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Open Thread 94.75

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977 Responses to Open Thread 94.75

  1. Well... says:

    One of Jordan Peterson’s claims is that he’s guided a lot of people away from the all-trite and toward the center. Have any you of you been so guided, and if so, can you tell us more about it?

  2. a reader says:

    In the near future – let’s say 2020 or sooner – will parents (who use IVF) choose which embryo to be implanted based on his traits (height, eyes color, hair color, intelligence etc.)? Height, eyes color and hair color can already be estimated quite reliably from the DNA. Intelligence is more complicated, depends more on the environment, but more and more genes that influence it are discovered.

    So, as far as I understand, technically that is already possible, the only obstacles are ethical – no IVF company wants to be accused of “eugenics”. But I think they can circumvent this obstacle by offering to the future parents the raw DNA of all healthy embryos (as 23andme does for its clients), so that those parents can look further into that DNA with third party free online services like Promethease.

    A Los Angeles fertility clinic tried to let people choose based on hair and eye color already in 2009, but renounced due to public outrage:
    https://www.wired.com/2009/03/designerdebate/

    • maintain says:

      I’ve thought about this before. I don’t think they can do much to find the right combination of genes that makes a genius, but it should be pretty easy to offer to impregnate you with a clone of a genius.

      Then again maybe normies don’t want genius children.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I suspect that genius (in the sense of being a world shaker) is contextual– it takes the right combination of talent, interest, and opportunity.

        It should be a lot easier to get a solidly smart person than a genius.

        • albatross11 says:

          Think regression to the mean, here.

          Suppose intelligence has a narrow-sense heritability of .5. Assuming I’m doing the calculations right (I could be messing this up–this is way the hell outside my field):

          We start with a one in a million genius–that is, a guy with an IQ[1] of 171. His clones will have an average IQ of about 135.5. That’s a one in a hundred level smart person.

          The intuitive explanation for regression to the mean is that whatever is extraordinary about you is a mix of heritable things (genes) and non-heritable things (developmental noise, environment, other random stuff). The heritable things get passed on to your kids, but the other stuff doesn’t. Note that this works exactly as well if you look at smart kids and then try to figure out how smart their parents are.

          I have a population of kids (clones of our genius) who have an average IQ of 135.5–on average, they’ll be in the top 1% of people by intelligence. First off, I’m pretty sure most parents would be pretty happy to know their kids would be drawn from that IQ distribution. Second, it’s interesting to ask how many such clones we’d expect to need to get another one in a million genius. By my calculations, you’d expect to need to make about 100 such clones to get another genius at the level of the original.

          Complications:

          First: If we know about the genius’ parents, we can make a better estimate. Regression to the mean doesn’t keep happening forever–it happens once[2]. If half your IQ is from your genes and the other half is from your environment, then if your parents are both really smart (average IQ between them of 150), then I think you’re regressing to a mean of 125 (assuming .5 heritability), not 100. That changes these numbers dramatically! (I think then the genius’ clones have average IQ of 148.)

          Second: To the extent the second half of IQ is environment and developmental noise, someone actively trying for genius kids may be able to stack the deck a bit there by trying to give the kids the kind of environment that would be really good for a budding genius, or by trying to replicate the environment in which the original genius grew up. I have no idea how well this would work, though.

          Big disclaimer: This isn’t my field, so I may be messing the calculations up. Someone who knows more, please correct me.

          [1] I’m assuming IQ means intelligence here–that’s not quite right, but it’s what we can measure and it’s apparently a really good proxy for what we mean by “intelligence,” and it seems plausible that actual intelligence works about the same way as IQ w.r.t. heritability and regression to the mean.

          [2] I’ve always wanted to see this handled well in a SF story about a space colony. The first generation of mars colonists will be incredibly amazing people–folks with two PhDs who are also just short of professional-grade athletes and are so personable they could make a good living as salesmen. Their kids will be really impressive by normal-people standards, but they’ll be enormously less impressive than their parents.

          • maintain says:

            Surely if they were cloning geniuses, eventually they would realize that some geniuses were smart because of genetics, and some were smart because of environment.

            Eventually they should be able to find the right set of genes that creates a genius no matter what.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, my intuition is that you’d look for smart blood relatives of the source genius to be cloned:

            a. Smart parents
            b. Smart siblings
            c. Smart kids

            Each of those is some evidence that the genius’ smarts are heritable, though they could also have to do with the upbringing/environment, since it sure seems like a very smart kid raised by very smart parents will get some benefits.

            ETA: I think in practice, every genius will be smart because of both genetics and other stuff. And some of the other stuff may be environment, but a lot will be random crap nobody can control.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Why would you get regression to the mean for clones? This sounds like assuming that that the cloning tech doesn’t produce very accurate copies.

            Epigenetics? Other sources of error?

            What’s known about how similar clones are to their originals for more easily measured traits?

          • Incurian says:

            Why would you get regression to the mean for clones?

            Because environment gets a vote too.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nancy:

            Regression to the mean isn’t just about parents and children, it works for siblings, too, including twins. A clone is just a twin that’s born later. (In fact, regression to the mean happens anytime two variables are correlated.)

            One way to think about this: Alice and Betty are clones, or equivalently, they’re twins who were raised apart.

            Alice is a genius. What made her a genius is a mix of genes and other random stuff–her specific experiences, developmental noise when she was growing up (the stuff that leads to birthmarks and fingerprints being different), her environment and upbringing, her situation, etc.

            What can we predict about Betty? Most likely, Betty won’t be a genius, though she’s much more likely to be one than some random person off the street. Because while she has the same genes as Alice, all that other random stuff (specific experiences, situation, developmental noise, environment and upbringing) was different. To get to be a genius, Alice had good genes and good random stuff all pushing her in the same direction. Betty has the good genes, but the random stuff probably wasn’t so perfect for lining her up to be a genius.

          • a reader says:

            We start with a one in a million genius–that is, a guy with an IQ[1] of 171. His clones will have an average IQ of about 135.5. That’s a one in a hundred level smart person.

            I’ve read somewhere (but now I can’t find where) that if the identical twins are both healthy and have almost the same weight at birth, their IQs will also be almost equal (the variance being in the range of difference when same person is tested twice, something like 5-6 points). If that is right, I don’t think such an enormous difference of 35 points is possible between identical twins, except when something really bad happened with one of them during gestation (blood “transfusion” to his brother) or after (accident, disease). As you said, “A clone is just a twin that’s born later. “, so if a cloning process produces such a difference, it will mean that it is not reliable yet.

          • Nornagest says:

            Are those twins raised together or apart? There’s definitely more environmental difference between clones and twins raised together.

          • a reader says:

            @Nornagest:
            Raised together, I think. But anyway, it seems that shared environment has less effect on adult IQ than not-shared environment. And according to Wikipedia:

            the heritability of IQ for adults is between 58% and 77%,[5] (with some more-recent estimates as high as 80%[6] and 86%[7])

            Btw, in a twitter poll this days, among almost 2000 respondents, 79% said they wold choose the high iQ embryo and only 17% said they will choose at random:
            https://twitter.com/keithfrankish/status/958734121660043264

          • a reader says:

            Regarding the IQ of twins raised apart, I found this:

            The mean absolute difference between twins is 6.60 (SD = 5.20). the largest difference being 24 IQ points. […] The overall intraclass correlation between twins is .824

            http://arthurjensen.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/IQ%E2%80%99s-of-Identical-Twins-Reared-Apart-1973-by-Arthur-Robert-Jensen.pdf

            So it seems that if we clone a genius with IQ 171 and the cloning and the pregnancy goes well, we’ll probably obtain a very inteligent clone with IQ around 165. But I think that cloning humans (that are healthy, with norma life expectancy) will be a lot more difficult and a lot less accepted morally than choosing between IVF embryos.

          • So it seems that if we clone a genius with IQ 171 and the cloning and the pregnancy goes well, we’ll probably obtain a very inteligent clone with IQ around 165.

            I’m assuming that “mean absolute difference” is counting both positive and negative deviations, so only sets an upper bound for the reversion to the mean effect. The clone could end up at 177.

          • But I think that cloning humans (that are healthy, with norma life expectancy) will be a lot more difficult and a lot less accepted morally than choosing between IVF embryos.

            You may well be correct about the acceptance, but why would cloning humans be more difficult than cloning other large mammals?

          • Incurian says:

            You may well be correct about the acceptance, but why would cloning humans be more difficult than cloning other large mammals?

            Brains are complicated. Maybe the cloning process mostly works fine but decreases IQ by 50%. You might not notice that a cow had an IQ of 1 instead of 2, but on a human a 50 IQ would be noticeably defective. I have no idea if this is how cloning works, just conjecturing.

          • rlms says:

            @a reader

            So it seems that if we clone a genius with IQ 171 and the cloning and the pregnancy goes well, we’ll probably obtain a very inteligent clone with IQ around 165.

            Only if you assume that the findings based on a study of ~100 IQ twins are applicable to people with a vastly higher IQ, which seems implausible.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Replying to no one in particular:

            Perhaps the original genius was in fact the regression to the mean. The clones may very well be super-geniuses.

            You’d want to look for those who had crappy, yet banal childhoods and young adulthoods. Anyone who could become a genius despite that is more likely to have phenomenal genes (though there’s still the possibility the particular environment was just a very good complement to their particular genes).

          • Brad says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I’m assuming that “mean absolute difference” is counting both positive and negative deviations, so only sets an upper bound for the reversion to the mean effect. The clone could end up at 177.

            @rlms

            Only if you assume that the findings based on a study of ~100 IQ twins are applicable to people with a vastly higher IQ, which seems implausible.

            Right. Furthermore, even if you could, the whole idea of reversion to the mean is that something like mean absolute difference is not symmetric towards and away from the population mean.

          • a reader says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            I’m assuming that “mean absolute difference” is counting both positive and negative deviations, so only sets an upper bound for the reversion to the mean effect. The clone could end up at 177.

            That 171 IQ being one in a million, it seemed more probable to belong to the smartest “twin”.

            @rlms

            Only if you assume that the findings based on a study of ~100 IQ twins are applicable to people with a vastly higher IQ, which seems implausible.

            Why not? The difference between twins doesn’t seem to increase with the twins’ IQ – on the contrary, that study says that:

            The lack of a significant correlation (r = -0.15) between twin-pair means and twin-pair differences indicates that magnitude of differential environmental effects is not systematically related to intelligence level of twin pain.

            By the way, another more famous study, “The Minnesota Study of Twins Raised Apart”, also found an average difference around 6-7 points between twins (very close to the difference between 2 testings of the same individual (see page 5):

            “The Minnesota Study of Twins Raised Apart”

    • Randy M says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it is happening already, which I guess is another way of saying it’s fairly likely to happen by 2020. I expect it is being done pretty quietly for now, then in a few years, when there are cute toddlers to use for marketing purposes, there will be stories about people who have used it to good effect.

    • OneTimeNickname says:

      I plan to try to do this later this year. After a rather frustrating period of trying different treatments, it looks like IVF with donor eggs is going to be our last option.

      We are currently searching for a donor (I don’t know why they call them donors, when you have to buy the eggs, but they do). The people we’ve dealt with at agencies seem to be somewhat taken aback by our desire for a very intelligent donor. We in turn have been nonplussed by their attitudes. Lesbian friends have told me that the sperm acquisition process is a lot more transactional and professional.

      Because finding a donor, negotiating an agreement, and doing the donation procedure is expected to take a while I haven’t really started a deep dive on how we could do embryo selection, but I’ve read gwern’s page and it is something we’d very much like to do. If anyone has any tips, I’d be much obliged.

      • Randy M says:

        sperm acquisition process is a lot more transactional and professional

        If you find arm-chair evo-psych theories about sex differences at all persuasive, this really isn’t surprising.

        In any event, it is definitely a product that reflects upon the seller in ways that we aren’t always supposed to notice socially.

        A random word of advice–happiness seems to have a decently large innate component. You certainly want a child who is no dummy, but emotional stability is probably worth looking into as well.

        • secondcityscientist says:

          If you find arm-chair evo-psych theories about sex differences at all persuasive, this really isn’t surprising.

          Or if you know how the process works for egg acquisition – hormone treatments, big needles, lots of doctor visits, invasive medical procedures. I suspect that being picky about your egg donors is looked down upon because they think you’re lucky to get any woman to go through that process at all.

          Compare with acquiring a sperm sample, a process which many men do at home for fun on weeknights.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            That’s what the compensation is for….

          • baconbits9 says:

            Its also simply a matter of opportunity cost. To find a female donor in the top 1% of intelligence that needs money that amount of money is going to be much more difficult than finding a man in the top 1% who is willing to do something that he pretty much was already going to do at some point.

          • JulieK says:

            I read that in Spain, donor eggs from Russian immigrant women are highly valued, since blond hair is fashionable.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I don’t have any experience, and I don’t know if this would work but could you look for someone who is already having their eggs harvested for their own IVF? This might cut out some of the selection issues you will face looking for a intelligent donor.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      Embryos are pretty small – I’m not an IVF expert, but human embryos around implantation stage would have about 300-500 cells total. You’d need some number of those cells to sequence the embryo’s genome, then identify the one you want. Right now, in 2018, we can’t reliably sequence a human genome from a single cell at the level to identify all of the various SNPs you’d need to do the screening. Maybe that changes in a couple years, and it’s definitely technology that people are working on, but it doesn’t exist quite yet. So you’d need to take a larger chunk out of the embryo to sequence it, which might adversely affect its development. Until we get a genome sequence from a single cell, it’d be difficult.

      Then you’d need to be able to screen out variants for what you want (and what you want to avoid). Honestly, I’m not very sure that we’d be able to do this for more than a few monogenic traits like eye color. For polygenic traits like height or intelligence, it’d be even harder. As much as GWAS studies for intelligence get hyped around here, the appropriate conclusion should be closer to “see, we can identify a genetic component to intelligence!” than “we will be able to tell how intelligent a person will be by sequencing their genome”.

      Alleles for complex traits often behave strangely when combined with novel backgrounds. As an example, there are lots of lab mouse strains. For some genetic mutations, if they’re present in one strain you get a big, obvious phenotype. Cross that mutation into a new strain though, and the phenotype goes away. Research on background effects like this is usually considered too boring to pursue, but you’d need to know how they work – and in humans, which are harder to study than mice – for your screening plan. If you know, for example, that one particular SNP variant is associated with +5 IQ in a Finnish population – how does that compare to a German population? Or a very polyglot society like the USA?

      • Randy M says:

        I wonder how much health risk there is to the embryo in this extraction/screening/freezing(?) process. It’d be a shame if it ended up doing more harm than good.

        • My memory from a book on reproductive tech is that it is possible to withdraw one cell at the eight cell stage without damage, in which case several cells at the 300 cell stage shouldn’t be a problem.

          I may have mentioned before Heinlein’s improved version of genetic selection. Instead of selecting on fertilized ova, select separately on egg and sperm. Selection on ten eggs and ten sperm gives you the equivalent of selection on a hundred embryos.

          The trick to doing it without damaging the cell is to take advantage of the fact that egg or sperm starts with the full set of genes of a cell and throws away half of them (I oversimplify a little). Do that process in vitro, destructively analyze the part thrown away, destructively analyze a full cell, subtract the former from the latter and you know know what is in the half that wasn’t thrown away.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This requires you do the oogenesis in vitro, however, which I don’t think is currently technologically feasible (though probably not far!). Spermatogenesis is symmetric; you get four viable spermatozoa from one spermatogonium, and they’re all unique, so using the same trick means you might test the “wrong” sperm cell.

          • @Nybbler:

            I agree that this requires something beyond current technology, but not hugely beyond. So far as your point on sperm, can’t you test three and use the fourth?

          • The Nybbler says:

            You can test two and use the other two, but if the ones you test turn out to have the genes you want, too bad, you’ve destroyed them. Whereas with ova, you’re testing non-viable polar bodies anyway. It works the same way, it’s only that with ova you don’t have to destroy any viable cells. Really more of an aesthetic issue than anything else.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          Freezing is actually known to lead to better outcomes, because that’s a selection step. So apparently some don’t thaw well, but those aren’t implanted.

      • a reader says:

        I don’t know the details, but there is something called “Next Generation Sequencing” already used in preimplantation genetic diagnosis.

        PGD NGS method (preimplantation diagnosis based on next-generation sequencing platform) uses the most up-to-date techniques of human genome sequencing (reading of genetic information) for testing embryos and opens new diagnostic possibilities.

        It is used as a part of in vitro fertilization and provides comprehensive information concerning embryo’s DNA for diseases or genetic mutations.

        source: http://www.invictaclinics.com/pre-implantation-genetic-diagnosis-pgdpgs-ngs/ngs-next-generation-sequencing/

        About height:

        Armed with the U.K. data, Hsu and Tellier claimed a breakthrough. For one easily measured trait, height, they used machine-learning techniques to create a predictor that behaved flawlessly. They reported that the model could, for the most part, predict people’s height from their DNA data to within three or four centimeters.

        In the case of height, Genomic Prediction hopes to use the model to help identify embryos that would grow into adults shorter than 4’10”, the medical definition of dwarfism, says Tellier. There are many physical and psychological disadvantages to being so short. Eventually the company could also have the ability to identify intellectual problems, such as embryos with a predicted IQ of less than 70.

        The company doesn’t intend to give out raw trait scores to parents, only to flag embryos likely to be abnormal. That is because the product has to be “ethically defensible,” says Hsu: “We would only reveal the negative outlier state. We don’t report, ‘This guy is going to be in the NBA.’”

        source: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/609204/eugenics-20-were-at-the-dawn-of-choosing-embryos-by-health-height-and-more/

        About IQ:

        – a meta-analysis of GCTA results indicates that SNPs can explain >33% of variance in current intelligence scores, and >44% with better-quality phenotype testing
        – this sets an upper bound on the effectiveness of selection: a gain of 9 IQ points when selecting the top embryo out of 10

        source: https://www.gwern.net/Embryo-selection

      • a reader says:

        My comment here just inexplicably disappeared. I don’t have the patience to write it all again, so I’ll just drop one link:

        https://www.technologyreview.com/s/609204/eugenics-20-were-at-the-dawn-of-choosing-embryos-by-health-height-and-more/

        Armed with the U.K. data, Hsu and Tellier claimed a breakthrough. For one easily measured trait, height, they used machine-learning techniques to create a predictor that behaved flawlessly. They reported that the model could, for the most part, predict people’s height from their DNA data to within three or four centimeters.

        In the case of height, Genomic Prediction hopes to use the model to help identify embryos that would grow into adults shorter than 4’10”, the medical definition of dwarfism, says Tellier. There are many physical and psychological disadvantages to being so short. Eventually the company could also have the ability to identify intellectual problems, such as embryos with a predicted IQ of less than 70.

        The company doesn’t intend to give out raw trait scores to parents, only to flag embryos likely to be abnormal. That is because the product has to be “ethically defensible,” says Hsu: “We would only reveal the negative outlier state. We don’t report, ‘This guy is going to be in the NBA.’”

        • Lillian says:

          Once the technology is in place, it will sooner or later be used to look for desirable traits rather than just undesirable ones, regardless of whether its creators think it’s ethically defensible or not. In fact, i expect some hopeful parents are going to demand the full results, under the table if need be.

          • Aapje says:

            The only difference between removing undesirable traits or selecting for desirable traits is where you set the cut off.

            I suspect that the creators are just saying this to prevent a backlash and expect to slippery slope themselves into allowing people to select for above average intelligence or whatever, under the guise of preventing ‘abnormal’ children.

        • Deiseach says:

          The company doesn’t intend to give out raw trait scores to parents, only to flag embryos likely to be abnormal. That is because the product has to be “ethically defensible,” says Hsu

          And they really expect nobody is going to come up with a way to get around that? Tell a fake story about dwarfism in the family/tendency to have short children? Pretend to have worries about “I had an affair/this pregnancy is the result of donor sperm, my husband is very tall, I’m not sure about how the baby will turn out, please help save my marriage”?

          The only legit reason I can see for this is people who already have an established family history of a risk of short stature, and I imagine that the client base for such testing would be very limited and already have a fair idea of “this baby is going to be small”. They may make all the right noises about ethics, but it’s either going to end in a lot of abortions of “abnormal embryos” or it’s for people who do want ‘future NBA star who will keep us in style due to huge earnings’.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            On average shorter people use fewer resources. This is a benefit in the modern world. We need people to be shorter.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Right now, in 2018, we can’t reliably sequence a human genome from a single cell at the level to identify all of the various SNPs you’d need to do the screening. Maybe that changes in a couple years, and it’s definitely technology that people are working on, but it doesn’t exist quite yet. So you’d need to take a larger chunk out of the embryo to sequence it, which might adversely affect its development. Until we get a genome sequence from a single cell, it’d be difficult.

        We got there late last year. One error per hundred million bases from single cells.

        I have to pay attention to this stuff because my project involves single nucleus assays. It’s kind of crazy how far things have come; I was just reading a review of single cell multi-omics earlier today and even having heard of a few of the techniques before it blew my mind.

        • secondcityscientist says:

          Nice. We’re considering a project that tries to do that, but the guy more familiar with the technology that we were collaborating with didn’t think we could get full genome coverage. Maybe it was more that we either couldn’t do it at our institution or couldn’t do it in a cost-efficient manner. I suppose if it’s just being published it probably hasn’t been widely adopted yet.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I mean this sort of thing won’t be very practical for most labs until Illumina or whoever buys it and makes it into a kit.

            A lot of the really cool single cell assays use custom microfluidics devices and basically put a lot more work into it than anyone else is willing to.

            Even regular single cell assays are pretty expensive: the costs for SMART-seq at my institution’s epigenomics core facility are in the thousands of dollars range and they recommend having a few tens of thousands of cells in suspension to begin with. I just today figured out a way around that last bit but it’s really frustrating because most of the newer more exciting results are only a year or two old at most and haven’t been replicated yet.

            So depending on what your needs are it might not be reasonable to use single cell WGS. I happen to desperately need single cell assays to test my hypothesis.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Or a very polyglot society like the USA?

        Probably veering off-topic, but are you sure that’s what you meant? I though that both Germany and Finland had higher percentages of people who can speak two or more languages than the USA does (though I’m finding it hard to dig up stats on how many people are bilingual, as opposed to tri+lingual in continental Europe)?

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        You don’t need to accurately sequence the single embryonic cell. You accurately sequence the parents genome and use the single cell data only to find out which parts of the parents genome are there.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Good point!

          A sperm has about 1 crossing-over per chromosome. All you have to do is identify where it crossed over and for most purposes, you don’t care very precisely. An egg has about 2 per chromosome.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis has been around since 1989 and the original use was selection for sex to avoid X-linked diseases. So, at least on the level of karyotype, the ability to select what kind of kid you want has been around for a long time.

      Apparently this is really huge right now in China, where there are fewer busybodies trying to force other people to have sick kids. That said, the focus is still clearly on monogenic diseases and not on polygenic traits like height. Even putting ethical issues to one side, that’s the obvious way to go: it’s a lot more important whether or not a kid has Tay Sachs than whether he’s going to be 5’10” or 6′ tall.

  3. HeelBearCub says:

    Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes:
    Boycott the Republican Party

    We have both spent our professional careers strenuously avoiding partisanship in our writing and thinking. We have both done work that is, in different ways, ideologically eclectic, and that has—over a long period of time—cast us as not merely nonpartisans but antipartisans.

    The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).

    • CatCube says:

      Of course, the reason that Trump was successful on the Republican ticket is because of the perception on the right that the Democratic party was already guilty of this. (Obama originally stating that unilaterally enacting DACA would be the act of a king, then doing it anyway; Clinton’s many and varied instances of corruption, etc.) The rallying cry among many (R)’s was “At least he’s not Hillary! You don’t want Hillary to win, do you?!” People who one administration prior denounced behavior that Trump was self-admittedly guilty of voted for him anyway because they were

      vot[ing] mindlessly and mechanically against [Democrats] at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).

      So as cute as Rauch is trying to be here, he’s just feeding the cycle of partisanship, not fighting it. As David Wong warned in Cracked: http://www.cracked.com/blog/be-warned-your-own-trump-coming/

      This mentality is how it happens.

      • Civilis says:

        This.

        The following line in the piece should be highlighted and read back to the authors repeatedly: “The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period. In other words, under certain peculiar and deeply regrettable circumstances, sophisticated, independent-minded voters need to act as if they were dumb-ass partisans.

        “Trump is the greatest threat to the Rule of Law in the US” is a debatable position, and that debate requires proving two assertions: one, that Trump is a threat, and two, that there are no other threats of potentially comparable magnitude. If you are willfully not addressing one other potential threat, the threat that I can see, there’s no ability to debate.

        I’m not saying the authors are necessarily wrong; they may sincerely believe Trump threatens the rule of law. But the inability to see that it is just as reasonable to believe the opposite dooms the whole piece. If you’re going to tell me that the Rule of Law is endangered, you’re going to need to address threats to the Rule of Law from both sides. If you don’t do that, I’m going to assume you care about one side (your side; don’t pretend to be non-partisan) winning, and not the Rule of Law.

        • Iain says:

          If you are willfully not addressing one other potential threat, the threat that I can see, there’s no ability to debate.

          This is unclear. Do you have a specific alternative nominee for Biggest Threat to the Rule of Law? If so, you should propose it and compare it to Trump yourself.

          It is, to be sure, important to consider whether you are being blinded by partisan bias. But it’s equally important not to take that too far: sometimes, one side actually is right. Reflexive contrarianism is no better than reflexive partisanship; reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Reversed stupidity is probably better than stupidity, even if it isn’t as good as intelligence.

          • Civilis says:

            This is unclear. Do you have a specific alternative nominee for Biggest Threat to the Rule of Law? If so, you should propose it and compare it to Trump yourself.

            If you go into this with the assumption that Trump voters care about the rule of law (and if they didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to persuade them using this rationale) that means that they looked and saw threats to the rule of law from the Democratic side.

            If you can’t see why someone else might think the Democrats are the biggest threat to the rule of law, even if you disagree, you’re in no position to debate (this does not require agreeing with them). They may be completely ignorant of Trumps transgressions, or they may have carefully considered them against other threats and found the other threats more severe; either way, you can’t say for sure without knowing what they’re thinking just as they can’t be expected to make the same decision as you without knowing what you know.

            People who say “Trump is the greatest threat to the rule of law” are doing so either because they genuinely care about the rule of law, or because it is a convenient excuse to bash Trump. If they care about the rule of law, they would at least know about and be able to address other people’s concerns about threats to the rule of law. If concern about the rule of law is merely an excuse to bash Trump, then they won’t know more than what Trump has done.

            I’m currently a hair away from going and “vote[ing] mindlessly and mechanically against Democrats at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former)” and just when intelligent discussion in places like the SSC comments suggest that this is a bad idea, articles like this come along and push me closer. The only way you’re going to be able to convince people like me to give the Democrats a chance is to demonstrate that your concern for the rule of law is genuine is recognizing that we think the Democrats pose a threat and treating that belief as if it is genuine. And the scary thing is that I could substitute any number of other rationales for the rule of law and have this be just as valid.

          • Nornagest says:

            There are a lot of threats to the rule of law, but it seems to me that one of the bigger ones is the temptation to say “screw the rule of law, I just wanna fight those fuckers”.

          • Civilis says:

            There are a lot of threats to the rule of law, but it seems to me that one of the bigger ones is the temptation to say “screw the rule of law, I just wanna fight those fuckers”.

            The problem is that if the side that says “screw the rule of law, I just wanna fight those fuckers” wins, they can rationalize it away.

            Right or wrong, the Republican narrative is that the Democrats have long abandoned any principles in favor of power. I don’t want the Republican party to cross that line as well, and Trump is certainly very close to it. The problem is that arguments like the one in this article push a lot on the right towards crossing the line.

            The only thing that’s going to fix it is a general acknowledgement that some on the other side can be principled and still come to a different conclusion about who to vote for and which policies to support. Both sides need to put principle over party, even when that means disagreeing on policy. Both sides need to give the other side the benefit of the doubt that their concerns are genuinely arrived at.

          • cassander says:

            @Civilis

            I’m currently a hair away from going and “vote[ing] mindlessly and mechanically against Democrats at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former)” and just when intelligent discussion in places like the SSC comments suggest that this is a bad idea, articles like this come along and push me closer.

            Give into your hate, let it flow through you. We don’t have cookies here on the dark side, but we have plenty of bourbon!

          • pontifex says:

            Do you have a specific alternative nominee for Biggest Threat to the Rule of Law? If so, you should propose it and compare it to Trump yourself.

            There are many, many bigger threats to the rule of law in the US.

            1. Vague and overly broad laws. Harvey Silvergate claims that the average citizen commits three felonies a day, which is probably an exaggeration, but which contains an important grain of truth. Prosecutors have huge discretion about who to target with these overly broad and vague laws.

            2. Asset forfeiture laws. Police can simply seize your money, and then you have to sue them to get it back. Seriously, don’t travel with a lot of money in the US. As professional poker players know, the cops can simply confiscate it and often do.

            3. Plea bargaining and the way it has replaced the jury trial for the vast majority of cases. Again, this hands huge powers to prosecutors and erodes the rule of law.

            4. Widespread disrespect and flouting of immigration laws and drug laws. Some cities straight up refuse to enforce immigration laws. California refuses to enforce drug laws (like the laws against marijuana.) Yes, these are probably poorly written laws. But the fact that the government itself breaks the law, and the citizens ignore the law, is really terrible for the rule of law.

            5. The dysfunctional relationships between many local communities and their police forces. I’m not convinced this is as widespread as the media likes to paint it as. But it really, really sucks for the rule of law when it exists.

            6. Gangs (the Zetas, the mob, etc.). It’s a huge problem in Mexico, and a lot of it is spilling over into the border states.

            7. The executive branch abusing executive orders for so many things. Both Democrats and Republican presidents have done this, over and over.

            8. Activist judges and the general lack of even a pretense of bipartisanship when nominating supreme court judges.

            9. Forced arbitration clauses that mean that you may never have your day in court against vendors and employers.

            10. The general mob mentality enabled by Twitter, Facebook, and the other anti-social media outlets. The same mentality that gave us social justice mobs, Pizzagate, and yes, the Donald as well. Actually this should probably be even further up than #10…

            I could go on. Trump wouldn’t even crack the top 50 threats to the rule of law. He probably wouldn’t even be in the top 10 presidents to ever threaten the rule of law, either. George W. Bush would rank higher on that (remember him?)

          • Widespread disrespect and flouting of immigration laws and drug laws.

            What I think you are describing is a refusal by state or local governments to enforce federal law. Why do you regard that as a threat to the rule of law?

            If anything, it’s the other way around. Attempts by the federal government to enforce marijuana laws against people who grow their own marijuana on the pretense that doing so is authorized as regulation of interstate commerce looks to me like a much clearer case of violating the rule of law–the law in that case being the Constitution.

          • Civilis says:

            If anything, it’s the other way around. Attempts by the federal government to enforce marijuana laws against people who grow their own marijuana on the pretense that doing so is authorized as regulation of interstate commerce looks to me like a much clearer case of violating the rule of law–the law in that case being the Constitution.

            I certainly agree that the expansion of the commerce clause represents an ongoing threat to the rule of law, and it’s something that Republicans and the right in general can and should be wary of, especially when it’s in service of one of their causes.

            On the other hand, regardless of your stance on immigration policy, shouldn’t it be something that is properly handled on the federal level?

          • Brad says:

            Properly handled at the federal level means just that. If the federal government wants to round up 11 million people, they can hire enough federal employees to go out, find, and round up those 11 million people. It isn’t “handling” something to insist that other governments do your job for you.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @DavidFriedman: then the question arises of whether citizens like us interpreting the interstate commerce clause and the Constitution in general rather than agreeing with the infallible magisterium of the Supreme Court is a threat to the rule of law. Or is it the Supreme Court interpreting the Constitution to mean whatever partisan thing they want the threat to the rule of law?

          • albatross11 says:

            How about the bit where the Bush administration was violating the written law w.r.t. FISA wiretaps for years, it came out in the NYT (who held the story back for a year, until after the election!), and nobody faced any consequences. That looks like a departure from the rule of law. Or the bit where the Bush administration instituted a program of torturing prisoners, against both US laws and treaties, and there were no consequences for anyone but a few disposable West Virginian nobodies?

            Or how about the bit where the Obama administration declared its authority to order US citizens assassinated, with no review anywhere, on Obama’s authority alone? Or where Congress was investigating the CIA torture program and the CIA was caught putting malware on the staffers’ computers to spy on them, but there were no consequences? Or where Obama carried out acts of war in Libya in violation of the War Powers Act, and there were no consequences?

            Trump is probably less dangerous in this regard, since he’s less capable than Bush or Obama, and also has the opposition of a lot of the powerful people in government and media and politics. I expect he would do worse if he could, though. But he doesn’t seem like a unique threat to the rule of law to me, just another instance of erosion of the rule of law.

          • Civilis says:

            Properly handled at the federal level means just that. If the federal government wants to round up 11 million people, they can hire enough federal employees to go out, find, and round up those 11 million people. It isn’t “handling” something to insist that other governments do your job for you.

            Just to make sure I am reading this right: if I commit a crime, it’s against the rule of law to have a different level of government arrest me for that crime? So, if I kill someone in one state, another state shouldn’t be able to arrest me for murder? After all, it’s the job of that state’s law enforcement to enforce its laws.

            Beyond even that, California just passed a law explicitly penalizing people for complying with Federal immigration law (Assembly Bill 450).

          • Brad says:

            Against the rule of law is a rather awkward phase. It’s a violation of the constitution for the federal government to force a state government to act as its enforcement arm (non-commandeering doctrine). It isn’t against the constitution and I guess not “against the rule of law” either for the federal government to ask a state government to do it a favor. But so to it isn’t against the constitution or the rule of law for a state government to decline. That’s how federalism works. If you want to abolish federalism and move to a unified system of government, I have an open mind on that question.

          • Civilis says:

            Against the rule of law is a rather awkward phase. It’s a violation of the constitution for the federal government to force a state government to act as its enforcement arm (non-commandeering doctrine). It isn’t against the constitution and I guess not “against the rule of law” either for the federal government to ask a state government to do it a favor. But so to it isn’t against the constitution or the rule of law for a state government to decline. That’s how federalism works. If you want to abolish federalism and move to a unified system of government, I have an open mind on that question.

            That is a valid point.

            I’m willing to acknowledge that the federal government forcing states to enforce federal law is not kosher.

            As per your original comment, I also admit I don’t see how the federal government could round up 11 million illegal immigrants without serious legal questions.

            Do you see it as an affront to the rule of law when states and localities don’t enforce their own laws against illegal immigrants for fear that they may end up coming into contact with the Federal immigration system?

          • Brad says:

            As per your original comment, I also admit I don’t see how the federal government could round up 11 million illegal immigrants without serious legal questions.

            I don’t see any legal roadblocks, so much as practical ones. The federal civil service is around 2.75 million people. There are about 1 million full time state and local law enforcement employees. ICE might not need quite that many to make a serious effort at nationwide full enforcement, but I think it is the right order of magnitude. That’s a big increase in the size and cost of the federal government.

            Do you see it as an affront to the rule of law when states and localities don’t enforce their own laws against illegal immigrants for fear that they may end up coming into contact with the Federal immigration system?

            Not especially. In our system, and by that I mean not just in the US but in the whole English speaking world, prosecutorial discretion is inextricably bound up in how we do things. Even in theory there is no duty or attempt made at universal enforcement.

            If in a given city that discretion is guided by openly stated priorities set by elected politicians, that city is way ahead of the ball. That’s far preferably to ad hoc decisions made by line cops, prosecutors, and judges (which are more susceptible to corruption and invidious discrimination).

            I’ve read that the German legal system does have a duty to prosecute, and that something like plea bargaining is considered an affront to their notion of justice. I haven’t ever gotten the time to read too much about it, but it sounds like a fascinating different perspective.

          • SamChevre says:

            It’s a violation of the constitution for the federal government to force a state government to act as its enforcement arm (non-commandeering doctrine). It isn’t against the constitution and I guess not “against the rule of law” either for the federal government to ask a state government to do it a favor. But so to it isn’t against the constitution or the rule of law for a state government to decline. That’s how federalism works.

            I agree with this, but….

            Somehow, when states and local governments try to take action that is conservative, there’s always some reason that “Oh no! They have to follow Federal law.” So, I’m happy to grant that California not co-operating with ICE isn’t a threat to rule of law–but I want the reciprocal recognition that Lawrence, and removing Roy Moore from office for following state law on gay marriage, and overturning Proposition 187, and Melendres v Arapaio, were threats to the rule of law.

          • Brad says:

            “Take action” is too broad. It’s not “somehow”, there’s a very distinct line between refusing to be commandeered and attempting to nullify. The tenth amendment and the supremacy clause don’t contradict each other.

          • SamChevre says:

            Granted–if there’s a conflict of laws, the Supremacy Clause means federal law wins, but I picked my cases carefully. In none of those cases was there a Federal law (passed by Congress) that the state officers were not complying with: there were only innovative court rulings contradicting federal statute law, or federal policies of ignoring federal law.

          • Brad says:

            This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

            If you think Marbury v. Madison was wrongly decided, then I’m not sure we are going to agree on much of anything on this subject.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            How about Trump being the last best hope for rule of law because he does blatantly what Bush and Obama did cleverly in the shadows so that finally the people will realise what is going on?

          • Matt M says:

            How about Trump being the last best hope for rule of law because he does blatantly what Bush and Obama did cleverly in the shadows so that finally the people will realise what is going on?

            It’s a nice theory and a lot of libertarians were hopeful for this – but current observation does not seem to be bearing this out.

            The reaction to Trump has mainly been “This just proves how uniquely terrible Trump is! We can solve this by voting for Democrats!” NOT “This just proves how we’ve given too much power to the executive branch! We can solve this through significant bipartisan efforts towards structural change!”

          • pontifex says:

            @DavidFriedman: States’ rights seems orthogonal to the rule of law. While the US in the 18th and 19th centuries happened to have both states’ rights and the rule of law, you could imagine places that had just one or the other.

