
      6: The whole package. Gameplay has a good mix of preset strengths and customization; character personalities are similarly well defined with significant growth. The plot is understandable and yet has one of the best twists ever. Battle system not terribly innovative, but there are significant options and enough depth to be pretty engaging. Dungeon design is pretty good, especially when party switching is used. Graphics are effective, for the generation. Kefka is always entertaining. Excellent music, but I don’t think any of these titles disappoint on that metric.

      Tactics: If this counts, it goes here. Much better than the original release of Tactics Ogre which it poached the development team from (though the remake of TO is excellent), it could be said to be in a different genre only because it helped spawn a genre. Character development system is engrossing, main characters are understandable. Plot is good, until it gets too much into the invasion of the body snatchers (the political machinations were deeper and more interesting before they were all the work of demon possession).

      XII: Controversial selection, probably. But the characters are very well done, at least the grown up humans, Balthier, Basche, and Ashe, especially the voice acting. The PC customization system was not great–too open, like VII, but without the interesting combos. Later versions added character classes to keep them more defined, I haven’t played it. The story is well done, at least the beginning that I remember, but like Tactics it got much weaker when it went for the monsters at the end. Environments looked great, and the ability to enter combat seamlessly improved exploration a lot.

      IX: Many good elements well done without glaring weaknesses. Doesn’t do anything too original (by design, I think). Plot is a bit confusing, but the main cast is pretty good. Characters are very unique, perhaps not customizable enough, though. The game just feels fun to play, bright and vivid environments contrasting with the previous two. Mini games mostly sucked, but that’s just a lack of bonus, not a knock against it.

      I want to put a four way tie next, but let’s split hairs.
      VII: The graphics haven’t aged well, but the first 3D title can get a little grace here. The summons and battles look very nice, even if the field models are blah. The Materia system is a lot of fun, even if it makes the characters interchangeable. Limit breaks differentiate a bit, but they are mostly all straight damage, so it doesn’t matter whether you have Barret hit 6 times or Cloud hit 7 times. But the system is redeemed by the linking materia that create so many interesting combos, and the variety of actions provided. The caricatures characters were well portrayed, even if not particularly deep or with much change (save the confusing mess of Cloud). The bad guys were pretty cool and different, although the world didn’t make much sense, that was probably due to hardware limitations.

      V: Not as memorable story of characters as IV, but it introduced the job system and was probably a more enjoyable game overall for it.

      VIII: Prettier than VII, but the junction system was flawed in that it incentivized boring play. Triple Triad is a big plus, though. Characters are not as well done, plot kind of confusing. Still have fond memories of playing it.

      IV: Good story (except for the reliance on back-stabbing and mind control) and characters, but gameplay is a bit by the numbers. Kept fresh enough by the frequently changing roster, but hampered due to the lack of player control over party development.

      X: Never really resonated with me. Intentionally more Eastern flavored, which is probably a plus except in as much as it contributed to characters I didn’t care for and a tone that didn’t seem to gel with the plot. Character switching in battle was cool; the sphere grid seems needlessly complex, but does provide the distinction + customization at good levels. I won’t blame anyone for ranking this higher.

      X-II: I actually kind of like this; the battles are fast and fun and the job system is well utilized. A bit quirky, gratutious, and the world still didn’t do much for me.

      I: Inspired some good games shortly thereafter. Impressive considering the hardware. I’d really not want to play this today.

      Haven’t played MMOs or PS3 games. Apparently they’re up to XV now, and advertising it on youtube like it’s a FtP mobile game or something?

      • Thegnskald says:

        1 is still playable – just went through another run on the NES cartridge a few months ago.

        It is a bit grindy, albeit not as bad as I remember from childhood (I must have been a terrible player, I seriously overleveled for everything), but the mechanics are surprisingly solid, and the ability to compose a party of your own design adds a lot. The story is, of course, still next to nonexistent.

        The GBA version is a much more modern version of the game, and I’d actually recommend it even to players who didn’t try the original; the added content lends a degree of mid-game flexibility the original game lacked. (The grindiness is also greatly tuned down from the base game). The biggest mistake was revising the inventory system to a more modern “infinite backpack”; the hard choices were a significant part of the game.

      • onyomi says:

        5 gets little credit in my book for introducing the job system, because it doesn’t work the way 5 does it, which makes it pointless for any character to master more than 2 jobs. 5 may have created the system, but Tactics gets all the credit for making it fun.

      • BBA says:

        FFT “helped spawn a genre”? It was already a mature genre in Japan, Fire Emblem has been around since the NES days, it’s just that very few of them ever made it out of Japan and FFT was the first one to really make a splash here.

        • Randy M says:

          Replace spawn with “encourage the spread to America” if you prefer, although I think the help qualifier really does the semantic work in mitigating your objection.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve only played the Final Fantasy games from 7 to 13, minus 10-2, but 10 was the best of those, with a tight, coherent plot, memorable characters, and good mechanics. Shame I wanted to punch Tidus in the mouth every time he opened it, but that’s par for the course with FF protagonists.

