"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 84.25

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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707 Responses to Open Thread 84.25

  1. doubleunplussed says:

    Has anyone here tried xylose isomerase for treating fructose malabsorption?

    • powerfuller says:

      I have no personal experience to share, but here’s an article suggesting its effectiveness: “Oral xylose isomerase decreases breath hydrogen excretion and improves gastrointestinal symptoms in fructose malabsorption – a double-blind, placebo-controlled study” with free full text: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/apt.12057/abstract.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        Yes, I’ve seen this and am wondering if anyone has experience with it themselves – the study just tested with free fructose in water, so I’m not sure how much it will help with say, polymer fructose as there is in garlic and onion (which are the main problems for a fructose malabsorbant person if they want to eat at a restaurant). I’m guessing it helps but am interested in anecdotes prior to doing my own testing (I’ve ordered some and it’s on the way).

  2. SUT says:

    The new slogan below the masthead. Did I miss something?

  3. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Okay, I’m a bit slow, but I finished the Samzdat metis series, and I think the important part can be stated very briefly. (Note I haven’t read any of the books, so this is just a review of Samzdat).

    I’m assuming you know the main idea of Seeing Like A State: Modernization destroyed a bunch of illegible value.

    But as the SSC review points out, modernization tends to fix its mistakes. Scientific agriculture v1 is a disaster, scientific agriculture v2 is a Green Revolution.

    The point of Polanyi is that v2 happened for crop yields, but it never happened for eudaimonia. Old traditions did a bunch of illegible stuff that made people feel good about their lives, modernization v1 bulldozed that, and that’s it.

    This makes a ton of sense and is tremendously important. I suspect it speaks to the “why don’t 2010s poor feel 10x richer than the 1900s poor” deal, Yudkowski on the “poverty equilibrium”, and that whole complex of puzzles.

    (Though I also don’t rule out the “things always sucked, get over your Golden Age nostalgia” hypothesis. (Okay, strong evidence the Comanche had good lives. Amend it to “things have sucked since the Bronze Age.”))

    Now for the parts I don’t consider important. You’ll notice this includes the latter two books. Basically, I consider them attempts to understand the aftermath of the v1 modernization of eudaimonia. It’s an important project, but I’m not convinced they’ve gotten that far on it.

    Hoffer’s okay–“people lost their sense of meaning, so they seek in in mass movements” is a reasonable hypothesis. But he seems to make a lot out of movements being selected to avoid concrete success, in order to preserve the frustration that fuels them, and I just don’t see “death by success” being common enough to be a major selection pressure on movements. Movements narrowly defined (e.g. Occupy Wall Street) die mostly for other reasons, and movements broadly defined (e.g. “Social Justice”) achieve concrete subgoals all the time. So the “movements are evolved to keep you frustrated” thing seemed like an attention-grabber that’s not especially true or useful.

    Lasch… well, I guess I’d need to get into my feelings on The Last Psychiatrist, because without further reading I can draw no lines between TLP, Lasch, and Samzdat’s thoughts on this. That can wait for another day.

    Lastly, the talk of power makes some sense, but what we need is a legible measure of the kind of power that actually matters. Material wealth is a form of power, but evidently not the kind that makes one feel powerful. And I guess I just wonder how we know what we’re after is a form of power at all, if it isn’t any of the types of power we have epistemic knowledge of?

    Overall, the sequence had reasonable insights, but not at a great signal:noise ratio.

    • toastengineer says:

      and movements broadly defined (e.g. “Social Justice”) achieve concrete subgoals all the time.

      Sure, but does anything they accomplish actually, well, accomplish anything? They get some innocent/not completely innocent guy fired for doing something they don’t like, everyone forgets about it, racism and the wage gap are entirely unaffected.

      They achieve things they set out to do, sure, but those things aren’t particularly big accomplishments, and they have no real impact on the world, certainly no positive impact.

      • thenoblepie says:

        Social Justice isn’t a single movement. It’s several movements under a common banner. Some of which have ceased to exist, others have been replaced by evolved versions. The left of today isn’t the unionist left of yesterday and they themselves weren’t the communists of yore. BLM isn’t the civil rights movement, Femen aren’t suffragettes.

        Or look at the feminist movement. There are hardly any second-wave liberal feminists around anymore. Largely because they achieved their goals.

        I think the point sam[]zdat is making is that these mass movements toy with frustration by saying “You’re only frustrated because The Man is denying you fundamental right X. Join us, get X, be happy!” There’s only two problems with this: First, it doesn’t work if X is something people already have. Second, once you tied your identity, sense of self-worth, and identity to being a noble fighter for X, you’ll have a hard time admitting that X is finally upon us. So movements that achieve their goals either experience mission creep, or they stop being relevant.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Second, once you tied your identity, sense of self-worth, and identity to being a noble fighter for X, you’ll have a hard time admitting that X is finally upon us.

          People try to control people. Animals of the same kind try to control animals of the same kind. Eukaryotes of the same kind try to control eukaryotes of the same king. Life of the same kind tries to control life of the same kind.

          As long as all of this remains true it is irrational to believe that whatever gain a class has made in self-empowerment or self-autonomy vis-a-vis the control of other people is permanent.

          E.g. The suffrage movement pivoted to seeking suffrage for minorities and those of draft age. They still must seek total suffrage for those who have difficulty proving citizenship (e.g. those citizens old enough to not have the proper documentation), those poor enough to lack transportation to the nearest polling station, those whose employers won’t let them have time off to vote. And more generally for those who are targeted by disinformation in order to convince them not to vote. In some states some aliens used to have the right to vote; it’s conceivable that suffragists could see this loss of suffrage as something to fight against too (especially since many of those aliens are paying direct and indirect taxes, and otherwise being controlled by the government).

        • Aapje says:

          @thenoblepie

          So movements that achieve their goals either experience mission creep, or they stop being relevant.

          There is a large chance that they are taken over by a more radical element when the initial goal has been reached, as those who are happy with the end result leave the movement, since they have nothing to fight for. Ultimately, movements are brands. Taking over and repurposing a brand can work since people tend to have certain associations with brands and are often slow to update their assumptions.

          I think that the relevance of movements is primarily determined by how well they can convince the average person that they have an important goal.

          Some movements that get taken over by radicals settle on narratives that sound crazy to normal people, but when they come up with narratives that are highly persuasive to poorly informed outsiders, they can get a lot of support from people who don’t realize that these narratives conflict with science.

          For example, equal pay for equal work is a perfectly fair demand and 70 cents to the dollar sounds like a very good reason to demand change. The average person won’t be aware that most of the pay difference is provably due to unequal work, that there are many gender-level workplace differences where men are worse off, etc.

          The SJ movement is also extremely aggressive in silencing their opposition through slander, misrepresenting the opposition, denying them a platform, etc. As a result, the movement doesn’t get the same scrutiny/push back that many other movements get.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            Ultimately, movements are brands.

            Except, obviously, in many ways they’re completely different from brands.

            I don’t mean to single you out but this is a tendency I’ve noticed in these comment sections to massively overextend analogies, most commonly computers and coding used to understand mind and economics used to understand all social formations and behaviour, presumably because the SSC population is particularly keen on and has a good understanding of computers and economics.

            The problems come when you use the same metaphors repeatedly. If you always discuss the brain as if it were a computer, it comes to seem increasingly like a computer to you. You start to only see the ways in which it is like a computer and miss all the ways in which it isn’t.

            Using a thing which you understand well as an analogy in order to make sense of something you understand less well can be useful. “In some respects, social movements can be seen as similar to brands” has the potential to be illuminating but “ultimately, social movements are brands” is completely reductive.

          • Aapje says:

            When I say that movements are brands, I mean that in the same way as saying that Apple or Pepsi is a brand. People say that very commonly and they don’t mean that Apple does nothing but branding. Similarly, they don’t mean that Apple and Pepsi are identical companies.

            So the way I see it, you are chastising me for a completely non-standard reading of my words. Nowhere in my comment did I claim that ‘branding’ is a universal explanation of everything surrounding advocacy movements. I just explained why movements rarely just dissolve themselves when they reach their initial goals, but why they tend to get taken over. That is a very specific point and I never extended my analogy beyond that.

            When you claim that people tend to get stuck on an explanation/analogy and can’t look beyond that, that seems more descriptive of your own behavior, since you seem to be interpreting my comment according to a narrative you have established in your own mind, rather than being open minded.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            When I say that movements are brands, I mean that in the same way as saying that Apple or Pepsi is a brand. People say that very commonly and they don’t mean that Apple does nothing but branding. Similarly, they don’t mean that Apple and Pepsi are identical companies.

            Yes, Apple and Pepsi are brands. As you point out they are both companies, they are entities which are endeavouring to sell products to make money. Social movements are not companies and they are not brands.

            I’m not quite sure what your point is. Well-known multinational corporations are brands but they do things other than branding, therefore movements which try to bring about social and political change are also brands?

            I just explained why movements rarely just dissolve themselves when they reach their initial goals, but why they tend to get taken over.

            Yes, but I think your explanation didn’t give a good answer as to why they don’t dissolve themselves because it was based on a flawed analogy. Did third wave feminists understand themselves to be doing something that wasn’t feminism but decided to infiltrate the movement and redefine it because it had a good brand? No, they understood themselves to be continuing a tradition and building upon the work of those that came before them.

          • Charles F says:

            @Art
            I think it’s fair to say that movements themselves are groups of people doing a thing and not really a brand. But there’s also a sense where Feminism, or Occupy, or whatever are rallying points outside of the actual work that people are doing under those banners.

            People are Feminists when they’re between marches because Feminists are like them and they trust things closely associated with feminism. And it makes coordinating a large group easier than trying to argue for each individual policy.

            Maybe brand isn’t the best word to describe them, and certainly I think distinguishing the activities and the symbol is important.

            For more/better details about this, this post on the decentralized left is interesting. One relevant quote:

            Smucker’s analysis of Occupy addresses both why it succeeded and why it failed. Part of its success, he holds, lay in the fact that at its height, Occupy could be described by a Claude Levi-Strauss term: “floating signifier.”

            What’s a floating signifier? It’s a symbol that has an imprecise meaning. And that broad vagueness is its strength. A floating signifier is “amorphous enough for many different kinds of people to connect with and see their values and hopes within,” meaning that it rallies people who ordinarily wouldn’t rally together.

          • Aapje says:

            @Art Vandelay

            I see what the issue is, you don’t understand what a brand is. One definition: “a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals.” Now, these names and such are of course (mostly) mere labels, which have no inherent valuable properties. Instead, the value is what they stand for. Yet what they stand for exists without the branding. So why do we have branding?

            One reason is that it is costly to make evaluations, so people don’t make evaluations continuously, but they make evaluations infrequently and then trust that the outcome of the evaluation will hold for a long period. Also, they often depend on others to make the evaluation, so they trust the perception of the brand that others communicate in various ways. Etc.

            Similarly, advocacy movements build up a reputation which is linked to their brand/name. These usually have positive and negative sides, so there is a cost and benefit to abandoning the brand and building up a new brand. Now, we can assume that a movement that achieved (most of) its goals is perceived more positively than negatively, or they usually wouldn’t have achieved their goals. So there then is a big benefit to sticking with that brand, even if your actual goals don’t have the kind of popular support that the already achieved goals had, if people actually evaluate them. However, as I argued above, many people don’t evaluate frequently, but they jump to conclusions based on the brand reputation. So an advocacy movement that adopts a strong brand will often get support because of their brand reputation. This can backfire when people are made aware that the people who now use the brand are not acting consistently with the brand reputation, however, because of cognitive dissonance, tribalism and such, the gap often actually has to be pretty big before people update their perception of the brand.

            Did third wave feminists understand themselves to be doing something that wasn’t feminism but decided to infiltrate the movement and redefine it because it had a good brand? No, they understood themselves to be continuing a tradition and building upon the work of those that came before them.

            They clearly didn’t think they were identical or they wouldn’t have called themselves ‘third wave,’ so you are contradicting yourself here.

            You seem to consider it a logical statement that people have to keep the same name if they are part of the same tradition, but you should really unpack this and realize that this last sentence is not 1-on-1 connected to adopting an existing name of a movement with different ideals.

            Understanding that you continue a tradition and build on the work of others is knowledge. Telling people that you are part of a movement with a certain brand/reputation is communication, which has certain effects on how you are perceived. You seem to consider it a given that people have to communicate their knowledge on this front, but many others do not do this (by keeping the same name).

            For example, the inventors of Java knew that their programming language has many elements derived from other languages. Yet they didn’t call it C, Smalltalk or C/SmallTalk. Instead they chose to develop a separate reputation. Communists understood themselves to be continuing a Marxist and socialist tradition, yet they chose to use a different name, rather than adopt a more generic brand. So it is clearly not a given that people must keep using the same branding.

            Now, my point is that many of the same mechanisms that affect brands, also affect the names of advocacy movements. So understanding the way brands affect people helps you understand how other labels affect people. It all gets processed by the same human brain. We don’t have a capitalist part of the brain that processes branding and another part that processes advocacy movements.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I see what the issue is, you don’t understand what a brand is. One definition: “a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals.”

            Movements don’t have rivals, they have opponents.

            Organizations within a movement have rivals, and thus have brands.

            Feminism is not a brand, it’s a categorical equivalent to “Motion Picture Entertainment”.

            And yes, sometimes the brand overwhelms the categorical to the extent the categorical assumes its name in the public consciousness (e.g. Kleenex for ‘facial tissues’ or Band-aid for ‘bandage’ in the US).

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            I can’t remember any controversy over what may be called ‘Motion Picture Entertainment,’ but a lot of fuss is often made about whether people identify as a feminist or whether they are allowed to identify as such (instead of as an ‘ally’ for example). So I think that your claim that it is only rather broad, bland category doesn’t make much sense.

            A more sensible statement is that it is both a category and a brand.

            At best your claim is a one-sided way to look at it that ignores many issues, including the issues that I consider relevant to this discussion.

          • Art Vandelay says:

            I see what the issue is, you don’t understand what a brand is. One definition: “a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals.”

            So, is feminism an organisation or a product? (Tip: it’s neither, see AnonymousSkinner’s comment).

            Now I think, AnonymouSkinner points us in a more promising direction, certainly there are feminist organisations–particularly large, mainstream ones–which can be usefully understood as brands. I probably wouldn’t extend this to all feminist organisations. I’m not sure it would be useful to think of a small, radical group dedicated to direct action as a brand.

            There’s also some promise in thinking of feminism as similar to categories like ‘Motion Picture Entertainment’ or ‘soft drinks’ but I would still urge caution. Just to pick one fairly obvious point, people who work in fields like motion pictures, soft drinks, laptop manufacture, etc. are primarily motivated by a need/desire to make money. Sure, some people love their jobs but most people’s reason for getting up and going into these jobs every morning is so they get paid. Likewise, the organisations themselves are primarily motivated by a desire for profit.

            This is not true in feminism, most people who would call themselves feminists do not get paid for this, they do it because their friends do, because they believe it will help improve the world, perhaps some because they like complaining about men–there are surely a whole host of reasons. Many (probably most?) do not do their “work” as feminists through an organisation. The organisations are in theory motivated by a desire to change the world rather than make money (through donations etc.), although this one is interesting. They need to make money in order to fund things, hire staff and the like. I would guess that with most organisations, once they reach a certain size, there is an extent to which bringing in money becomes an end in itself rather than a means to some further end. Large feminist organisations will have people whose sole job is to try and increase revenue. They might do so by marketing the organisation to potential donors and here we are most certainly in brand territory. But I will note, this is rather different from the claim that feminism is ultimately a brand.

            They clearly didn’t think they were identical or they wouldn’t have called themselves ‘third wave,’ so you are contradicting yourself here.

            Third Wave Feminism. If you can point out where I said they were identical I will concede that I was contradicting myself. Also, it’s rare to hear a feminist claim to be a third wave feminist specifically. The key point is why they refer to themselves as feminists. I suggest that it is because they consider themselves feminists, you suggest it is because they see “feminism” as a potent brand. I let outside observers judge which they deem more likely.

            As for the rest of your argument, I do not know much about the history of Java so I will stick to the example of the naming of socialist/Marxist/communist groups. There has always been a great tendency among groups of this kind to distinguish themselves from others, but this is almost always primarily because of ideology or practice, not branding. Splits within these groups could be about the best tactics to adopt in the present moment, or what kind of society the revolution will ideally bring about.

            Now, the idea of branding could perhaps be extended usefully to aid understanding of some aspects of these different groups. We might argue that when the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party split in 1904, Lenin showed a greater proclivity for branding in ensuring his faction was known as the Bolsheviks (from a root meaning greater/bigger) and the other lot were known as the Mensheviks (from a root meaning lesser), but to say that these two groups were “ultimately” brands obscures more than it illuminates.

          • Aapje says:

            @Art Vandelay

            So, is feminism an organisation or a product?

            Is Pepsi an organization, a product or a political movement? The more you say, the clearer it is that you are the one who suffers from: “You start to only see the ways in which it is like [X] and miss all the ways in which it isn’t.” Feminism is sometimes a product, yes.

            You keep trying to pretend that I am making claims that I don’t make, consistently misrepresenting my position (which you did starting from the first response you made). It’s tiresome.

            There’s also some promise in thinking of feminism as similar to categories like ‘Motion Picture Entertainment’ or ‘soft drinks’ but I would still urge caution. Just to pick one fairly obvious point, people who work in fields like motion pictures, soft drinks, laptop manufacture, etc. are primarily motivated by a need/desire to make money.

            It is highly debatable whether film makers are primarily motivated by money or by artistic concerns. Furthermore, lots of people don’t choose a field like soft drinks or laptop manufacture, but machine maintenance or accounting and then happen to go do that for a soft drinks company or whatever. Lots of people choose fields that don’t earn maximum pay given their abilities, so that’s already where your model breaks down. Modeling people as if they only care about money doesn’t work at all. People have many more goals, which they will seek to achieve both in their private and work life. See Damore/Google for example.

            This idea that you can model these things as hard categories which don’t overlap is often simply wrong.

            Many (probably most?) do not do their “work” as feminists through an organisation.

            So? People also dress as jocks, hipsters, geeks, etc to associate themselves with a certain ‘brand,’ image or whatever you want to call it. Many people piggy back as individuals on the brand of a company by openly displaying their products and getting associated with them. These people build their own personal brand on top of brands controlled by organizations. Sometimes they even change the brand image. If you define ‘brand’ a little bit more broadly than a company selling a product under a name they exclusively use, it’s not necessary for a single entity to control it or use it.

            But I will note, this is rather different from the claim that feminism is ultimately a brand.

            I never claimed that “feminism is ultimately a brand.” I claimed that a major reason for one specific kind of behavior by people (adopting the label of feminism despite not desiring the outcomes that have up to that point been associated with feminism by most people) is that feminism is also a brand. I didn’t claim that everything about feminism can be explained by seeing it as a brand!

            This is an example of you strawmanning the shit out of my argument, BTW.

            I’ll stop here, because this debate is already rather useless, as you want to turn it into some all-encompassing debate whether or not feminism is merely a brand and is identical to Pepsi in most ways, when this is not what I claimed, nor is it a position that any sensible person would have.

          • James says:

            For example, the inventors of Java knew that their programming language has many elements derived from other languages. Yet they didn’t call it C, Smalltalk or C/SmallTalk. Instead they chose to develop a separate reputation.

            Though Javascript was called Javascript entirely to hijack Java’s reputation, despite being a very different language!

          • Art Vandelay says:

            I never claimed that “feminism is ultimately a brand.”

            Yes and no. You made the claim about all movements, which would include feminism.

            Ultimately, movements are brands.

            Which rather undermines your claim that.

            This is an example of you strawmanning the shit out of my argument, BTW.

            It actually seems to be the other way round.

            For example you write

            It is highly debatable whether film makers are primarily motivated by money or by artistic concerns.

            In argument against a paragraph where I write

            Sure, some people love their jobs but most people’s reason for getting up and going into these jobs every morning is so they get paid.

            Which I assumed would clarify that I was talking about the majority of people in these fields, and that my statement about people being primarily motivated by money was not intended to cover all outliers.

            You go on to write that

            Modeling [sic] people as if they only care about money doesn’t work at all. People have many more goals, which they will seek to achieve both in their private and work life.

            Which doesn’t contradict my point at all. My point was that work is primarily (firstly, principally, predominantly, most importantly, especially) motivated by monetary concerns, whereas activity in movements like feminism is generally not, and that this is a clear difference between the two. You have not refuted that point, you have just “strawmanned the shit” out of my argument by acting as if I’ve said that humans “only care about money”.

            But really this boils down to your belief that you didn’t say feminism (or more specifically all movements) are ultimately brands. If you hadn’t said this, and had instead said something like “I think it could be useful to compare movements to brands on these specific points” then my criticism of you would be totally unfounded. But you did say “ultimately, movements are brands” and so a warning about the dangers of overextending analogies does not seem completely unwarranted. But I guess I will be pleased that you seem to have accepted my point that movements aren’t ultimately brands and that overextending analogies can be a foolish thing to do.

          • rlms says:

            “Though Javascript was called Javascript entirely to hijack Java’s reputation, despite being a very different language!”
            It was then standardised as ECMAScript to take advantage of dermatitis’ positive reputation.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            There’s no central authority which regulates membership in the brand. Regardless of how much people argue about it.

            This is why the “no true scotsman” fallacy is labeled a fallacy. Whereas it is possible to label a drink a true champagne or a true Pepsi (though not a “true” cola given all the cola derivatives and market-alikes).

            It’s still possible for anyone to recognize that a person from Mozambique, and living in Mozambique, whose ancestors are from Mozambique is not a true scotsman. This makes it a categorical.

            I acknowledge that the dairy and pork industries will occasionally market themselves as a brand. But this indicates four things:
            1) They have a central marketing authority which is de facto approved of by all categorical members (ie. there’s effectively only one organization within the category).
            2) They are relatively small and homogenous categories (see the above ie).
            3) They’re commodities in which no brands effectively exist (just sub-niches such as organic).
            4) The categoricals themselves have opponents and the ‘branded’ marketing is essentially trying to say it’s okay or good to purchase their product.

            There are those who will argue that alcohol consumption is okay, or even good, but this sort of identification differs in a very important sense from saying that Lahdeedah is your favorite drink, or that you like bloody marys but can’t stand martinis.

            The moment you have genuine competition within a categorical, categorical branding really disappears. Even the west versus east during the cold war would have strong partisanship about what sort of republicanism or communism was best. The alliances that formed were to the distinct brands within the categorical, not to the categoricals themselves.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Obergefell?

  4. Well... says:

    Consider 3 hypothetical Americans: Aaron (born in 1968), Ben (born in 1987), and Chris (born in 1995).

    Hypothesis: given that birthyears are all we know and assuming everything else is “typical” about these three, there is likely a bigger generational gap between Ben and Chris than between Aaron and Ben, despite the age gap between Ben and Chris being well under half that between Aaron and Ben.

    Agree/disagree? Anyone relate this to a similar personal example where it was true or untrue? I’ve had many examples of this in my life and found it pretty consistently true. I’m in my early 30s and if I have two coworkers aged 27 and 50, I’m almost always assured to have more in common (and more to talk about) with the older one. (It’s why I know I’m a millennial but I feel like Gen X.)

    I blame the internet and cell phones.

    • rahien.din says:

      Do you think this is because extrinsic factors led to Aaron’s and Ben’s generations having more similarities than Ben’s and Chris’s? Or are 30-somethings always more like their older colleagues than 20-somethings?

      My personal feeling is more the latter. And I think that has a lot to do with actually starting a career, and raising a family. I have more in common with my older colleagues because we have kids, we have similar goals, we have similar frustrations, despite being from very different generations.

      • Well... says:

        Both, but I think you overly discount the former. For instance, when I was 21 I felt closer generationally to 30-something grad students than to freshman undergrads. Again, I blame cell phones and the internet. People born in the mid 90s grew up up with those things in a way people born just a few years earlier did not.

        • rahien.din says:

          I blame cell phones and the internet. People born in the mid 90s grew up up with those things in a way people born just a few years earlier did not.

          I just think this is an availability heuristic at work until proven otherwise. You may be discounting the rather vast differences between Aaron’s and Ben’s generations. You may also be discounting the possibility that, in 2007, 30-somethings born in the mid 70’s would have made the exact same calculations regarding your generation.

          • Well... says:

            Do you believe generational gaps are evenly distributed over time?

          • rahien.din says:

            More basic than that.

            You observe that your kinship with more generationally-distant Boomers exceeds your kinship with more generationally-close 20-somethings.

            A. your hypothesis : this tells us that there is something unique about that generation (and you propose this is ultimately due to certain technologies).

            B. my proposed null hypothesis : 30-somethings tend to relate better to their older peers than to their younger peers, for reasons applicable to any generation.

            If we can’t reject B, then any experience of A could just be an availability heuristic.

            Here’s maybe a more pertinent thought : you might be misapplying the label “generational” to what is actually a natural and desired experience.

            For instance : as a 21-year old, you had more in common with the grad students than with the college freshmen, and you strongly imply that this is unexpected. But that’s the exact point of going to college. If at the end of college you have more in common with the freshmen than with the grad students, you did it wrong.

            To your original point : maybe those 30-something grad students you felt such kinship toward didn’t feel the same for you. In fact, maybe they had the exact experience you describe, wherein 20-something [Well…] felt more distant from them than did their older peers.

            I think what you may have noticed is that you, [Well…], have aspirations and goals, and one manifestation thereof is the sort of people you want to associate with. I don’t think it has anything to do with cellphones.

          • Well... says:

            Hm. An interesting idea. I’m still not convinced you’re totally right, but there might be some truth to it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Well:
            Ask yourself this. When you were a frehman in college, how much kinship/sameness did you feel with those who were seniors in college.

            If you knew any grad students as a freshman, how much in common did you feel? If not, how much do you imagine you would have felt?

            It is possible that, being someone attracted to SSC, you simply have more in common with the modal grad student than the modal undergrad.

          • Well... says:

            As a freshman (a true freshman, not after I dropped out and restarted school a couple years later) I had one friend who was a sophomore; most of my other friends were seniors. I sometimes hung out with other freshmen but never made any lasting connections with them. (Note: I moved out shortly after I graduated high school and moved 2000 miles away, on my own, just because I wanted to live in the southwest.)

            When I restarted later (at a different school 1800 miles away from the first one), I was a freshman again but as old as most juniors and some seniors. I had a few friends who were in my class or the one above, therefore 1-3 years younger than me, but most of my friends were grad students ranging in age from about 28 to about 35, and I had much more in common with them.

            Yes, some of this was a life experience thing particular to my circumstances, but a lot of it was just the cultural stuff we had in common to talk about–shows we watched, books we read, technology we used, music we liked, etc. and most of all, just the basic subtleties of how we were used to interacting.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            So your issue primarily seems to be that you prefer older friends to friends your own age or younger.

            Since this is the case this doesn’t seem to be a generational thing, or you’d have comparatively plenty of friends your own age.

            The question now is when and why this preference formed.

            How were your friendships in earlier years of life?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Well:

            I think you are confirming my point. The kinship you felt with those who were older had essentially nothing to do with relative birth year. You did not even feel kinship with other incoming college freshmen, born in your same birth year.

          • Well... says:

            In high school just about all my friends were my age or a grade older.

    • quaelegit says:

      Its been pointed out to me that age feels logarithmic — the older you are, the less difference a year makes. This probably doesn’t explain all of it but I think it a large part.

      Another possible explanation is that you and the 50 year old are in the same life stage (e.g. married, home owning) whereas the 27 year old is still living a young/renter/single life.

    • Matt M says:

      Strong disagree. In fact, I feel the exact opposite. I’m 32 and relate more closely to my 25 year old co-workers than to the 40+ crowd (who would characterize both me and them as “millennials”)

      It probably has a lot to do with life situations. I relate to the younger crowd because I’m still single. Perhaps if you’re married with kids, you relate to the older crowd.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Yeah- I’m low 30s, but relate more to the younger crowd. I’m far more capable with tech than my coworkers in their 40s, I know what all of the teenager slang means because I spend time online, and I have no kids so I’m spending my freetime doing things more like the early 20s people- backpacking, weekend parties (though mine are considerably more tame than the college variety these days!), media consumption, fancy dates or overnight getaways with my wife, etc.

        Makes for a disconnect at the metaphorical water cooler.

    • I’m looking at the same question farther back. I think I may have had more in common with my parents than my kids do with me. Two examples:

      When I was growing up, it was still taken for granted that sex outside of marriage was on the whole bad and not all that common, although it obviously occurred, and that there was something wrong with a woman who engaged in casual sex (less true of a man). I was just a little too young, or perhaps socially retarded, to pick up on the full scale acceptance of non-marital sex, including casual sex. But it’s part of the world my children grew up in.

      I grew up before the internet and personal computers. In my kids’ culture, it is normal not only to have friends whose realspace identity you don’t know but to have norms against revealing your realspace identity or information that implies it, except to close friends. That’s the instantiation of a pattern I discussed in print when my younger son was three, possibly earlier, but I was discussing it as a possible future consequence of computer networks and public key encryption, not as a part of the actual rules of the society I was living in.

      There are probably other differences, but those are the ones that strike me.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      >I blame the internet and cell phones.

      I remember someone talking (naturally I can’t find the link) about the difference being that people born around 1995 or later are too young to really remember the world before 9/11. There was kind of a significant cultural shift then. The article then linked this to the rise of SJWism by claiming that the rise in authoritarianism after 9/11 translated into a greater acceptance of authoritarianism in that generation, but I’m not so sure of that.

      • dndnrsn says:

        So, I came politically of age around/just after 9/11, and “you’re with us or you’re against us”, “how dare you not do [thing that might not actually solve the problem and could make it worse], you’re clearly in favour of [problem]”, etc, were big on the right then. They’re hardly absent on the left now. But is that just the equivalent of someone who started listening to the radio in 1973 and is stuck there – am I just seeing something that’s always present on all sides?

  5. Nick says:

    What kind of a social/cultural force is the military in the US today?

    I’ve read books like Gleick’s The Information and Isaacson’s The Innovators the past few years and Hodges’ Alan Turing: The Enigma more recently. It seems the twentieth century had a lot of the following things: the military funding important research with wide applications and implications in society; smart, capable people working in, with, or at the behest of the military; and positive regard for the role of the military. I point to things like computing, information science, and, uh, applied physics for the first; Vannevar Bush, Grace Hopper, and any of the scientists involved in the Manhattan project or Los Alamos for the second; and leaders like MacArthur for the third*.

    So where is all that today? Is the military pursuing cutting edge research and employing great minds, or are those all working elsewhere? Are there Vannevar Bush figures writing seminal articles in The Atlantic that I’m just not aware of? Do we have anything like a contemporary MacArthur? I don’t know remotely enough about twentieth century history to have well-formed opinions about this, so I’m interested in hearing anyone weigh in more about that too.

    *Disclaimer that I know very little about MacArthur, but it seems he was very well regarded and influential at the time.

    • quaelegit says:

      Re: MacArthur. We also don’t have any conflicts like WWII in which a MacArthur like figure would ride to prominence. Maybe it would be more apt to compare to famous military figure from the Vietnam era? (I can’t think of a good example but I don’t know much about the Vietnam war)

      Also I don’t know that MacArthur is a good example of “positive regard for the military” after 1950 or so (when did Truman fire him?)

    • Civilis says:

      What kind of a social/cultural force is the military in the US today?

      I think people’s perspective on the US military is frequently a product of the media culture in which they grew up. Individual events may come and go, but your original impression is going to set the tone.

      For kids growing up today, I think they’re getting mixed messages, namely, individual servicemen and women are good and heroic, the ‘military-industrial complex’ is bad. I would guess this differentiation is a product of the War on Terror and the availability of the internet allowing the perspective of individual family of soldiers to be heard. Saving Private Ryan is probably the last cultural artifact that can be seen as setting the tone across the entire American culture (left/right and red/blue), treating the soldiers as heroes but the war as horrible.

      As far as the military’s ability to culturally project, it’s no longer the military development projects that attract public interest, as most of the ones that aren’t classified are decade-long boondoggles. The last real gee-whiz military technology was the public revelation of stealth aircraft and precision guided munitions in the first Gulf War. GPS, though awesome, isn’t really gee-whiz. Most of the military’s ability to project cultural force has been through skilled public relations, usually through Hollywood, and that’s been tempered by technology making the need for capturing actual weapons systems on film obsolete. The high water mark for the military’s role in film I’d say would be Top Gun.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I’d say they’re a little more subtle now. My good friend was an Air Force officer with a degree in Public Relations. His job was “Air Force Liaison to Hollywood.” He worked on set for Transformers and Iron Man. If the Air Force personnel in Transformers had a line, Michael Bay would ask my friend, “what should this guy say here?” and my friend would tell him. It was a pretty neat job.

        Basically if you’re making a movie or TV show (Stargate SG-1) that makes the military look good, the military will come help you do it.

        • Civilis says:

          Basically if you’re making a movie or TV show (Stargate SG-1) that makes the military look good, the military will come help you do it.

          I don’t think the military’s cooperation has been as successful at boosting its image in recent years. Top Gun couldn’t have been made without the Navy’s assistance, had a story centered on a quasi-realistic military, and it made a large number of kids want to be naval aviators (or at least regard them as ‘cool’). Battleship / Transformers / Iron Man are all movies that could be made without the military and have stories centering around a science fiction gimmick, and so don’t nearly boost the military as much.

          Movies that center around a quasi-realistic portrayal of the modern military tend to require a level of nuance that would be vetoed by a PR type (see Crimson Tide), so the military tends to assist sci-fi stories where the military aspects play a supporting role. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, I think they did a good job with Stargate SG-1, but it’s not as effective at changing the public’s perception of the military as dedicated war movies are.

          Looking at the list of movies that the US military provided assistance to, the only ones I see relating to recent wars that had any sort of box office success were Black Hawk Down (released in the cultural climate just after 9/11) and United 93 (not depicting US forces fighting abroad).

          [Disclosure: the following was taken from Wikipedia. I don’t consider Wikipedia to be a canonical source, but it’s useful for fast facts and information. I welcome anyone providing better sources.]
          In it’s discussion on Black Hawk Down, Wikipedia quotes Newsweek writer Evan Thomas as saying “though it depicted a shameful defeat, the soldiers were heroes willing to die for their brothers in arms[…] The movie showed brutal scenes of killing, but also courage, stoicism and honor[…] The overall effect was stirring, if slightly pornographic, and it seemed to enhance the desire of Americans for a thumping war to avenge 9/11.” My contention is that Evan was right at the time; public sentiment was and still is such that the American public regards American soldiers, even losing, as heroes and movies that disregard this are doomed to fail. However, the botched execution of the War on Terror caused the current media environment which now supports a disconnect between portrayal of individual American soldiers and portrayal of the military as a whole, and that the burned-in public perception of the War on Terror makes it hard for the DoD’s PR campaign to change the perception of the military as a whole for the foreseeable future.

          • hlynkacg says:

            *Grumbles*

            Bakaara Market was not a “shameful defeat”. The UN in general and Clinton in particular were looking for an excuse to pull out. The primary mission objective was completed and even the most conservative estimates have the US inflicting a 10:1 casualty ratio on the enemy.

          • John Schilling says:

            Newsweek’s reviewer nonetheless describes it as a defeat, and they weren’t alone. Yes, there were political reasons for that at the time, but Thomas was writing fifteen years after the fact.

            Hlynkacg is right. “Black Hawk Down” is the story of a force outnumbered twenty to one and beset by equipment failure, poor planning, and a divided command nonetheless accomplishing their mission and walking out under their own power, leaving the battlefield littered with enemy dead outnumbering their own twenty to one.

            This is what victory looks like.

            And not even a pyrrhic victory. One or two more like that, and it would have been the Aidid clan militia, not the US Rangers, unable to continue the fight.

            The society that looks at “Black Hawk Down” and sees a defeat, is the society that will never know victory in battle and war. The question is, to what extent does Newsweek speak for the United States of America in this respect?

          • hlynkacg says:

            The society that looks at “Black Hawk Down” and sees a defeat, is the society that will never know victory in battle and war. The question is, to what extent does Newsweek speak for the United States of America in this respect?

            Cue further grumbling about “thrivers” insulating themselves from harsh realities.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @John Schilling

            The society that looks at “Black Hawk Down” and sees a defeat, is the society that will never know victory in battle and war.

            It’s the price of democracy that lies at the heart of the implicit paradox of the American empire. Somalia was a “defeat” because the Aidid clan inflicted more casualties than the American public was willing to accept to achieve our goals in Somalia (a figure that can safely be rounded down to zero).