            For example, most governments in Europe (like, say, Great Britain) have no concept of states’ rights, but strong “rule of law” cultures. You could also imagine the opposite– a place with a strong culture of local control, but a bunch of local dictators or strongmen who disdained the concept of law. This seems to have actually existed in ancient Greece, in the form of city-states governed by dictators. (And some people want to bring it back… Patchwork, anyone?)

            @Brad wrote:

            Properly handled at the federal level means just that. If the federal government wants to round up 11 million people, they can hire enough federal employees to go out, find, and round up those 11 million people. It isn’t “handling” something to insist that other governments do your job for you.

            Even prior to the 20th century when states rights’ were taken extremely seriously, nobody believed that states had the right to flout federal law. That’s just not how federalism worked (or was supposed to work). For example, George Washington himself suppressed a rebellion by farmers who refused to collect and pay the federal whiskey tax.

            I think there are very few people, on either the right or the left, who deeply care about states’ rights any more. (David Friedman is an exception!) So for example, I’m willing to guess you are not that upset about the supreme court overturning California’s constitutional amendment to make gay marriage illegal. When you start complaining about that, I’ll take your states’ rights arguments seriously. Until then, it just seems like another case of “arguments are soldiers.”

          • Brad says:

            Brad, five posts above, said:

            There’s a very distinct line between refusing to be commandeered and attempting to nullify. The tenth amendment and the supremacy clause don’t contradict each other.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The SC didn’t overturn the California law. California’s government refused to appeal the case, and the SC ruled that the other opponents of gay marriage did not have standing to appeal (IIRC).

            I don’t much see how the SC could’ve ruled differently, tbh.

            Now the lower courts…that’s a different question.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I don’t much see how the SC could’ve ruled differently, tbh.

            …they could have adopted Kennedy’s “judicial federalism”. I actually kinda liked that. And I’m a little sad that I didn’t get on this list of exceptions:

            I think there are very few people, on either the right or the left, who deeply care about states’ rights any more. (David Friedman is an exception!)

        • Anatoly says:

          The threat to the rule of law from Hillary was believed by many or most Republicans, but it also was mostly a collection of stupidities akin to “Obama is secretly a Muslim”. The threat to the rule of law from Trump may be exaggerated by the authors of the article (I’m not sure), but is much more real.

          Some equivalences are in fact false.

          I still think the authors go way overboard when they present partisan anti-Republican voting as morally necessary.

          • Civilis says:

            The threat to the rule of law from Hillary was believed by many or most Republicans, but it also was mostly a collection of stupidities akin to “Obama is secretly a Muslim”. The threat to the rule of law from Trump may be exaggerated by the authors of the article (I’m not sure), but is much more real.

            The unconcern by many on the left for the truth or falsehood of the recent FISA allegations against the Obama administration raised by the Nunes memo alone is enough to push me heavily towards places on the right I couldn’t stand two years ago.

            I want there to be a valid opposition party on the left, just as the authors of this article claim to want a valid party on the right. I still think the best way to get that is to tell the left what it is doing wrong where I could be persuaded to cross the line, but it’s not going to happen as long as the left can’t acknowledge where its going wrong. And this advice goes both ways; the right made a mistake with Roy Moore in Alabama, and it was wrong to get lockstep behind a horrible candidate because he had an R behind his name.

            “Yeah, we admit the Republican party has some good people like McCain and Flake, and that the party is definitely conflicted about Trump, but that’s why it’s important to vote in lockstep for Democratic candidates” doesn’t sound like the logic of someone wanting to fix the Republican party, it sounds like a partisan Democrat wanting to get his candidates elected, and it’s so obvious it’s not going to work, just push Republicans further and further away.

          • Brad says:

            @Civilis

            The unconcern by many on the left for the truth or falsehood of the recent FISA allegations against the Obama administration raised by the Nunes memo alone is enough to push me heavily towards places on the right I couldn’t stand two years ago.

            I’m not sure it makes sense to debate this far down in the replies, but the allegations in the Nunes were a nothingburger.

            Don’t get me wrong, the FISA process itself should be burned to the ground, which should then be plowed with salt. But given the FISA process, even the allegations are true that don’t seem to violate FISA rules. On top of that they are parallel to what prosecutors do in ex parte proceedings that are part of the criminal justice system — and the people they are going after are a lot less powerful ordinary citizens.

            So yes, by all means I welcome allies in the fight to eliminate FISA, too bad the worst provisions were renewed, right? I welcome allies in the fight to rein in abusive prosecutors. But if you expect me to be outraged specifically on behalf of Carter Page, well he can get to the back of the line.

          • Civilis says:

            I’m not sure it makes sense to debate this far down in the replies, but the allegations in the Nunes were a nothingburger.

            You think they’re a nothingburger. To me, they seem serious, but I don’t know for sure until we look.

            What I’m hearing is “these allegations of bad behavior by my team, though serious and backed by evidence, are unimportant and not worth investigating. These aren’t the droids you are looking for.” And what’s worse is is that every step of the way, just about every other thing that’s been accused in this case has turned out to be true. Trump was wiretapped. People lied to congress and to investigators. Oversight has been obstructed. People have leaked classified information.

            And this gets back into my point. The whole Trump collusion thing seems like a nothingburger to me, even if what’s been alleged is true. The president-elect is allowed to talk to foreign heads of state, even through back channels. But I’m not demanding that the left treat it like a nothingburger. If I did, I wouldn’t expect you to listen to me.

          • MrApophenia says:

            What specific allegations does the Nunes memo actually make? He claimed the political origins of the Steele dossier were concealed from the FISA court – and he has already had to admit he was just flat out incorrect and/or lying about that, as the text of the FBI’s court docs were produced and that was specifically mentioned in what they submitted to the court.

            What are the other actual claims of the Nunes memo? It isn’t that the Steele dossier was the basis for the Trump investigation – his own conclusion at the end of the memo acknowledges the investigation was already underway when they got the Steele dossier.

            I’m not asking rhetorically, I am actually asking. Apart from the claim that the origins of the dossier were hidden from the court – which would be serious if true, but has already been proven wrong – what are the actual serious allegations being made?

          • johansenindustries says:

            What I would say is obviously very hazardous to the rule of law is Obama stuffing – and does anyone want to argue that Hilary would have done less of that – the FBI with people who when asked to provide some texts by the Watchmen’s Watchmen replied ‘sorry, they’re all irrecoverably delete. darn’ (not exact quote) when that simply wasn’t so. If the law have contempt for the law, then that’s very dangerous.

            But, honestly, I don’t think the Democrats can possibly claim to have any support for the rule of law when one of their most beloved Presidents can’t practice law because he lied under oath. That really ought to be the lowest possible bar.

            Also, there keeps being mention of Trump’s general threat. What’s the worst thing Trump/Republicans have done re: rule of law?

            @MrApophenia

            The FBI Documents were produced to whom? I first read your post as saying that they were made public, but I see that you didn’t actually say it.

            As far as I am aware the ‘political origins’ of the source – and surely it ought to be obvious that the source for the supporting Yahoo article (the dossier and Steele) were not disclosed – were not disclosed. That the origin could possibly have political positions perhaps in a footnote. That the political origin was a Hillary campaign contractor, I don’t believe was disclosed.

          • MrApophenia says:

            You are correct – I thought the warrant application was made public based on comments from the press and politicians (including Nunes), but apparently it just got leaked to a bunch of news organizations, none of whom have actually published it.

            Still, what is being reported by the news orgs that have it (and acknowledged by Nunes) is that the dossier was “funded by a political entity.”

            I will grant you that if the Yahoo News article was used to support the Steele dossier, that would be bad. But that claim is also being disputed, and cited by people who have read the FISA application as another intentional mischaracterization by Nunes. And since he’s already had to admit to one of those, I am less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

            Will totally give you that one if it turns out to be true.

          • Brad says:

            @Civilis

            What I’m hearing is “these allegations of bad behavior by my team, though serious and backed by evidence, are unimportant and not worth investigating.

            Yates is maybe on my “team”, but Comey, McCabe, Boente, and Rosenstein aren’t in any way, shape, or form.

            And my whole point is that the allegations, if taken as true, are not serious. At least not if you take for granted the FISA process and how prosecutors in this country routinely conduct their business. You seem to have skipped that part of my prior post and have not said what you think about the FISA process or prosecutorial overreaching in general.

            And what’s worse is is that every step of the way, just about every other thing that’s been accused in this case has turned out to be true. Trump was wiretapped.

            Huh?

            If I did, I wouldn’t expect you to listen to me.

            I don’t expect you to listen to me, in the sense that you should take my word for anything. But I do expect that if you are going to be outraged you should go look into the FISA process and figure out for yourself, as best possible given the public evidence, whether anything unusual is alleged here within the context of how that process works.

          • Iain says:

            @Civilis:

            Trump was wiretapped.

            Citation very much needed.

          • Civilis says:

            And my whole point is that the allegations, if taken as true, are not serious. At least not if you take for granted the FISA process and how prosecutors in this country routinely conduct their business. You seem to have skipped that part of my prior post and have not said what you think about the FISA process or prosecutorial overreaching in general.

            And you illustrate the problem. From your other comments here on SSC, you come across as being on the left, with a strong concern for civil liberties. I’m not going to question your belief that the left is better at supporting civil liberties. You specifically have said you dislike the FISA process. I’m on the right. I’m agnostic about the FISA process; there are times when I see it could be necessary, yet I can also see the potential for abuse.

            If you think the FISA process is bad in general, this is the time to demonstrate that to me to get me in to agree with you. Abuse of the FISA process to benefit the party in power in a presidential election is a significantly more serious allegation than ordinary prosecutorial misconduct. And you have a point that this is something that we should have paid attention to before this scandal; it’s a valid criticism to point out we’re only complaining now that it’s burned us.

            On the other hand, if you think FISA abuse is a problem, don’t tell me that potential FISA abuses in this case (not following the Woods procedures, whether Carter Page was a valid target of a Title I designation, renewing the FISA surveillance on the campaign once Page was no longer associated with it, etc.) are nothingburgers, because then it looks like you don’t care about FISA at all.

            Let’s assume for a moment that the Clinton campaign was doing opposition research on the Trump campaign and came into legitimate evidence that someone on the campaign was a real no-shit Russian spy (something significantly more serious than what is being alleged), then took that to the FBI. It would then be imperative for the FBI to avoid every appearance of impropriety in conducting the investigation to avoid contaminating the case: not giving someone with ties to the Democratic party a prominent position in the investigation, making sure to document and double-check every source of information rather than relying on drunken British ex-spies and Yahoo news, not letting inflammatory material leak to the press (especially when the head of the FBI is doing the leaking), perhaps even keeping select pro-Trump congressmen on the Intelligence committee appraised on the investigation before the story breaks to the media (and certainly not lying to Congress and withholding information from the people tasked with overseeing your agency).

          • Civilis says:

            Citation very much needed.

            ‘There was no surveillance on the Trump campaign by the Federal government; for Trump to even suggest that is crazy’.
            *time passes*
            ‘Well, there was questionable surveillance on the Trump campaign by people in the Federal government that hated Trump and wanted him to lose the election, but it wasn’t directed at Trump himself, honest!’

          • Brad says:

            @Civilis

            If you think the FISA process is bad in general, this is the time to demonstrate that to me to get me in to agree with you. Abuse of the FISA process to benefit the party in power in a presidential election is a significantly more serious allegation than ordinary prosecutorial misconduct.

            I’ve represented clients that are currently sitting in prison having their lives stolen from them day by day, because of prosecutorial misconduct. I don’t agree that what happened to Carter Page is significantly more serious than that.

            On the other hand, if you think FISA abuse is a problem, don’t tell me that potential FISA abuses in this case (not following the Woods procedures, whether Carter Page was a valid target of a Title I designation, renewing the FISA surveillance on the campaign once Page was no longer associated with it, etc.) are nothingburgers, because then it looks like you don’t care about FISA at all.

            On the contrary, I very care very much about FISA. I don’t care about hypertechnical FISA abuse. Every single use is an abuse. The whole program is an abomination.

            There’s a general pattern where all of a sudden a wealthy person, a celebrity, a cop, or a cause célèbre is caught up in the justice system and then all of a sudden you have these all these people coming out of the woodwork screaming about due process, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and so on. And they expect me to be right there with them because hey you are all about civil liberties. Pardon my language, but fuck that noise.

            I’m all for a fair justice system, but I think having two separate, unequal justice systems will never ever get us there. On the contrary. I very much want to see celebrities and cops subjected to the very same unfair procedures as everyone else, even though I want to see those procedures abandoned.

            If you are agnostic as to FISA then we aren’t on the same side and I’m not going to be a useful idiot for your sudden interest in the subject as it applies to one and only one case.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            A celebrity subject to an unjust situation is an opportunity to change that unjust situation for everyone – if you cooperate when the other side is willing to cooperate, rather than stubbornly defecting because they have defected against you in the previous cases.

            Particularly because it comes off as self-interested rationalization which makes it that much harder to get everybody to cooperate going forward. There is an opportunity here for a bipartisan agreement that FISA is bad – why is it that you lose interest precisely when there is actually an opportunity to win? Because it is the enemy’s ox getting gored?

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald
            On the contrary it is not such an opportunity. Look at this very case. During the pendency of this entire scandal Republicans voted by fairly large majorities to extend the worst of provisions of FISA and even add some bad provisions.

            There are zero proposals from those very upset about the memo to actually reform FISA. They only want to fire various people at the DOJ so that Mueller can be fired, and more generally to get publicity in order to hurt the Democrats chances in the midterm elections. That’s not any kind of FISA reform.

            On the larger point, I can’t think of a single example where a celebrity caught up in the justice system resulted in overall reform. Instead there is an outpouring of support for that celebrity and the police, judges, and prosecutors act entirely unlike they act in every other case and then go back to business as usual. Look at the cops that had no true bills returned by grand juries. And the people defending that — saying that grand juries should serve as real and meaningful check on the police. Do you think that the rates of no true bills returned by grand juries in other cases has change at all since that time?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            Yeah, as has been repeatedly pointed out here, most of the Republicans are fairly anti-Trump.

            But insofar as legislators (and individuals) are anti-FISA, this is an opportunity to coordinate against it. This is an opportunity to make allies, and heck, some of them might even stick it out when someone else is in power.

            And you are more interested in being bitter that they weren’t your allies yesterday.

            Don’t expect the status quo to change today. Aim for five or ten years from now, which means building up your case, and your coalition, today. I am speaking to one person, but this is a strategy that should be undertaken as a class.

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald

            But insofar as legislators (and individuals) are anti-FISA, this is an opportunity to coordinate against it. This is an opportunity to make allies, and heck, some of them might even stick it out when someone else is in power.

            Civills explicitly says he isn’t anti-FISA.

            Your insofar looks awful close to zero, in which case there is no opportunity.

            Don’t expect the status quo to change today. Aim for five or ten years from now, which means building up your case, and your coalition, today. I am speaking to one person, but this is a strategy that should be undertaken as a class.

            Are there any examples of this strategy working? Because this sounds an awful like “why don’t you cooperate with the all-defector, maybe several years from now he’ll see the error of his ways”. Tit for tat with forgiveness is one thing, but being an all-cooperater when faced with an all defector is not a good strategy. And not to put too fine a point on it, but calls for unilateral cooperation from someone on the other side of the ideological divide aren’t especially compelling.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad: +1

          • Civilis says:

            I’ve represented clients that are currently sitting in prison having their lives stolen from them day by day, because of prosecutorial misconduct. I don’t agree that what happened to Carter Page is significantly more serious than that.

            That sort of logic tells us that Watergate was nothing more than a botched burglary, and those happen all the time, so Woodward and Bernstein should have investigated something more important like a car theft instead of some nothingburger break-in.

            There’s a general pattern where all of a sudden a wealthy person, a celebrity, a cop, or a cause célèbre is caught up in the justice system and then all of a sudden you have these all these people coming out of the woodwork screaming about due process, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and so on. And they expect me to be right there with them because hey you are all about civil liberties. Pardon my language, but fuck that noise.

            You’ve got a personal investment in this, and I understand that. You value civil liberties very highly because of it. And the civil liberties side is making progress, over the past couple of decades the average position on the right on the issues of civil liberties has shifted in your direction because of abuses by the federal government, and I hope that change of heart will continue.

            The problem is that most people take out of these sorts of entanglements the lessons that justify their current worldview. The problem isn’t the people that will learn the lesson of how these things can be abused, but the people that will take away from this that abusing the FISA process is a valid way to destroy the political opposition’s legitimacy, or that the left’s concern for civil liberties is only a facade for holding power, and thus power must be taken from them at all costs. Both of those would be counter-productive. (And FYI, the argument that the FISA abuse is good because it’s happening to someone prominent so hopefully they’ll reform it doesn’t coordinate well with ‘it’s all a nothingburger’. Don’t tell me this case isn’t bad, take the time to start pointing out the cases you think are the worst.)

            You have to pick and choose your battles, and you may be right that this isn’t the battle for you to fight. If Trump stays in office, perhaps he’ll be smart enough to reform the FISA process, and perhaps the surveillance state will be wise enough not try this again. For all of our sakes, I hope you are right.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            And the part where they are defecting because they think YOU are the all-defector?

            Certainly “They are all-defectors, so I will never cooperate with them” is, for all practical purposes, the mission statement of an all-defector.

          • Iain says:

            ‘Well, there was questionable surveillance on the Trump campaign by people in the Federal government that hated Trump and wanted him to lose the election, but it wasn’t directed at Trump himself, honest!’

            Trump is the president of the United States. If somebody wiretapped him, he is legally entitled to declassify that information and release it. He has not done so. Indeed, Trump’s DOJ has denied the claims. Instead, we end up with stuff like “a doofus who the Russians previously attempted to recruit was put under surveillance, a month after the Trump campaign made it clear that he was not associated with them”. Or “Trump’s campaign manager, who had already been subject to FISA surveillance for his connections to Russia in 2014 prior to joining the campaign, was surveilled again after leaving the campaign”. (I can’t find any clear indication of when the second FISA warrant was issued against Manafort, but given that he left the campaign in August, FISA applications last for 90 days, and the warrant “continued into early 2017“, it seems pretty clear there was no overlap.)

            Any other cases I’m forgetting? Otherwise, what we actually have is a pattern of Trump hiring people who are already suspected of Russian ties, with FISA warrants being issued against those people only after they leave the campaign. If I hated Trump and was trying to make him lose the election, that’s not how I’d do it. (Indeed, there’s a far better case to be made that the FBI inadvertently won the election for Trump.)

          • johansenindustries says:

            (Indeed, there’s a far better case to be made that the FBI inadvertently won the election for Trump.)

            Wouldn’t the better argument be that Clinton running a ‘secret’* email server, trying to cover up much of the evidence (no, not with a cloth) and then having those official emails on the computer of her aide’s sex criminal husband inadvertently won the election for Trump?

            * ‘secret’ in quotes because didn’t Obama say he didn’t know about it, and then it turned out he was emailing to it. Then he claimed he was taking an interest in the investigation, and then these recently released texts proved that he was asking about it.

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald
            They could be right and I can be wrong, or I can be right and they can be wrong. I don’t understand why you consistently insist that those sort of things don’t matter. They matter very much. Insisting that we blind ourselves to the object level leads to highly inferior decisions. I can’t play an iterated game, which *provably* has better strategies than one shot games, if you insist that I can’t look at prior rounds because it is possible I’m misunderstanding what happened in them.

            @Civilis

            (And FYI, the argument that the FISA abuse is good because it’s happening to someone prominent so hopefully they’ll reform it doesn’t coordinate well with ‘it’s all a nothingburger’. Don’t tell me this case isn’t bad, take the time to start pointing out the cases you think are the worst.)

            I don’t know if you don’t get what I’m saying or disagree. I’ll try one more time. From my point of view “FISA abuse” isn’t the problem. FISA is the problem. It’s all abuse. You are lighting your hair on fire over some alleged hyper-technical rule violations on a program I don’t think should exist in the first place. I don’t think it should be too hard to understand why I am not specifically outraged that an ex parte filing before a rubber stamp secret court with the power to authorize broad violations of civil liberties allegedly had something in a footnote that should have been in the main text.

          • Civilis says:

            Civills explicitly says he isn’t anti-FISA.

            But I never said I was explicitly pro-FISA; I specifically said I was agnostic on the subject.

            I think of myself as an engineer by training. The perfect is the enemy of the good; I’d rather have a system that works imperfectly than no system at all. I’m also conservative mentally and risk averse; I don’t like implementing changes without figuring out what effect those changes will have. The FISA court exists for a reason, and Chesterton’s Fence suggests not tearing it down without looking to see if there’s a way to fix the problems instead. It may be that the only way to fix the problems is to throw it out, but I’m not going to blindly agree to that without doing the work. If you want me to be explicitly anti-FISA, you have to point out flaws that can’t be fixed and another way to solve the problem that FISA is supposed to solve, and understand that my values are different than yours, so I might reject a solution that meets all your values. The goal is to find solutions that imperfectly improve over the status quo for both of us, not to find a solution that perfectly meets your values.

            Are there any examples of this strategy working? Because this sounds an awful like “why don’t you cooperate with the all-defector, maybe several years from now he’ll see the error of his ways”. Tit for tat with forgiveness is one thing, but being an all-cooperater when faced with an all defector is not a good strategy. And not to put too fine a point on it, but calls for unilateral cooperation from someone on the other side of the ideological divide aren’t especially compelling.

            My entire reason for commenting on this article was that the article explicitly called for the left to be explictly all-defect. It was a potential point where I could head off my side switching to all-defect based on the perception that the other side is all-defect by finding a place where cooperate-cooperate was possible, and suggesting how to signal to my side that cooperate was on the table. I’m not expecting unilateral cooperation.

            I can’t properly audit my own communication; it’s something I’m horrible at. From my perception, if you’d approached this conversation with ‘FISA’s bad, and I want to see Trump prosecuted under it to teach the Republicans about the evils of prosecutorial over-reach’ instead of ‘the FISA complaints are a nothingburger’ we could have had a civil discussion about what the problems with FISA are and if there is a way to fix the system, and even if we don’t end up agreeing, it would be a lot more productive.

          • Iain says:

            My entire reason for commenting on this article was that the article explicitly called for the left to be explictly all-defect.

            That is an inaccurate reading of the article, on two separate grounds.

            First, the article isn’t aimed at the left; it’s aimed at people who consider themselves non-partisan. Obviously it’s going to be more convincing to non-partisans who lean left than right, but it’s clearly aimed at people who would in normal circumstances consider voting for the GOP.

            Second, it’s not advocating for defection. It’s advocating for voting against Republicans. There is no world in which voting against a party counts as “all-defect”. If the article said “Trump is the biggest existing threat to the rule of law, and to beat him we are justified in lying about him and breaking all the same rules”, you would have a point. But that’s absolutely not what this article says.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            Sure.

            And the other side uses exactly the same argument for why they have to defect against you.

            Look around. The argument that keeps getting repeated here is – who started it?

            As if, once we agree on who started it, we can suddenly start cooperating. Nope. Defection remains the rational choice as long as everybody is precommitted to defection; your attitude means your enemies can’t cooperate even if they want to. You are forcing defection.

            Complaining that the other side is committed to defection is, given the logic of the situation, ridiculous. You aren’t stuck in traffic, you are the traffic.

          • Civilis says:

            I don’t know if you don’t get what I’m saying or disagree. I’ll try one more time. From my point of view “FISA abuse” isn’t the problem. FISA is the problem. It’s all abuse. You are lighting your hair on fire over some alleged hyper-technical rule violations on a program I don’t think should exist in the first place. I don’t think it should be too hard to understand why I am not specifically outraged that an ex parte filing before a rubber stamp secret court with the power to authorize broad violations of civil liberties allegedly had something in a footnote that should have been in the main text.

            The standard prisoner’s dilemma is something like:

            – If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
            – If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
            – If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)

            You are only willing to accept being set free as a win, it’s obvious to everyone that you are only willing to accept being set free, and you keep wondering why you always end up sentenced to 2 years in prison.

            You want something that the vast majority of Americans can’t agree to, that civil liberties trump national security in all cases, even if it means people die. It reduces to the ticking time-bomb torture scenario, which we’ve discussed to death. Good luck selling that to voters of either party.

          • Civilis says:

            First, the article isn’t aimed at the left; it’s aimed at people who consider themselves non-partisan. Obviously it’s going to be more convincing to non-partisans who lean left than right, but it’s clearly aimed at people who would in normal circumstances consider voting for the GOP.

            We’re not all illiterate rednecks on the right; we can read the article. You could be a moderate anti-Trump Republican and cooperate with the Democrats all you want, and a good portion of the left (enough to support the article) still wants you out of office for no other reason than Trump, and that any calls for you to cooperate from the left have to be potentially false flags.

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald
            I don’t even know what we are talking about at this point. It’s metaphors piled on metaphors.

            Republicans could have proposed reforming, or better yet eliminating, FISA and I would have supported it. They didn’t. There’s nothing for me to support.

            I could go on and on about what a despicable, terrible, no good thing it was for Rod Rosenstein to sign off a multi-hundred page renewal application for a FISA warrant that allegedly had one part that wasn’t entirely forthcoming, though other people say it was there it was just in a footnote instead of the main text. From what I can tell even if it wasn’t entirely forthcoming those omissions didn’t violate the law. Based on observing prosecutors I’m guessing it also didn’t violate usual practice. You seem to think that if I did go on and on about how terrible it was, in five, six years there’d be a good chance for FISA reform/elimination. If I was convinced of that, maybe I would, but you haven’t convinced me of that.

          • Iain says:

            @Civilis:

            We’re not all illiterate rednecks on the right; we can read the article. You could be a moderate anti-Trump Republican and cooperate with the Democrats all you want, and a good portion of the left (enough to support the article) still wants you out of office for no other reason than Trump, and that any calls for you to cooperate from the left have to be potentially false flags.

            I don’t see how this is at all responsive to what I said.

            There are people on the left who will never vote for Republicans. They cannot be the intended target of an argument to vote against Trump, because they were already going to do that.

            There are people on the right who will never vote for a Democrat. While Wittes and Rauch would presumably like them to consider voting for Democrats from time to time, Republican partisans are not the target either. (Note that the only part of this article that purports to talk to conservatives is the subhed: “If conservatives want to save the GOP from itself, they need to vote mindlessly and mechanically against its nominees”. Notoriously, article titles are usually written by the editor, not by the author of the piece.)

            The target of this piece is the the third group of people somewhere in the middle, who may lean to one side or the other but are open to voting for good candidates from either party. Wittes and Rauch implicitly put themselves in this category: see, for example, their support of McCain / Flake / Corker / Sasse. To these people, Wittes and Rauch say: look, as much as it is usually good to consider each candidate on their own merits, at this point the Republicans have gone too far in support of Trump’s attack on the institutions of democracy to ignore. If the GOP doesn’t pay any costs for protecting him, then they’ll keep doing it, and Trumpism will take over the GOP. If you don’t want that to happen, and you are the sort of person who frequently splits their ballot, then you should strongly consider voting a straight party ticket for the Democrats in the next election.

            Also, to reinforce my other point, because it’s the more important one: there is no reasonable way to summarize an article about who independents should vote for as calling “for the left to be explictly all-defect”. So, uh, don’t do that?

          • Matt M says:

            You could be a moderate anti-Trump Republican and cooperate with the Democrats all you want, and a good portion of the left (enough to support the article) still wants you out of office for no other reason than Trump

            I’m still waiting for an answer to my question: “What more does the left want from John McCain?”

          • Iain says:

            I’m still waiting for an answer to my question: “What more does the left want from John McCain?”

            Use his powers of office to accomplish something?

            (To be fair to McCain in particular, his vote against the health care bill for not going through regular order is one of the few recent cases of a Republican actually walking the walk, instead of merely mouthing complaints and then voting for it anyways.)

          • Incurian says:

            The FISA court exists for a reason, and Chesterton’s Fence suggests not tearing it down without looking to see if there’s a way to fix the problems instead.

            An image popped into my head of Civilis standing in front of a stampeding cattle herd saying, “Well someone must have taken down that fence for a reason…”

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Iain

            ‘The Left’ is not synonomous with ‘hyper-partisan Democrats’. The fact that following the correct procedure for informing the public of information is not worse than the selective anonymous leaking to the media isn’t a minor quibble but a crucial factor.

            The target audience for the peice are left-wingers who are wont and want to vote Democrat. But that see Hillary and think “I’m not sure if I want a career criminal in the White House”, or who see the Democrats recent behaviour and think “Shouldn’t they be putting that effort in helping Americans?”, or whatever.

            But they want and are used to voting Democrats. They are left-wing. This peice of sophistry lets them shoo their conscience into a corner and let’s them go back to voting Democrat regardless of their actions.

            It is entirely fair to call an article calling for left-wingers to vote Democrat regardless of what the Democrats do as “for the left to be explictly all-defect”.

            Left-wingers aren’t all hyper-partisan, and the left (if considered a distinct group from left-wingers as a whole) make noises about taking things at an object level, this article is written as if they desire to change that.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t see why moderates who value individual competence and individual merits should suddenly change their mind in the age of Trump. Like, you’re going to vote for Stuart Starky, local middle school teacher, over John McCain? Nothing against Stuart, but it’s John McCain.

          • Matt M says:

            What specific bill did McCain vote for or against that you think he would not have voted for or against if not for Trump?

            As far as I can tell, McCain is being true to his principles and voting the exact same way he would have if Jeb won, or if Hillary won for that matter.

          • Civilis says:

            The target of this piece is the the third group of people somewhere in the middle, who may lean to one side or the other but are open to voting for good candidates from either party. Wittes and Rauch implicitly put themselves in this category: see, for example, their support of McCain / Flake / Corker / Sasse. To these people, Wittes and Rauch say: look, as much as it is usually good to consider each candidate on their own merits, at this point the Republicans have gone too far in support of Trump’s attack on the institutions of democracy to ignore. If the GOP doesn’t pay any costs for protecting him, then they’ll keep doing it, and Trumpism will take over the GOP. If you don’t want that to happen, and you are the sort of person who frequently splits their ballot, then you should strongly consider voting a straight party ticket for the Democrats in the next election.

            My logic was sloppy.

            For voter-politician interactions (simplified):
            For the voter, cooperate is vote for, defect is vote against.
            For the politician, cooperate is enact the preferred policies of, defect is enact policies disfavored by.
            Cooperate-Cooperate: The politician enacts the policies I prefer, I vote for them in return. My group/class has a trend of voting for the politician, they enact policies I prefer.
            Defect-Defect: The politician enacts policies I disfavor, I vote against them in return. My group/class has a trend against voting for the politician, they’re willing to enact policies that disfavor me.
            If I was a politician, on any issue I’m given a choice of which side to cooperate with and by extension I will defect from the other side. If one side will not vote for me even if I cooperate with them by enacting their policies, my best bet for votes is to cooperate with the other side and defect from people that will never vote for me anyways.

            Let’s take a thought experiment: I’m going to be paired randomly in an iterated prisoner’s dilemma psychological experiment against one person chosen at random from a group. One person in that group is telling the others in that group to defect against me regardless of what I do. I am then paired off against the person that was telling the others to always defect. What strategy should I assume that person will use? True, he could have some reason for taking a different strategy than he was advising the others, but it’s natural to start from the assumption he’s going to defect every time.

            As someone on the right, reading what advice the left is giving people in the middle does allow me to make inferences into what the left thinks. Even if the article isn’t trying to persuade the right, it still affects the right’s behavior. By reading it the right will naturally infer something about the behavior of the author, and extend that to the left. The right will also increasingly assume that the voters that vote against them will be following the authors logic, and thus not open to compromise. By spreading the article, you’ve both increased the chance that the middle will follow the author’s advice and the chance that the right will assume that the author’s opinion is widespread on the left, and the right’s natural reaction will be that there’s no benefit to attempting to cooperate with the left.

          • Civilis says:

            An image popped into my head of Civilis standing in front of a stampeding cattle herd saying, “Well someone must have taken down that fence for a reason…”

            Thank you for the true, kind and necessary words, though I suspect to be accurate it should be more ‘stand around in front of a stampede and wonder why nobody built a fence’.

          • Jiro says:

            If you want me to be explicitly anti-FISA, you have to point out flaws that can’t be fixed and another way to solve the problem that FISA is supposed to solve

            The problem that FISA is intended to solve is “how can the government be given a blank check to spy on anyone they want to?” I don’t want another way to solve this problem.

            Chesterton’s Fence doesn’t apply when the fence serves someone else’s interests. “What problem is that vampire trying to solve by demanding that all garlic and running water be eliminated from the town?”

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Jiro

            Possible, just being too nitpicky but: Chesterton’s Fence does apply when it was erected to serve another’s interests. Indeed, once you know it was erected you have pretty much done Chesterton’s Fence and can then work out if the reason is still (or ever) good and applicable.

          • Civilis says:

            The problem that FISA is intended to solve is “how can the government be given a blank check to spy on anyone they want to?” I don’t want another way to solve this problem.

            The original law was passed to reign in the abuse of intelligence agencies by Nixon. That the protections proved weak or ineffective has no bearing on the original intent of the law. The government was perfectly capable of spying on people before the law went into place.

            I have someone that is suspected of being an agent of a foreign, hostile power. I need to collect intelligence on them for national security (not criminal prosecution) purposes, without them being aware of it. How do I set up a framework that doesn’t amount to a government blank check? That framework will necessarily be imperfect, but the alternative to no framework isn’t no spying, but no checks on the national security community.

            Any framework is going to have to involve rigorous, bipartisan legislative oversight. Obviously this opens up the loophole that the intelligence community can potentially get away with illicitly spying on anyone that has made enemies of the establishments of both parties, but I can’t think of a control that would stop the government from going after someone that would make both sides willing to go after it.

          • Iain says:

            @Matt M:
            It’s not about which bills he votes for. It’s about his willingness to use his vote as leverage. There are many issues on which McCain has echoed the left’s widespread concerns about Trump. He has had plenty of chances to use his powers as a senator to do something about those concerns: vote for the tax bill, sure, but extract a promise about [issue where he has publicly agreed with the left] first. By and large, that hasn’t happened.

            (As I already pointed out, though, McCain is the single Republican who is least vulnerable to this criticism. Someone like Sasse or Corker would be a clearer example.)

            @Civilis:
            Your game theory is too abstract. Let’s get more specific.

            Scenario 1:
            Trump: I want to throw Hillary Clinton in jail!
            Trump base: Yeah! Lock her up!
            Democratic base: Booo! Trump sucks!
            Republican politician: What do I do?

            Scenario 2:
            Trump: I want to throw Hillary Clinton in jail!
            Trump base: Yeah! Lock her up!
            Democratic base: Booo! Trump sucks!
            Political moderate: Since Republican politicians do not stand up for the rule of law, I and people who think like me should vote straight-ticket Democrat, even though we would normally split our ballots.
            Republican politician: What do I do?

            Some number of moderate voters will agree with Wittes and vote for Democrats. That could make the difference in tight races. If Republican politicians are concerned that this argument will sway the election, they have the power to prove it wrong. For example, here’s a proposal from National Review of a reasonable way to protect the Mueller investigation without impinging on Trump’s legitimate powers. If congressional Republicans were to take action in that direction, the case from Rauch and Wittes would be much less compelling, and fewer people would follow their advice and vote for Democrats. Mission accomplished!

            You are arguing as if this article just said “Hey, everybody, vote against Republicans no matter what they do!” and ended there. That misses the point.

            The article is quite explicit: Rauch and Wittes don’t think Republican policies justify a boycott. They don’t think that Republican extremism justifies a boycott. They don’t think that Trump being generally horrifying justifies a boycott. Why is a boycott justified? Because the GOP is “unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump and his base on the rule of law.” They proceed to give examples of what they mean (and Wittes, at least, has written extensively on the topic elsewhere if you want them fleshed out). This is not universal defection. This is a basic ultimatum.

            Now, maybe you disagree with the idea that Trump is attacking the rule of law. That’s fine — you can argue with the article on those grounds. But right now you’re just angrily beating up a series of straw men. I accept that you are sincere about it, so I can only assume that you are misinterpreting the article.

          • Matt M says:

            He has had plenty of chances to use his powers as a senator to do something about those concerns: vote for the tax bill, sure, but extract a promise about [issue where he has publicly agreed with the left] first. By and large, that hasn’t happened.

            (As I already pointed out, though, McCain is the single Republican who is least vulnerable to this criticism. Someone like Sasse or Corker would be a clearer example.)

            That doesn’t seem fair to me. Why should John McCain have to threaten to not vote for something John McCain obviously wants, to try and get a concession on an additional thing John McCain wants. That’s not how compromise and negotiation works (which Trump knows, by the way). Which gets to my original point – what is really being demanded of John McCain is to vote like a Democrat.

            And given that the point of the article is “Vote against ALL Republicans no matter what” then McCain is the best example to use here because he is the least vulnerable to this criticism. He is the marginal person who is going to be punished by this. More extreme GOP people would be voted against by moderates or liberals anyway. The whole point of this strategy isn’t to punish the hardcore Trump fans (most of whom live in solidly red districts). It’s to punish John McCain. So if you can’t justify why John McCain, specifically, deserves this punishment, the entire exercise is pointless…

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Some number of moderate voters will agree with Wittes and vote for Democrats. That could make the difference in tight races. If Republican politicians are concerned that this argument will sway the election, they have the power to prove it wrong. For example, here’s a proposal from National Review of a reasonable way to protect the Mueller investigation without impinging on Trump’s legitimate powers.

            You had to go to another website to speculate on what might be an acceptable end-game to the authors. Which just goes to show that the piece has no concrete demands.

            Given that the authors are also hysterical (as evidenced by their obsession over Trump’s “please, if you have the emails Russia, release them” speech), it’s pretty clear that the GOP can do absolutely nothing to satisfy the authors.

