THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 108.75

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

708 Responses to Open Thread 108.75

  1. idontknow131647093 says:

    One of my favorite things about the internet is finding old, but relevant, TV shows to watch. For instance, Firing Line has a Youtube channel.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/firinglinevideos/featured?disable_polymer=1

    Are there similar channels that document things from the pre-1990s that have youtube channels I can watch? I’d love to know.

  2. Aapje says:

    I found this amazing video where Alex Jones explains his world view. It fails in every way to be a rational or convincing set of argument, but it is an amazing piece of surrealist performance art.

    There is also this great video where they turned some of his rants into a indie song.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Is that first video real? I mean, I see it exists, but did they edit a bunch of stuff together to make Alex seem crazy? I have only taken Alex in very low doses and when specifically referred to short clips.

      • Nootropic cormorant says:

        Sometimes i toy with the idea that Alex Jones is as real as WWE.

      • Aapje says:

        It was actually made by a believer, who intended to make it convincing, albeit in a entertaining way (it seems that Jones’ belief is also that people tend to favor edutainment over drier educational content, which is one of his less crazy beliefs). Presumably, the idea is that this draws you in and that you will then seek out more information about psychic vampires and 5th and 6th dimension consciousness.

        I do assume that the 4 hour interview that this was taken from was a lot more relaxed and such.

        My own poorly informed opinion of Jones is that he intentionally acts crazy to get views, but that he did cobble together an absurd belief system slash religion.

        PS. Note that Alex Jones actually seems to believe that the globalists are transhumanists who believe in an evil kind of AI transcendence, so if he ever discovers Rationalists/MIRI, I think he will see that more evidence for his beliefs.

        PS2. I just noticed I made a mistake with the links. Here is the music video.

        • Nootropic cormorant says:

          Obviously the similarities between the rationalist community and Jones’ transhumanist globalist is not accidental, they both draw heavily from the Bay area tech community.

          I guess that most of his viewers think he is insane but feel that Satanic Vampires are an accurate metaphor for the alien beliefs and lifestyles of coastal elites anyway.

          His show is like watching science fiction narrated directly from the collective uncosciousness of the Red tribe.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            viewers think he is insane but feel that Satanic Vampires are an accurate metaphor for the alien beliefs and lifestyles of coastal elites anyway.

            The term “satanic vampire” is not an inaccurate metaphor for entirely too many coastal elites. Especially the VCstan people and the California and the BosWash 0.1%-ers.

            It gets still harder to fight the accusation each time that the Blue Tribers sneer and cheer each time the Church Of Satan puts up their oh so cute statue up somewhere else new just to shit some more on the rural red culture.

            If someone doesn’t want to be called a satanist, they should stop acting like one.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            Yeah, I can see how he got the impression, although I imagine the intersection between technocrats and oligarchs on one side and people who try to sell me black magic as a valid form of Jungian self-help on the other is not as big as we may imagine.

          • Rob K says:

            I’ve lived with an Alex Jones fan, and your description is not accurate.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            Did they take all of that multidimensional stuff seriously?

            I’m a close friend with a self-proclaimed fan, but it’s hard to tell how much of it is ironic, but he’s not representative either way since he’s not even American.

          • Rob K says:

            He was 19, smoked a lot of weed, and spent hours on conspiracy sites while working some sort of desk job at his dad’s factory (I think his dad was also into Infowars, although it’s been a while). He never brought up the multi-dimensional stuff, but he was very into chemtrails.

            As far as I could tell, the appeal was mostly that he could regard himself as not only savvier than the Obama types (this was in 2008), but also savvier than the Ron Paul fans, of whom there were a number in his social scene. That and he was just a nutty dude.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Both the links are the same.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I was somewhat disappointed. It must be possible to put Google, Satan and psychic vampires into a more coherent framework.

    • tayfie says:

      I’d like to point out that the video in question is a ten minute clip spliced together from two hour interview with Joe Rogan. I thought the interview as a whole was interesting and the “aliens” segment was by far the craziest part of it.

      I am not a fan of Jones and don’t watch regularly, but I’ve seen enough to realize that the highlight clips everyone passes around optimize mercilessly for the craziest and least serious things he has ever said, and I get slightly annoyed when people pretend this is the central example. Another issue is that Jones will discuss what someone else believes, and then people will assume that is also what he believes and dismiss the obvious contradiction by showing another time he was discussing another person.

      Something I do think Jones does well, partly because he s subject to different pressures than the big networks, is long-form interviews. He is good at bringing on a guest and letting the guest steer the conversation moreso than network TV interviewers, which is refreshing when most TV interviews feel like an adversarial hunt for sound bites. There is a problem of selection, though, since I’ve never seen Jones interview someone he doesn’t like. Those people don’t agree to be on his show even if he invites them.

  3. onyomi says:

    I was recently discussing the issue of social media censorship with a Chinese friend and had a thought:

    In the past, I have always dismissed without hesitation any positive value to the Chinese government’s attempts to control its citizens’ access to the wider internet world through such steps as blocking Facebook, Youtube, and Google and supporting the creation of Chinese analogues to these services.

    Yet I realized that I can’t do that any more because I can no longer claim that Youtube, Facebook, and Google are neutral content platforms for anyone in the world to exchange ideas. Rather, they are Bay Area media companies that have expressed a clear willingness to work with US elites and politicians to control how Americans share and consume content online. Given that fact, I can totally understand why the Chinese government would rather the Chinese people be subject to the whims of Beijing rather than the whims of Palo Alto and DC.

    I think it is subtle yet also a very big deal to give up this kind of moral high ground.

    • Aapje says:

      Cultural differences for what is acceptable to publish also exist in more subtle ways. For example, (French) people have complained about Facebook’s policies on blocking nudity, even famous paintings. Germany is far more strict than US culture about depicting violence and Nazi imagery. Etc.

      If the US or the Bay Area gets to decide what is acceptable to show, other cultures don’t get to decide on their own norms.

      • pointenlos says:

        Seconding this. There were also mainstream german news magazines with some nudity on the cover, which were censored by Facebook and Apple years ago. To be clear: These magazines were in newsstands around the country for everyone to see. But Facebook censored.

        The Bay area already got to decide what is acceptable to show. A form of invisible imperialism.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      A pretty important point here is the redress available: you can boycott Facebook, or try and start your own alternative where you promise not to take anything down, ever. If you try and boycott the Chinese government, or try and start your own censorship-free Chinese alternative…

      When all is said and done, FB, Google and the rest are private companies–I’m not even sure if they claim to be content-neutral platforms for anyone in the world to exchange ideas? Why is it ceding the moral high ground for them to make decisions about who sees what?

      • onyomi says:

        Tencent is a privately-owned, publicly-traded company, just like Google and Facebook. Chinese citizens are perfectly free to boycott Wechat, or to try to create an alternative. They chose to use these services voluntarily because of network effect and because the government has outlawed foreign alternatives. The difference, besides the fact that the US government doesn’t ban Wechat (but why would it, when the social media most Americans use is already headquarted within its jurisdiction), in the past, would have been that, whereas Tencent implicitly agrees to work with the Chinese Communist Party, and not do anything obviously counter to its interests, Google and Facebook are theoretically under no such pressures, or, at least, much lighter pressures. But whether that is true is increasingly less clear.

        What is increasingly clear is that network effect imbues social media corporations with enormous power to e.g. shape political narratives, and it isn’t easy to compete with that even if one is nominally free to do so. In the past, these platforms were implicitly, if not explicitly, content-neutral (Twitter’s “Rules,” for example, which have become more mealy-mouthed over the years, still open with the line “We believe that everyone should have the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”) in a way that gave the impression they were for everyone (in the world, not just the US; remember Twitter and Arab Spring) to talk about anything. This, in turn, made me feel sorry for the Chinese and their tyrannical government cutting them off from participating in the world’s free and open dialogue.

        But if it turns out that these US-based platforms aren’t really about free and open dialogue then we also lose the moral high ground with respect to e.g. the authoritarian Chinese government. They have their media corporations whic implicitly agree to toe their party line and we have our media corporations which implicitly agree to enforce our particular Overton window.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I think failure to ban alternatives is a pretty big deal: Gab and Voat exist, and if people really found Twitter and Reddit too onerous, they could switch.
          I agree that if the US government is leaning as heavily on FB and Twitter as the Chinese government then that would be important; however I think this is orthogonal to the question of whether the American social media platforms are “neutral content platforms for anyone in the world to exchange ideas”–so long as their failure to adhere to these standards is not a result of government pressure, I think the comparison with the Chinese versions is unfair.

          • onyomi says:

            As I said, China doesn’t ban Chinese alternatives and America’s failure, thus far, to ban non-American alternatives is meaningless because there haven’t yet been any test cases of a non-US-based social media co with significant penetration among Americans.

            Do you have confidence, for example, that US congresscritters would never seriously consider trying to e.g. limit US citizens’ access to Russia Today or a hypothetical Russia-based social media platform that started to achieve significant penetration?

            so long as their failure to adhere to these standards is not a result of government pressure, I think the comparison with the Chinese versions is unfair.

            Well, for one thing, I think it is, though pressure can come in many subtle different forms, like the subpoenas mentioned below; more importantly, my point here isn’t to claim the US government is as bad as the Chinese government… yet (the latter having improved a great deal in recent decades, in addition to the former’s getting worse, imo), rather more that, when the US government and major corporations give US citizens reason to wonder whether the Chinese government was right all along to be suspicious of them, that seems like a pretty bad sign.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Has America ever banned any social media platform? Has Congress ever tried to limit US citizens’ access to a news platform? At least since the end of WWII?

            I certainly don’t think it will never happen, but I’m not sure I see any signs that it’s happening now, or is about to happen. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be vigilant, but there’s a pretty wide gap between “China bans media platforms” and “the US might ban media platforms”.

          • onyomi says:

            You don’t have to become as bad as the villains to lose the moral high ground; you only have to take a step in their direction.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @Eugene Social media alternatives that exist because of one sided political censorship will almost certainly never become popularized. Gab is an echochamber consting of people who were banned by facebook and twitter. Every normal/apolitical person is on facebook and has no reason to change.

            Also note that circumventing a large platform’s censorship has and very likely will remain more effective way to get banned views into the public space than creating a ‘free speech zone’ surrounded by sound absorbers. Banned users can upload videos through sock accounts/intermediaries, people can create alternative spellings to fool algorithms.

            Automated censorship strong enough to outwit savvy dissidents is going to become too onerous on regular users, and hiring large numbers of employees increases their operating costs (social media is already not very profitable as wallstreet discovered)

            The most probable way facebook dies is if Gen Z (Those most likely not to settle for an existing platform and don’t actually want to be in contact with older people) favors a fundamentally different platform (Rather than a facebook clone with better terms of service) with unique features (again, BESIDES TOS)

            However whatever company fills that niche is under the same pressures as facebook, even if the company founder/CEO doesn’t share the censorious outlook of the rest of the tech-elite (why wouldn’t they?) — Pressures from Silicon Valley employees, pressure from politicians, journalists, foreign governments, and business partners.

            Speaking of business partners. It should be re-iterated that the censorship has multiple layers to it. It’s not just that the social media company itself wants to censor, sometimes it doesn’t. Gab was forced to censor because of a threat from its domain holder. IIRC Bitchute [alternative to youtube] was strongarmed into censoring because of it’s payment processor who in turn claims was threatened by an unnamed financial partner.

            It’s extremely troubling. If this continues a combination of private company boycotts plus sophisticated AI could scrub the internet of thought-crime completely; with or without a 1st amendment.

          • helloo says:

            The US has been trying to remove one set of Russian based software – Kaspersky.

            That probably doesn’t have much effect regarding speech but it is not like they haven’t been biased against certain software brands.

            I’m guessing NSA or FBI might have some kind of metric for WeChat users as a way to measure foreignness. Still not restricting though.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @onyomi

            You don’t have to become as bad as the villains to lose the moral high ground; you only have to take a step in their direction.

            Fine, but the size of the step, and the percentage of the distance between you and the villains that you have traversed are important, and can’t just be dismissed. This is especially true when the distinction between you and the villains is what the villains have done vs. what you might do in similar circumstances.

            @RalMirrorAd

            Social media alternatives that exist because of one sided political censorship will almost certainly never become popularized. Gab is an echochamber consting of people who were banned by facebook and twitter. Every normal/apolitical person is on facebook and has no reason to change.

            I don’t disagree with any of that, but so long as the censorship on FB and Twitter is not government-directed, I don’t see why it makes for a fair comparison with China.

            There are plenty of people and plenty of views that mainstream people are never exposed to because of the network effects of ordinary social life and I don’t think the government, or indeed anyone, has an interest in making sure that unpopular opinions receive as much exposure as popular ones.

            @helloo
            From what I can tell, the US government has been trying to remove Kaspersky from use by the federal government and its employees–since Kaspersky is alleged to have stolen NSA material from the home computer of a contractor. This is very different attempting to ban civilian use of Kaspersky products.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            The difference between potential and realized actions is important when determining rewards and punishment, but if we’re talking about convincing (projecting moral power) only potential is relevant.

            The American elites have shown that they are not bound by the values they espouse, of not impeding free discourse, and are thus unable to persuade other actors to act according to those values of their own good-will

          • MrApophenia says:

            No one apart from a very small fringe has ever espoused the values you are claiming they espouse. Facebook and other social media sites are media companies providing a platform for people to communicate to the public; they have no more obligation to provide a platform for political views they disagree with than does Fox News or Harper Collins.

            Harper Collins refusing to publish my book is not censorship, nor is Fox News refusing to give me a show.

            The fact that social media companies have more lax guidelines for who they give a platform to than traditional media companies does not give them any more obligation to make their platform open to everyone. And crucially, they never claimed that it did.

            You’re complaining that they are failing to live up to a moral high ground they never claimed, and most people never thought they aspired to.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The fact that social media companies have more lax guidelines for who they give a platform to than traditional media companies does not give them any more obligation to make their platform open to everyone. And crucially, they never claimed that it did.

            Twitter did; the quote is in this thread.

            Furthermore, if you’re claiming social media is like _publishing_, then perhaps you’d be receptive to an argument gaining popularity on the right, that CDA 230 should be repealed entirely and platforms should be liable for defamation and other illegal and tortious acts as publishers are.

          • John Schilling says:

            Harper Collins refusing to publish my book is not censorship, nor is Fox News refusing to give me a show.

            What about AT&T refusing to give you a DSL line because they don’t want to “support” the content they think you’ll be sending over it?

            That’s not a perfect analogy for Facebook/Twitter/Reddit, but perhaps closer than Harper Collins or Fox News.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Darn, post got eaten. Trying again.

            Twitter did; the quote is in this thread.

            You are of course right – Twitter actually has made this their position. But then, Twitter didn’t ban Alex Jones.

            Furthermore, if you’re claiming social media is like _publishing_, then perhaps you’d be receptive to an argument gaining popularity on the right, that CDA 230 should be repealed entirely and platforms should be liable for defamation and other illegal and tortious acts as publishers are.

            I’m not at all familiar with the law in question, but from my initial Googling on the topic just now, this doesn’t sound crazy on its face to me. Facebook is the world’s leading source of news these days, and a huge part of their problems over the past few years have arisen from the fact that they made themselves the leading news source on Earth, but did not take on any of the accompanying editorial responsibilities. For a while, Facebook basically was “CNN, but if they gave a show to anyone who asked for one.” And it worked out about exactly how you would expect it to.

            Likewise, Youtube at this point has considerably better ratings than most TV networks.

            It doesn’t seem at all strange to me to think of them as media companies analogous to traditional media – if anything, the main place the analogy breaks down is that they are rather more powerful and influential in their publishing efforts.

            What about AT&T refusing to give you a DSL line because they don’t want to “support” the content they think you’ll be sending over it?

            That’s not a perfect analogy for Facebook/Twitter/Reddit, but perhaps closer than Harper Collins or Fox News.

            I don’t think it is. I could see a reasonable argument for deciding to make them into something like that, and regulate them accordingly – after all, the phone system wasn’t always treated like a utility the way it is now, either. But as they are today, I don’t think they are a common carrier, or have ever claimed to be.

            (Except for Twitter, which sort of has, as Nybbler notes – but then is actually also acting that way.)

          • onyomi says:

            @Nootropic Cormorant

            The American elites have shown that they are not bound by the values they espouse, of not impeding free discourse, and are thus unable to persuade other actors to act according to those values of their own good-wil

            Yes, this exactly. I’m not sure how many people have had the experience of talking about politics with citizens of a country our government and media officially condemns to some degree, but I can tell you you are playing from a big deficit any time you want to convince someone “your government is doing something bad; my government is better.” I imagine it is similar with Turks, Filipinos, Iranians, Russians, Cubans, … (and not the ones who have moved to America; there’s a reason they left). It feels like it should be a slam-dunk, but it’s not, because you’re going against ingroup preference, and a lifetime of exposure to pro-home government propaganda (including schooling… including own’s own schooling, which has probably biased oneself in the other direction as well).

            If you’re the group leader for AA meetings you can’t be seen drinking a white wine spritzer and then say “hey, well at least I’m not a drunk like you guys.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            What about AT&T refusing to give you a DSL line because they don’t want to “support” the content they think you’ll be sending over it?

            Which is why ending net neutrality was a bad idea.

            Much in the same way that telephones were considered utilities, internet access seems the same to me. I’m not sure how much further you can go. I guess perhaps physical/virtual rack space could be regulated that way, but given how much that tech-space is changing, I’m not sure the rules would make sense for long.

          • John Schilling says:

            But as they are today, I don’t think they are a common carrier, or have ever claimed to be.

            Does the claim matter? If AT&T were to announce, “On reflection, we’re not a common carrier after all”, could they then cut service to all the Socialists? Or Democrats?

          • MrApophenia says:

            “Common carrier” is an official regulatory status that some businesses have, and others don’t. If folks want to have social media declared common carriers and regulated as such, that is an interesting argument to make and maybe even one I could be convinced to agree with, but it isn’t the case today.

            So no, AT&T can’t declare themselves not common carriers – but the FCC could, and afterward they absolutely could cut service to to all Democrats.

            And yes, correspondingly, the anti-net neutrality position is also includes the position that your ISP should have the right to ban all Republicans if they so choose.

        • albatross11 says:

          Is there an existing legal mechanism by which the US government could ban a foreign service of that kind? Maybe some kind of war-on-terror law (since the courts mostly just lie back and think about the Homeland when some centuries-old principle runs up against counterterrorism policy)?

      • Plumber says:

        “A pretty important point here is the redress available: you can boycott Facebook….”

        @Eugene Dawn,

        I already have never looked at Facebook, but now I have a reason to call it a “boycott” andi pretend I’m taking a stand nstead of me just not being interested in it.

        AWESOME!

      • Jaskologist says:

        Zuckerberg was dragged before Congress to answer for Facebook’s sins in letting the wrong types of people talk on their platform. These “private” companies are not actually operating in a hypothetical world of perfectly spherical free markets.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          No company anywhere operates in that world; that doesn’t mean we still can’t make distinctions between how onerously companies are subjected to government oversight and dictation.

          Zuckerberg was dragged before Congress because of concerns that private user data was harvested from FB; insofar as the hearings touched on whether the “wrong types of people” talk on FB, it was when conservative Senators implied that FB is too strict on conservative posts.
          Insofar as the hearings involved government officials expressing concern about FB’s content review, it was Ted Cruz suggesting that Zuckerberg should pay more attention to the political views of his employees, and asking after the firing of Palmer Luckey–i.e., a conservative Senator taking an interest in the personnel decisions of a major company, and suggesting that a private company should consider political views of the employees it hires.

          • onyomi says:

            There is a more important subtext to these congressional subpoenas, as there was to the Microsoft anti-trust case: these are warning signals to remind powerful companies who’s boss.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Congress is controlled by Republicans–are you suggesting that Republicans subpoenaed Mark Zuckerberg to send him the message that he’s not censoring conservatives enough?

          • JohnWittle says:

            Wasn’t private user data stolen in exactly the same manner for exactly the same purpose to exactly the same extentnin the 2012 election as well, except that it was used by Obama’s campaign rather than Trump’s?

            From https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/mar/22/meghan-mccain/comparing-facebook-data-use-obama-cambridge-analyt/

            Under the way Facebook allowed its apps to operate between 2010 and 2015, Obama’s 2012 re-election app and the survey app used by Cambridge Analytica had access not only to their users’ profiles but their friends’ list and their biographical information.

            When the user approved it, these apps could access details such as users’ and their friends’ tags, likes and demographics.

            Over a million people downloaded the Obama for America app. Around 300,000 people downloaded the personality survey app that ended up sending their data to Cambridge Analytica. The number of users’ data the firm reportedly gained access to (50 million) is much higher because it includes the users’ friends. The number of user data, it follows, was much higher for the Obama campaign, too.

            Maybe there were differences, but… it really seems like this is an excellent example of bias against conservatives. When the conservatives do it, Zuck gets hauled before congress and it’s an enormous scandal. When the liberals do it, nobody even bats an eyelash.

            I’m not sure that’s a totally accurate description of what happened, but… it seems at least relevant, yet nobody has even brought it up

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Your own link provides some important differences: the Obama campaign app was actually a campaign app–so though the app could harvest data from a person’s friends without the friends’ knowledge, the person who downloaded the app knew it was for Obama’s campaign. The CA app, meanwhile was a personality test, so even the initial user didn’t know their information (much less their friends’) would be used for a political campaign.

            Also, the Obama app told the initial user which friends of theirs would be susceptible to voting Obama; the CA app send targeted ads directly.

            Whether or not that’s enough of a difference is obviously a matter of judgment. I’m also not sure whether one or the other violates FB’s policies.

            Anyway, this is all beside the point since the relevant Congressional Committees are chaired by Republicans! Republicans too, wanted to haul Zuckerberg up and ask him questions! Not just liberals!

      • albatross11 says:

        I think there’s a more subtle problem. If Facebook/Twitter/et al allow all political views (maybe while prohibiting nudity/profanity/threats), it seems like it’s a lot easier for them to claim to be a neutral carrier of information. There’s not a mechanism for them to enforce your country’s laws about what speech is acceptable–they just don’t do that. Once they’ve built a mechanism to explicitly block some views as unacceptable, it seems a lot easier to see various governments demanding that they also block these other views that are unacceptable in China or Saudi Arabia or Russia or wherever. That becomes even more true, once they start accomodating some countries’ demands–say, to block some kinds of political message in China to comply with local law.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          A few people are starting to notice that Section 230 Safe Harbor protections can start evaporating when internet content providers start politically regulating user content.

          I’m looking forward to when people start filing pointed and painful cases. It’s going to be hilarious.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Forest : Trees

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Short answer: YouGooTwitface doesn’t have to occupy the moral high ground for the Chinese government to occupy the moral low ground.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      First, I disagree that this is the logic behind Chinese censorship. For this to make sense, China would have to allow unmitigated idea exchange among Chinese citizens, while just restricting FB/Google/etc. I am not a China expert, but this does not seem to be the case. The goal of Chinese censorship policy is not the narrow restriction of foreign influence, but suppression (or at least control) of any undesirable stories.

      So even if they were content-neutral, China would still support blocking all these platforms and having native, government controlled alternatives.

      Second, I disagree that foreigners being active in the free press in your nation justifies suppression of that press. You aren’t specifically talking about foreign agents of state, but a hazy concept of “elites.” This groups KGB-controlled press in the same category as the New York Times (with a substantial minority interest held by a foreigner).

    • yodelyak says:

      I first ran across the phrase, “the people love a dictator” in some writing or other of Christopher Hitchens. But I’d known the concept since, as a kid, puzzling over the story of the Israelites demanding a king, even after the rather nasty picture of what kings are is painted by the prophet Samuel. (See 1 Samuel 8:1-22ish.)

      I can agree with you that the U.S. is crying out for a king–including asking for restrictions on foreign speech in our semi-private social media. I don’t think agreeing with you about that entails an important loss of moral high ground. The U.S. can still, of course, have the moral high ground if we’re crying out for a “king” made up of three branches of government who when acting together are powerful–but who are still checked by each other and still ruled by laws that apply to everyone, and by a basic sense of decency that cries bloody murder if a child is separated from a parent without a good reason or a Justice is appointed who doesn’t care about free speech. I think we have changed in 10 years, but the high ground (on some issues, anyway) remains very much ours.

      • yodelyak says:

        I think HeelBearCub’s comment: “Forest : Trees” is best.

        My comment above is the shorter version of a very long comment I edited down massively, and I think some of the sense of what I’d originally written got lost in the edit.

        To cure the omission: I can agree with you that the U.S. is recently much more prone to loving its rulers (although we are split–maybe more deeply split than ever since the Civil War–on which U.S. tribe may be allowed to rule.) In China, on the other hand, people do not even have the freedom to put a picture of a biblical character on their living-room wall… it’s Xi or nothing, baby. (link)

  4. a reader says:

    Scott, not a word about the Adversarial Collaborations, whose deadline was august 22, the day before yesterday?

    me & flame7926 finished it this time – our subject was “Should transgender children transition?”
    (first time my former adversary abandoned after the first mail exchanges)

    Have any other teams finished? What were your subjects?

    • Soeren E says:

      Our collaboration did not finish.
      I offered to defend every claim in Nick Bostrom’s book “Superintelligence”, and an adversary claimed less than 1% probability of AGI ever being developed. The adversary quickly abandoned the project, but I still wrote 2 pages, and a third author (on my side) also wrote a bit.
      In August, a new adversary appeared, but would only defend a much weaker claim: 20% probability of AGI in 100 years. We did not get far. I believe the lack of progress was due to a lack of disagreement, and a lack of effort on all sides.

      • sty_silver says:

        That’s a shame, the “AGI has a negligible chance of ever being developed” was the one project where I was really looking forward to seeing the end result. From my PoV the claim is absurd; throughout a good-faith dialogue, your adversary would either have to change their mind or not change their mind. Both would be very interesting to see.

      • pontifex says:

        Sorry that the collaboration did not pan out.

        My big problem with the book is that it seems to be assuming a lot of things about how AI will work.

        We don’t really know how hard it will be to create an AI, or how hard it will be for an AI to improve itself. If recalcitrance goes up exponentially or even super-exponentially, “foom” scenarios may not really be possible.

        We also don’t really know if it will be possible to motivate an AI to have some all-consuming final goal. After all, humans don’t seem to have such goals, nor do animals. Chess or Go-playing programs do, but it’s not clear how much a general AI would resemble such a program.

        A strict separation between goals and means to achieve goals isn’t really how intelligence seems to work in the real world. Maybe AI will be different, but the case needs to be made, not just assumed.

        Also, speed cuts both ways. An AI poking around its own source code seems very likely to destroy or wirehead itself accidentally. Being a singleton is a vulnerability in the same way all of humanity being a single organism would be a vulnerability.

  5. Is status a fixed quantity, or expandable? I remember reading some argument about how the proliferation of subcultures and niche interest groups (driven by the Internet/globalization etc) had vastly increased the number of signaling games available to play. The implication was that everyone could have the chance to stand atop a hierarchy in one field or another, and therefore everyone could be ‘high status’ in their own way.

    My intuition is that all your positions on various totem poles would just get smushed together and averaged into one overall status marker, so even though you could move between higher or lower-status roles in different contexts, the big picture would remain zero-sum. I’m probably framing this really badly and I can’t find the original discussion, but if anyone can give me any pointers I’d appreciate it!

    • Aapje says:

      The implication was that everyone could have the chance to stand atop a hierarchy in one field or another, and therefore everyone could be ‘high status’ in their own way.

      You can also draw the opposite conclusion: that Internet/globalization has made it far more obvious that we are low status in many domains. The seeming rise of victim culture and ressentiment, even among people who seem to have ensconsed themselves into a safe subculture, suggests that people may not actually be very happy if they are high status in a small subculture, but get signals of being low status in many other subcultures.

      • Huh, good point. High status people presumably make up a much bigger proportion of our reference class nowadays. I think there was some research suggesting we slot celebrities into our Dunbar group as if we knew them IRL; wouldn’t be surprising if that created a lot more status anxiety compared to ye olden days (when the only truly high status person you ever encountered was the local feudal overlord).

    • Said Achmiz says:

      You may be thinking of gwern’s excellent essay, “The Melancholy of Subculture Society”.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I’ve always thought that argument was a bit oversold. Sure, if you’re not high-status in the world of money and power you can console yourself with the thought that you’re high-status in the world of chess. But to get that way you still had to beat a lot of people at chess.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Expandable, but you do that by actually expanding the number of people.

      IE: have kids. Congrats, now you’re high status in your family, which will also happen to be what you consider one of the most important groups you’re in.

      • Vanzetti says:

        To have kids in order to be high status in your own family is self defeating. If everyone can do it, then it can’t be high status.

        • The Nybbler says:

          One of the rules of hierarchy (see Parkinson) is to multiply subordinates. While most couples CAN do it, not all can, and it’s costly, so it can be high status.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I think status is a vector, rather than a single quantity, due to there being multiple interest groups.

      I think aggregate status is expandable simply because the population increases. And I think there is no law of conservation of status; it can be created or destroyed. If you have a group of about fifty people with some degree of respect for one another, one of them could do something recognizably heroic and gain massive status without necessarily dropping anyone else’s.

      I also think status can be hampered by ignorance, in either direction – we could afford great status to a person in a suit who turns out to be a grifter, or not realize that the mousy woman who appeared at a conference was the head developer of a software company with a $10M market cap.

      • Igon Value says:

        “…not realize that the mousy woman who appeared at a conference was the head developer of a software company with a $10M market cap.”

        $10M? That’s not much at all.

    • Nootropic cormorant says:

      I would say that status is expandable and that gross status in a community is something like societal trust. Of course relative status is also important when distributing finite resource among the group, which is why battles around status can still occur.

      I doubt that ‘low status in many domains’ effect is real, I would wager that psychological influence of status is mostly through the positive experience of being afforded love and trust in communities where you possess status, while not having it in other communities probably won’t bother you unless the community is particularly abusive.

      A dark side of the proliferation of subcultures is how people with little other virtue will form subcultures where status is earned by antisocial behavior.

      • I kind of thought it would be the opposite, in the sense that ‘bad is stronger than good’ seems to be an underlying principle of human behavior. But now that you mention it, yeah, being low status probably doesn’t qualify as ‘bad’ unless your face is actively being ground into the dirt.

    • vV_Vv says:

      My intuition is that all your positions on various totem poles would just get smushed together and averaged into one overall status marker, so even though you could move between higher or lower-status roles in different contexts, the big picture would remain zero-sum.

      And what would do this averaging? It’s not like the universe has a special scalar variable for each person called “status”.

      Status is transactional: you have the status that other people recognize you to have. In a more atomized society, made of small “echo chamber” communities, you have more opportunities to raise your status within the communities you are member of, but less people will recognize this status. In a more homogeneous society there are only a few ways to raise your status, which makes it harder because of more competition, but everybody recognizes this status.

  6. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find a spouse for each of the following fictional characters. The spouses must also be fictional, and in each pair the two partners must be from different fictional universes.

    – Sarah Connor
    – Conan
    – Princess Leia
    – Stringer Bell
    – Irene Adler
    – Commander Adama
    – Lisbeth Salander
    – Jack Aubrey
    – GLaDOS
    – Lassie

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m pairing Sarah Connor with Burt Gummer, the survivalist from Tremors. She is expecting a nuclear apocalypse, and he is ready for one.

      Also, Lassie gets Buck, the protagonist of The Call of the Wild. The pups will be awesome.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        Isn’t Burt already married?

        But then again, if anyone can make a survivalist harem with >1 very tough women work, and not be cringeworthy about it, it will be Burt.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I’m pairing Sarah Connor with Burt Gummer, the survivalist from Tremors. She is expecting a nuclear apocalypse, and he is ready for one.

        Burt’s to stagnant for Sarah, their marriage would end as soon as the nukes fell (if it lasted that long), he is content to tuck himself away and she will always be proactive. Her match has the following requirements.

        1. Extensive knowledge of weapons and tactics.
        2. Isolated and self sufficient homestead.
        3. Obsessive love for their child/children.
        4. Willingness to kill any number of people to protect those kids.

        Only one man fills those requirements, though it is going to cause some awkwardness.

        • The Nybbler says:

          You’re missing the most important characteristic of Sarah Connor’s husband: his absence. Yeah, Sarah’s going to want a tough guy who can help her protect her son. But she’s not going to get it, he’s going to get himself killed straight off and leave her holding the bag, or she’s not Sarah Connor.

          • Eric Rall says:

            How about Ned Stark, then? I think he meets all of baconbits9’s requirements as well as yours.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, Ned could work. Sarah’s response to his death would likely be more sensible than Catelyn’s; she’s taking the kids and setting up camp north of the Wall, I suspect.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Nybbler

            You are forgetting that Sarah describes what she wants in T2

            Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The terminator, would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice

            This doesn’t leave us with a whole lot of options, Arnold from an alternate universe being one of them. Robocop also meets a good chunk of the qualifications.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The issue with Ned Stark is his lack of familiarity with modern weapons, he isn’t going to be much help battling Skynet.

          • Lillian says:

            In between Terminator 1 and Terminator 2 Sarah Connor did attempt to find a suitable father figure for John, but they all basically wound up being smugglers, mercenaries, arms dealers, and other unsavoury sorts. Then the events of the T2 happen and she finally find the perfect father figure for John in the form of the Terminator himself. She then immediately proceeded to go off and attempt to martyr herself in order to prevent Doomsday. The problem isn’t that Sarah Connor needs to not have a husband to be Sarah Connor, the problem is that if she does find one, she’ll try to get herself killed and leave him holding the bag.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Good points; I was thinking more T1 Sarah Connor + Sarah Connor Chronicles rather than T2 Sarah Connor.

            Maybe she and John take up residence in Poe from _Altered Carbon_?

        • Perico says:

          I’m thinking Cable from the X-Men could fit the bill for Sarah Connor. The guy can defend himself, knows his way around time travel and killer machines (being a half-cyborg from the future), and has experience in extreme parenting.

    • Yakimi says:

      These missions are getting weird, dude.

      • johan_larson says:

        They aren’t supposed to be mundane challenges. They are fanciful and deliberately extreme scenarios. No one is actually planning to settle Antarctica or move the USS Iowa to Denver, and darn few would praise Adolf Hitler without prompting.

    • fion says:

      xkcd already has a suggestion for GLaDOS.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Poker Night 2 also had her matched up. For a while.

      • Eric Rall says:

        I was going to suggest the eponymous AI from the Colossus novels. Especially in light of the second novel, where Colossus was running a network of enrichment-center-like testing facilities to run highly unethical experiments in order to better understand human utility functions. Basically, Colossus is a moderately unfriendly AI who’s trying really hard to be friendly but doesn’t understand humans well enough to do so.

        Also, Colossus’s creator, Professor Forbin, comes off very reminiscent of Cave Johnson in the first novel.

    • fion says:

      Irene Adler with Havelock Vetinari from the Terry Pratchett novels. I think their intellects would be equally matched, and they could entertain themselves by playing games against each other with Vimes /Scotland Yard as ‘pieces’, manipulating the city and trying to out-maneuver each other. At the same time they play collaborative games where they subtly shape the rest of the world in whatever image they wish.

      • b_jonas says:

        On exactly which fictional version of Irene Adler are you basing this? In the original Conan Doyle story, her intellect was good, but I don’t have evidence that she’d enjoy manipulating an entire city the way you suggest.

        • fion says:

          I confess I haven’t read the stories. I have seen Adler depicted in the Robert Downey Junior version and the Benedict Cumberbatch version.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I’m only partway through the series in question, but:

      Juvpu Pbzznaqre Nqnzn qb lbh zrna? Obgu Jvyyvnz naq Yrr ubyq gung enax ng qvssrerag cbvagf va gur frevrf.

      (Spoilers to end of Season 2, please ROT13 BSG spoilers…)

      • johan_larson says:

        Gur byqre bar.

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          Vg frrzf pehry gb sbepr hf gb pubbfr nabgure bhgfvqr gur svpgvbany havirefr jura ur nyernql unf gur cresrpg zngpu vafvqr vg. Rirelguvat nfvqr nobhg gur perngbef jevgvat gurzfryirf vagb n pbeare ol gur raq, gung svanyr jvgu gurz ba gur zbhagnva gbc znqr zr furq na npghny grne.

    • Lillian says:

      Conan the Cimmeria’s relationships with Valeria and Belit show that he has a thing for fearsome warrior women. Molotov Cocktease from Venture Bros clearly likes violent manly men. Therefore!

      ~Conan and Molotov
      ~Sitting in a tree
      ~K-I-S-S-I-N-G

      And since they’re getting married, Ms. Cocktease can actually go all the way home!

      For those unfamiliar with Venture Bros, NSFW.

    • Incurian says:

      They could all marry into Lazarus Long’s family. Lassie will probably need to be converted to a neo.

    • Nick says:

      Is the Irene Adler the original version, or an adaptation interpretation like BBC’s Sherlock’s?

    • RDNinja says:

      For Princess Leia, I nominate Sam Axe from Burn Notice. She’s exactly his type (a wealthy widow), and he has that same smarmy, devil-may-care attitude that she was attracted to in Han Solo.

    • Plumber says:

      – Lisbeth Salander
      – Jack Aubrey
      – GLaDOS

      Well since I’ve never heard of those three (and doing a web search to find out would be cheating) I’m out.
      Please tell me that they’re fictional characters from after the 20th century.

      • johan_larson says:

        Lisbeth Salander is a tiny Swedish bisexual genius hacker from Stieg Larsson’s novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and sequels. 20th/21st centuries.

        Jack Aubrey is one of the protagonists from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey&Maturin series. He is a British sea-captain; 18th/19th centuries.

        GLaDOS is an AI from the video game “Portal”. 21st century, mostly.

        • Plumber says:

          “Lisbeth Salander is a tiny Swedish bisexual genius hacker from Stieg Larsson’s novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and sequels. 20th/21st centuries”

          Thanks @johan_larson,

          My wife read the English language version, and saw both movies (I just saw the part with a version of “The Immigrant Song”)

          “Jack Aubrey is one of the protagonists from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey&Maturin series. He is a British sea-captain; 18th/19th centuries”

           Since those books have been recommended to me, but I never read them, I feel some shame that I didn’t know that.

          “GLaDOS is an AI from the video game “Portal”. 21st century, mostly”

            I played Asteroids and Missle Command back in the 1980’s, but otherwise I’m pretty ignorant about video games.

          As for the rest:.

          – Sarah Connor is tough.
          – Conan is tough.
          Pair them together

          – Stringer Bell from “The Wire” is a criminal. 
          – Irene Adler from “A Scandal in Bohemia” (one of the few of Doyle’s stories I read) is a criminal (sort of)
          Pair them together. 

          – Princess Leia is Outer Space.
          – Commander Adama is in Outer Space.