            @hlynkacg
            Clinton was the one who sent task force ranger there in the first place. I suspect it was less a question of him looking for an out, and more that as an unpopular president, who had been elected with only a plurality of the vote, he felt vulnerable to political attack from Republicans for wasting American lives on third world nation building.

          • hlynkacg says:

            As I recall it was Bush I that got us involved in Somalia though you may be right about Clinton feeling politically vulnerable.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @hlynkacg
            There were two phases to US intervention in Somalia,
            The first was the largely successful Operation Restore Hope, in which a US led United nations task force was deployed to stabilize the country and try to broker a peace deal between the various factions.

            Only later, early in the Clinton administration, did the Aidid clan become convinced that the UN was being overly favorable to it’s rivals and begin targeting international forces. It was at this point that Clinton deployed a USSOCOM task force to hunt down Adid.

          • albatross11 says:

            hyperboloid:

            I think you’re basically right about the issue w.r.t. Black Hawk Down, and something similar applies to most or all of our constant wars and interventions. We’re mostly intervening in places where:

            a. There’s not some clear, overpowering national interest that’s being served by the intervention. Often it’s pretty hazy what we’re supposed to be gaining, or why our intervention will lead to the alleged gains.

            b. Almost no Americans actually care much what happens in the nation in which we’re intervening, so any complications (extra cost, long duration, casualties, political/diplomatic blowback) make it look like a failure.

            It seems to me that this is a reflection of the fact that we’re way, way too eager to militarily intervene in foreign countries. I suspect this is driven by internal incentives in the military and diplomatic communities that don’t align too well with the actual interests of the country. And probably one consequence of this is we’re mostly used to the idea that losing a few thousand people invading and occupying Iraq for a decade is an unacceptably high cost. If we ever have to fight a war that really matters, I can imagine a variety of ways that attitude could bite us on the ass.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @albatross11

            But in a “war that really matters” neither your points a) nor b) would be true.

          • Civilis says:

            Ultimately, we’re talking about the relationship between the American public and the American military, and how the public perceives the military.

            Hlynkacg is right. “Black Hawk Down” is the story of a force outnumbered twenty to one and beset by equipment failure, poor planning, and a divided command nonetheless accomplishing their mission and walking out under their own power, leaving the battlefield littered with enemy dead outnumbering their own twenty to one.

            The military success of the First Persian Gulf war had the American public in the 90s in a mood where it perceived a case where the American military experienced ‘equipment failure’, ‘poor planning’ and ‘divided command’ as a failure of the military, usually described as a defeat. I’m a student of history; I know this is how military operations tend to go in the real world, but the public was accustomed to having military operations go smoothly. The public perception of the military at the time was based on the Persian Gulf War, which militarily went incredibly well: the cutting edge equipment was presented as working perfectly, the plan seemed to go off without a hitch, and the command (Schwartzkopf and Powell) seemed to be competent and unified. Failing to meet this unrealistically high standard was viewed as a failure.

            The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan are two different stories from two different generations about the same battle. The story told immediately after the second world war presented almost exclusively the side of the war that put the American war effort in the best light: the American soldier was good, the enemy was monstrous, the war was well run, the technology was whiz-bang, few mistakes were made (and those were fixed through heroism). I’m a student of history, I know the real picture was a lot more complex, and that the American war effort wasn’t so neat. As time passed and the historical record became more nuanced, that initial portrayal became tempered, and later portrayals captured more of the gray areas of the American war effort.

            In response to events, especially Vietnam, the anti-war movement tried to change the public perspective of the US military. War movies made with anti-war intent portrayed the American soldier as misguided if not evil, the enemy as human, the war as incompetently run at best, the technology as a failure, and mistakes as common and horrible. The problem is that a lot of Americans knew people that served, and that personal experience beats the media narrative, which harmed the anti-war movement. If your goal is to weaken the American public’s resolve to wage war this is a problem because it’s a lot harder to portray the soldiers as heroic without portraying the war itself as somewhat heroic, and that’s the complaint Evan Thomas is making in the Newsweek article.

            That the media (both news and entertainment) has gotten good at telling stories which portray the individual soldiers as heroes without that moral judgement passing on to the war itself is both a good and a bad thing.

          • beleester says:

            And not even a pyrrhic victory. One or two more like that, and it would have been the Aidid clan militia, not the US Rangers, unable to continue the fight.

            I think the popular conception is that third-world militias aren’t really limited by the number of casualties they’re taking. What does it matter if you killed 200 insurgents with 10 soldiers, when they’ll have 200 more conscripts out there the next day?

            And Vietnam gave us good reason to think that “body count” isn’t a good measure of success, seeing as we racked up nearly a million dead Communists without obvious progress.

            I’m not an expert on the Somali conflict, so I’ll believe you when you say that the Aidid militia couldn’t replace those losses trivially and it tipped things in our favor. But I want to point out that “We killed a lot of bad guys” or “We won a battle against long odds” isn’t actually an answer to the question of “Did we get closer to our political goals?”

          • John Schilling says:

            I think the popular conception is that third-world militias aren’t really limited by the number of casualties they’re taking. What does it matter if you killed 200 insurgents with 10 soldiers, when they’ll have 200 more conscripts out there the next day?

            The popular conception is, as usual, wrong. Aidid had ~4000 fairly enthusiastic gunmen on 2 October 1993. If there had been 8000 people who were willing to be his gunmen, he’d have had 8000. It’s not like he’d have had trouble coming up with guns for them. On 4 October 1993, he had ~3600 rather less enthusiastic gunmen and a poor recruiting pitch if he were going to try for replacements.

            Unless he could show them the backside of a bunch of fleeing Americans and claim credit for a victory, but that requires the Americans actually flee rather than coming back for a rematch.

          • Nornagest says:

            In response to events, especially Vietnam, the anti-war movement tried to change the public perspective of the US military. War movies made with anti-war intent portrayed the American soldier as misguided if not evil, the enemy as human, the war as incompetently run at best, the technology as a failure, and mistakes as common and horrible.

            Hmm. I don’t think this is quite on base. The only Vietnam War movie I remember seeing that gives a sympathetic POV to the NVA is We Were Soldiers, which is fairly recent by the standards of Vietnam movies (2002) and which I would not describe as an anti-war film. I can’t think of any that give much sympathy to the VC.

            Almost every anti-war movie set in Vietnam takes pretty much the same tack, which is to depict everything about the war — the country, the tactics, the military culture, the opposition — as a primeval jungle hell that corrupts everything it touches. Technology is rarely a focus. The enemy if anything is less human than in WWII movies. American soldiers are naive, brutal, or broken. Strategy is incomprehensible or nonexistent.

            I think this might have something to do with the fact that Vietnam movies were often made largely by people who actually participated in the war. It’s quite different from anti-war media set in more modern conflicts, which tends to be written by people without military experience and hews much closer to the perspective quoted above.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Civilis

            I’m not sure if your reading is correct. Saving Private Ryan is, in the end, a heroic tale. The good guys aren’t shining knights – they commit at least one war crime – but they are definitely the good guys, the bad guys are definitely the bad guys, the mission is worth it in the end, etc. It’s not much of an anti-war movie (see below, though). And it’s not as though there weren’t movies back in the day about stuff going terribly wrong: A Bridge Too Far is 15 years after The Longest Day, and both based on books by the same author.

            There’s some quote about how there’s no such thing as an anti-war movie. The rationale is that, to the men (boys really) of age 16 to early 20s who historically are the bulk of combat troops, the combat scenes are cool, even if the overall message is supposed to be anti-war. A few years ago, I watched Full Metal Jacket again, having not seen it since I was 17 or 18, and it was a very different experience. When you’re 16, a 20-year-old with a gun looks like a badass, and 20 seems impossibly old. When you’re 25 or so, a 20-year-old with a gun looks like a scared kid. The most effective anti-war movies are the ones where you never see the enemy (do you ever see a German in Paths of Glory?) and I would argue that the last season of Blackadder is a more effective anti-war message than any number of action-packed gory movies meant to show the horrors of war.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Military research: presumably there’s stuff that’s military technology right now that will be useful civilian technology in five or ten or twenty years.

      Experts working in/with the military: ditto. Was Bush’s article considered seminal the moment it was published? And, if the US were to do a full-court press on some issue of science, presumably a huge number of incredibly intelligent people would be employed.

      Highly thought of individuals in the military: Matt M mentions Powell and Petraeus. MacArthur was a larger figure than either, but as quaelegit notes, WWII was a larger war. Compare how MacArthur got fired to how McChrystal got fired – that different?. (@quaelegit: Westmoreland was famous, but probably not popular; Abrams seems widely respected) Of course, a major factor here is that the popularly-known generals in WWII (Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, MacArthur, etc) won. What war since WWII has both been a. major and b. a US victory?

      • Nick says:

        Military research: presumably there’s stuff that’s military technology right now that will be useful civilian technology in five or ten or twenty years.

        Can you think of any examples from five or ten or twenty years ago, then? There’s a pretty sizable gap between the era I’m talking about and the late nineties. Probably I should have been more precise than “twentieth century.”

        • AlphaGamma says:

          GPS is just outside that timescale (first civilian receivers sold in 1989, declared dual-use in 1996, selective availability turned off in 2000).

          Onion routing may count (patented by the US Navy in 1998, first public release of Tor in 2003)

          You could argue that driverless cars started out as military (the DARPA Grand Challenge first run in 2004).

    • Levantine says:

      Using thousands of pages of documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act National Security Cinema exclusively reveals that the national security state—led by the CIA and Pentagon—has worked on more than eight-hundred Hollywood films and over a thousand network television shows.

      (https://www.amazon.com/National-Security-Cinema-Government-Hollywood/dp/1548084980/)

    • hyperboloid says:

      Do we have anything like a contemporary MacArthur?

      To the considerable credit of the modern United States military, no. MacArthur was an insubordinate publicity seeking jackass.

      Most people are familiar with his career ending missteps in Korea, but his tenure in the Philippines was his true low point.

      In 1935, his long time personal friend Manuel Quezon, the first president of newly quasi-independent nation, offered MacArthur the job of building a new Philippine army. With Roosevelt’s permission he accepted, and was granted the ludicrous title of “field marshal”, and allowed to draw a duel salary as an officer of both the US and Philippine army armed forces. While in command in Manila he lived a opulent lifestyle more suited to a third world dictator, or some kind of feudal lord, then a US general officer. He rarely came to work before 11 AM, and would sometimes take the much of the afternoon off to socialize with the Philippine elite.

      Out of mixture of arrogance and, I’ll say this in his defense, a genuine if misguided concern for the Filipino people; MacArthur pushed to revise existing US war plans that called for a defense in depth of the islands. Rather than abandoning the capital and retreating to the natural fortress of Baatan to await relief, his plans called for an all out defense of the beaches, supported by naval and air power. In theory it was a good plan, and perhaps it would have worked if the Japanese had invaded in mid 1942 after enough American reinforcements had arrived to mount an effective defense of all of Luzon. But in 1941 the practicality of a thin defense depended on fielding a force that MacArthur simply did not have, and rather than face reality, he deluded himself and made promises he could not keep.

      Worse still he didn’t even implement his plan effectively. His response to the attack on pearl harbor in December of 41, many months before his forces would be ready meet the Japanese on an equal footing, was shock and paralysis. Despite the fact that American war plans had long held that the Japanese would begin a war in the pacific by invading the Philippines, he inexplicably failed to place US forces on a war footing, and on December 8th the far east air force was effectively destroyed by a surprise attack. With the air cover gone he was forced to retreat to Bataan without proper preparations, and his forces were cut off and forced to surrender months earlier then they might otherwise have been.

      His conduct in defense of that nation was a travesty of military malpractice for which he ludicrously received a medal of honor, and half a million dollars(!) from the Philippine treasury.

      • I’ve always heard that MacArthur was a military genius, because he took the minuscule forces allotted to the Pacific (I’ve heard 10% of those devoted to Europe), and yet consistently advanced against the Japanese. At least this is what I heard years ago. I’ve heard a lot more negative stuff in the last decade or so. Not that I’ve paid it a whole lot of attention.

        Was he successful in the Pacific because of his smarts, or because he lucked out with other advantages?

        • John Schilling says:

          Did Macarthur ever advance anywhere the Navy hadn’t already isolated the Japanese by sea and given him at least local material superiority on land and in the air?

          • bean says:

            The only possible case of that is the early New Guinea campaign. It’s been a long time since I went through that, but Buna/Gona was a nasty campaign (which MacArthur didn’t exactly do a great job with), and they didn’t have quite the superiority they did later. I’ll do a bit of digging on this.

            But overall, I’m with you on this. The Pacific was at heart a naval war, and the superiority of the USN allowed MacArthur (who only had Seventh Fleet, which only did sea superiority once) to defeat the Japanese he faced in detail. He and his staff did do an excellent and largely-unrecognized job in New Guinea, but it wasn’t one of the great land campaigns. After all, the 10% rule only applied to land forces, and I can’t really recall a case where raw availability of land forces was pacing in the Pacific. Shipping, on the other hand, often was.

          • Wait, you need to explain this more. As I’ve said, I never paid a whole lot of attention, but my impression was that MacArthur was in charge of the entire Pacific theater. Now I hear you saying that MacArthur only had a piece of it. I’ve always heard that Eisenhower was in charge of the Europe war (for the US), and MacArthur the Pacific war. Who was in charge of the Pacific theater? Somebody had to be coordinating things, didn’t they?

            You seem to be saying that MacArthur wasn’t in charge of the Navy effort in the Pacific. It is the Navy that won the war, from what I’ve heard. How did the leadership work?

          • bean says:

            @Mark
            There were two main efforts in the Pacific, MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific and Nimitz in the Central Pacific. MacArthur ran New Guinea, Nimitz the Gilberts, Marshalls and Marianas. They met in the Philippines, where MacArthur was in charge of the landing, but Nimitz’s forces provided cover. The Solomons were under a separate command, South Pacific, which got rolled into Central Pacific later on. There were a couple of cases where the boundaries between them and MacArthur bit them. I forget the command structure for Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            That’s a really common misconception, and one that is the source of much of my irritation with the MacArthur mythology. Despite what many people with a casual interest in military history believe, the pacific did not have a single unified theater command.

            The actual system was kind of byzantine, but I’ll try and explain it succinctly. As seen in this map, the pacific theater was divided into three co-equal commands, and three subordinate ones.

            Moving from west to east, we have the Southeast Asia command, under Lord Mountbatten, the South West Pacific Area, under MacArthur, and the Pacific Oceans Area under Chester Nimitz. The Pacific Oceans Area was divided into three sub commands, the North, Central, and South, pacific areas.

            The central pacific was directly commanded by Nimitz, and the north, and south were commanded by officers who answered to him.

            As others have said, it was the navy that won the war in the pacific, and MacArthur had very limited naval forces at his command.

            Nimitz was really the closest thing to an Eisenhower of the pacific.
            .

        • dndnrsn says:

          10% of the resources devoted to Europe was still, for many resources, more than Japan could produce, and that’s before it’s taken into account that Japanese logistics were the poorest of any major combatant. Further, that’s not taking into account the British role in the Pacific, or the fact that the Japanese were considerably tied down in China.

          Even moreso than was the case for the Germans, the Japanese were in a situation where if they didn’t land a knockout blow very quickly, they were doomed to failure.

          EDIT: as John Schilling and bean point out, the Pacific was a naval war; the US Navy played the primary role in stopping the Japanese from landing that knockout blow.

        • cassander says:

          The original plan was to give the pacific war something like 15% of US war effort. In actuality, it ended up getting up about twice that, largely because of MacArthur, which almost certainly brought things to a conclusion faster than they would have without him, but it’s hard to call that the result of his strategic genius. He got that extra material because he was too high profile to sideline or subordinate to the navy. His insistence on invading the philippines was almost certainly the wrong strategic move, there was absolutely no need to do so, and the navy’s plan to strike directly at targets closer to japan in 44 was a better plan.

          That said, one cannot praise highly enough the job he did as military governor of japan. That more than makes up for any mistakes he made in the war.

    • willachandler says:

      Nick  asks  “What kind of a social/cultural force is the military in the US today?”.

      Per the US Army/Marine Corps Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, it is a force whose tenets include:

      A belief system acts as a filter for new information: it is the lens through which people perceive the world … ideology provides a prism, including a vocabulary and analytical categories, through which followers perceive their situation … the side that learns faster and adapts more rapidly — the better learning organization — usually wins.

      Plainly, this military guidance owes at least as much to Michel Foucault as to Thomas Bayes! 🙂

      To paraphrase an aphorism of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, “Rationalism is useless, but reasoning is indispensable” by reason that:

      You are going to have the same kind of people to meet with, the same kind of human problems to solve that your predecessors have had all the way back to the Pharaohs … you must plan, you must learn, you must steep yourself in these problems.

      The depth and breadth of the USMC Commandant’s Professional Reading List attests to this cultivation — this enduring, systematic, history-grounded, pragmatically liberal, and quintessentially freethinking cultivation — of “a thirty year old body and 5000 year old mind.”

  6. HFARationalist says:

    Personal Success vs Evolutionary Success

    I personally believe that an individual should pursue personal success but not evolutionary success. Evolution does not have any purpose, hence it is not a game individuals should try to win. An individual should not be a slave to other people, societies, cultures or reproduction.

    Fellow SSCers, what do you think?

    • Well... says:

      …and yet you favor eugenics.

      Somewhere in your head is a clutch pedal that’s squashed down as hard to the floor as it’ll go.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I support eugenics because it is a social responsibility and it makes it more likely that future humans will contain enough rational, STEM-loving people I like. It has nothing to do with spreading my own genes which I’m not interested in at all.

        So my positions are:
        1.I don’t want to reproduce.
        2.I don’t want seducers to reproduce a lot, either. Instead I prefer that future humans should share my preferences without being my close relatives.

        • Well... says:

          The benefits of such a eugenics program, if they come to fruition, would not be felt by you personally, but by your descendants. Oh, wait…

          • HFARationalist says:

            I won’t have any descendants. My support for eugenics is just a consequence of me caring a bit about humanity.

        • Deiseach says:

          An individual should not be a slave to other people, societies, cultures or reproduction.

          I support eugenics because it is a social responsibility

          Pick one, because you can’t have both, because if it’s a social responsibility but people are free to say “nuts to that” without any punishment or bad consequences for them individually, then you are not going to have your social responsibility met.

          You have this absolute mania for a future of free atomised individuals unfettered by any obligations or ties to anyone else, and at the same time a future society where everyone neatly slots into the places you allot to them. You can’t have both.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Your idea is nice. I’m not that much saying that people should have no obligation to other people at all. However I do believe that people who don’t want too many ties with other people should afford to cut ties.

            I believe the world should still have rules but the rules should be impersonal.

    • rahien.din says:

      Evolution does not have any purpose, hence it is not a game individuals should try to win.

      This doesn’t make a lick of sense. Evolution applies to species, not individuals – you couldn’t play that game even if you wanted to.

      An individual can do no thing other than what their genes and environment dictate. Every exhortation of “I don’t play the evolutionary game, I work for personal success!” is just another instance of evolution playing itself like a drum.

      Even if your claim was “I am going to try and win the evolutionary game!” that claim, its confused basis, and every action flowing therefrom would be slave to gene-environment interactions.

      “An individual should not be a slave to other people, societies, cultures or reproduction,” they said, blithely addressing the “Fellow SSCers” culture they sought implicit approval to join, via written language transmitted on a platform dependent on the multi-generational coordinated efforts of millions of beings.

      I mean…

      • An individual can do no thing other than what their genes and environment dictate.

        Individuals can, and almost always do, do things inconsistent with what their genes want them to do, where that is a useful metaphor for maximizing the frequency of their genes in later generations. I don’t think I know anybody who is producing as many children as he or she could produce and successfully rear. Most men do not make great efforts to donate to sperm banks.

        • rahien.din says:

          If genes dictated everything, then men would make great efforts to donate to sperm banks.

          This is an identical confusion.

          The reason why men don’t flock to sperm banks is precisely because their genes (in interaction with their enviroments) do not want them to.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Their genes don’t want them to in the literal sense– that is, their genes don’t produce a positive desire to propagate through sperm banks?

            There’s been a scandal (maybe not the only one) of a man running a sperm bank who included a bunch of his sperm secretly. Were his genes different? Was he more inclined to abstract thinking than most people? Might there be a genetic basis for liking fraud and/or pranks?

          • rahien.din says:

            Their genes don’t want them to in the literal sense– that is, their genes don’t produce a positive desire to propagate through sperm banks?

            One might say, the overall behavioral vector of the interactions between their genes and their enviroment does not include sperm banking.

            There’s been a scandal (maybe not the only one) of a man running a sperm bank who included a bunch of his sperm secretly. Were his genes different? Was he more inclined to abstract thinking than most people? Might there be a genetic basis for liking fraud and/or pranks?

            Well this is kind of my point. In some sense, the answer to all of those is “Yes,” but in some sense it is purely uninformative to say so. “His genes made him do it” is synonymous with “It was his nature to do so in such a situation” is synonymous with “He did it.”

            You know? Does Jay Gatsby pine for Daisy because he does, because it it is his nature to do so, or, because the words on the page denote that he does so? It’s all of the above. Joining those things with an “or” is an error.

            Similarly, if you say “I’m not going to do what my genes tell me to do!” then you have only said that because your genes have told you to say it.

          • @rahien.din:

            I want to have my body stop aging, better yet get a couple of decades younger. This doesn’t happen. Does that mean I don’t want it?

            Similarly, using “want” as a metaphor for the logic of Darwinian evolution, my genes want me to produce as many successful offspring as I can. I don’t act that way because evolution has not yet produced, perhaps cannot produce, a gene that gets me to do it.

            Viewing what people do as the interaction between what they want and the constraints on what they can get, in economic jargon between their utility function and their opportunity set, helps us understand how people behave. Viewing genes in an analogous way helps us understand the characteristics of organisms produced by Darwinian evolution.

          • rahien.din says:

            David Friedman,

            I agree that organisms have constraints. I (and my genes) may want to outrun the bear, but that does not mean I can.

            Your genes “want” you to have done exactly as you have done, and to do exactly as you will do. There is no separation. If you haven’t acted to maximize your number of offspring, that too is due to the interaction of your genes and your environment. If you feel the wish to stop aging, the act of [feeling the wish to stop aging] is due to the interaction of your genes and your environment.

            It must be pointed out that a gene’s chance of persistence is not definitely increased by the survival and procreation of any single organism, group, species, or class. A gene present in two competing populations may be better-served if the weaker population goes extinct and the stronger has a greater foothold on existence. Or it may be better-served by a steady equilibrium between them that maximizes persistence of each. It may be better-served by its ability to fit inside a virus, even if the origin host species is wiped out by infection. It may be best-served by maximizing offspring in a prey organism, or by producing a limited and thus more sustainable number of predator organisms.

            Your genes don’t necessarily want you to maximize your number of offspring.

        • Eponymous says:

          I don’t think I know anybody who is producing as many children as he or she could produce and successfully rear. Most men do not make great efforts to donate to sperm banks.

          Ah, just imagine the first man born with a gene that makes him strongly desire to have as many children as possible! How long would it take for all human beings to have this gene? And what would be the consequences? A huge spurt of population growth followed by a Malthusian crisis?

          • For how long as it been the case that such a gene would confer a large advantage in reproductive success? I suspect that if you go back a few centuries, most men were producing pretty nearly as many children as they could successfully rear, due to the combination of poverty and the lack of reliable contraceptives.

            If that is correct, then the fact that such a gene has not yet appeared is only weak evidence that it won’t appear.

          • Eponymous says:

            Oh, I agree. I wasn’t being facetious. This is actually a serious concern of mine.

            I’ve heard people express similar concerns about memetic selection, with the suggestion that in 2-400 years most people will be fundamentalist Christians / Muslims / Africans or whatever.

            The pessimistic view is that natural selection (genetic or memetic) operating on society generically leads to Malthusian outcomes, which suggests that our escape from this state is likely to be temporary.

            (I’m actually teaching my students the Malthusian model next week. I wonder if I should fully pull back the curtain to reveal the shambling horror, or just stick with my usual “Malthus was right about all of history up to when he wrote it down” line.)

          • Aapje says:

            Ah, just imagine the first man born with a gene that makes him strongly desire to have as many children as possible!

            Genghis Khan?

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        This doesn’t make a lick of sense. Evolution applies to species, not individuals – you couldn’t play that game even if you wanted to.

        Species should be replaced with populations. Disregarding the rare fact that some individuals are capable of creating a new species, an individual can generate a population.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I would agree that there are no good arguments for pursuing evolutionary success. If you’re achieving your personal goals and someone tries to convince you you aren’t really winning, because evolution, then ignore them.

      That said, if you feel internally motivated to reproduce, there’s no real argument against that (except insofar as it clashes with other desires).

    • I agree that I should act for my objectives, not those of my genes–that’s one reason I have not tried to donate to a sperm bank. But understanding the objectives of the genes is useful in understanding the characteristics of the organisms they build.

    • Civilis says:

      The two periods in a person’s life when they are the most need of outside support are when they are very young and when they are very old. Having descendants is a hedge against the perils of advanced age, even in this era of advanced medicine. Yes, it’s not a perfect guarantee and there are other options, but they are riskier than relying on descendants (and I say this as someone vanishingly unlikely to reproduce myself.) That those descendants should be as successful as possible to have as much support as possible should one live to an advanced age follows naturally. There are other reasons for wanting successful descendants, but that’s just the most selfish and rational.

  7. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I read opinion pieces like What Betsy Davos Gets Wrong About Sexual Assault (by Elizabeth Adetiba, in The Nation) or Don’t Weaken Title IX Campus Sex Assault Policies (by Jon Krakauer and Laura L. Dunnaug, Aug. 3, 2017, New York Times Op-Ed), and I get rather disturbed by the way they attempt to frame this issue as protecting “victims” vs. protecting “rapists”.

    The question at hand is whether the “preponderance of evidence” (i.e. >50% certainty) in favour of guilt should be the standard for expelling a student who has been accused of rape. By the very terms of the question, in a hair over 50% of cases that land on this border, the accused will be guilty, while in a hair under 50% of such cases, he will be innocent. Arguments that suggest that policy in this matter would predominantly affect “victims” and “rapists” do worse than beg the question—they beg something that is explicitly not in question, which can’t help but hopelessly befuddle the point.

    Even reserving the term “victim” for victims of rape in this context appears rather biased: surely an innocent student who is expelled by such a university policy is likewise a victim, of the accuser or society.

    • Brad says:

      By the very terms of the question, in a hair over 50% of cases that land on this border, the accused will be guilty, while in a hair under 50% of such cases, he will be innocent.

      I don’t think that’s right. If we assume the accuracy of the final step in the adjudication process is 50%, we still need to know the distribution in the pool of people subject to the final adjudication step in order to determine the ultimate false positive and false negative rates.

      Also, it isn’t just people that land exactly on the border, it’s anyone in the gap between “preponderance of evidence” and “clear and convincing” (or other mooted standard).

      • C. Y. Hollander says:

        By the very terms of the question, in a hair over 50% of cases that land on this border, the accused will be guilty, while in a hair under 50% of such cases, he will be innocent.

        I don’t think that’s right. If we assume the accuracy of the final step in the adjudication process is 50%, we still need to know the distribution in the pool of people subject to the final adjudication step in order to determine the ultimate false positive and false negative rates.

        I don’t follow. If our pool of people is those for whom we have determined there is a 50% chance that they are guilty, we should expect the distribution in that pool to be 50% innocent, 50% guilty, ± whatever margin of error there was on our prediction. That’s what 50% means.

        • gbdub says:

          I think, in practice, the people who push for a “preponderance of evidence” standard believe:
          1) Most sexual assaults don’t produce a lot of evidence, and thus devolve into “he said vs. she said”
          2) Women lie about being raped very infrequently
          3) Even if the accuser can’t produce great evidence, or even a consistent story, that may be because of trauma (this was covered in Part 2 of Yoffe’s series)

          So basically, 50/50 evidence actually means a much greater than 50% chance that the accused is guilty.

          Not saying that’s correct, but I think that’s what the proponents of the preponderance standard believe. Basically, they believe that the weaker standard of evidence is required to produce a sufficiently low false negative rate (because of 1 and 3) and it won’t produce too many false positives because of 2.

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            Isn’t this tantamount to saying that the accusation itself constitutes strong evidence of guilt, on the one hand, even as we decline to call it evidence, on the other hand? This needs to be acknowledged, for a start. Saying that “there’s no evidence of something but we have strong reason to believe it’s true” is something of a contradiction in terms.

            What is the role of so-called “evidence” in this view of things? If it’s the only thing we should be relying on to issue our rulings, then why do “extra-evidentiary” reasons to believe in the guilt of the accused play a role in our policy? Contrarily, if what we care about is our assessment of the actual likelihood of guilt, what does it matter how much of our assessment derives from “evidence”?

          • Matt M says:

            Isn’t this tantamount to saying that the accusation itself constitutes strong evidence of guilt

            That’s exactly what it is.

            “Victims deserve to be believed” and “false accusations are incredibly rare” are both meant to invoke this logic without explicitly stating it.

            It often lingers even long after accusations are proven to be false. People still refer to cases like Duke Lacrosse, Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger, and UVA fraternity suspiciously with comments like “where there’s smoke there’s fire” or “something bad probably happened even if it wasn’t technically criminal rape.”

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @C. Y. Hollander

            I mean, sort of. It depends on what you call evidence.

            Let’s say I have chosen one person in the world to ask you questions about. This person is a real, singular person. That’s the only thing you know.

            I ask you to guess whether this person is more than or less than 5′ in height.

            Do you have “evidence” about this person’s height? Not… as the term is traditionally understood.

            Is there a better bet, over or under 5′ in height? Sure. Most people are over 5′ in height.

          • Zorgon says:

            The grand tragedy of this whole way of thinking is that 1 and 3 are both demonstrably true, but the entire concept depends on 2 to be at all useful or worthwhile, and 2 can at best be described as wishful thinking.

          • Aapje says:

            @Zorgon

            3 is certainly not as true as many of the proponents of a “preponderance of evidence” believe. They certainly spread a lot of fake science about it.

            Many of the proponents also go out of their way to make the problem of a lack of evidence (1) even worse by disallowing a lot of evidence or evidence gathering that can speak in favor of the accused. For example, the accused is often not given access to all the evidence/accusations, not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, not allowed to call their own witnesses, not allowed to bring in circumstantial evidence, etc.

            Despite it this, quite frequently the “preponderance of evidence” is still in favor of the accused, so then the last resort of these courts is to ignore some of the evidence. For example, we have the case where the alleged rape happened during a threesome, so there actually was a witness present who said that the accused was enthusiastically participating. That was ignored and the accused convicted.

            So when the proponents of “preponderance of evidence” go out of their way to not collect as much evidence as they can, I have little patience for the complaint that they must loosen the standard of conviction because of a lack of evidence.

          • Zorgon says:

            @Aapje

            I’d suggest there is plentiful evidence in favour of victims commonly being unable to produce coherent evidence in pretty much all cases of violent (and even non-violent) crime; a lot of the trouble with the fake science you reference is that it is part of a class of feminist-driven scholarship trying to position rape and sexual assault as being unique in things like lack of reporting, poor conviction rate or difficulty in evidence gathering. That’s how we end up with complete fabrications like this bloody image which gets posted in Every Single Damn Article About Rape.

            The preponderance of evidence approach only makes sense if you actually believe we live in the kind of rape epidemic that people who are convinced by these campaigns describe. Concepts like “rape culture” make sense likewise. So that’s the thought process that drives portion 1 and 3, along with the baseline that crime is just difficult to punish without an unacceptable false positive rate.

            But for 2? I’m not sure exactly what thought process leads to thinking that women in general are perfect angelic beings that would never dream of using the superweapon they have been granted to destroy the lives of anybody (male) they have sufficient motive to destroy; but 10 years ago I would never have used the word “feminism” to describe it. I call it “wishful thinking” as a form of motivated reasoning; I want to live in a word where my opponents are well-intentioned but misguided. The alternative is that there is a large, well-funded, influential and politically powerful group who literally believe I should be punished purely because I was born male; and nobody wants to believe that.

          • gbdub says:

            Here’s the WaPo editorial against DeVos on the issue: “Why DeVos’s position on campus sexual assault is flawed: The Education Department must not abandon the effort to purge our colleges of the scourge of sexual violence.”

            It’s important to be charitable here, and I think most people are genuinely interested in helping assault victims rather than just punishing men. But when you’re throwing around language like “purge the scourge” apparently sincerely, it’s hard not to conclude that you’re operating in full moral panic mode.

          • Matt M says:

            The Education Department must not abandon the effort to purge our colleges of the scourge of sexual violence

            This is dumb hysteria. DeVos has never suggested that colleges should ignore sexual violence, or that efforts to prevent it should be “abandoned.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            DeVos has never suggested that colleges should ignore sexual violence

            DeVos didn’t, but her subordinate Candice Jackson famously said

            Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,’

            Jackson apologized for the way she said it, but she didn’t actually retract her statement. I think if you believe in “the scourge of sexual violence”, it’s rational to think that someone who claims 90% of it is a particular kind of BS is probably going to be inclined to ignore that 90%.

          • Matt M says:

            Fair, but even that I think is slightly different.

            Saying “most of what we call sexual violence is not actually sexual violence” is still NOT the same thing as saying “sexual violence is okay and we should ignore it.”

            It’s a dispute over the definition, not a dispute over whether or not the thing is acceptable. No one, anywhere, is in favor of violent/forcible rape being legal or going unpunished.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think a large part of the problem is terminology. I do not agree there is a “rape culture.” I can agree there is a culture of insufficient concern for consent. If you’re drunk enough that you cannot drive, you’re probably also too drunk to evaluate whether or not your partner is properly consenting to sex.

            Vehicular manslaughter from drunk driving is not good, but it’s not murder, isn’t called murder, and doesn’t carry quite the same emotional connotation as premeditated murder. Having drunken sex while being unable to make sure your partner isn’t too drunk to consent to sex is not good, but it also shouldn’t be designated with the same extremely emotionally loaded words we use to describe someone who forces someone else to perform sex acts under threat of violence or death.

            Other words with less baggage would probably make it easier to talk about and prevent such things.

          • powerfuller says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I think part of the confusion about terminology is because our culture has, to a large degree, lost the concept of seduction as a distinct and significant evil/harmful act (I think, as contrast, the Romans considered it a crime), so a lot of what ought properly get considered seduction defaults to rape. If I have sex with a woman by lying to and deluding her (say, promising her things I have no intention to give), that’s an evil of a sexual nature, but it isn’t rape. But since seduction doesn’t carry the weight it once did, and since people still want to punish evil, people end up arguing such things are, in fact, rape.

            This is only tangentially related to your comment about drunken consent, though on that note I’d argue most cases where both parties are drunk are better understood as mutual seduction than mutual rape (and certainly not “one person is a rapist and the other a victim”).

          • Matt M says:

            If I have sex with a woman by lying to and deluding her

            It’s possible to obtain sex without doing this?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Is it a legal problem (lack of laws that punish people for negligence, rather than evil intent) or a cultural problem? The current sexual culture (at least, the one that reigns on most campuses) is a really screwed up one. It’s a horrible mixture of sex-negative (sex is kind of shameful and dirty, women are pure but fragile and don’t have full agency, men have agency but are impure and predatory, men are trying to score and women are trying to play goalie, sex is dangerous enough that it should be saved for the safe confines of established relationships) and sex-positive (sex is fun and nothing to be embarrassed about, men and women both have agency and want sex equally much, sex is no big deal, but negotiated consent is absolutely crucial).

            The result is a culture in which people will have casual sex pretty promiscuously but need to get drunk first, men are still the pursuers and are judged by their conquests (which does not create an incentive to be careful about consent), sex is something you do but don’t talk about, and the same issues of agency one gets in the old-fashioned sex-negative thinking. It’s a hunting ground for predators, a situation in which people get hurt without anyone meaning that happen, etc.

            EDIT: So the problem is that neither the traditionalists nor the libertines got what they wanted.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @powerfuller

            That actually can be counted as rape in some jurisdictions.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @powerfuller

            If you’re talking about some sort of rape via fraud that is still illegal in some states. But “seduction” in that sense seems archaic. “Seduction” in the modern sense is more like persuasion, which is not inherently fraudulent.

            But yes we used to have many systems for preventing sex that people might seem to consent to at the time but either did not or that they regret later. Abstinence until marriage, “Slut shaming,” (and to a lesser extent the shaming of cads), chaperones, “stay away from my sister or I’ll pop you one,” “good girls aren’t alone with boys” and all that. And all of these systems have been torn down and clarity replaced with confusion.

