THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

OT103: The Curse Of Tutancomment

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. I’m on vacation for the next few weeks. I might schedule a few drafts to auto-post just so things won’t be totally quiet, but don’t expect to hear much from me until late June.

2. I’ve gotten a few comments and emails from people who are visiting the Bay Area and want to know how to meet the rationalist community there. Your best bet is to check the schedule for the community center and show up there when something interesting is happening (or just drop by whenever and hope for the best). If you’re really interested, you can stay in their guest rooms for a few days. You can also see bayrationality.com for (slightly) more information and event dates, or check the LW meetups page for more on meetups in San Francisco, San Jose, etc. I would like for there to eventually be a better and longer-term solution to this problem, but this’ll have to do for now.

3. Some people have complained that they like an SSC post and want to send it to their friends, but some of the comments are so bad that they’d be embarrassed for their friend to see them. Evan recently reminded me that there’s a Link Without Comments button at the bottom of every post.

4. Comment of the week is Aurel presenting some evidence against the lead-crime connection. Any thoughts?

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1,042 Responses to OT103: The Curse Of Tutancomment

  1. CatCube says:

    Has anybody else forgotten how to do simple tasks that didn’t used to rely on the Internet? Last week at work, I was trying to find a document on seismic analysis. It was from UC-Berkeley, where they wanted $25 for a digital copy. I went through our library’s website to the journal subscriptions, and spent about 45 minutes trying various journals and repositories before concluding that none of them had a digital copy.

    I then sighed and decided I’d have to try interlibrary loan to get it on hard copy. I then went to the library lookup page to find the nearest library that had it on hand, and the first result was US Army Corps of Engineers Library, [My City]. After taking a minute for the proper amount of embarrassment, I then wrote down the call number and went upstairs to check it out.

    I don’t know when I forgot that checking the library catalog should be the first step, but I apparently did in the last 5 years or so. Anybody else forgotten that libraries will often have the stuff you need for free?

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Not quite what you’re asking, but I have certainly forgotten how I actually did some things before the internet.

      I remember being interested in visiting a buddy in another small town around 1980, and determined that there was just no viable bus route between the two towns — the trip required going through some hub that was ten times as far from either town as they were from each other.

      But how did I determine that? I suppose I must have gone to my local Greyhound station and looked at a schedule or route map. But I have no memory of that. I couldn’t even tell you what part of town the Greyhound station was in.

      The remarkable part of your story is that the offline route is still available. My suspicion is that “Books In Print” and the OAG, resources I used a lot in the old days, don’t actually publish their databases in hard copy any more, but it’s been a long time since I needed to know. (It’s sort of amusing how useless it is to try to Google ‘Is “Books In Print” still in print’.)

      • Alejandro says:

        In Buenos Aires and its suburbs, we used to rely on a booklet called the T-guide, which functioned as explained in English (with pictures) here. Maybe something similar existed for other major urban centers?

        I remember being shocked when I moved to the UK in the early 2000s (to a much smaller urban area than BA, but still with plenty of buses) and found that there was nothing similar. One had to replicate it by piecing together hardcopy maps, hardcopy bus timetables, and incomplete online information.

        • tmk says:

          Bus schedules in the UK are still a mess, outside of London and maybe other major cities.

          • nameless1 says:

            I lived in a smaller UK city for years. Pretty much the only reason not to drive a car was drinking alcohol. Otherwise, used cars were cheaper than in most of Europe and the congestion situation very decent, hardly any slowdowns. Why invest into buses?

            I am always curious why intelligent communities like this here tend to be pro-public transport and anti-car? Environment? Electric cars. Congestion? Huge issue in the US, most large European cities, and London. Not a huge issue in smaller ones.

            Living in a village, working in a smaller city close by, a small, environmentally friendly car is just the ideal way to get around. It is basically like a faster bicycle with airbags and far more package space. Why is it sort of considered a less enlightened option?

          • Aapje says:

            @nameless1

            Dense cities give way more access to diverse people, culture, shops, etc. They also tend to lack the kind of social policing that you have in less dense areas.

            Human outliers often move to dense cities, because these things tend to benefit them more.

            Hence, Castro Street in San Francisco, not Castro Street in Salinas.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The car thing was Culture War before Culture War was named. Urban vs suburban and rural, individualist vs communitarian, spontaneous vs planned, freedom vs safety, etc.

          • Congestion? Huge issue in the US, most large European cities, and London.

            The question is why it is such a huge issue. Is it really unavoidable, or is it due to policies that could be changed? For example:

            1. Many cities, including SF and London, have restrictions on construction that result in a lot of the people who work in the city living outside of it and having to commute–the Green Belt in London being an obvious example. If it were possible to build apartment buildings on the Hong Kong scale in or next to San Francisco, a sizable part of the daily traffic jam commuting into the city would disappear.

            2. It might be possible to greatly expand the highway network into the city–at what cost I don’t know.

            Neither of those changes would eliminate the congestion on local streets within the city, only the commute congestion.

            3. As I suggested a very long time ago (Chapter 16), a jitney system, a way of establishing hitchhiking for pay and so raising the average number of passengers per car, would permit much more transportation with almost no additional cost, since almost all of the costs would be ones already being paid by drivers with no passengers. Uber is a step in that direction, but one could go a good deal farther. That would ease in-city congestion as well as commuting congestion.

          • Viliam says:

            I guess is depends on what the mass transit looks like.

            I live in Bratislava, where during the day buses go in 5 or 10 minutes intervals. So I don’t check the schedule; I just go to the stop and expect the bus to arrive soon. The buses are maybe 30% slower than cars, but you don’t have to spend your time looking for a parking place — sometimes the one who took a bus arrives sooner than the one who took a car. Buses are generally clean, people who use them are generally clean and nice; I guess that happens when the buses are the default option. (Seems like “almost everyone takes the bus” and “only the underclass takes the bus” are two stable solutions.) While on the bus, I can e.g. read a book; in a car I would have to focus on driving. The cost of the bus is about €1 a day when using a permanent ticket.

            I don’t see a reason to use a car inside the city, other than as a status move. In the very few situations when it would be useful, I simply call a cab.

            (When traveling outside the city, it becomes the opposite, because the trains are kinda crap here.)

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            The solution to traffic congestion is well known, and will probably not happen in our life times.

            Traffic lines have the same cause as Soviet bread lines. Giving away goods at way under market price. If you simple price road access so supply can meet demand, traffic will flow at full speed, and an enormous amount of problems with modern city life will disappear.

            Sadly, in this one area, market thinking is taboo even for most conservatives, so the Bay Bridge will most likely freeze over before it can be driven at the speed limit during rush hour.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Squirrel of Doom

            If you treat road access as a market, you find it’s a monopoly with all the effects of that.

            While I’m sure the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would love to charge profit-maximizing prices to cross the Lincoln Tunnel, I don’t think the resulting tolls (probably well into the $100s) would make too many people happy.

          • quanta413 says:

            Hey, if they’ll pay it…

            But yeah, politically it seems hilariously impossible. The idea of high tolls sounds fine to me though. Although I think it may be best to make more roads tolls, not just have a free vs. $20 option.

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            For a monopoly road owner I could imagine mandating that they manage prices only to maximize traffic flow, not profit.

            Not sure if that makes a substantial price difference, but it should calm the worst fears.

            I don’t think the resulting tolls (probably well into the $100s) would make too many people happy.

            Well, it would have some very good effects. Anyone willing to pay the price could drive this road at full speed whenever they wanted. That opens a lot of possibilities.

            If they’d be “happy” or not is debatable, but anyone who paid the toll would do so voluntarily and consider it the best use of that money.

            Also note that high prices would only be for rush hour. For the vast majority of roads – I don’t know about the Lincoln Tunnel – driving would be free most of the 168 hours of the week.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I expect the flow-maximizing price and the profit-maximizing price are pretty similar; once you’ve started making a bite in flow with your pricing, increasing price even more will make a bigger bite.

            But even if it’s not, once you’re not talking about the provider setting prices for profit, you’re not really talking about a “market” any more, you’re just talking tolling policy. The good things you get from markets come from competitive ones; a government monopoly is not that.

          • Brad says:

            How about we start with eliminating free parking and parking zoning requirements and go from there?

            There’s no monopoly problems there. Any landowner can choose to complete with government parking if he chooses.

          • albatross11 says:

            I am not sure about that. I’ve heard the claim that parking enforcement can be run mainly for revenue[1], or mainly for keeping the desired pattern of usage of parking spaces (making sure that stores that count on customers parking nearby keep getting a steady flow of business). I would expect that traffic fees would face a similar tradeoff.

            [1] Like all forms of policing for a profit, this creates awful incentives. For example, making the rules for parking extra confusing so you can assess fines is a good strategy when you’re trying to maximize revenue.

          • albatross11 says:

            Thinking more about it, I think there’s a more general pattern:

            You have normal fees that amount to the predictable cost of doing something. That is, parking here costs $5/hour, or driving downtown at rush hour costs a $10 flat fee per day, or you pay 12% APR on your credit card, or whatever.

            And then, you have fines of some sort to encourage proper behavior. Like if someone parks illegally, they get an expensive parking ticket. If someone drives in the HOV lane without permission, they get an expensive traffic ticket. If someone pays their bill late, they pay a $20 late fee.

            The more general version of the evil pattern is to start using those rule-enforcing fines/fees to maximize revenue. That encourages opaque and confusing rules, tweaking the rules to cause more people to break them, zero tolerance for any violation of the rules no matter how trivial or unintentional, etc. It’s a way to bury the actual costs in a smokescreen of confusing rules and hostile enforcement, and it rightly leaves the impression that you’re being ripped off when you get hit with a surprise fee or fine.

            I wish I saw a way to get our society to move away from this stuff. In policing, we need to move entirely away from it, but I wish I could entirely avoid businesses that did this kind of thing, too.

          • gbdub says:

            The other problem is that it’s hard to balance penalties such that they are actually punitive but not draconian.

            On campus in college, parking sucked and any of the university owned spaces required expensive permits that were often impossible for students to obtain at any price.

            But a parking ticket was only something like $20 and you could pay it online. So if you were rich or in a particular hurry, you’d just park illegally and pay the ticket.

            Then again maybe that’s an appropriate outlet – most spaces aren’t really illegal or unsafe, just reserved, and there’s no reason not to give them to a person motivated to pay a high one-day price.

          • Jiro says:

            Traffic lines have the same cause as Soviet bread lines. Giving away goods at way under market price. If you simple price road access so supply can meet demand, traffic will flow at full speed, and an enormous amount of problems with modern city life will disappear.

            I want to minimize traffic lines because I want people to be able to use roads, not because minimizing traffic lines is a terminal goal of mine. Minimizing traffic lines by pricing people out of using roads won’t achieve my goal.

            Also, if baking bread were as hard as building roads, fixing Soviet bread lines by raising the price of bread would have had the same problem. At some price, you’d not have any bread lines because only a small number of people would be able to afford the small supply of bread, and since baking bread is (hypothetically) hard, they couldn’t just ramp up the bread supply.

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            I want to minimize traffic lines because I want people to be able to use roads, not because minimizing traffic lines is a terminal goal of mine. Minimizing traffic lines by pricing people out of using roads won’t achieve my goal.

            I’ll just point out that when traffic volume is set to the capacity of the road, traffic flows at full speed, which means more cars can pass through than under the current gridlock system.

            Also, higher prices promotes car sharing, which should mean there are more people in each car.

            So under my system substantially more people would be using the roads than today. I know intuition says that with higher prices fewer people would be able to drive, but as so often in Economics, reality is counterintuitive.

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            One last point: In the current gridlock system, people don’t pay in money to drive during rush hour, but they do pay a lot in time.

            You can think of road pricing as rebalancing between the time-rich and the money-rich, rather than the poor and the rich.

            I think for the vast majority of drivers, the dollars per hour tradeoff would be very attractive.

            Even for the semi-fictional employed poor person who somehow can afford a car, it should often mean they can spend some of the time gained doing paid work and come out ahead.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There is a peak level of usage for maximizing throughput of a road. Adding drivers to the road over this level reduces the overall throughput. Proper metering keeps us at this level.

            This level is probably the same one that maximizes revenue and probably the same one that maximizes individual speed, but not necessarily so, since I can think of weird cases where it’s not.

          • Anthony says:

            @albatross11 – I’ve heard that Berkeley parking is (or was?) run to maximize ticket revenue, not to maximize parking turnover. The merchants want to maximize turnover – people don’t spend nearly as much in hours 3 and 4 of their shopping trips as in hours 1 and 2. To maximize turnover, you should patrol each block every two hours. People will learn to not overstay their meters (or the free time-limited spaces), and will stay only 2 to 2½ hours. However, to maximuze revenue, you should patrol each block only every four hours. That way, people stay longer, and only occasionally get ticketed, but there are many more tickets written. And you spend half as much on meter maids.

            @gbdub – in the early 90s, San Francisco had to raise parking fines downtown because the (mostly private) garages were charging *more* than the expired meter or red zone fines.

      • Murphy says:

        Some people still live without journey planners.

        It’s kinda weird because sometimes you’ll be talking to an older person in my city and I’ll mention something about my commute and they’ll start talking about connecting busses as if they’re imparting the lost wisdom of the ancients and I’m just like “no… I’m pretty sure I have a close to optimal route already, see, when I simulate taking that route on my pocket-super-computer it’s slower by half an hour”

        Because I only had to deal with big-city commuting in the post-smartphone era where it’s all kinda trivial and it can even keep track of whether a specific bus or train is delayed right now this minute while they had to spend ages looking up tables of bus/train routes and trying to find a reasonable routes if there wasn’t a direct one.

      • LHN says:

        “Books in Print” is still published in hardcopy:

        https://greyhouse.com/bowk_bip.htm

        (FWIW, the search I used was: “books in print” reference)

    • Szemeredi says:

      Maybe it was never a simple task, but I can’t imagine navigating a city I’m unfamiliar with without Google Maps (though apparently Tyler Cowen does this(!))

      • toastengineer says:

        Having lost access to smartphones shortly after moving to a new town, honestly, it’s kinda better. You can still get a pretty good idea of where you need to go by looking the route up on Google Maps and memorizing some landmarks.

      • Lambert says:

        If you’re on foot, the trick is to keep your eye on landmarks on the horizon, as well as the sun/moon.
        And keep a treemeat map on you.

      • hexbienium says:

        I would expect “asking strangers for directions/recommendations much more often” to be a big part of the answer.

      • johan_larson says:

        Back in olden days, we used paper maps, and plotted out our routes before heading out. Sometimes we drew simplified maps of the routes on blank paper, with main roads and intersections to turn at, since consulting the main map was difficult while driving.

        • James says:

          I still draw little paper maps before I go out! I check Google Maps from my PC, but I haven’t got a smartphone, so once I’ve left the house I’m on my own.

          Getting lost (even having to ask for directions) is really the most embarrassingly anachronistic thing nowadays.

      • Yosarian2 says:

        It’s funny; I did well during the “unfold a roadmap and look at it and plan a route” era, and I do well during the “just program your GPS/ smartphone” era now. But there was this awkward in between time period when the main way I used to navigate was “print out a google map or mapquest of directions from my desktop at home and bring that with me”, and that was often a disaster because if I missed one turn on those directions I had no idea what to do next.

    • christianschwalbach says:

      To be fair, what you are describing is not something commonly done even pre-internet era. Perhaps yes in academia but not in common society. That being said, I do occassionally have legit concerns with myself forgetting pre-internet/non wired tasks more common to daily life. Ones that may actually be beneficial to my brain if I were to exercise them. (Navigation is a good recent example, though more of the smart-phone era)

  2. Doctor Mist says:

    I’m wondering if I’m Doing It Wrong.

    I see a new post on SSC, log in, read it, and check the comments. It says there are “MMM comments since 1969-12-31 17:00”. I read through them (okay, sometimes I skim), sometimes add a few of my own, and then, time permitting, go back to my life.

    The next day I log in again. It says there are “NN comments since “, so I start stepping through the results of a search for tilde-new-tilde.

    What I see is a bunch of new comments. But there will usually also be a bunch that I read yesterday, and often I will notice nearby on the page comments not marked with tilde-new-tilde that seem interesting but that I’m pretty sure I didn’t see yesterday.

    Does this match the experience of other people? Is there a workaround?

    I haven’t gone to the trouble of setting up a little scratchpad near my computer to record the actual time that I last read SSC and entering that by hand in the “comments since” box: I don’t want to cater to my FOMO to that extent. But it does seem odd to me that in the same session I will see both false negatives and false positives. I suppose the false negatives might be comments that were displayed yesterday but that just didn’t register because I was skimming too hard, but since it’s sometimes whole long subthreads it doesn’t seem very likely.

    Any thoughts?

    • toastengineer says:

      You can click the ‘[+]’ next to the “_ comments since,” it will drop down a list of usernames and date/time pairs; clicking these entries brings you to that new comment.

      Dunno about the accuracy issues; haven’t seen anything like that.

    • fion says:

      I sometimes check SSC on multiple different devices. The “new” comments are new since I last opened SSC on that device, so when I switch device I see a load of “new” comments that I’ve already read. From your comment it sounds like this isn’t what’s happening to you. Oh, and sometimes SSC logs me out and that makes them all “new” again.

      As for messages that aren’t marked new that I haven’t seen, that happens too. Sometimes when I’ve left a tab open and it refreshes.

      I’ve never had both problems in a single session. There’s so many comments, though, that my best guess would be that the ones that don’t say “new” but do look new are just caused by your skimming.

    • dodrian says:

      Note that the last time you visited the page is recorded separately based on whether you visited it at http:// or https://

      Also, while it seems to be fine today, in the past server time has been about 20 minutes off of Pacific Time.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Is that the same as whether I read it logged on or not? I’ve certainly seen that.

        I have fresh data. Yesterday I read IN SEARCH OF MISSING US SUICIDES, and saw, for example, Lillian’s comment about becoming homicidal on SSRI’s. It is dated June 2, two days ago. This morning I see that it is still marked as tilde-new-tilde, and the date box says

        41 comments since 2018-06-02 04:54

        So I guess the problem is that something is keeping that date from getting updated when I leave the page, or when I reopen the page.

        Maybe it’s because I usually open a tab for each of the last few entries and then read them? Seems unlikely.

        Anyway, I’ll quite harping on his, unless the smart guys who have programmed our otherwise very nice commenting system have other things I could try in order to help diagnose it. It just seemed like a nice opportunity when I saw how early I had stumbled onto an open thread.

        • dodrian says:

          As I understand it, the comment system is vanilla wordpress. The ‘xx comments since’ box and new comment highlighting is done after the page with some custom Javascript. If you can figure out some reproducible steps to trigger the bug, it’s possible a friendly Javascript coder on the site could submit a pull request. Though, here’s what I expect is happening:

          The site remembers last visits differently based on if you visit the site over http vs https. I’m pretty sure that it does remember the last visit correctly when you log in, however, if you visit the site at http then log in to comment, you will be redirected to https.

          Delete all history items from SSC, double check all bookmarks you have to SSC are to the https site, and avoid clicking on the links in the emails you get when new posts are put up (I think the email links are http). This might help your issues.

        • Lillian says:

          Here i go i sharing some personal stuff that’s relevant to the topic and the only acknowledgement i get is as an example of the notification system not working right. Feels bad, man.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I do apologize. I happened to notice it because it was memorable, and used it as my example partly because it did stand alone and wasn’t part of a long and noisy thread. At the time I had less of a model of what was going on with the comment system and I thought other people might similarly have seen it pop up repeatedly.

            Regarding your actual personal stuff: What a harrowing tale! The first time I read it, I thought, “Wow. I’m glad it all turned out okay,” but on rereading it I see that, while mostly true, that summary is still a little facile. Sorry again.

          • toastengineer says:

            A lot of times I think it’s an issue of “what the hell do you say to that,” so trapped between giving empty-sounding internet compassion and saying nothing most people choose nothing.

            If it’s worth anything, I had some pretty weird experiences with SSRIs too.

    • James says:

      I do pretty much the same as you and it definitely feels suboptimal, but we might be stuck this way. I guess that’s what you get when you reinvent the ’90s BBS wheel in 2018 HTTP and javascript.

      The worst is when I have an open thread open to read through the day (what else am I going to bounce off of when I’m bored at work?) and accidentally close my browser window or refresh the page and lose all my ‘state’ in terms of what’s been read and what hasn’t.

    • James says:

      Thought on comments you’ve already read not being marked as read: I think maybe when you comment, it fetches new comments but doesn’t update the ‘last read’ variable. This might explain some of what you’re noticing.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        This is exactly it.

        Let me draw this out:

        1. I read a post last night at 9pm.
        2. The next day, I read a post and the comments at 10am. I see all the new comments since 9pm yesterday.
        3. I comment at 10:30, which reloads the page. My “show new posts” is still set to 10pm yesterday. I am reading new comments since 9pm yesterday, which includes comments made between 10 and 10:30 today.
        4. I finish and walk away.
        5. At 2pm I reload the page. My “show new posts” counter is set to 10am, so I might end up double-reading the posts made between 10 and 10:30.

        There isn’t a super-easy answer here. At step 3, this used to update to 10:30 at this step, but it meant you missed all the old comments, and it was fixed, which was good because we didn’t miss all the old comments, but it means we double-read some comments.

        Maybe since I’ve drawn it out we can come up with a better solution. But remember that people tend to read sequentially down the page.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Hmm, perhaps.

          What I’m seeing doesn’t quite match what you say. To use your example timestream, it seems that making the comment at 10:30 is locking my “comments since” date to 9pm yesterday even when I close out the 10am session. Then when I start the third session at 2pm, “comments since” is still 9pm yesterday, so I might see some comments for the third time. And if I make a new comment in that session, it locks the date down again, so when I come back a fourth session tomorrow, it’s still stuck at 9pm yesterday.

          This may well be the price for the (entirely desirable) fix you describe to avoid missing comments. But I’m not sure. There must be two timestamps floating around: (a) the currently displayed “comments since”, which affects what comments are marked as “new”, and (b) the timestamp that should control the next session, which would normally be the start-time of the current session. Making a comment uploads new comments without changing (a), which means you don’t miss seeing comments. But the behavior I see makes me suspect that making a comment is causing both timestamps to get locked down to the original value of (a). I don’t see the rationale for locking down (b).

          I’ve never programmed Javascript and wouldn’t presume to tinker with this anyway. Obvious workarounds are (a) manually update the “comments since” time when I log in, and (b) don’t shoot my mouth off so much, so that I might have an occasional session where I don’t actually make a new comment.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I take it back. I don’t think there are two dates.

            If you end a session on Monday, the date presented on Tuesday is not the timestamp of your session, but the (earlier) timestamp of the newest comment visible in the Monday session. If there are no new comments when you read it on Tuesday, then the date presented on Wednesday will still be the timestamp of that newest comment.

            Adding your own comment during a session just suppresses the updating of that single date. So if I add a comment every time I visit a thread, I will never see the date advance beyond 1970.

            This is not a bug because, as Edward Scizorhands says, it means I won’t risk missing comments that come in when it updates because I add a new comment. There is room for an improvement, by maintaining two timestamps (as I assumed it did), but in the absence of any notion of how messy the context for all this machinery is, I gracefully surrender.

            This has been educational in a mild way; thanks everybody.

    • Lambert says:

      Not especially related, but I keep finding myself having to log back in, and it always resets to comments since 1970, when time began.

  3. knockknock says:

    Embarrassed by the comments? Oh my my my my my, now that’s a First-World problem…

    • MereComments says:

      I took “embarassed by the comments” to mean, “afraid that my near-Stalinist social circle could use them as a pretense to engage in one of their regular purgings and/or struggle sessions.” People have said this explicitly in the past.

      If the person wants to share articles but doesn’t feel safe doing so, then the no comments link is a perfect solution. I enjoy it here, but comments from randos (or even the regulars!) isn’t a critical part of the experience.

      • Jack says:

        I guess that’s one theory. Here’s another: some comments seem likely to cause more harm than good to their readers, generate more heat than light, and people don’t want to spread those. Reasons comments can generate more heat than light are varied and well-documented, ranging from being confused nonsense to being hurtful.

        • Viliam says:

          Maybe a useful feature would be to flag comments as “100% politically correct”, and then have a link which would display only those comments.

          So you could easily share an interesting article, where the only comment would be “Scott is a kulak and needs to die”, and if something goes wrong, you could simply pretend that you shared it because you liked the comment, not because of the article.

          And if people are too lazy to flag, perhaps we could make dozen fake comments, which would be displayed instead of the real ones.

          • albatross11 says:

            Villiam:

            Surely you’d want a blue-tribe-acceptable comments button, and a red-tribe-acceptable comments button.

          • Nornagest says:

            People are amazingly bad at modeling what’s politically correct to other tribes, so I don’t think this would work well.

          • outis says:

            @Nornagest: AFAIR, what the research actually shows is that conservatives have a pretty accurate model of liberal positions, while liberals’ model of what conservatives think is completely off.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Beware the Man of One Study, Unless That Man is Jonathan Haidt and the Study is Agreeable to Your Preconceptions

          • Viliam says:

            @albatross11

            Surely you’d want a blue-tribe-acceptable comments button, and a red-tribe-acceptable comments button.

            Nope, the red tribe is used to being ignored by the neutral media. 😛

            More seriously:

            I see the “tribes” on a scale (dare I say: “bell curve”?). There are hardcore blue people who throw a hissy fit whenever a white male has the audacity to express an opinion other than utter submission to the latest Twitter dogma. Their equivalent hardcore red tribe people would probably be some religious fanatics who throw a hissy fit whenever something goes against (their version of) Christian values. The latter are not going to read this blog; and thanks to the filter bubbles, most of the readers here probably do not have such person among their friends.

            Then there are the 90% in the middle of the curve who can survive a disagreeing comment or two.

            So we really only need one filter.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Reasons comments can generate more heat than light[…]

          For a sec I read that as referring Reason’s (the libertarian magazine) comments, which would definitely be a true statement.

      • I don’t think it requires a near Stalinist social circle.

        One of the nice things about SSC is the range of views–as I like to put it, from anarcho-capitalist to communist, from atheist to Catholic. But that means that any long comment thread is likely to contain comments that will be seen as inappropriate by someone used to conversations with a much more restricted range.

        • Anonymous` says:

          Other groups might see some of the comments as inappropriate, but I think there’s only one of those groups that will turn on you for the mere association with a website with inappropriate comments.

          • DeWitt says:

            You think very, very wrongfully.

          • @DeWitt:

            That’s my guess as well, but can you offer examples–groups other than left wing social justice types that respond with hostility to someone posting a link that includes a comment thread with comments members of that group strongly disapprove of?

            This is the only blog I comment on regularly, and I don’t have a sufficiently extensive involvement with FB to offer examples myself.

          • MereComments says:

            I’m going to just echo what Anonymous said. There’s a pretty small, but extremely vocal sliver of internet people who would judge and condemn a person in their social circle because they shared a link that contained what’s perceived to be some form of heresy in the comment sections. And frankly, it’s not ancaps, atheists, or Catholics.

            And to be clear, it’s not even progressives or most people on the left (hence, “near-Stalinist”). But it’s a concern that’s be voiced here before (which is why comment-less links even exist), and I think it’s worth framing it honestly.

      • tmk says:

        You are being very uncharitable. The comment section here has a very different tone than Scott’s articles. And dominated by certain ideologies.

        • j1000000 says:

          I’m curious as to what ideologies you think dominate here. I honestly don’t know if someone would find it too liberal or too conservative.

          I fine the comment section basically centrist and generally in line with Scott, but I’d be interested to hear Scott’s opinion of it since I think like twice in the past month he’s mentioned being embarrassed by comments.

        • Scott is an unusually reasonable person, so I wouldn’t expect all of the comments, from any political position, to live up to his standard.

          I observe more libertarians here than in most parts of online I frequent, but they strike me as more reasonable, on average, than libertarians and conservatives I see elsewhere online. I think that is true of people on the left as well–part of why I enjoy this place.

          How much of your “dominated by” reflects the absence of those ideologies—I’m guessing you are thinking of libertarians and/or alt-right/neo-reactionary types—from the places you usually frequent?

        • Reasoner says:

          I’m curious as to what ideologies you think dominate here. I honestly don’t know if someone would find it too liberal or too conservative.

          I like Viliam, but upthread he said:

          There are hardcore blue people who throw a hissy fit whenever a white male has the audacity to express an opinion other than utter submission to the latest Twitter dogma.

          This is the kind of thing a person says when they are in a filter bubble that disproportionately serves them examples of the Other Tribe being terrible & unreasonable. /r/shitredditsays is an example of such a filter bubble, and look how they turned out. Note Viliam’s statement about possible far-right ideologues lacks the same sarcastic edge.

        • LadyJane says:

          I’d generally describe Scott’s views as being fairly similar to my own: Slightly left-of-center on economic issues, but with a right-libertarian distrust of government regulations, crony capitalism, and centralization of power; very socially liberal, but also opposed to the tribalism and extremism of identity politics, while still willing to acknowledge that the social justice advocates have some points about systematic discrimination; and staunchly libertarian on civil rights issues like freedom of speech and freedom of privacy.

          The comments section, on the other hand, seems to be mostly populated by a mix of Trump-style right-populists (i.e. strongly nationalistic anti-establishment conservatives, sometimes but not always of an ethno-nationalist bent, who heavily emphasize their opposition to the perceived excesses of the social justice movement and egalitarian ideas in general), Rothbard-style paleo-libertarians (i.e. right-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists who are very socially conservative and/or nationalistic, rejecting the social liberalism of mainstream Reason-style libertarianism or Tucker-style culturally progressive anarcho-capitalism), and leftists (from center-left liberals to mid-left social democrats to far-left Marxists) who emphatically reject the narratives, methods, and goals of SJW-style identity politics. The militant anti-SJW mentality seems to be the one common thread uniting the majority of people here, with a few notable exceptions. It’s certainly enough to make me feel like the odd one out at times, and I don’t particularly care for SJWs myself.

          That said, the level of civility in this space is astonishing, and far higher than almost any other discussion board I’ve frequented.

          • cassander says:

            The comments section, on the other hand, seems to be mostly populated by a mix of Trump-style right-populists (i.e. strongly nationalistic anti-establishment conservatives, sometimes but not always of an ethno-nationalist bent, who heavily emphasize their opposition to the perceived excesses of the social justice movement and egalitarian ideas in general), Rothbard-style paleo-libertarians (i.e. right-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists who are very socially conservative and/or nationalistic, rejecting the social liberalism of mainstream Reason-style libertarianism or Tucker-style culturally progressive anarcho-capitalism),

            the comments section here? Because I really can’t think of anyone who fits those descriptions. Maybe Deiseach for the former, but she’s not American, so it’s awkward fit at best.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d call Deiseach a paleocon if I called her anything: she’s a religious traditionalist but not a fundie, strong on law and order, sympathetic to existing social programs but cynical about utopian schemes, critical of identity politics, not particularly anti-establishment. It’s an unusual standpoint for this forum but not an unusual one in the wild.

            I don’t think we have any prominent Trumpists. We do have a few refugees from the smoking ruins of old-school enn-arr-ecks, who might be mistaken for Trumpists by an incautious observer but whose thinking is really very different.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We have a few Trump fans, but I can count them on one hand.

          • Randy M says:

            “old school en ar ecks” heh… I remember those. Back in the heady days of, what, 2014?

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s, like, six decades in Internet years.

          • cassander says:

            @Randy M

            The old days? Those weren’t the old days. The old days were arguing with voldemort himself at UR when he still got into it in the comment sections back in 2008!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            Doesn’t “paleocon” usually have a racial, dare I say, racist, angle? Deiseach has a streak of social conservatism, but it’s more of the “you dang kids” variety than anything else.

          • Nornagest says:

            Everything in American politics has a racial angle.

          • toastengineer says:

            @Nornagest

            One side finds it very convenient to assume so, anyway. I really think the mainstream U.S. right just genuinely don’t care about race.

          • LadyJane says:

            @toastengineer: I’d agree that the vast majority of pro-establishment Mitt Romney type conservatives don’t actually care about race one way or another, though many of them are at best ignorant of and at worst indifferent to the conditions facing racial minorities in this country. Very few of them are actually racist in any meaningful way, if only because racism is generally considered gauche among the upper classes nowadays.

            But among the more firmly Red Tribe populist and nationalist conservatives that comprise the base of the Republican Party, there’s a very small minority of bona fide white supremacists and ethno-nationalists, as well as a significant minority of people with less extreme but still firmly racist views, and an even more significant minority of people with ambiguously racist or xenophobic views (e.g. “I don’t have anything against blacks, I just don’t like hood people,” “I’m okay with immigration, but I don’t want people coming here from backwards cultures”).

            The paleoconservative movement is small enough, obscure enough, and diverse enough that it’s hard to really do any kind of analysis of it as a group. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s probably a good deal more racists among the paleoconservative crowd than among either the Mitt Romney crowd or the “God and guns” crowd, but not to a point where you could define paleoconservatism itself as an inherently racist movement, as dndnrsn implied.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            Of course, Deiseach is not American, so the American obsession with race is presumably something that she has an outside perspective on.

            @LadyJane

            an even more significant minority of people with ambiguously racist or xenophobic views (e.g. “I don’t have anything against blacks, I just don’t like hood people,” “I’m okay with immigration, but I don’t want people coming here from backwards cultures

            “I don’t have anything against men, I just don’t like toxic masculinity.”

            “I’m OK with living near poor people, but I don’t want people coming here who reject Social Justice.”

            I’d argue that the blue tribe are also just people, who tend to have the same weaknesses as the red tribe.

          • “I’m okay with immigration, but I don’t want people coming here from backwards cultures”

            I think it’s worth distinguishing that position from racial prejudice. The fact that a fellow American has ancestors some of whom were from sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t tell us much about him, much less information than we get as a result of routine interactions with him.

            The fact that someone is from a very different culture implies a good deal more, so the attitude in your quote is defensible in ways in which racial prejudice is not–different cultures really are different.

            Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden” is routinely assumed, by people who are not familiar with Kipling, to be about race. In fact it’s pretty clearly about culture. The point of the poem is the obligation of the civilized to uplift the primitive, to convert them into civilized, which would be impossible if the difference was racial.

            And of course, in his Roman stories, it’s the British who are the “natives.”

          • Rothbard-style paleo-libertarians

            I am, at a tangent, curious as to what “Rothbard-style” implies. How do you distinguish that from other styles of libertarians?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            What I’m trying to say is: who’s the biggest paleocon name? Sam Francis? I don’t think Sam Francis and Deiseach have much in common about what they talk about.

          • skef says:

            What I’m trying to say is: who’s the biggest paleocon name? Sam Francis?

            Pat Buchanan seems to be the most famous qua paleocon (which admittedly isn’t necessarily the same thing as being the “biggest name”).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Pat Buchanan and Deiseach probably don’t have a great deal in common either. Deiseach’s hobby-horse seems to be short-sighted people with impulse-control issues who expect the world to accommodate their desires, even/especially when those desires change. I don’t know if I’ve once seen her complain about them dang furriners.

        • Viliam says:

          Note Viliam’s statement about possible far-right ideologues lacks the same sarcastic edge.

          Outgroup vs fargroup; controversial vs boring.

          The far right does not follow SSC. To be precise, by “far right” I mean mostly the religious right, because people like “neo reaction” are just internet trolls. (No, they didn’t elect Trump. All of their votes together are less than a rounding error.)

          SSC does not discuss far right topics. As far as I know, Scott wrote exactly one article about Jesus, and the article was meant as a joke. On the other hand, the popular far left topics (the identity politics mostly) are discussed here. Then the far left reacts in their blogs. Then Scott reacts to them. Then they call Scott an entitled white male. — There is no analogical interaction with the actual far right.

          Therefore wasting sarcasm on the far right would be about as meaningful as writing a thesis on whether 2+2 equals 4.

          • Randy M says:

            The far right does not follow SSC.

            I guess who is far and who is a troll and who is a “psuedo-radical” is in the eye of the beholder, but some that come to mind when speaking of far-right, such as Free Northerner, Spandrel, Handel, Steve Sailer, or Nydwracau have either commented to referenced SSC. The latter two don’t post much here or elsewhere afaik, and only the first one I know is religious.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like defining “far right” just amounts to deciding whether someone on the right is inside or outside the Overton window.

            In terms of preferred policies, my guess is that Sailer is probably mostly a generic Republican, but with more desire to limit immigration and less excitement about our next war/invasion/bombing/kinetic humanitarian intervention.