      9 comes in second, with arguably better characters (Zidane’s probably my favorite protagonist), but its mechanics suffered greatly.

      I’d rank the rest as follows: 7, 8, 13, 12.

    • Unsaintly says:

      Games I have played at least a significant segment of and feel that I can rank: 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, Tactics, Tactics Advanced, Dissidia (counting original and Duodecim together)

      By ranking:
      Tactics
      10
      Dissidia
      12
      7
      4
      1
      2
      6
      8
      Tactics Advanced

      More in depth:
      Tactics is a fantastic game, mostly in the strength of its story. While the plot meanders a bit, introducing elements that really weren’t needed, the core plot is well told with good characters and twists. The tactics battle system is strong, even if it’s really easy to break wide open. I also like the relatively low-fantasy approach of Tactics, having only human main characters and rare non-humans with speaking roles.

      10 also has a good story for me. The setting of a sort of continual apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic world is great, and the characters bring the strength of the setting out. It also has my favorite battle system of the games, using a speed system similar to Tactics rather than the mess of ATB. I also like Tidus.

      Dissidia works for me in a way that every other fighting game doesn’t. It’s got a great system for re-creating the epic clashes of final fantasy cutscenes rather than turn based combat. I also really like the world building here, the idea of time loops centered around teams of champions fighting each other is My Jam.

      12 – not as fond of the system here, but I do like the story and world. I like political stories, and 12 delivers on that. I wish that they either kept it to a mostly-human world like Tactics or had the other races play a larger role than one-off villages or background roles though.

      7 – Mostly nostalgia, but the materia system was interesting. I like the concept of the world more than the execution of it. Funnily enough, I like the Materia system but hate the FFTA weapon/skill system, despite them being somewhat similar

      4 – I like the large rotating cast of characters. The story and world are fine, and the mechanics are competently executed. I do wish that more of the dead characters would just stay dead. I would rate this much higher if they had the guts to actually kill off the people they pretended to.

      1 – Pretty generic game, but a competent example of its time. In a break from gushing about the stories before, I just like the simple mechanics here and the way that leads to natural strategies emerging in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

      2 – I remember almost nothing about this game, so I’m treating this as the dividing line between “Games I like” and “games I dislike”

      6 – I have tried to play through this game four times. It is just… boring. I never find myself caring at all about the world or characters, and still haven’t managed to finish it. Furthest I’ve gotten is gathering the special artifacts right before some big tower thing, and I can’t be arsed to look up how close to the end that is.

      8 – I really don’t like the card game thing. For whatever reason, the only time I tried to play this game I quit after about two hours because of it. That was years ago, so I may be misremembering how long I actually stuck with it.

      Tactics Advanced – Marche ruined it for me. I played through about half the game and just looked up the rest of the story. I am firmly in the “Marche is a genocidal psycopath” camp. I also really don’t like the way skills are tied to weapons. I prefer to have abilities/equipment separate so you don’t have to juggle stuff around as much.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I understand why you ranked it so low, but I think you’re being too harsh on Tactics Advanced. The world and story and systems were certainly piles of garbage next to the original Tactics, but it’s still reasonably competent as a game.

        Also, I consider the “Marche is a psychopath” the only tenable interpretation of that story, but I thought that actually made it moderately more interesting. If there had been some good reason to leave Ivalice, the plot would be basically nothing. Forcing everyone to abandon their dream-realm for no reason other than a personal conviction that things shouldn’t be that good is, at least, sort of captivating a horrible way.

    • lvlln says:

      Gosh, 8 always seems to be the favorite one to hate among all the Final Fantasy fans. I can’t even say that they’re wrong, because it does have some huge flaws both in terms of gameplay and story, but 8 was the first Final Fantasy I played – actually the first JRPG I played – and it’s still my favorite of them all, damn it! The story and characters really hooked me – particularly the flashback stuff about Laguna – and the cutscene production values were mindblowing to me at the time, and the orphanage/time travel stuff at the end didn’t take away from my enjoyment at all. And not having any experience with anything other than the Junction system, I thought it was a fine and fun system. Same goes for enemies scaling in level with the level of your party members. Also, the music in Final Fantasy games is almost always excellent, but there were some pieces in the 8 soundtrack that really caught my fancy, including the theme song.

      After 8 I’d probably put X-2 – lovely colorful art, fairly light-hearted tone, and an excellent combat system. I was pleasantly surprised, given how much of a shift it was making compared to X, and how much it looked like the game was a cynical cash-grab that would rely on sex appeal and brand recognition for sales.