          Pair them together. 

          – Lassie was a dog on television (and some films, likewise Rin-Tin-Tin (not on the list).

          Pair them together. 

      • b_jonas says:

        GLaDOS and Lisbeth Salander are from 21st century fiction. Jack Aubrey first appeared in 20th century fiction. I have looked this up on the internet, because I hadn’t heard of Jack Aubrey or Lisbeth Salander before, and wanted to double-check the dating for GLaDOS.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Given the way time travel creates different futures, it could be argued that Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor are already from different fictional universes.

    • Deiseach says:

      Irene already has a perfectly good husband whom she loves and is happy with, but apart from that grumble, this sounds like a fun idea.

    • bean says:

      I’m trying to decide if paring Jack Aubrey with Honor Harrington would be brilliant or a terrible idea.

      • johan_larson says:

        Jack is a brilliant warrior and sailor who struggles on land, both financially and socially. He needs a woman with a head for business and getting around the upper end of British society. Perhaps someone from Austen’s novels would be suitable.

        • bean says:

          Personally, I haven’t read Austen. Post-Captain was as close as I could stomach, and I spent most of that going “GET BACK TO SEA!”.

        • Deiseach says:

          Unfortunately, someone from a Jane Austen novel is in the same fictional universe as Jack Aubrey (see Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion) so that is against the rules (guidelines?) for this challenge.

        • The Nybbler says:

          That gets us not Honor, but plenty of choices from the Honorverse.

        • engleberg says:

          Jack Aubrey- Fanny Hill.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Jack Aubrey would totally jump at the chance to cuckold Horatio Hornblower. Assuming their fictional universes count as separate, that is.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I was briefly considering the Honor/Adama pairing!

        I’m not sure how Honor would do in early 19th century England. She’s fine in space-19th-century-England (including both business and politics), but her gender and possibly race might be an issue where Jack comes from. And Jack couldn’t find anything useful to do on Manticore or Grayson so would get himself into trouble somehow.

        Also with Honor there is the Prolong issue. All of the male characters here (as far as I know) can expect a normal human lifespan and are too old to receive Prolong themselves, so Honor will outlive them by decades if not centuries.

    • beleester says:

      GLaDOS and Castle Heterodyne. Her first love was Cave Johnson, and Girl Genius is the only universe I can think of that can keep up in the MAD SCIENCE! department.

      (If she’s looking for more of a test subject kind of guy, then maybe Moloch von Zinzer would be a good choice. He’s good at dealing with homicidal machines.)

      • Jaskologist says:

        GLaDOS and Calcifer. They both like controlling large facilities and rearranging them willy-nilly, and imagine the kinds of testing Howl would be capable of!

      • toastengineer says:

        If we’re going for a power couple GLaDOS and SHODAN seems like the best choice. The Castle has some neat tricks but SHODAN figured out how to completely rewrite reality. Big mismatch in their level of ambition, though, since GLaDOS doesn’t really seem to be interested in anything outside the Enrichment Center.

        To be honest I’m not sure pairing up with anyone is in character for GLaDOS; her only motivations seem to be maintaining the Center and “science.”

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Rules question: Where do they end up living? The home universe of your character? That of the spouse we pick? Either? Anywhere we choose?

      • johan_larson says:

        Let’s say they end up in the universe of one spouse or the other. Their choice.

        • b_jonas says:

          That’s dangerous, because you said “spouse”, not “partner” in the original question. Some of these people might decide to pay off some very poor person from another fictional universe for a legal marriage in name without any of them wanting to live together. This could be worth just for the opportunity to travel to another fictional universe, which would otherwise be difficult to access.

    • The Nybbler says:

      – Sarah Connor: Lt. Colonel Austin Travis, who is Steven Seagal’s character in _Executive Decision_

      – Conan: Cersei Lannister.

      – Princess Leia: Yeoman Janice Rand, because it’s gotta be Star Trek.

      – Stringer Bell: (Pass)

      – Irene Adler: Bertie Wooster

      – Commander Adama: Stella, Harcourt Fenton Mudd’s wife, from Star Trek

      – Lisbeth Salander: In a three-way relationship with Helen and Harry Tasker (True Lies)

      – Jack Aubrey: (Pass)

      – GLaDOS: HAL (of course)

      – Lassie: Obvious answer is Benji, obvious cruel answer is Old Yeller. But I’ll go with Lad.

      • Randy M says:

        Conan: Cersei Lannister.

        How does that come about?

        • The Nybbler says:

          How does that come about?

          Conan likes to hear lamentations, Cersei’s about as good a lamenter as I can think of. Besides, the fights would be epic.

          • Randy M says:

            I mean in universe. Does she approach Conan after he overthrows a Tegaryan tyrant in order to be on the winning side? Or does he take her as a trophy after pillaging a Lannister stronghold?

          • Plumber says:

            “I mean in universe. Does she approach Conan after he overthrows a Tegaryan tyrant in order to be on the winning side? Or does he take her as a trophy after pillaging a Lannister stronghold?”

            @Randy M, Oh!

            By Crom and The Seven I wanna see that! 

          • johan_larson says:

            Conan, king of Aquilonia, invades Westeros. The Seven Kingdoms mount a united defense against his armies, but the Lannisters make a secret pact and betray the Westerosi alliance at a critical moment. Aquilonia triumps, and Conan seals the deal with his new subordinate rulers by taking Cersei as his queen.

      • johan_larson says:

        Stringer Bell is a ghetto drug dealer who aspires to greater things. He’d like to be a respectable, successful businessman. But as his foray into real estate development showed, he doesn’t quite know how things work in legit business, and that really hurts him. I think he needs a gal with uptown smarts who is amoral enough that she doesn’t care where the money came from.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Rot13 for the troll I couldn’t resist:

      Nqnzn unf n glcr, fb gur svpgvbany punenpgre V’q cnve uvz jvgu vf Cerfvqrag Uvyynel Pyvagba.

    • AG says:

      – Sarah Connor – Sameen Shaw from Person of Interest
      – Conan – Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess
      – Princess Leia – Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok
      – Stringer Bell – I have never watched The Wire, but Alice Morgan from Luther 😛
      – Irene Adler – River Song from Doctor Who
      – Commander Adama – Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist
      – Lisbeth Salander – Deadpool
      – Jack Aubrey – Elle Woods from Legally Blonde
      – GLaDOS – Diablo, Maleficent’s raven in Disney’s animated version of Sleeping Beauty
      – Lassie – Dug from Up

      • Lillian says:

        Oh God, Commander Adama and Roy Mustang would be such an epic clusterfuck of a relationship, but i don’t care, i ship it.

      • johan_larson says:

        – Sarah Connor – Sameen Shaw from Person of Interest
        – Princess Leia – Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok
        – Irene Adler – River Song from Doctor Who
        – Commander Adama – Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist

        That’s quite a number of same-sex relationships there. Any evidence the characters on the left are gay or bi?

        • Evan Þ says:

          I think we’ve got a fair amount of evidence against Leia being gay, at least.

        • Lillian says:

          Shipping rules are that character’s sexuality is whatever the shipper wants them to be.

          • AG says:

            Exactly. Also this is scifi so odds are they’re all variations of pan anyways.

            Shaw is canonically bi. River is canonically pan. Irene is a lesbian in the Moffat Sherlock (which makes the pairing with Moffat-penned River even better). Valkyrie was meant to be bi, but the scene got cut.

            The rest fall under “well they didn’t say they weren’t into it.”

            And the challenge, honestly, is a whole lot less interesting when you reduce the possible pairings that way. They may indeed have the best chemistry/synergy with another fictional character in another fictional universe that just so happens to be of the same gender, so why not? That’s the beauty of crackships, finding the most unlikely romance.

            (btw always go for the poly option in fiction triangles are a SCAM)

    • yodelyak says:

      I relied a lot on fictional characters from our universe, which may not be correct. Ah well.

      Sarah Connor: John McClane
      Conan: Neytiri
      Princess Leia: Priory (from Candleshoe)
      Stringer Bell: Billie Dawn, from “Born Yesterday”
      Irene Adler: Claire Underwood (who was wasted on both Frank and that photographer dude)
      Adama: early career Adama (say, twenty years before BSG’s first episode) wants a woman from a good family. A babe, but kind of sexless and focused on her work. A woman with a lot of impressive tech and physical dexterity. So: Kim Possible. Late career Adama… should be a woman who makes great tea and has a deep religious calm that brings him to the present, pleasantly. Should be matronly and not put up with nonsense. Madam Poppy Pomfrey.
      Lisbeth Salander: who?
      GlaDOS: who?
      Lassie: neutered. (Spayed?) Fight me. Or don’t, I’m out of time.

      • Randy M says:

        Sarah Connor: John McClane

        Dunno about the rest, but you got it dead on here.

        • Tarpitz says:

          McClane’s unwillingness to leave New York or the NYPD was what killed his first marriage, and Sarah isn’t going to sit around in a tier 1 nuke-magnet.

      • johan_larson says:

        Stringer Bell: Billie Dawn, from “Born Yesterday”

        Are you hoping to reform Stringer?

        • yodelyak says:

          By the end, he was hoping to reform himself. He just needed an out–someone who could understand and support a self-improvement project.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The character Lassie had puppies, so not spayed. The “actors” in the TV version were all male, and as each was the sire of the next Lassie, not neutered (except perhaps the last).

      • b_jonas says:

        Lassie is likely not neutered. She bears a litter of puppies in the last chapter of the Eric Knight novellette, and that’s her second litter already, the first was before the start of the story.

    • dick says:

      Stringer Bell – Tony Soprano’s daughter (this would make a great spinoff!)

      Lisbeth Salander – YT from Snow Crash

      GLaDOS – Leviathan from the Illuminatus! Trilogy

    • shakeddown says:

      GLaDOS should get Sophon, from Three Body Problem. I think she’d fall hard after “Sbbq? Rirelbar, ybbx nebhaq. Lbh ner fheebhaqrq ol sbbq, yvivat sbbq.”

    • baconbits9 says:

      Commander Adama- what Adama needs more than anything is military allies, romance isn’t in the cards for him. Meanwhile there is a dearth of eligible princess in the galaxy, and King Roland has a single daughter he is trying to marry off (who could use a stern father figure to keep her in line, oh and she’s handy with a laser rifle) and he could in turn use some help with his pestering neighbors who keep trying to steal his air. All in all an excellent political match.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Sarah Connor is interested in the skills her partner has to offer, and the man with the skills she needs is the man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe.

      Leia needs someone who’s happy to play second fiddle, facilitating and taking pride in her achievements rather than looking to do big things of his own. He needs to be able to look after himself (and any putative fruit of the union) in dangerous situations, but not inclined to seek them out for any but the most compelling reasons. Rupert Giles is the boy for her.

      Jack Aubrey needs a practical, responsible partner who never fails to make a good impression and has plenty to keep her busy while he’s off at sea – Mary Poppins.

      Lassie and Mr Peanutbutter would have adorable puppies, although I do worry she might be too smart for him.

  7. Plumber says:

    Scott Alexander’s Considerations On Cost Disease post has resonated with me as highlighting real problems, among which are education costs.

    Cogent to education cost I saw an essay in the Washington Post this week that I’m going to quote in full (but without the links in the original):

    The silver bullet for student debt: Bankruptcy
    By F.H. Buckley
    August 22 at 6:04 PM
    F.H. Buckley teaches at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University and is the author of “The Republican Workers Party: How the Trump Victory Drove Everyone Crazy, and Why It Was Just What We Needed.

    American higher education badly needs reform. Over the past two decades, universities have regarded the availability of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal student loans as an excuse for staggering tuition increases. Now students graduate with intolerable levels of debt, in an economy where they often can’t find jobs to pay it back. And too many universities have become political-indoctrination factories or intellectual babysitters instead of providing useful educations and preparing students for the adult world.

    But there’s a silver bullet that could cure all three ailments: bankruptcy.

    In an entrepreneurial society, it’s essential to know that you can take risks and, if you fail, there is a path to try again. The ability to declare bankruptcy as a last resort and to start afresh has long been a vital element of American dynamism, yet it is denied to young people who borrow for their education.

    That wasn’t always the case. Until the late 1970s, Americans unable to pay off education loans were permitted to dispose of them with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. That changed in 1978 when U.S. bankruptcy rules were overhauled. Defaults on student loans weren’t a significant problem — tuition was much lower then, and jobs awaited most graduates — and legislators simply decided that it was a bit much to expect the government to guarantee loans and then absorb the cost of bankruptcy.

    No one thought that we’d see anything like today’s student-debt levels or that bankruptcy rights for education loans would be desperately needed.

    In assessing 20 years of tuition increases, U.S. News & World Report found last year that tuition at national universities (defined as those with a full range of undergraduate majors and master’s and doctoral programs) spiked 157 percent for private institutions. At public national universities, out-of-state tuition and fees rose 194 percent, while in-state tuition and fees swelled 237 percent. Inflation across that period was 53 percent.

    As the cost of education mounted, so did the student debt load. Since 2006, the amount that Americans owe in education loans has tripled, to $1.53 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. Once again, ill-advised government interventions played a role, including the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which barred private student loans from protection, and the Affordable Care Act, which in 2010 largely made the government directly responsible for student loans. About 80 percent of student loans are owed to the feds.

    If many millennials have been radicalized, if they’ve given up on free markets, it’s hard to blame them. They’ve been slapped in the face by free markets in the form of the student-loan racket. What many young people need is relief from overwhelming debt burdens through bankruptcy.

    Private lenders would object, naturally, as would people who’ve struggled to pay off some or all of their student debt. Problems like that arise whenever a country transitions to a more efficient regime, but it shouldn’t get in the way of urgently needed reform.

    The U.S. deficit would increase if direct government loans were made dischargeable. But it’s not as though everyone would stop paying off student loans: Declaring bankruptcy comes at the price of damaged credit ratings and years of being unable to obtain loans or credit cards, or doing so at much higher interest rates. Most people who have jobs and are able to continue paying their loans would want to avoid bankruptcy. But countless other young Americans would be liberated from debt and more likely to invigorate the economy, helping make up for government’s added costs.

    What about the universities themselves? They’ve created the problem, and they should be part of the solution: Hold them financially accountable, in whole or part, when their graduates declare bankruptcy on student loans. Universities should be given time to clean up their acts — say, until 2020 — and after that they would have to agree to indemnify the federal government for student-loan bankruptcies. Schools would think twice before running up the tuition tab. They might even start bringing it down.

    Universities might also rethink the kinds of courses they offer. If they bore some or most of the cost of bankruptcies, they no doubt would start paying close attention to whether their graduates can get jobs. Too many universities offer too many frivolous courses, and majors, that make employers run the other way from applicants. Such graduates aren’t good bets to repay their loans. If the university bore the financial risk, it would almost certainly change what it teaches.

    Would all this be thoroughly disruptive? Most certainly. But U.S. higher education badly needs a measure of creative destruction”

    So what do you think, about Mr. Buckley’s scheme? 

    What would be the consequences?

    • onyomi says:

      They’ve been slapped in the face by free markets in the form of the student-loan racket.

      Maybe students blame the free market, but there’s nothing “free market” about the student loan “racket,” which is only a racket for the universities paid with the loans, certainly not for the lenders, who would be running the least-profitable lending enterprise in history.

      If students had to obtain non-government subsidized loans from truly private lenders to go to school the interest rates would be much, much higher (though probably lower for those taking majors known to lead to profitable careers), to the point most wouldn’t take them on in the first place.

      As for allowing these non-free market loans to be discharged in bankruptcy, that would only deepen the existing moral hazard and make college even more expensive in the long run (because the incentive to think twice about taking on the loan will be further reduced if you know you can discharge it in bankruptcy, meaning even more students will take them, meaning even more money will be demanding college educations).

      • Randy M says:

        to the point most wouldn’t take them on in the first place.

        I’d like to think so, but it would probably take a generation oblivious to the risks to serve as an example.

        Tangentially, in libertarian world, is there bankruptcy at all?

        • IrishDude says:

          I’d like to live in a world where bankruptcy is possible but has strict criteria. If enough other people want to live in that world, they’d voluntarily agree to rules that would make it so and bankruptcy rules would emerge.

          • Randy M says:

            My model of straw libertarian says that the government exists to stop invasion and physical assault and to enforce contracts.
            If a bankruptcy clause isn’t written into the law contract, why doesn’t this violate libertarian principles? Or is libertarianism just “whatever libertarians feel like, usually less”?

          • IrishDude says:

            I was speaking from an AnCap perspective, with private enforcement and private rule-making. In this setting, if people wanted to have bankruptcy as a possibility, I think there’d be transparency and such clauses would be built into contracts. In such a situation, I’d imagine higher interest rates or more collateral for people that wanted more slack bankruptcy rules and lower interest rates for people that preferred strict bankruptcy rules or perhaps were willing to forgo bankruptcy as an option.

        • johan_larson says:

          Litertarians still have government. It’s just very small. But one thing it definitely includes is a justice system, and one of the things a justice system needs to do is decide what to do with people who can’t pay their debts. I suppose you could have outright debt slavery or debtors’ prisons instead.

          • Randy M says:

            That makes sense. I should have thought through what “enforcing contracts” means in practice.

          • Plumber says:

            “That makes sense. I should have thought through what “enforcing contracts” means in practice”

            @Randy M,

            “Break a deal, face the wheel!”

        • John Schilling says:

          Tangentially, in libertarian world, is there bankruptcy at all?

          That’s going to depend on how the specific libertarian world in question deals with e.g. shrink-wrap contracts.

          The alternatives to bankruptcy, things like debtor’s prison and indentured servitude, are widely known to be generically really bad and specifically injurious to the cause of liberty, that the New Libertarian Man will basically never take on a contractual debt that doesn’t allow for discharge by bankruptcy. But normal people don’t normally read or object to the fine print, and the people writing the contracts will be working for the bankers.

          A minarchist-libertarian government would I suspect take the position that it’s courts aren’t going to bother enforcing contracts that are particularly odious or troublesome, and that includes no-bankruptcy debts.

          A Friedman-style ancap society, would I suspect have lots of protection agencies that advertise bankruptcy protection as a selling point, and then we get into the question of whether protection agencies focused on the interests of relatively poor people can survive in that environment.

          • toastengineer says:

            the New Libertarian Man will basically never take on a contractual debt that doesn’t allow for discharge by bankruptcy. But normal people don’t normally read or object to the fine print, and the people writing the contracts will be working for the bankers.

            I would argue that in Libertaria or Ancapistan, judges would rule that a contract that appears to be intentionally designed to resist being understood by either party, or that either party entered in to knowing the other did not fully understand, is no contract at all.

            Like Manny says in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, “why would you ever make a contract with someone you don’t trust?

          • John Schilling says:

            Perhaps, but I’d argue the same thing in a Democracy, and here we are. Judges are generally lawyers, and as such will tend to favor interpretations that favor lawyers in general. I fear this will continue to be true even in libertarian or anarcho-capitalist societies.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But normal people don’t normally read or object to the fine print, and the people writing the contracts will be working for the bankers.

            In general bankruptcy requires proving that you can’t pay your debts and liquidating assets (within some restrictions) to pay what you can. Taking advantage of people who can’t afford to pay their bills has tiny margins, they literally don’t have much left to go after. This is why collections agencies get a large cut of what they can collect on, it requires a good amount of effort with modest returns.

      • baconbits9 says:

        It is irritating to see someone write “80% of student loans are held by the government” and then even imply that the “free market” was at fault.

      • albatross11 says:

        I dunno, it sure seems like you can make a better moral case for bankruptcy for student loans[1] than for, say, credit-card debt.

        [1] Which you take out when you are very young and inexperienced, in order to buy something that is universally pushed by respectable society as something everyone should do to ensure their future.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Your moral case for bankruptcy for student loans doubles as an argument for not offering student loans.

      • Jiro says:

        As for allowing these non-free market loans to be discharged in bankruptcy, that would only deepen the existing moral hazard and make college even more expensive in the long run (because the incentive to think twice about taking on the loan will be further reduced if you know you can discharge it in bankruptcy,

        The important incentive is not for the borrower, but for the lender. The lender will be incentivized not to make loans for unprofitable fields and for unprofitable borrowers.

    • Lillian says:

      This is only half of a good idea. Yes student loans should be discharageable via bankruptcy, but at the same time, they should not be guaranteed by the government. This was a completely unnecessary move to begin with, since its primary effects were to create a giant pile of free money and attendant price inflation, so it’s literally the entire reason we’re in this hole to begin with. Treat student loans like any other loan, and the market will take care of itself. We can still have Pell grants and scholarships to help low income students.

      • johan_larson says:

        I have to wonder whether there would be any student loans at all if this were left to the market. Giving a loan to someone that they will only be able to pay off if they a) finish their education and b) land a sweet job looks pretty risky, particularly if the parents aren’t cosigning. I suspect in such a world, college educations would mostly be financed through second mortgages by parents.

        • Lillian says:

          Back in the Middle Ages nobles could skip out on their loans by just refusing to pay and daring the lender to do something about it. The lenders usually couldn’t because the nobles had all the military and judicial power. King Phillip the Fair of France rather famously skipped out on all the loans he’d taken from the Knights of the Temple by having them all accused of heresy and executed. This didn’t result in lenders refusing to make loans to nobles, it just meant they demanded ruinous interest rates. So there will still be student loans, they will just be very expensive.

          Also lots of parents would be happy to cosign their kid’s loans, and banks would no doubt offer reasonable interest rates to students with good grades and good prospects. The thing is that they would actually have to draw up some actuary tables to figure out rates, and even sometimes deny loans, instead of just lazily approving everyone because the government will pick up the tab if the debtor doesn’t.

          • johan_larson says:

            It is my understanding that the student loan market basically didn’t exist until the government stepped in with various guarantees and subsidies. Is that correct? That suggests lending to students as ordinary debt is so risky that interest rates would have to be so high that essentially no one would take such loans.

            What would happen is an interesting counterfactual that we have no realistic way of testing.

          • Lillian says:

            Your understanding is incorrect. Private student loans not subsidized by the government and dischargeable by bankruptcy existed until 2005, when Congress in its infinite wisdom made them non-dischargeable too. We don’t need a counterfactual, not only have completely free market student loans existed, they existed alongside the government guaranteed and subsidized ones.

            It’s also important to note that excessively cheap student loans creates a positive feedback loop with rising tuition. As student get access to more money colleges are able to charge higher fees, which makes loans more necessary, which in turn allows ever higher fees. Average tuition for a public school in 1970 was about 4% of median income, now it’s 12% of median income. So the student loan market was smaller back in the day in great part because many fewer people needed loans to pay for school to begin with.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The student loan market barely existed because there was little to no need for it. Costs of attending UPenn in the 1950 tuition, room, board and books were in the range of ~$1,300 a year, the federal minimum wage was $0.75 per hour, so you could pay off a substantial portion of your annual costs with a part time job at the minimum wage each year. If you added in savings from a couple of summer jobs in high school, the ability to earn more than the minimum wage, scholarships and help from friends and family there really wasn’t a need for a separate category of “student loans” to get you though school.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @johan_larson

            >It is my understanding that the student loan market basically didn’t exist until the government stepped in with various guarantees and subsidies.

            Depends on time period and location and expectations … I remember a 19th century novel (set in my home country, not in US) where it is mentioned in passing how a particular industrious student from countryside was courting his wealthy locals for a loan to support their studies in the city. I got the impression that this was maybe more an act of charity or possibly an establishment of patron-client relationship than lender obtaining a true market interest.

        • JDG1980 says:

          The problem with our current system is that a college education is *both* extremely expensive, *and* required by employers for almost all but the most menial white-collar jobs.

          If the federal government stops propping up student loans, directly and indirectly, then one of two things is likely to happen. Possibility #1 is that college tuition costs drop to the point where young adults can once again pay for them out-of-pocket with a part-time job, as was common several decades ago. Possibility #2 is that a lot fewer people attend college, and employers therefore can no longer demand degrees for entry-level office jobs because there simply aren’t enough to go around. I don’t know which of these would happen, but I do know that either of these outcomes would be better than the status quo.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Possibility #2 is that a lot fewer people attend college, and employers therefore can no longer demand degrees for entry-level office jobs because there simply aren’t enough to go around.

            The latter part of that is already happening.

          • Plumber says:

            “The problem with our current system is that a college education is *both* extremely expensive, *and* required by employers for almost all but the most menial white-collar jobs…..”

            @JDG1980,

            I’m increasingly of the opinion is that too many of the jobs still available are more and more “white collar”.

            As I understand it a “blue collar” job involves moving and/or transforming physical materials, while “white collar” jobs typically involve communication and record keeping. 

            During my lifetime while the number of teachers ans physicians as a percentage of the population has stayed pretty steady, but the number of people in “administrative positions” in both healthcare and education have exploded, 

            Why?

            “Everybody who supports single-payer health care says, “Look at all this money we would be saving from insurance and paperwork.” That represents one million, two million, three million jobs people who are working at Blue Cross Blue Shield or Kaiser or other places. What are we doing with them? Where are we employing them?”
            – President Obama 

            Why create and keep jobs that serve no purpose?

            When I still worked in private industry as a plumber I couldn’t help but notice that the more hands in the field of any given shop the more ladies that would in the office, but except for bankruptcy, while the number of men with tools and trucks would wax and wane depending on jobs available, the number of office workers only grew. 

            Why?

            Now I work for a City Government, and I see that while the number of firefighters and police officers stays mostly the same, the number of hands on tool using Public Works employees (like me) is actually less then 20 years ago (and trust me our tools and materials used now aren’t much better then in the 1990’s), but the number of “managers” and “administrative assistants” working for the City only grows larger, despite we blue collar employees being told we need “to do more with less”.

            Why?

            Often I’ve seen on Forums messages along the lines of “I’m posting from work”, and now “cyber Monday” when people shop on-line while they’re at work is reported on.

            More and more of my time is spent fending off “compliance officers”, “inventory clerks”, “sensitivity awareness workers”,”safety specialists” and other “managers” who interrupt my actually fixing things with demands that I attend mandatory meetings and fill out additional paperwork, while it gets harder and harder to order parts and tools needed.

            For example, there’s one laborer I usually work with who makes less than I do, and often he’s charged with moving something heavy that he really can’t lift on his own, so instead of doing my work I help him as there’s no one else available. 

            If he was to lift his assigned load by himself he’d be breaking “ergonomic” and “safely” rules (and if injured fired) as told in the mandatory meetings, which are designed to reduce The City’s “workman’s comp” expenses, and if he doesn’t lift the load he may be fired for lack of production (I’ve seen the same thing in private industry, but there it’s more clear that breaking safety rules is expected, unless you’re injured and tell a doctor or nurse at the emergency room the truth about where you were injured, in which case you “acted without authorization”, but unless you can work injured you were going to get fired anyway).

            Here’s an idea, have one of the army of people at desks or walking around with clipboards trying to look busy, or worse being busy and authoring another “policy directive”, instead come help snd lift the damn thing!

            The buildings, roads, and bridges built in the 20th century are falling apart, but “We can’t afford to fix them”, but for some reason we can afford to have millions stare at screens instead.

            Hell, I’ve posted to Forums while I’ve been at mandatory meetings where I’m told again and again that asbestos is bad for me, and not to expose myself to it except for “Priority: Emergency Service Orders” (which I get multiple times a week).

            Thanks for looking out for me white collars, don’t let the door hit you!

            I’ve seen a few televised broadcast of college lectures on PBS, and at first I was grateful, but then came the student responses, and as I watched the banter of the students at Harvard I grew angry, there were no special insights they had to justify there being able to sit in a comfortable classroom discussing interesting things inside of laboring like so many, and in a State like California were we vote on “initiatives”, every single citizen should have an education that befits a legislator.

            Elementary, Junior High School, and High School is filled with time wasting nonsense (pep rallies and the like) and I remember how easy the “California High School Proficiency Exam” test I took in 1985, in order to leave high school and take classes at the community college instead, was, I could have passed it when I was eleven years old.

            I further remember the violence in school and the lack of useable restrooms (I used to walk to City Hall two blocks away, a man who attended the same high school a decade later told me he did the same). 

            I remember sneaking into the University libraries and how palatial they were, and the restrooms has towels, toilet paper and hot water!

            Some dreams:

            Close the high schools, they’re useless.

            Tax away the high incomes that have bid up housing so far out of the reach of median wage earners 

            Eliminate all college football coaches except unpaid volunteers (in most States the government employee who’s paid the most is a University football coach).

            Except for librarians, and actual in the classroom teachers, cut most desk jockeys out of government.

            With the savings make college free again, like it was for my mother in the 1960’s. 

            Have college start no later than age 15.

            Give every citizen a proper education for a voter in a democracy as a birthright not just a privilege for a few.

            Buy tools, parts, and materials. 

            Expand craft apprenticeships to at least ten times their current size, my Union taught me mathematics far better than my high school!

            Have a citizenry that can quote Burke, Locke, Marx, Paine, Rawls, and Spenser, and knows when they were right and when they were wrong.

            Have a citizenry that can build and fix things.

            Rebuild America.

            Just dreams…

          • The Pachyderminator says:

            ^ I’d like to nominate this for comment of the week.
            @Plumber

          • Plumber says:

            “^ I’d like to nominate this for comment of the week.
            @Plumber”

            ^Thanks @The Pachyderminator!

      • Brad says:

        This is only half of a good idea. Yes student loans should be discharageable via bankruptcy, but at the same time, they should not be guaranteed by the government.

        They aren’t. That system is years gone.

        The majority (by quite a bit) of student loans are direct government loans, made and held by the federal government. The remainder are private. Not dischargable in bankruptcy but also not guaranteed.

        I’m sure there are still some FFEL loans floating around, but because debt is growing exponentially they are irrelevant and quickly becoming more so.

        There’s still a huge amount of government guaranteed mortgages, but somehow you don’t hear nearly as much from free market types about how the government should exit the home lending business.

        • IrishDude says:

          Government should exit the home lending business. Back in the 2008 financial crisis, I remember lots of free markets types, including myself, railing against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as partial causes of the housing bubble and arguing for their dissolution.

          • Brad says:

            Not just Frannie and Freddie, also fha, ginnie, the va, the fed (by buying mbs’es), and the irs.

        • Lillian says:

          As it happens i’m also opposed to student loans directly issued by the government. It’s unfair to the debtors for these loans to be non-dischargeable, shit happens and i feel that bankruptcy is a necessary and healthy part of the system. However it’s unfair to tax payers for these loans to be dischargeable unless the interest rates are adjusted in accordance to risk, and if we’re going to start assessing risk at the individual level, we might as well let the bankers do it.

          Also, the government should exit the home lending business.

          • Brad says:

            As it happens i’m also opposed to student loans directly issued by the government.

            Fair enough but the discussion should start from is in place now.

    • John Schilling says:

      This is ultimately “Free College for Everyone(*), at Public Expense!” hidden behind a bit of legerdemain. Tell me how much it’s going to cost, Mr. Buckley, including second-order effects, and show your work. Or go crawl under a rock where you belong.

      * Except chumps, who Buckley hopes will keep the costs affordable for his tribe.

      • Plumber says:

        College should be free for everyone (like it was for my parents generation), pay for it by closing the useless high schools (mine prepard me for nothing but dodging, ducking, waiting, and knowing what being punched into unconsciousness feels like), and eliminating football programs (the highest paid government employee in most States is a University football coach).

        Replace the high schools with college for all, and actually educate all citizens.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          Said like a man who hasn’t been to college! As useless as your high school was, college is even more useless for most people who go there (aside from the piece of paper they get at the end).

          • Plumber says:

             Said like a man who hasn’t been to college! As useless as your high school was, college is even more useless for most people who go there (aside from the piece of paper they get at the end).”

            @idontknow131647093,

            That’s true,

            My “college” was Laney Community College (“High School with ashtrays”), not a University, and most of my time there was spent in a welding booth.

            My wife, however, went to the University of Washington in Seattle and her old textbooks were another thing that was attractive about her.

        • a reader says:

          But if high schools would be closed and colleges would be free for everyone and starting at 15, colleges would just become the new high schools.

          The problem with current high schools and “actually educate all citizens” is that not all citizens are educable at the same level. That won’t change if you send them all to colleges instead of high schools – on the contrary, college quality would decrease, like it happened to high schools.

          • Plumber says:

            “But if high schools would be closed and colleges would be free for everyone and starting at 15, colleges would just become the new high schools.

            The problem with current high schools and “actually educate all citizens” is that not all citizens are educable at the same level. That won’t change if you send them all to colleges instead of high schools – on the contrary, college quality would decrease, like it happened to high schools.”

             I fear that you’re right @a reader, but I think that I was far more “educable” than the education I was given, and I would’ve liked more of it.

            I managed to take one “Cultural Anthology” class and one “European History” class at the “high school with ashtrays” before the need to make a living stopped that, and I’m pretty bitter that I didn’t get more of a share of education, and I could walk a mile and see the differences between the physical conditions of my high school and UC Berkeley, and I’m still extremely bitter about that, especially when I was told in the 1990’s that the University libraries were now “only open to students”.

            My wages are taxed to fund those libraries, as a Californian I should have access! 

          • ana53294 says:

            But if high schools would be closed and colleges would be free for everyone and starting at 15, colleges would just become the new high schools.

            No, they wouldn’t. We have more or less this system in Spain, where you have 6 years of primary education and 4 years of secondary school, which you end at age 15-16*. People end this education with a secondary school diploma.

            Now, for this secondary school education, everything is done so people can graduate; easier courses are provided for failing students, where basically attending and writing your name on exams is enough, if you show you make an honest effort.

            After this, people with diplomas can go do a middle level professional education, which is kind of equivalent to an apprenticeship. Examples of mid-level professional education are mechanics, electricians, carers, machinists, hairdressers, etc. So you end at 18 qualified for a skilled blue-collar job. This is

            When the job market was better people would go work in unskilled work, because 16 is the legal age for full-time work in Spain.

            Or you can choose to go to “Bachillerato”, which is a two year non-compulsory education for preparing for University. Middle school was hell for me, as it was filled with catering to the weak, repeating the same thing over and over, and lots of disruptive students. But once I went to Bachillerato, it was so much nicer. Everybody who was there wanted to go to University, and was serious about studying. Those who didn’t want to or couldn’t study did not enter. I would say 80% of what I learned in public school I learned in those last two years. Teachers also vastly prefer teaching Bachiller students.

            *School years start in Spain depending on the year you were born, not your age by the beginning of the school year.

            EDIT: an example of the qualifications you can receive in a mid-level professional education school can be seen here. They frequently manage to teach the basic concepts even to those who struggled at school, and not-too-bright but hardworking people can find jobs. Everybody I know who studied to be a machinist found a job, while people with University education struggle to find jobs and are paid much less. This education is free (the school fee is like 60 euros and includes security shoes).

          • Controls Freak says:

            if high schools would be closed and colleges would be free for everyone and starting at 15, colleges would just become the new high schools.

            I’m not entirely sure of this, due to path dependencies. Over a hundred years ago, a lot of people decided that high school should be for everyone – free, run by the state, compulsory, general education rather than specifically college preparation, and the same for everyone (i.e., no tracking). Pretty much all of this has been preserved, and it’s the reason why high schools have ridiculously low standards. Of course, some high schools are bringing back some tracking in the form of honors/AP/community college classes, but if you get too explicit about it (and especially if you have a, uh, sufficient mix of backgrounds in the population you serve), people start getting upset.

            Colleges, on the other hand, have always been able to get away with very explicit tracking; in fact, they’ve pretty much been expected to do it! This comes in the form of major selection. There are some minor fights that continue in this schema, for example, some folks want to explicitly reduce the number of Asians who get accepted to certain computer science programs, but no one expects the computer science program and, say, the music education program to be substantially the same or mutually doable (and always done) by the entire population. Depending on the school, the barrier to get in to a particular major may be pretty high… or it may be, “We’ll let you in if you really want to give it a go, but we’re pretty sure you’ll transfer to another major within a year.” In my freshman year, it wasn’t hard to predict the folks who weren’t going to be in our major after a semester/year.

            If we shifted this conception of college earlier rather than simply changing the name and importing all of the traditional requirements of high school, there’s a chance that things could get better. We see this type of thing happening with “magnet schools”, which often focus on a STEM curricula, but have been sold in a way designed specifically to convince the people who would normally protest tracking to not protest. (Fat lot of good most any of this does if you grew up in a tiny rural area like I did, but whatever.)

            Of course, the biggest obstacle to using major selection as a tool for tracking in colleges that serve the high school population is that we’ll probably need to expand the number of majors (there’s a reason why colleges don’t currently just let everyone into even their lowest-tier programs). Combined with this is that we’d have to make a decision for whether or not colleges are just going to be free for everyone or whether everyone gets in. Many states have said something like, “The top X% of students can get in our flagship state university; the top Y% can get in our larger state university system; the top Z% can get in our community college system (obviously with X<Y<Z)." A key question is how far up those bounds move, and whether or not the system in question can suitably add major programs to preserve the benefits of strong tracking.

            To sum it up in a way that may be rather blunt for @Plumber, the reason why higher-tier universities mostly work is because they have strong mechanisms for filtering the students, both at intake and among majors. These filters don't always work perfectly (as I mentioned, you could tell the folks in my program who weren't going to survive the first year, and conversely, they may have incorrectly filtered out folks like you who had the requisite capability/interest/drive to utilize it (and not screw it up for the other folks, either)). If we're considering a major overhaul of higher education, figuring out how these filters will work (and if politics will let them be in place at all) is the primary question.

          • Plumber says:

            ^

            “…We have more or less this system in Spain….”

            @ana53294,

            I’m sold! 

            The educational system in Spain sound way better than in California. 

          • ana53294 says:

            @Plumber

            I think we have a pretty good system for that. A lot of the problems we have come from the compulsory part of education, which is endlessly dumbed down and some people still don’t manage it (I don’t think dumbing down is the solution).

            The second problem is the way people are hell-bent to go to University, even if they don’t have the capability for it. Honest blue-collar jobs (a lot of whom earn more stable and higher incomes than Literature majors) are considered lower class, which is why people go to University even if they could get a better job by doing the professional education (and they would start working at 18, instead of 22; this means they could have a house downpayment by the time a University graduate starts their first job).

            I think that Universities churning endless graduates while our technological companies bring people from Pakistan or Bangladesh is complete nonsense. We have 25% of youth unemployment; we shouldn’t be importing inmigrants for good jobs. Professional education frequently has people hired before they graduate, and most of them find a job quite quickly. I don’t know what can be done to change social perceptions, but something has to be done.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Your mask is slipping.

          • Plumber says:

            “Your mask is slipping.”

            @The Nybbler,

            What mask?

            I’ve been very open about both my beliefs and my biography. 

            Upthread the post that began with “Maybe the problem is too many white collar jobs in the first place?” may be my most personal one yet

          • @Plumber:

            Are you familiar with “Parkinson’s Law” by C. Northcote Parkinson? You might enjoy it.