          • Reasoner says:

            Here are my current guesses:

            Sarcasm is toxic to a productive conversation. The possibility that someone might read your sarcastic remark about them should make you less willing to make such remarks, not more.

            There are some who would say that because you comment on SSC, you are too far to the right to be a reasonable person. The reason they think that is because they have emotionally salient examples of far-right folks like Richard Spencer, and they aren’t close enough to the right to realize we aren’t all Richard Spencer. I claim you are making the same mistake in reverse: There is a decent population of Ozy type people who are reasonable and concerned with SJ issues, but you have emotionally salient examples of unreasonable people concerned with SJ issues who are clouding your perception.

            https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2013-04-07

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE3j_RHkqJc

            Sarcasm just makes everything worse.

          • Aapje says:

            @Reasoner

            There is a decent population of Ozy type people who are reasonable and concerned with SJ issues, but you have emotionally salient examples of unreasonable people concerned with SJ issues who are clouding your perception.

            Villiam statement that this seems to be a response to, does not state that all SJ advocates are unreasonable.

            Perhaps he merely means to argue that SJ has a very large proportion of people like that, which seems like a defensible statement (especially since SJ theory provides justifications for bad behavior).

          • albatross11 says:

            Sarcasm and most kinds of verbal cleverness make it harder to figure out what you’re saying. If you’re discussing important things, it’s better to spend that verbal cleverness on making it easy to follow your point (especially when your point is unfamiliar or surrounded by emotional/moral landmines).

      • carvenvisage says:

        You’re making this needlessly partisan.

        Think about how long it it took James Macdonald to get banned.

        Or probably the best case to illustrate this is that of the holocaust denier who only got banned when someone found a thread where he was cackling about ‘redpilling the rubes’ and insulted scott personally. (Iirc Scott is jewish).

        It’s obviously not only stalinist-adjacents who might want to take an extra small step to cut out the place where people are saying who knows what.

        • rh says:

          Extreme reluctance in some circles to challenge antisemitism, including holocaust denial, can sometimes be a very specific phenomenon, not necessarily evidence of a more general tolerance.

        • Wrong Species says:

          It’s interesting that both your examples of bad commenters on the right end in bans. And I don’t remember anyone in that holocaust denial thread actually agreeing with him.

        • MereComments says:

          I consider a banning policy that is much more lenient than I’m personally comfortable with to be a feature, not a bug.

          I understand that this may sound like a partisan argument, but I’m trying to frame it as neutrally as I can: if you can’t share an internet article with your social circle because you’re afraid they will scour the comments for either wrongthink or just asshole trolls and use those comments to judge or possibly ostracize you, you have a shitty social circle. Maybe my guesses about what that social circle is like (based on personal experience) comes across as partisan, but I tried to not sweep up any broad groups in my assessment.

        • albatross11 says:

          Nitpick: I’m pretty sure you mean James A Donald, not James MacDonald (who’s a science fiction writer/EMT with, as far as I know, fairly moderate political views).

      • christianschwalbach says:

        I dunno man. Ive hit upn some pretty infantile comments here on SSC.

      • mupetblast says:

        SSC comments are way above average in terms of quality. Yet they’re still a problem, apparently. Geesh, how high does the bar have to be? At a certain point one risks being exclusionary and snobbish in the quest for perfect discourse. It’s biased toward the brainy and blessed.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Given comment-less links can be to the benefit of both us and the linked party if something is being posted into an echo chamber.

          • baconbits9 says:

            How is it beneficial for the echo chamber?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Because they can get exposed to Scott’s idea which is expressed in terms that make it palatable to the audience (by definition, given circumstances). The comments may give the chamber the chance to ignore the idea that the cross-poster wants considered.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      Everyone knows that you shouldn't read the comments, but the reason why you shouldn't read the comments on SlateStarCodex is a little different from the reason why you shouldn't read the comments on, say, YouTube.

    • mdv1959 says:

      I can’t claim to have read every comment, but to me the SSC comment section is an oasis of reason in a universe of sites filled with inflammatory, worthless, crap. I don’t even bother to scroll down into the comments of sites like LA Times or Washington Post much less Youtube. Reddit may be the other exception as long as you stay away from anything political. On SSC even comments I disagree with are at least well articulated and, to my eyes, respectful.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If the comments here are supposed to so terrible, I wonder what they think is a good comment section/forum.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          +1

        • Tim van Beek says:

          Do you use Facebook? There are a lot of groups that run on a very narrow range of opinions with administrators deleting everything that is even slightly off or (gasp! (sorry, couldn’t resist)) critical.
          This is similar to the experience during a campaign event.
          This is for self-affirmation, of course, not for discourse.

        • Error says:

          I would expect that forums get poisonous whenever the population grows to >1 monkeysphere. Past that point, good moderation becomes less and less optional.

          I find the SSC comment section less bad than almost anywhere else public, but it’s still gone vastly downhill in the last few years. We have a variety of ideologies, which is nice, but it does seem like a majority of the content amounts to “people on $OTHER_SIDE are terrible.” We’re not much less mindkilled than anywhere else, we just manage to not all fail in the same direction.

          • albatross11 says:

            It looks to me like what views or ideas seem offensive depends heavily on what you’re used to hearing, and whether the speakers have enough social status to get away with saying offensive-sounding things until they’ve normalized them.

            As an example, we had some pretty mainstream voices in our society speaking in support of torturing prisoners in order to get information to fight the war on terror. By my values, that’s pretty damned offensive and horrible. But enough high-status people discussed it and treated it as an issue to be seriously considered that it became normalized.

            More recently, we’ve seen Trump’s statements about banning Muslim immigration be described as offensive hate speech[1]. But *bombing* Muslims, drone-striking them, or invading their countries–that’s *never* offensive to talk about–indeed, after we bombed Syria over the use of chemical weapons, that’s when some of the pundit class started calling Trump “presidential.”

            My best model of this is that the Overton window (the bounds of acceptable discussion–the stuff that isn’t heard as offensive or problematic in mainstream discussions) is not the result of any intelligent process of deciding what ideas are good/bad or harmful/helpful. Instead, it’s the result of unthinking political/economic/social processes, with lots of people pushing things one way or another, but nobody really in charge.

            [1] As opposed to just a really bad policy.

          • but it does seem like a majority of the content amounts to “people on $OTHER_SIDE are terrible.”

            I would have said a small minority.

            I suggest an actual experiment. Go down a recent comment thread, for this and some other post, and see what fraction of the posts actually fit that pattern.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            I think the emblematic thing is the way that David Frum, especially, has been embraced by some mainstream left-wingers. He is, according to the Atlantic’s website, a senior editor there; it’s one of the major mouthpieces for respectable left-of-centre liberalism in the US. I’ve seen various people I know, liberals all, praise his anti-Trump articles. David Frum probably has more Muslim blood on his hands than Trump does, given his role in propagandizing for a war that saw the peace bungled, leading to chaos.

            The attitude of some people seems to be, sure, killing foreigners is OK, but let’s not be crude about it, and that killing someone while ostensibly trying to help them (often in a particularly halfassed manner, if it wasn’t a bogus pretext in the first place) is morally better than excluding them for bigoted reasons.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @albatross11

            More recently, we’ve seen Trump’s statements about banning Muslim immigration be described as offensive hate speech[1]. But *bombing* Muslims, drone-striking them, or invading their countries–that’s *never* offensive to talk about

            One of the worst things about the Trump era is having listen to people who have invented an imaginary Trump to replace the sordid reality of the man now occupying the white house. Trump didn’t just say that he wanted to ban Muslims from immigrating to the US, he suggested murdering the families of suspected terrorists, using methods of torture “beyond waterboarding”, and pillaging Arab countries of their natural resources.

            You may wan’t an isolationist anti-immigration president, but what you’ve got is an advocate of the most brutal and naked kind of imperialism.

          • mdet says:

            Assuming that David Frum DOES have the blood of thousands of people on his hands for advocating military intervention, does that mean he should be treated as beyond the pale when he writes on healthcare or gun control?

            I want to say no, his writing should be judged on its own. On the other hand, if a mass shooter who had killed two dozen people just so happened to write really great articles on the costs & benefits of environmental regulation, I’m not sure I’d endorse them. Is it just cause Frum didn’t personally pull the trigger, only argued for doing so?

          • albatross11 says:

            mdet:

            I think the right way to approach this is not in a moral frame (you have the blood of thousands on your hands, therefore you must not be heard from again)–it’s in a rationalist frame (one of the biggest and most important policies you have argued strenuously for in your career was a godawful disaster, so we should keep that in mind when you propose another policy decision). Also, if you think he was unusually dishonest or illogical in making those arguments, that might lead you to discount his future arguments because you think he’s just not that good at predicting what’s going to happen if we follow some proposed course of action.

          • Error says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I probably won’t actually do that. Partly because it would be boring and frustrating and work, but I think mostly because I suspect that you are right; I’m overestimating the level of toxicity.

            On second reflection a weaker version might still hold, though. I have the subjective impression that a lot of large subthreads start from somebody doing the Thing, and others being unwilling to let it stand (albeit not always doing the same Thing themselves). I think my brain may be counting such threads as if every post was toxic instead of just the originator. What would you think of “A majority of comments have at least one ancestor exhibiting the behavior I described.”?

          • Randy M says:

            Assuming that David Frum DOES have the blood of thousands of people on his hands for advocating military intervention, does that mean he should be treated as beyond the pale when he writes on healthcare or gun control?

            David Frum should be regarded as some who, at one time, was either willing to countenance moderately high numbers of casualties for what he perceived as long term gains to peace, or was optimistic to the point of foolhardy. That should definitely color your perception of any wisdom he has on, say, healthcare policy.

            It shouldn’t put him into the same category as an actual murderer who enjoyed personally ending peoples lives. It is conceivable that the latter person could be less harmful in a position of great power, but as part of the social contract we agree to shun actual murders until and unless great contrition is shown, debts paid, etc.

          • albatross11 says:

            hyperboloid:

            I’m not denying that Trump has indeed made offensive and terrible statements. I’m specifically saying that the statements about wanting to ban Muslims from immigrating were not any more inherently offensive than the common ones where someone proposes some more bombing of Muslims to set them straight, but they were taken as much more offensive.

            Trump’s support for torture, alas, is mainstream Republican policy at this point[1]. Though normally its advocates prefer euphemisms (“harsh interrogation”). Was it especially offensive that Trump was open about calling what he wanted done “torture” as opposed to “splashing a little water in their faces?”

            Trump says horrible things pretty often. But somehow, his *saying* horrible things is more offensive than when we actually *do* horrible things. (And we’re probably fortunate that he’s pretty ineffective as a leader, so he hasn’t managed to do many horrible things thus far.)

            [1] And as best I can tell, it is a bipartisan consensus that nobody above the rank of corporal will ever face any serious consequences for honest-to-God war crimes done in the War on Terror. Hell, you can even end up as a Berkeley Law School professor or a CIA director with that on your record.

          • albatross11 says:

            Error:

            I think the construction “All those X are bad because….” is not super common on SSC, but it’s jarring and memorable (in a bad way) when it appears and is applied to your beliefs or those of people you identify with.

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11 & dndrsn

            I wonder if you reserve the same level of disgust for the defenders of our adventures in Syria as you do with those who advocated the iraq war. The US is somewhat less complicit there, though only slightly, and that war has certainly gotten more people killed, without the upside of creating a democratic country in syria, and with what should have been the knowledge of hindsight. Or if you prefer a more direct comparison, the Obama administration’s replacement of CIA abductions with drone strikes. Because your comments smells a little of pearl clutching and selective outrage to me.

          • albatross11 says:

            cassander:

            The way it looks to me is that our invasions and occupations in the War on Terror have been pretty disastrous, overall. They’ve cost us a lot of money, killed a fair number of our people, maimed a lot more, and killed piles and piles of foreigners, of whom probably fewer than 100 had anything to do with 9/11.

            They’ve been paired with half the country accepting torture as an acceptable policy for fighting our war, while the other half kinda-sorta opposes it as long as nobody important has to do any jail time[1]. Also with a policy of assassinating US citizens on the president’s say-so, alongside about a million other scary expansions of executive power. I don’t see a lot of evidence that this has made us any safer, even from terrorists. (We’re a lot less safe from potential power grabs from the executive branch or intelligence agencies now, which is a lot bigger long-term risk for remaining a free country.)

            I don’t think intervening in Syria was our responsibility. Nor do I think it would have been a good idea–given how badly our other interventions have turned out, it’s hard to see why anyone would expect that one to have gone well. (Note that the Congress under Obama seemed to share my evaluation.) Our intervention in Libya amounted to a commercial telling everyone on our shit list that they’d better get nukes ASAP, because if they disarmed and made peace with us, we’d turn on them as soon as it became politically profitable to do so. We’re still running soldiers all over Africa, and I imagine we’ll try really hard to get into another war there[2].

            My preference would be to see us back off on the aggressive foreign policy. This seems to be happening, to some extent, probably because the public is broadly kinda disillusioned with the constant wars we seem to fight for a decade or two at a time and never finish. I’m hoping that the next couple dozen times that politicians and pundits decide that it’s time to go off and invade and occupy (or bomb until their government collapses) a foreign country, there will be enough skepticism about it to keep us from sticking our dicks into the sausage grinder for another decade or two.

            [1] My preference would be for everyone involved in the torture of captives to get a one-way flight to the Hague for trial.

            [2] Note that in the classic style of outrage-reporting on Trump, the story when those special forces soldiers got killed in Niger wasn’t “What the hell are we doing getting soldiers killed in Niger?”, it was “Trump’s call to one of the war widows was insensitive because X.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            What the heck? I must have tripped the filter.

            @hyperboloid

            The families of suspected terrorists have been killed as “collateral damage” and so have people who weren’t terrorists but were in groups that were considered a little terrorist-y looking. Torture worse than waterboarding has happened. I don’t know whether US military involvement has actually increased US access to oil.

            Is it worse to do these things while pretending you are not, or to say that doing them is good?

            @mdet

            My issue is that Frum is in part – in a small way – responsible for the refugee crisis that probably helped Trump get into office and certainly helped the populist and far right in Europe. Respectable mainstream left-wingers will approvingly say “look, that Frum says Trump is a bad man!” when Frum criticizes trump for being, essentially, crass. Creating refugees seems to be more morally acceptable than refusing to accept them. This is an odd moral line to draw: if you set fire to someone’s house (or in Frum’s case, say “get the gasoline and matches boys, in that house lives a bad man!”) I think you are a worse person than someone who won’t let the now-houseless people crash on the couch.

            @cassander

            What selective outrage? I’m talking about Frum specifically because he’s gotten kudos for trashing Trump. If you want me to express my opinion about Obama foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa, here it is: disastrous! I can also condemn the Clinton administration if you’d like: it’s a bit odd to see Madeleine Albright, who has more dead Iraqis on her conscience than Frum, condemn Trump for maybe possibly kinda-sorta being a teensy bit isolationist, and promote American interventionism, which has been, like I said, disastrous in recent years. It has taken the form of going in, breaking something, half-assing the job of fixing it, and then getting out because it is no longer domestically popular.

          • Randy M says:

            My issue is that Frum is in part – in a small way – responsible for the refugee crisis that probably helped Trump get into office and certainly helped the populist and far right in Europe.

            Do you mean by advocating for Iraq, or for actions since? Certainly sans Iraq invasion the middle east would be dramatically different, but I don’t see the connection being so strong. Economic inequality is as much or more a motivation for the refugees as Syria war. As I understand it, Quadaffi (and other dictators?) were keeping the flow of migrants out of Europe until the west decided the lesson in Iraq was you just have to have your wars without boots on the ground, not that you can’t have them.

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11

            The way it looks to me is that our invasions and occupations in the War on Terror have been pretty disastrous, overall. They’ve cost us a lot of money, killed a fair number of our people, maimed a lot more, and killed piles and piles of foreigners, of whom probably fewer than 100 had anything to do with 9/11.

            I’d contend that lumping all the interventions together like this is a dramatic oversimplification of the events in question that obscures important distinctions and turns a factual assertion into a defacto moral one.

            They’ve been paired with half the country accepting torture as an acceptable policy for fighting our war, while the other half kinda-sorta opposes it as long as nobody important has to do any jail time[1].

            Again as above. A lot of different things have gotten lumped together under the rubric of torture, many of which don’t belong there, imho.

            (We’re a lot less safe from potential power grabs from the executive branch or intelligence agencies now, which is a lot bigger long-term risk for remaining a free country.)

            Eh, I suspect that my list of dangerous executive power grabs is very different from yours but I don’t think the point is unreasonable.

            I don’t think intervening in Syria was our responsibility. Nor do I think it would have been a good idea–given how badly our other interventions have turned out, it’s hard to see why anyone would expect that one to have gone well.

            We DID intervene in the syrian civil war. And we pushed our allies to intervene even more than we did.

            I’m hoping that the next couple dozen times that politicians and pundits decide that it’s time to go off and invade and occupy (or bomb until their government collapses) a foreign country, there will be enough skepticism about it to keep us from sticking our dicks into the sausage grinder for another decade or two.

            Have you met us? We’re not going to stop, there is too much of the crusader instinct in American culture. The important thing is to try to make sure we do it better, because for damn sure we’re going to keep doing it.

          • Brad says:

            Is it worse to do these things while pretending you are not, or to say that doing them is good?

            I think the latter is clearly worse. The hypocrite erodes the norm less than the person that outright attacks it. In fact, in some cases the hypocrite strengthens the norm.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            Do you mean by advocating for Iraq, or for actions since? Certainly sans Iraq invasion the middle east would be dramatically different, but I don’t see the connection being so strong. Economic inequality is as much or more a motivation for the refugees as Syria war. As I understand it, Quadaffi (and other dictators?) were keeping the flow of migrants out of Europe until the west decided the lesson in Iraq was you just have to have your wars without boots on the ground, not that you can’t have them.

            First, that “lesson” would not have been “learned” without a war in Iraq. The lesson that should have been learned was that removing a nasty dictator and creating a power vacuum doesn’t lead to everyone turning into liberal democrats and embracing the coming of the Kingdom of God Global Capitalism. Oh well. In the case of North Africa, removing the dictators there removed a big obstacle to both asylum seekers and economic migrants, both from North Africa and the rest of Africa, trying to get across the Mediterranean (by irregular means, of course).

            Second, the mess in Iraq, Syria, etc caused by American intervention followed by bungled reconstruction (Syria wasn’t on Bush’s watch, but without Iraq, probably not Syria) created a flow of asylum claimants. Not, as you note, the majority of asylum claimants – and isn’t it still the case that most Syrian refugees are languishing in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, not trying to get into Europe? Without that flow of asylum claimants, some European countries would not have made decisions/pronouncements that caused asylum seekers (with claims of varying chances of getting accepted) and economic migrants (often passing themselves off as refugees) to think that Germany or wherever would take in everyone who showed up, give them apartments, etc (when in fact, the German government, among others, is now kind of desperate to get people with little no chance of getting asylum for whom there are not jobs to leave, but simultaneously cannot force them to leave, because the optics of German police/soldiers forcing civilians into boxcars or whatever are kind of terrible).

            And then you’ve got populist and far right parties making hay off this. Even in Canada – where we hardly have boats of people showing up without documents; since Trump’s election there’s been people with asylum in the US (largely Haitians) afraid it will be taken away crossing the border, but nowhere near what Europe has seen; most refugees here are vetted overseas and the remainder are usually people who get here legally as tourists or students then claim asylum – there are all sorts of wild beliefs about a supposed threat posed by refugees, about how much government money they get, about how they are selected, etc etc.

            David Frum played a small part in this whole mess. He was just doing his job, and if he hadn’t done it someone else would have, but there’s precedent that isn’t a legal defence.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            I think the latter is clearly worse. The hypocrite erodes the norm less than the person that outright attacks it. In fact, in some cases the hypocrite strengthens the norm.

            The hypocrite might erode the norm while creating a new norm of pretending that you are still upholding the norm. With the outspoken boor at least you know what reality is.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m just saying that the link from Frum to migrant waves and European reaction to those is pretty tenuous in causality (unless you are thinking of something beside the destabilization of Iraq and his somewhat minor role in it); there were many many potential refugees with or without the invasion; we aren’t talking about the population of impoverished Iraqis, but rather most of the population of Africa.

            Without an invasion of Iraq, we may have continued to abide the dictators, or we might have intervened in Libya or Syria instead at some point over the last decades; if we did even after Iraq left us with high war weariness, why wouldn’t otherwise? It’s not like the Presidents since or elsewhere who weren’t Bush (or Blair, etc.) have been terribly restrained.

            And even if there had been no invasions, eventually the waves of humans seeking to improve their lives would have crashed on Europe’s shores and the culture clashes seeing now would be no less for lacking the ravages of war as excuse or the culpability of interventions as mitigation. Borders are semi-permeable membranes, and there is a very high diffusion coefficient that technology magnifies.

            It doesn’t mean Frum has good ideas, of course.

          • cassander says:

            @dndrsn

            Second, the mess in Iraq, Syria, etc caused by American intervention followed by bungled reconstruction (Syria wasn’t on Bush’s watch, but without Iraq, probably not Syria)

            I think this claim is so hard to sustain that it verges on the ridiculous. The proximate cause of the Syrian civil war was the arab spring, something that involved most countries in the middle east in varying degrees. The claim that invading Iraq in 2003 caused political unrest in a dozen or so countries in 2011 is rather extraordinary, and requires extraordinary evidence. Frankly, if anything, it gives credence to the wildest beliefs of the neo-cons, some of whom were convinced that a democratic Iraq would be an example to the rest of the arab world. It is a claim that has only been made in hindsight. Almost no one*, and certainly no one on the left, made the claim that the Iraq war caused the arab spring until it went badly and they could use it as a as a way to tar the bush administration with the failure of subsequent policy choices.

            * IIRC, a few of those neocons did make the claim in the early stages of the Spring, but they were widely derided.

          • quanta413 says:

            In fact, in some cases the hypocrite strengthens the norm.

            Are you claiming that sometimes hypocrites strengthen the norm because they might still punish others for violating it? Or are you claiming that hypocrisy itself can strengthen the norm?

            Version 1 of your claim is defensible. On the other hand, hypocrisy at high levels can be more damaging than flagrant disregard. It really depends on the norm being violated, how strong it is, and on the surrounding groups. Flagrant disregard for very strong norms can be crushed and is usually not very dangerous, whereas hypocrisy regarding strong norms can push them towards being weaker norms. On the other hand, flagrant disregard for weaker norms can rapidly destroy them whereas hypocrisy probably leaves them intact.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m just saying that the link from Frum to migrant waves and European reaction to those is pretty tenuous (unless you are thinking of something beside the destabilization of Iraq and his somewhat minor role in it); there were many many potential refugees with or without the invasion; we aren’t talking about the population of impoverished Iraqis, but rather most of the population of Africa.

            Without an invasion of Iraq, we may have continued to abide the dictators, or we might have intervened in Libya or Syria instead at some point over the last decades; if we did even after Iraq left us with high war weariness, why wouldn’t otherwise? It’s not like the Presidents since or elsewhere who weren’t Bush (or Blair, etc.) have been terribly restrained.

            And even if there had been no invasions, eventually the waves of humans seeking to improve their lives would have crashed on Europe’s shores and the culture clashes seeing now would be no less for lacking the ravages of war as excuse or the culpability of interventions as mitigation. Borders are semi-permeable membranes, and there is a very high diffusion coefficient that technology magnifies.

            Without American intervention in Iraq and subsequent bungled reconstruction, there wouldn’t be refugees from Iraq; I think there is a link between Iraq and Syria (see below) and US attempts to aid rebels in Syria helped make the situation there worse. Without those legitimate refugee claimants, there wouldn’t have been the situation of more marginal asylum claimants and economic refugees interpreting actions/statements of some European governments to mean that Germany or wherever was now open to anyone who showed up.

            @cassander

            I think this claim is so hard to sustain that it verges on the ridiculous. The proximate cause of the Syrian civil war was the arab spring, something that involved most countries in the middle east in varying degrees. The claim that invading Iraq in 2003 caused political unrest in a dozen or so countries in 2011 is rather extraordinary, and requires extraordinary evidence. Frankly, if anything, it gives credence to the wildest beliefs of the neo-cons, some of whom were convinced that a democratic Iraq would be an example to the rest of the arab world. It is a claim that has only been made in hindsight. Almost no one*, and certainly no one on the left, made the claim that the iraq war caused the arab spring until it went badly and they could use it as a as a way to tar the bush administration with the failure of subsequent policy choices.

            You don’t see a link between Islamist radical insurgency in Iraq and elsewhere? They got a chance to build networks and taste some powder in the Iraqi insurgency.

            EDIT: In both cases, I’m not saying Frum is the devil, or whatever. I’m saying that American intervention has been disastrous over the last 15 years, and Frum played his part in propagandizing for the first leg of it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            On hypocrisy:

            People breaking a rule while paying lip service to it creates a situation of incomplete information that may cause more people to break it than is the case otherwise, keeps people getting into situations from making educated decisions, etc.

            In the case of, say, concluding that the best way to take out some evil terrorist bad guy is to blow him up with his entire family while they’re having brunch, the president or whoever coming out and saying “we have made the decision to kill this guy, his wife, his sons, his daughters, his servants, and their dog” is probably going to be making the decision differently than if they define “combatant” so his sons are combatants, the servants are combatants, the dog was a guard dog, and then massage down the number of women killed, and if that gets out, then, so sad, a tragic accident, did not know they were there, oh well, these things happen.

            If you can pretend to others, and to yourself, that a bad thing was an ugly but necessary thing, or an ugly but necessary thing was a good thing, you are more likely to do that thing.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn

            You don’t see a link between Islamist radical insurgency in Iraq and elsewhere? They got a chance to build networks and taste some powder in the Iraqi insurgency.

            Direct links are few and tenuous, and where they do exist, I think you’ve reversed the causation. It wasn’t that Iraq gave these people a love of insurgency, but that insurgencies attract particular sorts of people, especially when they’re being funded by outside players, which was happening from very early on in Syria.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Direct links are few and tenuous, and where they do exist, I think you’ve reversed the causation. It wasn’t that Iraq gave these people a love of insurgency, but that insurgencies attract particular sorts of people, especially when they’re being funded by outside players, which was happening from very early on in Syria.

            Softball players might lead to softball leagues, but you’re going to find more players when a softball league gets founded, and they’re going to be better players if it’s a bigger league, on average. Sure, if nobody cares about softball, there won’t be a league in the first place. The insurgency in Iraq was a proof of concept, along with various others, going back at least to the Soviet-Afghan war.

          • cassander says:

            @dndrsn

            Softball players might lead to softball leagues, but you’re going to find more players when a softball league gets founded, and they’re going to be better players if it’s a bigger league, on average.

            Sure, but playing softball doesn’t get large numbers of players killed every season.

            The insurgency in Iraq was a proof of concept

            It wasn’t proof of concept, they lost, badly. It took a while, but they lost. When syria started up, it was two or three years later, in a different country for different reasons, largely by different people, and the survivors eventually joining back in. I think the most you can say is that the Syrian insurgency might have been made a bit more efficacious thanks to Iraq, but that effect pales in comparison to the billions of dollars of aid that came in with the blessing of the US.

          • Wrong Species says:

            It amazes me that someone would blame the US for the Syrian Civil War. It just goes to show that no matter what the US does, it will be blamed for all the worlds problems. The war wasn’t even started by Islamist militants. It was initiated by defecting military officers in response to protests which came about from events in Tunisia. America has very little to do with any of that.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Sure, but playing softball doesn’t get large numbers of players killed every season.

            Young men seem, in general, relatively willing to go to war given the chance of getting killed or maimed – which is hardly a secret. Especially if they believe they are fighting for a good cause.

            It wasn’t proof of concept, they lost, badly. It took a while, but they lost. When syria started up, it was two or three years later, in a different country for different reasons, largely by different people, and the survivors of the first round eventually joined back in. I think the most you can say is that the syrian insurgency might have been made a bit more efficacious thanks to iraq, but that effect pales in comparison to the billions of dollars of aid that came in with the blessing of the US.

            They lost, but they gave the US a bloody nose – when you consider what the US gameplan and expectations were going in, I hardly think you can say the US had a strong victory. Regardless, I think we can agree that US interventionism in the region has been disastrous over the last 15 years. Frum played his part in the first leg of that.

            @Wrong Species

            Had the US gone all-in supporting the rebels, or had the US stayed entirely hands off (I doubt they would have supported Assad) things would not have dragged on as they did. Are we going to pretend the US didn’t support rebels?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            When syria started up, it was two or three years later, in a different country for different reasons, largely by different people, and the survivors of the first round eventually joined back in.

            I think this understates the role played by Iraqi insurgents in Syria: I am far from an expert on this stuff, but I believe it is pretty well-accepted that ISIS and the Nusra Front, two important groups of insurgents in Syria, were founded by a mix of ex-Baathists and jihadists, who met in American detention in Iraq; presumably without the invasion, there would have been no opportunity for these people to meet in such a fashion, and the Baathists in particular would be…I don’t know what they’d be doing, but something other than spearheading the ISIS invasion of Syria.

            While this is compatible with your formulation, in that ISIS only came to Syria a year or so after the original protests, I think your version implies only a very loose connection between jihadist groups in Syria and those in Iraq, which I am not sure is true.

            EDIT to say that I accidentally clicked “Report” instead of “Reply” when trying to respond to Cassander, so apologies for that.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            It amazes me that someone would blame the US for the Syrian Civil War. It just goes to show that no matter what the US does, it will be blamed for all the worlds problems. The war wasn’t even started by Islamist militants. It was initiated by defecting military officers in response to protests which came about from events in Tunisia. America has very little to do with any of that.

            This is true, but we did pour gasoline all over that fire by aiding the rebels and encouraging our allies to do the same

            @dndnrsn says:

            Young men seem, in general, relatively willing to go to war given the chance of getting killed or maimed – which is hardly a secret. Especially if they believe they are fighting for a good cause.

            I agree completely, which is precisely why I think that arguing that iraq gave these young men a taste for warfare is silly. What it did is get a lot of people with a taste for war killed.

            They lost, but they gave the US a bloody nose –

            The fight in syria had little do with the US for almost 4 years. Hell, we were supporting the insurgents there! They were de-facto allied with the US!

            when you consider what the US gameplan and expectations were going in, I hardly think you can say the US had a strong victory. Regardless, I think we can agree that US interventionism in the region has been disastrous over the last 15 years. Frum played his part in the first leg of that.

            Again, unless you’re planning on condemning basically everyone who supported anything we did in the foreign policy arena over the last 15 years, this reeks of special pleading or isolated demands for rigor.

            @Eugene Dawn says:

            presumably without the invasion, there would have been no opportunity for these people to meet in such a fashion, and the Baathists in particular would be…I don’t know what they’d be doing, but something other than spearheading the ISIS invasion of Syria.

            They might be spearheading an organization with a different name, but they’d be doing pretty much what they are now. The connections between the groups you mention are indeed lose. Such is the nature of terrorist cells.

            EDIT to say that I accidentally clicked “Report” instead of “Reply” when trying to respond to Cassander, so apologies for that.

            Pretty sure the report button is still broken

          • John Schilling says:

            but I believe it is pretty well-accepted that ISIS and the Nusra Front, two important groups of insurgents in Syria, were founded by a mix of ex-Baathists and jihadists, who met in American detention in Iraq;

            Perhaps, but we’re talking about alleged American responsibility for the Syrian Civil War. Which started in either March or July of 2011, depending on how you define “war”. The Nusra front didn’t exist as even a name until January 2012, and ISIS didn’t come about until April 2013.

            No doubt some of the militants who would later comprise those organizations, drifted over the border to cause trouble in sparsely-populated Eastern Syria as soon as the Civil War gave them the opportunity. But the first 20,000 or so people to die in that conflict, were almost all Syrians killed by other Syrians for purely Syrian reasons. The same will almost certainly be true of the last 20,000.

            This wasn’t ISIS’s war, and it wasn’t America’s war. Those players just came to meddle for a time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            I agree completely, which is precisely why I think that arguing that iraq gave these young men a taste for warfare is silly. What it did is get a lot of people with a taste for war killed.

            You make a war, you attract people, though. Some people who wouldn’t have a taste for war pick it up. Some people end up in it even if they don’t have a taste. Some people who might want war don’t have a war to fight in so they get in smaller kinds of trouble, or maybe even no trouble at all.

            The fight in syria had little do with the US for almost 4 years. Hell, we were supporting the insurgents there! They were de-facto allied with the US!

            I thought we were referring to the Iraqi insurgency?

            Again, unless you’re planning on condemning basically everyone who supported anything we did in the foreign policy arena over the last 15 years, this reeks of special pleading or isolated demands for rigor.

            That’s pretty close to what I’m doing, with regard to US intervention in the Middle East and North Africa. The Iraq War might have worked out if there had been a hardcore commitment on the part of the leadership to figuring out how to do the job right, then doing that the first time. Instead, the only people who really look like they did their job well were the military, and that’s relative – a lot of the time they were being asked to do stuff they weren’t meant for (can’t be tooled up to fight a conventional war and do especially hardcore policing at the same time; something something can’t bend two bows). A lot of decisions were made for domestic politics reasons, and that’s a great way to make bad foreign policy/military decisions. The neocons who led the way were either deluded, deluding themselves, or lying – you go into a country with a major sectarian split, create a power vacuum, you better have a damn good plan for how to fix it.

            It’s definitely not an isolated demand for rigour; I’ve already said this isn’t just about Frum or Bush. The Obama administration arguably managed to make the mess they were handed worse. They got involved elsewhere in ways that went bad – often doing the worst-of-both-worlds compromise (you see two guys fighting, either you stay out, or you clobber one; you don’t sorta jab a little and yell a few insults to one or the other side). And then of course there’s what Albright said:

            But if we have to use force, it is because
            we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we
            see further than other countries into the future, and we see the
            danger here to all of us.

            I can’t think of a word for that other than “messianic” – American involvement in the Middle East and North Africa clearly show that if the US sees further than other countries into the future, then nobody else must be able to see at all.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @John Schilling @Cassander

            Yes, I agree that the Syrian Civil War is more independent of America and the Iraq War than not; I certainly don’t want to endorse dndnrsn’s apparent argument that “without Iraq, probably not Syria”. However, he does say that there is ‘a link between Islamist radical insurgency in Iraq and elsewhere”, and I think this is supportable, and Cassander’s dismissal that “Direct links are few and tenuous” is unconvincing.

            Lastly, I think Cassander’s response to my comment, that “The connections between the groups you mention are indeed lose. Such is the nature of terrorist cells” misses the point: Haji Bakr would not be a terrorist absent the invasion of Iraq. He would be an Iraqi Army Colonel still, not radicalized by time in an American jail. The fact that the ISIS invasion of Syria was undertaken by someone with a military and intelligence background, which presumably had some role in its success, owes at least in part to the invasion.

          • albatross11 says:

            In the case of norms against torture, I think the argument would be that by upholding the norm in public while quietly having your guys apply the electrodes to the bad guys’ tender bits in a dark room somewhere, you at least are leaving the public norm intact. And in practice, if the whole thing had been kept hushed up, at least we wouldn’t have support for torturing prisoners as a mainstream political position.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnsrn:

            Do you have a citation or something for the claim that without US support for rebel groups, the Syrian civil war would have been over a lot more quickly? I’m definitely not an expert here, but that sounds like a pretty strong claim.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            Regarding torture, it doesn’t matter whether or not there’s a public norm against torture if torture is happening. The purpose of norms is to cause things to happen or keep them from happening, isn’t it?

            Regarding the Syrian civil war, doesn’t it stand to reason that supporting the weaker side, or one side in a case where they are evenly matched, will prolong a conflict? If the goal was to make the conflict over as quickly as possible – and given that longer wars tend to be nastier, I think this is the humanitarian goal – they should have either offered overwhelming assistance to the rebels, or did nothing.

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11 says:

            Do you have a citation or something for the claim that without US support for rebel groups, the Syrian civil war would have been over a lot more quickly? I’m definitely not an expert here, but that sounds like a pretty strong claim.

            It’s not just US support, but the support of most of the gulf countries as well. Maybe Syria would have fallen apart just as badly anyway, but I find that very unlikely. Also, external support and sources of funds tend to make rebellions much more murderous than those that have more grass roots support, which in turn tends to make government forces ramp up the violence as well.