            The idea that rule of law is being broken down is some sort of hilarious. Rule of law breaks down if the President disregards a Supreme Court order or the army marches in and arrests members of Congress. Rule of Law does not break down because someone releases a memo or the President fires a person he is 100% legally allowed to fire. You know, prosecutirial discretion and all.

          • Matt M says:

            Rule of law breaks down if the President disregards a Supreme Court order or the army marches in and arrests members of Congress.

            And the Presidents who do those sorts of things tend to get giant statues built in their honor, so, maybe Trump is on the right track after all…

          • Iain says:

            You had to go to another website to speculate on what might be an acceptable end-game to the authors. Which just goes to show that the piece has no concrete demands. […] It’s pretty clear that the GOP can do absolutely nothing to satisfy the authors.

            This is trivially false. Take, for example, this bit:

            We don’t mean to deny credit where it is due: Some congressional Republicans pushed back. Last year, pressure from individual Republicans seemed to discourage Trump from firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and probably prevented action against Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Moreover, Republicans as a group have constrained Trump on occasion. Congress imposed tough sanctions on Russia over the president’s objections. The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted a serious Russia investigation under the leadership of Richard Burr.

            Perhaps you would care to engage with the article that they actually wrote, instead of the straw version in your head?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            It’s not trivially false if they acknowledge that happened and say it still isn’t enough.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah. You aren’t actually giving them credit if, at the end of your piece, you still recommend treating them the exact same way you would treat Trump himself.

          • Iain says:

            If you are bound and determined to assume bad faith, I am sure you will be able to convince yourself.

            I do hope you appreciate the irony of claiming that “the GOP can do absolutely nothing to satisfy the authors” and then vehemently rejecting the evidence to the contrary. There’s definitely somebody here who refuses to be satisfied; I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on who that is.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Iain

            To clarify, you are saying that the authors are satisfied by the things that the Republicans have done?

          • Matt M says:

            I do hope you appreciate the irony of claiming that “the GOP can do absolutely nothing to satisfy the authors”

            That’s not what I said. I think there’s one thing they can do: Vote with Democrats.

            That is the demand. You decide for yourself if “I demand the other party vote with my party” is a reasonable thing for a non-partisan person to say…

          • Jiro says:

            The original law was passed to reign in the abuse of intelligence agencies by Nixon. That the protections proved weak or ineffective has no bearing on the original intent of the law.

            Insofar as the purpose of the act was to limit surveillance, Chesterton’s fence doesn’t apply because the people who object to it not trying to overturn its limitations.

            But if you insist, I can rephrase that. The purpose of the interpretation of the act pushed by the government and accepted by the courts, as well as the post-9/11 amendments is “how can the government be given a blank check to spy on anyone they want to?”

          • Civilis says:

            But if you insist, I can rephrase that. The purpose of the interpretation of the act pushed by the government and accepted by the courts, as well as the post-9/11 amendments is “how can the government be given a blank check to spy on anyone they want to?”

            If the people that wrote the amendments to FISA only wanted to be able to spy on anyone, they would have just removed FISA entirely, or written an amendment explicitly stating “the government can spy on anyone it wants to”. Removing the FISA act would have returned us to the pre-FISA status quo, which is the government having a blank check to spy on anyone they want.

            I will grant you that it’s a reasonable assumption that the national security people that put together FISA want to be able to (effectively) spy on anyone, even if they don’t think of it that way. It’s just not the only thing they want, for example they also want to keep their jobs. The people that pay for the national security system want two things: they want to be safe, and they don’t want the government spying on them unnecessarily. These two things are contradictory; most people are willing to accept some level of government spying to remove the biggest risks to their safety, but also aren’t willing to accept the total surveillance state even if it means some risk to them (the wisdom of this trade-off has been pondered for eons, and we won’t solve it here).

            Given that the government could have eliminated FISA or explicitly given the power to spy on anyone with no checks, the purpose of FISA is to reassure the public that there is some check on the government’s ability to spy on people for the public’s safety (note: this does not mean that it actually serves as a check, just that the public thinks its a check). You are likely right in that this is a deliberately false reassurance and that the check is so weak as to be useless, and definitely right that this check is not performing as the public expects.

            The Chesterton’s Fence metaphor in this case works very well: the fence is supposed to balance two competing interests: public safety and public privacy. Removing the fence without having a mechanism in place to address that balance is a recipe for disaster. If the restrictions are tight enough to completely remove the risk to public privacy, you’re going to face a backlash when the next terrorist attack happens that could have been prevented and the public demands to know why the national security system didn’t see it coming, which is the justification for why the FISA amendments were put in after 9/11. You’re already seeing another backlash from the current spate of ‘known wolf’ attacks, where the government had identified the suspect.

            Something is obviously wrong. The national security system isn’t monitoring the people it has identified as suspects, and is (or was) monitoring the establishment’s domestic political enemies, big and small. Flipping that around should be in everyone’s interests. Even if you are at the extreme ‘protect privacy at the expense of national security’ end of the public, having the system fail to monitor suspects risks having the public respond by moving in the ‘less restrictions to protecting national security’ direction. And regardless of where you are, having the system not responding to the people responsible for oversight (ie, Congress) is a terrible thing.

          • Incurian says:

            Civilis: I apologize. I didn’t realize the history of FISA, I thought it was more like the patriot act. I am dumb and given my background I definitely should have known better.

            It was not my intention to be unkind, I meant the comment in a kind of friendly teasing way. I considered adding a winky face but I was worried it would come of as condescending. Regardless, I apologize.

          • MB says:

            “I’m all for a fair justice system, but I think having two separate, unequal justice systems will never ever get us there. On the contrary. I very much want to see celebrities and cops subjected to the very same unfair procedures as everyone else, even though I want to see those procedures abandoned.”

            This makes no sense to me. If there are two separate justice systems, isn’t it better to try to get everyone into the superior one, step by step (never actually going to happen, but there is room for improvement), instead of abolishing it altogether?

            This is something I never understood about the left-wing point of view. The US are an oligarchy, where being a member of the upper middle-class or above can buy you good lawyers and some measure of justice. Also, if you happen to be poor, but your case is an egregious abuse or presents interesting legal questions, then some generous lawyers or ambitious layers-in-training can help to some extent. Or if you are middle-class and unjustly accused then you and your life will be ruined by the legal process, but you have some chance of escaping with your freedom and good name intact.

            And, to me, this is what’s so great about it! The laws are arcane, the lawyers are expensive, and the process is involved and time-consuming, but you still have a chance. Even if you are unpopular and obnoxious (like Martin Shkreli), even if you are accused of horrible crimes or of treason, sometimes you can beat the government or even a wealthy corporation in court.

            This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions — asset forfeiture (more recently), lynchings (historically), and a whole bunch of other extrajudicial and administrative punishments (famously, the internment of Japanese-Americans). And people were and are understandably furious about it.

            But in the main one can be sure that the US government isn’t going to send the police to arrest the oligarchs who are getting too disobedient, confiscate all their assets, and then also arrest or intimidate their defenders — unlike in Putin’s Russia or in China. In the US, most millionaires don’t live in fear that some friend of the governor or some secret police colonel will just walk in and demand their assets.

            To me, this is the worst part of the affair: the government using its power to crush an oligarch who opposes it too brazenly. If Trump can be spied on, then what chance does an ordinary person have?

            As for the injustice of this situation, there are two solutions: either ensure that everyone has equal access to justice (pipe dream, never was and never going to happen) — or, as many leftists admit more or less openly to be their goal, keep everyone in constant fear and terror, i.e. subject everyone to injustice. Since this is already how the poor presumably live, this means terrorizing the middle class and the rich: Putin’s, Mao’s, and other extremists’ solution.

            The objective of perfect justice would be achieved if a meteor struck Earth and wiped out all human life. Leftists see themselves as the meteor or at least sympathize with it. They perceive unequal access to justice based on wealth as intolerable. Presumably, in their ideal society, lawyers will be working not for money, but for the people, who will decide who deserves to be defended based on just criteria (or, better yet, there’d be no lawyers, because everyone would get their just deserts without opposition). They don’t see how being able to use wealth and fame in one’s defense is a moderately good thing, not a bad one, and how devastating their proposed “solution”, leaving everyone defenseless, would be.

            tl;dr: The two realistic alternatives are having some justice for the 5% and some chance at justice for, say, the 70% — or replacing it with mob rule, people’s tribunals, and secret police dictatorial rule instead. It is disturbing, but unsurprising, to see a leftist openly reveal a preference for the latter.

          • Aapje says:

            @MB

            Once the people who are competent at demanding change are in the new justice system, we can expect migration into it by the remaining groups to stagnate.

          • albatross11 says:

            MB:

            I think the best argument the other direction goes like this:

            If we have a two-tiered justice system, where powerful people get decent and fair treatment and everyone else gets shitty and unfair treatment, then there probably won’t be all that much push for change–the powerful people who could effectively push for change already have a working justice system, and in fact may not really even realize how screwed up the rest of the system is.

            In fact, I suspect this is a pretty good model for a lot of broken parts of US society. It’s not that the wealthy and powerful and connected want to screw over the little people, it’s that problems that land on the people at the bottom tend not to get addressed, because nobody with any power or money or influence cares all that much. (And maybe they don’t even notice.) That’s one reason to want the rules to be the same for everyone–to make sure that the powerful as well as the powerless have a reason to care how well the justice system or the public schools or the DMV or Child Protective Services is doing their job.

            That’s not always a convincing argument, but it’s the best one I know for the other side.

          • MB says:

            While apparently a seductive argument, I agree that it has some flaws.
            Consider the random application, “US trains are terrible. This is due to the fact that the rich and powerful travel by limousines, private jets, and helicopters, which not everyone can afford. So let’s force the rich and powerful to travel by train, in order to improve the US railroad system”.
            This seems one of the mildest versions applied to a neutral issue, but there still are problems with it.
            Firstly, back before other means of transportation became available, trains were indeed much nicer, but also much less equal. Even nowadays, if the queen of England or tinpot dictators take the train, they usually have their own personal gold-plated train car or some such. So the powerful will still find a way around limitations.
            Secondly, if you really can force the rich and powerful to do your bidding, it means that you are more powerful (and soon also richer) still, so you are the one you should be worried about, not they. Of course, leftists silence those who point out the hypocrisy in their argument. This is why in left-wing dictatorships everyone is equal, but party members and the secret police are more equal than the others.
            Thirdly, this attitude is often counterproductive. In places where private car ownership is difficult or forbidden, trains are not necessarily top-notch. This is because, instead of trying to make everyone successful, they punish successful people for their success. So after they ban cars, they don’t actually take any further step toward making the trains work better.
            The classical liberal solution is letting cancer patients self-experiment at their own expense. The left-wing solution (to get to a cancer-free society) is giving more people cancer, in order to raise cancer awareness.

          • Brad says:

            This is something I never understood about the left-wing point of view.

            It’s perfectly clear that you have no idea what people on the left think or want, but for some reason that doesn’t deter you from holding forth at great length on that very subject.

            What exactly do you hope to accomplish with this sort of garbage?

            Leftists see themselves as the meteor or at least sympathize with it.

            or, as many leftists admit more or less openly to be their goal, keep everyone in constant fear and terror,

            Of course, leftists silence those who point out the hypocrisy in their argument.

            The left-wing solution (to get to a cancer-free society) is giving more people cancer, in order to raise cancer awareness.

            Because you sure as shit aren’t convincing anyone of anything he doesn’t already believe.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @Brad

            Because you sure as shit aren’t convincing anyone of anything he doesn’t already believe.

            MB’s comments really made me think. Yes the left is my out-group to a large extent and I am pre-disposed to see the weaknesses in their arguments. But the unfairness of the legal system to the poor I’ve always thought as one of the strongest arguments of the left. MB made me see that to some extent this is a utopian dream, so I may re-evaluate a bit.

            On the other hand, your non-argument had no convincing power at all. Using Scott’s trio of factors: kind, necessary, true — you flunked on all of them.

          • Brad says:

            @Mark V Anderson
            He convinced you to hate leftists even more on the basis of his own made up arguments about what leftist believe? I guess should update in the direction those on the far right are extra susceptible to confirmation basis.

            Look at the parts I quoted again. None of those garnered any objection from you, because any kind of spittle inflected nonsense is fine as long it is about the left or feminists or so-called social justice warriors. But push back at all and you get this hypocritical sanctimony about posting etiquette. Sorry, no sale. Clean up your own house before talking to me about true, kind, and necessary. After you get through lecturing MB you can get to work on Matt M.

          • The left-wing solution (to get to a cancer-free society) is giving more people cancer, in order to raise cancer awareness.

            Because you sure as shit aren’t convincing anyone of anything he doesn’t already believe.

            That snippet was a hostile summary of an argument people in the thread were offering and taking seriously. I don’t think the other three were.

          • Consider the random application, “US trains are terrible. This is due to the fact that the rich and powerful travel by limousines, private jets, and helicopters, which not everyone can afford. So let’s force the rich and powerful to travel by train, in order to improve the US railroad system”.
            This seems one of the mildest versions applied to a neutral issue, but there still are problems with it.
            Firstly, back before other means of transportation became available, trains were indeed much nicer, but also much less equal. Even nowadays, if the queen of England or tinpot dictators take the train, they usually have their own personal gold-plated train car or some such. So the powerful will still find a way around limitations.

            Why does that matter? if the aim is to get a sufficiently large group using some public provision for government to care what they think , then what you need is a sufficiently large group, not literally everybody. I think you are getting confused between a soft left project to have god quality public services, and a hard left project to cut down the tall poppies.

            Secondly, if you really can force the rich and powerful to do your bidding, it means that you are more powerful

            Why does it have to be force? If you have good public provision, and if the private opt-out costs more, then people will gravitate to the public provision. It’s a virtuous circle.

            So after they ban cars, they don’t actually take any further step toward making the trains work better.

            That’s not a general rule, because there are excellent transport, education and healthcare systems out there.

            The classical liberal solution is letting cancer patients self-experiment at their own expense.

            Which is no help to the poor. You have not addressed the original problem.

            The left-wing solution (to get to a cancer-free society) is giving more people cancer, in order to raise cancer awareness.

            Misleading analogy: cancer doens’t get better the more people have it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            He convinced you to hate leftists even more on the basis of his own made up arguments about what leftist believe? I guess should update in the direction those on the far right are extra susceptible to confirmation basis.

            That seems like a pretty obvious straw man of what he was saying. Maybe I should update in the direction of “Brad is too disingenuous or too over-emotional to have a reasonable conversation about politics.”

            spittle inflected nonsense

            Pot, meet kettle.

          • The left-wing solution (to get to a cancer-free society) is giving more people cancer, in order to raise cancer awareness.

            Misleading analogy: cancer doens’t get better the more people have it.

            Trains don’t get better if you put more people on them either.

            Cancer gets better if more is spent looking for ways to cure it, and the more people have it, the greater the pressure to look for cures.

            This line of argument reminds me of one of my father’s stories, involving an exchange with someone associated with the Social Security program, perhaps the first director of it or whatever the title was. My father suggested that if the problem was poor people unable to support themselves in their old age the program should be targeted at them, not applied to everyone. The reply:

            “A program for the poor will be a poor program.”

          • MB says:

            “It’s perfectly clear that you have no idea what people on the left think or want, but for some reason that doesn’t deter you from holding forth at great length on that very subject”.
            I am completely uninterested in what people on the Left think, want, or think they want, but am interested in the policies they implement and in their outcomes. This is something I am comfortably familiar with.
            “What exactly do you hope to accomplish with this sort of garbage?”
            Time spent commenting on a website is always wasted. However, 1. It helps improve my prose style. 2. Writing down thoughts helps clarify them. 3. I believe in periodically making gratuitous, meaningless, and absurd gestures. 4. Meaningful criticism is meaningful and helps sharpen arguments.

          • MB says:

            “That snippet was a hostile summary of an argument people in the thread were offering and taking seriously. I don’t think the other three were”.
            I think they were:
            1. The meteor comparison was about how leftists always see themselves as an ineluctable force exterior to society, kind of like the fulcrum of Archimedes’ lever: “I very much want to see celebrities and cops subjected to the very same unfair procedures as everyone else” — but what are you going to do about it in practice? Also, they want to use these inexistent means to disrupt and level current society downward, kind of like a meteor does.
            2. Keeping everyone in fear and terror: the post I responded to mentioned innocent people being in jail, “currently sitting in prison having their lives stolen from them day by day, because of prosecutorial misconduct”. The same post wished to have the rich subjected to “the same unfair procedures as everyone else”. This is alluding to the wish to have the powerful live with the fear of arbitrary imprisonment. In the US they’ve managed to make people live with this fear, in other countries the emphasis is on the imprisonment part. The fate of Meyerhold. Or Searle. Or Summers. Or Trump. Anyway, leftists live in constant fear of such treatment, but want the rich and powerful (everyone, really) subject to it by removing “bourgeois” guarantees of justice.
            3. The “leftists silence those who point out the hypocrisy in their argument” remark was indeed beside the point and uncalled for in the context of the current conversation.

          • MB says:

            “So the powerful will still find a way around limitations. Why does that matter?”
            If they’ll find a way around it anyway, why try so hard to block them? Why not uplift other people instead? E.g. make a cheaper helicopter, make justice cheaper, etc..
            “What you need is a sufficiently large group, not literally everybody”.
            Isn’t this the current situation?
            Also, this supports my second point — if you can force them, this means they aren’t really powerful and influential. You are.
            “Why does it have to be force?”
            I’m in almost complete agreement here. Nothing against efficient and attractive public services that gain a broad basis of support based mostly on their merits. I often use such services myself, without compulsion.
            Public services and large corporations are still subject to the tragedy of the commons. But that is a separate issue.
            “That’s not a general rule, because there are excellent transport, education and healthcare systems out there”.
            And most of them were not built by leftists, do not reflect a left-wing mentality (everyone equal, everyone can get in, what about the poor), and are not the result of leftist restrictions.
            (many examples cut out because too long)
            “The classical liberal solution is letting cancer patients self-experiment at their own expense. Which is no help to the poor. You have not addressed the original problem.”
            Nor does giving rich people cancer address it. Also, it’s not mine to address. If leftists want to cure poor people’s cancer, let them do so. Mother Theresa comes to mind.
            In fact, many treatments were invented to help the rich and certainly not due to leftists’ keeping rich people’s feet to the fire and threatening them with cancer if they didn’t do their job.
            The anti-rabies vaccine — was it made because Pasteur was threatened with rabies?

          • MB says:

            “Trains don’t get better if you put more people on them either”.
            Right, and giving people cancer is not the best way to cure it.
            Things improve faster if more people use them willingly. Consider gasoline cars, electric bikes, hybrid cars, electric cars, etc. — people are eager to use them and we are seeing improvement.
            “Cancer gets better if more is spent looking for ways to cure it, and the more people have it, the greater the pressure to look for cures”.
            But what about the giving people cancer aspect? Seems unethical to me.
            Here is a falsifiable prediction: Not long (1-15 years) after some place makes electric cars mandatory, against many people’s wishes, we’ll see a significant drop in the quality of electric cars used there and people will be worse off than before.

          • @David

            “Trains don’t get better if you put more people on them either”.

            In the short term, no, in the long term yes. The more people are involved in a public provision, the more the government is incetivised to listen to them. How many times do I have to repeat that?

            “A program for the poor will be a poor program.”

            So do you get it , or don’t you get it?

            @MB

            : Not long (1-15 years) after some place makes electric cars mandatory,

            Who says it is all about force? If you offer good public provision, people use it willingly.

            we’ll see a significant drop in the quality of electric cars

            Why? They’re all bought individually. It’s not like everyone being in the same classroom or railway carriage.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        The do not deny they are arguing for being partisan, though:

        This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity.

        • Matt M says:

          But they are kind of hiding behind “We are only encouraging partisanship because those filthy Republicans are way too partisan”

        • baconbits9 says:

          So what is the end game? Get into power by being really partisan and then…. stop being partisan? Expect the other side to stop being partisan? I don’t see how you could be against partisanship and think this is a better alternative than just one side being partisan.

        • CatCube says:

          So they’re going to be openly partisan now, but with a smug sense of self-superiority? I guess I’m not sure what you think we’re supposed to take away from the excerpt, then.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity.

          this is all very simple; a neutral norm is needed and defectors must be punished

          question is, who is the defector and who is the punisher?

          that’s not a lead-in to me disagreeing with their assessment of these two roles (I do), just stating that this is the only question that matters. What I will say is that each side believes themselves to be the punisher and the other to be the defector; given that the Republicans have currently won, it would be in the best interests of the Democrats to stop trying to punish, in my opinion. I think that this is the best way to at least try and re-set it to neutral; of course, it’s easier said than done.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Sorry to reply to my own comment, but I wanted to add something important.

            People here know I support Trump (I hope). But one of the biggest reasons I was happy that he won was that there was an opportunity for a re-set to neutral, as my above post says. After all…he won. There was no more incentive to lie about him to stop him from winning, there was no more incentive to lose your mind about him because he’d already won, and the Republicans held the rest of Congress and seats of power more generally (a large proportion of state governments and the like). This would be the perfect time to calm down and start calling balls and strikes.

            Instead, we got…this. Look, I don’t really think it matters who killed who at this point because both sides fervently believe that they’re in the right and will not be convinced otherwise. The better way forward would have been, and still will be, to forgive, because at this juncture it’s a fine strategic option (possibly even the best one). Honestly reporting on Trump does enough damage to him; if his policies are unpopular then you should oppose them on that basis, and if his policies are popular then you can let them be passed and take away incentives to re-elect him and people like him. (I.E., if a wall is built no one can run on “build a wall”, so on and so forth). At this point though, I don’t think the cycle of defection will end. Sad!

      • Baeraad says:

        That’s an excellent article even though David Wong wrote it. Thanks for the link.

        • CatCube says:

          I can’t stand most things he writes, but when he knocks it out of the park, he knocks it out of the park.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I guess this is a great example for me of selection bias. I know of only two Wong articles I’ve read – this one, and the one pre-election explaining why so many people had “lost their f*cking minds”, err, planned to vote for Trump. Both looked good to me, so Wong’s on my “top writer” list. Maybe I should look at more for the sake of recalibration?

          • CatCube says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            Actually, that was the other one I had in my head when I was thinking of “Articles where David Wong knocked it out of the park.”

            Now that I really consider it, I’m not sure what articles of his annoyed me. When his name came up, my hindbrain matched it to “usually has a bunch of left-wing drivel in his columns,” and that’s why those two columns stood out to me, but it’s entirely possible that I’m crossing him up with another columnist on Cracked.

          • Well... says:

            It was several years ago but I had an exchange with Wong once — at Cracked, I don’t remember much else about it — and I came away with the impression he’s one of those guys who’ll do anything to shut you up if you don’t conform to his leftwing ideology. David Wong isn’t even his real name, his real name is Justin Pargin, so I got the sense he’s this white liberal guy hiding behind an Asian pen name — so he can score diversity points or something…?

            But reading this now I got the warm fuzzies, thinking he’s evolved and grown up quite a bit.

            But like I said downthread, read the comments….

          • CatCube says:

            @Well…

            Maybe my memory is accurate and not a fever dream, then.

            I only read a few comments when he first posted it. I think they may have actually been worse then, since it was all people screaming about how “No, we’d never support a left-wing equivalent to Trump” and “How dare you?!” Now, at least, there’s been some right-wing pushback.

            The comments have really dived off of a cliff on Cracked.com. I remember when thatindianguy would always have the top comment or near it, and they were almost always good ones.

          • Baeraad says:

            I think he’s really at his best when he’s telling smug bastards to get over themselves.

            The problem is that, when he starts talking about his own opinions, it becomes obvious that… he is a smug bastard. Who should get over himself.

            But he’s great at preaching humility, if not at practicing it.

            ETA: Though it’s interesting that you associate him with left-wing nonsense. I associate him with right-wing nonsense. Maybe he’s just nonsensically centrist? :p

      • Thegnskald says:

        David Wong seems to be describing current events more than an upcoming problem, there…

    • Randy M says:

      consistent democratic actors.

      What does that mean in this context?

      • Brad says:

        I don’t know who Jonathan Rauch is, but Benjamin Wittes is the self appointed spokesman for the national security state (in or out of uniform), especially its lawyers. He claims, and I think he’s probably right, that the people he appointed himself to represent feel they have been and are being mistreated by the Republicans. They feel themselves to be loyal patriots doing their utmost for their country and find this mistreatment to be a real betrayal.

        • Randy M says:

          Competent loyal statesmen disrespected are likely to feel bad about it, but so are self-interested or agenda-driven bureaucrats chaffing at accountability–even though elected officials applying scrutiny to such people is in fact on the side of democracy.

          We’d need examples and specifics to know which is more appropriate.

          • Iain says:

            Here is his long-form analysis of the Nunes memo, which I find quite compelling. A brief summary:

            1. By almost all accounts, the memo is an incomplete and misleading summary of the FISA application for surveillance on Carter Page.
            2. Even taken at face value, the memo fails to prove its case.
            3. Nunes taking advantage of his access to classified information to release misleading documents for partisan purposes is an abuse of his position.

            From the conclusion:

            At the end of the day, the most important aspect of the #memo is probably not its contents but the fact that it was written and released at all. Its preparation and public dissemination represent a profound betrayal of the central premise of the intelligence oversight system. That system subjects the intelligence community to detailed congressional oversight, in which the agencies turn over their most sensitive secrets to their overseers in exchange for both a secure environment in which oversight can take place and a promise that overseers will not abuse their access for partisan political purposes. In other words, they receive legitimation when they act in accordance with law and policy. Nunes, the Republican congressional leadership and Trump violated the core of that bargain over the course of the past few weeks. They revealed highly sensitive secrets by way of scoring partisan political points and delegitimizing what appears to have been lawful and appropriate intelligence community activity.

            Like, your point is well-taken on the meta level, but on the object level Benjamin Wittes appears to have a good case.

          • gbdub says:

            The Wall Street Journal, citing a source who has reviewed the FISA application, reports that the dossier constituted only part of the application.

            Leaks for me, but not for thee. Given that anonymous, selective leaks to news reporters are a seemingly common partisan tool (used by Comey himself, no less), the complaints about Nunes releasing the memo feel like crocodile tears. Maybe the memo is misleading, but at least he followed official (albeit rarely / never before used) channels to release the information rather than playing Deep Throat.

            And how exactly did the Nunes memo pose a “grave threat to national security”? Again, it may be misleading and partisan, but that’s not a reason to keep it secret. In fact it is illegal to classify information for any reason other than to prevent significant harm to national security, so if these are Randy’s “bureaucrats chafing at accountability”, then they are the ones who are abusing their position (and breaking the law) by asserting a threat that does not exist.

            To the extent the complaint is that the FBI relied on a biased source in Steele, the FBI relies every day on information from far more dubious characters than former intelligence officers working for political parties. The FBI gets information from narco-traffickers, mobsters and terrorists. Surely it’s not scandalous for it to get information from a Democrat—much less from a former British intelligence officer working for Democrats, even if he expresses dislike of a presidential candidate.

            This feels deliberately obtuse. First, when the FBI relies on “shady characters” to justify a warrant, they are supposed to corroborate the informant’s information (and certainly to take the bias and potential self-interest of the informant into account). The memo alleges that the dossier was not corroborated and therefore should not have been sufficient probable cause.

            And beyond that, we aren’t talking about a low level drug bust here, this is spying on a member of a political campaign of the sitting President’s rival party. I think it’s fair to hold that to a higher standard, avoiding any appearance of impropriety. Slipping “the info might have a political bias” in a footnote, if that is indeed what happened, is not quite the level of transparency one would expect when the reality is “this is uncorroborated oppo research paid for by Hillary’s campaign”.

            There are some aspects of that analysis that are compelling, but the general air of “gee I can’t imagine why any reasonable person would be upset by any of this, amirite” detracts substantially from my estimation that it really is an objective assessment.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That blog post confirms we’re living in different worlds. “Yeah, so maybe a fabricated bunch of rumors and lies paid for by the party in power was used to turn the super scary government panopticon on our political opponents but so what?”

            To me this is the sum of all fears from the Snowden revelations. The government can spy on everything, all the time, what if the party in power and/or rogue elements of the intelligence apparatus do that to their political opposition, to nail them for crimes real or imagined? Post that on /r/politics in 2013 for a million upboats. And it turns out yes, that’s exactly what happened: Hillary, Obama, and their fellow travelers with positions of power in the intelligence community flipped the surveillance state tyranny switch.

            They used the barest minimum of plausible deniability, and friends in the media cover for them by saying things like in your linked article:

            To the extent the complaint is that the FBI relied on a biased source in Steele, the FBI relies every day on information from far more dubious characters than former intelligence officers working for political parties. The FBI gets information from narco-traffickers, mobsters and terrorists. Surely it’s not scandalous for it to get information from a Democrat—much less from a former British intelligence officer working for Democrats, even if he expresses dislike of a presidential candidate.

            But this isn’t “everyday law enforcement stuff.” Heck, this wouldn’t even be acceptable in everyday law enforcement stuff. If a racist cop paid a junkie to swear out a false statement to a judge so he could get a phony warrant to bust an uppity black guy for unrelated crimes I’m pretty sure you’d be rightfully livid, but when it’s Obama and Hillary doing it to Trump with the super-secret court with the super-secret laws that probably shouldn’t exist, but since they do should require the very highest standards to make sure they’re absolutely above board in using what’s pretty much the scariest most powerful intelligence weapons in the world…meh. What’s the big deal? We do bogus shady surveillance state stuff all the time, so what if it’s used for the benefit of the political party in power?

            I agree with Rauch and Wittes. The rule of law is gone. The Democrats do not care about it at all.

            Something something democracy dies something something thunderous applause.

          • Brad says:

            Competent loyal statesmen disrespected are likely to feel bad about it, but so are self-interested or agenda-driven bureaucrats chaffing at accountability–even though elected officials applying scrutiny to such people is in fact on the side of democracy.

            To put it mildly, I’m not a fan of the national security state. And I don’t have any special reverence for government employees, including those with uniforms and guns. So I’m not the right person to making this argument. But I do think there’s a growing dissonance between the “tree of liberty” and the “support our troops” rhetoric. It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves.

          • MrApophenia says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            As someone who did spend years freaking out against the surveillance state, that was my initial reaction/inclination too.

            What undercuts that for me, though, is that the investigation was already underway when Steele approached the FBI, and that Carter Page had already been on the FBI’s radar for years as a possible Russian asset.

            If the FISA court had approved surveillance out of the blue on nothing but oppo research- yeah, hit the Nixon alarm.

            But in this case, they were already months in to an investigation of illegal coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, when an opposition researcher came in claiming that a guy they had suspected was a Russian spy since 2013 – whose presence in the Trump campaign thus already counts as incriminating in and of itself – might be committing espionage.

            After which, instead of a warrantless wiretap, which made up the bulk of the really scary Snowden revelations, they went and got a warrant (and explicitly mentioned that some of their evidence came from oppo research in the application.)

            “FBI seeks, receives warrant to surveil longtime suspected Russian asset” just ain’t tyranny. It’s more an argument for maybe not staffing your campaign with Russian intel assets.

          • Brad says:

            If Democrats are in bed with the national security state and Republicans are its victims, then how come so few Republicans voted against the recent renewal and strengthening of FISA as compared to Democrats? They #ReleasedTheMemo, great, but why not actually do something about a secret and one sided process that is so inherently open to abuse and instead making it even more powerful?

            http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2018/roll016.xml
            https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=2&vote=00012

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I had a long response but it appears to have been eaten by the site.

            tl;dr the dossier was critical to allowing them to spy on the Trump campaign and they were intentionally deceptive in the warrant application, when they should have been extremely careful because: 1) the powers granted by these warrants are massively invasive, 2) it’s a US citizen 3) it’s a political opponent during an election year. The deniability is not plausible.

            @Brad

            Whataboutism.

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I’m not referring to random other subject like “And you are lynching Negroes”*. I’m talking about votes on the the exact program that is being criticized. Oversight apparently doesn’t consist of actually doing anything about the (alleged) problems uncovered, just holding a press conference. Legislators, legislating, what a crazy idea!

            * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_you_are_lynching_Negroes

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Conrad, Brad:
            It looks like a One Ring situation to me. A previous President created this power whose obvious use is tyranny. Those without the power rail against it in the name of liberty until they get into power, then for some funny reason they don’t destroy it.
            I think Americans in general are responsible for the national security panopticon. It was created by George W. Bush and applied to everyone in the United States because targeting the cause of terrorism would be discrimination. It’s a peculiarly progressive logic for tyranny, created by a Republican.

          • Iain says:

            That blog post confirms we’re living in different worlds. “Yeah, so maybe a fabricated bunch of rumors and lies paid for by the party in power was used to turn the super scary government panopticon on our political opponents but so what?”

            This would, certainly, be a scary thing. But let’s just be clear what we’re talking about.

            Back in 2013, the FBI warned Carter Page that the Russians were trying to recruit him as an unsuspecting agent. We know this because the Russian spy who was trying to recruit him was caught on tape discussing it:

            In that case, one of the Russian suspects, Victor Podobnyy — who was posing as a diplomat and was later charged by federal prosecutors with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government — was captured on tape in 2013 discussing an effort to get information and documents from Page. That discussion was detailed in a federal complaint filed against Podobnyy and two others. The court documents in that spy case only identify Page as “Male 1.’’ Officials familiar with the case said that “Male 1’’ is Page.

            In one secretly recorded conversation, detailed in the complaint, Podobnyy said Page “wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back. I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am. Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practice the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project, he could rise up. Maybe he can. I don’t know, but it’s obvious that he wants to earn lots of money.’’

            So it’s not as if the Steele dossier was the only reason the FBI was interested in Page: they knew with 100% confidence that he had already been approached.

            Heck, even the public knew. Here’s an article from September 2016 — before the FISA warrant was issued in October — in which Carter Page is described as “an adviser suspected of Kremlin ties”. In that article, the Trump campaign distances itself from Page, saying “He’s never been a part of our campaign. Period.”

            So you definitely don’t need to posit elaborate conspiracies about the Steele dossier to explain why the FBI was watching Carter Page. Moreover, this also fatally undermines the accusations that the FBI was targeting the Trump campaign: at the time that FISA approved a warrant for Carter Page, the Trump campaign had repeatedly and publicly washed their hands of him.

            This is not a smoking gun. Anybody who tries to convince you otherwise is feeding you a line. It’s worth thinking about why they might want to do that.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This is not a smoking gun. Anybody who tries to convince you otherwise is feeding you a line. It’s worth thinking about why they might want to do that.

            How should we think about those who tried to convince us/FISA courts that the Steele dossier is a smoking gun?

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad Honcho:

            I think it’s very unlikely that the national security state is in the tank for either party[1]. They have their own interests, and a lot of power with which to see to their interests. They don’t like Trump for a variety of reasons; I suspect they’d have disliked Rand Paul even more, and probably they’d have disliked Sanders as well. It’s like saying “whose side is Big Oil on?” They may give more money to Republicans than Democrats this year, but they’re ultimately on *their own* side, and which party wins the next election or which ideology reigns in Washington only matters to them to the extent that it affects their interests.

            If it’s worrying that the Russian intelligence services take a hand in our elections, then it should be like a thousand times as worrying if we think our own intelligence services are taking a hand in our elections. That makes the issue of FISA abuse worth looking into, even though as best I can tell, the specific thing being done with the memo is an attempt to spike an investigation into a Republican president, not an attempt to actually look into FISA abuse.

            [1] Also they’re not monolithic–there are Democrats and Republicans in the intelligence services.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad, Conrad:

            Glenn Greenwald made the point, when that bill was voted on, that most of the Democratic leadership also voted for it–including many Democrats who spend a lot of time talking about what a dangerous, racist, proto-fascist Trump is, and how scary Sessions is as an attorney general. The obvious explanation there is that most of these guys (both parties) are as sincere in their rhetoric as your average used car salesman is, when he tells you about the little old lady who used to own this car he’s trying to sell you.

          • Iain says:

            @Jaskologist:

            How should we think about those who tried to convince us/FISA courts that the Steele dossier is a smoking gun?

            If anybody tries to tell you that the Steele dossier is a smoking gun, they are wrong and you should ignore them. Here, for comparison, is the article that Benjamin Wittes wrote when the Steele Dossier was first released. From the conclusion:

            All of this compels us to make a number of observations. First and most important, we should continue to reserve judgment.

            If the FISA application portrayed the dossier as a smoking gun, that would also be quite bad. I don’t trust the people who are making that claim, though. Note that Nunes has admitted he never actually read the application. Trey Gowdy, the only Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who has, said that the warrants relied on “three pieces of information — the dossier, a reference to a Yahoo News article and other information available to the FISA court judges who approved warrants.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            Oversight apparently doesn’t consist of actually doing anything about the (alleged) problems uncovered, just holding a press conference.

            A crooked cop pays a junkie to swear a false statement to a judge so he can get a bogus warrant against someone for a personal vendetta. Lawmakers become aware of this abuse of the warrant process, are outraged and demand investigation, hopefully leading to prosecution. They do not, however, vote to eliminate the ability for police and prosecutors to pursue search warrants against suspected criminals. Does this prove the lawmakers are insincere with regards to their outrage at the crooked cop?

            You and I disagree on a lot, but I doubt we disagree much on our opinion of the surveillance state. I’m all for dismantling it. Exceedingly few people in our government are, though. And regardless, it is a debatable issue. There are people who are legitimately in favor of the FISA court/spy system.

            The problem here, beyond whether or not the FISA court/spy system is a bad or good idea is the bad actors abusing it. When we have bad actors abusing a system that’s probably too vulnerable to abuse, that doesn’t let the bad actors off the hook. Don’t you want the bad actors punished? If not, why not?

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I’m not convinced that anything happened here that doesn’t happen in most or all other FISA cases. Until and unless I’m convinced otherwise, what you are asking me to support is having people fired and/or prosecuted for doing the same things everyone over there is doing and has been doing for a long time because Carter Page, buddy of Donald Trump, was the target this time. Even though I’d love to see the whole thing shut down, I can’t support that kind of selective punishment (and outrage) based on privileged targets.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m pretty sure any Republicans following this advice would have fallen into the error of accepting tactical advice from one’s enemies. The strategy here seems

      1) Give up everything to the Democrats

      2) ???