            ETA: I agree with everything you said dndnrsn, and your last line sums it up nicely.

            And I would say it’s a cultural issue unless we’re going to start arresting anyone who fornicates while intoxicated (and I mean all participants) which seems unlikely. But, if the result of drunken mistakes is not, in fact, merely a regrettable mistake because “sex is no big deal” but is in fact a violation by a rapist because sex is so intimate and important, then it’s far too important to risk while drinking. And it can be a life or death issue, given diseases, risk of pregnancy, etc. This does not seem like a workable system, and I’m very glad I’ve been happily married for 16 years now and don’t have to deal with it.

          • powerfuller says:

            @Matt M

            Of course. It’s a bad thing to do. My claim is that this kind of behavior is “seduction,” which is an immoral, but not criminal act. Since we don’t really talk about the evils of seduction anymore, but people still want to punish evils like this, some people have instead tried to put this behavior under the umbrella of “sexual assault” or “rape,” which is a confusion of terms and makes it more difficult to talk about sexual morality (or mores). I guess it’s part of a tendency to conflate what’s legal with what’s moral. I don’t think it’s a good idea to outlaw seduction, but I think it would be helpful to differentiate between seducers and rapists.

            EDIT: @dndnrsn and @Conrad Honcho

            Thanks for the info; I wasn’t aware of those laws. I had in mind seduction via “I’ll take you to my private island tomorrow and shower you with presents,” not having sex by pretending to be somebody else. I agree such sex should be illegal in the latter case, but not in the former. In the latter case, I would say it violates consent since the victim is having sex with somebody other than whom he or she agreed to; in the former, the victim had a false idea about the person (I thought he was rich, but he wasn’t), but nevertheless did consent to having sex with that specific person. The law that reflects the situations I had in mind would be suing over a breach of promise to marry.

          • I think, as contrast, the Romans considered it [seduction] a crime

            I believe that in Athenian law it was a more serious crime than rape.

            From the husband’s point of view that makes a kind of sense, since seduction means not only that his wife might be pregnant by someone else but that he cannot trust her, since she was willing to be seduced.

          • Aapje says:

            @Zorgon

            I’d suggest there is plentiful evidence in favour of victims commonly being unable to produce coherent evidence in pretty much all cases of violent (and even non-violent) crime

            That is simply not true: “Notably, survivors of recent horrific events—the Aurora movie-theater massacre, the San Bernardino terror attack, the Orlando-nightclub mass murder—have at trial or in interviews given narrative accounts of their ordeals that are chronological, coherent, detailed, and lucid.

            Controlled stress experiments also find that:

            Stressful, aversive events are extremely well remembered. […] Stress hormones are known to enhance postlearning consolidation of aversive memories but are also thought to have immediate effects on attentional, sensory, and mnemonic processes at memory formation. […] Stress, moreover, amplified early visual and inferior temporal responses, suggesting that hypervigilant processing goes along with enhanced inferior temporal information reduction to relay a higher proportion of task-relevant information to the hippocampus.

            In other words, people get tunnel vision and thus get hyper focused on the things they consider relevant, but they store that information really well. So a person who is robbed may remember many details about the gun and know exactly the steps they took to appease the robber, but may get the race of the robber wrong and may be unable to describe the facial features of the robber or accurately pick them out in a lineup.

            This is not incoherence, but selective attention, which is something very different. A normal human flaw/feature is that we fill in the blanks in our memory with best guesses. This is why people give partially incorrect testimony even for real crimes, but they also do this when you ask them about any event in their past that didn’t produce stress.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            “This does not seem like a workable system”

            It isn’t. But it isn’t going anywhere. Because those old systems have been torn down, and thanks to the continuing opposition to them by powerful societal elements, are now unavailable*. But none of the new alternatives proposed seem workable, because they’re incompatible with how romance and human biology works. (See the discussions here about how mood-killing “affirmative consent” proves; or consider that “man as pursuer, woman as chooser/gatekeeper” is exactly what sexual selection theory in the vein of Trivers, Bateman, etc. predicts for mammals like us.) So we’re left with this horrifying, injurious, and — most notably — birthrate-depressing mess. Yet another way we’re doomed.

            *unless you’re Amish, Hasidic, or a (non-European) Muslim.

          • Matt M says:

            Of course. It’s a bad thing to do.

            I think that for 90% of men, if they were fully honest about their feelings and intentions towards women, they would be wholly unable to obtain female companionship.

            I’m absolutely certain that’s true for me.

            So, in your worldview, is the only morally acceptable option for me to die a sexless virgin?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Matt M.

            I mean, sure.

            I suppose it depends on how much freight you give to the modifier “fully” honest. Everyone has dark thoughts: if you broadcast every bad idea that came into your mind at full volume, people would certainly be freaked out by that, but that doesn’t really make you a bad person.

            But if we’re talking about not “stray thoughts or whimsy,” but, like, your actionable character. Who you really are as a whole person, not your worst self. If we stipulate that a generous woman who understood, in context, who you really are, would be horrified by you, then sure. I have no problem saying that you should die a sexless virgin.

            (And I feel like you’re trying to make people who want to act charitably towards their community-members excuse your stipulated bad behavior in a passive-aggressive manner.)

          • Matt M says:

            Sometimes, the most charitable thing to do to your fellow community members is to be less than 100% truthful with them.

          • powerfuller says:

            @Matt M

            It’s a matter of degree. I don’t think anything less than absolute total honesty is evil (in part because being honest about one’s feeling is nigh impossible — you may sincerely intend to follow through with a promise of emotional commitment that later on you realize you can’t fulfill). I have no desire to judge who’s being deceptive and to what degree, as I lack the qualifications. Hiding your flaws at the beginning of a relationship, or pretending to be more invested than you are (sometimes with the hope the investment may become more sincere with time) are common, and I don’t want to condemn people to involuntary celibacy for it. Those are venial sins I suppose, but at some point willful deception becomes malicious and harmful. It’s a matter of conscience to figure where the line is drawn; I can only decide the details for myself.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Yep! And sometimes, you hit the limit of charity. Which is what I did here.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Re: Matt M honesty discussion:
            White lies are an entrenched part of our social and romantic culture. Revealing everything about yourself doesn’t just reveal what you already are, it also makes you a socially inept weirdo.

            So, the hypothetical where everyone has to be totally honest is going to be pretty different from the one where only you have to be totally honest.

            ETA:

            I think that for 90% of men, if they were fully honest about their feelings and intentions towards women, they would be wholly unable to obtain female companionship.

            Do you think that would still be true if that 90% block simultaneously became honest?

        • Charles F says:

          Suppose false rape accusations are very rare. If somebody accuses somebody else of rape, 99% of the time it’s because the accusation is true, and 1% of the time it’s due to confusion or malice. Then if 99 rapists and 1 non-rapist are subjected to the preponderance of evidence standard, we would probably see much more than 50% of convictions happen to guilty people.

          If we decided to apply that to every student all at once without requiring a complaint. So there was no filter changing the distribution of people examined, we might see a lot more innocent parties than guilty parties convicted, since there are a lot more innocent than guilty parties to check.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            This is still subject to the false positive paradox, isn’t it? The accusation test may be 99% accurate, but since far less than 1% of the campus is a rapist, we should still treat an accusation without any other evidence as probably false.

          • Charles F says:

            @eyeballfrog
            No. Notice I didn’t say there was a 1% false-positive rate (of all the tests that should be negative, %1 aren’t), I said that 1% of positives are false (of all the tests that come out negative, 1% shouldn’t have). Subtle but important difference.

        • Brad says:

          No I don’t mean the pool coming out of the process, I mean the pool going into the process.

          Maybe this will help:

          1% of women at age forty who participate in routine screening have breast cancer. 80% of women with breast cancer will get positive mammographies. 9.6% of women without breast cancer will also get positive mammographies. A woman in this age group had a positive mammography in a routine screening. What is the probability that she actually has breast cancer?

          The correct answer is 7.8%, obtained as follows: Out of 10,000 women, 100 have breast cancer; 80 of those 100 have positive mammographies. From the same 10,000 women, 9,900 will not have breast cancer and of those 9,900 women, 950 will also get positive mammographies. This makes the total number of women with positive mammographies 950+80 or 1,030. Of those 1,030 women with positive mammographies, 80 will have cancer. Expressed as a proportion, this is 80/1,030 or 0.07767 or 7.8%.

          In order to get the true false positive and false negative rates, we need to know: the true distribution, the error characteristics of the measurement, and the threshold. We can’t derive it from the threshold alone.

          • C. Y. Hollander says:

            All your talk of “false positive rates” and “false negative rates” is a giant red herring, since “preponderance-of-evidence” refers to the bottom line, based on the evidence we have, not the positive result of some hypothetical test. In the example you quote, for instance, a woman with a positive mammogram has a 7.8% chance of having cancer; therefore there is not a preponderance of evidence that she has cancer.

            Would you tell such a woman, “The preponderance of evidence points to your having cancer, but you nonetheless probably don’t”? Well, maybe you would. A number of people here seem to be distinguishing between “evidence” and other forms of knowledge, but the distinction seems dodgy to me.

          • rahien.din says:

            C. Y. Hollander,

            All your talk of “false positive rates” and “false negative rates” is a giant red herring

            No it’s not. In fact these rates are exactly what is most important.

            What he’s saying is that there is a difference between accuracy and predictive value.

            Accuracy is an inherent characteristic of a test.

            Predictive value is how well the test can answer specific questions about a specific population. Predictive value is dependent on characteristics of the test (such as accuracy) and characteristics of the population.

          • Brad says:

            Maybe the problem here is that you are failing to distinguish between using the word ‘evidence’ to refer to a legal term of art and using the word to refer to the Bayesian definition.

            The legal definition is only useful within the framework of an adjudication process itself and does not bind anyone outside the process. To give an analogy, take innocent until proven guilty. That’s a legal maxim that the criminal justice system is required to and ought to follow. But it doesn’t mean that the rest of us are required to believe that OJ Simpson didn’t murder his ex-wife.

            When Elizabeth Adetiba writes about ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ in a magazine she isn’t acting as part of the campus disciplinary system and isn’t required to comport to the fictions that it runs on. Instead she is free to, and indeed should, use Bayesian reasoning.

        • Charles F says:

          I *think* we’ve all been misunderstanding you and I’ve mostly come around to your way of thinking. I think there are two things worth trying to clarify.

          First, the shift was from “clear and convincing” (75%), to “preponderance of” (50%), right? So the affected group is anybody whose final probability of guilt came out anywhere between those two standards. You would expect at least 25% and not more than 50% to be innocent (plus or minus some error terms). And you shouldn’t assume that all of the people affected will be clustered around the 50% mark.

          The second point is that people don’t have generally well-calibrated beliefs. So whatever the standards are supposed to mean, we’re probably not going to get any good predictions by taking them at face value and doing a bunch of math.

          • Matt M says:

            There’s also the problem that university tribunals will virtually never provide the truly correct amount of justice/punishment.

            Being expelled from school (and effectively black-listed from the upper class) is way too harsh a punishment for drunk sex. But is also way too lenient of a punishment for violent rape. These people are woefully ill-equipped to handle this situation.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      All true, but isn’t this sleight of hand common to all “tough on crime” rhetoric?

      • dndnrsn says:

        Indeed it is. Sexual assault is the left wing’s tough on crime domain, although the right joins in when it’s sex crimes against children.

        • Matt M says:

          The attempt to frame any and all prostitution as “sex trafficking” is designed to forge an alliance between left and right to wipe out voluntary behavior among consenting adults by capitalizing on this.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’ve been noticing this issue coming up more and more on Woke Twitter lately. It seems like while the radfems were willing to throw the TERFs under the bus in the name of The Cause, the anti-sex* radfems are far more deeply rooted in the movement.

            (* anti-sex-with-men, of course. Lesbian sex is holy and pure, and that’s why all women should be political lesbians all hetero sex should be recognised as rape lesbians should be at the centre of all feminist activism the incredibly high rate of domestic violence between lesbians needs to be downplayed at all costs the feminist and LGBT movements should always be allies!)

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Taking a totally agnostic stance on the facts of the question, I think that you’re misunderstanding the hypothesis.

      Let’s take 500 software objects, call them OpaqueBalls. OpaqueBalls have a hidden variable in them, isRotten. isRotten is true or false, but you can’t observe it in any useful way. You want to get rid of the OpaqueBalls that have isRotten=true, and keep the ones that have isRotten=false.

      OpaqueBalls have a method on them called evidenceOfRottenness.

      If OpaqueBalls have isRotten=false, then evidenceOfRottenness has an 80% chance of being 0, a 10% chance of being 1, a 5% chance of being 2, and a 5% chance of being 3

      If OpaqueBalls have isRotten=true, then evidenceOfRottenness has a 50% chance of being 0, a 10% chance of being 1, a 10% chance of being 2, a 10% chance of being 3, a 10% chance of being 4, and a 10% chance of being 5.

      You badly want to retain all OpaqueBalls that are not rotten, and badly want to dispose of all OpaqueBalls that are rotten. But you are willing to live with a low false-positive and false-negative rate, because you live in the real world.

      Let’s say you have 500 OpaqueBalls, and 250 of them are rotten and 250 of them are not rotten. Okay, so maybe in that circumstance you get rid of any OpaqueBalls that have a 4 or 5 evidenceOfRottenness. That gets rid of 20% of the rotten OpaqueBalls and 0% of the non-rotten ones, and you’re left with 250 non-rotten balls and 200 rotten ones. Or maybe you get rid of all the ones with evidence 2 or higher. That gets rid of 10% of the non-rotten balls (leaving you with 225 of them), and clears out 40% of the rotten balls (leaving you with 150 of them).

      But let’s say that you know that your overall population of OpaqueBalls is 90% rotten.

      Now let’s say that you apply a heuristic of “any non-0 evidenceOfRottenness is enough to throw it out.” You throw out 20% of the non-Rotten OpaqueBalls (but that’s only 10 of them), and in return you get to dispose of 50% of the rotten ones (and that’s 225 of them).

      That’s the claim. OpaqueBalls are accusations of rape. Rottenness is the hidden truth of whether or not a rape really did happen. The people who are arguing for an expansive reading of the evidence here believe that accusations of rape are overwhelmingly true, even if there is not evidence that they are true. So they say that in a cohort of people expelled for rape, a small minority (like 10 of 235) will be falsely accused, while a very large percentage of them (like 225 of 235) will be people who really are rapists, but for whom overwhelming evidence of their crime does not exist.

      Again, I am making no claims about the underlying truth or falseness of this model: just that this is the model that people like Adetiba, Krakauer, and Dunnaug believe.

    • The Nybbler says:

      “Preponderance of the evidence” doesn’t take into account the base rate. A bare accusation and a bare denial get you to 50%; if due to other factors the accuser is slightly more credible than the accused, you have enough for conviction; that’s how weak “preponderance of the evidence” is.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      While getting away from “preponderance of evidence” is important, there are so many other much bigger and easier battles to pick.

      Like “if the accused is found not guilty he no longer any punishment.”

      Or “the accused gets to know what he is accused of.”

      Unbelievably, we don’t have those yet.

    • On the Title IX/standard of proof discussion, there is an important point that I haven’t noticed anyone making.

      People sometimes argue that most rapes never get reported. Why would that be true?

      In the social environment of the past, for an unmarried woman to be known to have had sex, whether voluntarily or not, was seen as a serious defect–men wanted to marry virgins. In that context, it might be entirely rational for a woman who had been raped to conceal the fact.

      In the current college environment, almost the opposite is true–lots of women are quite open about having not only sex but casual sex and to be a virgin is seen as at least mildly embarrassing. In that context the reason for a woman not to report rape no longer exists, at least for most women. So even if it is true, as it well may be, that in the past many rapes were not reported, there is no reason to expect the same to hold in the current college environment.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I think you’re missing the interplay between the social status of the offender and victim. Let’s say you’ve got a high-status – that is, well-liked, popular – guy. He’s charming. He has a habit of taking advantage of drunk frosh and sophomore girls. He’s always got a bit of a smokescreen – he’s drunk too, although never as drunk as they are – the smokescreen would not protect him against a disciplinary hearing, but it keeps his victims from coming forward.

        The victims are not keeping silent about what happened because they are afraid that now no one will marry them and their family will be under a cloud of shame. They’re keeping quiet because popularity is a powerful social force, even in the age of “listen and believe.” Maybe a different kind of popularity is in play these days – once upon a time, the star quarterback could probably get away with whatever; now, well, everyone knows athletes are slavering beasts. But what about the outspoken feminist guy who knew all the right things to say at the consent workshops?

  8. Matt M says:

    Can someone explain to me the logic of the political positioning of “medicare for all” bills?

    This seems weird to me because I don’t see “medicare” thought of as some amazing and magical program. Most people I know consider it good that it exists, but also see it as an endless bureaucratic nightmare. Why would you want to attach your socialized medicine bill to the medicare “brand” (for lack of a better word)?

    I know that a lot of people wish that health care was cheaper, but are there really a lot of 40 year olds out there saying “Boy, I sure wish I was on medicare!”?

    • gbdub says:

      Because “medicare for all” sounds way less scary than “socialized medicine” or “single-payer healthcare”.

      It’s also rhetorically useful for reminding people that the US already does a lot of “government healthcare”.

      • Matt M says:

        Because “medicare for all” sounds way less scary than “socialized medicine” or “single-payer healthcare”.

        Does it? Single-payer doesn’t sound that scary imo. “Socialized” kinda does (to the extent that “socialism” does, which seems to be getting less so every day).

        The point is, are they really so uncreative that they can’t come up with some new euphemism? Like “guaranteed health-care for all” or something? You can describe the concept without referring to medicare specifically.

        • gbdub says:

          Even if you don’t like medicare, it’s politically toxic to talk about cutting it. Thus “All we’re doing is expanding this existing program that everyone agrees is essential” is much easier to sell than “We’re creating a massive new government entitlement” even if the end result is identical.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah but there’s no need for the proponents to characterize it as a “massive new government entitlement.” Let the critics do that, and then you can respond with “actually it’s just like medicare,” or whatever.

            I mean, I agree that cutting medicare is politically infeasible. My perception is that it occupies a position of “good to have, can’t get rid of it, better than nothing” in the public consciousness, but NOT one of “this totally great and amazing thing that everyone really wants to have!”

          • beleester says:

            …or you could not wait for your political opponents to figure out the best way to smear it before you start defending it. It’s always preferable to set the terms of the debate yourself.

        • IrishDude says:

          “Socialized” kinda does (to the extent that “socialism” does, which seems to be getting less so every day).

          Speaking of, see this Washington Post article titled ‘The Democracts have become Socialists’. It covers all the Democrat Senators that have come out in favor of ‘medicare-for-all’.

          Take a look at the comments section to see a strong embrace of socialism as some evidence for your claim that the term becomes less scary every day.

          • gbdub says:

            Isn’t some of the “less scary” legitimate, because most of the people calling themselves “socialist” these days are just strong welfare-state capitalists?

          • quanta413 says:

            Isn’t some of the “less scary” legitimate, because most of the people calling themselves “socialist” these days are just strong welfare-state capitalists?

            Well, I would exactly call them capitalists although some are, but yeah, old style government control of the economy socialists they are not.

    • Brad says:

      Not quite forty yet, but boy, I sure wish I was on medicare!

      If you work for a very large employer, or especially if you work for a government, you may not realize quite how crappy things have gotten in the small and medium business market, never mind the individual one.

      Medicare doesn’t have a network of doctors. I don’t know of any private insurance that doesn’t make a distinction between in-network and out of network, and even finding one with any out of network coverage at all is getting tough and expensive. Then there’s Medicare’s trivial hospital deductible. Try finding that in a private plan.

      The only really bad thing about Medicare as compared to private plans I’m familiar with is the coinsurance for part B (20% of the Medicare-approved amount).

      • gbdub says:

        Medicare doesn’t have a network of doctors.

        This is true in the sense of “Medicare does not distinguish between in-network and out-of-network providers”.

        It’s not true in the sense of “any doctor will take Medicare”. Many providers don’t take Medicare at all, and others that do won’t accept new patients, because they lose money on Medicare patients due to a combination of restrictions/requirements and repayment rates.

        I have a network employee plan while my girlfriend is on Medicare. It is much easier for me to find a provider for anything other than emergency care (where it’s the same, because basically all the ERs accept both Medicare and my insurance).

        • Brad says:

          My experience is different. The last few times I’ve had to change insurance providers, I haven’t been able to keep my primary care physician. Whereas when my parents moved to Medicare they were able to keep both their primary care physician and most of their specialists.

          If you don’t mind my asking, what is the order of magnitude number of employees your employer employs?

          • gbdub says:

            10^3, but does that really matter when most companies use one of a small handful of major insurance providers?

            I think the main helpful thing is that we use a large insurer (United Healthcare) that seems to be accepted by a very high percentage of providers, and we are in a large city, so there are a lot of in-network options.

            Also, moving from private insurance to Medicare is probably easier if you are keeping your doctor – some will grandfather in, but not accept new Medicare patients. Medicare might be better than Medicaid though, which is where I really have first hand (well, close second hand) experience, and that might vary by state.

          • Brad says:

            I agree that medicaid is a different story. My disabled sister is on that and has an extremely limited selection.

            In terms of the networks and the insurance providers, at least in NYC it isn’t as if there’s one Blue Cross network and any policy no matter how obtained uses that network.

            When I was looking for a small business plan a few years back there were explicitly different options from the same company which differed only in the size of the network. When I moved to an exchange plan with the same company, it was a different network again.

    • Chalid says:

      The first poll I found has a 72% approval rating for Medicare, so it’s as popular as anything can get in America these days.

      • Matt M says:

        That’s somewhat surprising. But I still think there’s a difference between “I’m glad this exists” and “This is something I want for myself.”

        Of course I live and work in high income circles so perhaps my bubble is showing too strong on this one.

        • Chalid says:

          As a partial response to that issue, you can look at the users. Almost all users of Medicare are over 65, and conversely, most people over 65 get most of their health care through Medicare. The poll I linked gives 87% approval in people over 65 years old.

          • Matt M says:

            I still don’t think that addresses my point.

            If you asked me if I approved of broccoli, I’d say yes, in the sense that I like that broccoli exists, is available to be eaten by people who like it, and that I would be opposed to banning it, sure. And I’d expect that broccoli approval would rise among people who regularly eat a lot of broccoli as well.

            That doesn’t mean I want to have broccoli for dinner tonight in lieu of a steak. Or with every meal. Or whatever.

          • beleester says:

            I think that implies that there’s a “steak dinner” that Democrats could be offering instead, but it’s not obvious that one exists.

            “Single payer” is a snoozer. “[President]Care” has been run into the ground. The actual title of the bill (ACA, AHCA, etc) isn’t that descriptive. Medicare is reasonably popular and well-known.

            Given that a lot of people seem to like broccoli and would take it if you offered it to them, I don’t see the problem with offering “broccoli for all.”

          • Incurian says:

            People might be upset if you forced them to eat it.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s not just steak though. It’s “broccoli instead of whatever it is you otherwise were going to have.”

            People who otherwise would have starved would accept that, but would anyone else?

            IIRC, pre-Obamacare, most people were satisfied with their health insurance coverage. Hence the need to strongly sell it with “if you like your plan, you can keep it” (which turned out to be a blatant lie)

            Even phrasing like “medicare-option” would probably be better than “medicare for all” in this regard.

          • . says:

            IIRC, pre-Obamacare, most people were satisfied with their health insurance coverage.

            I would be interested to see some polling on this. Presumably the extra ~10^7 uninsured people weren’t all satisfied, though I can easily believe that many of them were. Of course that’s only~1/30 of the country.

            I also wonder whether it is no longer true that most people are satisfied with their insurance? My insurance hasn’t changed at all, but it’s hard to know if that’s typical. There could also be a Revolution of Rising Expectations effect: both parties have now promised radical improvements, which must make the status quo seem more and more unsatisfying.

        • BBA says:

          You’re also a libertarian who hates anything with the scent of government on it. Out there in the real world, the Republican rank-and-file revolted over Bush’s Social Security reform plan and all the Democrats had to do was say the word “privatization.” And it’s no coincidence that SS and Medicare are the two largest components of the budget and the two most popular government programs in the country.

  9. johan_larson says:

    Has your profession ever been portrayed accurately on screen, in a movie or TV show?

    I’m a software developer, a profession that rarely appears on screen at all. There are hackers, to be sure, but that’s rather a different matter, at least if we are using the common meaning of “hacker”.

    The best I’ve seen is in the show “Silicon Valley”. There both the regular crew at Pied Piper and the engineers at Hooli have the right look: casually dressed, young men, white or asian. Even their work environments look right. The startup guys cluster around a big table covered with monitors; the Hooli guys have minimal desks in big open rooms.

    • John Schilling says:

      Aerospace Engineer here. Yes, we actually did figure out how to put square pegs into round holes to save a lunar expedition. We do come up with really exotic slingshot maneuvers to enable deep space missions in the face of otherwise-crippling propulsive limitations; we probably could blow the nose off a spacecraft to vent oxygen for a bit of extra delta-V but really, we’d have devised a much less dramatic contingency operation involving commanded valve operations and documented it in a memo six months ahead of time. And we totally wind up having sexy adventures with international jewel thieves who look like Michelle Pfeiffer on a regular basis.

      Other than those three, I’m drawing a blank on movies or TV series with aerospace engineers in major roles. Unless you count Montgomery Scott and his various imitators, in which case, no on the accent, yes on padding our schedule estimates.

      • Nornagest says:

        Falling Down?

      • bean says:

        We do come up with really exotic slingshot maneuvers to enable deep space missions in the face of otherwise-crippling propulsive limitations; we probably could blow the nose off a spacecraft to vent oxygen for a bit of extra delta-V but really, we’d have devised a much less dramatic contingency operation involving commanded valve operations and documented it in a memo six months ahead of time.

        Every time I see the meeting scene, I can’t help but remember the time in college when I was in a meeting and we ended up building a model out of the coffee supplies and a box sitting in the lab, because the whiteboard just wasn’t cutting it. (That’s the only thing they missed. Any discussion of that sort starts on the whiteboard.)

        And we totally wind up having sexy adventures with international jewel thieves who look like Michelle Pfeiffer on a regular basis.

        Oh, yes. That happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

      • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

        we probably could blow the nose off a spacecraft to vent oxygen for a bit of extra delta-V

        I’ve been wondering about that bit in The Martian… What conceivable reason there may be for crew access to liquid oxygen inside Hermes, given that it is a fire hazard?

        Also, blowing VAL supposedly gave Hermes about 30 m/s delta-V (in the book at least). Naively, this seems wrong – if one assumes 500 m/s exhaust speed (average speed of molecules in air) and mass of air being 1% of total mass, that only makes 5 m/s delta-V. (Air being 1% of total mass is a generous overestimate, given that for ISS the number is less than 0.3%). Am I missing something here?

        Oh, and johan_larson : I’m a biochemist by trade, so no, my profession has never been portrayed accurately on screen.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’m a biochemist by trade, so no, my profession has never been portrayed accurately on screen.

          Yeah, well they don’t want to bore people do they? ;P (I’m in Synbio).

        • John Schilling says:

          I’ve been wondering about that bit in The Martian… What conceivable reason there may be for crew access to liquid oxygen inside Hermes, given that it is a fire hazard?

          Well, if the crew doesn’t have access to oxygen, there’s an even more severe asphyxiation hazard. Any aerospace vehicle this side of a Piper Cub is going to have stored oxygen for life-support purposes; that’s a fire hazard whether in solid (chemical), liquid, or compressed gaseous form, and the liquid often has the lowest packaging mass.

          You’re probably right on the delta-V numbers, though at least the movie has the excuse of making Hermes an extremely spacious spaceship and so likely to have several percent of its mass in cabin air. The book made a minor plot point of the ship being ISS or U-boat level cramped, so it’s less excusable there.

          And I wasn’t kidding about there being documented contingency procedures for all of this, if not as part of the Hermes design process then certainly by the time they returned to Mars. Lewis wouldn’t have had to ask how much maneuver capability the reserve RCS propellant would give them, and Johanssen would have rewired the forward airlock three months earlier to allow both doors to be opened by typing in a command sequence from the flight deck. Well, two command sequences, an enable and an execute, to make sure nobody fat-fingers it at the wrong time. But it’s less dramatic for the audience without the explosions and all.

          • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

            And I wasn’t kidding about there being documented contingency procedures for all of this, if not as part of the Hermes design process then certainly by the time they returned to Mars.

            If not part of Hermes design, then it is very lucky that airlock includes at least one hatch that does not require opening against 1 atmosphere internal pressure; even luckier is to have a nose lock conveniently aligned with center of mass. 😊

          • John Schilling says:

            The forward airlock was explicitly for mating with other vehicles, e.g. the Mars lander during the outbound journey. It has to be on the thrust axis to avoid control problems, and there has to be a provision for dealing with a net pressure differential in either direction. Most likely through a secondary purge valve rather than the main door, but that’s what we’d use for thrust as well (better control, and they’ve got time).

      • JayT says:

        There have been several movies about (or featuring) Howard Hughes, and many characters based off of him, so there have been a good number of aerospace engineers portrayed in Hollywood.

        • John Schilling says:

          Hughes hired aerospace engineers, he was never more than an enthusiastic amateur himself. But yes, Glenn Odekirk did show up in at least one film and for the screen time he got was reasonably well portrayed.

          • JayT says:

            I was under the impression that Hughes himself helped with the designs of the planes his company made at the beginning. Was that not the case?

      • John Schilling says:

        Following myself up, the part that Hollywood usually gets wrong about aerospace engineering, and probably many other sorts of engineering, is that we try real hard to make everything as boring as possible, because anything that is allowed to remain exciting will probably be too exciting for the actual participants. As bean notes, lots of time spent drawing incomprehensible stuff on whiteboards, not acting it out with props or displaying it with fancy computer graphics. Very formal meetings, spreadsheets, documents, requirements verification tools, and by the time your pedantic certainty that you’ve dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’ has put everyone in the room to sleep even though they are talking about Rocket Ships to Outer Space!, then you’re ready to fly to outer space.

        Even when things go terribly wrong, we at least try to make it boring. I’ve had in-flight engine failures where the immediate response was “assemble the committee and hold a meeting”. And we reached our destination in one piece, every time, thank you very much.

        Understandable that Hollywood usually tries to punch it up a few notches, and they usually preserve as much of the reality as drama will allow. The aforementioned “Into the Night” took the opposite tack, briefly showing the boring parts in full glory (and I expect hiring a pretty good tech adviser to write Jeff Goldblum’s dialogue) to justify the rest of the plot.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Now I want to see a movie that has people writing on whiteboards while also showing the stuff spinning around in their heads. And what’s spinning (probably differently) in their audience members’ heads.

          This may have to wait for some form of increased intelligence.

        • bean says:

          This is all true in my experience as well. Very rarely do things happen on a timescale where the engineers need to make snap decisions.

          On props/whiteboards, I’ve only broken out the props once, and that was when we found that the whiteboard just wasn’t getting the ideas we needed across clearly enough. Computer graphics are either the results of things which you did on the computer anyway, or are put together to impress people. Mostly because they take a lot longer to put together than the movies show.
          This does lead to another point. The biggest difference between movies and reality in terms of meetings is what actually happens in them. Just about any sort of analysis takes too long to be done in a real meeting, much less one that can fit into a movie. Usually, you decide what to do, then spend a few hours to a few days doing it, then meet again.

    • Incurian says:

      Enlisted was the best and most accurate show about the army ever. They cancelled it.

      ETA: Generation Kill is supposed to be extremely accurate. I wasn’t there in 2003 (or Iraq at all, or in the Marines for that matter) but I’m told by guys who were there that it’s spot on. The radio chatter is about as perfect as one could hope from a TV show. Also, if you watch it and think “there’s no way a Sergeant Major could ever act like this,” oh man are you wrong.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Re: Generation Kill
        I didn’t go to Iraq till 2006 but I have a few friends who were with the Camp Pendleton Penis Cult First Marines at the time and they all vouch for it.

        • johan_larson says:

          Interesting. I liked “Generation Kill” a lot, but I thought it had a couple of exaggerated elements, namely the thuggishness of some of the enlisted men and the cluelessness of a couple of the more senior figures, such as the sergeant major and “Captain America”. I would have expected better from a select element of a storied service, and dismissed it as the effects of frustration from someone way down on the totem pole who just didn’t have the complete picture. But if that’s for real, oh my.

          • hlynkacg says:

            AFAIK First Marines hadn’t deployed as it’s own maneuver element since Korea. They were(are?) primarily an expeditionary unit. As such the middle and upper ranks typically aren’t expected to be on the front lines. This is what happens when you get a bunch of garrison types, who’s chief qualification was the ability to wrangle a plum assignment from their detailer, and put them in charge of kicking hornets’ nests.

          • Incurian says:

            johan_larson: I have personally worked for officers (field grades!) dumber than Encino Man, argued with several sergeants major more aggressively stupid than theirs (I forget his name), and I’ve been that idiotic LT (which they don’t actually stereotype in Generation Kill, Fisk was pretty good, but you know the trope – well, I hope I wasn’t that bad, but I might have been). I have only once met someone as needlessly dramatic and suicidal as Captain America, but he didn’t make it to captain. Sometimes the system works.

            That reminds me of another piece of fiction right on the money: Catch-22. Once you know this, it’s easier to see that it’s a tragedy, not a comedy.

          • Nornagest says:

            sergeants major more aggressively stupid than theirs (I forget his name)

            Sixta.

            I love Generation Kill.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Rudy is just as much of a character (if not more so) in person.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          You’d be surprised. If I were to write a story and include the last platoon leader I had (a VMI grad, no less) I would be accused of milking the hoary old “Can’t Spell ‘lost’ without LT” tropes and writing a stereotypical butterbar. To which I’d respond that no, he made first Lieutenant eventually, but that’s neither here nor there.

          I’ve come to believe very strongly in the “warriors” vs. “careerists” model of military culture and advancement.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This was meant as a reply to Johan right?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Yep, not sure what happened there.

          • johan_larson says:

            Yeah, I’ve always thought it strange that every newbie officer (2nd Lieutenant) is put in command of a platoon immediately. It seems like it would be better to have them start out as assistant platoon leader. They wouldn’t actually be in charge of anyone, and the goal would mostly be to learn how the military actually works. After a year or two of that, they would be much more ready to actually take charge of a platoon, probably when they are promoted to 1st Lieutenants.

          • Incurian says:

            By that time they’re useful and need to be doing something useful. imho (that is, I hold this belief with low confidence) a PL can mess up a platoon much more than he can do anything great with it, no use wasting officers in that position longer than needed.
            In one battalion, they would hold on to new LTs on staff, and then once they verified their heads were not all the way inside their asses (several months, depending on the availability of platoons) they’d get a platoon. After the rotation they could go on to do something useful like XO or back to staff. I approved of this method.

          • Deiseach says:

            What you say reminds me of what little C.S. Lewis mentions of his war-time experiences (he arrived in France at the age of nineteen and was wounded and invalided home before his twentieth birthday):

            I came to know and pity and reverence the ordinary man: particularly dear Sergeant Ayres, who was (I suppose) killed by the same shell that wounded me. I was a futile officer (they gave commissions too easily then), a puppet moved about by him, and he turned this ridiculous and painful relation into something beautiful, became to me almost like a father.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Isn’t the criticism of the officer-training system as used by most Anglo militaries that it results in junior officers who are often not up to the job and dependent on NCOs? As opposed to systems that require a period of service in the ranks before officer training.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Incurian
            LTs need to get their experience somewhere, and your typical platoon is simultaneously a large enough unit for leadership skills/experience to matter and small enough that we (the US military) can afford to fuck up a few.

            …and just for the giggles, here’s a relevant TL.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @hlynkacg:

            Can you explain that Terminal Lance for us civilian types?

          • Incurian says:

            hlynkacg: I agree. To summarize my point, if you have an officer who’s already pretty straight, no need to waste time putting him in a PL slot, he can do more good elsewhere.
            dndnrsn: I don’t think it’s much of a job, and good NCOs take pride in shaping young leaders. The PL is not there for the platoon, the platoon is there for the PL (obviously PLs can be useful, but I think in the grand scheme of things it’s true).
            Nybbler: The lance corporal intimidated the lieutenant into picking up trash with the rest of the platoon by reminding him that he’s also a “boot,” which I guess means FNG in Marinespeak.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ The Nybbler
            Incurian’s summary is accurate.