      After that, I suppose I’d rank them something like:

      9 (never finished, but the ~3/4 I played – up to the part where there’s a haircut – was truly excellent)

      7 (good, but I found the story got more convoluted than my capacity to care as the various reveals of backstories happened)

      13 (still working through it but stalled. At about 1/2 or 2/3 of the way through, I think. Excellent combat system involving changing party member roles and goals rather than micromanaging individual actions. Kind of a dumb plot that lacks the necessary world-building, though)

      10 (2nd FF game I ever played, after 8. Was really impressed by the visuals and production values again, but very disappointed by the story and characters. The whole journey of Tidus and Yuna and facing Sin and his father etc. all just seemed pointless to me. Also, combat system felt slow and boring)

      12 (dropped about an hour in due to boredom. Interested in picking up the new remake, especially since it’s supposed to have boredom-alleviating features)

      The rest, I haven’t played. I’ve kinda gotten out of playing most RPGs, so I imagine 8 may end up forever my favorite Final Fantasy.

      • Randy M says:

        The rest, I haven’t played. I’ve kinda gotten out of playing most RPGs, so I imagine 8 may end up forever my favorite Final Fantasy.

        Me too, mostly, although I am playing through Chrono Trigger with my daughter and went through Tactics Ogre again recently on vacation. On the other hand, Xenosaga 2 is pretty good but I lost interest in it about half way through last year.

      • Jiro says:

        I am scared at starting 10-2 because getting the best ending requires OCD and a guide.

      • onyomi says:

        I do notice a very strong “first impression” effect.

        Pretty much the only people who rank 7 first (and there are a lot of them) are people for whom 7 was their first Final Fantasy (and there are a lot of them among the cohort a little younger than me).

        I played them in the order they came out in the US (1, 4, 6, 7, 8), and while 7 was a clear departure from 1-6, it also undeniably had its own appeal, while not feeling like “real Final Fantasy” for someone whose impression of that was formed by 1, 4, and 6. But then 8 for me was everything I didn’t like about 7 and few of the things I did like.

    • Jordan D. says:

      Here we go! I will be ranking the spin-offs I’ve played.

      Tactics
      6
      4
      14 (Only counting content after A Realm Reborn)
      12 (Zodiac Edition only)
      Bravely Default: Flying Fairy
      5
      9
      10-2
      2
      3
      Tactics Advanced
      10
      7
      1
      Any Chrystal Chronicles spin-off
      8

      My cut-off point for ‘Game was good’ is FF3. I was tempted to rate 10 higher, just because I liked the world so much. 1 gets nostalgia points and nothing else. 8 was the only game I really, actually hated.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      All Final Fantasy games are bad games that have far too limited combat systems to be interesting. And most of the stories are ridiculously cringey. They give JRPGs a bad name. The card game in 8 was fun so it wins by default.

      If you’re going to delve into the world of JRPGs, there are so many better examples. Ys, TWEWY, Seiken Densetsu, Mother, Etrain Odyssey, Chrono, and umm…. Rance, if you’re into that sort of thing.

      • Charles F says:

        Etrian Odyssey was about the worst game I ever liked barely enough to finish, so I’m not sure how that made it onto your list. And the Mother games were about even with FF in my opinion, but I agree that the rest, especially TWEWY, were all better than FF. I’d also add Paper Mario, the Tales series (controversial, I know), and Skies of Arcadia to the list.

        • registrationisdumb says:

          EO appeals to the more number crunchy crowd and has much better designed combat than FF, requiring some thought put into combat, rather than just spamming limit breaks over and over since bosses are immune to status effects in FF games and are really just highly cinematic damage sponges.

          The dungeon crawler niche is not for everyone though.

          Mother 2/3 I’d rank higher in terms of writing than FF in general, but otherwise the gameplay is just as boring.

          The early FF games were just bad Dragon Quest ripoffs, and new ones are basically just setpieces for fancy cinematics.

          In terms of the list, I just threw a few different series that were good examples of their style of rpg and avoided stuff like Phantasy Star or DQ that were very similar in flaws to FF games. Didn’t mean it to be exhaustive.

  13. Incurian says:

    ES: Thought just popped into my head. Either it’s dumb or has been brought up and dealt with before.

    Aren’t “isolated demands for rigor” consistent with the maxim “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?”

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Sure.

      I mean, if I say, “Rolling friction is less than sliding friction” and also “It is possible to exceed the speed of light,” to take some very non-CW claims, the first one is an unobjectionable claim that at this point requires no real evidence, while you’d be correct to assume that the latter is incorrect even if I had what seemed to be excellent evidence of superluminal neutrinos.

      Where you see people saying, “Isolated demand for rigor” is where you’re assessing two broadly similar claims and one gets nitpicked to death while the other sails through.