          • Plumber says:

            ^

            “@Plumber:

            Are you familiar with “Parkinson’s Law” by C. Northcote Parkinson? You might enjoy it.”

            @DavidFriedman,

            “Parkinson’s Law” was completely unknown to me before your post, but a quick skim of it shows me that it’s spot on.

            Thanks for the tip! 

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Depends on whether the government or university eats the cost.
      If the government doesn’t behave as a rational actor [like a bank would] and simply eats the cost without imposing some reform after-the-fact; there’s no reason for the university to adjust tuitions anywhere but up at an even faster rate. To the contrary, college becomes a risk-free investment for students who can theoretically take on any debt the government is willing to lend for, and if the job market can’t service that debt, go into bankruptcy. This IMO is a worst-case-most-probable scenario. It benefits students in the short run and universities in the long run.

      If they ate the cost but then ceased the business of lending [and guarantees] then college debt would be ruinously expensive for students and they would basically be forced not to attend university. Universities would be compelled to find some way of reducing tuitions to compensate.

      I personally don’t like the strategy of ‘bring tuitions down by making college completely unaffordable’ — but relative to the alternative of doing nothing, I support it.

      The third possibility involves the government going after universities to recover on bad debts, but IDK how legal that is.

      • syrrim says:

        I personally don’t like the strategy of ‘bring tuitions down by making college completely unaffordable’ — but relative to the alternative of doing nothing, I support it.

        But that’s the trick, isn’t it? When negotiating, you have to be willing to say no. If there isn’t a price so high that you aren’t willing to pay, then the price will go up indefinitely, as we’ve seen. One thing you could do is mandate a maximum price, and say that you won’t finance loans above that cost. The problem is that there would be colleges that set their tuition above said cost, and so people would have to pay their own way through these. You could take it a step farther, and make it a requirement that colleges can’t charge more than this. But agreeing to pay anything can only lead to them charging anything.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I say this because (I fear) there may be a brief period for one or two graduating classes where the labor market still fully expects people to go to college and universities are hesitant to budget on tuitions where those kids are circumstantially screwed.

          Hence why I prefer that the labor market be made to accept alternatives to universities (IQ tests, HS-GPAs, online modules for specific skills) before you pull the bottom out.

          • Plumber says:

            “Hence why I prefer that the labor market be made to accept alternatives to universities (IQ tests, HS-GPAs, online modules for specific skills) before you pull the bottom out.”

            @RalMirrorAd,

            As an alternative to college there’s craft union apprenticeships (the closest we have today to the old guild apprenticeship system that I know of).

            Most apprenticeships you have to interview as well as test to get in, but the San Jose Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Air-conditioning Technicians union Apprenticeship program was test only (can you do arithmetic and sort shapes really fast?) to get in back in the 1990’s when I was admitted (I don’t know if it still is).

    • Randy M says:

      I do think something should be done about the student loan bubble, not just the ruinous increase in tuition, but for holders of college debt at present, as I think it is at a level that has a significant and negative impact on family formation, home ownership, and entrepreneurship. And I say this as someone who has paid off a pair of these already.

      I fear that if we simply allow bankruptcy on the justification that debt levels are too high it will dramatically destigmatize bankruptcy as John alludes to. Though I don’t know all the negative consequences of bankruptcy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a subsequent push to lessen even what’s there.

      What about a fund created by taxing university endowments that can be applied to, provided one is employed or actively looking for work that would pay a portion of the recipients monthly bill? I’m loathe to suggest another government or NGO program to further meddle, though. Perhaps it would be better to just cut the scholarships and loan guarantees and leave the current crop in hot water.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, the problem is that college tuition is in a crazy bubble, and is used as a signal for “competent, intelligent adult whose resume should not automatically be used as waste paper.” So even people who know full well that the tuition costs are ridiculous still have a strong incentive to play the game–take out loans to get the degree, and pay them back with higher income (unless they can’t get a job or drop out two years in).

    • baconbits9 says:

      So what do you think, about Mr. Buckley’s scheme?

      What would be the consequenc

      He doesn’t demonstrate understand anything about selection effects, the loan market or bankruptcy.

      Declaring bankruptcy comes at the price of damaged credit ratings and years of being unable to obtain loans or credit cards, or doing so at much higher interest rates. Most people who have jobs and are able to continue paying their loans would want to avoid bankruptcy.

      Yikes, these aren’t the main costs of bankruptcy, this is some image of a person who writes on a piece of paper ‘I am bankrupt’ and then just stops paying their bills. The reality is that you get investigated for your ability to pay and will be forced to sell of assets and depending on the state you can be forced to sell your house, car, stocks etc and have your wages garnished. This is the primary cost of bankruptcy, not having a higher interest rate on your credit card or waiting 7 years to get another mortgage.

      This doesn’t work for student loan debt because students come out of college with virtually no assets, which slashes a huge impediment to declaring bankruptcy.

      The second is selection effects, if you run up credit card debt and are struggling under it declaring bankruptcy comes at a cost because you are the type of person who relies on revolving credit lines to get you through. This makes it more of a threat, making your life more difficult on the other side of bankruptcy. Students however are not nearly so likely to want or need to take out additional loans (barring graduate students who get deferrals and other help to roll over their initial student loans), this takes most of the sting out of this punishment. “Just know that once you declare bankruptcy you can never go back to college and get another degree!” is not much of a threat to someone never intending to return.

      Finally there is the collateral of loans. Mortgages generally have lower interest rates than credit cards because the risk is lower, if you default the bank repossesses your house. Car loans are at a higher rate because the collateral depreciates faster, and so a default is more costly. Credit cards have higher rates for rolling over debt, typically double digits. If you can’t claim any collateral against a default then you charge high fees, student loans would almost certainly fall into this basket under his suggestions and would be charging 10-20% interest (and maybe higher) for anyone without a cosigner for the loans.

    • Eric Rall says:

      If you apply the clawback provisions retroactively, it’s pretty close to being an unconstitutional ex post facto law. Probably not close enough to actually get overturned by the courts (since the penalty it’s imposing on universities is more like a tax or a civil liability than it is to a criminal judgement), but close enough to make me uncomfortable with the idea.

      And on a going-forward basis, this is pretty close to equivalent to universities underwriting loans to their own students. Which might not be a bad system, but we probably shouldn’t coerce universities into entering that system against their will. Especially since universities that don’t want to be on the hook for their students’ loans can probably partially sidestep the system by preferentially admitting students from rich families that can afford to pay cash.

    • Yaleocon says:

      Ugh, I’m late to the thread. And the last time I did serious research about this was for a debate in high school. Nonetheless, I remember one really significant fact: the biggest thing missing from our discussion of student loan debt is that graduates are not the problem. They’re usually fine in the end. It’s not always easy, sometimes it hurts, but usually they can pay it back.

      The people who really get suckered are dropouts, who start off carrying a little less debt, but have significantly lower incomes after leaving college. They’re then sitting on a bunch of nondischargeable debt which fucks up their lives hard, and they can’t pay it off, so their (again, lower) wages are practically garnished forever. I couldn’t find good statistics on this, but I think dropouts hold a disturbing percentage of all student loan debt, and on average they hold their debt for faaaar longer, if they ever pay it off at all.

      In light of that, here’s my counter-proposal to Buckley’s proposal.

      First, consequence-free default for people who leave college without a degree. This forces lenders to actually assess the odds of graduation for people they’re about to lend to, whereas right now, the non-dischargeability element essentially means there’s no downside, and they malinvest. It also gives dropouts a chance at life without enduring crippling debt or going through the potentially-harrowing process of declaring bankruptcy—alleviating much (possibly most, still looking for stats) of the human suffering that college loan debt creates

      Second, close (de-accredit, same thing) colleges whose graduation rates are too low. This might help curb the for-profit scamming going on, letting air out of the higher ed bubble. (My biggest worry here is that the result will be for-profit colleges issuing “junk degrees” to people who would otherwise drop out; I’m not sure how to deal with that possibility.)

      Thoughts?

      • Brad says:

        > This forces lenders

        No it doesn’t because “lenders” is mostly congress. I don’t understand why this hasn’t penetrated common understanding yet.

  8. bean says:

    Naval Gazing Stuff:
    First, a review of the USS Constitution and Cassin Young at Charleston Navy Yard.
    Second, I found a spread from a 1940 issue of Popular Mechanics on battleship design, and had some thoughts on it.

  9. Deiseach says:

    Since gbdub was kind enough to remind me which were and were not the CW threads, and that this should be the CW-permissible thread, let me go back to something which I will otherwise forget. gbdub said that “Anything vaguely puppy related is peak culture war”, and I want to make this point, so I’ll copy part of what I left in a comment (leaving out some speculation about internal politics at a publishing house, which I don’t have first-hand knowledge of and therefore shouldn’t speculate about):

    Mid-list authors do struggle, particularly when the publisher is reserving the big push for the perceived stars or next generation stars and are ruthlessly pruning the “sells respectably but not huge number” authors as soon as sales dip below a certain level. This, by the way, was part of the reason for the Sad Puppies Hugo campaign: a “Hugo Award nominee”, not even “winner”, sticker on the cover of the book means your publisher will put in the effort to publicise and sell the work which means your survival as a professional author relying on your writing to make a living and keep your family. Being arbitrarily excluded from Hugo nomination on the grounds of being “male, pale and stale” or too conservative and not representative enough meant a real blow to the economic well-being of these authors.

    Why do I want to mention this? Because part of the accepted narrative is that the Puppies are all one indistinguishable mass (no taking account of the difference in aims between the Sad and Rabid Puppies) and that they were uniformly white cis het conservative males and that they were moved purely by animus and racism (you can throw in sexism, homophobia and the rest of the laundry list while you are at it).

    Now, I’m only a Sad Puppy by connection, and I can only take on faith what one of the authors involved claimed to be his motivation, so maybe he really is a racist etc etc etc, but for him as a mid-list author who depends on writing for a living and so does need to justify his existence for his publisher by sales or else be ruthlessly pruned, being debarred from the Hugos by reasons of not being diverse/representative enough in his writing (as judged by an informal little panel of insiders) is a real threat to his livelihood, is a form of censorship, and so I think he and others were justified in challenging the cosy consensus.

    Of course, this got them vilified as all kinds of racist etc etc etc and matters were not helped by the Rabid Puppies appearing on the scene, but the fall out has hurt everyone. And it was more complicated than “these guys just don’t like women/minorities playing with their toys!”

    Okay, that’s my culture-warring done though I might hmph! a bit at gbdub about the “a hard turn into a rant about overselling diversity” – that came across as a rant? and do you disagree that diversity can be oversold, where some stories/novels with very tenuous SFF content get nominated merely because they tick the correct boxes? Even Ozy, in their review, felt some authors were forgetting the story they were concentrating so hard on having the characters be sufficiently diverse:

    River of Teeth: The premise sounds like this book should be on the “nominees I loved” list: it’s a Western caper set in an alternate history in which someone introduced hippos to the Louisiana Bayou and now all the cowboys ride hippos. Unfortunately, the author felt the need to Represent People, and thus all the characters are like “he’s a [rolls dice] Korean-British [throws dart] bisexual who’s [draws card] dating a nonbinary person.” Marginalized identities do not actually substitute for giving a character a personality.

    (Sleeping With Monsters) I just really don’t want to read a book of literary criticism where I ever have to read a paragraph about all the characters’ marginalized identities before I get to the part where I find out what the book is about.

    That’s pretty much why I signed up on the Sad Puppy side right there, and not because I hate rainbows and great justice (like, it’s looking like the second half of the dipytch to Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is not going to be published while I’m still alive, and I’m less than gruntled by that because I really want to know do Rat and Marq get their happy ending).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t care about the Hugos, have never followed them, didn’t follow much about the whole Puppy saga, so there is my disclaimer.

      All that said, you seem to be mashing many complaints together, and they are not all quite coherent. Take your last one. I’m not yet 50, and I don’t know that I’m going to see the end of “Song of Ice and Fire” in my life time. It’s not for lack of book sales.

      And Martin, a very old soul in that world, thought the Puppies were incredibly wrong.

      Any genre needs to change over time, SF perhaps more than most. Reading early SF is like eating cardboard, dull, dry, tasteless and not very pleasant. I do think that calls for representation frequently fail to grapple with the inherent difficulties, but that would seem to make recognizing well written stories that are inclusive more important rather than less.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I don’t think the problem with early sci-fi would be resolved if you just replaced one set of characters with another. The problem was with the maturity of the genre, not with whether the characters were white and male.

        That said, I think if you think that the Sad Puppies were upset about “inclusivity”, you haven’t actually read Larey Correiea’s original complaint: It wasn’t that social justice warriors were running things, it was that a cabal of specific people were running things, and that the Hugo’s had stopped representing what people actually wanted. (I think his go-to example was some editor who was a central figure in the Hugo nomination process, who also happened to keep winning an award for being an editor, often with nobody else even being nominated?). The whole point of their slate voting was to demonstrate the problems with the system, and Correiea won his war when they changed the rules to break the tactic the Sad Puppies were using, since his objective was to demonstrate and break the tactic that the inner circle he claimed was controlling the Hugo’s was using.

        Interpreting it to be about social justice and inclusivity is making their complaint unnecessarily culture war. That wasn’t his complaint, and IIRC the minority representation between the Sad Puppy slates and the non Sad Puppy nominations was more of less identitical.

        ETA: I still don’t remember who the editor is, or what the award was, but I do remember that he is the one who had the award added to the list of awards, and also may have won it every single year?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t think the problem with early sci-fi would be resolved if you just replaced one set of characters with another.

          I wasn’t trying to say this, although I can see how you would interpret it that way. It was more tha a number of critiques I saw were of the form “ This isn’t really sci-fi. Where are my space battles, techie explanations, etc.”

          Maybe I will go read Correiea today, if I have time. I had the distinct impression that it was about more than just “the voting system is broken in certain ways”. I believe it certainly became about more than that, and not just for the Rabids.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Can’t comment on the Rabid Puppies, as I didn’t follow any of them. I did follow Correiea before any of this began, however, having been a fan of Grim Noir. (Monster Hunter too, but that is more entertaining than good, and I am more hesitant to recommend it.)

            It became something more for the usual reasons: The group being criticized raised hell and jumped into identitarianism. Like Sony’s response to criticisms of the Ghostbusters remake, the defense was basically a Chewbacca defense, a distraction from the criticism into something irrelevant.

            Now, there was a vaguely identitarian element, because part of the criticism of the inner cabal was that they excluded books from consideration on the basis of the politics represented in the book, basically because the specific people in the cabal didn’t like those politics. But the complaint amounted to “No matter how good a book is, if it reflects right-wing politics it won’t make it past nomination”. It wasn’t “White men can’t win a Hugo”, that is just the way the identitarians characterized their opponents.

          • bean says:

            It was more tha a number of critiques I saw were of the form “ This isn’t really sci-fi. Where are my space battles, techie explanations, etc.”

            But even that has multiple levels. “All of the Hugo nominees are drawn from a few sub-genres of SF, and are excluding the ones I like” seems a reasonable critique, particularly from those who like space battles (which is not a small fraction of SF fandom). “Only my preferred sub-genres are actual SF, so the nominees aren’t” is not. I’d broadly interpret the original Sad Puppies as camp one, and Vox Day as camp two.

          • John Schilling says:

            It wasn’t “White men can’t win a Hugo”, that is just the way the identitarians characterized their opponents.

            And maybe fulfilled their prophecies.

            In the four years since the Puppies first made the ballot, there have been eighteen non-puppy Hugo best novel nominations. Exactly two of them went to white men, and one of those was John Scalzi. The other was Kim Stanley Robinson, whose “2140” came in last place this year.

            Zero or one non-Puppy nominees with a clear white male protagonist, depending on Mycroft Canner’s race in “Too Like the Lightning”. A few white men sneak into ensemble casts, and I think reach plurality status in “2140”.

            Looking beyond best novel, of the fourteen non-shared awards this year, exactly one went to a white man, for “Best Fanzine”.

            Now that the Puppies are gone, and the rules have been changed to keep them out, it may very nearly be that white men can’t win the Hugo.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Only my preferred sub-genres are actual SF, so the nominees aren’t” is not.

            That’s a fair point to make. But on the other hand – and I know I’ve banged on about this before – can anyone explain to me how the hell “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” is an SFF story? Oh the person* in the hospital bed is a paleontologist, that’s a science profession, that makes it skiffy? There’s just a weepy fiancée making Relevant Points about sexism/xenophobia/homophobia/gin-drinking/us regular folks round here not cottonin’ to them uppity types what’s been to college, and it’d be five times better if there were a time machine or mad science DNA-splicing “bwahahah, I cured you by the power of dinosaur blood!” involved**.

            *We have no idea, and I think that’s deliberate although it could just be the mushy prose, if the ‘person what got beat up by gin-drinking rednecks’ is male, female, trans or what. EDIT: Okay, the last section mentions “The paleontologist’s fiancée who waits by the bedside of a man who will probably never wake” but that is offset by the emphasis in the body of the story on grace, fragility, gentleness and so forth, and the “calling you a fag, a towel-head, a shemale, a sissy, a spic, every epithet they could think of, regardless of whether it had anything to do with you or not” which does seem to indicate the paleontologist was read as non-masculine by the assailants.

            **The frankly weird fantasy about if the fiancé(e) really were a dinosaur and she were its keeper traipsed too close to the line of furry (or scaly is the correct term I suppose) fetish, but that still don’t make it SFF:

            If they built you a mate, I’d stand as the best woman at your wedding. I’d watch awkwardly in green chiffon that made me look sallow, as I listened to your vows. I’d be jealous, of course, and also sad, because I want to marry you. Still, I’d know that it was for the best that you marry another creature like yourself, one that shares your body and bone and genetic template. I’d stare at the two of you standing together by the altar and I’d love you even more than I do now. My soul would feel light because I’d know that you and I had made something new in the world and at the same time revived something very old. I would be borrowed, too, because I’d be borrowing your happiness. All I’d need would be something blue.

          • Randy M says:

            I know I’ve banged on about this before

            Narrator: “Devotees will recall open threads 18, 46, 76, and Links 6/17 thread”

          • SpeakLittle says:

            It was more tha a number of critiques I saw were of the form “ This isn’t really sci-fi. Where are my space battles, techie explanations, etc.”

            Most of the Sad Puppy* critiques in this style I saw were for stories such as “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” or “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere.” These weren’t bad stories, but they weren’t science-fiction. When some of the Sad Puppies pointed this out, they were accused of $NOUN-phobia.

            *As distinct from the Rabid Puppies

      • Deiseach says:

        My point about Delany’s novel was to show that I’m not averse to “non-white, non-het, non-cis characters in SFF”, it’s “all that the story is really about is the character being non-white, non-cis, non-het and the SFF gets watered down or left out”. But the complaint on the other side about the Puppies and their supporters was reduced to “they are averse to non-white, non-cis, non-het, non-male characters in SFF pure and simple”.

        EDIT: See this NPR article from 2015:

        The Puppies claim the Hugos have been taken over by affirmative-action-driven voters pushing a diversity agenda by nominating women and non-white writers, regardless of the quality of their work. For 2015, they organized their own corrective slates, consisting largely of conservative, straight white males — including themselves.

        and this Guardian review from 2016:

        For the last few years, the Hugo awards for science fiction have been campaigned against by a group of writers and fans calling themselves the Sad Puppies – mostly male, very white, and overwhelmingly conservative. Unhappy with sci-fi’s growing diversity, the Puppies have deliberately block-voted for certain titles to get them nominated for Hugos at the expense of a wider field. They say it is their goal to “poke the establishment in the eye” by nominating “unabashed pulp action that isn’t heavy-handed message fic”. I say it is to sponsor awful writers.

        Note the hammering on about “white male conservatives”.

        As Thegnskald said, it started with Larry Correira noting an informal but definite tendency of ‘people who get nominated’, mentioning this and being told he was being paranoid there was no way the Hugos could be set up like that, and him deciding to set up a slate while taking full advantage of the rules to show that the process could indeed be manipulated. Like any row, it quickly drew in a lot of different people who all went off on tangents. I wasn’t particularly impressed by Martin’s intervention (then again, I tried and disliked the very first novel in the SoIaF way back when it first came out, though I had liked other novels of his, so take my opinion with a grain of salt there), though I will credit him for wanting to turn down the heat.

        Of course early SF is not to modern tastes. But turning it into Approved Dietary Requirement briquettes is not going to make it any more palatable. Congratulations, you’ve got your six-gendered hermaphrodite polyamorous species of colour established, now what are you going to do with them? And having them hang around the space station giving lectures on the superiority of having six genders and so on is not ‘doing something with them’. Is the station going to fall into a wormhole? How do the Species of Genders feel about relationships with persons not of their species? Have we got a rogue planet about to crash into a sun going supernova while mysterious eldritch entities pour out of the black hole in the centre of the galaxy to conquer the universe as we know it, while M’Lxxqot (who happens to be the captain of the only starship capable of outrunning the eldritch entities to take the news back to Central Homeworld to warn the Star Union) is dating Greg (the new Terran second engineer’s mate) even though zir father/mother thinks it is unnatural? That’s doing something with them!

        EDIT EDIT: Though granted, getting Chuck Tingle nominated was very funny, and even better that his novel (er, I read the first few pages on Amazon for research purposes) really does follow traditional SF tropes (before the space raptor butt-pounding commences) in world-building for the novel:

        the Sad Puppies smuggled in a 2016 Best Short Story nominee they hoped would really tank the proceedings: Space Raptor Butt Invasion, an erotic gay sci-fi tale self-published by an unknown named Chuck Tingle.

        • theredsheep says:

          Well, you’ve got a pretty strong power differential between M’Lxxqot and Greg there, so I assume the book would be rated “toxic” anyhow.

          • Deiseach says:

            theredsheep, in our Brave New World of genderfluid pan poly love trumps all, the pathetic old non-fraternisation rules are long since done away with! (see the Star Trek reboot).

            Besides, “Captain” is only a courtesy title for ‘first amongst equals’ and is a rotating position held in turn by various members of the crew – you don’t think our Species of Genders perpetrate hierarchical patriarchal command structures of a less enlightened, capitalist age, do you? 🙂

            So nobody minds M’Lxxqot and Greg bonking like (whatever space-things on space-planets in space bonk like) except for M’Lxxqot’s mother/father, who is distressingly old-fashioned and provides the driving sub-plot of the story for “love conquers all” to be the happy ending (including – SPOILER ALERT! the key to defeating the eldritch entities, via the tastefully if graphically described mass psychic/flesh body/cyborg/uploaded orgy at the conclusion – dare I say, “climax”? – of the novel).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I really want to read about M’Lxxqot and Greg now.

          • Deiseach says:

            You’ll definitely want to read the second volume where M’Lxxqot takes parental leave (xe* is producing charming triplet budlings co-genetic material contributed by Greg in the course of the mass orgy at the conclusion of the preceding volume) while Greg struggles with being part of the polycule, incorporation into M’Lxxqot’s family (father/mother is very big on tradition as we’ve said, and is now adamant that the DNA donor of xyr child’s children is going to Do Right by them), working towards promotion to Junior Junior Engineer, and that influx of space werewolves from the plague-stricken moons of Zelathis which are playing havoc with the merchant shipping lanes, due to having infected the space pirates infesting that section of the system who were a minor and manageable nuisance before but are now ravening, foam-flecked, rabid werewolf-pirate hybrids attacking and plundering every vessel and worse, spreading out to infect and convert others to being space werewolf-pirate hybrids as they do so!

            Yes, even in the 35th Century it’s hard to juggle family and work lives!

            *Okay, so before it looked like M’Lxxqot’s preferred pronouns were “ze/zirs/zir” and now I’ve switched to “xe/xyr/xem” but that was not a mistake at all, that was part of worldbuilding! Your pronouns change when you become a parent, you see, so it wasn’t a screw-up on my part, it was deliberate (ahem ahem).

          • pontifex says:

            I think we found a new writer for the next Chuck Tingle story!

          • Deiseach says:

            pontifex, I would not dare even attempt to touch the hem of the master’s mantle 🙂

        • Thegnskald says:

          I kind of despise science fiction because it tends to be other genres with “space” tacked on before every noun.

          We went to the space-tavern looking for space-adventurers to help us kill the space-lich, hired a space-elf space-archer with an absurdly.oversized space-bow, then got attacked by space-goblins while traveling through a space-forest (asteroid field)…

          Or maybe it is a space naval battle. Or maybe it is a space period drama. Or maybe…

          But I think the issue I tend to take with the identitarian sci-fi – in spite of everything I just wrote – is that it often doesn’t bother being a genre beyond vague sci-fi-ness. The identitarianism is the point, the genre is secondary. It’s like somebody is telling people sci-fi is the genre to write criticisms of modern society in, because so many great criticisms of modern society are science fiction, but nobody bothers telling them that criticism isn’t enough to carry a book, and the great criticisms of modern society are all also good books people would enjoy reading even if the criticisms weren’t relevant.

          “I hate X about our society” isn’t a book.

          (Also, I despise “Aliens who exist to prove a point”, both because it begs the point, and also because they are never written well, and also because the authors always want to write the problem they are criticizing out of the society they are writing about so the attempts to insert criticism of our current society come across as bizarrely anachronistic in their own universe.)

          Eh. I could rant more. But really this is just a tiny subset of media I hate, and it already gets far more attention than it deserves. I’d much rather rant about how much I hate the traipsing-through-the-forest bullshit in fantasy (or it’s equivalent “endless chapters of random.encounters in space” equivalent in sci-fi), and how Harry Potter was so remarkable in getting away from traipsing through a forest, and how much of a disappointment this made the final book.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If those are things that are bad, what would you say is good?

          • Thegnskald says:

            There are many points that can make a book good, but I think a major element is novelty: Show me something new, or show me something old in a new light.

            The element I tend to enjoy in books is in-universe technology. Not technology in the “sufficiently advanced magic” sense, which is most science fiction (This new engine runs on particles!), but technology in the sense of “Within a framework of consistent rules, the author develops through a character a new way of utilizing those rules”. So in Mistborn, Vin’s trick with the horseshoes is a great example.

            You can also have technology in books relating to social situations; typically this is implemented as some kind of scheme or plan, but in a broad sense, it is the same thing, a narrative device in which the established rules are used to a new purpose. The fact that the rules are “X person behaves in Y way” doesn’t detract from it.

            Such technology tends to be single-use, from a narrative point of view, and represents a breakthrough in the character’s understanding and control of their universe.

            They are the building blocks of plot, in pretty much any genre.

          • toastengineer says:

            Sounds like you’ve exclusively been reading shitty sci-fi. What about, say, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or, uh… well, anything recommended by Atomic Rockets?

        • The Nybbler says:

          It was, of course, the Rabids who nominated Tingle. Which was clearly a response to the nomination of “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.”

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Deiseach, @Thegnskald:
        I think that this blog post from Correia is the one that kicked everything off?

        If so, it seems to me that he was deliberately provoking culture war right from the very beginning. Takes about making elite literati heads explode, specific references to alternatively spending $60 on 9mm ammo, signing firearms, wanting annoying co-workers to explode, etc. The whole thing is just “troll the elites for the lulz”, not a complaint about how decent science fiction is being marginalized. It does raise “heavy handed message fic” as something that he doesn’t like, and that Hugo voters do, but trolling the normal Hugo voters is the main point.

        Am I somehow getting something wrong here?

        • Thegnskald says:

          Er, yes. You are missing the fact that he is clearly writing to his fans, not to the other side of the culture war.

          You are also missing a lot of backstory involving, IIRC, Tor and Baen. Long story short there, he apparently is part of a large number of successful authors who were turned down by publishing companies (most complaints are directed at Tor) for having right-wing views. Baen published them, and proved there was a market for their product, so there is a lot of grumbling among conservative authors about how the publishing houses are biased against right-wing authors. Mind, I am not arguing this is true, but this is the popular perception, and it isn’t just him.

          So the critics he is referring to aren’t the Hugo people – he genuinely thinks he has a chance there – but the people at Tor and similar publishing houses. It was in 2014 that the Sad Puppies campaign as we think of it today began, after he perceived that there was backlash for him doing something that he believed was already commonplace in the Hugo process; 2013 was just trying to get some books nominated that wouldn’t normally make it, primarily his own. (I think at some point he linked to similar campaigns by other authors to get themselves nominated, who didn’t get the reaction he did in 2013, which caused him to regard the reaction as evidence of bias)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Thegnskald:
            Earlier you said:

            That said, I think if you think that the Sad Puppies were upset about “inclusivity”, you haven’t actually read Larey Correiea’s original complaint: It wasn’t that social justice warriors were running things, it was that a cabal of specific people were running things, and that the Hugo’s had stopped representing what people actually wanted.

            I’m showing you evidence that he was specifically anti-left, anti-SJ right from the very beginning. That wasn’t something “made up” by the other side.

            As to the people he is against just being publishers note the following characterization of who he thinks will be defeated by this action:
            “I’m a douchebag that only reads what English professors or Oprah’s book club say is profound.”

            He went for culture-war, destroy the feminist down the hall, from the start and got, unsurprisingly, a culture war. That or this wasn’t even the start, but it was still the start of the Hugo gambits.

            I don’t see how this being “directed to his fans” mitigates this.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I am leftist. It isn’t anti-me. It also isn’t anti-SJ, except to the extent that the groups he is showing contempt for overlap with SJ. I feel like you are reading a lot into a short blurb from an author you have no familiarity with, basically because other people have told you it is there.

            Mind, it IS anti-elitist. He was pushing to have self-admitted schlock nominated for a prestigious award, and knew it. He was the mechanic showing up to the ball in oil-stained overalls just to annoy the well-to-do.

            (2014, Warbound, represented a “serious” nomination. Monster Hunter Whatever Book He Was On? No. The first book in that series has Frankenstein drop a nucleur bomb on Cthulu. That is not a serious series, and isn’t intended to be, it is fun schlock.)

            ETA:

            To be more specific: What about his comments is anti-SJ? What is anti-leftist? What is anti-feminist? Where is the culture war here?

            This also isn’t when I’d say the Sad Puppy Campaign, as people think of it, began; I put 2014 as the date on that. The 2013 campaign was an earnest attempt to get some new books nominated. 2014 was when they decided the system was broken, and when I regard the campaign as starting, using the name of the original effort, but making a political statement this time. In 2013 he just thought it would be funny to get his schlocky book nominated; 2014 was an attempt to prove that the players in control of the process wouldn’t let a book succeed that didn’t have their tacit approval for it’s political content.

          • Deiseach says:

            You are also missing a lot of backstory involving, IIRC, Tor and Baen.

            Yeah, that’s what I heard, specifically about Tor; that the Nielsen Haydens, by virtue of their positions there, had a ton of influence over who they deemed should and should not have marketing clout/support for nominations behind them, even though as a publishing company they should have been marketing all their authors equally (why would you want one of your authors to fail or do less well than they could?)

            Can’t confirm that since I have no direct knowledge, but it was a source of grievance for Tor authors on the Sad Puppy side. The trouble is that publishing tends to be incestuous and SFF even more so, since Big Names in the field are often wearing a lot of hats (fans/committee members/writers/working in SFF in some capacity) and so things overlap and bleed into one another.

            I was re-reading the whole RequiresHate saga last night and one thing very clear was how much influence and what whispering campaigns could be set up; X is a friend of Y, X is also an influential editor/mover and shaker in cons/something else, Y has a beef with Z and gets X to instigate boycotts and disinvitations and ‘nobody can talk to’ Z, and people go along with it for various reasons – they believe X because they’re a big cheese, they don’t want to rock the boat because X can help or harm their career, they don’t want to get on Y’s bad side because they know Y will sic X on them… messy!

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “even though as a publishing company they should have been marketing all their authors equally (why would you want one of your authors to fail or do less well than they could?)”

            I think it makes sense to put marketing where you think it will do the most good. If some of your authors are expected to be steady but solid and others are potential stars, you’d put more money into the latter while not completely ignoring the former.

          • rlms says:

            @Thegnskald

            What is anti-feminist?

            “Should I vote for the heavy handed message fic about the dangers of fracking and global warming and dying polar bears and robot rape as a bad feminist analogy with a villain who is a thinly veiled Dick Cheney? Or should I vote for the LAS VEGAS EXPLOSION SHOOTING EVERYTHING DRAGON HELICOPTER CHASE ORC SACRIFICING CHICKENS BOOK!?! Grglglgggggsllll………BOOM!)” certainly does not seem pro-feminist (although on a scale where the SSC comments are neutral it is practically raging gender studies major).

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s a fantasy book and movie series about the dangers of fracking with explosions and shooting and dragons and orcs and a villain who is a thinly veiled Dick Cheney, but alas Middle Earth is long past its eligibility date.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @thegnskald:

            To be more specific: What about his comments is anti-SJ? What is anti-leftist? What is anti-feminist? Where is the culture war here?

            This type of statement makes it near impossible to have productive conversations. I’ve pointed you at bunch of things already. You aren’t engaging with what I said. I’d have to annotate every line of the post to do much more. I could repeat what I said earlier, but … that seems unhelpful.

            You could, perhaps, convince me that my interpretation is wrong. Highly doubtful, but possible. But you certainly can’t do it by acting as if my interpretation is unfounded.

            Practically every other line is a red-tribe signal. The rest is insults aimed at blue tribe. Yes, there is not a perfect overlap of “blue tribe” and “left”, but he throws in jabs at feminists and environmentalists and more.

          • Thegnskald says:

            HBC –

            You have pointed me at things that aren’t what you claim they are.

            His argument in your most recent pointing-out comes down to “Would you rather the Hugo go to culture-war message-fiction, or to absolutely ridiculous schlock that is fun?”. That is his argument. It isn’t that the message-fiction-writers are evil or dumb.

            He is arguing that the Hugo shouldn’t be awarded on the grounds that they take a specific side on the culture war. And your interpretation of this comes down to “That is against my side of the culture war!”

            Except he isn’t arguing for right-wing message-fiction. He is arguing against the idea that being left-wing message-fiction should be sufficient cause to win. You are literally taking an argument for neutrality as an attack on your side.

          • AG says:

            Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, the language that the argument is dressed up in matters. Scott has written about this so many times, that the motte of SJ is often just fine, and only becomes the bailey because they dressed it up in continual potshots against the outgroup.
            All of the associated language that HBC points out as defining what Correia’s own side is (red tribe signifiers) therefore is engaging in culture war. Aesthetic as ethics.

            This is like saying that the anti-ants were never against the people who play games at all because non-majority demographics appear to be the majority in certain surveys of the game-playing population. But the language that they used to describe the people they like and didn’t like matters.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @thegnskald:

            He is arguing that the Hugo shouldn’t be awarded on the grounds that they take a specific side on the culture war.

            He is also arguing that either he, or those who are reading him, are on a particular side of the culture war. And that they should take joy in trolling those on the other side. In fact, that is his primary argument. He wants a Hugo and they want to make certain people’s heads explode.

            It isn’t that the message-fiction-writers are evil or dumb.

            He refers to douchebags, snobs, and literati whose heads should be exploded. The fact that the words “evil” and “dumb” are not specifically there does not mean he isn’t disparaging them, and those who think their works are good, and people who read them.

            The whole thing is “the elite sneer at me so we should take them down multiple pegs”.

            None of it is even directed at publishers, as near as I can tell. It’s directed at English professors, European snob reviewers, Oprah, the annoying co-worker down the hall and other “literati”. In fact, his first sentence implies that publishing is the least of his worries .The implication is that he is already getting fat royalty checks, although I suppose he could be saying that getting a Hugo would allow him to do so, or merely that he likes them when he can get them. Perhaps the “people who show up and vote” are the publishers. The “establishment” he is railing against is definitely not limited to publishers.

            Regardless, he is certainly couching this post as an appeal to a specific side in the culture war. I don’t understand why you refuse to acknowledge this.

          • Thegnskald says:

            HBC –

            Regardless, he is certainly couching this post as an appeal to a specific side in the culture war. I don’t understand why you refuse to acknowledge this.

            You mean like when I wrote “Er, yes. You are missing the fact that he is clearly writing to his fans, not to the other side of the culture war.”? When I wrote that, was it not immediately obvious that I was saying that he was writing it to -his- side of the culture war?

            At any rate, you’ve conceded the point; you’ve gone from “Anti-feminist, anti-SJ, anti-whatever else you wrote” (paraphrasing, clearly) to “None of it is even directed at publishers, as near as I can tell. It’s directed at English professors, European snob reviewers, Oprah, the annoying co-worker down the hall and other “literati”.”

            And at this point this is sufficiently close to what I have been arguing from the start that I’m going to say you started agreeing with me and didn’t notice; the distance between “publishers” and the list you produced (which is basically “publishers and other critics of his schlocky writing”) might seem significant to you, but it isn’t to me, because the point isn’t that his post isn’t sneering at a group he dislikes, but that the group he is sneering at is VERY CLEARLY not the group that his detractors portray him as sneering at.

            Because “The Sad Puppies hate lesbians and gays and black people” is a rallying cry; the somewhat-closer-to-the-truth “The Sad Puppies hate snobbish literati people” is… not, mostly because most people hate snobbish literati people to some extent, in something the same way most people hate wine snobs, which is to say, people just don’t like snobs.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Er, yes. You are missing the fact that he is clearly writing to his fans, not to the other side of the culture war.”? When I wrote that, was it not immediately obvious that I was saying that he was writing it to -his- side of the culture war?

            When you claim that this makes it evidence that he isn’t engaging in culture war, it becomes very non-obvious what your point is. I said he was provoking culture war. When you engage in a call to your side to go spit on the other side, you are provoking culture war.

            And you can’t ignore the overlaps. You can claim you don’t hate Catholics, just the priests who are priggish, and the people who annoy you with their recitation of “Hail Mary”, but you won’t get away with that when you are saying it to a group of Protestants and encouraging them to take action against said priests and parishioners. Especially when you complain about their boring, annoying message about transubstantiation.

            He provokes culture war. He rallies his side. He references numerous feminist and SJ topics in the negative. It’s hardly the end of the world, but it’s not a neutral.

            I do agree that it’s clear he really doesn’t like what he perceives as “boring message fic” and those who support it. It’s also clear that he feels like he is conflict with those people. To see how a different argument could be made here, we can think about how people complain about the films selected for Academy Awards (not SJ types, supporters of populist works). Why can’t Infinity Wars win “Best Picture”? But that argument isn’t what he is limiting himself to.

      • disposablecat says:

        I categorically disagree with you about early SF. The Golden Age is when the genre was most vital, purely concerned with the future and not with commenting on the present or the likely consequences of its own generation’s actions. There’s kind of a pure optimism to it that I miss, some of which is the specific zeitgeist of the 50s and some of which is the lack of scientific understanding at the time. Going back and reading Heinlein, Asimov, early Niven, et. al is like returning to a vanished time (or perhaps a time that never was) when all was right with the universe and the manifest destiny of human sapience was close at hand and we were taking another step towards it every day. It’s nothing like eating cardboard.