            @dndrsn

            I thought we were referring to the Iraqi insurgency?

            Your claim, as I understand it, was that the fighting in Iraq contributed to the fighting in syria as a proof of concept that you could bloody the US’ nose through insurgency and by giving a bunch of people taste for/experience with fighting. I think the latter effect is negligible and the former claim works against your case because the syrian insurgency wasn’t against the US. Did I get you wrong?

            That’s pretty close to what I’m doing, with regard to US intervention in the Middle East and North Africa. The Iraq War might have worked out if there had been a hardcore commitment on the part of the leadership to figuring out how to do the job right, then doing that the first time.

            There absolutely was such a commitment. They got it wrong, at first, but then radically re-tooled what they were doing and managed to put things back together. The Bush administration took enormous risks in 2006. Bush fired most of his top defense team, generals and civilians, and brought in new ones with a very different new strategy and much greater investment. They did exactly what you claim you wanted them to do when it would have been a lot easier to pull out.

            A lot of decisions were made for domestic politics reasons, and that’s a great way to make bad foreign policy/military decisions.

            Domestic politics limits foreign policy always and everywhere. But frankly, I see less of that limit in the bush administration than I do in most US administrations. This is due largely to circumstance, they could have tried pretty much anything after 9/11 and people would have gone along with it, but the bush administration also made some hard choices that ran counter to conventional wisdom and popularity in 2006.

            The neocons who led the way were either deluded, deluding themselves, or lying – you go into a country with a major sectarian split, create a power vacuum, you better have a damn good plan for how to fix it.

            their entire plan was to avoid creating a power vacuum. They failed, but they had the sense to realize they were failed and change course, which frankly is more than can be said of most administrations.

            I can’t think of a word for that other than “messianic” – American involvement in the Middle East and North Africa clearly show that if the US sees further than other countries into the future, then nobody else must be able to see at all

            I wouldn’t say that we think we see further, but that we believe our truths to be self evident goods and implicitly assume that the only reasons people disagree with us are stupidity or evil. We are definitely messianic, and we’re not going to change, which is why I think trying to make us better at crusading is a more valuable pursuit then trying to prevent crusades.

          • My complaint about Frum isn’t his foreign policy views, about which I know little. It’s that he makes confident economic arguments based on entirely fictional historical facts.

            If he is as bad on foreign policy as on economics, it wouldn’t be surprising for his policy advice to have negative consequences.

          • albatross11 says:

            cassander:

            I’ll agree that torture can be slippery to define, but I think there’s a pretty easy shortcut: If a high-ranking government official erases the videotapes of it despite the possibility that this will get someone in trouble for destruction of evidence, that’s a pretty good indication that in their judgment, what was being done was probably illegal. If the intelligence community strongly argues that photos of your treatment of prisoners must not be released because they’ll be effective jihadi recruitment techniques, similarly, this is pretty good evidence that it’s torture.

            Of course, the simplest way to think about it is to imagine exactly the same things we did, done to American citizens by the Iranian government to get information. (Say, waterboarding. Or inducing hypothermia by chaining them in cold rooms and dumping cold water on them. Or just chaining them in painful standing positions for hours on end, and occasionally slapping them around and slamming them into walls to keep their attention. Or…) Would we consider that torture? (Spoiler Alert: Yes, we would. And the New York Times would have no trouble at all deciding what to call it. It’s only necessary to come up with a euphemism when it’s Americans doing it.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Your claim, as I understand it, was that the fighting in Iraq contributed to the fighting in syria as a proof of concept that you could bloody the US’ nose through insurgency and by giving a bunch of people taste for/experience with fighting. I think the latter effect is negligible and the former claim works against your case because the syrian insurgency wasn’t against the US. Did I get you wrong?

            In the former case, not just experience fighting for the guys on the ground, but building of networks, experience for organizers, that sort of thing. In the latter case, it probably fed the “guerrilla mystique” in general – not necessarily giving the US a bloody nose, but giving the power-that-is a bloody nose, and were a lot of the Arab Spring uprisings not predicated on the hope that they could get the US to at least send some air support?

            There absolutely was such a commitment. They got it wrong, at first, but then radically re-tooled what they were doing and managed to put things back together. The Bush administration took enormous risks in 2006. Bush fired most of his top defense team, generals and civilians, and brought in new ones with a very different new strategy and much greater investment. They did exactly what you claim you wanted them to do when it would have been a lot easier to pull out.

            [snip]

            their entire plan was to avoid creating a power vacuum. They failed, but they had the sense to realize they were failed and change course, which frankly is more than can be said of most administrations.

            Their plan to avoid problems from the power vacuum was evidently insufficient, given that it didn’t work. They changed course, and the way they started doing things differently probably did work, but it didn’t change that they screwed up at the beginning. Part of the reason was wanting to believe it could be done cheaply – nobody goes to war saying “this is going to be really expensive and hard!” – and part of the reason was wanting to avoid being seen as an imperial power.

            I think also that you’re pattern-matching me to someone who loves him some Obama and thinks Bush (I want to throw in one of the old mocking nicknames, but don’t know what’s filtered) was the devil. I’m not a fan of either of their foreign policies.

            I wouldn’t say that we think we see further, but that we believe our truths to be self evident goods and implicitly assume that the only reasons people disagree with us are stupidity or evil. We are definitely messianic, and we’re not going to change, which is why I think trying to make us better at crusading is a more valuable pursuit then trying to prevent crusades.

            Yeah, maybe, but getting better at crusading probably means fewer crusades. Doing a crusade right requires a big commitment. You can’t make many of those. Trying to do a big-commitment job with a small commitment makes nothing but trouble.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The US didn’t send any arms until 2013, long after the war had started. Syria also wasn’t 1980’s Afghanistan. The effort to arm rebels was half-hearted at best and never even attempted to overthrow Al-Assad. Hundreds of thousands of people would be dead even without the US sending in small arms and food to a limited group of rebels.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If they weren’t trying to overthrow Assad, then what’s the point of sending arms? To make trouble for Putin at the cost of prolonging a war by a little bit, or what?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Without meaning to endorse it (I don’t know enough to have a considered opinion), I have heard the claim that the US decision to arm the rebels is what prompted Russia to get involved directly, which may have made the fighting worse. As I say, I don’t endorse the argument, and anyway, presumably Russia bears its own responsibility for getting involved.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @dndnrsn

            The idea was to force Assad in to negotiations with the rebels. They couldn’t even achieve that limited goal.

            @Eugene

            Those probably aren’t connected. The US’ half-hearted attempts to arm the rebels was on the decline by the time Russia started airstrikes.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            In the former case, not just experience fighting for the guys on the ground, but building of networks, experience for organizers, that sort of thing.

            Those most of networks got crushed and many of those organizers got killed. I think it’s far from obvious that the iraqi experience was a net positive for syrians years later.

            In the latter case, it probably fed the “guerrilla mystique” in general – not necessarily giving the US a bloody nose, but giving the power-that-is a bloody nose, and were a lot of the Arab Spring uprisings not predicated on the hope that they could get the US to at least send some air support?

            The US did send air support fairly early in Libya, so it’s hard to disentangle those effects.

            I think also that you’re pattern-matching me to someone who loves him some Obama and thinks Bush (I want to throw in one of the old mocking nicknames, but don’t know what’s filtered) was the devil. I’m not a fan of either of their foreign policies.

            I realize that’s not your intellectual position, but you do seem to feel more heated about the bush administration than the obama. I don’t seem to see the same level of invective of the Samantha Power responsibility to protect crowd as I see for David Frum and the neocons, but maybe that’s as much my biased sensitivities.

            Yeah, maybe, but getting better at crusading probably means fewer crusades. Doing a crusade right requires a big commitment. You can’t make many of those. Trying to do a big-commitment job with a small commitment makes nothing but trouble

            I agree, and part of what I want to do is built the bureaucratic systems that are capable of and thus inclined to make them big, effective efforts. But if that’s what we want, I don’t think we get there by condemning everything we’ve done in the last 15 years as badly motivated and totally pointless. More expensive than it should have been, sure, but there’s a world of difference between Iraq and Libya.

            If they weren’t trying to overthrow Assad, then what’s the point of sending arms? To make trouble for Putin at the cost of prolonging a war by a little bit, or what?

            Honestly I think that a huge part of it was giving into domestic political pressure to do something.

            @Wrong Species

            the US didn’t send weapons right away, but we encouraged the saudis to do so pretty quickly, and they didn’t even have the pretense of arming only he “moderate” rebels.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Those most of networks got crushed and many of those organizers got killed. I think it’s far from obvious that the iraqi experience was a net positive for syrians years later.

            The US did send air support fairly early in Libya, so it’s hard to disentangle those effects.

            Well, it obviously wasn’t a net positive (I know what you’re trying to say). In general, I’m really surprised at the decision-making regarding everything post-Iraq, that the lesson that vacuums are hard to fill well wasn’t learned.

            I realize that’s not your intellectual position, but you do seem to feel more heated about the bush administration than the obama. I don’t seem to see the same level of invective of the Samantha Power responsibility to protect crowd as I see for David Frum and the neocons, but maybe that’s as much my biased sensitivities.

            Frum came up in light of albatross11’s post earlier – that shooting missiles at groups of Muslims that look maybe terroristy from high up in the sky is somehow more palatable than banning Muslim immigration. And that’s weird.

            R2P is a bad doctrine because the Right To Protect is not accompanied by a Responsibility To Follow Through.

            I maybe feel a bit more heated about the Bush administration because the earliest I was aware of politics beyond what my parents were saying was getting really disillusioned by a lot of the reasoning around Iraq. The rhetoric of “if you don’t support this particular bellicose solution, you don’t want to solve the problem at all, and in fact are pro-problem” really turns me off. Now I see it all over the place.

            I agree, and part of what I want to do is built the bureaucratic systems that are capable of and thus inclined to make them big, effective efforts. But if that’s what we want, I don’t think we get there by condemning everything we’ve done in the last 15 years as badly motivated and totally pointless. More expensive than it should have been, sure, but there’s a world of difference between Iraq and Libya.

            I don’t know even about badly motivated or pointless. The Iraq War could have turned out well, or at least better. I’m not even a rabid anti-interventionist. But “no intervention” is a lot more likely to happen than “good intervention” so…

          • cassander says:

            @dndrsn

            But “no intervention” is a lot more likely to happen than “good intervention” so…

            For any given intervention, maybe. But we will intervene somewhere eventually. If we learned anything from the obama administration it should be how hard it is for the US to do nothing, because they were quite temperamentally inclined against military intervention, and still did a lot of it. Thus, I’d think fighting the battle over doing it well will produce better results in the long run than the battle of should we or shouldn’t we.

          • LadyJane says:

            The attitude of some people seems to be, sure, killing foreigners is OK, but let’s not be crude about it, and that killing someone while ostensibly trying to help them (often in a particularly halfassed manner, if it wasn’t a bogus pretext in the first place) is morally better than excluding them for bigoted reasons.

            In fairness – and I want to make it very clear that I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here, and that I absolutely do not actually endorse this line of thinking – an argument can be made that it’s morally preferable to commit acts of war for the sake of pragmatic goals like resource acquisition and geopolitical influence than out of a belief that the other side is inherently inferior/evil and deserves to be wiped out. After all, the government apparently seems to believe that it’s worse to threaten, beat, or kill someone out of racial animus than out of greed, which is why hate crimes are punished more harshly than financially-motivated crimes; it’s the same principle, just scaled up to the global level. A profit-motivated war is also a lot less likely to lead to outright genocide than a racial or religious war, even if the process of conquest and occupation still results in massive casualties. It’s also a lot less likely to lead to discrimination against people of the targeted racial/religious group living within the invaders’ country. In all likelihood, it’s that last one that’s at the forefront of most American liberals’ minds.

          • Randy M says:

            killing someone while ostensibly trying to help them… is morally better than excluding them for bigoted reasons.

            an argument can be made that it’s morally preferable to commit acts of war for the sake of pragmatic goals like resource acquisition and geopolitical influence than out of a belief that the other side is inherently inferior/evil and deserves to be wiped out.

            It seems like you are arguing against a strawman of genocidal war, but that’s not really on the table, is it?
            War to wipe out the other side is not equivalent to “excluding them for bigoted reasons.” It isn’t.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Cassander

            It’s quite a stretch to blame the Americans for something they didn’t do, and something that was going to be done whether they suggested it or not. And I’m skeptical about the premise of your question. Obama wasn’t exactly buddy-buddy with the Saudis. Did he really try that hard to get them supply arms? And if so, was there really any arm twisting involved?

          • albatross11 says:

            Randy M:

            How about blowing up a few hundred Muslims and destabilizing a country for domestic political reasons? That seems at least as bad as bigotry in your immigration policies.

          • albatross11 says:

            cassander:

            An interventionist foreign policy isn’t something imposed on us by God. We can *decide* not to intervene in the next several kerfluffles. We can decide that civil wars in foreign countries aren’t really things we want to intervene in, because that seems to usually work out badly for us. We can decide that we don’t want to occupy some godawful place for a decade or two trying to do nation building, since we seem to either end up unable to pull out without causing a collapse (Afghanistan) or pulling out and watching things go to hell (Iraq).

            So my vote is that we decide *not* to intervene, by default, in civil wars, that we decide *not* to invade and occupy and set-to-rights any foreign countries unless there is genuinely no alternative, etc. I’d even like the president to routinely ask Congress for an actual declaration of war before embarking on some multi-year commitment. This is something we can do. The president just refrains from ordering the military to bomb, missile, invade, or occupy other countries.

          • Randy M says:

            @albatross11
            I think we’re going in circles? You already made that point and I was supporting it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Sure, intervention’s gonna happen. Sometimes it’s even a good idea. But one should always go in with honesty to themselves and the voting public, saying “this is gonna be hard, probably harder than we think, maybe a lot harder than we think.” I can’t think of very many cases of “this is gonna be easy-peasy” that went well that didn’t involve a grotesquely outmatched opponent and favourable circumstances. (In war in general, not just intervention)

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            It’s quite a stretch to blame the Americans for something they didn’t do, and something that was going to be done whether they suggested it or not. And I’m skeptical about the premise of your question. Obama wasn’t exactly buddy-buddy with the Saudis. Did he really try that hard to get them supply arms? And if so, was there really any arm twisting involved?

            I don’t think he had to try all that hard, but there was definitely a concerted effort to get them to do dirty work for us. And had we tried to restrain them, we could have achieved something.

            albatross11 says:

            An interventionist foreign policy isn’t something imposed on us by God. We can *decide* not to intervene in the next several kerfluffles. We can decide that civil wars in foreign countries aren’t really things we want to intervene in, because that seems to usually work out badly for us. We can decide that we don’t want to occupy some godawful place for a decade or two trying to do nation building, since we seem to either end up unable to pull out without causing a collapse (Afghanistan) or pulling out and watching things go to hell (Iraq).

            We could, but we won’t. God doesn’t impose our foreign policy on us, but our culture does.

            So my vote is that we decide *not* to intervene, by default, in civil wars, that we decide *not* to invade and occupy and set-to-rights any foreign countries unless there is genuinely no alternative, etc. I’d even like the president to routinely ask Congress for an actual declaration of war before embarking on some multi-year commitment. This is something we can do. The president just refrains from ordering the military to bomb, missile, invade, or occupy other countries.

            You can decide that all you want, but there are 320 million other americans, most of whom believe that democracy is Good, that dictators are Bad, and that if we go to town on the dictators, democracy will break out. We’ve been going for it about once a decade for a long time now, I don’t think we’re going to stop any time soon.

          • Brad says:

            I’m not sure I’ll have time today for much back and forth, but I read the responses to my last post and I think I may have jumped in and taken a position I didn’t mean to.

            When comparing actual torture, warmongering, extrajudicial killings and so on to talking about those things the former is always going to be worse. I think there’s any interesting conversation to be had if you hold conduct constant and look at hypocrisy vs open defiance but that’s not the one that matches the situation at hand. (So far as we know?)

          • Jiro says:

            If a high-ranking government official erases the videotapes of it despite the possibility that this will get someone in trouble for destruction of evidence, that’s a pretty good indication that in their judgment, what was being done was probably illegal.

            No, it’s a good indication that what they did looks bad on the evening news, which isn’t the same thing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            I think there’s a new OT later today; I might start a thread and @ you in it. In general, I think I have an overactive emotional response to hypocrisy. Intellectually, though, I think it is dangerous, because it leads people to think problems are fixed, things are getting better, things aren’t getting worse, etc, when they’re not fixed, when they’re not getting better, when they’re getting worse.

            A norm that survives but only for lip service to be paid to it isn’t really a norm. Or, it’s a norm that’s only selectively enforced, which is also bad.

          • albatross11 says:

            jiro:

            Let’s grant your premise that she had those videotapes deleted because she was worried about the domestic political consequences of showing them on the evening news. Now, maybe you can argue that while the treatment of our captives was so horrible it would have shocked the conscience of the American people and caused some huge political backlash against the CIA enhanced interrogation program, there was some chance that a judge and jury wouldn’t have convicted anyone because of some ambiguity on whether some specific kinds of mistreatment of captives were torture or not.

            But if the footage was so bad that seeing video of these things being done to alleged terrorists was going to so shock the conscience that it would cause a massive public backlash against the program and the CIA, then it almost certainly must have met the plain-language definition of torture[1].

            Anyway, this whole line of argument is really discouraging to me. Are there people actually arguing that water torture (the same techniques used by the Khmer Rouge and the Imperial Japanese Army and the Spanish Inquisition) somehow isn’t really torture? Or induced hypothermia? Or even beating people up (oh, sorry, “wall slamming and attention slaps”?)

            I don’t mean to be uncharitable here, but I don’t believe that you or any other advocates of this position would keep the same definitions, if it were (say) Iran doing this to American captured soldiers. Nor do I think there would be a single US major media source who had any trouble calling these techniques torture in that case. This is a funny variant of the isolated demand for rigor–the isolated demand for lack-of-rigor. When it’s done to us, any old common definition of torture will do; when we do it to them, there’s a lot of nuance and gray areas and, well, whose to say, really, if a few mock executions, threats to rape your kids, or chaining you naked in a cold room soaking wet for a few hours is really crossing a line?

          • Aapje says:

            A conservative radio host said it wasn’t torture, but he agreed to undergo waterboarding. He changed his mind.

      • knockknock says:

        Comment sections can serve as a reality check when writers are just knee-jerking their agendas, or going through the motions to fill space and meet a deadline.

        Scott A is pretty even-handed as well as informative, and his readership reflects that. Though sometimes I’d warn against operating heavy machinery while reading the comment section — drowsiness may occur.

      • Shion Arita says:

        Yeah i love the comments here. People who hold all kinds of different positions about everything actually communicate, and think. Of course not always, but anything over 0% is a freaking miracle.

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          +1

          I mostly lurk because anything I ever think to say has either been said or shortly will be said by someone with greater clarity and depth than I could have managed. This is true no matter what position I happen to take.

          At the risk of being uncharitable, the average person’s response to hearing something they find morally outrageous is to throw a tantrum, whereas here you’re treated to extensive (often very dry) descriptions of the errors someone is mistaking. In SSC jargon pretty much everyone here is a mistake theorist. I believe any objections to the comments stem from others being conflict theorists or not realizing mistake theorists even exist.

        • SpeakLittle says:

          I don’t have the intellectual chops to do much more than lurk and occasionally provide an anecdote. I keep coming back because it’s refreshing to see intelligent debate that doesn’t rapidly devolve into ad hominems.

    • carvenvisage says:

      Not that I’m going to be using it, but sharing blog links is a pretty ‘first world’ activity so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

      Also, correct me if I’m wrong, how harsh can your circumstances be if you’re in the habit of throwing out “my my my my mys…” to smugly provoke people?

      Doesn’t seem like a very safe habit.

      • knockknock says:

        Not a habit, actually the first time in my life I’ve ever used or typed that phrase. Yes it was smug, but it just seemed to me that if someone is “embarrassed” by the SSC comment section they are too very easily embarrassed. I was surprised to see Scott mention this as an issue. So I hoped to provoke discussion but not provoke anybody in particular.

        My feeling about comments in general is that if the shoe doesn’t fit, just don’t wear it.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Bean 2 questions:

      1. Would you happen to be aware of the Jutland animated video on youtube? It seems to say awfully similar things to what you’re saying. I couldn’t really detect any points of disagreement between them. Did you have any thoughts on it?

      2. I’ll be visiting the Texas (the Ship) in a few months, anything i should know to ask or check out in advance?

      • bean says:

        I’m aware of the video, and recommend it at the end of part 1. The reason the two line up so well is that the narrator of the video is also the guy who wrote the book I used as my main source. Nicholas Jellicoe is a lovely man and the grandson of that Jellicoe.

        Can’t really suggest much for visiting Texas, sadly. If you run into a guide, ask them to tell you about something. I mean in the generic sense. Always made my day when that happened.

    • bean says:

      Today, I’ve decided to do an Open Thread. Talk about whatever, so long as it’s not culture war.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What sort of Navy could win a war with the Culture?
        … sorry, I’m bad at this.

      • John Schilling says:

        Are battleships useful for waging Culture Wars?

        • bean says:

          Only when culture war turns into civil war, and let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

          • cassander says:

            But we are still allowed to feel morally superior to the landlubbers, right? Because when I signed up for this gig, I was promised moral superiority!

          • quaelegit says:

            Well taking the question both more and less seriously, what about that “show of force”/impressing civilians stuff you’ve talked about in the past? I guess that’s more diplomacy than culture war, but it seems like it could be related depending on the specifics.

            (Also as cassander points out, great for moral superiority/self-esteem boosts!)

          • bean says:

            Well taking the question both more and less seriously, what about that “show of force”/impressing civilians stuff you’ve talked about in the past? I guess that’s more diplomacy than culture war, but it seems like it could be related depending on the specifics.

            In any environment where threatening someone with battleship levels of force is remotely plausible, then we’re already much closer to Actual War than to the Culture War we have today. Battleships are impressive, but only a few lunatics expect the other side to start shelling them any time soon.

          • quaelegit says:

            Sorry, I was thinking of the “goodwill tours” type stuff. I can’t find it right now, but I think you have a post on what battleships are good for, and this is one of the non-war things you mentioned (I want to say this was a post comparing the usefulness of batteships vs. aircraft carriers but I could be mis-remembering). The more I’m thinking about it the less I think it maps to any bit of what we call the “culture war” though…

            And on topic, I’m enjoying the discussion of WWI in the actual naval gazing open thread 🙂

          • bean says:

            I think the post in question was either “Reactivation” or “Bringing Back the Battleships”. In either case, it doesn’t quite work. Battleships are amazing at giving an impression of firepower, but very few people are making decisions based on relative firepower in the culture war.

          • Lambert says:

            How useful are naval forces during civil war, anyway?
            And I don’t mean some BS war of secession where the country neatly divides into two contiguous sides.
            A proper civil war, where brother turns against brother, and everything’s a bit of a mess.

            I could easily see the maximum size of unit able to decide which side they’re on without being paralyzed by mutiny being smaller than the size of unit needed to operate effectively.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Navy is going to be the more technocratic of the military services(*). Their people are less likely to have been conscripted from the Oppressed Masses, and more likely to be middle-class careerists. Less likely to have been tasked with busting oppressed-mass heads in the buildup to the war, or otherwise living and working in close proximity to the oppressed. Less likely to have been corrupted or infiltrated by the opposition and/or opportunistic criminals. And more likely to understand the importance of keeping established systems and structures working as they always have, because poorly-run ships tend to sink with catastrophically fatal results in a way that Army bases don’t.

            So a battleship would primarily be useful as a place from which the government can pull groups of a hundred or so men with reasonable assurance that none of them will sabotage the mission. That they have only modest training with rifles and little in the way of heavy weapons, is secondary to that concern.

            Note that the Mexican Navy has been playing a key role in that country’s conflict with not-quite-revolutionary drug cartels, in large part because the Army cannot be trusted with serious operations. Though, the longer they are tasked with that role, the more likely they will succumb to the Army’s various maladies.

            * Air Force may not count as a military service for this purpose.

          • Lambert says:

            I suppose these are no longer the days of Kiel and Battleship Potemkin.

  4. johan_larson says:

    Any professional musicians here? I have a question.

    How does the typical pro make a living? The few I’ve known have stitched together a living from multiple sources: teaching individual students, accompanying or leading church choirs, playing in an occasional band typically for weddings, and teaching classes in music history or theory in classroom settings. None of them have had “a job”; it has always been a bunch of gigs. Is that the usual way to do it?

    • fion says:

      Not a professional musician, but have many friends and acquaintances who are.

      Most of them get by mostly on “a bunch of gigs”, but many of them have “a job” that is regular but a small number of hours, such as being the instrumental teacher at a school (the kind where students come out of class for half an hour for one-on-one instruction from the teacher; the teacher might only be in school one or two days a week).

      A few of them are in orchestras, which I think pays them a salary which is enough to get by on. They do bits and pieces of teaching as well.

      I think the short answer to your question, though, is “yes”. Most pro musicians do a bit of this and a bit of that. It sounds incredibly stressful and exhausting to me…

      EDIT: my aforementioned friends and acquaintances are all UK-based. I’d be interested to hear if the situation is significantly different in different countries…

      • flye says:

        Years ago I had a full time white collar job while playing piano in a jazz quintet on the side. My experience with two of our members led me to decide to continue with music only as a hobby:

        – Our surly bass player had converted from trumpet because he wasn’t getting enough gigs (good jazz bassists can always get work). He was a mid-50s Berkeley burnout, living in a craphole apartment, bitter about life, bitter about having to switch instruments despite having a couple albums out, bitter about having to make ends by teaching music in addition to taking any gig he could.

        – Our fantastic trumpet player was a fine individual, one of my favorite people I’ve every played with. Was good enough to be seriously considered for the Ray Charles band. He lived in a craphole apartment and made ends meet by teaching privately, teaching at school, and taking any gig he could.

        Was thinking about this the other week after I saw Kurt Elling at a club — he is one of the top jazz singers working today. Club was sold out, but that’s maybe 150 people. Meanwhile my wife and daughter saw lesser pop star Camila Cabello at a sold out show of 2000 people.

    • WashedOut says:

      Adam Neely is a young professional jazz bassist living in NYC. He has a Youtube channel mainly dedicated to music theory but he has a few “day in the life” videos that are pretty insightful, if a bit nerve wracking. He does lots of little weird gigs through word-of-mouth in between big cheques, and I suppose makes some money off Patreon too. Check out his channel, if only for the theorycraft.

    • Well... says:

      I have a few pro musicians in my family and can answer on their behalf. I will refer to them by letter.

      A makes his living as a full-time electronic music producer. He gets money from ticket and merch sales for sure, and maybe from “residencies” too. (A “residency” in music is, as I understand it, where you have an arrangement with a venue to play shows there on a regular basis. I don’t know if you get the money as a regular fee or if it’s just they reserve your spot on the calendar and the money is still based off ticket sales from each show.) He might also get a regular paycheck from a label that puts out his music (not sure about that one, because I’m not sure if he’s on his own label or something these days), and I know at one point at least he was getting money from a lawsuit against someone very famous who had infringed on his copyrighted work.

      Since childhood I haven’t been in close contact with B, who is a full-time singer-songwriter, but I think she makes a living by selling records and tickets and merch. She was writing a monthly or weekly column there for a while (maybe still is?) and might have been getting paid for that too, though I can’t imagine it was a substantial part of her income.

      C plays the occasional wedding/other event but mainly makes her money by giving private lessons (on the main instrument she plays).

      D is a friend and former coworker, not a family member; he has a “day job” but plays the occasional gig with his band, mainly for fun but sometimes for money. He says the best-paying and most regular gigs are shows for kids.

      Then I also worked with a guy who made his money by composing film scores. I don’t know if that means he counts as a musician or not.

      A high school friend of mine is a professional jazz trumpeter. He plays gigs and gives lessons. My former cello teacher seems to make his living the same way, plus he also teaches at music camps and occasionally works with other (sometimes very famous) musicians e.g. doing arrangements of their compositions. I know a lot of other professional musicians and it’s usually something like that.

    • INH5 says:

      In hometown of New Orleans, it’s mainly a bunch of gigs, though tourism and the very large number of bars, clubs, and restaurants that feature live music means that there are more gigs available than in many other cities. Quoting an article about the situation on just one street in New Orleans:

      By a count provided by Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans spokeswoman Hannah Krieger-Benson, May 2016 saw at least 1,047 gigs played on Frenchmen Street by 424 separate bands. That’s an average of 2.47 gigs per band in the month, though some bands logged three or four gigs at the same venue over the course of the month.

      I don’t have any personal experience with the professional music scene anywhere else.

    • Error says:

      My girlfriend teaches at local music schools. Mostly kids, some adult students (which is how we met). She plays at events occasionally as well.

      She has “a job” in the sense that she works through one set of schools most of the time, but she’s technically a contractor. Making ends meet is difficult. On the flip side, she gets plenty of off-hours.

    • rlms says:

      Most pros I know teach either in school or universities as well (although I do know a lot of them from their work as teachers which presumably skews things a bit). Even the guy who was good enough to play with Bowie and tour in Asia didn’t earn enough from that to retire off it (in his 60s).

    • Michael Handy says:

      I can give you some info on the Classical Vocalist scene.

      Many earn livings the way described by others, but there are a few other options.

      Some make a living entirely off Church music, singing at 3-4 Churches, doing sung mass, etc.

      Chorus work at a B-Opera House or above provides the most steady (and often most high-paying) employment, though it’s hell on the voice. Many people who could have principal careers go to chorus because of the stability.

      Most Opera houses work by hiring principals for a production, this can work, but a sudden illness or a cancellation can destroy your income. Most doing this have teaching on the side.

      Cover(Understudy) work can be very lucrative. If you can show you’ve experience in, say, 5 roles, you can get paid for being ready to step on stage at any house that needs you at short notice. Some singers rarely sing a note on-stage and pull close to 6-figures.

      Germany, and Opera Australia, and a few other houses still work by having a “Stable” of full time singers on 2-3 year contracts for principal roles. these are usually lower paid than guest artists.

      Germany also has a few Repertory Houses left, which take people on for the long term. However you’ll sing La Boheme one night and Les Miserables the next, and be a backup dancer in Aladdin the next, so it’s hard work.

  5. Atlas says:

    If you play Overwatch, who is your main hero? (I’ve never played it, but I take it that Team Fortress 2 works analogously, so feel free to comment the character you main there as well if you like.)

    • dodrian says:

      I used to play TF2, mainly as Pyro, secondarily as Medic. While there would often be too many Pyros there would almost never be too many Medics. I could also play fairly well as Demoman. My computer is Linux only though, so I can’t run Overwatch.

    • Anonymous` says:

      I used to main Scout in TF2. I never really enjoyed the game that much and kind of just defaulted to it as a big-online-multiplayer-population option after Halo 3 (a truly great online multiplayer game) died off. As such, didn’t have much interest in getting into Overwatch.

    • ManyCookies says:

      What a timely question, I actually just got off playing some TF2 for the first time in years!

      My most consistent main would be Scout, but I’ve gone through long “main” periods on other classes: Pyro back when the Degreaser was absurd, battle engineer way waaaay before it was cool (get off my lawn mini spammers), and spy (who I suck at, but a good spy round is one of gaming’s highlights).

    • beleester says:

      Split into DPS, Tank, and Support because I’m the sort of person who tries to fill a hole in the team before locking my main.

      DPS: Soldier 76. Jack of all trades, he fits into any team composition, and I prefer steady DPS to McCree’s burst. Although in FFA, I’ve fallen in love with Doomfist. Slamming people into walls is tons of fun, and you have lots of chances to surprise people in FFA.

      Tank: Reinhardt (with D.va as a close second). I’m good with most tanks, but Reinhardt seems to be the purest form of tanking – advance with your team, refuse to die, and utterly flatten anyone who gets too close to your team’s personal space. And again, decking people into walls is good fun.

      Support: I’m best with Mercy, but I really need to put some time in to relearn her, I haven’t played her much since she was reworked.

      In TF2, my main class was Heavy. I like parking on an objective and demolishing anyone who gets too close. And I don’t have the leet skills needed for Soldier or Demoman.

    • Nornagest says:

      I used to main Sniper in TF2, although I wasn’t very good at it. Never played Overwatch.

    • Shion Arita says:

      I haven’t played in a while, so there have probably been umpteen rebalance updates and stuff like that, but my main was D.VA. I like the fact that her cannons have no reaload so you can always fire, and her high health and flight ability makes her great to get in and harrass the enemy safely. The barrier ability can be flashed on and off quickly (or at least it could be when I played. I know they’ve changed it a few times) to selectively block a lot of stuff. A good D.VA is really hard to kill and annoying, because she has both tankiness and mobility.

      • beleester says:

        Her barrier can still be flickered, but now there’s a 0.5 second delay after turning it off, and the charge got nerfed so it only lasts 2 seconds. She’s still good, but her barrier only lasts just long enough to get through a choke point, so you have to be careful.

        However, they also gave her micro-missiles and the ability to shoot while flying, which has made her dive capabilities just amazing. She can boost in, burn down an isolated enemy, then boost out, sort of like Winston but with better guns.

    • gbdub says:

      I’m not particularly good, but I play mostly as Soldier 76 or Junkrat (in TF2 I loved Demoman – just something fun about spamming high explosives from above) depending on the map and whether we are on attack or defense. I’m not twitchy good enough to play the snipers or the more finicky DPS heroes.

      I don’t tank very often unless the team needs it. I’m a decent Reinhardt and am working on getting better at Orisa. Kind of hopeless as D.Va and Winston for some reason.

      For support I used to favor Mercy but now play mostly Lúcio or Moira.

    • gbdub says:

      What makes Overwatch work so much better than TF2? I’ve played and enjoy both but basically only play Overwatch now because:
      1) It’s much deeper – with so many more heroes there will always be one that suits your playstyle / needs, and learning all those abilities and counters adds a lot of continuing interest.
      2) The matches are much more fun – they actually conclude, for one thing, as opposed to never-ending CTF on 2Fort because it’s mostly impossible to actually score a capture, but also Overwatch seems to much more organically create / reward spontaneous team play (even when no one is using voice chat).

      1) is a pretty obvious difference, but I’m stumped as to what Overwatch did to achieve 2)? The mechanics seem pretty similar overall, but the difference in play quality is stark.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        On the subject #2, one factor is simply that there is a clock in every game mode. That definitely helps with the “actually concluding” bit.

        As to rewarding team work, the basic mechanics of Overwatch are tilted slightly in favor of the offense, but they also depend on every member of the Defense to have been dealt with in order to progress the objective. The objectives are location based, and therefore serve as a focal point for both the offense and the defense. This encourages team fights centered around a relatively small geographic location.

        If you think about most maps, they are either a) payload maps where the objective itself moves, or b) involve fairly substantial portions of the map that don’t see play as they aren’t germane to the team fight and simply serve as a time sink requiring travel time after respawn.

        • gbdub says:

          Thinking about it more, I’m inclined to agree with your second and third paragraph.

          In particular, I think the “time sink requiring travel time” is really a surprisingly key component. This sort of naturally breaks the game into a series of distinct team fights rather than a constant meat grinder where neither side can gain an advantage. In any of these individual fights, death has a real cost – respawn is only 10 seconds but it might be 30-40 seconds before you can actually be back in a fight, and by that time that “wave” has been decided. If either side gains an advantage of two or more live players at the point of action (or if they wipe out certain key players, like a tank physically holding a point), they will almost certainly carry that action.

          This forces some breathing time where you can check the team status and regroup for the next wave.

          As you note, the maps are well designed to force action at certain key points, and also to promote an ebb and flow between offense and defense.

          Some of it just seems to be that Overwatch has very involved devs that do a ton of testing before making updates and are continually rebalancing with apparent intentional goals of rewarding team play and avoiding making any heroes overly dominant or useless in the meta.

          As some evidence of how well tuned the balance is, I’ve noticed the difference in play in the Arcade “total mayhem” mode, which doubles everyone’s HP, speeds up ult charging, and substantially reduces cooldowns for all abilities. One effect is that the games I’ve been in have been much more “meat grinder” – the extra HP makes it take longer to kill players so it’s hard to wipe a team before they get respawned reinforcements. The modified cooldowns make some heroes vastly OPed and others kind of worthless (in particular, Winston is nuts because he can more-or-less constantly use his jump and always have a shield up, and Soldier gets kind of lame because he relies mostly on his primary fire (which isn’t boosted) and he can’t deal enough damage during a Visor to take out multiple heroes).