      • Incurian says:

        I don’t think the person demanding rigor would consider them to be broadly similar claims. Whether or not a claim is extraordinary means how strongly one holds a prior for or against it.*
        To one naive of physics, your two examples seem pretty similar. The only reason that to us they are not, is that we have a strong prior belief against superluminal speed. Is it not reasonable then, to say that “things I already believe in strongly don’t require much evidence” but “things I strongly don’t believe in require strong evidence?”
        *if this part is incorrect my entire argument fails

    • hlynkacg says:

      If anything “isolated demands for rigor” are an abuse of this principal. I treat your claim that the sky is blue as extraordinary while expecting you to treat all of my claims as common knowledge.

    • Well... says:

      “Isolated demands for rigor” tends to pop into my head when I see my opponent demanding rigorous evidence for my claims when he provides his equally arguable claims without that same level of rigor.

  14. toastengineer says:

    Do there exist free online social skills tests like there are IQ tests? I’ve been running under the assumption that I’m pretty much hopelessly crippled socially (tl;dr I had more-or-less zero non-adversarial in-person human contact from around fourth grade to starting college,) if you’re >18 years old with 4th-grade level social skills no-one wants to talk to you, meaning you’re permanently screwed.

    This is a pretty big untested assumption though (maybe online interaction with strangers counts for more than I thought or something like that) and since some folks were mentioning that there apparently exists IQ-test-like tests for social functioning it’d be interesting to have an actual metric to work with.

    • Randy M says:

      Snapchat? IRC? IQ is a measure of a quality that is easier to determine on an objective, impersonal test. Any real test of social skills will be by actual people. What is something that you want to get out of people, and can you get it? (“something” here can be a job interview, buying groceries, hanging out for awhile, marriage proposal, etc.)

      I do doubt your situation is hopeless, though. Heck, fourth grade social skills (with adult vocabulary and interests) will probably suffice for a great deal. And a concerted effort to improve will get you up to speed at a faster rate than what people develop through osmosis, even if you never quite reach the level of a charismatic natural, you should be able to get by.

      • toastengineer says:

        In my experience online interaction is utterly different from in-person interaction, including the actual objectives of all the people there. I mean, for one thing going in to a room and saying “i have no social skills pls hepl” in the real world is just going to have everyone look at you weird and then avoid you for as long as they remember you doing that.

        I suspect the main problem is, for one, subtle, invisible cues that no-one notices they’re making or perceiving in the first place, that I never had the chance to learn. Like how in early LSD experiments, monkeys would freak out and attack monkeys that were dosed with LSD even though researchers didn’t see any visible difference in their behavior, or how people tend to react poorly to people with facial paralysis.

        People with Aspergers/autism-spectrum syndromes treat me completely differently than most people do.

        The other problem is just generally not knowing any social norms. What level of familiarity do you have to be at with a person before you can express romantic interest? How do you interpret contradictory behavior, like when someone occasionally approaches you to engage you but when you engage them they respond negatively? This person I’m talking to is obviously uncomfortable, but what did I do to make them that way and how do I fix it? I have no idea and, as Scott as mentioned in a few posts on here, these rules are optimized for incomprehensibility.

        I was hoping there was some sort of questionaire in the form of “you are in this situation, how do you respond,” “this person is feeling this way, what is most likely to have caused them to feel that way” etc… that would offer some insight in to what exactly I’m missing.

        The biggest problem is that I don’t know what it is I don’t know; I can engage people on a professional level just fine but as soon as I try to socialize for its own sake people always react strongly negatively to me and I never have any guess as to why.

        • Randy M says:

          In my experience online interaction is utterly different from in-person interaction,

          True, and I didn’t really mean that chat would work, just that it would get you closer than a written test. Best bet would be to try to find a close friend or family member watch you and give advice–it might not be the best advice, but it’s probably more than can be discovered in venues like this.
          Here are some basic social skills pointers:

          -Have confidence, or at least fake it well. Nobody enjoys being around nervous people. If it helps, realize that you really don’t have anything to lose by being a bit embarrassed around strangers. Otherwise, maybe try to get over anxiety by repeated exposure.

          -People like to talk about themselves. A big part of being a good conversation partner is listening and signalling interest. If you have something related to say, a brief story of your own or an opinion, you can interject it at appropriate points, but also throw in plenty of engaged questions or prompts. “Oh, really? What then?” “Why do you think they said that?” “Oh wow, so you did X?” Whatever.

          -If you’re making people uncomfortable, maybe you are doing something like backing them into a corner, talking too fast, too loud, gesturing wildly, or have bad hygiene. Or are trying to start conversations when they are busy with other things.

          • toastengineer says:

            Well, I appreciate the tips, but unfortunately that’s the same advice you get everywhere; that’s kinda the problem, there’s more to it than “don’t smell bad or act obviously threatening” and no-one consciously knows what those rules actually are, and there’s no way to learn them by interacting with people since they immediately go in to “that’s something pretending to be a human being” mode as soon as I say something.

            Best bet would be to try to find a close friend or family member watch you and give advice

            If I had either of those I’d be done!

