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Open Thread 90.25

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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522 Responses to Open Thread 90.25

  1. Gregory R. Nall says:

    If you wanted to create a global thought experiment…see if there was any real connections between 100 people in multiple countries at a specific moment..

    What would the steps be and the test criteria, and to verify if a simultaneous connection was actually made?

  2. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What are nonbelievers’ thoughts on the Vatican’s Miracle Commission?
    Years ago, there were these high-profile religious debunkers going around, and I don’t remember any even mentioning that the Catholic Church has a commission of scores of medical scientists, some of them nonbelievers, who go check out purported miraculous healing, debunk the ones with scientific explanations, and send the remainder to theologians, who then throw out all the miracles that can’t be used to determine if someone is a saint (e.g. ones where the healed was just praying to Jesus, ones where they contaminated the data by praying to more than one saint…)
    Are Pentecostal faith healers and the other usual targets just the weakmen of this debate?

    • dodrian says:

      For those interested, here is a BBC article describing one person’s role in the process.

      • quaelegit says:

        Thanks for the link! This was a really interesting story. Also neat that Cosmas and Damian are getting a comeback — pretty much all I know about them is “something something Medicis”, who are SO last half-millenium 😛

    • pansnarrans says:

      It’s better than not doing it, and I understand that by religious standards the Catholic Church has been better than average at this sort of thing for a long time (e.g. demanding higher standards of proof of guilt for alleged witches than most witch-hunters). But it still leaves them assuming divine intervention as the null hypothesis. It’s the God of the Gaps, basically. But yes, it’s a lot better than refusing to believe scientific explanations.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If the God of the Gaps only does things that violate our best scientific models of biology when CATHOLICS pray for it, what the heck would a more rational null hypothesis be?
        If you want evidence for being agnostic about miracles, good epistemology requires that we put Miracle Commission data in one column, miracle claims have been debunked by professional skeptics in a second, and the other claims in a third, then see what the data set reveals about religion qua religion.

        It’s interesting to note that when Christianity became big in the late second or the third century, Hellenes didn’t argue that miracles were impossible; the standard epistemic objection to Jesus Christ was “Apollonius of Tyana did miracles too, so they must have been equally beloved by gods.”

        • pansnarrans says:

          Well, sure, if you designed trials where people of different faiths prayed for (e.g.) the same miracle to happen on different days, and the miracles only happened on days Catholics prayed for, that would be impressive evidence.

          From your description, though, the Church isn’t doing this, it’s just clearing off the most obviously non-miraculous ‘miracles’. A cynic might argue that it does so to avoid losing face, although I go with the assumption that there are smart people in the Church who just hate hearing people make silly miracle claims and want them to stop.

          • quaelegit says:

            Also they probably want to make sure that Catholics are praying to saints that can actually make miracles and not wasting their time with non-miracle causers.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Given that the canonisation process has been pretty stable since the sixteenth century, I don’t think “losing face in front of atheists” was a big motivation in setting it up.

          • Anonymous says:

            @The original Mr. X

            s/atheists/heretics/

            (In before “the CC didn’t care about the opinions of heretics”. If not, then why have the Counter-Reformation?)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I suppose it’s possible they were trying to ward off attacks from Protestants, although I haven’t seen any historians making that link, and most of the Protestants I’ve read attacked praying to the saints through biblical arguments, rather than empirical ones.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well, sure, if you designed trials where people of different faiths prayed for (e.g.) the same miracle to happen on different days, and the miracles only happened on days Catholics prayed for, that would be impressive evidence.

            That would give the Argument From Miracles the same epistemic value as a physics experiment, yes. But my suspicion is that we already have a large enough data set to make epistemic claims of some value without needing the exact same status as physical science, and no one’s collating it.
            If you followed the above link, an atheist wrote a book about the evidence for 1400 Catholic miracles. If the Miracle Commission has that and Protestant churches either fake miracles or state that miracles haven’t happened since the First Century, we have data of epistemic value. Better data would include whether miracles happen in Hinduism or all tested Hindu fakirs are fakers (sorry), whether there are scientifically inexplicable events associated with no particular religion, etc.
            And people seem weirdly uninterested in this just because it’s not epistemically the same as a physics experiment.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Unless I’m missing something, that just rounds off to “Catholics more likely to claim miracles for cultural reasons”, which is backed up by all those miracles that the church agrees are fake.

            The reason nobody’s doing this research is that atheists and token religious people know* that there’s nothing to find, and religious people either don’t like the idea of what they’ll find or consider testing their religion to be sacrilege.

            *Not with 100% certainty, but you know what I mean

    • Nornagest says:

      It feels like a pretty good urban fantasy could be written about this, but Unsong already covered a lot of the ground that I’d want to.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Imagine that there was some equivalent process in Islam and they claimed it was completely legitimate. What would your first thought be?

      Also, why does God bother with only doing miracles that are Properly Vetted by the Catholic Church? He used to part seas, drop bread from Heaven and turn water in to wine. Whatever happened to that?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        My first thought would be “Interesting, I had no knowledge of these miracles. What’s the most comprehensive book in English about them? Where are the original documents kept in case I ever learn Arabic?”
        I find it strange if you’d assume my reaction would be disinterest in such a data set. Even corrupt data would be INTERESTING, just like the Replication Crisis is.

        • Wrong Species says:

          It’s not a question of interest, it’s a question of believability. Would you automatically assume that Islam is true because some guy got sick, some Imam prayed for him and then he got better for mysterious reasons? How much more likely would you rate the probability of Islam being true?

          • The most impressive Islamic miracle is the one we know is true. When the religion started, the Arabs were bit players in the politics of that part of the world, roughly comparable to Mexico or Poland in modern world politics–the great powers were the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. Within fifty years of Mohammed’s death, his followers had conquered all of the Sassanid Empire and a large chunk, I’m guessing a majority, of the Byzantine. As if a new religion started in Mexico and within fifty years Mexico conquered all of the U.S. and half the USSR.

            Ibn Khaldun, a 14th c. North African political scientist, had a cyclic theory of political change, one feature of which was inertia–changes were slow. He noted that the initial rapid success of the Muslims looked like evidence against his theory. But, he explained, the explanation was that that was a miracle, and it was well known that scientific theories did not have to account for miracles.

            My favorite example of how to dispose of evidence against your theory.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Wrong Species:

            It’s not a question of interest, it’s a question of believability. Would you automatically assume that Islam is true because some guy got sick, some Imam prayed for him and then he got better for mysterious reasons? How much more likely would you rate the probability of Islam being true?

            One Imam-related healing would slightly increase my estimation of Islam’s truth, although not by all that much. If lots of Imams since the origin of Islam had miraculously healed people, my estimation would go up more. If lots of Imams and no members of other religions had healed people, my estimation would go up considerably, and I’d probably start investigating Islam’s other truth claims to see how they hold up.

            @ David Friedman:

            The most impressive Islamic miracle is the one we know is true. When the religion started, the Arabs were bit players in the politics of that part of the world, roughly comparable to Mexico or Poland in modern world politics–the great powers were the Byzantine and Sassanid empires. Within fifty years of Mohammed’s death, his followers had conquered all of the Sassanid Empire and a large chunk, I’m guessing a majority, of the Byzantine. As if a new religion started in Mexico and within fifty years Mexico conquered all of the U.S. and half the USSR.

            I think you’re exaggerating here. Sixth-century Arabia was no Byzantine or Sassanid Empire, but nor was it the backwater it’s sometimes been portrayed as. Plus, the Byzantines and Sassanids had conveniently been exhausted by fighting a huge twenty-six-year war against each other. The Arab conquests were impressive, but they don’t strike me as more obviously miraculous than those of, say, Cyrus, or Alexander, or Genghis Khan.

            (Plus, you have to wonder why, if the Arab conquests were miraculously ordained, they ended up petering out after a century or so. Had Allah just used up his supply of miracles or something?)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Using the Argument From Miracles as a first-order approximation for total analysis of a religion’s truth value, if the Islamic community had 1400 scientifically-vetted miracles over the past four centuries, the highest probability I could rate it would be 0.49 … most probably lower though, because 0.49 assumes that the Catholic Church and Islamic ummah are the only sources of scientifically-vetted miracles.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Assuming that God is the only explanation means that you believe that we understand medicine so well that we can predict, with extremely high confidence, what effect any given treatment, or lack of, will have on any given person and that no unexplained biological variables could have an effect on someone. Is that what you believe? Because if not, I don’t see how that’s any more impressive than a magician who can do a lot of tricks that other people can’t figure out. There is nothing special about the Catholic Church in this regard. They are just the only people who bother to record this stuff. I could go find a bunch of sick people, pray that Satan will heal them, and some of them will get better. There’s nothing mystical about that. It’s basic statistics. If God really wanted to perform a miracle, he should do something that truly defies the laws of physics, not play dice with the terminally ill.

          • @Le Maistre Chat:

            Are you assuming that Catholicism and Islam can’t both be true? Both be true enough so that the same God does miracles for both?

            It’s true that there are a few differences between the Catholic view of Jesus Christ and the Muslim view of the Prophet Issus ibn Maryam, but the Muslims, at least, believe they are worshiping the same God as Christians and Jews.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @ David Friedman: Christianity and Islam literally claim A and not-A about Jesus of Nazareth, so they can’t logically both be true. So to add a probability for “both” into the probability matrix, we need a radical prior about logic.
            This doesn’t mean Islam’s truth claims are all untrue. I believe them when they say they worship God the Father exclusively.

          • That is why I clarified “true” with “true enough so that the same God does miracles for both”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Oh, yes, that’s possible. I just don’t know what probability to assign it.

      • SamChevre says:

        It’s not that we believe God only does “properly vetted” miracles; that’s getting the whole question backward.

        The question we are trying to answer is “do we believe that Blessed so-and-so has privileged access to God such that s/he can sometimes provide miracles for those who ask for his/her prayers.”

        For answering that question, we need a “properly vetted” miracle. We are perfectly glad to believe that there are lots of other miracles, but they don’t help with the question.

        I’d be extremely surprised if there were no miracles granted by the martyrs in Islam. (I know that there are reports of them: I expect those reports to be true.)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The question we are trying to answer is “do we believe that Blessed so-and-so has privileged access to God such that s/he can sometimes provide miracles for those who ask for his/her prayers.”

          For answering that question, we need a “properly vetted” miracle. We are perfectly glad to believe that there are lots of other miracles, but they don’t help with the question.

          This. Remember that after purported miracles are evaluated by scientists who may or may not be Catholic Christians and the majority debunked, some unknown percentage of the remainder sent to theologians are thrown out because the patient prayed to multiple Blessed so-and-sos or Blessed so-and-so and already known saints.

        • Wrong Species says:

          My point is why does God bother only to do miracles that have some plausible deniability? Why doesn’t he do things like turn water in to wine anymore?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Probably because believers are praying for medical miracles and not for transmitting of water into wine.
            To speak theologically rather than empirically, the non-healing miracles of Jesus Christ were for the purpose of supporting His claim to be I AM, lest Hellenes take Him for only a god like Asklepios. Saving a random bridegroom from embarrassment about catering was more symbolic than directly beneficial the way healing is.

          • Wrong Species says:

            No evidence for these symbolic acts is the exact result that we would see if God didn’t actually exist. If God was willing to unequivocally prove his existence to a group of people 2000 years ago, why isn’t he willing to do it now? Why do we have to search for him through round-about exercises that could easily be some more mundane explanation? Why is God suddenly so resistant to the idea of proving that he actually exists to a group of people who are increasingly skeptical? Don’t you honestly ever wonder why?

            Maybe that doesn’t bother you. But if you honestly want to convince an atheist that there is empirical proof of God, you need something better than a phenomenon that can easily be explained by us not fully understanding medicine.

          • Skivverus says:

            Wouldn’t ‘obvious’ miracles happen consistently, to avoid unfairness?
            And, given their consistency, how would such ‘miracles’ be distinguished from the laws of physics?

            (I came up with this argument on my own a few months ago; there may be more established/complete/accurate versions of it out there somewhere, but I haven’t exactly looked)

  3. fion says:

    Looking for recommendations. I’m reading Eliezer’s “A Human’s Guide to Words” and not finding it particularly illuminating. It’s a subject area I’m very interested in and one I struggle to get to grips with. (I’m not even sure what the subject area is called. Is this what linguistics is or is that something else? Is “the philosophy of words” a thing?)

    Anyway, I’d be grateful if anybody has read any texts on a similar area and could recommend what they found helpful (or even what they found unhelpful – what works for one of us doesn’t always work for another). Or even if you could help me put a word (haha) to my question. What broad area of thinkspace does that sequence fall into?

    • skef says:

      The broad area it falls into is philosophy of language. Unfortunately, the sorts of issues that Eliezer addresses in that sequence tend to get hashed out in the ongoing assessment of undergraduate and graduate class discussions and papers, rather than in particular articles (which makes some sense, given the origin of his flavor of rationalism).

      So I’m just going to recommend a few papers that may be tricky reads, but have to do with some of the same issues (even if they might not be initially recognizable as such). I may o have to match wits with the wordpress comment daemon in the process. Anyway:

      “Reference and Definite Descriptions” by Keith Donnellan.

      “Meaning and Reference” by Hilary Putnam

      “Translation and Meaning” by W v O Quine

      I wish I could instead point to one or two semi-definitive secondary sources. But philosophy is still so primary-source based that I’ve barely read any and wouldn’t know which are better. None are remotely definitive, because there’s a lot of disagreement about many subjects, including how these and other papers are to be properly interpreted.

      I’m therefore also not saying that everything, or even anything, in these papers is itself definitive or right. Philosophy is more about problems than accepted answers. At the present time those answers are developed by linguists under the heading “semantics”. It’s actually a bit tough right now, because semantics is progressing in a way that obviating some areas of traditional philosophy of language.

      • I wish I could instead point to one or two semi-definitive secondary sources.

        I like the Blackwell guides.

        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackwell-Guide-Philosophy-Language-Guides/dp/0631231420

        • skef says:

          For the broad area as a whole, sure. But for the subjects that “A Human’s Guide to Words” is primary concerned with, it’s trickier. Like, what chapters in that Blackwell guide would you point to? 12 (Vagueness) I suppose. Maybe 3 and 4?

          (For example, Donnellan is relevant because that article shows how we often pick out referents by incidental features, given that it turns out the referents don’t always even have the specific feature by which we refer to them.)

          • fion says:

            Suggestions for the broad area as a whole are also appreciated. Although I’m not sure if that example is within my means… :/

          • quaelegit says:

            >Although I’m not sure if that example is within my means… :/

            – Can you check if nearby libraries have it? (I know you said you’re not from the U.S., so sorry if this does not apply. I know that in the U.S., University libraries are sometimes allow local non-students to access their resources as well, so those may also be worth checking around).

            – Can you split the cost with a friend who is also interested in reading the book?

            – I *don’t* know if this is the same material because I haven’t read eitehr article, but the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on Vagueness (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/vagueness/) cites the author of that chapter in Blackwell. SEP is a pretty good resource on philosophy in general (unfortunately I can’t point you to anything specific b/c I know next to nothing about philosophy, but maybe search SEP for some of the keywords/authors in Blackwell?)

          • rlms says:

            @fion
            Googling “The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Language pdf” and clicking one of the first links is probably within your financial means, although I understand if you have ethical qualms about doing so.

          • fion says:

            @quaelegit Library is a good shout. I’ll try that. Also, yeah, I’ve used the SEP before. The tricky part was I didn’t even really know which keywords to look for!

            @rlms Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Rhetoric is a thing, and so is philosophy of language.

    • rlms says:

      IIRC, a lot of it is rehashing of Language in Thought and Action by S. I. Hayakawa.

  4. notsobad_ says:

    What are the rules about CW-type posts? Are they allowed here? If not I’ll remove this post.

    There’s some controversy in Olympic Weightlifting world regarding a trans woman that competed in the women’s division this past weekend at the World Championships. She won silver at the competition. (Important to note she was a sub-par lifter when she competed as a man).

    Opinions are divided; some believe she played within the rules and had every right to compete, while others believed the biological advantage made it anything but fair. I’m not sure that she’s undergone any hormonal therapy.

    I’m curious what people here make of the issue. I’m torn myself. I’m delighted she was allowed to compete in the women’s division. To me a indicates a general step forward for issues regarding trans rights! But as an avid fan of weightlifting, I can’t help but feel her natural biology gives her unfair advantage. It’s a tricky situation…

    The woman in question: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurel_Hubbard

    Some recent discussion on /r/weightlifting (trigger warning: some mean comments. Some misgendering. Very well moderated, however. Kudos to /u/olmpic_lifter in particular): https://www.reddit.com/r/weightlifting/comments/7fx00s/transgender_weightlifter_laurel_hubbard_will/

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I’m fairly sure she has undergone hormone therapy given that (from a recent news article about her victory in another competition):

      In an interview with the New Zealand news program, prominent sportswriter Phil Gifford said Hubbard had every right to compete with the women after passing “straightforward” hormone regulations.

      “It’s testosterone levels which is a much more scientific way of measuring male gender, female gender than anything else that is currently known.

      “And Lauren has passed all of those tests over the last 12 months,” he said.

      Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand said it followed the policy of the International Olympic Committee and the world weightlifting governing body in allowing Hubbard to compete in the women’s division.

      Current IOC policy for MtF athletes (recently changed) is to require a demonstrated testosterone level of less than 10 nmol/l (the bottom end of the normal male range) for at least one year before competition. The old rules required surgery and at least 2 years of hormone therapy.

      There were various reasons why this was changed, including court cases about female athletes with hyperandrogenism.

      • metacelsus says:

        For comparison, the greatest upper level for normal female testosterone is ~5 nmol/L (values greater than this are most often signs of ovarian disease). Most females have concentrations considerably below this.

    • johan_larson says:

      We have separate divisions for men and and women because in virtually all sports, the masculine form, with its larger skeletal frame and heavier musculature, is a huge advantage. If we didn’t have them, virtually all sports would be won by men. And sex change operations or gender transition programs do not generally change the muscles and skeleton. Since these programs don’t change the factors that are truly relevant to the matter at hand, I believe it is more fair for most transgendered people to compete in the division of their birth sex. Of course, as these programs improve, and effect ever more complete changes, that could change.

      I could believe there are some hard cases of the truly physically androgynous. For those people, I have no problem with letting them choose their division.

      • Randy M says:

        Yeah, it”s important to point out that while testosterone at the moment may have some bearing, say in competitiveness, or energy metabolism (as hypothetical examples) the key would be the physical structures that were built up over time under the influence of the particular hormone levels.
        Of course all men are not equivalent, nor all women, but there’s certainly a bimodal distribution.

        On a related topic, this should be better understood by certain fantasy properties who want to use scientific explanations for their magic. “He copied my mutation! Now he’s super strong!” A change in the DNA is not going to instantly manifest itself in phenotype!

      • Matt M says:

        Completely agree with this.

        The segregation of genders for athletic purposes was done for biological reasons, not psychological or “identity” ones. If you possess the biological characteristics of a man, you should compete as a man. If we get to the point where we can completely reverse biology, then maybe that would be fine, but I don’t feel like we are there yet.

      • Rob K says:

        My preferred solution is to make the divisions Women’s and Open, Women’s being for all people who were born female and haven’t received hormone therapy, open being open to all entrants.

        Testosterone is a hell of a drug when it comes to physical capabilities, and has persistent effects if you get it early, so this strikes me as the fairest option.

        • Matt M says:

          My preferred solution is to make the divisions Women’s and Open, Women’s being for all people who were born female and haven’t received hormone therapy, open being open to all entrants.

          Most sports are already this. There is no rule preventing females from playing in the NBA, the NFL, the English Premier league, etc.

    • Eltargrim says:

      What are the rules about CW-type posts? Are they allowed here? If not I’ll remove this post.

      Certain open threads are culture-war free; if I recall they’re the half-integer threads. Scott (almost) always declares the state of the thread at the top, so if you’re not sure, check the opening post.

    • psmith says:

      Back in the day, complaints about too many divisions in powerlifting and strongman competitions (masters, submasters, juniors, raw, equipped, drug-tested, extra weight classes, …) were a staple on a now-defunct lifting message board I used to hang out on. My favorite suggested solution was to do away with all that, have only two classes, and call them “handicapped” and “open,” with self-selection into one or the other.

      • Aapje says:

        That will still just result in able-bodied men winning all the medals and pushing pretty much all women and handicapped* people out of the top levels of competition. As long as doing well in the “handicapped” class has greater rewards than doing badly in the “open” class, people with try to get into the former. So you need strict rules that ban people with a trait that gives them higher capability than women or handicapped people and a form of policing to have women, handicapped people, etc competing at the highest level of their class and to have them win medals.

        * They have their own class currently, with the Paralympic Games

        • Matt M says:

          As long as doing well in the “handicapped” class has greater rewards than doing badly in the “open” class, people with try to get into the former.

          And my point is that, more often than not, it probably won’t, and moves in this direction will make the divide even further. If you thought nobody cared about women’s sports now, just wait until you replace all the actual women with men in dresses…

        • psmith says:

          That will still just result in able-bodied men winning all the medals and pushing pretty much all women and handicapped* people out of the top levels of competition.

          Sure, but some of them will have to know they won the “handicapped” trophy, which is punishment (or reward) enough.

          • Aapje says:

            “But I’ve got astma, so I have a handicap”

            (21 per cent of the British 2016 Olympic team were using an inhaler for astma)

            It’s inevitable that even if shaming works at the beginning, the Shame Window will keep moving as the most handicapped athletes keep dropping out at the bottom and less handicapped people keep taking their place. After all, it’s not that unfair when the current athletes who compete have an handicap of 80-85 (less is less handicapped) and a new athlete comes in with a handicap of 79, is it? Then before long you’ll have a field with a handicap of 79-84 and then it’s not really unfair if a new athlete comes in with a handicap of 78, is it? Then before long…

    • John Schilling says:

      So, in the interest of insisting that biology does not matter and people can be whatever they want to be, we are on our way to ensuring that people born without a Y chromosome basically can’t be competitive professional athletes. Pick the lie you want to build your brave new world around; I’ll be in the back row mouthing “I told you so!”.

      Hmm, what are the sports where people actually can compete on equal terms in spite of testosterone levels during adolescence? Target shooting and aerobatic flying come to mind, and open competitions have been won by women in both of those. Primarily aesthetic sports like gymnastics and figure skating may be an edge case depending on the judging standards. And we could probably come up with something decathalon-esque with a careful balance of events tailored to different phenotypes, but there’s nothing currently like that that I know of.

      • Charles F says:

        This seems a bit silly to me. There aren’t a lot of trans people and there doesn’t seem to be any reason transness would be concentrated in people particularly well-suited to athletics, so I’m having trouble picturing a world where cis women are crowded out by all the trans competitors. We already live in a world where most athletes know they’re not competing for first, and if the occasional genetically gifted transwoman sometimes comes along and sets a world record for another event, there are still going to be plenty of competitive divisions.

        Not to mention the possibility of developing more events where testosterone isn’t such a huge advantage. Some events, like women’s gymnastics, might already put transwomen at a disadvantage.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I think you’re underestimating the competitiveness of high-level athletes. If the just-below-top-caliber men can become winners by competing as women, a fair number will.

          • Matt M says:

            This will probably be a problem for the Olympics, but shouldn’t spread to competitive, for-profit sports, given that the profit in men’s sports is significantly higher than in women’s sports (with the possible exception of Tennis, where this type of thing has already been tried as far back as the 80s)

            And widespread infiltration of transwomen into “women’s” sports leagues will surely not be a good thing for ratings and corporate sponsorship, regardless of how much browbeating the SJWs give us on this topic.

          • Wrong Species says:

            How many men do you think are honestly ok with pretending to be women just for the sake of a medal? There is no prestige in that, which is what really matters. Especially if someone decided to transition, that’s a pretty big life change just for a stupid medal.

          • The Nybbler says:

            How many men do you think are honestly ok with pretending to be women just for the sake of a medal?

            Among near-top male athletes? A lot. We’re talking about people who will, for instance, inject themselves with custom drugs from shady labs, knowing they’re probably long-term deleterious and may be short-term dangerous, to get an edge.

            There is no prestige in that, which is what really matters.

            Of course there is… as long as everyone’s required by legal and social rules to go along with the pretense.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t think Olympic athletes do it for the approval of SJWs. They at least want the respect of their competitors and they aren’t going to respect a guy who chops off his testicles for a medal. I think you severely overestimate how many men are willing to be castrated, especially for such a pathetic reason. I honestly can’t think of one thing I would do it for.

          • JayT says:

            There are always stories about testicle shrinkage and impotence associated with steroid use, but that hasn’t stopped many athletes, so that would be one bit of evidence in favor of athletes favoring glory over their manhood.

          • Aapje says:

            @Wrong Species

            We already have had cases where female athletes used so much steroids that they were effectively transitioning.

            Just look at this picture. A drug tester testified that she was shaving her beard when he visited her for an unannounced drug test.

            Also note that the athletes may not even have a choice. Some countries, like East Germany and possibly other nations, forced their athletes to use steroids. They were never told what they exactly were administered or got a good explanation of the consequences. Many of the East German athletes have serious health issues because of this.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            just for a stupid medal

            for such a pathetic reason

            Some heavy Typical-Minding goin’ on here

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Gobbobobble

            I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to win an athletic competition. But when you make it unfair and everyone knows that you won by cheating then you haven’t really won. It’s like if I had a basketball team competing in a tournament and for some reason I had enough sway to make every other team wear blindfolds. My team may technically win that medal but since everyone knows that it only was through a handicap, then it’s meaningless.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Jayt and @Aapje

            I think it’s a matter of degree, reversibility and uncertainty. One dose of steroids isn’t going to change your sex and it may effect people in different ways. And generally it is reversible once you stop taking it. Compare that to castration, which is sudden, certain and difficult to reverse.

          • JayT says:

            Is castration a requirement, or can they just take enough drugs to get their testosterone down to the acceptable levels and say that in their heart they are a woman?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think we can somewhat avoid the typical-mind problem for estimating the rate for athletes willing to undergo transition therapy to win a competition, by observing the rate at which they have undergone drug therapy to win a competition. [edit: I now see gbdub basically beat me to this point…]

            The transition rate is probably lower, if we’re speaking in terms of them actually competing in an event they’re nominally supposed to be overqualified for. But I don’t think it would be much lower. I get the sense that these are individuals who focus their lives around this activity, enough that they’re willing to endure the drawbacks that drug therapy would have on their non-athletic lives. What if gender identity drawbacks are similarly unimportant?

            We don’t even have to posit that everyone knows you’re cheating. First, if transitions are permitted, then you’re not cheating by definition. Second, if they’re not, then you’re probably going to try to hide that fact, and some might get away with it. (I imagine this would be too hard in the US and Europe, but it might be easier in some other countries.) I can easily imagine an environment where everyone “knows” transition athletes are around, and a few are under varying degrees of suspicion, and that’s enough to pressure some athletes to do it, and even cover for their own team.