          • smocc says:

            As a big TF2 fan who has not gotten into Overwatch I want to point out that TF2 has most of these features in your original point 2 ; it’s just 2Fort that sucks. It might be CTF that sucks in general.

            The best mode is the control point mode (I forget what it’s called). I prefer the asymmetric one with attackers and defenders, but the symmetric one is good to.

            Your note that “also Overwatch seems to much more organically create / reward spontaneous team play (even when no one is using voice chat)” is almost exactly the sort of thing I raved about TF2 when it was new.

          • gbdub says:

            I was a big fan of TF2 (though I mostly haven’t played since the Orange Box days). I went back to it recently (i.e. this year)… and really Overwatch is everything TF2 is, but better (except the wacky humor, which is a big selling point for TF2).

            For whatever reason last time I played 9/10 servers I ended up on were 2Fort. Maybe I just need to be pickier about where I play.

            I will say that Overwatch doesn’t (or didn’t) have a CTF mode, and when they added it to the arcade – it kind of sucks. And the symmetric point control mode is my least favorite mode in “standard” Overwatch.

            So my favorite TF2 modes (payload and multipoint attack/defend) are the most common Overwatch modes – that probably colors my opinion.

            The other probably underrated item is that standard Overwatch limits you to one copy of a hero per team – a common problem in TF2 is too many players playing a single role, and while that can happen in Overwatch it’s less common (and there’s variety within the roles).

          • carvenvisage says:

            and really Overwatch is everything TF2 is, but better (except the wacky humor, which is a big selling point for TF2).

            I’ve not played overwatch (will be the first game I try if I want to dedicate some time to an action FPS), but seeing as you centred things on 2fort, are you aware of stuff like jump-maps, bball, ammomod and MGE, competitive rollouts etc, in TF2?

            Overwatch, does seem like a more hardcore game, certain it seems faster, (which has some tradeoffs -spy’s gameplay for example relies on the slower speed, but still ), but Overwatch’s default mode is what in TF2 would be a scrim set up outside the game by a third party service. -There is no competitive mode in the TF2 client (or at least wasn’t when I played), so there’s a much stronger dichotomy between casual and competitive play. In fact this paragraph in particular;

            In particular, I think the “time sink requiring travel time” is really a surprisingly key component. This sort of naturally breaks the game into a series of distinct team fights rather than a constant meat grinder where neither side can gain an advantage. In any of these individual fights, death has a real cost – respawn is only 10 seconds but it might be 30-40 seconds before you can actually be back in a fight, and by that time that “wave” has been decided. If either side gains an advantage of two or more live players at the point of action (or if they wipe out certain key players, like a tank physically holding a point), they will almost certainly carry that action.

            is (incidentally) preetty true of competitive TF2 and even some of the more serious servers if you have there’s anyone typing or on mic.

            _

            Also, about the meat grinder comment: well that’s a feature for some people. For two of the modes I mentioned that’s one of the main appeals. (Bball, which is instant-respawn flying rocket-launcher basketball, and ammomod, which is basically just relentless 1vs1 cage match mode.)

      • ManyCookies says:

        The matches are much more fun – they actually conclude, for one thing, as opposed to never-ending CTF on 2Fort because it’s mostly impossible to actually score a capture

        That’s more a symptom of 24/7 16v16 2Fort servers than TF2 itself. The early TF2 maps were very much designed for 9-12 player teams, and their design flaws (mainly too powerful chokepoints+lack of flank routes) were really exacerbated when servers increased the team sizes to 16v16. Overwatch’s Eichenwalde was a choke clusterfuck on release with 6v6 teams, imagine what it’d be like the teams were suddenly 9v9 or 12v12. Anyway TF2 is a lot more objective and team oriented on better maps and/or with fewer players.

        Unfortunately Valve gave absolutely zero support for decent matchmaking or competitive play, so it was a pain in the butt to find consistently active servers that weren’t 24/7 Dustbowl or whatever, or to find out that competitive teams even existed. Whereas Overwatch made their matchmaking front and center from day 1.

        @1 More subjectively, I’d say the TF2 classes are deeper and have a higher skill ceiling than individual Overwatch classes. Good Soldiers and Demos look very different from pub players spamming down a chokepoint (like myself), for instance.

        • gbdub says:

          So basically all the pieces are there but there aren’t enough servers playing in the more balanced / better team play modes. I’ll buy that (though I’d still say that some of the map layouts optimize for meat grinders).

          I just don’t see though how TF2 classes are “deeper” – Oveerwatch has 3x the number of heroes, and the abilities in each class have a lot more variety.

          You’re right though that TF2 classes have steeper learning curves, and definitely bigger rewards for more traditional FPS skills. Whereas I’d argue Overwatch has (some) heroes that require less “mastery”, but has a bigger meta and more rewards for understanding it.

    • Lillian says:

      Don’t have a main because i like variety, so i switch between various heroes, usually picking something the team needs. It would be easier to list the heroes i don’t play: Doomfist, Reaper, Widowmaker, Anna, Reinhardt, Roadhog, Zarya, Lucio, Zenyatta, and Moira. The reasons i don’t play Doomfist and Reaper is because i don’t like their fiddly mobility mechanics, for Widowmaker and Anna it’s because i suck at sniping, Reinhardt is too short ranged, Roadhog is too weird ranged, Zarya too timing dependent, and finally Lucio, Zenyatta, and Moira are all too fiddly and complicated for my tastes. Everyone else, i can usually find something fun to do with them.

      However the character i am unquestionably best at is Mercy. This is because i suck at multi-tasking. It’s so bad that when my Boyfriend watches me play he keeps repeating the words “you’re being shot at” over and over again because despite multiple flashing red indicators and rapidly declining health bar i rarely notice incoming fire, there’s just too much going on. Also i’m very bad at timing the use of my abilities, i usually use them either as soon as possible or never, which works very poorly with so many characters.

      Mercy though, is the most straightforward monofocused character in the entire game. There are only two things to do: move and heal. And there is only one time to do them: immediately. Mercy practically rewards tunnel vision because nothing else really matters as long as you keep moving and healing. She’s high speed run n’ gun, all frantic action with little thought, and it fits me very well.

      As an aside, i feel like i should hate Sombra. She has a bunch of complicated, fiddly, timing-dependent mechanics, the things i hate in other characters. Also her weapon requires good mouse-tracking whereas i can’t mouse-track for shit. So basically, i suck at Sombra, i suck at Sombra a lot, and i have little hope of getting better because her entire play style is completely at odds with mine, and yet i can’t stop playing her.

      • gbdub says:

        Mostly on board with what you’re saying, but out of curiosity, what makes you find Lúcio too fiddly and complicated? To me he’s the easiest support to play effectively – just stay close to the team, run around being hard to hit, and “pump it up” at peak team fight to heal faster. And just dump tons of sonic rounds into the fattest target. Plus he’s got his own pretty effective escape mechanism (speed boost) that doesn’t require any help from the rest of the team. Finally, he sort of naturally forces team play because your teammates are naturally drawn to his healing aura.

        Whereas I really like Mercy, she’s the strongest pure healer, but I find her to be the fiddly one. Particularly her movement ability, which is great but can strand you in awkward positions if not used carefully. She can only heal one at a time, so you have to be constantly checking all the players and know which ones to prioritize.

        My biggest challenge playing her is that she’s kind of the anti-Lúcio in terms of team play. Invariably I’ll get tempted to run off and heal some dude who Leroy Jenkinsed his way into a terrible position, and we’ll both die. Or I’ll be the last one standing (or the only one who knows it’s time to get out of Dodge) with no escaping teammate to latch onto, and I’ll die. Since rule number one of playing support is “don’t die”, I’ve been playing her less just because I die too often (relative to other healers).

        Of course she’s no where near as fiddly as Zenyatta or Moira – just wanted to put in a plug for Lúcio.

        • Lillian says:

          The largest problem i have with Lucio is the “run around being hard to hit” part. Apparently doing this correctly involves wall skating, and as far as i’m concerned wall skating with Lucio is some kind of sorcery that probably involves selling your soul to the devil because i can’t do it. Also i can’t seem to get the hang of when to use the speed aura versus the healing aura, and unlike Mercy were it turns out you can just safely ignore the damage booster option on her staff, playing Lucio effectively actually requires knowing when to switch between the two. Amp it Up is even more hopeless, since the transition between “enemy contact” and “team fight” is completely invisible to me, which means invariably activate it either too early or not at all. Finally the push people off cliffs power is hilariously effective when used by literally anyone other than me, but a completely useless trap option in my hands. In short i can’t Lucio.

          Whereas for Mercy her movement ability is incredibly simple, just use it literally all the time and at every opportunity. There is never a wrong time to glide, there is only wrong targets to glide to. And that’s the trick to playing Mercy, you don’t run off after the asshole who went off on a suicide reconnaissance mission deep into enemy territory. When your team comes together right, playing Mercy is a frenzied rush of going ally to ally while dodging enemy fire, riding a cocaine high, and playing Ride of the Valkyries. When your team doesn’t though, then you sometimes you have to park your ass behind the payload and declare that anyone who is not helping the push is on their own.

          • gbdub says:

            Honestly, if anything people seem to switch Lucio’s buff too often, and wall riding is overrated. Seriously just leave it on heal whenever you’re in contact with the enemy and you’re 90% of the way there. Pushing dudes off cliffs and epic wall rides make for cool Twitch videos, but if you spend much time trying to do either, you’re probably not doing your real job which is staying close to your team and keeping them alive. So don’t sweat if you’re not so good at those. Mostly I just use the push power to get tanks out of my face or bop people off the point in overtime.

            But I’m never going to knock a Mercy main, wish it came as naturally to me!

    • LadyJane says:

      I’m pretty new at the game and I have almost no experience with team FPS games in general, but for whatever reason I’ve taken to playing Moira. I appreciate her versatility and something about her control scheme just feels intuitive to me somehow.

      My second choice is usually Mercy or Widowmaker, depending on the game and the team’s needs. I’m better at healing and sniping than jumping right into the fray. (I really like Ana in concept, because on paper she seems like she’d be ideal for me, but her abilities just seem too weak for her to really be effective.)

      I don’t like tanking in general, but if the team really needs a tank, I’ve found I usually do decently well playing Zarya.

    • Black Mountain Radio says:

      Never played OW. But in TF2 I mained engineer. I was probably the only person who preferred the widowmaker to the pre-nerf Pomson.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I don’t really main a class in TF2 – I split my time based on what the team needs. I enjoy Engie, Spy, or Soldier the most, though, with a lot of time spent in Medic, Heavy, and Pyro too.

      Since the Pyro got his jetpack I can’t put it down. It’s glorious to soar through the air and torch people when you land in their face, community still seems to have not adjusted to it.

      As another commentator said, though, nothing beats a good Spy round.

  6. Viliam says:

    My 3 years old daughter is really good at drawing, for her age. Any advice for a parent how to help her further develop her skills? Given her age, I can’t really teach her things like “perspective”; so I don’t know in which direction to progress.

    Is there some specific curriculum for drawing-gifted kids? Even if it would be for somewhat higher age, e.g. 6, I think it could be helpful. But if you know resources like “how to draw X simply”, that could probably help, too.

    • laughingagave says:

      Mostly, give her lots of colors, paints, papers, clay, and generally enjoyable things to draw/paint/sculpt with.

      Encourage her to draw things she sees herself, not necessarily to follow step-by-step tutorials. They’ll develop better observational skills, which is about 90% of the trick for drawing well.

      In general (I’m biased toward impressionism and against formulaic, highly stylized comic art, fwiw), the “how to draw x” books tend to be counterproductive, even at a fairly young age. The trick is to look at the thing you want to draw in terms of line, shape, and lightness/darkness, rather than as a pre-determined, simplified symbol, which is a pretty strong temptation for most older kids, maybe because they have to manipulate symbols for years in school. Spending some time drawing and painting things she sees around her before going through formalized schooling is likely to help. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is dated, with sort of cringy pop-neurology, but has good exercises for when she’s a bit older and more self-conscious.

      ETA: For older children, I recommend the elements and principles of design model (I teach art sometimes, and this is what I mostly use).

      It goes something like: focus on one element (line, shape, value, color, texture, volume), and/or one principle (balance, contrast, movement, rhythm, emphasis, pattern), and find an artist who got it really well. Eg: focus on line and movement, go spend some time looking at Kandinsky. Then make some pieces that focus on that element/principle, in that case using mostly or only lines or varying thicknesses to show movement. Or, focus on shape and balance by creating a balanced composition using only the spaces around the objects, leaving the objects white (negative space drawing). Go through all the elements and principles in that way.

      • Viliam says:

        At this moment she has ~unlimited amount of paper, because any A4 paper that is only printed on one side gets thrown into the “paper Bunny can draw on” box by her table; and there is always some paper we need to get rid of. Also, she has an erasable magnetic board. And she uses Tux Paint on tablet. All of this, daily.

        We tried clay, but so far she refuses to sculpt. She only likes to cut out shapes using the cookie cutters.

        Eg: focus on line and movement, go spend some time looking at Kandinsky.

        If it is not too much work, could you please give me a few more examples like this? (I mean “for X, look at Y”.)

      • christianschwalbach says:

        I would say this is smashing advice for someone already showing art talent, but for many, the “how to draw” books can be quite useful for building some fundamental skills in , at least pencil drawing. I know in my art class days in middle school I certainly enjoyed drawing out of them, as clean lines were my weak point. I think the biggest thing would be to diversify as much as possible. Including dabbling in 3d media as well.

    • maintain says:

      If you want to get good at any skill you need to spend time with people who are already good at that skill. If you’re not doing that then you’re just going to be wasting time flailing around trying different things that you think might work, but that probably actually won’t work, because you have no idea what you’re doing.

      If you are serious about helping your daughter get good at drawing, sign her up for a class, or hire her a tutor or something.

      I think as long as you don’t go full hardcore tiger mom mode, your daughter will thank you later.

      • Viliam says:

        If you are serious about helping your daughter get good at drawing, sign her up for a class, or hire her a tutor or something.

        A class is definitely a plan, but it has to wait a few months, because they typically start in September. I wonder if some art students would be willing to babysit.

        • Well... says:

          I wonder if some art students would be willing to babysit.

          That’s not a bad idea actually. But you want to pick an art student who can actually teach drawing. Not all of them can.

          • baconbits9 says:

            At age 3 most of what you want is simply someone who enjoys drawing, and can enjoy drawing with her. Repetition and enjoyment is more important than technique unless you are actively trying to accomplish something (ie put together a portfolio, or finish a project).

          • Well... says:

            Depends if the little girl has long-term plans to really develop technique and become masterful at drawing or painting. (Or if you have plans for her to do that.) It would be bad but easy to cripple that possibility by instilling bad habits.

      • christianschwalbach says:

        I think there certainly is truth in this, but art isnt like a trade type apprenticeship where there are some solid, hard skills that need to be passed along from teacher/influencer to student. I think lessons would be valuable in educating how to view subjects, and how to build some basic blocks of general skill, but I would be wary of someone trying to mold a copy of themselves out of my kid, if that were the case.

    • liquidpotato says:

      Why not draw with her? At 3, perhaps the more important thing is to maintain the interest. The upside is you get to create good memories with her. Also, look at a lot of beautiful things together. An eye for beauty is a really good thing to have for that kind of artistic endeavors.

      Also, just to be contradictory towards laughingagave, I will recommend a series of how to draw xx books. If your daughter shows any interest at all in drawing human figures, Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, Drawing the Head and Hands by Andrew Loomis is worth checking out. His books are no longer in print, so you might have to do some internet sleuthing to find the pdfs.

      Anything by George Bridgman is also highly recommended.

      At the end of the day though, getting good at art is really about commitment. She has to jeep doing it.

      (I’m a visual effects artist. Those books were indispensable to me when I was at the beginning of my career and trying to improve my traditional art skills)

      • Viliam says:

        Thanks, I knew about Loomis, but not about Bridgman. Looking at it.

        (By the way, boo Firefox! Since a few weeks ago, it marks downloaded files as infected not because of their content, but because of the domain they came from — the same file from a different domain is okay. So it actually tries to scare you away from using illegal websites. Pissed me off, so I want to spread the word.)

    • Well... says:

      One thing you can do is encourage your daughter to practice seeing while she’s not drawing. Point at things and talk about what they REALLY look like. What shapes they’re actually made of, what colors they really are, etc.

      Aside from that, if you really want to encourage her down that path (and always there’s the question “why not just let it be something she does on her own for fun?”), hire a private teacher. One who can really work with kids and will help your daughter reach whatever goals you think she should/can aim for.

      • Viliam says:

        I could even bring the magnetic board outside and try drawing the thing. (Daughter prefers to see someone else draw the thing first.) The colors won’t be there, but the shapes will.

        She enjoys drawing a lot; the question seems whether she will be doing the same thing over and over again, or moving towards new things. That partially depends on her (how fast she gets tired of the old thing), but partially on inspiration from outside. As an example, she used to draw things as “one thing — one color”. (She would draw three bunnies: one fully red, one fully green, one fully blue.) Then she used TuxPaint where there is the magical rainbow color thing, and afterwards she started drawing objects with multiple random color (red head, one eye green, one eye blue…). Only sometimes she uses realistic colors. So the inputs matter.

    • marshwiggle says:

      We made some degree of effort to help our kids develop their art talent, and I think it kind of worked. My wife recommends a book called Drawing with Children, by Mona Brookes. She also got a lot of use out of blind contour drawing – both because obvious failures are obvious, and because they are funny. That also teaches some mental skills. I myself did some amount of challenging my kids to answer a question using art or to draw a response to some scenario. The questions were sufficiently weird that creativity was implicitly mandatory. I liked the results enough that I kept doing it. All it required was coming up with weird scenarios and then paying attention to the drawings they produced in response.

    • MikeInMass says:

      This is anything but a comprehensive response to your question; but I have always found it interesting that when my father-in-law (who has enough chops as an artist to have had shows in museums in a couple of different countries) sits down to work with my somewhat talented seven-year-old, he always spends much more time than I expected on mechanics: this is how you hold the pastel, this is how you blend strokes into a smooth background, and so on.

    • Shion Arita says:

      As someone who is very serious about drawing art, but who got into it pretty late in life for such a thing (~ age 20), the best advice I can give is give her a lot of opportunities to keep drawing. Also let her get frustrated and improve. For example, if she says her work is bad, don’t just say it’s good, say that she will eventually learn to do whatever is bothering her.

      I’d have her do the following exercises once she gets old enough to have enough concentration and focus (I don’t have kids so I don’t really know, but I figure three might be a little young, but only a couple of years more should be enough). These were what, more than anything else, caused me to ‘get it’ and have massive and rapid improvement:

      1

      2

    • engleberg says:

      I’d put a copy of Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty where she can see it.

    • baconbits9 says:

      TLP has a post working around the book “Drawing on the right side of the brain”, and the book contains exercises for improving basic drawing skills.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Thank you for the link. I usually hate TLP, but this is excellent because it isn’t about narcissism. Are there other posts you’d recommend that aren’t about narcissism?

        Since I know someone will ask, the typical TLP post about narcissism is so vague about what he means by narcissism that it just seems like a narcissistic superiority dance.

        People have posted some links so that it’s possible for me to tell what he means– narcissism is the desire to look good to oneself rather than actually doing something useful, I think. However, I still think he’s engaging in aggressive guessing other people’s motives, and he fails to allow for mixed motives.

    • knockknock says:

      Just by coincidence today I saw a recommendation that Daniel Coyle’s books on developing talent are a good read for parents in this situation — drawing or any other skill.

    • jgr314 says:

      Not drawing specific, but parenting notes about supporting and encouraging kids who seem to show an interest/aptitude for something:
      (1) interest is more important than ability, especially for young kids. If they are engaged enough in something to make consistent progress, even very slowly, they will have time to become very good.
      (2) show an interest yourself, but don’t make the child’s experience about you. Whenever I want my kids to play piano, I sit down and start playing, then one of them will come and take over.

      For drawing, specifically, I found the Monart/Mona Brooks book good for activities I could also do and discuss with the kids.

      Getting too involved, yourself can be frustrating. In our parent group, almost every family has a story about “kid was interested in X, parent got involved and took over making it fun for the adult and not for the kid.”

      (3) expect that the child’s interest levels will change, often dramatically.
      This part is very difficult for me. As a parent, I don’t want to push my kids to do things that they, genuinely, find uninteresting, since there are so many great alternatives that they can (and wan to) pursue. However, any worthwhile activity will have some moments when it is hard or frustrating, and it is possible they would benefit from a push during/through those times.

      if you find the right balance, let me know!

    • Reasoner says:

      Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is an interesting book that claims that if you learn to draw the wrong way, you will kinda have to restart from scratch if you want to draw the right way. It’s written for adults, but you might be able to read it and simplify the instructions in a way she can understand.

  7. Szemeredi says:

    I’ve been enjoying this blog by John Nerst, who appears to hang out in the comments here. In particular I recommend this post on what it means to assert that something exists. Here’s an excerpt:

    In summary: the word “exist” is a classic case of trying to get more consistency, rigor and depth out of words than they can provide. Statements like “X exists” (or “X is real”, which works almost exactly the same) don’t have a single, context-free meaning. They’re shorthand, and we should focus on understanding what they’re shorthand for.

    On a high enough abstraction level, asserting that these things exist has a clear single meaning: “this thing should be represented by a token in our map of reality”.

    However, these existence claims compile into real world machine-code in different ways. When virtually everything — concrete or abstract, simple or complex, physical or structural — can be represented as object tokens, then the relationship between model and reality, between token and thing, symbol and referent, can be drastically different (not to mention ill-defined).

    There’s a shorter version here, in the form of a response to a question I asked in a previous open thread.

    • hexbienium says:

      Reminds me of this, from Bertrand Russell:

      I come now to existence, on which Plato lays great stress. We have, he says, as regards sound and colour, a thought which includes both at once, namely that they exist. Existence belongs to everything, and is among the things that the mind apprehends by itself; without reaching existence, it is impossible to reach truth.

      The argument against Plato here is quite different from that in the case of likeness and unlikeness. The argument here is that all that Plato says about existence is bad grammar, or rather bad syntax. This point is important, not only in connection with Plato, but also with other matters such as the ontological argument for the existence of the Deity.

      Suppose you say to a child “lions exist, but unicorns don’t,” you can prove your point so far as lions are concerned by taking him to the Zoo and saying “look, that’s a lion.” You will not, unless you are a philosopher, add: “And you can see that that exists.” If, being a philosopher, you do add this, you are uttering nonsense. To say “lions exist” means “there are lions,” i.e. ”’x is a lion’ is true for a suitable x.” But we cannot say of the suitable x that it “exists”; we can only apply this verb to a description, complete or incomplete. “Lion” is an incomplete description, because it applies to many objects: “The largest lion in the Zoo” is complete, because it applies to only one object.

      Now suppose that I am looking at a bright red patch. I may say “this is my present percept”; I may also say “my present percept exists”; but I must not say “this exists,” because the word “exists” is only significant when applied to a description as opposed to a name. This disposes
      of existence as one of the things that the mind is aware of in objects.

      (A History of Western Philosophy, pp. 153–4)

      • outis says:

        “If I replace the common meaning of this word with an idiosyncratic technical definition of my choice, we can see that my opponent’s position no longer makes any sense.”

        Is this the most popular argument in modern philosophy?

        • wysinwygymmv says:

          The issue is that “common meaning”s of words are typically either inconsistent, incoherent, or limited to very narrow contexts, and that you thus can’t make rigorous philosophical arguments on the foundation of the “common meaning” of very many words.

          • Aapje says:

            Strict definitions are usually limited to far more narrow contexts than the more common meaning of words.

            This is why motte-and-baileys are so attractive. One can make far-reaching claims using the bailey and then retreat to the motte when criticized.

            Redefining words can very easily lead people to be rigorous when examining the word itself, but then, without even recognizing it, use the non-rigorous meaning when actually using the word in an argument.

    • fion says:

      I liked that post. I’ll check out the blog. Thanks.

    • James says:

      Good post on a good topic.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      Because of this comment, I am reading John Nerst’s blog, and it is excellent.

  8. WashedOut says:

    Puzzles/logic general

    I like writing and solving logic puzzles, but I end up brute-forcing a lot of them because I enjoy the process more than I enjoy working out which math tools to use.

    ~~~
    Example:
    1) Alice wants to sit next to Fiona
    2) Bert wants to sit next to Erin
    3) Carlos doesn’t want to sit next to Alice or Devin
    4) Devin doesn’t want to sit next to Alice
    5) Erin wants to sit next to Carlos

    How do you arrange ABCDEF so they all sit where they want? Which rule is redundant?

    ROT13 qsnorp ehyr sbhe vf erqhaqnag
    ~~~~

    What is this type of problem called? Is there a fast, elegant way to determine which rules of a system are redundant in problems like this?

    Post your puzzles and logic riddles!

    • ordogaud says:

      There’s multiple solutions to that puzzle, and each solution should work in reverse. Here’s the one I found with it’s reverse: QORPSN NSPROQ

      I also don’t see how the one rule is redundant? If you remove that rule than this would be a valid answer: QNSPRO

    • fion says:

      I love puzzles of most types. I like cryptic crosswords, I like that one about the eye colours on the island, or that one with the prisoners and the switch, I’ve gradually been working through the GCHQ puzzle book…

      But for some reason I really don’t like ones like your example. Or the ones where there are five houses and you know that “the person who lives in the blue house lives next to the person who has a poodle” and “the person who likes red wine does not live next to the person who does line dancing”… “which colour of house does the person who plays chess live in?”. I don’t know why – I just find them very frustrating and unsatisfying. Maybe because they’re just logic? But then I’m not sure what apart from logic is included in the puzzles I like… pattern-matching?

      • rubberduck says:

        In elementary school we had a whole folder with copies of matrix logic puzzles of varying difficulty and you were free to take them to solve just for fun. You know, the ones like “Bob, Alice, and Carol are all going to the party, each brings a present and wears a shirt of a different color, Carol does not wear green and Bob brings a box of crayons… Determine who brought which gift and wore which color”. I found it very satisfying to fill in the grid, it was the same type of fun as solving sudokus. Would you consider this “brute-forcing”? Also it was fairly easy to figure out which rules were redundant, you just had to look for which rule gave you information you already knew.

        Also, here’s a simple puzzle I made up for anyone who wants to try solving it:

        The following are the first 6 terms of a finite sequence. Figure out the missing term and the last term in the sequence.

        MP-4-20
        JB-2-15
        DC-7-2
        AG-2-3
        ??-?-?
        GB-18-18

        Hint: This is not a logic puzzle.

        Answer with explanation (ROT 13):

        Gur frdhrapr vf onfrq ba gur HF cerfvqrapr naq ivpr cerfvqragf fgnegvat sebz gur zbfg erprag. Gur yrggref ner gur vavgvnyf bs gur ivpr cerfvqrag naq gur ahzoref ner gur vavgvnyf bs gur pbeerfcbaqvat cerfvqrag. Svefg grez vf zvxr crapr- qbanyq gehzc.

        Zvffvat grez vf QD-frira-gjb, svany grez vf WN-frira-gjraglguerr (wbua nqnzf, trbetr jnfuvatgba).

    • dick says:

      Here’s one I made some time back. Don’t google it overmuch or you’ll find an entry on a puzzle site that includes the answer. It’s mathy but requires nothing more than google to solve.

      Inspector Crumblesniff thinks he is on the verge of arresting a notorious Mafia hit man, but he needs your help. First, after a raid on Sal’s Stereotypical Pizzeria, he found an address book with these contents:

      BRUNO, ALFONSO – 123 LOVEJOY
      GIORDANO, VITO – 456 AINSWORTH
      LANGELLA, TONY – 789 WYGANT
      PICCOLO, SAMMY – 159 JARRETT
      TOCCO, FRANKIE – 357 EMERSON

      Next, by disguising himself as a table lamp, the Inspector was able to sneak in to Don Furfante’s secret base, the Piazza di Sei, and acquire the following job list:

      PLUMBER – 2074123927971998088
      PAPERBOY – 3907210679561031886
      MAILMAN – 3724268395359054732
      ASSASSIN – 4149097910918443572
      GARDENER – 1394589336448442100

      Unfortunately, the job list seems to be encrypted, and the Judge Maldestro will only issue a single search warrant. Can you figure out the killer’s address?

      • dick says:

        Nuthin? If it helps, there’s a gigantic hint in the flavor text…

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Change “giant hint” to “necessary to find hint.”

          I needed that spark but it enabled me to find out the answer.

          Hint about the hint: Vg’f bar bs gur cebcre abhaf.

          Another hint: There’s a flaw in the cryptosystem in that you don’t even need to decode the values: Lbh whfg arrq gb fbeg rnpu yvfg gur cebcre jnl. Ybbxvat ng vg sbe n juvyr, gurer ner bayl gjb nafjref.

          • dick says:

            Change “giant hint” to “necessary to find hint.”

            That sounds oddly accusatory. Is putting hints in the description of a puzzle not extremely common? I mean, there has to be some kind of hook for the solver; otherwise “try to guess how i changed this number in to that number” puzzles get old real fast. If it weren’t for the sweet two-language dual pun hint, I would never have posted this!

            In any event the hint is absolutely not necessary (especially for programmers) but I don’t think the solution would be satisfying without it.

            …you don’t even need to decode the values:

            Can you be more explicit? I don’t know how to find the answer with sorting alone, but I’m ready to be educated!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Sorry if that came off aggressive. But without that hint, the only hope is to 1) know you are on the right track, and then 2) write a computer program to brute-force all values for the hint. You wouldn’t take the effort to do 2 without 1, and you can’t have 1 without knowing the hint is essential.

            I don’t know how to find the answer with sorting alone,

            Orpnhfr gur rapelcgrq anzrf fbeg va rknpgyl gur fnzr beqre nf gur cynvagrkg anzrf. Gur bayl dhrfgvba vf vs gur anzrf ner SVEFG YNFG be YNFG SVEFG. Naq fvapr gurl jrer tvira va gur chmmyr va gur beqre YNFG SVEFG, gung cebonoyl zrnaf vg’f gur bgure bar.

            Gurer vf ab arrq sbe N gb or gra naq O gb or ryrira naq P gb or gjryir naq fb ba frdhragvnyyl. Jura V ernyvmrq V unq gur evtug rapbqvat, V fgnegrq erirefvat gur flzobyf naq sbhaq gurl jrer nyy va beqre. Gur anzrf unq rabhtu punenpgrefgvp cnggreaf (Cvpbyyb, anzrf nyy raqvat va B) gung V whfg fgnegrq qbvat fhofgvghgvbaf naq jbexvat onpxjneqf. Vs rnpu yrggre unq orra fbzr enaqbz inyhr sebz gra gb svsgl-svir, gura lbh pna’g whfg fbeg gb trg gur evtug nafjre.

          • dick says:

            Well, I agree that the solution is too arbitrary without the hint, that’s why it’s there! It sounds like “key information hidden in the flavor text” is unfamiliar to some folks, which is a little surprising to me, but hey, it’s a big internet.

            Unfortunately, the sorting method you described doesn’t really work. Onfr pbairefvba vf abg gur fnzr guvat nf fhofgvghgvba, naq vg vf abg cbffvoyr gb fbyir guvf chmmyr ol gerngvat vg nf n fhofgvghgvba. Zberbire, fhofgvghgvba pvcuref qb abg arprffnevyl cebqhpr nafjref gung fbeg gur fnzr jnl nf gur vachgf. Gurl pna va fbzr pnfrf, ohg qba’g va guvf pnfr. Gb frr jul, pbafvqre gur fvzcyr fhofgvghgvba [N=1, O=2, … M=26]. Va gung pnfr, VW=910 naq WV=109, lrg VW 109. N fhofgvghgvba pvcure *pbhyq* cebqhpr fbegnoyr nafjref, vs nyy bs gur fhofgvghgrq inyhrf unq gur fnzr ahzoref bs qvtvgf, ohg gung pna’g or gehr urer orpnhfr jr’er pbairegvat 12-yrggre jbeqf va gb 19-qvtvg ahzoref. Retb, vs guvf jrer n fhofgvghgvba pvcure, naq vs gur anzrf naq gur ahzoref obgu fbegrq va gur fnzr beqre, vg jbhyq bayl or n yhpxl pbbvapvqrapr.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Ab, gur rapelcgrq yvfg 100% fbegf ol anzr, naq jvyy sbe nyy inevngvbaf bs anzrf lbh chg va guvf chmmyr, nf ybat nf gur ahzore bs yrggref va rnpu crefba’f anzr vf gur fnzr (juvpu ybbxf yvxr n qryvorengr qrfvta pbafgenvag).

            M rapbqrf gb n ynetre inyhr guna L, juvpu rapbqrf gb n ynetre inyhr guna K, … juvpu rapbqrf gb n ynetre inyhr guna O, juvpu rapbqrf gb n ynetre inyhr guna N.

            Va n pregnva onfr gur tneqrare’f anzr vf 14,33,23,40,35,44,40,15,43,50,35,40. 14 vf N, gur fznyyrfg inyhr cbffvoyr va gung svefg cbfvgvba. 15 vf O, 20 vf P, 21 vf Q, rgp rgp.

            BGBU, guvf vf pbzcyrgryl fbyinoyr vs 42 vf N, 20 vf O, 21 vf P, 52 vf Q, rgp rgp. Naq gura lbh pna’g whfg fbeg gur cnffjbeqf gb trg gur fbegrq cynvagrkg

            EDIT: a bunch of five-letter words and how they encrypt. Complete sorting regardless of column. https://pastebin.com/Z3KvH5QV

          • dick says:

            Hah! You’ve misunderstood how base conversion works due to a bit of bad luck, and understanding why was almost like a puzzle unto itself.

            Zl chmmyr eryvrf ba onfr pbairefvba, juvpu vf irel qvssrerag sebz n fhofgvghgvba pvcure. Jvxvcrqvn gryyf hf gung “n fhofgvghgvba pvcure vf n zrgubq bs rapelcgvat ol juvpu havgf bs cynvagrkg ner ercynprq jvgu pvcuregrkg, nppbeqvat gb n svkrq flfgrz”, gur xrl jbeq orvat “havgf”. Va n fhofgvghgvba pvcure, lbh pna oernx gur vachg hc va gb havgf naq fubj zr juvpu cneg bs gur bhgchg pnzr sebz rnpu havg bs vachg; va onfr pbairefvba, gurer ner ab “havgf” bs vachg, lbh unir gb qb n fvatyr bcrengvba ba gur ragver vachg gb trg gur ragver bhgchg. Naq vs lbh gerngrq onfr pbairefvba yvxr n fhofgvghgvba pvcure, ol oernxvat gur vachg hc va gb qvtvgf naq pbairegvat gurz gb gur arj onfr vaqvivqhnyyl naq gura pbapngrangvat gur erfhyg, lbh’q trg gur jebat nafjre.

            Ohg jung nobhg gur rknzcyr lbh pvgrq? Lbh fnvq, “Va n pregnva onfr gur tneqrare’f anzr vf 14,33,23,40,35,44,40,15,43,50,35,40.” Naq gur tneqrare’f anzr (NYSBAFBOEHAB) va onfr 6 vf, va snpg, 143323403544401543503540. Va gung pnfr, gur N pbeerfcbaqf gb gur svefg gjb qvtvgf (14) va obgu bhgchgf, gur Y pbeerfcbaqf gb gur arkg gjb (33), naq fb sbegu. Tbfu, gung fher ybbxf yvxr n fhofgvghgvba pvcure. Naq vg fher ybbxf yvxr onfr pbairefgvba pna or qbar va havgf. Jung tvirf!

            Nf vg gheaf bhg, gur bayl ernfba gung jung lbh qvq (pbaireg onfr ba gur vachg qvtvg-ol-qvtvg, engure guna nf n jubyr) jbexrq vf orpnhfr gur onfr lbh’er pbairegvat sebz (36) vf gur fdhner bs gur gur onfr lbh’er pbairegvat gb (6). Jura gung’f gehr, jura pbairegvat sebz onfr a gb onfr a^z jurer z vf na rira ahzore, pbairegvat qvtvg-ol-qvtvg jbexf svar, naq lbh pna fbyir n onfr pbairefvba chmmyr yvxr lbh jbhyq fbyir n fhofgvghgvba pvcure. Arng!