    • Well... says:

      Seconded on Silicon Valley, although the tech companies I’ve worked for, whether startups or big corporations, always felt like they had more adult supervision than on that show. I haven’t seen a show or movie try to depict my specialization within IT.

      My previous career was in film. A few movies have portrayed film shoots reasonably accurately. Tristram Shandy, I thought, probably did it best. I haven’t seen a movie or show really try to depict the world of post production, which admittedly is usually (though not always) much less dramatic.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m an actuary. There is only one movie I know of about an actuary, which is About Schmidt, and he’s retired.

      Most movies miss the sheer interestingness of actuaries: the sort of people who won that lottery of fascinations often won others. I’ve had colleagues who were professional actors, professional musicians in a variety of genres, competitive bikers, super-knowledgeable about local history, and on and on.

    • Nornagest says:

      Aside from “Silicon Valley”, about the only film I can think of that starred software engineers as such was Office Space. It gets the demographics right, but not much else: none of its characters are nerds, they don’t have the sorts of odd fascinations that even non-nerdy software engineers usually have, they dress like they just stepped out of a time machine leading from IBM in the 1970s, and their roles seem to be defined mostly by dealing with bureaucracy — a problem I’ve never, ever had in my day job despite having held software engineering jobs I hated.

      • James says:

        Funny, because they’re both Mike Judge productions.

        I’m too young to know, but I think a lot of the differences between the two reflect genuine differences between how software was developed (and what kind of software was developed) in the late 90s/early 00s and now: big, monolithic, behemothic corporations (think 90s Microsoft) vs. small, hip, lithe, app-y startups.

        But you’re right that the characters in Office Space aren’t really recognisable geeks.

        • johan_larson says:

          Not all software developers work in Silicon Valley and not all of them are sharp. They guys in Office Space are pretty credible as a mediocre in-house development team working for some rather old-fashioned outfit like an insurance company in the 90s.

      • johnjohn says:

        Office Space gets everything right about working as a software developer in a non-tech company

      • JayT says:

        The outfits they wore in Office Space are pretty spot on for many companies in the ’90s and early 2000s. I came into the industry right as it changed, but when I worked for a very large IT company I had to wear slacks and a collared shirt. Tie requirements had just been removed a year or two before I started.

        Also, of the three main characters in Office Space I feel like you get a pretty good cross section of software engineers. You’ve got Peter who is just a boring mostly normal white guy, you’ve got Michael Bolton who’s obviously a geek, and then you’ve got Samir, who is an immigrant that got into software because it is a stable career. I feel like 90% of the people I’ve ever worked with fall into one of those three categories.

    • rahien.din says:

      There are so many medical dramas and they are all so medically terrible. If I had a nickel for every patient in asystole who got shocked and then walked out of the ER within hours…

      For its faults, House MD actually describes the process of forming and working through a differential diagnosis. This is maybe the most important part of medical decision-making, and they largely get it right. (Even if they stick things in people’s eyeballs and rummage through their apartments at least twice as often as doctors actually do.)

      Scrubs really captures the casual lunacy inherent in medicine, particularly medical training. It works because you can’t tell which bits of absurdity are purely comedic, and which bits are verisimilitude.

      Everything else is just a flashier version of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. And that’s fine – my wife loves Royal Pains, even when their depiction of medical practice makes her cringe/chuckle.

      • zz says:

        Oh, it was differential diagnosis. This whole time I thought it was deferential diagnosis because they all had to defer to House. That makes a lot more sense and explains why they wrote “dy/dx” on the board that once.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      The forensic accounting in The Accountant was relatively true to life.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Are there any insurance salesmen who saw Cedar Rapids? How well did that do?

      Side note: I assume we’re excluding documentaries and near-documentaries from this list. Otherwise, I’d ask about how well The Big Short handled hedge fund managers. Although, come to think of it: how well did Margin Call do?

      • johan_larson says:

        Margin Call grossed $19 million world-wide on a budget of $3.5 million. It did $5.3 million in the US. It was barely released in theatres.

        I get the impression Margin Call was a passion project for the director. He managed to persuade a bunch of slightly-past-their-primes major actors to star in it for very little, but couldn’t line up real distribution. It ended up being almost a direct-to-video movie.

        It’s still damn good though. Go see it.

        Can’t speak to it’s accuracy.

        • Rob K says:

          I have a friend who works at one of the big banks. He said Margin Call was remarkably accurate in displaying the work environment, in particular the sort of theater of power in that industry (watch how people talk to those above or below them in the chain of command, the body language, etc). Also the physical workspace; I believe they rented a floor that had been vacated by some fund or other entity that went out of business but still had the bloomberg terminals and the physical setup in place.

    • Protagoras says:

      Chidi Anagonye from “The Good Place” is a not completely unbelievable portrayal of a philosophy professor, though they only show him at work in a couple of flashbacks.

      • Wrong Species says:

        But does everyone really hate moral philosophers?

        • Protagoras says:

          Hate is a strong word, but just as it is sometimes suggested that psychologists go into the field because they’re crazy and want to figure out what’s wrong with themselves, it is sometimes suggested that moral philosophers go into the field because they are evil and want to figure out what’s wrong with themselves.

  10. Odovacer says:

    On the previous thread in response to the Equifax data breach Brad stated:

    But I don’t think that the credit reporting agency model that we currently use is the only way to solve that problem. I could imagine many other ways. Some might be less efficient, and so lead to less lending on the margin, but that’s different from saying that without this model we couldn’t have modern society.

    In particular, the credit reporting agency model seems especially suited to the hypercompetitive credit card market, where issuing banks want to streamline the process of opening new accounts as much as possible.

    So let’s hear it. What are your (everyone here) ideas for a system of vetting people for lending purposes?

    • The Nybbler says:

      So let’s hear it. What are your (everyone here) ideas for a system of vetting people for lending purposes?

      Well, I’m guessing that likelihood to pay back a loan is g-loaded, so we could give people IQ tests. Or, there’s another simple factor known to correlate with….

      <runs out of the room to avoid hail of thrown objects>

      • John Colanduoni says:

        Every single person in my incoming Physics PhD class got offers for the same Amex card around the same time, and the vast majority of them had just arrived in the country two months ago on F-1 visas. I’ve always wondered if they vacuumed the graduate student roster (which were public) to figure out who to send the offers to.

        If so their plan mostly worked out, barring a published string theorist who didn’t understand how APRs work.

    • Brad says:

      Just to give one example, the model could be inverted. That’s how the debt rating industry works, the borrower hires the rating agency, not the lenders. Then the reporting agencies would have a consumer-provider relationship with borrowers and would better incentivized not to piss them off by leaking their information to hackers. Of course that model carries its own problems.

      A perhaps larger point is that the credit rating agencies, despite claims to be comprehensive, are really about credit cards. Information about defaulting on a mortgages or going bankrupt can be found from other sources and for things like unpaid medical bills the reports rely on voluntary reporting and are rather incomplete. Where they really shine is credit cards. The reports are comprehensive, detailed, and the only sources of information about on time payment of credit card bills. That information is clearly a valuable signal, otherwise it wouldn’t be so widely used, but I very much doubt that underwriters would just throw up their hands and give up if for some reason they couldn’t get it.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Hand it over to non-profits staffed by religious people who take the ninth commandment against bearing false witness seriously.

      I’m not sure there’s a sufficient supply of those people.

      I’m going to forget I’m a libertarian and ignore feasibility and say that everyone in a credit rating agency (especially including the CEO) has to test high on conscientiousness + not wanting to hurt people.

      Part of the problem is probably that the people paying credit rating agencies aren’t willing to pay enough for the job to be done carefully. I have no idea how to solve that.

    • BBA says:

      On this topic: a 1960 Ph.D. dissertation on the history of Retail Credit Co. (the company that changed its name to Equifax in 1975, after the public scandal that led to the passage of the FCRA).

      The business of credit rating developed organically from retailers sharing blacklists of customers not to be extended credit and whitelists of customers considered especially creditworthy to the behemoth it is today. I suspect that if we tried to stamp it out of existence or make it too sympathetic to the borrower, something akin to it would naturally arise again, but secretly among lenders and outside of the public’s view.

      I also ran across a proposal to regulate the CRAs as public utilities. I see the reasoning: like the power company and the phone company, you only notice the credit bureaus when they screw up. I’m a bit dubious, but it’s worth sketching out a more detailed model to see what the costs and benefits would be. As always, the devil is in the details.

  11. Controls Freak says:

    I have a history/military/tech question for all the folks here with relevant interests. I really love old instructional videos like this. Plus, mechanical analog computing is fascinating. Anyway, my question is concerning the personnel/maintenance of old fire computers. Were they basically a box on a shelf that whirred away for years on end? Was there a guy whose job it was to clean/adjust/maintain them? If so, was it more like, “Anyone who can rebuild a carburetor can do it,” or more like, “Nobody dares pop open the case of a modern automatic transmission unless he’s A Transmission Guy”?

    • bean says:

      This is actually my favorite thing, although there’s only so much I can say about it within the guidelines I laid down for myself when doing Naval Gazing.
      The computers took quite a bit of maintenance, and there was a guy who was responsible for them. Things like changing the friction pads and making sure everything was lined up. I’m not sure of the exact schedules, but I do know that the work was done shipboard. I believe it was more of the later in terms of maintenance. The mechanisms are gorgeous (I’ve gotten to see a cam on its own, and it was described as ‘nerd porn’), but not that delicate.
      Online manuals:
      Mk 1 Computer
      Mk 1 Computer Maintenance
      Fire Control Fundamentals
      Basic Fire Control Mechanisms

      Edit:
      Actually, I may have misread the question on tech skill. It would have been just the fire control techs doing the work, but I’m not sure it was seen as as specialized as working on a modern automatic transmission. I did meet a 50s-era FC on my last regular day there, but didn’t get to ask as many questions as I would have liked.

      • Controls Freak says:

        Thanks! I’m going to see if I can find some cozy time with those manuals this weekend…

        • bean says:

          Not a problem. I should look at going into more detail on those.
          I will say that the computers are even cooler in real life. I believe most of the battleships have theirs available to the public in some manner. Iowa is in the process of launching a behind-the-scenes tour which will include the plotting rooms very soon. On my last day as a tour guide, I gave the training for the plotting room portion of the tour. It also includes the engine rooms and some other spaces off the normal route.

  12. SamChevre says:

    Does anyone have links to useful research, or informed opinions, or the like, about probiotics. I find it difficult to find useful articles by my usual “have you googled that” method due to the amazing amount of hype, but have seen just enough research to think there might be something there?

  13. SamChevre says:

    On book recommendations: thanks SSC for the recommendation of the Rivers of London series: I have read it and am greatly enjoying it.

  14. bean says:

    I decided to not write a proper column today (still moving, been kind of busy) and update my bibliography with modern naval stuff:

    (Series Index)
    “This is interesting, but I’d like a more rigorous general technical background on this stuff”:
    Navies in the Nuclear Age by Norman Friedman:
    A history of the warship from 1945 to the early 90s. Somewhat inaccurate on Soviet ships (although better than earlier works), but a good introduction to the overall development in warships and naval warfare throughout the Cold War.
    “I want to know about naval warfare in general in the 80s”:
    Modern Naval Combat by David Miller and Chris Miller:
    An excellent look at 80s naval warfare. A bit dated now, but well worth the (very cheap) price. The concepts aren’t that different now, and while that generation of ships is mostly gone, it’s still pretty good.
    An Example of Modern Warship:
    Type 45 Destroyer Owner’s Workshop Manual
    A promotional tie-in between Haynes, famous for their car repair manuals, and the Royal Navy, the best look I’ve ever seen at the fabric of a modern warship. Covers everything from the radar and basic tactics to the sewage system. Amazing book, so long as you remember it is a recruiting tool for the RN, and thus leaves out the blemishes (like the class being cut from 12 to 6.)
    Naval Weapons:
    Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems by Norman Friedman
    The latest edition is on sale. Amazingly comprehensive, and very detailed look at what goes into modern weapons systems. Older editions are still good and much cheaper, and the first edition is online.
    Net-centric Warfare:
    Network-Centric Warfare by Norman Friedman
    A specific look at a current buzzword, from 1900 to the present. My series on the subject is mostly based on this book. Decent, particularly if you’re interested in naval computer systems.
    Interaction of Seapower and Space:
    Seapower and Space by Norman Friedman
    A look at the interactions of seapower and space power. Very good, if a bit dated. Lots of interesting details on military space programs, in addition to the naval elements.
    (Just about anything by Norman Friedman is good, though these are the best.)
    I’ve moved the official bibliography into a Google Docs to allow me to update it as I read more.

  15. Jaskologist says:

    There was a debate 0.5 threads ago over how effective FEMA was compared to alternatives.

    This article indicates that the bulk of the manpower and money is being provided by Christian groups:

    Over and over again in public comments as Hurricane Harvey was soaking Texas and Louisiana, FEMA administrator Brock Long asked concerned citizens to go to NVOAD.org to make donations – that is National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, the alliance of volunteer organizations that are helping FEMA channel disaster assistance into the affected areas. About 75% of the organizations that are part of the alliance are faith-based.

    “About 80% of all recovery happens because of non-profits, and the majority of them are faith-based,” said Greg Forrester, CEO of the national VOAD. The money is “all raised by the individuals who go and serve, raised through corporate connections, raised through church connections,” and amounts to billions of dollars worth of disaster recovery assistance, he said.

    Which is not to say that the government is sitting on its hands here:

    “FEMA – they have been a big blessing to us, they’re an assistance to us,” Harrison said Saturday. “For Hurricane Irma, the majority of our equipment has already been dispatched to Texas … so our office in Canada is bringing their equipment across the border and FEMA was instrumental in helping us clear that with customs and getting all the paperwork done.”

    Checkmate, libertarians.

    • Incurian says:

      FEMA helped cut through the red tape of another government agency. Take that, libertarians.

      Edit: Upon rereading it looks like you’re taking the pro-libertarian position here. Does the name after checkmate refer to the winner or the loser?

    • . says:

      The article shows that FEMA is already functioning as a coordinator for private organizations, in other words it has adopted a soft-libertarian policy. The check-mating (or more likely, inconclusive but probably mostly pro-libertarian data-point) will be when we look back and see how this policy performed relative to more state-focused ones.

  16. Atlas says:

    Does anyone have any insight on how effective, in terms of combating violent crime and drug addiction, (or ineffective as the case may be) Duterte’s Total War on Drugs has been? It’s been condemned by various Western governments and international NGOs, but from the articles and news reports I’ve read/listened to, it seems to be extremely popular among Filipinos, with something like >75% support. However, I haven’t heard a ton of hard evidence one way or the other on how actually effective it’s been. (Though I think that the fact that it’s evidently very popular with Filipinos is suggestive.)

    • Aapje says:

      A known failure mode of these kinds of initiatives in corrupt countries is that it is much easier for the police/paramilitary units to extort people (actual criminals or innocents), as people can be executed without trials, so there is no review of the evidence. Any person who is judge, jury and executioner is well-placed to extort people.

      There have been several scandals where this corruption happened, but it is obviously hard to figure out the full extent of this or whether there was any credible evidence of drug trade/use or other crimes against the executed people (the lack of trials causes a lack of reliable statistics).

      However, even Duterte says that 40% of the police engage in illegal activity and he has a strong incentive to downplay it.

      So my guesstimate is that it will be marginally effective at reducing overall drug use, eliminating some of the poorest addicts, while the drug users with a job will generally pay off the police. Similarly, it would likely eliminate many of the independent drug pushers, allowing the police-backed drug mafia to dominate (even more). I would expect the higher incomes for corrupt policemen will make them more dominant and more common in the police force.

      The most effective part may be that many minor criminals seem to have turned themselves in and are now imprisoned, but we know that prison often makes people more criminal, especially in these countries, where gangs run the prisons. So a lot of people whose only ‘crime’ is to have used drugs may be pulled in to crime networks where they make actual victims. So I expect a huge crime wave after this crackdown subsides (which will happen).

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Though I think that the fact that it’s evidently very popular with Filipinos is suggestive

      Bear in mind that a distressingly high proportion of people seem to model ‘use of drugs’ (usually making a totally unprincipled exception for whatever drugs are favoured by the local majority, typically alcohol, caffeine and tobacco) not as a public health issue to be sensibly managed, but as an existential-threat-level evil that must be fought, and which, being evil, cannot be compromised with. It seems to strongly trip enough people’s purity/sanctity moral intuitions (assuming the Haidt model is useful here) that the usual care/harm considerations that would normally guide public health policy are just thrown out the window.

      That is to say, principle of charity and all notwithstanding, a lot of people seem to react to the phenomenon of drug supply and use the way people react to totally imaginary crimes like blasphemy or witchcraft. In those cases, it’s easy to see that the popularity of harsh punishment for blasphemers or witches is largely uncorrelated with any actual reduction-in-negative-consequences-of-blasphemy-or-witchcraft achieved by such punishment.

      None of this is to dismiss the actual risks of drug use, just to say that the public appetite for specifically punishment as a means of addressing those risks appears to be something of a popular delusion.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Have you ever lived in a neighborhood with a lot of drug addicts? I’m asking because I suspect that those of us who have are much less likely to see concern as delusional.

        Americans, by and large, can hold our liquor. I’m not constantly tripping over drunks passed out in the gutter or watching drunken brawls. It would probably be better if we drank less as a nation but it’s hardly a crisis. You can’t say that about heroin.

        A civilized society doesn’t have parks or streets closed off by mobs of leaning zombies. Once that happens, restoring civilization becomes the top priority.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I don’t mean that it is delusional to be concerned about the effects of drug use. I mean that is it delusional to think that a system that focuses on punishment above all else (or worse, to the exclusion of all else) is the best/only way of addressing those effects. Given what we know about
          a) the powerlessness of interdiction to prevent more than a negligible fraction of the drug supply entering most countries that aren’t tiny, rich islands – a fraction which is simply absorbed as a cost of business by the traffickers,
          b) the non-disastrousness of decriminalising personal use, as in Portugal
          c) the life-saving effects of safe injection facilities
          d) the enormous crime-and-terrorism boosting effects of gifting a lucrative industry entirely into the hands of organised crime
          …it is at the very least extremely non-obvious that punishment is even net beneficial at all in reducing drug related harms, let alone so beneficial that it makes sense to be wildly enthusiastic about it.

          And, as I often bring up, any polity that has severe criminal penalties for involvement with both heroin and cannabis, while having only moderate regulatory restrictions on the adult use of alcohol, is either tragically confused about the relative risks of those three drugs, or is optimising its drug policy for something uncorrelated with any sort of public health goals. At least Duterte seems to be more-or-less on board with medical cannabis, so, could be worse…

          • caethan says:

            You literally cannot prevent the production and consumption of alcohol. I have made low-percentage alcohol (root beer and ginger beer) in my own home with hardly any tools or ingredients. It is trivially easy to make. Distillation is much harder, and I’d agree that we could come down on distilled spirits. But ignoring the fact that heroin and marijuana are derived from very specific plants that can be targeted and destroyed, while alcohol can be produced by anyone with a plastic bag and some sugar, is not, shall we say, reality-focused.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m not sure that we do know about a).

            It’s certainly the conventional wisdom that it’s impossible to stop the flow of drugs. Just as it’s conventional wisdom that torture never works and that eating red meat is unhealthy. To be honest, the conventional wisdom sounds suspiciously like wishful thinking on the part of Bobos / SWPLs.

            I’m skeptical of b) for much the same reason: “a European country tried this crazy scheme, and it’s taking longer than one news cycle to catastrophically fail” is a very common justification for all sorts of nonsense all the way back to literal communism.

            Point c) is a nonsequitor.

            Point d) proves a lot more than you think it does. After all, with slavery illegal criminals and terrorists have an exclusive market on forced labor. Clearly by your reasoning we need to decriminalize the slave trade in order to cut off funding for organized crime…

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Caethan

            But ignoring the fact that heroin and marijuana are derived from very specific plants that can be targeted and destroyed

            Well, okay, you can destroy specific plants from specific people’s gardens. But cannabis is a hardy weed. It will happily grow wild in lots of places. Admitted the crop you’d harvest won’t be as desirable as something grown under ideal conditions. But the same is true of clandestine homebrew vs professionally produced craft ale.

            Heroin is a different matter (though again, poppies are fairly resilient, and you could presumably at least scrape together some opium from wild-growing ones if you were so inclined). But the resources you would need to devote to invading every garden and park, uprooting every clandestinely planted cannabis plant, especially in a huge and sparsely populated country like the USA, wouldn’t be far from the same ballpark as you’d need to devote to invading every house and shed, smashing demijohns.

            I’m willing to grant that the latter task may be a bit easier, but not so much easier that the widespread alcohol=okay; cannabis=evil attitude makes any sense.

            Heck, what percentage of people who support cannabis prohibition would actually assent to the proposition ‘Yes, I agree that, on a rational analysis, alcohol is probably at least as dangerous a drug as cannabis, but to enforce alcohol prohibition at all would cost us so much more blood and treasure than we currently spend on cannabis prohibition that I’m prepared to cut my losses and prohibit the less-dangerous-but-more-easily-suppressed drug while leaving the more dangerous one alone’? What percentage of cannabis prohibitionists even support the outlawing of distilled spirits, a form of alcohol we can both agree shouldn’t be noticeably harder to prohibit than cannabis from illicit grow ops? I don’t know, but from my interactions with drug prohibitionists I wouldn’t bet heavily on it reaching even 50%.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Nabil:
            See for instance here:

            “The average drug trafficking organization […] could afford to lose 90% of its profit and still be profitable,” says Robert Stutman, a former DEA Agent. “Now think of the analogy. GM builds a million Chevrolets a year. Doesn’t sell 900,000 of them and still comes out profitable. That is a hell of a business, man. That is the dope business.”

            Losses in the narcotics business through seizures or theft are rarely catastrophic. The United Nations estimates that current drug interdiction efforts intercept approximately 13% of heroin shipments and 28 to 40% of cocaine shipments.

            b) Okay, but ‘since 2001’ is surely longer that a news cycle. And if it really is such a crazy scheme, you’d expect at least that it would have drug problems as bad as, if not worse than, the EU average. Instead, at least according to Wikipedia, we get things like

            The number of drug related deaths has reduced from 131 in 2001 to 20 in 2008.[25]As of 2012, Portugal’s drug death toll sat at 3 per million, in comparison to the EU average of 17.3 per million.

            or

            Reduction in new HIV diagnoses amongst drug users by 17%[19] and a general drop of 90% in drug-related HIV infection.

            c) is only a nonsequitur if you think that using drugs is inherently evil regardless of harm caused, or are concerned only about the effects of problematic users on other people. If, on the other other hand, part of your reason for being concerned about drug users is the harm caused to the users themselves, then evidence that supervised injecting facilities reduce overdose deaths ought to be relevant to ones considerations on whether a punishment-only drug policy is best. If you then add in the consideration that prohibition makes injecting drug use much more dangerous than would be the case if manufacturers could be legally bound by purity / accuracy-of-dosage regulations, then that surely has to count against it as well, even if it is currently difficult to get a handle on how large an effect that is.

            d) Sure. The fact that drug prohibition is a boon to organised crime is not a knock-down argument against drug prohibition. But it is a factor to be considered. The Taliban wouldn’t have the power they do if they didn’t have the revenue stream from Afghanistan’s opium harvest, to pick just the most obvious example. And remember that selling someone something that they want to buy is not remotely like enslaving them and forcing them to work for you against their will. The case for allowing criminals a monopoly over the profits of obviously-predatory criminal activity is one thing; the case for allowing them a monopoly over the profits of an industry that has been non-disastrously operated by legal actors in other times and places, especially if the reasons for doing so are presented as a paternalistic public-health initiative with very little evidence that it actually does promote public health, is inevitably weaker.

            [Edited to add: in sum, I could be mistaken – it could be the case that criminal prosecution, even to the extent of an arbitrarily-enforced informal death penalty, is the least bad option for minimising drug related harms. But I do not accept that I am so obviously mistaken that anyone should be enthusiastically supportive of that level of state violence in support of improved public health.]

  17. Acedia says:

    In a pointless duplication of effort, I created a dark SSC theme for Stylish/Stylus because I’m bad at searching and didn’t see that one already existed until after I’d finished it. It looks somewhat different to the other one, at least.

  18. Egregious Philbin says:

    Does anyone know of U.S. medical schools that do not have strict undergrad course requirements, e.g. Keck (USC)?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

  19. anonymousskimmer says:

    Trying againwith one URL removed:

    Re: Star Trek Borg Queen

    In 83.75 various people mentioned how annoyed they were with the existence of a Borg Queen. Given the particular obsessional foci of the Borg an eventual Queen (or King) seems a probable event, and thus Star Trek is basically right in creating one.

    Ignoring the minutiae and focusing on the broad strokes, this is how a Borg Queen would come about:

    The Borg assimilate various species seeking to get closer to perfection by adding various diverse strengths to their portfolio. Eventually they come upon species 125 (the Borg Queen’s species), which is a eusocial species, and assimilate members of it. Eusociality seems closer to social perfection when looking at sociality in a simplistic hierarchical way, thus a member of species 125 becomes Borg Queen (There are various ways this could have happened. This Queen may have been raised or programmed to see the Borg ideals as ideal, or may already have thought so, regardless she identifies with them, so selection of a Queen does not risk altering the fundamental drives of the Borg.). The various social distinctivenesses of the previous 124 Borg species present in the pre-Queen collective is eliminated or subsumed under a species 125 eusocial mantle.

    The existence of species 125 as a eusocial species means that there are always plenty of replacements when a Borg Queen is killed, and there may actually be multiple Borg Queens active at once.

    • Matt M says:

      Meh, the whole “borg are a faceless collective” thing was pretty much scrapped as early as Locutis. Why does Picard get a name and his facial structure left largely intact? To scare the enemy? Sure, but a queen serves a similar purpose so why not?

    • The Nybbler says:

      A Borg Queen, or at least a queen of a cube, makes some sense. I wouldn’t expect the coordination of activity for a cube to be done by anything that looked like an individual, but that’s at least defensible. What doesn’t make sense is that she’s a homunculus, the little individual running the whole cube (or species, which makes even less sense).

      @Matt M: Locutus was a false face for the Borg, part of the strategy for beating those pesky humans. So I don’t think his existence is such a problem.

      • Matt M says:

        Right. And maybe the Queen was “part of the strategy” for converting Data or for scaring other species who respect/fear unique leaders more than faceless collectives or what have you.

        Point is, precedent was already set that the borg will use individuality as a strategy when it suits their needs.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        What doesn’t make sense is that she’s a homunculus, the little individual running the whole cube (or species, which makes even less sense).

        What else for a cybernetic race which values the intertwining of biological and mechanical as much as possible?

        I never saw her running a cube or the collective, merely making high-level executive judgments (such as whether or not to assimilate).

        • The Nybbler says:

          What else for a cybernetic race which values the intertwining of biological and mechanical as much as possible?

          A distributed intelligence, the executive function being an emergent property of the whole cube rather than being centered in a single individual.

          (it was implied in earlier episodes that the whole _species_ was one intelligence, but IMO that’s a bit unreasonable for the Star Trek universe; a species with the FTL bandwidth required to do that would crush the Federation a lot more thoroughly than the Borg did)

          • Incurian says:

            I think part of the issue was that the Borg were far from their center of power.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            A distributed intelligence, the executive function being an emergent property of the whole cube rather than being centered in a single individual.

            I see this as dangerous as such an emergent executive could very well decide to disvalue the primary values of the Borg (if it’s even aware of such values).

          • Matt M says:

            I always thought there was an unstated implication that the Borg easily could crush the Federation if they really wanted to, and that for various unexplained reasons, they were deciding to dick around without fully committing any serious resources.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            the Borg easily could crush the Federation if they really wanted to, and that for various unexplained reasons, they were deciding to dick around without fully committing any serious resources.

            The Borg’s goal is to assimilate, not crush, and they are very sparsely expanded through multiple quadrants.

            Can the US crush NK, Afghanistan, etc…?

  20. onyomi says:

    I think Stefan nails the ideological Turing test in arguing against ancap here (in case it’s not clear, he is an anarchocapitalist arguing against ancap here).

    He also offers an interesting argument near the end, after taking off his Turing test hat: people are positively inclined towards arguments that justify them not questioning fundamental beliefs not just because people don’t like being wrong, but because questioning fundamental beliefs is often socially costly.

    I recall myself drifting leftward somewhat during my first few years in grad school, and I think it wasn’t even so much because I actually heard more good arguments for leftism; rather, being surrounded by leftists made being right wing feel more socially awkward. And had I already been left wing, entering that social environment would definitely have increased the social disincentive for me to seriously question those beliefs (of course, I’m sure it can work the other way if you’re surrounded by rightists).

    • rahien.din says:

      I recall myself drifting leftward somewhat during my first few years in grad school, and I think it wasn’t even so much because I actually heard more good arguments for leftism; rather, being surrounded by leftists made being right wing feel more socially awkward.

      I had a really similar experience in college. I was the sole conservative among a group of liberals. And not uncommitted liberals, either – they avoided even speaking to me for a week or two after the 2004 election. Probably to my benefit.

      The purely social aspects propelled me toward greater rationality. I knew my friends to be smart, and thoughtful, and pragmatic, even though we differed politically. This forced me to have some serious epistemic humility, but also, to make my own arguments with greater rigor. And I genuinely changed my mind about some things.

      • For an example in the other direction …

        Harry Johnson was a prominent left wing economist in the University of Chicago economics department. My impression is that other people on the left viewed him as much too right wing. One possible explanation is that, in a department dominated by people strongly pro-market, he tended to drift in that direction for the reasons discussed above.

        An alternative explanation is that if you find you cannot defend some of your views you drop the ones you have weaker arguments for and fall back on a position, probably less extreme, that you can defend. Think of it as abandoning the motte as indefensible and moving to the bailey.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Nitpicking: I think you meant “abandoning the bailey as indefensible and moving to the motte”.

        • . says:

          An alternative explanation is that if you find you cannot defend some of your views you drop the ones you have weaker arguments for and fall back on a position, probably less extreme, that you can defend.

          Maybe one reason there are two directions here, is that some views become easier to defend once they become more extreme? Finding an ethical justification for taxation is harder than saying “property is theft anyway.” Vegetarians who want to deny that animals can be morally considerable need to tie themselves up in knots.

    • Kevin C. says:

      I recall myself drifting leftward somewhat during my first few years in grad school, and I think it wasn’t even so much because I actually heard more good arguments for leftism; rather, being surrounded by leftists made being right wing feel more socially awkward. And had I already been left wing, entering that social environment would definitely have increased the social disincentive for me to seriously question those beliefs (of course, I’m sure it can work the other way if you’re surrounded by rightists).

      Funny, I have the opposite experience, as it was while I was much more exposed to leftists, attending college in southern California, that I made much of my movement rightward from “bog-standard working-poor Republican, except atheist” toward my current state as a monarchist kyriarchist ultra-rightist. But then, in my case being “socially awkward” was inevitable no matter my politics, so that may be a factor.

  21. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/ta-nehisi-coates-scar/

    This is a handy hook for a few questions I’ve got. Please say something about your degree of familiarity with Coates’ writing when you answer. I’ve read a bunch of his articles for the Atlantic, but not his books.

    Do you think it’s fair to say that most of the people he mentioned hurting him have been black?

    (Not especially about the link) Did he ever explain why he chose to describe racism as hurting “black bodies” rather than “black people” or some such?

    My impression is that he became obsessed with racism in an unhealthy way after he took on the project of getting a gut-level understanding of Confederates. I realize my description of the change is vague, but if there are any people here who read him with a lot of attention, have you seen shifts in his point of view? When did they happen?

    • onyomi says:

      I find Coates’s success extremely depressing. He’s basically a very eloquent Black Panther (his parents were Black Panthers), but now, being a Black Panther is seemingly just mainstream Blue tribe thought (and this has nothing whatsoever to do with white nationalism making a comeback…)

      Like the article writer, I find his writing incredibly difficult to stick with because it’s so self-righteous and always begins by asserting things he knows he can count on his intended audience to nod with in vigorous agreement, but which are actually far from obvious, such as the idea that Obama, upon assuming the office of POTUS, was self-evidently a far more accomplished individual than Donald Trump:

      “If I have to jump six feet to get the same thing that you have to jump two feet for ― that’s how racism works. To be president, [Obama] had to be scholarly, intelligent, president of the Harvard Law Review, the product of some of our greatest educational institutions, capable of talking to two different worlds … Donald Trump had to be rich and white. That was it. That’s the difference.”

      The thing is, this makes perfect sense to his intended audience. To his intended audience, being president of the Harvard Law Review is, indeed, much more impressive than building a bunch of hotels and casinos. But not everyone shares that world view.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Coates used to be better. I used to like his writing, even if I didn’t agree with all of it.

        I’m currently reading the comments to the link. One of them points out rightly that Trump isn’t a typical candidates.

        I might as well mention that the best thing I got from Coates’ earlier article was from a comment which pointed out that there’s a difference between a slave-owning society and a society where the elite defines itself as owning slaves.

        Here’s a probably better theory from the comments on the newconservative link– Coates’ (who used to have an excellent commenting community) was hit by a troll army:

        JonF says:
        September 12, 2017 at 1:22 pm
        Re: But I’ve never read anything by or about the man that makes me want to read him further.

        Back in his blogger days he wrote a whole series of pieces for the Atlantic studying the Civil War, Reconstruction, early 19th century America, and the ugly history of 20th century Eastern Europe. These were extremely insightful and empathetic, and lacked the preaching that punctuate his later works. He even bent over backwards, mentally, to see the world through the eyes of Antebellum Southern slave owners.

        Unfortunately, the Atlantic was soon assaulted by wave after wave of disruptive trolls spamming all manner of vile taurine byproduct everywhere they could (to the point that someone even insisted on a Game Of Thrones article– not by Coates– that the show was part of the “Jew homosexual conspiracy” to ruin America). Coates’ blog became ground zero for these cyber-barbarians. For a while he employed moderators (one of whom I know, online) to keep things cleaned up, but that led to endless controversies over whose posts had been deleted and who had been banned for what reason. He finally gave up and quit blogging except for maybe one or two pieces a year– and no comments allowed. In addition I suspect Coates, who was originally exuberant over Obama’s election in 2008, suffered the bitter disappointment of many left-liberals in seeing much of Obama’s agenda derailed by an intransigent, obstructionist GOP after 2010.

        [NFR: I agree. That’s the TNC I came to love. Even when I disagreed with him, I loved reading him because he really did seem to be grasping for the truth, reaching beyond his boundaries. It was inspiring. It’s what I try to do with my own writing, though certainly I often fail. But he really lost it. He’s an uncommonly talented man, but I wish he had a mentor like the late Albert Murray to help him direct and refine it. — RDM]

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          How do I take the italics out of the blockquote?

          Also, The New Conservative seems to have much better than average comments.

        • Loquat says:

          I remember liking Coates a lot before he went off the deep end, and the theory that it was a reaction to excessive online trolling makes sense to me. I saw a similar phenomenon happen at a leftist site I used to frequent – without going into too much detail, there was a change in management, the new (all-female) mods approved the publication of an article that attracted lots of internet outrage, and after some months of being attacked they’d gone into full-on defensive mode where anyone who was less than 100% supportive of them and all their actions and beliefs was clearly just another misogynist troll enraged that these women dared to hold opinions.

          If that was what happened to Coates, I don’t know that a mentor would have helped. Maybe the presence of hired moderators to delete the trash from both comments and his personal correspondence before he could see it, but I don’t think that would have been a workable solution.

          • albatross11 says:

            I also used to be a pretty consistent reader of TNC. At some point, he seemed to become really focused on conveying a particular strongly-held ideology about race that more-or-less explained everything, and I found myself less and less interested in what he had to say.

          • Zorgon says:

            Coates was pretty great at The Atlantic for a few years. I don’t put it down to trolling, though – The Atlantic did a fairly decent job of keeping that back (and the people in the comments who inexplicably think that TNC would have been dealing with the torrent of ick are grimly amusing; media companies have interns for this sort of thing).

            No, it was pretty simple; Critical Race Theory became mainstream, and Coates became a lunatic almost overnight. I don’t know if he underwent a Damascene moment or always harboured the desire to witter on incessantly about “black bodies” and using words like “violence” to describe structural biases, but pretty much nothing he’s written since has been worth reading.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        much more impressive than building a bunch of hotels and casinos.

        Using his father’s money as seed.

        Versus what? Coming from a professional class upbringing?