      3) Revived Republican party. Or, you know, no Republican party, but we’ll just hope otherwise.

      Trump has been less of a threat to rule of law than Obama or Bush, so that excuse seems thin.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Nor is our oppositional partisanship motivated by the belief that Republican policies are wrongheaded. Republicans are a variegated bunch, and we agree with many traditional GOP positions. One of us has spent the past several years arguing that counterterrorism authorities should be granted robust powers, defending detentions at Guantánamo Bay, and supporting the confirmations of any number of conservative judges and justices whose nominations enraged liberals. The other is a Burkean conservative with libertarian tendencies and a long history of activism against left-wing intolerance. And even if we did consistently reject Republican policy positions, that would not be sufficient basis to boycott the entire party—just to oppose the bad ideas advanced by it.

        • The Nybbler says:

          One of us has spent the past several years arguing that counterterrorism authorities should be granted robust powers, defending detentions at Guantánamo Bay, and supporting the confirmations of any number of conservative judges and justices whose nominations enraged liberals.

          Which is to say, on the counterterrorism issue, defending things both the establishment pre-Trump GOP and the Democrats support. On “supporting the confirmations […] of conservative judges”, the linked article actually demonstrates this to be a lie. In it, Wittes is opposing the confirmation of conservative judges, only for different reasons.

          • Randy M says:

            Which is to say, on the counterterrorism issue, defending things both the establishment pre-Trump GOP and the Democrats support.

            Which is to say, on defending the rights of the national security state not to be questioned, these spokesmen for the national security state are remarkably consistent.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I don’t care who started it. Don’t make me come back there!

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I don’t see anything to convince me of the author’s conservative bona fides. One was one of the most vociferous proponents of gay marriage, the other is an Oberlin-grad journalist who thought commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence was uber-important.

      These pattern-match to garden-variety liberal to extreme liberal. Though I suppose more centrist liberal, but I don’t get it. I suppose Rauch doesn’t want to crush all religion: he merely wants it to acquiesce to public will and concern-trolls about its well-being. Yeah, Jesus’ ideology outlived the Roman Empire: it’s 100% for sure going to outlast whatever stupid republic spouted up in some rebellious colonies. Concern appreciated, but not needed.

      Anyways, I’m not too terribly concerned about Donald Trump, or his supposed damage to the Republic. My concern about the health of the Republic are long-term trends involving things like obscene Executive overreach, an oversized military, vast numbers of marginally employed people on the dole, and outsized entitlements. All of these are trends that pre-date Trump. I was, and remain, confident that the American system can withstand Trump’s incompetence and malevolence, and this is a passing moment in American history.

      I personally think the (D) party does more to erode our Republic than the (R) on most dimensions. Previously I would have said (R) is MUCH worse on Executive overreach, but Obama was pretty far out there on stuff like DAPA and 4th Amendment issues, so that to me is an even draw.

      What really draws the line for me is illegal immigrants and Mothers of the Movement on the Dem stage. I react to this how I imagine your standard Democrat would react if David Duke took the stage at the RNC. I just don’t see myself voting (D) for a long, long time. I’m not voting for the party of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “Undocumented Migrant.” I’m definitely not voting for the party that is currently one step removed from “You know that Boston School Busing thing? That was a great idea! Let’s do it again.”

      I’m not a fan of Republicans. I think the majority of the party are a bunch of losers that would sell their own mother if it pleased major corporations. But, again, I don’t see myself voting (D) for a long time, if ever.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        I’d class Rauch as a “liberaltarian”– i.e. a libertarian who works in journalism or the academy and so is socially embarrassed by libertarianism’s historical connection with conservatives. But I’ve never known him to be this dumb before:

        This started during the campaign, when he called upon the Russians to steal and release his opponent’s emails

        … perhaps the idea is that when you’re calling for mindless partisanship it’s best to lead by example?

        • The Nybbler says:

          He actually did that, publicly. He was referring to the deleted emails from the private Clinton email server, not the DNC or the Podesta emails. Obviously he was poking fun at the whole Russian collusion story, but the New York Times took him very seriously.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, he did not. Hillary’s server at the time was disassembled in an evidence locker in Quantico. Like everyone else, he figured Hillary’s server was probably hacked by everybody and their brother, including the Russians. Since Hillary “lost” the 32,000 emails, maybe the Russians have them, so he was making a joke asking them to release the emails they presumable already have. He did not “call upon the Russians to steal.” He made an obvious joke that they had already been stolen.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Notice that the reporters on the NYT story speak of the hacking as something Trump (and, let’s face it, everyone else who was paying attention) envisioned as happening in the past– even if they did manage to lose sight of the fact by the end of the lead.

            Anyway, I’d expect a proper Enemy of the Rule of Law to help the Russians subvert our elections. Jocularly cheering them on from the sidelines is lame-o Third Assistant Sub-Enemy stuff.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “Yeah, Jesus’ ideology outlived the Roman Empire:”

        Jesus had an ideology? What was it?

        • keranih says:

          Jesus had an ideology? What was it?

          You are responsible to God for your actions, and hiding behind the laws of men won’t save you.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            That sounds consistent with what I know about Christianity.

            Do other Christians here agree with that as a central doctrine?

          • albatross11 says:

            That seems like a background assumption, but I’d say the core of Christ’s teachings is

            a. Love God above all else.
            b. Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

            If you want the core beliefs shared by pretty-much all Christians, you can look at the Nicene Creed, but that’s not a moral teaching, it’s a set of statements of belief.

          • johansenindustries says:

            I’m happy to call keranih’s an ‘a’. But I concur with Albatros on the real core.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Nice post, ADBG. I agree the long term trends against the rule of law are concerning, and the forces in this direction are not noticeably more prevalent amongst Republicans than Democrats. I do agree that Trump is an example of trying hard to subvert the rule of law, and if The R’s were mostly composed of Trumpians, they would have a point. But most R’s aren’t Trumpian, and in fact the majority of prominent R’s would very much prefer a different President.

        One more example of a long term trend against the rule of law is the increasing trend of thinking of the constitution as a “living document,” which is usually another way of saying we have a second legislative branch of 9 judges making law as they see fit. And this particular trend is mostly driven by D’s.

        • Matt M says:

          But most R’s aren’t Trumpian, and in fact the majority of prominent R’s would very much prefer a different President.

          I feel like this is an understated point. Trump is far and away the “most criticized by their own party” President of my lifetime, and it’s not even close. I’d be curious to know who else is even in the running.

          It would seem like if there was ever a moment to say “The party must be held responsible for this!” it’s not this one. The GOP establishment did not enable Trump. They did almost everything they could to stop him. Every nationally relevant Republican politician criticized him loudly during the campaign on multiple occasions. Many are still doing so right freaking now.

          If you’re anti-Trump, what, exactly, do you want out of say, John McCain, that you aren’t already getting? If the answer is “to vote with the Democrats on every issue” then okay, but that doesn’t seem like a very logical or reasonable demand.

          • Jaskologist says:

            They did enable him, but not in the way they are accused of. Rather, by failing to deliver on their promises to their constituents, they left open a position for somebody/anybody else, and so did not have the credibility to stop him when he arose.

            They’re still doing it. Stop trying to convince Trump’s supporters that he’s not a good person. Instead, show how you’re any better.

          • Matt M says:

            They did enable him, but not in the way they are accused of. Rather, by failing to deliver on their promises to their constituents, they left open a position for somebody/anybody else, and so did not have the credibility to stop him when he arose.

            Of course, if they had delivered on their promises to their constituents, they’d be the ones that all the professional journalists would be calling neo-Hitler.

          • Nornagest says:

            I still think the double-Hitler rhetoric is more about style than substance. Trump’s actual policy positions, insofar as he has any, are pretty standard Republican if maybe a little on the nativist side.

            And yeah, any Republican president would probably be called racist and sexist and homophobic; that’s just part of the standard background noise of politics in 2018. But I don’t think it’d be dominating news to the extent it has if it wasn’t for Trump’s gleefully crass image and his Twitter feed. The former reacts with Blue mores like a truck packed with illegal fireworks crashing into a telephone pole at 90 MPH, and the latter keeps it on everybody’s mind.

    • John Schilling says:

      In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors.

      OK, but wouldn’t that pretty much mandate that the Republican party establishment accept the results of first a democratic primary election and then a democratic general election, rather than trying to block the candidate thusly elected from doing what they were elected to do?

      If there is a criticism of the GOP establishment, it is that they were insufficiently authoritarian to have removed Trump as a serious candidate while they had the means to do so without great cost in legitimacy, in spite of the number of idiot Republicans who wanted The Donald to be their man. I would agree with that criticism, but that’s not the criticism Rauch and Wittes are offering.

      In the 2016 election, it was the Republican and not the Democratic party that was a consistently democratic actor. Of course, since a healthy republic needs some check on the power of the transient majority, we might have to turn to the Democratic party for an example of a properly republican actor.

      • Iain says:

        You are taking that out of context.

        Being a democratic actor is not just about how you run your primaries. It’s about whether you are willing to set partisanship aside to defend the stability of the overall system. That’s why the article spends its time talking about subversions of the rule of law, and defense against foreign interference.

        You might not agree that the Republicans are doing anything wrong on those grounds, but let’s at least be clear on what the article is arguing.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s about whether you are willing to set partisanship aside to defend the stability of the overall system.

          Defending the stability of the overall system, how exactly?

          The offenses for which Rauch and Wittes specifically condemn Trump, are offenses conducted outside the legitimate sphere of influence of the RNC or the Republican congressional majorities. And their specific complaints about “the Republican Party”, is that only some Republican congressmen booed when Trump did those things, others cheered and more still simply stayed quiet. Rauch and Wittes conspicuously fail to suggest any action “the Republican Party” ought to have taken or not taken, to effectively stop Trump’s stated offenses.

          So either,

          A: It is “undemocratic” in a boycott-worthy sense not to have 100% booing for WrongSpeak and 100% cheering for RightSpeak, or

          B: Rauch and Wittes have come up with some clever legitimate way for the RNC to e.g. limit the US President’s internal (mis)rule of Executive Branch agencies, but forgot to tell us what that is, or

          C: Rauch and Wittes are disappointed that the Republicans haven’t done the equivalent of a palace coup to de-Trumpify the executive branch.

          None of these speak to the democratic virtue or undemocratic vice of the GOP in any sense that I would recognize the term.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The offenses for which Rauch and Wittes specifically condemn Trump, are offenses conducted outside the legitimate sphere of influence of the RNC or the Republican congressional majorities.

            I don’t think this is true.

            Take the interaction between Nunes, The White House, Paul Ryan, Mueller and the various representatives of the intelligence community housed within the executive branch. Nunes and The White House are actively cooperating to attempt to derail Meuller’s investigation, apparently misusing classified material to do it, and the Speaker of the House will not act to prevent it.

            Trump has been constrained by institutional norms, but he has not left those institutional norms undamaged. The dam has not yet failed, but those should not lead one to conclude that the dam cannot break.

          • Iain says:

            In addition to what HBC said: something like this suggestion from National Review would be a step in the right direction.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think this is true.

            Take the interaction between Nunes, The White House, Paul Ryan, Mueller and the various representatives of the intelligence community housed within the executive branch.

            Why should we do that, when Rauch and Wittes don’t?

            Rauch and Wittes condemn the entire Republican party for two specific “unforgivable sins”: the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia, and his attacks on the independence of the justice system. For the latter, they offer sub-accusations that involve either Trump’s internal administration of the Executive Branch, and his public statements. These are not all of the sins you or I might chose to attribute to Donald Trump, but they are the sins Rauch and Wittes deem sufficient to justify a boycott of all other Republicans.

            And they aren’t in Congress or the RNC’s bailiwick, except insofar as Congress could impeach Trump but really, really shouldn’t until Mueller’s investigation is either concluded or quashed.

            The words “Nunes” and “memo” don’t even appear in the Rauch/Wittes piece. And it is the argument of Rauch and Wittes, not the general sinfulness of Donald Trump, that I had thought we were discussing here. The latter we have discussed ad nauseum and well past the point of diminishing returns.

            Rauch and Wittes have offered us a piece of wholly unremarkable political hackwork, prefaced with “We’ve claimed to be non-partisan until now, so this partisan attack is extra awesome!”. It’s really not.

    • cassander says:

      >The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him.

      What? Trump was bitterly resisted by his own party, then narrowly won an election, and has yet to be forgiven for it by most of the DC establishment. what conscious decision did they make to enable him?

      We’re proposing something different. We’re suggesting that in today’s situation, people should vote a straight Democratic ticket even if they are not partisan, and despite their polic

      y views.

      Wittes works at brookings, which is solidly neo-liberal center left. John Rouch wrote a book in 2004 called ” Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America”. Both, in other words, are professional democrats. Of course they think this.

      to the authors of this piece, ask a simple question, If trump is so dangerous, why on earth are you not offering the slightest policy concessions on the democratic platform? Why are democrats not getting up there and saying “I’m so worried about trump that if we win we’ll pass a bunch of tax cuts and let mitch mcconnell and paul ryan pick our supreme court nominations, just to get him out of office.”

      In other words, I’ll believe that there’s a crisis when these people actually start acting like there’s a crisis, not using current events to justify the things they already believed.

    • Iain says:

      This, from Jacob T. Levy, is an interesting article that comes at similar ideas from a different direction: in this case, why “ignore the tweets and look at the policy outcomes” is a bad stance. I particularly like this bit:

      Within the electorate, the speech of elites matters in a couple of different ways. A large part of the population begins with a tribal sense of what team they’re on, which side they support, but relatively little information about the substantive policy views associated with that. Thanks to Trump’s Twitter feed and Fox News (and the strange reciprocal relationship between them) the Republican and conservative rank and file now have an unusually direct, unusually constant source of information about the things that people like us are supposed to believe and support. I think that we can see the effect of this in the rapid and dramatic swings in reported Republican opinion on questions from free trade to Russia policy. Trump’s stump speeches and unhinged tweets, and Fox News’ amplification of them, are changing what Republican voters think it means to be a Republican. He doesn’t speak for them; how many of them had a view about “the deep state” two years ago? He speaks to them, and it matters.

      And this one:

      The business of prioritizing procedural norms, the rule of law, alternation in power, and electoral fairness is psychologically difficult. It’s counterintuitive to believe your cause is right and also to believe that it’s right for your side to lose roughly half the time. Being a good sport isn’t easy even in sports, and the stakes are much higher in politics. A lot of people, including a lot of elected officials, never really manage it. But stating the norms out loud—in the US, affirming that they are central to the American system—helps to balance out the authoritarian and populist temptation. Failing that, keeping one’s mouth shut (the way Mitch McConnell just smirks and shrugs when he changes Senate rules in order to make sure his side wins) has something to be said for it. But what populists and authoritarians do is to make a virtue out of the inclination to love our in-group and hate the out-group. […] Trump’s equation of opposition with crime and treason isn’t just “norm erosion,” a phrase we have seen a lot of in the last year. It’s norm inversion, aligning the aspiration to do right with substantive political wrong.

      • Matt M says:

        He doesn’t speak for them; how many of them had a view about “the deep state” two years ago?

        A pretty decent amount, at least if talk radio is any judge. But we were always instantly dismissed as paranoid cranks by any mainstream media, who refused to acknowledge that such an entity even existed.

        Trump has forced them to acknowledge and discuss it, which is a pretty big win IMO.

        (That said – I agree with your larger point, that Trump’s tweets are relevant to shaping the political culture, even if his actual policies end up being indistinguishable from what Mitt Romney would do as President. We just disagree on whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing…)

    • Controls Freak says:

      Boy. This subthread is long, and I’m late to the game.

      1) So, this is where we are with Ben Wittes. For people trying to understand him at all, rather than merely write him off as partisan or embrace him for saying what needs to be said, I think this podcast is the most necessary preliminary. He embraces the Trump version of “Derangement Syndrome”, acknowledging that all presidents have had bitter partisan opponents, and taking on the challenge of wanting to say, “This time is different.” Of course, this was in March of last year, before most of the issues which they raise in this article occurred. In any event, the key concept is that he doesn’t trust Trump’s oath of office – he doesn’t think Trump is mentally/emotionally capable of grasping the meaning of the oath and the presidency. He believes that this invalidates Trump’s presidency, and is ready to excuse the rejection of the traditional presumption of regularity and executive branch leaks because of this belief. So, in this article, he says

      One more nonreason for our stance: that we are horrified by the president.

      …and then later…

      So why have we come to regard the GOP as an institutional danger? In a nutshell, it has proved unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump and his base on the rule of law.

      So we arrive at a syllogism:

      (1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
      (2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
      (3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.

      Uh, yea. It is about you being horrified by Trump. It really always has been.

      2) Some various notes on the subthread.

      How about the bit where the Bush administration was violating the written law w.r.t. FISA wiretaps for years

      Not quite. The White House and Congressional leaders justified PSP under inherent Article II powers. One can still not like this, but it’s meaningfully different.

      Or how about the bit where the Obama administration declared its authority to order US citizens assassinated, with no review anywhere, on Obama’s authority alone?

      …missing key qualifiers about, “In an area of active hostilities,” and such… Similarly, one can still not like this, but I find it extremely common (and annoying) when people leave off important distinctions and just let the reader think that the statement holds far more broadly.

      What are the other actual claims of the Nunes memo? It isn’t that the Steele dossier was the basis for the Trump investigation – his own conclusion at the end of the memo acknowledges the investigation was already underway when they got the Steele dossier.

      The subtle shift here is from “the Page FISA warrant application” to “the investigation [writ large]”. The most important sentence to right-wingers is that it claims that McCabe testified that it wouldn’t have been sought without the Steele dossier, which they regard as false and trumped up with knowledge that it was false. The analogy here is that if Nixon had his cronies cook up fake probable cause to get a search warrant for DNC headquarters rather than break in, it would still be a scandal.

      Of course, democrats have hit back with claims that this sentence is misleading/false and/or that the Steele dossier was good/corroborated. Senate Judiciary repubs have also fired a shot on this point, to less fanfare, but it is a bit more specific on some items. We haven’t seen the democratic response in writing yet.

      rubber stamp secret court

      I’m just going to link my deep cuts.

      The purpose of the interpretation of the act pushed by the government and accepted by the courts, as well as the post-9/11 amendments is “how can the government be given a blank check to spy on anyone they want to?”

      To the extent that you’re talking about 215, two notes. First, that’s concerning metadata only. Second, it was changed post-Snowden in USAFA (and because it was metadata only, the changes were rather small; they were really close to the balance that was embraced by Congress). This is probably the only genuinely problematic thing the Snowden revelations brought to light. To the extent that you’re talking about any of the rest of FISA (specifically including the bits used in the Page case), this isn’t remotely true.

      an opposition researcher came in claiming that a guy they had suspected was a Russian spy since 2013

      The most comprehensive discussion I’ve seen is from Newsweek, which pretty clearly indicates that he wasn’t suspected of being a spy, and, “[W]as not identified as their object of interest until April 2017.”

      Almost missed this one:

      During the pendency of this entire scandal Republicans voted by fairly large majorities to extend the worst of provisions of FISA and even add some bad provisions.

      They passed an extension of 702, yes (not commenting on whether it’s the “worst” part), but it’s pretty ridiculous to phrase this in a way that implies that they “added” anything other than restrictions (even if they weren’t as restrictive as you might have liked).

      • Iain says:

        The most comprehensive discussion I’ve seen is from Newsweek, which pretty clearly indicates that he wasn’t suspected of being a spy, and, “[W]as not identified as their object of interest until April 2017.”

        I think you are misreading this. Note that the FISA application we are all worked up about happened in October 2016, six months before you say Carter Page was identified as an object of interest. Unless time travel is involved, it seems pretty clear that Newsweek is talking about Carter Page being publicly identified as “Male 1” from the Podobnyy trial.

        From the same Newsweek article:

        A Russian spy tried to recruit him as an asset in 2013. […] That spring, Page had his first brush with FBI counterintelligence agents, who interviewed him about his contacts.

        • Controls Freak says:

          Ah. I did skip past the date; I’m pretty sure my brain thought 2016 (maybe I haven’t even switched to ’18 yet mentally), which would have fit better with the timeline. In any event, I haven’t seen any indication that the 2013-2015 investigation resulted in anything other than arresting some Russians. No indication that they actually suspected Page of doing anything untoward. There’s nothing wrong about unknowingly having foreign agents talk to you.

          Of course, this could be wrong, and they super knew he was a spy for a long time, but that’s not borne out with facts in the reporting I’ve seen. I’ve seen a claim that they first requested a FISA warrant in summer 2016 (which was rejected), then reapplied and got one in October. If true, that also wouldn’t necessarily support a claim that they suspected him “of being a spy” back in ’13. My impression is that a true interest in him rather than the folks he was talking to is a relatively new development.

          • Iain says:

            Carter Page was openly advertising ties to the Kremlin in 2013. That’s more likely to be vapid self-promotion than anything sinister, but it’s not hard to see why the intelligence community might have kept an eye on him, especially after he joined up with a political campaign.

            In any case, the main point is that you don’t need to imagine a big Steele dossier conspiracy to justify a case against Carter Page; he had been a person of interest for years. “Hey, this idiot the Russians tried recruiting a few years back has suddenly been named as a foreign policy advisor for a campaign that we are already investigating based on that Papadopoulos guy. You think we should take a look?” The Steele dossier may have been the cherry on the sundae, but it was clearly not the entire case against Page.

          • Controls Freak says:

            From Time’s reporting (click-through from your link):

            The letter, dated Aug. 25, 2013, was sent by Page to an academic press during a dispute over edits to an unpublished manuscript he had submitted for publication, according to an editor who worked with Page.

            “Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” the letter reads.

            Carter Page is a weird person. Did you read his testimony? He reads to me like a very awkward academic, and if you had previously said, “Weird academic in international affairs, with major interests in Russia, China, and the Middle East,” oh, and, “Thinks we don’t get along just because we don’t understand each other,” I’d have pattern-matched, “Crazy campus lefty.” I’m not sure how he ended up where he is politically, but yea, he’s weird. I think you’re right that this is probably vapid self-promotion in some trivial-stakes peer review game (…I’ve seen too much of that sausage factory, in particular), and while the actual quote seems possibly problematic, it just really doesn’t do anything that you want it to do. In the context of US persons, the relevant portion of 50 U.S. Code §1801 defines “agent of a foreign power” to mean any person who:

            (A) knowingly engages in clandestine intelligence gathering activities for or on behalf of a foreign power, which activities involve or may involve a violation of the criminal statutes of the United States;

            (B) pursuant to the direction of an intelligence service or network of a foreign power, knowingly engages in any other clandestine intelligence activities for or on behalf of such foreign power, which activities involve or are about to involve a violation of the criminal statutes of the United States;

            (C) knowingly engages in sabotage or international terrorism, or activities that are in preparation therefor, for or on behalf of a foreign power;

            (D) knowingly enters the United States under a false or fraudulent identity for or on behalf of a foreign power or, while in the United States, knowingly assumes a false or fraudulent identity for or on behalf of a foreign power; or

            (E) knowingly aids or abets any person in the conduct of activities described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) or knowingly conspires with any person to engage in activities described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C).

            Needless to say, nothing in your comment comes remotely close to probable cause of this. Being a possible target in the past doesn’t do it. Joining a campaign doesn’t do it. Being on the same campaign of some other guy of interest doesn’t do it. His vapid self-promotion (even if true) doesn’t justify them “tak[ing] a look” at him through FISA surveillance. I’m not aware of any publicly-available information (outside of perhaps the Steele dossier; I’ll admit, I still haven’t gotten around to actually reading the thing) that comes close. Again, there may be a ton of good, classified information that they used, and he very well may be completely guilty… but a weird, out-of-context quote from a letter to a journal editor… about advising? C’mon, man. Be serious.

            (Now I’m trying to think of the simplest scenario which gets someone like, say, Bruce Schneier a “looking at”. He likes to “advise” governments on academic issues… this could be a fun game!)

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t recognise those names, which means I know nothing about those guys, except that having read the article it comes across as “we promise, cross our hearts and hope to die, that we’re absolutely non-partisan – except, y’know, the Republicans are not alone awful but a threat to democracy, freedom, and apple pie and okay some Democrats are awful but they’re not a threat to apple pie!”

      Oh yes, I’m convinced. Particularly with the gratuitous little swipe about pro-lifers thrown in. They may have a point, but if I were an American voter who was formerly of the Republican party but hated what it has now become and wanted to find some way of changing that, I don’t really see how “become a Democrat” is going to reform the Republicans, do you see what I mean?

      • 1soru1 says:

        Maybe so, but seems like it would have more of a chance of success than continuing to vote Republican.

        • Matt M says:

          How about voting for someone who hijacked the Republican party over their loud objections while everyone in the establishment was completely hostile to them in every way?

          Trump isn’t “proof the republican party needs reform” – he’s the result of said reform.

  4. dndnrsn says:

    So, probably we’re going to see some CW about Superbowl ads. How MLK, use of “them” in a Coke ad, etc is proof that Tsathoggua is swimming port. I’m going to give a different take: they show the power of capitalism and of American nationalism. MLK was juxtaposed with marching Marines, to sell trucks. A lot of the diversity messaging was very American-nationalistic: the message being that diversity, equality, etc are American things, that by embracing diversity, you are being a good American. Diversity – racial, gender, whatever – can exist, but only within a framework of American nationalism and American exceptionalism, and is especially good if it can be used to sell stuff to people.

    Additionally, I found the use of really solemn patriotic themes to sell products extremely strange. I don’t know if I’ve seen that for any other country. Please provide counterexamples, but the use of military-heroic imagery to sell stuff… I can’t really think of any other examples.

    (Bonus question: has MLK become a patriotic-coded figure?)

    • quanta413 says:

      Is the power of capitalism really right or left in the sense that boldmug was speaking of? Seems mostly orthogonal to me.

      MLK was juxtaposed with marching Marines, to sell trucks.

      Also, this description makes me really glad I didn’t see any Superbowl ads. Using MLK or marines to sell stuff is pretty tactless. Using both at once is dumb. One more reason when buying cars to buy Japanese.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Capitalism is usually coded “right” but it’s a specific kind of right. Capitalism does not play well with the right of traditionalism – it doesn’t get along with traditional communities, old-fashioned ways of living, restrictions on personal freedom. It can be (or simulate) left when it needs to be – “sir, we did the math and it turns out gay people have money” “excellent work Jeffries! Buy some rainbow flags” – but it doesn’t get along with the left of unions, etc.

      • gbdub says:

        ” One more reason when buying cars to buy Japanese.”

        The non-American car ads were just as bad. Toyota did a long montage of a US Paralympian born missing 3 limbs.

        Hyundai used a “hope detector” to haul people out of the security, presumably scaring them that they were about to be cavity searched, and then stuck them in front of a cancer patient that might have benefited from their purchase of a Hyundai.

        • Randy M says:

          Hyundai used a “hope detector” to haul people out of the security, presumably scaring them that they were about to be cavity searched, and then stuck them in front of a cancer patient that might have benefited from their purchase of a Hyundai.

          0.o
          Oh, you mean that they knew they were Hyundai owners. That’s crass, but slightly less jaw-dropping.

          • gbdub says:

            Yes, they grabbed unsuspecting Hyundai owners and confronted them (in person) with a cancer patient they had “saved” (immediately after making them think they were about to get some sort of enhanced security screening).

        • bean says:

          Hyundai used a “hope detector” to haul people out of the security, presumably scaring them that they were about to be cavity searched, and then stuck them in front of a cancer patient that might have benefited from their purchase of a Hyundai.

          My response to that was “Of course hope comes with every Hyundai. You hope you can afford a better car some day.”
          (Yes, I’m aware of how they’ve done in the recent JD Power surveys. It’s a joke.)

        • quanta413 says:

          Dammit, Toyota, why must you fail me? Is there no cheap, reliable car I can buy that won’t be advertised in stupid ways?

        • beleester says:

          I thought Toyota’s ads were the least bad of the car companies. I’m much more tolerant of a nice story with ‘Sponsored by Toyota’ appended to the end of it, than a tortured attempt to directly connect the nice story to buying a Hyundai.

          Jeep’s “There’s your manifesto” ad was also quite good.

      • cassander says:

        In my experience, Toyota is consistently the most jingoistic of car companies, especially when selling trucks.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Most of the time, those ads just look stupid. Trucks aren’t all-american, they are giant wastes of money for most of us (including the people who buy them, like my Dad).

      The stupid together ads are just as crazy. Yeah, I’m going to become culturally integrated by buying a product. Sure. Makes total sense. All the diversity in my workplace matters not if I don’t buy f’in Pepsi.

      Those Tide ads were funny, just wish there were more of them. Also was digging that Morgan Freeman/Tyrion rap off.

      • gbdub says:

        Thought the Morgan Freeman part was weak, the Dinklage part awesome. As someone said, you don’t pay Morgan Freeman for an ad and then only have him speak two words.

    • Matt M says:

      Bonus question: has MLK become a patriotic-coded figure?

      He used to be – but I think we’re maybe less than a year away from him becoming forbidden fruit for whites. It will be considered cultural appropriation for any non-blacks to reference, quote, or speak approvingly of MLK.

      • dndnrsn says:

        My pet theory is that important figures from the civil rights era and a bit after will start getting cast off/ignored by people who otherwise would be sympathetic. Consider how a lot of early (first-wave) feminist figures, including those who accomplished major legal achievements, have been denounced or (more commonly) swept under the carpet for being extremely racist, and for frequently supporting eugenics.

        MLK was a Baptist. His family members who have spoken on it seem to disagree on whether or not he would have hypothetically been in favour of gay rights. Maybe that will be a sticking point for some people? The civil rights movement is a lot less church-based than it once was.

        (Likewise, I can easily imagine a lot of the 70s black power figures – the men, at least – getting denounced for their treatment of women)

        • Vorkon says:

          This is unlikely to happen to MLK, because unlike the early feminist figures who have been denounced recently, he’s not alive to make any statements critical of the current orthodoxy. They can attribute any beliefs and motivations they like to him, as long as they don’t contradict his most famous speeches, most of which are vague and aspirational enough that they can be applied to just about anything other than overt racism against black people. (Such as selling trucks.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            How many of the first-wave feminists are still alive? I think you’re confusing second and third wave – first wave was the suffragettes, etc. And even in MLK’s most famous speeches, there’s plenty of harder-edged, more specific stuff, but people just excerpt the bits that are optimistics, feel-good, a bit vague (because they want to sell trucks, or whatever).

          • Aapje says:

            In my country, I see quite a few ‘serious’ feminists point to Simone de Beauvoir as their inspiration, but I never see any mention of her collaboration with the pro-Nazi Vichy regime or her pedophilia.

          • Vorkon says:

            Ah, I looks like I glossed over you specifically pointing out first wave feminists. I guess I was just assuming you were talking about people like Margaret Atwood, and other people currently having anything remotely negative to say about the excesses of the #MeToo phenomenon, just because that’s been in the news so much lately. Sorry about that!

            I don’t foresee that happening to MLK, but yeah, I can definitely see random “MLK was problematic” articles popping up in a few years.

            That said, has there really been that much criticism of first wave feminists lately? I haven’t really seen any, though that might just be a result of the circles I travel in, and I haven’t really been looking.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Aapje: huh, wait what? Could you unpack “collaboration”? I thought Beauvoir was a stinking Maoist like Sartre.
            Are you saying future feminists will find her problematic because she didn’t resist the Vichy government and therefore lacked pure pureness?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Vorkon

            That said, has there really been that much criticism of first wave feminists lately? I haven’t really seen any, though that might just be a result of the circles I travel in, and I haven’t really been looking.

            It’s in the form of being ignored more than being criticized. Some of this is undoubtedly due to the passage of time – most people don’t care very much about the first couple decades of the last century, let alone the end of the 19th. Every now and then, though, they come up, and some trouble occurs. Clara Brett Martin, the first female lawyer in Canada, had her name taken off a government building after it was revealed she had once written something anti-semitic in a letter. The Famous Five, who were heavily involved in the fight for political equality for women in Canada, were not renewed on the 50 dollar bill a couple years ago (the lack of women who aren’t the queen on bills is an occasional issue up here), the most significant is probably remembered as much for being a racist and eugenicist as for her feminist activities, and while there are statues of them scattered across the place, I would not be surprised if there start to be demands for them to come down (there’s bigger fish to fry in that regard, though). My point is that people who were trailblazers in one category will become unacceptable later, as has happened, for having opinions that while retrograde today, were pretty ordinary back then.

            Margaret Atwood is a good example of the same thing happening now – obviously, more attention will be paid, since she’s alive now. She went pretty quickly from being a hero to a villain. I think it’s fairly likely that as the generation who were old enough to remember the civil rights period passes into history, we’ll see thinkpieces with titles like “some of his family says he wouldn’t have been a bigot – but that’s not enough”. Or maybe when the records that would conclusively prove what his personal life was like are unsealed, maybe something there will upset people.

          • Aapje says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            She worked for Radio Vichy (link in French), a government radio station where the Propaganda Minister spoke twice a day, attacking the enemies of the collaborating regime (including communists).

            Her collaboration seems to have been of the passive, survivalist kind. However, producing ‘innocent’ content for that radio station did draw listeners to that station, which would then also broadcast propaganda. So one can assume that if she did her work well, she increased the number of people exposed to propaganda.

            Sartre and De Beauvoir had a Jewish lover (they tended to share lovers), who they dumped shortly before France was invaded and who seemed to have taken it badly. De Beauvoir wrote in her diary that: “she hesitates between the concentration camp and suicide.” That seems a very mean-spirited comment, especially with 20/20 hindsight*. Sartre nor De Beauvoir tried to help her or even tried to find out whether she was OK, after the war.

            However, during the war she did write a novel which portrays the morally just behavior as the opposite what she herself did. The main character in the novel is a Communist who refuses a safe posting and instead goes to help the resistance, including rescuing Jews. This seems a little hypocritical to me, although it is easy for me to judge as I don’t have to make a similar choice.

            * by which historical figures tend to be often judged, nowadays.

            BTW, her apparent pedophilia seems a lot worse, in my eyes.

            As for your question, I’m arguing that some people seem to get extreme scrutiny, while others get it minimally. So it would be perfectly consistent for the current trend to discredit questionable heroes to continue and perhaps increase, while some people who are similarly ‘problematic’ get a pass.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Aapje: Her collaboration seems to have been of the passive, survivalist kind. However, producing ‘innocent’ content for that radio station did draw listeners to that station, which would then also broadcast propaganda. So one can assume that if she did her work well, she increased the number of people exposed to propaganda.

            Ah, that’s what I figured: collaborating with the Vichy government to earn a living during the war, rather than refusing to interact with it to maintain purity. The cited fiction shows her feeling of hypocrisy at not having been a morally pure Communist.
            Holy cow at the stuff about their Jewish lover, though.

            I definitely agree that her pedophilia was worse. That seems to get a pass, unfortunately (cf. The Vagina Monologues.

        • keranih says:

          (Likewise, I can easily imagine a lot of the 70s black power figures – the men, at least – getting denounced for their treatment of women)

          MKL’s adulterous affairs with campaign workers would not be as easily overlooked today, but I’m not sure that he still would not have gotten a pass for it.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        He used to be – but I think we’re maybe less than a year away from him becoming forbidden fruit for whites. It will be considered cultural appropriation for any non-blacks to reference, quote, or speak approvingly of MLK.

        If you can tighten this assertion up a bit such that it can be bet on (e.g., defining “will be considered” in the active voice so the win condition doesn’t merely require registering a Twitter alt) I’m willing to offer any amount up to $1,000 in the negative.

        • Matt M says:

          Man, I almost feel like the reaction to this very ad is pretty damn close to counting as a win for me. Although Chrysler isn’t “white” I guess, and the specific objection was not “cultural appropriation” necessarily.

          Let me think about this. One year might be a bit aggressive. Two is probably more closer to where I’d be comfortable to bet.

          • Nornagest says:

            SJWs gonna W for SJ. An outcry is not good evidence for the subject being forbidden fruit in the broader culture.

          • Matt M says:

            Norganest,

            Would you consider dressing up as an ethnic stereotype for halloween to be “forbidden fruit?”

            Because clearly some people still do it – but I also think the broader culture says “This is something that bad people do.”

            Obviously people will still reference MLK and not everyone will instantly denounce them for it. I’m just suggesting that while before, referencing MLK was a great way to virtue signal, it’s about to become something that all the right-thinking white progressives consider to be rather problematic.

            That’s what’s funny about the backlash to this ad – from a right-wing perspective. Dodge was TRYING to virtue signal. But instead they’re getting denounced as out of touch and clueless. Serves them right.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Man, I almost feel like the reaction to this very ad is pretty damn close to counting as a win for me.

            The reaction to this ad is that it is problematic because it takes a King sermon which was anti-consumerist and uses it to sell trucks. This seems like a sensible reason to consider something problematic. You’re injecting the racial appropriation angle on your own.

            I’m just suggesting that while before, referencing MLK was a great way to virtue signal, it’s about to become something that all the right-thinking white progressives consider to be rather problematic.

            I still disagree. I think you have a terrible perception of your outgroup. That you keep massaging your lazy, reactionary take in gaseous verbiage that I can’t profit from also makes it irritating.

          • Nornagest says:

            Would you consider dressing up as an ethnic stereotype for halloween to be “forbidden fruit?”

            Kinda borderline. You’d likely catch shit for it in deep Blue spaces, might get a few raised eyebrows in regular Blue, but I don’t think it has the kind of general acceptance I’d want before using a phrase like that. Depends on the ethnicity, too — blackface is right out, war bonnets controversial at best, but dressing up as a geisha or a hula dancer would probably go over fine. Bet I could even get away with a Mexican bandito.

            And I still see earth-mother hippie types wearing batik or kente cloth (sometimes both!) whenever I’m in the kind of town that has a lot of them. If that’s not cultural appropriation, I don’t know what is, but no one cares.