        Modern SF is good too, don’t get me wrong, but it’s good in entirely different ways (Banks and Scalzi are nothing like the old Grand Masters – their perspective and goals are entirely different).

    • S_J says:

      I’m not a close follower of the Hugo/SadPuppy/RabidPuppy situation.

      Most of the reason I’m aware of it is that a couple of bloggers I’m aware of made it a big part of their online writing.

      One of whom, a woman named Sarah Hoyt, was trying to push her fiction offerings into the realm of the Hugos.

      I’m still trying to figure out whether the opponents of the Puppies thought she was not-really-female, or whether they ignored her when they referred to the Puppies as all-male.

      When I see that kind of evidence, I quickly conclude that the actual problems that anti-Puppy people have are not the problems that become the dominant slogans of the anti-Puppy movement.

      I’m aware that Hoyt has written books which have main characters who are not cis-het-males… though supporters of the Puppies never seem to have brought that up. I haven’t actually read those stories…but from the reviews I ran across, they appear to be a typical story in which the non-cis-het status of one character has no impact on the plot, and no reason to exist. (The review was written a good half-decade before the Puppy controversy, and I can’t find it now…but it sounded like most Puppy reactions to the SJW-supporting stories that get attention in the Hugo award lists.)

      When I notice that the Puppies don’t even mention things like that, I suspect that what they actually care about is not the culture-war-points-board.

      Which leaves me at an impasse: I have good reason to distrust both sides of the debate.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I haven’t actually read those stories…but from the reviews I ran across, they appear to be a typical story in which the non-cis-het status of one character has no impact on the plot, and no reason to exist.

        If you mean the Good Men/Darkship series, this is not the case; the non-cis-het status of the characters (there’s more than one) makes a difference.

      • sharper13 says:

        I happen to have tracked a lot of the Sad Puppies stuff because I’m a writer (although Action Thriller, not really SFF yet) and know some of the folks involved at an Internet-conversation level.

        The biggest issue I have is how much the anti-Sad Puppies crowd managed to completely misrepresent them and use their media allies to do the same, to the point where people were convinced, for example, that a female woman of color Portuguese social Democrat immigrant was magically turned into a white male alt-righter. Things evolved over time, but here’s her attempt back in 2015 at explaining what the whole thing was about, contradicting many of the anti-puppy distortions.

        Here’s a good follow-up post on later Sad Puppies efforts, from the dog’s mouth, as it were. It also makes the point that the Sad Puppies founders/movement leaders were 3/5 female and 2/5 Latin, contrary to information in the organized media war by those opposed to them.

        Sad Puppies wasn’t about race, it wasn’t about identity, it was about wanting to get the Hugo’s to go back to honoring good SF stories first, above all else, rather than story being an afterthought once the publisher’s slate of “representative” purveyors of message fiction was nominated. The reaction to that was basically one of if you are opposed to picking winners based on sex/race/whatever, you must therefore be racist/sexist/whateverist yourself.

        If the founders of a movement say the movement is about one thing and their opponents claim it’s magically about something completely different and are also unable to even stay accurate in published news stories with their claims about the race/sex/ of participants, it should be pretty obvious who to believe.

    • gbdub says:

      @Deiseach – I didn’t think YOU were ranting, it was the linked article that opened that particular comment thread that went fairly hard over into complaining about overhyped “representation”.

      I was annoyed with the article and myself, because reading the original post, and the title and first few paragraphs of the article, I thought your comment about the Hugos had come out of the blue. Your response made a lot more sense after I finished the article. It was still CW, but responsive to the article.

  10. I’m sure you have heard of the death of Mollie Tibbetts by an illegal immigrant. Of course, the right has been using this to bludgeon the left, who’s defenses have been pretty unconvincing. There’s the banal(“don’t politicize this”), the predictable(“this is a problem of toxic masculinity”) and the ridiculously tone deaf(“If he hadn’t killed her in America, he would have killed someone in Mexico, and that’s just as bad”). If you say something about how one death is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things you sound callous. So how should they respond to the issue?

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      The same way cardiologists and their political allies should react whenever a major media organization hostile to cardiologists finds a murderous cardiologist story to hype.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        …which is how, exactly?

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Positive news stories about cardiologists and pointing out the bad faith motives of the people who are pushing the other story? I don’t know, I’m not a media expert.

          Unless you mean how should individual cardiologists respond, not “cardiologists” collectively, in which case I think it depends too much on context to give one answer.

      • But how exactly are they supposed to react?

      • Yakimi says:

        So, in other words, by not reflexively defending the right of “undocumented cardiologists” to illegally practice their trade and arguing that the illicit activities of cardiologists can’t be countered by cracking down on them?

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          By arguing that cracking down on cardiologists specifically is stupid if you are concerned about murder.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      I’m not terribly sympathetic to the “Don’t politicize a Tragedy” argument per-se. Not anymore.

      Michael Brown’s death was basically the equivalent. It spawned a lot of coverage, a lot of outrage, and the way it was reported on had genuine political consequences.

      I am sympathetic to the “This event is unsystematic and therefore your narrative is invalid” argument. But the latter is too sophisticated and takes too long (more than 3 seconds) to explain. How many US Citizens are killed (unjustifiably) by noncitizens? How many POC are killed (unjustifiably) by cops? Why are people so addicted to anecdotes but allergic to tabular crime data?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Why are people so addicted to anecdotes but allergic to tabular crime data?

        Because the anecdotes are easily understandable and there are always anecdotes that support my side. The tabular data is not understandable and may or not support whatever we’re flogging this week.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        How many POC are killed (unjustifiably) by cops?

        Total there were 223 Black, 179 Hispanic, 128 other or unknown. So an upper bound of 530

        How many US Citizens are killed (unjustifiably) by noncitizens?

        There are 2.6 homicide convictions per 100,000 people for illegal immigrants and 1.0 for legal immigrants. Per wiki

        The most recent estimates put the number of unauthorized immigrants at 11 million in 2015.

        That puts it at roughly 286 homicides by illegal immigrants. Again per wiki

        Legal immigrants to the United States now are at their highest level ever, at just over 37,000,000 legal immigrants.

        That puts it at roughly 370 homicides by legal immigrants. So roughly 656 per year.

        So if we assume every unjustified killing of a US Citizen by a noncitizen results in a homicide conviction and we assume that every POC killed by cops was an unjustified killing than a citizen is slightly more likely to be killed by a noncitizen than a POC is to be killed by a cop.

        So the thing I learned today is that whenever someone says I am overly concerned about immigrants killing people that statistically, it is more concerning than the deaths of POC by cops.

        Edit: Didn’t see the comment about it being a joke, still glad I dug into the numbers.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          @Veeloxtrox;

          Questions #1 and #2 were more like; “If we wanted to settle this “Debate” in a rational and empirical matter, what kinds of questions would we attempt to answer? — Question #3 was a ‘joke’ [in the sense that i already have a pretty good idea of the answer] Basically meaning that most people can’t be bothered to answer that question.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            I still liked the questions because they prompted me to learn a little more about the world.

        • Teeki says:

          These numbers are interesting, I wondered what the homicide conviction rate was for non-migrant citizens, and maybe it’s just that I’m bad at it, but it is actually kind of hard to find.

          I always thought that the homicide for non-migrants would fall between the illegal immigrants and the legal immigrants, but the best I got for homicide conviction is “it’s probably between 2.2 and 2.7, but could be anywhere between 2 and 4.” So it kind of falls within my guess, but I’d like some stronger evidence.

        • shakeddown says:

          I’m guessing most people killed by illegal immigrants (and at least a significant fraction of those killed by legal immigrants) are also noncitizens (while very few of the people shot by cops are also cops).

          • veeloxtrox says:

            So if we assume every unjustified killing of a US Citizen by a noncitizen results in a homicide conviction and we assume that every POC killed by cops was an unjustified killing

            You bring up a valid consideration that I made sure to hedge against as an assumption. If I had to guess, I would say that the percent of homicide convictions where the victim was a citizen is higher than the percent of cop homicides where it was unjustified.

          • sharper13 says:

            On the flip side, most people shot by cops are not POC, cops who are POC are more likely to shoot POC (likely because of where they tend to be assigned, if nothing else) and POC are actually underrepresented in people shot by cops as their share of criminals arrested by cops.

            Of course, non of this addresses the real issues, which IMHO are:
            1. Too many cops are shooting too many people they shouldn’t be shooting (of all races, it’s not a race thing). Making it about blacks turns it into a CW political issue, rather than a quality-of-policing issue, where it might be solved.
            2. There aren’t anywhere near enough legal immigrants to the U.S. and although the rules are looser than for almost any other country in the world, there is way too much time, money and bureaucracy involved in the process. As a bonus, more legal immigrants means less illegals and more resources available per illegal to ensure the minority of “bad guys” are properly dealt with.
            3. Gang violence, especially in certain cities, is completely out of control and the residents need to be empowered to fix it with local policing solutions if we want less people to be murdered each year. A good start would be for them to stop voting in the same political machines to control the city, but maybe it’s too late for that.

          • shakeddown says:

            the rules are looser than for almost any other country in the world

            Are they? I’m dealing with US legal immigration laws these days and they’re insanely stressful, complicated, and take forever (at least, the various forms of employment-based immigration are – family-based immigration also takes forever, but at least if you apply when you’re already in the country you have some protections). I know Canada’s system is simpler to deal with, and the other countries I know people have who’ve immigrated to (like Germany) also seem to make it much easier (at least for people in the categories they want to accept).

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @shakedown

            If you manage to get in on their points system Canada’s is much looser. Most people admitted to the US wouldn’t have a prayer in another country tho.

          • sharper13 says:

            @shakedown, idontknow131647093,

            Yeah, the bureaucratic process for many other countries is way better than the U.S., but the U.S. has pretty accepting rules in terms of who and how many from various countries are going to be on a long term track to citizenship.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I know “both sides do it” is also a predictable trope, but yeah both sides do it. We just had a flurry of “one year anniversary of that lady getting run over by the nazi” stories. All through the campaign the media hyped stories of “Trump rally violence” because of the hundreds of thousands of people who attended rallies, 2 or 3 wound up punching particularly obnoxious leftists (like the black Trump supporter who punched out the guy whose buddy showed up in a klan outfit).

      Everybody’s going to politicize everything because people understand narrative better than they understand numbers, policy, culture, etc. Since DrBeat is no longer around I will take the opportunity to say “all is lost.”

    • Nootropic cormorant says:

      I’d go with attacking the opponent’s implied solution (after expressing sympathy yadda yadda yadda) as impossible, unlikely to solve the problem and immoral in that order.

      • Is anyone ever convinced by the argument “the thing you want to do that I don’t want conveniently won’t accomplish what you want to do so you shouldn’t try it because we already know for a fact it won’t work”?

        • Thegnskald says:

          Alcohol prohibition worked out this way, but only after it was tried.

          Does that count?

          • At least then there was some kind of experiment we can look at. But telling someone that our half-assed immigration policy implies that it’s impossible to reduce illegal immigration is a hard sell.

          • onyomi says:

            But telling someone that our half-assed immigration policy implies that it’s impossible to reduce illegal immigration is a hard sell.

            It does sound pretty implausible. Are you saying it’s actually impossible for the US to reduce illegal immigration no matter how draconian the government is willing to become?

            Or are you simply saying that reducing illegal immigration won’t reduce crime in the way immigration opponents assume it will?

          • Aapje says:

            @onyomi

            I think that the argument was that it’s a false dichotomy to claim that you can choose between large scale unmonitored illegal immigration or large scale monitored legal migration.

          • beleester says:

            @Wrong Species: I don’t think anyone is saying it’s impossible, just that the President’s chosen policies are unlikely to accomplish that goal, or are likely to have unacceptable costs.

            Saying “it’s our current half-assed policy or full-scale legal immigration” is a false dichotomy, but so is “It’s The Wall or our current half-assed policy.”

        • Nootropic cormorant says:

          Probably, if the implementation of the argument is convincing enough.

          It’s hard to tell either way, since targets of rhetoric are mostly neutrals who will ascribe their opinions to independent thinking rather than specific arguments.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Yeah, I find half-hearted appeals to the supposed benefit of your interlocutor to come across as generally bad-faith.

          It’s like, when a member of one political party writes op-eds saying “If my opponent runs on platform x, he will surely lose!” My advice to the other guy, is that he should probably run on platform x, or at least consider it. Your opponent might…not actually have your best interest in mind.

          • SpeakLittle says:

            I think this tactic is also known as concern trolling. I see it show up in blog comments or internet forums a lot. “This tactic benefits me, but it benefits you more! Promise!”

    • Guy in TN says:

      The conservative man-on-the-street is well aware of murders committed by non-immigrants. They happen every day, and he sees them on the news, constantly.

      So there’s no reason to take his argument in good-faith, when he says “I’m against murder, therefore we should stop illegal immigration”. He isn’t simply uninformed about non-immigrants who murder, or too dim to realize that murders don’t go away when you change physical locations. So you aren’t going to convince him on the object level (“actually he would just murder in Mexico”), because he already knows his object level argument is incorrect. His argument is a bad-faith narrative-building pretext with the end goal of kicking out the immigrants, and he knows it.

      The more pertinent question is, how do we keep people from developing nationalist beliefs to begin with, which underlay the whole ideological divide. Whether members of your nation vs. non-members have the same moral worth, is ultimately the “high-level” disagreement for why he supports deporting the immigrants: he cares less if Mexican people are killed, compared to if Americans are killed.

      It doesn’t have to be like this, nationalism is possible to overcome. No one in Kentucky is calling for a ban on immigrants from south of the border (Tennessee), despite us occasionally driving up north to commit various felonies and misdemeanors. Two hundred years ago, when state-nationality was in full ideological force, this might not have been the case.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        @Guy;
        Your man on the street wants non-citizens deported because he believes they commit crimes [including murder] at disproportionate rates. Ergo deportations lowers the crime rate in his own country.

        There is a “moral worth” question involved here in that the safety of the US citizens are placed before the prospect of the foreign born and their descendants to benefit from US wages and public services.

        There is no thought that there is somehow an obligation of the host country to absorb the sender country’s criminality as an act of charity. The Mexican immigration system absolutely does not think this way. (They view their southern border in relative terms is very similar to the man on the street views his)

        Also remember that immigration, legal or not, is sold as ultimately a benefit for everyone. It’s not sold as “We have to redistribute global criminality and employment because everyone deserves an equal outcome in life” — I think you underestimate the number of people world-wide that are faithful practitioners of egalitarian humanism. Nobody could run on a political platform so transparently.

        As to your last paragraph, people do in fact complain about inter-migration of people across states when that inter-migration becomes a problem, it’s just that this migration usually isn’t as noticeable or impactful. For example, People in NH have a special epithet for people who migrate from Mass. Migration of people from the northern high tax states to southern lower tax states has similar issues.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Your man on the street wants non-citizens deported because he believes they commit crimes [including murder] at disproportionate rates.

          Does it matter that the man on the street is wrong about the sign of the effect?

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            “Your assumptions are empirically false” is pretty relevant.
            I did say ‘Non-citizen’ — I’m practice I should say “Illegal”
            Usually when the debate about illegal immigration and crime is discussed, If it doesn’t devolve into accusations of racism, Legal immigrants or the Naturalized are compared against the whole of US Native born. The former group tends to outperform latter. [especially since they’re very often selected on the basis of performance unlike illegals]
            When Illegal immigrants are compared against US Natives there’s the difficulty in measuring performance of a group that’s trying to stay hidden but most estimates say it’s worse.

            Unfortunately it’s impossible to have honest immigration debates whilst trying to Race from questions of performance in general and crime specifically. A red-tribe might be willing to say that they’re willing to deport illegal mexicans and restrict legal immigration due to the higher hispanic crime rate, but they would be much more hesitant to say the same thing about native born blacks in the US that have a higher crime rate that inflates the US natives numbers and is probably higher than even the illegal hispanic numbers.

      • Nootropic cormorant says:

        As long as one is alive, one will put his existence above the existence of others. As long as America exists Americans will put American lives ahead of lives of non-Americans.

      • Guy in TN says:

        @Nootropic cormorant

        If your comment was intended in the descriptive sense, I would counter that it is possible to change the way people view others. Look at polling of attitudes among whites in regards to blacks over the 20th century. And the US abolishing slavery, with white abolitionists eventually winning not just the physical battle, but the ideological one as well.

        If your argument is that “there will always be a moral hierarchy”, well yes, but we can change what the contours of that hierarchy are, and how steep it is.

        • Nootropic cormorant says:

          Alright, but Whites aren’t a unitary entity that coordinates its actions to pursue its interests unless they organize as such, while United States of America, like individual humans, is, which means it implicitly has to recognize the difference between self and not-self.

          We can change the contours, but what would you change them to?

          • Guy in TN says:

            There’s a lot of daylight between “recognizing the difference between self and not-self” and creating a institutionalized social hierarchy. The state of Tennessee is a thing, but it still has open borders, and accepts all people from other US states as citizens. Advocates for maintaining the existence of the state of Tennessee also aren’t implying that non-Tennesseans are of a lesser moral worth, since state citizenship has more to do with voting and tax jurisdictions than anything else. State-nationalism basically doesn’t exist.

            I want to flatten the contours of moral hierarchy as much as possible.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            I would argue that this is exactly in proportion with the loss of relative power that Tennessee experienced. You have mentioned state-nationality being an active ideological force 200 years ago, I would say that this ideological force was produced by institutional power of states rather than being a primary actor itself.

            I am also not aboard with flattening moral contours. For example I would not wish to flatten the contour around my family or my friends, at least not where it counts.

      • “Overcoming nationalism” is going to be really, really hard. You’re going to have start some kind of propoganda campaign for everyone going to school right now and then either wait for everyone else to die, or somehow coerce people in to the pretense of caring equally for everyone. Even then, there’s no guarantees. Look what happened to Poland after decades of religious repression.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Well yes, it will be hard. But I don’t see how a problem caused by ideology can be overcome by any other way than changing that ideology.

          Without that, you’re left with arguing something along the lines of “actually, Mr. Nationalist, immigration benefits you!”, which has the dual problems of being both disingenuous and probably untrue, for the average working-class American.

          We did it with blacks, from slavery to Civil Rights, and while the project is incomplete, its come a long way. Its the sort of project that takes a decades-long investment by the media and other cultural-influencers, and relies on instilling ideas in the younger generations, while waiting for the older ones to die off.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I have said before that “We are a nation of immigrants” seems like it used to be a universal sentiment.

            But I guess it’s never been universal sentiment that the children of those (old) immigrants would accept these (new) immigrants.

          • @Guy

            Is it specifically nationalism or is it favoring some people over others that you have a problem with? Is it a problem when labor unions accrue some benefits for themselves rather than giving it away to other people?

            @HBC

            “We are a nation of immigrants” is a lot less controversial when there aren’t that many immigrants around and especially when the ones you do have are the highest skilled from around the world.

          • sharper13 says:

            @HeelBearCub,

            “We are a nation of immigrants” worked well. The country as a whole actually used to be a lot more pro-immigrant.

            At one point, some academics decided that a salad bowl should replace a melting pot as the main metaphor for immigration and that immigrants should no longer be encouraged to assimilate. Whatever else you may think of that idea, it’s contributed heavily to immigrants becoming more of the “other”, rather than by the second generation just being another set of Americans who happen to eat funny food more than some people do.

            Unintended consequences and all that, similar to how you don’t actually reduce racism by constantly making everything about race and talking about how important someone’s race is in every news story possible.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Wrong Species

            If we’re going to give some people more benefits than others, then we’d better have a good utilitarian reason. Labor unions exist to transfer wealth and power from the upper class. So while its true that union-less workers could benefit from taking the union-workers money, if they did so it would greatly diminish the power of the union, possibly destroying it, resulting in the upper class keeping more wealth than before. Its an unsustainable, bad trade-off.

            Is there an argument that keeping workers in the Third World poor, will actually transfer more wealth down from the upper class in the end?

          • Thegnskald says:

            GuyInTN –

            Yes, there is.

            Specifically, emigration has a tendency to drain the most productive and entrepreneurial people from a country, resulting in the source country being deprived of a necessary block of citizens, while the recipient country, already far wealthier, gets a bigger boost to it’s relative productivity.

            We had a long discussion a few months ago about a book detailing the problems with meritocracy on a more local level; by removing the best and brightest from the lower classes, you deprive the lower classes of guidance and leaders. This is the same problem on an international scale.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Thegnskald

            Would you advocate for such a policy on the US-state level, for example “people in Detroit should not be allowed to leave”, or “people in Kentucky should not move to California”?

            I understand how the reasoning works, context-free, but the negative unintended consequences of this seem pretty severe.

          • Thegnskald says:

            GuyInTN –

            No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even make the argument with regard to immigration.

            It just annoys me that suddenly everybody has decided being against immigration is coded right-wing. Has the left become reactionary and nobody told me I’m supposed to now just be opposed to the right? The right takes a position, and the left responds by taking the opposite position regardless of what it is?

            I was for immigration before it was cool, dammit.

          • Guy in TN says:

            For what its worth, I think European countries have a strong argument for restricting immigration from Islamic nations, in that the immigrants are changing the values of society in a more theocratic and reactionary way. Which doesn’t apply to the US, where most immigrants are Catholics with very similar social values to ours.

            We’ve got to use our reason to guide us- no one should support immigration simply because the Right is opposed to it, and vice versa.

            Ten years ago, I was a libertarian anarcho-capitalist who supported open borders. Today, I’ve flipped almost every position, with immigration being just about the only position that stayed still.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Yes, there is [an argument that keeping workers in the Third World poor, will actually transfer more wealth down from the upper class in the end].

            Specifically, emigration has a tendency to drain the most productive and entrepreneurial people from a country, resulting in the source country being deprived of a necessary block of citizens, while the recipient country, already far wealthier, gets a bigger boost to it’s relative productivity.

            This actually sounds like an argument that it will go in the other direction – keeping the third world poor will incentivize the third world’s most productive to immigrate to richer areas, which means wealth transfers to the upper class presumably in those areas. Or did I miss some context? (I didn’t see anything obvious upthread.)

            This is very similar to the phenomenon where people flee insurance pools with larger risks to pools with lower risk and commensurately lower premiums. This works out for the people fleeing; if they are themselves low risk, it results in not much changing for the customers in the destination pool, and makes the people in the source pool worse off (since the overall risk is now higher, and now their premiums have to rise).

            To me, one solution in the case of insurance is for the customers in the high-risk pool to adopt the habits of the low-risk customers, to the extent they can, in order to improve their own premiums. Similarly, in the case of immigration, the third world has an obvious interest in adopting the habits of the non-third world to the extent they can*, to be more attractive to productive people.

            *Clearly, Pooritania isn’t going to beat Richistan by just grabbing money from its banana stand and spending that on its own version of Bel Air. The idea is for it to change various underlying practices as it can, capitalize on its real assets such as its people and unique geography, and being willing to wait – possibly a generation or so – for those incentives to kick in.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            For what its worth, I think European countries have a strong argument for restricting immigration from Islamic nations, in that the immigrants are changing the values of society in a more theocratic and reactionary way. Which doesn’t apply to the US, where most immigrants are Catholics with very similar social values to ours.

            This might not be the case, but I’m genuinely not sure. One, I’m not sure they’re predominantly Catholic, and two, even if they were, I don’t believe this makes them particularly more likely to share the social values they need to share.

            US immigrants come from Latin America more than from anywhere else, last I checked, and yes, Latin America is around five sixths Catholic, but this has been changing a lot – there’s a WaPo article claiming Latinos are now about tied with Asia-Pacific. (This is the incoming rate, by the way, as opposed to the demographics of whoever’s already here.) And even about 20 years ago, Latinos were a plurality, but not the majority.

            Meanwhile, Catholic != red-blooded American, in a lot of important social ways. Sharing a religion with the public understandably leads to increased public trust, but most of the US isn’t even Catholic – we’re a salad bowl of several denominations, that all have noticeably different views on job protection, safety regulations, the role of the police and military, education, and health care, among others. And these don’t even correlate that well with religion.

            I see the US has having an unusually diverse attitude toward national issues, and immigration means adding even more diversity, along with the friction that brings. I’m big on open borders myself, but even the staunchest libertarian holds certain values sacrosanct (hell, especially them), and not every immigrant appears to share them as strongly. Being pro-open borders can screw you if it turns out to get you surrounded by people who happen to be anti-, or pro- for very different reasons.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Specifically, emigration has a tendency to drain the most productive and entrepreneurial people from a country, resulting in the source country being deprived of a necessary block of citizens, while the recipient country, already far wealthier, gets a bigger boost to it’s relative productivity.

            This is a very difficult claim to justify. First if the source country has a substantial number of these necessary citizens why is it poor? It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the source country is preventing those people from being productive in their homeland. Secondly people who would be successful entrepreneurs in one country and culture aren’t a perfect, or even a good overlap with those who would succeed in another. Thirdly remittances and information/skill transfers to the country of origin are large. The value of remittances alone is around $140 billion annually, which would be around 60th if it was country as its own county in terms of GDP.

          • toastengineer says:

            Has the left become reactionary and nobody told me I’m supposed to now just be opposed to the right? The right takes a position, and the left responds by taking the opposite position regardless of what it is?

            Yup.

            I’m sure there was a time when it wasn’t like that, but it was well before I was born.

          • Plumber says:

            “Has the left become reactionary and nobody told me I’m supposed to now just be opposed to the right? The right takes a position, and the left responds by taking the opposite position regardless of what it is?”

            “Yup.

            I’m sure there was a time when it wasn’t like that, but it was well before I was born.”

            @toastengineer,

            Well before? 

            You must be young, as even as late as the 1990’s some Democrats in Congress were still to the right  of some Republicans in congress, and some Republicans were to the left of some Republicans, and I absolutely remember when right-wing Democrats (the “boll weevils”) were a significant factor in the 1980’s. 

            And in my parents time a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which current Republicans seem to be against).

            For much of the 20th century the Democratic and Republican parties were more regional than ideological, and typically the majority party in a region was more conservative, so Republicans in New England were more conservative than Democrats in New England, but Democrats in the States of the Confederacy were more conservative than Republicans, and in effect it was a “four party system” with just two parties. 

            The switch started happening after Texan Democrat President Lyndon Johnson championed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and California Republican Presidential candidate Richard Nixon decided on a “southern strategy” of getting votes from conservative Democrats in the “solid south” (as it was then called because they only elected Democrats).

            Strict “party line” votes became much more common after 1994, and have increased ever since as the parties became more ideological.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            I’m big on open borders myself, but even the staunchest libertarian holds certain values sacrosanct (hell, especially them), and not every immigrant appears to share them as strongly.

            My limited understanding of Mexican and Central American political attitudes places them as more socially conservative/economic left-wing than the average US citizen. They are essentially the opposite of libertarianism.

            So, if your interest is in advancing libertarianism in your country, it makes sense, from a rational self-interest perspective, for libertarians to be opposed to this immigration. You see these people, and are like “wait, the values they share are the total opposite of mine, I have less ideology in common with them than my average fellow citizens”. So stopping immigration on these grounds makes sense, if libertarianism is your perspective.

            But! Then we must also say, that people from the communitarian perspective (socially conservative/economic left), in their rational self-interest, would support immigration, based on the ideology of the immigrants alone. They look at the immigrants and say “hey, I have more in common ideologically with the immigrants than I do with my average fellow citizen.”

            I pointed this out a couple of threads ago, that people who support the ideology that immigrants vote for, could support immigration based on this factor alone (i.e., Dems should support them because they vote Dem).

            I got raked over the coals for suggesting it.

        • Plumber says:

          “…Would you advocate for such a policy on the US-state level, for example “people in Detroit should not be allowed to leave”, or “people in Kentucky should not move to California”?…”

          @Guy in TN,

          That sounds like a great idea!

          Outsiders are bidding up San Francisco Bay Area housing far too much, and preventing them from coming here sounds well worthwhile.

      • Aapje says:

        @Guy in TN

        Moral worth hierarchies don’t come from nationalism. They are a basic trait of humanity that you can find at many sub-national levels. People tend give more moral worth to their partner, their children, the rest of their family, their friends, the people they know, people that share their culture/beliefs, etc. In situations of anarchy, you tend to quickly see people turn to and/or develop these hierarchies (which tend to be heavily based on a perceived sense of quid-pro-quo).

        You can find rather obvious moral worth hierarchies in the most anti-nationalist ideologies and people, including those that explicitly claim to fight these hierarchies.

        Getting rid of nationalism at a certain level doesn’t mean that people will automatically start to see everyone as having equal worth. Pre-nationalism at the nation level, people tended to have smaller groups that they were willing to sacrifice a lot for. Nationalism actually expanded this to a far larger group, creating solidarity among people who never will meet. This is a huge achievement that anti-nationalists tend to fail to respect, out of an apparent misguided belief that humans are naturally angels, but fell from grace due to the corrupting ideologies like nationalism.

        People with Utopian beliefs about human nature tend to cause a lot of damage when they try to implement their plans and humans turn out to be mere humans, rather than gods.

        No one in Kentucky is calling for a ban on immigrants from south of the border (Tennessee), despite us occasionally driving up north to commit various felonies and misdemeanors.

        This is not because nationalism disappeared, but because state-nationalism got largely superseded by nation-nationalism. This didn’t merely happen randomly, but was the result of intentional nation-building, reducing state autonomy, as well as cultural convergence by various means (like having a shared language, consuming the same cultural artifacts, etc).

        If you want to create Mexican-American nationalism, there are various ways you can try to do that, but merely telling people that American nationalism is bad is not going to achieve it.

        • I’ve heard a hypothesis that there is some kind of conservation of moral heirarchy. You might have a guy who has a really strong connection to his tribe. Another might have much weaker connection with all of humanity. But there will never be a guy who has a strong connection with all of humanity. So you have two dimensions, number of people and intensity of feelings, and a gain in one means a loss in another.

        • Guy in TN says:

          I was actually considering mentioning the intentional cultivation of American nationalism in the 1800’s, as evidence that “changing people’s beliefs” isn’t the realm of utopian fantasy.

          In this example of course, nationalism didn’t disappear, it simply shifted. This is in contrast to the more interesting racial hierarchy example, where for the U.S. it didn’t just seems to shift (e.g. “blacks are the same as whites now, superior to all other races”), but that racial hierarchy greatly diminished as a general concept. As in, where before the life of one white person was worth many blacks, the ratio is now far more equitable.

          That moral hierarchies always exist, tell us nothing about what those hierarchies out to be, or how steep they ought to be. If we hit biologically driven walls, fine, but you should be careful not to slip into assuming that the hierarchy levels of the status quo must necessarily be biologically-based. Racial hierarchy didn’t work out that way (e.g., its possible for whites not to enslave blacks, and to view them somewhat equally), so I’m suspicious of claims that our current level of nationalism must necessarily be unchangeable.

          • Randy M says:

            Equal moral worth does not mean equal rights or duties with respect to any given person or institution.

          • Aapje says:

            @Guy in TN

            If we hit biologically driven walls, fine, but you should be careful not to slip into assuming that the hierarchy levels of the status quo must necessarily be biologically-based.

            I never discussed biology in my comment.

            Certain cultural differences tend to result in friction between cultures that is real, in the sense that they actually do make people’s lives worse when interacting with people from the other culture rather than people with the same culture. It is unsurprising that people then make choices that make their life better.

            It also seems pretty clear that many people have a tendency/desire to align their culture with skin color or other traits and/or to be able to quickly judge what culture other people belong to based on those traits, which is very unfortunate. That automatically means that reduced solidarity along cultural lines has a tendency to become reduced solidarity along biological lines (note that this is not a claim that the cultural differences are caused by biology, but merely that they can correlate).

            Various solutions to this:
            Ethnostates so each ethnic group fucks off to their own nation, where they can make their own laws that the other culture dislikes.
            – Segregation, where some shared culture allows for coexistence in the same state, but other cultural mismatches are handled by sticking mostly to your own cultural group
            – Mutual enemy that is worse than the other cultural group, so you can come together in mutual hate
            – Cultural integration, like through intermarriage, education and such

            What tends to not be so effective is to pretend that serious cultural differences that do exist, don’t exist.

          • – Mutual enemy that is worse than the other cultural group, so you can come together in mutual hate

            Ronald Reagan once joked that world peace would be easy to solve if we spotted armed alien ships on an intercept course with Earth.

            I am fine with human nationalism in opposition to an alien force. I accept the inevitability that humans will attach to some sort of “tribal” identification.

            The thing the Right does realize is that we are already daily being conquered by an alien force. It is called “Capital” or “The Law of Value.” It is an optimization algorithm with mechanical tendencies (I wouldn’t say “goals” because that implies self-conciousness) that are orthogonal to human well-being…in some ways incidentally improving human lives like never before, but in other ways setting humans up for alienation, stratification (to an extent that humans will instinctively find repugnant—we can tolerate a little bit of inequality based on demonstrated prowess, but I think you can give up on asking people to be content with having 0.001% the wealth of another mere human), and financial crises that are out of their control. The main point is, no human is in control.

            Some people understand that Capital is an increasingly omnipotent AI algorithm, but are OK with it because they think it is an analytically-proven Friendly AI. But most people don’t fully comprehend that no human is really in charge (or else they wouldn’t blame each problem or crisis in the world on “human greed” or “this bad actor,” etc.), and they would, I predict, rally together with other humans of all nationalities in order to place our human affairs (including our economy) under conscious human control if they fully understood how outside of our control it is right now…just as much as if we were threatened with takeover by a corporeal alien force.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @CitizenCokane

            There’s a Tumblr post, probably swiping from somewhere else, pointing out that the historical experience of mysterious, powerful foreigners showing up, is that some locals think “brilliant; I’ll get these guys onside and then defeat my old rivals!” Had aliens shown up in the middle of the Cold War, presumably one of the superpowers would have tried to cut a deal with them.

      • idontknow131647093 says:

        To me it appears that nationalism in its stronger and more dangerous forms is more reactionary than active. You don’t get Fascism without Communism threatening to takeover in Italy. You don’t get The Immigration Act of 1924 without 40 years of low skill immigration and the threat of political machines in big cities.

        So probably the best way to tamp down nationalism is to slow the roll on the things that really perturb them. Basically, if you want nationalists to go away, stop poking them. Its kind of the opposite of what you do with a bully. A bully that gets punched in the face will stop bullying you, but if you see a nationalist movement and decide to triple immigration, remake the welfare state, and launch a bunch of “peacekeeping” missions, you will not beat them down, you will make the movement ever stronger until its a huge majority.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        The more pertinent question is, how do we keep people from developing nationalist beliefs to begin with, which underlay the whole ideological divide. Whether members of your nation vs. non-members have the same moral worth

        Lets simplify the situation. I as a citizen of the USA have a right to the country due to my citizenship. This is a kind of property right/ownership of the whole country. Its a tiny bit but it is there. All non-citizens of the USA do not have this ownership because they lack citizenship. I assert that all non-citizens have no right to enter the country unless given permission, to enter without permission is “trespassing”. I also want is what is best for “my property”, thus I am not going to let anyone onto “my property” unless they either a) have a right to be there or b) will provide a net positive for “my property” while there.

        With the above framework, I think anyone who “trespassed” should be removed from “my property” and that I should only allow people to come that will be a net positive and be able to remove them from “my property” if I expect them to become a net negative. This says nothing about the moral worth of citizens vs non-citizens. Also, with this framework, it is good faith to argue that we should end illegal immigration on principal. It is also good faith to argue that the crimes committed by all non-citizens while in the country make them a net negative on the country so we should decrease the number that come here.

        While this line of reasoning is very nationalistic, I don’t see any comment in it about assigning citizens vs non-citizens different moral worth, they simply have different property.

        • Guy in TN says:

          I also want is what is best for “my property”, thus I am not going to let anyone onto “my property” unless they either a) have a right to be there or b) will provide a net positive for “my property” while there.

          What is your moral justification for this? Why is it that you think you should be able to deprive people of benefits, just because they don’t have ownership in a property? It seems like you have just shifted the moral worth question from whether they are members of your nation, to members of your collective property.

          Of course, right now you have the legal right to keep immigrants out. But lets not confuse the normative with the descriptive. My argument is that you shouldn’t have that legal right, and I intend on voting for people who will take that right away.

          • albatross11 says:

            Guy in TN:

            I predict that you will have a very difficult time convincing a majority of voters to go along with that idea.

          • Teeki says:

            I’m not sure what your moral system is, but I can take a shot:

            If we assume
            A) There is benefit in being on a property
            B) The property was created by someone
            C) The benefits are zero-sum, or the squatter damages the property

            Then squatting on the property without permission is stealing from the owners. Are people morally justified to want policies that stop thieves from stealing from them?

            You can break the assumptions by arguing that “letting immigrants onto your property is good for you” but you’ll have to damn convincing. Otherwise, you’re forcing people to give up on what they earned, but isn’t that also immoral?

          • veeloxtrox says:

            I assumed that you would agree that people should be able to do what they want with their property. Do you really think that I should let the homeless guy on the corner drive my car if he wants to? I agree that all people ought to have food and clothing and shelter but I am hesitant to confiscate property to provide for those things. I have even bigger problems when we start infringing on rights for other reasons.

            Thinking a little more about your original question. A person has a right to do with the produce of their work as they see fit. This includes passing it down to others after they die. The nation is the collective work of all previous citizens and is passed down to all current and future citizens. While some consideration should be given to the benefits the USA has gained from immoral behavior in the past, there is a long way from, the USA has done bad things to a lot of people and every person should be able to be a citizen of the USA. You seem to be advocating for that outcome.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Teeki

            Otherwise, you’re forcing people to give up on what they earned, but isn’t that also immoral?

            Why is that immoral? We do it all the time with taxation and such. If the state can give you property rights, then the state can take them away. I don’t see why the distributing them would moral, but then redistributing them would be immoral.

            @veeloxtrox

            I assumed that you would agree that people should be able to do what they want with their property. Do you really think that I should let the homeless guy on the corner drive my car if he wants to?

            I’m not a libertarian, so that would be a definite “no” as to whether you should have ultimate control over your property.

            The homeless guy shouldn’t drive your car, but that is only because you presumably use it to get to work or school, or something else socially useful. If you tell me that you keep your car in a garage 24/7 and don’t do anything with it, then the homeless guy should take it. That would serve the greatest social utility.

            A person has a right to do with the produce of their work as they see fit.

            What is the relationship to labor and property? Not much, especially when you consider inheritance, interest, gains from capital ownership, welfare, ect.

          • Jiro says:

            What is your moral justification for this? Why is it that you think you should be able to deprive people of benefits, just because they don’t have ownership in a property?