          • Aapje says:

            It’s impossible to give specific tips without having specific information, which you cannot provide in writing, as you said yourself. I suggest seeking out people who are able and willing to analyze your flaws and describe them honestly. If you have the money, going to a psychologist might work and more specifically one that is trained in behavior therapy.

            A poor man’s approach can be to do a video conference or in-person meeting with a person who is willing to help you with this. A high-functioning (semi-)autistic person who can credibly mimic human mannerisms might be best able to articulate what you are doing wrong, in an actionable way.

          • Randy M says:

            but unfortunately that’s the same advice you get everywhere

            Yeah, I imagine so, that’s why I said you probably need someone honest to check you out in person. Just figured I’d make a go at the lowest hanging fruit.

            If I had either of those I’d be done!

            Maybe it’d be worth it to pay a therapist for a session or two? (edit: Nevermind, you’ve done this.)

          • andrewflicker says:

            Just as a side note, about the advice repeated here being “the same as the advice you always see”.

            In-person, I’ve managed large teams, went to college, ran gaming groups, etc. I’ve dealt with people everywhere on the spectrum from “natural politician” to “terrified shut-in”. In practice, most people with poor social-communication success fall into one of two packs:

            1. More or less fine social skills, just zero confidence and constant misperception that others hate them or are rating them poorly, when in reality plenty of people like talking to them or hanging out with them. Hard to cure from within, because people like to reinforce and defend their delusions. Relatively easy to fix if a dedicated friend wants to, by repeated application of reassurances, more-obvious appreciation, etc., but often prone to immediate romantic latching-on when not desired due to huge outpouring of gratitude.

            2. Huge and immediately obvious deficiencies in the core areas the “usual advice” covers, despite thinking that advice is useless or already-addressed. Commonly this is “smells terrible due to bad hygiene but thinks they already do enough so disregard advice” or “immediately and constantly overshares and talks about inappropriate personal matters but thinks this stuff is normal so disregards advice”, but variants like “loud and threatening” or “makes jokes like a serial killer” are common enough that I’ve seen multiple examples of it.

            Anyway- people usually pitch the “usual advice” because a ton of people ignore or disregard the usual advice.

        • skef says:

          Disclaimer: I have no qualifications to say anything about this.

          Online IQ tests are questionable. Randy M has already pointed out some factors that would make it more difficult, in relation to IQ, to evaluate social skills in an online test. Also, IQ anxiety is better click-bait than social skills anxiety.

          This is a huge part of your life. If you can, and this is the approach that makes sense to you, I don’t see why you wouldn’t spend some bucks on real assessments.

          So I’m setting aside the price question and trying to answer the basic question of “what are these tests?” One list is here, under number 12 (I can’t link directly because of this site’s stupid question pop-up.) A similar list is here.

          • toastengineer says:

            This is a huge part of your life. If you can, and this is the approach that makes sense to you, I don’t see why you wouldn’t spend some bucks on real assessments.

            I mean, it’s the closest thing to a strategy I’ve got. Generally I go to therapists and tell them what I said above and they say “That sounds like it sucks. I don’t know what to do about that” and that’s the end of it.

            Thanks for the links, I kinda got the impression that this just wasn’t something that happened to people very often and no-one had studied it.

            Which is awfully odd in retrospect, you’d think therapists would be familiar with techniques for helping autistic people and such. Maybe I just had really crappy luck with therapists.

          • skef says:

            you’d think therapists would be familiar with techniques for helping autistic people and such. Maybe I just had really crappy luck with therapists.

            Typical clinical therapists, which is all that most civilians wind up interacting with, don’t have any need for this stuff.

            Unfortunately, there isn’t really a distinct sub-specialty of diagnostic psychology/psychiatry, the way that forensic psychiatry is a sub-specialty. If you want evaluations like these done professionally, I would guess your best bet is to start with some 1) local 2) large institution that 3) does varied clinical work (not just research), like a university or a large mental hospital. Write a letter asking who to ask about getting this sort of evaluation done on a patient. Then contact who they mention. With luck, eventually someone will say “we can do that here”.

    • JulieK says:

      You might want to see a speech therapist- they often help people with the “social skills” part of communicating.

    • johnjohn says:

      Ever thought about toastmasters?

      I think it’s pretty close to what you’re looking for. Speaking to a crowd of people while they analyse everything you do.

      Partially recommending it because a lot of people have mentioned it helped with their social skills tremendously
      … Partially recommending it because of your username

    • Reasoner says:

      Sorry to hear about that!

      You might try Omegle.com (put in a bunch of geeky interests), or paying people to teach you social skills by e.g. hiring a therapist or attending a workshop like http://www.circlinginstitute.com/

  15. Paul Brinkley says:

    Aspiring rationalists: is there a standard checklist you consult when assessing the veracity of something you read on the Internet? Or is it an informal set, one of which is triggered by something in what you read? Do you get the sense that you’ve adequately analyzed something for at least obvious biases or mistakes?