          • Aapje says:

            @Wrong Species

            You can use the same argument for doping and we know that the honor system doesn’t work to prevent doping.

            Ultimately, the issue is that you get a selection effect, where the people who don’t want to cheat end up getting passed by those who do. Sports is set up as a pyramid. At the bottom you have very many amateurs who compete at a low level, then one level above you have fewer amateurs who compete at a higher level, etc until the top level where you have fairly few professional athletes who compete at a the highest level.

            Moving up the ladder requires an increasing level of dedication and willingness to do what it takes. Those who don’t have that, don’t move up. So the higher up the pyramid, the more the athletes at that level set aside everything to win, including many joys of life, like relationships, junk food, parties, etc. Winning and improving become the main rewards that these people have in their lives. Their status as athletes is the only identity they have (many have psychological problems if they quit professional sports).

            Furthermore, at the highest level, the athletes are usually damaging their bodies because the human body is not made to permanently train at the maximum level. Many athletes have serious permanent injuries by the time they retire (and quite often during large parts of their career).

            So everyone who isn’t willing to make these sacrifices and accept a very high chance of permanently damage to their body, is weeded out at the top level. Many athletes regularly take drugs to deal with physical problems so they can keep training/competing (which is quite risky). There is then only a thin line between that and doping.

            I don’t see why some low-testosterone men won’t just rationalize that they are probably intersex, if they can get a huge advantage in changing to their ‘proper’ gender.

            However, I’m not convinced right now that transwomen really have an advantage in sports, as they don’t really seem to dominate (unlike some kinds of intersex people where the advantage is really clear), so I think that the major reason why it’s not happening is that the requirement to drop the testosterone levels below a certain level is sufficient to make sure that there is no significant advantage.

            But if that requirement goes, I think that it will change.

        • gbdub says:

          Competitive athletes are already quite willing to spend years of their lives and risk bodily destruction by pumping themselves full of male hormones (catching such is why we have anti-doping agencies).

          What makes you think men who were hyper-competitive but doomed to be also-rans in the men’s division wouldn’t be willing to take female hormones for a couple years, if it gave them a good shot at winning medals?

          • Charles F says:

            I think the two main issues would be concern for overall performance, and the presence of alternatives.

            For the first, I might be entirely wrong about peoples’ motivations, but it seems to me like people want to be better at their activity of choice, and getting worse in order to do well in competitions (but not that well because presumably other people at your level have the same idea) is an unattractive option.

            And transitioning is an awfully drastic measure when women’s sports are lower status than men’s and you have the option of just competing at a lower rung on the hierarchy. Just do regional competitions and perform pretty well and you get to use the full extent of your ability, and compete at a level about or almost as prestigious as a women’s competition a couple rungs up.

          • Charles F says:

            One other thing which occurs to me but I’m not at all confident would play a significant role: is being hyper-competitive linked to high T? If so, the problem might solve itself. Once they’re on T-blockers they won’t keep their reason to stay on them, and everything will work out unless they really want to transition for other reasons.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not sure they’d even have to take female hormones — the direction of societal travel seems to be that declaration alone is enough to change your gender, and that expecting people to biologically transition before treating them like a man/woman is unacceptably essentialist.

          • rlms says:

            There is a maximum testosterone concentration for cis women, so it seems unlikely to me that the similar restriction for trans women will be completely removed.

        • John Schilling says:

          This seems a bit silly to me. There aren’t a lot of trans people and there doesn’t seem to be any reason transness would be concentrated in people particularly well-suited to athletics, so I’m having trouble picturing a world where cis women are crowded out by all the trans competitors.

          How about this world?

          99% of NBA players are at least one standard deviation above the norm in height, 90% at least two standard deviations, and Scott has more numbers than that. Assuming that holds for the WNBA, if I fit a composite distribution function where 0.6% of the female-identifying population are XY transwomen, I get 88% of the professional “women’s” basketball players being drawn from the 0.6% of the population with a Y chromosome (which is about the current US prevalence).

          That’s without the selection effect where a marginal transwoman will gain the extra incentive of “if you identify as female you can have a WNBA career”, just a straight 0.6% of the “female” population being XY, random distribution of basketball interest among those, and aptitude as a function of height among that subset. If only 0.3% of the population is trans, their dominance of the WNBA will be reduced to 78%.

          Effects will be similar for other sports based on strength, speed, or stamina, but basketball’s emphasis on height makes it easier to measure and analyze.

          • Charles F says:

            I don’t know how you did your math, but I get different results when I try it. I’m not sure if I’m making an error somewhere.

            Starting with the advantage you get from 1SD height. 90% coming from 16% of the population (+1SD) is about a 6-fold advantage. 90% coming from 2% of the population (+2SD) is a 45-fold advantage. In case that’s not far enough into the tails I just made up 50% for +3SD and that gives a 500-fold advantage.

            So then looking at distributions of heights, the average height for mean is 1.4SD above the average for women, so the 1,2,3SD values correspond to -.57SD, .57SD, and 1.57SD.

            Some multiplication:
            Trans women:
            1) 0.006 * 0.66 * 6.2 = 0.025
            2) 0.006 * 0.29 * 45 = 0.0783
            3) 0.006 * 0.057 * 500 = 0.171

            Cis women:
            1) 0.994 * .16 * 6.2 = 0.986
            2) 0.994 * 0.02 * 45 = 0.895
            3) 0.994 * 0.001 * 500 = 0.49

            The numbers for cis women are much bigger. At 4SD it looks like the balance would tip. But it looks unlikely that it would tip the overall balance very far towards trans women.

            Feel free to correct my math. It’s admittedly very half-assed. It also still doesn’t account for the marginal transwoman who’s after status, or the possibility that general athleticism outside of height also has a large impact. But just based on the numbers you referenced, I’m not sure how you’re getting to your results.

          • John Schilling says:

            Minor difference between my numbers and yours is that I posited p(NBA career) as a continuous power function of height expressed in standard deviations above the norm, adjusted via Excel to best fit Scott’s binned data, rather than just using the bins.

            Major difference is that I found the average height for men to be almost 2 SD above that for women, not 1.4 SD. From here, adult females in the US are 162.1 cm mean, 7.1 cm SD, whereas adult males in the US are 175.9 cm mean 7.4 cm SD. This looks to be a good match for this table from the US census, which unfortunately doesn’t give SD values directly.

            At the extreme tails of a distribution, half a standard deviation makes a big difference.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Primarily aesthetic sports like gymnastics

        Gonna guess you haven’t spent a lot of time hanging from rings or bars.

        (But women’s gymnastics is interesting, and does things that men wouldn’t automatically dominate at–flexibility being the biggest differential.)

        • rlms says:

          But gymnastics isn’t a sport of “see who can hang from rings with the biggest weights attached to them”. You need to pass a strength threshold to compete at a high level, but beyond that threshold additional strength doesn’t give an advantage. And since women can reach that threshold fairly easily (it’s not right at the end of the bell curves), the average difference in strength between genders isn’t really relevant. Additionally, the strength required depends on body mass, which further reduces the relevance of gender.

          • Matt M says:

            The idea of transwomen competing in sports that are evaluated subjectively by judges is a minefield even bigger than ones where performance is measured objectively.

            If a transwoman female gymnast receives a low score, do we really think the judges involved won’t be accused of bigotry?

          • JayT says:

            In fact, being smaller is actually a benefit in gymnastics, so I’m not certain that men would regularly beat women in an open competition.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            You need to pass a strength threshold to compete at a high level, but beyond that threshold additional strength doesn’t give an advantage.

            Here’s a randomly selected high level gymnast’s rings routine. (I don’t follow the sport closely; I have no idea who this guy is and I don’t think he’s particularly notable.) This is nothing but strength and precision. I am above average in strength (for a SSCer or blue triber at least); I can perform precisely none of those moves. I don’t mean I’m not coordinated enough or they’d be messy or whatever, I mean, I do not have nearly enough brute strength in my core and arms to do literally anything in that routine. I can do muscle ups, i.e. go from hanging on rings above my head through a pullup and a dip to holding myself above a ring; this is an achievement. I occasionally try the iron cross; I can hold it, sloppily, for maybe a quarter second.

            Muscular strength is more than powerlifting/strongman/other disciplines about moving the biggest thing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with them, they’re awesome too.) Statics are strength too.

            Now, that’s mens’ gymnastics, which is indeed made up of events geared towards men and raw strength (women don’t compete on rings.) Women’s events also require a lot of this sort of thing, just less so than the mens’, and reward flexibility more. (Body weight is less of a factor than you think it is: take a look at men’s vs women’s powerlifting for the deltas involved at the same body weight.)

            In the final analysis of the OP, we are in violent agreement: gymnastics as a sport for men and women can survive the controversy about gender, because it’s built to reward things both of us are good at in different ways. I just very much want to dissuade you from thinking gymnastics doesn’t reward muscles. It’s a great and incredibly difficult sport.

      • psmith says:

        people born without a Y chromosome basically can’t be competitive professional athletes.

        In fairness, this isn’t that far from the status quo. Pretty much all the real money is in men’s sports. Even the best female athletes in, say, track and field don’t make that much, and the tenth best in the world are making grad-student money or work day jobs.

        Though there are athletic scholarships, and maybe the money’s a little better in countries with big state-sponsored athletics programs, so maybe not so much. IDK.

        • John Schilling says:

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure that professional leagues will follow the money and ensure that ESPN is largely devoted to showing teams of cis-men playing various forms of sportsball and cis-women playing whatever quasi-sports involve halter tops and miniskirts as uniforms. Oh, and car crashes, which is another place Team XX can eke out a living.

          The Olympics will be an interesting case, but is pretty marginal in the grand scheme of things athletic. What will be interesting and not-marginal, will be college athletic competition in the land of Title IX. Are their European equivalents? But if Title IX enforcement comes down on the side of “trans-women are women and must be allowed to compete as such”, now we’ve got an interesting problem. ESPN and the WNBA may find that to the extent people are willing to pay to watch women’s basketball, they want to watch cis-women’s basketball, but the NCAA is giving them almost entirely trans-women candidates to draft.

          • 10240 says:

            College sports aren’t big in Europe. There are some university teams, but it’s an extracurricular hobby that receives little interest.
            There are various generic anti-discrimination laws, but not quite an obsession as (in my impression) in the US. (Except maybe Northern Europe, dunno.)

  5. johan_larson says:

    This is the thread for sick burns, bro, sick burns. Somebody call the fire department!

  6. skef says:

    One of the themes of our host’s postings is the picking apart of citations that, when you go look at the cited article, do not remotely support, and sometimes even outright contradict, the text the citation appears in.

    Would anyone like to defend the “structural opposition” parenthetical in “Against Overgendering Harassment” as not suffering from just that sort of contradictory citation? Would its author like to defend it? It’s been criticized SCC-style here and here.

    Or is the idea more “well, some other paper would make the point” or “hey, we all know what’s really going on”?

    • JohnofSalisbury says:

      Shenanigans24 offers a good reply to the first criticism. The main issue seems to be a disagreement about what ‘sexual harassment is structurally oppressive’ means. Scott seems to think it means ‘sexual harassment patterns reflect the power differential between men and women’. Since the article suggests that homoexual men are at least as likely to harass other men as heterosexual men are to harass women, this is evidence against this interpretation of ‘sexual harassment is structurally oppressive’. Others seem to think that ‘sexual harassment is structurally oppressive’ means ‘sexual harassment is about policing [the oppresive social structure of] gender roles’. Since the article suggests that male on male sexual harassment is often about enforcing masculinity, this is evidence for this second interpretation of ‘sexual harassment is structurally oppressive’.

      • skef says:

        Since the article suggests that homosexual men are at least as likely to harass other men as heterosexual men are to harass women

        The article discusses numerous instances of male-on-male harassment without identifying the sexual orientation of the harasser. In many of the examples given the harasser is both plausibly straight and seems to be policing conventional gender roles.

        In order for the article to “suggest” that homosexual men are at least as likely to harass other men as heterosexual men are to harass women, it would have to present data on the orientations of those involved. Any other inference would be based on a conceptual mistake that is obvious from reading the examples in the paper.

        So: How does the article suggest that homosexual men are at least as likely to harass other men as heterosexual men are to to harass women?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was quoting it for its claim that 11% of sexual harassment is male-male. Since only about 4% of men are gay, this suggests gay men are harassing at at least the same rates as straight men. So the reason men harass has nothing to do with any cultural belief that women are especially worthy of harassment, which is how I interpret “structural”

      • skef says:

        I was quoting it for its claim that 11% of sexual harassment is male-male. Since only about 4% of men are gay, this suggests gay men are harassing at at least the same rates as straight men.

        No it doesn’t, Scott. And it’s obvious how it doesn’t suggest it.

        If at least some of that 11% is straight men taunting other men about maybe being maybe gay — and the article describes multiple examples of that kind — then you can’t make any conclusions about the rate at which gay men harass men without knowing what percentage of male-male harassment in these statistics is like that. Indeed, precisely because only about 4% of men are gay, it would be no surprise if most of the male-on-male harassment in the statistics was committed by straight men.

        Put it this way: gay men could be harassing men either at much higher rates than straight men harass women, or at much lower rates, and those statistics could be swamped by the straight men who harass other men for whatever reason, because there are so many more straight men than gay men.

        The article does not supply any breakdown of the sexual orientation of the harasser. Your “move” from “male-male harassment” to “gay male harasser” is just pulled out of the air.

        This is not complicated or subtle. That. paper. obviously. fails. to. support. your. claim.

      • quaelegit says:

        @Skef, Scott

        Maybe (I’m trying to steel-man Scott’s comment above) Scott is assuming that a man who sexually harrasses other men must be gay (or at least not entirely heterosexual)?

        I’m not sure how the 4% statistic Scott cites was measured, but my guess is that it comes from surveys/polls?

        If so, it’s VERY plausible to imagine a man who sexually harasses other men but would not answer “yes I’m gay” to a survey/poll asking the question. (I mean, isn’t this the basis for a large group of internet jokes? — “It’s not gay if ” is definitely a joke I’ve seen on the internet.)

        Like Skef, I’m really confused why Scott does not see this.

        • skef says:

          That’s something that someone might, not reasonably, but plausibly, assume without reading either the directly linked summary or source it links to.

          But the summary says “Male-to-male complaints often included homosexual slurs and the questioning of men’s sexuality who were perceived to be gay.” So it’s hard to see why someone who actually read the article would make that assumption.

          As I said in my original comment, some percentage of that kind of harassment is likely on the part of closeted, overcompensating gay people. But all of it?

  7. bean says:

    New at Naval Gazing: Ironclads
    This was supposed to be a repost of an early design history, but ended up getting a total overhaul.

  8. Thegnskald says:

    The most radical rejection of gender roles currently possible is to reject the idea that men aren’t victims, to reject the idea that men are in charge of society, to reject the idea that men have an inherent agency that women lack that makes them the responsible party in any altercation – to reject the idea of the patriarchy, which is fundamentally a gender-conservative formulation based on the idea that men are fundamentally more agenty than women, and are thus responsible not only for themselves, but women as well.

    This sums up, I think, the central leftist rejection of feminism as practiced today: It has become about upholding men’s gender norms, rather than demolishing gender norms. To the extent it does attack men’s gender norms, it is exclusively in service of the central male gender norm: Protect women. Thus, criticisms of male gender norms are limited to those in contradiction to the core norm.

    • Aapje says:

      Indeed. The official party line doesn’t admit to this however (instead claiming to be for equality). The conflict between stated and revealed preferences requires denial of certain facts (like the actual percentages of domestic violence and sexual abuse by women against men), cherry picking facts (like only pointing to the earnings gap and glass ceiling, but not to other workplace gaps where men do worse or the glass floor), a heavy reliance on motte-and-bailey arguments, double standards, etc.

      It’s just really sad that the same gender norms that mainstream feminism defends make it almost impossible to oppose benevolent sexism or make people accept any claim about situations where men are worse off than women and need more help.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I wrote up a somewhat long comment in the harassment post, which I’ll summarize briefly:

        Men aren’t allowed to show distress, including distress about not being allowed to show distress (with special exceptions granted for distress which can be mapped to misogyny, which isn’t actually helpful, because the narrative remains about women’s distress, with an implication that men will be helped indirectly because the real problem is that society hates women, and they only suffer because they’re more like women).

        Feminism worked because of chivalry; women were suffering, people realized this, and because women’s suffering matters, things changed. There is no equivalent force to help men; their suffering doesn’t matter, and suffering extra because your suffering doesn’t matter doesn’t change this.

        It is a nightmarish molochian trap.

        • Aapje says:

          It probably has to get really, really unfair before people will open their eyes. It’s just really worrying that historic precedent shows that it can potentially get extremely unfair before people will become empathetic. For instance, there is an ethnic group that historically was abused time and again, which never made people say: ‘let’s not do this again.’

          Only when they experienced genocide by a regime that antagonized most of the West by trying to conquer most of Europe, did a strong norm develop in the West against treating this ethnic group differently.

          Of course, it’s not credible that the same levels of antipathy that made this possible will develop against men, but much lower levels of antipathy and unfairness can still be extremely damaging. Given the historic precedent, this could endure for centuries.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It is entirely possible for it to get much worse, because the antipathy is constructed such that the problem is always “other men”.

            I don’t think it will, though. I hear too many “normal” men who are starting to notice.

            The bigger problem is if men realize the deck is stacked against them, and nothing changes. I think a lot of people who currently commit suicide, feeling alone and unfortunate in their injustice, will respond a lot more violently against the system if they didn’t feel alone and unfortunate, but instead felt like victims of a systematic oppression.

            Or perhaps that is typical mind fallacy, because if it reached that point for me, my goal would be to take out as much of the problem with me as I could. I am a strong believer in spiteful vengeance as a necessary element of social order.

          • Incurian says:

            Is everything ok? I’ve noticed the tone of your comments have gotten substantially darker lately, and it’s noteworthy because you started out very neutral and level headed. I’m in irc if you need someone to talk to.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Assuming that was directed at me, yep, I am good.

            This is a subject I feel quite darkly about, however, which is why I stopped seeking out material about it a couple of years ago.

            Short version is, got raped a few years ago by my girlfriend at the time, sought support, found overt hostility instead. Turned to the MRAs, and eventually realized that the movement was incredibly unhealthy for me because, while I am not terribly capable of feeling bad for myself, holy shit they are a vortex of empathetic misery. Which is why when I bring up studies I have read, I absolutely will not go find them again, because that just reminds me of everything.

            Still have a deep and lingering resentment/anger about all of it, which I don’t always do a good job compensating for, particularly with regard to subjects like the harassment post, which remind me of a lot of bad memories.

            Not to say Scott shouldn’t have written it – what it has to say is important – nor that I shouldn’t have gotten involved, because I do hope some of what I say gets through to somebody. But, eh, it is just something that happens.

          • Incurian says:

            I’m sorry that happened. That sucks.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Thank you.

            The darkly amusing element about it all is that I maintained a reasonable relationship with my rapist, until we grew apart – I had a serious conversation with her about how that hadn’t been okay, and she didn’t do that, or anything like it, again.

            It was much later, when I realized it was still bothering me, that I looked for support – and while I am annoyed that I was raped, I am infuriated at the response I got when I sought out feminists, who I assumed would have something useful to say to me about it.

            The girlfriend engaged in behavior I believe she didn’t understand was wrong.

            I felt incredibly betrayed by the feminists, however, who were supposed to be the Chosen Ones of gender equality, or whatever. Boy did they shatter that illusion quite effectively. And hearing the MRAs, that sense of betrayal is everywhere.

            I am cautiously optimistic about the direction things are going, but I am also acutely aware of the potential for the little progress that has been made to evaporate, particularly in the context of a concerted social attack on men (which is what the harassment stuff turns into, when you exclude male perspectives).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “The Chosen Ones of gender equality, or whatever.”

            “You were the Chosen One! You were supposed to bring balance to the Force, which I interpret as destroy the male Sith!”

          • Thegnskald says:

            Let Maistre –

            Yep. I don’t know if the scene was generally effective, but it did resonate with me, and rescued the prequels to a significant extent in my eyes.

          • Nornagest says:

            I agree with a lot of what the MRAs are saying on the object level, but I can’t really get behind the movement because I think its responses to those object-level issues are strategically doomed and psychologically unhealthy.

            “Strategically doomed” has already been covered in this thread. The MRA MO is to just use feminist tactics and change some of the references to point to male issues, and that isn’t going to fly because feminism works by exploiting gendered expectations regarding nurture, protection and fragility. Applied to adult men the same tactics inspire contempt, not pity.

            “Psychologically unhealthy” will take a little more explanation. I think victimhood is as much a role as an objective state — compare the concept of the sick role in medical sociology — and I think that if your ideology hinges on the idea that you’ve been victimized, then you’re pushing yourself very hard into accepting that role. Certainly you can’t be an effective activist without it. That’s true for both men and women, for MRAs and for other forms of activism, and I don’t think accepting the permanent role of “victim” is healthy for anyone. But I think it hits MRAs particularly hard — partly because of the lack of support coming out of the abovementioned strategic issues, and partly because so much of what our culture teaches us about being a happy and successful dude is directly countermanded by the demands that role imposes on us. Dependence, passivity, stasis, emotionality. In other words, by fighting some of the downsides of the male gender role in this way, MRAs are actually making those downsides a lot more acute.

            I have no idea what to do about this, though. Feminist theory certainly doesn’t seem to have the answers.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Nornagest

            Assuming what you’re going here for is “help men” rather than “advance MRA interests”, then the effective tactic is to try to help both genders at once, which is the right thing to do anyway and tends to be a natural fit. As a general rule, gender prejudice hurts both genders simultaneously.

            As a man, I can complain about people being less sympathetic to me, less likely to offer me help when I need it, and more likely to expect me to deal with dangerous situations. Women can complain about being patronised, talked over in conversations, and automatically dismissed as candidates for important jobs. Exactly the same attitude drives both.

            The blog Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men, which I discovered via Thing of Things, could be called MRA but is really good. The reasons for this are partly that the author only complains about genuine unfairness, and partly that he genuinely and passionately defends feminists when they are unreasonably attacked.

          • Nornagest says:

            the effective tactic is to try to help both genders at once, which is the right thing to do anyway and tends to be a natural fit.

            Theoretically. In practice, feminist theory has a monopoly on that space, and its framing doesn’t work well for men for the same reason that the MRA framing doesn’t, plus some demonization. That’s another dynamic that frustrates me — I think a lot of guys notice the demonization and end up entering MRA spaces as a reaction against it, only to run up against deeper structural problems that’re actually more important.

            I’ve read Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men and wasn’t too impressed. Though your mileage may, of course, vary.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Nornagest

            I hang out in some fairly lefty spaces where a call for more support for men specifically will draw charming “Aww, what about the poor menz” comments, as if that’s any way to talk about domestic victims and the like.

            However, comments framing gender prejudice as mutually harmful (accurately!) get broad support. For example: “we should be trying to move people away from traditional chidraising roles both to help women’s careers and allow more men to spend time with their children”. And, as I said, this is the right thing to do anyway.

            It’s the internet; people are strangers; unilateral calls for support for one gender are taken as dismissive of the other gender’s problems.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            For example: “we should be trying to move people away from traditional chidraising roles both to help women’s careers and allow more men to spend time with their children”. And, as I said, this is the right thing to do anyway.

            Bull. Men can’t fully substitute for a child’s mother until the child is weaned, which according to the WHO and similar expert orgs shouldn’t be before 24 months.
            Premodern agricultural societies gendered work so that women, who were pushing out a baby every two years on average, had the work that was safest to do with a nursing baby. Modern medicine and the post-agricultural economy have changed that so that jobs can be gender-neutral and a woman only needs to nurse for four years if we’re all having replacement-level families, but that’s still a bedrock biological difference that prevents us from being interchangeable work units for the Lords of Capitalism.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Le Maistre Chat

            Well, bear in mind that I’m more concerned about people being able to live lives they want than appeasing the Lords of Capitalism.

            I agree that the fact that women are the ones who produce milk means you can’t achieve full equality without some trade-offs. But so what? We’re not looking for a 50:50 split here, we’re looking for people being able to make the choices that work for them without negative social and financial pressure due to sexism.

            Maybe the mother wants to take the first couple of years off, then the man wants to look after the kids until they’re old enough for school. I see absolutely no benefit to people hissing behind their backs that she’s a bad mother and he’s a kept man.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Oh, agreed. If Dad wants to be a stay-at-home Dad to preschoolers and stays at work not because they’re Two-Income-Trapped but because his wife is the only socially acceptable candidate, that sucks and we should enable him.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            I’m not convinced that it will come to serious violence. The father’s rights movement mainly dressed up like superheroes and engaged in some disruptive protests, even though many men obviously don’t take it lightly when get very limited or no custody.

            @pansnarrans

            Basically, men’s rights only get taken seriously by mainstream feminists when it directly benefits women. Things like having men care for children within relationships or paternity leave.

            In general, the best way to get things done might be to frame it as benefiting women or as a benefit for all. For example, most people that get shot by the police are men, but BLM made it about race, keeping gender out of the picture. Smart move. Similarly, making school/university work better for men is probably best achieved by pointing out that well-educated women won’t have enough well-educated men to partner up with.

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Actually, women can pump milk at work and bring it home. Then stay-at-home men can wean the baby (if the baby accepts a bottle, rather than a teat).

            Also, plenty of stay-at-home mothers give formula.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “we should be trying to move people away from traditional chidraising roles both to help women’s careers and allow more men to spend time with their children”

            But this frequently leads to underpants gnomes logic:
            1. Encourage women’s careers over traditional childraising roles
            2. ????
            3. Men spend more time with their children

            I’m willing to believe your bubble has people who actually care about balance in practice. What drives a lot of folks towards the MRAs is the perception that much of the movement is balance-in-theory, unilaterally-support-women-in-practice – and that noticing this is enough to draw “what about teh menz” ire.

            The “women’s rights benefit everyone” motte is true in the abstract, but a lot of the time it’s used to push underpants gnomes policies.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Le Maistre Chat and Aapje

            I agree with you both, with the caveat that “mainstream feminists” generally refers to self-defined feminists you meet on the internet. Whereas the category “friends of mine who happen to be mainstream feminists” are far more receptive to discussing unilateral issues. And of course this goes for any political movement that has the ability to get emotions running high.

          • Aapje says:

            @pansnarrans

            When I say mainstream feminism, I mean most academic feminism, most organizational feminism (like NOW) and most political feminism. In other words, just about everyone who matters when it comes to making policy or law.

            If Random Some Person identifies as a feminist and has non-toxic beliefs, then that person should not feel themselves included in my definition of mainstream feminism. I respect such people, but also believe that they are pretty much inconsequential to what actually powerful and/or politically active feminists are doing.