            This argument applies to one’s house, car, and bank account as well as to owning a share in the country.

            I concede that if you are a radical Marxist who wants to redistribute my home, car, and bank account, you would consistently want to redistribute the country as well. I don’t think that helps you much, though.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            That would serve the greatest social utility.

            Is maximizing social utility your terminal value? If so we are going to disagree because I think people have inherent rights, so of which should never be infringed regardless of how much society would benefit.

            What is the relationship to labor and property? Not much, especially when you consider inheritance, interest, gains from capital ownership, welfare, ect.

            Property is the product either directly or indirectly of labor. Inheritance is someone giving you their property after they die. Interest is someone paying to borrow property. Capital gains is when your property is worth more than it previously was, often times because you took risks with your property. Welfare is when the government takes someone else’s property and gives it to you. All of those had to start with property which was stored labor.

          • Guy in TN says:

            All of those had to start with property which was stored labor.

            The homestead principle is not actually how the initial acquisition of property was historically determined (most of it was already being “homesteaded” by Native Americans). So pointing to homesteading as a justification for actually-existing property rights, only makes sense in a hypothetical reality that is not ours.

            Regardless, even on the merits, this labor-centric argument doesn’t make much sense. Is a plot of land my “stored labor”? How about a tree, or a mountain? It seems to me property has a lot of value that is not actually labor in a box. This surely invalidates ownership of all unimproved natural resources, at least.

          • Teeki says:

            @Guy in TN

            Why is that immoral? We do it all the time with taxation and such. If the state can give you property rights, then the state can take them away. I don’t see why the distributing them would moral, but then redistributing them would be immoral.

            I see taxation as a necessary evil and want it to be way lower. I see taxes as an attempt towards utilitarianism, but the inefficiency of the state hedges against that effectiveness.

            What is the relationship to labor and property? Not much, especially when you consider inheritance, interest, gains from capital ownership, welfare, ect.

            The relationship between labor and property is that you must sacrifice labor (time, life and comfort) to gain property. Inheritance is the parent who has spent their life on property giving it to the person that they want to give their earnings to (I see no reason for why a parent shouldn’t be able to work on behalf of their children.) Interest and capital ownership are rewards from risking what you put in, you could potentially lose it all or you could gain a little. Welfare is a complicated beast I’d rather not fight in a comment section.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Teeki

            The relationship between labor and property is that you must sacrifice labor (time, life and comfort) to gain property. Inheritance is the parent who has spent their life on property giving it to the person that they want to give their earnings to (I see no reason for why a parent shouldn’t be able to work on behalf of their children.)

            Your first sentence states that in order to gain property, you must sacrifice labor. Your second sentence says that people can gain property, because someone else sacrificed labor.

            So you gain property ownership through sacrificing labor, except for when you don’t?

            I would also like to point out, like I did with veeloxtrox, that the homestead principle isn’t historically how the initial acquisition of property went down. Assuming we are talking about real-world, actually existing property rights.

          • Teeki says:

            @Guy in TN

            Your first sentence states that in order to gain property, you must sacrifice labor. Your second sentence says that people can gain property, because someone else sacrificed labor.

            I should’ve been more careful in my wording. My point is that either you have to sacrifice labor, or someone who has has to sacrifice labor for you. The key here is that the transfer of labor or property is consensual.

            I would also like to point out, like I did with veeloxtrox, that the homestead principle isn’t historically how the initial acquisition of property went down. Assuming we are talking about real-world, actually existing property rights.

            You’re right, historically the colonization usually lacks the consent of the natives, but the fact that these things happened in the past does not make it okay now. I would like to posit two questions:

            Would it be morally wrong for my country to invade liberate Kuwait or Venezuela of their oil because we could make better use of it?

            On a less macroscopic scale, many of my friends are unwealthy immigrants who are working to save up for their first house or car. Do you think they should not be entitled to their property when they eventually save up enough money to make the purchase?

          • Guy in TN says:

            You’re right, historically the colonization usually lacks the consent of the natives, but the fact that these things happened in the past does not make it okay now

            Whether the initial acquisition was based on labor or not, doesn’t factor into my preferred property framework. I don’t bring colonization up to justify any particular polices of mine. Rather, if I am understanding you, you are justifying property owners having absolute control over what they own, under the logic that initial acquisition was based on labor. So I’m pointing out that this is not actually so, with colonization being the evidence. The initial acquisition of real-world property was not based on sacrificed labor.

            See, I don’t really care whether someone’s property was initially acquired via labor or not- my proposed property framework is utterly ambivalent about that historical question. But then again, I’m not using the “labor passed down” theory to justify anything.

            Would it be morally wrong for my country to invade liberate Kuwait or Venezuela of their oil because we could make better use of it?

            I think it it would be wrong, because the unintended consequences of warfare would surely outweigh the benefits of your country making better use of the oil. In an extremely hypothetical situation where invading another country created no other consequences (no dead people, no erosion of international norms or treaties, no loss of global stability), and if the other country really could make better use out of it in a utilitarian sense, then sure. “Ownership” is just a legal fiction we invented to create stability and orderliness, and it can be disposed of there’s a more pressing need.

            On a less macroscopic scale, many of my friends are unwealthy immigrants who are working to save up for their first house or car. Do you think they should not be entitled to their property when they eventually save up enough money to make the purchase?

            They should be legally own it, yes. But it should still be taxed, regulated, and even have the possibility of being confiscated, if the state determined that there was a a stronger utilitarian end it could serve. That they labored for it, isn’t a trump card that defeats all other concerns.

          • Teeki says:

            @Guy in TN
            I see, I think I have a good grasp of your framework now. Thank you for answering

      • Deiseach says:

        No one in Kentucky is calling for a ban on immigrants from south of the border (Tennessee), despite us occasionally driving up north to commit various felonies and misdemeanors.

        That’s possibly because if a Tennessean commits a crime in Kentucky, they can be arrested for it without Tennessean Rights activists popping up claiming this is racism and unfair and inhuman. If Tennesseans could cross into Kentucky, commit crime, and not be imprisoned either in Kentucky or Tennessee, I think you might get calls for a ban or border controls.

        EDIT: Using the criminal Tennesseans example only because it was the one given; this is not to be taken as me claiming all illegal immigrants are actually criminals going to commit crimes once they get over the border.

        • rlms says:

          Are people arguing that the murderer in this case should not be imprisoned (apart from perhaps his mother)? If not, what is your point

        • Guy in TN says:

          I think you are confusing causality here. There’s no Tennessee Rights Activists, because there’s no indication that Tennesseans are being targeted.

          Unlike with immigrants, where we have ICE, Border Patrol, and a president and political party that have made them the central focus for the past two years, and a tiered legal system for citizens and non-citizens. I’m pretty sure the uptick in immigrant rights activists are in response to all this, not the cause of it.

      • veeloxtrox says:

        Going to reply again because I would like to know your opinions on the matter.

        Each year, how many people would you like to enter the USA?
        What conditions, if any, should be placed on allowing these people entry?
        How long should these people be allowed to stay?
        What conditions, if any, would be grounds for a person’s forced removal from the county?

        • Guy in TN says:

          Going to reply again because I would like to know your opinions on the matter.

          Sure. Just to warn you, I am far to the left of most people on this site.

          Each year, how many people would you like to enter the USA?

          As many people should enter, as who want to enter. If the crowds become large to the point that it is unsafe for the migrants, we can start to limit it, at least until they are able to disperse throughout the country. There’s plenty of space in the US, that’s not really a concern.

          What conditions, if any, should be placed on allowing these people entry?

          They must be free of foreign diseases that aren’t in the US. People with Ebola get sent back.

          How long should these people be allowed to stay?

          They can all become US citizens, if they want to, instantly and free of charge.

          What conditions, if any, would be grounds for a person’s forced removal from the county?

          If they needed to be extradited for crimes in another country, where they would be on trail.

          • Thegnskald says:

            They must be free of foreign diseases that aren’t in the US. People with Ebola get sent back.

            This, to me, is the major dealbreaker with illegal immigration, and I am constantly surprised by the fact that opponents of illegal immigration don’t bring more attention to it.

            Immigration should be conditional on both medical tests (potentially followed by quarantine) and vaccinations. If governments were sending some of the people to the US that are crossing illegally, I suspect it might be classified as biological warfare.

            Mind, I am in favor of dramatically simplifying/increasing legal immigration, both permanent and visa-based.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What about public services? Open borders could work for ancapistan, or could work if there was an international push to equalize standards of living worldwide. I suspect your preference is for the latter, and to be honest, in the medium-to-long term standards of living need to be equalized somehow (and it would be better to do that by design than by some disaster reducing everyone to a lower or at best unimproved standard of living). But given the current status quo – developed countries with public services, social safety nets, etc – how do you reconcile that with open borders?

            Further, sparked by this and something I saw you post elsewhere – what would happen if there were no “national” (I want to say state, but that gets confusing because of American nomenclature) borders, but neither was there free internal movement? Example: anyone can enter the US, but will be assigned residence in a sparsely-populated part of the country.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            So you are the radical open border liberal Fox News has warned me about /s

            But on a serious note, thank you for taking the time to reply. Part of why I like this site so much is getting exposed to viewpoints that are so foreign to me.

            With such an open borders mindset, do you think we should just abolish the idea of nations and just have one world government? Or do you think we should have different nations with free movement between them?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Immigration should be conditional on both medical tests (potentially followed by quarantine) and vaccinations. If governments were sending some of the people to the US that are crossing illegally, I suspect it might be classified as biological warfare.

            There is no logical reason to stop with immigrants here. Any person who has traveled outside of the US could be a vector for bringing in a contagious disease, why not require every citizen who travels abroad to undergo medical screening on reentry?

          • baconbits9 says:

            What about public services? Open borders could work for ancapistan, or could work if there was an international push to equalize standards of living worldwide.

            The expensive public services can be restricted (conceptually) easily. Most of the rest can be paid for either with point of use or related use taxes (ie roads and tolls or gas taxes).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @baconbits9

            How can expensive public services be easily restricted?

          • Guy in TN says:

            @dndnrsn

            But given the current status quo – developed countries with public services, social safety nets, etc – how do you reconcile that with open borders?

            Its true that the resources that would go to the comparatively wealthier, would instead be going to the less wealthy, resulting in the wealthier seeing a drop in the benefits the receive, and the poorer seeing an increase. This doesn’t “destroy the social safety net” as some claim, but instead makes the safety net operate more effectively, in helping those who need it most.

            Further, sparked by this and something I saw you post elsewhere – what would happen if there were no “national” (I want to say state, but that gets confusing because of American nomenclature) borders, but neither was there free internal movement? Example: anyone can enter the US, but will be assigned residence in a sparsely-populated part of the country.

            Its not ideal, but it could be necessary. Especially for refugees who show up with nothing, they have to be assigned to live somewhere (they are certainly not going to be buying property or renting anytime soon), and so assigning them to rural areas makes sense. I would imagine that high property values would push most of the immigrants (who are comparatively poorer than current US citizens) into less densely populated areas anyway. The idea that the “urban center” being the landing place for the poorest migrants doesn’t seem to make sense in a 21st century context.

            @veeloxtrox

            With such an open borders mindset, do you think we should just abolish the idea of nations and just have one world government? Or do you think we should have different nations with free movement between them?

            Different nations with free movement. There’s value in having governments that are tied to a geographical population (e.g., the government of Alaska should be people who live in Alaska, and understand the issues facing Alaska). There’s also the “laboratory of democracy” idea, that having different nations trying different sets of laws can help us determine which ones work and which ones don’t, rather than accidentally implementing bad laws as a blanket approach.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ dndnrsn

            Most of them already are. Education in the US is restricted by residency, you don’t get to go to any public school you choose to, and even those that have choice and busing generally have mechanisms to select the number of people in each spot. Social security requires that you pay social security taxes for a minimum period to qualify for retirement benefits.

            The only large one that is potentially tricky is national defense, and on that count generally speaking having a larger population aids in the defense itself, as does having strong relationships with out countries which is also often cited as a benefit to broad immigration.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Its true that the resources that would go to the comparatively wealthier, would instead be going to the less wealthy, resulting in the wealthier seeing a drop in the benefits the receive, and the poorer seeing an increase. This doesn’t “destroy the social safety net” as some claim, but instead makes the safety net operate more effectively, in helping those who need it most.

            In the short term, with unlimited open borders, there would be severe strain on public services, wouldn’t there? Medium or long term, who knows, but in the short term serious crises are best avoided – crises are the best chances for the seriously bad guys to get into power.

            Its not ideal, but it could be necessary. Especially for refugees who show up with nothing, they have to be assigned to live somewhere (they are certainly not going to be buying property or renting anytime soon), and so assigning them to rural areas makes sense. I would imagine that high property values would push most of the immigrants (who are comparatively poorer than current US citizens) into less densely populated areas anyway. The idea that the “urban center” being the landing place for the poorest migrants doesn’t seem to make sense in a 21st century context.

            The US has plenty of small-to-medium cities in places where you can build in 4 directions, which would be ideal for newcomers. However, there would presumably be a lack of services in foreign languages, which a larger city is more likely to have. Presumably there would be more demand for foreign language services, but would immigrants generally have enough money?

          • albatross11 says:

            If someone has returned from a place with an ebola outbreak, I think it might be reasonable to impose a quarantine on them, regardless of citizenship.

          • alef says:

            > There’s also the “laboratory of democracy” idea, that having different nations trying different sets of laws can help us determine which ones work and which ones don’t,

            I think you’ve limited the power of this laboratory a lot. A state can’t decide to socialize the cost of cancer treatment unless everyone else does so, else every cancer patient in the world turns up upon diagnosis and demands their instant citizenship (for the duration of their illness – if things go sour they will try to re-citizen near the last moment to a state that allows euthanasia and/or has low inheritance taxes ).

            Arguably, this pressure exists (though generally less acute, unless you are a real outlier) for almost other social transfer scheme – healthcare, education, retirement, unemployment, taxation, and so forth – your laboratory can’t experiment (or even maintain) anything far upwards of the mean because of adverse selection. You end up with everyone having a fairly minimalist state, which would please a lot of people here but maybe not you (?). Pn might say, well there’s another equilibrium – everyone has a maximally generous, redistributive state. But whatever that might mean, how do you stop defection – MY state will stop funding cancer treatments (and reduce the tax rate correspondingly) since the patients have so many places to go if they get ill (and maybe, we’ll give you first-class tickets too).

            TL;DR – I don’t see how your ethical beliefs could play out in anything other than a most uniform global state. Which perhaps is a good idea,
            but against the democracy-lab suggestion.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @alef

            It appears to me, at least, that your argument against laboratories of democracy being viable for certain social welfare policies is indistinguishable from an argument that they are bad policies. A good policy would not typically be fragile to adverse selection problems. Indeed, ideally it would be anti-fragile wherein concentrating all the cancer patients would improve the system.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Arguably, this pressure exists (though generally less acute, unless you are a real outlier) for almost other social transfer scheme – healthcare, education, retirement, unemployment, taxation, and so forth – your laboratory can’t experiment (or even maintain) anything far upwards of the mean because of adverse selection. You end up with everyone having a fairly minimalist state, which would please a lot of people here but maybe not you (?).

            Unsustainable fiscal policy cuts both ways, you are only looking at one side here. If a state offers a tax break for a certain group of people, and has free immigration, then it could theoretically attract an unsustainable number of those people, more so than the state can provide services for (schools, roads, ect), and it could become destabilized. Just like the pressure to keep states from going too far with social spending, this is pressure to keep state from going to far with tax cuts.

            So you can’t say that the pressure would be on a minimal state developing, but instead the pressure is not to deviate too far from the mean.

            So what of the laboratory then? Look at the US states- there is quite a bit of variation in laws between them, including taxation and social spending, yet they are able to maintain free immigration between them. This is possible because of the inherent costs involved in moving. I can only imagine that the costs involved in moving to a new country would be significantly greater.

    • Plumber says:

      “I’m sure you have heard of the death of Mollie Tibbetts by an illegal immigrant…..”

      @Wrong Species,  Nope, not until your post.
      I heard about the shooting of Kathryn Steinle case which I’m guessing is somewhat similar, but that trial was in the building that I do most of my work in.

      “….Of course, the right has been using this to bludgeon the left, who’s defenses have been pretty unconvincing. There’s the banal(“don’t politicize this”), the predictable(“this is a problem of toxic masculinity”) and the ridiculously tone deaf (“If he hadn’t killed her in America, he would have killed someone in Mexico, and that’s just as bad”). If you say something about how one death is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things you sound callous. So how should they respond to the issue?”

      By “they” I assume you mean “the left”?

      I’d suggest not responding at all to the case, and instead concentrate on promising things that poll well (good jobs and free stuff), I’m not sure what “the right” wants but promising other stuff that polls well (not actually paying for free stuff?) is the best strategy as well.

      The only snaggle that I see is that for at least 30 years Republicans have been promising  to work for”Protecting the lives of the unborn”, and Democrats have promised the union jobs of the mid 20th century, but instead Republicans have delivered tax cuts for high incomes, and Democrats have delivered legal gay marriage, both of which were only supported by a minority of Americans, so seeing that promises are seldom delivered fewer people bother to vote anyway.

      So I suppose instead promising that you’ll prevent some great evil from happening that you say the other side will do if they’re elected may be the best strategy. 

      And here we are!

      • Yaleocon says:

        Relevant aside: we don’t have a “low taxes, low spending” party and a “high taxes, high spending” party. We have a “low taxes” party and a “high spending” party. When a Democrat gets asked “How will you pay?” the best answer is a non-answer; the same holds when a Republican is asked “What will you cut?”

        Enshrine this in policy and, well, here we are.

        • Plumber says:

          “Relevant aside: we don’t have a “low taxes, low spending” party and a “high taxes, high spending” party. We have …
          ….Enshrine this in policy and, well, here we are.”

          @Yaleocon,

          Well said, I stand corrected. 

    • Garrett says:

      Given the way the left reacts to anything involving mass shootings, I see no reason not to return the favor. Generally, they’ve had the advantage of narrative on their side. (Think of the children!) Now that it’s on the other foot, the only fair thing to do is respond with salvos in-kind.

      • Plumber says:

        “Given the way the left reacts to anything involving mass shootings, I see no reason not to return the favor. Generally, they’ve had the advantage of narrative on their side. (Think of the children!) Now that it’s on the other foot, the only fair thing to do is respond with salvos in-kind”

        @Garrett,

        You may know the answer to this:

        Since currently “the right” is against restrictions on gun possession, and “the left” is against restrictions on immigration, and since I think both guns and immigration should be restricted, so both of those policies seem like bad ideas to me, which tribe do I belong to?

        I know I can’t be Scott Alexander’s “Grey Tribe” cuz I’m no Tech worker libertarian, so how do I decide if I’m “Blue” or “Red”?

        By cultural markers I drive a pickup truck for my work as a plumber, and I usually drive my wife’s Prius when she insists that I drive on the weekends (which is most weekends).

        I prefer beer to wine, but I seldom watch any sports if my sons aren’t playing.

        • shakeddown says:

          Probably centre-left – A surprising number of people on the left are either pro-gun or ambivalent (I’ve been in Democrat activist spaces where “we should have more pro-gun candidates” was a common assumption).

          • Plumber says:

            “Probably centre-left – A surprising number of people on the left are either pro-gun or ambivalent (I’ve been in Democrat activist spaces where “we should have more pro-gun candidates” was a common assumption”

            @shakedown I’ edited the post to make it clearer:

            I’m pro restrictions.

            I like restrictions on guns and I like restrictions on immigration.

        • Nootropic cormorant says:

          How do you feel about Trump? Have you considered voting for him out of spite?

          • Plumber says:

            How do you feel about Trump? Have you considered voting for him out of spite?

            @Nootropic cormorant,

            Out of spite?

            No.

            Trump’s infrastructure and protectionism promises seemed appealing, but the man just seemed like a typical boss to me, and when I learned that he stiffed the contractors who built his casinos that sealed the deal against him.

            The only candidate who seemed to me to remotely understand working class life in the 2016 presidential election was Jim Webb, but he dropped out early.

            When the Republicans are in power they vote for tax cuts that close post offices and military bases in my area, and wirhin two years there’s less median wage jobs, not more

            When Democrats get in power they vote for a stimulus that simple arithmetic says should be creating many jobs for the cost than it does

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            I think I’ll put you down as “Blue tribe for another cycle of betrayals” then.

          • Plumber says:

            “I think I’ll put you down as “Blue tribe for another cycle of betrayals” then.”

            @Nootropic cormorant,

            If you mean “Vote for unions and get gay marriage instead” I guess your right.

            I’m tired of voting for whomever I guess is going to let things get worse slower, I’d like to vote for things improving for a change. 

            As far as I can tell, except possibly for “Obamacare” which may be a marginal improvement over the previous status quo (but also bakes in billions of dollars to administrators instead of nurses) for the 50 years of my life it’s been a steady slide into libertarianism/plutocracy (tax cuts and legal recreational dope) and away from the broad prosperity of the middle of the 20th century.

            The 21st century looks like tents all over the sidewalks and it smells like marijuana and urine, and I hate it.

            If a libertarian is someone who likes legal dope, low taxes, and “right to work” laws, what do you call someone who hates the smell of pot, wants billionaires taxed out of existence, is very pro-union, thinks the legality of abortion and minimum wages should be up to each individual city and county, employers of illegal immigrants should be jailed, high school should be abolished, and 15 year olds go into trade apprenticeships and community colleges instead.

            What’s my Party?

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            I hope that Democrat establishment gets discredited enough so that an unyielding pro-labor politician a la Corbyn can take over, although I don’t follow American politics close enough to say how (un)likely that is.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:

            What’s my Party?

            At the risk of taking a flippant question seriously…

            You’d need to move to a country where they have a representative parliamentary system. Everything about the US system (from first-past-the-post, individual candidate, district-by-district voting to a separately elected chief executive) pushes coalitions to form before elections, rather than allowing them to form within the legislative body.

            And that means you are pretty much going to have two parties and any votes for other parties will be wasted.

            So, you have to (a) pick the candidates who seem closest to your view, and (b) try and change one of the parties to be more to your liking via organizing, primary voting, etc.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Plumber

            I prefer to think in terms of a cultural left/right and an economic left/right, resulting in four possible groups.

            You seem to map pretty clearly to cultural right/economic left. The word for this is “communitarian”, which is essentially the opposite of libertarianism. Its traditional values + an economy focused on helping workers.

            As I’m sure you have noticed, your group is pretty homeless in US politics. I would say Bernie Sanders would be the closest match, only because he tends to focus on unions and economic equality, and shies away from cultural issues (which he is still probably too far to the left for you on).

            I’ve got a lot of respect for your position, and I teeter towards it myself on occasion. I think the Dems need to stop talking about trans, gender, and abortion issues, and get back to helping the working class, like they did in the New Deal.

          • Jiro says:

            high school should be abolished, and 15 year olds go into trade apprenticeships and community colleges instead.

            If the existing high schools were renamed “community colleges for 15 year olds” would you be satisfied?

          • Plumber says:

            ^

            “If the existing high schools were renamed “community colleges for 15 year olds” would you be satisfied?

            @Jiro,

            If the existing high schools are like mine was, absolutely not.

            I almost think the Tudor era apprenticeship system would be better.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          I’d say you are red tribe or at least closer to (based upon your Jim Webb comment later I feel this doubly). I don’t think its possible to be remotely anti-immigrant and be accepted in the blue tribe ATM, and Jim Webb was basically excommunicated for saying he killed a guy in Nam.

        • gbdub says:

          You seem like a Red(ish) Tribe Democrat.

        • Plumber says:

          @shakedown,

          @Nootropic cormorant,

          @HeelBearCub,

          @Guy in TN,

          @idontknow131647093,

          @gbdub,

          Thanks your comments guys, you’ve helped me label myself, as “Communitarian” sounds better than “Whatever is the opposite of ‘fiscal conservative’ ‘social liberal’ ‘moderate'”.

          My views of economics are “Things were better in the median hourly non supervisor wage adjusted for inflation was highest” that is February of 1973, which I guess makes me “left”.

          My views of the “culture war” is “too little, too late, if your going to fight cultural changes the time to do it was in the 1970’s when my and the majority of my classmates parents divorced, the ‘culture war’ of today reminds me of Civil War reenactments”

          That parents no longer stick it out “for the sake of the children” seems to me the worse cultural change of my lifetime. 

          I suppose that makes me on the “cultural right”, but as far as I can tell both sides of the “culture war” waste time on edge cases (who gets to use what restrooms, and nonsense with pronouns) instead of what was the actual big and harmful cultural change of the last 50 years, and I really do despise both sides for ignoring the real issue, which was that a whole generation was abandoned while their parents ingested narcotics and “found themselves”.

          To me the extreme individualism of the “cultural left” and the “economic right” are a common poison. 

          I really do feel without a tribe.

          Oh, for what little it’s worth, I took the political typology quiz, and while instead of “selecting the answer you agree with more”, I mostly selected what I disagreed with less (since I disagreed with most of the answers), the quiz said I was a “Disaffected Democrat” which seems about correct, but unsatisfying.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You are holdover from when “Union” and “Democrat” were two descriptors with lots of overlap. Unions have lost the commanding strength they had once upon a time, for a large number of reasons, but automation and relatively cheap, quick transport being two big ones. Plus it’s tough to unionize brand new economic fields, and the 90s forward has brought a lot of that. I have relatives in IL you are all union carpenters.

            I presume you don’t think alcohol is the scourge you think pot is?

          • Plumber says:

            ^

            “….I presume you don’t think alcohol is the scourge you think pot is?”

             @HeelBearCub,

            You got me there.

            Intellectually I know alcohol is just as bad (if not worse), but emotionally Pot repels me in a way that alcohol doesn’t. 

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:

            Intellectually I know alcohol is just as bad (if not worse), but emotionally Pot repels me in a way that alcohol doesn’t.

            I suppose, to some extent, for a cultural traditionalist, people who smoke pot are signalling that they don’t care about the cultural rules. But then again, alcohol use (and cigarette smoking) seem to be used in ways to signal that you aren’t beholden to certain cultural rules.

            I think this is just further evidence that acculturation is complex and semi-permanent. There are certain rules, they make sense to you, you learned them much earlier in life from the (micro) culture in which you matured, and absent some forcing event, those are the rules you will stick with.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Given the way the left reacts to anything involving mass shootings, I see no reason not to return the favor. Generally, they’ve had the advantage of narrative on their side. (Think of the children!) Now that it’s on the other foot, the only fair thing to do is respond with salvos in-kind.

        Here’s a reason: new people are entering the political foodfight by the day. Clean slate; virtually no impression of political history yet. Thousands of them walk in right as you’re using a short-term emotional argument to justify immigration reform. They assume that’s a norm, and use it the next time there’s a school shooting. Result: you’ve just strengthened the gun control side and the norm of using appeals to short-term emotion.

        This probably isn’t going to work in your favor since you cannot possibly ensure your side always has the squeakiest wheels.

    • shakeddown says:

      The way to react is to ignore it, because nobody’s arguing it in good faith. The goal is to minimize the time we spend on deliberately stupid arguments, not try to pretend people reasoned themselves into them.

      • Yaleocon says:

        This is almost certainly the right way to react from the perspective of an individual. But if you’re going to be governed by people who care about anecdotes, what good is your virtue?

        You may not be interested in pathos, but pathos is interested in you.

  11. Hoopyfreud says:

    Surprising some, OpenAI has failed to win a 5-man game of “normal” DotA 2 against humans. I think that this was more-or-less expected among people who have some level of comfort with both ML and DotA.

    If I can be forgiven for the analogy, this almost seems like an “evolutionary breakthrough” problem. ML, as far as I can understand, is not very good arriving at paradigmatic shifts through internal competition, as it really just has to luck into them, and often the “surviving” variants of the algorithm are simply those that are best at the dominant strategy. Regardless, this seems like an inefficient way to learn. Is there any work on getting ML systems to generate strategies like “gank” or “avoid taking five-man fights” being done, especially for strategies that leverage elements which must be applied strategically rather than tactically in order to increase fitness? That is, are ML systems good at developing strategies which are orthogonal?

    Obviously you can use classification techniques to identify unique clusters of winning strategy elements, but I believe that the “internal learning only” approach that most game playing AIs seem to be using right now is “bad” at *creating* clusters without external data. Right or wrong?

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I think you’re right with respect to ‘most game playing AIs’, but AlphaZero seems to have that kind of strategic creativity at chess and go. DeepMind is now working on StarCraft, so stay tuned!

    • beleester says:

      You usually teach an AI a specific tactic by giving it an intermediate reward for doing that, but that risks skewing your data. If the AI values killing a hero or taking Roshan over defending its Ancient, you’ve got a problem.

      OpenAI also wrote an interesting article about learning by mimicking a human replay. That could definitely open up some options, if you can just say “This is what a textbook gank looks like” and then have the AI use that technique, but I’m not sure if they’re far enough along to apply that technique to DOTA.

      That said, their AI was on training wheels less than a month ago, so I wouldn’t read too far into this. It’s possible they just need to iterate on their current strategy a little more.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Regardless, this seems like an inefficient way to learn. Is there any work on getting ML systems to generate strategies like “gank” or “avoid taking five-man fights” being done, especially for strategies that leverage elements which must be applied strategically rather than tactically in order to increase fitness? That is, are ML systems good at developing strategies which are orthogonal?

      Just throw more GPUs at the problem. /s

      Seriously though, there doesn’t seem to be much innovation in deep RL applied at scale. OpenAI Five is even less innovative than AlphaGo Zero, which had the interesting and novel interplay between the neural network and the tree-search algorithm. OpenAI Five is little more than a out-of-the-box vanilla LSTM trained in parallel on a ton of episodes.

      • Teeki says:

        I think you’re looking in the wrong place. Give OpenAI’s architecture to another group and I doubt they’ll be able to produce the same results. OpenAI did not change the limitations of LSTMs, they built tools to debug LSTMs which allowed them to converge for difficult problems.

  12. theredsheep says:

    Since somebody else brought up that Hugo controversy, how is the Broken Earth series? It’s gotten rave reviews from the NYT, but it’s also gotten rave reviews from people I know who have, uh … well, the kind of people who like The Golden Compass, or Kameron Hurley. They’re very nice leftists, really, but I don’t want to read a tract for somebody else’s religion. It’s at the library right now, I could just pick it up next time I visit.

    • Thegnskald says:

      The Golden Compass: An elaborate morality tale detailing the issues with the concept of Original Sin as causing lots of personal suffering of individual people as some sort of outside-enforced punishment for an ancient transgression against the natural order, which ends by declaring that a specific ancient technological innovation is a grave transgression against the natural order responsible for all metarelevant moral suffering in the universe – an end which directly causes the grave personal suffering of the characters we spent the trilogy with. Broadly, it is basically the story of right-wing religious original sin being replaced with left-wing naturalist original sin.

      Which is to say, it is either remarkably clever, or remarkably stupid.

      • Lillian says:

        Curious as to what the specific ancient technological innovation is that transgresses against the natural order is.

        • Thegnskald says:

          ROT13 for spoilers, but basically a specific kind of magic that everybody has forgotten about but which polluted the metamoral fabric of reality.

          Zhygvirefr geniry. Vg xvyyf natryf naq pnhfrf creznarag fbhy-qrngu nf na raivebazragny fvqr-rssrpg.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s been a while since I read it, but that’s not how I interpreted the book. I thought the issue was a utilitarian one (and probably cooked up more for plot reasons than philosophical ones)–I don’t recall it being described as “against the natural order” or “responsible for all the suffering”. It was just a macguffin that sbeprq gur punenpgref gb znxr n crefbany fnpevsvpr sbe punenpgre tebjgu ernfbaf.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The “Excuse to wrap up the plot” interpretation is the “Author is stupid and didn’t think through the implications” interpretation.

            The author doesn’t use the argument structure I just used – the author just uses an in-universe authority figure to declare that this is the case – no argument made, this is just the way things are. Which is also a little bit of an ignorant reversal of the thrust of the books.

            It is just a little ironic.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I mean, I didn’t love the third book for a lot of other reasons, so “was reaching for a melancholy ending to wrap things up” definitely fits my model of how Pullman wrote the book.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            @Eugene– That’s precisely what bugged me most about the series, that load of by-the-way-I-just-remembered cosmology which Pullman shovels in near the end to get the bittersweet ending he wants. I don’t particularly mind if the gun that’s on the mantelpiece at the start of the play never goes off, but I mind very much if a stagehand comes rushing onstage in the middle of the final act to put the gun on the mantelpiece so it can then be taken down and fired.

          • Randy M says:

            Sounds like a fun improv game, though.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Randy M –

            I recommend trying Everyone Is John. It often plays that way.

          • Deiseach says:

            that load of by-the-way-I-just-remembered cosmology which Pullman shovels in near the end to get the bittersweet ending he wants

            Heh, I thought it was more his editor going “Phil, we can’t really end this on twelve year olds fucking” “No?” “Yeah, it’s going to be a kid’s series” “So?” “Parents will have a fit!” “That’s the entire stodgy repressive religious attitude – ” “Phil, NO” “Okay, okay, I’ll Romeo and Juliet it instead, that do you?”

      • theredsheep says:

        Okay, I didn’t actually ask for people ranting about The Golden Compass, but as my wife points out, if I didn’t want that, I shouldn’t have brought up The Golden Compass in the first place. So why not.

        What mostly bugged me about the series (yes, even more than the whingy humanism) was the contempt for verisimilitude; he just shoves crap in because he likes the sound of it, and doesn’t think about how it fits in with the rest of his world. Fb, gurer ner jvgpurf va guvf jbeyq. Jung qb gurl qb? Jryy, zbfgyl gurl fbeg bs fperj nebhaq hc abegu hagvy gur cybg pnyyf sbe gurz.

        Gurer ner nezberq cbyne ornef gbb–juvpu vf bqq, fvapr gur fcrpvrf vf cevznevyl ndhngvp–naq jung qb gurl qb? Zbfgyl gurl fbeg bs fperj nebhaq hc abegu hagvy gur cybg pnyyf sbe gurz. Fbzrubj, bar bs gurz pna cybj evtug guebhtu na nezl bs penpx zrepranevrf nezrq jvgu ercrngvat evsyrf, rira gubhtu ornef arrq gb erne hc n ovg gb nggnpx naq gur fgbel fcrpvsvrf gung uvf nezbe qbrf abg pbire uvf oryyl. Cbffvoyl guvf vf orpnhfr gur vqvbg zrepranevrf fraq gurve bja fbhyf va jbys sbez gb nggnpx ng zryrr enatr, fb gurl pna’g fubbg gur orne jvgubhg xvyyvat rnpu bgure.

        Gurer ner xvqanccref jvgu n frperg cyna gb xvqanc enaqbz puvyqera bss gur fgerrgf bs n qrafryl cbchyngrq pvgl, unhy gurz gubhfnaqf bs zvyrf gb gur abegu, naq qb tehrfbzr guvatf gb gurz va na rkcrafvir vafgnyyngvba ohvyg va gur zvqqyr bs n ubjyvat jvyqrearff. Guvf vf abg npghnyyl irel frpergvir, naq gurl unir frphevgl ubyrf gb gur rkgrag gung crbcyr unir n fynat anzr sbe gurz onfrq ba gur anzr bs gur betnavmngvba–ohg abobql xabjf gur anzr vgfrys. Gurer ner nyfb tnatf bs Gnegne fyniref va guvf jbeyq, jub nccneragyl ebhgvaryl fangpu puvyqera naq npghnyyl nggrzcg gb noqhpg gur urebvar, ohg abobql rira guvaxf bs gurz jura puvyqera fgneg qvfnccrnevat.

        Naq gura lbh unir gur Dhnaghz Ibbqbb Unve Obzo sebz obbx guerr. Tbq fnir hf sebz gur Dhnaghz Ibbqbb Unve Obzo. Anyway, that’s enough griping for now.

        EDIT: Whoops, didn’t ROT13

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Hmmm….I liked the witches and the armoured bears in book 1; it’s true I read the book for the first time when I was 14 so maybe that plays a role, but I enjoyed the way he managed to insert fantasy elements into an at-first realistic world.

          The stuff from book 3 felt not just like it didn’t make sense, but that it wasn’t cool either; somehow, I thought the weird touches in book 1 contributed to the atmosphere in a way that worked, even if I found them surprising or jarring. In contrast, a lot of the stuff from book 3 just felt ridiculous.

          I really loved book 1 though, so maybe I should check out Broken Earth? I nearly bought the first one for a flight recently, but decided I hadn’t heard enough about it and didn’t want to commit myself to a series without having a better sense of whether I would enjoy it.

          • Deiseach says:

            I wanted to love the witches and I did right up until I ran head-first into the ‘sex positive’ “if you don’t want to get killed, you shouldn’t be prudish about having sex” crap he pulled.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Heh, that’s reversing the standard horror trope (the couple which has sex dies first, often enough in flagrante delicto).

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I haven’t read it, but Jemisin can definitely write. Her short story L’Alchimista (no relationship to Coelho’s work) is one of my favorite stories ever, and can be found here: http://escapepod.org/2006/01/25/ep038-lalchimista/

      Note that this is from before Escape Pod got non-audio rights, so the text is preview only, but the audio’s all there. Valedictorian is more recent and has full text:, but I *do* like it less. Here: http://escapepod.org/2014/06/16/ep450-valedictorian

      Also note that if conscientious inclusion triggers you, her work is not likely to be well-received; that said, they are good stories in their own right IMO.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I started the first book. It seemed well-written. But it starts with a deep dive into the mind of a mother whose three year old daughter was just beaten to death by her father, and… I want to be clear. It was well-written. It was not itself inhumane. There is nothing wrong with enjoying art that depicts the consequences of horrible acts. I have enjoyed other books that depict other horrible acts and their consequences. My reaction is not moral, but personal.

      But I couldn’t really continue, it was just not pleasant to read, for me.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I was able to continue past that, but then a character’s teacher? mentor? deliberately broke her hand on a saddle to find out whether she had enough self-control to not use her magic while under extreme stress, and that was past my limit.

        I may take another crack at the books, but it will only be because looking at them as symbolizing mistreatment of black people will give me some distance, which I think is not what was intended. It won’t be as though it was my hand on the saddle, or at least not as much.

        • theredsheep says:

          Based on these comments, I will probably check it out, but not with particularly high expectations.

    • AG says:

      I mean, The Golden Compass by itself is a good yarn. POLAR BEAR DUAL
      Even the The Subtle Knife isn’t bad, though as a sequel it’s annoying because I wanted more of Lyra.
      But yeah, Amber Spyglass just pissed all over the potential the first two book set up. It’s like a bad JRPG.

      I haven’t read Broken Earth, but Ozy loved it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Heard everyone raving about His Dark Materials, tried reading the second book first (because it was the only volume in the library at the time) and struggled through to the end, disliking it more and more.