    I have an informal set, and I keep telling myself I’ll get around to practicing with it until I feel I’m being reasonably complete. (The failure mode I’m trying to avoid is sharing something I’ve read with others, and they spot something obviously wrong with it.) The set includes stuff like:

    * consider the source
    * can the piece be interpreted more than one way
    * has the piece left out anything important
    * how well is the conclusion supported by the evidence presented

    I can’t help but feel someone has written up some practical methods on LW somewhere, but LW feels so much like a zen garden that I despair of finding it. Perhaps someone reading this already ran across something relevant there.

    • PedroS says:

      * if something confirms your prejudices, check it again, especially if that piece makes no effort to have a quote from a “reasonable” member of the group opposed to the writer’s point of view

      • Aapje says:

        @PedroS

        If it matches your prejudices, you can assume that you are naturally less critical and should force yourself to read more critically.

        If it matches the prejudices of the author, you can assume that they were less critical when writing and should force yourself to be more critical of their claims and especially be wary of cherry picked or misquoted evidence.

    • MrApophenia says:

      Someone posted this on Reddit once and I have found it very valuable:

      * If an article starts with a headline that ends in a question mark, the answer is “No.” Save yourself the time and move to the next link.

      (“Does milk cause autism?” No. “Could this be the next cure for cancer?” No. Etc.)

      • Aapje says:

        Should Headlines With A Question Marks Always Be Answered With No?

        Hmmm.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Betteridge’s Law is an example of an evaluation heuristic that I would like to ground in something more fundamental. Why are headline questions readily answered with “no”?

        Is it because the writer is trying to lead the audience somewhere? If so, why should we resist?

        Is it simply because the question draws away from a common understanding – the null hypothesis (H-0)? For example, if the headline were “Does Gravity Really Work?”, then “no” probably isn’t the answer. But I suspect this is the essence Betteridge’s Law is trying to convey (the question implies that gravity might not work). If that’s true, then the underlying principle it’s trying to instill in us is to be aware of the null hypothesis, and the likelihood of H-0 being false, and then looking for the evidence presented in the article.

        And then my goal here is to get that action as mechanical as possible. Read headline. Establish H-0. Identify evidence in article for !H-0. Evaluate.

        Combined with other comments here, we also get items such as “if article confirms your prejudices, recheck your H-0”, which in turn implies “identify your prejudices”, which may imply “identify which of your beliefs are universally shared”, and so on.

        • Matt M says:

          I think the “question headline” was sort of a past version of clickbait. Basically, the question is something obviously surprising or counter-intuitive in order to get your attention, but the research is too flimsy to actually support the conclusion – such that you can’t write a headline that says “Cell phones give you brain cancer,” but you can get away with a headline that says “Do cell phones give you cancer?” which gets you a ton of attention and clicks, mostly from people who don’t bother to read the whole piece and realize that the answer is “No, they don’t.”

        • John Schilling says:

          Betteridge’s Law is an example of an evaluation heuristic that I would like to ground in something more fundamental. Why are headline questions readily answered with “no”?

          Because an honest journalist would prefer to provide answers, or at least information. “Man Walks on Moon”, “Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor”, “Dog Bites Man”, “Charitable Local Woman Does Good Deed”. These don’t need question marks. Question marks are for things you don’t know are true. And for a professional journalist who has investigated a thing to the point where they are ready to publish, they almost certainly know enough to make the headline statement at least a Known True Fact.

          If they’re not doing that, it’s probably because they want you to believe something they are pretty sure isn’t true, but don’t want to burn their reputation on it. Possibly for ideological reasons, more likely just for the clicks.

      • smocc says:

        I was going to post a counter-example I remembered, where National Geographic had a cover asking “Is Evolution Really True?” on an issue dedicated to the evidence in favor of evolution, but then I looked up the cover to double check and it’s actually this.

    • Does anything in the piece overlap with my existing knowledge? If so, judge the rest of the piece by how good the overlapping part is.

      Does the piece appear to offer and respond to the best arguments you can think of against its claims? More generally, does it feel as though the author is trying to discover what is true or trying to argue for a conclusion?

      • Charles F says:

        Does anything in the piece overlap with my existing knowledge? If so, judge the rest of the piece by how good the overlapping part is.

        Good with one caveat: if the author is from the same field as you, and the piece spans several fields it might be unreliable. A psychiatrist reading SSC should probably not assume everything is up to the same standard as the psychiatry posts.

        Does the piece appear to offer and respond to the best arguments you can think of against its claims?

        Depends on how familiar I am with a subject. If I’m a layperson, they should address arguments that are better than the ones I thought of.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Definitely an informal list.

      If it looks like clickbait, I might not even read it.

      If it says “scientific study”, it gets a question mark. If it’s a hypothetical study (asking people what would they do if…), it gets a great big question mark.

      If it’s outrage bait, I check it.

      I trust mainstream media more than places I’ve never heard of.

      This is probably an incomplete list.