        There are a greater number of Trump’s class going out and building buildings (following directly in a parent’s footsteps is all too often expected) than there are of Obama’s class going out and being elected president of the Harvard Law Review (or equivalent institutions). While Obama followed in his ancestral professional class footsteps he didn’t directly pursue the same job any of his recent ancestors had. This is, indeed, more impressive.

        That said, the entire fact that anyone lauds either of them is annoying to me. They personally didn’t rise far enough on their own effort to warrant laurels (IMO). And winning popularity contests is never anything worth a laurel, merely a high five or “good job” at best.

        • gbdub says:

          Though as mentioned, Trump is very atypical (for a Presidential candidate). Obama’s accomplishments are pretty much in line with a “standard” presidential candidate. If anything he was “under qualified” having never held an executive office and being a junior senator in 2008.

          Now you’re right that his background is NOT typical, but I’m not sure it’s fair to consider it strictly disadvantageous. It’s uncharitable to dismiss him as an “affirmative action candidate”, but it is certainly true that his race and background opened some doors, given that his accomplishments occurred primarily in social spheres that were either mostly black or were mostly white, but valued and actively promoted racial diversity (i.e. were actively seeking minority participants).

          Put more pithily, white guys born to nobody single mothers don’t go to Harvard and become president either.

        • onyomi says:

          The question isn’t “should we be impressed by Donald Trump’s accomplishments prior to his becoming POTUS?” nor “should we be impressed by Barack Obama’s accomplishments prior to his becoming POTUS?”; it’s “is it completely self-evident that Obama, at the time he became POTUS, was a much more accomplished individual than Trump was at the time he became POTUS?”

          I think you could argue that they were both pretty impressive (certainly compared to Joe Sixpack). You could argue that they were both pretty unimpressive as POTUSs go. You could argue that one or the other is more impressive. But I don’t think you can take it as a given that it’s completely obvious Obama’s pre-POTUS accomplishments were much more impressive than Trump’s. To a certain set of people, of course, they were; to another set, they very much aren’t. Not seeing why this claim is in need of justification reveals either that Coates is preaching to the choir and doesn’t care or else badly fails to understand the world view of large swaths of the country.

          And you know, I think he elsewhere makes some good points about what may be real double standards. Would “grab ’em by the pussy” have hurt a black candidate more than it hurt Trump? Maybe. I still think they treated Herman Cain unfairly, though I have a perhaps paranoid suspicion that a decision was made he had to be destroyed because a black Republican.

          But making a habit of starting out his statements and articles with bold, unsupported assertions, like how Obama had to be 3x the candidate Trump had to be because he was black, basically just serves as toxoplasma.

          • rahien.din says:

            I don’t think you can take it as a given that it’s completely obvious Obama’s pre-POTUS accomplishments were much more impressive than Trump’s.

            I agree, especially to your point that one’s assessment thereof is entirely due to one’s own affiliations.

            Honestly the more I thought about it, the more impressive Trump’s accomplishments seemed. Yes, he started from privilege, but he genuinely has accomplished a lot. Like Honcho, if I had been given some six-figure sum, I would have invested nicely and I probably would be debt-free and I’d have nicer TV’s and vacations, but that’s it.

            Even if we stipulate (as Blue Tribe is wont to do) that he’s not actually a great businessman, this stipulation only serves to enhance his accomplishments. As in, if Trump had sailed around the world in a one-person catamaran, it would be even more impressive if he had done it without knowing anything about oceanic currents.

            Moreover, I don’t think we can entirely hold the failures of his businesses against him. Businesses failing or being sold seems just to be what businesses do. The fact that they are temporary (or held temporarily) does not mean that their owners were strictly unsuccessful. It may have meant that calculated risks were well-taken.

            I guess the more I listen to Sam Harris’ screeds about Trump, the more my null-hypothesis-generator points out why Trump is perhaps not the slobbering, blithely-addled, paper tiger he was made out to be.

          • Matt M says:

            As in, if Trump had sailed around the world in a one-person catamaran, it would be even more impressive if he had done it without knowing anything about oceanic currents.

            Is it too early to start talking about the poor treatment accorded to Columbus Day by modern blue-tribers? 😉

            The fact that they are temporary (or held temporarily) does not mean that their owners were strictly unsuccessful. It may have meant that calculated risks were well-taken.

            IIRC Scott Adams had some good posts on this about how most of Trump’s high-profile failures were simple licensing-arrangements that were very intentionally structured to be low-risk, medium-reward, such that only one or two of them really needed to hit to make the entire enterprise worthwhile.

          • rahien.din says:

            Matt M,

            Like, a diversified portfolio? Imagine that. (We need a sarcasm font.)

            Maybe a digression, but : did you listen to Scott Adams’ appearance on Sam Harris’ podcast? I was rather stunned by how badly Harris whiffed. He didn’t just miss Adams’ point – he got the whole domain wrong.

            I emerged from that podcast with a whole lot more epistemic humility about Trump.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Like Honcho, if I had been given some six-figure sum, I would have invested nicely and I probably would be debt-free and I’d have nicer TV’s and vacations, but that’s it.

            It’s important to remember that Trump was literally given a job in the family business of managing real estate. Yes, he grew and diversified this start significantly, but the start was more than mere money.

          • Matt M says:

            Lots of heirs are given cushy positions in the family business. Very few of them become Donald Trump.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Lots of heirs are given cushy positions in the family business. Very few of them become Donald Trump.

            I didn’t say otherwise.

            Do we have statistics on this though (of those heirs given a powerful position in a family business, how many of them grow the business versus those that shrink the business)?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If Obama was being evaluated in whether he could pull off $2B hotel deal, it would indeed make sense to conclude he was far, far less accomplished than Trump at that.

            Trump had zero accomplishments in the realm of government. His “I know the system better than anyone” was always laughable. There is a reason so many effective politicians are lawyers, as politics is ultimately the creation and execution of law.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            The logic is bad because in order to assess whether whites or blacks have it better in politics you need to work in averages not just random examples. There was that black mayor of New York who got booted out for smoking crack, so you could do the same thing as this black nationalist guy and compare the crack smoking mayor to, say, Bernie Sanders. It’s just mindless stupidity.

            On average, I could see minority politicians having an advantage in certain progressive areas, like San Fran or Vancouver. How they would fare in nationwide elections, I don’t know. I doubt there’s enough accumulated data on that to make a good estimate, and the dynamics of it are in constant flux so any information you obtained for previous decades would probably be out of date for our present one.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            They may be wrong, but a lot of Red Tribe voters would disagree with you that being a law professor and senator is better preparation for the job of POTUS than being a real estate magnate and tv star. Which is why I say Coates doesn’t understand the world view of the people he’s criticizing.

            The question here isn’t “who was actually more qualified to be POTUS,” but “did Obama’s blackness per se mean he had to be more qualified than an equally qualified white candidate?” To my mind, the answer is almost certainly no. If anything, I think his chances of having become POTUS had he had the exact same resume but been white would have been lower, because part of his appeal was “first black president.”

            The other question is, “could Donald Trump, lacking political experience as he does, have still won had he been a charismatic black billionaire reality TV star?” The answer is a little less clear to me, but I don’t see a good reason why not. Whether they should or not, voters like billionaire TV stars and I don’t see any reason why that love would extend less to black billionaire TV stars.

            Maybe Coates would argue that something about American culture makes it so that whites are allowed to be bombastic and vulgar and still be taken seriously while blacks are not allowed as much leeway and therefore have to come off very erudite and mild-mannered like Obama. This seems at least plausible to me, but I don’t think you can just assert it as a given. For one thing, Donald Trump’s personality and resume are extremely unusual among the set of white POTUSs as well.

            Of course, a much better argument for either side would be to cite some statistics about black and white politicians and how they survive scandal, whether or not they are, on average, equally qualified when getting elected to the same office, etc. etc. But instead Coates opens with toxoplasma.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            “Joe Sixpack” hates the knowledgeable elite. Trump’s appeal was specifically that he was not that. He was running on appeal of common sense instead of studied knowledge. He was much more the guy who spent his life “turning a wrench” rather than the guy mandating the torque specification for the tightened nut.

            This is not a new phenomenon. Many politicians run as a representative of the “common man” who had simple common sense. Ross Perot’s campaign drew heavily on this, but so did George W. Bush and Reagan. Certainly there are more examples, and they are more numerous representing smaller constituencies.

            And black politicians can also run with this approach and be successful. But they are much less likely to be successful if the constituency they wish to represent is majority white. Call that tribalism if you want, but that just means much the same thing. When taken in the aggregate, we still have an issue where some large plurality of whites are suspicious of blacks as being “one of them”.

            This of course goes the other way as well, but that is how tribalism works.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I agree with onyomi that Trump not being “successful” is non-obvious. If that’s failing, I would very much like to fail like Trump. I do not think that with a small loan of a million dollars I would wind up with nearly as many hotels, golf resorts, airplanes, and hit television shows bearing my name.

          This may be trivially simple to you and to Coates’ audience, but to me it is not unremarkable.

          • Matt M says:

            This.

            Even among the set of “people whose rich parents loaned them a few million dollars” Trump’s success (and no, I’m not talking about investment returns as compared to the S&P, I’m talking about celebrity and fame and name recognition and brand value, you know, things that matter in nationwide elections) is pretty remarkable.

            ETA: And the whole “all he had to do to win is be a rich white guy” criticism is remarkably dumb, because most of his primary opponents were also rich white guys, and the person he beat in the general was certainly rich and white, and Obama was able to defeat various rich white guys, and so on and so forth…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, The United States is already rather well established [citation needed] and is not a start-up project. I’m not sure that “came from nothing and became a success” is better than “started successful and became more successful” with regards to the Presidency of the United States. There are probably overlapping but distinct sets of skills required for each of these endeavors.

            Discounting Trump because he didn’t start from nothing isn’t persuasive because the United States isn’t starting from nothing, either. “Can take something already successful and make it better or at least keep it from tanking” is the sort of management ability I’d like in a President.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “Can take something already successful and make it better or at least keep it from tanking” is the sort of management ability I’d like in a President.

            I don’t want any president to have that kind of power, and fortunately they really don’t.

            ‘Separation of powers’ for the win.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            A president has no ability to either improve or tank the country?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            A president has no ability to either improve or tank the country?

            Not really without consent of congress (and possibly SCOTUS), no. Not on their lonesome.

      • cassander says:

        “If I have to jump six feet to get the same thing that you have to jump two feet for ― that’s how racism works. To be president, [Obama] had to be scholarly, intelligent, president of the Harvard Law Review, the product of some of our greatest educational institutions, capable of talking to two different worlds … Donald Trump had to be rich and white. That was it. That’s the difference.”

        This is, frankly, embarrassing. For Coates, I mean. scholarly? Obama wasn’t a scholar, as I recall, he never published anything before becoming political. Product of greatest educational institutions? Trump went to Wharton. Capable of talking to two different worlds? what on earth does that even mean?

        The only thing on the list that’s even vaguely an accomplishment is President of the review, but there he got it as much because he was black, not in spite of it. Just look at the breathless reporting of the event. It certainly wasn’t because of his brilliant legal writing, because he didn’t actually publish anything.

        And really, rich and white? Putting aside the fact trump is one of the richest people in the world, that description applied to every republican candidate (and democratic candidate for that matter) except Ben Carson, so, by definition, it took more than that.

        You’re right, onyomi, this is depressing.

        • The only thing on the list that’s even vaguely an accomplishment is President of the review, but there he got it as much because he was black, not in spite of it. Just look at the breathless reporting of the event. It certainly wasn’t because of his brilliant legal writing, because he didn’t actually publish anything.

          Law students are not expected to have published any research. The president of the Harvard Law Review is elected by the senior staff of the law review (minus the outgoing president), so Obama’s position may have been evidence more of his political ability than his scholarly ability.

          I was told by a U of C law school faculty member that when Obama was there he didn’t engage intellectually with his colleagues–which, given that school, is pretty strong negative evidence. Of course, if he was planning a political career, he might have been being careful not to say things that might be brought up against him in the future.

          Putting aside the fact trump is one of the richest people in the world

          How rich Trump is doesn’t seem to be public information, but Forbes estimates his wealth at $3.5 billion, which makes him the 544th person on their list. Bill Gates is number one at $86 billion.

          So very rich, but not one of the richest people in the world.

          • cassander says:

            On the law review, my understanding is that while law students don’t publish scholarly articles, people associated with the review usually write articles for it. Obama did not.

            For Trump’s wealth, I’m aware that he’s near the bottom of the fortune 500 list, but he is a billionaire which is an extremely exclusive club. I feel as comfortable saying he’s one of the richest people in the world in the same way I would say that members of Congress (about the same number) are the most powerful people in the world.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Capable of talking to two different worlds? what on earth does that even mean?

          Perhaps he means how Trump had to deal with the down and dirty blue-collar world of the people who actually built his projects, while also shmoozing with the elite who were paying him for it… oh, you mean he meant Obama?

          Perhaps it’s how Obama had to get along in the middle class white world, having been brought up in an African-American community… uh, no, that doesn’t work either.

          I got nothing.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Trump had to deal with the down and dirty blue-collar world of the people who actually built his projects

            Trump would have dealt with, at best, the contractors who owned the companies which built his projects. Maybe he also would have spoken with the owners of the companies sub-contracted by the contractors too, but it would be doubtful he’d deal with them since they would not have been directly hired by him.

    • John Schilling says:

      We’ve talked about Coates here before, though it was a while ago. I followed Coates very closely through roughly 2013, considering him one of the best writers around on US racial issues. He went off the rails, and I think openly acknowledged that this was the cause, in response to the Jordan Davis shooting. Trayvon Martin upset him, but he accepted that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict and sometimes bad things just happened. Jordan Davis was too much coincidence for his tolerance, and something broke under the strain.

      Since then, he’s viewed everything about US politics and culture through the prism of Literal White Supremacist Evil. While our Scott A can write “You Are Still Crying Wolf” from the perspective of reason, Coates can no longer see a little yappy dog and not conjure a fantastic pack of ravenous dire wolfs set loose upon his people. I stopped reading Coates shortly after, about the time he stopped allowing dissenting views in the comments to his blog, and so can’t comment on his recent books, his take on the Trump presidency, or Dreher’s assessment. What Dreher describes does about match what I’d expect from a 2017 Coates.

      • onyomi says:

        I can believe he once was and could be much better; as Dreher says, that’s part of what’s so depressing. He’s insightful and eloquent enough that he could possibly facilitate understanding and empathy. But that’s not the effect, nor, seemingly, the intent of his writing today.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        question

        I recall a famous quote of Coates’ recent book meant to be a letter to his son, stating that he felt nothing during 9/11

        is this retconning? What do you think of this statement?

        • BBA says:

          Coates started out as a black nationalist, moved to liberalism, and then back to black nationalism.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            i guess that explains it. Weird shit. I always assumed that coates was just enjoying his ride on the gravy train of exploiting, well, white guilt, or whatever you’d call it (open to other interpretations of the phenomenon). He’s still bad though. Next time I stub my toe in the dark I’ll blame it on ‘blackness’, in his honor of course.

    • . says:

      The trick to reading Coates is to remember that he is going to focus on one factor, and that weighing it and integrating it into everything else is up to you. It’s like reading the Last Psychiatrist: No, not everything is about narcissism, but it can still be informative to grab that hammer and pound on every nail-like object in sight.

      An example of a non-obvious insight that the hammer-happy approach gets you, from his latest essay: we often hear from social conservatives that Trump’s rhetoric aims to explode certain newfangled pieties that are used by coastal elites as a method of social control. But this is attractive exactly as far as you see yourself as controlled rather than controlling. Therefore hearing “grab them by the pussy” from someone below you is bad, while hearing it from someone of your class is good (or at least forgivable). This would explain why Trump and Cain, while both pursuing a similar disenchanted and angry demographic(?), adopted such utterly different personas.

      (I’m also getting sick of the meta-contrarian conventional wisdom that race is a distraction, and ready for the meta-meta-contrarian counterpunch. Probably I’d be more annoyed by Coates three months ago when the CW was still fresh.)

      • albatross11 says:

        I don’t think race is a distraction, but I do think that hardly anyone in the US mainstream seems to be able to think straight about race. And one result is that any issue that touches at all on race tends to get caught up in this hazy area where nobody is able or willing to think straight and discuss the issue. Discussions of immigration, policing, and educational policy are often wrapped around the axle by their proximity to racial issues.

      • onyomi says:

        Next time Coates comes out with another “epic” longform essay all my Blue tribe friends tell me I just have to read, can you write another paragraph-long summary telling me the actual point?

        • . says:

          Hah thanks! But to avoid misleading: that wasn’t really a summary, just what resonated with me. I’m pretty sure that the reason this essay is getting so much play is something I totally ignored: Coates took a major complaint about social justice

          (C) expressing anti-racism has become primarily a class marker

          and expressed it in SJ-friendly terms. He pointed out that the contrapositive of “insufficiently anti-racist –> low class” is “high class –> sufficiently anti-racist.” Once you phrase it the second way, (C) becomes a problem for the SJWs, rather than just being a problem for the class strugglers. This is very satisfying for leftists since (C) is causing a lot of acrimony between the two flavors of leftism. But if you’re not invested in that acrimony, and I’m not, then it is not so interesting.

    • Björn says:

      On the “black bodies”-question: I think he owes this term to post-structuralist influences, specifically Judith Butler. She has a theory about how female bodies are represented and talked about and how this shapes how we see them, and also what they are. I’m not a fan of that theory, as it does weird things like making a philosophical theory of the body, but then the body is abstract again and the actual body is ignored. But I’m not an expert of post-structuralist roots of third wave feminism.

      But I would say that Coates is generally quite much influenced by post-structuralism. His texts circle around how certain things are represented in culture. The main thing the cultural sciences took from post-structuralism is that how something is represented in culture shapes the thing itself. But I’m also not a Coates expert, I read some pieces of him, but I never finished any of them, as I find it tiring that Coates buries the reader under tons of details and then draws a rather basic conclusion.

    • . says:

      To add to Bjorn on the whole ‘bodies’ thing, here’s a rough constellation of concepts which I think I see in Coates:

      1) race is about the body in an obvious sense. Uploads are not going to have this problem. People get more excited about physical differences than ethnic differences (to the extent that if you want to persecute a culturally distinct but physically normal subgroup like Jews in Europe you need to fantasize some visible physical differences)

      2) slaves owned nothing but their bodies, so they were controlled through direct bodily violence.

      3) there is an alleged tendency to cure problems with whites using incentives and nudges while curing problems with blacks using batons or by putting them physically in a small room.

    • willachandler says:

      Crocodile Dundee too has been checking his privilege, and he has ended up surfing left … left … left … the historical and cultural scars that shape Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thinking are universal.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/open-letter-ta-nehisi-coates/

      A black immigrant from Jamaica explains that Coates is wrong.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        That was moving. Highly recommended. Thanks for sharing.

      • quanta413 says:

        Thanks for link. I thought the essay well written and found it moving although I could see how for some people it would be too… sappy? The essay was also very aspirational? personal? I can’t find the right words exactly. It’s not exactly a criticism of the essay, but more in the sense that I don’t think of the essay as being any sort of demonstration that Coates is wrong in the sense I normally think of as wrong since this essay and Coates writing both have a lot of subjective and value claims joined with a small core of facts. He and Coates have very strong disagreements on values, which obviously makes for a big difference in conclusions even if you agree on the factual basis of things.

        I went and looked at a review of his book “Civil Disobedience and the Politics of Identity: When We Should Not Get Along” here http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/civil-disobedience-and-the-politics-of-identity-when-we-should-not-get-along/. It looked potentially interesting. May comment more later.

        • onyomi says:

          Yeah, he seems to have more than one book extolling the virtues of what Scott might call “universal culture.” As someone who frequently argues for “melting pot, not salad bowl,” and against cultural/moral relativism, I’m happy to see this, though I’m not sure I want a global “melting pot,” necessarily, as I think the right for any group to create its own enclaves is also important… but as an alternative to ethnic nationalism, especially within a political unit like the US, this kind of individualism has some serious appeal. I think I may also try to check out his work and report back if I manage to get around to it.

        • dndnrsn says:

          His essay kind of came off as the negative-plane version of TNC. TNC has had some bad experiences, which he has interpreted as white people running the US for the benefit of white people, by destroying black people, and also sorta to destroy black people as part of the purpose. This author has had some good experiences, and so has interpreted the US as this glorious place where everyone is welcome if they roll up their sleeves and work hard. This despite the fact that both men have been personally successful – TNC moreso.

          • quanta413 says:

            His essay kind of came off as the negative-plane version of TNC.

            This is a pretty great pithy description; props to you. Also fits with TNC’s dungeons and dragons schtick. I never would’ve imagined anybody would make the term “eldritch” seem hip/cool/woke.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Hypothesis: TNC really plays Call of Cthulhu but references D&D because non-nerds call all RPGs “Dungeons and Dragons.”

          • quanta413 says:

            Hypothesis: TNC really plays Call of Cthulhu but references D&D because non-nerds call all RPGs “Dungeons and Dragons.”

            That would explain his sense of hopelessness.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, his SAN hit zero in 2013, and he’s just been LARPing it 24/7 ever since? Makes as much sense as anything.

    • Urstoff says:

      After reading Coates book, my armchair reaction is that he had a traumatic childhood as a sensitive kid growing up in a poor and violent neighborhood, and instead of getting much-needed therapy, he writes articles where he sees white supremacy in every nook and cranny of society.

      That or like plenty of pundits of all stripes, he found that being ridiculous and extreme pays.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I found Coates extremely insightful for quite a while. I stopped being able to read him when he became hopeless. I mean that literally. He has stopped having any hope that the problems he elucidates can ever be remedied.

      But I think he does elucidate real problems. And I think it’s a mistake to dismiss his analysis of problems simply because he offers no hope for their resolution.

      • dndnrsn says:

        There’s identifying problems, identifying their causes, and identifying solutions. I agree with you there’s a point where he sort of lost hope. I think part of the reason he lost hope is that his diagnosis of the cause is not correct, or at least, not entirely correct.

        Around the same time his style got really turgid. His reparations piece, I don’t remember it reading like his more recent stuff does. It’s like reading HP Lovecraft writing a critical theory paper.

  22. IrishDude says:

    Catalonia wants to hold a referendum on secession and 700 mayors that have offered to assist in the vote are being summoned for investigation by the Spanish government under the threat of prosecution. Those that don’t show up are being threatened with arrest.

    I think smaller governance structures that increase diversity and competition are generally a step in the right direction, so I hope the secession succeeds, but it’s interesting to watch the lengths the larger state will go to to protect its dominion.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      The economic crisis in Spain has only served to magnify calls for Catalan independence – as the wealthy Barcelona region is seen as propping up the poorer rest of Spain.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/11179914/Why-does-Catalonia-want-independence-from-Spain.html

      “Screw you, I’ve got mine”. I guess with the European Union those in the rest of Spain could still move to Barcelona for better prospects, but I wonder how much Barcelona’s income is used to provide formative opportunity for those in the other regions of Spain, and to what extent this would hinder the competitive development of other Spaniards vis-a-vis the Barcelonans. This could very well lead to less competition instead of more (except solely in the governing sphere, which is hardly the most important sphere to compete in).

      • Incurian says:

        Why is “screw you, I’ve got mine” seen as worse than “screw you, I’ll take yours?”

        • . says:

          In a vacuum, definitely no reason. But depending on what sort of mutual obligations Spaniards conceive themselves as having for each other, it might be much worse or much better.

          Certainly for any risk-sharing unit to function, from the EU all the way down to the nuclear family, there needs to be some mechanism to prevent exit by the upper 50.0000001% (who would then split again, who would then split again…). And for everything else to function there needs to be a mechanism to prevent arbitrary seizure of property. But these mechanisms aren’t written on gold tablets, and can be expected to differ in their details from one place to another. So to answer this question we’d need to know how Spain works.

          • IrishDude says:

            Certainly for any risk-sharing unit to function, from the EU all the way down to the nuclear family, there needs to be some mechanism to prevent exit by the upper 50.0000001%

            Risk-sharing units can function well under some circumstances and not well under others. One thing that works to improve performance is to hold shirkers accountable to lessen the chances of negative risks. In a family unit, it’s relatively easy to keep an eye on who’s free-riding (like playing video games all day instead of working), and to shame them to get them to pitch in. Threats of exit can work well too, like telling your dead-beat husband that he better get a job or you’ll leave him, or your insurance company saying they’ll drop you if you keep getting DUIs.

            Exiting an unhealthy risk sharing unit seems reasonable if that’s your preference. I can understand why the dead-beat husband might not like this, though.

    • albatross11 says:

      I’m trying to imagine how the US federal government would react to a serious modern-day attempt to organize, say, a secession referendum in Texas. My guess is that a serious attempt that looked to have a serious shot at succeeding would get at least this harsh a response.

      How would we figure out whether this kind of secession would be a win or lose for people overall? I have no strong opinion on Catalan independence, but I am interested on how we’d figure out whether it would be a net win or lose for mankind, for Spain, and for Catalan. FWIW, I’d expect actual secession of Texas from the US, if it somehow happened, to be really ugly and traumatic, and it’s hard to imagine that it would end up better for anyone.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        As Antonin Scalia wrote, that issue was “settled at Appomattox.” Texas isn’t going anywhere without violence. And Texas is big, and Texas is rich, but Texas is not bigger and richer than the rest of the US. Catalonia is in a similar position.

        • Matt M says:

          And as Bob Murphy quipped, the issue of whether it’s acceptable to use violence to suppress a secessionist movement was, therefore, settled by John Wilkes Booth in a theater.

          Might doesn’t always make right.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “Might doesn’t always make right.”

            Might may not decide who is right in a conflict, but in certainly decides who is left at the end.

          • Matt M says:

            Man, the US military can’t even keep Afghanistan under control. You think they could successfully subdue a sufficiently-motivated Texas?

          • John Schilling says:

            The US military hasn’t stopped trying to keep Afghanistan under control, and nobody in the US military actually cares about that hellhole. You think they’re giving up Texas without at least sixteen years of bloody fighting?

            Don’t expect much of Texas to be left standing by Year 17.

          • Matt M says:

            I think a good portion of the military would refuse to fight against Texans in the first place.

            Then it comes down to just how motivated Texas really is. Do they give up as soon as whatever they can muster as a standing army officially surrenders (like the confederacy did), or do they continue to resist as a modern insurgency, which is virtually impossible to put down without truly massive advantages in both manpower and technology?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Matt M

            There’s a statement I’ve seen around, in multiple variations, to the effect of: the US military wasn’t defeated in Vietnam by the NVA or the Viet Cong, but by the State Department and Walter Cronkite. If instead of our troops being saddled with onerous ROEs and ridiculous objectives, they were given the same rules and mandates as in WWII, do you think they’d still be as unsuccessful? Would we have ISIS in Iraq if we’d treated Baghdad and Mosul like Tokyo and Dresden? How long would it have taken MacArthur or Patton to get Afghanistan “under control”?

            The problem isn’t inbred mountan folk, its what we in Death Eater circles sometimes call “the Blue Empire of the consulates”. Because for those folks, the “Red Empire” at the Pentagon is the outgroup, while those Pashtuns and such are just useful far-group proxies, who lefties find sympathetic “oppressed brown folk” no matter how many boys they rape, gays they kill, or women they mistreat.

            But do you think those same restraints will be kept in place when deploying the troops domestically? It’s one thing to stick it to the Red Empire when they’re trying to fight those poor, oppressed Muslims, but when it comes to fighting the ultimate nearby outgroup, the hateful Deplorables? Do you remember Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign? MacArthur going after the veterans, women, and children of the “Bonus Army” with cavalry and tanks? Why wouldn’t they give Houston or Dallas the ol’ Dresden treatment? The Mass Media Megaphone will spin it as a regrettable but necessary measure to stop the “haters” and save the minorities of Texas from being killed or oppressed by the murderous, Tim McVeigh-esque “fascists”.

            You know the bratty child, who when forced to share a toy, breaks it instead on the principle of “if I can’t have it, nobody can?” I expect the same attitude by our elites as to any would-be-secessionist territory (as with the state I live in; remember there’s an Alaskan Independence Party). If somehow conventional military force proved insufficient to prevent secession, they would in fact prefer “radioactive wasteland Texas” to an independent Texas. You really think, if nothing less worked, the Cathedral wouldn’t nuke an actively secessionist Texas?

            or do they continue to resist as a modern insurgency, which is virtually impossible to put down without truly massive advantages in both manpower and technology?

            That’s nonsense. The vast majority of “insurgencies” (yes, even “modern” ones) fail, as was covered in my discussion with Nornagest and others in this thread. They succeed only when against foreign forces (never in a civil war situation), where there are elements in the government of the foreign power who are sympathetic, and when backed and supplied by (other) foreign powers. And, per Moldbug, never when the insurgents “were to the political right of the government forces.”

            For example, if oppression and injustice really are the cause of insurgent movements, why was there never anything even close to an insurgency in any of the Soviet-bloc states? Excepting, of course, Afghanistan – a rather suspicious exception. You may be a progressive, but you can’t be such a progressive that you believe there was no such thing as Communist oppression. Yet it never spawned any kind of violent reaction. What up with that, dog?

            The obvious answer is just Defoe’s. “When they had the Power in their hands, those Graces were strangers in their gates.” The cause of revolutionary violence is not oppression. The cause of revolutionary violence is weak government. If people avoid revolting against strong governments, it is because they are not stupid, and they know they will lose. There is one and only one way to defeat an insurgency, which is the same way to defeat any movement – make it clear that it has no chance of winning, and no one involved in it will gain by continuing to fight.

            Communist China’s done pretty good at crushing every attempt at an insurgency, hasn’t it?

            More:

            Wars in which antimilitarism plays an important role are often described as “asymmetric.” The term is a misnomer. A real “asymmetric” war would be a conflict in which one side was much stronger than the other. For obvious reasons, this is a rara avis. A modern asymmetric war is one in which one side’s strength is primarily military, and the other’s is primarily political. Of course this does not work unless the political and military sides are at least nominally parts of the same government, which means that all asymmetric wars are civil – although they may be fought by foreign soldiers on foreign territory.

          • hlynkacg says:

            As John Schilling said further down; The society that looks at “Black Hawk Down” and sees a defeat, is the society that will never know victory in battle and war.

            If all our hypothetical Texans have to do is make a better showing than the Somalis or Afghanis I’m feeling optimistic.

          • Incurian says:

            I think a good portion of the military would refuse to fight against Texans in the first place.

            Yeah, because they’d be fighting for them.

          • . says:

            Re Vietnam, and also totally changing the subject, I suspect the US secretly attained its war aims. McMaster’s book on the run-up to the Vietnam war paints the following picture:

            Since MAD was important, new and exciting, foreign policy people in the US were totally obsessed with the signalling value of US actions. Under this model you win when you’ve convinced your opponent that it’s in his best interest to give up, and you do that by signalling that you can hurt him and are willing to hurt him. The US obviously can, so it’s all about signalling willingness. McNamara saw that the best way to signal that the US cared about preventing communist expansion in SE Asia would be by getting a bunch of Americans killed over it.

            It’s plausible that this signal was sent successfully, and that the communist powers would have been more aggressive without that signal. No idea how to evaluate this though.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think it’s quite correct to say that the US military was defeated in Vietnam. The war was a loss, the US was defeated, in that it failed to achieve its political objectives and its enemies succeeded (always the bottom line), but the actual forces involved — even with poor morale and restrictive ROE — were militarily superior to their enemies throughout.

            The reason we lost is that those political objectives were self-defeating regardless of the status of forces: that’s the real lesson of Vietnam, and one that we’ve persistently refused to learn since. But change those objectives and you’re no longer fighting the Vietnam War, you’re fighting some other war in Vietnam. And self-defeating or not, we limited those objectives for a reason.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @hlynkacg

            If all our hypothetical Texan Militia has to do is make a better showing than Somalis or Afghanis I’m feeling optimistic.

            But that’s not “all they have to do”; they’d have to make a better showing than the Axis Powers. Because they won’t be up against the hogtied-by-leftists US Military-as-in-Somalia-or-Afghanistan, but the full-bore unchained World War II bomb-cities-to-rubble US Military.

            Because while our left-wing rulers may have more sympathy for child-raping Pashtun than our troops, there is literally nobody on Earth that they hate more, that they more want dead and wiped forever from the face of the planet, than us Deplorables.

          • BBA says:

            Do they give up as soon as whatever they can muster as a standing army officially surrenders (like the confederacy did), or do they continue to resist as a modern insurgency, which is virtually impossible to put down without truly massive advantages in both manpower and technology?

            Like the Confederacy did? Just what the hell do you think Reconstruction was?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Matt M

            I think a good portion of the military would refuse to fight against Texans in the first place.

            @Incurian

            Yeah, because they’d be fighting for them.

            I have to disagree. The evidence I’ve seen points to our soldiers being just as obedient to their Leftist commanders as the Berkeley PD is to theirs. We’re talking about the troops seen here and here. (I’d like to also point you to this comment by “Whiskey” at Steve Sailer’s.)

            In fact, let me quote from one of my comments over at Sailer’s:

            “Our” military answers with unswavering, 100% obedience to the anti-white Leftists. If the extermination of the hated Whitey ever goes from the slow crushing of socio-cultural pressure and making white family formation unaffordable to active extermination, it will be “our brave troops” doing most the killing. Because obviously those folks they’d be shooting are dangerous, Timothy McVeigh-type “domestic terrorists” who are enemies of the Constitution (which is whatever the berated liberals of SCOTUS say it is), because all their superior officers and all the media says so. So when their black, lesbian colonel or major orders them to fire on the “KKK insurrectionists”, they’ll mostly do it.

            And the few who don’t obey these orders will be shot for mutiny, pour encourager les autres.

            Not to mention, there’s the dependence of modern warfare on the technological supply chains, and the dependence of those supply chains on engineers, parts, equipment, etc. from contractors like Lockheed and such. And those companies, whose products are so expensive that they themselves cannot afford them, will go with whoever can more plausibly pay their bills, and how is that not USG? So when the “loyal” troops continue to get munitions, parts and maintenance for their tanks, bombers, fighters, drones, while those who “defected” to Texas cannot as those of these things they took with them run down and wear out, what then?

          • Nornagest says:

            Because they won’t be up against the hogtied-by-leftists US Military-as-in-Somalia-or-Afghanistan, but the full-bore unchained World War II bomb-cities-to-rubble US Military.

            We dropped substantially more ordnance in Vietnam than we did in WWII; we certainly didn’t lose the war because we were shy about bombing.

            The biggest strategic limitation we imposed on ourselves was that we wouldn’t put boots on the ground past the demarcation line. That prevented us from seriously threatening North Vietnam throughout: as WWII had already proven on several fronts, strategic bombing is pretty good at messing up a country’s infrastructure but it’s not good at destroying its will to fight. For that you need an actual territorial threat.

            In the absence of such a threat the war was effectively a contest of attrition, something that Americans had little stomach for then and less now.

          • . says:

            This is a really weird discussion, since “everything else is normal but Texas secedes for some reason” is a rstrange counterfactual. Kevin seems to be imagining a backstory where the US has fallen to an Afrinazi coup or something, while IrishDude’s scenario is “Texas secedes for pocketbook reasons while staying in a currency union and free movement zone.”

          • John Schilling says:

            As John Schilling said further down; The society that looks at “Black Hawk Down” and sees a defeat, is the society that will never know victory in battle and war.

            Unfortunately for Texas, even if the United States can no longer win wars it can still make sure nobody else comes out ahead either. And yes, if the politicians are at all competent in handling it(*), the Army will follow orders and bust heads.

            * Note that the 1861 version of the American Civil War didn’t happen until the Union could arrange for the Confederacy to fire the first shot, against a U.S. Army garrison.

          • quaelegit says:

            Yeah I’ve got to agree with . that any scenario where Texas tries to secede is so different from the current state of the world that we can’t say what the military or anyone else would be doing.

            How about a more fun and legal scenario: what might cause Texas to use its special privilege to divide into 5 new states?

          • Incurian says:

            Kevin C.: I don’t say this lightly: seek help.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Just what the hell do you think Reconstruction was?

            Small potatoes compared to a genuine insurgency lead by someone like Lee or Beauregard. We might as well compare the Symbionese Liberation Army to the Vietcong.

            As for our hypothetical Texan insurgency:

            In addition to everything Nornagest already said there’s the question of who’s doing the actual bombing and occupying? The bulk of our actual trigger pullers and bomb droppers live in Texas as do their wives, kids, dogs, etc… Furthermore, those that don’t are, as a rule, culturally predisposed to be sympathetic.