      • Nornagest says:

        Thousand bucks says I’ll be able to find a reference, quote, or statement of approval of MLK from a white author in a top-10 newspaper or magazine sometime next year, which is not closely followed by a retraction.

      • keranih says:

        Fifteen seconds on Google brings up this.

        So if anything I think your time line is too long.

        • Nornagest says:

          Once again, random writers declaring something forbidden does not actually make it forbidden.

          • Matt M says:

            No, but it shows we’re moving in that direction. Would such a piece have been written, anywhere, even by the far left, 10 years ago?

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes. Pieces along those lines have been coming out since the Seventies, if not earlier. This line of criticism isn’t new; it’s taken somewhat more seriously by the mainstream Left now than it was then, but we’re nowhere near the level of acceptance it’d take to make reference to MLK Jr. politically incorrect in white hands. If that even makes sense in a cultural appropriation framework, which I’m not sure it does.

          • albatross11 says:

            As is so often the case, defining how you would decide who wins the bet ends up clarifying the issue. “Someone on the internet got mad about X” is quite different from “X is forbidden.”

    • Matt M says:

      A lot of the diversity messaging was very American-nationalistic

      This is a great point, but seems increasingly obsolete. Perhaps there was a time when “diversity” was a uniquely American trait. But, as a value, this no longer seems to be so. In a practical sense, Germans and Swedes seem to be much more open to “diversity” right now than Americans are…

      • Anonymous says:

        They are not.

        Their elites are, but the rank and file hate it. Political inertia and obfuscation is the only reason they are not in open revolt over it.

        • Matt M says:

          Eh, I dunno. I’m sure right-wingers would say the same about America.

          Maybe it’s not 51%, but I feel like the Germans can still turn out plenty of people to march in a pro-immigration demonstration holding giant “REFUGEES WELCOME!” signs. I visited Germany about two years ago and saw signs like that all over the place.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s the obfuscation part. These people are given the mushroom treatment about what they are supporting. Not to mention that you don’t have to have anywhere close to majority to organize a large march. Sufficient polarization will work too, even with a small minority of radical adherents.

          • Aapje says:

            There is a very high level of ‘original sin’ among Western Germans, because that is how they coped with guilt over WW II/the Holocaust. Where most countries go into denial over their past, they embraced the idea that by erring strongly in the other direction, they could prove they learned from it.

            This is the reason why they took in 1 million refugees in a year, for example.

            It’s not uncommon for such strongly biased coping mechanisms to change over time. For example, in The Netherlands, the narrative that was dominant at first among the media/elite was that just about every Dutchman resisted the Nazis, followed by the narrative that just about everyone collaborated, followed by a more nuanced narrative that recognizes that both things happened & that Dutch people are neither saints nor devils.

            Of course, Germany has fairly little to be proud of when looking at WW II, since there was so little resistance. The crime was also enormous. So it is understandable that they had to maintain an narrative of collective guilt as long as quite a few Germans were alive who were complicit or were children of those who were complicit.

            However, I doubt that it can hold in the long term, because every new generation has a weaker personal connection to WW II & Islamic terrorism makes it hard to paint Neo-Nazis as the main threat to Germany. So it seems inevitable that more and more people refuse to be held to stricter/worse standards than other nations or post-war immigrants within their nation.

            Atomization of Western societies also simply makes it harder to uphold a society-wide narrative.

            There are indications that the narrative will not hold, like the support for the AfD and Sarrazin’s book on how Germany is dissolving itself. The latter is a member of the elite who dared to speak out and face the huge backlash. In The Netherlands, the elite had a culture of covering up inconvenient facts about immigration for a long time, but once that taboo broke, it broke pretty hard.

          • Matt M says:

            There is a very high level of ‘original sin’ among Western Germans, because that is how they coped with guilt over WW II/the Holocaust.

            To make up for our oppression of Jews, let’s bring in millions of people who want to oppress Jews?

          • Aapje says:

            That cognitive dissonance is typically either resolved by denying that Islamic immigrants are very often antisemitic or by being very optimistic how easy it is to change their beliefs.

            This is of course a typical human flaw: to resolve an incompatibility between two strong desires by denying the existence of a conflict or by being unreasonably optimistic about finding a way to resolve the conflict while still being able to achieve both desires fully.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Aapje: they come from backward countries were hating Jews is common and it’s illegal to criticize Islam. Once they’re in our countries, where it’s illegal to criticize Islam, they’ll quickly change their backward beliefs.

          • Aapje says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            As I said: “unreasonably optimistic.”

        • quaelegit says:

          … aren’t you Polish? We already know the Polish populace is very opposed to immigrants.

          (Does anyone know of polling companies like Pew that regularly sample Germans on various issues like this, so that we can attempt to address the question empirically instead of asserting that our biases are representative?)

          • Anonymous says:

            @Matt M
            @quaelegit

            I have a report from the Migration Policy Institute about it, here.

            An analysis of public opinion surveys conducted over the last two decades reveals the following:
            • Public opinion on issues of immigration and integration has been fairly consistent over time.
            • Curbing and regulating immigration has been an important issue in the past, particularly during periods of heavy and fast-paced immigration.
            • The population has consistently called for restricting immigration.
            • The German population expects immigrants to earn their right to acquire German citizenship. The majority opposes dual citizenship.
            • The population’s overall stance on integration in Germany has been contradictory. Sxity-two percent think that immigrants are not well-integrated, but integration has been and continues to be a low-priority issue compared to the concerns about unemployment or the economy.
            • While contact between native Germans and the immigrant population has steadily increased (especially in western Germany), this has not automatically served to improve community relations. On the contrary, it has heightened the perception that significant cultural differences exist in Germany.
            • German public opinion reflects a feeling of more “social distance” from some immigrant groups than others. Turkish immigrants are consistently perceived as the group that is culturally most different from nonimmigrant Germans.
            • The sentiment that Germany has too many immigrants is still strong although this has declined from 79 percent in the mid-1980s (in West Germany) to 53 percent in 2008.
            • Public opinion remains highly skeptical about the integration of Muslim immigrants in Germany. Two-thirds of the population does not think that Muslim immigrants in Germany accept German values.

            And that data is from BEFORE the migrant crisis. I’d bet you (if private bets were legal here) people have gotten much more opposed to immigration.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Anonymous

            Thank you for linking this report! This seems close to what I’m looking for.

        • Baeraad says:

          I don’t know about Germany, but nothing in that account sounds anything like the situation in Sweden right now.

          • Anonymous says:

            I can’t find any “do you want less or more immigration?” polls for Sweden, probably because results are swamped with Trump’s comments on Sweden, but I did find political support polls. The anti-immigrant party (Sweden Democrats) is currently getting about 24% support, making it the most supported party in Sweden (we’ll see what the actual results of election this year turn out to be, but I don’t think there will be many surprises there). The current support for the German anti-immigrant party (Alternativ fur Deutschland) is only 13%.

            If anything, I’d tentatively suggest that Swedes are MORE fed up with immigration than Germans are.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Europe is a complicated situation. But up here in Canada we seem to be doing a better job of diversity – at a minimum, there’s far less political capital to be had in being anti-immigrant. Yet, “America is diverse; diversity is American” seemed to be a real Schelling point for combining nationalism with a diversity push, at least on Superbowl night.

        I think this is an overall argument against Zoth-Ommog swimming, uh, west – leftism (if not the left in general) is usually anti-nationalistic at least rhetorically.

        • Matt M says:

          Do Canadians believe that diversity is a uniquely American value?

        • dndnrsn says:

          No. We’re sort of smug about doing it better. Truly, the most Canadian value is smug, passive-aggressive superiority.

          • quaelegit says:

            … all the while convincing Americans that you’re the polite, apologetic ones. Very clever 😛

            (Americans meaning U.S.A denizens, don’t know what they think of Canada in the rest of the Americas.)

          • Baeraad says:

            More charitably, I’d describe that as “healthy self-confidence, with nothing to prove.”

            I’m biased, of course, because Swedes are pretty much the same way. We don’t need to be patriotic. We just know we’re better than everyone else.

          • johan_larson says:

            I would describe it more as “under-dog pride.” We Canadians are a smallish country (by population) that tends to compare itself to a much larger one, which just happens to be the one true superpower of this world. They occasionally beat us even at things they barely care about. So whenever we do beat them, we tend to be very proud of ourselves.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          They try that, but it doesn’t work on large swaths of the right-leaning populace. “DIVERSITY IS STRENGTH” is one of those “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY” type lies. Unity is strength, not diversity. Diversity is an attack vector. You can’t just be all “oh man, want to be stronger? Add diversity! We’ll be totally be stronger when no one has anything in common at all!”

          • Aapje says:

            Diversity has advantages and disadvantages. Refusing to recognize one of those is a good recipe for disaster.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do the people who say “diversity is strength” recognize or acknowledge any of the disadvantages? I’m not the one running around saying “diversity is weakness.” They’re the ones with the unidirectional political slogan.

          • Brad says:

            Do the people who say “diversity is strength” recognize or acknowledge any of the disadvantages?

            Why not ask one of them?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t know any personally. This is the kind of stuff Obama says and for some reason he doesn’t return my calls.

          • quanta413 says:

            A better motto would be “STRENGTH BRINGS DIVERSITY”. They’ve got causation totally backwards. Being strong makes people want to join your team.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            That depends on the cost of joining the ‘strong.’

            I think that many people recognize that (Fortune 500) CEOs are quite powerful and financially well off, but nevertheless don’t want that job.

          • SamChevre says:

            I’d disagree. “Diversity is Strength” is a classic motte-and-bailey. There’s a sense in which it’s obviously true: if you are doing a reasonably-complex task with a team, having people who have different relevant experiences involved increases the likelihood that it goes well quite a lot. (Trying to build a spreadsheet to model some accounting question so you can explain it the the CFO? Having a good spreadsheet builder, someone who understands the accounting, and someone who’s good at presentations will be very helpful.) Whether they are all from the same country isn’t very relevant, and having them all speak the same language would be a place where unity is very helpful.

          • Aapje says:

            @SamChevre

            Even then, only very bounded diversity is an advantage. Having a UI designer in a team that builds an app/site with a UI is an advantage. Having one in a team that does pure data analysis probably makes the team less effective than if it had another data analyst.

            Having a UI designer on a fishing boat is just a bad idea.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Something doesn’t have to be a uniquely American trait for a company to bullshit it back to you.

        Like freedom? There are a lot of other nations in the world that have freedom. But goddam, you need a pickup truck because FREEDOM!

        Virtue-signalling diversity just happens to be in demand among the demographic that advertisers want. Once all these Millennials and Gen Xers get to retirement age, I’m sure we’ll see ads about how buying a Reverse Mortgage means you really cherish the Yanomami.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Is there any demographic that doesn’t love their brand of virtue signalling? It wasn’t invented recently by left-leaning millennials. And using diversity to sell stuff exists elsewhere: I’m sure there’s a Tim Hortons ad running right now in which an adorably multicultural crowd of little kids learns how to skate. But the nationalism is turned way down, and it doesn’t use sacred or semi-sacred figures/images to sell the coffee.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m having a hard time with this right now, I didn’t watch the Superbowl but someone linked me a car ad where people who had bought that brand of cars got thanked by cancer survivors because a portion of the profits was donated to anti cancer funds. My first thought was to roll my eyes and pass it off, but a few mins later I was thinking about how those donations probably did impact some people’s lives. There is a middle ground where virtue signalling actually attaches itself to virtue, but I have been cynical for long enough to forget that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s possible to simultaneously virtue signal and be virtuous, but isn’t part of the point that the signalling detracts from the virtue? In your example, if Hyundai (was it Hyundai?) had put the money for the ad to anti-cancer charities, that would have done more good than showing the ad, but without the ad nobody would know. You could make the overall argument that incentivizing people in that way does help – they probably wouldn’t have done that if they couldn’t spin it that way.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I think Americans tend to be pretty damn nationalistic, even among center-left people. They just tend to make their preferred values the ultimate American values.

            I’m just making the point that, for Americans, a value doesn’t have to be uniquely American for us to CLAIM it as uniquely, or predominantly, American. Especially if someone is trying to sell you something.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you assume they could have put zero ads in place without effecting sales, but if they replaced a goofy/virtue signalling/aspirational ad with a an actual virtuous ad then that could be a net win for virtue (possibly, I know nothing about the amount of donations they made or how many ads they made).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            Definitely. Left-wing Americans tend to be more nationalistic than right-wing Canadians.

            @baconbits9

            What’s a virtuous ad, though?

          • baconbits9 says:

            One that reports actual virtuous action.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t know how an ad could have been more or less virtuous than that; the point is that the resources spent on showing you’re virtuous, could have gone to being virtuous. Pray in secret and all that.

          • Randy M says:

            Pray in secret and all that.

            That’s not terribly utilitarian. And if they really are doing the most good of any car company, and saying so gets them positive affect that translates into dollars… well, it’s just the corporate equivalent to “get a better job so you can donate more effectively.”
            (tongue partially in cheek)

          • AnonYEmous says:

            @dndnrsn

            Funny story, I actually had an idea for an ad like this, but after thinking it over I concluded it couldn’t happen for multiple reasons. One of the big reasons was that…well, the purpose of a commercial is to signal. Take that away, and what’s the point of airing it to begin with?

            (The other big reason: it was supposed to be customers telling stories of the times they did good things, basically a de-cynicising twist on a commercial that actually aired which I heard about, but truly good people don’t do this and tell about it afterwards, so that ruins the commercial anyways.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            but truly good people don’t do this and tell about it afterwards

            I don’t think that’s a universal value. Bragging is one thing, just telling stories is another.

        • ragnarrahl says:

          Like freedom? There are a lot of other nations in the world that have freedom.

          I’m not aware of any other country on earth where I can march in public, a gun on my hip, holding a sign that says “I hate my President and his entire race should be gassed,” and that’s not a crime.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      About that Ram Truck ad, watch this version using a different section of the exact same speech.

      https://youtu.be/l_v1h6Zoi-Q

    • lvlln says:

      Additionally, I found the use of really solemn patriotic themes to sell products extremely strange. I don’t know if I’ve seen that for any other country.

      There’s something about football and sports in general that has gotten highly connected to patriotism. Hence calling baseball the “national pastime,” the standing and singing the national anthem before every pro event (it felt really weird to do this when I went to some pro ultimate Frisbee games in Boston during the brief period when pro ultimate Frisbee in Boston was a thing), the honoring of military personnel before pro events. So it seems likely to me that Super Bowl ads were more exploiting of patriotic themes than typical ads.

      But that just moves the question back a step, which is why sports have gotten connected to patriotism. I wonder if part of it is that sports are just inherently tribal. But there’s also the question if sports are particularly connected to patriotism in the USA compared to other countries, which I have no idea if is the case.

      One thing having to do with using patriotic themes to sell products, I recall in the 90s or 00s, in South Korea there was a brand of cola called 815, named after August 15 which is the liberation day when Korea was freed from Japanese colonialism at the end of WW2 and is sort of the Korean equivalent of USA’s 4th of July, and which was directly marketed as a spit in the face of the foreign Coca Cola brand. Just one example, and it’s possible that South Korea is also unusually obsessed with patriotism like the USA. But patriotism seems as good as anything else to exploit for the purpose of marketing one’s product.

      • dndnrsn says:

        We’re pretty big into hockey up here, or so I’m told, but it’s different. The Canadian nationalism is much softer, there’s far less use of sacred symbols, the tone is sentimentality rather than solemnity. The Canadian equivalent to “America is the land of diversity and the greatest place ever; buy Hewlett Packard” is “remember you were a little kid and your dad taught you to skate? Here’s a shot of some maples in the fall. Buy Tim Hortons.”

        • Matt M says:

          As an American hockey fan, all I know is that Don Cherry shows his weekly “Here I am visiting a cemetery for our heroic vets” segment every November. It is completely indistinguishable from the sort of thing you’d expect to see on American sports programming.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This is a good point. I’d counter that as far as I know Cherry has been involved in fundraise-for-the-troops stuff for a while, that it’s limited to the Remembrance Day period, and that he is considered by many Canadians to be rather gauche. Plus, is there any advertising directly involved? But yeah, Cherry is a counterpoint.

          • Iain says:

            It is completely indistinguishable from the sort of thing you’d expect to see on American sports programming.

            Even the jackets?

          • Matt M says:

            Also worth noting that Canadians play their anthem before games too, everyone stands in solemn respect, the crowd sings along, and soldiers often present the flag.

            The only real difference is that one of the verses is usually in French…

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I notice they’re making true patriot love mandatory for everyone now. No more skating by with that fake patriot love, daughters of Canada!

          • dndnrsn says:

            Don’t most countries have the anthem? Singing the anthem and standing etc is normal. But the “we’ve brought the local reservists around to march the flag out!” thing seems pretty American.

            (Also, the lyrics to the French version of the anthem are wild)

            (Also, we have an anthem you can sing easily, without warbling)

          • Matt M says:

            Seeing police or military march the flag around before NHL games hosted in Canadian cities is very common though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is it? I’m not a hockey fan. I’ve never seen that at a baseball game, which is the only non-punching-oriented sport I watch. I’m actually pretty bad at being a Canadian in some ways.

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn:
            My understanding is actually that singing the national anthem before sporting events is not normal outside of North America.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            Only for international games where the national team plays.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve often got the impression that the World Cup is how a lot of countries exercise their nationalism.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Even the jackets?

            Well…

    • Vorkon says:

      I think you’re reading a little too much into it. You’ve got to look at precisely where these ads were playing; namely, the Superbowl.

      It’s a uniquely American sport, which only America cares about, and which, even among Americans, is especially popular among the Red Tribe. You’re not going to see ads like that playing during, say, the series finale of some wildly popular show, or some other annual event that tends to get high ratings, such as the Academy Awards, or something. On the other hand, you’re far more likely to get ads tailored toward women during daytime soap operas, or toy ads during cartoons aimed at children. Patriotic ads during the Superbowl are basically the same thing; an attempt to target advertisement toward the audience they expect to be watching.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The Revolution will absolutely be televised. It will be brought to you by our fine sponsors at Coca-Cola, Chase Bank, and McDonald’s, “I’m Loving It, Comrade!”

      • quanta413 says:

        We can join the Chinese in having “communism with special American characteristics”. They can have communism with free enterprise zones, and we can have communism with McDonald’s.

    • Vorkon says:

      Speaking of truck ads, how ’bout that one for Jeep?

      It was no Tide Ad, or even a Morgan Freeman/Peter Dinklage rap-off, but it was definitely among the best ones I saw that day.

      (And come to think of it, speaking of the Tide Ads and this Jeep ad, isn’t it interesting how, by far, the best Superbowl ads were the meta ones about ads?)

    • S_J says:

      The Amphibious Warfare series is interesting.

      As a coincidence, I began reading Winston Churchill’s history of the English Speaking Peoples. In the first chapter, Churchill tells the story of Julius Caesar attempting an amphibious landing in Britain.

      That story isn’t much different than the stories you mentioned in Part 1. The raid was hampered by lack of knowledge of the coastline. It was also hampered by weather, and other factors — including the cavalry leaving from a separate port, and not arriving in time to help the infantry once the beachhead was established. The ships were too heavy, and grounded far enough from the beach that the soldiers had to jump into the water to advance on shore.

      On the positive side for Caesar: the fleet used catapults, artillery-style, to support the assault. He was able to take the beach.

      More trouble came when the weather (and tides!) turned out worse than expected.

      All in all, Caesar’s first landing in Britain is a good study of ancient amphibious warfare.

      [Edited to add: Had I not read Part 1 of your amphibious warfare series, I would not have noticed most of these details of Caesar’s amphibious assault on Britain. Thanks for helping me understand this kind of thing better.]

      • bean says:

        That story isn’t much different than the stories you mentioned in Part 1. The raid was hampered by lack of knowledge of the coastline. It was also hampered by weather, and other factors — including the cavalry leaving from a separate port, and not arriving in time to help the infantry once the beachhead was established. The ships were too heavy, and grounded far enough from the beach that the soldiers had to jump into the water to advance on shore.

        By this description, it isn’t that much different from some of the stories in Parts 2, 3, and 4. Lack of knowledge – Gallipoli. Weather – Normandy. Cavalry support – Dieppe. Grounding offshore – Tarawa. (Insert Ecclesiastes or Unsong quote to taste.)

        All in all, Caesar’s first landing in Britain is a good study of ancient amphibious warfare.

        Sounds like it. Unfortunately, collapsing 2400 years of history into ~1000 words meant I had to cut a lot of stuff, including that (which I did look at including).

        Edit:

        Had I not read Part 1 of your amphibious warfare series, I would not have noticed most of these details of Caesar’s amphibious assault on Britain. Thanks for helping me understand this kind of thing better.

        You are very welcome. One of the things I enjoy the most is when people come back saying “I was able to understand something else better because of your post on X”.

        • S_J says:

          You’re right, all those details are (or will be) covered elsewhere.

          There is also the issue that the other items mentioned in Part 1 (from Marathon to William the Conqueror) are all more historically memorable than Caesar landing in Britain.

    • bean says:

      And, relevant to recent discussions on military procurement, Why Military Acquisition is So Hard. A (mostly) true story.

  5. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://theestablishment.co/metoo-has-made-me-see-anyone-is-capable-of-sexual-abuse-including-me-6455f93309a9

    A woman looks at her and other women’s history of ignoring whether men are fully consenting to sex with them.

    I’m wondering what folks here think.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think it’s a good article, and I think I broadly agree with the author. With regard to actual criminal conduct, men are certainly guiltier. With regard to “not serious but kinda shitty” behaviour, it might be more even. I remember a relationship where there was extremely mild (like, being frowny and passive-aggressive) pressure if I didn’t want to, when the converse didn’t happen – if she didn’t want to, go to sleep. I always gave in, because it was easier that way. I would never consider myself to be “violated” by this in any real way, but it sort of makes me feel a bit sad in retrospect, more because of the double standard than anything else. I think there are a decent number of women who convert “I am not a physical threat to a man” into “it is impossible for me to behave unpleasantly to a man in a sexual context”.

      • Thegnskald says:

        As usual, I will contest the “criminal” thing.

        We can’t know that in the current sociopolitical climate; until misbehavior by women against me is taken as seriously as misbehavior by men against women, there is a systemic bias that makes it extremely difficult to gauge frequency. We do have reason to believe crime by women is both underreported and under-punished, as we have strong evidence of systemic bias both in the reporting of crimes, and the police and judicial responses to them – often legislated that way, such as with the Duluth model of abuse.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I think that being pushed into unwanted sex can have effects that range from annoyance to trauma.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if being that pushy about sex is part of a pattern of inconsideration which grinds down a relationship.

        “I think there are a decent number of women who convert “I am not a physical threat to a man” into “it is impossible for me to behave unpleasantly to a man in a sexual context”.”

        Bingo. There’s been some push-back against the idea that men always want sex with any reasonably attractive woman.

        “We can’t know that in the current sociopolitical climate; until misbehavior by women against me is taken as seriously as misbehavior by men against women, there is a systemic bias that makes it extremely difficult to gauge frequency.” I assume this sentence has a typo.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Yes it does.

          (My thoughts on pushiness about sex are complicated, because I think that that probably describes a wide range of behaviors and situations, from legitimate grievances to an entitled mentality. Roughly, I think this is a broad failure area in people’s thinking, because they are going to imagine the situation that justifies their attitude towards the behavior.)

        • dndnrsn says:

          In my experience, it was part of a more general thing. In retrospect, I think she was working under the impression that I, as the guy, held all the power. If she had a complaint or an issue about me or my behaviour, she was speaking truth to power; vice versa was me being a big mean bully. It got to the point where I barely even bothered trying to raise issues I had, and just apologized reflexively even if she was in the wrong. it was absolutely corrosive to the relationship. Not that I was perfect either; we were both kind of shitty to each other.

        • albatross11 says:

          Trying to think this through, in this case w.r.t. only male/female couples and rape:

          Women are rarely capable of forcibly raping a man, whereas men are usually capable of forcibly raping a woman. This is just differences in size and strength. So for forcible rape, I expect the numbers are massively one-sided. This encompasses both direct use of force and threats of force. There are some gray areas here where the weaker party might fear the use of force if she/he doesn’t go along, whether the stronger party intends it or not.

          Rape (or whatever you call it) where a powerful person gives some non-physical ultimatum to a less powerful person can be done by either sex. (Think of the boss demanding sex to let her underling keep his job.) To the extent men are more likely to be powerful than women, this is going to be more common for men to do than for women to do.

          For statutory rape, women and men are equally able to commit the crime. Women are probably less likely to be punished.

          For getting someone drunk/drugging someone and taking advantage of them, there’s not an inherent reason why a woman is less capable than a man. However, if the man is too drunk/out of it, he may not be able to perform, and there’s not really a way for a woman to have sex with a man who’s passed out, whereas it’s possible the other direction.

          All those seem to point toward men being more often in a position to rape women than the other way around. And most of that also tracks with lesser kinds of sexual assault–forcible sexual assault is way more likely to be possible for a man to do to a woman than the other way around, drugging/getting them drunk is generally more workable when done by a man to a woman than the other way around, and the kinds are likely to be more-or-less even.

          In terms of likelihood of wanting to commit the crime, my intuition is that men are more likely than women. But I don’t have any really strong data on that.

          • Thegnskald says:

            You miss a couple of important points; one, for the “unconscious” part, being that nocturnal erections are extremely common.

            The other being social power; I have encountered more than one individual whose rape story was “She threatened to say I raped her if I didn’t have sex with her”.

            ETA: Also, when women date-rape-drug men, apparently it is common to add Viagra to the mix. Also also, apparently the most common case when women rape men is when men turn them down for sex. There are sociological theories about this revolving around how a man turning a woman down for sex is interpreted as an insult to her gender conformance, but it seems pretty hand-wavy to me.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            I have read too many anecdotes about drunken men who had non-consenting sex (and anecdotes about drunken men who raped, for that matter) to believe that drunkenness is truly a strong protection from being raped due to impotence.

            I also want to point out that you are missing a scenario that I have also seen many anecdotes for, where the man is sleeping and the woman gets into bed with him, gets him hard and rides him. The man commonly wakes up at this point, but then he is already being raped. It then seems relatively common for the man to not use violence to stop the rape, for instance because he is confused due to sleepiness, because he is not aware of the possibility of a woman raping a man and thus cannot easily make sense of what is happening without thinking it over carefully later, because he believes that using violence against a woman is immoral or because he is afraid that using violence to stop the rape will result in a false rape allegation, to which he will have no defense.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Some of this is about getting sex without using full on physical force– for example, not letting the other person go to sleep. Most people aren’t going to react violently, so physical strength isn’t the issue.

            Also note that some men are strongly inhibited against using force on women– and an intimate partner is likely to know whether this is the case.

            There’s a gray area where a man is less inhibited by alcohol but not likely to be incapacitated.

            The one case I know of where I’m adequately sure of a woman raping a man was a random stranger who told me a story intended to be funny. Her husband didn’t want children, but she did. She got him drunk after a superbowl, and they had unprotected sex. The joke was that the resulting son was a sports fan.

            I was horrified, but (as folks here might guess) I’m not in the habit of moral denunciation. So I paused, and asked her what her husband thought.

            She looked sad, and said it might have had something to do with their divorce. I think I caught her by surprise.

            If I did catch her by surprise, that’s interesting in itself. As I recall, her son was eight.

    • yodelyak says:

      I find myself pointing at this story a lot.

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/04/05/mark_oppenheimer_tablet_magazine_article_about_1960_yale_sex_scandal_shows.html

      I think people sometimes get too dialed-in to “consenting” or “unconsenting,” to the exclusion of other lenses. Say the woman in this story had been several months older, such that statute-type consent wasn’t implicated. There’s still a problem–but consent isn’t a good lens for explaining it.

      If we think of sex as having a nurturing/nourishing/relationship-building aspect, then of course some sex that isn’t ‘unconsenting’ is still unhealthsome, even if it isn’t criminal.

      Just like some conversations between parents and kids may not rise to the level of criminal abuse, but are still shit parenting.

      If sex is a drug, then perhaps some kinds of sex are the equivalent of dirty-needle injections of all the ground-up stuff you could find in your medicine cabinet.

      One reason I suspect the hook-up generation of so much enjoying the “consent” lens is because so many of ’em have more-or-less managed to keep their hands clean on that front (but nowhere else). Specks and motes and eyes and whatnot.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Very interesting word choice on her part.

      The headline says “sexual abuse” but she only uses the word abuse twice in the article itself, both in the same sentence. Rape comes up four times but only as the phrase rape culture; variations on sexual assault are mentioned five times; sexual harassment is only mentioned a single time. Variations on violation, on the other hand, appear eleven times in the article: nearly as often as the rest combined.

      This phase of #metoo seems to be moving in a very interesting direction. I’ve talked for a long time about how consent-based sexual ethics have a lot of difficulty dealing with sex which is clearly consensual yet obviously immoral. That we had lost our societal concept of violation during the sexual revolution. But this article, both in terms of content and diction, seems like an attempt to reintroduce purity norms wrapped in the language of consent.

      If I’m right, this might end up being a very good thing for society. If we can recognize that just because something is consensual it isn’t necessarily acceptable, we’ll have retaken a lot of the ground we lost since the 1960s.

      • albatross11 says:

        Nabil ad Dajjal: +1

        Most bad behavior doesn’t rise to the level where the police and courts should be involved. That doesn’t mean it’s not bad.

        I feel like a lot of the churn going on how in various articles w.r.t. consent standards comes down to this problem you’re pointing out: lots of people have bought into a model of the world in which the only moral question about any sexual activity is “did everyone consent.” And they’re faced with situations where there’s clearly bad, sometimes predatory behavior going on, and yet, there’s not really a clear violation of consent, such as could be used to get someone locked up for rape or sexual assault. Instead, there’s just someone being a cad or a manipulative jerk, or two lonely drunken people hooking up and feeling lousy about it later, or a guy pressuring his girlfriend into sex before she’s really ready for it. And all those are bad things, but there’s not really a consent issue (even with the two drunken people scenario). So those people working from a consent-is-the-only-issue model start trying to stretch “consent” all out of shape to handle those bad situations that aren’t really about anyone being forced.

        • dndnrsn says:

          This is something I’ve thought about a fair deal. I think the best explanation is that sex positivity kind of stalled. So, on the one hand, most people have adopted a consent-based model for deciding whether something is good or bad. On the other hand, they haven’t adopted the affirmative informed consent standard, and a generally open attitude to sex.

          Being open to having sex isn’t the same thing as having an open attitude to sex – an example of that would be a guy who thinks sex on the first date is normal, but it’s weird to ask, so he slowly escalates, or a woman who thinks sex on the first date is normal, but it’s weird if a guy asks and it’s weird for a woman to ask, so she just waits for him to make a move and doesn’t refuse.

          Expecting or putting up fake resistance is the extreme manifestation of this. All of this is a situation that both really helps predators and results in a lot of cases where people get hurt without that being anyone’s intention.

          • Aapje says:

            I feel the need to point out that there are advantages to gradual escalation and token resistance that are not just ‘afraid to ask.’

            A gradual escalation allows you to update your guess on the sexual prowess of the other person and how respectful they are, based on how well they escalate, how well they kiss, etc, so you can make the decision to sleep with them or not, based on better information.

            Token resistance probably involves a combination of not wanting to feel slutty and wanting to feel desired.

            One of the problems I have with the debate is that these desires are not addressed openly.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, there may be advantages to that system – gradual escalation for him, token resistance for her – but I think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages; at a minimum a lot of the complaints (especially from women) have to do with that system.

            Someone who is good at escalating isn’t necessarily good at sex or respectable. It might be a way that you can say “well, this person has better social skills, this person is good at reading people.” But the obvious failure mode is the guy who thinks he’s read her successfully, and keeps pushing…

            One thing I think is odd is the complaint “but if guys have to ask, awkward guys won’t ever get laid!” which seems kind of backwards. A big part of awkwardness is being crummy at reading other people; being able to ask removes that. If it becomes the norm to ask, then there’s no way to differentiate “he’s awkward” from “he’s following the rules.”

            One thing I find outright bizarre is women who will be, for lack of a better word, easy, but put up token resistance “not to feel slutty.” That ship has sailed, eh?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m not sure whether this is breaking my promise not to post about dating until after B-day, but this quote is important:

            One thing I find outright bizarre is women who will be, for lack of a better word, easy, but put up token resistance “not to feel slutty.” That ship has sailed, eh?

            If you don’t understand why women say “I don’t usually do this…” then you don’t understand women.

            She’s not saying it for your benefit. You know that she’s easy with all five senses by that point. She’s saying it to herself.

            “I’m not that kind of girl. I didn’t mean to have sex with him it just happened. No matter how many times I do this it’s not who I am.”

            That implausible deniability is extremely psychologically important to a lot of women. If I was a Freudian I would say that it was a defense mechanism but instead I’ll just call it self-deception.

            I don’t expect women to unilaterally stop telling themselves flattering lies, so this behavior isn’t going away anytime soon. I also don’t expect men to get laid by telling the empress that she has no clothes, so men aren’t going to stop cooperating anytime soon. Even if the risks of men doing so increase significantly, there are still enough risk taking men to have sex with every woman on Earth a few times over.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            dndnrsn, finding behavior bizarre sure sounds like Chesterton’s fence. It casts doubt on your cost-benefit analysis.

            Moreover, you can’t just declare rules. That’s exactly the problem with the “socially awkward.” The only people “following the rules” are the people too clueless to know what people actually do. Promulgating rules distracts the credulous from studying reality. That’s not to say that promulgating rules changes nothing, but it’s important to figure out what it does, not assume that you’re an omnipresent dictator.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            The issue is more fundamental: most people don’t accurately notice what benefits and costs their choices actually have. They probably tend to overestimate the benefits & underestimate/ignore the costs.

            There are various reasons for this:
            – The costs are often more diffuse than the benefits
            – People take the benefits for granted
            – People are commonly in denial about how transactionally they behave.
            – In the West, there is a strong bias against seeing women as people capable of influencing men (especially when it comes to creating incentives that make men defect) and seeing men as being as being able to be influenced. A woman who acts badly is seen as driven to it by others. A man who acts badly is seen as a bad man. This double standard greatly hampers rational analysis of causal mechanisms.

            One thing I think is odd is the complaint “but if guys have to ask, awkward guys won’t ever get laid!” which seems kind of backwards. A big part of awkwardness is being crummy at reading other people; being able to ask removes that. If it becomes the norm to ask, then there’s no way to differentiate “he’s awkward” from “he’s following the rules.”

            There are different issues: social ineptness, shyness, sexual self-image issues (and more?).

            Having bluntness as the rule or at least as a mode that is not harshly penalized, is beneficial to people who lack social skills*. However, it does not help shy men, who are severely disadvantaged compared to shy women. They would greatly benefit from having women be more pro-active.

            I believe that getting approached increases the sexual self-image aka it makes people feel desired. I think that a deficit causes psychological pain and can drive people to self-destructive (or even destructive) behavior. So if women were to approach men more, it would probably help them (and would also reduce the issue of many women getting flooded with attention).

            Of course, there is surely a strong overlap here, where the men who lack social skills are far more likely to be shy and far more likely to suffer from a poor sexual self-image.

            * Of course, changes that help certain groups can make other groups relatively worse off, so the socially adept may have a strong incentive to not make life better for the socially awkward.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            It’s not about not understanding it. I totally get self-deception. I just think it’s bizarre and counterproductive. I don’t think it’s something only women do; I used to indulge a similar habit of mind, which is why I think it’s so bad. My life got a lot better, and it got a lot better to do things that I wanted to do (drink less, eat better, get in shape) when I stopped pretending that I was a guy on a diet who somehow ate all that cake, or a guy who was physically active who somehow never got in the gym, or someone drinking less than before (who somehow drank 6-12 beers every time drinking was going on). Now, if I decide I’m going to eat a whole damn cake or get drunk, I set out with that goal in mind, with the result that I do those things less, because they’re things I choose to do instead of somehow, nobody knows how, how did this happen sneaking up on me.

            Likewise, a woman who says to herself “I know what I’m doing, and I choose to do it” w/r/t promiscuity is probably going to do a better job of promiscuity (less likely to be seriously unhappy about it, more likely to take precautions) than a woman whose internal monologue is “how does this keep happening, I’m not the kind of girl who does this, just like I wasn’t the kind of girl who did this the last twenty-seven times this happened”.

            @Douglas Knight

            I’m using “bizarre” in a way that is, perhaps, bizarre. Not “this is incomprehensible!” just “that’s weird”. I get what the current system does, I get why people do it, I just think that the costs outweigh the benefits. Also, yeah, you can’t just declare new social standards, but social standards have changed hugely over time, increasingly quickly. We don’t go around and ask women’s fathers for permission to court their daughters before we’ve even talked to said women for more than a minute, eh? That’s a bigger chance compared to now than switching to universal affirmative consent would be.

            @Aapje

            Yeah, people tend to do a terrible job about considering what they’re doing, framing it, whatever. Most people are also dreadful at aligning their stated and revealed preferences, or even noticing that those are different.

        • Matt M says:

          And they’re faced with situations where there’s clearly bad, sometimes predatory behavior going on, and yet, there’s not really a clear violation of consent, such as could be used to get someone locked up for rape or sexual assault

          I’ve been complaining for years about the increasing broadening of what we count as “sexual assault.” It has become essentially a meaningless term that covers everything from a violent rape at gunpoint, to “some guy pretended to trip and brushed his hand against my breast,” to “I had sex with a guy and then felt bad about it later.”

          It definitely used to be the case that the latter two behaviors were considered icky – people would think less of you for engaging in them to be sure. But they probably wouldn’t get you fired from your job or expelled from a university. But so long as you can lump them into the same general category as “violent, forcible rape” they definitely will. No school can afford to be seen as being “soft on sexual assault” because people will assume that means “violent rapists go unpunished.”

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Nabil ad Dajjal:

        “If I’m right, this might end up being a very good thing for society. If we can recognize that just because something is consensual it isn’t necessarily acceptable, we’ll have retaken a lot of the ground we lost since the 1960s.”