            For example, when some feminists fight against such things as giving a minimal amount of attention to men’s issues on International Men’s Day at a university that had a huge program for International Women’s Day or allowing an movie that lets MRAs state their case be shown in theaters, but I see absolutely no feminist branded push-back against these toxic feminist efforts, then I blame all of feminism for this. I think that it’s the responsibility of the good people in a powerful movement to counter the bad people in their movement. If they don’t, then the movement as a whole is bad.

            I’m simple like that, if the revealed preferences go one way (active or passive support for toxic feminism) and the stated preferences go another way, then I’ll generally judge people by their revealed preferences, because that is what actually effects others.

            Ultimately, most casual feminists seem to have been bamboozled by the lies of mainstream feminism and are unaware of strong counter-arguments that get almost no attention. The logical result is well-meant support for a kind of feminism that superficially seems great, but that is actually toxic.

          • DrBeat says:

            Every single attempt, without one single exception, to make people hate men less will either be “moderated” and ideologically captured until it is a thing that motivates the gleeful, celebrated hatred of men; or it will just be pointed at and mocked, by virtue of this mockery and by virtue of this mockery alone it will be proof that men are deserving of hatred.

            They cannot ever possibly be defeated. They can always just decide they are not defeated, and it becomes true. Everyone in the world will bend over backwards to excuse them and enable them and agree with them. They will not stop. They will not be stopped. All is lost.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            That is neither necessary nor kind, and while I can’t prove its untrue, I wonder if your truth-detectors are experiencing sabotage by depression.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            Or perhaps that is typical mind fallacy, because if it reached that point for me, my goal would be to take out as much of the problem with me as I could. I am a strong believer in spiteful vengeance as a necessary element of social order.

            You should keep in mind that this is almost certainly going to be counterproductive. Spiteful vengeance only supports the social order when it is perceived as such (which your actions won’t be). When Elliott Rodger committed violence it did absolutely nothing for incels or hapas*. It just became fodder for one side of the culture war, giving them a ‘not even non-central’ example** to legitimatize their stereotypes with. So whenever anyone advocates for helping men, Elliott Rodger is frequently referred to by those who seek to shut this down, using fear and disinformation to convince people to support them.

            Giving these people a better example, just makes it even harder to convince the masses that a large part of what they are being told is a lie. The greater the difference between hyperbole and the truth, the easier people recognize that there is something wrong with the narrative they are being told, even if only on a gut level. The low support for feminism in Western society, despite it being pushed so strong and getting so little pushback, already suggests that the gut level discontent is quite strong.

            If this strong gut level discontent with ‘the narrative’ exists, then this is fertile ground if one day a ‘Messiah***’ takes up the cause. Having that happen has a low likelihood and is a numbers game. So I think that one of the best ways for anti-Messiahs to help is to stoke the discontent with the mainstream feminist narrative in the places where they can speak out (safely), by pointing out the falsehoods, and to provide a strong alternative narrative & hope that a person with Messiah traits is ‘infected’ with these beliefs****. Of course, one should only do that to the extent that it isn’t (severely) self-damaging.

            This requires patience and may not work out in our lifetime, but it’s a lot better than shooting yourself in the foot.

            PS. Also, going on a killing spree is immoral for many reasons that I won’t go into right now.

            * A name for the children of white fathers and Asian mothers. Some of them believe that many such marriages are between ‘patriarchal’ fathers with an Asian wife fetish and Asian women who dislike Asian men & that these parents often hate their male half-Asian children. Some also seem to believe that they face severe racism from general society, including desexualization for male hapas and fetishization for female hapas. There seems to be remarkable little research to verify these claims what exists seems to partially validate it.

            ** Since Elliott Rodger is commonly used to attack MRAs and less often to attack PUAs, but his beliefs and self-identification were inconsistent with both groups.

            *** A high charisma, highly verbal, preferably witty person who has a Teflon coating due to his or her traits and high ability to convince. Examples of such people are MLK, Mandela and Ghandi. Peter Singer is partially Messiah (has Teflon, but not a high ability to convince).

            **** An example of this is the director of The Red Pill movie, who began the project as a feminist who wanted to expose the MRA movement and ended up as a non-feminist who made a documentary that steelmanned the claims of the MRA movement. Unfortunately, she has only limited Messiah traits (being a very good looking woman, but also not very verbally gifted), so her career is probably destroyed.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Aapje –

            I don’t know about that. I think Christopher Dorner might have sparked the BLM movement, albeit indirectly, by calling attention very directly to the problem.

            And again, I am cautiously optimistic. But if things fail to improve, honestly, I think very well-targeted violence might be the only way to get society to listen. The trick being that it has to be well-targeted; the real trick will be creating a toxoplasmic reaction in which the injustice of vigilantism gets played against the injustices perpetrated by the target and the lack of available recourse for those affected; that is, to create a social argument about whether or not men suffering gendered injustice actually have any recourse but violence.

            As mentioned in the thread in which somebody brought up cities hiring legal firms to sue homeowners for profit – I sometimes think our society isn’t violence enough. It is the same sort of situation, if you think about it, and perhaps violence does have something going for it as the justice of last resort.

            ETA:

            For an example of a case which could help, rather than harm, imagine if one of the statutorily raped boys forced to pay child support to their rapists killed the rapist and the judge who applied the child support demand. A higher body count might help get national attention; you need some clear injustice on both sides to get the conversation going.

          • Nornagest says:

            A name for the children of white fathers and Asian mothers.

            I don’t think it’s that specific. It comes from “hapa haole”, which is Hawaiian pidgin for, simply, “half white” (“haole” carries mildly derogatory connotations, but they don’t have much to do with patriarchy); the other half is most commonly Asian or Pacific Islander in a Hawaiian context, but I didn’t get the impression that the phrase was picky about which parent was which.

          • liquidpotato says:

            @Thegnskald

            I’m just a random internet stranger, but I feel compelled to reach out upon reading your story. The feeling of not being heard and feeling betrayed is an infuriating one.

            I hope you find a group of friends that you meet regularly and just talk about things that is on your mind, good or bad, without judgement.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            You are correct, I was sloppy.

          • Garrett says:

            @Aapje:

            pointing out that well-educated women won’t have enough well-educated men to partner up with

            Except that revealed-preferences show that this isn’t the case. I’m a single man with two degrees, and several intellectual hobbies. I’m handy, enjoy the outdoors, and well-employed. I’ve been searching for a significant other for almost a decade now. I’m only even rarely able to find myself on a first date.

            So whatever the criteria well-educated is signifying, I think it’s a stand-in for some other real criteria.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’ve been searching for a significant other for almost a decade now. I’m only even rarely able to find myself on a first date.

            Somewhere out there there’s an extremely outgoing and good-looking guy with a degree who participates in activities which involve both genders. He’s dating three women at once. Being on the same or higher educational level is an additional criterion for educated women; it doesn’t relieve men of the burden of satisfying all the others.

    • Drew says:

      I’ve started to view feminist organizations as being like specific union chapters. They have a philosophical concern about equality, but a practical focus on a specific subset of people.

      Teamsters Local 201 is, philosophically, part of a broad Labor Movement. If you talk to them about the plight of Farm workers, they’ll be sympathetic. But, day-to-day, their practical concerns is making stuff better for workers who transport things from place to place.

      The same thing seem true of feminist organizations & platforms. Philosophically, they’re interested in universal gender equality. But the operational concern is advancing the interests of their members.

      I’m not even sure if this is a criticism. It feels unfair to say stuff like, “Teamsters: How can you say you’re part of a labor movement when you spend no energy advocating for Chinese migrant farmers?”

      • Thegnskald says:

        The analogy falls apart where feminism institutionally attacks MRAs for being sexist – because they focus on men, rather than women. I have met a couple of self-described feminists who are pro-MRM – not coincidentally the same tiny subset who say feminism is about women, and men need their own movement. Also not coincidentally, I convinced both of them to stop using the term “feminist” for themselves by pointing to how the term actually gets used, and got them to adopt “egalitarian” instead.

        It would be like if the teamsters argued that the Chinese migrant farmers should join them, and were horrible scabs if they didn’t, but then never actually spent any time campaigning for the issues Chinese migrant workers face.

        I have zero issue with a feminism that is for women, and says it is for women. The issue I have is with a feminism that claims to be inclusive, claims to care about egalitarianism, and then angrily attacks anybody who tries to get men’s issues any kind of attention whatsoever.

        At this point, if a feminist says they are for gender equality, but is unwilling to describe themselves as an MRA because MRAs are icky, then they aren’t actually for equality.

        • pansnarrans says:

          Men’s rights are as important as anyone else’s rights but MRAs as generally encountered in the wild are in fact pretty icky. I don’t know how much of this is because the movement is filled with unpleasant people and how much is people on social media going “Hey everyone, look at this unrepresentatively nasty MRA post I found!”, but my mental image of an MRA is someone who doesn’t so much like men as hate women.

          Basically the term has been poisoned, and it’s annoying because it’s literally just an abbreviation of an entirely reasonable issue to care about.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The term “feminist” is pretty heavily poisoned as well, but somehow that doesn’t seem to matter.

            If MRA is too poisonous for you, but feminist isn’t, then you aren’t actually treating men’s rights equivalently to women’s, because you are showing a willingness to accept poison for one but not the other.

            I describe myself as an egalitarian, so it isn’t as though I think everybody is required to identify as an MRA, only that I think consistency requires it of feminists who claim to be for egalitarianism. I describe myself that way mostly because I disapprove of identity politics in general. Economic classism is a far bigger issue, which I think identity politics is largely a distraction from. (The fact that I think feminism has been colonized by corporate interests, and that things like the Ghostbusters shit we’re shameless cash grabs by Sony, doesn’t help my opinion of it, either.)

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Thegnskald

            Firstly, I reckon you and I agree on the basic rights and wrongs here, both on the egalitarianism thing and on the identity-politics-overshadowing-class-too-much thing.

            The term ‘feminism’ is really not that poisoned, though, at least in the middle-class British (but strongly US-influenced) circles I frequent. If a centrist female celebrity announced she was a feminist, this would be met with approving but bored nods. If she announced she wasn’t a feminist, this would lead to angry column inches.

            Or, put it another way: ever seen a trendy actor wearing a This Is What An MRA Looks Like t-shirt?

            The MRAs and feminists both have their share of poisonous people who mostly exist to hate the other gender. They even both like making up ev-psych justifications for it with no basis in research. But most people who call themselves ‘feminist’ are normal and likeable and not like this. Whereas “MRA” is almost defined as “men who are like this”.

          • lvlln says:

            I think what Thegnskald means about “feminist” being heavily poisoned like “MRA” is that, if you go by the behavior of the loudest, most visible representatives of feminism, it is clearly just as poisonous as the MRA movement. Heck, I’m a feminist who openly identifies as “feminist,” and I still think “feminism” is far more poisoned than “MRA,” if we’re going purely by the observed behavior of people under those labels.

            To me, it appears that “MRA” has been poisoned by external forces in a much more successful way than “feminism” has been poisoned by external forces. Neither have a shortage of opponents who have tried to smear the label with lies and other deceptions, but for whatever reason, “feminism” has been able to withstand the arrows over the decades, while “MRA” has been basically all but nipped in the bud.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ lvlln

            I largely agree, although I think the only way in which nasty forms of feminism are worse than nasty forms of MRA is that they have the opportunity to do more harm. Other than that they look like mirrors of each other to me.

            I remain uncertain, though, how much of the disparity is due to outside influence and how much is due to the members of the wider movements themselves. Certainly there’s a theory where feminism comes first and succeeds; MRA turns up and appears anti-feminist and hence bad and is thus condemned. But given that men and women are typically reacting to different personal scenarios, it’s also possible that MRAs tend to be nastier.

            (Let me reiterate that men’s rights are important and that I would probably call myself MRA if the term wasn’t poisoned. For similar reasons I won’t call myself feminist unless I’m allowed to add caveats.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I remain uncertain, though, how much of the disparity is due to outside influence and how much is due to the members of the wider movements themselves. Certainly there’s a theory where feminism comes first and succeeds; MRA turns up and appears anti-feminist and hence bad and is thus condemned. But given that men and women are typically reacting to different personal scenarios, it’s also possible that MRAs tend to be nastier.

            I suspect it’s that the idea that women are precious and should be protected whereas men are disposable is so deeply ingrained that most people don’t really think to question it. Those that do usually do so after suffering or witnessing some great injustice (say, they or a close friend of theirs gets screwed over in a divorce case). But suffering or witnessing some great injustice often leaves people feeling bitter and cynical. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if MRAs are more likely to be bitter and cynical than the average member of the public, although not necessarily more than the average enthusiastic feminist.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ The original Mr. X

            Your post clarifies some thoughts I had on the matter that I hadn’t quite managed to pin down (the relationship between the “society protects women” issue and the “MRAs always seem bitter” issue). Thank you, would upvote you if the system allowed. It also explains why the first group of MRAs I heard of, long before I’d heard the term ‘MRA’, was a group dedicated to protesting against anti-male bias in child custody cases.

          • Aapje says:

            @pansnarrans

            Social (dis)approval also plays a big role.

            Presenting yourself as a feminist is not going to give any significant disadvantages in life. So it’s not a major sacrifice to walk around with a feminist T-shirt.

            Presenting as an MRA is going to make people assume very bad things about you, so the most moderate MRAs are not going to use that label, because the cost/benefit is just so negative.

            People who are already ostracized have a far lower cost to identifying as MRAs and bigger benefits, because the MRA community gives them a subculture where they get the acceptance they don’t get anywhere else. Getting to be a more prominent part of this subculture is a far smaller benefit to people who already get acceptance from ‘normal’ society.

            So I would say that the general rule is that the more prejudice there is against a label, the more unpleasant the people are who openly wear it. Of course, if the label gets a better image, the nicer the people get who adopt it. For example, I think that the initial push for gay acceptance is much harder than later stages, because in the later stages most people know very normal gay people. In the earlier stages, the kind of gay people that bourgeois people can best relate to, tend to stay in the closet.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Aapje

            I agree, this is what I was trying to get at earlier. MRA seems to be nearly exclusively nasty bitter people and feminism is perhaps the same number of nasty bitter people, plus more reasonable activists, plus most Western women and most left-wing Western men, including a lot of those who aren’t actually all that political. The obvious driver for that is feminism being a good label to have and MRA being a bad one. I’m still not sure whose fault this is, though.

            Your comparison to gay rights is interesting. In Britain, I’m told that one small but notable blow for gay rights was Ian McKellen spontaneously outing himself in a public debate when he became sufficiently angry with the homophobes he was arguing with. This seems like a really good example of someone that people liked and respected announcing he was a member of a maligned group, leading listeners to reconsider their views.

            I don’t know whether this means MRA is doomed, or at the start of the long journey to acceptance. Also don’t know whether I want it to be doomed or accepted, as I really like men’s rights but I really don’t like quasi-scientific misogyny.

          • Aapje says:

            @pansnarrans

            Yeah, that’s what I meant by my Messiah bit. You need someone who has the potential for immense social status if they just stick to the Overton Window, but who gets so fed up with a form of injustice, that they are willing to make a large sacrifice in social status to help. Then this person needs to not lose the media battle. Ian McKellen got fed up like that and he is a pretty likable guy, so he was able to advocate for gay rights and keep his job.

            As for the MRA label: I think that progressive anti-feminists should just adopt the ‘egalitarian’ label instead. It’s actually more accurate, because the common demand by this group is not special treatment of men, but equal treatment. The MRA label is too easy to interpret as demanding better treatment than afforded to women. It sounds quite bad if feminists oppose ‘egalitarians’.

            Shedding a bad label for a better one has a long tradition.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Aapje

            I certainly agree that egalitarianism is the preferable concept. I don’t feel like an ‘anti-feminist’ would be egalitarian, but I think that’s you and me defining ‘anti-feminist’ differently rather than any real dispute.

            I’m not sure if it would tactically help feminists to adopt the label, but I personally would react more positively to people using it.

            Agreed also on the messiah concept. If Barack Obama had made a speech one day saying he was fed up with people attacking men’s rights, we’d probably be discussing this in a totally different context now. Note that I’m not American and I still think this applies where I live.

          • Aapje says:

            @pansnarrans

            There are those who choose to identify as both feminist and pro-men’s rights, but they get excommunicated by pretty much all mainstream feminists (see Christina Hoff-Sommers). If mainstream feminists won’t let these people into the clubhouse, then what’s the point of pretending to be part of the movement?

            Would you consider it sensible to say that you are a member of a golf club that doesn’t allow you in?

          • Garrett says:

            One other point is that there are generally 3 major waves of feminism. The first 2 have largely been accepted. I would have to stretch really hard to find someone serious in the West who objects to the core principles of first and second-wave feminism. It’s very easy to stand up for these principles as a feminist and not draw significant ire.

            Third-wave feminism is the current major debate and is where intersectionality and the SJW aspects tend to come in, and where feminism may become toxic.

            But because all waves of feminism can be lumped together, it’s difficult to determine which issues which people are talking about.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Garrett

            someone serious in the West who objects to the core principles of first and second-wave feminism

            You need look no further than the Wokest MEP.

      • lvlln says:

        The issue seems to be that when Chinese migrant farmers want to team up and work together to improve their lot in a way that doesn’t harm the Teamsters in any way, the Teamster seem to invariably show up and make sure that the Chinese migrant farmers can’t coordinate, under the rationale that any attempt to move forward labor interests while not under the Teamster banner is an active affront to Teamsters.

        If a movement wants to focus on one specific aspect of a larger principle, they should leave others to focus on other aspects of that larger principle (as long as those other aspects don’t conflict with their own aspect, of course). If they want to own the entire principle and demand that all attempts to move forward that principle go through them, then they should allow people who want to focus on various aspects of that principle to actually work within them.

  9. Well... says:

    Re. Scott’s overgendering sexual harassment post, Jews, and what Steve Sailer wants to do about it:

    It seems like just beneath the surface, overgendering sexual harassment contains a chivalrous purpose: men are usually more aggressive and physically more powerful/imposing than women, so even if the disparity between male-on-female vs. male-on-male or female-on-male harassment isn’t as big as we’re led to believe, we as a society need to take special care to intercede on women’s behalf when they are harassed by men because women are less able to defend themselves. Not saying I necessarily agree or disagree with this, just that I observe this logic and call to action as present in the phenomenon. (Edit: And apparently Thegnskald observes it too.)

    I had forgotten that Steve Sailer sometimes comments here, but there he was all over the overgendering harassment post’s comment section. He and at least one or two other commenters raised an observation I had missed: in most of the cases of harassment we’re hearing about, the perpetrators are Jewish men.

    I stopped reading Sailer a couple years ago, but I remember this being a common theme for him: pointing out (sometimes astutely) something Jews ought to be more self-critical about, that he thinks they aren’t self-critical enough about.

    Has Sailer ever come out and said what he thinks we should do about this? Does he think Jews should be kept out of positions of power? That Jews should be watched especially carefully?

    Maybe he’d say “We need to make it not a thought crime to criticize Jews.” Fine (in fact I’m a Jew and I’d agree with that!), but is the intent there that criticism of Jews should lead to some negative consequence for or harsher restriction on Jews?

    I can’t remember him saying anything to that effect; Sailer’s style is to be coy and kind of wink and bounce his eyebrows and then shrug if you press further. That’s really off-putting and is one of the reasons I stopped reading him.

    I get that Sailer likes to notice a lot of things and noticing is the opposite of political correctness which is kind of essentially a war on noticing things. But I’ve come to realize there’s a flip side to that, which is that noticing things isn’t useful without a purpose. How will you act on the information you’ve gained from noticing? How are the particular things you’ve noticed especially useful? In research, you don’t collect data without knowing how you’re going to use it, and I think that principle kind of applies to social commentary too.

    At a certain point, somebody’s going to say “Hey Steve, you’re right! It’s a buncha Jews doing this! We need to start doing bad thing X to Jews!” and Steve is either going to have to say “Good, that’s what I was hoping for,” or else do the right thing. Why not just clarify his position now?

    Has he already clarified it? If so, what did he say? If not, why not?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Perhaps take this to a meta-level and explore it from the point of view that abusers may be more likely to seek victims in outgroups. (Almost?) all of Weinstein’s victims were Gentiles. The Pakistani Muslim rape/grooming gangs in the UK were targeting little British girls, not Muslim girls. The tendency of white men to take sex tourism trips to southeast Asia.

    • psmith says:

      This might be what you’re after.

      • Well... says:

        So in other words, Jews should be more open to criticism (starting with the frank recognition that they are powerful/influential) because something something this results in noblesse oblige, something something this will make Jews more patriotic.

        OK, I can see the logic there. But what does that have to do with sexual harassment? How do we get from “notice how many sexual harassment perpetrators in the news are Jewish” to “Jews stop being so pro-immigration”, and not get side-routed toward, say, “Jews are evil monsters who like to rape gentile women”? Does Sailer have a plan for that or even recognize it as a risk?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I just went and looked through Sailer’s posts on that thread, and of the ones about Jews, the vast majority were just about over-representation in Hollywood, which everyone already knows. I did not get the impression that Sailer thinks sexual impropriety is uniquely Jewish. That was reasoned argumentation’s point, which I don’t think he did a particularly good job of proving.

          • Well... says:

            the vast majority were just about over-representation in Hollywood, which everyone already knows.

            Right, so why bring it up? What’s the purpose?

            I’m not saying there can’t possibly be a good one, I’m saying it’s weird that none is given.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Also, I think his point was that Weinstein got away with it for so long because the reluctance of other Jews in the media to criticize him. This is a passable argument, but I’m not sure to what extent it’s “because Jew” and not “because power.”

          • Well... says:

            Right. It’s an even weaker argument than just “reluctance of other people in the media to criticize him,” since at least then you could infer that those people were afraid of being called Nazis.

            But anyway, how does it explain what’s happening now, where all these sexual harassment perpetrators–many of them Jews–are getting reported, fired, etc.?

            Either the “you can’t criticize Jews” claim is way overblown, or it’s “you can’t criticize Jews unless you’re criticizing a whole bunch of them at once” which seems even more unlikely than the original claim.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The dam holds until it doesn’t?

          • Well... says:

            But is that really saying anything?

    • John Schilling says:

      I had forgotten that Steve Sailer sometimes comments here, but there he was all over the overgendering harassment post’s comment section. He and at least one or two other commenters raised an observation I had missed: in most of the cases of harassment we’re hearing about, the perpetrators are Jewish men.

      In most of the cases we are hearing about, the perpetrators are high-ranking figures in the entertainment industry. Jews have historically been overrepresented in that field, and it isn’t clear that their representation in recent harassment scandals is significantly disproportionate to that representation. Back when we were hearing about harassment in the tech industry, the perpetrators were not disproportionately Jewish. To the extent that the current scandal is bleeding over into politics, the political figures being accused are not disproportionately Jewish (except for the one who rode his entertainment career into politics). So, whatever point Sailer think he has, I don’t think there’s anything to it.

      Unless it’s just that Jews are overrepresented in entertainment, in which case yes we knew that already.

      • Rick Hull says:

        Things I will regret writing

        It could be there is a root factor that selects for Jews, or certain types of Jews, for each outcome: (Hollywood power players, sexual abusers). Cunning schemers with a taste for power? So even if the 2nd outcome is proportional to the 1st, it could still be The Jooz.

        • Deiseach says:

          it could still be The Jooz

          Nah, I’m sticking with “guys* in the entertainment industry probably tend to be attention-seeking narcissists, and when they get to be Big Swinging Dicks in the industry, they turn out to be, well, big swinging dicks”.

          The lesson to be learned is not “no Jews”, it’s “the Vetinari Scorpion Pit Method of dealing with entertainers” 🙂

          *Also, to be fair and just, gals too. Women may not be involved in sex scandals the same way – yet – but they can certainly be bitches and abuse their power and make people’s lives miserable as well.

          • The Nybbler says:

            *Also, to be fair and just, gals too. Women may not be involved in sex scandals the same way – yet – but they can certainly be bitches and abuse their power and make people’s lives miserable as well.

            Yeah, there’s a couple over in the subreddit suggesting matriarchy. I suspect they’ve never seen a group of women involved small-group politics. They’re not better; probably not worse either. Or definitely worse, cheerleading moms; if there’s a group of men outside the US Senate worse than that, I haven’t seen it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Conservation of assholes.

            I do think that women are, on average, slightly fairer than men, in that they are more likely to take seriously the idea that women can be awful.

            But I don’t think that necessarily translates to the sort of woman who is interested in power, any more than men’s basic decency doesn’t necessarily apply to men who seek power.

          • BBA says:

            My suggestion of matriarchy was semi-serious. I think it would greatly reduce most forms of sexual misconduct, and probably wouldn’t have particularly worse results otherwise. So, if ending the current scourge of little Weinsteins is the sole overriding goal, then let’s have at it.

            If we have other goals, then it might be suboptimal.

          • pansnarrans says:

            “My suggestion of matriarchy was semi-serious. I think it would greatly reduce most forms of sexual misconduct, and probably wouldn’t have particularly worse results otherwise.”

            What form of matriarchy did you suggest? If it’s the normal one, literally disenfranchising one gender or the other is likely to have fairly horrible results, as history makes pretty clear.

          • Aapje says:

            We might then see men check out in large numbers. I don’t see how that wouldn’t have large negative repercussions for women. There is already a deficit in college-educated men that is very frustrating to a decent group of well-educated women who don’t want to marry down.

          • BBA says:

            Honestly I didn’t think it through that far. It was a half-considered joke. Roughly I thought, well if only women were in Congress, the harassment rate would plummet, so why not codify it as a rule? That’s as far as I got.

            But I will say this much – if all those centuries of patriarchy weren’t an intolerable hellscape, why would you expect matriarchy to be any worse? (Question does not apply to those who insist that everything before $CURRENT_YEAR was an intolerable hellscape, but they’re the ones most likely to unironically endorse matriarchy anyway.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            According to a feminist pseudohistory with uncomfortably high academic support, Eurasians were matriarchal until they got domesticated horses. Horses are goid, so matriarch is privation of a good. QED.

          • Aapje says:

            @BBA

            In late 18th century Britain, we know that men were both forced and strongly pressured to take care of women financially (see William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England for the former). You can see this persisting to the modern day, in many ways, both within relationships and by men engaging in behavior that means that they pay way more in taxes. So they pay for more of the collective services, of which a majority is spent on women (some of it explicitly, by policies that explicitly favor women and some of it because the male gender role is less accepting of men taking advantage of government services).

            So in general, the current behavior of men is that they choose to work harder than their personal needs suggest would be optimal, and use the surplus to subsidize women.

            That doesn’t mean that women are selfish, because they tend to make different kind of sacrifices for others. For example, they are more likely to volunteer, to do informal care, etc. Furthermore, by accepting low pay to have people-oriented jobs, they keep the costs down, which is also a kind of subsidy for government-provided/subsidized services.

            However, if men truly check out en mass, it is likely that women’s personal financial position will deteriorate, as well as government services.