            Naljnl, gur snpg gung pbairegvat qvtvg-ol-qvtvg cebqhprq gur evtug nafjre va onfr 6 jnf unccrafgnapr; va trareny vg qbrf abg (gel pbairegvat gb onfr 10, be 7, be nalguvat rkprcg 6). Naq fvapr zl chmmyr tbrf sebz onfr 36 gb 10, vg vf abg n fhofgvghgvba pvcure naq lbh pbhyq abg unir fbyirq vg yvxr bar.

            Naljnl, onpx gb gur fbegvat. Fbegvat jbexf va guvf chmmyr (gur bhgchg fbegf yvxr gur vachg) orpnhfr gur pbairefvba shapgvba vf fgevpgyl zbabgbavpnyyl vapernfvat, zrnavat s(z)>s(a) vs naq bayl vs z > a. Frcnengr sebz gung, fhofgvghgvba pvcuref fbzrgvzrf fbeg naq fbzrgvzrf qba’g, qrcraqvat ba gur pvcure va dhrfgvba. Va cnegvphyne, fhofgvghgvba pvcuref trarenyyl jba’g fbeg vs gur bhgchg inyhrf inel va yratgu (fbzr yrggref rapbqr gb n 1-qvtvg ahzore naq bguref gb n 2-qvtvg ahzore). Naq fvapr guvf chmmyr pbairegf 12-qvtvg inyhrf gb 19-qvtvg inyhrf, jr pbhyq nffhzr gung *vs* vg jrer n fhofgvghgvba, vg cebonoyl jbhyq abg fbeg. Naq va nal rirag, gur fbyire pnaabg fnl jurgure gur chmmyr vf n fhofgvghgvba pvcure be abg, abe pna gurl fnl jurgure gur bhgchgf fbeg be abg, hagvy gurl’ir fbyirq gur chmmyr. Fb gur snpg gur nafjref qb unccra gb fbeg vf uneqyl n jrnxarff be n xrl gb fbyivat vg.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        I couldn’t figure it out after trying lots of similar things to the correct answer and then looked it up. I will say that the hint is not that gigantic and only seems so in retrospect, like many a failed puzzle I’ve created running D&D games.

      • fion says:

        There are a lot more red herrings in that puzzle than I was expecting!

        (I didn’t get it, by the way.)

  9. Kestrellius says:

    Trivial question: what kinds of music do you guys listen to, if any? What are your favorite genres/bands/individual songs?

    I listen to all sorts of things, but my top genre is probably symphonic metal, with Nightwish being a recent favorite. (I get the sense that the metal community proper looks down on them a bit for some reason, but I dunno.) I also listen to a lot of soundtracks, especially anime stuff — particularly Shiro Sagisu. Also, Miracle of Sound/Gavin Dunne. He’s an extremely prolific musician who writes songs based on various fiction — mostly video games, but occasionally other stuff as well.

    • Evan Þ says:

      My favorite’s classical, generally Vivaldi or Bach.

      • quaelegit says:

        I became a lot more fond of Vivaldi after I stopped playing his music in public school orchestras. The Four Seasons are actually pretty nice music! (Winter and Summer, at least.)

        Dvorak still has my heart though <3

    • WashedOut says:

      My tastes are pretty bipolar. I’d say my two most-listened genres are ambient and death metal. I have a small collection of Russian classical music that I absolutely adore, but do not know much about.

      When it comes to metal, im pretty picky. I like blackened, grinding dissonance with really sludgy/doomy movements. The metal bands for me are Portal, Ulcerate, Primitive Man, Vermin Womb, Convulsing, and Abyssal. My album of the year last year was Primitive Man’s Caustic.

      I’m an ambient musician (non-professional) myself so I focus on making my own rather than listening to a lot of others’ material. However some of my favourites are Prurient, Tim Hecker, Port Royal, Mogwai, Earth, and The Convoy.

      I agree the metal community tends to look down on symphonic metal, mainly because it isn’t heavy enough for most metalheads and is too feminine. The bands that get away with it are Opeth, Katatonia and Alcest – but i’d call these more ‘folk influenced’ than properly symphonic. No doubt you’re already fully aware of Opeth, but just in case…Blackwater Park and My Arms, Your Hearse get my vote.

      • Well... says:

        Some of my favorite bands (Alice in Chains, Mad Season) have done performances with orchestras, and I never much liked it.

        I also never understood why groups like Apocalyptica don’t use singers (or at least didn’t back when I was listening to them) and instead would dedicate an instrument to playing the vocal parts. I always thought that sounded terrible.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Since you’re talking about metal, does anyone know of any good metal bands from the last 20 that don’t have any weird vocals(or at least keep it to a minimum)but are really heavy? They don’t have to be Freddie Mercury, just someone who doesn’t do those death metal growls or anything like that.

        • fion says:

          Metallica would be what leaps to mind. Or were you thinking heavier?

          Rammstein?

          • Wrong Species says:

            Metallica is definitely heavy enough but they changed dramatically after the first four albums and those early ones don’t meet my 20 year cut off.

          • fion says:

            @Wrong Species

            Ah, fair enough. I guess I’m one of those philistines that likes their more recent stuff as much as their old stuff. 😛

        • Fluffy Buffalo says:

          Hah! That’s a really good question. I’m coming up blank. I thought of Iced Earth, but a) they started in the 80s, and b) they have pretty extreme vocals as well (just no growling). It’s a damn shame that straight-up singing has gone out of fashion so thoroughly in metal.

        • rahien.din says:

          Look to sludge and stoner metal.

          Start with Elder. Ignore their first album and start with Dead Roots Stirring. Lore and Reflections of a Floating World are also very good (if a little proggier).

          Torche play an infectious blend of sludge, stoner, doom, and… pop punk! They’re a lot of fun. My favorite of theirs is Harmonicraft, close second is Restarter.

          Lo-Pan have a sludgey, stoner-y groove that just sound like driving. Check out In Tensions and Colossus.

          You have to try Opeth‘s Pale Communion, a great metal / heavy rock album from a legendary (but former) death metal band.

          Abbath‘s self-titled is a blend of black metal and hard rock. The vocals are weird, but they’re neither growls nor shrieks. More of a resonant, malevolent, bullfrog. It works better than you’d think.

          If you are specifically wanting to avoid death metal growls, The DeftonesKoi No Yokan and Gore are heavy and dark, and still feature varied and evocative vocal performance. Chino Moreno is in a class of his own.

          Voyager aren’t as specifically heavy as the other bands, but they’re very, very good, they incorporate influences from a variety of styles, and their singer has a really fantastic vocal timbre. Ghost Mile is one of my favorite albums.

        • sty_silver says:

          Yes. Here and here. The first solves your requirement on vocals by not having vocals.

          A small note: if what you actually mean by ‘no weird vocals’ is ‘no harsh vocals’ I think it would be better to say ‘no harsh vocals’. ‘Weird’ is a value judgment.

          • Wrong Species says:

            It’s not harsh vocals that I necessarily have a problem with. Slayer and Pantera could both be said to have harsh vocals, but it’s not growling.

          • Well... says:

            if what you actually mean by ‘no weird vocals’ is ‘no harsh vocals’ I think it would be better to say ‘no harsh vocals’. ‘Weird’ is a value judgment.

            If you think about the fact that grown men are doing their best impressions of Cookie Monster, horror B-movie demons, and pterodactyls in an unironic effort to make their music sound cool, it is pretty weird.

          • sty_silver says:

            If you think about the fact that grown men are doing their best impressions of Cookie Monster, horror B-movie demons, and pterodactyls in an unironic effort to make their music sound cool, it is pretty weird.

            You’re making a claim which you must know is literally false. But let me say it anyway: no, not everyone who is doing harsh vocals is doing so in order to sound like a cookie monster, or to make their music sound ‘cool’. If you think this is the case then listen to this song and tell me in all honesty that you think anyone is trying to sound scary. Or cool.

            One fundamental function harsh vocals can have is to take supporting role. It is fairly common for them to melt into the rest of the music, while clean vocals are by their nature generally in the center of the music and draw the most attention. Moreover, harsh vocals have much less personality in them, in some cases none – by which I mean that there is no innate quality relating to the singer in them, the same way there is in the voice of everyone. In their purest form, harsh vocals just sound a certain way, and anyone can theoretically get there, it is just a matter of skill. It’s for those two reasons that I consider it a much more humble way of singing, certainly less intrusive.

            An example of this is here.

            The other and more important thing is that they open up a wide range of sounds and atmospheres that are simply not achievable with clean singing. Examples here, here, here

            But take a moment to appreciate the fundamental asymmetry here. I personally tend to find male cleans, in particular, unpleasant and annoying in many cases. There are very few songs I could name that I don’t think would be improved by getting rid of male cleans and either replacing them with female cleans or harsh vocals or scrapping them entirely. Imagine me posting under the recommendation of anyone something like “this has male clean vocals, who wants to hear another man sing, that’s so gay!” without any comprehension of the complete subjectivity of that sentence. This is the level of critique you offered in your post.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A lot of clean vocals, across the musical spectrum, are bad, because a lot of singers don’t really know how to sing, and are fronting the band for other reasons: maybe they’re the best songwriter, maybe they’ve got stage charisma, whatever.

            I’m not a huge fan of death grunts, that obnoxious screamo “my parents don’t understand me” voice, etc, but I do listen to some black metal (mostly more recent and less authentic stuff that doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a phone booth; also, fewer nazis) and I’ll take the good examples of that over people who try to sing clean but even with amplification are no good.

          • Well... says:

            @sty_silver:

            Yes, of course they’re not literally attempting impressions of those things; I was being a bit facetious. But I do think sounding like those things (and the vocalists know they sound like them) can more reasonably be thought of as silly than clean singing can be thought of as sounding gay, if for no other reason than male singing is pretty ubiquitous but Cookie Monster and b-horror movies and depictions of pterodactyls are pretty much the only other places where you hear those “harsh” vocal sounds. So unless you’re really “inside” the metal genre headspace, that’s what it will sound like.

            By the way, I know about and appreciate the de-egoizing effect and background/textural functionality of those vocal styles. But I do think the intended effect is to make the music sound scarier/heavier/more dissonant (and yes, not ALL metal is aspiring to that, but most is).

            The Estatic Fear song you linked to doesn’t contain those vocal styles, but still note that the name of the band is Estatic FEAR, and the subgenre (at least according to the description) is DOOM metal and that the image chosen to accompany the song is of an eerie black and white exterior that resembles a set you might find in a creepy “The Ring”-type horror movie.

          • sty_silver says:

            Okay, so first off – what do you mean by “The Estatic Fear song you linked to doesn’t contain those vocal styles?” It does contain harsh vocals – I linked it as an example illustrating why the claims you were making are in many cases fairly absurd. Did you just not listen to enough of it, or did you mean that they don’t contain the particular style of harsh vocals you object to? I was under the impression that you object to all of it.

            scarier/heavier/more dissonant (and yes, not ALL metal is aspiring to that, but most is).

            but still note that the name of the band is Estatic FEAR, and the subgenre (at least according to the description) is DOOM metal and that the image chosen to accompany the song is of an eerie black and white exterior that resembles a set you might find in a creepy “The Ring”-type horror movie.

            I have to protest to how you’re mixing things together here.

            There is trying to sound heavy or scary, and then there is trying to sound dissonant. Sounding dissonant is a stylistic choice that I would consider perfectly valid. Similarly with your description of the band. I will totally grant you that the band is trying to evoke an eerie atmosphere. I would also totally grant you that the name of the band and of the album is in some fundamental sense meant to be unsettling. Those things are true for the majority of music I like – indeed for the majority of art that I like. I would not remotely grant you that they’re trying to sound cool, edgy, heavy, or scary.

            I’d argue that the primary point of art is to communicate emotion, and many ways of doing that include being unsettling. Probably most ways of doing that involve being unsettling. If what you had said from the beginning was something in that direction, pointing out that harsh vocals often come in a package that’s in some way meant to take you places which aren’t immediately comfortable, I’d have immediately agreed. I find most music which doesn’t do that to be incredibly boring and I would even pity people who never go there because I think they’re missing out.

            But what you did in fact say was

            grown men are doing their best impressions of Cookie Monster

            And the number of bands I like where I think this sentiment is accurate is 0. It certainly doesn’t apply to Estatic Fear. And in general, this doesn’t apply to most instances of harsh vocals (what are you even basing that on?). It probably applies to most Metalcore which is one of countless subgenres of metal. This is one of the bands you’re parodying here.

            But I do think sounding like those things (and the vocalists know they sound like them) can more reasonably be thought of as silly than clean singing can be thought of as sounding gay, if for no other reason than male singing is pretty ubiquitous but Cookie Monster and b-horror movies and depictions of pterodactyls are pretty much the only other places where you hear those “harsh” vocal sounds.

            Only if you base what is reasonable on what most people think.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Ehh. I’m a metal fan, and 80% of metal vocalists are offputtingly bad to anybody who hasn’t spent way too much time listening to metal.

            I practice growling, so I have an idea of the level of practice it takes to get even to “offputtingly bad”, which hopefully one day I will attain, but if your experience with metal tends to be the kind of metal most people recommend – which is to say, with great instrumentation and only mostly competent vocals – you’re going to come away thinking it -all- sounds like that. Bowser screaming from his castle as you approach the last level in the original Mario somehow makes cameos in a lot of metal.

            If you’re not busy appreciating the way the growl is being used as an instrument – if you haven’t yet grokked that it is being used as an instrument – if you come at the growl as listening to somebody sing you a song, it is comical. Why are they shrieking like a pterodactyl? What are they trying to convey to me?

            Silent Stream of Godless Elegy’s Ii Tsohg was the first song where I really grokked what they were doing; my initial reaction was “Why is the vocalist barking like a dog?” Then it clicked. It was a percussive instrument. That sounded sort of like a dog barking.

            Yes, it’s weird. It is weird precisely in respect to “normal”, which is using your vocals to sing a song; using voice for, if the singer is halfway competent, melody. Crunchy vocals are rarely melody in a recognizable sense; they’re usually on the border between percussion and bass, because very few metal vocalists have the skill or talent for significant tonal variation.

            (“Normal” is pretty weird itself, if you think about the tonal ranges singing often veers into and how we would relate to it if we weren’t already used to it.)

            ETA:
            Well… –

            It’s probably more helpful to think of them as musicians first; they didn’t choose metal vocals to make their music sound a particular way, their music sounds a particular way so they try to theme their music to that.

            A lot of bands went off in other directions – singing about Dyson spheres and quasars or doing emotive interpretation of classic films – but mostly they’re just one-upping one anothers’ ridiculousness. I mean, what are you going to growl about, given that you have committed to growling as a vocal style? The girl you met in the coffee shop?

          • sty_silver says:

            Thegnskald: but why is the bottom 80% relevant for anything? I don’t bother with the bottom 80% in books, movies, tv shows, or music. I try not to bother with the bottom 95% in any of these things. If I’m judging any artform I’m doing it base on its best output. Don’t you?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Sty –

            Because the 20% of talented growlers don’t necessarily work with the 20% of other talented musicians. And a disproportionate number of them seem to be shits who talented musicians don’t want to work with – Danny Filth, for example.

            I don’t listen to In Flames for the growling, but the bass.

            Likewise, Dimmu Borgir is a good band – but their growler can’t do the same growl twice.

          • sty_silver says:

            Ok, fair.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sabaton is fun, but they’re at least a solid 8 on a 1 to 10 scale of silliness. Granted, most power metal’s pretty silly.

          • Orpheus says:

            I think your scale might be off. Most metal I know is way more silly than Sabaton (if it even manages to make coherent sense).

        • HeirOfDivineThings says:

          Here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mgou7flUKqE

          And right at the 20 year cutoff. Though when they first came out, a lot of people were saying they were ripping off Pantera.

        • WashedOut says:

          Since you’re talking about metal, does anyone know of any good metal bands from the last 20 that don’t have any weird vocals(or at least keep it to a minimum)but are really heavy?

          Try Soilwork, specifically the album A Predator’s Portrait. The vocals are more of a fast snarl and there is plenty of great melodic singing.

          The musicianship and composition skills of these guys is incredible, and their influence on modern progressive metal is pretty clear.

        • Robert Beckman says:

          Non-death growls:

          Alestorm (pirate metal) – 10 years old
          Manowar is old, but new content too. Try Gods of Battle (old style) or Gods of War – opera of the prose Edda.
          Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizard (yes, this as over-the-top as it sounds)

          Death growls that work:
          3 Inches of Blood

          All of these are in my recently played, along with Pavarotti….

    • johan_larson says:

      I have the most boring musical taste imaginable: I like the pop music of my youth +/- about ten years. Particular favorites: Good Vibrations, And Then He Kissed Me, Eleanor Rigby, Queen of Hearts, Go Your Own Way, I Hate Myself for Loving You. Also a lot of songs from musicals. Going outside of home ground, quite a bit of classical, country, and folk is listenable but very little jazz and hip-hop is.

    • I don’t listen to music much, but things I like tend to have interesting words. Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie, Leslie Fish, settings of Kipling poems by various people, …

      Pure instrumental music can be beautiful, but I find it boring.

    • Brett says:

      I have Pandora stations usually built around a particular song, theme, or artist that I liked. I’ve been mostly listening to the “Top Hits” station recently (which was a pre-created one), but I’ve also got a “And We Danced” station, a “Broadway” station, a “Chainsmokers” station, and so forth.

      Generally speaking, I like music that leans melodramatic and BIG.

    • knockknock says:

      Kestrellius — what makes you ask?

      Anyway, for me:
      60 Percent classical – Shostakovich is king
      25 percent 80s style metal and pop-metal
      15 percent 70s style prog-rock
      Some people think it’s odd that I listen to so much classical but then blow out my speakers with Sabbath, Accept or Lee Aaron (Canada’s Metal Queen!)

      Have tried to open my mind to the 90s and found only Anathema, The Gathering and Paradise Lost. Can’t stand most “growling.” As for the 20th century: Damone, Comedy of Errors and Effloresce — pretty slim pickings

      • Kestrellius says:

        Just random curiosity. Listening to music is a pretty substantial component of my day-to-day experience, but I don’t talk about it much.

    • marshwiggle says:

      Bach, a little Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, and Handel.

      About the only thing more recent I listen to is Sons of Korah, which is an Australian group retranslating and putting music to various Psalms. Until I heard them I’d never experienced that tribal thing people get when going to concerts. I’d figured it would never happen to me.

    • Well... says:

      Man, what a catnip post.

      Quoting myself:

      Ever since I can remember, I’ve been gobbling up a constantly expanding buffet of musical cuisines. Rock, rap, jazz, soul, gospel, country, bluegrass, opera, classical (what they used to call “concert music”), “world” (especially calypso, gamelan, Indian classical, and West African), and many other styles and genres of music have by now spent ample time rotating through my CD player.

      My steady favorite, to which I always return, is rock, preferably heavy. Sampling of favorite bands: Helmet, Soundgarden, Meat Puppets, Faith No More, Melvins.

      In rap I favor random underground unknowns whose music videos look like they were shot on cell phones and convincingly suggest that the rappers featured therein probably are criminals first and rappers second. Example.

      Jazz favorites: Andy Narell, Weather Report, the classics obviously, and there’s a Dave Douglas Quintet album, “The Infinite”, that has blown me away time and time again ever since I first heard it in high school. I also have some great African jazz CDs. I usually don’t like jazz with singing but Diane Reeves is amazing. I have a signed copy of Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out” and apparently it isn’t worth nearly as much as I think it should be.

      Soul: I had a lot of James Brown mixtapes made for me growing up and now I enjoy whatever they play on my Pandora station seeded from one of his songs.

      Gospel (black gospel, in case I need to clarify): The Winan sisters are awesome, but in gospel my favorites are more identifiable by particular songs I like, some of which have many variations. In general I like up-tempo choral stuff with interplay between the different choral voices.

      Country: Brad Paisley is the single most talented man on the radio. I like almost everything I’ve heard by David Allen Coe, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, and any of the three Hanks. Beyond that I have a few favorite songs, e.g. “Friends in Low Places,” “Some Beach,” “The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia”, etc. Miranda Lambert is the only female country singer whose voice I really like.

      Bluegrass: I have a few Earl Scruggs and Ricky Scaggs albums, they’re great. Steve Martin is awesome. Mainly I like whatever I hear especially if it’s up-tempo and features banjo.

      Opera: Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, and Carmen. They’re famous for a damn good reason.

      Classical: Beethoven’s 6th, Bach’s cello suites, Barber’s violin concerto, lots of stuff by Sibelius, Griffes’s Poem for Flute (orchestral version), Debussy’s “Pagodes”, Borodin’s 2nd (esp. the 3rd movement), and see “opera” above.

      Favorite “world” genre is gamelan , but my favorite “world” artists are Habib Koite and Toumani Diabate, both West Africans. I’m really into Indian music too, and I think Kadri Gopalnath might actually be my favorite Indian musician.

      I’m also a huge Fiona Apple fan.

      • Well... says:

        BTW, when I meet people and they say “I listen to all kinds of music” they usually don’t mean it as literally as I would if I said it about my own tastes, but I have met and befriended a few people over my lifetime whose music intake is as expansive and diverse as mine. The fact that I’ve met several such people kind of surprises me, but maybe it’s not actually that uncommon?

        • rlms says:

          I think “I have a more diverse than average taste in music” is one of those almost-ubiquitous beliefs that people hold regardless of the actual diversity of their music taste (like Dunning Krueger for driving ability and being a good judge of character). I would theorise that this is because people tend to only know the parts of their friends’ tastes in music that overlap with their own.

          • fion says:

            I think you’re right, but I think the reason is mostly out-group homogeneity bias. Music you’re not interested in is more likely to sound similar than music you are interested in. You therefore shrink the categories of the music you’re not interested in and expand the categories of music you are interested in. Hey presto, everybody else’s music tastes are more narrow than mine!

          • Well... says:

            Typically when you hear “I like all kinds of music” it basically means something like “I like the music played on most of the popular FM stations in my city.” I.e. top 40 pop, rock, rap/hip-hop/R&B, and some oldies. Depending on what kind of circles you move in, you’ll often hear the suffix “except country” or be able to infer it when it’s not stated.

          • Enkidum says:

            @Well…

            Yes, exactly. I wrote about that “except country” thing here.

          • Well... says:

            Yeah I think you’ve got it about right WRT “everything but rap and country”.

            Re. constraints on country musicians, within my first few months of listening regularly to country music I found that almost all country songs fit into one (sometimes two) of the following four categories:

            1. songs having to do with love and relationships
            2. songs having to do with small town life or being proud to be from a small town; also includes songs about the narrator’s personal history which usually originates in a small town
            3. patriotic songs
            4. songs about partying/drinking/going fishing or on vacation, or wishing to do these things.

            There is a smaller but still significant fifth category of songs having to do with law-breaking or living the lifestyle of an outlaw.

            There are rare songs that don’t fit into any of these, e.g. “Cooler Online” but they are few and far between.

          • rlms says:

            To be fair, I think the majority of songs of any genre probably fall into category 1.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I think I have an unusually non-diverse taste in music. It contains… maybe three clusters (blues-influenced classic rock – Guns n’ Roses, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith; folk/country-influenced soft rock – Soul Asylum, REM, Simon and Garfunkel, Brendan Benson; slightly electronic/goth-influenced soft rock – Pulp, Garbage). And those clusters are, you know, not all that distant from one another. It literally all involves guitars; it almost all involves white male vocalists singing (the sole exception being Shirley Manson).

            It’s not that I hate everything (or even most things) outside that range. Much (even most) of it is perfectly pleasant. But I’d never buy it or seek it out.

            Things I actually want to fire into the heart of the sun are pretty much limited to some very heavy dance music and male R&B singers with a certain vocal quality that I find hard to define but hits me like nails on a blackboard – examples include Craig David and Usher.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve heard country (country and western?) songs about the importance of being yourself.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Well…

            Maybe you’re including them in the other categories, but there’s a large category of country songs about personal loss. The joke goes

            — What do you get when you play a country song backwards?

            — You get your house back, your wife back, your dog back, your truck back…

          • Enkidum says:

            @well…

            Agreed with what others said about your 4.5 categories. Most songs in any popular genre fall into category 1, and honestly that many categories beats most other genres hands down (how many categories of song do the Katy Perrys and Rihannas of the world sing?). But yeah, I think you’re more or less right about those being the main ones. I tend to listen to more deliberately weird country, which often has political or literary pretensions, so there’s maybe more there. But these days most of the songs are about bloody trucks, which is just annoying.

          • ashlael says:

            And sometimes you get country songs about vasectomies.

          • Well... says:

            I can think of only one song about a truck (“Pickup Man” by Joe Diffie) and only one song about a dog (“Ol’ Red” by Blake Shelton) which is really more about lawbreaking/the outlaw lifestyle. (Or, arguably, it could fall into the love/romance category.) I’m sure there are more, and of course there are songs that mention dogs and trucks in passing (e.g. “Some Beach” by Blake Shelton mentions driving in a truck, “Way Out Here” by Josh Thompson mentions dogs), but I think it’s a mischaracterization to say that any significant category of country music could be built around dogs and trucks. (Contra David Allen Coe in the comical bridge and fourth verse to “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”.)

            And yes, obviously most genres are mostly full of love songs or songs about relationships, but I still had to number it alongside other categories for the sake of completeness.

            I agree country probably has more discrete song categories than, say, pop or rap, but I think rock probably has more categories than country.

          • Randy M says:

            There’s one called (or at least with the chorus that starts with) “I drive your truck”, though your caveat would apply; while it describes a truck and driving it, it’s about grief and friendship.

          • quaelegit says:

            One thing confounding these categorizations within country music is that if you mostly listen to other music, you probably think of country in terms of what distinguishes it from other music. Pretty much any genre played on the radio will have lots of songs about love/relationships/grief/etc., so what sticks out at you is the images, sounds, etc. that are more unique to country.

            Like if you just barely know “classical music”, the rule of thumb is Baroque music is the stuff with harpsichords. But if you listen to classical music a lot, you know that while a harpsichord is a good indication that the piece is Baroque, most Baroque music isn’t “about” harpsichord, and probably most of it doesn’t even use harpsichords.

            Also I don’t know enough about either genre to say for sure, but “country probably has more discrete categories than rap or pop” seems to me to reflect ones greater familiarity with country more than any fact of the genres themselves. (How do you even decide which categories are discrete and which get lumped together?)

          • Well... says:

            Also I don’t know enough about either genre to say for sure, but “country probably has more discrete categories than rap or pop” seems to me to reflect ones greater familiarity with country more than any fact of the genres themselves. (How do you even decide which categories are discrete and which get lumped together?)

            I decide by listening a lot and making a judgment call.

            I think I’m familiar enough with pop and rap to compare them in a reasonably informed way with country.

        • quaelegit says:

          At least for me, when I say stuff like this I mean “outside of classical music I don’t have strong/well defined enough opinions that I expect you to successfully cater to them, so I’m fine with whatever you want to play.” If you press me for specific names I can probably name a couple popular musicians or songs that my friends play a lot that I don’t hate, and then I’ll go back to talking about classical music 😛

          Moreover, I’m pretty bad at remembering artists and song names (and especially connecting the name to the music in my head), so even though I know there are some artists/songs I dislike I usually can’t remember what they are…

      • WashedOut says:

        In that case I have some recommendations for you, but I run the risk of you already knowing some of them:

        Heavy Rock: Cog (esp. The New Normal); Gojira’s From Mars To Sirius

        Jazz: Harry Mitchell. He’s a young virtuoso jazz pianist. For something a bit less pure, try the band Grievous Bodily Calm.

        Country: Gillian Welch. Both Time the Revelator (older) and The Harrow and the Harvest (more recent) are great albums.

        World: I trust you have at least one of the 20+ volumes of the long running Ethiopiques Ethio-jazz compilations? If not, get your hands on one, any one.

        Edit:

        The fact that I’ve met several such people kind of surprises me, but maybe it’s not actually that uncommon?

        It’s more common among metal listeners from my experience, because metal is a higher sonic-enjoyment hurdle to get over and because of the technical commonality with certain types of classical music.

        • Well... says:

          Thanks, I’ll definitely check that stuff out.

          Since you’re listening, just for fun I will point out how all the favorite rock bands I listed are connected:

          Helmet‘s original drummer, John Stanier, plays with Mike Patton’s band Tomahawk. Patton (of Faith No More) has another band, Fantomas, that features Buzz Osborn (of the Melvins) on guitars. Melvins drummer Dale Crover took a turn as one of Nirvana’s many drummers. Nirvana at one time had hired Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden bassist) as a roadie and nominal second guitarist. Nirvana also featured the brothers Kirkwood (of the Meat Puppets) and covered a few Meat Puppets songs on their Unplugged album, since the Meat Puppets were a huge influence on Kurt Cobain.

          There are probably numerous ways to connect all those bands but that is one of them.

        • Enkidum says:

          I second the recommendation of Ethiopiques. It’s really, really good.

      • rahien.din says:

        I downloaded “The Infinite” and damn is it good! I got to the end and was genuinely sad the album was over. New favorite. Thanks!

    • mdet says:

      I love the sounds of the late 60s – 70s more than any other time period. The funk and psychadelic soul of Stevie, Curtis, Marvin, Earth Wind & Fire; the bluesy~jazzy rock of Led Zepp, Santana, early Chicago, and Steely Dan. Drifting towards and into the 80s: ELO, The Police, Prince, MJ, and some New Wave (90125, Songs From The Big Chair, and Soul Mining are good albums).

      For the decades since then, some notable artists in my library:
      Rap — Chance, Childish, Common, Das Racist, J Cole, Kanye, Kendrick, OutKast, Roots, Run the Jewels, A Tribe Called Quest, Vince Staples
      Indie — alt-J, Bombay Bicycle Club, Django Django, Florence + The Machine, Friendly Fires, Glass Animals, recent Grizzly Bear, Streetlight Manifesto (leaning towards the brassier, away from the punk / metal), Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, the xx
      R&B / Neo-Soul — BADBADNOTGOOD, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Hiatus Kaiyote, The Internet, Janelle Monae, Kamasi Washington, Rhye, Thundercat

      I also have a wide spattering of other music, although I don’t get much harder than Zeppelin in rock music, so no metal here. I haven’t listened to enough country music to have anywhere near an informed opinion, but the genre sounds really… flat to me. (Not “flat” as opposed to “sharp”, but “flat” as in not much going on)

      Now that my musical tastes are all exposed, if anyone has recommendations of stuff in the range of this music profile, I’m all ears. (Well…?)

      • WashedOut says:

        if anyone has recommendations of stuff in the range of this music profile, I’m all ears.

        Alt-RnB-ish: Try Yusef Kamal’s Black Focus.
        Rap: Brockhampton. If that isn’t weird enough, try Clipping or Death Grips.
        “Indie”: You’d probably like Ballpark Music. Or Gang of Youths.

      • rlms says:

        If you don’t already know him, you would certainly like Robert Glasper. Also Snarky Puppy/Dirty Loops. Like WashedOut, I also like Clipping (but they are a bit weird). A few years ago, a stranger on reddit let me know about Tha Los, who sounds uncannily Steely-Danish.

      • Enkidum says:

        Rap – You might like Royce Da 5’9″, although he’s a bit more gangsta-ish than most of your list. But in terms of pure technique, he’s one of the best, living or dead.

    • Wander says:

      I’m very into folk music, mostly Irish as it has the richest tradition that’s easily available. The Dubliners, The Merry Ploughboys, tons of artists who had their songs on big collaborations albums like Deanta, Clannad etc. and some more English bands like Wayward. I also like folk adjacent things, like filk from Leslie Fish, Bill Sutton, and such.
      I’m also extremely fond of some indie, mainly Radical Face, and my favorite weird band is Gregorian. The Gregorian chant cover of Bring Me To Life is surprisingly appropriate.

    • Levantine says:

      Early modern music. It encompasses all music from before the 1800s; of that, mostly Bach. (1)

      Vangelis (2)

      I don’t mind: space age jazz, good film music, 80s pop, The Seekers, Inti Illimani … (3)

      What is unusual in the above is that I’m interested in classical music except the one from the past two centuries.

      • quaelegit says:

        Why are you less interested in the more recent classical music? And do you feel there’s a definite cutoff for your preferences?

      • Grenouille says:

        I don’t think your tastes are especially unusual, although I have the opposite preference : I love classical music, but from 1850 onwards much more so. Some of my favorite composers are Liszt, Wagner, Scriabin and Messiaen (I have a taste for somewhat dissonant music).

    • kaakitwitaasota says:

      Lots of jazz, blues, some rock, an increasing amount of classical (particularly late 19th- and early 20th-century composers–Vaughan Williams, Holst, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Dvořák).

      It’s basically my father’s taste in music with a few additions. Something I’ve noticed is that musical tastes seem to be like languages–once you get past your teens, your tastes are more-or-less solidified. When I spent seven months in Brazil between high school and college I tried to get into Brazilian country music (sertaneja); I couldn’t. It’s simply too different.

      (though I do find Indonesian gamelan music fun to listen to)

    • Fluffy Buffalo says:

      I suppose Nightwish is a bit over the top and sappy for some metalheads – not for me, though (coincidentally I’m wearing my “Once” tour shirt today… awesome album).
      My favorite styles, and some favorites:
      – progressive metal – Fates Warning, early Dream Theater, Psychotic Waltz
      – melodic/ symphonic metal – Nightwish, Therion, Iron Maiden, Warlord, Van Canto
      – 70s prog/ proggish classic rock: Rush, ELP, Kansas, Styx
      – currently looking into mid-60s and hippie era stuff: Yardbirds, Kinks, Zombies, Cream, Shocking Blue
      Plus some folk/ medieval stuff, soundtracks and whatever I or my wife come across.

    • rubberduck says:

      I like industrial and industrial metal, plus the odd anime soundtrack. Recently I have been listening to Turmion Katilot (Finnish metal act), Die Krupps (German industrial metal), and the Made in Abyss OST.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      (IMO) Good-to-great metal-or-almost I think you’d take long to hear about otherwise: The Faceless (nearly Bay Aryan by geography, completely by ideology!), Kraken, Arandu Arakuaa, Armahda, Moonspell (mainly “1755” for me), Skálmöld, Balkandji, Magilum, Al-Namrood (reportedly metalheads where metal costs your head – the trvvmost), Ego Fall, Tengger Cavalry (best before composer left China (and former band) behind), Alien Weaponry.

      If anyone has other recommendations in those veins (e.g. I think there were bands with lyrics in Mexican languages), I’m all ears.

    • Enkidum says:

      I have > 3 months of continuous music properly collated and tagged in my itunes collection (2010 albums), and probably a month or more that I never got around to tagging properly (I went through a lengthy period of pirating music like crazy, which I no longer do, but I haven’t gotten rid of the collection). Someone above said that people underestimate the relative diversity of their musical taste, but I think I’ve got fairly objective reasons to say that I have pretty damn diverse tastes.

      My most-commonly-listened-to genres would be folk (particularly traditional Celtic stuff and 20th-century North American), hip-hop/rap, country, soul/funk/r&b, jazz, and “rock” broadly defined, but I listen to a lot of other things as well. Probably most of the stuff other than hip-hop and country that I listen to is pre-1980. I was born in 1976, so for what it’s worth I don’t listen to much of the music of my teens, I have a handful of albums that have been on regular rotation for decades, but generally I tend to be exploring for new (to me) sounds, so >50% of my most played tracks over the past few months are ones I didn’t listen to 10 years ago. I was a big Pearl Jam / Nirvana etc fan when they came out, and I haven’t listened to anything they put out in a decade or more, the only thing vaguely connected to that scene I listen to on a remotely regular basis is Jane’s Addictions first three albums.

      I was a big hair metal fan as a kid, which I’ve definitely grown out of, and while I can appreciate metal and some of it I love, I don’t listen to any of it regularly save the precursors such as Sabbath and Zeppelin. My parents had a large classical collection (~300 albums I guess), and I took a classical music appreciation course in my undergrad, so I know the canon reasonably well, but I never listen to it of my own initiation, which I feel a little embarrassed about since I do love quite a bit of it – generally post 1800 stuff, roughly Beethoven-Mahler. Similarly, in the 90’s I spent a lot of time dancing to house/techno, but other than a few choice albums (specifically, a few by The Chemical Brothers and a Ninjatune compilation) I never listen to it at home.

      I’m pretty obsessive about music, as likely came across above, and I do things like make 4 hour playlists where the ideal is that each track flows naturally from the previous one, with strong thematic / musical connections between them, but I try to get through as many genres in as short a space of time as possible. Then I force my friends to listen to them at parties and generally no one seems to mind them.