        I don’t see this going in that direction– it’s about having a higher standard of consent, not saying that some consensual sex (adultery?) is immoral.

        • dndnrsn says:

          However, raising the standard of consent does mean that some sex that, by the previous standard, by “legacy” standards still kicking around, etc, was consensual, is not consensual by the new standards. And it’s hard to tell whether someone else is running the new definition, or if they’ve not upgraded from the old standard.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I don’t know about that. For example, one of the behaviors I hear a lot more complaints about now is about guys who pressure women to perform degrading “porn moves” like deep-throating, anal sex and cumshots.

          In most cases the complaint isn’t that anyone is being forced to do this against their will. It’s resentment that guys expect them to be willing to do something so degrading just to avoid an argument or a breakup, combined with anger that they’re right.

          A society where heterosexual sodomy is considered morally equivalent to rape is a very different world than ours. It’s not traditional in any meaningful sense but it’s a little closer to sanity.

    • Thegnskald says:

      I am bemused at the idea of a moral standard nobody lives up to being taken seriously.

      At the point when you realized your moral standard admitted no good guys (good people, whatever, her word choice), you should start seriously considering who – or more accurately, what – your moral standard is designed for.

      (Also, I am left amused, as the author realized that women do exactly the same shit, she didn’t reflect on the nature of the narrative of fear – that this is part of a patriarchal system that makes women afraid – instead of questioning whether or not the idea that a set of behaviors pretty much everybody engages in can be realistically considered to be part of a gender-biased system of oppression. But whatever.)

      Also, I am left deeply annoyed by the “We aren’t taught not to do this” narrative. MEN are taught not to do this. Women are not. Which probably has something to do with the gender ratios of this behavior in college environments increasingly skewing towards women-as-perpetrators.

      All in all… well, I have been beating on this drum for a long goddamn time now, and my optimism that things are slowly changing for the better is hammering hard against frustration about how slowly the change is happening. But I know how this shit goes; the change is slow, and then sudden.

      • Matt M says:

        Also, I am left deeply annoyed by the “We aren’t taught not to do this” narrative. MEN are taught not to do this.

        It’s worse than that though. To the extent that they are “taught” about this at all – the typical teaching is that they can’t do any wrong in this situation. Men have the power. Women are victims only.

      • Vorkon says:

        Also, I am left deeply annoyed by the “We aren’t taught not to do this” narrative. MEN are taught not to do this. Women are not. Which probably has something to do with the gender ratios of this behavior in college environments increasingly skewing towards women-as-perpetrators.

        Wait, I’m a little confused by your position here; isn’t “women are not taught not to do this” precisely what the article is trying to argue? If so, then what is there to be deeply annoyed about? Or do you just mean you’re annoyed by that narrative, in general?

        • Thegnskald says:

          My impression is that the author is under the impression that men aren’t taught these things.

          As opposed to reality, which looks more like “The messaging about what isn’t acceptable behavior encapsulates all possible behavior, so some of us are just going to figure that out and ignore it, and others will live their lives in constant guilt for failing to live up to a standard which nobody actually wants”.

          The standard in this case being a messaging amounting to “Approaching any woman in any situation whatsoever for romantic purposes is oppressive”, as demonstrated by articles saying so about literally every possible way to approach women, from approaching women in bars (women don’t go to bars just to get picked up! Sometimes they are there to have fun and dance!) to messaging people on fucking internet dating sites (I get 500 messages a day, and this isn’t acceptable).

      • Iain says:

        I am bemused at the idea of a moral standard nobody lives up to being taken seriously.

        I mean, isn’t that a pretty good description of Christianity? Having an aspirational goal, even if you will never realistically reach it, is not always a bad thing.

        • Thegnskald says:

          The thing about aspirational goals, however, is that they are understood to be aspirational.

          Insofar as we rake people over the coals for failing to live up to an impossible moral standard – well, that is just a social version of the legal theory of 1984. (Or, perhaps, the behavior of a Randian villain, if you prefer).

          Does this look like an aspirational morality? Do people talk about doing better in their personal lives, or do they sharpen their knives while grinning at their potential targets?

          (Speaking as a potential target, it sure looks more like “sharpening knives” than “trying to live a better life”)

          • Thegnskald says:

            ETA: The comment this was in response to appears to have disappeared.

            As I said, my optimism hammers hard against frustration. This is definitely one of those cases; it is incredibly frustrating to watch society move with excruciating slowness towards conclusions I reached within a few months of starting to think about it.

            I can’t say what the authorial intent was; it could be to remind people that they live in glass houses and should think twice about the whole stone-throwing business. Certainly it is probably more useful in changing people’s minds than me ranting about how stupid the whole business is.

            I can appreciate the progress. I am still annoyed at how slow it is, how everybody must be repeatedly reminded over and over and over again that we are all flawed human beings – all of us, not just whatever subset of us is comfortable to think about.

        • Randy M says:

          I mean, isn’t that a pretty good description of Christianity?

          Sure, if you take out sanctification, atonement, redemption, the Holy Spirit, etc.
          Christianity asserts rather exacting standards, but, if it’s theology is to believed, at least the judge is demonstrably on the side of anyone giving it a shot.

        • Protagoras says:

          I do not consider never pressuring anyone into doing anything they’re unenthusiastic about a good aspirational goal. Since you brihg up Christianity, it has shown some attachment to a treat others as you would be treated notion. I do not desire that others should never pressure me into doing things I am unenthusiastic about. Sometimes things I am pressured into doing turn out to be worth doing, and I would not otherwise have done them. Though the occasions where this is not the case are more frequent, they are not a big enough deal for me to consider eliminating them worth the cost of missing out on the rare good cases.

          • Baeraad says:

            This is something that I bump up against when it comes to the “pressure is always bad” idea, also. I need people to pressure me to do things! If left to my own devices, all I do is sit on my ass. Or rather, because I do try not to be completely pathetic, eventually I sloooooowly get off my ass and make a painful attempt at doing something – but it would be a lot easier if people would be kind enough to pressure me more. Being left alone often means being left alone to rot.

          • Iain says:

            In the same sense that “do unto others” is a pithy phrase that needs unpacking to avoid obvious failure cases, “don’t pressure people into things that they feel unenthusiastic about” is just a rough description. Still rough, but probably closer, would be: “Don’t pressure people into doing things with which they’re uncomfortable”, with lots of room for discussion about exactly what we mean by “pressure” and “uncomfortable”.

          • Matt M says:

            “Do unto others” implies that if your SO is asking for sex, you should give it to them, even if you aren’t in the mood.

            And probably not even exclusively for an SO. Maybe even for a casual acquaintance…

          • Aapje says:

            One of the failure modes of ‘do unto others’ is that if there are gender roles that cause the opposite problem for each gender, people will actually be making it worse by giving the other gender what they themselves are lacking.

            The solution is [drum roll] empathy (or even just asking).

          • Protagoras says:

            Yes, obviously there are complications. Ideally, if someone has difficulty asserting themselves and saying no when something really is a big deal for them, one should adjust to that by pressuring them less rather than by deciding they’re an easy target and finding ways to exploit their vulnerability. And of course not everybody will do that. But “nobody should pressure anybody ever” is hopelessly unrealistic and in a fairly wide range of situations not desirable, so we seem to have little option but to continue to muddle through with some kind of compromise position. I am certainly in favor of more communication as part of the effort to ameliorate the problems, but telling people to do that is also in practice not a magic wand that fixes everything.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It’s not clear that no one lives up to the standard, and I’m willing to bet that some unusually considerate people do. I can only hope that most of them are in relationships with each other.

        • Thegnskald says:

          In a long-term relationship, there will be times when your partner isn’t in the mood. Everybody has to figure out how to deal with this on their own.

          The “standards” currently being promulgated amount to “Do nothing”, because otherwise you are pressuring your partner into sex (and being emotionally abusive, or whatever). Like stimulating a partner who isn’t in the mood to see if you can change that. (Laying naked on the floor sounds like a childish tantrum, but doesn’t sound abusive, per se).

          Considerate people realize this situation sucks, and treat a partner’s needs as important – expecting the same treatment in return. This doesn’t mean always agreeing to sex, but it does imply having sex you aren’t enthusiastic about sometimes.

          And it isn’t that they aren’t violating the shit out of the standards, which treat an emotional need for intimacy as some kind of uniquely horrible demand in the context of relationships which are necessarily about give-and-take and compromise, it is that the standards look really, really dumb from this perspective.

          And the critical thing about all of this, is that learning these things, like all learning, requires fucking up. You have to make mistakes to learn from them.

          The current attitude is that the mistakes made figuring out how to navigate the culturally-frought territory of negotiating sex in a relationship are uniquely evil.

          And just… no.

    • SteveReilly says:

      I get that my feelings aren’t the be-all and end-all of morality, but from where I’m standing, the article seems way over-blown. I understand the idea of “enthusiastic consent” when you’re having a one night stand or are new in a relationship. But when you’ve been together a while, isn’t “Eh, OK” enough? I’ve been pressured into sex I didn’t really want. I’ve also been pressured into going to family reunions I didn’t want to go to. The latter sucked way worse. Minor annoyances don’t suddenly become major just because sex is involved.

      I mean, one night her boyfriend wanted to play guitar and she pressured him into sex. Imagine instead she pressured him into going out to a restaurant. In either case he’d be doing something he didn’t want to, but if he grudgingly ate at an Italian place, there wouldn’t be an article about it. And I can’t speak for the guy, but was he more annoyed by the sex than by being pressured to do anything else other than play his guitar?

      I don’t want to sound too down on the me too movement. Some stories I’ve read sounded horrible. And men can be victims, like the guy her friend fucked while he was unconscious (Seriously? One ambiguous sentence that sounds like actual rape in a piece about maybe overstepping some boundaries?). But getting naked or playing with a guy’s penis even if he’s bored don’t really seem like the things we should have hashtag movements about.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The issue is that the movement is conflating “Less than perfect” with “Serious issue”, as exemplified in the throw-away line about a friend of the reporter’s raping a guy, mixed in with normal relationship behaviors.

        But, hey, consistency is the minimum fucking standard for ethics, so women realizing that, hey, the rules apply to us too, is a positive development. Either it leads to a consistent standard, or we scrap the standard as untenable; either is superior to the current situation of “What is good for the gander can be ignored by the goose”.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I think she’s using an affirmative consent standard, not an enthusiastic consent standard.

        My impression is that enthusiastic consent was floated as a standard, and so many people said that sex as a matter of kindness was a common and harmless thing in relationships that the standard was dialed back.

        • Thegnskald says:

          My impression is that enthusiastic consent is still being peddled, just imported through a back door; nominally, affirmative consent is the new standard, but in practice, it isn’t enough to receive affirmative consent, but to do so without any kind of pressure whatsoever.

          Which sounds good on the face of it, except then we get into what “pressure” means, and as it transpires, it seems to include anything that would make somebody want to have sex with you less-than-enthusiastically. Given the agency issues in relationships, this means if I make my partner feel guilty for not wanting sex, and then my partner agrees to it, I am behaving abusively.

          And I can definitely see how that could, situationally, be abusive. The issue is that could also include ‘I felt sad about the situation and my partner is empathetic”. And the line there is incredibly hazy; if I am feigning sadness, that is abusive.

          Which ultimately means “I am not allowed to feel sad about this”, which means we are just back to enthusiastic consent, sold under a different label, and with a special exception in the event that the unenthusiastic partner volunteers without any negotiation.

          • Incurian says:

            My impression is that enthusiastic consent is still being peddled, just imported through a back door

            /me giggles for eternity

  6. Robert Liguori says:

    I have, as I was recommended, continued to press forward in Bujold’s Miles books. Made it through Captain Vorpatil’s War, and am in Cryoburn now. (As usual, moderately-vague spoilers here.)

    And…eh.

    OK, first thing. Reading a book and seeing Game 101 strategy mentioned by the protagonist in a book whose primary focus is a romance is surreal. And seeing Advanced Dread Game used aganist him later in the book is super-duper-surreal. It reminds me anew of the annoyance that discussion of how to date, build attraction, and be seen as romantic and a potential sexual partner can only take place in Culture War No Man’s Land.

    I really didn’t like this book, though. Ivan as a character felt hollow. Some of his best interactions in previous books are the ones where he calls up Miles randomly to complain, gloat, and pass plot-critical information along. That, combined with his outgoing and continual-flirting personality, should add up to a fairly large circle of friends, or at least casual acquaintances. The one vague-approximation of a friend we see is Byerly, who I just find annoying and tedious.

    Now, the skeleton of the story was really interesting. Ivan is asked by his spy buddy to take an interest in a particular woman who seems to be in Peril. He does, of course, shenenigans happen, a moderate amounts of sparks fly between them as the woman’s snarky unimpressed-by-Ivan friend color-commentates. (Heh. Color. I kill me.) The woman, it turns out, is in hiding and in a great deal of peril, and is targeted for kidnapping by very bad people, and recent events have brought down the law to have her deported to where she can be easily grabbed, so Ivan does the logical thing and marries her, with the intent of getting her to safety and then safely divorcing her. (Needless to say, things don’t go according to this plan.)

    Telling a romance story that starts with the marriage is a really neat idea. But the structure of the story makes it incredibly lacking. Both of them go into it with a moderate amount of irony, and the understanding that it’s very temporary (even if Ivan might want it to be otherwise). Then they go for their divorce…but there’s no no-fault divorce on Barrayar, and neither of them have actually done anything to each other that would allow a divorce to be granted, so they’re stuck together, and Ivan gets reprimanded by the judge for speaking marriage oaths he clearly didn’t intend to keep. But the whole thing is pointless, because Ivan’s bride is planning on and has the full capacity to skip town as soon as she can get fast, quiet transport, so neither of them treat it as a signal that they might need to rethink their plans.

    Then there’s the bride’s extended family, who were presumed dead but aren’t, and show up, and draw her into a big complicated heist thing, and I don’t care about any of them or if their bid to go back to being medium-big crime lords in the Planet of Crime Lords comes to anything, and they’re all really obnoxiously boring characters as well, and they just suck all of the momentum out of the story.

    You know what we should have gotten? There’s a poitn where, as I mentioned above, Ivan’s wife is blowing off his carefully-made dinner, being out at all hours, and communicating with him only through terse statements and terser notes. This, of course, inflame’s Ivan’s desire to regain his wife’s interest…

    But we’ve seen it said how Ivan’s courting strategy works, in the first few pages of the book; find a place where available, interested women gather in numbers, pick a prospect, try to seem interesting and make her laugh, and if she’s not interested, move on and try another, and another.

    What the story needed was for Ivan to, at the point where his wife blew off his homemade dinner (for tedious family heist reasons, which he didn’t know) was to recognize that no matter what either the papers said or what he wanted, it was clear that his wife was not invested in even pretending to have a relationship with him at this point, have a rather sad and grim night alone, probably drinking…and then set out the following night back in his old ways, wooing anew and looking for a rebound.

    Then we have an extended section from his wife’s point of view, with her doing heist stuff and not sparing any thought for Ivan…and only realizing several scenes later that Ivan isn’t going to gamely pursue her, and that if she wants his interest, romantic or otherwise, she’s going to have to fight for it, while prioritizing her family stuff.

    Ivan was always set up as The Man With 1000 Options. Having the one he settles down with be because he has one adventure with her (and, admittedly, her being quite attractive, skilled, and smart) feels off, in a wrap-up-loose-ends kind of way. It would be far more appropriate for the script to be flipped and the long-time expert seducer be the one pursued.

    On the plus side, Cryoburn is really interesting so far. I’m not that far into it, but it seems like a wonderful return-to-form of the books like Ethan of Athos and Cetaganda, where the book is about exploring an interesting setting, and the interesting ways a technology could be explored, and how those would wrap back around to the parent culture.

  7. AdamDKing says:

    Does anyone have suggestions for a neat github project using Python that a newbie could contribute to? I’ve been script-kiddie-ing in Python for a few years, but lately I’ve been teaching myself good practices, how to set up testing, using git, etc.

    I figure I can try to contribute to something and see how it goes, now that I’ve got the basics.

    • toastengineer says:

      I wouldn’t mind some contribs on this and this (which is a project to replace a terrible library the first is dependent on.)

      First one has some open issue reports (click ‘issues’ on the bar on the extreme left) that you could tackle. I’m just beginning to set up some unit tests on the second one; simple unit tests are unpleasantly boring for me but might be interesting practice for you.

  8. Matt M says:

    Office e-mail etiquette question:

    How do you feel about “thank you” (and even worse – “you’re welcome”) e-mails?

    I’m thinking of an example where, say, someone asks a co-worker for something minor, and it is completely within the realm of that co-workers responsibility to do the thing being asked (as in – it’s not some huge personal favor – it’s something they are generally expected to do and might even get in trouble for refusing). The person then complies with the request. Is the requester then socially obligated to send an e-mail saying “Thanks!”?

    I tend to error on the side of not sending a message like that, in the feeling that it’s basically a waste of time. Not just my time to write it, but also their time to read and delete it. It adds no real value. I don’t like receiving them either, as it’s just one more e-mail for me to check and deal with. People can express their gratitude by not distracting me further.

    Am I being weird and unreasonable on this one?

    • Randy M says:

      I’m similar in that I’d prefer to avoid the pointlessness in written communication. In person is different, go ahead and apply the social lubrication sloppily.
      But I don’t see e-mail as an extension of casual conversation, but more formal. Occasionally you’ll need to do a formal thank you, like to a supplier or customer or whatever, but for a coworker I’d prefer to say thanks in person next time we met and end the chain of short back and forth sooner than clutter in boxes.

      Though if a third party (ie, both your boss) is cc’ed, it is another matter. If it costs you nothing, the thank you may be a minor boost to their prestige; if it is something that makes you look less competent, be mindful of that; no “thanks for helping me with the report Mr Smith assigned to me!” unless you think they deserve a boost at your expense.

      I have the same reticence here (believe it or not), in that I’d prefer to edit my post than post a reply that says little more than “thanks, I hadn’t thought of that.” or “good point.”

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know about weird and unreasonable, but I don’t have the negative reaction to receiving those kinds of “thank you” emails and I suspect most other people don’t either. Furthermore you can think about it in the meta-sense of personal branding; i.e. branding yourself as someone who goes out of his way to be kind and appreciative. Sorta related to the principle of staying on the good side of the secretary/receptionist because she’s the key to the whole company.

    • yodelyak says:

      I don’t think we need a norm for this. People can have their own styles.

      Do great work, and periodically make sure–in your own way–to let everyone you appreciate feel appreciated. If you are management, don’t take management tips from chat rooms (even the inimitable SSC), but if you must listen to me, I’d say make sure everyone you managed feels appreciated and use at least two modes of communication to achieve that, where one is more informal (high fives, oral thank-yous, etc.) and the other more formal (meetings, emails, performance reviews, bonuses).

    • gbdub says:

      I like “thank you” emails as a form of closure – you’re acknowledging that you received my response, verifying that it met your needs / expectations, and declining an opportunity to ask for more.

    • John Schilling says:

      “Thank you” is, in this context, the civilian version of “Roger that”.

      There is an exchange of messages. There is a last message saying anything of substantive value, which is properly received and understood. But the sender can’t know that, so either he goes on wondering whether the purpose of this whole exercise has been satisfied, or there is one more message to be sent that has no substantive value other than to definitively end communication. You did the favor for your friend, but he hasn’t said anything so maybe he doesn’t know and is about to duplicate your effort – do you need to follow up your email with a text, phone call, stop by his office, whatever?

      Meanwhile, things like “I’m done here” can easily carry an implicit connotation of “…because you never had anything useful to contribute”. So, how do you tell people that you are absolutely done with talking to them on a particular subject, in a positive way? “Thank you” works really well for that.

      • yodelyak says:

        Yeah, I do things like this a lot. I avoid “thank you” except when I’m intending to say “thank you”–call that a personal preference–but I often say “this was a good talk” or “I like working here; people get stuff done” or something that is otherwise generic and positive so it’s clear I got the previous message, and have nothing of substance to add.

    • j1000000 says:

      I also very very much dislike them, but what gbdub and John Schilling said is true. In the past I have legitimately gotten in trouble with a boss for not sending enough emails along these lines. I suddenly felt like an alien — I was like, you’re telling me everyone doesn’t hate those emails? I thought I was doing everyone a favor.

      • gbdub says:

        I guess I don’t get the annoyance with them? Personally not getting one is more annoying to me, because it feels like I’ve been ghosted. Not that I need a pat on the head for doing my job, but if I put some effort into a response or a product for you, I’d like to at least know you received it. Otherwise I’ve got it hanging over my head that you might pop back out of the blue and ask for additional follow-up (or worse, come back two weeks from now and say you never got it).

        It’s probably not necessary for all emails, but if my response to you took more than a few minutes of my time, a simple “thanks” as acknowledgement of receipt is very much appreciated.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The real problem is people who respond with “Thanks…” emails.

    • Incurian says:

      I used to never send them until I found I enjoyed receiving them, so now I send them. Also if you have a particularly grating personality like mine (and I suspect many of the people here?) it helps to be extra scrupulous about manners and stuff.

      • quaelegit says:

        Well since we’re talking about manners and I’ve been waiting months and haven’t found a better time:

        A while ago I made an offhand commenting insulting your posts… if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then don’t worry about it. Since then I’ve really appreciated several of your comments and thought they really contributed to the discussion. (Can’t remember any specific examples, again, it’s been over the past few months.) So I just wanted to apologize; to say I regret the offhand comment and no long agree with it. Thanks for contributing here.

        [Sincerely, quaelegit… it feels weird to end a blog comment like a letter but it feels appropriate here.]

        • Incurian says:

          Thank you, I appreciate you saying so. While that sort of stuff did hurt my feelings, it also motivated me to try to make my comments more thoughtful, so I hope you don’t feel too bad about it.

      • Matt M says:

        I used to never send them until I found I enjoyed receiving them

        But I’m having the opposite reaction. I hate receiving them, so I figure I should stop sending them!

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I always respond thanks when the other person gives me what I ask for. As others have said, it is a good final word. But it is also to tell the other person that you aren’t taking them for granted. I can’t say I get any warm fuzzy feelings when people send thanks to me, but I am less social than many others in the corporate world, so I don’t take my own feelings as determinative of how others feel. And I don’t find them at all annoying when I get them, I just delete. Doesn’t take much time.

    • quaelegit says:

      I try to respond with “thank you” acknowledgement emails for the reasons John Schilling and the others discussed. Also, although I also often feel like I’m wasting people’s time with them, there are SO MANY stories where protagonists triumph because they are polite* that I really think most people appreciate it. Same thing with hand-written thank you notes (although I’m TERRIBLE at those and only managed to send them to about 1/3rd of people who gave me college grad gifts.)

      * My favorite that comes to mind now is a SciFi story called something like “Courtesy”, in which planetary colonists keep dying of a mysterious plague. Eventually one recovers — and they realize it’s because he held the door for someone. The cure for the plague is courtesy! (I swear it seemed much more interesting in the original telling.)

      • Jiro says:

        My reaction to such a sci-fi story is something like “This isn’t specifically a death based on lack of courtesy, it’s a death based on something arbitrary, which just happens to be lack of courtesy for now, but which could be anything from eating shrimp to getting divorced tomorrow.”

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There doesn’t seem to be a consensus. At a previous workplace, we had a big discussion about this, with no conclusion either way.

      I send TY only to specific people that seem like they would enjoy it, and drop the “reply all.”

      I don’t care if I get one. It takes 2 seconds to delete it.

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t care if I get one. It takes 2 seconds to delete it.

        True – but I’ll also add that my workplace is full of people who are constantly complaining that they have 500 unread e-mails and never have time to read or deal with them all. I’m not one of those people (seriously – handle your shit), but to the extent that this is true, surely I’m doing them a favor by not adding to the stack, right?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m wondering whether there’s a good way to put the thank you in the subject line so that it isn’t necessary to open the email.

        • Nornagest says:

          The people with 500 unread emails are probably the most likely to appreciate thank-yous, for the same reason that if you need something to get done you want to ask someone who’s busy. No one gets to 500 unread emails if they don’t have a lot of email conversations going on all the time and therefore have a use for an implicit sign-off.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          My understanding about people who have 500+ unread messages is that they read the messages, determine they have to do something, can’t do it at the moment, and mark the email as unread so they can return to it later.

          To me this seemed silly. Outlook has a follow-up system specifically for that reason. I always kept the inbox clear, even when jobs decided to load up 10x worth of work on me. I may not be RESPONDING to your email, but I’m definitely reading it!

          • Matt M says:

            My understanding is that these people are insecure and are humblebragging about how much work they have (while bullshitting with you about last night’s sports game in the break room).

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yeah, those sorts are definitely the humble-braggers about how much work they are (which means they are so important!)

            Maybe not in all cases. My Mom used to be a 40-45 hr a week employee until the ’08 recession, and has now been perpetually behind on her volume of work.

    • IrishDude says:

      My workplace switched to an email system (Outlook) where there’s a thumbs up icon on received emails. If you click the icon, the sender (and all people on the cc list) is notified that you ‘liked’ their email. This works as a quick method to give acknowledgment or minor thanks without having to send another email and helps keep email clutter down.

      • Matt M says:

        How are they notified, if not by receiving a message in their inbox that they then have to deal with?

        • IrishDude says:

          In the list of emails, a thumbs up notification shows up next to ones that were liked by the receiver. Also, there’s a notifications icon at the top of the email app that shows if you have any notifications, including when your emails are liked, and you can click on the icon for details. Last, if you click on the email you sent then at the top of the email it shows who liked your email. The notifications are subtle and non-intrusive and work as a good substitute for “Thanks!” emails, particularly for minor things.

    • Deiseach says:

      It depends – usually I don’t see the point of someone sending me a “Thanks!” email for doing what they requested which is my job, after all.

      On the other hand, a “thanks!” email does show that the other person got it and is aware of it, so you know that your email isn’t in a queue of “to be read later” (or if it is, at least the recipient knows it’s there, so there’s less likely to be “oh crumbs, you mean that important email that I should have read but didn’t?” fallout). And it does save you sending a “so just checking to see you got that” if you don’t hear anything back, if you do need to be sure they got it.

  9. j1000000 says:

    Maybe this should just be combined with the post by “Well…” above, but I didn’t want to take away from his post. What should I read or watch by Jordan Peterson that’s most representative of why people are so obsessed with him?

    I have never read or watched anything by him, but even plenty of smart people I respect won’t shut up about him. I’m assuming this new book is not the essential piece, since this book is the result of, not the cause of, his popularity.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know if this is the best place to start, but I started with his Cathy Newman interview. From there I went back and watched what I could of the events surrounding his criticism of Bill C16. And then from there I got more into his lectures, “at home” videos, and appearances on various TV/Youtube shows/podcasts. His post-analysis of the Newman interview is also worth watching sooner rather than later in this sequence.

    • Anonymous says:

      The chan-4 interview is an excellent example of his verbal prowess. For details on his actual teachings, the Bite Sized Philosophy channel is pretty good at distilled chunks for casual consumption.

    • lvlln says:

      After his appearance on Sam Harris’s podcast last year – my 1st time ever hearing of Jordan Peterson – I decided to check out his YouTube channel and eventually ended up watching his lectures of his personality course at University of Toronto. I do NOT recommend his conversations with Sam Harris, as they mostly didn’t really go anywhere. The 1st lecture from his 2017 class is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYYJlNbV1OM. Given that this is an entire semester’s worth of lectures, this is over a dozen hour’s worth of content, but if you want to get a sense of what his thinking is and where he’s coming from, it’s probably the best way, because he sort of builds everything up as you’d expect a good college course to do. It’s pretty easy to see how the stuff he covers in that course leak out into all the conversations he has with interviewers, like the stuff about dominance hierarchies, the big 5 personality traits & IQ, the hero’s journey, the pareto distribution, understanding the formation of totalitarian regimes, among others.

    • Brad says:

      To piggyback on this, what about if I’m only interested in text and refuse to click any youtube links? Are there any sub-book-length writings that serve as a good introductions to whatever it is that makes him so compelling?

    • IrishDude says:

      I enjoyed his recent discussion with Joe Rogan where he touches on a lot of subjects I’ve seen him discuss elsewhere. I’ve only watched him when he’s been interviewed by other people and haven’t seen any of his solo talks, so I don’t know if the interviews are representative of his wider work, but I have found him an interesting person to listen to with insightful commentary.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I think I saw his second Joe Rogan interview first and then jumped around. I would recommend this particular interview and the other Joe Rogan interviews with him as well.

  10. James says:

    What’s a readable introduction to Jung?

  11. johan_larson says:

    Could anyone recommend a historical novel of the Roman empire that presents a view from the bottom that society? I’m not looking for life was lived in purple-fringed togas, but in the plain tunic of a common laborer, craftsman, farmer or soldier.

    • cmurdock says:

      I assume you’re familiar with Steven Pressfield, but if not, his books are kinda that except they’re of Greece instead of Rome (sorry).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I can recommend Birds of Prey by David Drake, but only in the sense that I liked the novel (it’s a fine example of kitchen sink science fiction) and that it’s got that researched feeling.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birds_of_Prey_(Drake_novel)

      Vg’f tbg n cyrfvbfnhe va gur Gvore. Gung’f n fvqr rssrpg bs n gvzr geniryre sebz gur qvfgnag shgher jub’f va Ebzr gb qrny jvgu na nyvra zranpr.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t have any novels for you, but HBO’s Rome miniseries spends a lot of time following middle- or lower-class Romans: its protagonists, insofar as the show has any, are a centurion and legionary who later go into civilian life.

      It’s TV and therefore deserves to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s definitely a cut above your average sword-and-sandal story in terms of historical accuracy.

    • littskad says:

      You might like Lindsey Davis’s Marcus Didius Falco novels. They’re mystery/crime novels. Falco is a delator, basically a private investigator, who lives in a tenement in Rome during the reign of Vespasian.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        They are good books, but I think Falco is a patrician, not a plebian, so maybe not what he is looking for. The stories are told similar to a gritty American detective story, so it does delve into the lower classes a bit.

    • SamChevre says:

      It’s not about the very bottom of society; the narrator is a mid-tier Roman officer–but you might like The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte, which are about the Roman withdrawal from Britain and it’s aftermath.

    • DeWitt says:

      All prior recommendations here are modern texts, which is a little scarce. Contemporary descriptions of Roman life aren’t at all easy to get by, but I will recommend Petronius’ Satyricon if you want something nice to read.

    • johan_larson says:

      Maybe Simon Scarrow’s “Eagles of the Empire” series would qualify. How high a rank is centurion? Is a centurion a minor nobleman (like knights in later times) or were they more like senior enlisted men of our own era?

      • DeWitt says:

        The who, where, and how of being a centurion says very much about how high in rank the specific person was, but it wasn’t a heritable position nor one restricted by birth.

  12. Matt M says:

    Here’s something for you guys…

    The Players Tribune is a popular sports journalism website, which claims to give athletes a voice. It frequently publishes long, eloquent, and well-written pieces of writing, written by athletes themselves. Many of these pieces have gone viral and received a lot of praise.

    At the same time, professional athletes are not professional writers, many of them received somewhat dubious college educations, if any at all. There has always been some suspicion that many of the pieces are almost certainly heavily ghost-written.

    And now, we have a hockey player essentially confirming such, on the record. Not only did he not write the piece attributed to him – he’s never even read it. Which begs the question – exactly how unethical is this setup? I know that ghost writing is a long and well established thing. I know that many autobiographies and political books by famous people and celebrity memoirs are, and have been, heavily ghostwritten. I consider it entirely legitimate for non-writers to get significant help from professional writers. I don’t know where exactly you draw the line from “getting some good help” and “fraud” but I think this particular case crosses it.

  13. Jaskologist says:

    You may have heard that blue states are the net tax payers and red states the takers, probably without much backing. Meghan Mcardle finally tracked down data for that. It turns out that it’s not that clearcut, and it’s even less clear what blue staters feel should be rolled back in order to rectify the situation:

    On a per-capita basis — which is the right way to calculate this — deep-blue New Jersey is the biggest donor state. But red-blooded Wyoming is the next biggest, and North Dakota makes the list too. There is certainly a preponderance of blue states at that end of the spectrum, but it’s not a clear “Donor states are blue” story. And if we match the 2013 data to the closest election (2012) we find that New Mexico, the biggest net recipient, went for Obama in 2012, as did Virginia, Maryland, Maine and Hawaii. What’s driving the net subsidies isn’t anything as simple as political identification.

    Most of the transfers do not come from “red state welfare” like agricultural subsidies. They derive from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, welfare, the maintenance of the national highway system, the purchase of goods and services for the federal government, and the operation of federal facilities and lands.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      It turns out that it’s not that clearcut, and it’s even less clear what blue staters feel should be rolled back in order to rectify the situation:

      Generally I don’t see this cited as an argument that these programs should be cut, but that they should be denigrated less.

      • gbdub says:

        It was cited as an argument for why rolling back the SALT deduction was unfair to blue states, since it will presumably exacerbate the disparity.

      • Rex says:

        I’ve usually seen this comparison arise in response to conservative disdain for welfare and social programs (conservatives complain about handouts, but red states are the ones taking the most etc.).

        • The Nybbler says:

          And it’s not really news that those numbers consider payments to Raytheon for building Air Force rocket components, SSI disability, Social Security retirement, corn subsidies to Archer Daniels Midland, and the maintenance of the Washington Monument to be all in the same category.

        • JulieK says:

          On the other hand, liberals feel compassion for the poor, and then turn around and sneer at red states for being needy.

    • TheContinentalOp says:

      Isn’t it possible that ALL states get back more in federal spending, than they pay in taxes, since we routinely run deficits in the hundreds of billions of dollars?

  14. limestone says:

    Overfishing is often used as an example of a free market failure. However, this article claims that, based on the a World Bank study, this might not actually be true, and that overfishing is caused by governments subsidizing unprofitable fisheries:

    Out of 139 countries evaluated, 64 generated profits from their fisheries, even after accounting for subsidies. But the fisheries of 75 countries aren’t actually generating wealth.

    There’s a word for these fisheries: zombies, unprofitable enterprises kept on life support by government subsidies.

    One problem with zombies is that they waste resources that could be directed toward productive uses—for example, retraining fishermen to work in other industries. Another problem is that, freed from suffering the punishing effects of economic logic, they can keep prices low. That can drive sustainably operating fishermen out of business.

    What do you think?

    • toastengineer says:

      Reminds me of this bit from the Non-Non-Libertarian FAQ:

      The example of the Atlantic Northwest cod fishery was an example of government failure: the fishery was government (mis)regulated. What would have happened had there been property rights on the whole fishery? The government didn’t allow that to happen. The US fishery policy has its problems (White, 2000).The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy also seems (Khallilian et al, 2010) to be failing. Governments can succeed or fail at solving common resource coordination problems, but so can private or communal institutions (Tarko, 2012).

      That said, the state of global fisheries today is dim, even with plenty of national and international government regulation. Creating common property in fisheries that span national borders conflict with sovereignty (Ha, mere fishermen telling States what to do with their territorial waters!), so in a way States could be making their governance more difficult.

      2.1.2 But Fishermen won’t do it!

      As said above, they actually, empirically, do it, especially for non-international water regions, and when rights of some sort are in place. Formal external enforcement will be a feature of any libertarian political order, with or without a state, so the fact that it is required is no critique of libertarianism.

      For international waters, things are trickier, to the point that, as pointed out above, States are not able to deal with it (right now). But would we go as far as claiming it is impossible?

    • gbdub says:

      How did the zombies become unprofitable in the first place? One possible path would be private overfishing – a previously profitable fishery is overfished, making it hard to harvest additional fish at a profit, so to prevent job loss or whatever, the government subsidizes it.

      Which doesn’t mean that they should continue to subsidize it, of course. Just poking at the idea this might be a chicken and egg problem – did the subsidies cause the overfishing, or were they a (bad) response to previous mismanagement of the fishery?

    • zz says:

      It is possible for there to be overfishing or not-overfishing in absence of regulation, depending on how elastic fish price is. This is material that should be standard in introductory microeconomics courses*. Anyone who tells you either (a) overfishing is inevitable without regulation/coordination or (b) that the free market will inevitably self-correct without need for coordination/regulation, without reference to elasticity, should be ignored on any issue relating to economics. Seriously, this shit is all in Introduction to Economic Analysis, which is Creative Commons licensed and only 330 pages long, what excuse could they possibly have?

      Without appealing to anything beyond 330 pages of introductory economics, it is blindingly obvious that:

      1. In the case where overfishing is the default, it’s extremely plausible that regulation can prevent overfishing. (See the section on maximum sustainable yield).

      2. In the case where not-overfishing is the default, it’s extremely plausible that regulation can induce overfishing. (See the section on price support.)

      I’m not surprised to learn that zombies are eating our fish. Concentrated benefits and diffuse costs are also discussed in IEA. Given that overfishing is a thing, this just makes an already-wasteful subsidy extra stupid. But unless we know about the elasticity of demand for fish (which I don’t), it’s entirely possible that zombies fail but-for causation because it’s not true that, but for zombies, there would be no overfishing.

      *Preston McAfee, author of Introduction to Economic Analysis, describes his text as containing “the standard intermediate microeconomics material and some material that ought to be standard but is not.”

  15. baconbits9 says:

    I’m more than 10 years out of the genetics game (and that was plants to boot) so don’t take this to seriously, but often (a decade ago) you can develop a test for one thing at a time. So it is plausibly likely that ‘next generation sequencing’ is going to be a “you can test for height, or IQ, or eye color, but not all 3 or even 2 out of 3”. Since pre implantation embryos are small you aren’t getting more than a few tests out of them while still allowing them to be viable, and then you need to run the combinations, you might find the embryo with the highest predicted IQ but you have a 50/50 shot (if uncorrelated) that it will be below the average of those embryos in height.

    Unless you can sequence the entire genome from a small sample turning this type of selection into dynamic action where we get smart, tall, blue eyed, athletic babies, and is unlikely.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I posted about this upthread, but yes a LOT has changed in the last ten years.