            Furthermore, it seems very likely to me that women strongly prefer collegial jobs over jobs that require exercising explicit power over others and require being more goal-oriented than process-oriented. IMO, this difference in interests between men and women is one of the causes of the glass ceiling. So if you were to fill these top jobs with 90% women, they would probably strongly change the culture of these jobs. Current dogma, regularly exclaimed in my newspaper, is that this would greatly improve how these jobs are done. However, I think that an unwillingness to explicitly exercise power can result in all kinds of informal rules (giving prejudice free reign) & passive aggressive behavior. I think that being process-, rather than goal-oriented, can easily result in a clique that mainly seeks to create a nice environment for their ingroup, rather than be willing to focus on producing results for others.

            Now, I’m not saying that male-dominated sectors don’t tend to overdo it in one direction, but I know a person well who worked in a very female-dominated environment & it was very far from roses and sunshine.

            Ultimately, the male gender role had to adapt to what works in leadership roles, because men were pushed into and/or took control of those roles. I think that if women go into these roles in large numbers, they have to adapt their culture/gender role to it. So at best, female behavior is then probably going to change to be a lot more like the male gender role, at which point, you can’t really assume that they will act better than men in certain ways.

          • Aapje says:

            [continued]

            We already see that (some) women can be very sexually aggressive in some situations. The current sexual dynamic seems to be shaped greatly by men being far more desperate on average, so women can often afford to sit back and wait for the men to come to them. If men check out in large numbers and women keep their preference for high-status/achieving men, then it seems likely that women will become more desperate than men, which would then likely flip the genders of the pursuer/pursued model. If that happens, then why wouldn’t women greatly increase the amount they harass (which women already do regularly, but rarely enough that most men don’t mind)?

            Now, perhaps it is true that men are biologically far more resistant to harassment, but if this is not the case and frequency of harassment is the major factor, then the outcome is just that the victims change, not that there will be substantially fewer victims. Furthermore, if we keep the social norm that men are not allowed to proclaim themselves as victims of female behavior, then this new victim group is worse off than women are/were, because at least women get support.

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ BBA

            “But I will say this much – if all those centuries of patriarchy weren’t an intolerable hellscape, why would you expect matriarchy to be any worse?”

            The old system of official patriarchy, i.e. women seen as men’s property and not allowed to vote, was obviously not an ‘intolerable hellscape’ for all women but was clearly worse than what we have now. Ditto matriarchy, I assume.

            I’m not sure what you think there is to be gained from resurrecting the old bad system but with the genders flipped. To be honest, there’s an undertone of “ha ha, see how they like it!” to the whole idea. Which to someone like me, born decades after women’s lib, seems somewhat unreasonable.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            You call it pseudohistory, but how else do you explain the decline in horses as a form of public transportation roughly coinciding with the first wave of feminism? Pretty open and shut, given the widely known fact that correlation equals causation. The only logical conclusion is that horses emit some kind of hitherto undetected radiation which suppresses women’s rights.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Le Maistre Chat, In fairness, my general impression is that from the dawn of history there was a trend of declining power for priest-aristocrats and increasing power for warrior-aristocrats, reaching maximum warrior power around the end of the ancient period. It also seems that there were times and places where priestesses were powerful figures in the priestly aristocracies, while women were of course almost never powerful figures in the warrior aristocracies, so there is a corresponding trend line of women having less political power over time running through the ancient period. So if one recklessly extrapolates the trend line back past when the historical records begin, one arrives at the conclusion that there was a point when women had more political power than men. The extrapolation is extremely tenuous, of course, but in dealing with pre-history there’s always a lot of guesswork. However, I can’t really defend the speculation about horses as a causal mechanism.

    • Brad says:

      I was disappointed that SA didn’t follow through on his produce evidence or ban threat in that thread. If he wasn’t going to do it, then he shouldn’t have threatened.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Not to put words in his mouth, but it sounds like a simple case of “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

      Right now there’s no way for gentiles to criticize the Jewish community’s misbehavior without opening themselves up to accusations of nazism. Which is a very strong incentive for Jews to misbehave.

      I’ve seen this firsthand living next to a Hasidic community which was openly and shamelessly stealing millions of dollars a year in county and state funds. They could easily deflect the most outrageous scandals because anyone who brought them up obviously had an ulterior motive. Why else would they even bring it up, right?

      Being able to speak about this sort of thing openly mean that more Jewish criminals will be punished, and from a certain perspective that’s bad for the Jews. But I don’t see it as unreasonable for all of us to play by the same rules.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        One of the deeper problems is that enough decades of this, and people will start to wonder if the Nazi accusations about Jewish perfidious group behavior might not have been entirely incorrect.

        I personally don’t think that that was the case, but the current ongoing situation is not exactly helping.

        • ivvenalis says:

          One of the deeper problems is that enough decades of this, and people will start to wonder if the Nazi accusations about Jewish perfidious group behavior might not have been entirely incorrect.

          Maybe that’s because those accusations weren’t entirely incorrect. That doesn’t actually justify killing everybody.

      • Well... says:

        Right now there’s no way for gentiles to criticize the Jewish community’s misbehavior without opening themselves up to accusations of nazism.

        I agree, but then you go on to confuse “Jewish community” with “list of people in which Jews happen to be overrepresented.”

        The Hasids in your example are a Jewish community. Hollywood execs who can’t keep their hands to themselves, although disproportionately Jewish, are not one.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m not claiming to be an expert on Hollywood culture, but from what I have heard it definitely sounds like there’s a Jewish community there. One which is pretty central to the movie-making process.

          I don’t mean in a conspirational sense but in the ordinary sense that people with a shared culture work better together and trust more easily (PDF warning). And when you’re trying to get a hundred million dollar project off the ground trust is really important!

          The problem isn’t that people have communities: without communities like that the world would be a lot poorer. The problem is taboos which enable people’s worst impulses like a ring of gyges. Breaking the taboo won’t break the community but it will help a lot of people.

          • Well... says:

            There are in fact many Jewish communities in Hollywood. And yes, I’d guess that in some cases, some of the sexual harassment perpetration, or coverup of same, was aided and abetted by co-conspirators in the perpetrators’ same communities–but that’s a lot closer to being in the same sense that a random gentile sexual harassment perpetrator might rely on friends, family, or work or church buddies (people from his “community”) to help him execute or cover up his actions, than it is like the particular (dense, tight-knit, relatively clearly bounded) Hasiddic community near you systematically abusing the welfare system.

            In one case, the community itself–its systems, its operations–takes part in facilitating the wrongdoing, and so drawing attention to it is worthwhile. In the other case, the existence of the community is almost certainly a circumstantial distraction, a red herring. And a particularly hazardous one at that, given who is using the red herring and who his audience is.

        • Deiseach says:

          Trouble is, both things can, do and did happen.

          Weinstein being Jewish shouldn’t matter a damn. But as you say, if there are a disproportionate to the general population number of Jews in Hollywood, then any rumours are going to be ignored or cold-shouldered not alone from the ordinary, cynical “this guy makes money for the industry” motive that any race, creed or class will follow, it’s “for crying out loud, if we talk about this, you know what’s going to happen – there will be those claiming this is because he’s Jewish and all Jews are like that and the whole nine yards”.

          So on the one hand, there is a motive to turn a blind eye to it, because you don’t see an upside and you do see a lot of negative affects on the particular minority you belong to. And on the other hand, this is exactly what does happen – some people do start blaming this kind of thing on Jewishness and the Jews, which only reinforces the instinct not to rock the boat the next time anything like this happens. And then the “turn a blind eye” is interpreted in the worst possible sense, and it only makes the “see what the Jews are like!” accusations more fevered, which in turn makes the impulse to stick your head in the sand the next time you hear something nasty about a fellow Jew even stronger, and round and round the vicious circle goes.

          • Matt M says:

            some people do start blaming this kind of thing on Jewishness and the Jews

            Who?

            Weinstein has gotten a lot of media coverage, and the only place I’ve seen someone do this is one guy, buried several layers deep, in the comments of a relatively obscure rationalist blog.

            Believing Weinstein raped women because he was Jewish is less popular than believing in a literal flat Earth…

          • rlms says:

            How many flat-earthers have you seen here?

          • Well... says:

            Who?

            Weinstein has gotten a lot of media coverage, and the only place I’ve seen someone do this is one guy, buried several layers deep, in the comments of a relatively obscure rationalist blog.

            Then you should go check out Steve Sailer’s comment section. That’s the guy my OP was referring to anyway.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Matt M

            Well, there was the October 9 article on Jewish magazine Tablet‘s webpage “The Specifically Jewy Perviness of Harvey Weinstein” by Mark Oppenheimer (who wrote an apology the next day, with heavy analogy to to the Philip Roth novel Portnoy’s Complaint.

            But that doesn’t exactly fit well with either side of the argument, does it?

  10. Kevin C. says:

    So, what are SSC readers’ favorite Harlan Ellison work? I expect a lot of answers of “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” (which I enjoyed) but my own favorite is definitely “The Deathbird.”

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m a fan of “The City on the Edge of Forever,” an episode of Star Trek: TOS.

    • Standing in the Shadows says:

      I’m looking forward to his obituary, it will be my favorite work about the man once it’s published.

      That said, his two pieces for the original Outer Limits were pretty good, and ahead of their time: “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier”.

      • Nick says:

        I’m looking forward to his obituary, it will be my favorite work about the man once it’s published.

        Less of this please.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          That is a paraphrase of a statement made by Harlan Ellison, spoken by the man himself in my presence at one of his smaller conference GoH events, about a moderately well known and liked publisher, who did in fact pass away a few years later.

          He’s an odious and vile little man, and I’m not referring to his physical height.

          And ref some recently discussed topics here on SSC, female SF fans, especially young redheads, are warned to not stand next to him at events. He has Al Franken syndrome.

          • skef says:

            The descriptions I’ve heard sound more Andy Dick-ish.

          • johan_larson says:

            Ellison is a very bright man, and quite the smart aleck. He relishes argument and can be vicious and vindictive. There are stories about him using violence, even in situations where he was not obviously threatened. I haven’t taken the time to confirm those stories, but he has a terrible reputation, and I seem to recall he acknowledged on his website that he is a “pain in the ass.”

            In a just world, he would be a wealthy social outcast.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            To be fair, J. Michael Straczynski once told a story on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5 about how they were riding in a car together and he witnessed Ellison go well out of his way to express some rather extreme kindness toward a homeless fellow along the way. Seemed pretty believable. And if so, expository of Ellison’s character.

          • Deiseach says:

            He has Al Franken syndrome.

            I have definitely read those rumours, and since they come from credible sources they’re more than rumours. Ellison is odd like that, apart from his talent as a writer he seemingly can be personally dreadful or likeable, depending on the situation and what mood he’s in when you meet him.

            I knew even from his writing that he could be vicious, wrong-headed, bombastic and hilariously (with hindsight) mistaken (e.g. one of the Glass Teat books of essays, where he forecasts a great future for an upcoming actor named Zalman King who was going to be a socially aware voice challenging society, who at the time I read the book was most known for producing the Red Shoe Diaries soft-porn/erotica series), as well as extremely talented, visionary and even compassionate (in an ‘angry prophet denouncing the evil and unjust society’ way).

            And back when the SF Channel was The SF Channel before it went through all the convolutions, when he did the “SciFi Buzz” little inter-programme commentaries and rants, he made my late father laugh and he used to like watching those, so I have to give Harlan the credit for that.

            Granted, that still doesn’t mean he’s not a groper and it’s best not to stand near him at conventions or elsewhere. But he’s human and like the rest of us, a mix of contrariness and virtue.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Demon with A Glass Hand” is great, but a lot of it is also down to the acting by the late Robert Culp; you needed someone who could pull off the delivery of the lines and make the story credible and Culp was great at that.

    • The Nybbler says:

      “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,”

      Certainly a good one, and not just because it inspired the description of believers in a certain rationalist bogeyman as “LARPing Harlan Ellison”. I’d put his Kitty Genovese inspired “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” up with it.

    • Sfoil says:

      I have always felt like IHNMAIMS was more edgy than horrifying, and I first read it when I was ~13. I wouldn’t put it in his top 5, maybe not even his top 10. I’m not a huge fan of the two “Prowler” stories, but I like them more than I Have No Mouth. The Deathbird is well written even if the “what if Satan was the REAL good guy” concept makes me roll my eyes a bit.

      “Repent, Harlequin” is probably my favorite story of his, although if you asked me a different day I might say “Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans”.

      “Grail” is my favorite underrated story.

      “The Resurgence of Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie” is my favorite of his non-SF stories.

    • pansnarrans says:

      As someone who is freaked out by the concept of eternal torment, the title and synopsis of I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream massively put me off. It just seemed horribly inevitable that the title would be the last line of the story. Am I wrong?

    • Deiseach says:

      I wouldn’t exactly describe it as my favourite story of his (nor even my favourite TV script of his) but I have to give an honorable mention to an episode of the new Twilight Zone which was written by Ellison, Paladin of the Lost Hour.

      First of all I was mildly surprised to see Danny Kaye in a Harlan Ellison script, but I had two moments that make me remember this episode all these years later.

      Kaye’s character: *description of a memory or occasion that is sweet and kind and lovely and brimming over with sunshine*

      Me: This is a Harlan Ellison script?

      Kaye’s lines were immediately followed by second lead character: *description of experience definitely not sweet and lovely and kind and brimming over with sunshine*

      Me: This is a Harlan Ellison script!

  11. Matt M says:

    Does anyone have much experience with giving charitable donations as gifts?

    I think I’m going to transition to this sort of model this year for Christmas with my immediate family. My parents are retired and comfortably middle class. They don’t really need anything. Lord knows *I* don’t need anything. In the past, our extended family has talked about foregoing the pointless gift exchanging we all do in exchange for sponsoring a poor family for Christmas or something, but nobody has ever taken the initiative to actually do this.

    My plan for this year is to get some small token gift for my Mom & Dad just for traditions sake, but also to make a $100 donation in each of their names to some charity that reflects their own interests. Has anyone else done this? How does it typically go over? Would this be considered thoughtful, or would it get the George Costanza reaction (“He gave me a card that says he gave my gift to someone else!”)?

    • rlms says:

      The easy way to do it is from the opposite direction: announce that you want people to donate to charity x rather than giving you gifts.

      • Matt M says:

        Hmm, I guess I could. I could also pre-announce that this is my plan and give them the chance to say “No, I expect you to get me some pointless material thing”

        • baconbacon says:

          Hmm, I guess I could. I could also pre-announce that this is my plan and give them the chance to say “No, I expect you to get me some pointless material thing”

          I used to feel this way about gifts, but don’t anymore. Since my wife and I share finances giving her a gift is pretty pointless in a lot of ways, specifically in the “making you better off” sort of way. What it does do is demonstrate that I was thinking about her, put some effort into looking for something for her, and if the gift is good then it demonstrates that I understand her which is a good feeling.

          There are lots of good gifts for parents where the value is different from the cost. Finding an old picture of them with a loved relative and having it framed, or organizing all of their grand kids for a group photo tend to be good.

      • Chalid says:

        Just please, if you do this, make it a noncontroversial charity as much as is possible.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      If you want to cut the gift-giving down, do a secret santa where everyone is put in a hat and so only has to buy one gift.

    • quaelegit says:

      There is a way to use to what you want I think. Someone in my family did this for Christmas gifts a few years ago. Basically, you set up ?accounts? at with the amount of money that you want to donate, then the person you’re donating on behalf of can go online and designate which charity/nonprofit that money gets donated to. It’s a REALLY long list that covers pretty much anything you can think of (my college student group, which incorporated as nonprofit the previous summer, was on the list!) What’s nice is person its on behalf of gets to pick, so you don’t need to worry about figuring out what charity they’d support.

      Unfortunately, my family is really forgetful and I think I was the only one who actually sent the money… but in principle its a neat idea.

      * Probably Fidelity or Vanguard, but I’m honestly not sure. I’ll ask the relative who set it up.

      • Randy M says:

        Unfortunately, my family is really forgetful and I think I was the only one who actually sent the money… but in principle its a neat idea.

        Did they remember to follow through on the “not buying a gift” part? If so, I’m not sure it was forgetfulness.

        edit: Oh, I see.

        • quaelegit says:

          Maybe I didn’t explain clearly. uses his own money to set up through a service of for family members. At Christmas, he gives us family members the information to access the account. Of ‘us family members’, I think I’m the only one who actually remembered to go access the account and choose charities. I don’t know what happened to the undirected money.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I have been wondering what to get my fellow SSC readers for Christmas for a while.

      And as much as I hate to ruin a surprise, I can tell you now that a hundred dollar donation has been made in each of your names to the Human fund.

      The Human Fund, money for people.

    • Jiro says:

      Gifts are not supposed to be utility-optimization exercises, and treating them as such is missing the point.

      You may as well ask “how do I get people to stop saying ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’, since those phrases serve no function?”. They serve a social function, and so do gifts. You can’t just unilaterally change the parameters of how gifts work and expect them to still serve their function.

      • Matt M says:

        See, I do understand that part. Which is why I do still plan on getting one simple/cheap gift for each of my parents, and why I will not demand they abstain from getting me one such thing.

        That said, my family is also big on giving cash/gift cards, and/or asking you to provide a list so that they can get you exactly what you want. What is that, if not a utility-optimization exercise?

        What useful societal end is served if my mom spends $20 on something that gives me $10 of value and I spend $20 on something that gives her $10 of value?

        • JayT says:

          If I ask a family member what they want for Christmas, I always frame it as “what is something you would like to own, but would never spend your money on/you feel is overpriced?” I feel like those are always the most appreciated gifts*. If you give someone something they would have bought anyways, it feels transactional and if you give a gift card or cash they will probably not use it to splurge on something. however, if you give a $20 present that they get $10 of value out of, that’s still $10 of value they didn’t have before, and that they most likely were never going to have.

          *even better if you can figure it out without asking.

          • Matt M says:

            however, if you give a $20 present that they get $10 of value out of, that’s still $10 of value they didn’t have before, and that they most likely were never going to have.

            But you’re forgetting the part where they also give ME a $20 present that I get $10 of value of.

            So the two of us combined are $20 poorer than we otherwise would have been.

            Hell, if I really wanted to be super obtuse about this I’d say skip the charity part, let’s all just agree not to get each other anything. But that’s a little too extreme, even for me.

          • JayT says:

            Well, most people also get some level of enjoyment out of giving presents, and the if there is some deadweight loss in making a loved one happier than they otherwise would have been, that’s not exactly the end of the world.

          • Jiro says:

            Do you also complain about greeting cards? “They spent $3 on a card and I spent $3 on a card. That’s $6 of value lost right there!”

        • Aapje says:

          @Matt M

          What useful societal end is served if my mom spends $20 on something that gives me $10 of value and I spend $20 on something that gives her $10 of value?

          The act of giving often adds value, so the item may have $10 in value for your mom if she had bought it herself, but far more if you give it, because a gifted item that reminds your mom of you when she uses it, has lots of emotional value to her.

          This is similar to how people often buy crap on their holiday, so that they are sometimes reminded of that holiday when they are back home and look at the item.

      • skef says:

        Grumpy cultural contrarianism is a long-standing and vital check against having to do even more of all that crap.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The best gifts are when you get someone something they want.

      For most people, giving to charity isn’t something they want. It’s something that they want to want. In other words, something that they can’t complain about getting.

      So unless your parents are exceptional people I wouldn’t recommend this.

      • Matt M says:

        My dad is pretty vocally critical of consumer culture, I think he would appreciate this quite a bit. My mom probably not as much, hence the dilemma…

      • baconbacon says:

        The best gifts are when you get someone something they want.

        The best gifts are when you find something new for a person to enjoy. Giving someone a book that they like is nice, giving someone the first book in a series that they will like is a lot better.

    • Randy M says:

      Reminds me of a discussion we had before, specifically about gift cards.
      From this post, almost exactly a year ago:

      But in situations where the social expectation is that gifts of equal value would be exchanged, like with siblings or friends of similar age, this really just leaves both parties worse off. Instead of us both having x & y dollars, now we have assets worth x & y, 20$ worth of which is non-fungible. Unless you’re hoarding Amazon cards as a hedge against inflation (joke), what it boils down to is essentially giving each other absolution for spending more on ourselves than we would otherwise feel is wise.

      actual physical items under the wrapping provide an opportunity to employ insight into the recipient to find them something they don’t know they value more than the $x they would have spent on it, excess time to stretch the price for their benefit, or skills to give them an item they couldn’t necessarily get for cash, like the the Christmas candy from the family recipe.

  12. Kevin C. says:

    I see a lot of complaints, here and elsewhere, about our (America’s) two-party democracy — courtesy of our voting system and Duverger’s law — and talking about how multi-party (usually parliamentary) democracy is a superior alternative. Which then usually evolves into a debate between various alternative voting systems.

    However, in only one case have I ever seen someone hold forth, as a superior model to the American two-party system, East Asian-style “dominant party system” as in Japan. (I actually found their argument interesting.) Why so little thought or discussion toward that system as an alternative?

    • Brad says:

      I don’t know that I’d call it East Asian-style. Mexico and South Africa, for examples, also have dominant-party systems.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Yeah, that is true. I mainly phrased it that way because the one individual who made the case stuck entirely to East Asian examples (as is pretty much in their vein of arguing the superiority of societies of the “Confucian” cultural sphere over the rest of the world).

    • Aapje says:

      @Kevin C.

      Probably because few Japanese people are present on English fora to champion it, explain it, etc.

      Anyway, does Japan actually have a “dominant party system?” Isn’t it more that Japan has a culture of extreme risk-adverseness as well as a strong patronage system, which means that a party with strong grass-roots support can stay in power for a really long time? Although this seems to be declining in Japan, with growing voter disillusionment.

      I know that Italy has a system where the biggest party gets additional seats, which is much more of a system where the dominance of one party is built into the electoral process.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      Well, for starters, some excerpts from the Wikipedia article on “dominant-party system”…

      Many are de facto one-party systems, and often devolve into de jure one-party systems.

      Most dominant-party states are semi-democracies, with a tendency of suppressing freedom of expression and manipulating the press in favor of the ruling party.

      Whether this is necessarily true or not, it’s what comes to mind when most people think about a one-party government. And few people are apt to argue in favor of Maoism, Stalinism, Naziism or anything too similar.

  13. gbdub says:

    This discussion has been held elsewhere, but I don’t recall it here:
    What do we do with art created by objectively odious people?

    Cosby and Louis CK both have done some great stand-up (and television).
    I was just watching a Tarantino movie the other day, and must admit to being a bit jarred by the opening credits’ “PRODUCED BY THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY”. Still enjoyed the movie though.
    I like interstates, even if they might have been inspired by some Nazi ideas about the Autobahn.
    I think the Declaration of Independence is pretty swell, though written by a slave-rapist.

    So what’s the Rationalist-Approved way of dealing with legitimately good cultural contributions made by objectively awful people?

    • pansnarrans says:

      The art is not the person. So just enjoy them, unless in doing so you’re giving them money and either they use money to do terrible things or they’re so awful the idea of giving them money makes you feel bad.

      On the latter, by the way, I think that Louis CK’s movie wouldn’t have been pulled if he had very quickly made a statement to the effect of “I am willing to donate any profit I would get from this to charity, so the other people involved in the production don’t lose out”.

      Either way, you’re probably ethically worse off buying products from lots of consumer companies with good PR.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        The art is not the person. So just enjoy them,

        I challenge anyone go to back and re-read the sex scenes in all the books written by the author of The Mists of Avalon, and not feel queasy, given what we now know about that author. Especially given the repeating details of the nature of the sex scenes in those books.

        • Randy M says:

          This does point out a division.

          Some works touch on the same themes as their creators misdeeds.
          Interstates don’t have much to do with concentration camps.
          The Cosby show probably isn’t touching on date rape very often (dunno about his stand up?)

          Louis CK’s stand-up–well, I’ve never seen it. From reputation, though, does it sort of play up him being a sleaze? Based on the fact that that isn’t really an act, I bet lots of people find that less amusing now.
          And if the Declaration of Independence doesn’t just not support slave holding, but makes an affirmative case against it, it may have been hypocritical but I don’t think it’s authors misdeeds would detract from it.

          Something like Classical music written by a fascist (Wagner? I dunno the whole story there) should be pretty easy to enjoy regardless of the author’s sins, since it isn’t really containing much influence of them. That kind of thing would be easier to “reclaim” than an act that highlights and downplays the authors failings.

          • rlms says:

            Puccini was technically fascist (a member of the Italian fascist party), but doesn’t appear to have been enthusiastic about it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Richard Wagner was a Culture Warrior; I don’t know if he had politics beyond that. Later, most Nazis were fans, but so were, e.g. Tolkien & C.S. Lewis. Hitler Ate Sugar and all that.

          • quaelegit says:

            The story I’ve heard is Wagner himself was a garden-variety 19th century anti-semite, but his widow was a key early supporter of the Nazi Party and encouraged/allowed them to use his music for propaganda. Wikipedia says this doesn’t make sense because his wife died in 1866, but apparently his son-in-law was a prominent racist and friend of Hitler until his (the son in law’s) death in 1927.

            Edit: also Wagner himself died in 1883, so too early to be involved in fascism. He did write this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Judenthum_in_der_Musik) which is considered important in the history of German antimsemitism apparently?

          • skef says:

            Louis CK’s stand-up–well, I’ve never seen it. From reputation, though, does it sort of play up him being a sleaze? Based on the fact that that isn’t really an act, I bet lots of people find that less amusing now.

            This (uh, NSFW) set is older and from a transitional period in his career, but it demonstrates how he typically works “outrageousness” into his act. I think it also demonstrates how easy it is to connect his admitted behavior to his work and perhaps the limitations of what those connections can really say.

          • JayT says:

            The Cosby show probably isn’t touching on date rape very often (dunno about his stand up?)

            Cosby did do a set about “Spanish Fly” that, in retrospect, takes on a fairly sinister tone.

          • Randy M says:

            I think it also demonstrates how easy it is to connect his admitted behavior to his work and perhaps the limitations of what those connections can really say.

            I don’t really understand what you are saying here (not having watched the nsfw clip); I certainly wasn’t saying no crude jokes are funny or all crude jokes indicate offensive behavior, just that having seen evidence for the bad behavior might make the crude jokes less humorous.

            Like, to strain to use a non cw example, say someone tells some amusing quadriplegic jokes–you might not laugh at those after discovering he was being investigated for mistreatment at a nursing facility.

          • Matt M says:

            Louis CK really doesn’t belong in this group, guys. What he is accused of is orders of magnitude less monstrous than what Weinstein/Cosby are accused of. I’m tired of seeing him lumped in with these guys as if his actions were basically the same. They weren’t.

          • Protagoras says:

            The story I’ve heard is Wagner himself was a garden-variety 19th century anti-semite, but his widow was a key early supporter of the Nazi Party and encouraged/allowed them to use his music for propaganda. Wikipedia says this doesn’t make sense because his wife died in 1866, but apparently his son-in-law was a prominent racist and friend of Hitler until his (the son in law’s) death in 1927.