            As difficult as this may be for some of you to grasp, being told to kill members of your in-group is qualitatively different from being told to kill total strangers, which is in turn different from being asked to do nothing at all.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Incurian

            That’s not fair. Kevin C is making an argument and it looks like you’re trying to take the focus off his argument and on to his personal life. SSC should be above that.

          • Wrong Species says:

            We dropped substantially more ordnance in Vietnam than we did in WWII; we certainly didn’t lose the war because we were shy about bombing.

            Does that necessarily prove anything? Compare Japan before and after we nuked them. We killed more of them and used more ordinance before Little Boy was dropped but those two nukes were what broke their resistance.

          • Incurian says:

            We’ve both said our arguments. I’m not trying to distract from them or to insult him, I’m being genuine.

          • hyperboloid says:

            The question of the ability of the United States, or any country, to suppress an insurgency is fundamentally one of political will.

            I think the odds are near zero that the American public has the will to wage war to force Texans to be governed by the United Sates. Of course I think it’s a moot point, as the odds are not much better that Texans would have the will secede in the first place.

            People who site the civil war as precedent, are substituting lost cause mythology for the real history of nineteenth century America.The leaders of the union did not believe that confederacy was a peaceful republic that simply wanted to go it’s own way. Instead they saw it, correctly in my view, as an existential threat to the United States.

            The most rapid pro slavery voices were actively fighting to build an empire, and expand their “peculiar institution”, both south, and west to new parts of the Americas.

            In 1858, when he was first nominated by the republican party as candidate for senator of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln laid out the view that would eventually guide his policy through his presidency.

            We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

            Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

            “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

            I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

            It will become all one thing or all the other.

            Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

            As for what would happen if Texas tried to leave the union; I think this is a good explanation of why it’s extremely unlikely that Texas could remain unified as an independent state. Tarrant, Dallas, Travis counties, and everything south of San Antonino, would immediately secede from Texas. And if the newly independent lone star republic tried to mount a siege of those areas, the United States, and for that matter Mexico, would have no trouble breaking it.

            Even if Texans had the will to leave the United States (and they don’t) they have no will to see their state divided.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think the odds are near zero that the American public has the will to wage war to force Texans to be governed by the United Sates.

            That’s what the Texans thought the last time around.

            The odds are even lower that the (remaining, blue and black) American public is willing to allow a bunch of deplorable racist neoconfederate Texans to peacefully secede. And the odds are quite good that they are willing to wage at least enough of a war-by-some-other-name to make damn sure that the Texans can’t be governed by Texas either. That’s been America’s military MO for at least a generation now, hasn’t it?

            But then again, when it comes to utterly crushing Blue Tribe’s true enemy, perhaps they have the strength after all.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Incurian

            Not that it’s any of your business, but I’ve been receiving psychiatric care, including medication, since summer 2004. And remember, Bulverism is a fallacy.

            @hyperboloid

            I think the odds are near zero that the American public has the will to wage war to force Texans to be governed by the United Sates.

            The will of “the American public” is irrelevant, because only elites matter. The question is only whether the ruling elite has the will to wage the war.

            The leaders of the union did not believe that confederacy was a peaceful republic that simply wanted to go it’s own way. Instead they saw it, correctly in my view, as an existential threat to the United States.

            And the current leaders of the union would see any modern secession attempt as equally an existential threat to the United States.

            @John Schilling

            Exactly.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Incurian

            And as a further follow-up, I actually got my newest therapist to read some introductory Moldbug. So far, her response has been that we need to work on improving my skill at convincingly faking adherence to mainstream views.

          • Matt M says:

            Sounds like actual decent good therapeutic advice.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Matt M

            Sounds like actual decent good therapeutic advice.

            Learning to be a better phony and liar, and to be more comfortable with being a hypocrite and living immorally is “decent good therapeutic advice”?

            Should those “ethical altruism” folks Scott discussed get that same advice regarding their moral concerns?

          • Incurian says:

            What I did was not a fallacy. I and others explained why you’re wrong. I’m saying that in addition to that, you are big time crazy.

          • Brad says:

            Better advice would be to abandon the far right views. Better for you and the rest of us. A Pareto improvement, don’t see that very often.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Fake it until you make it. If Kevin C. learns to swallow his opinions, and is socially rewarded for doing so, and in the process becomes mildly less miserable, and possibly makes some friends who have less extreme views than he does, it’s fairly likely that he’ll also, organically, moderate his opinions.

          • Charles F says:

            Should those “ethical altruism” folks Scott discussed get that same advice regarding their moral concerns?

            Assuming you mean some of the weirder EAs with ideas like suffering particles, they do, all the time. I see tons of people talking about what strategies will make effective altruism attractive to some less weird people, and hiding that sort of thing under the rug is not unanimously agreed on, but pretty close.

            And if they spend all their time in social situations talking about how particles might suffer, I expect/hope somebody would take them off to the side and tell them to maybe lay off a bit.

            ETA:
            And I’m all for polite lies/omissions, like not telling somebody who’s very attached to their views that maybe hiding those same views will also change them in a way that you approve of.

          • CatCube says:

            Learning to be a better phony and liar, and to be more comfortable with being a hypocrite and living immorally is “decent good therapeutic advice”?

            Yes. Dude, everybody tamps down on their personal opinions to fit in! To take one example, I watch My Little Pony. But I don’t bust that shit out at the office. Does my choice of entertainment affect my ability as an engineer? Of course not, and I could explain that to each person I work with if I had to. But why take the credibility hit? People are judgy, social animals. You can whine about that, but it won’t change the reality of it.

            Also, everybody only gets fourscore-and-ten on this earth, and they’re mostly not going to want to waste it with people that bring them down. This can be because somebody isn’t socially aware enough to not dominate conversation with their personal bugbears, or who go on and on about something and bore everybody else in a conversation. People will generally respond to this by avoiding the person in question. If you want to have interpersonal interactions, you mostly have to be a person that other people want to interact with; this means having awareness of other people’s feelings and going out of your way to not hurt them. Remember, other people are doing this for you.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            makes some friends who have less extreme views than he does

            I have one long-time friend who is a Democrat-voting liberal (as is his wife); we frequently hang out at the home of a friend of his who is transgender.

            @CatCube

            Yes. Dude, everybody tamps down on their personal opinions to fit in! To take one example, I watch My Little Pony. But I don’t bust that shit out at the office.

            I don’t really talk about this stuff IRL. I know how to keep quiet. But there’s a difference between “keeping your opinions to yourself” and actively lying. You might not randomly blurt out about your MLP watching, but if someone asked you directly if you ever watched it, would you outright lie to their face? Or if one of your fellows goes “those Bronies, man, they’re all scum who need to die”, would you join the “death to Bronies” chorus?

          • Atlas says:

            There’s a statement I’ve seen around, in multiple variations, to the effect of: the US military wasn’t defeated in Vietnam by the NVA or the Viet Cong, but by the State Department and Walter Cronkite. If instead of our troops being saddled with onerous ROEs and ridiculous objectives, they were given the same rules and mandates as in WWII, do you think they’d still be as unsuccessful? Would we have ISIS in Iraq if we’d treated Baghdad and Mosul like Tokyo and Dresden? How long would it have taken MacArthur or Patton to get Afghanistan “under control”?

            I haven’t read enough about the Vietnam War to judge the common in some circles claim “the US would have won if only it had allowed its troops to be still more brutal in their treatment of Vietnamese civilians”, but there’s a counter-example that makes me skeptical that this is so.

            Namely….you know who else thought the best way to deal with an insurgency was unmitigated brutality?

            In post-Barbarossa Eastern Europe, German armed forces (and their allies) pursued a counter-insurgency strategy of truly unmitigated brutality. Even relatively minor attacks by partisans on German forces were met with mass execution of hostages, razing of villages, ethnic cleansing, etc. (A quote from Hitler is often cited along the lines of “if any civilians look at a soldier funny, the soldier should shoot them.”) Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it didn’t have restrictive ROE for anti-partisan operations in the ostkrieg.

            And it was…kind of a disaster. It just made civilians in places like Poland, Serbia and Belarus really, really hate the Germans and led a lot of them to the join partisan forces. Partisan resistance was a massive drain on German manpower and logistics post-Barbarossa, in spite of unconstrained retaliation.

            Also, a similar case is the Soviets’ approach to counter-insurgency in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which seems to have had far less constraints on the behavior of its soldiers towards civilians than that of the US in Vietnam, but nonetheless was equally disastrous.

          • Atlas says:

            But do you think those same restraints will be kept in place when deploying the troops domestically? It’s one thing to stick it to the Red Empire when they’re trying to fight those poor, oppressed Muslims, but when it comes to fighting the ultimate nearby outgroup, the hateful Deplorables?

            The resolution of the 2016 Malheur Refuge occupation by various anti-government organizations seems like evidence against this hypothesis.

            If the US government would use maximum brutality, Hiroshima/Tokyo/Dresden style, to quell a red-state secession, why didn’t law-enforcement just summarily execute all of the white, male, armed, anti-establishment, rural, etc. militant rebels posing a direct challenge to the federal government’s sovereignty?

            It seems that the actual outcome of these events—all occupiers except one who tried to violently resist arrest were apprehended non-lethally, and the criminal charges handed down seem relatively light—casts doubt on the idea that the Blue Tribe rulers of the US government are just chomping at the bit to massacre as many Red Tribers as possible.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Atlas
            IKR? Even if they were chomping at the bit, Blue America doesn’t seem all that keen on doing thier own dying. Who do they expect to be wearing those boots they plan to put on the ground?

            Any hypothetical where the military occupation of Texas is a serious possibility is different enough from the status quo to call the obedience of the Army’s III Corps or USAF’s 7th Bomb Wing into question. I think that telling the Air Force to flatten Dallas or San Antonio would probably end with the bulk of your strategic bombers “mysteriously” developing engine trouble, and that ordering troops from Fort Hood to occupy the panhandle liable to end like that scene in Braveheart.

          • bean says:

            I think that ordering the Air Force to flatten Dallas or San Antonio would probably end with all of your strategic bombers “mysteriously” developing engine trouble

            It would get solved quickly, though. All of the support for the bombers is done out of Tinker, and if you want people willing to deal with Texas, Oklahoma is the place to look.
            (OK, not really, but I couldn’t pass up the joke.)

          • CatCube says:

            You might not randomly blurt out about your MLP watching, but if someone asked you directly if you ever watched it, would you outright lie to their face? Or if one of your fellows goes “those Bronies, man, they’re all scum who need to die”, would you join the “death to Bronies” chorus?

            You know, I don’t know for sure for either question. I can’t imagine either one coming up, so I’ve not really thought about it.

            As a general rule, the “Bronies must die” thing bothers me less, since I’ve never used the term for myself. I decided that I wasn’t one during the show’s first season after reading something written by the founder of Equestria Daily, where he said he dropped out of college to run the website. Dude, no–fuck no, this is a Goddamn cartoon for eight-year-old girls. I (obviously) don’t have a problem with watching it, but you don’t put your life on hold for this shit. That’s not to say don’t enjoy it–I read fanfiction, and have an account on fimfiction.net–but don’t make this an identity. In a little while, everybody will move on to something else, and all the websites that were jammed with activity (including yours) will have nothing but tumbleweeds blowing through. Hell, I’ve moved from Gargoyles, to Justice League (+Unlimited) and the rest of the DCAU, to He-Man (2002), and a few others I’m probably forgetting about in here. This is in addition to the normal, adult shows I watch, too. You watch TV shows for the same reason a goldfish swims in its bowl–it’s just something to do while you wait for death.

            Now, for the purposes of your hypothetical, some psycho shrieking about “Bronies” probably doesn’t care about self-appellation, and watching the show is enough for him. I’d probably just obliquely shut him down, with “Really? Are you really worried about a bunch of people on internet websites?”

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Atlas, I don’t think we can extrapolate from the Malheur Refuge occupation to a Texan secession. The Malheur Refuge groups – like Bundy before them – talked a great game, but it was obvious to every casual onlooker that they provided absolutely zero threat to federal control. The feds could go in with guns blazing, or they could just wait them out; Washington DC was under no threat; the federal courthouses in Oregon and Nevada was under no threat; federal law was still being enforced in the streets of Portland and Las Vegas. Letting the occupiers have a few more days or even weeks to establish themselves wouldn’t give them foreign diplomatic recognition and wouldn’t have the loosest possibility of changing any of this.

            If Texas seceded, closed down the federal courthouses, and started flouting federal law, that’s no longer the case. Waiting then means that federal law won’t be enforced any longer, and it opens the door for foreign powers to recognize the Republic of Texas and for whatever dissatisfied groups in America to see that the Neoliberal Consensus is no longer the only way. I predict any secession will, if necessary, be violently squelched.

            If necessary. It probably won’t be necessary; the Consensus has enough other subscribers to usually shut threats down. Did you know that Alaska was going to vote on secession in 2006? They were going to – they’d gotten enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot – but the state supreme court shut it down. If it gets past that – well, look at all the threats banks made to Scotland before their independence referendum. It probably isn’t a conscious conspiracy, but the status quo has a strong bias, and the status quo is swimming left.

            (Also, @Kevin re “down with bronies” – I’ve encountered that a couple times myself, both in the literal and figurative sense. Depending on my audience, I sometimes argue back, and other times just stay quiet and maybe zip in on a minor point like “Actually, unicorns don’t work like that.”)

        • Kevin C. says:

          And for further reinforcement of this point, let me quote from Chief Justice Salmon Chase’s majority opinion in Texas v. White,

          By these [the Articles of Confederation], the Union was solemnly declared to “be perpetual.” And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained “to form a more perfect Union.” It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?

          When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States.

          Once you’re in, you’re in forever. Period. Any attempt to leave has been ruled absolutely forbidden for all time, and will be met with all necessary force, no exceptions ever.

          • Nornagest says:

            You sure seem to gain a lot of respect for the letter of the law when you think it supports your doom-and-gloom narrative.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nornagest

            See, I expect that’s the way our Left-wing rulers will interpret and enforce it. When the letter of the law suits them, they can be the strictest of textualists. When it doesn’t…

          • Nornagest says:

            How convenient for you.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Nornagest

            How convenient for you.

            Not really; I’ve supported the AIP’s ideas since the fourth grade (I’m sure I’ve told here the story of how my teacher reacted to my favorable report on them). Heck, I’d even take Russia asking for Alaska back. I’m just too realistic and too low on optimism bias to believe it’s ever a possibility.

      • IrishDude says:

        I’m trying to imagine how the US federal government would react to a serious modern-day attempt to organize, say, a secession referendum in Texas. My guess is that a serious attempt that looked to have a serious shot at succeeding would get at least this harsh a response.

        Maybe, though there are strong free speech protections in the U.S. and a referendum seems like a form of speech to me.

        • Matt M says:

          Julian Assange made this argument on Twitter last night. That referendums are speech and the refusal to allow them should be treated as an abridgment of the right to free speech.

          • . says:

            I think “referendum” is being used as synecdoche for “referendum with a convincing commitment to stop sending taxes and close the northern border if it passes”

      • S_J says:

        I’m trying to imagine how the US federal government would react to a serious modern-day attempt to organize, say, a secession referendum in Texas.

        Substitute “California” for “Texas”, and ask the question again.

        In the last year, I’ve heard of more people inside California suggesting secession than I’ve heard people in Texas suggesting secession.

        (This may be an artifact the way national elections turned out…I do recall when there were voices inside Texas suggesting that the rest of the United States should let the Republic of Texas resume its position as a separate nation that it held for the decade of 1836 to 1845. I don’t think California has a similar claim it could make…)

        Either Texas or California would cause huge amounts of stress if they attempted to leave the Union. Even if the rest of the United States was heartily wishing that they would leave.

        However, if a good majority of the rest of the United States likes Texas (or California) as a State enough to try to keep them in, then things will get very bad, very fast.

        A worse mess would come if other States would attempt to secede as a group, with either Texas or California. (To really ratchet up the mess, imagine geographically-non-contiguous Montana trying to join Texas. Or New York, trying to join California…)

        • AlphaGamma says:

          (This may be an artifact the way national elections turned out…I do recall when there were voices inside Texas suggesting that the rest of the United States should let the Republic of Texas resume its position as a separate nation that it held for the decade of 1836 to 1845. I don’t think California has a similar claim it could make…)

          There was a “California Republic” very briefly in 1846.

          (The other states that have a claim to have existed as independent sovereign nations before joining the US are Vermont and Hawaii)

          • Winter Shaker says:

            There was a “California Republic” very briefly in 1846.

            Someone ought to tell that bear that the republic no longer stands.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            There was a “California Republic” very briefly in 1846.

            Someone ought to tell that bear that the republic no longer stands.

            Every state in the union is guaranteed a republican form of government; so yes, the republic still stands, it just isn’t independent.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Every state in the union is guaranteed a republican form of government; so yes, the republic still stands, it just isn’t independent.

            Okay, but you know what I mean – the flag of California reads very much like it presupposes Californian independence, which they probably ought to have given more thought to when they joined the USA.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Apparently it was adopted as the official flag of California in 1909 for much the same reason statues of the Confederacy were going up – Pride (though this pride was not contrary to the US).
            http://bearflagmuseum.org/History.html

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Interestingly, a few of the language learning apps / websites where I hang out are starting to put forward Catalan as a supported language. I wonder if it is a coincidence that this (rather than, say, other minority Romance languages like Galician, Corsican, Sardinian etc) is starting to be supported at this moment in history.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        There are some other differences. Catalan has many more speakers than any of those other languages (Galician is the closest, but I think Catalan has about twice as many speakers as Galician, 5 times as many as Sardinian, and over 20 times as many as Corsican).

        Catalan is also spoken across national borders, which none of the others are (except for a few Corsican speakers in Sardinia). Galician is the interesting one here- Galicia borders Portugal, and spoken Galician is mutually intelligible with Portuguese.

      • quaelegit says:

        In addition to alphagamma’s point about populations, my impression is that Catalon is of greater economic importance? I know theres a lot more tourism to Barcelona (and perhaps catalonia in general) than Galicia, Sardinia, or Corsica; and up thread people argue Catalonia is an economic powerhouse within Spain.
        I don’t know to what extent Catalan is actually more useful than standard(?) Spanish in the region, but tourism alone might be enough to generate interest in learning it, especially among users of such apps

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Tribalism Marches On! – relevant column from Pat Buchanan on Tuesday. Powers that be do not like change:

      … in 1991, George H. W. Bush, in what Bill Safire dubbed his “Chicken Kiev” speech, warned that Ukraine’s desire to break free of Moscow manifested a “suicidal nationalism.”

      Today, Ukraine is independent and the Bush-GOP establishment wants to send weapons to Kiev to fight pro-Russia secessionists.

      • hyperboloid says:

        One: at the time neocons derided Bush for his position on Ukraine; Two:
        there a have been some pretty major geopolitical changes in that part of the world since 1991.

        One thing that people seem to have forgotten is that the the break up of the Soviet state itself, as opposed to just the Warsaw pact, was not a goal of American policy. At the time of that speech Gorbachev was still in control, and committed to a policy of reform, and decentralization. Out of a fear of chaos, the US adopted a position of supporting a reformed, but still unified, Soviet Union. In his memoirs Bush himself gives his rationale for the this position:

        Whatever the course, however long the process took, and whatever its outcome, I wanted to see stable, and above all peaceful, change. I believed the key to this would be a politically strong Gorbachev and an effectively working central structure. The outcome depended on what Gorbachev was willing to do. If he hesitated at implementing the new agreement [i.e. the Union of Sovereign States treaty] with the republics, the political disintegration of the Union might speed up and destabilize the country… If he appeared to compromise too much, it might provoke a coup—although there was no serious signs of one. I continued to worry about further violence inside the Soviet Union, and that we might be drawn into conflict

        Eighteen days after Bush made that speech worst fears were realized when hardliners staged a coup against Gorbachev. The putsch ultimately failed, but the collateral damage to Soviet institutions ended any hope of continued unity. With trust in the central government shattered the soviet republics rapidly declared independence. In Ukraine the motion for secession passed with ninety three percent of the vote.

        Upholding the status quo of Ukrainian independence in 2017 is a completely different proposition from pushing for the break up of a supper power in 1991. When facts on the ground change policy should change with them.

    • rlms says:

      My Basque friend is excited about this, but I don’t expect it will go anywhere.

  23. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    So I was exposed to a really interesting business concept recently and wanted to hear whether people here think it’s feasible.

    (I’m not asking whether or not you think it’s ethical. I already know the arguments for and against it. Please don’t derail into a boring ethics debate!)

    Normally when you find a pathway which you suspect can be drugged, you’re committing to a potentially decade-long billion-dollar process of drug development which has a near-zero (<0.1%) chance of success. No start-up can actually do that, so your plan is to get far enough into the process that you're bought out by a Pharma company which hopefully carries it to the finish line.

    But I found out that, rather than doing that, a few scientists from my institution had the idea to instead market the compound they identified as a cosmetic agent. The approval process was fast and cheap, and while they can't claim to prevent any particular disease they've done research which strongly suggests that it can. In vivo human testing is very challenging here but if they wanted to they could probably do so in e.g. St Kitts.

    Is this a brilliant way to avoid the FDA bureaucracy or is it just kicking the can down the road? It sounds smart but I have to imagine that regulators and judges aren’t going to be amused by it.

    TL;DR: Is this the One Weird Trick to bring drugs to market?

    • Brad says:

      I’d worry about product liability. Although there have been some giant lawsuits when it comes to FDA approved drugs, I have to imagine courts are giving them more leeway then they would a cosmetic product. I’d think it would have to have a virtually non-existent side effect profile or you’d lose all the money you’d make in damages.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I don’t know anything about the legal background, but insurance wouldn’t cover an innovative maybe-works drug being sold as a cosmetics agent or a sports supplement or whatever.

    • albatross11 says:

      Couldn’t you do the same thing with marketing it as a nutritional supplement, also under much lighter FDA regulation?

      I wonder how that works w.r.t. patent protection, and also how it works w.r.t. getting it paid for by insurance companies, Medicare, etc.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Evidently they have a patent of some kind, although I don’t know any of the details and lack the training to understand them anyway.

        No clue on how this interacts with insurance companies / doctors. dndnrsn doesn’t seem to think it would be covered.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Why would insurance companies cover something not approved as a drug? They don’t cover over-the-counter stuff that has been proven to work or at least not poison you. Sometimes there’s an over-the-counter form and a prescription form – I know I’ve seen both naproxen and fluconazole treated like this – the advantage of the prescription form is that if you go to the trouble of getting a prescription, and you have private insurance, you can get them to pay for it.

          • JayT says:

            Of course, if they don’t have to spend a billion dollars on FDA approval they could probably sell the drug for a reasonable price, so getting your insurance to pay for it might not be as big a deal.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I am not an expert in haggling with insurance companies; I’m a Canadian and insurance here is somewhat different. But if insurance companies won’t pay for ibuprofen or whey powder, why would they pay for anything without a prescription or a hospital signing off on it?

          • quanta413 says:

            On the other hand, if the cost less than an order of magnitude more than ibuprofen or whey powder, maybe insurance companies paying for it isn’t necessary to have a large enough group of buyers. If the problem was severe enough but also didn’t require everlasting treatment even 5x the cost of ibuprofen is easily reachable by almost all Americans. (I think this is what JayT is saying actually)

          • JayT says:

            Yeah, my point was that if the drug is cheap enough then you don’t need to involve insurance, you just buy it yourself.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Ibuprofen has been produced since forever and has long been generic, and whey likewise – I’ve read that the first protein supplements were both considerably lower quality and considerably more expensive. Would a new product have the economy of scale, etc?

          • quanta413 says:

            It definitely does sound like a longshot to me, but it’s vaguely conceivable. I don’t know enough about the economics of pharmaceutical production to know if reaching scale is a high enough fixed cost to be prohibitive. I imagine it depends a lot on the proposed chemical.

            Using cosmetics to get it approved instead of classifying it as a nutritional supplement is definitely a different path than how things like melatonin became accessible. Which is the best example I can think of of an OTC treatment for something skirting the regular FDA rules for medicines (beats me how well it works though).

          • skef says:

            Ibuprofen has been produced since forever and has long been generic,

            Isn’t that the medicine found in the prescription brand “Motrin“?

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s still plenty of brand names, but there’s nothing legal preventing a generic.

    • Deiseach says:

      But I found out that, rather than doing that, a few scientists from my institution had the idea to instead market the compound they identified as a cosmetic agent.

      Bad idea. Because the reason is, cosmetic companies are very careful not to incur the necessity for licencing their products as drugs, so they tread the thin line between the advertising over “Contains gamma-linolenic acid, scientifically proven to make you feel ten years younger!” and having just enough of the named ingredient in the goop to come in under the limit of “this is a cosmetic, not a drug”.

      So your guys are either (a) puffing their product like a cosmetics company in that there won’t be enough of the active ingredient to actually make a meaningful difference, the so-called cosmeceuticals or (b) knowingly flouting the laws, either of which may come back to bite them in the butt (having enough of the active ingredient present to work but trying to loophole it as a cosmetic treatment not a pharmaceutical is the one more likely to get them into trouble).

      while they can’t claim to prevent any particular disease they’ve done research which strongly suggests that it can

      Ummm – this sounds like the Evening Primrose oil mentioned above; from that British Medical Journal obituary cited in Wikipedia (bolding mine):

      The General Medical Council recently found Dr Goran Jamal guilty of research fraud (BMJ 2003;326:730). Twelve years ago he had falsified clinical trials of the drug Tarabetic, also known as Efamol, for a now-defunct company called Scotia. He had been promised a 0.5% royalty on sales, which was described as “highly unusual.” This may throw a light on Scotia’s way of working, for in its 10 year existence it obtained medicinal licences for only three products: Efamast for benign breast pain, Efalith for seborrhoeic dermatitis, and Epogam for atopic eczema. The licences were later withdrawn because the stuff didn’t work. The products contained evening primrose oil, which may go down in history as the remedy for which there is no disease, and David Horrobin, Scotia’s former chief executive, may prove to be the greatest snake oil salesman of his age.

      Not so much a brilliant One Weird Trick as it sounds more like the tried and tested (and sometimes failed) resort of the Snakeoil Salesman.

      EDIT: You don’t want the ethical debate, so I’d just say if you’re interested in this, treat it as a get-rich-quick scheme and get in fast, get out equally fast (once you’ve turned a profit, don’t let greed over-ride good sense and tempt you to hang on until the inevitable crash in the hopes of extracting more from the golden goose) and above all, don’t sign any incriminating documents that will later be produced in court as evidence “you knew this stuff was snake oil and you still signed on”.

  24. purplepeople says:

    Hi all,

    I am an undergraduate math major. I’m considering getting a masters in computer science (or math, or economics) in Iceland or Norway, because the tuition there would be free. First of all, is there a catch to this other than cost-of-living? Second, if not, how low could I reasonably get the cost-of-living to be for Oslo or Reykjavik?

    • Orpheus says:

      Aren’t graduate degrees free (+you get a stipends) everywhere? If not, how do people afford them?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Can only speak for America, but Masters degrees are almost never free. It’s usually only PhD programs which give stipends.

        That’s supposedly why PhD programs hate letting PhD candidates go: if you join with the intention of mastering out after your qualifying exam they’re out a lot of money compared to enrolling you in a Master’s program.

      • Brad says:

        That’s generally true for Phd programs. Many, but not all, programs intended to confer masters degrees are cash cows for U.S. universities.

      • John Schilling says:

        Very loosely speaking, the Ph.D. is for a career in academia, the MS for industry. Often the Masters is paid for the by the company you started working for when you got your BS/BA. Otherwise, you pay for it out of savings or by loans and in either case in anticipation of a substantially increased salary when you get the degree.

        Or, you tell everyone you plan to get a Ph.D., apply for the stipends and assistanceships, etc, then walk away two years later with the MS.

        • quanta413 says:

          Or, you tell everyone you plan to get a Ph.D., apply for the stipends and assistanceships, etc, then walk away two years later with the MS.

          Honestly, if I had realized earlier that I would probably go into industry I might have aimed for this. Although you need to make sure it’s possible to exit with the MS from a given program. It happens often enough that’s it’s hardly abnormal. As long as you don’t value your own honesty too highly (we’re talking 100 grand highly here), you should consider this route over going to Iceland or Norway unless you have other reasons to want to go to Iceland or Norway like “I’d like to go to these countries because”… blah. Fill in the gap. I don’t really have much of a clue about either place overall.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I’m unsure of this and I don’t know what you’re optimizing for but I think a Masters in Econ is far less prestigious than the others. My impression is that it’s considered “economics for people who are bad at math”.

      • andrewflicker says:

        The exception here is for the Masters in econ with the Bachelor’s in math. That’s a path I’ve seen recommended often for people who want to get into the math/finance/datascience side of business.

    • Randy M says:

      Second, if not, how low could I reasonably get the cost-of-living to be for Oslo or Reykjavik?

      Unsure why you switched to Rot13 at the end. What’s that a spoiler for?

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Looking at the population numbers, Iceland is a very small country and Reykjavik barely a city. I have no idea about cost of living but I’d expect the living the to be a peculiar experience. The popular wisdom is that Norway is the most expensive country in Scandinavia, but I’m too lazy to look up the hard numbers.

      The only ‘catch’ I can think of (assuming you are admitted to the university) is that you’ll have a degree from an regular public university of an European country. In other words, your degree is granted by an institution that is probably reputable (as in, “not a scam”) but barely nobody has heard about it, barring the native residents of the country and maybe the academics specializing in the fields of research pursued by the strongest research groups of that particular university. Norwegians might have some idea what’s the difference between University of Oslo, University of Bergen, NTNU and HVL and what kind of places they are (which one is the good one everyone wants to get in, which one is the small regional college in the local equivalent of Bomfuck, Nevada); no one else will. (I don’t either; I picked random Norwegian universities from Wikipedia). However, you should make sure you know before you apply.

      Likewise, most of your networking opportunities will be with the native residents. A large majority of people will speak mediocre-to-excellent English as a second language, but most likely their first language of choice will be one you don’t understand, and I’ve been told that it still is different than living in a country where everybody is native English speaker.

  25. Thegnskald says:

    On my usual the-tribalism-on-display-is-driving-me-crazy:

    There are a lot of people who are dissing Scott Adams as a crank, and a handful who treat him as a genius.

    I note with amusement that, as a rule, those dismissing him as a crank pretty much all asserted in no uncertain terms that Trump was doomed, and now behave as if his victory was assured and certain all along, and that Adams’ predictions were nothing special.

    That is clearly wrong.

    I also note with amusement the tendency of his supporters to sweep his falsified predictions under the rug, as he himself does.

    That is also clearly wrong.

    The simple math of it is, Adams predicted Trump’s victory long before pretty much anybody else, and while he was wrong on some specifics (such as his prediction of overwhelming victory), he was certainly less wrong than almost anybody else. Credit where credit is due.

    Demerits, as well: As more evidence came in he started waffling more and more, steadily backing off his more extreme claims – which is a good thing in a major sense, but by the end of the election, he had effectively predicted every foreseeable outcome.

    So, on net: Trump probably has some skills such as Adams suggested, but not to the extent Adams’ grander predictions would have required.

    • Brad says:

      Have the alleged master pursuer talents been on display at all since inauguration?

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’d say he is behaving more as the negotiator at this point; he has effectively closed off most immigration from certain unstable countries while leaving most people on the Left convinced they stymied and defeated him on that point.

        Which, I will note, is what Adams said he would do as president; make aggressive policies, get pushed back, and leave his opponents feeling victorious while he gets what he actually wanted done, done.

        So, given that you think he is failing miserably – I would say that yes, he is persuading you very effectively, to think he is fundamentally incompetent and thus harmless. But I will remind you that this was also the common assumption about the election, that he was too incompetent to win.

        • Brad says:

          Unstable countries like Mexico?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Do you not remember his first month in office?

          • Brad says:

            It turns out I do remember January and February. Whew, I was worried there for a second I might have amnesia.

            It’s easy enough to take any victory, no matter how narrow, and claim it was all that he really wanted in the first place. It just isn’t very convincing. It’s the type of thing you see out of people that are trying hard to convince themselves rather than others.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I’m sorry, do you mistake me for a supporter of Trump?

            I am not evaluating him as a supporter seeking to rationalize my support. I am evaluating him as a potential threat.

            See, this is the issue with the halo effect. He’s against us, so he must be fatally flawed. The arc of history bends in our direction, after all – it wasn’t the result of decades of hard work, it is just the natural way of the world!

            But we’ll see. Here’s my.mini-prediction: The Republicans will not be swept out of Congress in the mid-term elections, because terror seems.to be the only thing that can motivate Democrats to vote, and Trump will never inspire that motivation, as he fails over and over again and only ever gets 70% of what he initially asked for.

          • Brad says:

            In terms of modeling you as a trump supporter you misunderstand. It is very easy to see someone as more attached to something like a master persuader theory than to any politician or political party.

            For example, people that don’t watch the Supreme Court were occasionally surprised by something Scalia did because it didn’t seem “Republican”. But Scalia was generally far more interested in scoring points in arguments over things like the use of legislative history or methods of constitutional interpretation than he was in Republican outcomes. There were very rare exceptions–like Bush v Gore–but in general it was things like strict constructionism that really got his blood going, not helping out the Republican president.

            Here I have you modeled as a fan of Scott Adams more than as a fan of Donald Trump. You’ve tried to arrogate some middle position where you are above it all, but I think your opinion on him shines through that.

            In terms of the midterms, taking a leaf from Scott Adams I see, it’s not much a prediction. The underlying facts of the matter having to do with incumbency and district lines mean the odds of the Republicans being swept out of office are very long, particular in the Senate.

            If you want to predict that Republicans will gain net House seats, that would be bold.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think Scott Adams is a bit of an idiot. I’ve thought that since I read his “theory of gravity”, which he originally proposed as Dogbert in the comics, then later in his God book (whatever it was called. I want to say Godshatter, but that may be a word coming from reading too much Vinge lately.)

            He is also insightful. He appears to be an incredible font of ideas, while also having little personal ability to judge those ideas. (Thus his “fail constantly” strategy, which doesn’t generalize as well as he seems to think)

            But let us consider the “master persuader” idea objectively. Scott Adams was very overconfident in his anticipation of success. He also spent months building an escape route for that particular overconfidence (by endlessly repeating that part of negotiation was making a big initial claim and backing down to a more moderate deal). It looks somewhat bad.

            But compared to predicting what, to everyone else, came as a black swan event – Trump going from a joke in the primaries to the presidency – I still grant that his model had more predictive power than mere chance can reasonably accommodate.

            Any other position is retroactively adjusting priors to make them fit the outcome, so that suddenly, Trump winning the presidency, lacking any particular advantage, a natural outcome of the situation – at complete odds with what almost every expert was saying at the time.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s easy enough to take any victory, no matter how narrow, and claim it was all that he really wanted in the first place. It just isn’t very convincing. It’s the type of thing you see out of people that are trying hard to convince themselves rather than others.

            Except it’s the strategy he puts forth in The Art of the Deal. Start with the moonshot (“Ban Muslims!”) get the reasonable thing you actually want (blocked or extremely limited travel from places with the more dangerous types of Muslims).

            Have you ever had sales training or experience? I have, and so much of what Trump does is just sales 101. Like “thinking past the sale.”

            “Will that be cash or credit?” Sally the sales clerk doesn’t give a shit, whatever you hand her she’ll take, but now you’ve already assumed the purchase and are deciding how to pay for it.

            “Would you like the blue luxurious new Toyota Yaris or the green luxurious new Toyota Yaris?” Your mental state is already assuming you’re getting a luxurious new Toyota Yaris and you’re just arguing over the color.

            “We’re going to build a great big beautiful wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it!” Now we’re not even arguing over the great big beautiful wall, we’re arguing over who’s going to pay for it.

            Yes, if it were some schmuck going for a field goal and putting up a brick and saying “I meant to do that” you’d have a point, but when it’s a guy whose entire schtick is sales and deals and he’s doing it over and over and over again, I think it takes motivated reasoning to dismiss the pattern.

            By the way, next time you’re asking for a raise, if you’d be happy with $5,000, ask for $10,000.

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I think you misunderstand. I agree that on the narrow issue of immigration of Muslims, he did pretty well for himself, pending what the Supreme Court does.

            It’s if you try to claim that that was the number one overriding objective for his presidency and so he’s clearly #winning that I push back.

            If he really is a master persuader he should have been able to accomplish more of his agenda than a moderate success on one and only one mid-to-high level priority.