      The religion-bashing stuff was tedious and indeed a bit ignorant but the sort of thing I’d expect from someone of his background. I liked some of the minor characters but intensely disliked Lyra, but what really turned me completely off the universe was the murder of Will’s father – a witch wanted to be his lover, he said no (being married and not wanting to commit adultery and also not being interested) and later she murders him for vengeance, and we’re supposed to be on her side for this? (I so badly wanted to like the Finnish flying witches, then Pullman gives me this mess of ‘if you refuse sex, you deserve to be killed’ instead).

      So having finished the book, I said “no” to any more of the trilogy, and Pullman’s other books have not tempted me either.

      • theredsheep says:

        I thought that guy died because he spent too long in a world other than his own? At least, that’s what he said in the third book. Maybe that was retconning or something.

        (can you live with having missed the Quantum Voodoo Hair Bomb AND the Ambiguously Gay Angel Duo from the third book?)

        EDIT: No, he was just prematurely old because of the other world thing, I misremembered. Hooray for Wiki, I guess. Anyway, yeah, the whole series is fairly inane and the world poorly constructed, though Pullman is a good storyteller given the bad material he inflicts on himself.

        • Deiseach says:

          can you live with having missed the Quantum Voodoo Hair Bomb AND the Ambiguously Gay Angel Duo from the third book?

          I can congratulate myself on having dodged those bullets 🙂 Pullman had some good ideas but his ideology got in the way (rather ironically, as he wanted to write an anti-Narnia in protest about Lewis’ preaching), but his own preaching kept tripping up the story as far as I was concerned so I was “well they may be the Evil Church and they do indeed seem to be evil but dammit, the ostensible Good Guys aren’t any too much better, so it’s the Evil Church for me!”

          (The ex-nun character made me glad she was an ex-nun because she was too wishy-washy for the religious life and I was “thanks, Phil, for taking her off our hands!”)

          Honestly, what was the whole point of setting up the New Eve and the Serpent and the Second Fall when the climactic revelation out of all this that was going to overthrow all of society in Lyra’s and other worlds was “stay in school, do your homework, brush your teeth, go to bed early, and work hard”? About as challenging as Jordan Peterson’s “clean your room and smarten yourself up”!

          Also the “We’re gonna build the Republic of Heaven! Except that we can’t meet each other any more because that would be the end of the universe, so having gone to Literal Heaven and overthrown God we’re, um, just going to leave it there so” part was weaksauce.

          • theredsheep says:

            I never did quite get why she sided with her parents against the Church, given that her parents were the two adults who had hurt and lied to her the most.

            Also, Metatron goes down the same way as Mickey Rooney’s racist Japanese landlord character from Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

            METATRON: Miss-a Gorightry! I take over universe, you die now!
            COULTER: Really? If I vamp at you, you might have second thoughts …
            METATRON: Oh-ha-ha-hahaaaa! That very niceAAAAA! (falls into bottomless pit and dies)

            If only Metatron hadn’t been the first, last, and only dictator in history who never used his power to get laid, he could have resisted the attack. But because Pullman wanted a prudish villain undone by the sensuality he decried, we got a really daft ending for a villain who never quite makes sense in terms of the story’s internal logic.

          • Deiseach says:

            But because Pullman wanted a prudish villain undone by the sensuality he decried, we got a really daft ending for a villain who never quite makes sense in terms of the story’s internal logic.

            I think Pullman fell between two stools: he pretty much based Metatron, the Authority and the rest on Gnosticism, and Gnosticism is Good because it’s opposed to orthodox Christianity, which is Bad (see the Evil Church in the trilogy) – this is the trendy Gnosticism of the “alternative Christianties” and high end perfume ads.

            But since Gnosticism is religion, it is also Bad and has to be done away with, hence Mrs Coulter and the kids being able to do away with universe-level powers. The sex thing is ridiculous, of course, but that’s Pullman’s hobby horse (the transition into adulthood from childhood is the transition from innocence to experience and sexual awakening is the big sign of that) plus the pop-culture notion that put a spiritual being into a physical body and it will be seduced by the pleasures of the flesh, hitherto unknown and unexpected (see Wings of Desire or Castiel in Supernatural or the series Lucifer, where the Devil is just this misunderstood guy with Daddy issues who only harms really bad people and begins to grow’n’change’n’love humans as he gets to know them, and sin is not even on the radar – sin is bad things like racism, of course, but since only the bad people commit sin and Lucifer punishes them, then our favourite devil isn’t a homophobe or a racist or anything bad that we might have to condemn.
            Granted, it’s based on the Neil Gaiman works so it’s not the conventional Devil and that has to be taken into account. Just once I’d like to see a “spiritual beings are not humans and even being in a body is not going to make them human; would you rejoice at becoming an ant with all the limitations of an ant after being human? Angels and demons are strange, and will not go all “ooh I can haz cheeseburger? forget eternity and the unthinkable sensory abilities I had where the very strings of creation were visible and knowable to me, this is better than anything!” character, though I realise TV shows and movies have to make their characters ‘relatable’ to grab audience interest and even Vulcans and androids get turned into faux-Humans to make that possible over the course of a show. I really would love an “spiritual entity now embodied” character where the show pulls the “heh, now you can have teh smexy, right?” by the human characters and it replies “I have known joys and ecstasies in communion with the Beatific Vision compared to which your sexual pleasures even at their height and most passionate and transcendent are but a gobbet of tepid spittle to the raging power and overwhelming majesty of your planet’s greatest waterfalls, so no, teh smexy is honestly not even approaching the outskirts of the neighbourhood of temptation”).

            I don’t get Lyra either but Pullman seems to be doing an “evil, be thou my good” here (he admires Milton) – Lyra is a fluent liar, which is presented as an admirable trait; she gets reassured when she discovers Will is a murderer; other elements where conventional morality is turned on its head. So I suppose “my parents lied to me and are doing pretty shitty things” just makes them really good people in Lyra’s reverse morality book!

    • Baeraad says:

      As someone who couldn’t get through the whole first book:

      It’s quite well written. Full marks for that. It’s also amazingly whiny. It’s basically one long orgy of “look how mean everyone is being to me for being sparkly and special and wonderful! And after everything I’ve done for them! FEEL SORRY FOR ME, DAMN YOU!!!”

      I dislike that sort of thing very intensely, so I threw the book away. If you have a higher tolerance for it, you may enjoy it, though.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It’s tempting for me to think so– it looks like a deal with the Devil. You get what you think you want, but it makes you miserable.

    • Well... says:

      That’s pretty funny. But I wonder how common increases of 666% in things are, since that basically just means six seven and two thirds times the original amount? It’s easy to measure when something has increased by multiples of 100%, since you just look at when it doubles (100% increase), triples (200% increase), etc. And it’s easy to divide things into thirds, so it’s also easy to measure when things increase by a third (33%) or two thirds (66%) .

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      That’s not all!

    • Deiseach says:

      On the one hand, yes it’s ridiculous money for basically a vanity project and could more usefully go elsewhere.

      On the other hand, how effin’ cool would a full Soviet-style May Day Parade – only done good old USA style – be?????

      My God, I’m so easily seduced – shiny kit and neatly pressed uniforms marching in rows and KEWL FIGHTER PLANES NYOOMING BY OVERHEAD 😀

  13. RalMirrorAd says:

    What’s the best research that you guys know of on proximate/ultimate causes of healthcare cost increases (Generally and/or in the US specifically)? Data heavy arguments preferable to deductive ones.

    Some economists blame insurance companies. Insurance companies seem to blame hospitals, Hospitals (occasionally) blame having to cover the cost of people that don’t have their own insurance. I read one fairly long paper that essentially blamed all of it on the fact that people with more money simply spend more on healthcare. [log linearly]

    • John Schilling says:

      Health care increases since the 1970s are, in percentage terms, fairly uniform across the developed world. The United States started at a higher baseline, due to things like paying doctors twice as much as everyone else and building hospitals with private rooms, but the percentage increases have been similar elsewhere. So we’re not looking for anything associated specifically associated with insurance companies (or, flip side, national health services) that are influential only in some markets.

      My guess would be that advances in medical technology have made it possible to do more and thus spend more, and increasing politicization of the health care debate have made it impossible to do much less than the maximum.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Would that then refute the notion that single payer can suppress cost disease?

        • John Schilling says:

          If there is something that can suppress cost disease, and that thing doesn’t require market competition, then a single payer system might be able to implement it easier than a system that has to coordinate across many entities. But it seems pretty clear that the simple fact of single payer, with the usual mandate to provide first-rate health care without paying too much, does not in fact suppress cost disease and looks good mostly because the most prominent examples started with low baselines.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Health care increases since the 1970s are, in percentage terms, fairly uniform across the developed world.

        I’m not saying this is not true, but can you give some sort of citation?

        • John Schilling says:

          My preferred link is dead, but this covers much the same ground. US health care cost growth is within half a point of comparable countries in every decade except the 1980s, where the US saw 10.1%/year while the rest of the developed world averaged 7.0%. No indication of why that temporary discrepancy occurred.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If you look at the line graph, it seems to tell a much different story than the “bucket” graphs. Yes, healthcare spending is climbing (as a percentage of GDP) everywhere, but the trend line slope of the US is steeper than elsewhere.

            It’s the flat part in the 90s that looks like an anomaly (that might be measurement error given what the straight line from 1993 to 2003 looks like).

          • John Schilling says:

            The absolute slope is steeper because the absolute slope is scaled to the baseline, and that graph doesn’t normalize.

            US health care spending was 0.062 of GDP in 1970, rest of the developed world averaged 0.049 GDP. If the US and rest of the world had exactly the same growth, in percentage terms, as the rest of the developed world, the slope would for the rest of the US would be everywhere 27% steeper than the rest of the world.

            In absolute-dollar terms, or absolute-fraction-of-GDP, yes, cost growth in the US always has and always will have a greater absolute growth per year than the rest of the developed world. That’s what the same relative growth from a higher baseline means. Every year, the US and rest-of-developed-world both figure out how to throw an extra [X] doctor-hours at every patient. Same X for both, but US doctors have always been paid more and nobody has ever proposed changing that.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            But measuring it versus GDP does normalize it, does it not? Healthcare is consuming a larger and larger fraction of our whole economy. That’s not a “we started with a bigger baseline in nominal dollars” kind of mistake.

            What you seem to be saying with your last paragraph is that the reason for the discrepancy is that US healthcare employees as a whole (short handed as Doctors, unless you really mean it’s only people with MDs) having outsized salaries compared to the national average is the reason, but that both the US and the world are growing “hours spent” (as a fraction of all hours) at the same rate.

            That’s a persuasive line of thinking, but something there strikes me as incorrect. I don’t think we would apply that kind of thinking elsewhere, but I’m not sure I can for a coherent counter argument.

            If that is the case, something is keeping US doctor salaries high (or non-US doctor salaries low). So it still makes sense to say we are growing faster.

    • dodrian says:

      I’m not sure if What Makes the US Healthcare System So Expensive is the long paper you were referring to, but it makes a big case that there’s no one factor to the US healthcare expenses (not insurance profits, not doctors salaries, etc etc), and that a large part of it is that people with more money spend more on healthcare.

      I think the dimension missing in this paper ( and I’ve almost never seen it fully studied) is that the US is much more rural than pretty much any other country.

      Sure, Canada has places that are more remote than anywhere in the US, but most Canadians live in big cities. It’s hard to find like-for-like statistics, but it appears that the US is pretty rural, in terms of having a large percentage of citizens that live outside big cities (oddly enough it appears to be similar to Germany in that respect). I would really love to see statistics like “percentage of population more than 5 miles from a doctor” or something, I’d bet the US is a big outlier in that regard.

      I think that this translates to over-provision in healthcare – as more services need to be duplicated in rural communities, since it’s much harder to drive long distances for important treatments. I’d love to see a proper study of it though.

      • massivefocusedinaction says:

        The US massive rural population is impressive, it’s equivalent to something on the order of the entire population of Italy not living in urbanized areas.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I think the dimension missing in this paper ( and I’ve almost never seen it fully studied) is that the US is much more rural than pretty much any other country.

        Is there any reason to be convinced this is a major driving factor? Understandably some services might need to be duplicated. But this ignores that, in many cases, the services simply are not duplicated, particularly since so many rural Americans are poor or uninsured. So sure, trying to give rural people a city level of care would be dramatically more expensive, but we don’t make that policy choice and therefore don’t pay those costs.

        • dodrian says:

          I’m not necessarily talking about people out in the sticks, more about how spread out communities are outside of the coasts. Communities of 5000-25000 [lower-]middle class people, which if they were a suburb would probably have a genreral practitioner, pharmacy, and urgent care clinic, as a town miles away from anywhere else will have a hospital, complete with ER, labor and delivery, dialysis unit**, surgery, etc etc. On this (incomplete) list of hospitals in Texas there are a number of facilities (especially those with ‘county’ in their name) which serve <10k people. Apparently Seton Smithville Regional Hospital provides a variety of services for a town of less than 4000 people.

          It’s possible that I’m way off base here (with my numbers, health care prevalence understanding, premise, or something else), and the reason why nobody every talks about it is to anyone doing that research it’s blindingly obvious that it isn’t a factor, but I’d really be interested in seeing studies to illuminate or correct my position.

          Some things that might indicate this over-provision of services: Average wait times would be much lower in the US than other countries, physicians/person/gdp would be higher, etc. I’m not sure where to find those numbers in a way that’s easy to compare.

          **This may be a unique need in America driving up costs, though Western Europe isn’t that far behind

          • Garrett says:

            Hospitals are weird. There’s a wide range of levels of care available. Though the fix cost (basic building and diagnostic equipment) is largely fixed, a lot of the operating costs are based on staffing.

            Looking at the mentioned Seton Smithville Regional Hospital, it seems to have very little in terms of what they have on-site. For reference, the ER I avoid taking people to because they have “nothing” available on-site has 2 trauma bays and 20 private rooms in the ER. Usually only a single doctor (a mid-level for high-demand times). Seton has … 2 private rooms in the ER, 1 of which is equipped as a trauma bay. Also, “Regional” implies that they provide service not just to the town itself, but to the greater area.

            Services I would expect to see at a low-end-but-significant hospital would be at least one of:
            * PCI/Cath Lab
            * Labor/Delivery
            * On-call general surgery

            This has none of these. The only thing of note is their “Cardiopulmonary/Respiratory Care” which isn’t something I recognize as a delineating a specific thing. It might be “real” but just outside of my knowledge domain. Or it could be a respiratory therapist and EKG tech M-F, 9-5.

            The way this works is that the hospital arranges transfer agreements with bigger hospitals (probably in Austin and/or Houston) for cases with any significant degree of severity. So if someone comes in with a heart attack they will be driven (probably) or flown (possibly) to a more comprehensive hospital. This way the outlying hospitals can handle the low-acuity cases close to home while providing straight-forward access to comprehensive facilities when needed.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          But [the service duplication factor] ignores that, in many cases, the services simply are not duplicated, particularly since so many rural Americans are poor or uninsured.

          This sounds correct to me. However, that might still be reflected in higher costs overall, if the services which aren’t duplicated were preventative treatments. So, people out in the sticks might not travel an hour each way to get some checkup, but instead just cope with whatever’s wrong until it gets too irritating to ignore, by which time it costs five times as much to fix.

          Unfortunately, this might be even harder to measure than average distance from relevant care facility.

      • Telemythides says:

        The U.S. is not an outlier in rural population . Only slightly higher than Canada and less than most of the big EU countries.

        • rlms says:

          Percentage rural population is possibly less relevant than percentage further than x hours travel from a major city, which I bet is higher in the US than in the EU by virtue of size differences.

        • dodrian says:

          What rlms said, and for example: according to those statistics, a community of 3000 people would be considered urban, even if it was 50+ miles away from any other population center. I’ve driven through plenty of those types of towns in the Mid&Southwest. Those communities might not be considered rural, but they’re certainly isolated.

          One statistic I’ve seen measured is ‘average travel time to nearest ER’, which unfortunately are never collected in the same way country-to-country, but I’ll guess it’s a lot higher in the US than most other countries. And while I’m certain Canada has a few communities that are more remote than anywhere in the US, I’d be willing to bet there are more people living in those types of communities in the US.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            There are yet other confounders. OTTOMH, some ERs are certainly better than others, so you might have to figure out some way to rate ERs and then compute average time to ER of at least B rating or something. And then some ERs are probably specializing in certain treatments – more burn clinics in CA, more geriatric services in FL, etc.

            Which reminds me of another confounder: Americans get sick in different ways than other Westerners. One of those charts presented by TIE had two pretty noticeable blips, for malignant melanoma stage IV, and prostate cancer stage I. (There’s a third, but McKinsey not only renamed the link, I think they let that graph link rot, so I can’t tell what it is.)

      • ana53294 says:

        I think that over-providing healthcare in rural areas is very difficult, especially in a country that doesn’t allow foreign doctors such as the US. There was a story about a New Zealand doctor’s practice that was offering a salary of 400,000$, and nobody was taking it – because it was in the middle of nowhere.

        The biggest problem rural areas have to offer healthcare is not so much money, as the fact that doctors are unwilling to move to those areas (at least in Spain).

  14. Machine Interface says:

    A random topic I am interested in: groundbreaking, amazing or just quite interesting technologies, technological innovations or inventions that nonetheless became obsolete and/or were phased out surprisingly quickly.

    A major serial killer in this domain is the digital electronic computer, which was responsible for the disparition of an astounding number of contraptions, some of which had only existed for a few decades.

    The typewriter is an obvious example. Invented in the 18th century, but first commercialized only in 1874, by the early 1990s they had all but been phased out in western countries — and the invention of the electronic typewriter, which integrated a simple word-processor and the possibility to “store” and correct sentences before actually printing them, did little to stop desktop computers. In the 2010s, many historical typewriter manufacturers closed door or ceased to make typewriters, although they still see some use in some developing countries.

    The fax machine had a much more dramatically short run: the first proper fax machine (using a telephone line) was commercialized in 1964. Fax machines were ubiquitous in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Yet by the turn of 21st century, they had all but been phased out by internet data transmission in most western countries (although Japan continues to uses them extensively).

    Mechanical computers, and notably mechanical calculators, simply couldn’t keep up with the miniaturisation afforded by electronical components, even though some of them were truly impressive engineering fits. The most notable example is the Curta, a mechanical pocket calculator barely bigger than a pill bottle that could handle additions, substractions, multiplications, divisions and other functions over 11 digits for the latter models. They were produced from 1947 to 1972 (the inventor, Curt Herzstark, came up with most of the design while jailed in the Buchenwald concentration camp), although they continued to see niche use by sport car rallie contestants and airplane pilots well into the 80s.

    For a good period of time, analog computers (computers that deal with continuous data rather than discrete bits), both mechanical and electronic ones, were actually better than digital computers at various tasks, but the latter quickly closed the gaps and eventually took over.

    One of the simplest analog computer, the slide-rule, was invented in the 17th century based on the work of John Napier on logarithms (although those might have been independently discovered 3 centuries earlier by Thomas Bradwardine but this is another story). The use of slide-rules was ubiquitous among students, scientists, engineers, airplane pilots and many other technical activities, until about the mid 70s, when the advent of scientific electronic calculators put a brutal end to them (I still have the slide-rule my father used as a student, when he went to school in the 50s), although a specialized form of the slide-rule, the flight computer, remains in widespread use in the teaching of pilots.

    A much more complex form of analog computers saw widespread use in the military, in such applications as gun directors, gun data computers, and bomb sights. The first motion-control photography system ever used in cinema was actually an anti-aircraft fire-control system repurposed by John Whitney, almost two decades before the first digital motion control cameras were used in Star Wars (in the meantime, 2001: A Space Odyssey, had used a simpler system where the innerworks of the camera were mechanically coupled with the moving rig, so that the same movement could be reproduced at the same speed multiple time)

    While by the 60s digital computers were taking over in most areas, some specialized domains like synthetic-aperture radars remained dominated by analog computers well into the 80s.

    Electro-mechanical instruments are another example of relatively short lived technology that however had a significant impact.

    They were made possible by the invention of the magnetic pickup, a permanent magnet wrapped in a coil of fine copper wire, which produces a faint electric current when an object made of ferrous metal vibrates close to it, essentially acting as a highly selective microphone; the signal can then be ran through an amplifier.

    The one of these instruments that is still widely used today, and the impact of which doesn’t need a demonstration, is the electric guitar (and its cousin, the electric bass), but there used to be a whole family of instruments using this same basic mechanism, most of which were actually keyboards, and many of which were iconic parts of the sound of various popular genre of music.

    The clavinet was to the harpsichord what the electric guitar was to the accoustic guitar. It ressembled a small piano, and pressing the keys would actually raise a plectrum that would pinch and release a steel string, the vibration of which was then recorded by magnetic pickups. Because it only had a few strings, each which was actually serving multiple keys with the use of dampers, it was more of a melodic instruments and wasn’t really adequate to play chords. It had a very recognizable sound that can be heard in many pieces of funk, soul and rhythm and blues (as well as in Led Zeppelin’s “Trumpled Under Foot”).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7CY6aJtegc

    The Fender-Rhodes piano worked used hammers to strike not strings, but steel reeds. It was used quite frequently in rhythm and blues, jazz, and was also often used by Ray Manzarek of The Doors.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNX_34JQ1nU

    However, the most interesting of these instruments, from a design standpoint, was likely the Hammond organ. Conceived as a cheap alternative to pipe organs for small churches, the Hammond organ used a unique mechanism to produce sound (although it might have been used some decades earlier on a one-of-a-kind experimental instrument known as the Telharmonium) — to produce sound, dented steel wheels known as “tonewheels” were made to rotate in front of magnetic pickups, at different velocities — the magnetic oscillation would correspond to a specific frequency and thus generate a tone. This meant that as each wheel was only making one fundamental frequency, multiple sets of wheels were used to enrich the sound through additive synthesis.

    The resulting setup was highly configurable and huge variety of different sound textures could be achieved. This was easily one of the most complex musical instruments ever built. It was quickly diverted from its intended religious purpose and became an important instrument in jazz, rhythm and blues, reggae and rock – notably progressive rock.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pi_gwED-gQw

    The advent of synthetisers, samplers, and a bit later of digital sound simulation pretty much sealed the fate of these instruments, which were often heavy, cumbersome, delicate, maintenance-heavy and hard to tune. Although, while the underlying technology has disappeared (again, outside of electric guitars), the specific sound they produced still live inside of sample banks and digital simulations.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      On typewriters: Perhaps the only remaining uses for typewriters in the West are US prisons, where it is a way of ensuring inmates’ letters can be read by censors without having to trust them with a computer, and the NYPD, who recently signed a contract for new typewriters because it was cheaper than phasing out their carbon paper forms. Although a friend did buy one at university after a supervisor insisted her essays be typed- she had previously handwritten them to avoid the urge to keep endlessly revising them.

      On analog computers: perhaps my favourite example is MONIAC.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      I was going to mention Lord Kelvin’s differential analyzer and tide-analyzer, though I believe these work on the same principles as the fire-control systems you mention (apparently one of the earliest uses after the tide analyzer was a fire-control system for the navy).

    • bean says:

      A much more complex form of analog computers saw widespread use in the military, in such applications as gun directors, gun data computers, and bomb sights.

      Yes! These are the coolest things. Seriously, the sophistication of these systems is staggering. The last ones didn’t leave service until the 90s.
      Obligatory links to my favorite system, and lots more links there to sources on this stuff. I really should blog about those more going forward.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Adding machines!

      All they could do was add and multiply. At first they were purely mechanical, and then they were partly electric. (I thought they could also subtract, but wikipedia claims not.)

      When I was a kid (1960s), my father was a CPA and had two of them at home. They were pieces of capital equipment.

      And then rather suddenly, everyone had calculators.

    • CatCube says:

      My nominee would be closely related to both the slide rule and the analog computer–the nomogram. It’s not quite as dead as those two, with isolated examples hanging on in a few places.

      Nomograms are sets of printed scales arranged to solve a particular equation when you draw a line between them. The basic form is three parallel scales, where if you plot the value of two variables on their respective scales and draw a line through them to the third scale, the line will land on the value of the third variable that solves the equation.

      These were used for complex equations during the latter days of the slide rule, because they were faster and less error-prone. The example nomogram on the Wikipedia page is for the equation T=(1.84S+4.66)^0.37*(1.21R)^(4/3). On a slide rule, raising something to the 0.37 and 4/3 powers was certainly possible, but was a source of imprecision in the calculation, and the whole thing required the computer (job title, not machine) to both record the intermediate answer properly and not make a mistake putting it back in for the next step. Dropping a ruler on a page was much less likely to cause a screwup. However, now you can just put that whole equation into your calculator, or into Excel, and get an answer out to any degree of precision you like.

      I actually like nomograms, and will use them for basic design decisions when they’re available. You can visually see what direction a particular variable will take when you change other things, and you can get a sense of magnitude for the change. “Oh, when you make a small movement on this scale, that will cause a large movement on that scale, where this other variable won’t cause nearly as much change. That means the first variable affects the result much more strongly.”

    • dndnrsn says:

      Fax machines still have one good purpose: dealing with big institutions, especially the government. Stuff submitted online can “disappear” and so can registered mail (even, mysteriously, when the post office says the letter was signed for!) but if you fax something to some government agency, your insurer, whatever, you’ll have the confirmation printout indicating it reached them.

      • pontifex says:

        If the post office says that the registered mail reached the intended recipient, isn’t that legally binding? It seems more official than a confirmation printout from your personal fax machine or office fax machine.

        Now I’m really curious. What cases have you had, or heard of, where the government lost registered mail and then tried to argue it wasn’t their responsbility?

        • Deiseach says:

          What cases have you had, or heard of, where the government lost registered mail and then tried to argue it wasn’t their responsbility?

          Can’t give examples of that, but can from experience say about three (3) separate mailings of the same invoices to be paid, which the person on the other side claimed they never got, and I’ve just sent the same lot a fourth time. Very strong suspicion that the other person doesn’t want to pay these (for reasons I can’t go into due to confidentiality) but can’t flat-out refuse, so is claiming ‘no, I never got these’. A fax printout would be confirmation that ‘no, these were indeed sent by us on [date] and received on your end’. This is why post books are kept (not just to keep track of postage expenditure) – they provide evidence if ever queried that “yeah I sent off that letter to that person at that address on this date”, even if it’s only weak proof.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @pontifex

          You don’t want to get to the point where you have to argue it to a judge or whatever; you might win, but it’s going to take time and money.

          Here’s the example that not only sold me on “send a fax for anything you need to prove you sent” (used to deal a lot with the CRA – our tax guys) but sold me on “registered mail is not good enough”:

          1. Sent letter to CRA, registered, making a request.
          2. Followup fax to CRA a month or so later, asking what happened to that letter.
          3. Letter from CRA saying they had not received a letter.
          4. Fax back to CRA enclosing original letter, enclosing printout from post office indicating someone at the CRA had signed for the letter, repeating request and asking why they had no record of the letter given someone signed for it.
          5. CRA answers request; makes no reference to letter.

          Faxing is also cheaper than sending registered mail – if you don’t have access to one, you’ll pay less to send a fax than registered mail.

          If you are dealing with some large institution, it’s really good to send faxes and to have a scan of the fax you sent, including the cover sheet. The less they can say “oh we didn’t get that” or “I guess we lost the letter” or whatever, the better.

          • Deiseach says:

            The less they can say “oh we didn’t get that” or “I guess we lost the letter” or whatever, the better.

            Oh yeah. At any sizeable concern, whoever takes in the post and signs for the registered letter is going to be reception or the porter or somebody low-level who then sticks it in a pigeonhole which may or may not be the correct department, or leaves it on a desk if they even recognise the name/department on the front of the letter, and it can be sitting there until somebody decides to collect it (or in a pile of post on a desk where someone is out on holiday). If you go “but somebody signed for the letter”, nine times out of ten the response is “but it wasn’t the addressee/someone in our department and I don’t know who that name you’re telling me signed for it is”.

            A fax at least goes through to the particular department on the other end, and even if it’s left sitting in a pile, you have hard copy proof you sent it to the right place.

    • Well... says:

      The SR-71 — in my opinion the most beautiful and one of the most awesome machines ever created — was obsoletized by satellites, which are just cameras that are falling past the horizon.

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh gosh yes, first heard of it on the back of a Weetabix box when I was a kid, fell in love with it because it was gorgeous looking, later saw a documentary about it where it was completely ridiculous but still gorgeous. To swipe and slightly change the Douglas Adam quote, “Amazing-looking ship though. Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a fish.” 🙂

      • bean says:

        I’ll fight you on this one. The XB-70 is a much more beautiful machine. And the SR-71 is too common. Every halfway decent aviation museum has one. The XB-70 is properly rare.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Speaking of cancelled plane designs, did you know that some people are still sore about the Avro Arrow?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            did you know that some people are still sore about the Avro Arrow?

            You mean every Canadian who watched the CBC miniseries?

          • bean says:

            Airplanes that never had all their flaws exposed by service are always cooler than ones that did.

          • gbdub says:

            Says the guy who favors a bird whose flaws became pretty apparent without ever getting out of the prototype phase.

            I’d think a guy who finds beauty in the floating abstract junkyard sculpture that is a battleship above the deck would appreciate functional beauty, which the Blackbird has and the Valkyrie never got.

            Now, the Bone…

          • bean says:

            Says the guy who favors a bird whose flaws became pretty apparent without ever getting out of the prototype phase.

            Because the SR-71 was such a user-friendly airplane. At least my choice didn’t drip fuel when sitting on the ground, and actually flew with the final choice of engine.

            I’d think a guy who finds beauty in the floating abstract junkyard sculpture that is a battleship above the deck would appreciate functional beauty, which the Blackbird has and the Valkyrie never got.

            It was functional enough that AV-2 was able to sit at Mach 3 for half an hour, which got everything as hot as it was ever going to get.

            Now, the Bone…

            Is definitely the prettiest of the current bombers. But also not the best. Can’t penetrate defenses like the B-2, and a more expensive load carrier than the B-52.

          • Deiseach says:

            At least my choice didn’t drip fuel when sitting on the ground

            I know! It was ludicrous! I was sitting there watching the documentary going “This is completely insane, dear God I love this bird!” 😀

          • Aapje says:

            @bean

            That’s what you get with engineering designed to be optimal for operating conditions. Formula 1 engines are seized up at room temperature and their tires lack grip at those temperatures.

          • bean says:

            @Aapje

            That’s not a bad analogy to F1, but I’m pointing out that the XB-70 is the equivalent of an F1 car that has tires which work when cold, and which has an engine you can just turn on whenever you feel like. How is that not more impressive than a normal F1 car, if the performance is the same?

        • Well... says:

          Fight’s on!

          The XB-70 is cool looking (I’ve circumnavigated the one at the USAF museum many times), but also a bit gawky, odd, and aesthetically imbalanced, what with the way the fore half sits up higher than the aft half. Plus it doesn’t have the SR-71’s subtle, suggestive curves.

        • Deiseach says:

          The XB-70 is a much more beautiful machine.

          With those sticky-out ears? Well, it’s true what they say, there’s someone for everyone! 🙂

        • gbdub says:

          Oh c’mon, the XB-70 is cool, but it looks like a paper airplane on top of a cigarette box. It looks dated – the Blackbird still looks like it’s from the future. The Blackbird is sexy as hell in a menacing way, like Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. Plus it actually worked, for awhile – the Valkyrie was obsolete before it flew. Also Kelly Johnson is my hero.

          Anyway the sexiest jet of all time is clearly the B-58 Hustler.

          • bean says:

            Plus it actually worked, for awhile – the Valkyrie was obsolete before it flew.

            You’ve been listening to Robert McNamara, haven’t you? If the Valkyrie was obsolete, why did the Blackbird never get shot down? (Performance between the two was essentially identical.) And why does the plan for the bomber after the B-21 so closely resemble the B-70 in specification? Speed is the new stealth, and our abandonment of it was a mistake.

            Also Kelly Johnson is my hero.

            Oh, goodness. Are you getting this out of Ben Rich’s book? Because it’s an excellent polemic, but terrible as history. I think my favorite part is where he says “and we designed the perfect silent submarine, but the hidebound reactionaries at the Navy wouldn’t listen to me”. That’s the equivalent of leaving $100 bills all over Times Square and finding them a week later still in place. I was waiting for the reporting of the flow noise results, but weirdly, we never got those…

            Anyway the sexiest jet of all time is clearly the B-58 Hustler.

            Yeah. I can’t disagree with you all that strongly there.

          • gbdub says:

            Could some reasonable percentage of Valkyrie’s have penetrated Soviet airspace in event of war? Sure, but a lower percentage than of Titan IIs. And while the Corona program existed, Blackbird was legitimately better for a lot of uses for a significant length of time. Valkyrie was less good than the alternative at “put a nuke in place X” from the day she first flew.

            Johnson is my hero because he and I attended the same aerospace engineering school, my dad hunts deer on family property less than an hour from his birthplace, and you tell me who has a sexier, more significant, lineup of airplanes on his resume (Burt Rutan, maybe, but his stuff has all been one-offs). Whether Lockheed should have ever tried to get into the boat designing business is an entirely different question.

          • bean says:

            Could some reasonable percentage of Valkyrie’s have penetrated Soviet airspace in event of war? Sure, but a lower percentage than of Titan IIs. And while the Corona program existed, Blackbird was legitimately better for a lot of uses for a significant length of time. Valkyrie was less good than the alternative at “put a nuke in place X” from the day she first flew.

            I’m very not sure of this. Even ignoring reliability (you can test a bomber much more effectively), a Mach 3+ airplane is hard to shoot down. Most weapons have only a very narrow engagement arc, and the bomber can maneuver to avoid them. From what I’ve heard (unfortunately I don’t have solid sources on this) the first missile that was genuinely effective against a B-70-type target was the S-300. Even the MiG-25 couldn’t do more than Mach 2.8 without destroying its engines, and that means you have to nail the geometry and pray the Valk doesn’t turn. Meanwhile, the final velocity of the Titan II RV? 457 mph. That was pretty typical of early ICBMs, and it’s well within the envelope of a decent contemporary SAM. The B-70 died because of politics, and there were experienced and knowledgeable defenders, most notably Curtis LeMay.

            you tell me who has a sexier, more significant, lineup of airplanes on his resume

            I’d suggest Ed Heineman, but I can’t really defend that as sexier.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      We used fax machines pretty extensively in my pharmacy company, and my impression is that they are still humming along in most medical offices.

      Mostly we used it for copying large numbers of prescriptions back and forth. If Aetna or Blue Cross wants copies of 1,000 prescriptions, we would generally fax that over. It was also easier for us, because emails had to go through secure email exchanges or whatever. That caused all kinds of compatibility issues, whereas you can directly send a fax as easily as you’d send a text message.

      • FLWAB says:

        I can confirm: I work for a group medical practice (on the paperwork side of things) and fax machines are still used extensively. I also spent some time working for a state government agency and that fax machine was humming along every hour of the day. I think the main reason is that faxes provide cheap security: they’re HIPAA compliant and email isn’t unless you use a secure email service and generally that’s a pain in the neck to use.

      • John Schilling says:

        Related: Dot Matrix Printers have enough niche applications to keep them in production. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a car rental location that didn’t have one happily spitting out multi-layer carbon-paper forms.

    • AG says:

      Would Usenet and brick phones/flip phones apply to this?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      BetaMax comes to mind quickly.

      So do various plastic templates for drawing shapes. Probably a host of devices used in publishing before desktop publishing became widespread. Ditto various devices I suspect were in common use in the advertising industry before the web, but that I don’t know about because they were internal innovations.

      Mimeographs. I still remember that smell. Eight-track tape. Zip disks.

      Might be more interesting to note inventions that weren’t killed off by the computer industry. Ice trucks? Fifth wheel driving? Personal jetpacks? Gasproof strollers? One-wheel motorcycles?

    • S_J says:

      Polaroid camera, with film.

      It’s a film that doesn’t need a special lab and a darkroom to develop, and you can see the resulting picture in less than a minute.

      This, plus most personal cameras, have been superceded by digital cameras, especially the cameras embedded into smart phones.

    • Silverlock says:

      . . . as well as in Led Zeppelin’s “Trumpled Under Foot”

      I think you may have coined a too-useful-not-to-use neologism here.

  15. Hoopyfreud says:

    Samzdat is back with a rather short and punchy article on love and happiness:

    https://samzdat.com/2018/08/22/love-and-happiness/

    As Lou says, this isn’t *quite* a direct attack on the “obviousness” of utilitarianism, but it approaches one, and it does so in ways that are compelling. If you’re familiar with some of his other work, he has fundamental concerns about people defining success/happiness/goodness using “objective” external metrics, arguing that a lot of these metrics are fundamentally epistemically skewed, and that because we can’t measure the costs of modernization with modern (Modern, not recent) techniques, we usually ignore them.

    It’s not *quite* a new argument that bio-hedonic utilitarians are free to *seek* to maximize dopamine, but that they should recognize that dopamine levels, although objective, aren’t what most people actually care about when they say that they care about being happy. The *problem* is that the comeback of “well what objective measure do you want to maximize, then” utterly misses the point. Almost nobody wants to maximize an objective measure, and least of all for the sake of having an objective measure to maximize.

    This also ties in with a similar theme to Democracy Scales, which was the post that originally got me reading this blog: that most impact studies measure impacts in such a limited way that they’re nearly useless. “X Makes You Happy” is a headline that might get millions of /r/science clicks, but when you drill down… the indicators for happiness being used are kind of silly. They don’t really tell us whether people are fundamentally better off, and often they seem chosen for the sake of *having* an objective measure. So the impact of these studies on our lives can be properly taken to be minimal, and the people (even scientists, for once) who generate these titles and headlines and abstracts should be ashamed.

    This leads to the meta-study which Lou pulls heavily from, which claims:

    Thus if researchers wanted to draw any conclusions from these data, they would have to eschew rank order identification. In other words, they would have to argue that it is appropriate to inform policy based on one arbitrary cardinalization of happiness but not another, or equivalently that some cardinalizations are “less arbitrary” than others. It is unclear from where such an argument would come, or why we should apply a different standard for happiness research than other branches of economics.

    Even if someone were to make this case, we cannot see how such a standard would say that distributions that resemble objective economic variables would be implausible. In the Online Empirical Appendix we further show that nearly every result can be reversed by a lognormal transformation that is no more skewed than the wealth distribution of the United States. Even within this class of distributional assumptions, we cannot draw conclusions stronger than “Nigeria is somewhere between the happiest and least happy country in the world,” or “the effect of the unemployment rate on average happiness is somewhere between very positive and very negative.” To be clear, we are not proposing that satisfying this minimal criterion would make a result convincingly robust.