            A vaguely similar story is true of Nietzsche; he wasn’t an anti-semite at all, but his brother-in-law Bernhard Foerster was a big deal in the German anti-semitic movement and Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche (she started including her maiden name in a hyphenated last name when her brother started getting famous) continued to associate with the hardcore anti-semites after Bernhard’s suicide. When Elisabeth died in 1935, Hitler personally attended her funeral. Her efforts to simultaneously profit from her brother’s literary estate while staying close to her proto-Nazi and later outright Nazi friends did considerable damage to Nietzsche’s posthumous reputation.

          • Randy M says:

            Louis CK really doesn’t belong in this group, guys.

            What do you think the group is?
            If the group is “similar levels of moral offense” I don’t think Cosby belongs in the same group as Nazis.
            I think the group is “Has done or said things that may taint other things they have done or said, for some people.”

          • skef says:

            I don’t really understand what you are saying here

            Oh, sorry, that part wasn’t meant a specific response to you. It was about the recent conversation about his work in the media and from commentators.

          • John Schilling says:

            Coco Chanel was a Literal Nazi Secret Agent, who I am fairly confident wore her signature Little Black Dresses while flirting with men who she felt might help her team secure its desired separate peace with England. If you’re OK with women continuing to use cutting-edge Nazi seduction technology, I don’t think a few Howard Weinstein movies are going to do you any great moral harm.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @quaelegit: Das Judenthum in der Musik is the Culture War stuff I was talking about. Wagner believed high art had to be based on traditional stories and Jews were inimical to the traditions of their host countries. So he wanted Judenthum out of der Musik (and der other arts) so high art could bloom. Nietzsche explicitly connected Wagner’s ideology of music to the blooming of Athenian drama, back before he hated Wagner.
            It’s worth debating if Wagner was wrong, but he’s not wrong a priori because it would deprive Jews of something.

            (An interesting counterpoint is an old article by conservative Jewish American Ben Stein, to the effect of “Jews founded and dominated Hollywood, but these were Jews in love with America, not subversives.”)

          • quaelegit says:

            @Le Maistre Chat — Thanks for explaining! For some reason I thought “culture warrior” had something to do with the Ring Cycle specifically. (d’oh…)

            As you’ve summarized his argument it sounds like he was concerned about (I’m really sorry for using this word but I don’t know a better way to put it) appropriation of German culture? I could see the mid 19th century being a particularly sensitive time when construction/definition of that culture was having dramatic political impacts. Do you think Wagner would have objected to Jewish musicians and composers still stayed involved with the musical community if they wrote/played music based on traditional Jewish stories?

          • gbdub says:

            Louis CK really doesn’t belong in this group, guys.

            The intended group was just “people who have done some amount of icky stuff but nevertheless produced things I enjoy”. No intent was there to equate any of them. Indeed, part of my intent in including Louis was precisely that he is lower on the atrocity scale, to see if people had “how exactly bad was this person” as one of their criteria for how badly it taints the art.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @quaelegit: that’s a tough question. He believed true art is an organic growth from “the community of humans who collectively share a want”. In the infamous essay, he called for Jews to “self-annul”, i.e. convert to Christianity “so we can be one indivisible Volk.”
            Those who are outside the organic group will only make entertainment, he claimed.
            There’s no telling how he would have felt about music and drama made for Jews rather than all Germans… niche drama lay in the future.
            In practice, some of his best friends were Jewish (I know, I know) such as his favorite composer and pianists.
            Whether he was more concerned about appropriation of German culture than it’s submersion under entertainment is another tough question. That’s not what he said, but apparently the original context was offense over a drama about the German Reformation by a fellow artist who was Jewish.

        • JonathanD says:

          Dammit. I loved that book.

          • John Schilling says:

            I liked parts of that book, but the sex scenes were iffy even before I learned of the Bradley family’s real-life issues. For that matter, I don’t know and don’t care whether Piers Anthony is a pedophile or hebephile IRL and if so whether he acts on it, and I don’t care. His sex scenes are equally distasteful either way.

          • JonathanD says:

            I don’t recall the sex scenes, but then, it’s been years. What was the problem (in general, sfw, terms)? Was it that the protagonists were marrying at ages that would be inappropriate and abusive in the modern era, or something else?

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            An example:

            “She stretched out her arms, and at her command she knew that outside the cave, in the light of the fecundating fires, man and woman, drawn one to the other by the pulsating surges of life, came together. The little blue-painted girl who had borne the fertilizing blood was drawn down into the arms of a sinewy old hunter, and Morgaine saw her briefly struggle and cry out, go down under his body, her legs opening to the irresistible force of nature in them.”

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s pretty gross, but not as gross as the phrase “fecundating fires”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Along similar lines, even if Heinlein’s family life was 100% normal, I still don’t want to read about Woodrow Wilson Smith’s time-traveling sexual exploits.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I was willing to sit still for it once. What I couldn’t stand was Heinlein bringing the self-impressed blowhard back for novel after novel.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      If you’re feeling ambitious, push people to stop equating commercial success with political and/or moral relevance.

    • lvlln says:

      I’ve never quite understood the compulsion some people seem to have to associate a work of art with the moral qualities of the creator of the art. The quality of a work of art stands on its own, much like how the theory of evolution is true whether it’s Charles Darwin who’s stating it or it’s Joseph Stalin stating it.

      The steel man I had come up with was that people don’t desire to reward people of questionable moral character with money and fame, but I couldn’t find this particularly convincing, either. If someone has bad moral character, they should be punished for those behaviors that display that bad moral character, and no more. If someone’s job is to produce widgets, they should be paid for producing those widgets, whether they’re a moral churchgoing person in good standing or they’re an odious psychopathic murderer – if they’re a murderer, they probably shouldn’t be in the position to produce widgets but rather be in prison, but if they’re not, the correct problem to solve is putting them in prison instead of allowing them to work at the widget factory, NOT letting them continue to work at the widget factory but not paying them for it.

      I just started watching House of Cards for the 1st time. Knowing the harms that Kevin Spacey caused made me enjoy his performance no less. I do think it did have a minor affect in my enjoyment of the show, in that I found the coincidence rather amusing when a rape subplot was introduced in season 2. But I think that minor (positive) affect in my enjoyment of the show seems a little different from what’s being talked about.

      • Thegnskald says:

        If I stopped consuming media produced by people who held views I held abhorrent, there would be no media left for me to consume.

        Schrodinger’s Consumption – if you are obligated not to consume something produced by someone who has said or done bad things, it is in your best interest if the bad things people get up to aren’t revealed to you, and revealing such things harms you.

        • gbdub says:

          if you are obligated not to consume something produced by someone who has said or done bad things, it is in your best interest if the bad things people get up to aren’t revealed to you, and revealing such things harms you.

          That might be the best argument for continuing to consume them – it removes the incentive for a fan to ignore the bad behavior.

          But consider someone like Roman Polanski. He’s basically been allowed to escape punishment for his crimes precisely because he is rich, influential, and connected enough to get away from the consequences. Or Weinstein, who wouldn’t have been able to commit his crimes without the influence he wields due to fame.

          In other words, the widget factory example doesn’t quite hold, because in this case, buying the offender’s output helped enable the crimes in the first place, and also provides them resources to escape punishment if caught.

          • lvlln says:

            Then the correct solution seems to me to decouple someone’s income from their ability to commit such crimes and/or to escape punishment if caught. A difficult problem to solve to be sure, one that, like most societal problems as far as I can tell, can’t ever be completely 100% solved, but that’s no reason not to try to solve it to some minimum acceptable standard.

    • Wrong Species says:

      There is no objectively One Best Way of dealing with the issue. In one case, you may not be able to separate the art from the artist. In other cases, you can’t. Someone could refuse to read the works of an author because they said something sexist one time or because they insulted Jesus, but have no problem enjoying the works of a murderer. Whether it bother you or not depends on how emotionally salient the issue is to you, not on what was “objectively worse”.

    • BBA says:

      Then there’s the problem of when the degree of awfulness is in dispute. There’s no question that Woody Allen is extremely sleazy, as his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn makes clear. There’s a very large question as to whether or not he’s a child rapist. The former makes me uneasy with some of his work, the latter would be grounds for an outright boycott for life. How much benefit of the doubt should I be willing to give?

      Also, how much is the art associated with the particular awful person? Phil Spector is a murderer, yet the songs he wrote and produced are on the radio every day and will be until we don’t have radio anymore. Is it just because he wasn’t the big name on the album cover that his work hasn’t been thrown into the memory hole?

  14. balrog says:

    WRT. tax breaks only for rich.

    Is there any indication that giving more money to poor people would make them richer? Or are poor people poor just because they are lazy / can’t control spending impulses / are bad at negotiating wages / modern marketing is super-brainwashing / … ?

    Objectively, most of people in US are not starving and not freezing and can get to some work in less than an hour even without car and can have some form of free education. Their poorness is that they are not paying health insurance and saving for retirement and investing. Would giving them more money mean they would start doing that, or would they just buy more booze / netflix / strippers / pay to win microtranscations?

    • quaelegit says:

      So this has been discussed a LOT on SSC previously. I don’t remember the details, but you might want to start with the posts called “Three Great Articles On Poverty…” and “Three More Articles On Poverty…”, and perhaps someone with better google-fu than me can point you to relevant discussions in open threads. I’d recommend you go read those instead of re-discussing here because it lead to some really big flame wars that made everyone sad. (Or at least that’s my impression. I was only an occasional lurker last year.)

    • pansnarrans says:

      Economies of scale and similar things whereby having money saves you money. I can afford to pay someone to look after my sick kid; you have to keep faking sick leave at work to do it yourself and eventually get sacked. I pay $300 for my TV once; you pay $250 for a cheaper one, then have to pawn it, then buy it back for another $150 net loss. I never get charged by my bank as I’m always a healthy way into the black, you keep having to dip into an unauthorized overdraft. And so on.

      It’s possible, even likely, that some people are natural spendthrifts and if you gave them $100k at the start of the year they’d have run out by March. I think gambling addicts especially are a risk for this. But a lot of other people would probably be helped a lot by avoiding the above.

      • Matt M says:

        It’s possible, even likely, that some people are natural spendthrifts and if you gave them $100k at the start of the year they’d have run out by March.

        Don’t studies on lottery winners support this general theory?

        That in the vast majority of cases, giving someone who is “bad with money” a lot of money does not suddenly make them “good with money”, rather, it dramatically increases their level of consumption in the short term, while leaving them essentially no better off in the long term.

        Professional athletes may be another relevant case study here. They make millions and a shocking percentage of them end up completely broke and in massive debt.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          Take a look at Native Americans in Alaska. I don’t know how it is now, but 40 years ago, members of designated tribes got a cash grant when they became an adult, and some other tribes individuals would get grants each year.

          There was an entire economic sector grown up that would provide 4wheelers, big screen tvs, jet skis, trips and other toys to 18yo kids who were just handed a 5 digit check, and then entire wrecking yards for the wrecked toys.

          Maybe things have gotten better. I want to hope so.

        • pansnarrans says:

          I wonder what correlation there is between being the sort of person who buys lottery tickets and being the sort of person who’ll waste a big lottery win? There are a few obvious factors here like intelligence and frugality.

          I like to think that if I won a few million on the lottery I wouldn’t blow it all on jet skis, just either retire (if it were enough to do so) or move to a nicer house and buy slightly nicer things. But then I don’t play the lottery. I’m also not that near the top of the frugality scale.

      • balrog says:

        Totally derailing, but don’t you get sick days in US when your (young) child is sick?

        • lvlln says:

          There is no legal requirement, I believe. Some jobs do, usually high status white collar ones, I think. Most jobs just require you to use your Paid Time Off pool (PTO) if you ever have to not come into work for any reason, including vacation and health issues, short of things like disability or dismemberment. If you’re paid hourly, then you just don’t get paid for those hours you didn’t work and also get the negative repercussions from your supervisor being hassled by your being scheduled to work but not actually working those hours.

          I think I heard somewhere that there’s a trend to move away from offering sick days and just putting everything into your pool of PTO days.

          • Nornagest says:

            PTO generally implies one pool — if it’s split out into sick and vacation leave, those two pools are usually called that, or some cutesy corporate euphemism.

            There is a trend in the white-collar world towards offering “unlimited” PTO, which effectively means as much or as little as you can talk your boss into accepting. Some say this is being pushed because it really means no PTO, but I think it’s more likely because it means no vacation time liabilities on the balance sheet. On average, though, it probably works out to more flexibility for things like sick kids but the same or less actual vacation time.

        • MrApophenia says:

          I believe it varies by state. I believe in Maryland, sick time is explicitly defined as useable for family members, but no idea about other states.

        • Deiseach says:

          In Ireland, there is no entitlement to paid sick leave (generally most people will only be out sick for a couple of days, if longer than that you have to produce a doctor’s certificate – a sick note – to prove you weren’t just taking time off). If you are going to be out sick for a long time, and you have enough social insurance contributions, you can apply for a social welfare payment called Illness Benefit. You won’t get paid for the first six days out sick and this is taxable (you can either claim it and not get paid, then pay the tax due when you go back to work, or get paid as usual by your employer, give the illness benefit to them, and pay the weekly tax as normal) and you have to provide regular medical certificates to prove you are genuinely unable to work.

          Annual leave is different – under current employment law, you are entitled to four weeks’ paid annual leave (if a full-time employee having worked a set number of weeks in the year) or 8% of the total hours worked in the year. Most people will take the two weeks summer holiday and week at Christmas*, and if they have to take time off during the year for sick child etc. they take it out of their annual leave entitlement. Most people generally think of annual leave as the summer fortnight, I think it’s rare enough anyone takes the whole four weeks as holiday time as such (and not “I need to take next Thursday off because I have to go into The City for a hospital appointment/to tax the car/because my kid is playing in a Big School Match” type reason).

          And how I know this is that next week I’ll be calculating the annual leave entitlements of everyone and how much unused leave they have left to get paid for 🙂

          *Pretty much everywhere closes for the week of Christmas, though in recent years places like shops and stores etc tend to re-open on St Stephen’s Day – 26th December – for the annual White Sales which used to be the first week in January but like all modern commercial life have been shifted to start earlier and earlier.

        • Brad says:

          In addition to what others have said, there’s the Family Medical Leave act which, with some caveats, requires employers to grant 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for their own illness or that of a close family member.

    • rlms says:

      Assuming you aren’t some ascetic who has transcended frivolous earthly pleasures (and you also aren’t one of the poors you are talking about), why shouldn’t your boss cut your wages by whatever amount *you* spend on booze/netflix/whatever? After all, the money you earn that goes to those things isn’t making you richer.

    • Thegnskald says:

      This isn’t phrased very well, and comes across as borderline trolling, but I think I can describe the situation in a more neutral way.

      There is a cycle I have observed in people who come from poor backgrounds – middle and upper class people exhibit the same behavior – in which they consistently spend any money they get. Having observed poor people, I can even tell you why: Because if they don’t spend the money they have now, they won’t get to later.

      It is important to consider the effect of a family on a pooled resource, such as money. If money is never an issue, you buy what you need (or want) when you need (or want) it. If, however, money is an issue, then if you don’t buy something, somebody else might; this means that, if you want to spend any money at all on yourself, you have to do it quickly, before the money gets spent.

      So people get into a habit of spending whatever money is available, because the availability of money isn’t connected with their own spending habits; money evaporates on its own, from an intuitive and unanalyzed perspective. Perhaps worse, they don’t spend it on things they need or want, but on things they might need or want, because you can’t wait until you need or want something, or else you probably won’t get it.

      And this behavior is infectious; if one person in a familial unit does it, everybody else has to, too.

      And once you develop this habit, absent a degree of introspection most people don’t possess or outside intervention, it is very hard to break it.

      • pansnarrans says:

        Good point, especially if one family member or more is an addict of some kind. The situation where someone receives cash and hides it from their spouse, because otherwise the spouse would drink it away that night, is an old one.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        It is interesting to compare this to “use it or lose it” budgetary processes in bureaucracies.

        • Deiseach says:

          I won’t say it’s exactly the same thing but very similar; the claw-back mechanism does not encourage prudence and thrift, because if you don’t spend all the money this year, you won’t get the same next year, and you will probably need the same amount next year. So the end of year frenzy of “buy any crap but spend what’s left!” is nuts, particularly in the context of “this is supposed to encourage good spending habits and not waste”.

      • balrog says:

        This reminds of getting chocolates as a kid. If you don’t eat it immediately, it won’t be there tomorrow.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            The marshmallow test does not cover for the case where some other kid would grab and eat the marshmallow, or the researcher himself would grab it and eat it, or the researcher would not hand over the promised marshmallows at all for various adult-reasons, mainly that the researcher’s sister’s methhead boyfriend had stolen the bag of marshmallows, or the researcher would then force the kid to share the reward marshmallows with all the other kids who didn’t have a marshmallow because they had already eaten theirs.

            That sort of thing happens ALL THE TIME to kids in bottom quintile.

          • Deiseach says:

            the researcher would then force the kid to share the reward marshmallows with all the other kids who didn’t have a marshmallow because they had already eaten theirs

            Oh, you’re stirring up dark memories from the remote past 🙂

            I don’t think it was marshmallows (I think it might have been gold stars on the class wall chart? you only got a gold star after you got a certain number of coloured stars and you only got those for good behaviour, good grades and so on), but I do have dim memories of “now you may technically have won this thing but because you are so naturally good at it you have an unfair advantage and look at little Timmy* who has nothing at all so we’re going to take yours and give it to Timmy!” I do have a remembrance of a sense of blistering rage: That was MY STAR why did they take it away THAT IS MINE HE DIDN’T EARN IT

            That possibly has something to do with my subsequent lack of ambition (though that’s mostly laziness on my part) since all it taught me was not “carin’ ‘n’ sharin’ is wonderful” but “the game is rigged, don’t bother striving because anything you get will be taken away from you”. Also “grab that goddamn marshmallow right now and shove it in your gob quick before anyone else can take it!”

            *Name changed to protect the rotten no-good gold star thieves 😉

          • pansnarrans says:

            @ Deiseach

            Yes, you really have to wonder how effectively teachers think they’re sending the message that “sharing is great!” when the only stuff that gets shared is your stuff.

          • Aapje says:

            @pansnarrans

            Actual message: ‘Giving away other people’s stuff is great’

          • Deiseach says:

            the only stuff that gets shared is your stuff

            Oh, yeah! It’s like they want to turn you into a marshmallow-grabber! And then to add insult to injury some researcher gets it fixed into pedagogical theory forever and ever more that marshmallow-grabbers are low-class losers who can’t control their impulses and will never amount to anything.

            The only reason I have a marshmallow to be taken away is because I was able to control my impulses in the first place, if I follow the researcher’s bone-headed advice I will never get a goddamn marshmallow at all because it will always be taken from me, so you bet I am grabbing that marshmallow right the heck now!

            This is where religion made more sense, because the parable plainly told me:

            For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away

            So make sure you have a marshmallow in the hand before listening to the blandishments of a researcher promising you two after the test 🙂

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            to add insult to injury some researcher gets it fixed into pedagogical theory forever and ever more that marshmallow-grabbers are low-class losers

            Well, to credit the researchers in the actual study, they did spend some effort demonstrating to the kids in the study that they could be trusted.

            One of the really hard problems with dealing with the bottom quintile is that generally we leave the kids there to be raised by the adults there, and the ones who escape are in the ones in the top percentiles of either resilience or of cunning. Or of both…

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Standing in the Shadows

            One of the really hard problems with dealing with the bottom quintile is that generally we leave the kids there to be raised by the adults there

            Well, what’s the alternative?

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Well, what’s the alternative?

            Not every problem has a solution. In fact, the hardest and most heartbreaking ones tend not to.

            My comment originally had several paragraphs about how the obvious solutions had been tried, and generally turn out even worse. I went back several times, and edited and reedited it, and finally just cut it entirely.

            I have no happy or satisfying solution.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Oh, yeah! It’s like they want to turn you into a marshmallow-grabber!

            Well, yeah, savings are bad for the economy, remember? If you were a responsible child you’d be negotiating a 10-year payment plan for more marshmallows.

          • Aapje says:

            Whadda ya mean, selfish? I’m a keynesian!

        • Thegnskald says:

          What is interesting is that my family kept a bowl of candy freely available.

          And pretty much none of us ate it. My Halloween candy typically lasted until the next Halloween, then got thrown away. As an adult, I eat more candy, and if I consider it, I don’t actually keep any candy around, and eat it whenever it is available.

          Hm.

        • Randy M says:

          This reminds of getting chocolates as a kid. If you don’t eat it immediately, it won’t be there tomorrow.

          Hmm, interesting. I don’t recall this being the case for myself (in a family of 5) and it certainly isn’t the case for my children, who each have their own bag of treats in the fridge. Pretty sure letting them save their own goodies is better training for budgeting and personal finance.

          Now in regards to the communal box of chocolates or carton of ice cream, if there’s any left the next day, daddy assumes you didn’t really like it and offs the thing, but that’s another matter. That’s to prime them about the tragedy of the commons. Yep, I’m going with that.

          • quanta413 says:

            Now in regards to the communal box of chocolates or carton of ice cream, if there’s any left the next day, daddy assumes you didn’t really like it and offs the thing, but that’s another matter. That’s to prime them about the tragedy of the commons. Yep, I’m going with that.

            You sound like my father. Well, I don’t think he ever gave a justification actually, but that sounds like one he might give.

        • Aapje says:

          This reminds of getting chocolates as a kid. If you don’t eat it immediately, it won’t be there tomorrow.

          I learned that lesson too. Although in my case, I would save the chocolate for ages, so my parents thought I didn’t want it anymore.

          • gbdub says:

            On Halloween itself, I would eat all the candy I could stand. The next day, I would take my remaining bag of candy, sort it into categories based on candy type and how much I liked it (I really liked Jolly Ranchers in the hard/fruity category and Snickers in the chewy/chocolatey category) and would then ration it out to last until Christmas, the next big candy holiday (e.g. “I get to have one hard candy and one chocolate each day…”).

            I was a weird kid.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      You have to lean awfully hard on second-order effects to doubt that giving poor people more money makes them richer.

    • MrApophenia says:

      “Negotiating wages” is something that happens to rich people. Last year, the local Tim Hortons had one job opening in the town my dad and brother live in. By the end the first day the help wanted sign was posted, they had more than 50 applications, because it was literally the only open job in town.

      How would you suggest they go about negotiating a higher wage?

      (By the way, there’s also no public transportation there, so anyone without a car is walking to work. Hope you luck into a job in walking distance!)

      I grew up poor. I knew poor people who were gamblers, or addicts, or just lazy. One guy raised laziness to a sort of art form, it was really quite impressive watching him survive on the absolute minimum possible work.

      But I also knew a ton of hard working people who were poor because they were born poor in a shitty rust belt town and didn’t do well enough in school to get the golden ticket to the middle class that I did. It’s really difficult to see people say things like what you posted and not respond primarily with furious obscenity.

      • Matt M says:

        While you’re correct that negotiating wages primarily only happens at the high end of jobs, the number of applicants is irrelevant. CFO positions get hundreds of applicants, too.

      • John Schilling says:

        “Negotiating wages” is something that happens to rich people. Last year, the local Tim Hortons had one job opening in the town my dad and brother live in.

        A world view in which the only types of people are entry-level Tim Hortons applicants and “rich people”, is a world in which “rich people” are going to be seen rather more sympathetically than you might like – particularly if you want arguments like this to persuade voters who are by your standards largely “rich”.

        I hire people who are not in the top 10% of the US income distribution. I get 100+ applications for each job. The people I hire, without exception, negotiate their pay. Some of them – eventually I expect most of them – stop working for me because they have negotiated a still better deal somewhere else.

        I don’t think it is helpful to define these people as “rich”, nor do I think that I am working just above some floor below which nobody negotiates pay. Negotiating wages is a far more common practice than you imagine, particularly if you include collective as well as individual bargaining.

        And on the list of things that invoke furious obscenity in response: being told that I’m a selfish rich person because, well, no, being told that I’m a selfish rich person incites that response regardless of the reason. The question is, was there a different approach you could have taken that would have been more persuasive and less infuriating? Yes, there was, and fuck you.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Er, did he say rich people are selfish?

          I think you might be reacting to something that isn’t there, or at least I can’t find it.

        • MrApophenia says:

          You are of course correct about my lack of acknowledgement of basically the whole middle class there – I pretty much lost my temper at the suggestion that poor people are poor because they are too dumb and lazy to negotiate better pay for themselves.

          What’s so annoying, I think, is the insistence that the poor are poor because they foolishly refuse to take advantage of opportunities that are only available to people who aren’t poor. Usually from people who are wealthy themselves and don’t seem to understand that the tricks that work for them are not universally available.

          “I don’t understand why these dumb, lazy poor people don’t just take advantage of their stock options!” would make about as much sense as an argument, and elicit a similar emotional response.

          • Matt M says:

            I pretty much lost my temper at the suggestion that poor people are poor because they are too dumb and lazy to negotiate better pay for themselves.

            I don’t think this is what the argument actually is.

            I would phrase it as, “Poor people are poor because they lack the necessary skills and/or traits required to justify high compensation.” One of these traits may be intelligence (dumb), one of them may be work ethic (lazy), and another may be charisma (failure to negotiate).

            In my personal opinion, anyone who lacks all three of these skills will probably be poor, and probably deserves to be. Someone who has one of the skills but not the other two probably has a chance of making it to middle class. Someone who has 2/3 is pretty damn well positioned and is unlikely to be poor barring some other really terrible circumstances or bad luck. Someone who has 3/3 won’t be stopped no matter how much adversity you put in their way.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eh. Thing is…

            I think both sides are right.

            If poor people behaved like rich people, most of them would stop being poor.

            But it is not actually a simple matter for poor people to behave like rich people, because poverty is filled with traps.

            The spending trap I mention above is one.

            Another is family; my wife and I moved across the country for a raise/promotion, which isn’t a big deal, because airfare isn’t a prohibitive expense for either us or our families, so we can still see the people we want to see. Likewise, our good fortunes aren’t a subject of resentment or cause for demand we support other people.

            Welfare structuring is another, in that, for many poor people, working, or working more, would leave them substantially worse off financially.

            Crab-bucket mentality is another. There are way too many people who resent other people’s good fortune.

            Legal structures another; not just criminal law, either. Stuff like requiring IDs is an example that gets a lot of attention, but the ability to navigate a bureaucracy is actually a specialized skill, such that most wealthy people anymore just pay somebody else to do it. It is hard if not impossible to have a legal business without either possessing this skill, or already having the money available to purchase it. (Worse still, the knowledge of what bureaucracy you need to deal with is itself specialized, making it that much more impossible for poor people to start businesses.)

            And on and on and on. Frankly I am amazed anybody ever gets out of poverty.

          • MrApophenia says:

            @Thengskald

            Another is family; my wife and I moved across the country for a raise/promotion, which isn’t a big deal, because airfare isn’t a prohibitive expense for either us or our families, so we can still see the people we want to see. Likewise, our good fortunes aren’t a subject of resentment or cause for demand we support other people.