  16. Kevin C. says:

    So, genderswap Ghostbusters is good, and sexist to oppose, but an all-female Lord of the Flies is bad and sexist?

    • Randy M says:

      Honestly I don’t see the point of discussion of reactions to unreasonable outrage over any particular incident at this point. Of course the PC reaction is hypocritical and self-serving. Ignore the mobs, make up your own mind, and try not to say things so obviously asinine as “girls would have no conflict amongst themselves.”

      • Urstoff says:

        What else would the Federalist write about?

        • Randy M says:

          Dunno, I don’t read them much. Breathless reporting about something someone said about something someone said, as if it were news, irritates me.

          You can guess my regard for twitter.

      • Jiro says:

        Honestly I don’t see the point of discussion of reactions to unreasonable outrage over any particular incident at this point. Of course the PC reaction is hypocritical and self-serving. Ignore the mobs

        These things still get discussed because yes, the PC reaction is hypocritical, but not everyone gets that. There are people who think that those reactions are perfectly reasonable.

        • Nornagest says:

          That should probably be discussed somewhere, but I’m not sure this is the place to do it. We have plenty of space and ammunition to discuss actually interesting and/or significant PC overreaction and hypocrisy; I don’t think picking out a minor flap over an obscure all-female Lord of the Flies tells us anything particularly new.

        • Randy M says:

          There are people who think that those reactions are perfectly reasonable.

          And you think that both their opinions matter and you can affect them?

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I don’t remember anyone complaining about any of the other movies with Miss Piggy in them.

  17. Kevin C. says:

    Given the accelerating progress on “sexbots”, Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies president Nigel Cameron has a proposal:

    The strategist and writer for the Washington DC-based think tank believes a tobacco and alcohol-style tax is a useful mechanism to discourage “abusive conduct”.

    As it stands cigarettes in the UK are subject to a tax rate equivalent to 16.5% of the retail price, plus £4.16 on a packet of 20.

    In the US, cigarettes tax rates are set on a state-by-state basis, with Connecticut charging 3.9%, New York 4.4% and Texas 1.41% of the retail price.

    Tax hikes introduced by governments are usually introduced gradually so as not to penalise consumers and cause industries to collapse overnight.

    But for sex robots, Mr Cameron has urged governments to immediately tax sales at an introductory rate of 10,000% – but stopped short of an outright ban.

    He said: “There’s a serious chance that sex robots will lead to increasingly abusive conduct.

    “People often decide to ban things they don’t approve of, and it rarely works.

    “But governments have many ways of discouraging behaviour that is deemed unhelpful, including – a useful comparison is tobacco – through taxation.

    “What about a 10,000% tax on sex robots for a start?”

    Thoughts?

  18. johnjohn says:

    Ranking of the numbers 1-10 from best to worst

    7
    1
    9
    2
    10
    5
    3 4 (tied)
    8
    6

  19. bean says:

    I moved over the weekend, so I don’t have anything written up for today. So I’ll promote the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque. It was fantastic. They have a bunch of older nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and I had a blast. It’s probably third on my list of all-time military museums behind Iowa (which I might be biased on, admittedly) and the Air Force Museum in Dayton. There was a Mk 23 nuclear shell for the 16″ guns on Iowa (the first thing I ran to see) and an MX missile, which was fantastic. So many things that would be advanced today, and it was designed in the 80s. Also, a B-47, a B-52, a bunch of missiles, and some decent displays on stuff that wasn’t nuclear weapons.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Ctrl-F bean
      Yay post
      Oh, short post…
      Well, I will check back next time.

      • bean says:

        I have a couple things nearing completion, but nothing I was quite ready to put up today.
        hlynkacg, you may proceed when ready.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I have to say that the last two weeks have greatly increased my respect for you (and other effort posters).

          I started with what I thought was going to be a reasonably simple task. But then I realized that there was a lot of background knowledge that I was taking for granted so started filling it in. Pretty soon I’ve got a 3,000+ word stream of consciousness about everything from the tactical significance of a sailing ship’s height to how ridiculous it is that the Japanese, British, and Mexicans, all fielded air forces before the US did despite the fact that airplanes were invented here, that never actually got around to discussing naval air ops.

          I’m working on paring this down to about 2000 words that covers the early history of naval aviation and will email you a copy for final review/edits, hopefully tonight or some time tomorrow. I would have done so earlier in the week but work’s been keeping me busy.

          • bean says:

            Cool. I should have internet tomorrow, and I’ll try to turn it as quickly as I can. Also, I’d be interested in the original, just out of curiosity.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Many of us would.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I have no idea whether military matters have more details than everything else does (except biology), or it’s just that people care more.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I hope your blast didn’t cause any dangerous fallout!

    • hls2003 says:

      If you were in New Mexico, I hope you had a chance to stop by the Bradbury Museum at Los Alamos. It’s fairly small, but I found its nuclear collection fascinating.