    Because, of course, the correlation between happiness indicator maximization and what-most-people-mean-by-happiness is better done aesthetically than by the scientists themselves; empiricism has a limited useful domain.

    And if you don’t believe me, reread this post with “happiness” replaced by “love.” For me, at least, that was what drove this home. And once I saw it with love, I couldn’t *not* see it with happiness.

    • IrishDude says:

      Without having read your link, it seems it may cover similar ground as Deirdre McCloskey discussed here on “Happyism”, criticizing scientific takes on quantifying happiness.

    • Nootropic cormorant says:

      It seems like most of the credibility of the argument rests on the lameness of happiness research, although he writes:

      Pretend that this research wasn’t awful: To make happiness “useful” for their purposes, researchers forced it “be” a certain thing. Here, that means explicable on an obvious scale of 1-10. What they did not realize is that they’re no longer talking about “happiness” the phenomenon we all have a vague sense of. They’re talking about “happiness, which we define as something with this mean and functioning in this way for this particular study of this particular group.” Which is fine, because you can define anything to mean anything to prove your point, but you can’t use it for anything else. Why would you assume that has any value? More to the point: why does that kind of knowledge have any value?

      this misses the point of what excellent findings looks like. Excellent findings prove useful not for the purposes set by the scientists, but for unexpected purposes.

      We know a good mathematical object when it has multiple, not obviously related definitions that are equal, and when in reoccurs in unexpected places. The same can be true of good concepts in sciences. When an object yields such unintended dividends, it is harder to claim there isn’t more to them than what their examiner placed in them.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Got to be honest, I don’t really understand what you’re saying here. We can find conditions which satisfy multiple empiricist metrics of happiness, but I don’t understand what’s qualitatively different between “a quantitative ostensible measure of happiness” and “the most quantitatively consistent measure of happiness.” It’s impossible to determine whether your measure is still the same thing as happiness without doing the philosophy.

        • Nootropic cormorant says:

          Lou talks of how you study something changes what it is. Yet insofar as this thing exists objectively, it ought to also limit the way the manner of study affects it.

          If a measure (or any abstract thing) shows “unreasonable effectiveness” in multiple frames that weren’t considered when the measure was being defined it shows that its substance isn’t created only by the manner of investigation but rather that it has independent reality.

          The reason why we even care to investigate “happiness” and “love” quantitatively is because we have a hunch (possibly wrong) that they refer to a real thing that will stay coherent when studied in a different manner.

          Of course Lou would still say that I am making too many metaphysical commitments, but we are all born empiricists and if backdrop of his piece wasn’t a work failing to shine the way good science should it would pack much less of a punch.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I think that this is the point where Lou accuses you of naïve empiricist Platonism.

            In all seriousness, at the risk of being ungenerous, is there a related area where you *do* think that empirical science has been observed to be capable of doing this well? Attempts to quantitatively analyze freedom (see, democracy scales), love, happiness, satisfaction, wellness, stability, etc. seem deeply unsatisfactory to me the more I think about them. I’m not sure that there’s an empirical way out, because at this point I’m skating close to a sort of solipsistic property dualism, where everyone carries different paradigms of their fundamental ends around with them and those *things* remain forever inexpressible and irreconcilable.

          • Nootropic cormorant says:

            I am not familiar with modern sociology, but it seems plausible that I would find all of these attempts equally unsatisfactory.

            From what little I’ve seen, it appears to me that the way these studies are generally too ambitious and use methodologies that have too little power due to countless unaccounted confounders, some of which arise from the arbitraryness (perhaps unavoidable?) of their experimental design.

            I don’t know if it is possible to do better, presumably sociologists are highly intelligent people who have thought much about this topic, so maybe this type of thing is the best our society can produce at the present.

            Still I have faith that insofar as these words mean something universal, they have quantiifable correlates. Either that or these concepts are mere cumulates of meaning produced by essentially arbitrary historical forces. In this case I would still hope that such dynamics could be explored, perhaps through linguistics.

  16. helloo says:

    I was reminded of something in the last OT thread of retrieving a body 10000 years in the future.

    Fitzroy mentioned the linguistic problem to protect nuclear waste disposal sites from human intrusion for 10000 years.
    http://www.wipp.energy.gov/library/cca/CCA_1996_References/Chapter%207/CREL3329.PDF

    When I first learned of the program and problems it presented, it was all very interesting things to think about but I also really wondered should these problems be seriously considered in the first place.

    Empathy –
    How much empathy should people place on possibly non-human entities 10,000 years in the future?
    Not going to say anything about this, but as this is a CW-thread, feel free to do so.

    Damage –
    What is the scale of the possible damages from nuclear waste disposal sites?
    Sure, it is wise to think about preventing it from contaminating the landscape and consider things like water tables, earthquakes, and possible leaks.
    But the problems with communication deal with sentient beings purposely trying to unearth it.
    How much of a problem is it going to be for them if they do so?

    How is this comparable to toxic waste that do not decompose at all? Should we start thinking about the indefinite future rather than just 10000 years?
    Sure, nuclear waste presents issues simply by being in proximity with the substance, but as we are already dealing with raiders or miners that are inclined to open/break containers, the dangers should be in the same scale.
    Incidentally, I feel that far-future cultures will actually see these things as actual treasure chests – completely aware of their dangers but also very valuable to them.

    Dispersion –
    Probably just something I am missing but I’m not sure why they cannot use the ultimate cure of poisons – reducing its dose. Dispersed finely enough, the additional radiation would not present a significant danger. Just have each spent fuel rod be grinded finely and scattered among a ton of kitty litter and it should not cause much harm unless the radioactive materials are actively being filtered and collected. I mean, nuclear material from nuclear tests are still present in the atmosphere and though probably not the best for health, it’s not like people need to wear masks to go outside.

    • mustacheion says:

      So, I sort of agree that dispersion is the second-best way to get rid of nuclear waste. If we just dump that stuff way out in the middle of the ocean, it will dilute to such tiny levels that it would be well below background before it reached people. But the good reason not to do this is simply because it sounds like such an icky thing to do. Tons of people would freak out if we did this, and even if their concerns weren’t scientifically justified, dealing with the fallout from tons of angry environmentalists would be expensive, time consuming, and difficult. It would really make the nuclear industry look even more villainous than they are currently perceived to be. And it would set a bad precedent for using the oceans as our waste dump.

      Far and away the best way to deal with nuclear waste is to reprocess it, as is done in Europe. The reason why we don’t reprocess our nuclear waste here in the US is because it is banned by the nuclear non-proliferation treaties we signed with the Soviet Union. We signed these treaties because plutonium is an inevitable byproduct of processing commercial reactor waste, and plutonium is really really good at making bombs, and at the time we wanted to limit the number of bombs being built, so we both agreed to stop producing plutonium. Of course plutonium is also great for commercial energy production, it just requires a different reactor setup.

      I am not an expert on nuclear power, but from what I have read, a typical nuclear power plant only uses about 1% of the available fuel in its fuel rods. As the fuel rod is reacted, small amounts of americium and curium build up in the fuel rod as byproducts. These elements have a very large neutron capture cross section, so they spoil the equilibrium conditions that allow the nuclear chain reaction to continue, shutting down the reaction. If we just removed these two elements, we could reuse the fuel rod many more times, massively reducing the volume of waste produced. And I would imagine that we could actually make good use of the americium/curium by designing a reactor that specialized in using these elements as intentional neutron moderators to control the chain reaction which would make energy partly by consuming these elements.

      The point is, the whole nuclear waste disposal problem could be nearly completely avoided if it weren’t for our concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I absolutely agree that future peoples will consider our nuclear waste disposal sites to be the most valuable and productive mines that have every existed.

      • John Schilling says:

        I am not an expert on nuclear power, but from what I have read, a typical nuclear power plant only uses about 1% of the available fuel in its fuel rods. As the fuel rod is reacted, small amounts of americium and curium build up in the fuel rod as byproducts.

        6-10%, actually, and it’s not just americium and curium but a whole witches’ brew of radioactive nastiness.

        More to the point, reprocessing only delays the inevitable. If you start with 1000 kg of fissile materials, you will wind up with 1000 kg of high-level radioactive waste that has to be disposed of. Well, 995-999 kg thanks to E=MC^2, plus whatever inert materials you don’t bother to strip out. The only thing reprocessing does is let you run that initial 1000 kg through a reactor maybe 5-10 times before you have to dispose of it.

        You still need a place to put a fair bit of nasty stuff, and it will be nastier per unit weight for having been run through a reactor so many times. U-235 is positively benign compared to some of its products.

        There are plenty of reasonable options for doing that, most of which have been ruled out by unreasonable politics. Strangely, one of the semi-reasonable options that hasn’t been ruled out (yet) is nuclear waste dumps on the moon.

      • Eric Rall says:

        If we just dump that stuff way out in the middle of the ocean, it will dilute to such tiny levels that it would be well below background before it reached people.

        I’ve flippantly described that as “dump it to the bottom of the ocean, where the fish already glow in the dark” when advocating for it. The more serious variant on ocean disposal is “ocean floor” or “sub-seabed” disposal, where the waste is buried in the ocean floor so even if it leaks, it will take millions of years to diffuse a significant distance. Either drilling a shaft and filling it in on top of the waste, or dropping the waste in a container designed so that its kinetic energy will make it bury itself in the mud when it hits bottom, kinda like a bunker-buster bomb.

        I’m not sure if there’s some technical difficulty I’m not aware of, or if this falls under John’s category of reasonable options ruled out by unreasonable politics. The main objection I’ve heard to it is maintaining bright-line rules established in response to dumping toxic or radioactive waste in coastal waters.

        • John Schilling says:

          That would be one of the reasonable options if done right, now impossible because some people used to dump radioactive waste in leaky barrels in shallow water and other people overrreacted and said basically “dumping radioactive waste in the ocean is illegal forever”.

  17. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Sort of culture war: The current Hugos (both nominations and winners) were heavily weighted towards female authors.

    Anyone have 2018 Hugo-eligible sf by male authors that you think was notably excellent?

    Also, I’ve seen claims that a Hugo no longer affects an author’s sales. Anyone have information about this?

    Note: I am embittered by arguing with a couple of puppies who had nothing to say about sf they liked. They were just talking about how much they resented the other side.

    • John Schilling says:

      I am behind on my fiction reading, but Andy Weir’s “Artemis” was IMO worthy of nomination, as was Stephenson & Galland’s “Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O”. Alastair Reynolds’ “Elysium Fire”, and the conclusion of Gallagher’s “Torchship Trilogy”, would be marginal nominees IMO but not out of place on that list.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        We discussed the Torchship books already, but really? That last one was pretty rough.

        • John Schilling says:

          The last was definitely the weakest of the three, but the Hugos allow for nominating a trilogy (or longer series) as a single entity in the year of publication of the final part.

          As a single entity, the Torchship Trilogy couples the usual range of first-author weaknesses with unusually thoughtful worldbuilding, and rather more science than most recent winners. It would make for a marginal nominee, but first-author issues clearly aren’t a disqualifier these days.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I did not know that rule and would accept the trilogy as a weak-ish nomination. Agree with the rest of your comment. (The worldbuilding, for my money, also gets a bit undermined in the last book, but c’est la vie.)

    • Plumber says:

      “Sort of culture war: The current Hugos (both nominations and winners) were heavily weighted towards female authors.

      Anyone have 2018 Hugo-eligible sf by male authors that you think was notably excellent?

      Also, I’ve seen claims that a Hugo no longer affects an author’s sales. Anyone have information about this?

      Note: I am embittered by arguing with a couple of puppies who had nothing to say about sf they liked. They were just talking about how much they resented the other side.”

      @Nancy Lebovitz,

      While I’ve noticed that, unlike the books I’ve enjoyed from the 20th century and before, most of the novels I’ve enjoyed reading in the 21st century have been written by women, but the last Hugo award winning story that I remember enjoying reading was 2003’s “A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gsiman, and the previous ones were mostly written by Fritz Leiber and Larry Nicene in the 20th century. 

      I’m open to reading suggestions! 

      As for the “Puppy”/”Anti-Puppy” thing?

      If they’re all having fun with their “culture war” and it’s consensual I guess it’s okay, as long as it doesn’t effect my getting new works I enjoy published.

    • AG says:

      I don’t know if it’s Hugo-eligible, but I’ve really enjoyed Dan Wells’ YA Mirador series, of which the third book came out in 2018.

    • Deiseach says:

      I have really fallen out of reading recent SFF, and that sort of disturbs me, because I read so much for so long from a young age. I can’t say why, exactly, but something turned me off – and some of that was the big epic doorstoppers by male authors, before anyone leaps in about “what have you got against women writers?”

      When I became aware of the Hugos kerfuffle, a lot of the names on nominations evoked “Who?” from me, and of those I did recognise, I hadn’t read many.

      I think I’ve gotten to the stage of reading authors I know and like, reading genres I know and like, and having less patience to struggle through new writers exercising their hobbyhorses, especially the critics’ pets (in literary fiction as well as genre).

      Seconded for “A Study in Emerald” – a very clever conceit, a well-done crossover, and very well written to boot. Really enjoyable work on several levels.

      • Nick says:

        When I became aware of the Hugos kerfuffle, a lot of the names on nominations evoked “Who?” from me, and of those I did recognise, I hadn’t read many.

        I recall Mike Flynn getting nominations, and I liked his Eifelheim. I’ve also read most of the short fiction he puts up on his blog, but it’s definitely your usual SFF. I don’t know whether he’s got anything out in 2018, though, to answer Nancy’s question.

    • engleberg says:

      Greg Benford’s The Berlin Project was amazingly good alt/history ‘what if the Manhatten Project had listened to Greg Benford’s father-in-law about centrifuges’. Nobody else could have written it. I’m proud of science fiction for being the sort of field where you can do this stuff. It’s a measure of how bad the Hugos are burned that he never had a shot even at a nomination.
      I’d be a little embarrassed to let a Brit see the anglophilia in it.

    • sharper13 says:

      Here’s a good source list from 2018 for you to look through for candidates.

  18. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Having read a fair amount of SJ sf and liked some of it, I’m reasonably sure that representation/diversity is not really the issue. It sort of is, but the underlying feature is that oppression doesn’t get better.

    Let me know if I’m wrong. Any notable SJ sf where oppression is alleviated? “Litany of Earth” had some of that, but by Winter Tide, things were bad again.

    • Randy M says:

      Any notable SJ sf where oppression is alleviated?

      Oppression of any kind? Keep in mind that there is a narrative bias toward conflict of some sort. As for intra-human oppression (“But did you know that in previous centuries only terrans were considered human?”), Star Trek probably counts.

    • Thegnskald says:

      I am confused by your first paragraph. Do you mean SJ criticizes SF for having oppression, or is the problem with SJ SF that oppression is still the same?

      I can see both interpretations.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I meant that in typical SJ sf, the oppression in the story doesn’t get better.

        • AG says:

          Isn’t this often an artifact of sequel-itis? I’ve read a good amount of books with strong SJ themes where the catharsis is in character determination to fight oppression rather than oppression getting resolved, but they almost universally were only the first book in a planned series.
          But it’s also part of the “more gritty dystopia” thing that Hunger Games pioneered, where the theme is that change is incremental. The protagonists necessarily can’t cause a magical resolving of all problems, they can only take one step forward.
          It’s also a manifestation of the hopelessness they feel about their current real life situation (compressed to the phrase “late stage capitalism” in most community reviews).

          You’re more likely to find oppression resolution in fantasy, because you can world-build a deus ex machina (divine mandate magic) to make the societal changes stick.

  19. johan_larson says:

    There’s an interesting article in the NYTimes about the phenomenon on guanxi (connections, social pull) in Chinese society.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/23/opinion/international-world/the-bitter-regrets-of-a-useless-chinese-daughter.html

  20. ana53294 says:

    One thing about the EU that I think some countries understand better than others: EU funding is an easy way to bypass your government’s priorities on spending and to get more money for your pet cause (if your pet cause happens to be agriculture or research). Also, because EU budgets are allocated every seven years, this means that you get budget allocation that will remain stable for seven years. This doesn’t happen in most countries, where spending priorities change with every government, the state of the economy, and public opinion.

    Let’s imagine a hypothetical EU country that only has three ministeries: Social services, Education, and Agriculture. Let’s also suppose that this country receives in taxes 101 million euros, and 1 million goes to the EU. Of the rest, 80 ME got to Social services, 19 go to Education and 1 goes to Agriculture. The ministery of Agriculture then gets 400,000 euros (40 % of what they gave to the EU) to spend on agricultural grants. Now, the ministery of Agriculture and the farmers of that country need more money. They know that they cannot win a budgetary fight against Social Services or Education in their country’s Parliament, and any wins they make will be temporary, because the next government will change priorities. So they decide to bypass their country’s Parliament and lobby for an increase in EU funding. Let’s say now 6 million of the initial 101 go to the EU, and now there are only 95 million left in the budget. If we suppose that that budget will be distributed by the same proportions as before, now SS gets 76, Education gets 18.05, and Agriculture gets 0.95. But Agriculture now gets 40% of 6 million, which is 2.4 million, which means that the total money handled by Agriculture is 3.35, three times more than before. Of course, overall government expenditure decreases, but Agriculture expenditure increases.

    All of this may sound ridiculous, but I see signs of it happening with the post Brexit EU budget. France is a net payer into the EU budget, although much less than Germany. Emmanuel Macron has signalled that he is willing to lower CAP budgets so as not to increase the limits of EU funding. But then the French ministry of Agriculture goes and tries to make a pro-CAP alliance to maintain the CAP budget. I am not sure Macron wants to maintain CAP by increasing French net payments to the EU and thus having less money for other things (Education, Social Services, etc.). I think there may be two reasons for this: one would be French political infighting, and the second would be that Macron wants to maintain Agriculture funding, but doesn’t want to be responsible for cutting other departments budgets. French political infighting seems as likely to me as the French President fudging with the truth so he can maintain his public figure.

    And at the same time I see the French being devious and knowing their way around, I read this really naive (not to say idiotic) proposal for a post-Brexit agricultural policy in Exmoor. They are looking to increase (by 1.5 £ million) the money they get, but this time the money would come from their own government instead of EU budgets. Some pearls of the proposal include:

    Uses trust and cooperation to replace regulation and form-filling

    And my jaw drops. What drugs are they on? How could you ever get government funding without bureaucracy in the UK? What gives them the idea they can win a budget fight against Social Services, Universities, and the NHS? My best guess is that, now that the funding of Agriculture will be in the hands of the UK government, paperwork will not decrease in the least bit, and funding will decrease.

    • Deiseach says:

      The Exmoor proposal seems like a mixture of idealism and practicality; Exmoor is marginal land, which means farmers would be heavily reliant on EU subsidies. Those are not going to be in place once Brexit finally happens, so there will be a shift to other methods than traditional farming and/or unknown number of small farms finally going belly-up. There will be a lot of agritourism, as per that second part:

      The second measure – ‘Enhanced Benefits’ – would target specific objectives, such as enhancing heather moorland for wildlife, improving coastal access for walkers, planting and managing woodland, reducing flooding and encouraging entrepreneurial businesses.

      So this seems like the National Park Authority and other stakeholders hoping they can shift farmers away from industrial type farming to sustainable/non-farming activities in order to preserve the landscape, and using a carrot-and-stick approach (the stick being no more EU money, the carrot being local control and national funding). I have no idea how well it would work, but it’s absolutely true it would not replace regulation and form-filling – to make sure Farmer George really is engaging in forestry or letting that field lie fallow for the wild flowers and fauna to recuperate, you will need inspectors to inspect. Especially to make sure Farmer George really does have those fifty acres set aside that he’s claiming the new Natural Capital Grant for.

      • ana53294 says:

        Sure, the proposal might make sense, in a technical sort of way (except for the form-filling). What I am talking about are the political realities. The UK has already abandoned rural areas, because those are not Westminster’s priorities. A lot of road in Wales were built thanks to EU funding. And sure, that is British money coming back; but it is not Welsh money, it is English money.

        This story of the buses vs trains debates shows how London-centric a lot of Westminster politics are (rural areas mostly use buses, London uses trains; buses are also much better in London).

        In the past, rural areas bypassed Westminster by getting the EU bureaucracy to get the funds for them, for a fee. Now, they will have to fight the fight they lost before in the national arena, with urban people who will be very, very resentful towards them, because they voted for Brexit.

        The proposal is politically impossible.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think Exmoor is banking on being perceived as different – not rural, but heritage. And appealing as holiday/hiking/agritourism destinations to those same urban middle-class people who wouldn’t live there if you paid them but don’t mind spending a weekend or a walking holiday in the summer there (so long as the natives keep their distance and cater to the kinds of thing the visitors want to see and experience).

          Agreed that the fight between the regions and London for funding is only going to be exacerbated.

  21. a reader says:

    Scott was recently mentioned in an article in Quillette:

    https://quillette.com/2018/08/17/a-closer-look-at-anti-white-rhetoric/

    The function of anti-white rhetoric as a distinguisher is interesting. Psychiatrist and prominent blogger Scott Alexander explored this topic in a blog post a few years ago. Alexander argued that terms like “Americans” and “white people” are often used as code words by liberals for stereotypical Red State conservatives, who they consider an outgroup. Consequently, when white liberals use rhetoric critical of whites (and Americans) it seems to be self-critical—and therefore praiseworthy—while in fact just being the standard outgroup demonisation that all groups practice.
    […]
    In an article in The American Interest, linguist and social critic John McWhorter argued that white liberal discourse on race has become quasireligious, with “uncannily rich” parallels to Christianity: white liberals embrace accusations of racism and confess their white privilege (original sin); and they seek a forgiveness from black people that can never be fully earned (grace). There’s also a substantial element of self-debasement and self-flagellation.
    […]
    This contrasts with Alexander’s suggestion that anti-white rhetoric is outgroup demonisation—it’s clear that many white liberals are attempting to engage in self-critique, even self-flagellation. But I don’t think Alexander is entirely wrong either. Consider, as an analogy, a religious person writing an article on the sinfulness of humanity. It’s entirely possible for that article to be both a form of self-critique via acknowledgement of one’s own sins and an outgroup demonisation of nonbelievers, who are much greater sinners and don’t even acknowledge that they’re sinners.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I’ve heard some white academics talking about certain academic institutions having too many whites. I don’t think they were talking about Red State conservatives.

      • Education Hero says:

        Did you consider whether the former and latter might be from different subgroups of “white”?

        • vV_Vv says:

          This would be No True Whitemanning. They were white academics talking about white academics in their own field. It’s the same demographic as their own.

          • Education Hero says:

            Let me clarify by speaking more directly then: how often were they Ashkenazim?

            Because it’s easier to criticize “your” group when you have a Schroginger’s racial identity.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Is this a group that has an unknown number of freckles until someone makes a stereotype about it?

          • vV_Vv says:

            Let me clarify by speaking more directly then: how often were they Ashkenazim?

            Oh, that’s (((what)) you mean. The people I was thinking of specifically were not Jewish, but now that you mention, I’ve also seen Jewish academics doing this.

            I think it’s a partially different phenomena: Jews tend to consider themselves Schroginger’s whites as you say, so their anti-white sentiment is a quantum superposition of white guilt and fuck-these-damn-Nazi-Goyim-who-put-us-in-the-ovens.

            In the case of whites from Christian background doing this I think it’s white guilt and/or peacock countersignalling: “look how brave I am: I just painted a target on my back”.

          • Education Hero says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            Is this a group that has an unknown number of freckles until someone makes a stereotype about it?

            It’s a group that may be simultaneously considered white and not, permitting bad actors to selectively adopt or reject a white identity when expedient.

            Some examples of this applied to virtue signalling.

          • Education Hero says:

            @vV_Vv

            In the case of whites from Christian background doing this I think it’s white guilt and/or peacock countersignalling: “look how brave I am: I just painted a target on my back”.

            Interesting food for thought. Thank you for clarifying.

          • The Nybbler says:

            (((what))

            Real neo-Nazis at least balance their echoes.

    • Well... says:

      John McWhorter argued that white liberal discourse on race has become quasireligious, with “uncannily rich” parallels to Christianity: white liberals embrace accusations of racism and confess their white privilege (original sin); and they seek a forgiveness from black people that can never be fully earned (grace). There’s also a substantial element of self-debasement and self-flagellation.

      I had no idea John McWhorter originated that idea. I thought it came from some all-trite website.

      Anyway. I wonder whether the parallel is that remarkable/quasireligious. Maybe the Christian framework is just one instantiation of a much deeper older story that has resonated with humans for a long time. At the very least you can find the same framework amongst the Jews who left Egypt: they confess their having lapsed back into pagan ways, what with the Golden Calf and wanting to return to Egypt after hearing the reports of the scouts (original sin); and they seek a forgiveness from God that can never be fully earned, so God makes them wear tzitzit as a reminder, in addition to all the sacrifices they have to perform (grace).

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Article is pretty much dead on. It’s really absurd how much the self proclaimed rational logical anti-SJ bloc takes anti-whiteness shitposting as motte and bailey speak for a progressive plan to literally oppress/eliminate anyone with pale skin who happens to have European ancestry. It’s like if Rachel Maddow came on one night and had been successfully trolled into going “Conservative internet users across the country are turning to pagan worship of a forgotten Egyptian diety named KEK. What does this mean for the future of our country?”

      Alt-righters (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) love to say “the left can’t meme” but its only because they don’t have the perception to get the joke and recognize when left memes are seriously trolling them and causing them to overreact for years at a time, long after the premise has gotten seriously hacky and stale

      • Nootropic cormorant says:

        I think it’s like with alt-right and anti-semitism, it’s overexeggerated to outrage opponents and push the overton window, but I don’t think the earnest version is acceptable to people being outraged anyways.

        Besides, the cycle of trolling and never backing down is highly toxoplasmic and will breed real radicals.

      • Aapje says:

        @ilikekittycat

        It’s really absurd how much the self proclaimed rational logical anti-SJ bloc takes anti-whiteness shitposting as motte and bailey speak for a progressive plan to literally oppress/eliminate anyone with pale skin who happens to have European ancestry.

        This seems to be a weak man. I’ve seen many people argue that the rhetoric is aimed at non-globalists or such.

        • albatross11 says:

          Finding the other side’s shitposters and holding them up as exemplars of the true inner beliefs of the other side is pretty-much how political argument on the internet works.

        • Civilis says:

          The problem is that however you break “abolishing whiteness” down, it doesn’t pass muster by the liberal values of the late 20th century that have been accepted into Western culture (and are now being supplanted by social justice identity politics).

          If the anti-whiteness rhetoric is aimed at something other than race or ethnicity, such as ‘neo-liberalism’ or ‘capitalism’ or ‘racism’, why describe it with whiteness? I can’t honestly believe it’s anything other than an inverse dog whistle; it’s so blatantly obvious (instead of hidden with a code) that nobody but another true believer takes it seriously.

          I’ve seen some manner of argument that whatever is being opposed as ‘whiteness’ is somehow uniquely baked into European (or Western European, or European-derived) culture and this is why it’s coded as whiteness, but then all that ends up happening by advocating the elimination of “whiteness” is normalizing the elimination of cultures with traits that people consider bad, which turns back the multi-cultural narrative that we spent decades building.

          It all ends up pattern-matching to me as “we oppose Western European conservative culture, let’s find something to use as a club to beat it with without looking at the long-term consequences of our arguments”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This seems very much like only searching out weakmen to engage with.

            What’s the difference between a Spaniard, an Italian, a Sicilian, a Greek, a Turk, a native Israeli Jewish person, and an Egyptian? At what point did we stop seeing people who “are” “white”?

            Is Ben Jealous “black”? Is he “white”? Was Brandon Lee?

            Why did the US South emphasize the Anglo Saxon race? Why were the immigrant Irish portrayed as black in political caricatures?

            The idea of what is and is not white, and also whether it conferred special superior status in the US, has changed over time. It matters socially and politically, but it isn’t carving reality at the joints.

          • John Schilling says:

            The idea of what is and is not white, and also whether it conferred special superior status in the US, has changed over time. It matters socially and politically, but it isn’t carving reality at the joints.

            Possible, but unsupported here. The fact that an idea has changed over time, doesn’t mean that it isn’t “carving reality at the joints” today. Or that it isn’t doing a better job of it today than it did in the past, and a better job of it than any other idea today.

            “Discussion of [X] is flawed and imperfect, and was even worse in the past, therefore [X] is wrong and we should stop talking about it”, which is what you seem to be getting at, is not a strong argument. It may satisfy your need to rationalize dismissing an [X] you didn’t like in the first place, but it won’t be persuasive to anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

          • Civilis says:

            What’s the difference between a Spaniard, an Italian, a Sicilian, a Greek, a Turk, a native Israeli Jewish person, and an Egyptian? At what point did we stop seeing people who “are” “white”?

            What’s the difference between a Bantu, a Hutu, an Igbo, a Nubian, and a Somali? At what point did they all become African or “black” or Persons of Color?

            I agree that breaking down the idea of a “white” “ethnic group” is a good idea, but the whole concept of “abolishing whiteness” ends up doing the opposite when it leaves academia and enters the real world: it firms up the idea that a white group exists (you can’t abolish something that doesn’t exist). Likewise, the mere existence of “black” “nationalism” is used by the “white” ethno-nationalists as a justification for their own “nationalism”, and that the left seeks to abolish one and support the other is taken as evidence that the left isn’t anti-ethno-nationalism, but anti-“white”.

            Further, I’m an ethnic and religious mutt; breaking “white” into smaller pieces doesn’t help me, unless perhaps you went Western Europe vs Slavic Europe, but as I’m sure we all recall, last time that distinction was tried in Europe as a whole things got really, really bad, and I have a lot of friends who would end up on the other side. I’ve also got no real ties to any of the places in Europe, even those the geneologically inclined in the family have traced their ancestry back to.

            I’m content to be American, but that raises the question of why “African American” and “Asian American” are valid subcategories that get their own group identity. It also sounds vaguely demeaning, as if they’re somehow not as American as people that trace their ancestries back to Europe and that “Africa” and “Asia” are somehow cultures rather than vast landmasses with many distinct cultures.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            To me it just looks like standard inter-group conflict, where the groups aren’t particularly meaningful, but differences are emphasized. Why should I believe that this time is different?

            @Civilis:

            What’s the difference between a Bantu, a Hutu, an Igbo, a Nubian, and a Somali? At what point did they all become African or “black” or Persons of Color?

            I think this is actually supporting my point? Differences are emphasized until some external factor forces a new group to unite.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Article is pretty much dead on. It’s really absurd how much the self proclaimed rational logical anti-SJ bloc takes anti-whiteness shitposting as motte and bailey speak for a progressive plan to literally oppress/eliminate anyone with pale skin who happens to have European ancestry.

        Up until the land expropriation begins.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          A) Hard for the expropriation to begin when the constitutional amendment hasn’t passed yet.
          B) I don’t think post-apartheid South Africa is the model you are looking for. It’s not a central example.

          • albatross11 says:

            The tiresome part of this kind of conversation is that it tends to go back and forth between:

            a. Taking a maximally-literal and offended reading of people on the other side, and demanding that moderates on the other side answer for/repudiate the crazies / shitposters.

            b. Taking a maximally charitable and calm reading of people on your own side, and demanding that everyone on the other side stop equating you with the crazies / shitposters.

            This gives us zero help in understanding each other or bridging any gaps, but at least it passes the time….

            [ETA]: I want to be clear that the “you” in this post is generic–I’m not saying that you HBC do this, I’m saying there is a really common pattern of this kind of conversation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Agreed.

            People are people. Everyone in your in-group is a person. Everyone in your out-group, too.

            So it shouldn’t be a surprise when all manner of irrational, uncharitable, and down right mean statements and behavior flow from both. This is part of the human condition.

            And then finding those and amplifying them is both easy and not terribly helpful.

            All that said, I’m not a big fan of the “white-people” rhetoric. I understand it, the way I understand a trench knife, but trench warfare isn’t really good for much but immiserating everyone. Unfortunately even armistice seems impossible.

          • vV_Vv says:

            A) Hard for the expropriation to begin when the constitutional amendment hasn’t passed yet.

            Irrelevant. As the article I linked reports, the expropriation has already begun even in violation of the law.

            B) I don’t think post-apartheid South Africa is the model you are looking for. It’s not a central example.

            Why not? Once the SJW collectivist premise that you are responsible for the sins of your fathers, or really any dead white person no matter how unrelated to you, do you think they will have any shortage of more-or-less legitimate historical grievances to use as an excuse to grab your stuff?

            European? Muh Belgian Congo, British India and British-French Middle East.
            American? Muh Trail of Tears, slavery and internment camps.

            South Africa’s ANC and Zimbabwe’s ZANU can be seen as proto-SJWs: they were among the first Marxist-Leninist revolutionary groups to strongly shift towards ethno-racial nationalism, which was previously anathema to traditional Marxist-Leninists. Today the countries are run on pretty much pure SJW ideology: racial quotas everywhere, casual racism against whites, land expropriation. Therefore I think they serve as a good cautionary tale for what happens when the SJWs get in power.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The SJWs are in power in South Africa?

          • Tandagore says:

            How exactly is South Africa an example of “the sins of your fathers, or really any dead white person no matter how unrelated to you”? Apartheid was in effect until the 90s, that’s not that long ago.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @HeelBearCub

            The SJWs are in power in South Africa?

            Pretty much. How else would you describe them?

            @Tandagore

            How exactly is South Africa an example of “the sins of your fathers, or really any dead white person no matter how unrelated to you”? Apartheid was in effect until the 90s, that’s not that long ago.

            Do the children of the Apartheid-era whites get an exemption from the racial quotas and expropriation?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Pretty much. How else would you describe them?

            Power brokers for the relatively newly in-power enclave or group, said enclave having been forcibly kept from power for many years.

            They aren’t particularly feminist or intersectional.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Pretty much. How else would you describe them?

            The EFF is the party that has set the agendra wrt to land reform. They are certainly Marxist-Leninists, and so are on the left, but I think they owe more to pan-African socialism than to social justice. The EFF are currently facing a scandal over anti-Indian racism; other members have been implicated in xenophobic attacks against Zimbabweans and Tanzanians; they also don’t have particularly great feminist bona-fides.

            The ANC, the ruling party, is a bit more complicated but similar points can be made: Jacob Zuma has been credibly accused of rape and made a number of high-profile comments that were regarded as sexist, said that he would “knock out” a gay person, and blamed xenophobic attacks against immigrants on the countries of origin of those immigrants.

            I think anti-white comments by black leaders in South Africa are more rightly seen as examples of nativism and nationalism: the idea that a small minority of special interests are holding back “real South Africans” has more in common with, say antisemitism in Europe (a parasitic class of rich people sucking the good, honest citizens dry!) than it does with social justice.
            The commonality with social justice lies mostly in the fact that white people are outgrouped in (some of) social justice and in (some of) South African politics–but so are people of Indian descent, Zimbabwean immigrants, and a whole bunch of other groups who ought to be “in-group” if South African politics is moulded primarily by social justice.
            The commonality with nativism and nationalism lies in its being a populist appeal to the majority demographic against other groups who are regarded as less-authentic members of the polity.

            The point of confusion is that in Europe and North America, appealing to the majority demographic will usually in-group people who look white, and out-group people who do not look white; but in South Africa, obviously it’s the opposite.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, the current South African government could be called a lot of names with some accuracy, but “SJW” isn’t among them.

      • albatross11 says:

        I don’t think it’s nuts to push back on/be offended by eliminationist rhetoric against people like you and your kids, even if you’re pretty sure most of the people tossing it around are mostly kidding/trolling.

        The truth is, saying that kind of stuff marks you out as an unserious asshole. And so does going along with it, or justifying it because it comes from your side so there’s really a complicated eleven-dimensional-chess reason why *your side* saying vile stuff to offend/upset *the other side* is perfectly okay and reasonable and even virtuous.

      • Civilis says:

        Alt-righters (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) love to say “the left can’t meme” but its only because they don’t have the perception to get the joke and recognize when left memes are seriously trolling them and causing them to overreact for years at a time, long after the premise has gotten seriously hacky and stale.

        If talk of “kill all white people” is a joke, the people laughing the hardest are the asshole white ethno-nationalists, because even taken as a joke, it provides evidence for their claims of persecution (and, all too frequently, also fuels their antisemitism). The people that are outraged at “it’s okay to be white” are telling the people seeing “white genocide” and worrying about it that they’re the ones without a sense of humor?

        Most of the anger of the mainstream right about the anti-white rhetoric isn’t hatred for the people saying these things, it’s hatred for the blatantly obvious double standard, and the power that the denial of this double standard grants the far enthno-nationalist fringe. (Obviously, the mainstream right doesn’t like the far left anyways, but they never have. If anything, to them, this sort of rhetoric only exposes the far left for the bigots they are.)

        • Brad says:

          This is a plausible story but it pretty clearly isn’t happening in any sort of non-trivial way.

          The “culture warriors” on both sides seem to have something broken when it comes to feeding magnitude evidence back into their worldviews.

        • AG says:

          Except it’s chicken-and-egg as to who brought genocide back into the conversation first. Like, Sarah Jeong is a bad person, but it’s true that her narrative for those tweets is a common one: that she adopted the language as a mirror to the vile language she was subjecting herself to from the other side. We already know that 4chan trolls were doing a similar thing, adopting a vile personality to push back against what they saw was bad form from the left. Many SJ people would make that double standard argument themselves, that they have no obligation to tone down their language when representatives in government from “the other side” are actively trying to ruin their lives.

          • engleberg says:

            Maybe Sarah Jeong just flirts nasty- oh your white maleness drives me to evil madness. She does seem pretty indoctrinated.

        • Civilis says:

          The “culture warriors” on both sides seem to have something broken when it comes to feeding magnitude evidence back into their worldviews.

          The only way to fix it is to establish an objective set of social rules and then enforce them strictly on both sides.

          I’m on the right, and despite my attempts to avoid a bubble, I can’t be sure I’m not in one. That being said, I have explicit evidence of the right being held to a higher standard in at least one area, in the form of commenters taking ‘anti-white’ language, switching the word ‘white’ for ‘black’, and being immediately punished for it. I welcome evidence of areas where the left is being currently held to a higher standard, or an argument as to why that’s not a double standard.

          Like, Sarah Jeong is a bad person, but it’s true that her narrative for those tweets is a common one: that she adopted the language as a mirror to the vile language she was subjecting herself to from the other side.

          Can you find me a case where someone comparable to Sarah Jeong on the right used that defense and got away with it? We get a lot of “I received a lot of horrible comments from random internet nobodies. No, you can’t see them to see how bad they are. The reason I’m receiving those messages is obviously because of my group identity and not all the other horrible stuff I’ve said or done or because people just think I’m an asshole.”

          Many SJ people would make that double standard argument themselves, that they have no obligation to tone down their language when representatives in government from “the other side” are actively trying to ruin their lives.