            All this, and even more fundamental issues. If you can barely break even in a poverty-stricken area where the cost of living is cheap because no one wants to live there, what is your actual mechanism for moving to a prosperous area where everything is more expensive?

            Assume you don’t already have friends or loved ones in the target area who can put you up while you get on your feet. How do you house and feed yourself while you find a better job in this more economically advantageous area, when your disposable income per month after accounting for basic survival necessities is measured in the tens of dollars?

            “Find a job before you go” is another of those “only works if you’re well off already” solutions. The type of entry-level work available for a poor person with no college education isn’t going to pay for you to fly out there and interview for their job. You need to already be present and ready to start the job in order to get the job.

            I’m not saying it’s impossible – I know people who’ve done it. But if you’re poor, there are huge structural barriers to moving where the money is.

          • baconbacon says:

            “Find a job before you go” is another of those “only works if you’re well off already” solutions. The type of entry-level work available for a poor person with no college education isn’t going to pay for you to fly out there and interview for their job. You need to already be present and ready to start the job in order to get the job.

            This is a large psychological burden, but a relatively small actual burden in reality. Outside of relatively short periods of major recessions if you are qualified for Tim Hortons entry level jobs then there are going to be openings for you once you get to the new city. Places that want specific skill sets fly prospective employee’s out, places that don’t are just sifting through people that walk in the door an ask (in some cases not even an exaggeration).

          • MrApophenia says:

            That seems likely. I think the bigger obstacle is the pure disposable cash issue. In order to not be homeless in the new location, you generally need to be able to afford first and last month’s rent plus security deposit.

            This represents a nearly unattainable lump sum for many people in poverty.

            (Especially with the psychological burden you describe, of spending such a sum when you also have no job or actual certainty of a job at the other end of the process.)

          • baconbacon says:

            In order to not be homeless in the new location, you generally need to be able to afford first and last month’s rent plus security deposit.

            This really isn’t true, there are lots of temporary housing options that you can take advantage of, and that is assuming there are zero friends/relatives in any decent sized city that would put you up for a few weeks. Finally if you aren’t homeless now you should have your security deposit coming back to your, or a month of free rent during which you can save.

            Yes there are rejoinders to all of these, but the overwhelming majority of them are fixable with effort. You have bad credit? Fixable with time and effort. Kind of didn’t take care of your apartment and won’t be getting your deposit back, a lot of the time that is fixable with time and effort (and some modest amounts of cash). As an aside I am a small time landlord (1 property) the things that people don’t get their security deposit back for are kind of ridiculous. They mount a TV to the wall (instead of a stand that probably costs the same or less) and then leave the wall with holes in it. Or they leave a piano.

            To get to the level where you really, truly and absolutely cannot get out of town and start again from a financial perspective takes an enormous amount of doing.

          • albatross11 says:

            Mr Apophenia:

            Whenever I hear people talking about how impossible it is for poor Americans to move within the country to seek better jobs, I keep thinking of the 10+ million people who came here illegally from other countries to (overwhelmingly) look for work. I’m not disputing that there are serious difficulties to moving from West Virginia to Boston to seek your fortunes, but the fact that several million people have moved across borders, dodging ICE, across a language and culture barrier, all that sure seems like strong evidence that this is the sort of thing a lot of people can manage.

          • rlms says:

            @albatross11
            Many of those people moved across borders in order to become poor Americans.

        • Brad says:

          If you were in a room filled with people in the top ten percent of height, wouldn’t it be reasonable to say: look at all these tall people? Is there any English speaker that would say instead: look at all these upper middle height people?

        • quaelegit says:

          @John Schilling — sorry to go off on a tangent, but you’ve reminded me of something I’ve been wondering about:

          From this post and some previous ones, I think you are talking about hiring (relatively?) inexperienced engineers to a large company in the US, right?

          I am an inexperienced engineer who graduated college last June and started work at a large company in the US. When I got my job offer, I (at the prompting of many people) tried to negotiate my salary and was told politely but firmly “we have a tier system and don’t negotiate”. (Which is fine, because I wasn’t even trying to optimize on salary.)

          Now, I know I was going about this the wrong (or at least the hard) way, because most of my friends negotiated their salaries by playing two or more offers against each other (tell company A, “I have with offer B, can you match or beat it?”, and vice versa for company B), and I only had one offer. I do know some friends who just straight up asked “can I get instead” and it worked, but not very many, and all in software (I’m not working in software).

          So my question is — do you know how wide spread salary negotiation actually is at my level? I know it could be I’m just talking about different levels of experience (fresh out of college vs. a few years experience in industry is a big difference), and that I didn’t try to negotiate very well (maybe “we don’t negotiate” actually means “show us a good reason to negotiate”), and that the standard might be different in different states (I think you and all of my friends were working in Califorina, whereas the job I accepted is in a different state). I don’t think my exprience has any bearing on your discussion with Mr. Apophenia, I’m just curious to get a better picture of how my experience maps to typical new engineers in the U.S.

          (And anyone else with experience as/hiring new engineers in US companies — you’re opinions would also be appreciated! Though I’m not necessarily expecting any responses this deep in a thread on another topic.)

          • John Schilling says:

            In my case it’s mostly recent M.S. or Ph.D. graduates, and the former usually have a couple years in industry as well. There might be less flexibility at the BS level. And yes, this is in Southern California where there are multiple employers in the same general area (some of them literally across the street).

            It probably does help to have a firm offer from another company, but it hasn’t been necessary in my particular case – I offer $X, people ask for say $1.1-1.2X instead, I go to my management and talk about how much I can really offer, and we (usually) come to an arrangement. If another company’s offer is relevant, it’s in the sense of I know they could walk if we don’t have an agreement fast, not that I need to beat a particular dollar figure. Aerospace mostly wins those deals on the benefits and working conditions anyway.

            What definitely helps, and this may drive a difference between a BS-level and an MS-level hire, is applying for a singular position. If you’re one of a hundred people applying to be my combustion specialist, and I’ve identified you as the best of that hundred(*), it matters more that I get the best than that I save a few thousand dollars the first year. If you’re applying to be one of ten pieces of headcount in someone’s cube farm, meh, best, second best, eleventh best, as long as you can do matlab and powerpoint they probably want cheap.

            So if you’re starting at the BS level, or you have a very generic Masters and are applying at a large corporation, I’d still be surprised if there was zero room for negotiation, but it won’t be much. And maybe some companies as policy do set it at zero negotiation. Once you get a bit of experience, or particularly specialized education, things open up.

            * OK, for 95 of them it wasn’t at all a difficult choice. And for any combustion specialists reading, I’ve already found the best, sorry.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’m not an engineer, nor do I hire engineers, so feel free to ignore.

            In general the “tier pay” system has two ways to get around the “no negotiation” part. First is that the pay might be fixed, but some of the fringe benefits (like vacation) aren’t. The second is to ask what qualifications are needed for Tier 2 (or Tier N+1), sometimes it is as little as getting a certificate that will take ~6 months and a few hundred dollars. Anecdote that I like to tell, when I was 20 I worked in the BOH in a restaurant that had a ‘cap’ on what you could earn based on time there. I was pretty broke at the time and eventually started looking for a 2nd job, one of the managers heard that I was looking for a “different” job, and quickly offered me an “assistant kitchen manager” position, which bumped my pay by $1 an hour and included no change in responsibilities. He didn’t even announce it to give me more status, it was strictly a “we can’t bleed good employees, and we can’t be constantly fighting with bad employees” system, which I totally found out about by accident.

          • bean says:

            Speaking as someone who was a new engineer a couple of years ago, and has gone through the process twice in aerospace (though not Aerospace, where John works), I wasn’t able to negotiate the first time, and I didn’t bother the second time.
            The first time, they offered me less than market, but I was having absolutely zero luck. I asked for more, and they said no. So I took it. The second time, I was moving from LA to OKC, and they offered to match my salary. I was expecting to take a hit even if they brought me in at average for my degree/experience, but the lower cost of living would have canceled it out. As it was, I just accepted.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Oh, John, I didn’t realize you worked for The Aerospace Corporation. So did I as an intern a long time ago. Fun/weird place. Does not get nearly enough popular acknowledgement.

            (I was in their computer security lab, which was a very noncentral example of the company. I don’t particularly miss that sub chunk.)

          • quaelegit says:

            Thank you for the replies everyone!

            @John — Good point about the specificity and experience. I was finishing bachelors and had no prior experience in the particular part of industry I was applying in, and I didn’t really know much about the specific role I was hired for. So I was probably pretty interchangeable with any other recent grad with my major and some level of competence.

            @baconbacon — paid time off seems to be directly tied to seniority (how many years you’ve worked at the company) and I think everyone in the company has the same options for health and retirement benefits. But there might be other stuff — I have to admit I find the whole benefits thing confusing.

            @bean — Thank you for sharing! Maybe similar to your second situation, I thought the offer was already a pretty good deal and they could probably tell.

            @Andrew Hunter — and here I was assuming The Aerospace Corporation was some weird nickname for Boeing… now I am more informed 🙂

          • MrApophenia says:

            @baconbacon

            Question, was the restaurant a small business or a chain? (Or some level of franchise deal in between?)

            Just curious because I think there’s kind of a weird horseshoe effect in what type of jobs you can actually negotiate pay for.

            If you’re an engineer or a software developer or something else with a technical or valuable skill set, sure, you can negotiate. Managers with experience, similar deal.

            At the other end, if you’re working for an actual human who is in charge and gets to make decisions about how much your work is worth – like a restaurant that isn’t part of a chain, a small store, that kind of thing – you can also negotiate. You probably still won’t make a ton of money but if you’re a good employee and the business can afford it, sure, you can get a raise.

            But if you’re in a low to mid level job without specialist skills at a large company, my experience (both as an employee and a hiring manager) is that it’s generally just not an available option. There is a set starting salary and benefits. Attempts to negotiate above that will be denied out of hand; the hiring manager doesn’t have any control over this even if they thought the employee was worth it. Raises after that are based on a variety of pre-built performance evaluation or cost-of-living systems, if they exist at all. Ask your boss for a raise all you want, he doesn’t have the authority to give you one.

            The problem, I think, is that when you’re employed by an impersonal profit machine, there’s no one in there to actually negotiate with.

          • bean says:

            and here I was assuming The Aerospace Corporation was some weird nickname for Boeing… now I am more informed

            Aerospace was set up by the Air Force when RAND got too independent, although they’ve ended up in a rather different niche. Those at Boeing who know of Aerospace wish they could work there.

          • John Schilling says:

            I believe it was TRW rather than RAND, actually, but yes. And I like to joke about how after the endless wave of mergers and acquisitions plays out, The Aerospace Corporation will own the entire US aerospace & defense industry because foresight in nominative determinism. But really, when Congress decided to charter a tame non-profit aerospace corporation, they were just really boring and uncreative in the naming.

            We don’t pay quite as much as Boeing, but the work is more fun and the work environment is much better.

          • baconbacon says:

            Question, was the restaurant a small business or a chain? (Or some level of franchise deal in between?)

            I think it was a chain. Possibly a franchise but I would say 75-80% a chain.

          • baconbacon says:

            But if you’re in a low to mid level job without specialist skills at a large company, my experience (both as an employee and a hiring manager) is that it’s generally just not an available option. There is a set starting salary and benefits. Attempts to negotiate above that will be denied out of hand; the hiring manager doesn’t have any control over this even if they thought the employee was worth it.

            I think this is true, but only part of the picture. Rigid rules are the most easily gamed, if your company has a series or positions and experience levels then you don’t even have to negotiate, you just have to hit the basic minimum of the next level. Sometimes there is a lateral move within the organization that you will soon qualify for with better pay. At the very least it is easy to search for new jobs a year in and compare you future at the current company to any offers you get.

            Finally I would say that if you manager says he can’t do anything for you then he doesn’t think you are a particularly valuable employee, no matter how you view yourself or what else he might say. Another restaurant story of mine was that I picked up a 2nd job washing dishes on Friday and Saturday nights in an Applebees and replaced 1.5 to 2 guys literally. They used to have 2 guys on dishes on those nights (with one starting on the line and then moving over to help on dishes for half the shift) and from my first night I worked alone and with the occasional helping hand did so on every night including what was the individual restaurant’s highest volume night in their history (by $ sales). Now in one sense you are right, they wouldn’t pay me much more than their basic dishwasher wage, but when I asked to be made a server the manager moved the shitty, mid to low end restaurant version of heaven and earth for me. He got me trained as a server and waived the requirements to work weekday shifts (the slow ones that pull down the hourly wage) and pushed some of his multi year veterans off some of their Fri/Sat shifts to keep me aboard. This might not sound like much, but in earning terms I went from ~$8 an hour fully taxed to $15 an hour with ~ 1/2 of it tax free (also the fringe benefit of not having to walk outside in soaking pants and shirt in sub zero weather at the end of a shift). Because I am kind of a drifter and took a whole string of low end jobs I have a bunch of these stories (and also some of not being valued and getting fired), and my impression is the statement “your a good employee and I would hate to lose you, but” inevitable means “I can live without you, whatever”, and when you are valued it comes down to “you are a good employee, what can I do/here’s what I can do”. The latter might not be enough but it often exists.

          • Deiseach says:

            Finally I would say that if you manager says he can’t do anything for you then he doesn’t think you are a particularly valuable employee, no matter how you view yourself or what else he might say.

            I agree with that in general, because I’ve had experience of jobs where working hard gets the praise, but once you start asking for tangible expressions of “good job” like more money or better hours, hoo boy.

            But sometimes it is true that the business/organisation really can’t do anything for you. Like, where I am now, I like it a lot, and they’d like to give me more hours/raise my hourly rate, but they can’t because they don’t have the funding (and I know they don’t, because I see the money coming in and where it goes – doing the end of year returns now, fun fun fun!). So if I cut up rough and said “I’m going to walk unless I get X per hour more”, they would have no choice but to say “Well, there’s the door, good luck”. They can’t do more for me (right now anyway).

            But yeah, mostly it’s people who want to wring the work out of you for their profit and not share any of the extra benefit, and if you’re dumb enough to believe the “work hard, impress the boss, and you’ll get your reward” (as I was when I was young and green and starting out in my first jobs) then they’ll let the sucker work themselves into the ground for them up to the moment the sucker starts expecting “So when do I get my raise?”

          • Viliam says:

            Words are cheap, especially compared with the alternatives.

            Can I get a raise? Sorry, the budget is tight. Oh, that reminds me about those non-guaranteed bonuses at the end of the year you mentioned during my job interview; I already spent several years here and have never seen any, and neither do my colleagues remember seeing any. Yeah, sorry, the recent few years were especially tough.

            So, how about you keep paying me the same money, and let me leave home 1 hour sooner? Oh, that would be against the rules. Okay, so how about once a week I take my computer home and work from home? Oh, can’t have that either. Okay, but it’s weird, because I remember how during the job interview you mention the possibility of home office after the first year… oh, I get it, that was only meant for very special cases and I obviously don’t qualify; funny how I got the wrong impression.

            So, how about each Friday instead of doing those stupid tasks in Jira I start fixing some of those ancient bugs that make our work twice as difficult as it could be otherwise. Or I could write some unit tests, set up some continuous integration, or just install some free wiki software and document some of those many critical information that only ever gets communicated verbally or by e-mails. Oh, I see, that would need an approval from someone very high in the chain of command, and those people are notoriously bad at delegating competences.

            Uhm… what exactly are we debating here, Mr. Manager? Ah yes, you asked me what could motivate me to work even more and better. I guess you will have to use some of that psychological magic they taught you at the university for managers, because frankly at the moment I am out of ideas. Probably just tell me “good boy”, because that won’t cost you any money or time or work. I just can’t promise it will have the desired effect, but I guess we are both here in the business of giving each other hope anyway.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, sorry, the recent few years were especially tough.

            A little non-culture-war Scott Adams applies here.

            http://dilbert.com/strip/1995-10-02

      • balrog says:

        I am not suggesting anything. I am asking if it is main reason for their poorness?

        My question was if your Tim Hortons employee gets (by divine intervention) 1000$ more every 1st of month, will she invest it in owning house / 401k / retirement / silver bars / HSA or spend it?

        If answer is in first category, we can start thinking about how to improve their salaries (tax cuts, unions, minimal wage laws, good old yakuza style blackmail, praying to god), if it is second we might have higher priorities such as banning cigarettes (and i know people who spend over 25% of their monthly income on them).

        • MrApophenia says:

          I think it probably varies a lot by person. From my own experience coming from a poor family in a poor area, I know how I suspect it would play out with various people I knew – some would probably save it, some would use it to buy needed things they had been doing without due to cost, some would blow it on drugs and toys.

          The thing is, though, the people in all of those categories are currently poor, so I don’t think this personality question is the primary causative factor.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            The hard and heartbreaking fact is that for many people in those positions, saving that money, or even paying down debt, would require them to lie to their family and friends, about it’s very existence.

            Most probable best case is that it will get spent each month on ten different hundred dollar “emergencies” suffered by their kids, sibings, parents, aunts, neighbors, sister’s deadbeat boyfriend…

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Standing in the Shadows

            Who was it who said that the worst part of being poor is being surrounded by other poor people?

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Don’t forget the chunk that would be paying down debts, though many in that category would split it between debts/buying things they couldn’t afford before (Car repairs are big here, new tires, etc), debts/impulsive wants, or three ways.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            or three ways

            Those cost a thousand dollars?

            I guess that’s about right. Two girls, two hundred dollars an hour, two hours, plus dinner and a hotel room…

  15. JayT says:

    What is everyone’s thoughts on the announcement that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. What are the benefits? What are the negatives? What is Trump hoping to accomplish? I don’t have an opinion, and none of the arguments I’ve read either way have swayed me.

    • Brad says:

      The whole thing seems pretty silly to me. West Jerusalem is obviously Israel’s capital and going to remain so as long as there is an Israel. So on the one hand, why not say so? But on the other hand, if it is going to cause real concrete problems, why say so?

      • quanta413 says:

        I endorse Brad’s position. The amount of things everyone totally knows but does not say in diplomacy seem really weird to me. And it’s not like diplomacy looks like a terribly clever game from afar. It looks like it’s at least partly the same sort of weird individual motivations humans have scaled up to country size. But on the other hand, if having your ambassador roleplay a teapot gets you something concrete, then well… maybe you should have your ambassador roleplay a teapot.

    • Anonymous says:

      Always in favour of formalism. Jerusalem is de facto capital of Israel. Therefore, it should also be de jure capital of Israel as far as other countries are concerned.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        “always”? That sounds pretty extreme to me. It sounds like a cached thought. Why are you in favor of formalism? Does it actually apply to this situation?

        • Anonymous says:

          You’re realize you’re asking me if why I’m in favour of truth, over alternatives, right? Formalism recognizes what is, rather than some murky idea of what “should be”.

          Formalism says: let’s figure out exactly who has what, now, and give them a little fancy certificate. Let’s not get into who should have what. Because, like it or not, this is simply a recipe for more violence. It is very hard to come up with a rule that explains why the Palestinians should get Haifa back, and doesn’t explain why the Welsh should get London back.

          So far this probably sounds a lot like libertarianism. But there’s a big difference. Libertarians may think the Welsh should get London back. Or not. I am still not sure I can interpret Rothbard on this one – which is, as we’ve seen, in itself a problem. But if there is one thing all libertarians do believe, it’s that the Americans should get America back.

          A good formalist will have none of this. Because to a formalist, the fact that the US can determine what happens on the North American continent between the 49th parallel and the Rio Grande, AK and HI, etc, means that it is the entity which owns that territory.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I can think of at least one example where formalism would be a bad thing: Taiwan. Right now, the US maintains the fiction that Taiwan is not a sovereign country, even though it de facto is. But acknowledging that would strain relations with China for practically no benefit.

        • John Schilling says:

          It would have the benefit of making American diplomats seem marginally more honest. Perhaps more importantly, it would have the benefit of settling the issue now and eliminating the potential for a sudden added strain to US/Chinese relations at some unknown future date.

          Unless you think the polite lie is going to be maintained forever, the rational plan is to determine the optimum time for telling the truth – which is not guaranteed to be Always Tomorrow. For example, with the benefit of hindsight it would probably have been better for Obama to have formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because he probably would have been able to manage the transition better than Trump.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Do you think that the Palestinians trust Trump more now because he’s marginally more honest or less because he is fully aligning himself with Israel?

          • John Schilling says:

            There are approximately seven billion not-Palestinians whose opinion of Donald Trump’s honesty, and separately of the United States Government’s honesty, also matters. If as a result of this action every Palestinian hates us for ever and ever with the fire of a thousand suns, and every not-Palestinian regards us as 0.1% more honest than we were yesterday, that would probably be a net win.

            I expect it won’t be even a 0.1% gain, but that’s the sort of calculation we are trying to do here.

          • Wrong Species says:

            1. You’re assuming that the rest of the world will have a positive reaction to the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital. But the international reaction has so far been negative. Even if you want to separate the “how much the world believes we’re honest” points separate from the “the general feeling the rest of the world has toward us”, you have to factor that in.

            2. Most countries probably will believe that Trump did this for his political base, not for any noble reasons. You don’t get any honesty points if you did it for selfish reasons.

            3. Even if they did assign us more honesty points, we have no idea how many and how that compares to the problems in Palestine.

            4. We know for a fact that it has caused problems in Palestine already.

            5. And even if it did cause a net benefit in Palestine, that same reasoning wouldn’t apply to China, which has a 1/7 of the world population, a strong growing economy and is likely to become a superpower comparable to us in the next 30 years.

        • Anonymous says:

          *China* should acknowledge that these rebels are sovereign over there, and either Deal With It, or reconquer them.

          My central issue: Lying for gain is immoral, just as lying for any other reason. Stop lying (no, not you personally, unless you resemble this remark).

          • Wrong Species says:

            Do you think the label we give Taiwan is worth a nuclear war?

          • Nornagest says:

            If China is going to start a nuclear war over the label we give Taiwan, China is a lot stupider than I thought China was.

            It still might be a good idea to maintain the lie — diplomacy often consists of gracefully neglecting to mention things that everyone in the room already knows — but the downside isn’t war, the downside is offending a lot of people and causing an easily avoidable stink.

          • Iain says:

            Recycling my comment from a year ago when we were discussing Taiwan:

            From China’s point of view, Taiwan is a wannabe separatist province, gone temporarily renegade. Chinese nationalists feel very strongly that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China:

            In a recent online poll, 97% of mainland Chinese respondents said that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of China,” 85% favored using force to “reunify” Taiwan with mainland China, and 60% favored using force against Taiwan within the next five years to preempt further support in Taiwan for formal independence from China.

            The existing strategic ambiguity about Taiwan exists in part to give Chinese leaders domestic leeway to not invade Taiwan. Taiwan is not the only separatist issue on China’s plate. Tibet and Xinjiang both have active separatist movements, who might (Chinese leaders fear) be emboldened by a completely independent Taiwan. The status of Taiwan is a touchy question and affects China’s internal stability. US policy has been very carefully crafted, ever since America formally recognized Beijing in 1979, to make it clear that nobody is trying to intentionally destabilize China or overthrow its government.

            China probably wouldn’t start nuclear war over a formal recognition of Taiwan, but they would certainly see it as a hostile act and respond accordingly. The disadvantages of this almost certainly outweigh whatever warm feelings you get from boldly telling the truth.

          • Matt M says:

            Do you think the label we give Taiwan is worth a nuclear war?

            The ability to speak the truth without people killing you is probably one of the few things that actually is worth going to war over.

            THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS and such.

          • rlms says:

            Lucky you aren’t in charge of US foreign policy then.

          • Matt M says:

            Lucky you aren’t in charge of US foreign policy then.

            Yeah, stick with the guys who only go to war for really really good reasons. Like, “They’re roughly the same color as the guys who did 9/11” and “The guys who did 9/11 are trying to overthrow this secular dictator and so we should probably help”

          • rlms says:

            All foreign policy is bad, but some is useful Iraq has a distinctly lower force projection capacity than China.

          • quanta413 says:

            Iraq may have a distinctly lower force projection capacity than China, but I’m less I’m vastly mistaken about military strengths here (which is possible), China is still vastly outmatched by the U.S. They’re not going to fight a war with the U.S. in the short to medium term. At the same time, the U.S. isn’t going to invade or bomb China either without a really good reason. Too much money at stake and China is too big for even U.S. politicians to plausibly lie about holding it. Considering how much U.S. politicians love throwing the U.S. military around, I’m not actually convinced that irritating China by formally acknowledging Taiwan followed by both sides engaging in some military drills and other posturing is worse than the current status quo of invading actual countries for decades. It depends very heavily on the odds that U.S. and Chinese politicians both do something immensely stupid and not in their interests to end up more costly than our last few wars. Still “maybe less stupid than current U.S. foreign policy” is a pretty low bar to set.

          • rlms says:

            @quanta413
            True, war would be unlikely, but Matt M seemed to say it would be worth it if it did occur (because of the value of honesty).

          • Anonymous says:

            FWIW, AFAIK, USA lacks the strength to invade China, while China lacks the strength to invade the USA. I don’t see any of them coming out of a conflict better off than they went in.

          • John Schilling says:

            If a war is fought between the US and China, it will be about whether or not Beijing gets to claim Taiwan and/or the South China Sea as sovereign territory(*), not about whether Beijing gets to rule North America or vice versa. Both sides have military forces that could plausibly win that war.

            Both sides also have military forces that could be the ruin of both nations in that war. But if this outcome is avoided, a world in which Washington ends up saying “fine, you get to rule Taiwan and everything out to the nine-dash line, we’re not going to play Global Thermonuclear War over it” is an improvement for China. The opposite outcome, preserving the status quo, is not an improvement for the United States, but it’s less bad than all of the plausible outcomes that don’t preserve the status quo.

            * Or possibly about who gets to rule what used to be North Korea, but I expect Taiwan and the South China Sea would get folded into that one before the end.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Whatever you think, it’s worth bearing in mind that the US Senate voted unanimously to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this year, not that you’d know it from the way the Trump story is being reported.

      • Matt M says:

        Haven’t confirmed and don’t have a link, but I heard on the news that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been included in the official platform of the last several Democratic presidential candidates.

        • gbdub says:

          President Clinton, and at least Candidate Obama.

          • albatross11 says:

            And again, this is the sort of thing that makes it hard to read US prestige media straight when they talk about the Awfulness of Trump. As someone who thinks Trump is pretty genuinely awful, this kinda sucks, but there it is.

      • pansnarrans says:

        I believe what happens there is that the Senate agrees that Jerusalem is totally Israel’s capital but keeps ‘deferring’ on officially declaring so. One of those silly diplomatic arrangements that seems to work for some reason. Trump has broken that arrangement, so it’s still all his fault.