      I’ve been thinking a lot about “desert island discs” recently, a handful of albums that I’d bring with me after the apocalypse or whatever. Off the top of my head, my 10 would include:

      Handful of Earth by Dick Gaughan – highly political Scots/Irish folk
      Kind of Blue by Miles Davis – the most popular jazz album of all time, for good reason
      R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike – highly political hardcore hip-hop
      Something More Than Free by Jason Isbell – alt-country/Americana, ideally I’d be able to throw in some of his tracks from other albums including the work he did with the Drive-by Truckers, but that’s not the game I’m playing so…
      Call Me by Al Green – soul/R&B – holy shit this is a good
      El Corazon by Steve Earle – the guy who pretty much invented left wing alt-country
      Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones – yeeeeah
      Just as I am by Bill Withers – soul/R&B
      5 Days in July by Blue Rodeo – a folk/rock/country album that any Canadian +/- 10 years of my age knows very well, at least the many singles
      Aquemini by Outkast – one of the most-respected hip-hop albums from one of the most respected hip-hop groups of all time.

      If you asked me to generate the same list tomorrow (or right now) it would be pretty different. Plus albums as opposed to individual songs restricts it quite a bit, as for obvious reasons there are way more great songs on generally mediocre albums than there are great albums.

      Uh… wow that was long-winded. I’ve written a fair bit about music on my own blog, which I occasionally advertise here, so what the hell.

      • mdet says:

        “You have three months of music in iTunes? Cool, I have a lot too. I have *opens library* twelve days. Oh. Ok yeah you win”

        Your library sounds good, I’d definitely borrow some of your playlists if that was a thing we could do. (Spotify can, but if all your music is downloaded in iTunes…) And Royce da 5’9″s most recent album was pretty good. Only listened to the one album, but it wasn’t really gangsta rap, most of the songs were the introspection and vulnerability behind the bravado, with mental health seeming to be a recurring theme.

        My mom makes playlists like what you describe, with genres ranging across pop, rock, R&B, new age, and world music. I’m not quite that meticulous, but one reason I try to have all my music downloaded instead of streaming like every other millennial is because I also enjoy categorizing and cataloging a library.

        • Enkidum says:

          Royce recently realized he was an alcoholic and has stopped drinking, but kept rapping, which is a really interesting change. I’m definitely curious as to where he takes it in the future, because he could really do something special, I feel.

          I just came across Black Thought’s 10-minute Funkmaster Flex freestyle, which is jaw-dropping.

          I’ve often thought about trying to share my playlists, but spotify doesn’t allow you to do that unless you’ve got a paid account, and I dislike Spotify enough that I refuse to pay for it. And I tend to include enough tracks that aren’t stream-able (although Youtube usually comes through) that it’s annoying. I’ll keep looking for an alternative.

      • Robert Beckman says:

        The best song for Mahler was covered by Tom Lehrer about his wife, Alma.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I like a lot of sorts of music, though certainly not everything. Folk, filk, classical which isn’t hostile to the listener, rock which isn’t too different from the sixties (live drummers are a plus), early music, some jazz…. I’ll probably think of more. Not rap, and generally not metal.

      As a general thing, I tend to like music with some lift to it.

      I’m enjoying Harmonicraft– a little rougher than I generally like, but fun. It reminds me that while I can enjoy sweet harmonious music, I get a kick out of drones (I like bagpipes and don’t understand why so many people say they hate bagpipes) and modal music.

      When I was a kid, I liked my music fairly fast. I’ve acquired appreciation for slower music that’s about emotional shifts.

      What’s the weirdest music that you like? I’m always kind of surprised that I like a good bit of Sun Ra– it’s kind of avant garde, and as far as I can tell, it gets its interest from contrasting timbre rather than rhythm or melody. When I was a kid, it all sounded like traffic noise, and now only about a third of it does.

      • Fluffy Buffalo says:

        What’s the weirdest music that you like?

        Tricky question – most of the music that I like, I don’t consider weird anymore. From an outsider’s perspective, stuff like Psychotic Waltz is probably pretty strange, though. I like a fair amount of complexity in my music, but there are definitely limits – the more avantgarde kinds of jazz cause me physical discomfort.

      • rlms says:

        What’s the weirdest music that you like?

        Probably Nancarrow (a more tuneful piece of his). Runners up are Xiu Xiu, Whitehouse, and of course Clipping and similar. Special mention goes to The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu.

        For highest weirdness/enjoyment ratio, probably some Mingus, but I prefer his more normal stuff.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m not sure where Penguin Cafe fits on the weirdness scale, but I don’t know of anyone else doing the same sort of thing. Weirdness starts at about 25 seconds.

          The JAMMS are fun– thanks for the link. I wonder whether a distinction should be made between weird with a straight face and weird which appears to be intended to be funny.

          • quaelegit says:

            I didn’t find it very weird, but I really liked it, so thank you for sharing!

      • WashedOut says:

        What’s the weirdest music that you like?

        How weird tastes are is in the eye of the beholder. If i’m talking to my mum, everything I listen to will be weird. If I’m talking to Well…, he’ll probably shrug and call me a pleb.

        Representative sample of potential weirdness (music Io listen to regularly):

        PrurientRainbow Mirror – 3 hours of instrumental industrial noise-scapes
        Primitive ManCaustic – Doom metal, makes you feel like you’re being slowly bludgeoned to death with a spade. Heaviest thing I’ve ever heard.
        Scott WalkerBisch Bosch – Sarcastic opera vocals singing weird poetry/ sound-art over the top of gloomy minimalist instrumentals
        Venetian SnaresRossz Csillag Alatt Szulettet – frantic breakcore concept album interspersed with long melancholic classical interludes, often referred to as ‘the Hungarian album’ from legendary underground Canadian producer Aaron Funk. Samples Bela Bartok’s string quartets.
        Ween – say no more

      • johan_larson says:

        Here’s the Toronto Consort, an early-music group, playing Istampita Ghaetta.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xn162C6ocE

        Listen to that hurdy-gurdy wail.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Weirdest song I love:
        Start a Fire by the Tigerlillies.

        Hands down. The most annoying+catchy song I have ever encountered. (That seems to be the band’s forte: Terrible music that is somehow amazing.)

      • rahien.din says:

        Buke and Gase

        A girl named Arone plays a baritone ukelele. A guy named Aron plays a guitar-bass hybrid through two amps. Both of them play percussion with their feet. They are disjoint, surging, hypnotic, feral, and louder than they have any right to be.

        NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
        Medulla Oblongata, this time at full volume
        Revel in Contempt
        Outt!
        Houdini Crush
        Cyclopean
        My Best Andre Shot

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Heh, skimming through the new comments, I tried to read this as another logic puzzle, but there didn’t seem to be enough information.

    • James says:

      I object to this most crucial question being called ‘trivial’.

      Different kinds of pop music from every era from the sixties through to the present, but lots of glam rock and eighties synthpop. T-Rex, Roxy Music, Scritti Politti…. I like David Bowie, but not nearly as much as everyone for some reason assumes that I would. Brian Eno’s vocal albums are great and his thoughts on music and art, as relayed in interviews, are always stimulating. I also have a soft spot for a weird, intellectual, ironist, Scottish songwriter called Momus.

      When it comes to contemporary pop I share my taste with teenage girls.

      I tend to like things that are light, glossy, pretty, well-produced. Apparently unlike a lot of the posters here, I loathe anything heavy, turgid, or ‘soulful’.

      I do have an experimental streak but nowadays it’s languishing.

      • Enkidum says:

        Any idea what you dislike about soulfulness? That being one of the main things I look for in music, it’s interesting to see a direct statement against it.

        • James says:

          Good question, and one to which I don’t have a ready answer! I suppose I tend to see ‘soulfulness’ as a kind of phony, affected authenticity. And it’s not the affectedness that bothers me in that formulation, but the pretense of authenticity!

          I feel like all music is intrinsically artificial and affected, insofar as it tends to involve obeying genre cues and producing recognisable signifiers. Given that, why pretend that it’s real?

          What can I say? I like artifice and contrivance.

          • Protagoras says:

            Sounds like the reason I heavily prefer studio recordings to recordings of live performances.

          • Enkidum says:

            Interesting, thanks. I guess my response would be that everything you say is true of all forms of expression, including plain old conversation. That isn’t meant as a counter-argument, because I don’t think musical taste should be considered a proposition to defend, and I’m not interested in converting you or anything.

            Perhaps one critical point you’re getting at is that in the case of a song (as opposed to conversation), it’s turning the emotion on like a tap – you’re not actually feeling the hurt over your breakup or whatever, you just are pretending to for the duration of the song. But isn’t that also true of acting? Do you dislike emotional films for the same reason? I dunno, like I said I’m not trying to argue with you, just find it curious that we have such radically different takes.

            Also, with respect to Protagoras’ comment, it’s interesting that I have a strong attraction to live performances, and often prefer them to the so-called “real” song. Not always, and of course many artists are shit live. But I’m often more interested in a performance and interpretation than I am in a canonical truth.

          • James says:

            Perhaps one critical point you’re getting at is that in the case of a song (as opposed to conversation), it’s turning the emotion on like a tap – you’re not actually feeling the hurt over your breakup or whatever, you just are pretending to for the duration of the song.

            Yep.

            But isn’t that also true of acting? Do you dislike emotional films for the same reason?

            It is. And I wouldn’t say that I dislike emotional films, but I probably tend to be bored by films where prominent displays of emotion are a central component, especially if it’s for its own sake rather than in service of some other principle. I like emotion in my art, but I prefer it to be hinted at than indulged in to excess.

            A bit of a non sequitur, but this throwaway line quoted in a Wikipedia article on a genre of French classical music song does a good job of describing my taste: ‘the French taste […] abhors overstatement and venerates concision and diversity’.

            I dunno, like I said I’m not trying to argue with you, just find it curious that we have such radically different takes.

            Me too! I always like talking about this stuff.

          • Enkidum says:

            James, I’ve been interested enough by this conversation that I’m writing a longer piece partly inspired by it. I’ll send you a link in later OT when it’s done, assuming I remember. Thanks!

          • James says:

            Cool! I’m around, so I’ll see it when you post it, if not necessarily straight away.

    • sty_silver says:

      A lot, often even while I’m studying. Favorite genre would have to be progressive metal, but I tend to think that identifying with a genre is generally bad. Some of my favorite artists are Ne Obliviscaris, Kashiwa Daisuke, Joe Hisaishi, Agalloch, Persefone.

      Some of my favorite songs: here, here, here, here, here. Ghost Love Score might have also made the list.

    • J Mann says:

      Lately, I’m much more interested in individual pieces that say something to me rather than albums or specific sounds (I blame Spotify and Google Play) but I gravitate to 80s-90s alternative sounding stuff, rap, pop, and some country.

      Recent obsessions:

      – I really like the soundtracks to the anime series Parasyte (dubstep) and Attack on Titan (grand war music with all kinds of drums), and should probably go back and get the soundtrack to the Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series.

      – I went back and picked out some of Britney Spears’ catchiest tunes from her best of.

      – I like sweet alternative electronic pop – early Pet Shop Boys, Such Great Heights, Kiss the Sky, etc.

      • mdet says:

        I only have a handful of anime songs, but I think Kill la Kill had a great soundtrack

        • Nornagest says:

          Most anime music sinks through my memory without a ripple. The stuff that sticks around tends to be weird, energetic J-rock or Yoko Kanno.

          I don’t remember Kill la Kill specifically, but if it’s anything like the rest of Trigger’s offerings, it’s probably in the “weird, energetic J-rock” category.

          • J Mann says:

            Anime music is kind of like a dream – if you reinforce it after you finish the series, you can preserve and strengthen all those associations, and if you don’t they fade.

            So for me, “Next to You” from Parasyte has some deep emotional responses, because it’s tied to several really gripping moments, and because I kept listening to it after I stopped watching.

            I can remember that “Blumenkrantz” (the main villain theme) and “Don’t Lose Your Way” (the “heroes are turning things around by not giving up” theme) rocked in Kill la Kill, but I don’t have the same emotional association that I had when I was watching the series.

            So I guess the moral is that if you add the most emotionally laden music to your playlist while you’re still into the anime, you’ll get some good workout songs.

        • mdet says:

          also it was just a great anime.

          [I literally just commented this, closed my browser by accident, and reopened it, and it’s saying I can’t edit because my comment was posted two hours ago… truly, I have achieved time travel]

          Edit: It’s definitely weird, energetic J-rock + military sounding drums and orchestra. A lot of the songs seem to build and drop in a way that perfectly fits the engagement curve, so it feels like they’re hacking my brain to make them more enjoyable than they should be.

    • eccdogg says:

      I find myself most often gravitating towards roots type music. Outlaw Country and folk music primarily.

      Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings (and thus the Highwaymen), Dolly Parton, Kingston Trio, Hank Sr/Jr, Marty Robbins, Woody Guthrie, Simon and Garfunklel, Kenny Rodgers, David Allen Coe, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Gillian Welch, Allison Krauss, Carolina Chocolate Drops, etc etc.

      Also like 90’s rap and classic rock.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t consider myself to have particularly discriminating taste in regards to music. I like songs that I can sing or whistle along with, and can play in front of my kids, since I mostly listen to music via Youtube and listen to what it recommends based on songs I’ve liked, which includes country (I particularly like the male/female duets), Third Day, Savage Garden, (rock/pop? idk), Lindsey Stirling (techno-violin), Peter Hollins (vocal) & Celtic Women.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Folk music (“from its origin in the fifties to its heyday in the sixties”). I grew up with what I think was the original Limeliters.

      Big band music. I was definitely born in the wrong generation. I can never hear Edythe Wright do “The Music Goes Round and Round” enough times. I recently discovered Jo Stafford on Sirius and was wowed.

      Beethoven, Dvorak, Smetana, Rodrigo, Respighi, Grieg.

      Enya, Vangelis, Harry Chapin, Ella Fitzgerald, Cat Stevens.

      Weird Al.

    • rahien.din says:

      I’m mostly a metal fan.

      Death Metal
      Mid-period Opeth are my favorite band. Their Blackwater Park is my all-time – it’s the album that introduced me to death growls and taught me to love them. Amon Amarth (rollicking Viking anthems), Dyscarnate (meat and potatoes modern DM), Temple of Void’s Lords of Death (everything death-doom ought to be), Demonical (excellent buzzsaw Swedeath), Skeletal Remains (old school death metal).

      Thrash and Groove
      Lamb of God (heir to Pantera’s reptilian groove), mid-period Metallica (particularly …And Justice for All)

      Black Metal and Post-Black
      Deafheaven (crushing, elevating, and emotionally gorgeous), Kvelertak (lush, sunlit, triple-guitar post-black), Abbath (a black metal legend rediscovers his love of Kiss and Priest and fun), The Great Old Ones (Lovecraftian, seductive, awestruck horror), Lantlôs’s Melting Sun (hazy, blissed-out, gigantic, post-black), Agalloch (druidic and misanthropic and elated), Cobalt’s Gin (just excellent black metal).

      Progressive Metal
      Between the Buried and Me (Colors is an absolute modern classic), Plini’s Handmade Cities (the only nu-prog I like), Soap Revelations (diverse moods, virtuosity without the deedly-deet), late-period Opeth (I miss the growls, but still very good). I can’t fucking stand Dream Theater.

      Hardcore and Metalcore
      Refused (The Shape of Punk to Come : a Chimerical Bombination in Twelve Bursts), Unearth (The Oncoming Storm is unsurpassed), Darkest Hour (chaotic and violent without resorting to inscrutability).

      Tech-Death
      Archspire (Relentless Mutation is a crystalline glory), Revocation (way catchier than tech-death ought to be), Rivers of Nihil (amazing organic sound, emotional notes no one else hits), Nile (some of my favorite riffs, insane drumming), Meshuggah (these guys are paragons).

      Stoner/etc.
      Elder are the best heavy psych band bar none, and Dead Roots Stirring will never leave my iPhone. Torche (heavy, delirious, and fun), Lo-Pan (sounds like driving a Camaro, baby).

      Then there’s the metal that fits no particular category
      Deftones (heavy and druggy and rhythmic and intelligent), Voyager (futuristic prog metal with great vocal performance), ALKALOID (just plain awesome), Isis (epic psych-y postmetal fronted by an angry bear)

      Soul/Blues/etc.
      Jamiroquai (if Stevie Wonder loved cars and sang acid-funk-disco), JJ Grey and Mofro (blue-eyed Florida swamp shuffle), Sam and Dave (they’re Sam and Dave), John Lee Hooker (gritty and down-home), Robert Randolph & the Family Band (amped-up upbeat soul with attitude and slide guitar)

      Electronic and Downbeat
      Justice (driving, rock-oriented synthpop), Ladytron (icy cool and bombastic), Zero 7 (unsurpassed chill), Moonchild (soulful and sweet), Telefon Tel Aviv (brilliant and brittle), CHVRCHES (full of bangers), Depeche Mode (gothic moods, engrossing soundscapes), Disparition (eerie, trippy, like an artifact from a nonexistent town), Kubbi (impeccably pixellated)

      Jazz
      Wes Montgomery (incredible indeed, classic), Coast (these guys are flat good), Pete Fountain (I just love dixieland jazz), No BS Brass Band (exactly what it sounds like)

      Pop and Punk
      La Luz (all-girl surf noir), Anna Burch (breezy, jangly, propulsive), Carly Rae Jepsen (tremendously underrated!), Charly Bliss (snotty, sweet, wicked, clever), Goldfrapp (sassy elastic stomp), Imogen Heap (fragmented, chorus-y, and soaring), As Tall as Lions (exceptional emo-pop)

      Soundtracks
      Darren Korb’s Bastion (like a Western set in the Indus), Matt Uelman’s Diablo II (spooky and daring), Nobuo Uematsu (I could listen to the FFVII soundtrack for the rest of my life), Front Line Assembly’s Airmech (robotic, organic, and engaging), O Brother Where Art Thou? (folk, blues, and gospel), Yoko Kanno’s soundtracks for Cowboy Bebop (exhilarating genre-bending jazz and electronic), Clint Mansell’s Pi (the claustrophobia of genius)

      Everything Else
      Lonely Mountain Band’s Second Breakfast (music from the Shire), The Raconteurs (jangly oversized garage rock), Rogue’s Gallery (modern interpretations of sea shanties commissioned by Johnny Depp), Skinny Lister (anthemic shanty-banging pub rock), The Cars (are awesome), Creedence Clearwater Revival (I don’t even care that they’re not from the bayou), Sparta (post-punk with all the anthemic power of early U2, amazing singing), Mozart’s wind concertos, Alasdair Fraser (wonderful Celtic violin), John Luther Adams (like watching the earth turn)

      • knockknock says:

        I’m gonna sit down with YouTube and your metal suggestions (and others in this thread!). I just can’t take growling/rasping/gargling thus so many otherwise promising albums are quick toss-outs.

        • sty_silver says:

          Don’t toss out Opeth and Agalloch because you hear harsh vocals in one of their songs. They have one fantastic all-clean record each. That’s here and here. You can safely stay away from the rest of their discography though, I personally wouldn’t bother with modern opeth (which is also clean but boring)

      • Grenouille says:

        You probably already know Primordial, but if not you should check them out (they’re a black/death/folk metal band). The Coffin Ships is my favorite song of theirs.

        • rahien.din says:

          Great band, unique sound, good at what they do. And “The Coffin Ships” is truly excellent.

          Overall they’re not my speed, though. I wish they would focus on their more riff-driven songs. When the guitars are playing the long tremolo-picked sections, it’s totally up to the drummer to generate any interest, and that dude is working really, really hard.

      • WashedOut says:

        Have you checked out Nails? If you like metallic hardcore/powerviolence check them out. Old stuff is very grindy, newer stuff is more groove/blast/spinkick madness with more direct vocals.

        Where do you stand on Liturgy (the American modern ‘black metal’ band)? A lot of people can’t get past the apparent pretentiousness, but if Aesthetica isn’t a virtuoso display of metal musicianship I don’t know what is.

        • rahien.din says:

          Have you checked out Nails?

          I never really got into grind or powerviolence for some reason, but I’ll check them out!

          Where do you stand on Liturgy?

          I didn’t know them until you mentioned them, so I downloaded Aesthetica. Wow – that’s some unique stuff.

          I don’t know that they’re black metal. Sure, it’s using the same tools of blastbeats, shrieks, and treble-high tremolo-picked guitars. But it’s so removed from the vsval black metal vernacvlar. It’s rhythmic and percussive and major-key. And that guitar tone is so glassy and brittle! Almost electronic-sounding. It’s achieves that romantic overwhelm, but through the repetition of abrupt figures rather than walls of sinister oppression.

          It’s like the singer from Ghost Bath joined Astronoid and they made a black metal album by resequencing the intro lick from Day of the Eagle.

          Also : they are tight as hell.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I highly recommend Splashdown. Universal Hall Pass has the same vocalissa, and has some amazing songs, but lacks some of the consistency.

        • rahien.din says:

          Very nice! Only listened to the first couple of tracks off Halfworld but I like them already. Also, seems like it will be fun to sing.

          Ever listened to Denali? Splashdown’s more trip-hoppy moments remind me a bit of them.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Surface is good. Going to have to listen to a wider selection on my commute tomorrow! Thank you.

            Andrea Revel has a decent song called “White Noise” that is somewhat in this vein; unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy any of her other songs, as her vocal style works for me in that song in a way it doesn’t in others. (She doesn’t seem to quite have the knack of The Decembrists to use an unusual voice in a consistently effective way.)

    • When I was a teenager I listened to the same music my family and friends were into, but I never really got really into music until 2013 when I went to university and I started listening to Bob Dylan. My tastes have gradually expanded outwards from Dylan to similar artists, and to artists similar to artists similar to Dylan and so on. By this point I have fairly broad tastes, but they’ve mostly grown via this process. I guess you could summarize by saying I’m into the music of the 60s folk revival, from folk proper to stuff that’s fairly far removed from those roots.

      Here are the first five artists from each of my Spotify Daily Mixes:
      * Joni Mitchell, Greg Brown, Gillian Welch, Laura Nyro, Joan Baez
      * Louis Killen, Bellowhead, Ewan MacColl, The Young Tradition, Shirley Colins
      * Melanie, Dusty Springfield, The Mamas & The Papas, Dion, The Ronettes
      * Karen James, Willie Thomas and Butch Cage, Wade Hemsworth, Jean Carignan, Tom Kines
      * Hank Locklin, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
      * Mary Gauthier, Kate Bush, 10,000 Maniacs, Joan Armatrading, Joan As Police Woman

    • Lots of jazz, especially Gypsy jazz. Also piano jazz…I’ll see your Harry Mitchell and raise you Elliot Galvin. World music, especially west African…Salif KeitasSoro is wonderfully grand and gloomy. And, yes, I’ve got Ethiopiques. Some rock, with a leaning towards.sixties, psych, and spacey stuff….Hawkwind were a great favourite of my youth. Some classical, mainly guitar.

    • professorgerm says:

      Instead of going through a full list, I’ll mention one that no one else has: Japanese surf rock, especially Takeshi Terauchi And Bunnys. One of my favorites for writing.

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      My tastes are particular rock/pop/indie genres that are pretty pedestrian:

      Baroque pop (The Divine Comedy, Florence and the Machine, Camera Obscura, some Regina Spektor)

      Folk rock/folk pop/anti-folk (The Mountain Goats, early Wye Oak, some Regina Spektor)…basically anything lyric-heavy.

      Synthpop (Metric, Alvvays, CHVRCHES, Au Revoire Simone)

      Canadiana (The New Pornographers, Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morrissette, The Tragically Hip, Metric) thanks to constant radio play

      • mdet says:

        I never had a word for what Florence + The Machine is, so thanks for Baroque Pop

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Which reminds me– Rare Air— Scottish rock with bagpipes.

      • Iain says:

        I fall in a similar range. The Mountain Goats, the New Pornographers, the Decemberists, Stars, Metric — basically, a smattering of indie bands from undergrad.

        Is this because I have been too lazy to add new music to my collection since then? We report, you decide.

        • Thegnskald says:

          You might like Man Man, judging by your tastes.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I thought I had no interest in the music thread, but you’ve dragged me in! Iain, I like most of the same music you listed, and I used to really be into Man Man. I’m glad to see there’s another Man Man fan (fan fan?) out there.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eugene –

            Have you tried Honus Honus? Same vocalist, unsure of any other overlap.

            Empty Bottle is fantastic.

            ETA: Life Fantastic (Man Man, for everyone else) is possibly my favorite song of all time; I swing between that and Depth of Satan’s Eyes by Ghost. Life Fantastic is perfect. Black Mission Goggles is also great.

            They aren’t the most consistent band – they have quite a few so-so songs – but the songs that nail it, really nail it.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I didn’t realize Honus had a solo career, I’ll check it out. Thanks!

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            While we’re having a productive and pleasant conversation on the dreaded topic of identity politics upthread (or downthread, I actually have no idea), allow me to thank you for pointing me to Honus Honus and his solo stuff. I really like what I’ve listened to so far!

            I also second your recommendation of Nick Cave to a Tom Waits fan elsewhere, and am going to check out your other recommendations.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Yup!

            I am fortunate to have two people with esoteric musical tastes I can draw upon. Voltaire might also be to your tastes; gothic cabaret music, basically, although he has a tendency towards immaturity that can be off-putting at times. (If nothing else, Voltaire makes an amazing seed for an online radio station – you’ll get an endless variety of unusual music.)

            I listen mostly to metal – it is the common factor in my usual company.

            Other odd pieces, assuming your tastes are similar to mine:

            Trifonic (beep-boop soundscapes, better when nobody is singing)
            Equilibrium (entertaining metal that doesn’t take itself too seriously)
            Azure Ray (minimalist music that is good in isolation but gets depressing with prolonged listening, I recommend starting with “Sleep”)
            Drip Fed Fred by Madness (this band varies between popular and forgotten; they sang the “This house, in the middle of the street” song)
            Finntroll (lively black metal, similar to Korpiklaani at times, other times radically different)
            Nekrogoblicon (comedic black metal – their music videos are great, and their songs are themed; Bears is a song about how frightening bears are to goblins, for example)
            Unexpect – Feasting Fools is a good song to start with. A terrible caucophony that gets better with repeated listenings; it is avant-garde metal which is defined by what I can only describe as meta-melody.

            Somebody mentioned Van Canto – their version of Fear of the Night is good. Most of their music is renaissance festival stuff, though, and less interesting.

            I’ll have to dig through my library for other stuff. My memory isn’t great; there is a lot of stuff like Death of the Cog that is probably more to your style, but which doesn’t come readily to mind.

            ETA:

            Oh! “History of the Society Union set to the Tune of Tetris” is a fantastic song, if you haven’t encountered it before. It achieved a little bit of internet fame, but seems to have slipped back into obscurity since then.

    • itsabeast says:

      If you like symphonic metal I can’t recommend Therion enough.

    • Dindane says:

      Vienna Teng. Or CSNY, sometimes. Mostly Vienna though.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It looks like metal is the most popular genre mentioned, and also the most differentiated into sub-genres.

      Is this just a matter of demographics (men in a certain age range?), or is there some more interesting connection between liking metal and liking ssc?

      • James says:

        I’m drastically surprised by the quotient of metalheads here.

        Could also be that they’re more likely than the rest of us to reply to a ‘what music do you like?’ subthread.

      • professorgerm says:

        You know, I remember asking a similar question 10 years ago and actually found an article on it: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/3352230/Heavy-metal-a-comfort-for-the-bright-child.html

        SSC also has a high proportion of intelligent people that are/were socially awkward and somewhat outcast.

        Though I think James is also right that there’s some sampling bias towards them being more likely to reply. Or for whatever reason ‘pickier’ and end up having umpteen subgenres.

      • rlms says:

        I would guess that people who are “into music” are more likely to reply, and demographics mean readers who are “into music” are disproportionately into metal (rather than e.g. jazz aficionados).

      • Thegnskald says:

        Metal tends to be more complex than other musical genres.

        You don’t have to be intelligent to enjoy it – which is to say, most people who enjoy it are as average as everybody else – and just because you are intelligent doesn’t mean you will enjoy it – subjective tastes vary.

        But metal is a lot more satisfying to listen to, if you are looking for complex melodies, and creative interactions between instrumentation. As a genre, it is probably experiencing the most novel experimentation of any genre over the past couple of decades. It is probably incorrect to even view it as a genre; it is more like a mirror universe of all other music. You can find bands that play polka metal. You can find bands that play traditional folk music as metal. You can find bands that play opera as metal.

        Mind, there is a lot of pretty derivative stuff out there. People like a sound, and just listen to music that has that sound. But there is pretty much constant innovation; the latest genre I have taken an unexpected liking to is “Metal in which a guy is screaming wordlessly in a bathroom down the hall from the rest of the band”.

        If you get bored with music easily, metal is the genre for you. Just mind that many if not most bands are just catering to people who like a particular “sound”, as changing will annoy their established audience, and move on when they get repetitive.

        I recommend Korpiklaani to anyone who thinks they hate metal. Not because everyone will like them, but because it utterly fails to be what people expect. (Old Woman’s Dance by Silent Stream of Godless Elegy is a specifically good song for this purpose.)

        • Thegnskald says:

          Additional note:

          Also, metal is pretty much the only genre in which most fans don’t really care what you are singing about, so it is an extremely international genre of music. It has been fascinating to watch bands who started in English for a larger audience switch back to native languages for most of their songs as they realize most of their fans don’t care if they understand the lyrics.

          This means metal bands have a much wider audience than is usually the case.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Vodka by Korpiklaani was a good bit of fun– very fast and silly. I’m not sure that the metal was what I liked about. Their Tequila seemed like more of the same, though.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Yeah; I think Tequila and Beero Beero were both tribute songs to countries they had toured, and are a little repetitive.

            A lot of their songs are about drinking, though, and most are lively and fun.

            They are a style of folk metal, and have a vocal style called joiking; if you enjoy that aspect, there are more traditional folk music doing joiking. (I think it has appeared in two or three pop songs, as well, although I’d be hard pressed to name them.)

            ETA:

            For another fun song, they covered Pony Pony as Jouni Jouni.

      • rahien.din says:

        Metal and EDM! It’s because these genres are our best shot at achieving the Romantic sublime through total overwhelm. “The joy of violent movement pulls you under.”*

        Maybe people who are chasing Romantic sublimity are more likely to respond to the OP’s question? Or maybe SSC attracts a lot of reason-heavy people, and those people are drawn to Romantic sublimity sort of as their Jungian shadow?

        From Black Metal Is Sublime :

        The Black Metal movement is more than allusive to Romanticism’s pet obsessions. It is the unlikely fulfillment of Romantic ideals: absolute inwardness turned outward, for lack of somewhere else to go. Given the relentlessness of Black Metal music, the showy necro-Baroqueness of Black Metal fashion and the ­hyper-masculinity of Black Metal comportment, absolute outwardness seems an apt characterization. The Romantic sublime gives us the soul humbled in terror before the greatness of nature or art; the Black Metal sublime shows us the terror inside us.

        From Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog – Romanticism and Black Metal :

        A stormy sea or woods ablaze, the difference in disaster is immaterial: the mind is overwhelmed and reason flees to safety, leaving imagination free to roam on its own accord and gather an insurmountable treasure trove of sensory information into a picture of pure beauty and, of course, sublimity. In the presence of such awe-inspiring natural spectacle, imagination becomes removed from its task as the gatherer of the senses just so it can be cognized and parsed by reason, and instead takes in the sensory information for its own purpose. In doing so, it reaches a transcendent and spiritual level unlike anything else, and puts us in touch with some higher ordering to the world that is otherwise inaccessible.

        From Finding Happiness in Angry Music :

        I started to do this thing where at the end of a long work week, stuck in the corner cubicle of a windowless room, I’d go to this crappy club in my town that booked a lot of loud bands and stand right up next to the speakers, close enough that I could actually feel the music passing through me. It was like meditation. Something about the way the bass would actually shake my bones and internal organs was cleansing. It was in those moments, my senses overloaded, that I felt like I could take a full breath again.

        * If you can tell me what that’s from without googling, I’ll buy you a coke.

    • Gil says:

      Lots of metal and classical in here.

      I’ve got a lot of love for what’s broadly considered EDM/IDM:
      Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus, Emancipator, Little People, Blockhead, etc.

      I’m also pulled to things with interesting vocals, experimental styles, psych-folk’ish?
      Tom Waits, Braids (1st album only), Tidus, Daughter, Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Alt-J

      Also stuff that’s maybe prog’ish? I don’t know how these all fit together but it’s noodley:
      God Speed You! Black Emperor, Ne Obliviscaris, Mouse on the Keys, TOE, Giraffes? Giraffes!, etc.

      Also a soft spot for certain types of angry punk mostly from my youth:
      Refused, Distillers, Camp Cope, …

      • Thegnskald says:

        You -may- like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, given that you like Tom Waits. Tupelo is a good song to start with.

        Humanwine may also be up your alley. (Ignore the politics, if they aren’t to your liking; they think they have important things to say, but were probably deluded by the copious amounts of LSD they were probably on while producing their music.)

        ETA: Also, in the electronic music sphere, Trifonic (not Triphonic – I mean, they might be good, but I haven’t actually listened to them) is one of my surprising new finds. Santa Rosa is a fantastic piece.

        • Gil says:

          I’ve tried Nick Cave a few times and never really caught me. I feel like Tom Waits is an anomaly because I don’t really like any other music associated with him, however he’s my all time favorite artist.

          Just listened to a few Humanwine songs… it’s good but like you said, some of the lyrics are kind of cheesy. I’ll listen to more and see if it grows on me.

          Trifonic is good. I’d put them behind Bonobo, Emancipator, Blue Sky Black Death, Saltillo, etc. They end up in rotation though.

          Any more suggestions?

          • Thegnskald says:

            I need to go through my music library; most of my recommendations are “What I have listened to lately” or just stuff I randomly remember.

            Massive Attack was pretty popular back in the day, so you may already have encountered them, but some of their stuff is good if you haven’t.

            I Monster is pretty good, albeit really odd; I think Daydream in Blue is a solid starting point.

            Splashdown / Universal Hall Pass and Azure Ray seem like they may be a bit afield of your listed music, but they share some similarities, so you -might- like them. Mayan Pilot or Archer by Splashdown, Katrinah Josephina or Sally’s Song by UHP, and maybe Raining in Athens by Azure Ray? Those are tougher calls.

            Man Man has been mentioned elsewhere and might be relevant. Likewise The Tigerlillies, who I guess might be considered punklike in spirit if not necessarily in terms of sound.

            I’ll try to remember to pull up my library when I get home. And try to hunt down some of the electronica I used to listen to; much of it hasn’t aged well, but there might be some gems in there I have forgotten.

    • tayfie says:

      What I listen to most is 60s and 70s rock, a mix of British invasion, blues-influenced, and folk-influenced: The Beatles, The Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Doors, Aerosmith, ZZ Top. Among modern rock, my favorite band is probably Shinedown.

      I’ll also speak for several Country artists since no one else has, with my favorite subgenre being outlaw: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson.

      I like listening to movie soundtracks. Because the score of a movie is not visible, it often surprises me how much it contributes to the ambience.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I mentioned the large amount of metal to a friend, and he said that punk was also music for disaffected people– there’s been very little mention of punk. Has it simply gone out of fashion?

      • WashedOut says:

        Basically yes. There are only a handful of great punk bands that are drawing new people into punk music at the moment, the best example being Idles. I think this is because they take the best bits of the Johnny Rotten punk archetype and infuse it with a very bitter, very smarmy British brand of humour that hits all today’s political sweet spots.

        The last echoes of the surface-level punk ethos died out in the early 2000’s with emo, which is definitely now out of fashion. The spirit of teenage aggression and rebellion has forked off into rap music, which has seen an explosion in popularity in the last decade. Trap artists like Post Malone and Lil’ Pump give the current generation of teenagers what they need: justification for apathy/indifference to the decline of the existing system, staunch proclamations of grandeur/badass-ness, repetitive catchy hooks, and fat bass.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I can believe all of that, but some of what people like is music that isn’t current, so I’m a bit surprised that I’m not seeing people who like punk from previous decades.

        • Gil says:

          This is a good point. Given what you said I feel like there’s an opening for a sort of tech-savvy/hacker punk for those who don’t find rap all that appealing. Folk punk is a thing that’s niche but going fairly strong but appeals to a different aesthetic I think.