            @Thegnskald
            I’ve seen mutual funds that outperformed for 5 years running and then suddenly didn’t. One theory is that they had alpha and lost it. A better one is that out of the many many mutual funds, there’s bound to be a few that outperform for five years in a row.

            So one question I have is: how many potential Scott Adams were there making predictions which were could have come true?

          • Matt M says:

            What if he doesn’t actually give a shit about “his” agenda?

            My read on Trump is that he ONLY cares about fame, power, and wealth (in that order) for himself. He said “build the wall!” because he thought it would get him elected, which it did.

            Our priors would cause us to believe that his failure to build the wall hurts his chances of getting re-elected (assuming he wants to be). But then again maybe it doesn’t. I also hear a lot of complaining about how his base doesn’t even seem to care that he’s “screwing them over” or “going back on his promises” or whatever.

            Whether he’s better off in 2020 having fulfilled all of his promises to red-tribe (most of which would really REALLY anger blue tribe) seems uncertain to me.

          • Matt M says:

            So one question I have is: how many potential Scott Adams were there making predictions which were could have come true?

            I’m with Brad on this one.

            Out of the thousands of people at least as famous as Scott Adams, a few of them had to have gotten this right, statistically speaking.

            Scott also carefully hedged his position pretty often leading up to the election as the polls continued to look bad, and over-estimated the margin of victory by quite a bit. As has been pointed out, people who predicted “Hillary just barely wins” were probably closer to being correct than people who said “Trump in a landslide.” Trump winning by EC but losing the popular vote was certainly not a part of Scott’s prediction.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            What’s Trump’s one and only one success? Killing TPP, withdrawing from Paris treaty, getting NATO to spend more money, renegotiating NAFTA, cutting border crossings by 70%, appointing a conservative SC justice..? I think he’s doing fine on the things that the executive can do alone, and with regards to Congress, that’s on Congress. Which last I checked has a 12% approval rating, largely because of their complete ineffectiveness. Kim Jong Un and head lice are probably more popular.

            Legislative accomplishments take more time, and most of Congress is motivated against him. He will either make deals with them, or his next round of persuasion will be to convince the public that their representatives are failures and losers who need to be replaced with Trump-friendly people in the midterm elections.

            Ultimately his success or failure will be decided in 2020. My prediction is that he will be re-elected because the people casting the ballots will be better off in 2020 than they were in 2016.

            @Matt

            I think Adams failed to understand just how ingrained the opposition to Trump from the liberal parts of the media is. When Trump won the NH primary and HuffPo printed in WAR-IN-EUROPE-sized letters “NH GOES RACIST SEXIST XENOPHOBIC!!!!!” I wondered what would happen when Trump wins the Presidency. Will their readers snap out of it and realize, “Ohhhhhhh…New Hampshire isn’t full of Nazis, they just want the flow of heroin over the Mexican border stymied because their friends and neighbors are hooked on $10 smack!” Nope. It’s all Nazis everywhere all the time.

            Adams has explained that phenomenon since with his “two movies” filter, but I don’t think that during the campaign he (or I) understood just how different the theaters were.

          • He will either make deals with them, or his next round of persuasion

            I think he has just demonstrated what his next round is if he cannot make deals with the Republican leadership in Congress–make deals with the Democrats instead. Considered from the standpoint of a negotiator, there is much to be said for being able to say to the people whose support you want that if you don’t get it you have other alternatives.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            @Conrad

            Trump won the NH primary and HuffPo printed in WAR-IN-EUROPE-sized letters “NH GOES RACIST SEXIST XENOPHOBIC!!!!!”

            I assumed you were comedically exaggerating the actual HuffPo headline, giving a sort of pastiche of their usual tone but not their actual, literal words.

            I realized it was an easy thing to check, so did and…Boy was I wrong.

            Knew there was a reason I stay away from the Huffington Post.

    • rlms says:

      Just because the sign of his prediction turned out to be correct doesn’t mean it was closer than those that had the opposite sign but a much more reasonable magnitude. He’s clearly more correct than people who predicted a Clinton landslide, but I think less correct than those who predicted a narrow Clinton victory (especially when you take into account that his model suggests Trump should be being successful at asserting his will in office, which doesn’t seem to be be happening).

      • Thegnskald says:

        Which would be more significant, except that his “landslide” was predicted when everybody else was still expecting him to lose the primary. When other people were predicting a narrow Clinton victory, his predictions were likewise getting much narrower (when he predicted every possible outcome).

  26. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrients-carbon-dioxide-000511

    It looks as though increased CO2 leads to plants having more carbohydrates and less of other nutrients, and this has already been going on for decades.

    If true, it’s very serious.

    Also, if you’re interested in to what extent institutions can deal with the real world, this was a problem which was falling through the cracks because it involves math, biology, and agriculture. This is a combination which is hard enough that it was hard to get attention for it.

    In re minerals: I’m not sure how much plants taking up less minerals is a result of less in the soil and how much is more CO2 or other reasons. A fast search suggests that replacing minerals in the soil for plants isn’t a hot topic, though mineral supplementation for beef cattle is. One of my friends believes that minerals mostly get into the soil when glaciers grind the rocks, and it’s been a while since that happened.

    • Matt M says:

      Finally, we’ve discovered what it will take to get the government to endorse low-carb diets!

    • John Schilling says:

      That article doesn’t cite primary sources, which is a bad sign. From some of the weasel-wording, and from what I’ve read in more responsibly reported stories elsewhere, I suspect “more carbohydrates and less of other nutrients” really means more other nutrients and much more carbohydrates. You can make that into bad news if you really want to, but you really have to want to.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        The fellow in the article has a fairly distinctive name. It took me about five seconds to dig up a primary source from Google Scholar. According to it:

        Across all the data, eCO2 reduced concentrations of P, potassium (K), Ca, S, magnesium (Mg), Fe, Zn, and copper (Cu) by 6.5–10% (p<0.0001) as shown on Figure 2.

        Per Figure 2, the change is measured relative to plants at ambient CO2 levels, so no cheating with relative concentrations within an eCO2 plant. Given the ease with which I found the source, I suspect you did too, and malevolently chose not to include it since it didn’t support your suspicion. (Actually I don’t suspect this, I just wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to overextend reasonable rhetorical criticisms into spurious inferences of bad faith.)

        • Nornagest says:

          If it’s measuring concentrations, then John’s probably right. The mechanism would look something like this: CO2 increases yield but doesn’t correspondingly increase micronutrient uptake, so the same (or slightly higher, because bigger root system) micronutrient content gets spread out over more plant, for lower measured concentrations. End result: you can feed more people but the micronutrient content per person is lower.

          Dunno what you’re getting at with relative concentrations, that’s not what I got from John’s comment.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            If it’s measuring concentrations, then John’s probably right. The mechanism would look something like this: CO2 increases yield but doesn’t correspondingly increase micronutrient uptake,

            This was not John’s comment. This was John’s comment:

            I suspect “more carbohydrates and less of other nutrients” really means more other nutrients and much more carbohydrates.

            Emphasis added.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, I caught that. What I’m getting at is, there’s more than one way to measure this stuff. If you’re trying to actually feed people, you usually care about how much you can produce per acre, or per plant or per dollar or something, and it’s entirely possible that those changes, even for micronutrient content, are positive even as concentrations per unit volume go down. That would be consistent with John’s phrasing.

            The paper doesn’t appear to correlate micronutrient concentrations with changes in yield at any point, so I can’t say so conclusively — but if we’re seeing only 6-10% decreases in concentration per unit volume, I think the totals would almost certainly be neutral or positive.

          • John Schilling says:

            What Nornagest said. If a particular crop grown on 1.0 unit of land traditionally yields 1.0 unit of micronutrients and 1.0 unit of carbohydratess, then in a high-CO2 environment it will yield say 1.1 units of micronutrients and 1.3 units of carbs. An alternate crop that used to yield 1.5 units of vitamins but 0.7 units of carbs (such that the Irish would all starve if you planted this instead of potatoes), now yields 1.6 units of vitamins and 1.0 units of carbs.

            This absolutely increases our ability to provide healthy diets to lots of people. It is unambiguously a good thing. UNLESS:

            1. People are in the habit of eating the recommended 2000 kcal/day and stopping, even if there are more carbs available, and

            (I will now pause for the audience’s laughter to subside)

            2. These people were all on the ragged edge of vitamin deficiency diseases, and

            3. General Foods is willing to let warehouses full of excess wheat rot, and farmers leave their fields idle, rather than explore alternatives, and

            4. The human race somehow loses the technology for manufacturing cheap vitamin pills.

            In that hypothetical, yes, you get millions dead of scurvy or whatever. But I count zero out of four of those things being at all plausible.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @John Schilling, I unambiguously agree with you on balance.

            However, there’s still a chance this might hurt people in the West. If we’re currently eating a diet with enough micronutrients and enough carbs, this would shift us to eating a diet with enough micronutrients and more than enough carbs, which could cause harm. (I’m not sure; see Scott’s old posts on how much of a mess there is with diet.)

            On the other hand, this’s unambiguously outweighed by the benefit to people who currently aren’t getting enough micronutrients – let alone the people who currently aren’t even getting enough food.

        • Doubling CO2 concentration increases the yield of C3 plants (most crops, with the major exceptions maize and sugar cane) by about 30%, C4 plants by some lesser amount. If yield goes up 30% and concentration of iron goes down 10%, yield of iron has gone up by ~20%. More iron produced per acre, less per calorie.

    • The Nybbler says:

      CO2: It makes plants grow.

      I think David Friedman has looked into this and posted in detail on previous open threads.

    • Iain says:

      Vaguely related: Georgia’s peach crop this year was one-third the size of last year’s crop. (The headline says they lost 85% of the crop, but the graph of overall production shows a smaller difference; presumably some fraction of the crop is lost every year, and this year was just particularly bad.) The apparent mechanism is a lack of sufficiently cold days: part of a peach tree’s mechanism for determining when to start producing fruit relies on low temperatures, and Georgia just didn’t get them for long enough.

      This is one small way that climate change can cause problems: farming communities that are optimized for particular crops may be in trouble if the local climate shifts, particularly for things like fruit trees where it takes years or decades to establish a new orchard in a better location.

      • it takes years or decades to establish a new orchard in a better location.

        So far, globally, it took about a century to increase temperatures by a degree C. Warming may be faster now, but it isn’t going to be very much over a period of “years or decades.”

        If you are growing fruit that requires a certain amount of cold in an area that has barely enough, twenty years later you might be getting worse harvests–one of our apple trees bears irregularly, probably because our climate is marginal for it. But we aren’t talking about a change in climate likely to affect much of the orchard area faster than orchards can move.

      • Deiseach says:

        The apparent mechanism is a lack of sufficiently cold days: part of a peach tree’s mechanism for determining when to start producing fruit relies on low temperatures, and Georgia just didn’t get them for long enough.

        That’s an interesting story because my idea of Georgia isn’t one of a cold state, so if the peach harvest depends on a period of cooler weather, how does that rate historically? Have there been times in the past when the harvest was also lower than expected due to weather?

        Well, that’s a question I need to answer so – from a website about pick-your-own crops in Georgia:

        These are the typical, historical dates that crops are ready to be picked or harvested in Georgia. Of course, it varies a little bit every year, depending upon the weather and other conditions. Keep in mind that Georgia is a huge state with a very wide range of climates, so the early dates generally refer to the start in the southern part of the state and the latter date is the end of the crop in the north. Call ahead of the early date to the farm!

        Typical harvest dates for peaches: Peaches May 8-August 25 (and the harvest dates for North Georgia are a week/fortnight later, so plainly the north of the state is cooler).

        Okay, that’s a summer fruit, so it looks like it needs a cool spring?

        Okay, so looking at the “how to grow peaches” sites, they seem to say that peach trees love sun, so plant them in full-sun sites, and that they are frost-sensitive. So it’s not looking like we need cold winters or springs to get our peaches, so what gives?

        And looking at the original story, the reason for the low-yield harvest this year is – ta-dah! the usual culprit when we’re talking about soft fruits; a hard freeze early in the year kills the buds:

        He says an overly warm winter and hard freeze in the early spring caused the loss in crops.

        So it wasn’t the overly warm winter on its own did the damage! What happened was the mild winter caused early growth, then the subsequent spring freeze killed this. That’s why fewer peaches this year!

        And if I take a story from neighbouring South Carolina where the peach and blueberry crops have also been hit hard, they’re blaming it on the spring freeze in combination with the mild winter:

        Last week’s sudden freezing temperatures, which hit just after an unusually warm February sent peach trees into bloom early, has dealt a serious blow to one of South Carolina’s primary crops.

        Sorry, Iain, but it looks like your information is not quite complete: it’s not a simple case of “global warming means warmer winters so no peaches in Georgia this year”.

        And indeed in the 80s, California’s loss of citrus crops due to freezes meant “pushing the citrus belt south” to the presumably warmer regions of the citrus-growing states. And there were similar freezes during the 2000-2010 decade.

        Sure, now there are stories about “climate change” where the culprit is pointed out as global warming – temperatures are going up! Ironic in view of older stories about temperatures are too cold! These crops need practically year-round sun!

        And California is a good example to study – they switch their crops and grow their markets. A lot of citrus crop failures meant changing to nut crops, and almonds were turned into a huge market. Now almonds are seen as water hogs which is a problem in the current drought conditions, so they’re looking for new crops. Instead of avocados, maybe they’ll grow coffee.

        Crops will move north or south and change depending on climate. I agree that it’s going to be tough on a farmer who developed acres of peach or almond trees, but then again they have not been growing these crops since time immemorial. Californian farmers switched to nut production in the 70s and if they switch to new crops, they’ll build up markets again.

        Where we really need to worry is desertification – when Californian and Georgian soils replicate the Dust Bowl era. I don’t know if that’s on the radar yet.

        • Deiseach says:

          Iain, what I mean by the above is that a lot of the news coverage is apocalyptic in tone – no more iconic crop! no more peaches! Southern peaches gone forever! – and that just ain’t so.

          This year they had a mild winter and a spring freeze. Next year if there’s no freeze, the harvest will recover. Over the three hundred years (and really only commercial growing since the 19th century) peaches have been grown in Georgia, you think there have been no spring freezes/mild winters/combination of both ever before? At worst, cultivation of the peach crop will shift more to the north of the state than the central region.

          I agree climate change is serious long-term concern, but “no more peaches ever because of this one bad harvest this year and it’s all down to global warming” in the news is a teeny bit hysterical.

        • So it’s not looking like we need cold winters or springs to get our peaches, so what gives?

          The situation with some crops–certainly apples, very likely peaches as well–is that they need a certain amount of winter chill to set fruit, but when the fruit ripens depends on how much warmth and sunlight they get. So warmer weather results in the crop coming ripe earlier, but if there were not enough cool days earlier in the year there may not be a crop.

          When deciding whether to plant a fruit tree, you generally look at both ends of that. For a given variety of a given fruit, you check its winter chill requirements against your climate zone. You also check how vulnerable it is to low temperatures, which generally means frost. And you check whether your climate is warm enough for it.

          It varies by variety. There are some apples that will bear with relatively little winter chill and are grown in place like Israel or Southern California, where most apples won’t bear. And there are a few apricot varieties, bred from Manchurian apricots, that are supposed to be able to grow in places too cold for most other varieties.

          One problem with growing uncommon varieties is that you may not be able to find information on what their exact requirements are. And it’s further complicated by microclimates. A climate zone map won’t show whether your house happens to be in a place with a slightly later frost date, or a little more or less winter chill, than other places a mile away. If I were a professional fruit grower instead of a homeowner who likes fruit trees I might want to keep a record of temperatures day by day, so as to have better information in deciding what varieties to plant.

          • Deiseach says:

            I get that. But one (or even two) bad years is not enough to say “Well, the climate is definitely changing, better give up on the peach crop”. Next-door South Carolina had enough of the cool winter days for their crop, and it got hit by the spring freeze as well. Though I have to admit, they say they got the unseasonably mild weather as well which brought on early blossoming and resulted in the big hit from the freeze.

            Then again, in previous years crops have been hard-hit, just as this story says:

            Guesses vary about the last time the damage was this bad — 2007, 1996, 1954 — but the consensus is simple: The state’s most iconic crop is in unusually bad shape.

            So Georgia may be getting warmer – or not. This might just be a blip year. It well may be that the trend is for this kind of mild winters which will be bad for the crops, but two years is not enough data. If next year’s crop comes on early and is reduced due to not enough chill time, then freeze or not, yeah they’ve probably got climatic changes and need to start deciding what varieties to switch to, if production will shift northwards (though California is the number one grower) and if they’ll do better to switch to soya or some other crop.

            I don’t want to come off as any kind of denialist, I’m only saying it’s a bit early yet to start deciding the end has come. You do get blip years like this in horticulture and agriculture. I’ve seen the year Irish farmers had to import fodder from abroad because of severe and prolonged winter, for example! And preceding that in 2006 there was another fodder shortage because of the dry conditions due to the European heat wave – so too dry one year, too wet another.

            Let’s wait and see what this year’s winter and next year’s spring is like for the peaches.

    • More precisely, CO2 fertilization increases the yield per acre of carbohydrates by more than it increases the yield per acre of other nutrients. The trick to the claim that they make food less nutritious is to define how nutritious it is by nutrient per calorie not nutrient per acre. The journal articles on this, at least those I have looked at, deliberately obscure this–you have to read closely to note that they are assuming that people at risk of malnutrition continue to eat the same number of calories of the same foods even when the total amount produced of all food crops has sharply increased. “we believe the simplest approach is to model diets that are unchanged with respect to calories and composition.” This in the context of an increase of about 30% in the yield of C3 plants with a doubling of CO2 concentration.

      I had a blog post on the subject when stories based on one of the articles first appeared. My title was “How To Lie While Telling the Truth: Part II” (part I was on an entirely different issue).

  27. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Charles F mentioned this Status 451 post reviewing a leftist activism how-to book [edit: several such books], and it’s so good that I’m making a top-level post to signal-boost it. Teaser:

    …a Lefty roleplaying session where people were tasked with selling an action to people who agreed with them on principle but didn’t see the strategic merit of the action. Surprisingly, the sellers couldn’t make the conceptual switch to sell strategic merit: instead, they doubled down on THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT

    • Kevin C. says:

      I linked to that very same post by Hines here on SSC back in Open Thread 81.25.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’ll repeat what I said when Kevin C. posted it. It seems like an awful lot of “look at the amazing organizational strategies of this campaign that failed to do anything,” i.e. Sanders, Occupy, etc.

      • Nornagest says:

        Activism is hard. Hard enough that you can have the best strategy for it in the world and still fail most of the time. Similarly, Sanders ran the best campaign in the race from a technical perspective, but races aren’t always won on technique.

        I think people other than the radical Left can recognize that the radical Left is far better than anyone else at activism right now, while still leaving space to recognize the operational limits of activism and the flaws in their specific approach to it. And there are flaws, which I think Occupy displayed pretty well.

  28. Zorgon says:

    So, here’s a thing:

    https://mic.com/articles/152996/dead-or-alive-xtreme-3-lets-you-sexually-assault-a-woman-in-virtual-reality

    Thing which leap out at me:

    1) The formulation of the title. “Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 lets you sexually assault a woman in virtual reality”. This isn’t true; the “female avatar” in question is a fictional construction, not a woman (ie, a female-identified human). I could feasibly excuse Mic; but the story is effectively a copy of a story from Engadget, which uses the same language and has no such excuse, being a tech site. In short, this article lies in its title.

    2)

    She also says a word that translates both to “bad” and a word “often used to flatly deny permission,” Engadget added.

    So… the game actually gives you negative feedback for doing these things? What is the issue here? That the game doesn’t immediately kick you out and alert the authorities that you require a sensitivity training course?

    3) The Mic article gives the impression this is literally the entire game (it’s not) and the Engadget version gives the impression that there is a literal dedicated sexual harassment mode in the game. (The mode they’re talking about is called “VR Heaven” and is pretty much just a sandbox VR gallery mode showcasing the game’s various characters.)

    We’ve already seen similar articles about sex bots, so I think at this point we can conclude that scandal-hungry SJWs in the media are going to intentionally present any simulation regarding women as being the same as if it was actually being done to women. This will not be extended to men, of course (otherwise the media would never be done with all the Punch Donald Trump apps on Android, not to mention literally every shoot-em-up game ever made). In the absence of actual prejudice against women in the tech world, it appears that we’re going to have to start pretending Lara is actually real so we can talk about “sexual violence” against her.

    • rlms says:

      “This isn’t true; the “female avatar” in question is a fictional construction, not a woman (ie, a female-identified human).”
      Don’t be silly. Hamlet is a man; Elizabeth Bennet is a woman. Their fictionality is not relevant, you don’t have to switch to some weird version of English where certain words are banned to describe fiction.

      Regarding the general point: imagine a VR game that let you rape (fictional avatars of) babies. Would you have a problem with that? This is qualitatively the same.

      • Matt M says:

        There are hundreds if not thousands of games that come out every year that let you murder people in cold blood. A large percentage of which murdering people in cold blood is rewarded and/or required to advance the plot.

        If this is considered acceptable, why shouldn’t “fondling without permission” be?

        • rlms says:

          If you would answer my question with some sort of “yes”, you might be able to work it out.

          • Matt M says:

            Would you also accept a flat “no”?

            Given that I’m fine with mass murder in video games, it would be rather hypocritical of me to have a major moral issue with literally anything else.

          • rlms says:

            Sure, but that is a very unusual answer. You (or rather a possibly hypothetical Zorgon who agrees with you) shouldn’t be surprised that a writer at mic.com doesn’t share your priors.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Very few games encourage murdering in cold blood. In the vast majority of games that involve killing humans you’re killing enemy soldiers or violent criminal gang members for justifiable reasons, like they kidnapped the President or your girlfriend.

          Even in Grand Theft Auto, you’re rarely murdering innocent people and are instead killing other criminals or perhaps crooked cops. You have the option of murdering innocent people in cold blood, but this is “frowned upon” as you’ll get a Wanted rating. And many people in the media do have a problem with GTA.

          So, no, games in which you are a hero killing villains are not morally equivalent to rape simulators.

          • Matt M says:

            A volleyball game that has one optional mode where you can touch a boob is not a “rape simulator” by any reasonable characterization.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree. I was referencing rlms’ baby rape simulator example.

          • Matt M says:

            Conrad,

            I generally agree with your assertion that most video games do not specifically encourage the killing of innocents.

            However, most games also provide very little incentive not to do so, and “innocents” are defined very loosely. To the extent that you are “punished” it’s often only punished if you’re caught in the act. You can murder a civilian in GTA or shank a guard in Assassin’s Creed and you’ll only get in trouble if someone sees you. And you can usually loot their corpse for some money if they don’t. In war games, you can stealth-kill “enemy soldiers” who have their back to you and pose no direct threat. A whole lot of the killing that you do in most video games would be classified as unjustifiable homicide by most people.

          • beleester says:

            I’m sorry, but the only way you can say that “you’re rarely murdering innocent people” in a GTA game, is if you decide that all the pedestrians you run over in your high-speed car chases don’t count as people.

            Sandbox crime games feature a ton of situations where “run over random bystanders” is the correct and expected way to play it. Missions where you have to “distract the cops” or “lure out the target” by getting a wanted rating and then running away. Or my favorite, missions where you steal a tank and then escape through city streets.

            Yes, the story generally puts a thin facade of respectability on the hero, and any named characters you kill will probably turn out to be a crooked cop or an evil gangster, but what the game expects you to actually do makes it clear that this is just a facade. The game is selling you the fantasy of consequence-free violence against random people.

            Also, I’m not sure “It’s okay if the story presents the perpetrator as a hero and the victims as villains” is a good place to draw the line in any case. What happens when someone writes a video game which gives the protagonist a justification to commit rape?

            (Actually, that game probably exists already.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            First, I think killing an enemy soldier by surprise is considered “good tactics in warfare” and not “unjustifiable homicide.”

            Second, as a lifelong gamer, I really don’t agree with your description of video game murder.

            In the vast, vast majority of games that allow you to kill humans, either 1) there are no innocents at all because the game world is populated solely by miscreants (Streets of Rage, Double Dragon, etc) or 2) the innocents exist for the purpose of saving or decoration and your weapons pass right through them (Golden Axe) or attempting to swing at them results in an “Invalid Target” message (World of Warcraft). In the games where innocent/neutral NPCs exist and you can even attack them, you’ll get killed or lose/fail the mission for doing so (killing townspeople in Assassin’s Creed results in some form of “[Protagonist] did not kill innocents” message and the threat of desychronization; in flight/warfare simulators killing civilians results in mission failure or at least lost points — Desert/Jungle/Urban/Soviet/Nuclear Strike…I love those games).

            About the only thing I can think of where you can kill innocents and are essentially encouraged to do so is if you take a dark side path in one of the Bioware Star Wars games like The Old Republic.

            There are tens of thousands of video games. There are probably only a few dozen where you even have the ability to kill innocents, and I can count on one hand the number in which you’re rewarded for it, and those games definitely draw controversy.

            ETA: I know there exist actual video game rape simulators, but those are weird Japanese hentai things that are essentially interactive movies. I hesitate to call an interactive movie a “game.”

          • Matt M says:

            killing townspeople in Assassin’s Creed results in some form of “[Protagonist] did not kill innocents” message and the threat of desychronization.

            Townspeople yes, but as I said, you can kill any random guard who is just walking around posing no threat to you whatsoever, even in game scenarios where it’s not obvious that every single guard is directly working for the templars (or whatever excuse may be used to justify ALL guards as acceptable targets)

            Generally speaking, “acceptable targets” in video games are incredibly wide-ranging, much moreso than anyone would ever dream of suggesting in real life.

            And as beleester mentions, GTA includes plenty of missions where general criminal activity for entirely selfish purposes is the overall mission, with innocent casualties along the way being incredibly numerous and not punished extensively at all. Even if we set aside murder, a whole lot of the missions involve theft, carjacking, assault, etc. against people and organizations that have done nothing to provoke you.

          • Civilis says:

            You can murder a civilian in GTA or shank a guard in Assassin’s Creed and you’ll only get in trouble if someone sees you. And you can usually loot their corpse for some money if they don’t. In war games, you can stealth-kill “enemy soldiers” who have their back to you and pose no direct threat. A whole lot of the killing that you do in most video games would be classified as unjustifiable homicide by most people.

            I think most people don’t consider killing someone with both the intent and ability to kill you to be unjustifiable homicide, even if they are unaware of your presence, and it’s certainly not ‘cold blooded’ murder. To take one of the games you used as an example, most of the games in the Assassin’s Creed series instantly give you a Game Over for killing anyone that isn’t a combatant, and those you can kill are almost always those that would kill you if they were aware of your presence.

            Yes, there are games that allow you the freedom to commit evil acts, and that’s unfortunately one of the easiest ways to grant the player the feeling of agency in an open game world. However, for that agency to be valid it has to come with a balanced set of consequences for anti-social behavior. In most cases, the player benefit for these actions is only the vicarious thrill of doing something prohibited in the real world.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Matt, your statement was:

            There are hundreds if not thousands of games that come out every year that let you murder people in cold blood.

            And yes, you can do this in GTA. And GTA is controversial for that reason. But GTA (and a questionable interpretation of Assassin’s Creed) are not “hundreds or thousands of games every year.” Very, very few games allow you to murder people in cold blood, and GTA is one of the only exceptions and not at all the rule.

          • Matt M says:

            I may be off in numbers, but I don’t think my general idea is off.

            *Most* games that are “open-world” in any reasonable sense (of which more and more are these days) allow you the freedom to commit a wide variety of criminal acts (up to and including murder) relatively consequence-free. Most of these games are *not* controversial. You can murder innocents not just in GTA or Assassins Creed, but in Skyrim, in Mass Effect, in Fallout, even PvP servers in World of Warcraft allow you to sneak up behind and stab someone while he’s attempting to collect a bunch of flowers.

            I suppose you could argue that there are no innocents in Doom or Call of Duty because you never really get to interact with things that aren’t trying to kill you.

          • Randy M says:

            I think most people don’t consider killing someone with both the intent and ability to kill you to be unjustifiable homicide, even if they are unaware of your presence, and it’s certainly not ‘cold blooded’ murder.

            I don’t know, I feel like in most of the Assassin’s Creed games you are frequently just shanking the local law enforcement so that they don’t punish you for picking pockets, which isn’t an excuse that’s going to hold up well in a modern court of law.

            And then there’s Elder Scrolls, where you can basically wipe all life from the island (except those bird things, probably).

          • Civilis says:

            Generally speaking, “acceptable targets” in video games are incredibly wide-ranging, much moreso than anyone would ever dream of suggesting in real life.

            That’s because the scenarios in video games are not like real life. My behavior in real life would be a lot different if I thought a vast multi-national conspiracy was trying to kill me, and if it was, I’d be justified doing things I wouldn’t ever consider valid in the real world. I think the Matrix is a good example here… as soon as the nature of the world is revealed to be effectively a video game, the rules of society we’d normally expect go out the window. And this applies to all fiction; Bugs Bunny is the good guy because he’s not a real rabbit. It’s only the sentience which he is presented as having that makes him a valid hero.

            Bugs Bunny is a good example for another reason. We laugh at the pain inflicted on Elmer Fudd because the consequences aren’t realistic because the rules of the toon universe apply. In GTA, the penalty for death or arrest is a temporary setback; in some iterations, it dumps you off at the hospital/prison, regardless of how fatal your demise should have been or how heinous your crime was. If that video game logic applies to the protagonist, why doesn’t it also apply to the NPCs around you?

          • Civilis says:

            I don’t know, I feel like in most of the Assassin’s Creed games you are frequently just shanking the local law enforcement so that they don’t punish you for picking pockets, which isn’t an excuse that’s going to hold up well in a modern court of law.

            If I’m a member of the French Resistance, stealing because I’m a wanted person by the German occupiers, and I kill a Vichy French policeman that’s discovered me in the process of stealing, is that immoral? The policeman might think of himself as loyal to the French, and he might not know who I am when he tries to arrest me, but if I let myself get caught the Germans will find out and then it’s all over for the Resistance. (That’s the closest real-world comparison I could think of to Ezio’s situation in AC II).

            And then there’s Elder Scrolls, where you can basically wipe all life from the island (except those bird things, probably).

            As far as the Elder Scrolls series / Fallout series goes, I consider the consequences to be long term. There’s very little your going to get by killing random townsfolk that you couldn’t get more easily by other means. While the cost may be low, the opportunity cost is high, especially when you factor in the risk that you’ll cut off some actually valuable side quest because important NPC happened to see you kill that guard and then wandered into a fireball/grenade when trying to kill you. The moral hazard I see from those two series of games is less the random murder than the long term moral consequences of choosing the bad path, such as the Legion path in Fallout New Vegas. You don’t kill a lot of innocent people yourself, but the ending is still horrible.

          • Randy M says:

            As far as the Elder Scrolls series / Fallout series goes, I consider the consequences to be long term.

            Sorry, I was arguing against “You can’t do much unjustifiable homicide in videogames”, that Conrad seems to be presenting, not that videogames never present consequences or even that they are wrong in allowing your to play an evil character.

            regarding Assassin’s Creed, I’ve only played the pirate one and the US one. I do think slitting the throat of Scottish conscripts or colonial peacekeepers in order to afford better decorations at my homestead as wrong, or anyway it would be in real life.

          • Matt M says:

            regarding Assassin’s Creed, I’ve only played the pirate one and the US one. I do think slitting the throat of Scottish conscripts or colonial peacekeepers in order to afford better decorations at my homestead as wrong, or anyway it would be in real life.

            This.

            And also, while in theory we can come up with various justifications for why it might be OK for Ezio to murder papal guards, I think in practice, the justification is usually much more like “I want to run on the rooftops because it helps me get to where I’m going faster, and running on the rooftops is forbidden, and this guard just spotted me and is about to alert other guards if I don’t kill him, so I’m going to kill him now”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I still think you’re looking at exceptions rather than rules. Among video games that even allow you to kill humans (rather than have no killing, or the killing is limited to monsters or robots), extremely few allow you to kill anything other than explicitly bad guys.

            The idea that there exist hundreds or thousands of games (each year!) in which “cold blooded murder” is even allowed, much less rewarded or is the central theme of the game is absurd. The exceptions are notable because they are exceptional.

            A game that allows for something that passes for sexual assault is rare.

            A game that allows for something that passes for “cold blooded murder” is only slightly less rare.

          • Civilis says:

            regarding Assassin’s Creed, I’ve only played the pirate one and the US one. I do think slitting the throat of Scottish conscripts or colonial peacekeepers in order to afford better decorations at my homestead as wrong, or anyway it would be in real life.

            In truth, it’s an interesting disconnect that I hadn’t really thought about between the motivations of the character and the player. On one level, it’s a player and game, on the other level, it’s a character and story. Things like the decorations you mention have to be viewed as existing on the player / game level rather than the character / story level. They’re not your character’s motivation in the story, they’re the player’s motivation in the game, so your character is not committing murder, you, the player, are destroying a virtual construct. Assassin’s Creed, at least the early games, is interesting for trying to make the disconnect an in-game framing element.

            I play tabletop games, and I’ve never felt like a mass murderer in games like Risk because the character / story level doesn’t exist. When I play Civilization, I usually stick to democracy and try to win a peaceful victory, but still I’m operating on the ‘game’ level. On the other hand, I tried running the Dark Brotherhood (assassin’s guild) quest line in Skyrim for the achievement (a game level construct) and found I had problems because I was thinking on the character level due to the blank slate nature of the character… one of the rare times I’ve felt like a murderer in a video game.

            The random bandits and raiders in the Elder Scrolls / Fallout series don’t have options for peaceful interaction or backstories or motivation. In universe, they could be desperate to find a source of food for their starving children or they could be depraved maniacs who would otherwise go on to kill people incapable of defending themselves. The game doesn’t know, and on the game level we can only interact with them as constructs, because there isn’t another option. It’s only when the game offers us meaningful choices that the moral dimension of the story comes into play.

          • Matt M says:

            The random bandits and raiders in the Elder Scrolls / Fallout series don’t have options for peaceful interaction or backstories or motivation.

            This isn’t quite true. You can give bandits in Elder Scrolls the coin they demand, and they’ll leave you alone. If you have a decently developed sneak skill, you can probably avoid them entirely (it’s trivial to do this in Fallout if you’re high enough level)

          • Civilis says:

            This isn’t quite true. You can give bandits in Elder Scrolls the coin they demand, and they’ll leave you alone. If you have a decently developed sneak skill, you can probably avoid them entirely (it’s trivial to do this in Fallout if you’re high enough level)

            I’m such a gamer I don’t consider ‘hand over money to the robber’ an option in game. I’m also ignoring the ‘identify yourself as the Thieves Guild Leader’ option you get if you take over the Thieves Guild.

            One of the Fallouts had a named NPC bandit that tries to rob you with an unloaded weapon, and the game gives you real interaction. There’s no reward for killing him; his weapon and gear is almost worthless. That the interaction doesn’t play out like the random enemy interaction puts the player in ‘story’ mode. I don’t think any of the options for interacting with him was particularly morally wrong, as he’s doing something that by all rights should get him killed given the wild west nature of the world. It’s the fact that this guy has a name and additional dialog options that indicates to the player that this isn’t just another bandit.

            There’s a lot of this ‘gameplay and story segregation’ conflict in games. Yes, the world may be in imminent danger, but unless there’s an active countdown clock, it’s assumed I can stop and play whatever minigames the game offers on the side without putting people’s lives in further danger. The character can still be believably concerned about the fate of the world while the player steps in and does something on the side.

          • Matt M says:

            Look, my only point is that a whole lot of popular, mainstream games, tolerate unnecessary murder as something the player is allowed to do, and often, the game is structured such that unnecessary murder makes your overall objectives a hell of a lot easier. Playing through GTA without killing innocent bystanders would be a tough challenge indeed. And it’s not just GTA, I rattled off four popular, mainstream series with multiple games, all of which this applies to. It’s so common that we don’t even notice it. It’s not even noteworthy (as opposed to touching a boob, which apparently is)

          • johan_larson says:

            Maybe it’s time to look at some data. Here’s a list of the best-selling video games from 2016:

            Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
            Battlefield 1
            Tom Clancy’s The Division
            NBA 2K17
            Madden NFL 17
            Grand Theft Auto V
            Overwatch
            Call of Duty: Black Ops III
            FIFA 17
            Final Fantasy XV

            How many of those let you commit wanton murder in-game?

      • lvlln says:

        Regarding the general point: imagine a VR game that let you rape (fictional avatars of) babies. Would you have a problem with that? This is qualitatively the same.