        To answer the OP, I suspect a lot of his motive was based on the fact he realised it would piss liberals off.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          There’s been a law on the books since (IIRC) 1995 calling on the President to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but it contained a clause allowing the POTUS to defer the move for security reasons, which all the POTUSes (POTI?) until now have done.

    • The Nybbler says:

      On the one hand, it won’t help the Middle East peace process

      On the other hand, Israel’s a sovereign nation and ought to be able to decide where it’s own capital is.

      On the gripping hand, the Middle East peace process is a joke no matter what, and Jerusalem is already the capital regardless of what the US thinks.

      So, a good decision. I’m sure Trump likes it as a thumb in the eye to various Muslim countries and organizations.

    • John Schilling says:

      “That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be”. We may be finding out if we want to stretch this principle to the relative peace the Israeli and Palestinian people have enjoyed the past few years, but it is objectively true that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and recognizing that truth is going to piss off a lot of people with knives, guns, and bombs.

      But Trump isn’t doing this because of his deep and abiding respect for the Truth. He’s doing this because it plays well with his base (or at least the evangelicals that are base-adjacent Trump loyaists). What I genuinely don’t know is, what fraction of them want to see Jerusalem recognized as the capital of Israel because,

      A: It will hasten the Second Coming of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
      B: It’s an easy way of sticking it to the hated outgroup of Islam and/or the Democrats, or
      C: Being forced to pay homage to a lie in the service of someone else’s politics is really annoying

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the evangelical community, but the label would probably fit me. From my own perspective, I’d say this is probably good, with low confidence and enthusiasm. 0% for reason A, 5% reason B, and 95% reason C.

        I don’t know all the escatalogical theories, but I have a hard time understanding how someone could believe that God’s workings will be dependent on the precise location of the American diplomat. If the theory is that this recognition will provoke a war that will lead to an apocalyptic climax, let’s just say I don’t see it as my duty to elect a president that will attempt to fulfill a prophecy, nor do I think calamities are prophesied so we can bring them about. But I’m sure you could find the viewpoint espoused somewhere on the web.

        If I were to steelman the support for Trump’s announcement (which, like you say, probably won’t match closely to Trump’s reasoning) it is that sovereign states should be able to designate within their territory the location of their own capital. Denying Israel this right tacitly rejects Israel’s legitimacy, which undercuts an ally and thus makes it’s bargaining position weaker and strengthens the position of its hard-line opponents who want to eliminate it entirely.

        • Iain says:

          The important detail here is that the status of East Jerusalem as being “within their territory” is disputed.

          Nobody disagrees that West Jerusalem is part of Israel, but the official position of the United Nations is that East Jerusalem is Palestinian.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, I recall that being an issue, can you expand why they can’t have their capital in their part?

            ETA: I see your post below; given that, I don’t see much room for legitimate complaint.

          • Iain says:

            Another way of looking at this:

            If denying Israel’s right to name Jerusalem as its capital makes its bargaining position weaker, the inverse must also be true: supporting Israel’s right to name Jerusalem as its capital strengthens its bargaining position vs the Palestinians. Making a big public show of moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a sign of favoritism towards Israel, which (among other things) hurts the US ability to be seen as an impartial arbitrator in any future peace talks. That’s a problem if you ever want those talks to succeed, because there isn’t really anybody else who can fill that role.

            (The more cynical take is that realistic peace talks have been dead for years and nothing matters.)

          • JayT says:

            Has the US ever been looked at as an impartial third party though? I mean, isn’t the fact that the US supports Israel one of the main reasons Islamic terrorists have it out for us?

          • JulieK says:

            >>Nobody disagrees that West Jerusalem is part of Israel

            US policy is that if a US citizen is born in any part of Jerusalem, including West Jerusalem, their US-issued report of birth and passport list the birthplace simply as “Jerusalem,” not “Jerusalem, Israel.” In 2002 Congress passed an act to change this policy so as to allow the option to list “Israel” on the document, but the State Department refused to go along, and a 2015 Supreme Court case (Zivotofsky v. Kerry) found in favor the the State Department.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            The US is not a neutral third party, as it has the world’s largest Jewish population, few Muslims per capita, Evangelicals who are overwhelmingly pro-Israel…
            As has been noted, even the Democratic platform calls for this. Let’s do it.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            but the official position of the United Nations is that East Jerusalem is Palestinian.

            I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that the official position of the UN is that all of Jerusalem is an international city outside the sovereignty of any state. To be sure, this position is routinely ignored but since we are talking about technical formalism, it’s worth mentioning.

          • Iain says:

            You’re right, I misremembered. Mea culpa.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      As long as he doesn’t say that Taipei is the capital of Taiwan next, this doesn’t seem like too big a deal.

      Everyone who could hate us over there already does, and none of them have intercontinental weapons. As long as we stop inviting them in, it’s not our problem if they have one more excuse to dislike us.

    • Iain says:

      I like Daniel Larison’s response to the claim that we are just recognizing the reality of the situation:

      There are many “realities” that the U.S. doesn’t formally recognize around the world. I suspect most of the enthusiasts of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem wouldn’t be interested in having him formally acknowledge the “reality” that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are no longer part of Georgia or that Crimea no longer belongs to Ukraine, and I am certain they would accuse him of the worst sort of appeasement if Trump gave official recognition to those “realities.” Those things aren’t likely to change, but it doesn’t follow from this that Washington must give them formal recognition.

      That said, I am relieved that Trump limited himself to “capital”, instead of “undivided capital”. It’s not often that I prefer Trump’s stance to Chuck Schumer’s.

      • John Schilling says:

        Daniel Larison can speak for himself; he’s on shakier ground when he starts speaking for people he disagrees with. Speaking for myself, any map than in 2018 shows Crimea as anything other than a part of Russia with a footnote to the relevant dispute, is factually wrong and gets an eyeroll at best.

        I expect to see many such maps, of course. I note that all the maps from 1940 to 1991 showed Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia as sovereign nations but not Ukraine or Georgia, and to about the same effect.

        • Matt M says:

          I note that all the maps from 1940 to 1991 showed Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia as sovereign nations but not Ukraine or Georgia, and to about the same effect.

          Wait really? I’ve never heard of this. Why?

          • John Schilling says:

            Because the United States & company wanted to Make A Point about how they disapproved of the Evil Empire’s conquest of the plucky Baltic states, no matter how objectively clear it was that they had in fact been conquered and incorporated into said Empire. Ukraine, Georgia, etc, had been conquered when we weren’t paying attention and so were grandfathered in to the Russian Empire’s “legitimate” territory.

            It wasn’t illegal to make a map accurately reflecting geopolitical reality, but the official State Department maps all said the Baltic States were independent nations (footnote not really) and what’s e.g. Rand McNally’s corporate incentive to signal disloyalty to the U.S. Government when everybody who cares understands the true situation no matter how it’s portrayed on the map?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I still have my 1984 copy of Goode’s (published by Rand McNally) and it shows the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian S.S.R.s within Soviet borders and without even the explanatory note, though I recall seeing other maps from the period that had that.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          That range of dates and scope you claim are both way too big. I’ve never seen a private map cutting them out. I suspect that’s more likely in the 50s than the 80s.

          Google gives me a Library of Congress collection of government maps, mainly CIA. All of its 1980-1989 maps include them in the Soviet Union. The 1982 CIA World Factbook has a footnote about the Baltic states, but the actual map includes them in the USSR.

          Here is a 1966 Peace Corps map and a 1961 Army map showing the Baltic states, but most of the CIA maps in the 60s don’t show them. But maybe the CIA was special.

          • John Schilling says:

            Interesting. The LOC’s maps all seem to be CIA, so the CIA at least was playing it straight. But I strongly remember seeing maps that weren’t, so now I’m going to have to start digging.

          • John Schilling says:

            The oldest relevant map in my personal library is a 1989 Hammond World Atlas. The main map the then-USSR includes the Baltic States as generic Soviet Socialist Republics, but there is a separate inset map labeled “Baltic States” showing them (at greatly expanded scale) as polities highlighted in a different color from the USSR, with names not including the “SSR” suffix, with their pre-1940 flags, and with the same sort of data box that sovereign states get. None of the other SSRs, e.g. Ukraine or Georgia, get this treatment.

            May head over to the Aerospace library over lunch and see what they have in the way of old European maps.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think this says more about Israel than Trump. They knew that it would infuriate Muslims and make a peace deal that much harder and yet they don’t seem very concerned. They can defend against Gaza easily, Palestine has been neutered and Arab countries care more about Iran than Palestine. It seems to be an act of confidence that says they don’t even need a pretense of trying for a two state deal anymore. Israel has won and they are telling the Palestinians there is no more point in resisting anymore.

    • beleester says:

      In general, I don’t think it’ll have a long-term impact – it mostly recognizes what’s already true, and the US has been planning to do this “eventually” for a while. However, there’s always the chance of starting Yet Another Israel-Palestine Flare-up, so I think it was probably a bad idea on net. Yeah, it’s a polite fiction, but diplomacy has a lot of polite fictions and there’s probably a reason they exist.

      Two additional comments I heard on NPR: First, it’s likely Trump was thinking about domestic policy rather than foreign policy – the tax bill and Russia are in the news, and not in a good way, and this is a nice, easy bone to throw to his base. So a plausible answer to “What is he trying to accomplish?” is “Nothing,” or rather, “Nothing related to the peace process.”

      Second, even though the capital’s location is a polite fiction, it’s still a bargaining chip that we have and the Israelis want, so it would be better to get something in return for it. Mr. Art of the Deal seems to be making a one-sided trade here.

  16. Controls Freak says:

    Do you think it’s possible to be pro-Bitcoin and also on the high end of concerned about climate change? I was just having a conversation today at work about the extreme amounts of energy BTC mining is consuming.

  17. Anatoly says:

    A random book recommendation: I just finished Mark Rosenfelder’s Against Peace and Freedom, and really loved it. This is a comic SF novel set in the future where humans colonized 50-odd nearby planets, met a few alien races, but there’s no FTL and interstellar travel is horrendously expensive, so the human worlds are united in a tenuous and often unstable federation of sorts called the Incatena. The hero is an Incatena secret agent sent under an assumed name to deal with a situation on a planet 24 light-years away from the Solar system, where a totalitarian dictatorship has arisen. Some of the plot tension and the humor are carried through the hero being sort of not as competent as the reader may assume at first.

    Rosenfelder is known as an amateur linguist (e.g. he has a very interesting page explaining how Chinese writing could be employed in English), and a conlanger, author of several books about inventing languages. Accordingly, world-building in Against Peace and Freedom is top-notch, with diverse human and alien societies described in rich but never pedantic detail. There are multiple languages mentioned but it’s not a conlanging novel. It’s also very funny. The plot itself is played straight, the humor typically surfacing in wordplay, witty dialogue, acerbic footnotes and frustrated expectations of the hero or the reader.

    This came out in 2011 but seems not to have made much of a splash (9 Amazon reviews), probably because the author self-published it. I only bought it because I liked his conlanging book and thought I’d check out his fiction. But it turned out to be this little gem of a novel that I really enjoyed and highly recommend.

    • quaelegit says:

      This looks really cool (especially as another person somewhat interested in linguistics) — Thanks for the rec! I’ve added it to my list. (and it’s cheap on kindle!)

  18. ManyCookies says:

    Spotted something cute on an Ender’s Game reread (minor spoilers ahead). In the aftermath of Ender’s last battleschool battle, Anderson patches the reverse gate rule and Ender mocks the rigged setups:

    Loudly, Anderson said, “After that little maneuver, the rules are being revised to require
    that all of the enemy’s soldiers must be frozen or disabled before the gate can be
    reversed.”

    “It could only work once anyway,” Ender said.

    Anderson handed him the hook. Ender unfroze everyone at once. To hell with protocol.
    To hell with everything. “Hey!” he shouted as Anderson moved away. “What is it next
    time? My army in a cage without guns, with the rest of the Battle School against them?
    How about a little equality?”

    In that hypothetical, his army can easily play for the draw; they can repeat the human shield tactic and form a tight ball around a few unfrozen soldiers, or have 5-6 soldiers fully grouphug a smaller solider (leaving a gap on their feet to breathe). Normally the opposing army would just ignore those “active” soldiers and perform the reverse gate ceremony… but Anderson patched that rule out not five seconds before! Even in his completely absurd hypotheticals, Ender still doesn’t lose.

  19. Kevin C. says:

    A question about American taxes that isn’t about the tax bill:

    One owes, and has to pay, taxes on bartering income. Well, suppose someone, say a rural homesteader, uses barter for all their transactions, and so possesses literally no US currency. How, then, do they pay what they owe to the IRS?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      This is a popular topic in the history of colonialism. Colonial authorities would often impose poll taxes in cash, and this would have big effects on the economy.

    • Mark says:

      They go to prison.

    • Brad says:

      That question is important to the theory, if not necessarily the practice, of fiat currencies. That the fiat is only accepted means of paying taxes creates a minimum level of demand for the currency.

      As a practical matter if you don’t pay taxes and don’t have any money the government will seize you assets and auction them off to pay the debt.

  20. AlphaGamma says:

    So the Pope has said he wants to change the translation of the Lord’s Prayer, as he says that the phrase “lead us not into temptation” implies that God tempts people to do evil.

    Apparently the church in France uses “do not let us fall into temptation” instead, which the Pope prefers.

    From what I can find of the original Greek and the Vulgate, it is fairly clear that the word “lead” is reasonably correctly translated from Greek eisenegkas “force into” or Latin inducas “lead into”. The actual translation issue is with the word temptation- both the Latin tentatio and Greek peirasmos can mean that, but can also mean “trial”…

    • Protagoras says:

      The Bible says God makes people do evil (look at Exodus and all the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart stuff). Why think that God wouldn’t tempt people to do evil? Can’t agree with the Pope on this one. But perhaps that’s just because I was brainwashed by growing up in a Protestant church.

    • Deiseach says:

      Irish version is “ná lig sinn i gcathú” where “líg” means something like “permit, allow” (dictionary definitions as follow: 1. Let, allow, permit. 2. Let go, allow to proceed. 3. Let out, release. 4. Let, hire. 5. (a) Cast. (b) Cast from mould. 6. Emit. 7. Do scíth a ligean, to give oneself a rest)

      So this falls more on the side of the Pope’s definition 🙂

      Re: the Greek/Latin – so a plausible translation could be “do not put us to the test”?

      • Anonymous says:

        Polish translation has “wódź” which is archaic “to lead”, same root word as “wódz” (chief) and “dowódca” (leader, superior officer). The Norwegian (Catholic) translation uses “led” which is the same Germanic root as the English “to lead”.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I am baffled.

        “Do not put us to the test” literally means the same damn thing as “Don’t lead us into temptation” – please don’t put us in situations where we might make the wrong and sinful choice.

        • Deiseach says:

          “Do not put us to the test” literally means the same damn thing as “Don’t lead us into temptation”

          I don’t know what tests were like in your school, Thegnskald, but I certainly can see the difference between “oh crap, there’s going to be a maths exam today” and “oh crap, here’s an open box of chocolates when I’m on a diet” 😉

          There is a difference between “there is a hard choice coming up before you if you follow me” (e.g. Abraham asked to sacrifice Isaac) and “here is something easy and appealing that you want to do anyway, are you really sure you were forbidden to do it?” (e.g. the serpent saying “you will not die if you eat the fruit but will be like gods”).

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            The tests of real life are much more like “open box of chocolates, I’m on a diet”, and very very rarely are anything like “there is a history exam today”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            There isn’t a hard choice if there isn’t a temptation, if there isn’t something that makes the “evil” choice attractive.

            The temptation of Abraham is to spare his son’s life. That is implicit; he has an interest in his son continuing to live. Without that temptation, the hard choice doesn’t mean anything.

          • Deiseach says:

            The temptation of Abraham is to spare his son’s life.

            Well, it’s not evil to want your only child to live, so there’s that, whereas the temptation of the serpent was to break a positive commandment and do something Adam and Eve knew to be wrong. The trials that God permits (or sets before us) are the ones in the Beatitudes:

            Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! The temptation there, if you count it as a temptation, is to avoid all this scorn and exclusion and just keep your head down about being a dirty Christian and live an ordinary life. Wanting to live like a normal person isn’t wrong as such, but the trials are “you are not going to get praise and wealth for following Me, so decide what you want and if you think you can handle this”. That’s why the whole “God wants you to be rich!” abuse of the Prosperity Gospel is wrong – worldly success is not a mark of being a Good Christian. It’s not a mark of not being a Good Christian either, but it’s not “Be a Christian and get God’s blessing which will show itself as material gain”.

            Also at the root of the disagreement in the early Church over the “suicide by martyrdom” set – you do not positively have to go out to be persecuted and die, it’s okay to live a normal life!

    • JonathanD says:

      In the Episcopal church, there is the option in our prayer book to use a more modern translation, which goes like this:

      Our Father in Heaven
      Hallowed by your Name
      Your kingdom come
      Your will be done
      On Earth, as in Heaven
      Give us today our daily bread
      And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us
      Save us from the time of trials, and deliver us from evil
      For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours
      Now and forever, Amen

      From memory, and might be off here and there. It’s not much used, but our old church used it for a couple of years and my wife prefers it, so we used it at home for a while. Our current church uses the traditional version (which I prefer) and that’s what we now use at home, so the kids won’t be confused on Sundays. Hence, I know it, but I’m afraid I might have words off here or there.

      So in that version we focus on the trial bit, and I guess just pick our own word for the start of the clause, as it seems that “save us” is pretty far from either root. Which just makes me right and the wife wrong, which is always handy. 🙂

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Sorry, the only update we need has already been done 😛

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Eisenenkas actually means “bring or carry into or onto”, so “lead us not into…” is a better translation than “do not let us fall into…”

    • Thegnskald says:

      I am just…

      What is the argument, exactly? God planned everything, or sees everything, or whatever. So there is no meaningful distinction between temptation happening to us, and God causing temptation to happen to us. God caused everything, in this view, so is responsible for everything. Hence the whole theodicy problem.

      And the difference between “trial” and “temptation” is also meaningless, because in a religious context, they mean the same thing: A situation in which somebody has a choice between good and evil, and must choose. In order for this choice to be a meaningful one, evil has to have something to offer to counterbalance the offer of good, hence temptation or trial in the first place.

      So what exactly is the argument about, because it mostly looks like adjusting something so all the unfortunate theodicy problems inherent in the system are less obvious, rather than changing anything about the actual meaning?

      • Deiseach says:

        And the difference between “trial” and “temptation” is also meaningless

        Ah no, there is a difference. “Trial” having the meaning or sense of “testing”, as in “gold is tried by the fire”, so the idea is that God will test us/permit us to be tested in order to see where we are weak and need to be strengthened and if we are ‘fit for purpose’.

        “Temptation” has more the nuance of “leading astray” as the work of the Tempter (the Evil One, unless we take the Book of Job “prosecution attorney” version of Satan), where it is not for our ultimate good that this is done, but to divert us from the path and cause us to fall and fail (and ultimately, if it works well, to completely turn away from God).

        This is getting back to Job – Job did not turn away from God during his trials, though his various ‘comforters’ and even his wife tempted him to do so (“curse God and die”).

        There’s something similar in Hinduism, e.g. in the story of the three demon brothers in the Tripurasura tale; basically, by doing hard penance and devotions, they win boons from Brahma (this is a traditional method of gaining favours from the gods) and settle down to enjoy their new cities. Being cautious (or being genuinely devout, the story is ambiguous on this) they engage in worship of Shiva which protects them. The gods are very worried (they always take powerful demons as threats) and ask the three gods of the Trinity to kill the demons. Brahma says he can’t, as he gave them boons and is their benefactor and so can’t take that back; Shiva says he won’t, as they are not doing anything wrong but are quietly sitting in their cities and praying to him, and that leaves only Vishnu.

        So Vishnu says that since the demons can’t be killed as long as they are righteous, the solution is to make them become sinners. Thus he creates a being to preach false doctrines to them (in some interpretations, this is a Hindu swipe at the rise of Buddhism and Buddhists). This false teacher goes to the three demon brothers, persuades them that the gods have no powers and that there is no heaven or hell and they should stop praying and living righteously and take up the traditional demon pursuits of drinking, war, carrying off women and the like. The brothers are successfully tempted, they forego righteousness, and now they are sinners the conditions for killing them can be met, so Shiva destroys them.

        So that’s the difference there between the trials/tests that the demons engaged in to win favours from the gods – the tapaysa – which are traditionally mandated and described to get benefits, and the temptations that the false teacher coaxed them with to their doom.

    • cassander says:

      wouldn’t “lead us away from temptation” be a lot more elegant? and preserve the meter?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I just hope he doesn’t ruin the meter to fit his theology.

    • Kevin C. says:

      And ne ġelæd ðū ūs on costnunge,
      ac alȳs ūs of yfele.

      –From the 995 AD Old English translation.

      I mostly just commented because I like comparing Old English and modern English. But to contribute a little more, ġelæd is the singular imperative of ġelǣdan, formed of the Old English version of the Germanic perfective prefix *ga-, absent in modern English, and lǣdan, ancestor of modern lead, and cognate to German geleiten, Dutch geleiden. As for costnunge, apparently a descendant, “costning” survives in dialectical British, but the related verb “costen”, from Old English costian/costnian “try, tempt” is obsolete. (It’s also interesting to that these are related to “choose” and “choice”, but not modern “cost” (as in price or monetary charge), which derives, via Old French, from Latin cōnstāre.)

    • littskad says:

      The Greek word εἰσενέγκῃς is the second-person singular, aorist active subjunctive of the verb εἰσφέρω. You can see the entry in Liddell and Scott here.
      Second-person aorist subjunctives were commonly used in a hortatory sense. The verb quite literally and unambiguously means “bring into” or “lead into”, and it’s pretty clear that the line is exhorting God not to lead us into temptation. As for what the standard translations in other languages are, this is what they’re translations from.

  21. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Sorry to be so last minute about this, but my brother might be interested in visiting the NYC megameetup or attending the solstice. Is it possible for people to get in without having pre-registered?

  22. Thegnskald says:

    Related PSA to the current strain of topics:

    Men? It is okay to have the same kind of empathy for yourselves as you have for other people. It is okay to treat yourselves well, to prioritize yourself, to say that your health matters, that your feelings matter, that you matter.

    Anybody who makes you feel otherwise isn’t worth keeping in your life. Any movement that makes you feel otherwise isn’t worth participating in or supporting. Any religion that tells you otherwise isn’t the religion of a loving God.

    Fuck that shit.

    This doesn’t mean buying into a victim complex, it means buying into the idea that your agency, yourself, belongs to you. This doesn’t mean you have to be weak, it means you get to stand up for yourself. This doesn’t mean you must wallow in pity for yourself, it means you aren’t obligated to immolate yourself. And those who hate you for it never cared about you anyways.

    That is all.

  23. Mark says:

    Has there ever been a good television dramatisation of the lives of the ancient Greek philosophers?

    Like Rome (HBO/BBC), but more philosophical.

    If not, someone should make that.

    • cassander says:

      Not exactly that, but I’ve long said that the perfect show for HBO to do would be peloponnesian war, with alcibiades as the main character in the style of house of cards, would be amazing.

      • Nornagest says:

        Oh man, I would love watching that.

        • cassander says:

          the show opens with alcibiades fucking someone on bed he hung from the back of his trireme. when he finished, he starts walking up towards the assembly building. We switch between long panning shots of a lovingly re-created athenian cityscape and little slice of life vignettes as Alcibiades narrates to the camera, talking about the political, military and social situation, explaining the implications of the athenian fleet and long walls. We get to the assembly building and the session opens, and the guy he was fucking steps forward to nominate alcibiades as the general on the sicilian expedition, at which point he turns to the camera and smiles….

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The advantage for those of us who want a philosophy series is that one (two?) episode could literally just be the actors reading Plato’s First Alcibiades and Symposium.

      • Rob K says:

        Man, now you’ve got me thinking about this. The trick would be handling the character turnover, you’d have to have a Game of Thrones style approach. You could do Thucydides as the narrator, although that would obviously leave you in trouble at the end.

        Something like –
        Season 1: Scene setting in imperial Athens, start of the war, the plague, end with the death of Pericles. Introduce Cleon and Nicias.
        Season 2: Early drama around Athens’ stunning success at Sphacteria, Sparta’s desperation, ends with the Peace of Nicias. Introduce Demosthenes, Death of Cleon. Introduce and kill Brasidas.
        Season 3: Introduce Alcibiades as a central character, Battle of Mantinea as a mid-season high point, end with the decision to launch the Sicilian Expedition.
        Season 4: Starts with the launch of the glittering expeditionary force, ends in a ditch in the Sicilian interior. Death of Demosthenes.
        Season 5: Athenian crisis and survival; the coup, Alcibiades playing all sides, Cyzicus and Cynossema, Alcibiades returns to Athens. Introduce Thrasybulus and Lysander.
        Season 6: The bitter end – Alcibiades problems, Arginusae and the trial of the generals, Aegospotami and downfall.

        The problem I see here is that the first part of the war (when you need to attract your audience) is the least flashy, although even there you have some cool naval set pieces that honestly sound more like screenwriting than realism.

        • cassander says:

          I was thinking that you actually start with the sicilian expedition (see below). Otherwise, you either have to kill your tension for most of a seasons after the peae of niceass, or do some awkward time shifting. The protagonist is alcibiades doing a reprise of kevin spacey from house of cards, and as he travels around you get to see most of the world.

          “the show opens with alcibiades fucking someone on bed he hung from the back of his trireme. when he finished, he starts walking up towards the assembly building. We switch between long panning shots of a lovingly re-created athenian cityscape and little slice of life vignettes as Alcibiades narrates to the camera, talking about the political, military and social situation, explaining the implications of the athenian fleet and long walls. We get to the assembly building and the session opens, and the guy he was fucking steps forward to nominate alcibiades as the general on the sicilian expedition, at which point he turns to the camera and smiles….”

          • Rob K says:

            Yeah, this probably works. You lose some good cinema from the early part of the war, but you get more characters you can follow consistently the whole rest of the way. Different tone of show than I was envisioning, too.

            I think tend to make the war a story arc with Athens itself as the protagonist – the confident imperial city, aiming to finally triumph over its old adversary, instead brought low by its own tragic flaws. That probably doesn’t translate to the screen as well as the Alcibiades as protagonist approach, though.

          • cassander says:

            Intellectually, I like the idea of athens as protagonist, sort of an ancient greek version of the wire, but the wire remains the only show that I know of that’s ever been able to do a good job showing the way institutions constrain and shape behavior, and I think if you asked the average person what they liked about the wire, the parts that did that would have been the least popular. I love institutional analysis, org theory, all that stuff, and even I didn’t find those parts particularly compelling TV.

    • Randy M says:

      It does seem like it would have niche appeal (ie, I am intrigued) but is there a period in time that would have HBO appeal (ie, sex & violence)? I expect the temptation would be to make the philosophers the prelude to an Alexander the Great miniseries… which would also be cool, but probably in a way which would preclude what you are going for.