  10. EGI says:

    I have a question for our resident naval experts (bean et al.) which fits neatly with the current topic of Naval Gazing:

    I recently came across the topic of modern piracy. I knew this phenomenon beforehand, but always assumed, that this is a very small phenomenon and simply persists, because it is not cost effective for ship owners to do anything about it. This impression was reinforced by the comedic means (fire hoses!, flare guns!, electrified fencing!, simply switching the deck lights on!!) of defense employed by the ships (often sucessfully) in the few cases I came across this topic over the last 10 years. This seems not to be the case with estimated 10 billion+ damages per year. (http://www.criminaljusticeusa.com/blog/2009/10-shocking-facts-about-modern-day-pirates/) and some ship owners willing to pay security companies 120000$ (same source) for protection per trip. There is even a freaking NATO mission against pirates (http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_48815.htm)

    Either I am overlooking something (I assume this to be the case), or this is a huge pile of money laying around. Since ships are not typically threatened by pirate ships with heavy weapons but actually boarded, the tactical side of defense against pirates looks pretty cheap and easy. I am quite confident, that for 120000$ as a one time expense it is quite possible to equip a cargo ship in a way, that unwanted approach let alone boarding is pretty much impossible. A couple of thermal imaging cameras hooked up to a computer should easily detect any approaching craft even if everyone is asleep and the craft is not detected by radar (engines are hot). This should give some early warning. With a minute or two to prepare, even a crew of only 3 or 4 people (as on most cargo ships) should be able to repel or disable any approaching small craft with commercially available 50 cal. rifles. Even if that fails, I can not see how the pirates would go about boarding a ship against resistance of 3 or 4 people people behind strategically placed cover.

    Rough cost estimate:

    – Computer with custom software 10000$?

    – 6 thermal cameras 15000$ (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Raytheon-Thermal-Eye-250D-Thermal-Imager-Camera-FLIR-/282323048862)

    – 4 M82 A1 against approaching craft 40000$ (https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120131113833AAQZOb5)

    – 4 AR15 against boarding 2500$ (https://www.slickguns.com/search/apachesolr_search/736676085002?op=)

    – 12 steel plates strategically placed on deck for cover in case of attempted boarding 25000$?

    92500$ + some crew instruction + this and that call it 120000$, sell the package for 500000$ and make 380000$ profit. The owner starts to make profit on the 5th trip…

    No, it seems not to be impossible for a private ship to have weapons on board (http://www.yachtingworld.com/blogs/elaine-bunting/guns-on-board-for-or-against-10118).

    What did I miss?

    I already discussed this topic at our local LW/SSC meetup but we did not reach any satisfying conclusion due to lack of expertise.

    • John Schilling says:

      Well, first off, you missed the biggest part of this potential business opportunity, because piracy off Somalia is down 60% from its 2010 peak and still falling. In part because of measures similar to those you discussed, in part because navies with actual warships took an interest. From about the dawn of recorded history, piracy has gone away when navies with actual warships took an interest.

      Also, the bit where you can usually have guns on a private ship sailing into foreign ports, means 12-gauge shotguns, not .50 caliber Barretts. Those, you very likely don’t get back when you leave, you may not be able to bail out the sergeant-at-arms who admitted to owning them, and you may face questions from your insurance company and/or whatever national government loaned you its flag for your ship.

      However, there is a workaround where a private security company sends a team to board your ship as soon as you leave the territorial waters around your port of origin, to debark before you enter territorial waters at the destination. They bring their own guns, and either hand them over to a team headed the opposite direction or just throw them in the ocean. The logistics to support that are part of the reason it can cost up to $100k. Plus, you know, the bit where you’re hiring them to maybe fight actual pirates, and if they’re going to get shot at for money it’s going to be a lot of money.

      4-5 men with ordinary military rifles in 7.62x51mm or the like will usually suffice. Shotguns are not enough, when the pirates can stand off and use heavy machine guns to persuade you to surrender, but Barretts are excessive when you are firing from the deck of a 20,000-ton ship and they are firing from a skiff on the high seas.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Also, the bit where you can usually have guns on a private ship sailing into foreign ports, means 12-gauge shotguns, not .50 caliber Barretts. Those, you very likely don’t get back when you leave, you may not be able to bail out the sergeant-at-arms who admitted to owning them, and you may face questions from your insurance company and/or whatever national government loaned you its flag for your ship.

        However, there is a workaround where a private security company sends a team to board your ship as soon as you leave the territorial waters around your port of origin, to debark before you enter territorial waters at the destination. They bring their own guns, and either hand them over to a team headed the opposite direction or just throw them in the ocean. The logistics to support that are part of the reason it can cost up to $100k.

        This may be a silly question, but why don’t the major shipping companies buy weapons permits at the major ports for their own on-board security?

        Even in countries / cities which are pretty strongly anti-gun bodyguards and private security can usually buy permits to carry weapons. Given that the weapons would logically be locked up as long as they’re not in dangerous waters it seems like an obvious deal for both sides.

        Is it the boring answer, that they could do it but it would cost >$100K? Or is there some other reason that I’m not thinking of?

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Even in countries / cities which are pretty strongly anti-gun bodyguards and private security can usually buy permits to carry weapons.

          Not in the UK they can’t. Private security must be unarmed, if the police think something needs armed security guards they will guard it themselves.

          Though one of the few reasons why a company can be given a Section 5 firearms licence (allowing it to own weapons that are otherwise prohibited, such as handguns and automatic weapons) is if it is providing security guards for UK registered ships, in which case the weapons don’t normally come anywhere near a port.

        • John Schilling says:

          This may be a silly question, but why don’t the major shipping companies buy weapons permits at the major ports for their own on-board security?

          Because shotguns aren’t good enough, and permits for foreigners to possess military rifles are not available at any price in many countries. Well, any legitimate price; bribery may work, but has the potential for massive blowback.

          And for that matter, having “their own” security, means not being able to disavow their own actions if the security team goes off-script and e.g. shoots up a fishing boat. Contractors are expendable, and claiming to have trusted the experts you hired for their expertise in e.g. international gun-control and self-defense laws might buy you a bit of distance from a bit of very ugly public relations.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Well, first off, you missed the biggest part of this potential business opportunity, because piracy off Somalia is down 60% from its 2010 peak and still falling. In part because of measures similar to those you discussed, in part because navies with actual warships took an interest. From about the dawn of recorded history, piracy has gone away when navies with actual warships took an interest.

        I saw a report recently that there has been some piracy off the coast of Venezuela, so that could be the next hotspot. Venezuela’s military is probably too preoccupied to keep everyone with a fishing boat from going after targets of opportunity, but I bet they would highly object to foreign navies patrolling their waters.

        • Aapje says:

          The real problem with piracy is when it isn’t limited to coastal waters, but goes into international waters. Trinidad and Tobago and The Netherlands may have a sufficient military presence to keep it contained.

    • Aapje says:

      @EGI

      It seems unlikely to me that the crew can or will be trained to use .50 effectively. Shipping companies try to minimize their crew to save money, so I fully expect a lack of training and instruction. Then when the pirates come, they’ll regret that, once things go bad.

      Here is a video of actual shooting at pirates. As you can see, the situation is very messy. Even these guards messed up by having multiple people fire warning shots. More info.

      In another case, fishermen were killed by Italian marines.

      PS. Note that using cheap security guards (actual military is more expensive) seems to cost about $60k. So if your package sells for $500k, you need 10 trips to start getting ahead.

    • bean says:

      John pretty much nailed this one. For various reasons (which I don’t fully understand), anything beyond a flare gun is heavily frowned upon aboard merchant ships, which makes it hard to do this. You need approval from your flag state, your insurer and permission from any state you happen to call at. For instance, India doesn’t let merchant ships carry guns, period, and is an important port of call for ships passing the Horn of Africa. Private security companies avoid the insurance problem because they bring their own, and most of the issues with ports of call.

      • James C says:

        For various reasons (which I don’t fully understand)

        I’d guess it’s a holdover from the days of lightly armed merchantmen preying on their disarmed peers.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’d guess it’s a holdover from the days of lightly armed merchantmen preying on their disarmed peers.

          We’re talking just small arms here, so I’d guess the real concern is sailors in port hearing that some of their colleagues have just had a barfight go against them, “need” to be reinforced/rescued/avenged, and hey, we should probably break out the revolvers “just in case”.

          • bean says:

            That makes a lot of sense out of it. Of course, the obvious solution is to mount the guns on the ship and use weapons that aren’t particularly good in a barfight. .50 cal machine guns seem to fit the bill pretty well.

          • John Schilling says:

            I assume we’re taking care to make sure all ships are docked at least two miles from the nearest bar?

          • bean says:

            I thought that was assumed.

            But more seriously, I think that even drunken sailors are a lot more likely to say “let’s break out the revolvers just in case” than “let’s break out the .50 and hose down the bar”. I can still see why people don’t want armed merchantmen coming into their ports, but this does seem like a case where bigger weapons are better for almost everyone.

      • Murphy says:

        part of it is that you have to deal with not just the laws in port but the firearm laws of every state/country through who’s waters you sail.

        Want to sail from new Orleans to portland, maine: if you’re within 12 miles of the coast (sometimes 24) you need to comply with firearms law in every single one of those states.

        Want to get into the Mediterranean? Have fun complying with Spanish, Moroccan and possibly english law, all in the space of a few hours. You’ll have even more fun when you actually get into the Mediterranean.

        So you don’t just need permission from any state you happen to call at but also from any you get close to.

        It wouldn’t be hard for a ship to become subject to a dozen jurisdictions on a long journey and if you have 10 crew it might mean maintaining dozens of permits and if even one state gets bolshy about allowing armed groups of people into it’s territory or is just super-slow about providing permits or you have to change some crew members on short notice it screws everything up.

        http://www.gibnet.com/fish/waters.gif

      • EGI says:

        Ah, so my understanding that you just surrender your weapons to the port authorities and get them back when leaving was wrong. Who would have thought that redtape is the culprit if you can’t have a simple solution…

    • Orpheus says:

      – Computer with custom software 10000$?

      What if they pirate the software?

  11. drunkfish says:

    Re lead and violent crime:

    That’s a really interesting point that certainly calls into question assumptions about lead and violence, but I’m not convinced it’s all that conclusive. The two groups of countries were enormously different culturally, so it seems very within reason that they could have their lead signals be swamped by other cultural stuff. This seems very analogous to your recent article, Scott, of the US only incidentally having ‘typical’ suicide rates despite what’s likely a significantly increased rate due to guns. Guns increase our rate, but other effects decrease it enough to offset things. Couldn’t the same be true of lead?

    Some mechanisms that come to mind, as someone not super educated on the cultures of communist countries. More fear of authority kept crime in check. Communism having some direct effect on poverty (which provides the main source of criminals). Sending dissenters to gulags and whatnot kept crime in check (sketchy considering US imprisonment rates not stopping crime, but who knows). Different reporting/recording habits.

    • Eric Rall says:

      The other big piece of evidence against the Lead Crime Hypothesis that I’m aware of is age cohort studies (those that looks specifically at crime rates by birth year), which tend to show a much, much smaller lead effect than the epidemiological studies that just look at the overall crime rate vs lead exposure lagged by X years. Basically, it looks like crime seems to correlate strongly with lead levels X years ago, both generally and within geographical locales, but crime by people of different birth years peak in the same calendar years, not at the same ages as you’d expect from the hypothesis.

      Here’s one survey paper on the different results between the two methodologies, and here’s Kevin Drum’s quick take on cohort data.

      • broblawsky says:

        Maybe the broken window effect amplifies lead-based crime? If a crime wave breaks out, more people are driven to crime as a result, regardless of their age; the effect is just more severe in areas with serious lead exposure.

        NB: I realize that the broken window theory is highly controversial, especially for the eponymous minor property crimes, but I think it’s probably applicable to major crimes.

        • Eric Rall says:

          One hypothesis that I find intriguing but which has gotten very little attention is that the crime spike was due to a trough in institutionalization rates: crime went up as mental health reform reduced the mental hospital inpatient population, and went down again when mass incarceration really got going. The graph on page 56 of the linked article shows a really striking inverse correlation between institutionalization rate (prison + mental hospital population) and homicide rate.

          The two big potential problems I see with this hypothesis are:
          Scott’s made some fairly compelling arguments that the additional prison population are not, by and large, the same people who would have been in mental hospitals before the 1960s.

          – I’ve only seen the analysis for the US only. Does the correlation carry over into other countries which had similar changes (perhaps at different times) at one or both of imprisonment policy and mental hospitalization policy?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Note that that is about homicide, while Kevin Drum insists that lead only affects total violent crime, not homicide. Most people use homicide because they want to minimize reporting error, but not Drum, because he wants to maximize it he’s an idiot.

            No, this institutionalization hypothesis is ridiculous. Why isn’t the first point enough to damn it? It’s very easy to fool yourself with these time series. You aren’t picking out very many bits of data, just what time it went up and what time it went down. That’s what Steve Levitt and Kevin Drum do, too.

            I don’t know about psychiatric institutionalization in other countries, but I do know that all comparable countries had the same run up in homicide (doubling 1965-1975) and none of them responded by increasing incarceration, and they all returned to baseline, usually faster than America (probably the difference was crack). So I conclude that prison has no effect.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I don’t know about psychiatric institutionalization in other countries, but I do know that all comparable countries had the same run up in homicide (doubling 1965-1975) and none of them responded by increasing incarceration, and they all returned to baseline, usually faster than America (probably the difference was crack). So I conclude that prison has no effect.

            I looked at the link to comparable countries. The US has a much more dramatic change in crime than every other country listed. Yes, there seems to be a slight increase in crime world-wide in the ’80’s or 90’s (explained demographically by rising average ages perhaps, or maybe all countries had somewhat of a lead problem?), but the US had a phenomenal increase followed by a phenomenal decrease. It appears to me that something beyond the world-wide trends is happening. Increased incarceration sounds like a reasonable guess to me.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What does it mean to be “the same change”? Most the countries doubled their homicide rates and returned to baseline. Similarly, American blacks and whites each doubled and halved. It may be weird, but that’s what happened, so that’s the right way to look homicide numbers.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Okay, I looked at the graphs again. I do see that other countries did about double, at least briefly, and then decrease. I was somewhat confused because the US baseline is so much higher, and also because the graphs include space below the zero, which makes the lower baselines look like they are changing less than they are.

            I still am not convinced that the American data is very comparable to the other countries, partly because of the much higher baseline, and partly because every other country varied so much as to when they increased and decreased, and many increased for only a year or two.

    • timunderwood9 says:

      The other thing to keep in mind here is that mostly the lead rates weren’t actually higher in the CEE countries, at least not in the way Cato wanted you to think, and the entire piece this was based on was just anti communist propoganda.

      I don’t know about industrial sources, which were probably bad, but also fairly localized, but quick googling shows the Soviet Union started removing lead paint from residences in the 1920s, long before the US did, and then started restricting its use in gasoline in the 60s. Also they had far fewer cars in CEE countries at this time. I would not be at all surprised if it turned out part of the reason for the lower crime rates is that they had much less blood lead exposure.

      At the very least, there needs to be far more evidence than a Cold War propaganda piece to prove that there is any puzzle that needs solving here.

  12. Brett says:

    I just read Roger Crowley’s Empires of the Sea, about the conflict in the 16th century Mediterranean (particularly between the Spanish, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Ottoman Empire). It’s some ugly stuff, especially when Crowley talks about how the Mediterranean coasts of Spain, southern Italy, and the islands in the western Mediterranean Sea became “lands of disappearances” – i.e. people living on the coasts would get kidnapped by corsairs based in Algiers and such and then sold into slavery. Sometimes in small numbers, sometimes by the thousands when one of the Barbarossa brothers was leading a raid. The Europeans did some slaving of their own, but it was small compared to the amount that North African raiders were doing (this was the Ottoman Empire at its apex).

    And the naval wars over it . . . honestly, I can understand why all the silver and gold funneled into Europe did little to profit Spain in the long run. It just went in and was immediately funneled back out to pay for ships and armies.

    • cassander says:

      Crowley’s book is a good introduction. For a more sophisticated take, there are two excellent books I can recommend, John Pryor’s Geography, Technology, and War: Studies in the Maritime History of the Mediterranean, 649-1571 and John Guilmartin’s Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the 16th Century. The latter book is especially excellent and manages to do an amazing job of charting how galley warfare evolved the way it did over the course of the 16th century and why it finally died out.

      • Aapje says:

        @aNeopuritan

        1. Your link goes to a patron-only post.

        2. Northern Europe is more than Britain & France.

        3. This kind of historical cherry picking is merely persuasive to those who already believe in the conclusions. One can also cherry pick differently, for instance by arguing that Italy owes reparations to Britain & France for WW II and that Greece was saved from occupation by the allies in the same war, at high cost.

      • By the time the “Great Ottoman Empire” was a serious threat to the western Med, Greece was part of it, so any reparations would be owed in the opposite direction.

        The forces that finally blocked Ottoman expansion at the first siege of Vienna included Austrians and Germans, and before that a good deal of the fighting had been by Hungarians. For the second siege of Vienna, the Poles and the Holy Roman Empire were the main (successful) defenders.

    • quaelegit says:

      Heh, I was just going to bring this book up in relation to John Schilling’s comment above that “From about the dawn of recorded history, piracy has gone away when navies with actual warships took an interest.” I guess Spain didn’t have much of an “actual navy” or “actual warships” in the Med — and when they did, their strategy seemed to be, “deliver ships to the enemy and get tragically slaughtered”…

      I’ve only read the first four chapters of the book though, so idk about later developments.

      And on the silver and gold not helping Spain in the long run, I’m still curious why all that silver and gold getting funneled into armies and ships failed to build up industry and drive economic growth in Spain like it did in other places in Europe. Although I’m getting a sense a deja vu writing this comment so apologies if we’ve discussed this here before and I’ve forgotten.

      • Protagoras says:

        Adam Smith frequently uses Spain as an example of what not to do in Wealth of Nations; they seem to have done a variety of things wrong. One of the things they tried to do is restrict export of silver and gold, which while not stunningly successful did slightly increase inflation and reduce importation of useful foreign goods, while enriching smugglers rather than more productive people. But there were many factors at work.

      • cassander says:

        Galley navies are very different from what are generally thought of as ocean going navies. In order to be useful warships, galleys need to be about as fast as other galleys, which requires a lot of rowers and a very narrow hull. Lots of rowers consume a huge amount of water, only a little of which can be stored. And the lightweight hulls need to be beached frequently or they get waterlogged. This means that they can’t really capable of achieving command of the sea in traditional mahanian fashion, and thus weren’t particularly good at stamping out piracy. You could send out your galleys, but the pirates would just say home in their bases, watch you sail around, then come out when you ran out of water in a few days.

        Actual navies with the ability to deploy ships for tours of significant length were much more efficacious about stamping out piracy, and spain’s genuine oceangoing navy was actually surprisingly small under the habsburgs, and it was needed in the atlantic far more than the mediterranean.

        • quaelegit says:

          Oh, that makes a lot of sense, thanks for explaining! I saw your book recommendations above, and I’ve added them to my list in case the rest of Crowley’s book manages to interest me more than the beginning has so far.

        • Protagoras says:

          I was under the impression that in the era of galleys, pirates were more in the habit of raiding coastal towns than chasing ships at sea, and that anti-piracy efforts mostly involved launching attacks on the pirate bases (since as you note galleys contained a lot of men, and in war galleys the rowers often doubled as soldiers, a force of galleys could land a large body of troops).

          • cassander says:

            They did both, but that’s another good point. A lot of piracy in the mediterranean consisted of algerians landing forces going slave raiding and pillaging on spanish coastlines. The Guilmartin book actually goes into detail about this, and attributes some of the design differences between venetian and Spanish galley design to the spanish need to deal with that sort of raiding much more often than the venetians did.

  13. RalMirrorAd says:

    Question for those involved or familiar with US Pharma Laws:

    Recently a bill called ‘Right to Try’ was passed. (I don’t know if it was just the senate or passed completely, i got the impression it was passed completely) — The law purports to give terminally ill patients the right to attempt non FDA approved drugs.

    My assumption is that the folks on this blog would probably [by some majority] support this, at least in theory, insofar as it’s a conscious decision to go against a safety regulation for rational reasons. But pretty much all of the articles i can find about the law are negative or dismissive. One thing I hear brought up is that terminally ill patients are already able to try non FDA approved drugs, but the FDA has to approve this exception. The other thing these articles frequently mention is the importance of the efficacy standard; there’s a very strong implication that Drugs are only effective because they are required by law to prove that they are beyond all reasonably doubt.

    My thinking was that if the FDA grants the exception in the overwhelming majority of cases, and does so relatively quickly, then this particular law would have no positive effect, and possibly a negative one. (on net) On the other hand, if my suspicion is correct, the approval would probably follow the same lines as the regular FDA approval process; that terminally ill patients would frequently die while the FDA makes up their mind.

    But I don’t have any information in either direction on that. Does anyone know more?

    • Aapje says:

      https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/561770/:

      The difference is that the current program operates through the Food and Drug Administration, which retains the ability to deny some requests for drugs it has not yet approved for use in the general population. The FDA reports that it already authorizes more than 99 percent of requests—so the upcoming change could be minimal. But the potential to exploit this lack of oversight is a risk. In the rare cases when access to unapproved drugs is denied, it can be because of serious concerns about risks on behalf of the pharmaceutical company, or because a physician has overlooked an obviously better alternative.

      So this suggests that the FDA does approve in the majority of cases and sufficiently quickly. I certainly don’t see why this process would be like the regular FDA approval process, because the slowness there is AFAIK because of the demands on trials, which won’t be the case for the exception process.

      In any case, I don’t believe that this kind of thing will save a lot of lives either way. Amazing new drugs that are way more effective are very rare.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Unfortunately a 99% approval rate doesn’t really imply anything useful, I would guess that it implies the opposite even. Either the FDA is rubber stamping most proposals or doctors know not to waste their time making certain types of proposals, or some proposals are ‘disqualified’ so the FDA doesn’t have to reject them, or a combination of the above.

    • James C says:

      My biggest worry about this one is what the quacks are going to do. Getting your snake oil registered as a last ditch trial drug is already used as a way of adding a veneer of legitimacy. Those 1% of cases that the FDA reject? A lot are just garbage that would never work or are totally inappropriate for the disease in question. Allowing access to even more ‘drugs’ is more likely to drain desperately ill people’s wallets that effect a miracle.

  14. Andrew Hunter says:

    A random thought I had: many people complain that the rent is too damn high, and a general principle of economics is that if you tax something you get less of it. But I’ve never heard anyone propose putting high taxes on rent payments.

    A) Why not?

    B) Has this happened?

    C) What would the first/second order economic effect if San Francisco, say, charged 25% “sales” tax on all rent payments (assuming landlords didn’t find some trivial labeling workaround?) Obviously it would encourage more owner occupancy, but there’s only so much of that being desired. I also am not sure what effect it’d have on sale prices.

    • 10240 says:

      You would get less rental housing, not less high rents. If you tax something, gross prices will be higher than the original price, while net prices will be lower. If gross prices ended up lower (and of course net prices even lower), then demand would be higher than in the original situation, and supply would be lower, so such a price can’t be market clearing, assuming that the original price was market clearing.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I believe you’re agreeing with me in different words.

        • Iain says:

          If you agree that taxing rent just means less rental housing without also decreasing the price, why do you find it surprising that nobody has ever tried a rent tax?

          • quanta413 says:

            I too am confused. Unless the goal is to shift even more people into buying houses? But that’s already even more expensive.

            The market is so constrained by regulations in this case, I’m not sure what else we’d see besides more roommates and extended families.

        • analytic_wheelbarrow says:

          What 10240 and Iain said. They’re not agreeing with you. A tax on rents would raise the amount people pay and would decrease the quantity supplied of housing.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I expect it would decrease housing prices, since it would reduce the rent landlords could collect and thus make houses less valuable for use as an income stream. It would encourage conversions of apartments to condos as well.

      Biggest losers are renters, who will be paying more. The SF market is so hot I expect the landlords would be able to pass most of the tax along.

    • baconbits9 says:

      One of the main things to consider when talking economist speak is that “costs” and “prices” aren’t quite interchangeable. As an example if you lived in a highly communist country they would often issue bread coupons, allowing a person to go to a store and exchange it for a loaf. In this context the “price” of a loaf of bread was one coupon, however the “cost” was often standing in line for several hours, or traveling a large distance to the store or both.

      Taxes shift how those non monetary costs are experienced. In economic terms a tax on rent would be a form of rent control, where an absolute cap on rent would be modeled in an equivalent way to a 100% tax on rent over a level of X, so you idea has been tried in practice under a different name. Rent control leads to obvious outcomes, first is the decline in competition, second is a decline in the quality of the goods and third is an increase in the non monetary costs of the good. Each of these encourages graft and corruption.

      For predicted effects on prices it is difficult to put a direction as you have to separate out the quality of the housing stock now with the quality later. The lack of competition restricts supply and pushes prices up, the lack of profit reduces the value of rental units and pushes competition for them down, pushes prices down. The lack of profit and competition reduces the pressure to maintain the units and encourages cost cutting as well, reducing the value of the units and pushing prices down.

      The specifics would be determined by how the legislation was written and local factors but what you expect with such efforts is a combination of longer waiting times to find a place to live and lower quality of such places, I believe this is well documented in the literature on rent control.

      • 10240 says:

        It’s not exactly the same as rent control, though. Rent control results in demand exceeding supply, as the market clearing price is illegal, so some people just can’t find an apartment even if they could afford the market price (assuming the rent control is fully enforced). A tax below 100% doesn’t have this effect, as rents can be increased until demand decreases and/or supply increases (in theory; taxes close to 100% might have a similar effect).

        • baconbits9 says:

          As I said a 100% tax on rents above a certain level would work the same as rent control, a lesser tax rate would expected to have the same type of effects, but of a different magnitude.

          Rent control results in demand exceeding supply,

          Taxation can have the same effect. If the market clearing price for an apartment is $2,000 a month a 25% tax rate would mean that the landlord would only receive $1500 a month and you would expect supply not to meet demand.

          A tax below 100% doesn’t have this effect, as rents can be increased until demand decreases and/or supply increases

          The effect is the same. If the market clears at $2,000 a month and landlords see their returns on the same apartments drop from $2,000 to $1,500 then the supply of housing should drop. If the original market clearing price was based on a competitive market a significant tax increase will always lead to a shortage when compared to that price as landlord’s revenue will drop.

          • Rent control results in demand exceeding supply,

            Taxation can have the same effect. If the market clearing price for an apartment is $2,000 a month a 25% tax rate would mean that the landlord would only receive $1500 a month and you would expect supply not to meet demand.

            You are forgetting that quantity demanded is a function of price. Without rent control, quantity supplied goes down, price goes up, and it keeps going up until quantity demanded is equal to quantity supplied, just as without the tax.

            The difference is that the price paid by the tenant is now higher than before, price received by the landlord (net of tax) is lower than before, and quantity is lower than before.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You are forgetting that quantity demanded is a function of price. Without rent control, quantity supplied goes down, price goes up, and it keeps going up until quantity demanded is equal to quantity supplied, just as without the tax.

            A rose by any other name. In the above description the price rises because the supply drops, under rent control the non monetary costs rise and/or the quality of the good drops. Under taxation we classify the shortage as “dead weight loss”, but the effect of both situations is similar for the consumer. Under rent control you get less housing at higher costs with non monetary costs dominating, and under increased taxation you get less housing at higher costs with monetary costs dominating.

          • but the effect of both situations is similar for the consumer. Under rent control you get less housing at higher costs with non monetary costs dominating, and under increased taxation you get less housing at higher costs with monetary costs dominating.

            You earlier wrote:

            If the original market clearing price was based on a competitive market a significant tax increase will always lead to a shortage

            Rent control leads to a shortage–quantity demanded is higher than quantity supplied, so people willing to pay the legal price are sometimes unable to find anyone willing to rent to them at that price.

            A tax on rent leads to a higher price of housing.

            Both make potential tenants worse off, but in different ways. Only one produces a shortage, which is not the same thing as a high price. There is no shortage of diamonds, although they are expensive.

            And rent control makes many current tenants better off by a transfer to them from their landlord, which is one reason it is often politically popular.

            You wrote:

            and you would expect supply not to meet demand.

            With the tax, supply is meeting demand–at a higher price.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ DavidFriedman

            You are using price, when you need to use cost.

            Lets say I run a promotion for my store where everyone who shops there gets a free cookie (limit one per customer, no purchase necessary yada, yada, yada). I consider 2 options, first is that I will staff a table by the entrance offering every customer who comes in a cookie, the other is to have cookies at every register and give them to every customer as they check out, so anyone who wants their free cookie has to wait their turn in the check out line. The number of cookies ‘demanded’ will be a function of the price + the non monetary costs involved.

            Demand is a function of cost of which price is one factor. When you can draw a supply and demand curve using price you are implicitly assuming that all non monetary costs are held constant. If my grocery store drops prices by 10% and you graph my demand curve to figure out my personal elasticity you are assuming that their location, availability, customer service quality etc all did not change.

            When rent ceilings are put in place you get a ‘shortage’, that is there are more people who want to pay $1,000 a month for an apartment than there are apartments available to them. The price of getting an apartment is $1000 a month, the new cost of getting an apartment is 5 years on a waiting list and $1000 a month.

            Rent control leads to a shortage–quantity demanded is higher than quantity supplied, so people willing to pay the legal price are sometimes unable to find anyone willing to rent to them at that price.

            Lets say I pay $2,000 a month for an apartment, and the city passes a 90% tax on all rent > $1,000 a month. Will I expect to be able to rent the same apartment after the tax increase at $2,000 a month? It is a legal price to charge and to pay.

            From an economist’s point of view what is the difference between causing a shortage by making something strictly illegal, and by reducing demand by making it a practical impossibility to provide a good at the previous market price?

            With the tax, supply is meeting demand–at a higher price.

            With rent control I can just claim that supply is meeting demand at a higher cost, and the the cost now just includes price+waiting for 5 years for an apartment.

          • From an economist’s point of view what is the difference between causing a shortage by making something strictly illegal, and by reducing demand by making it a practical impossibility to provide a good at the previous market price?

            In the case of a tax, the increased cost is going to the government as revenue. In the case of rent control, it’s being dissipated in waiting times and the like.

            You earlier wrote:

            If the market clearing price for an apartment is $2,000 a month a 25% tax rate would mean that the landlord would only receive $1500 a month and you would expect supply not to meet demand.

            And that is still wrong. All you are arguing now is that it is also wrong in the rent control case, because you want to define demand as a function of cost rather than price. For some purposes that makes sense, but it doesn’t justify your claim that supply doesn’t meet demand.

            In an ordinary market, quantity supplied equals quantity demanded at the market price. Would you claim that it doesn’t, because quantity demanded at a lower price is above quantity supplied at that lower price? If not, why do you make that claim when the lower price is the price without taxation and the higher with?

            Would you claim that, any time there is a sales tax, quantity supplied doesn’t meet demand? That’s exactly equivalent to what you claimed for a rent tax.

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      Aren’t a lot of rentals unreported, especially rooms/basements? It’s something like 15-20% of suites, probably higher due to people having an incentive to lie on surveys asking them if they’re breaking the law.

      It’s hard enough to enforce rules not involving money around renting. It would be even harder to enforce taxes, and non-reporting landlords would either get more money in their pocket by matching the legal taxed prices, or compete with legal taxed prices by advertising cheaper rent.

      Unless you’re talking about renting property, in which case I don’t know.

    • pontifex says:

      I am a landlord and I pay high taxes on my rental income. At least 33% and maybe as much as 45%, depending on what income bracket I fall in on a given year.

      We have to exploit other loopholes to try to get back to a sane tax rate (we don’t always succeed). For example, deductions on renovations of rentals, section 8 housing programs, mortgage interest deduction, etc.

      If the rate went up even more I’d expect to see more under the table rentals (there are many already), more empty properties, and more tax optimized mega corps getting into the game. Not that that will stop our glorious leaders here.

    • Anonymous says:

      A) Why not?

      High taxation of basic needs is unpopular, because it looks like sticking it to the common person.

      B) Has this happened?

      Sure, govts get away with it in some places, for individual reasons.

      C) What would the first/second order economic effect if San Francisco, say, charged 25% “sales” tax on all rent payments (assuming landlords didn’t find some trivial labeling workaround?) Obviously it would encourage more owner occupancy, but there’s only so much of that being desired. I also am not sure what effect it’d have on sale prices.

      – Fewer apartments for rent, due to marginal landlords being forced out of business, leading to higher prices on what is left.
      – Remaining landlords, those who can deal with the change, jack up prices to compensate.
      – Untaxed, illegal renting increases.

  15. Levantine says:

    David Friedman expresses a strongly negative view on revolutions. David, I wonder what’s your take on the American Revolution.
    For fun, I will guess: the word “Revolution” here is a misnomer.

    • I don’t have a strong opinion on whether things would have turned out better or worse without the revolution, depending in part on what the alternative was. Adam Smith proposed giving the colonists seats in parliament proportioned to their contributions to the revenue of the empire and casually added that if that was done, in a century or so the capital would move to the New World. Canada and Australia didn’t have revolutions, and didn’t turn out strikingly worse than the U.S.

      But I agree that the American Revolution wasn’t a revolution in the sense I was thinking of, since it was mainly against a foreign ruling power rather than an attempt to overthrow the existing local government–although, of course, there was a substantial fraction of the population supporting British rule.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Yeah, the American Revolution had its roots in a disagreement over the legal and moral status of the colonies with respect to Britain. The colonials saw themselves as having a status something like a modern Dominion (i.e. a state that owes allegiance to the British Crown and follows British foreign policy as a junior partner, but which otherwise functions as an independent state), but the majority faction in Parliament saw the colonies as being fully under the jurisdiction of the British government and having limited local self-government only on sufferance.

        The ambiguity had existed from the get-go, but communication lag, difficulties in projecting power across the Atlantic, and Parliament’s lack of interest in trying to assert power in the colonies all aligned to keep it pretty much academic until the mid-18th century, when Parliament noticed that it could and did send fleets and armies across the Atlantic, and that the economies of the colonies had become a big enough part of the Empire’s overall economy to be worth the trouble of a serious attempt to tax and align with Britain’s mercantilist trade policy.

      • Anthony says:

        I’ve seen an analysis which said that the American War for Independence occurred between 1775 and 1781, while the American Revolution was a mostly political affair, happening mostly between 1781 and 1792, with some stirrings in 1776.

        • cassander says:

          I’d be curious to read that analysis, really any good look at the “domestic front” of the american revolution, on either the british or american side. Any suggestions?

          • Anthony says:

            Sorry, I don’t remember where I read that. I don’t quite have a photographic memory, but I really don’t have a bibliographic memory.

  16. Vincent Soderberg says:

    I have a lot of problem with motivation/feel goodery. I am considering taking L-tyrosine. anyone taking it here with any advice?

    Info about me: i live in sweden, havedepression, high functioning autism. i am on fluoxetine 60 mg

  17. rlms says:

    How much did the US government pay for Barbary pirates not to attack American ships in the late 1700s? When I initially saw this Wikipedia page, I read it as being 20% of the federal budget each year, but on closer inspection it seems to be a total amount that is 20% of the yearly budget. But I can’t make either interpretation fit with the claims about Washington’s salary here.

  18. rlms says:

    Paper claiming that a reasonable chunk (up to 13%) of the black-white academic achievement gap is caused by differences in temperature.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Grasping at straws, I think. The US scatterplots are rather scattered (note the enormous variation in the 60-70 degree range), and they make judgements based on average outdoor annual temperatures when most schools are out over summer and in cold areas there’s heating. All they’re picking up on, I think, is that test scores in the South are lower and that the South is hotter.

      • Iain says:

        They make judgements based on average outdoor annual temperatures when most schools are out over summer and in cold areas there’s heating

        Where are you seeing this? From the abstract:

        Weekend and summer heat has little impact and the effect is not explained by pollution or local economic shocks, suggesting heat directly reduces the productivity of learning inputs. New data providing the first measures of school-level air conditioning penetration across the US suggest such infrastructure almost entirely offsets these effects.

        Similarly, your bit about the South does not seem compatible with stuff like this:

        We then document that school air conditioning is less prevalent in cooler parts ofthe US and that heat is particularly damaging to the achievement of students in these regions.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’m skeptical that this will replicate. On the other hand, the obvious policy to pursue here is broadly reasonable anyway–install AC in more schools. So at least doing that wouldn’t do any harm.