          It’s not that only one side is using that language (although I’d argue that there is still a difference between 4chan on one side and Stanford and the New York Times on the other), it’s that only one side faces real consequences for that language. Just this week, we have David Horowitz having his Patreon pulled because the SPLC pressured MasterCard and Conor Daly losing his NASCAR sponsorship over something his dad said over 30 years ago (literally).

          • Brad says:

            The “culture warriors” on both sides seem to have something broken when it comes to feeding magnitude evidence back into their worldviews.

            The only way to fix it is to establish an objective set of social rules and then enforce them strictly on both sides.

            Huh? How is that going to fix the reasoning failures and uncorrected cognitive biases of people that decide they want to be culture warriors?

            I’m on the right, and despite my attempts to avoid a bubble, I can’t be sure I’m not in one. That being said, I have explicit evidence of the right being held to a higher standard in at least one area, in the form of commenters taking ‘anti-white’ language, switching the word ‘white’ for ‘black’, and being immediately punished for it. I welcome evidence of areas where the left is being currently held to a higher standard, or an argument as to why that’s not a double standard.

            Again huh?

            To recap, you claimed that “anti-white” rhetoric is empowering “ethno-nationalists”. But “ethno-nationalists” are a tiny insignificant group of people-at least in the US. So your theory, however plausible ab initio, doesn’t comport with the evidence. That was my main point.

            My secondary point was that culture warriors both those of you on the right and your counterparts on the left, are quite apt to make exactly this mistake — viz. exaggerate the relevance of tiny groups, very rare dangers, and so on.

            I don’t see how either of those points is addressed by the claim that there’s a double standard for right or left culture warriors (a claim I have zero interest in litigating.)

          • Civilis says:

            Huh? How is that going to fix the reasoning failures and uncorrected cognitive biases of people that decide they want to be culture warriors?

            There’s always going to be a lizardman quotient number of nutcases out there; those that believe conspiracy theories no matter how much evidence you stack against them. I’m seeing people who aren’t in that tiny group fall in towards them because they’re hit with the double standards, and once they’re in that bubble, it’s much harder to pull them out. Again, the reason they’re falling in is that they have actual evidence on their side and when they bring it up the response is not to acknowledge or explain their concerns but to use power to shut them up, that evidence being “I said ‘kill all blacks’ as a joke and got banned, and that person said ‘kill all whites’ and is still verified”. I don’t like seeing people on my side start to sound like white ethno-nationalists (or their close cousins, antisemites).

            To recap, you claimed that “anti-white” rhetoric is empowering “ethno-nationalists”. But “ethno-nationalists” are a tiny insignificant group of people-at least in the US. So your theory, however plausible ab initio, doesn’t comport with the evidence. That was my main point.

            It’s a seemingly mainstream belief on the left that the President of the United States and everyone that supports him are closet ‘ethno-nationalists’. Even if you’re willing to accept that Trump and Republicans like me that voted for him aren’t ‘ethno-nationalists’, we have very strong evidence that the right was specifically willing to elect a candidate heavily portrayed by the left as an ‘ethno-nationalist’.

            My secondary point was that culture warriors both those of you on the right and your counterparts on the left, are quite apt to make exactly this mistake — viz. exaggerate the relevance of tiny groups, very rare dangers, and so on.

            If you’re going to define white ethno-nationalists narrowly as a tiny, low threat group, any logic by which a small number of people are pushed that direction also suggests that more people are going to be pushed towards white ethno-nationalism as defined by a more expansive definition. It’s hard to say that Trump voters are a tiny group, and, while I didn’t consider Trump as a danger (I voted for him, after all), I certainly considered (and still consider) him a risk as President.

          • Brad says:

            There’s always going to be a lizardman quotient number of nutcases out there; those that believe conspiracy theories no matter how much evidence you stack against them. I’m seeing people who aren’t in that tiny group fall in towards them because they’re hit with the double standards, and once they’re in that bubble, it’s much harder to pull them out.

            Are you sure you just aren’t getting increasingly close to people that believe in lizardmen? Do we have numbers on the growth of “ethno-nationalists”?

            It’s a seemingly mainstream belief on the left that the President of the United States and everyone that supports him are closet ‘ethno-nationalists’.

            I don’t think hate reading is a great way to get a good cross sectional view of what mainstream belief on the left is.

            If you’re going to define white ethno-nationalists narrowly as a tiny, low threat group, any logic by which a small number of people are pushed that direction also suggests that more people are going to be pushed towards white ethno-nationalism as defined by a more expansive definition. It’s hard to say that Trump voters are a tiny group, and, while I didn’t consider Trump as a danger (I voted for him, after all), I certainly considered (and still consider) him a risk as President.

            I have yet to see any evidence that Trump was elected as a backlash against some people on twitter writing “kill all white people”. What I have seen a *ton* of is people that point to whatever there issue was long before Trump and say “you see, if only you had listened to me Trump wouldn’t have been elected. [X] is why he got elected.”

            You can’t all be right.

          • Aapje says:

            It can both be true that most people voted for Trump for other reasons, many of them being generic reasons to vote Republican*, but also that a significant enough group were energized to vote and/or switched sides to push Trump to the victory, because of reason X. Especially given the small margins.

            Of course, this probably can’t be proven.

            * Just like the same was true for Hillary

      • tayfie says:

        May I point out the gigantic difference of people doing this stuff under their own name in public using serious avenues, and in some cases quite prestigious people whose opinions carry intellectual weight, vs some teenager in mother’s basement posting on 4chan. Pretending these things are equal ignores the power differential.

        If the Kek people were all professional preachers who spent a lot of effort convincing people of their ideas and writing long screeds about they are really serious and everyone needs to pay tribute to the god of chaos, you are damn right the news anchors should report it seriously.

        The whole point of humor is that it has to push the edges of what is acceptable to say out loud. If lots of people say it out loud and with no fear of retaliation (evidenced by using their own name in serious statements), it’s not funny and the only reasonable conclusion is that they are serious.

        Even if they aren’t, the next generation won’t understand the joke anymore and will take it seriously.

    • shakeddown says:

      I’m not sure those are really a contrast. My impression is that most christian talk about how people are sinners is also code for “actually we’re alright, but the outgroup are definitely sinners.”

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m sure that’s true plenty of times, people being people, but the intent of “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” is to keep us from falling back on how, since we’re not one of those awful sinners over there drinking and carousing, we’re done and don’t have to improve our own behavior. You don’t ever get to say “Okay, I don’t have any more work to do on becoming a better person.” It’s a lifelong project.

        • AG says:

          What I’ve seen, in practice, for that verse is as put-down of non-Christians who have done good works. “Yeah, sure, they alleviated way more poverty in the area while we were building our new church movie theater (for the outreach potential!), but you know, they’re still filthy sinners because Romans good works won’t get you into Heaven :D”
          It’s less “we’re not like those drinkers and carousers over there,” it’s more “we’re drinking and carousing, and they’re not, but at least we’re on the path to salvation, so they’re still damned”

        • shakeddown says:

          That’s true, but it’s also often true for social justice people (there are also decent people out there who take it as “just because I was polite to a black guy today doesn’t mean I can stop worrying about racism”). I think SJ rhetoric about whites and christian rhetoric about sinners cover roughly the same spectrum of attitudes.

    • rlms says:

      Psychiatrist and prominent blogger Scott Alexander also explored the topic of whether everything is a religion a few years ago.

  22. Well... says:

    Today at the gym I tried out a new tricep exercise. I sat on the edge of a bench and bent over with my legs together as if I was going to do bendover flyes, but instead of keeping my arms stiff and raising from the shoulders, I kept my upper arms parallel with the floor and then raised the dumbbells outward using just my forearms, keeping my elbows and upper arms in place as best I could. I did a couple sets with my palms facing each other and a couple sets with my palms facing my rear (“down” from my head’s perspective).

    Is there a name for this exercise? Does it work the long, center head of the triceps as I figured it would? Is it not recommended for some reason and that’s why I haven’t heard of it?

    • dndnrsn says:

      I’m having a hard time picturing this, but it sounds like a tricep kickback?

      • Well... says:

        It’s like one except tricep kickbacks are done with the elbows held close to the torso, and (as far as I know) one side at a time (since the other hand is placed on the bench, supporting the body). Here the elbows are held out perpendicular to the torso and both arms go at once.

  23. Well... says:

    Suppose the trans-Atlantic slave trade (in slaves of all races) had never happened at all. What can we say with certainty, if anything, about what the world would look like today?

    • Thegnskald says:

      Are we including institutions with parallels to slavery, like indentured servitude and criminals sent to colonies as laborers?

    • vV_Vv says:

      What can we say with certainty, if anything, about what the world would look like today?

      With certainty? Only that the trans-Atlantic slave trade didn’t happen.

      With high probability? That there would be less people of any African descent in the Americas.

      • Thegnskald says:

        There would be complex second-order effects on the rate of industrialization of the US, considering how important the textile industry was for us.

        • engleberg says:

          Spain’s access to silver would have been much slower. Indian labor more important; Indian elites would do better. More Germans in New Spain to mine, German beer a bigger deal in Mexico, German cannon defending the silver fleet, maybe Dutch bankers owning the Spanish Empire instead of Genoese. West Africa not as trashed by slaver kingdoms. (Yes, there’d still have been slavery in Africa, but without the enormous mess of the Slave Coast. Maybe big Ashanti sugar plantations inland instead of barracoons on the Slave Coast). No triangle trade, less demand for rum from New England, West Indies less important. Louisiana and Mississippi never settled by whites. Sugar more expensive, we’d still put honey in everything like the Greeks. The Brits might still hold India if it was still profitable. India and the Indian Ocean more important- maybe a Suez canal a hundred years earlier.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Reasonable certainty, at least….

      Less development of cotton and sugar industries.

      Africa in better shape– I find the theory plausible that the slave-catching did a lot of damage there by pulling productive adults out of the societies and also by damaging trust because there were African cultures selling people to Europeans and Americans.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        @Nancy,

        I have *some* reason to doubt this:
        1) My impression of slavery is that the elasticity of supply is very low, i.e. a reduction in demand for slaves reduces the price but not so much the supply. You can’t manufacture slaves you can only catch them, so the ‘supply’ of slaves consists in catching what you can and selling it for literally the highest bidder.
        2) The transatlantic slave trade was only part of the wider African Slave trade.

        putting 1&2 together…
        So slavery would have continued but it would have been kept to the internal/arab slave trade.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I’m not sure about #1: a high price for slaves makes slave-raiding a more lucrative career or state strategy, so it tends to induce more individuals to become slave-raiders and more states to place a higher emphasis on raiding neighboring states for slaves. It also increases the resources available to slavers, better allowing them to survive in the face of retaliation and making them better able to expand their slaving operations.

          #2 is true as far as it goes, but the atlantic slave trade was a pretty large part of the wider African slave trade: from what I can gather by skimming wikipedia, it looks like between roughly 1500 and 1900, the Atlantic slave trade was about 12 million people, and the Arab slave trade from Africa was somewhere between 8 million and 17 million (I suspect the lower estimates are more credible: I think the higher estimates have a longer time window and may also be counting part of the internal African trade where Arab traders were involved as middle-men). Estimates on the internal African slave trade are a lot sparser, but there’s at least one estimate (same source as the one I chose for the Atlantic slave trade number) at around 8 million. So internal African markets would have made up about 20-30% of demand for slaves, while markets served by European and Arab traders (*) each made up something like 30-40% of total.

          (*) European slave traders were pretty much just exporting to European colonies in the Americas, while Arab slave traders were selling to Asian markets as well as Middle Eastern markets.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Africa in better shape– I find the theory plausible that the slave-catching did a lot of damage there by pulling productive adults out of the societies and also by damaging trust because there were African cultures selling people to Europeans and Americans.

        Africans have been enslaving each other since forever, and continued to do so way past both the Arab slave trade and the trans-Atlantic slave trade ended, until recent times or even today.

        Mauritania only made slavery illegal in 2007, but in fact doesn’t enforce the prohibition and it’s estimated that 10-20% of the its population is enslaved. Various other African countries tolerate some amount of de-facto slavery.

      • Well... says:

        I’m curious about that last point. Which Africans tended to end up as slaves?

        “Those from tribes who lost battles/wars” seems like the most plausible single answer. I’d also guess “Those who failed to acquire the most advanced weapons available,” to the extent that is distinct from the first answer. Obviously many others were formerly free people who essentially got kidnapped.

        I’m not sure it was just (or even primarily?) adults who ended up as slaves though, was it? And I imagine — though I don’t know — that a fair number of the slaves who were put on trans-Atlantic ships came from family lineages of slaves at least a few generations long. (It’s not like all slaves were captured illegally, Cinque-style.)

        What other African demographics became trans-Atlantic slaves? How does this correspond to lost African productivity?

        • Deiseach says:

          Which Africans tended to end up as slaves?

          Not trans-Atlantic, but a story of one woman who ended up in Italy – St Josephine Bakhita, 1869-1947, captured by Arab slavers as a child and sold on until she ended up in Khartoum, was acquired by an Italian family who brought her back to Italy with them, and eventually had a court ruling that she had never legally been a slave so she was freed.

          So from her story, there seems to have been at least some opportunistic raiding where lost/wandering/solitary individuals were snatched up (I’d imagine probably young people and children mostly).

          • Plumber says:

            “….So from her story, there seems to have been at least some opportunistic raiding where lost/wandering/solitary individuals were snatched up (I’d imagine probably young people and children mostly).”

            @Deiseach, I’ve read that Britons were also press-ganged into being “indentured servants” in the Virginia colony as well, and in Tudor times towns in England did use to pay to have orphans indentured as apprentices to masters to learn a trade (similar in some ways to are current foster care system), but the English colonists in Virginia were likely to die of malaria, and word got back to England about conditions, so fewer volunteered and many English  “orphans” had parents. 
            Then Africans were first imported, with initially more mixing with lower class whites until the racial caste system was developed (there have been Appalachian communities that for generations said they’re descended from “Greeks” and “Phoenicians”, but generic testing say mixed African and European pairings from the 17th century).

          • Deiseach says:

            I’ve read that Britons were also press-ganged into being “indentured servants” in the Virginia colony as well

            It was a handy way, before Australia was discovered, of getting rid of bothersome individuals and turning a modest profit on them. Cromwell infamously sold a job lot of Irish rebels off to the Caribbean plantations as indentured servants (though none ever managed to make it back after the term of service was finished) but he wasn’t the originator of the policy. From Cromwell’s account of the taking of Drogheda in a letter to the Speaker of Parliament in 1649:

            Divers of the Enemy retreated into the Mill-Mount: a place very strong and of difficult access; being exceedingly high, having a good graft, and strongly palisadoed. The Governor, Sir Arthur Ashton, and divers considerable Officers being there, our men getting up to them, were ordered by me to put them all to the sword. And indeed, being in the heat of action, I forbade them to spare any that were in arms in the Town: and, I think, that night they put to the sword about 2,000 men; – divers of the officers and soldiers fled over the Bridge into the other part of the Town, where about 100 of them possessed St. Peter’s Church-steeple, some the west Gate, and others a strong Round Tower next the Gate called St. Sunday’s. These being summoned to yield to mercy, refused. Whereupon I ordered the steeple of St. Peter’s Church to be fired, when one of them was heard to say in the midst of the flames: ‘God damn me, God confound me, I burn, I burn.’

            The next day, the other two Towers were summoned; in one of which was about six or seven score; but they refused to yield themselves: and we knowing that hunger must compel them, set only good guards to secure them from running away until their stomachs were come down. From one of the said Towers, notwithstanding their condition, they killed and wounded some of our men. When they submitted, their officers were knocked on the head; and every tenth man of the soldiers killed; and the rest shipped for the Barbadoes. The soldiers in the other Tower were all spared, as to their lives only; and shipped likewise for the Barbadoes.

            I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbrued their hands in so much innocent blood; and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future. Which are the satisfactory grounds to such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret*. The officers and soldiers of this Garrison were the flower of their Army. And their great expectation was, that our attempting this place would put fair to ruin us; they being confident of the resolution of their men, and the advantage of the place. If we had divided our force into two quarters to have besieged the North Town and the South Town, we could not have had such a correspondency between the two parts of our Army, but that they might have chosen to have brought their Army, and have fought with which part “of ours” they pleased, – and at the same time have made a sally with 2,000 men upon us, and have left their walls manned; they having in the Town the number hereafter supplied, but some say near 4,000.

            (*Same reasoning as the atomic bombs on Japan, really: yes it was terrible but hey it shortened the war and spared our soldiers’ lives and they deserved it for their crimes, anyway).

            Stevenson, in “Kidnapped”, refers to the same as a handy way for people to dispose of inconvenient relatives; David Balfour’s uncle tries to have him shipped off so he can’t claim the estate:

            The ship was bound for the Carolinas; and you must not suppose that I was going to that place merely as an exile. The trade was even then much depressed; since that, and with the rebellion of the colonies and the formation of the United States, it has, of course, come to an end; but in those days of my youth, white men were still sold into slavery on the plantations, and that was the destiny to which my wicked uncle had condemned me.

            …“And in the meantime,” says he, “keep your heart up. You’re not the only one, I’ll tell you that. There’s many a man hoeing tobacco over-seas that should be mounting his horse at his own door at home; many and many! And life is all a variorum, at the best. Look at me: I’m a laird’s son and more than half a doctor, and here I am, man-Jack to Hoseason!”

      • Deiseach says:

        Lack of the slave trade would not necessarily mean lack of colonialism, however. The same incentives about exploration, curiosity, and searching for resources would be in place.

        And as has been pointed out, internal slavery and selling to the Arab trade would still be in place. And customs such as were at play in the complex internal politics of the Ugandan royal court which led to the execution of Catholic (St Charles Lwanga and Companions) and Anglican converts amongst members of the court – one ostensible reason given for this was the refusal of the pages to have sex with the king. Struggle between the influences of Islam, Christianity and native traditions, and the political ramifications of Western-influenced young men as up-and-coming, as well as older men already in positions of power, were also at work, but the immediate spark for this particular persecution seems to have been the king’s anger at the refusal of the expected services as part of their duties:

        “The reasons behind the persecution are still heavily debated”, Behrend states. Political factors certainly played a part. Those killed included minor chiefs, some of whom, such as Joseph Mukasa, were “the victims of particular grudges by their seniors … jealous that these up and coming young men would soon be ousting them from power”. Ward has argued that the motivation was the perception that “these Christians were rebels against the Kabaka, unwitting tools of foreign imperialism”.

        A witness to the event, the French missionary priest Lourdel, considered that the principal cause was Mwanga’s feeling of being despised by the literate Christians who claimed a superior knowledge of religion. Lourdel gave as a secondary cause of Mwanga’s action “the impossibility of satisfying his shameful passions”. Ward certainly notes that “the immediate cause of the killings was the refusal of the pages to engage in homosexual practices”. The king, who by tradition had the power of life and death over his subjects, was angered by this refusal to obey his wishes to have sex with him.

        In Buganda certain forms of same-sex relations were institutionalised. Young men served in the royal courts and provided sexual services for visitors and elites. Marie de Kiewet-Hemphill concludes that the immediate pretext, if not the whole cause, was therefore the refusal of the pages to yield to Mwanga. Roland Oliver rejects resentment against Christianity as a sufficient reason, since it does not explain why Mwanga took action against these young men and not against prominent chiefs and women among the converts. Sylvia Antonia Nannyonga-Tamusuza draws attention to the same point. J. P. Thoonen in his book on the question agrees with Kiewet-Hemphill’s analysis, while recognizing the existence of other political factors. Particularly as some of those that renounced their faith were spared death.

        In the week leading to the executions, the Christian Matthias Gayinga rejected the sexual demands of Mwanga’s close friend, the Muslim Lutaya, to whom the king had sent him for that purpose. For this he was severely punished, though not killed. His gesture was described as a “splendid refusal” by the English missionary A. P. Ashe, who later said it set the spark for later events. This action was followed by the refusal of another convert, Anatole Kirrigwajjo, to accept nomination to a high post “which he could only exercise at the peril of his soul”.

        While many of the Christian pages often arranged to be missing when Mwanga wanted them or refused his demands outright, one page Muwafi did comply. Mwanga is said to have caught another page teaching Christianity to Muwafi. He saw this as an attempt “to rob him of his favourite and so far always compliant toy by teaching him the religion which made them prefer death to submission to his shameful demands”. Mwanga summoned the pages and asked those who prayed to stand to one side. These, most of whom were between 15 and 30 years old, were then taken on a long journey to execution by being burnt alive. By displaying what courage Christianity demanded, they helped remove any notion that the new religion was inconsistent with traditional ideals of heroism.

    • S_J says:

      If we include the capture, transport across the Atlantic, and forcible-slavery in European countries of Tisquantum/Squanto in “trans-Atlantic slave trade”, then Plymouth Plantation might not have had much success.

      Squanto did take more trips across the Atlantic than most of the settlers in Plymouth did, but his first trip was as a slave of some sort.

      The settlers of Plymouth did interact with other local Natives, and actually had a falling-out with Squanto shortly before he died…but I suspect things would have been very different for the Plymouth settlers if none of the local Natives had the fluency with European languages shown by Squanto.

    • Rm says:

      Seems like there would be much less exploration of the Southern hemisphere in general, because an expedition needs funds, and (I seem to have read that) quite a few wealthy lords whose money came from slave trade patronized expeditions of the Royal Society (maybe even were members of it.) Maybe Australia would be fought over with much more zeal, as a colony?

      But it is also interesting to imagine the reason why the thing wouldn’t have happened in the first place – perhaps a highly contagious fatal disease making the region simply uninhabitable? (I mean, there’s got to be something to make the trade “not happen”, you can’t just will away the Empire.)

    • Without forced labor, you get basically no capital investment in the Americas. It’s that simple. When there is (relatively) open land on the frontier, investors would have had to pay very high wages to plantation workers to keep those workers from leaving for the frontier. High enough wages, so as to soak up nearly all of the profit, unless an investor could devise an operation that was simply much more efficient than something an independent homesteader could arrange, so as to be able to provide his workers with a homesteader’s living + maintain a profit. But a homesteader’s living means not just subsistence, but being able to accumulate a surplus/profit as well. So an investor could quickly expect any innovations to be copied by his former employees, who would quickly be saving up and moving out to the frontier to become his new competitors.

      Marx describes this process in Capital, Vol I., Chapter 33.

      • John Schilling says:

        It’s amusing to see someone cite Marx while arguing that, in a negotiation between labor and capital, labor will claim all of the surplus value. But that only works if you believe in Homo Economicus, or really the New Libertarian Man, where every person is an Anarch who ruthlessly min-maxes their personal economic gain.

        Reasons why real people will work for mediocre but guaranteed wages rather than becoming lone-wolf entrepreneurs are left as an exercise for the student, but really, look around. And we can be confident that the early Virginia tobacco plantations at least would have been profitable investments without slave labor, because they were profitable investments without slave labor.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @citizencokane

        What exactly do you mean by “basically no”? You seem to be writing off a lot of activity north of a certain point.

        • Well... says:

          The first slaves were in the north.

          • Plumber says:

            “The first slaves were in the north”

            @Well…

            You consider Jamestown, Virginia as “the north”?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m including Canada in the north; my understanding is that the number of slaves in these parts was very small and was for the most part limited to household servants, with more coming from what would be the US in various ways. Further, my understanding is that the economy became more and more dependent on slaves further south – not stopping at what today is the southern US border.

          • Well... says:

            Slavery was practiced widely throughout (e.g.) Massachusetts in the 1600s.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But, without it, those colonies would still have been attractive, right? I’d also again note that there’s a whole bunch of stuff here, north of Massachusetts.

            Plus, we’re talking about the Americas, not the US, so there’s all sorts of really nasty plantation work where work conditions were bad enough to require slave labour.

      • baconbits9 says:

        This is both empirically and theoretically incorrect. First the majority of slaves shipped to the new world occurred in the 1700s and early 1800s, estimates tend to be around 80% of all salves were shipped in that time frame meaning roughly 20% of slaves were shipped during the 200 years prior, a period with substantial investment in the new world. There are arguments that the slave trade was driven by the fact that there were so many investment opportunities that slavery was a work around to a limited labor supply. There are also arguments that the growing amounts of goods being shipped from the US back to Europe essentially subsidized the slave trade as the empty ships were heading back to the colonies anyway. This is supported by the way slaves were treated on the crossing, being packed in and not treated like valuable commodities. Secondly the North was greatly diminishing its reliance on slaves after the Union was formed and yet relatively few people ran for the frontier in the North, investment was substantial and the North was outproducing the south in agricultural goods up until the price of cotton exploded in the 1840s. Additionally waves of free immigrants (like the Irish) hit the US and relatively few of them headed for the frontier, instead looking for work in manufacturing and shipping centers in the North. Finally the places with the heaviest reliance on slavery did not have frontiers in common, Haiti being a primary example.

        Theoretically the argument is also bunk, based on the complete nonsense of the labor theory of value. Growth comes from productivity gains, not rents, and slave owners and shippers were acting as rent seekers, enriching themselves but not the regions they lived in. This is why places that relied heavily on slavery were economic backwaters relative to similar areas that didn’t, falling behind in population growth, income per capita, productivity etc when compared to similar areas that shook off slavery sooner.

  24. vV_Vv says:

    Is coconut oil a healthy fat, a bad fat or an ok fat?

    • Randy M says:

      Paleo people who laud Coconut oil do so because they dispute the negative effects of saturated fat, not because they thought it was unsaturated, so this article doesn’t move that debate much.
      I think everyone agrees that poly-unsaturated fatty acids are bad.
      I don’t recall the arguments either way about fatty acid mechanisms. I cook in butter and coconut oil frequently, though, and had good numbers on my last bloodwork, so I’m not likely to have a change of heart.

      [edit: I think perhaps the argument went that studies showing higher saturated fat diets did show higher cholesterol but also lower total mortality, or something along those lines]

      • vV_Vv says:

        I think everyone agrees that poly-unsaturated fatty acids are bad.

        I thought the common knowledge was that mono- and poly-unsaturated fats are good and trans-unsaturated fats (e.g. hydrogenated oils) are bad.

        Saturated fats are controversial: nutrition and health professional associations tend to claim that they are bad, but this is disputed by some studies and the observation of the so-called French paradox.

        Is there any specific study about coconut oil, or is the mainstream claim just “it’s saturated therefore it’s bad”?

        • Randy M says:

          Ah, you are right, it is trans-fatty acids that I was thinking of, though I believe PUFA is a paleo boogey fat.

          Is there any specific study about coconut oil,

          From your link,

          Michels based her warning on the high proportion of saturated fat in coconut oil

          From a link therein:

          In summary, randomized controlled trials that lowered intake of dietary saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced CVD by ≈30%, similar to the reduction achieved by statin treatment. Prospective observational studies in many populations showed that lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of CVD and of other major causes of death and all-cause mortality. In contrast, replacement of saturated fat with mostly refined carbohydrates and sugars is not associated with lower rates of CVD and did not reduce CVD in clinical trials. Replacement of saturated with unsaturated fats lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, a cause of atherosclerosis, linking biological evidence with incidence of CVD in populations and in clinical trials. Taking into consideration the totality of the scientific evidence, satisfying rigorous criteria for causality, we conclude strongly that lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, will lower the incidence of CVD.

          I suspect at best this is only true for certain populations, similar to dietary salt intake.

          One reason coconut oil is supposed to be good for cooking is that it doesn’t break down at high heat like Olive oil does.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I cook in butter and coconut oil frequently, though, and had good numbers on my last bloodwork, so I’m not likely to have a change of heart.

        Very funny, Randy.

  25. Well... says:

    In the last OT I presented my opinion on journalism, which is both unfavorable and (I hope we can agree) at least somewhat unusual, and I asked why nobody had argued against it despite my having presented it several times previously. Here’s what I learned from that discussion:

    1. Part of the reason nobody had argued against me previously must have been that I simply hadn’t posted my opinion in a prominent enough place. Last OT was the first time I posted it as a top-level thread, and that time I got lots of responses — so many I didn’t have time to read them all. It helps that I also primed the discussion earlier by asking a general question about this kind of non-engagement in an OT immediately previous to that one, which seemed to pique people’s interest in what topic I might be talking about.

    2. I was probably too vague/unclear in my arguments, generally speaking, for people to engage with them. (Likely, since lack of engagement meant I haven’t had much opportunity to hone my arguments!) This isn’t absolutely true though, since many people did engage last OT even without asking for further clarification. Also, one or two people seemed to basically agree with me and understand what I was getting at.

    3. Further research needed. After having all those arguments last OT, my basic opinion on journalism hasn’t changed but I see areas where I need to investigate further and refine my points, and better differentiate some things from other things. Related to #2 I guess.

    Thanks to everyone who took part; it was most rewarding.

    • engleberg says:

      I thought you should have stressed a distinction between what journalists are better at than the rest of us, shoe leather journalism, and where they are no better than the rest of us- bullshucking about shoe leather journalism in editorials and columns. Glad you posted.

      • Well... says:

        My main point was about what journalists aren’t actually very good at, and how this is problematic given what they claim to be doing. So, discussing what they are good at wasn’t really relevant then.

        But I have thought about it before, and I would say a reporter is probably better than most people at calling up strangers and getting them to divulge information, and maybe even at conducting interviews that produce interesting or titillating quotes.* I assume most journalists are good at turning a story around on a tight deadline too. There are some unique skills that news anchors have, such as reading naturalistically off a teleprompter without rehearsal, though that is easily learned. Morning news anchors especially are good at improvised “witty banter”, which at 6 in the morning, after sitting in hair and makeup since 5, probably isn’t easy for most people (though I assume tremendous doses of caffeine and possibly other drugs provide assistance).

        *A few journalists are exceptionally good interviewers. I think Melvyn Bragg is so good, social scientists could probably learn from him.

      • albatross11 says:

        ISTM there’s an advantage in just having someone whose job is to follow and report on some area of the world. Like having someone not directly involved in the local political scene who shows up to every city council meeting, reviews the budget and official documents provided by the city government, pays attention to major city initiatives and checks up on how they’re going, etc. That person is in an excellent position to inform the rest of the community about those things, and they’re things that person is in a good position to know about. A reporter who’s worked on that beat for a few years will know a lot about the informal arrangements that get things done, the personality clashes and likely corrupt deals and such.

        That’s very different from, say, talking heads opining on stuff they don’t know much about, or a reporter who barely scraped by in his one required science class with a C being sent off to report on the latest results in immune therapy for cancer.

        Unfortunately, I have the impression that this kind of reporter doesn’t pay off so well for the newspapers, and so they’ve been going away over time. Most towns don’t have a newspaper anymore, so there’s nobody really reporting on what the city government’s up to. This has serious consequences.

        • engleberg says:

          I don’t think we’re losing shoe leather reporters. I’d be sorry if we were. As you say, they are valuable. And rando internet scribblings can’t compete with a quality beat reporter who really knows their stuff. But for years newspapers have provided low quality editorials and columns, shucking bull about their shoe leather reporting and shucking it badly, and they can’t compete with the internet there.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think we’re losing shoe leather reporters. I’d be sorry if we were.

            This strikes me as bizarre. There are fairly major cities that no longer have a first class newspaper at all. And the top tier papers that still exist have cut way back. The New York Times, for example, now writes as much in a week about New York City as they used to in a month.

            What are the online venues where I can find any sort of replacement whatsoever for the level of local reporting they did 50 years ago?

            I can maybe find a shaky cell phone video recording of a city council meeting on some crank’s website, but that’s hardly the same thing as having an intelligent and diligent professional attend all of those meetings over time, dig further into issues that come up, and summarize them in an engaging and informative way.

          • engleberg says:

            Re: there are fairly major cities that no longer have a first class newspaper-

            Name some names. Remember that ‘Hearst paper’ did not originally mean ‘first-class newspaper’. It is not a golden age of shoe leather journalism, but, alas, it was ever thus.

            Although it’s really bizarre that D party media in New York hasn’t dug into El Presidente’s real estate efforts. Is David Remnick snorting crack from Trump’s heinie at Illuminati parties? Less unlikely than ‘Trump’s fifty years of New York real estate business just didn’t happen to involve any really awful scandal’.

          • Deiseach says:

            Although it’s really bizarre that D party media in New York hasn’t dug into El Presidente’s real estate efforts.

            Probably that’s a Pandora’s box they do not want to open, as sure they may very well find out “Trump was linked to/paid off really dodgy guys with links to organised crime” but I would bet he wasn’t the only developer, including any Democrat donors, to do so and New York being a large and (relatively) old city, there’s a certain amount of institutional graft and expected “marketing agent” work re: local government authorities, and that’s going to be equal opportunity for both parties.

            By digging into dodgy deals in Trump’s past, they might be in danger of finding out too much and uncovering a few dodgy deals involving prominent Democrats. Much better to let sleeping dogs lie.

            And print newspapers are living and dying by advertising, who wants to piss off a large buyer of ad space by running a story about their bribes and under the table dealing? Not just Trump, as I said, there’s bound to be a lot of it about even still, as per this article from 2013 on the tussle between the business side and the journalism side of newspapers over content:

            As news organizations struggle to be profitable again, the line between editorial and advertising gets increasingly blurred. (How strong was it in the first place?) Just last week, Time Inc said that, “seeking to increase revenue by building a closer partnership between business and the newsroom,” the editors of its individual magazines would now report directly to the company’s business side for the first time in its history, instead of to the editor in chief of Time Inc. “We believe effective collaboration across business and editorial lines is imperative if we are to succeed as an independent company,” Time’s CEO wrote in a memo.

            Advertisers now have a much louder voice than ever before in what gets reported and how. You see this reflected all over the web already with the rise of “native advertising” (also sometimes referred to as “sponsored content” or “branded content”). This is often advertising disguised to look as though the editors of the publication or website wrote it. Proponents say this gives audiences commercial messages in the “context” in which they are already viewing or reading something, but detractors claim it is a way to trick audiences into engaging with ads. The controversy seems to just be getting started.

  26. dndnrsn says:

    VII – Prophecy – Amos and Hosea

    Welcome to the seventh installment of my effortpost series on Biblical scholarship. Previously, we’ve covered the Torah (first five books of the Hebrew Bible) and the Deuteronomistic History – here’s a post collecting them. This time, we’ll consider prophecy, followed by the books of Amos and Hosea – probably the earliest of the prophetic works in the Hebrew Bible.

    Caveats: This is about secular scholarship. I’m not a full-on expert, but I studied this in university. I’m shooting for about the same level of complexity one might get in a 100 or 200 level course.

    Prophets – defined as people who spoke on behalf of gods or goddesses – existed across the Ancient Near East. We have various ancient sources referring to prophecy, and in some cases recording prophetic pronouncements and the like. Prophecy varied from one place to another, and while biblical scholars sometimes differentiate between prophecy and oracles (predicting the future, in various ways) this may be a division we are forcing onto the past. However, it is worth noting that the layperson’s understanding of prophecy, as concerned largely with predicting the future, isn’t entirely correct either.

    In Israel, prophets appear to have been important figures. The historical books we considered last time are, in Jewish canon, part of the prophetic books – this appears to derive from an understanding of the prophets as important figures in these narrative documents. There is here also the issue of distinguishing prophecy from telling the future – Deuteronomy condemns divination along with similar things, but there appear to have been some forms of divination that were deemed acceptable in ancient Israel. The canonical prophetic books are as much about the present as the future – they are social criticism.

    Over ancient Israel’s history, the role and character of prophets changed. Looking at the Deuteronomistic History, one sees a transition from local prophet figures to courtly figures, operating in groups and involved with the monarchy. The prophets whose words have been preserved in the books we’ll be looking at now are atypical: they represent more or less the tail end of the prophetic tradition, and appear to have been relatively independent from the monarchy.

    Considering provenance, the general scholarly consensus is that the prophetic books appear to originate as pronouncements by prophets that were written down, at the time or somewhat later These written sources were later edited, bits were moved around, stuff got added, and so on. While a prophet may have spoken before a traumatic crisis such as the destruction of the northern kingdom or the Babylonian exile, the redaction of this material appears to have continued for some time afterwards. Redaction theories get pretty arcane: for our purposes, suffice it to say that earlier words were later changed, shuffled, and so on – and to consider that this was because the prophets’ words were considered relevant to changing circumstances.

    As has generally been the case with what we’ve considered so far, a big issue in reading the prophets is the degree to which “retroactive continuity” is at work. If Amos and Hosea, for example, preached in the middle of the eighth century, did they have access to the Torah or not? One can’t begin to answer this question without answering (or, trying to answer) the question of how and when the Torah was put together – which many of my earlier installments dealt with. The prophets are crucial to the history of this religious development. Were they traditionalists, or innovators?

    The picture one gets by simply reading the books at face value, without any recourse to critical scholarship, is that they are traditionalists. The rules were set early on, they were progressively abandoned due to various temptations, and the prophets came to tell people to shape up. This interpretation has been at the core of traditional Jewish interpretation, and much traditional Christian interpretation.

    However, there is a certain strain of Protestant understanding of the prophets which emphasizes certain anti-legalistic elements, and celebrates the prophets as compared to supposed later legalism. This ignores some prophetic interest in ritual observance – but it fits into an unfortunately anti-semitic understanding of Judaism both at the time of Jesus and more recently. It also fits into Protestant anti-Catholicism. These tendencies found their way into some 19th century German Biblical scholarship: the prophets as innovators, introducing humanistic concerns and a zeal for monotheism, influencing the (backdated) books of the Torah and the Deuteronomistic History, but then smothered under legalism.

    A fairer and more realistic scholarly approach has concluded that, chronologically, the Torah was developing along with the prophetic traditions we’ll be considering – there’s a great deal of overlap – and there could have been influences back and forth. The documentary history of the Bible is not simple (it’s not along the lines of, in such-and-such a year, so-and-so book appeared) and there is a lot going on in a period of a few centuries, considering both the text and the historical background.

    So, let’s look at the actual books. Amos is attributed to a prophet active in the early to mid 8th century, whose prophecy concerns the northern kingdom. At that time, the northern kingdom was prosperous. There was, however, growing inequality, growing acquisition of land by wealthy landowners at the expense of small farmers, who were often burdened with debt. In the late eighth century, the northern kingdom would be conquered and devastated by the Assyrians.

    This brings in an interesting dating issue. Amos predicts the destruction of the northern kingdom – which happens some time after his prophetic career concludes. He never mentions the Assyrians directly, but mentions punishments of exile, which in some cases seem to allude to mass deportation. While taking captives in war, as slaves or as hostages, was not an Assyrian invention, mass deportation and resettlement were. The Assyrians were not a threat while Amos was prophesying – but became one shortly thereafter. Some scholars think these allusions were added later.

    Amos begins with oracles against various nations followed, shockingly, by an oracle against Israel itself (scholars argue over whether this refers solely to the northern kingdom or to the ancient