      • Thegnskald says:

        It seems like there would be ample opportunity to explore an ancient gay relationship, and you could play this against the social expectation that men would settle down with a woman afterwards and raise a family.

        Then for violence, you could have the gay love interest be a young soldier; double drama points if he wants to settle down, but the philosopher doesn’t. It wouldn’t be hard to fit all the elements in without straying too far from the core content.

        • Randy M says:

          Well, sure, it’s not like violence in the ancient world is implausible, just wondering if there is any historically which is entangled with the particularly famous philosophers. Socrates death is famous, but I don’t know if that’s enough drama; did Plato moonlight as a vigilante, perhaps, or Aristotle have a long running feud that entailed impaling a few Corinthians here and there?

          • powerfuller says:

            Socrates was a hoplite in the Peloponnesian War, which is referred to in several of Plato’s dialogues. I don’t remember where, but I think one mentions the anecdote of him walking barefoot across ice (I assume the Symposium, since that also mentions his mind-over-matter feat of not getting drunk).

            Edit: It is the Symposium: Alcibiades says, “…Socrates with his bare feet on the ice and in his ordinary dress marched better than the other soldiers who had shoes…”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Aristotle had to flee Athens for fear of being lynched, but I don’t think he impaled anyone. Too far from the golden mean, and all that.

            I guess Cicero was technically a philosopher, and he had quite an interesting life, so a show about him could have some mileage.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Tangential, but there’s an anime about Alexander the Great, Alexander Senki, which exploits the ambiguity over how Philip II died to have him assassinated by Aristotle’s automated crossbow.
            Also Aristotle, Diogenes and the late Plato have a psychic battle over a mathematical object in the Realm of Ideas. It was a weird show.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Tangential, but there’s an anime about Alexander the Great, Alexander Senki, which exploits the ambiguity over how Philip II died to have him assassinated by Aristotle’s automated crossbow.

            Come to think of it, there’s a theory that Aristotle was behind Alexander’s death… Hmmm… Aristotle as a kind of ancient Dr. Moriarty?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          The problem is that a philosopher would be too, erm, philosophical to seem interesting: ataraxia and a stoic acceptance of fate don’t pull in the ratings like incestuous rape or whatever it is people are watching these days. A show with a philosopher as a secondary character, a la The Mask of Apollo, could work, but I fear most modern people’s souls are too corrupt for them to enjoy watching shows about virtuous people.

          • quaelegit says:

            >I fear most modern people’s souls are too corrupt for them to enjoy watching shows about virtuous people.

            Well that’s what a lot of people say they really like about The West Wing , but I suppose it’s a pretty old show at this point…

          • Matt M says:

            I fear most modern people’s souls are too corrupt for them to enjoy watching shows about virtuous people.

            My biggest complaint about modern TV (and to a lesser extent, non-Superhero movies) is that nowadays, the protagonist (and usually the vast majority of all other characters as well) is always a huge jerk at best and unabashedly evil at worst – but usually presented as if he’s just “flawed but human” and we’re supposed to still root for him even though he just killed an innocent person for no good reason. Fuck that mess.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Always” is overstating it, but there are a lot of spectacularly jerky protagonists in modern TV. I’ve got a pet theory that characters like Walter White, Rick Sanchez, BBC Sherlock Holmes, etc. are getting more popular because of the emotional demands placed on us by social media and modern news: when you’re being bombarded 24/7 by emotional appeals, it gets a lot more satisfying to spend 45 minutes (plus commercials) vicariously living out someone’s unfettered selfishness with just enough narrative cover to be sympathetic.

            Many of these characters do get their comeuppance in the end, at least in more narrative-driven shows, but it’s a time-honored tradition for writers to give themselves a moral fig leaf with a last-minute fall or redemption when their villain’s obviously much cooler than the heroes.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            This is not exactly a new trend

          • Nornagest says:

            Oh, sure, the idea of following a charismatic jerk has been around forever. Half the Greek heroes are charismatic jerks. But I feel like it’s gotten a lot more popular in the last ten years or so relative to the previous fifty to a hundred.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I think that the popularity comes and goes. Cf. Comics’ edgelord phase right around Watchmen, Knightfall, the start of Spawn, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Oh, sure, the idea of following a charismatic jerk has been around forever.

            Maybe, but shows where EVERYONE is this (i.e. Breaking Bad) are fairly new, imho.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            I think soap operas (“Dallas” comes immediately to mind) have been all charismatic jerks for some time. I gather Game of Thrones is much the same, only in a fantasy setting with more _actual_ backstabbing. Having a show like Breaking Bad which is one long corruption (anti-redemption) arc for the protagonist is new, but I’m not going to fault TV writers for trying something new. They don’t do that very often.

            BBC Sherlock isn’t evil, he’s just a jerk in much the same way the original Sherlock Holmes is. And the viewpoint character Watson isn’t, nor is Lestrade. The other jerks are Holmes’s brother and Moriarty.

            Stranger Things is in some sense the opposite. Even the head of the super-secret government lab isn’t a huge jerk; he’s doing the best he can to keep a lid on the Sealed Evil they’ve released, and without just killing innocents who stumble into it.

            Not many shows where the protagonists are purely virtuous and the antagonists are plain evil. Probably because it’s just too simple to hold most people’s attention after seeing a few.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            Game of Thrones is pretty clearly setting up the two most virtuous characters as the winners of the game of thrones, though.

            Wbua Fabj naq Qnrarelf Gnetnelra

          • John Schilling says:

            Meh. Ned Stark is long dead, and you-know-who can get awfully murdery if she doesn’t have a better man keeping her on track. Well, half of a better man at least.

          • Protagoras says:

            @John Schilling, I question your standards of better men. He seems to perhaps be trying to make up for his past bad deeds, but his past bad deeds are pretty bad indeed.

          • John Schilling says:

            We’re talking about the Tyrion Lannister of the television series here, and I’m curious about what you think his past bad deeds are. The only things I can think of that might qualify are the deaths of Shae and Tywin; the former was possibly self-defense and the latter was positively a public service. Aside from those, he seems to have been a consistently good man from his first appearance and I don’t recall any mention of great misdeeds in his backstory.

          • Protagoras says:

            I may be too influenced by the books. But I don’t buy the self defense angle for the Shae murder, and prior to his family turning on him he was a relatively loyal supporter of his family’s generally evil cause.

          • John Schilling says:

            His family’s cause generally was to rule the Seven Kingdoms, which is not intrinsically evil, and they generally sought to do so peacefully and legitimately until other people started a civil war. Specific members of his family seemed intent on outdoing that Targaryens in the evil department, but at least in the TV version I don’t think any of that falls on Tyrion.

    • Randy M says:

      Let me pull up a name from a recent thread that I don’t know much about but bet would make a great subject for historical drama. I want a Marcus Aurelius series.

      • quaelegit says:

        I don’t know much about him either but he does seem pretty cool! Maybe a TV series could play up the “end of the Pax Romana” and “the beginning of the end” interpretations for drama. And the Parthians were defeated under him so that probably gives you some good battle scenes.

        Personally I’d probably prefer to read a biography of him b/c that would be more likely to convey his philosophy stuff and why it’s important.

        EDIT: Related –Is there enough Drama and Scandal to do an I, Claudius take on the Five Good Emperors?

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t know enough about the Five Good Emperors, but a straight I, Claudius remake would have potential. It’s been a few years since I read it, but I remember it being about as Game of Thrones-esque as any book published in 1934 could have been; plenty of murder and ugly politics, and even some of the obligatory incest. Livia’s a character that’d be especially friendly to the formula. Throw in some modern sex and gore (not hard to do when Nero and Caligula are characters) and you should be able to keep the cheap seats filled.

          I can’t see HBO doing it, though; it’s too close in time and concept to their Rome (which was a good series, though).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Note that there’s a great bit of screenwriting in Tacitus, when he introduces Caligula as a toddler visiting a legion’s camp with his mother and the soldiers give him the nickname Caligula (diminutive of “boots”) because he looks so cute in little army boots.
            It’s more gutwrenching if you shift the audience’s reaction to a character from “awww” to horror than from neutral to horror.

          • Deiseach says:

            The BBC did a version condensing the two books (I, Claudius and Claudius the God) back in 1976 which is a lot better than the trailer makes it look.

            John Hurt had immense fun scenery-chewing as Caligula.

    • Urstoff says:

      Agora is probably the closest thing to that ever made.

  24. Deiseach says:

    So there was a bit of minor discussion between myself and another commentator over what constitutes a nation and they said shared and common similar genetic heritage (sorry if I’m misrepresenting their point). And following on from that, here is evidence that Ireland is/is not a nation (delete as applicable), since we have several defined genetic sub-groups but not one single “this is Irish Irish alone” genetic grouping.

    If you take careful note of the accompanying map, you will see on the very eastern edge of my county the sneaky Leinster people trying to pollute our pure North Munster genes 🙂

    These clusters do however seem to reflect more recent historical events within Ireland. N[orth] Munster and S[outh] Munster together predict the boundaries of the province of Munster, and individually are associated with the boundaries of the kingdoms of Dál Cais and the Eóganacht, respectively.

    Wikipedia on the Dalcassians, for those interested.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Irish are a nation in the same way Germans are. With Germans, you also have multiple identifiable groups, and they are also genetically related.

      How you label the clusters, and what super-cluster you call what is mostly political. Prior to the aptly named era of nationalism, Germany wasn’t at all united. During nationalism, the idea was to set aside petty differences and unite. Nowadays ‘nationalism’ appears to have mutated into a movement into the other direction – splitting up the super-clusters again.

      The rule of thumb I’d use to decide who gets to be called a nation and who is merely a tribe/ethnic-group, is the same one that’s used for language vs dialect – a nation is a kinship-based group that’s got their own army. 🙂

      • Winter Shaker says:

        language vs dialect

        One idea that I like, I think I heard it from Richard Dawkins but I can’t remember where, is the idea that if you do your best to speak like someone else, would they feel happy that you were trying to communicate with them in their own idiom, or would they feel annoyed that you were taking the piss out of the way they speak? Thus, a Standard British English speaker who learned Dutch would be the former, who learned Scots would be borderline, and who learned Cornwall English would be seen as the latter.

        • Anonymous says:

          I don’t know. If some foreigner (NOT another Briton or native English speaker) started speaking Cornish, I expect that the Cornishman would be positively surprised.

          • Montfort says:

            If so, this proposal would tell you the foreigner’s native language is “actually” different, and not just a different dialect of the same language. It’s a pairwise comparison (though it fails kind of trivially because few people get annoyed when a dialect speaker learns the “proper” way to speak).

          • rlms says:

            Given that Cornish has fewer than 1000 speakers, I expect the foreigner would be told to stop speaking foreign muck or similar.

          • Anonymous says:

            Given that Cornish has fewer than 1000 speakers, I expect the foreigner would be told to stop speaking foreign muck or similar.

            I know someone who speaks Cornish. He’s almost impossible to understand, even when supposedly speaking English.

          • rlms says:

            Are you sure he speaks Cornish (the extremely obscure Celtic language) rather than Anglo-Cornish (the English dialect)?

          • Anonymous says:

            I am not.

    • buntchaot says:

      well, categories are for man and such. Let me dump my thoughts here.

      Suppose there are two dimensions in which people differ: culture and genes. Naturally they correlate as the pool of viable partners and those you reproduce a culture with have for the longest time been those close around you.
      What does one mean if one says we are a nation? as evidenced by this thread it differs, but mostly it seems to be something along the lines of
      “we are a group of people here, similar to one another, and different to those over there so let us be a political unit and deal with our stuff amongst ourselves”
      So most of the time, if you squint a little, it kinda works to say the nation is a group of people with shared ancestry and you dont even have to think about genes and culture.

      But what if you want to be specific? are family A and family B part of the same nation because they are sufficiently similar in

      I. Genes
      II. Culture
      III. both
      IV. none of the above

      Enter: migration.

      It so happens that sometimes borders or large amounts of people move (often: are moved) and totally screw up our nice correlation of political unit / culture / genes. Because i can tolerate anything but the outgroup they even sometimes stay amongst themselves and retain their culture and marry amongst themselves.
      The traditional answer is limiting political integration to a minimum (taxes + monopoly of violence) and leaving the cultury stuff like divorces and petty crime to them, whatever. see: jewish jurisdiction in medieval europe, ottoman millet system, islamic courts in european cities.

      The brilliance of liberal democracy is taking that idea and expanding on it. In a way political integration is reduced for everyone by means of basic rights, but also increased in that noone gets special exceptions. (thats in my opinion the most impressive step in expanding humanity’s circles of concern in pinker’s Better Angels)

      I think defining a liberal democratic nation genetically cannot work, you will need to drop
      – the liberal part to get rid of the undesired ones
      – or the democratic part and exclude them politically
      – or the nation part and accept that genes and culture dont matter for the borders of your political unit

      but wait! says Jürgen Habermas If we all decide that we like our liberal democracy and decide we are a political unit because we want to live in that democratic state then THAT is a unifying cultural trait. hence constitutional patriotism. We have a way of defining who we are without running into the same problems we did in previous centuries.

      So here we are,
      a. defining our nations by democratic values or
      b. being inconsistent/not thinking too much about it or
      c. being a dick to people because they are different or
      d. ??????

      • rlms says:

        Good analysis (except that “islamic courts in european cities” are much more comparable to Jewish jurisdiction in *modern* Europe (i.e. affecting a tiny minority of the relevant group and being very limited in scope) than the examples you give), but you were banned.

      • Anonymous says:

        If we all decide that we like our liberal democracy and decide we are a political unit because we want to live in that democratic state then THAT is a unifying cultural trait. hence constitutional patriotism. We have a way of defining who we are without running into the same problems we did in previous centuries.

        Αἴκα.

        a. defining our nations by democratic values or

        Which soundly fails absent cooperate-cooperate choices from everyone involved. The group that first elects to defect gets a head start, and everyone else follows suit when they figure out they are being gamed.

        c. being a dick to people because they are different or

        Welcome to human nature.

        d. ??????

        You could just limit the scope of government to make it less totalitarian, just like you said. Let the various ethnics and religionists sort out their own divorces.

  25. Brad says:

    At the tail end of the last OT the subject of limited liability corporations came up in the context of Masterpiece Bakeshop. I speculated that the libertarian position would be opposed to them because they artificially reduce the ability of an injured party to be made whole by a tortfeaser.

    Any libertarians care to agree or disagree?

    • Anonymous says:

      Not a libertarian, but it seems to me that there’s no problem so long the limited liability is known prior to any agreements. It’s no different from any other deal that specifies to what extent the parties are liable for holding up their end of the deal.

      • Brad says:

        That’s fine for contractual arrangements. If I sign a contract with a company knowing they have limited liability that’s a counterparty risk I could and should have taken it account.

        But what about if Joe Multimillionare owns a company Shoddy Construction Inc. that operated a crane in a negligent fashion, which lead to a severe injury to me while I was walking down the street minding my own business. Let’s further suppose that Shoddy Construction Inc. was on the brink of bankruptcy. So after I won a judgement against them I was unable to collect anything on it, even though Joe Multimillionare had more than enough money in the bank to make me whole.

        The uncompensated loss is not anything I freely negotiated or that could have reasonably been avoided by me by choosing only to deal with unlimited liability entities.

        • Anonymous says:

          I guess that’s a fair point. I’ll let actual libertarians answer that!

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m pretty sure limited liability doesn’t apply to personal malfeasance. If Joe Multimillionaire ordered the crane to be used in a negligent fashion, or fired his safety inspector knowing that this would likely lead to the crane being used negligently, and you can show this by preponderance of evidence, you can sue Joe personally.

          If Joe is a passive investor who in spite of due diligence was taken in by Charlie the Crooked CEO, a man better at self-promotion than at running a safe and profitable company, then Charlie and Charlie’s organization are your legitimate targets. If they no longer have the money to pay, then you’re in the same position as someone hit by an indigent drunk driver – sucks to be you, but you shouldn’t get to go around looking for other people to sue just because they have deep pockets and a tenuous connection to the case.

          If Joe Millionaire was personally negligent but you can’t prove this to the court’s satisfaction because he claims to be a passive investor, sometimes it sucks to be you because the guy who hurt you is clever enough to get away with it, and sometimes the justice system has room for improvement in its identify-the-malevolent-party machinery, but in neither case is it the machinery for limiting the liability of passive (or only limitedly active) investors that is broken.

          Also note the advantage of corporations to the pursuit of justice in this context. Liability may be limited, but it is also pooled. So long as the company isn’t bankrupt (and most aren’t), then so long as you can show that negligence or malevolence occurred somewhere in the firm you don’t have to prove a particular individual to have been responsible to obtain at least financial justice.

        • Garrett says:

          As a current, practical matter, how do you not know the liability status? “Shoddy Construction Inc.” means it’s an incorporated entity with limited legal liability. It’s in the name. “Inc.” and “LLC” in the names both signify this.

        • Brad says:

          Joe has every incentive to keep himself ignorant about what Charlie is doing. As long as the cutting corners works out he can keep on cashing dividend checks. If it causes a catastrophe he can just shut down the business and open a new one. That’s why respondeat superior exists in the first place, but limited liability, well, limits it.

          • John Schilling says:

            In roughly the same sense that you have an incentive to drive fifty miles per hour through residential neighborhoods. Every incentive except the bit where if the law catches you doing that it takes away a bunch of your money. Maybe the law won’t catch you. But we deal with that by deciding how many traffic cops to hire, not by banning cars.

          • Brad says:

            It’s not illegal to invest in shady companies. Charlie is at risk of going to prison, Joe isn’t and that’s exactly the way he likes it.

          • John Schilling says:

            We are, or until just now were, talking about civil liability for debts and damages. Who goes to prison for actual crimes is a separate matter, and the corporate structure doesn’t offer any de jure protection there.

            De facto, any complex business even if run as a sole proprietorship allows great latitude for everyone involved to say “I didn’t do it, it was that other guy and he lied to me too!” in ways that are difficult to deconvolve. The corporate structure at least allows the law to say, “Someone here committed a crime, and if we can’t figure out which person to send to prison we’re still fining the enterprise as a whole”.

          • Brad says:

            Okay fair enough. When you brought up traffic cops I thought you were switching over to criminal law.

            But the point still stands, Joe doesn’t have any civil liability for investing in shady companies beyond the company itself. Again that’s the whole point of the limited liability form. So I don’t know where the speeding through residential neighborhoods analogy is supposed to come in.

            This hole, and it is a hole, is plugged with respect to certain especially dangerous industries by mandatory bonding requirements. But the general case still exists and remains unplugged.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s not illegal to invest in shady companies, but why would you assume their shadiness was going to be to the benefit of their investors?

    • skef says:

      As as separate topic, add bankruptcy itself to this list. Not in the sense that the alternative is debtor’s prison, but with respect to being allowed to keep any assets at all.

      Both LLCs and bankruptcy protection are mechanisms that promote not free but hyper-fluid markets, distorting investment in favor of certain parties.

      • John Schilling says:

        Not in the sense that the alternative is debtor’s prison, but with respect to being allowed to keep any assets at all.

        Because being tossed out naked in the gutter is so much better than being in debtor’s prison.

        Bankruptcy law at least tries to tailor its asset-allocation towards leaving the bankrupt with enough assets to go back to being productive members of society as quickly and efficiently as possible. I understand the temptation to subject people to punitive deprivation when you think they have acted foolishly and particularly when you have been the victim of their folly, but on the whole I think we’re better off not doing that.

        • skef says:

          Because being tossed out naked in the gutter is so much better than being in debtor’s prison.

          People get tossed naked in the gutter for lack of money all the time. Why the path dependency?

          I mean this quite seriously: Why does having money and then losing it one way call for one set of consequences, while having money and then losing it another way call for a different, much more favorable set of consequences?

          leaving the bankrupt with enough assets to go back to being productive members of society as quickly and efficiently as possible

          Why should the government decide who is and is not likely to be a productive citizen? If the bankrupted are so much better positioned, why wouldn’t a private entity extend a loan to them based on the circumstances under which they lost the money?

          • Garrett says:

            Bankruptcy isn’t “no wealth”. It’s “negative wealth”. The general idea is that you liquidate most of the assets to pay off as many of the liabilities as possible. The assets which aren’t liquidated are generally tools-of-the-trade and some personal items, under the idea that these will allow you to go back to being productive again.

            Not every case of net-negative wealth requires bankruptcy, either. Getting a car loan and driving it off the lot does this automatically. But as long as you expect to earn enough to be able to pay it off over time it isn’t an issue. The problem is when simply servicing the existing debt is no longer possible that it becomes required.

            In addition, the bankruptcy process has value in that it is formal and legal. Compare dealing with your bank and filing for bankruptcy, vs. defaulting with a loan shark.

          • skef says:

            The general idea is that you liquidate most of the assets to pay off as many of the liabilities as possible.

            And the general idea of redistribution is that society as a whole benefits when people who earn far less have access to some extra resources. What does any of this have to do with the price of tea in China?

            Look: A lot of non-libertarians suspect that libertarian thinking usually comes from people with a level of money such that taxes and the DMV are all that’s left to be pissed off over. Hence (IMHO) onyomi’s assertion a couple months ago that sure, with ancap there would be neither rent control laws or noise zoning laws, but short of that utopia rent control laws are clearly terrible, but noise zoning — maybe not quite so terrible.

            The question isn’t “Is it possible to justify bankruptcy laws somehow?” It’s “Is it possible to justify bankruptcy laws in a way not susceptible to the usual libertarian arguments?” Why does fucking up this particular way suddenly call for Daddy arranging a consequentialist carve-out?

          • John Schilling says:

            I mean this quite seriously: Why does having money and then losing it one way call for one set of consequences, while having money and then losing it another way call for a different, much more favorable set of consequences?

            Because of the substantial difference in expected outcomes.

            Bankruptcy protection is available and effective for people who have A: the ability to do productive work that other people find valuable and B: the judgement to know when they are screwing up badly. If you lack the former, you may be able to discharge your present debts via bankruptcy but you’ll soon enough burn through whatever assets were shielded the first time around and end up in the gutter. If you lack the latter, you’ll be in the gutter before you pick up the phone to call a bankruptcy lawyer. If you lack both, you may never accumulate assets worth protecting in bankruptcy in the first place.

            It is a net positive to society for there to be a means of avoiding the deaweight loss of a carpenter being unable to practice carpentry because he had to sell his tools to pay a debt and is now doomed to starvation or prison. It is not a net positive to society for there to be a method for a wastrel to get a second round of drinking himself into the gutter with borrowed money he’ll never pay back.

            And we don’t actually disallow the wastrels from declaring bankruptcy if they want; it just doesn’t do them as much good and they are often too drunk to make the call.

          • skef says:

            Bankruptcy protection is available and effective for people who have A: the ability to do productive work that other people find valuable and B: the judgement to know when they are screwing up badly.

            Again: if there are people out there with these qualities, investors should be able to recognize them and give them “life restart” loans after they’re wiped out.

            Look, I’m just turning the standard libertarian crank here. I’ll do it again:

            Bankruptcy protection is especially distorting because of what it forces people to take off the table. Avoiding downsides is, if anything, more motivating than the potential for upsides. Everyone who a potential investor would see as sufficiently motivated by the chance losing everything, but not by losing everything except what is required for a comfortable lower-middle-class life, is cut out of the market for that type of investment (in a particular kind of small business, for example). This unfairly shifts investment in favor of those who have other things to lose.

            Plenty of people, including commenters here, are happy to advocate deregulating medicine on the basis of these types of arguments, leaving every individual navigating these waters on their own. But with investment, people need special protections?

            It is a net positive to society for there to be a means of avoiding the deadweight loss of a carpenter being unable to practice carpentry because he had to sell his tools to pay a debt and is now doomed to starvation or prison*.

            [Insert argument first-principles argument that the market-distorting effects of the law outweigh the benefits, and that the small number of such carpenters who fail to buy comprehensive insurance would be taken care of by charity, here.]

            * Added later: This argument seems especially weak to me, given that someone who learns a trade and that for some reason they can no longer practice is screwed on all sorts of levels. What if he rents? What if his tools aren’t worth that much? If A, B, and C he can just starve (or advert to whatever welfare is available), but if he happens to have a debt and some capital of a particular kind, then that’s suddenly beyond the pale?

    • Jaskologist says:

      Can you actually run a modern economy without limited liability in some form or another? I don’t even know what companies my mutual funds are currently invested in, let alone what they might be up to. If I were on the hook for my house instead of whatever portion of my money is invested in them, I’d be doing a whole lot less investing.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      …Masterpiece Bakeshop…

      tortfeas[o]r

      Heh. Unintentionally appropriate legal terminology.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Are there any decent pop-sci books about the Big Five model?

  27. Thegnskald says:

    So, a comment after some time to think about it…

    I think the fact that men *have to make a case* for why their suffering matters is a significant thing. It is a more significant thing than that they suffer, because everybody suffers – it is a demonstration of an underlying social weakness, in direct contradiction to patriarchy theory, that men have an innate structural power. We, as a gender, have to get social approval for our suffering to matter.

    I literally cannot understand anybody who argues against men’s rights because of an oppression model. It is an alien mentality to me. The very fact that you feel comfortable arguing against somebody’s basic human dignity should prove to you that there is a capacity for oppression there; the very fact that we are comfortable dismissing men’s suffering, but not women’s, should prove to you that there is something deeply and structurally wrong with the way you are approaching gender equality.

    That’s it. That is literally all you need. The fact that there is even a question of whether men’s suffering should be brought up. If we had the social power accused of us, if the oppressor-oppressee model is even remotely accurate, then this wouldn’t be a fucking debate.

    And, given that we have all we need to make the correct conclusions, maybe we can stop voting that men’s suffering doesn’t matter. Just, y’know, notice the reason you’re doing it is in direct conflict with the fact that you’re doing it. (Or hell, for most people, to even notice that we’re voting that way at all.)

    • Viliam says:

      What if men can’t be truly oppressed, because they are all p-zombies?

      This may sound a bit weird, but when you assume it is true, surprisingly many things will suddenly start making sense.

      • Thegnskald says:

        In the sense of “The way other people behave makes sense in this light”, yeah. It is not an endearing thought.

        I waver between fury and bleakness on this. And on the one hand, I can’t be objective, so maybe I shouldn’t participate. On the other – I don’t think it is possible to grok what is going on and still remain objective.

  28. Urstoff says:

    Is there a decent news or information source that tracks where US combat troops are deployed and what their missions are? It seems like the regular press doesn’t do a great job of this.

    • CatCube says:

      Army Times (a private magazine covering US Army issues that comes out weekly) usually has a map with units coming and going, but I’ve only seen it in the print version. I also don’t know if it’ll have the level of fidelity you’re looking for, as I only recall it being to company level or larger.

      Obviously, since it’s plugged in to official sources, it doesn’t have classified deployments, either.

  29. kotrfa says:

    If anyone is interested or would like to discuss bilingual parenting when parents are non-native, here is my post about it and would be happy if I found someone else who’s trying the same.

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