        No. I would have exactly as much problem with that as I would with DOAX3 if it had come out with the above referenced touching simulations (as it turns out, the final release had the touching removed), or with a VR game that let me simply peacefully pet fictional avatars of babies. Fictional avatars being fictional, I am perfectly OK with games that involve and encourage any arbitrary form of behavior towards them, unless there’s strong empirical evidence that such games actually cause changes outside the fictional space (outside of obvious trivial stuff like “causes person to pick up the controller and press the O button” and such). There’s a huge difference between stating “sexually assault a woman in virtual reality” and “sexually assault a fictional avatar of a woman in virtual reality.” The former conjures up, if not outright implies, a real conscious woman being a victim to the sexual assault, which most people naturally find reprehensible. The latter implies only a fantasy is being sexually assaulted, which is at worst morally neutral, because there is no negative experience being experienced.

        In fact, I find the people who would have a problem with such a game to be far more problematic than such a game itself. Shutting down a free expression of art intrinsically causes harm in the person who wanted to express that art and in the people who wanted to enjoy that art. But the expression of that art in question doesn’t cause harm – at least, the evidence that supports the belief that it would cause harm isn’t particularly strong or conclusive.

        • rlms says:

          “No.”
          As I said to Matt M, that is an odd answer and you shouldn’t expect other people to share it (note that having a problem with something isn’t the same as thinking it should be illegal).

          “The former conjures up, if not outright implies, a real conscious woman being a victim to the sexual assault”
          No it doesn’t. Read Conrad Honcho’s comment above. He talks about games where you are “killing other criminals or perhaps crooked cops”. Are you hopelessly confused by his failure to refer to fictional avatars of criminals and cops?

          • lvlln says:

            “No.”
            As I said to Matt M, that is an odd answer and you shouldn’t expect other people to share it (note that having a problem with something isn’t the same as thinking it should be illegal).

            Shouldn’t I? This is an empirical question about the commonality of such an opinion. Is there any evidence that supports that it’s uncommon or particularly uncommon?

            Furthermore, the commonality of the opinion doesn’t tell us much about how justified the opinion is. Of course, if an opinion I disagreed with was overwhelmingly common, it naturally leads me to question my own opinion and look at it with greater scrutiny. But the commonality itself doesn’t actually tell us much about how justified the opinion is. I’d posit that the opinion that a video game that features baby rape in the way you described is problematic is an unjustified opinion due to the lack of evidence that it leads to any harm of anyone, regardless of how common such an opinion is, and that expressions of such an opinion should be called out and argued against even if such an expression is unsurprising due to how common it is.

            “The former conjures up, if not outright implies, a real conscious woman being a victim to the sexual assault”
            No it doesn’t. Read Conrad Honcho’s comment above. He talks about games where you are “killing other criminals or perhaps crooked cops”. Are you hopelessly confused by his failure to refer to fictional avatars of criminals and cops?

            No, but there’s a huge significant difference between killing criminals online and sexually assaulting women in VR. The former is readily accepted by virtually everyone as basically impossible; killing someone through the internet isn’t something that’s really possible via video game, unless you stretch the definition of video game to include sending instructions to hitmen or hacking vital infrastructure or such. Furthermore, “criminal” or “crooked cops” fits the image of a fictional avatar within a video game far better than that of a typical opposing player in a video game. Given all that, the context makes it fairly clear that it’s absurd to interpret this as meaning that playing such video games involves literally killing criminals or crooked cops who are sitting on another computer and playing the game against you via the internet.

            On the other hand, sexually assaulting women in VR through the internet is a real thing that people have been talking about. Now, one might argue that sexual assaulting through the internet is impossible like killing someone through the internet is, but due to the hazy definition of “sexual assault” and the fact that its room for subjectivity is a lot wider than for “killing” (which always involves the death of a human which is fairly close to objectively measurable), it’s something that’s under contention, and plenty of people have been ringing alarm bells that this is a real thing that we are in danger of letting become common.

            So when an article headline talks about sexually assaulting women through VR, one perfectly natural way to interpret it, within this context, is that this is a videogame that allows one to “sexually assault a woman [who is sitting at her PS4 and playing against/with you via the internet] through VR.” That’s not to say that interpreting it as that this video game allows one to “sexually assault [a fictional representation of] a woman through VR” is unnatural or wrong, but it’s not the obviously right one.

            It might make sense to extend some charity to the headline writer and interpret this as an innocuous mistake. I’m not sure how much such charity would be warranted in this case, though. At the least, I’d expect someone who is professionally writing about VR in a publication to have done enough research about the current politics of the technology to realize that simply stating “sexually assault a woman in VR” is likely to, at the least, cause many people who care about VR to viscerally be reminded of literal sexual assault of real conscious women in VR, even if they were to consciously interpret that as “sexually assault [a fictional representation of] a woman in VR.”

          • Randy M says:

            FWIW, I agree with lvlln. No woman was assaulted, in VR or otherwise. A realistic (?) model of a woman was shown receiving whatever treatment the player controlled model is allowed to perform.

            It would not even be “sexually assaulting a woman in VR” if it was another player character, unless you consider showing someone whatever image that is to be itself assault.

            I’d posit that the opinion that a video game that features baby rape in the way you described is problematic is an unjustified opinion

            I agree that Baby-rape simulator is not equivalent to rape, but in as much as beauty is morally preferable to ugliness or mental/spiritual uplift is preferable to debasement, it is immoral. But such opinions, falling outside harm considerations, are not really in vogue and don’t seem to be the argument being made.

          • The question that occurs to me is whether reactions to video game rape are or should be any different from reactions to rape in written fiction. A novel is an early form of VR, with the technology provided by the human imagination.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I think you also need to make a distinction between rape presented as crime/horror/evil and rape presented as stimulus.

          • @Conrad:

            I think fictional rape is likely to be both.

            It isn’t rape, but in The Dogs of War the protagonist seduces the daughter of his employer in order to get information about what her father is up to. At one point she is threatening to tell her father about her new boyfriend and he responds by putting her over his knee and spanking her pretty thoroughly. This turns her on and they then have sex.

            It’s a good book and he is presented as a positive character.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @DavidFriedman
            I read that book when is about twelve, and I uh.. remember that scene particularly well.

            As you say, that was not rape. She is clearly aroused by the rough treatment, and then has consensual sex with our hero. It was a really common theme in men’s adventure novels of the time. Forsyth, who I’m pretty sure is gay, was far more tame then some. If you want to see a real ugly streak of misogyny, check out Ian Fleming.

            Sexualizing actual rape scenes, at least when they are meant to arouse men, rather then women, is far more taboo.

          • I don’t think it’s misogyny, actually. The protagonist has a good reason for what he is doing.

            But the initial seduction strikes me as something that, defined in the abstract, most people would consider immoral, and that is arousing. Not very immoral, perhaps, given that she isn’t very hard to seduce, but certainly acting under false pretenses.

            I liked the book for reasons unrelated to that plot element–the twist at the end worked for me, since I didn’t anticipate it, and cast a very different light on the protagonist.

      • Zorgon says:

        Regarding the general point: imagine a VR game that let you rape (fictional avatars of) babies. Would you have a problem with that? This is qualitatively the same.

        It’s not remotely qualitatively the same and you know it.

        More to the point, it still wouldn’t be correct to conflate doing so with actual baby rape.

        • rlms says:

          Do you mean it’s not quantitatively the same? I agree! My point is that the principle is the same. If you disagree, explain why.

          “More to the point, it still wouldn’t be correct to conflate doing so with actual baby rape.”
          That’s true, but no-one is doing the analogous thing.

          • Zorgon says:

            Do you mean it’s not quantitatively the same? I agree! My point is that the principle is the same. If you disagree, explain why.

            The principle is similar, not the same. There are a whole bunch of confounders.

            That’s true, but no-one is doing the analogous thing.

            The article above openly conflates “assaulting” the virtual “woman” with assaulting a real woman right in its title.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Regarding the general point: imagine a VR game that let you rape (fictional avatars of) babies. Would you have a problem with that? This is qualitatively the same.

        Well, no. And I don’t think this position is as uncommon as you make it seem.

        But turning the question around, do you have a problem with the varying amounts of violence either allowed or encouraged in most games?

        If this is a problem of “quantitative differences”, is it really reasonable to be more troubled by allowed groping than encouraged mass murder? I mean, I’m all for less moral realism, but this seems like a very impractical preference.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Do they also criticize porn websites that host stories or videos that include non-consent as part of their plots?

      Is there a moral difference between playing a video game in which a digital avatar is raped as opposed to watching a pornographic video in which a human actress pretends to be raped?

      • Zorgon says:

        The paranoid in me says “might be something to do with which one involves horrid icky nerds who need to be punished (BRING BACK BULLYING!)” but the realist in me says “they’re not all that fond of rape-fantasy porn either”.

        • Matt M says:

          A lot of sites that cater to… that sort of thing, begin and end their videos with the actresses, fully out of character, reviewing safe-words and talking about how they totally enjoyed the simulated fantasy (presumably to placate these specific concerns)

          • hyperboloid says:

            I see we …uh both read that New York Times Magazine profile about Kink.com.

            Because that, and that alone, is totally the only way I know anything about bondage porn.

          • Deiseach says:

            Because that, and that alone, is totally the only way I know anything about bondage porn.

            Oh, I had my eyes opened wide and my horizons considerably broadened when I got on the Internet for myself with my own computer and starting reading fanfic. It certainly was an education! 😉

            Earlier this year, a particular show had one episode where one of the characters indulged in a bit of mild tying-up and at least one other person in the fandom critiqued the shots of the rope marks on the wrists with “that’s not how they should appear, and if they were doing it right that’s not where they’d be, because doing it like that will wreck your shoulders” so I can truthfully say I’m learning new things all the time!

    • BBA says:

      Story is a year old, and Mic is the most cynical of all the left-wing clickbait sites out there.

      And it’s not like there’s anything new with misrepresenting video games to cause/reinforce a moral panic, especially if the games themselves are sleazy shovelware like the once-popular DoA series has become. The Night Trap scandal was 25 years ago.

    • Mark says:

      In fable 2, you could build up a relationship with a person by being nice to them, have sex with them, and then start beating them. There were some women who had a positive relationship reaction to being beaten.

      This is a gross generalisation. In general:
      Women like boring things. If you think about the things that are aimed at girls, they are boring. Films aimed at women are boring. Women aren’t interested in history, or if they are, only fabrics and things like that. They don’t like space ships, or lasers etc. etc.

      So, my real concern is that all of this stuff is just an excuse to make things really boring.

      • Deiseach says:

        Women aren’t interested in history, or if they are, only fabrics and things like that.

        Please, tell me more how I only care about the pretty clothes! 🙂

        They don’t like space ships, or lasers etc. etc.

        True – I’ve only followed Star Trek since I was seven for the fashion! 😀

        So is this the part where I say men are all beer-swilling, fart joke-telling, belching, sweaty, hairy, scratching their privates in public, only interested in sports for the blood and fights and injuries, can’t even wash their own socks, boneheads who are only interested in the one thing where women are concerned? I’d like to be sure I’m getting the stereotypical male as correct as Mark’s tally of female traits in general for all women!

        • AnonYEmous says:

          if you post on this website you probably aren’t accurately represented by any generalisation

          i came to terms with that long ago. I know you’re one of the more normal people here and consider yourself as such, but still.

          • But note that a fair number of the better sf authors of recent decades were female. Cherryh. Bujold. Wrede. LeGuin. …

            There probably are differences in the distribution of what men and women like, but I don’t think it’s as simple as “women like boring.”

          • Deiseach says:

            I know you’re one of the more normal people here and consider yourself as such

            Well by cracky, if I’m one of the more normal people on here, I think we should all be seriously worried! 🙂

        • rlms says:

          I interpreted Mark as being provocatively non-literal and/or ironic.

        • Evan Þ says:

          What @Deiseach said. If women only like boring things like fashion, men only like boring things like abstruse details of specific weapons. And as long as we’re thinking that way, interpersonal dynamics are stereotypically coded feminine… and in my opinion, doing that well is one of the things that makes stories really good!

          • Mark says:

            Not sure about that. Master and Commander. That’s the most manly movie ever (I think women have about 7 seconds of screen time in the whole thing) and it’s all about interpersonal relationships.

            I’d say superficial socialisation is coded female. Taciturn lonerish-ness male. Beyond that, social stuff is gender-neutral.

            [
            https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/06/its-time-to-open-your-eyes-rusty-actresses-want-better-roles-because-none-exist

            across the world, there are actual, living women who wear the heavy crown of leadership across vocations and industries, but fictionalised portrayals of women defined by their work are as yet incredibly rare.

            They certainly are in Master and Commander, a film almost entirely without women. That it’s a historical movie isn’t the point: that there’s yet a rich market for films completely void of women says everything.

            Obviously this is just one woman in the Guardian, but to me, part of her point seems to be – Mark likes this movie and that is a problem. We have to like boring things! About old women being successful lawyers or something!
            ]

          • Deiseach says:

            Then that woman in the Guardian was being bloody stupid, because
            the fact that it is a historical movie is precisely the point. A movie set in the historical Navy where women canonically were not on board can legitimately not have many, or any, women characters, or ones apart from wives/mothers/daughters/sisters/servants for the onshore parts. A movie set in the 21st century in modern civilian life has not got the same excuse, which is why love interests get shoehorned into blockbusters so there’s a woman or two onscreen (though to be fair, modern blockbusters are rather better about having female characters for their own sake).

            (My big objection to reboot Trek making Spock and Uhura an item; in the first movie, reboot Spock has a very reasonable and pertinent argument over not assigning Uhura to the Enterprise as it might be seen as favoritism due to their relationship which she counters by enumerating her merits for the post; well, Abrams and friends, we wouldn’t need Uhura to list off why she deserves a berth on the objective facts of the matter if you hadn’t made her the First Officer’s girlfriend in the first place! And worse, there’s the intimation that if Spock sticks to his guns and refuses to reassign Uhura, she’ll engage in the Bitchy Girlfriend quarrel he’s dreading and which she does engage in during the worst possible moment in the second movie! Blahhh!)

            Complaining about “Master and Commander” is silly because that’s based on one novel of a series chock-full of deep and sincere male friendships and relationships based on loyalty, respect and affection, and male friendship/friendship in general is all too rarely seen in preference to romantic relationships. Shoving a woman in there (as an old-style Hollywood movie of the 50s would have done, probably the trope of rescuing/picking up a passenger from another ship who then goes on to have a romance with the captain) would have been every bit as intrusive as shoving a guy front-and-centre into the web of relationships between the main cast in “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” and setting up a romance between him and one of the leads.

          • dndnrsn says:

            50s? Top Gun was from the 80s, and features the most awkwardly wedged in female love interest I have ever seen in a film. Really detracts from the entirely platonic chemistry between male leads and games of volleyball.

          • Shoving a woman in there (as an old-style Hollywood movie of the 50s would have done, probably the trope of rescuing/picking up a passenger from another ship who then goes on to have a romance with the captain) would have been every bit as intrusive

            The series has some strong female characters, most notably the one that Maturin marries. Not the trope you suggest.

        • Mark says:

          I dunno – let’s say there were a bunch of people going around saying typical female behaviour is really problematic, etc. etc. all that chatting, causes trouble, bit of a waste of time really, with the implication, I suppose, that something closer to typical male behaviour might be better for everyone.

          Then it’d be time to crack out the unpleasant male stereotypes, certainly.

        • Incurian says:

          So is this the part where I say men are all beer-swilling, fart joke-telling, belching, sweaty, hairy, scratching their privates in public, only interested in sports for the blood and fights and injuries, can’t even wash their own socks, boneheads who are only interested in the one thing where women are concerned?

          Getting our socks washed?

          • Deiseach says:

            It does involve socks, yes.

            From “Men at Arms”:

            There was a very small old man standing in the hall.

            Everything about him sloped hopelessly downwards. His grey moustache could have been stolen from a walrus, or a bloodhound that had just been given some very bad news. His shoulders sagged listlessly. Even parts of his face seemed to be losing the battle with gravity.

            He held his cap in his hands and was twisting it nervously.

            ‘Yes?’ said Rosie.

            ‘Er, it said “seamstress” on the sign,’ the old man mumbled. ‘An’ , well, since my ol’ woman died, you know, what with one thing an’ another, never bin any good at doing it for meself…’

            He gave Rosie a look of sheer, helpless embarrassment.

            She glanced down at the sack by his feet, and picked it up. It was full of very clean, but very worn, socks. Every single one had holes in the heel and toe.

            ‘Sandra,’ she said, ‘I think this one’s for you…’

      • The Nybbler says:

        “Boring” isn’t an objective term. For a man to say that “women like boring things” is just to claim that men and women in general have different interests (which is obviously true to everyone but Google executives). So translated into more neutral language, your concern would be that “all this stuff is just an excuse to make things which appeal to women and not men”.

        Which is a valid concern I think.

  29. rlms says:

    The latest case of someone being fired for expressing controversial opinions. As with Brendan Eich, the employee involved quickly moved on, so I don’t feel too sorry for her. I expect others here feel differently though.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      She does have a bit of a point that L’Oreal should have known what they were getting: according to the article, the whole point was “a campaign that marries makeup to social justice”. I for one am shocked, shocked, that a corporate entity turned out to be spineless dirtbags.

      But in addition to finding her rant abhorrent, this scores low on the sympathy chart because it’s a person with a public role doing controversial things in public. For reference points in ascending order of sympathy: Eich was a public figure doing controversial things in private, Damore was a nobody doing controversial things ostensibly-privately-but-should-have-known-would-go-viral, and that lady that Freylinghausen got canned was a nobody doing controversial things privately.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’m opposed to firing people for political opinions when it doesn’t impact their job. There is a problem, though, when the job involves being a spokesman or celebrity endorser. Your job is essentially “be likable and encourage others to like us by proxy.” When you alienate the majority of the public, this impacts your job. Not so when your job is office clerk or computer programmer.

      That said, I think she has an extremely toxic and bizarre worldview. Modern white people are the only people in history to ever bother trying not to be racist. No black man in Africa is going to be fired for saying he doesn’t like white people. No Japanese person in Japan will be fired for using racial slurs against the Chinese or Koreans. No Arab chastises another Arab for privately expressing Arab supremacy. I think Ms. Bergdorf needs to travel more and experience more of humanity. It’s not pretty.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Come now, lots of people do and have tried not to be racist. As you go farther back in time, some of what “not trying to be racist” looks like it still hilariously racist from the modern perspective, but there were people trying. And certainly there are plenty of non-white people in modern times who try not to be racist.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Enough such that the majority racial/ethnic group in power creates and disseminates propaganda specifically against racism/hatred/negative stereotyping of other racial or ethnic groups? Teaches it to their children, and internalizes to the point they will end friendships with or terminate the employment of people who harbor such views?

          Who? Who else has done this? And minority groups don’t count. Everybody’s against “racism” when they’re the racial minority.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Who? Who else has done this?

            Various religions have promulgated anti-racism policies.

            The parable of the good Samaritan is one in proto-Christianity.

            The apparent requirement to treat everyone (who is a Muslim) as equals in religious observation is one in Islam.

            You’d be right in claiming that these policies were promulgated before Christianity or Islam became dominant, but they continue as lessons even after dominance was achieved.

            One which was promulgated by those in power was the understanding that the US was not a Christian nation, and that Muslims were theoretically welcome to be citizens.

            http://www.newsweek.com/jefferson-constitution-and-quran-why-founding-fathers-defense-muslims-matters-619541
            Despite his criticism of Islam, Jefferson supported the rights of its adherents. Evidence exists that Jefferson had been thinking privately about Muslim inclusion in his new country since 1776. A few months after penning the Declaration of Independence, he returned to Virginia to draft legislation about religion for his native state, writing in his private notes a paraphrase of the English philosopher John Locke’s 1689 “Letter on Toleration”:

            “[he] says neither Pagan nor Mahometan [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.”

            Teaches it to their children, and internalizes to the point they will end friendships with or terminate the employment of people who harbor such views?

            What’s peculiar about today is that people can go to these extremes without risking their very lives. Not that people didn’t hold these sentiments prior. (And it doesn’t hurt that the divine right of kings or groups is no longer a dominant belief)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There’s Germany.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Nancy, I don’t understand your point about Germany, and anonymousskimmer is taking about religions rather than racial or ethnic groups.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Conrad Honcho: You said: ‘Enough such that the majority racial/ethnic group in power creates and disseminates propaganda specifically against racism/hatred/negative stereotyping of other racial or ethnic groups? ”

            I’d count Jews as an ethnic group as well as a religious group.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Historically racial groups were highly homogenous with ethnic and religious groups. (If you think Jefferson wasn’t talking explicitly about Indians when talking about the Hindoo, then what did you think?)

            This is still broadly accurate, it’s just that a particular religion will now include the bulk of multiple racial/ethnic groups.

            Racism itself is a fairly new bias. The ancient equivalents of racism are tribalism and religious intolerance. I assumed this was a given so extended your question to them.

            I’d count Jews as an ethnic group as well as a religious group.

            And the Samaritans certainly were a distinct ethnic group from the Jews, yet Jesus said to his fellow Jews to treat them as your neighbor.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I agree. Tribalism in general and racism in particular are just natural phenomenon. As long as they don’t get violent it’s not a problem.

        By American standards the entire East Europe and Northeast Asia are basically populated by Nazis. That don’t really matter though. Andrew Anglin-like views are basically the norm in these places.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Andrew Anglin-like views are basically the norm in these places.

          No, they’re not. I take Anglin to be a literal Nazi, and, with the expectation of North Korea, no regime in either of those areas comes close to to that kind of racist totalitarianism. Depending on how exactly you define Eastern Europe, it can be a pretty big and diverse place, and contains a number of authoritarian states, but again non that are perusing a policy of racial purity.

          The Molotov-Rippinthorpe pact between western Nazis and Putin may lead some people to see them as basically the same thing, but they really aren’t. Russia is a large multi ethnic state that contains millions of well integrated central Asian Muslims. It is not the kind of place that someone who publishes the Daily Stormer would be happy living in.

          • HFARationalist says:

            I have some knowledge of both regions I’m talking about and Andrew Anglin-like views are the mainstream view out there. Look at how many people in these regions want to actually commit ethnically cleansing by expulsion and yes, even mass murder.

            Andrew Anglin’s beliefs aren’t literal Nazism either. He plays up his racism but really just sounds like another white nationalist/white separatist with some Nazi flavor.

            Furthermore even Nazism does not include hatred towards all groups other than one’s own. There can be tolerated groups and allies.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The Molotov-Rippinthorpe pact between western Nazis and Putin

            The what now? Is that riffing off Molotov-Ribbentrop or just a botched (other language?) spelling? The bit about Putin makes me suspect it’s supposed to be a modern riff but “Rippinthorpe” has zero hits on the google.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Gobbobobble

            It’s supposed to say Ribbentrop, In fact I corrected it and the comment monster ate the edit. I’m typing on my phone, I have neurological condition that can cause my hands to shake; sue me.

            @HFARationalist
            We may have different ideas about what Anglin believes. , It’s possible I’m wrong, but I don’t buy the “ironic Nazi” theory. It seems very strange to me that somebody who thinks that white nationalism is very important would go out of his way to associate it with people who stuffed children into gas chambers, unless he thought that his beliefs had real parallels to theirs.

            While Anglin doesn’t necessarily hate everybody different than him, I suspect he does hate Muslims.

            I agree that those are some parts of the world that are more accepting of racism than others, but If genocidal views were mainstream in eastern Europe wouldn’t there be a lot more genocide?

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Gobbobobble Maybe not genocide views with intention to actually carry them out. However ethnic cleansing is pretty popular.

            I suggest that you check out some East European forums.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @HFARationalist
            It seems we also have different ideas about what counts as mainstream. If you say: “Nazi like views are common in eastern Europe” ; and you mean common in the sense it’s much easier to find them expressed in web forums then it would be in the west; and I say; “Nazi like views are uncommon in eastern Europe”, and I mean that they rare enough that it’s unlikely that government espousing them will come to power, then we have not disagreed.

            As for north east Asia, as I count the region you’re talking about four countries. One that is truly Nazi like, one that is a mainstream communist state, and two that are liberal democracies. South Korea and Japan are highly ethnically homogeneous nations where anti immigration views are widespread. These sorts of views would certainly be at home on the soft end of white nationalism in the west; but context matters.

            There is a difference between saying “Japan for the Japanese”, when ninety eight percent of the population already is ethnic Japanese, and saying “America for the Whites” when sixty something percent (depending on how you count Hispanics) of the population is white.

            Aside from probably contributing to Japan’s demographic problems, the former is mostly harmless, while the latter has dark, in extremis possibly genocidal, implications.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @hyperboloid

            Then you’ll agree it’s absurd to call whites the most racist group, when they’re a group that, in America, have allowed and encouraged themselves to go from 90% of the population to 60-odd percent of the population. Surely such a title must be reserved for a racial group that sticks to 98% homogeneity.

            “We will act explicitly in favor of our ethnic group, and perhaps in opposition to other ethnic groups” is the norm throughout history, and throughout the world today. The Japanese do not believe diversity is their strength. The citizens of Uganda do not believe diversity is their strength.

            Whites are arguably the least racist people ever. To state they are in fact the most racist people is absurd, and indefensible. Try sneaking into Japan, birthing a child there, demanding Japanese citizenship for your child, social services like free public schooling and healthcare, and then accusing the Japanese people and government of racism, hatred and xenophobia when they kick your gaijin ass out to the sea and see how much sympathy you get. I bet not much. Clearly that is a more “racist” people than whites, and I don’t think you’d get much better treatment in Mexico, Uganda, or Pakistan.

            Bergdorf’s worldview is nonsensical.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Conrad Honcho I agree. I personally believe that having ethnic homelands is good and won’t make the world a worse place. From a pure individualistic point of view ethnicity does not inherently have any value. However as long as others try to harm you because of ethnicity you still need to help in proping your own ethnicity up not because you really care about it but because it improves your position.

            I agree with you about Japan but disagree with you about Mexico though. Mexico is inherently multiracial and it isn’t trying to get rid of some group now. If Spanish whites are somehow “native Mexican” while Anglos somehow aren’t then it is a cultural issue, not a racial one.

            What do you think about ethnic cleansing through mass expulsion and genocide? I’m against them. My idea of diversity with standards is that people who have met some minimum standard should get along and cooperate though they don’t have to live in the same place. Interethnic and interracial cooperation don’t contradict the idea of ethnic homelands. We need to set aside ethnic homelands that are similar to the idea of homes, multiracial zones that are similar to the idea of public space and minimum standards below which a cultural group (e.g. ISIS) should no longer be tolerated by the international community.

          • . says:

            @Conrad: appropriately, race is not the right unit of analysis for answering the question “who is least racist.” White people are more likely, and plausibly include the most racist people and the least racist people.

            I agree that America should be reasonably proud of her present race-relations, even if her racial history is not sterling. Brazil is an even more extreme example of terrible past race relations, good present race relations..

          • HFARationalist says:

            @. Both America and Brazil are examples of H.BD or cultural features in action.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            ““We will act explicitly in favor of our ethnic group, and perhaps in opposition to other ethnic groups” is the norm throughout history, and throughout the world today.

            That is a motte and bailey statement that could be interpreted to make two different claims.

            One is simply that it is part of human nature for people to have, to some degree, large or small, a greater sense of affinity for those with which they share some common cultural background. The other is that everybody else is just as racist as American white nationalists.

            The first is trivially true, the second is an example of the typical mind fallacy. Not everybody is as bigoted as you are.

            “Ethnic group” can mean different things in different places, and times, so the concept is hard to exactly define. Sometimes it signals phenotypic (that is to racial in the biological sense) differences, sometimes religion, but most often it’s language.

            Nevertheless, using whatever definition you pick, with the possible expectation of religion, multi ethnic states have been the norm in most places throughout most of human history. Rome, Egypt, Persia, China; all the great empires included subjects, some loyal, some not so loyal, from many tribes and nations. That’s what made them empires in the first place.

            While bigotry, oppression, and genocide based on cultural and religious factors has been a part of human history since time immemorial; prejudice based on phenotype, true racism with a capital R, was a marginal force in history until the rise of colonialism.

            The history of European racism follows a long curve, first waxing as the moral demands of empire imposed on the Christian ethic, then waning as those empires crumbled.

            Before the modern era, the notion of a white race was simply not a part of the European sense of collective identity. Taking an example from literature, think of Shakespeare’s two Venetians: the moor, and the merchant. Shylock is clearly an antisemitic caricature, whose redemption comes by way of a conversion to Christianity. Othello on the other hand, is a brave Christian warrior who defends Cyprus from the Turks, and is betrayed by the scheming racist Iago. Clearly to people of the bard’s time the relevant distinction, was between Christians, and infidels, not between white and black.

            As the great cultural, economic, and technological revolution of the early modern era marched on; the vast military superiority of the European powers allowed them to dispense with the idea of wining hearts and minds in the lands they conquered. When we, as Belloc said, had got the Maxim gun and they had not; then even making the pretense of integrating other peoples into our empires was unnecessary.

            Bergdorf’s view seems to me to be not that people of European descent are exceptionally prejudiced, but that our society is fundamentally racist, and thus has been exceptionally harmful.

            She is wrong, and not for the reasons you site. After all the vast majority of the non white people of the United States, are either descended from native people conquered by European empires, or Africans bought and brought here as slaves, I hardly think we whites deserve much credit for not exterminating them.

            The reason she is wrong is that, while her core claim has more then a little truth to it, she leaves out all the good done by European civilization. Slavery and imperialism, are things of the past, democracy, and modern medicine are very much going concerns. If anybody tells me that, as a white man, I bear the guilt of the crimes of the middle passage, I’ll tell them I made up for it when I invented penicillin. After all, how can all the evil of the white race fall on my shoulders, and none of the good?

            I can’t comment in detail on Uganda, as it is a country of which I am ignorant. Wikipedia lists no less then ten ethnic groups, though I am not sure what that means in this context. Perhaps they do think diversity is their strength. Pakistan is a multi ethnic state, all be it one like premodern Europe that bases it sense of identity on religion. Convert to Islam, and you’ll be welcome there.

            Half of my, thoroughly white, family immigrated from one the Italian speaking regions of southern Europe to Latin America. For generations they made their home in a number of countries including Chile, Peru and Mexico. For much of that time they were probably more welcome there, where anti Catholic prejudice was obviously not an issue, then they would have been in the United Sates.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hyperboloid

            After all the vast majority of the non white people of the United States, are either descended from native people conquered by European empires…

            Clarification: native to the US, or to North America, or to the Americas, or? European empires conquered much of the world, but someone native to Vietnam (colonized by the French) whose parents came to the US is in a different category from someone whose ancestors were in the present-day US when colonizers arrived.

          • Deiseach says:

            Shylock is clearly an antisemitic caricature, whose redemption comes by way of a conversion to Christianity.

            *blinks*

            I don’t think we’ve read the same play; Shylock never converts (and yes this is treated as a tragedy), and yes there are anti-Semitic elements (such as Shylock expressing as much grief over the money he lost when his daughter ran away with it as for the loss of his daughter) but we also see that Shylock has good reason to hate Antonio, and that he was a loving husband and is grieved by his daughter’s elopement and carelessness in casting away all that her family meant:

            SALARINO
            Why, I am sure, if he forfeit, thou wilt not take
            his flesh: what’s that good for?

            SHYLOCK
            To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,
            it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
            hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
            mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
            bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
            enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
            not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
            dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
            the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
            to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
            warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
            a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
            if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
            us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
            revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
            resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
            what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
            wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
            Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
            teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
            will better the instruction.

            TUBAL
            One of them showed me a ring that he had of your
            daughter for a monkey.

            SHYLOCK
            Out upon her! Thou torturest me, Tubal: it was my
            turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor:
            I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Shylock DOES convert, at the threat of death (though if he’d accepted penury, he could have kept his religion). This is more humiliation than redemption, I think:

            DUKE: That thou shalt see the difference of our spirits;
            I pardon thee thy life before thou ask it.
            For half thy wealth, it is Antonio’s;
            The other half comes to the general state,
            Which humbleness may drive into a fine.

            PORTIA: Ay, for the state; not for Antonio.

            SHYLOCK: Nay, take my life and all; pardon not that:
            You take my house when you do take the prop
            That doth sustain my house; you take my life
            When you do take the means whereby I live.

            PORTIA: What mercy can you render him, Antonio?

            GRATIANO: A halter gratis; nothing else, for God’s sake!

            ANTONIO: So please my lord the duke, and all the court,
            To quit the fine for one half of his goods,
            I am content; so he will let me have
            The other half in use, to render it,
            Upon his death, unto the gentleman
            That lately stole his daughter:
            Two things provided more, that, for this favour,
            He presently become a Christian;
            The other, that he do record a gift,
            Here in the court, of all he dies possess’d,
            Unto his son Lorenzo, and his daughter.
            DUKE: He shall do this, or else I do recant
            The pardon that I late pronounced here.
            PORTIA: Art thou contented, Jew? what dost thou say?
            SHYLOCK: I am content.
            PORTIA: Clerk, draw a deed of gift.
            SHYLOCK: I pray you give me leave to go from hence:
            I am not well. Send the deed after me,
            And I will sign it.
            DUKE: Get thee gone, but do it.
            GRATIANO: In christening thou shalt have two god-fathers;
            Had I been judge, thou shouldst have had ten more,
            to bring thee to the gallows, not the font.

            Shylock at the end is a broken man; he’s lost half his possessions, his daughter (who will presumably also convert to Christianity), and his religion. And this is portrayed as his just desserts. I saw this play performed recently, with an audience which was probably largely Jewish. There was a collective gasp when the sentence of conversion was pronounced (even though most were probably familiar enough with the play to know it was coming); I’m very curious about how audiences of the day would have seen it.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Whites are arguably the least racist people ever.

            During the one-child era the Ethnic Han Chinese ruling class of China exempted minority ethnicities from the policy.

            That’s arguably even less racist (toward the ethnic outgroups).

            Here’s some on Indian affirmative action (with reference to affirmative action around the world): https://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/06/affirmative-action

            I’d also like to point out that “whites” are not the “US”. That whites in the US actually have many ethnic homelands, which are still relatively homogeneous, to return to if desired.

          • quanta413 says:

            During the one-child era the Ethnic Han Chinese ruling class of China exempted minority ethnicities from the policy.

            That’s arguably even less racist (toward the ethnic outgroups).

            The Han are still over 90% of the Chinese population. They just recently revoked all Uighur passports. The Chinese are still in the process of forcible integration and colonization of Tibet. And they sure as hell don’t want any immigrants who aren’t ethnically Han Chinese. Immigration by non-Han into China is largely illegal and basically a rounding error on their population size.

            Picking out a couple examples of where minorities got favorable policy that probably have more to do with many minorities living in areas that were harder to control than having anything to do with the Chinese being not racist is cherrypicking.

            EDIT: When I think about it, there may be some other Chinese ethnic groups they don’t dislike too much either. I think they’re mostly over the Manchus at this point, so maybe Manchu overseas Chinese “returning” is ok. But they definitely are still extremely restrictive about immigration.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @quanta413 Agreed. However China hasn’t been exterminating its minorities either. I have very low standards on what constitutes a sane society. Anything but literal Nazism is fine.

            Any society that isn’t actively beating up or shooting its minorities doesn’t really have a really serious racist problem.

          • HFARationalist says:

            My standards for what is a dangerous, racist society is clear:

            1.Is this society safe for reasonable tourists from a particular race/ethnicity? Here “reasonable” means not being a member of an underclass, a member of an extremist group or a criminal.
            2.Is this society safe for members of a particular race/ethnicity who works there? For example any society in which a trader ethnicity such as Jews, Lebanese, Chinese or Gujaratis exists and isn’t beaten or killed is reasonably safe. Another example is the existence of foreign engineers or researchers who can’t pass as natives.

            If a society is majority non-European for example and Europeans can safely do business there then it is probably safe. If the society is not majority Indian but we see many Indians being engineers and shopkeepers then the society is probably safe.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The Nybbler:

            Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy has it that The Merchant of Venice was played as a comedy for the first century as a comedy with Shylock in a red wig. Shylock as a villain in a black wig came later.

            It seems reasonable to me to expect that audiences in Shakespeare’s time would have thought the forced conversion was funny.

    • John Schilling says:

      This is a person who can be literally and legitimately be told “Shut up and look pretty” on the job. It seems uncharitable to extend that to her personal life, if it’s not absolutely necessary. I don’t know enough about the fashion industry to know whether a model’s private social media feed is going to significantly impact customer perceptions of her employers’ wares, but I’m skeptical that it̵