      • bean says:

        I didn’t. I was just running down I-40, and trying to do so quickly. I only had time for the one museum. But I’ll put it on the list if for next time I’m out that way.

    • Well... says:

      Yes! The Air For Museum is the single greatest museum I have ever been to. It was an honor and a joy living 15 minutes away for all those years. Dayton is America’s most underrated city.

      • johan_larson says:

        Oh yes. I made the trip there from Toronto, and it was totally worth it. The museum is enormous. There are four huge hangar-like spaces, each of which could easily take a full day.

        Gotta love the Americans. When they go big, they go huge.

        • John Schilling says:

          There’s an XB-70. The only XB-70. That’s 253,000 pounds of Pure Refined Awesomeness, from the days when America was Made of Greatness. Of no practical value, of course, but that’s true of much American Greatness. Still awesome, and you can literally stand in its shadow. On the Indiana Jones list of things that belong in a museum, that’s definitely top-ten material.

          And I think the other nine are in DC or London, but the XB-70 is too much awesome to fit in the Smithsonian.

          • bean says:

            Amen! My sister reported the drool in that hangar was about 6″ deep. I don’t remember much, to be honest. I really should get back there one of these days.

          • Well... says:

            In case anyone isn’t aware, the Air Force Museum now has not only an SR-71 but a YF-12A too. (It’s in the new “R&D” hangar.) So, two of the most beautiful machines ever created.

            If you ever go there again, another interesting but little-known feature is found in the front atrium. Go up the stairs (or exit out the back of the 2nd-floor cafeteria) and walk around on the upper level in the atrium. When you look out the windows that face NE toward the outdoor planes, look down. You’ll see about a dozen dead birds that flew into the glass.

          • Deiseach says:

            Agreed on the SR-71 being one of the most beautiful birds. First time I saw a picture of it, I was a kid and it was on a cereal box, and I simultaneously thought “That is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen” and “It is absolutely ridiculous”.

            Going to lift wholesale this anecdote from my Tumblr dashboard about the machine, because it’s just that awesome and just that totally absurd 🙂

            An SR-71 Blackbird once flew from LA to Washington DC in 64 minutes. Average speed of the flight: 2145mph. – unbelievablefactsblog.com

            “There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. Even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

            It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.

            I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn’t match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury.

            Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.

            We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot asked Center for a readout of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.”

            Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional, tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the “ Houston Center voice.” I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country’s space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the Houston controllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that, and that they basically did. And it didn’t matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.

            Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren. Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check”. Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it, ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.”

            And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done – in mere seconds we’ll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn.

            Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. “Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.”

            I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”

            For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A. came back with, “Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”

            It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work.

            We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.”

            -Brian Schul, Sled Driver: Flying The World’s Fastest Jet

            And going to copy a comment on that post, because it sums it up perfectly (warning for NSFW language):

            guys seriously tho what the fuck even was the SR-71 blackbird. That plane is like someone made a fucking bet. Like someone went “I have ten bucks that says you can’t make something that cruises at Mach 2.5″ and the aero folks scoffed and went hold our collective goddamn beers and then they cracked out a plane that CRUISES AT MACH 3 (for reference the much vaunted “supercruise” of the F-22 is only a few ticks above Mach 1). You need to understand how patently absurd this fucking vehicle is from nose to tail. Its original iteration, the A-12, was the successor to the U-2 when it became clear the USSR had developed missiles that could fly high enough to shoot it down so instead they built a new plane so fast you couldn’t fucking hit it. THAT WAS LITERALLY HOW THE SR-71 WORKED. By the time you realized what was goddamn happening at 80,000 feet it was already out of your fucking timezone. One time a pilot missed a turn by a second and ended up over Atlanta instead of DC. It flew so fast and got so hot that the entire fuselage stretched by several inches midflight which turned out to be a gigantic pain because all the fuel lines were hooked up assuming this stretching factor, so while on the ground it leaked like a goddamn sieve so at one point they decided to combat this BY STUFFING IT FULL OF KOTEX literally they had to shove tampons in this incredibly sophisticated aircraft so the fuel would stay in. It was the first serious aircraft built entirely out of titanium because no other metal could do the job, and at the time titanium wasn’t a widely-used metal so the world’s only major supplier WAS THE ACTUAL USSR SO THE US ACTUALLY BOUGHT THE MATERIAL TO MAKE THEIR SECRET SPY PLANE FROM THE PEOPLE THEY WERE SPYING ON.

            TL;DR Every single thing about this fucking aircraft is fucking ridiculous.

          • Lillian says:

            There’s an XB-70. The only XB-70. That’s 253,000 pounds of Pure Refined Awesomeness, from the days when America was Made of Greatness. Of no practical value, of course, but that’s true of much American Greatness. Still awesome, and you can literally stand in its shadow. On the Indiana Jones list of things that belong in a museum, that’s definitely top-ten mat