    • quanta413 says:

      The direction of the main effect (too hot –> students do worse) is plausible. Unfortunately, all of my instincts upon reading it scream “Garden of Forking Paths”. If you haven’t read Gelman’s blog, this is where the number of choices that can be made in analyzing the data allow the researcher a lot of degrees of freedom to find a “positive” result even in noise. We should figure a lot of their estimates would drop if someone tried to replicate (basically, when data is noisy, statistically significant estimates tend to over rather than underestimate magnitudes). They have a large sample, but immense amounts of uncontrolled systematic measurement errors between what was measured and what would matter.

      For example, “We assign each high school to the nearest weather station, resulting in an average distance of 9.7 miles between a student’s test site and weather station being used to measure temperature at that site.” Ok, 10 miles is not a short distance. You can get temperature differences between buildings on the same block. This might not be a huge deal, but the way they’ve decided to instrument for temperature is pretty specific and could be sensitive to 1 degree swings (they look at maximum and at temperatures crossing a threshold). They later make a comparison limiting their sample to schools within 5 miles and say the effect gets a little bigger. But I highly doubt this is kosher, schools within 5 miles of a weather station are not otherwise identical to schools within 10 miles of a weather station. What happens to the number of urban vs rural schools, etc. etc. They really ought to show a plot of how estimates change as you go from within 1 mile of a weather station, 2 miles, 3, etc.

      We construct two primary measures of cumulative heat exposure experienced by a student: the average daily maximum temperature and the number of days that temperature exceeded a given multiple of 10◦ F in the 365 days prior to the test

      Maxima are notoriously noisy compared to means (although they then mean over a maxima because why the hell not? There’s no substantive theory here). And taking a continuous variable and switching it to # of days it exceeds certain bins is super sketchy. There’s no sensible justification for this.

      Why not just use mean temperature over each school day or the temperature at noon? Why not bin on multiples of 5? How much do these totally arbitrary changes of specification affect the results? Garden of forking paths.

      Their measurements of air conditioning penetration are super sketchy. Just read the section. It’s significantly worse than the temperature data. They change a categorical response to a numerical variable and average over it. That’s several free parameters right there alone. Not even counting how noisy they admit the measure is. Incidentally though, if you look at their maps, it looks like it basically flips the map of actual temperature.

      Anyways, reading through the whole thing, there are more gems like

      In column 5 of Table 3, we include controls for heat exposure in school years two and three years prior to taking the test. When measuring heat exposure by average school day temperature, including those lags has no impact on our main estimate and the lags themselves do not appear to affect achievement. This is consistent with the possibility that either the PSAT tests material taught very close in time to the test (unlikely given test design) or that some of the negative impacts of much earlier heat exposure can be partially mitigated by students and teachers in the intervening time. However, when measuring heat exposure by school days above 90◦F, including lags increases our main estimate by 40 percent and the lags themselves are large, negative and statistically significant.

      Theoretically, there are no solid quantitative reasons to prefer one of these strategies for changing the temperature measurements over time to a single variable. However, depending on the specification, you get drastically different results. This is a sign of the garden of forking paths affecting results.

      I haven’t yet read through the entire section on air conditioning. I may get to it later, but I’m not super hopeful about that turning out to be worth my time.

      But my overall thought right now is that the effects they are most excited about are sort of difference in difference in difference type things that we should be extremely skeptical about when there’s no substantive quantitative theory at hand. The boring already known results of higher temperature –> lower performance look solid, but no one really knows the cause of that. Notice though that their air conditioning “theory” kind of contradicts the primary result. If air conditioning worked, why do all the hot areas with plenty of air conditioning do terribly? The lack of air conditiong is worst where it is the coolest!

      An interesting idea, but I think it’s unlikley the data is up to the task due to a lack of substantive theory and problems with the garden of forking paths and other systematic issues.

      • helloo says:

        They did mention that the effect seems to be greater for schools closer to the weather stations which they reasoned as reduced measurement errors.

        I think it is certainly possible, just as cold and cloudy days seem to make people more depressive. Not sure if this paper proves it though.

        There’s fact they are using data from people who take PSAT multiple times (wait you can take it multiple times?) and not consider population bias…

        I’m not sure if I buy the whole different ethnicities have differing effect rates for temperature explanations they give. Shouldn’t differences in income levels and housing take account of that? The fact they don’t include Asians also seems somewhat suspicious.

        Plus I expect a decent location based variable to be included in most regressions and to have high covariance with temperature, making it hard to compare their estimate and previous ones.

  19. rlms says:

    Who said which:

    The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities…

    Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole…

    Adam Smith or Karl Marx?

    (I cheated with the second quote, but the first is still interesting).

    • Orpheus says:

      I assumed Adam Smith wouldn’t use the term “Capitalist production”.

    • Rowan says:

      Well, obviously the first is Smith and the second is Marx just because the reverse wouldn’t be “interesting”.

      That said, as Orpheus pointed out “capitalist production” is a dead giveaway in the second quote – that’s “capitalist” as in the adjectival form of “capitalism”, which is an anachronism. And correct me if I’m wrong, but communists before the USSR and “socialism in one country” leaned a lot more AnCom, so it would seem weird to me if Marx said something that strongly pro-government.

    • The first quote is from Smith, part of a discussion where he argues that the first maxim of taxation is tax burden proportioned to income–the equivalent of a flat tax, except that he isn’t proposing an actual tax on income and does not, like most modern commenters, make the mistake of assuming that the burden of a tax on someone is measured by the amount he himself pays.

      The second cannot be Smith, might well be Marx.

  20. johan_larson says:

    How does one create a military from scratch? Suppose you are one of those countries like Costa Rica or Iceland that doesn’t have a military, and you’ve soberly decided you need one. Presumably you aren’t starting from zero in the men-with-guns department; you probably have police units, including some pretty darn hard-core police units, but you want something more than that. So how to go about it?

    • albatross11 says:

      Wouldn’t the natural first step be to try to use your connections with some friendly country (US, UK, France, Russia) to get advisors to help train your army, or to get to send your future officers there for some kind of training? You’re going to be buying a lot of expensive military equipment, so probably lots of countries have some incentive to help you with your army-building process, even if they’re not looking for local allies in their bigger struggles.

      • bean says:

        There’s a lot of capability in the US in particular invested in building armies. The Green Berets are intended to be able to go into a country and build at least a light military force from scratch. That said, if you’re Iceland or Costa Rica, a better solution might be to hire Blackwater or the like. They’ll recruit a bunch of retired military people who have the skills you want, and send them over. This is increasingly common even as a way of training US special forces, because the instructors continue to impart their knowledge, but also can be home every night.

      • Eric Rall says:

        There’s also been at least a couple cases of countries having some success hiring mercenaries as military advisers when they couldn’t find a suitable patron country to provide the advisers. The South African company Executive Outcomes was hired by Angola and Sierra Leone in their respective civil wars during the 1990s. In both cases, EO performed some direct operations (looks like mostly commando raids and operating the occasional tank or aircraft), but especially in Sierra Leone, a big part of what they were hired to do was train and organize new military units for the host government.

        In both conflicts, the side of the civil war that hired EO won enough success on the battlefield to negotiate a favorable truce, which promptly fell apart into a new round of civil wars once EO withdrew (it sounds like this happened under international pressure, since EO wasn’t terribly popular with major governments) and was replaced with UN peacekeepers. I don’t know enough of the details to say with confidence how much the failures of the peace treaties reflects EO-trained units only being effective while EO’s personnel were still around to take an active hand, and how much was due to problems with the UN peacekeepers.

    • Aapje says:

      @johan_larson

      Iceland does have a military, consisting mostly of the coast guard and special forces. I’d build on these and get outside help from a country with a better army where possible.

      Costa Rica has a small military that they don’t call a military. I’d build on these and get outside help from a country with a better army where possible.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      The easy way is giving your national resources and opening up a base to a major power like the US/Russia/china as part of an alliance. Isn’t that how some got kickstarted in the 1900’s?

    • Anonymous says:

      You can look up what Singapore did. One of the first things LKY did was organize a militia, after all.

  21. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Excuse me if this has been brought up, but what if UBI *both* releases a lot of creativity and leads to more people who just drift?

    • albatross11 says:

      This seems likely to me–it would mirror a lot of other shifts in our society. For example, my impression is that the relaxation of enforcement on a lot of social norms surrounding sex, marriage, and children simultaneously[1]:

      a. Did a lot of harm to people at the bottom.

      b. Didn’t do much harm to people at the top, and may even have helped them.

      ETA: Not to push this into CW territory–my point is just that there are a lot of changes to society that work out differently for different people. Maybe a less contentious example is easy availablilty of online lectures and papers and classes and such: it’s pretty obvious that this benefits the subset of people who have the interest and personal initiative to use those resources to learn new subjects; most people won’t be all that interested in immunology or game theory or whatever, and so won’t bother. Every major change in society probably creates relative winners and losers within the society, even if it also raises all boats.

      [1] With the caveat that gays and lesbians are probably a whole lot better off not being socially required to marry someone they’re not romantically or sexually interested in, across the board.

      • Every major change in society probably creates relative winners and losers within the society, even if it also raises all boats.

        Any change produces relative winners and losers, unless the effect on everyone identical. What was interesting about your initial example was that it was presented as a situation where some people were absolute losers.

    • Aapje says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz

      That seems likely, but I’d argue that greater creativity is not always positive. If loads of people give up their jobs that may be unpleasant, but actually help others, in favor of writing books that no one reads, making paintings that no one likes, being in bands that no one listens to and such, then doesn’t necessarily make society better off.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      That depends on two big questions:

      1. What exactly do we mean when we say that “creativity” is being released?
      2. What is the proportion of creatives to drifters?

      If creativity means people developing new tech startups or discovering scientific breakthroughs in math or computer science, that would certainly be valuable. Doing science properly is more expensive than ever but there are some fields, mostly where math and/or computers come in, where you really can make a discovery with an ordinary budget and an extraordinary mind. Likewise, there are a lot of barriers to entry in most industries but it looks like tech is still relatively open to newcomers.

      If creativity means several hundred square miles of graffiti street art and a million new garage bands, maybe not quite so valuable. It might be fun for the participants but the net value is neutral if not negative. That sort of creativity isn’t worth subsiding more than it already is.

      Once we’ve answered that question, we can work backwards to see what the minimum tolerable ratio of creativity to drifting is. If we got one new Google per ten thousand drifters that might actually still be a good deal, from a cold-blooded financial standpoint anyway. If we got ten buskers for every one guy drinking himself to death quietly that would be a horrible deal from any standpoint.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        There are a couple of more categories. One is useful but not especially creative unpaid work. For example, someone might throw parties. There’s nothing unusual about the parties, but they make life better for the people who show up. (We will optimistically assume that the parties aren’t annoying to people nearby.) See also putting on conventions.

        Another possibility is malevolent creativity.

        • Nick says:

          One is useful but not especially creative unpaid work. For example, someone might throw parties. There’s nothing unusual about the parties, but they make life better for the people who show up. (We will optimistically assume that the parties aren’t annoying to people nearby.) See also putting on conventions.

          True. I for one would like time to spend with my friends doing board games/RPGs/whatever that isn’t completely eaten up by work or school obligations. In general the possibilities for lazy people like me would be a lot better than just video games and pot provided that we take the opportunity to rebuild relationships, families, communities, etc., which have been strained by things like work and financial problems.

          • I point out, again, that such discussions fail to distinguish between UBI at a level which is financially plausible today, which would be a few thousand dollars a year, and UBI at a level people would be reasonably content to live with, which would be something more like twenty thousand dollars a year–a level that is plausible only if we assume enormous increases in productivity first.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Somewhat related thoughts on UBI.

      It is fairly obvious that we need combinations of traits to survive, a society of people working constantly would be awful and would be very limiting, but being extremely lazy is also awful. As importantly you need that balance within at least most individuals for it to work. 50 violent sociopaths and 50 extremely empathetic pacifists doesn’t not a well balanced society of 100 people make, but you can have 1 violent sociopath, 1 empathetic pacifist and 98 people with some combination of those traits functioning all together.

      I think this extends to most, if not all, traits. There are two basic ways* to fail to finish a project, the first is simply to not put in the effort to complete the last steps needed the second is to obsess over perfection to a degree that it makes finishing functionally impossible as you perpetually add steps as you make progress. Working with an extreme of either type of person can be maddening, and there will come a point when you are simple better off without their help but that is only true from the point of view of someone who has both traits in some kind of balance. The urge the complete and the willingness to let go. From the extremely lazy person’s POV it is maddening to have to work with someone who constant tries to push them to do their job, they have been around and they know that their effort level barely impacts what gets done and everything necessary seems to get finished anyway. The perfectionist finds it irritating that you keep restricting their access to resources and preventing them from adding or subtracting features or polishing already finished sections.

      The rub is that I don’t think that it is exactly set where on the scale you, or anyone else, will exist, but a range of where you can end up. I don’t think many people here would disagree that indulging a lazy person is probably going to make them lazier, but I don’t think that many would admit to considering that indulging the creative/industrious in the wrong way could basically lead them to compulsive behavior.

      A concern, maybe the major concern, of mine about UBI is that it will amplify both groups. The lazy, it is obvious, have an opportunity to become lazier, but I don’t think enough credit is being given to the obsessive workaholic gaining more power. The more that the first group drops their productivity the more that the latter group will be relied on, and the more influence that they will have. This happens for two reasons, the obvious one is that the economy needs more productivity to support the growing, for lack of a better term, indolent class, but the less obvious reason is that the middle ground people, those who were motivating the lazy and moderating the obsessive lose half of their value.

      In the long run the economic power shifts heavily toward the compulsive, and the political power towards the lazy and the middle class of conflict resolution specialists drop slowly out of sight.

      *3 if you include incompetence and an inability to learn.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      That’s a bet of mine. Unleashes a lot of creativity, and a lot of people quitting their jobs and going on the Xbox.

      I wonder how the people that will use it for drugs/weapons effect any UBI. Will they break the system with a few horror news stories? Or would it be relegated to people over 25 or even 30 with no violent criminal history? Since a few of those can wreck the whole thing.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Seems likely it would.

      By the way, I think that during the last conversation about UBI, a lot of people focused on whether people who are currently in the very low social class would suddenly deeply better themselves given an income (and, kind of implicitly, not much else in the way of change). I don’t think that’s the likely route to “releasing a lot of creativity” for the UBI.

      Rather, like everything, it would work on the margin.

      So there is currently a large class of people who are either college-educated or have some weird background that more or less classes them with college-educated people and who have some creative aspirations (whether those are artistic or entrepreneurial), but who are not terribly financially secure in their 20’s. A large percentage of them take the safe play and get conventional jobs. And then the line moves. As they get promotions and such, they give up a larger income if they want to take a couple of years to try to do their dream thing. They get married and start families. Etc. It’s not a stretch to say that a large percentage of them find that they are never in the right position to break out of “regular jobs.”

      You don’t have to believe that there are great numbers of untapped geniuses in ghettos to believe that you’d see an increase in creative endeavors under UBI.

      And maybe, if the numbers add up right, if there are a decently large number of people who currently enter the white-collar workforce who instead do creative stuff under UBI, that also pulls up some people who are currently on the cusp between “basically lucrative career” and “lower-middle class or lower class employed but without long term career prospects” into the career bucket in order to make up the deficit of solidly career people (who are now going off to do creative stuff, and/or creating new career jobs). And then maybe you pull some people who are on the cusp of “lower-middle class or lower class employed but without long term career prospects” and “underemployed” into “employed” to make up that deficit. And so forth.

      I’m not certain that that would happen. It probably depends a lot on how much money you think there is on the table for people to seize if they could just be more entrepreneurial in their 20’s. But it’s definitely the more plausible story than, “And suddenly all the kids in the ghettos are building billion dollar businesses.”

      It seems impossible to me that there aren’t people who are currently on the margin between “underemployed” and “truly unemployed” who wouldn’t tip over into “truly unemployed” as a first-order effect of UBI. The question is whether the first effect would ultimately, after it all shook out for a couple of decades, overwhelm the second effect, or vice versa.

    • proyas says:

      “Excuse me if this has been brought up, but what if UBI *both* releases a lot of creativity and leads to more people who just drift?”

      I think that’s the most likely outcome. UBI will just magnify/unmask the existing differences in innate creativity, work ethic, and leisure preferences across the population. It’s useful to research what people who are assured of financial comfort–such as trust fund babies, lottery winners, non-disabled lawsuit winners, and people who retire early and in good health–do with their time.

      Some of them throw themselves at work they are passionate about, and a minority of those attain success. Most of them spend their time indulging in hedonism or entertainment (there’s a lot of world travel and hanging out with friends and family), and maybe spending time on hobbies they’re passionate about that make them little or no money.

      The hard truth is that, even if you are passionate about something and try to make a career out of it, there’s no reason to expect anyone else to value the fruits of your labor enough to pay you for it. Moreover, even if you’re excellent in the field of work you’re passionate about, the odds are that you’re still not among the best, which is what you’ll need to be if you want to be truly successful. The world is littered with millions of great artists, poets, authors, inventors, game app designers, and other creative people who followed their passions and never got any real recognition or success (go to an art festival, identify the most talented artists, and then watch to see how much of their product they actually sell).

      And if tomorrow machines liberated humans from drudge work, and the government provided a UBI, leaving everyone free to pursue their passions full-time without risk, finding ways to stand out would actually get even harder. You would get the chance to finally focus on writing that book, opening that indie coffee shop, or doing artistic photography, but so would hundreds of millions of other people. The competition would be incredibly fierce (also, there’s no economic law that says demand for “creative” goods has to increase 1:1 with the supply of those goods), the market for whatever zany good or service you have a passion for selling would be glutted, and the same ultra-talented, sickeningly ambitious, status-seeking people who succeed today would rise to the top of the pack in the New World Order as well. And of course dumb luck would continue to be a major factor.

      Finally, what happens if machines become creative and start muscling humans out of those jobs? In that case, future people will REALLY have nothing productive to do, unless they find satisfaction in the act of making pottery, art, or music, etc. knowing full well they’ll probably get no money for it since machines do it better.

      • Randy M says:

        You would get the chance to finally focus on writing that book, opening that indie coffee shop, or doing artistic photography, but so would hundreds of millions of other people. The competition would be incredibly fierce

        I think what you would see is a lot of very niche communities. “I write fanfiction based on the role-playing games designed around the spin-off to the version of Harry Potter where only even numbered books are canon” You have an audience of 12 or so, but they are passionate and interact a lot (which is good, since the whole goal is to use up free time). Maybe someone somewhere contributes art or science that lasts centuries, but for most people we are happy if they are able to find peaceful contentment.

        Finally, what happens if machines become creative and start muscling humans out of those jobs?

        Then we have thousands of youtube channels devoted to criticisms of art produced by Siri and Alexa’s descendants, and what the works say about our collective humanity.

        they’ll probably get no money for it since machines do it better.

        In the post scarcity future, it’s “+1″‘s all the way down.

  22. broblawsky says:

    Re: Aurel’s comment on the lead-crime hypothesis: while lead levels in Polish people may be elevated, this study suggest that their levels aren’t ludicrously high – a median level of ~ 9.4 ug/deciliter for children near lead emissions sources. That’s high enough to be concerning by modern CDC standards, but not nearly enough to qualify for chelation therapy.
    Moreover, that research also suggests that lead exposure in the former Soviet Union is related to point emissions sources – zinc and copper mills, meaning groundwater contamination. Moreover, the Soviets apparently banned leaded gasoline in major cities in 1956. Is it possible that lead exposure via the atmosphere is somehow neurologically worse than groundwater exposure?

    • SamChevre says:

      Point emissions sources vs atmospheric exposure–that sounds likely to make a large difference.

      Groundwater exposure will tend to be concentrated, while atmospheric exposure will be much less so. So you’d expect more-severe damage, to fewer people.

      Think of lead as affecting impulse control, somewhat like alcohol. Two really drunk people in a crowd of 200 might fight each other, but it won’t cause a big problem. 200 slightly drunk people, on the other hand, can make fairly terrible decisions.

  23. JohnNV says:

    I’ve never been a true professional musician, but in my 20s, I was gigging enough that it was about a quarter of my income. I could have survived on it if I had to. It’s really a matter of getting to know the bar owners in your area. I played with several different bands of several different styles and knew most of the owners/managers of live music venues in my area. I’d end up playing gigs until 1 or 2am a few times a week, and then working a regular 9-5 job on top of that. I miss it, but it’s not something I could get away with now that I’m 40 and have two kids.

  24. J Mann says:

    Any opinions on Yemen?

    I hadn’t realized how bad things were, but for anyone else who hasn’t been following, there’s a civil war going on between the Saudi/US backed government and Iran based rebels, and a substantial portion of the country is literally starving to death – the Saudis have blockaded the county to block Iranian weapons shipments to the rebels, and while there is apparently a lot of aid, the country side is contested enough to make it difficult to distribute.

    Anyone have a more informed background, or proposed solutions?

      • bean says:

        Please, just no. War Nerd is someone who usually manages to mangle things in the most bizarre way imaginable. His takes on the A-10 and the fate of the carriers are almost painfully wrong, and I don’t see any reason to trust him on anything after that.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          I *was* wondering whether you’d say anything stupid. You know, even if you happen to be right about the hardware, what do you understand about … anything else the War Nerd has written about?

          • bean says:

            I’m not going to claim that one mistake makes someone totally unreliable on everything ever, but when someone has been totally wrong on every issue I do understand, I see no reason at all to assume that he’s worth listening to on stuff I don’t. And given his credentials, some of the errors he’s made make me very suspicious of his intellectual honesty.

          • Alphonse says:

            I *was* wondering whether you’d say something stupid.

            Can we have less of this sort of thing please? I don’t have any object level opinion about whether this “War Nerd” person is credible or not, but this is a needless response that just makes me find you less credible.

            I get that maybe you disagree with Bean’s assessment, but it’s perfectly fair game for him to make that point. Even if one wanted to engage in tone policing, I don’t think the point was phrased unreasonably.

            If you want to defend the value of a source you link to, maybe do that, instead of making ad hominem criticisms of people who don’t share your view.

          • One of my rules for evaluating information sources is to find somewhere that what they are saying overlaps with what you know and judge them by that. Bean is doing so, which strikes me as sensible. It isn’t guaranteed to give the right answer, but it’s a good deal better than nothing.

    • quaelegit says:

      There was (is?) a cholera epidemic in 2017. (Or apparently, started in 2016 and still ongoing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016%E2%80%9318_Yemen_cholera_outbreak). Everything I know comes from NPR and BBC radio segments and scanning Wikipedia. I remember a big deal last summer/fall about (trying to?) open up the blockade to let medical workers/outbreak response people in.

      If its a struggle between KSA and Saudi over whose puppet sphere of influence Yemen is in, it seems the best way to help the average Yemeni is to push the country into one camp or the other as quickly as possible so that people in the country can switch from destroying infrastructure to rebuilding it. However, I don’t understand the geopolitical implications of this, so maybe those would outway the lower-level positives? Also it did start as a civil war (I think?) so settling things internally might also involve killing or expelling a lot of people.

    • Iain says:

      Daniel Larison at the American Conservative has been yelling into the void about Yemen since 2015. Here‘s a recent retrospective.

      • Protagoras says:

        The cynic in me wonders if the reason there isn’t more discussion of the Yemen situation is that liberals and conservatives can agree that we shouldn’t be involved, and everybody would rather talk about something they can fight over.

    • Tenacious D says:

      No proposed solutions, but here’s a bit on the background:
      During the Arab Spring, Saleh, the president for the past 34 years, was “encouraged” to retire in the interest of regional stability. His VP, Hadi, became his replacement. This transition was with the backing of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In my opinion, part of the reason that Hadi was seen as a suitable candidate for a transitional leader was that he can’t muster much of a fighting force that would be loyal to him personally (he’s from South Yemen but sided with the North during the last civil war in 1994), so there was little risk that he would set himself up as a new strongman. He probably also didn’t have much of a chance at holding the country together. Due to some long-standing divisions in Yemen, the talks for setting up a new constitution fell apart and one faction, the Houthis, seized the capital city of Sana’a. Hadi fled. At some point (right before the Houthis took Sana’a, I think), Saleh had his loyalists (see the part above about fighting forces with personal rather than national loyalty) throw in with the Houthis. After the Houthis and Saleh loyalists had taken control of most of the populated western part of the country (they were at the gates of Aden, the former southern capital), the GCC (everyone mainly refers to Saudi, but the UAE is heavily involved too) intervened on behalf of Hadi. They had some initial success at recapturing territory, but for the past two plus years, the frontlines have been pretty static to my recollection. Compare the zones of control to an elevation map of Yemen and it is not hard to see why.
      The Houthis are Shi’a, which contributes to the civil war in Yemen being seen as a proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are led by members of the former ruling caste before North Yemen became a republic so they weren’t simply imported by Iran though. Another aspect to keep in mind is that the governates of Saudi Arabia that border Yemen also have significant Shi’a populations and Riyadh doesn’t want them getting any ideas about independence.
      Last year, it looked like Saleh was open to peace talks but then he was killed by his Houthi allies of convenience.
      As you say, it’s a humanitarian disaster, with the stalemate functioning like a siege (and a siege within a siege for anti-Houthi districts within their zone of control).
      The best outcome might be to divide the country again, but I don’t know.

    • sfoil says:

      The Saudis intervened/invaded to prevent their neighbor’s friendly government from being replaced by an Iran-friendly government that would quite likely promote unrest in its own territory by its mere existence. After their army proved unable to restore friendly/puppet control of the country, they shifted to a blockade/starvation strategy coupled with standoff tactics in order to reach their goal. I don’t believe for one minute that the “difficulty” of getting “aid” to the “countryside” (rebel-held or contested territory) is anything other than an intended component of the basic strategy.

      The problem with a formal partition is the difficulty of enforcing the Saudi/Houthi border, which is somewhat analogous to the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. (nb: “North Yemen” is in the West, “South Yemen” is in the East. I don’t know how this came about.) The Saudis seemed to be more or less fine with the status quo ante, but I suspect that after the rebels got a taste of victory against both the Yemeni national government and to a lesser extent the Saudi ground forces they want more than what they started with. Unfortunately it’s going to take an awful lot of starvation for them to lower their expectations to whatever is acceptable to the Saudis, and I couldn’t say exactly what that is. The Saudis are quite patient at any rate.

      That Iran pretty openly supports the rebels goes only so far in explaining the apathy of the “international community” towards the conflict. The Saudis have spent quite a lot of time and effort (and money, of course) on public relations/information warfare; generally nobody cares about Saudi Arabia’s activities in Yemen for the same reason they don’t care about its in-my-opinion comically oppressive domestic policies. From a military standpoint I find the evolutions of strategy by a well-equipped but very tactically-inept war establishment rather fascinating. Equally so, though I don’t know as much about them, the development of the Houthi rebels, and particularly their abortive attempts to develop a standoff capability of their own.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I have a lot more questions than answers on this one. It has been my impression that the Saudis have been the evil interlopers on this one, so why does the US support them? We should be trying to get the Saudis to back off, and treat this somewhat like the Myanmar issue.

      Not that I know a whole lot about the status of Yemen and Saudi Arabia (or Myanmar for that matter). But at this point I don’t understand why the US supports the Saudis, even on a realpolitik basis.

      • 10240 says:

        I don’t know too much about the situation, but the two obvious reasons are
        * Saudi et. al. are allies of the US, Iran is enemy. A Houthi victory expands the Iranian sphere of influence, and possibly causes instability in countries that are US allies.
        * The Hadi government the Saudis et. al. support is the internationally recognized government of Yemen. The US, and the “international commuity” in general, usually supports the status quo, i. e. the same government they had recognized before the conflict, under the doctrine of sovereignity, unless they have a very good reason not to. The legitimate government of a country is considered to have the right to form an alliance with other countries, and to allow them to fight invaders or rebels in its territory. In this sense the Saudis are not interlopers, but operate in Yemen with the consent of the Yemeni government.
        Exceptions to the above principle of status quo and sovereignity happen when e. g. an evil dictator is butchering its own people, and revolutionaries are demanding democracy (of course informed by geopolitical interests and alliances). E. g. in Syria, protesters originally demanded democracy, and got shot at. But in Yemen the Hadi government was itself intended to be a transitionary government towards democracy (not that this has ever had much of a realistic chance, and I guess plans of any such transition were put on hold with the renewed civil war), and the Houthis never had any pretence of demanding democracy.
        So, while the Hadi government is far from being unambiguously the good guys, the credentials of Hadi as the evil dictator, and the credentials of the Houthis as the good guys are not strong enough to clear the very high bar required to suspend the status quo / sovereignity principle.

      • Reasoner says:

        I would assume because (a) Saudi Arabia is a US ally (b) Iran is a US enemy (c) Yemen is a state that’s directly adjacent to Saudi Arabia, so Saudi Arabia would really not like to have an enemy regime there.

      • Orpheus says:

        I am guessing that it is because the Saudis have oil.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          I don’t think that’s it.

          Before the 2012-2016 embargo, Iran was the world’s third largest exporter of oil.

          Nine percent of U.S. oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. That’s not a trivial amount by any means, but it hardly gives the Saudis the whip hand.

          If Iran got into a dustup with Canada, that would be another matter…

        • John Schilling says:

          Iran also has oil, and the US imports very little (<2% of total consumption) from either. It is important for the global economy, and thus for the US even if Trump et al don't want to admit it, that both Iranian and Saudi oil make it to some market, but there’s basically no chance that e.g. China is going to turn down Saudi or Iranian oil if it is offered. Thus no problem if the US wants to piss off one government or the other by taking whichever stand it pleases in Yemen, or even imposing a unilateral oil embargo.

          As 10240, there are preexisting alliances and enmities that have more to do with flag-burning mobs than with oil reserves, and a strong status quo bias w/re sovereignty in international affairs.

      • J Mann says:

        My take on the pro-Saudi side: it sounds like the rebels aren’t too sympathetic – they’re not open to democracy or peace talks, and they are supported by Iran. It seems reasonable to assume that if an Iranian-supported antidemocratic ruling clique takes over a country next to Saudi Arabia, then Iran will increase efforts to overthrow or influence Saudi Arabia as well.

        My take on the pro-rebel side: Maybe the rebels are bad guys, but the Saudis are no prize either. We haven’t been successful in helping the recognized government win the war, so maybe if we help the rebels win the war (at least through inaction), the collateral civilian damage will come to an end.

        Neither one of those is very satisfying – the status quo seems to be resulting in years of civilian suffering, but if the result of letting the rebels win is to move the civil war over to Saudi Arabia, I’m not sure that’s a net win.

        • Protagoras says:

          Unless you’re actually sending in your own people to run them (or at least actively meddling to choose who runs them), client states tend to be only truly loyal when they are weak and dependent on your support (in which case they are also often more trouble than they’re worth, requiring constant effort to prop up). The rest of the time, they’ll only side with you when it suits them (and sometimes not even then; being seen as a puppet of foreign powers is almost always terrible optics for domestic politics). So if the rebels win, the benefit to Iran will probably be smaller than you imagine.

  25. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    Last open thread I posted what I thought was an interesting seed for discussion:

    “What if you could send a package (let’s say suitcase-sized) to [any year in the past]? It will arrive at today’s date, minus however many years. You can have it sent to whomever you like, but you can’t personally hang around and make sure it gets used properly. There’s nothing about this delivery that will convince the recipient that this package is from the future. There won’t be any flashing lights or vortexes or portals for them to see. All they see is the package on their doorstep, and they have no special knowledge of this experiment or your efforts. It’s up to your packaging to motivate the people of 1977 or whatever to open it and pay attention to the contents.

    You also can’t enlist any large-scale help to fill this suitcase. You can’t call on NASA, or launch a “Help Save the Romans” Kickstarter. You don’t magically have access to classified data or government funding. Filling this suitcase comes down to you, your wits, and however much you’re willing to put on your credit card. (If you’re well-off then maybe limit yourself to 10k in spending, just so you’re working on the same problem as the rest of us.) For the purpose of the exercise, imagine you have a way to send the package, but there’s no way to prove this to anyone here in 2017.

    What do you put in the package? What items or information will benefit them most? How will you get that information, how will you package it, and how will you entice the recipient to take it seriously?

    I don’t want people to respond with what’s in their package just yet, I just want folk to think about. To sum up, the questions we’re trying to answer:

    1)Who gets the package?
    2)How will you entice this person to examine the package, take it seriously, and act according ot your wishes?
    3)How do you store information in the suitcase? What format do you use?
    4)What information do you send?”

    So! Now is the time f or answering. When do you send your suitcase? To whom? How do you make sure they open it and pay attention? What storage medium do you use, and what information do you send?

    • Randy M says:

      My thought, since I don’t really have a good idea how to prevent world war I (it seems to me that given the alliances and opinion of warfare at the time, preventing the inciting incident would only delay the conflict) was to send something like Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary to perhaps Ben Franklin or George Washington. I think their natural curiosity would get them to check it out, and even if they didn’t believe in it, it would show a plausible story of a war more vicious and deadly than the one they had just come out of occurring within the lifetime of people they cared about. They wouldn’t need to remember any technical specs to have motivation not to kick the slavery can down the road.

      Even in retrospect I don’t know what could have been done to prevent the US civil war, and just saying to the people founding the country “Hey, can you try harder to ease the tensions in the country please?” might not actually do anything that dampen their optimism at even trying to construct a government, but I would assume they would be better able to see potential solutions and possibly better able to envision and promote compromises to spare a lot of misery.

    • cassander says:

      I still say that the most reliable method remains sending a bomb to someone you think really fucked things up shortly before they started fucking things up. Gavrilov Princip, Hitler, Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, all good targets.

      That’s not the most efficacious solution possible, but it is the most reliable. The most efficacious package I think would be sending guns (I’m thinking flintlocks, but could be persuaded that something mechanically simpler might be better), powder, and instructions on how to make more back to the classical era. Primitive guns and powder are not particularly difficult to make, but are a decidedly non-obvious technology that took a long time to evolve. I’m not a big believer in technical determinism of history, but I will make an exception for guns, which I think were genuinely transformative because they ended the ability of non-settled peoples to stand up militarily against settled peoples. The trouble is I don’t have a reliable method for making the person I’m sending the box to take it seriously. So I go with the bomb.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Would upper class people open their own packages?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Depending on the era, you could possibly get something that doesn’t look like a bomb past the initial package-openers, but that raises the question of how you know you actually have the real target. In theory facial recognition software could identify when Woodrow Wilson is in the room, but can you train that software sufficiently from historical photographs?

          Well, that was the era of the anarchist bombings, so I picked the worst possible target. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1919_United_States_anarchist_bombings The White House would be on high alert for anything weird.

          A bomb-drone might do the job, since they would have no concept at all of the threat. Historical records could give you a good window of when he will be out in the open, but algorithimically verifying the target becomes harder.

          • John Schilling says:

            I really don’t think you can trust any contemporary AI for this job. Particularly one you can procure by your own efforts and/or with a $10K budget. Your best bet would probably be to find a contemporary enemy of your target and give them some appropriate modern weaponry and whatever actionable intelligence you can find.

        • cassander says:

          Wilson you’d want to get while he was still a professor. And depending on the exact rules, you could just send your package to somewhere where you know the target will be and have it explode immediately.

      • hyperboloid says:

        Gavrilov Princip, Hitler, Lenin, Woodrow Wilson

        Woodrow Wilson? It’s very strange to see a historical death list including a terrorist, two dictators, and the Democratically elected leader of one of the entente powers. If your conservative convictions lead you feel the need to murder a Democratic president then surely the safe bet is Andrew Johnson.

        Though I’m the last person who should be calling out typos, It’s Gavrilo, as the man was a Bosnian Serb. Gavrilov is a Russian surname.

        • bean says:

          Woodrow Wilson is far and away the most responsible for the terrible way that the end of WWI was handled. Getting rid of him and putting in place someone who actually has the faintest understanding of international politics would have potentially gotten rid of Hitler and WWII in Europe.

        • cassander says:

          What bean said. It has nothing to do with democrats vs. republicans or even liberalism vs. conservatism, Woodrow Wilson was a monster in human form whose bungling got millions of people killed while totally failing to accomplish the few goals he had that were actually laudable. And the guy he beat in 1916 would later prove to be one of the most successful diplomats in american history.