      Last year a WGS method was developed that claims one error per hundred million bases. Standard methods aren’t that good but they’re not bad either.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I pointed out earlier in this thread, that you get the accurate sequence from the parent’s genomes and use the embryonic cells only to find out which sections of the parent’s DNA are there.

  16. Wrong Species says:

    Has there ever been an instance where someone said there was a market failure and that we needed government to regulate it, but then the market became much more efficient to the point where it was no longer so?

    • BBA says:

      I was reading about the Beer Orders in the UK recently. I’m not sure whether they count, but they’re an example of regulations that were repealed after the government deemed them no longer necessary.

      Before Prohibition, most bars in the US were “tied houses” owned by a brewery that exclusively sold that brewery’s beers. This was seen as creating a moral hazard, as the brewer would be in a position to directly encourage as much drinking as possible, leading to all of the societal ills that the temperance movement warned us about. When Prohibition ended, there were new laws imposed banning any form of cross-ownership or exclusivity contracts between an alcohol producer and a bar or other retailer. Although the reasoning behind these laws was suspect, they survive to this day.

      In the UK, tied houses were the norm until the Beer Orders were enacted in 1989. These restrictions were much more lenient than the ones in the US – they allowed a brewery to own up to 2,000 pubs and required them to give pub managers the option of serving a “guest beer” from another brewery. Modest as these restrictions were, they directly caused all the major breweries to sell off their pubs to independent “pubcos.” Vertical integration vanished, and in 2003 the Orders were repealed as no longer necessary.

      It’s unclear whether the Orders improved competition – the pubcos aren’t as dominant as the brewery-owned pubs were, but meanwhile the big six breweries have consolidated into the big four, now all owned by international conglomerates – but they did have one unintended effect. Independent craft breweries couldn’t break into the tied house system, but “guest beers” and independent pubcos gave them a foot in the door. One commentator I read claims this was no great benefit because America had craft beers a decade before Britain, but then we banned tied houses over 50 years before Britain did. On the other hand, in Mexico, tied houses are still dominant and craft beer is nearly unknown.

    • Jaskologist says:

      “The Population Bomb” said that we needed governments to force the population to stop growing. It was already too late to prevent the mass starvation that was sure to come in the 1970s.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t mean where someone warned of some impending doom. I mean where there was actually some market problem that resolved itself.

        • Randy M says:

          How was that not an example of unregulated exchanges leading to predictions of negative externalities that resolved itself?

          • Wrong Species says:

            It’s not predictions of market failure I’m wondering about. It’s about actually occurring market failure(or rather strong market inefficiencies).

          • Matt M says:

            This seems like a weird request though.

            You’re asking for examples of when the market failed, followed by when the market corrected itself. But obviously the most likely outcome is that the market anticipates failure, and corrects itself before the failure could occur…

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s assuming that markets are these autonomous things where every opportunity for profit is immediately seized. Sometimes it takes a certain person to come and completely disrupt the industry after throwing a lot of resources at the problem. Think about SpaceX. If Elon Musk hadn’t built it from the ground up, its not like someone would have automatically done what he has done. Not that I’m trying to point to space exploration as a market failure but it’s the general idea I’m getting at.

          • Matt M says:

            Not “immediately”, but pretty quickly, and perhaps before widespread market failure is inherently obvious to most everyone.

            To use a probably irrelevant medical analogy, think “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If we assume it’s much easier for the market to correct itself BEFORE a huge problem emerges, then it makes sense that you would not notice a whole lot of huge failures followed by solutions.

            It’s like your asking for examples of how to prevent lung cancer and someone says “Don’t smoke, eat healthy, and exercise” and your response is, “No – I mean, how do you CURE lung cancer?”

          • Wrong Species says:

            It doesn’t take a communist to realize some markets are more inefficient than others. Let’s say that 99% of the time, some potential market failure is identified and the problem is prevented. That still leaves the 1%. And I don’t think it’s easy as someone noticing there’s a marketing inefficiency and then it gets fixed. If it takes a lot of resources attacking the problem to fix it, then it’s nontrivial to exploit that market for profit. But if some billionaire decides to do so, maybe he can eventually do so. Elon Musk didn’t see that there was an easy opportunity to make money and then followed through. It took a ridiculous amount of effort with overwhelming odds just because he wanted to get to space. Surely there is one example of something like that but with a market failure stuck in an equilibrium?

        • Incurian says:

          Doesn’t this beg the question of what constitutes a market failure? As I understand it, it’s a subjective value judgment. Can you give some examples of historical events that are uncontroversially described as market failures? Maybe I’m being stupidly pedantic.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The main example I have in mind is healthcare. Yes, some people would object to it being called a market failure because they believe that government regulation is at fault. I’m not trying to find out who to blame but I think the majority of us would agree that there are inefficiencies in the market as it is now. I’m wondering if someone can fix it working within the current system. If there was historical precedent for something similar, I would feel more optimistic.

          • Matt M says:

            the majority of us would agree that there are inefficiencies in the market as it is now. I’m wondering if someone can fix it working within the current system

            I would suggest that “cash-only” doctors who serve low income communities have largely fixed it, and are reasonably efficient.

            They don’t provide as high of a standard or as wide of a service offering as richer people might like, but there do exist places where you can get a price quote for a standard basic service, pay in cash, and have it done – and the cash prices are reasonable such that poor people can afford them.

          • Doesn’t this beg the question of what constitutes a market failure?

            At possibly a tangent, I think this whole discussion is misusing a technical term, assuming that what “market failure” means is situations where the market fails to give the best result. In my view, that’s both too narrow and too broad. It’s too broad because there are lots of situations where the market fails to give the optimal result that have nothing to do with what economists call market failure–for instance any case where giving the optimal result requires information that nobody has at the relevant time. It’s too narrow because there are lots of examples of market failure–the standard prisoner’s dilemma story or the logic of rationally ignorant voting–that have nothing to do with what we usually think of as the market.

            It’s as if people interpreted the theory of relativity as “everything is relative.”

            For a detailed explanation of what I think the term means, see this (a chapter from the third edition of Machinery).

          • skef says:

            This isn’t uncontroversial, but whatever one’s opinion of smoking regulations, I think it’s clear that there was a much larger market for restaurants that banned smoking (as opposed to just having non-smoking sections) than was being served 25 years ago. I can’t remember having talked to a smoker who preferred the old conventions (sometimes with the exception of dive-bar type places that also served food). That smoke smell generally lessens food enjoyment.

            Does anyone doubt that if all of the regulations were reversed tomorrow, restaurants that allowed smoking would be the rare exception? (And, genuine question, does anyone think there was a clear route to a better equilibrium without regulation? It seems like many restaurants that would have preferred to ban smoking, all things being equal, faced the combined problem of communicating that they didn’t allow it, and not wanting to tell customers they couldn’t do something they expected to be able to do when that communication failed.)

          • Incurian says:

            And, genuine question, does anyone think there was a clear route to a better equilibrium without regulation? It seems like many restaurants that would have preferred to ban smoking, all things being equal, faced the combined problem of communicating that they didn’t allow it, and not wanting to tell customers they couldn’t do something they expected to be able to do when that communication failed.

            This doesn’t make sense to me. There were already smoking and non-smoking sections, it wouldn’t have been hard to just not have a smoking section (which I’m sure lots of places did but I’m barely old enough to remember smoking sections in the first place). If the regulations were repealed, LOTS of places would start to allow smoking, though I imagine most wouldn’t. I think the cause of no smoking in restaurants was a culture shift, not a regulation shift.

          • skef says:

            This doesn’t make sense to me. There were already smoking and non-smoking sections, it wouldn’t have been hard to just not have a smoking section (which I’m sure lots of places did but I’m barely old enough to remember smoking sections in the first place). If the regulations were repealed, LOTS of places would start to allow smoking, though I imagine most wouldn’t. I think the cause of no smoking in restaurants was a culture shift, not a regulation shift.

            Given that you seem to know very few facts about that actual period, should we take it that what you’re “sure” about can be justified a priori, perhaps starting from the NAP?

          • Incurian says:

            I am a libertarian if that’s what you’re asking. I would ask that you illuminate me with more historical detail to support your point rather than doing whatever you’re doing (which I’m interpreting as very hostile), since your point was about as well-support from personal anecdote as mine was.

          • skef says:

            I would ask that you illuminate me with more historical detail to support your point rather than doing whatever you’re doing (which I’m interpreting as very hostile), since your point was about as well-support from personal anecdote as mine was.

            Actually, anecdotes strung together while living through a period provide at least somewhat better support than imagining what anecdotes one would have strung together while living through a period. Going to various restaurants over a span of a decade or two provides some idea of the proportion that have this or that policy, even given the possible sample biases.

            I was feeling a bit hostile, perhaps. Probably because this statement:

            There were already smoking and non-smoking sections, it wouldn’t have been hard to just not have a smoking section

            suggested that you didn’t think for even ten seconds before emitting a rote answer. I mean, I suppose it also “wouldn’t have been hard” to just close a restaurant entirely. But maybe there are other relevant interests at stake?

          • quanta413 says:

            Actually, anecdotes strung together while living through a period provide at least somewhat better support than imagining what anecdotes one would have strung together while living through a period. Going to various restaurants over a span of a decade or two provides some idea of the proportion that have this or that policy, even given the possible sample biases.

            This is vaguely true for some cases, but in other cases it’s the opposite. Actually living through a period can cause inaccurate biases as well as giving some useful information. It’s not at all obvious which direction this case runs in.

          • skef says:

            Oh my, yes. Did American men used to wear hats? Are forks a thing? Better hope there’s a peer reviewed study or it’s probably all a bunch of he said he said!

          • Incurian says:

            So enlighten me instead of being a jerk.
            (edited for language)

          • skef says:

            Seriously?

            Someone arrives at a restaurant with smoking and non-smoking sections expecting to smoke. The host says “you’ll sit in this section.”

            Someone arrives at a restaurant that doesn’t allow smoking expecting to smoke. The host says “you’ll have to not do that or go to another restaurant.”

            You portrayed this as an inconsequential change.

            As far as past prevalence is concerned, I haven’t turned up any U.S. data that doesn’t collapse establishment smoking bans and non-smoking sections, which should give some idea of how much attitudes have changed. Here is something from Australia in the mid-90s:

            No significant differences were found between the restaurants participating and not participating in relation to the type of smoking restrictions enforced or the size of the restaurant.

            Of 86 restaurants, including participating and non-participating restaurants, only 49% had smoking restrictions. Fifty-one per cent allowed smoking anywhere, 25% allowed smoking at allocated tables (not in separate room to other tables), 15% restricted smoking to separate areas (separated by a wall) and 8% didn’t allow smoking anywhere.

            Of those with smoking restrictions, 86% commenced their smoking policy in the years between 1990 and 1997. Among those restaurants that had smoking restrictions, the amount of floorspace allocated for non-smoking areas was less than half in 81% of cases. The restaurants varied in size: 27% had 20–50 diners on a Friday night, 46% had 51–160 diners and 27% had more than 160 diners

            “Wall” doesn’t mean “air filtering” or even “door”.

    • pontifex says:

      One argument that I’ve often heard is that anti-trust action against Microsoft in the late 1990s was unnecessary because Microsoft’s dominance was disrupted by Google, a revived Apple, and other technology companies, in the decade after the DoJ’s antitrust suit fizzled out. (Minimizing the impact of the anti-trust suit was one of George W. Bush’s first big executive actions, as I remember. I forget exactly how he did this… something to do with reshuffling the bureaucracy.)

      I’m not sure I fully believe this argument since the markets Microsoft (semi) monopolized, operating systems and office software suites, are still pretty locked down. It feels more like technology companies got bored of desktop software and routed around the monopoly.

      • Matt M says:

        I’ve also read that by the time they got around to breaking up Standard Oil, its market share had already been falling somewhat significantly (along with consumer prices)

        • baconbits9 says:

          From Antitrust: The Case for Repeal (any typos mine)

          The Standard Oil Company was a major force in the development of the petroleum industry in the nineteenth century. It grew from being a small Ohio corporation in 1870, with perhaps a 4-percent market share, to become a griant, multidivisional conglomerate company by 1890, when it enjoyed as much as 85 percent of the domestic petroleum refining market….

          Standard Oil’s efficiency made the company extremely successful” it kept its costs low and was able to sell more and more of its refined product, usually at a lower and lower price, in the open marketplace. Prices for kerosene fell from 30 cents a gallon in 1869 to 9 cents in 1880, 7.4 cents in 1890, and 5.9 cents in 1897. Most important, this feat was accomplished in a market open to competitors, the number and organizational size of which increased greatly after 1890. Indeed, competitors grew so quickly that in the years preceding the federal antitrust case that Standard’s market share in petroleum refining declined from roughly 85 percent in 1890 to 64 percent in 1911. In 1911, at least 147 refining companies were competing with Standard, including such large firms as Gulf, Texaco, Union, Pure, Associated Oil and Gas, and Shell.

    • Not quite what you are asking for, but there is a fairly famous case where a prominent economist claimed there was an insoluble market failure problem and later authors demonstrated that it had been being privately solved for the previous century or so.

    • Chalid says:

      It’s not exactly what you asked for, but underprovision of public goods is a commonly cited market failure. Public goods that go obsolete no longer need to be provided by the government – for example, the classic public good is lighthouses, and they aren’t needed as much anymore due to electronic navigation.

      (I suppose someone will point out that there existed private lighthouses; Wikipedia suggests that these tended to be publicly supported, which sounds plausible to me, but I am not a lighthouse historian.)

      There must be a lot of regulations that were obsoleted by technological change too, though nothing immediately comes to mind.

  17. Well... says:

    We’ll probably need a dedicated Jordan Peterson open thread at this rate, but another thing I was thinking about re. the Cathy Newman interview is that while it was a nice moment of reckoning for the absurdities of PC logic and the nastiness of SJW tactics, it also put on display what ought to be a more perennial theme: the disingenuousness of journalism.

    In discussion about the interview later, Peterson missed this. He seemed shocked that a journalist (and with the “threats” thing, her organization) would stoop to those levels. She “broke a rule” by conducting the interview the way she did.

    But I think Peterson must have an at least somewhat naive view of journalism to see it that way. The view I believe is correct is that journalism is just a form of entertainment media like any other, and it can mix tones and tactics on a whim. The only thing essentially separating a distinguished masthead from a trashy tabloid is branding and perception — not so much content or conduct.

    It’s a bit like being shocked that reality shows are staged. Journalists are not scholars, they’re not even particularly bright necessarily. If they didn’t wrap their product in pseudo-academic language and tone, if they didn’t use that funny sing-song voice when addressing the camera or mic, if they didn’t wear suits and appear with graphics of the earth spinning and lots of TVs behind them (to impress upon the viewer their authority and omniscience) then their product would be indistinguishable from 3rd rate water cooler gossip.

    (Ironically, the one person who seems to understand this is Milo!)

    So anyway, I would have liked to see Peterson/Newman held up as an example of what journalism really is all about. But I guess not many people see it like that. And by the way, I don’t think journalism’s worse now than it used to be. You can look up images of 100 year-old NYT editions if you don’t believe me.

    • The Nybbler says:

      But I think Peterson must have an at least somewhat naive view of journalism to see it that way

      Given that he handled it well, and that he’s been at this for a while, I suspect it’s disingenuousness on his part rather than naivety. His shock was feigned.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, that was strategic shock. It may be more effective than my total cynicism toward journalism. 🙂

        • Well... says:

          Interesting hypothesis, but I don’t think it’s true.

          I’ve since seen Peterson express similar sentiments about journalism standards in other interviews, while engaged in on-the-fly conversation. If he’s feigning the attitude even then, he’s internalized it so well we (and maybe he?) can’t tell the difference between feigning it and meaning it, and so any difference is irrelevant.

          Unless you were being facetious; the sarcasm filter’s broken.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            No, I wasn’t. So wow, that’s interesting: Jordan Peterson sincerely believes that journalism is a noble duty to seek truth and uphold freedom of speech.

          • Well... says:

            Well, that fact alone isn’t interesting; lots of people believe that. What disappointed me (but didn’t surprise me, to be clear) was that the Newman interview wasn’t used as a watershed moment to reflect on, and begin a more serious discourse on, what journalism really is.

    • meh says:

      These seem to be mostly agreed upon aspects of news entertainment. Like you say, it has been going on for 100 years; not sure what the big reveal in the Newman interview was.

      Given the universal realization of this, and his having a history of mistreatment, I doubt his reaction was due to being naive.

      • Well... says:

        Peterson said he felt Newman had “broken a rule” when she asked him what right he had to offend others with his speech. He said “that’s all journalists have” at the end of the day. That is consistent with someone who believes that journalism is beholden to rules, and that journalism is fundamentally about challenging people and their ideas.

        But journalism isn’t beholden to any actual rules, and journalism fundamentally is talking in a non-fiction mode with the fake appearance of authority and omniscience cultivated (rather successfully) through various pseudo-scholarly, pseudo-royal affectations.

        • Aapje says:

          @Well…

          There is also the paradox of advocating something that if implemented, will destroy your ability to advocate.

          In practice, when people demand to forbid things that they themselves want to do, you typically get tyranny. Others are forbidden from doing something, while an exception is demanded for the person herself.

          Peterson is extremely concerned about tyranny and I think that this hypocrisy is very offensive to him.

          • Well... says:

            I don’t follow.

            You can advocate for freedom [esp. of speech] while not pretending journalism is something it isn’t (beholden to rules, a “fourth estate” that keeps governments, private companies, and citizens honest).

            It doesn’t sound like it was simply Cathy Newman’s hypocrisy that offended Peterson. It was her hypocrisy while journalisting.

          • Aapje says:

            Peterson has the romantic notion that journalists should do what they say they do: question the dominant narrative. Cathy Newman shares this romantic notion of her job:

            “Our driving motivation is to speak up for those who don’t have a voice,” Newman said. “With the interviews we do, we don’t take things at face value – we’re questioning all sides of the story.”

            Her statement during the interview is inconsistent with the mission that she claims she has & that nearly all journalists claim they have.

            I think that Peterson strongly believes in duty. So he finds it particularly galling when she doesn’t uphold the duty that comes with the status of being a journalist. This is similar to how it is especially galling when a doctor starts murdering his patients.

          • Well... says:

            Peterson has the romantic notion that journalists should do what they say they do: question the dominant narrative.

            Yes, that’s what I was saying.

            But I’m also saying that journalists only say they do this; it isn’t something they actually do by default (although a few journalists now and then have done it), and they almost always get away with it when they don’t.

            So he finds it particularly galling when she doesn’t uphold the duty that comes with the status of being a journalist.

            But that status is pure fantasy, and in a greater sense than other statuses (stati?) are fantasies. There is no real status to being a journalist. Thus why I say Peterson is naive about this.

            To use your doctor murdering patients analogy, it would be more like finding it galling that a murderer who dons a white coat and stethoscope and mutters the Hippocratic oath over and over again would kill people. But why should it be galling? He isn’t a real doctor, he’s a murderer. But he plays a doctor on TV and Peterson fell for it.

            Journalists aren’t really people who “speak up for those who don’t have a voice” or “question all sides of the story.” It isn’t even that they once were those kind of people and are no longer, or that they aspire to be those kind of people and fail. Rather, that mission statement is itself part of the artifice.

            We already have a term for people who speak up for those who don’t have a voice (wait, isn’t that a paradox?): depending on the context, this could be activists, political representatives, lobbyists, etc. We already have a term for people who question all sides of a story: depending on the context this could be historians, scientists engaged in peer review, auditors, etc.

            Journalists put on the clothes of those professions, trying to shine under the reflected credibility, but they aren’t actually credible. Not in the least. But remarkably, they’ve managed to trick almost everyone. Looks certainly can be deceiving.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Journalists put on the clothes of those professions, trying to shine under the reflected credibility, but they aren’t actually credible. Not in the least. But remarkably, they’ve managed to trick almost everyone. Looks certainly can be deceiving.

            It depends on who you’re talking about. I don’t have any problem with journalists who state their biases. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, Mother Jones, Breitbart. These people and organizations are all fine. It’s CNN that’s insidious. They present themselves as neutral, when they are very much not.

            And as for them presenting themselves as brighter than they are, well, there was that time Wolf Blitzer was on Celebrity Jeopardy!.

          • Well... says:

            I don’t have any problem with journalists who state their biases. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, Mother Jones, Breitbart.

            I agree with the direction of that, but all of them still retain the journalistic framing. Sitting at a desk, TV screens or the globe spinning behind them, lecturing in a way that’s meant to sound authoritative (if not like a scientist, then like a father figure, or angry aunt in Maddow’s case). Or in the case of Breitbart/Mother Jones, the former calls itself a “news network” and the latter calls itself “smart fearless journalism” right there in the tabs at the top of my window. In the job descriptions page, Breitbart calls itself “the biggest source of breaking news and analysis, thought-leading commentary, and original reporting.” On their about page, Mother Jones says they do “independent and investigative reporting on everything”.

            Pretty sure I’ve said this before on previous threads long ago, I think it’s probably good that there is an institution whose members look into things and disseminate their findings. But I think the problem is that journalists’ product is consumed directly by the public. Journalists take advantage of Joe Public’s general ignorance, if not low intelligence, to indulge their own biases.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Is that Andy Richter with ~37,000?

          • Aapje says:

            @Well…

            But that status is pure fantasy, and in a greater sense than other statuses (stati?) are fantasies. There is no real status to being a journalist. Thus why I say Peterson is naive about this.

            This is false. There pretty clearly are quite a few people who will by default automatically trust ‘Jayson Blair – NYT Journalist’ more than ‘Aapje – Random Internet commenter.’

            A good example is Wikipedia, which actually has a policy that they will believe lies in the media over hard evidence. I very selectively trust them, because I (think that I) recognize their biases pretty well, but the average person surely is not capable of that to the same extent. So by proxy, many people are trusting the media when they use Wikipedia (and often probably not even aware that they are doing so).

            Journalists take advantage of Joe Public’s general ignorance, if not low intelligence, to indulge their own biases.

            I would argue that it’s not so much taking advantage, but rather that they are not being corrected effectively. It’s not that they think that they are getting away with are failing the public, it’s the opposite. They think that there biases are The Truth and no one will with sufficient societal power shames them into correcting themselves.

          • Well... says:

            There pretty clearly are quite a few people who will by default automatically trust ‘Jayson Blair – NYT Journalist’ more than ‘Aapje – Random Internet commenter.’

            Right but this is begging the question.

            I suppose one way to describe status is that it’s as real as what it lets you get away with in practice. Using that definition you’re right.

            But real status, I think, is more than just that. Yes, when you go to the doctor, it’s partly his white coat and the diplomas on the wall that tell you he knows what he’s doing, but it’s also his ability to heal you, or for his advice to check out against second opinions, or if you’re really scrupulous, maybe it’s to accord with what medical literature recommends. And yes, there is to some degree an infinite regression there (you have to trust the status of those giving the second opinions, of the literature, etc.) but the more it’s networked in with other stuff and with actual measurable results (“Yup, my strep throat cleared up in two days”), the more you can trust it.

            Meanwhile when a journalist, even an esteemed one, says something that ought to discredit him, it’s routine. At best it gets published in the errata section.

            I would argue that it’s not so much taking advantage, but rather that they are not being corrected effectively.

            Both could be true simultaneously. Was NBC taking advantage of public ignorance when they showed the edited Zimmerman 911 call, or were they just not corrected effectively? Probably both.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well…:

            I think you’re assuming that Jordan’s starting worldview was similar to yours, but there’s not all that much reason to believe that. I think a lot of people expect journalists to mostly be trying to tell the truth and report honestly on the stories they cover, and I don’t think that belief marks Jordan out as hopelessly naive.

            I’ve seen comments by other public figures along the same lines–notably from Charles Murray.

            FWIW, I expect journalists to be more-or-less trying to tell the truth. I think they tend to be limited in their ability to do that by lack of knowledge and time constraints, and also by the requirement to avoid lawsuits or pissing off too many advertisers or viewers or powerful people who can retaliate. And I think they tend to be limited in their willingness to do that by their prior beliefs. An awfully large number of people can find justifications for lying or behaving deceptively in the service of some higher goal, and even people trying to be fair have a hard time doing so when they’re really upset by some idea or movement.

          • Well... says:

            I think you’re assuming that Jordan’s starting worldview was similar to yours

            Well no, I don’t think I assumed that. In fact, a good portion of this subthread was about a major difference in our worldviews: how we view journalism and its role in discourse.

            I don’t think that belief marks Jordan out as hopelessly naive.

            Well of course he isn’t hopelessly naive! I’m just saying he’s naive about this one thing. He’s a smart guy, it isn’t hopeless.

            FWIW, I expect journalists to be more-or-less trying to tell the truth. I think they tend to be limited in their ability to do that by lack of knowledge and time constraints, and also by the requirement to avoid lawsuits or pissing off too many advertisers or viewers or powerful people who can retaliate. And I think they tend to be limited in their willingness to do that by their prior beliefs. An awfully large number of people can find justifications for lying or behaving deceptively in the service of some higher goal, and even people trying to be fair have a hard time doing so when they’re really upset by some idea or movement.

            I agree with all of that for the most part, but I think putting on your journalist hat and then trying to tell the truth is like playing a surgeon on TV and then trying to actually operate on someone. Except you and everyone you know, including your audience, thinks TV character surgeons are fit to perform surgery. You might by some stroke of luck successfully remove an appendix without killing the patient once in a while, but jeez.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Well of course he isn’t hopelessly naive! I’m just saying he’s naive about this one thing. He’s a smart guy, it isn’t hopeless.

            Pretending to actually believe that journalists aren’t completely biased and garbage at their job is the best way to skewer them for being completely biased and garbage at their job. If you don’t think that this is what Peterson is doing, maybe you’re the naive one. (Arguments are soldiers, and don’t you forget it.)

          • Well... says:

            OK, I’ll play ball…

            Peterson has said he doesn’t want to skewer journalists, he wants to sit down and have illuminating conversations with them for mutual and public benefit.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Peterson has said he doesn’t want to skewer journalists, he wants to sit down and have illuminating conversations with them for mutual and public benefit.

            Which is the best way to then skewer them. Think about it; presenting yourself as biased means people will discount it when you say things that go along with that bias. Presenting yourself as a neutral observer who is forced to come to a certain conclusion… makes you much more effective at communicating that conclusion.

          • Well... says:

            I disagree. It only means you are less likely to persuade people who already strongly disagree with you. Journalists never cared about those people anyway.

            Scott has certain views, and although he is relatively very fair to those who disagree, he argues in favor of those views. Thousands of people read his blog and consider him a trustworthy and effective communicator of those views.

            Jordan Peterson, like Scott, is not a journalist.

      • meh says:

        Is this working?

    • lvlln says:

      I don’t think Peterson is particularly naive when it comes to this. Perhaps that speaks to the overall naivete of the general public. But in my social circles, it’s basically taken as fact that the good journalists do honestly seek out the truth, and by doing so, they naturally create outlets like CNBC, NPR, NY Times, John Oliver, etc., while the bad journalists purposefully distort and misrepresent in order to push forward their own narrative to feed to their biased audiences, and by doing so they naturally create outlets like Fox News, Breitbart, Rush Limbauch, etc. And any suggestion that anyone in the former group might be playing a similar game as the latter group, even to a far smaller extent, is seen as crazy talk. It wouldn’t surprise me if much of the country saw things this way, just with the specific outlets switched around.

      I saw this topic mentioned on the Rubin Report very recently when he had on the Weinstein brothers Bret and Eric, and they were all of the impression that more and more people were starting to wise up to this and starting to recognize just how much mainstream media was primarily focused on creating bias-reinforcing entertainment, as evidenced by the rise of online shows like the Rubin Report or the Joe Rogan Experience, where they regularly show 1-3 hour long conversations without editing.

      Though I also have to cynically believe that such shows are also ultimately selling entertainment products and deserve no more respect and prestige than the mainstream media outlets. I guess they can point to showing unedited conversations in full, but there are always unknown unknowns when it comes to this sort of thing, and good manipulation is almost impossible to actually identify as such.

      • albatross11 says:

        One really nice introduction to this issue for me was reading _The Bell Curve_ around the time it was published, and then reading/seeing various prestigious journalistic organizations review or discuss it in ways that made clear they were either massively dishonest or hadn’t bothered reading the book.

        • lvlln says:

          I haven’t read the The Bell Curve, but funnily enough, one of my own experiences being disenchanted with an outlet revered by my tribe involved Charles Murray. Following his appearance on Sam Harris’s podcast, Vox wrote a piece admonishing Harris for using his very popular podcast to give Murray a platform without challenging him properly on the stuff he claimed. The challenges that Vox raised were utterly intellectually bankrupt, and it seemed highly unlikely to me that the smart folks at Vox could be that stupid when it came to this topic to actually believe the contents of the article. That is, they were running a disingenuous hit-piece.

          Interestingly, I saw that they did the same thing with Damore’s memo, which was just a whole bunch of non-sequiturs completely unrelated to the issues Damore raised in his memo, and my friend who introduced me to Sam Harris and is a much bigger fan of him than I am (as well as just overall more intelligent than me, I suspect) ate up that article and considered it to be a slam dunk debunking of Damore’s memo. It seemed utterly bizarre to me.

          That said, I had already been primed to be a bit skeptical of Vox before, when, I think their head editor wrote an article talking about how rules of affirmative consent was totally awesome because it was so overbearing and would hopefully cause every male to feel a shiver to run down their spine every time they were propositioning a woman, based on the “1-in-5” stat of rape on college campuses which is very easy to recognize as garbage with even a cursory bit of research on the source of that stat. Either that editor hadn’t done that bare minimum amount of research, or he had decided to purposefully ignore or misrepresent it because it was inconvenient to the central support of the case he was arguing in that piece. Neither scenario made Vox look good, at least to me.

          • Iain says:

            Vox is by no means perfect, but in my experience it’s generally pretty good. I’m pretty sure that this is the Charles Murray piece you are talking about, and this is the Damore one. Note that these are both editorials written by outside contributors.

            As for the piece about Yes Means Yes: for people who would like to evaluate for themselves, here’s the original, and here’s the follow-up. Klein is quite clear about the source of his data; you may have methodological issues, but I do not think it is fair to say that citing the Justice Department’s Campus Sexual Assault Study is “very obvious to recognize as garbage with even a cursory bit of research”. (See, for example, this national survey, released after the Vox article was published, which got the same 1 in 5 number.)

            In the spirit of not trusting other people to give unbiased summaries, I encourage anybody who is on the fence to go evaluate Vox yourself instead of taking my word or lvlln’s for it.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What is an “outside editorial”? I think of an “editorial” as something signed by the editorial board, the kind of document most endorsed by the journal. Thus I am confused by the idea of an “outside editorial.”
            Do you mean an opinion piece? previously called an “op-ed” in reference to the physical layout, now anachronistic. Are you distinguishing opinion pieces written in the first person from Vox’s “explainers”?

            How can one tell that these pieces are written by outsiders? The byline is not distinguished from the Klein pieces you cite. If the publication does not want to make that distinction, should the reader?

          • lvlln says:

            In the spirit of not trusting other people to give unbiased summaries, I encourage anybody who is on the fence to go evaluate Vox yourself instead of taking my word or lvlln’s for it.

            I second this.

            Klein is quite clear about the source of his data; you may have methodological issues, but I do not think it is fair to say that citing the Justice Department’s Campus Sexual Assault Study is “very obvious to recognize as garbage with even a cursory bit of research”.

            Even a brief skimming of the study – which I would consider not to even meet the bare minimum that an honest journalist should do before writing a piece using it as support – linked in the 1st piece shows that it’s a garbage study with respect to supporting the arguments in that piece (I didn’t mean to imply that the study itself was garbage – it may or may not be, but I’m not enough of an expert scientist in this field to make that call). At the head of the Research Methods section is:

            The CSA Study involved conducting a Web-based survey of random samples of undergraduate students at two large public universities, one located in the South (University 1) and one located in the Midwest (University 2). Both universities are located in semi-urban areas. University 1 has a student body of approximately 30,000 students; University 2 has approximately 35,000 students.

            (bolding mine)

            The study is based on exactly 2 colleges in environments somewhat similar to each other (to Klein’s credit, he does mention that it’s 2 colleges), though at 2 different areas of the country. The policy being talked about in the piece applies only to a certain subset of California colleges. There is no reason to believe that the data collected in that study can tell us much about the set of California colleges being affected by that policy. He’d have a better case if the study had taken 2 random colleges from the subset of Californian colleges affected by that policy rather than 2 colleges completely outside of the state, but even then, that would probably upgrade it from “garbage” to “stretching it,” since n=2 usually can’t tell us that much even if they’re randomly chosen from the population in interest. When that n=2 is from a completely separate population, it’s garbage.

            Another issue is the flattening of the definition of “sexual assault,” and then acting as if a policy that specifically applies only to the worst cases – actual rape – is justified based on the prevalence of the wider loose definition. So even if that study indicated that that 1-in-5 stat accurately described the population of colleges to which the policy would be applied – which it definitely didn’t – it would be poor justification for that law.

            There’s also the question of how reliable Web-based surveys are for this sort of thing, but, again, I’m not an expert in that. But I would certainly expect an honest journalist to mention the possible biases that might introduce – better yet, how the researchers avoided those pitfalls, or why those pitfalls are minimal/trivial – when using the results of the study to justify something.

            I’m not some super-genius to notice these things. My guess is that Ezra Klein is just as intelligent as I am, probably more, and it’s actually his job to study these things when he writes a piece like this.

            Now, one scenario I see in which Klein’s piece could make some sort of sense is (1) if one believes that the entire spectrum of sexual assault, from the most offensive to the barely-over-the-line, all have the same cultural source in America, and (2) if one believes that this cultural source is prevalent in all college campuses to about similar levels. This would mean that (1) attacking the worst of the spectrum could help in attacking the entire spectrum (depending on the specifics) and (2) one can draw conclusions about a subset of Californian colleges based on stats taken from any other colleges in the USA. But those are both just pure faith-based belief, not things empirically supported (at the least, I’ve seen no empirical support for them, and Klein certainly doesn’t cite any).

            There are other issues with the piece, like his “but [false accusations] happen very, very rarely,” which isn’t actually statistically supported. Accusations are proven to be false very, very rarely (between 2-8% from the best sources I could find, usually just averaged to 5%), but that’s a very different statement than saying that false accusations happen very, very rarely. It’s certainly weak evidence that false accusations happen very, very rarely, and he could have said that – something like, “the current state of evidence isn’t strong either way, but there’s reason to believe that false accusations may be rare.” But he didn’t say that. He said that they happen very, very rarely. In italics. Then he followed up with “Sexual assault on college campuses, by contrast, happens constantly” – i.e. 5% is “very, very rarely,” while 20% is “constantly.”

          • Iain says:

            @Douglas Knight:

            By outside editorial, I mean that they are published as part of the “Big Idea” section: “Outside contributors’ opinion and analysis of the most important issues in politics, science, and culture”. This is indicated at the top and bottom of each piece. They’re not written by people who work for Vox. The Murray piece was written by a trio of pyschology professors; the Damore piece was written by a lecturer at Stanford. Our gracious host has written one, too.

            You can evaluate Vox based on the mix of outside experts it chooses, but you shouldn’t take the “Big Idea” pieces as necessarily representing Vox’s editorial position, any more than this WaPo editorial by Marc Thiessen (“Trump’s speech nailed it. Let’s see what he does now.”) should be taken as proof that the Washington Post is in the bag for Trump.

            @lvlln:

            C’mon. Klein is clear about the limitations of his data. His original piece linked to this Washington Post fact-checker article making the same criticisms you are making now. If you follow that WaPo link, it says: “NOTE: This article has been expanded and updated, with a new URL. Please read the updated version.” From the top of the updated article:

            This is an update of an article that originally appeared on May 1, 2014. It originally had a Pinocchio rating but that has now been removed in the wake of the publication of The Washington Post-Kaiser Foundation nationwide survey that confirmed the 1 in 5 statistic. The original issue with the statistic was that it was based just on a sample of two universities but was being treated as a nationwide sample. But that concern no longer exists now that a nationwide poll of college-age women has achieved the same result.

            Klein cited the best data available, acknowledged that methodological concerns existed, and was later vindicated by a more rigorous study. That’s not exactly damning.

            Like, fine, you disagree with Ezra Klein. That doesn’t mean he’s an unscrupulous hack. It is possible for two people to make good-faith efforts at finding the truth, and still come up with different answers.

            Indeed, the fact that he was right and you were wrong about how well the original study would translate to a national scale should give you some pause. Are you really doing an unbiased evaluation of the evidence? Consider: you seemed pretty confident that the 1 in 5 number could not be extrapolated to other schools, and that the real national number would be lower. But why? I don’t see (and you don’t give) any reason to think that the two original schools would have an abnormally high rate of sexual assault; given that, although the error bars for a two-element sample can obviously be quite large, there is no principled reason to predict that the bias goes in any particular direction, and the maximum likelihood estimation should be 1 in 5. Given that data, it was equally likely that the national number was higher than 1 in 5. Why were you so confident it was lower?

            Consciously or not, you appear to be searching for ways to minimize these numbers. You can accuse Ezra Klein of pushing a biased narrative if you like, but please also consider the possibility that you might be inadvertently doing the same thing.

            PS: This is a good piece on false accusations.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Iain, thanks! I missed “the Big Idea,” I guess because it was below the photograph, distant from the byline.

            I strongly advise you not to use the word “editorial.” Note that your WaPo example doesn’t use it.

          • lvlln says:

            C’mon. Klein is clear about the limitations of his data.

            Considering the tenor of that piece and the arguments he makes based on the data, this isn’t an accurate statement. Being clear about the limitations of the data means being clear about the inability to use that data to support a policy designed to correct what the data purports. The idea that saying, in essence, “It’s totally awesome that this policy will create a repressive regime of fear and uncertainty!” is entirely incompatible with being clear about the limitations of that data. It’s more compatible with the implicit fully confident belief that that data accurately reflects the population in question – anything less than fully confident belief in the problem makes a wholehearted support for a repressive regime absurd.

            Like, fine, you disagree with Ezra Klein. That doesn’t mean he’s an unscrupulous hack. It is possible for two people to make good-faith efforts at finding the truth, and still come up with different answers.

            Indeed, the fact that he was right and you were wrong about how well the original study would translate to a national scale should give you some pause. Are you really doing an unbiased evaluation of the evidence? Consider: you seemed pretty confident that the 1 in 5 number could not be extrapolated to other schools, and that the real national number would be lower. But why? I don’t see (and you don’t give) any reason to think that the two original schools would have an abnormally high rate of sexual assault; given that, although the error bars for a two-element sample can obviously be quite large, there is no principled reason to predict that the bias goes in any particular direction, and the maximum likelihood estimation should be 1 in 5. Given that data, it was equally likely that the national number was higher than 1 in 5. Why were you so confident it was lower?

            Consciously or not, you appear to be searching for ways to minimize these numbers. You can accuse Ezra Klein of pushing a biased narrative if you like, but please also consider the possibility that you might be inadvertently doing the same thing.

            (bolding mine)

            I’m honestly not sure where you’re getting the parts that I bolded. Could you explain to me better where you got those impressions? My point was that that 1-in-5 data couldn’t be extrapolated to the country generally or the subset of Californian colleges for which the policy would apply specifically. I didn’t think I made any assertions about the direction of the error. And that’s because I honestly don’t believe the numbers are lower. Or higher. I simply don’t know.

            On the one hand, you can argue that if you pick a random person X out of the population, then the average height of the population is equally likely to be greater than person X’s height as it is to be less than person X’s height. But on the other hand, the randomness of choosing one person from the population makes it such that it’s irresponsible to posit that, therefore, we can go forward at full speed on the presumption that the average height of the population is the same as that of person X. Now, if you pull 2 people out, and the population is very small, it can make it slightly more reasonable, but still, proposing that we start enacting some overbearing policies based on the presumption that the average height of those 2 would be absurd.

            Of course, like I wrote in my previous comment, even if we assume that the data upon which Klein was basing his piece on was as rock solid as the evidence for AGW or evolution, the piece falls apart just from noticing the fact that the data pertains to a wide range of sexual assault, while the policy pertains a narrower subset of the most extreme cases of that. Again, I believe this could be salvaged if there were empirical evidence supporting the notion that the same sorts of cultural and societal forces are behind everything in the entire spectrum, but Klein never makes that case.

          • Iain says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            Sure, sloppy wording on my part. Probably “outside opinion pieces” would have been better. I will try to be clearer in the future.

            @lvlln:

            I’m honestly not sure where you’re getting the parts that I bolded. Could you explain to me better where you got those impressions? My point was that that 1-in-5 data couldn’t be extrapolated to the country generally or the subset of Californian colleges for which the policy would apply specifically. I didn’t think I made any assertions about the direction of the error. And that’s because I honestly don’t believe the numbers are lower. Or higher. I simply don’t know.

            Okay. Looking back, it seems I was reading stuff into your posts that you did not intend. I apologize.

            (To explain how I got there: your outrage really only makes emotional sense if you assume the number is lower, not higher. “How dare Ezra Klein base his support for Yes Means Yes on 1 in 5? Doesn’t he realize that it could actually be much higher!” is not a compelling case.)

            But sure. You are angry because Ezra Klein was too confident that his source could be extrapolated to a national scale, and based his argument on that overconfidence.

            Unfortunately for your argument: he was right. As I have already linked multiple times, an equivalent study has been done on a national level, and it got the same results. These results are consistent with a bunch of other studies. Now, maybe there’s some sort of common flaw, but the most parsimonious explanation is that — by the definition of sexual assault that was used — 1 in 5 really is a pretty good estimate.

            This should give you pause. You should be recalibrating. You were previously quite confident that Ezra Klein was misreading the evidence. Now he has been vindicated. It would certainly feel good to dismiss this as Ezra Klein getting lucky, but the correct response is to seriously consider that you might have erred.

            And since you keep coming back to this: yes, it would be silly to estimate national height by picking two random people. But that’s not a good comparison to what Klein did. Instead, ask: would it be unreasonable to take the average height at two American universities, and extrapolate that to American universities in general? Your result won’t be perfect. Some universities will have more student athletes dragging up the average. Women’s colleges will be shorter. But overall, you should end up in the right ballpark.

            In the same way, Klein’s extrapolation is actually pretty reasonable.

            I believe this could be salvaged if there were empirical evidence supporting the notion that the same sorts of cultural and societal forces are behind everything in the entire spectrum, but Klein never makes that case.

            This is false. Klein absolutely makes the case. He further links to another article that makes the same case in more detail. His follow-up piece makes the case again. (Look for “Taub’s piece really isn’t about that, though.”) Your problem isn’t that Klein doesn’t make the case. Your problem is that you don’t like the case.

            And that’s fine. You don’t have to like the case. All I’m asking is that you accept that Ezra Klein made it in good faith, in the same way that — even though I think most of your arguments are wrong — I accept that you mean what you say and are not trying to mislead me.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eh.

            I trust the polls about as much as I’d trust a poll including 20% MRAs evaluating the statistics of violence against men.

            There are a significant percentage of people involved who probably have at least some moral impulse to try to overcompensate for underreporting. Certainly the forcible-vs-incapacitated rates look off, as they suggest forcible rape is 50% more prevalent on campus than off compared to incapacitated rape, whereas my priors would be that incapacitated rape should be overrepresented as compared to the general population.

            But ultimately it doesn’t really matter; we can pick the studies which support our conclusions. I’ll stick with the ones which ask specific questions about specific experiences instead of leaving it up to the recipient to decide what sexual assault and rape are, which conveniently to end to support the worldview I already have. And everybody else can do the same thing.

            Democracy of facts in action!

            (Seriously, though. The first 70% of the survey is spent reminding the surveyed that they are unhappy with the status quo; if your purpose is to find out useful information about college sexual assault, why is most of your survey asking how you feel about how the system currently handles sexual assault, and whether it is an underreported problem, and whether enough attention is paid to the problem? That is not a recipe for an unbiased survey.)

          • lvlln says:

            Unfortunately for your argument: he was right. As I have already linked multiple times, an equivalent study has been done on a national level, and it got the same results. These results are consistent with a bunch of other studies. Now, maybe there’s some sort of common flaw, but the most parsimonious explanation is that — by the definition of sexual assault that was used — 1 in 5 really is a pretty good estimate.

            This should give you pause. You should be recalibrating. You were previously quite confident that Ezra Klein was misreading the evidence. Now he has been vindicated. It would certainly feel good to dismiss this as Ezra Klein getting lucky, but the correct response is to seriously consider that you might have erred.

            That the statistic was replicated doesn’t really affect my argument at all, because I wasn’t arguing that the statistic was false. I was arguing that Klein displayed a confidence in the state of evidence that wasn’t warranted. My point wasn’t about the prevalence of sexual assault in colleges, it was about losing faith in Vox by seeing them confidently publish arguments that fall apart upon the slightest bit of scrutiny.

            And since you keep coming back to this: yes, it would be silly to estimate national height by picking two random people. But that’s not a good comparison to what Klein did. Instead, ask: would it be unreasonable to take the average height at two American universities, and extrapolate that to American universities in general? Your result won’t be perfect. Some universities will have more student athletes dragging up the average. Women’s colleges will be shorter. But overall, you should end up in the right ballpark.

            I agree. But then to take that average height and to argue that it’s totally awesome to implement overbearing legislation that depends heavily on that extrapolated height actually being the average American university height implies an unjustified confidence far beyond that it’s just “in the right ballpark.” And this confidence remains unjustified even if later studies show that your initial extrapolations were accurate.

            This is false. Klein absolutely makes the case. He further links to another article that makes the same case in more detail. His follow-up piece makes the case again. (Look for “Taub’s piece really isn’t about that, though.”) Your problem isn’t that Klein doesn’t make the case. Your problem is that you don’t like the case.

            I shouldn’t have used the word “case” there, as it’s confusing. He does make a case, you’re right. What he doesn’t make is the case that empirical evidence exists that supports the case he’s making. Which was my point; his piece and the piece he linked to are full of anecdotes and arguments, but no actual empirical evidence that shows that, say, the “status quo puts women in the position of having to constantly police their own behavior to make sure that they are not giving the appearance of passive consent. That’s not only exhausting; it’s limiting. It reinforces power imbalances that keep women out of positions of success and authority” (from the piece he linked to).

            Where are the studies that show the measurements of “policing [one’s] own behavior” by women, and how they compare to those of men? Where are the measurements of “power” that show these “imbalances,” as well as the correlations that support the notion that these imbalances cause women to be kept out of “positions of success and authority?”

            They’re heavy on rhetoric, but lacking in empirical evidence. And that was my point; he builds his case upon a statistic that no one is justified in believing is reflective of the population for which the law applies, by heaving on it a bunch of rhetoric for which empirical evidence in support is lacking (obviously he doesn’t have limitless space to supply all his citations, but I was also primed by having done a lot of research into that rhetoric before I’d stumbled upon Klein’s piece, and having found the empirical evidence to be quite lacking).

            Now, perhaps Klein believes that rhetoric despite it being unsupported faith, and perhaps he also expects his target audience to believe that same rhetoric. I admit that’s possible.

            And that’s fine. You don’t have to like the case. All I’m asking is that you accept that Ezra Klein made it in good faith, in the same way that — even though I think most of your arguments are wrong — I accept that you mean what you say and are not trying to mislead me.

            Fair point. The mere fact that you seem to be making these arguments in good faith has made me more believing that Klein was also making the arguments in his piece in good faith. It doesn’t make me any more trusting of Vox media as a journalistic outlet, but it does tilt me towards seeing them as journalists who actually do believe that they’re searching for and presenting the truth. Perhaps I over-corrected way back when I first read that piece, when I was starting from a baseline that Vox media was a generally trustworthy outlet whose arguments I could rely on to be well-formed and well-researched.

          • Iain says:

            I’ll stick with the ones which ask specific questions about specific experiences instead of leaving it up to the recipient to decide what sexual assault and rape are, which conveniently to end to support the worldview I already have.

            What? From the article:

            The poll defined sexual assault to include five types of unwanted contact: forced touching of a sexual nature, oral sex, vaginal sexual intercourse, anal sex, and sexual penetration with a finger or object.
            After they were read this definition, 5 percent of men and 20 percent of women said they had been sexually assaulted in college. Their assailants used force or threats of force, or they attacked while their victims were incapacitated.

            I mean: sure, I can’t force you to believe this study. If another study were done that addressed your stated concerns about question order, I’m sure you’d be able to find a problem with that one, too. If you want to deliberately wallow about in your own priors and shut out conflicting evidence, then — hey, it’s a free country. Some of the rest of us have more aspirational goals.

            @lvlln:

            Why is “all these women are wrong about their own behaviour” the null hypothesis? Klein has no studies to prove his claims, but where are your studies disproving them? It is certainly not correct to assume that the maximal version of this argument is true in all particulars, but it’s equally wrong to say “well, it’s really hard to measure this stuff, and nobody’s done a study, so I will assume the effect is zero”.

            Consider: can you present a study that conclusively demonstrates the harms of a Yes Means Yes standard? Where are your measurements and correlations?

            This is what an isolated demand for rigour looks like from the inside.

            (That said: thank you for seriously considering my arguments. My main goal in this discussion was to talk you out of Conflict Mode into Mistake Mode; if I have succeeded in doing that, I’m willing to call it here.)

          • lvlln says:

            To expand on that, here’s what Appendix A of the paper says, in Part 1. Interview Questions Used in Sexual Assault Classification.

            These questions ask about five types of unwanted sexual contact:
            – forced touching of a sexual nature (forced kissing, touching of private parts, grabbing, fondling, rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes)
            – oral sex (someone’s mouth or tongue making contact with your genitals or your mouth or tongue making contact with someone else’s genitals)
            – sexual intercourse (someone’s penis being put in your vagina)
            – anal sex (someone’s penis being put in your anus)
            – sexual penetration with a finger or object (someone putting their finger or an object like a bottle or a candle in your vagina or anus.

            It seems the sexual intercourse category only covers female victims of males, and there’s no similar category for (someone’s vagina enveloping your penis), though it also seems to me that that can fall under the 1st category described by touching of private parts.

          • Matt M says:

            From Iain’s QZ piece on false accusations:

            But if a woman without any history of dramatic falsehoods says she went home with a man and, after they’d kissed a while consensually, he held her down and forced her into sex—in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, you can just assume it’s true. This is not because of any political dictum like “Believe women.” It’s because this story looks exactly like tens of thousands of date rapes that happen every year, and nothing at all like a false rape accusation.

            I have a bit of a problem with this… the rationalist in me loves the “let’s look at the data!” approach… but I’m not sure the data in this case is as meaningful as we think. The notion of “There have been few exonerated rapists, but many exonerated murderers… therefore false rape claims are rare” strikes me as missing the whole picture.

            There are a lot of ways to exonerate a murderer. Murder cases usually rely on hard physical evidence. Rape cases, meanwhile, are almost always he-said/she-said. In the typical case, the alleged rapist often acknowledges that sex did in fact take place, but there’s a dispute as to whether it was consensual or not. This is already conceding about 95% of the matters that would be in dispute in the typical murder trial. Any murder case where the defendant said “Yes, I admit the last time the victim was seen alive, I was with them, and we were alone with no witnesses, and a few hours later I reported my handgun as missing… but no, I didn’t kill him!” would be seen as a pretty easy win for most DAs.

            There are many routes to disproving murder – prove you weren’t at the crime scene, prove you never had custody of the murder weapon, prove you had no association with the victim, etc. Evidence can easily be discovered, after the fact, on any of these dimensions which might result in an exoneration.

            But how do you exonerate a rapist when the fact that sex took place is not in dispute? DNA does you no good here. Neutral eyewitnesses are unlikely, as is surveillance footage. Pretty much the only way is for the accuser to admit she had been lying, which is also very unlikely.

            I think the article pulls a bait and switch – in that its initial premise uses exoneration data about people who were convicted and then exonerated but then goes into discussing cases like Jackie and UVA, and Duke Lacrosse… which were NOT cases like that. They were cases where nobody was convicted, in fact, in the case of Jackie, charges were never filed.

            And cases where the accuser has a long history of chronic lying, criminal activity, drug use, and/or mental illness are precisely the ones we should expect to fall apart before a conviction is made. The Duke lacrosse “victim” was shady AF on every possible dimension and the accused had rich families with high priced attorneys. Of course they tore that apart quickly and easily.

            Getting back to the passage I quoted above – it seems a little too obvious. Like a just so story. Yeah, if someone falsely accuses you of rape, you better hope they have a long history of shady behavior. Because in case that ultimately comes down to “he said, she said”, credibility is incredibly important – and those people have none of it. If a professional businesswoman with no questionable history accuses you of something, you better hope your life is just as spotless as hers, or you have no chance. This seems like basic common sense to me.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            That is so far from the core of my objection it is laughable.

            Asking specific questions reduces certain types of response bias – reading a definition doesn’t. This is what forced-choice items are all about.

            This is a subject in which response bias is a known issue, and this survey seems intended to maximize the response bias.

            There’s really not much more to it than that. It is a joke.

            ETA: But try it for yourself. Try to figure out what you would do differently to get a higher response rate; that is, you are in charge of creating a survey that reports the highest possible rate of sexual assault; you aren’t concerned with accuracy at all, you just need a scary headline. Your main constraint is that you can’t be obvious about it.

            What would you do differently?

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:
            And if you were trying to get a really low number, you would put the detailed questions about how often you’ve been anally penetrated without your consent at the very beginning of the survey, to minimize any comfort or rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee. If you read enough to learn the order of the questions, you presumably also read the part where they explained why they did it this way.

            If you are going to get huffy about response bias in a study of sexual assault while ignoring the response bias caused by people not wanting to talk about their sexual assault with a stranger on the phone, forgive me if I don’t take you entirely seriously.

            Do you have a better study? Do you have a more accurate number?

            @Matt M:
            One reason that you won’t see many exonerations in pure he-said she-said cases of sexual assault because they generally don’t lead to convictions in the first place. From this Canadian report:

            Other research has found that in absence of third party witnesses or other corroborating evidence, sexual assaults are not likely to proceed to court.

            You have to prove a criminal case beyond reasonable doubt. Without some sort of additional evidence, that’s hard to do.

          • Aapje says:

            There was a good (double) comment on the Reddit yesterday, which analyzed police statistics.

            PS. A story just broke that one of Time Magazine’s ‘Silence Breakers,’ who is a member of the California Assembly, has today been accused of sexual assault. One accuser is named and the other is anonymous. Both accusers said that she was drunk and that she went for a crotch grab. The Assemblywoman claims that she has “zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values.”

            Amusingly, she earlier said that being inebriated is not an excuse, nor that alcohol fueled parties are the problem, but that men choose to misbehave. I wonder if she will apply the same logic to herself.

          • Matt M says:

            One reason that you won’t see many exonerations in pure he-said she-said cases of sexual assault because they generally don’t lead to convictions in the first place.

            So how do we apply this to the section I quoted?

            But if a woman without any history of dramatic falsehoods says she went home with a man and, after they’d kissed a while consensually, he held her down and forced her into sex—in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, you can just assume it’s true.

            It seems like you’re saying that most people won’t just “assume it’s true” and that this is a reasonable and proper thing.

          • Randy M says:

            One reason that you won’t see many exonerations in pure he-said she-said cases of sexual assault because they generally don’t lead to convictions in the first place.

            That’s nice to see.

          • Aapje says:

            Interestingly, one of the accusers in of the assemblywoman has stated that he had trouble framing what happened in his mind, because his mandatory sexual harassment training at the Capitol had never included examples where the victim was a man and the perpetrator was a woman.

          • Randy M says:

            his mandatory sexual harassment training at the Capitol had never included examples where the victim was a man and the perpetrator was a woman.

            …huh. I’ll have to update my model of the sorts of people who push for things like these. I didn’t know anyone took them seriously, but apparently, as a progressive foot soldier (that’s fair, given the context, isn’t it?) he took his view of sexual morality from the mandated training seminar which the rest of us (right…?) roll our eyes through and endure as either preaching to the choir or misguided propaganda for cya purposes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain

            I think part of the issue here is that there’s a definitional thing going on. The evidence shows that something like 1/5 women are sexually assaulted at university, ~3/4 lifetime (per NISVS). However, the language used usually talks about campus rape. The WaPo article says “1 in 5 women violated” and the individual stories it tells are largely of assaults that aren’t unwanted grabbing, etc. The statistics used concern all sexual assaults; the language used is of rape and violation. It’s like the difference between “deaths” and “casualties” – a lot of people use the latter as shorthand for the latter, mostly through ignorance. If the pattern in the NISVS between rapes/attempted rapes and sexual assaults in general holds for campuses, and I’ve done my math right, that means the number for what would be defined as rape is something like 1/20.

            Klein doesn’t use the word rape for most of the article. He uses the term “sexual assault” but the way he frames it is, perhaps, a little misleading. When he says

            …men need to feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter.

            that implies sex, penetration, etc – I don’t think many people, when they hear “sexual encounter”, think of some asshole who thinks he has the right to grab women’s asses, but the central example of sexual assault for the 1/5 number is almost certainly closer to that than to penetrative rape. Then Klein writes

            …where the ambiguity of consent gives rapists loopholes in which to hide…

            which I think is more than a little misleading when the earlier part is considered (where he says “sexual assault”).

            The actual situation – in which a majority of women are sexually assaulted at some point in their life, about 1/5 experiences rape or attempted rape, the numbers for men are higher than you’d think, nonbinary people report very high numbers (not in the NISVS but in the campus climate report) – is very bad, but the 1/5 on campus number is frequently cited as rapes, or without clarification that sexual assault is not a synonym for rape. Even if clarification is provided, most people don’t read past the headline anyway.

          • Nornagest says:

            I didn’t know anyone took them seriously, but apparently […] he took his view of sexual morality from the mandated training seminar…

            I wouldn’t quite take that at face value — it stretches credibility to say that one particular mandatory training seminar taken as an adult defines anyone’s model. But it’s pretty plausible that none of the examples of sexual assault in any of the dozen or so roughly similar mandatory morality plays we all sit through by the time we graduate college featured female perpetrators and male recipients, and the phrasing in this particular case might just have been synecdotal. I certainly can’t remember seeing any.

          • Vorkon says:

            …huh. I’ll have to update my model of the sorts of people who push for things like these. I didn’t know anyone took them seriously, but apparently, as a progressive foot soldier (that’s fair, given the context, isn’t it?) he took his view of sexual morality from the mandated training seminar which the rest of us (right…?) roll our eyes through and endure as either preaching to the choir or misguided propaganda for cya purposes.

            I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not, here.

            To me, that just makes it seem more likely that at least one of the accusers is insincere, and even if he isn’t lying about the harassment itself, he’s at least fabricating an argument to try to make his accusation stronger.

            I suppose there might be some people who don’t just roll their eyes through those training seminars, but I have yet to meet one. Meanwhile, I have met plenty of people who are quite proficient rules-lawyers. It seems more likely to me that this is the latter case, than that my entire mental model of how people respond to mandatory training seminars is wrong.

          • Aapje says:

            I really don’t understand why this is taken of evidence of insincerity.

            There are obviously a lot of people who swallow the standard narrative that the media & society teaches them, until they personally have an experience that is so at odds with the narrative that they can no longer believe it.

            It is also pretty typical that upon realizing that they have been deceived, people get upset at those who they feel had a duty to teach them something, but didn’t.

            If one is made to attend a sexual assault seminar that has the explicit goal of making people more capable of dealing with unwanted behavior, but one later realizes that it was designed around a stereotypical narrative, then it seems logical to blame the seminar for not actually doing what it was supposed to do.

            Note that I’ve read a decent number of rape accounts by male victims who also said that they didn’t realize that men could actually be victimized and that they were not capable of quickly coming to grip with what happened to them. So the behavior of this person doesn’t seem at odds with that of a real victim at all.

          • quanta413 says:

            I suppose there might be some people who don’t just roll their eyes through those training seminars, but I have yet to meet one. Meanwhile, I have met plenty of people who are quite proficient rules-lawyers. It seems more likely to me that this is the latter case, than that my entire mental model of how people respond to mandatory training seminars is wrong.

            Or you may have a biased sample. I’ve known many people who basically agree with what’s in the training, although I don’t know if they’ve invested a ton of thought into the issues or the training. It would be one thing if the training ran counter to most other social narratives about sexual harassment and assault, but it doesn’t. And I’ve known very few rules lawyers.

            If I understand correctly, the complaint isn’t that the training says women can’t assault men; the complaint was that the examples were all one way. This hasn’t been true in the annual employee training I’ve had to do in the last couple years, but states vary (and so do employers) and things vary over time too. It’s not really that strange of a complaint (if true, which I think is a roughly 50/50 proposition).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Randy M:

            “…huh. I’ll have to update my model of the sorts of people who push for things like these. I didn’t know anyone took them seriously, but apparently, as a progressive foot soldier (that’s fair, given the context, isn’t it?) he took his view of sexual morality from the mandated training seminar which the rest of us (right…?) roll our eyes through and endure as either preaching to the choir or misguided propaganda for cya purposes.”

            It wasn’t just the training, it’s the whole culture. There’s damned little about women sexually assaulting men.

            Let’s see. There’s Potiphar’s wife in the bible, who falsely accused Jacob of rape when he wouldn’t have sex with her.

            There’s Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonais”– a while ago, I looked up discussion of it, and I didn’t get anyone with the idea that there was something abusive going on till I got to a fairly recent modern woman’s comments. C.S. Lewis mentioned how unlikable it was to be hugged by a large aunt when he was a child.

            For a while, John Barnes was writing science fiction which included some very scary women.

            What else?

          • Well... says:

            You guys are having this debate over whether Ezra Klein was faithful or honest in his reporting of facts, whether he should have been more transparent about the trustworthiness of those facts, etc. I’m proposing that Ezra Klein had no such actual obligation to be honest in the first place.

            As a journalist he wants you to think he has such an obligation because then you are primed to think he will meet it most of the time, especially since he is a successful and prominent journalist. Just like if you learn that engineers are supposed to abide by a code of ethics, you will believe that a given engineer is likely to have abided by it or at least tried, especially if that engineer is very successful and highly esteemed.

            In reality Ezra Klein could have written an Onion article but had it published straight-faced in Vox and he still would be doing his job no differently, on a fundamental level. This is because journalism is basically just a form of acting, only it’s a weird performance art version of it where everybody, including the actor, believes the performance is a real thing.

            Ezra Klein is acting like someone who is qualified to draw meaning from one study and apply it to another scenario. But he isn’t qualified, and this is true regardless whether you believe he happened to draw meaning/apply meaning correctly this time.

            Those kinds of “drawing meaning from this particular study over here and applying it to that general thing over there” arguments occupy whole sections of academic papers where they are qualified and qualified and qualified, and then they are pored over scrupulously in peer review by highly trained scientists.

            Ezra Klein has a BA in poli-sci and has never done anything other than write blogs and newspaper articles. He might happen to get the answer right, but nobody should be asking him for it.

            The reason (I hope one of the reasons anyway) we read and put credibility in Scott’s posts is because when he talks about something, he applies his high level of training in his field, giving us confidence that he knows what he’s talking about. Sometimes he stretches by going outside of his field into areas where his training isn’t as applicable and it’s more just an area of interest to him (e.g. AI risk) but his strongest posts are the ones that relate to his field (e.g. stuff about psychiatric medicine, the difficulties of doing studies at hospitals, etc.). When Scott writes those posts he isn’t being a journalist, PRECISELY BECAUSE he isn’t pretending to be the world’s biggest expert about stuff he has no idea about.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is he even technically a journalist? It’s not like he has some professional code of conduct – someone can’t report him to the Thinkpiece Board and get him disblogged – but it’s relevant whether or not he’s being truthful or accurate, and whether that’s conscious or not.

            If he’s decided that 1/20 rapes is serious enough to do something drastic about, but knows that people won’t take 1/20 seriously, but will take 1/5 seriously, or if he thinks 1/5 sexual assaults is serious enough to require drastic measures but frames it in a way that suggests 1/5 rapes because he knows that will have more of an effect, that’s dishonest – he’s a pious fraud. That’s relevant. If he himself is confused regarding the difference between rape and sexual assault, that’s relevant.

            He might not have an obligation to be accurate or honest or whatever, but it matters that he’s inaccurate or dishonest when making his case, if one happens to think that inaccuracy or dishonesty are bad. You can still be pissed off that a car salesman sharked you, even if car salesmen have no obligation not to shark you.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Thegnskald:

            This is a subject in which response bias is a known issue, and this survey seems intended to maximize the response bias.

            Obligatory Yes, Prime Minister clip.

          • Well... says:

            You can still be pissed off that a car salesman sharked you, even if car salesmen have no obligation not to shark you.

            It’s actually not a fair analogy because journalists for the most part, by default at least, aren’t trying to pull one over on their audience — other than the basic misrepresentation of level of expertise/authority/qualification to speak that goes along with just being a journalist, but most journalists aren’t even aware of that.

            Now, the numbers around what percentage of college students actually get raped is a perfectly reasonable thing to debate. Ezra Klein is as welcome to participate in that debate as anyone, and is as welcome as anyone to argue for the wrong numbers or misrepresent the numbers or whatever else.

            He doesn’t have some special duty to work harder to get the numbers right, and he hasn’t committed any especially grave sin by not doing so, simply because he argues under the auspices of a Journalism Publication.

            He would only have that duty if he argued under the auspices of, say, a government body put in charge of something related to that issue, or a company whose product or service dealt with something related to that issue.

            But as a journalist, his opinion is essentially irrelevant so he can say whatever he wants. The real problem with it is that calling himself a journalist grants him this fake status.

            (Wikipedia says he’s an “American journalist, blogger, and political commentator”. That’s good enough for me.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Investigative journalists generally aren’t, staff journalists generally aren’t, but opinion journalists are generally a bit untrustworthy, and a lot of them are just propagandists hired to say the same thing regardless of the facts in a given case.

            Even if Ezra Klein was some random guy arguing on Facebook, I think it’s still a general standard that lying and misrepresenting are bad.

            I agree that it’s unfortunate he gets this status as an authority.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well…”

            I think you’re being a little too cynical. Most of us expect journalists in their information-reporting role[1] to at least make a good-faith effort to report the facts straight. That’s because we rely on journalists for a lot of on-the-ground reporting about what’s going on.

            Further, I think we need someone in that role. In order to find out what’s going on in our world, and what problems need solving, we need journalists to report stuff that’s happening, just as we need official statistics to be honest and scientists to truthfully tell us what they’ve discovered and policemen to honestly report the results of their investigations.

            People will occasionally come up with justifications for why people in these roles should be “responsible” by withholding facts from the public or lying to us. There are probably a few cases where withholding facts to protect some innocent person’s privacy is reasonable, but for the most part, getting the people who stand between us and reality and tell us what’s going on to lie to us is a good way to break some really critical bits of our society.

            [1] One difficulty here is that reporters are sometimes basically writing opinion pieces (where supporting your side is more valued than honestly reporting the truth), and are sometimes basically writing entertainment pieces (where the goal is keeping people engaged).

          • Thegnskald says:

            Mr. X:

            Huh. I need to watch that show I think.

            And yeah. That is pretty much exactly what happened with this survey.

            Iain:

            No. I do not play that game. Your survey is garbage; that is all there is to it. I don’t need to provide you a good survey in order to argue that the survey you are using is nonsense; my point is not “The true figure is X”, my point is that you are trotting out garbage evidence.

            It may be there is good evidence, it may be there is not. Doesn’t matter. Yours isn’t among the former, and arguing that Ezra Klein was justified after the fact, based on a survey which literally reads like the linked Yes, Minister joke about how surveys arrive at an answer they want…

            Well, it smells just a bit of motivated reasoning.

          • Vorkon says:

            I really don’t understand why this is taken of evidence of insincerity.

            There are obviously a lot of people who swallow the standard narrative that the media & society teaches them, until they personally have an experience that is so at odds with the narrative that they can no longer believe it.

            Sorry about the late reply, I haven’t had much time to get online lately.

            Anyway, yes, it’s absolutely true that society doesn’t do much to establish that “men can be sexually assaulted by women” is a real thing that happens, and that many men don’t have a narrative built up in their heads to give them an idea of when this is happening. I have total sympathy with any man who says they had no idea what was happening until after the fact, and I’m sure that’s a thing that happens to men all the time.

            Where the insincerity lies is the fact that he tried to blame this misunderstanding on its lack of inclusion on the mandatory training. It would be one thing if he JUST said that he didn’t realize what was happening at first because he didn’t know how to frame it in his mind, with no culprit given for why he had never been exposed to that narrative, or even if he had tried to blame society in general for never giving that narrative to him. But he specifically said that he had trouble framing it in his mind BECAUSE THE MANDATORY TRAINING never included that narrative.

            The official training was obviously not his first or only exposure to the idea of sexual harassment, so why would he treat it like it was? The only explanation I can think of is as an appeal to authority; his superiors can’t dismiss a claim based on the official training that they, themselves, approved and need to be seen to endorse, so referencing it makes his claim harder to ignore. That doesn’t necessarily mean his claim is false, or anything, but it does mean that he’s willing to employ disingenuous techniques to try to make his argument seem stronger, which makes me ever so slightly less inclined to take his argument seriously.

          • Aapje says:

            @Vorkon

            I think that your assessment betrays a typical mind fallacy error.

            I suspect that you have strong doubts about the ability of a single seminar to teach people to take sexual assault of men seriously; or perhaps more generically, for a single seminar to teach anything of substance that was not already believed. So you probably can’t believe that others can believe any different.

            However, many people clearly don’t think this way or we wouldn’t see so many people push for these single seminars in the first place, where those same people tend to make far reaching claims about how big a problem ‘rape culture’ is. That they rarely push hard for more extensive programs suggests that they either have immense faith in education and/or believe that any well-meaning person will automatically ‘get it’ after a single seminar (and it is easy to engage in good sexual practices once ‘you get it’).

            In other words, they think that this equation works fairly reliably: person indoctrinated into rape culture + good sexual assault seminar = person with good sexual practices.

            Based on this belief, it makes perfect sense to blame the seminar for not being good enough, when one notices that a good sexual practice was not being taught (in this case, that women should not sexually assault men). After all, the person probably believes that the woman would likely have known not to assault men, if only the seminar had told her not to do that.

            Ultimately, lots of people sincerely have silly beliefs. The belief I described above is really quite minor silliness compared to other beliefs that quite a few people actually believe.

            My personal policy is to generally assume good faith and high stupidity, which I found far more explanatory than to assume bad faith and low stupidity.

          • Vorkon says:

            Oh, yeah, I’m certainly exhibiting the same sort of reasoning employed in a typical mind fallacy error. However, like a lot of informal fallacies, I don’t think it’s fair to actually call it a “fallacy.” Can you reach flawed conclusions by employing that line of reasoning? Sure! Very often, in fact. But absent conflicting evidence, modeling someone else’s mind after yours is often the best way to lead yourself in the right direction.

            Meanwhile, like I said in my original post on the subject, referencing the official training pattern-matches with a lot of other weaselly appeals to authority that I’ve seen in the past. When I weigh, “is this guy trying to appeal to authority to make his accusation seem stronger” with “does this guy’s mind work so fundamentally different from mine that he might as well be a different species,” I find that the former seems more likely.

            Am I ignoring Hanlon’s razor in favor of Occam’s? Maybe. But in this case, I think it’s warranted.

            I’ll admit that I might be biased by all of the horrible mandatory sexual harassment training I’ve been forced to sit through, though.

      • Well... says:

        To me it’s about how it’s done more than whether it’s mainstream. If you put on a suit and sit at a desk, show a globe spinning and a bunch of TVs behind you, and talk in a weird sing-songy voice, even if you only have one subscriber you are still doing “journalism”.

        Joe Rogan/Dave Rubin/etc. are just conducting long-form interviews, and they don’t have much of an artifice of authority or whatever. The sets are casual and appropriate to the content (recording studio/comfy-but-tidy-looking-den-or-hangout-place, respectively), and there’s very little formal structure arbitrarily applied to it. Charlie Rose was sort of half-way there: he sat with his guests in what appeared to be God’s Lair or outer space with a very serious-looking oak table between them, the kind of table you’d expect Jesus to have made.

  18. gbdub says:

    The Winter Olympics kicked off today with Mixed Doubles curling. Blowout win for USA over the “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      Is doping actually unusually common for Russian athletes, or do they just not have the right kind of influence with the right people / the right amount of money in the right people’s pockets?

      • Aapje says:

        They seems unusually prone to doping, due to a culture where the assumption when losing is that the winner must have been cheating and where there is no faith that the authorities are even slightly fair. I think it is obvious why living in the USSR would cause people to have such a culture.

        Westerners have both a greater belief in their ability to defeat others by legitimate means and have more faith in (the) man.

        So it is more likely for Russians to conclude that they are being cheated and that cheating is the only way they can win.

        • Well... says:

          This is kind of a tangent because I know what you meant, but how many current Russian Olympians remember life the USSR?

          Someone born in 1992 is today no older than 26, and in the case of a successful athlete much more likely 25 (due to redshirting, successful athletes’ birth months tend to cluster toward the second half of the year, at least in the US and Europe). [Edit: nevermind, my analysis on that is probably wrong.]

          It’s probably uncommon for Olympic athletes to be much older than 30, but supposing the very oldest is 35, that still means he was only about 9 years old when the USSR dissolved.

          …and I’ll go back to feeling ancient and unaccomplished now.

          • Aapje says:

            Culture is transmitted by parents to their children and by society to their youths. There is absolutely no need for the athletes themselves to have grown up in the USSR for them to be influenced by how life was then*. Aside from the fact that we have athlete testimony of being forced into doping by older people.

            * Also see my other comment(s) about WW II impacting Western German culture.

      • gbdub says:

        In Sochi, Russian athletic officials are alleged to have systematically supplied PEDs to Russian athletes and covered this up by destroying and replacing hundreds of positive test samples (they had compromised the local test facility), and this was apparently part of an ongoing state doping program. That’s the biggest difference it seems – these aren’t individual athletes choosing to cheat, this is a state sponsored organized effort to cheat as a team. This dates back to the Soviet era (there is evidence they had a state doping program for the 1980 games and had plans for doing the same in 1984 before the boycott).

        There are accusations of wiretapping, visits from the FSB, bribes to French officials, and mysterious deaths – all your standard Russian conspiracy tactics. Wikipedia summary

        So Russia got banned, but they have 168 athletes competing because there was no direct evidence of their personal doping (which of course there isn’t, because the whole point of the original bad behavior was to destroy the evidence of doping).

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        Eastern Europeans use the cheap stuff and get caught a lot more easily. At least that’s my impression of what is was like in the nineties and oughts when I was following track and field very closely.

        Generally you can figure out for whom “doping is unusually common” by looking at who is winning.

        I have this project that I want to do one day, where I use face embeddings to define a human growth hormone signature and then track how the faces of top athletes changed over time. Given that you can see tell-tale signs of HGH in the faces of a lot of current famous athletes there should be an interesting signal.

        • The Element of Surprise says:

          Maybe successful athletes naturally have more pronounced signs of HGH and you would just measure more thorough recruiting from a larger candidate pool? Apparently the height of NBA players increased over time, but I’m not aware of any controversy around cheating by height boosting treatments.

        • Aapje says:

          It’s often not so much cost (although BALCO happened), but rather professionalism. Many Western ex-dopers have testified that it is possible to avoid being caught by using doping wisely and that only dumb athletes get caught.

          We know from this testimony that the effective doping was most often not some rare, expensive new product, but rather fairly mundane products/techniques used in such a way that it is undetectable when tested.

          In most sports, the testing regime is very predictable and it is relatively easy to create a doping schedule where the athletes is almost guaranteed to no l