THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 111.25

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939 Responses to Open Thread 111.25

  1. Atlas says:

    (There are some sources I’d like to cite here, but for the sake of brevity and avoiding the spam filter I’ll try to round them up and put them in a later comment.)

    In your view, what does it mean to be an American in 2018? (Or a member of whatever your nation of birth is, though I expect that the discussion will be centered around the US.)

    Does being an American simply mean being a US citizen, or, to use an even less demanding criterion, a resident of somewhere under the jurisdiction of the US government?

    I think this was the main definition of “American” I received from my teachers in elementary-high school and from the mainstream media sources like the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Atlantic and NPR I received my information from growing up. Furthermore, I think this is in effect the definition that many leading politicians in both major political parties, such as former President Barack Obama, the late Senator John McCain, former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have publicly espoused. A representative and informative example is provided by then Senator Obama’s widely praised 2004 keynote speech at the DNC, wherein he stated:

    ——————————————————————————————————————————-Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.
    (APPLAUSE)
    There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.
    (APPLAUSE)
    The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.
    We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————-

    The gist of this seems to be either that everyone who resides within the territory of the United States—regardless of their ancestry, faith, values and beliefs—is equally an American or that there are no major differences in ancestry, faith, values and beliefs that separate Americans. In that case, the definition of “American” is so expansive that it becomes meaningless; there is nothing that makes “Americans” more similar to each other than a group of people selected at random from across the world are to each other. Indeed, this seems to be the gist of the statement made by the father of the late Mollie Tibbets in the wake of her murder.

    There is a somewhat more restrictive view of “civic nationalism” that some mainstream conservative politicians and pundits adhere to, in which being American means believing in certain values and doing certain things: freedom, democracy, respecting the flag, respecting the troops, speaking English, et cetera. But the suggestion that components of identity like race and religion can be legitimate and key determinants of what a nation is and who belongs to it is anathema to most American politicians and pundits, even those of the “civic nationalist” bent.

    I was thinking about these questions because I recently finished reading Pat Buchanan’s 2006 book State of Emergency, a polemic against immigration to the US and the West more broadly. Buchanan is a much deeper thinker than the vast majority of mainstream conservative politicians, journalists/pundits and academics, and I think the book makes the case for Trump/Miller/Bannon immigration policy about as cogently as anyone can.

    I think that Buchanan is correct in arguing that nationhood cannot be a meaningful concept if the only things under-girding it are residence and a hypothetical shared belief in theoretical “values” which is meaningless to 95% of actual people. I don’t think that a nation has to be 100% homogeneous for citizenship in it to be meaningful, but I do think it has to have a large core of people who share a lot of powerful identities in terms of race, religion, values and so on, and minorities who aren’t too numerous and share at least some of those things with the majority.

    Thus, I think it is indeed fair to say, as Buchanan does, that America’s post 1960s trajectory is leading to the destruction of the historical American nation forged from ~1924-1965 and defined substantially by having a white, Christian super-majority. As a substantial number of immigrants of all races and faiths become American citizens each year in perpetuity, and, as Charles Murray argued in Coming Apart, as Americans internally continue to heavily segregate by education and wealth, the bonds of nationhood will fray until they break. Though Noah Smith clearly beat him by a wide margin in their debate, Michael Anissimov had a great line when he said that America is less a nation and more just a bunch of people who happen to live next to each other.

    However, I am not yet convinced that this is necessarily a bad thing on net. I am far from convinced that these changes will lead to Mad Max/the fall of the Roman Empire style anarchy, which frankly seems to be what many ardent immigration restrictionists believe. I also think that the massive economic benefits that immigration brings to immigrants, as the result of positive sum improvements in productivity, as economists like Bryan Caplan and Michael Clemens have argued, are an important factor to consider. (Many immigration restrictionists struggle with the concept that one can care about the well-being of both native born citizens and potential/actual immigrants and attempt to fairly judge the interests of both. It’s far more convenient for them to stick to the GWB line “You’re either with us or you’re against us.”)

    Ultimately, I don’t think that race and/or religion will be permanently dividing lines between mankind. I think, as Francis Fukuyama argued at length in the Origins of Political Order, history shows a consistent, if uneven, trend of the groups that people want to belong to—from bands to tribes to nations/races— expanding over the long run. (I emphasize “want” because the rise and fall of empires that people don’t want to belong to is raised as a counterpoint. Also, Steve Sailer had some good criticism of this idea as expressed by Mark Zuckerberg.)

    (I am aware of aitch-bee-dee and have some thoughts on how it ties into all this, but long story short I don’t think, especially with changes in technology that may happen over the next century or so, it fundamentally changes things. However, I think Scott has kind of taboo’d discussion of this topic in the comments/OTs, at least last I saw, so I’ll leave it at that.)

    However, I do think that elites in many Western countries have moved too far too fast with these changes, and have become too openly and strongly committed to beliefs and values at odds with a large fraction of their fellow citizens. (And indeed to some extent at odds with empirical reality more broadly.) I would accordingly perhaps counsel something like “tactical nationalism, strategic globalism”: a politics that acknowledges frankly the reality and validity of tribalism in a way that appeals to the masses, while seeking in the long term to create a world where mankind is not divided by race, religion or nationality but united by shared concern for the well-being and equitable treatment of all.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      “have become too openly committed to beliefs and values at odds with a large fraction of their fellow citizens.”

      And I think a very mouthy, kinda repulsive minority is trying to overstate how much support their stupidity has among the general population. Are we going to just state things at each other, or is there maybe some data to read about?

      “Large fraction” indeed.

      • Atlas says:

        Perhaps “growing” would be more apt; I agree that the degree of support that nationalists have is often overstated, but the past couple years have seen a strong showing of anti-establishment candidates and causes compared to the previous, say, 15-20 years. I’ll look into the polling data with an open mind and report my findings, but I can’t imagine it would be that different from what you’d expect based on the results of elections.

        Consider:

        —Donald Trump’s surprise victories first in the Republican presidential primary and then in the presidential election.

        —The “leave” result of the Brexit vote.

        — The rise of Matteo Salvini in Italian politics.

        —The high popularity of Viktor Orban in Hungary and the Law and Justice party in Poland.

        —Marine Le Pen gettting ~34% of the vote in the 2017 French presidential elections compared to the ~18% of the vote her father got in the 2002 elections.

        —The relatively strong showing of Geert Wilders’ party in the 2017 Dutch elections.

        —The large gains by AfD in 2017 German parliamentary elections.

        —The strong gains by the Sweden Democrats in the recent Swedish parliamentary elections.

        Certainly, outside of Eastern Europe no nationalist candidate (yet) represents a majority, or even perhaps a plurality, of voters. (Though they represent larger shares among native-born/old-stock populations—e.g. Donald Trump won white voters relative to HRC by a 58/37% margin, but lost the popular vote overall 46/48%.) But the share of voters that they do represent is non-trivial and growing, and I think that’s worth considering.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I agree that the things in “empirical reality” mentioned are happening, and it is interesting. Interpretations (and thus the takeaways) of the things that are happening vary. In particular, probably waiting a few more election cycles would be prudent to see whether there is a trend or a black (?orange?) swan.

          There are lots of moving parts. One bit of it is refugees (which are a big issue in Europe, and a non-issue in the US). One bit of it is Russia playing up divisive, primarily far-right factions in the West (as the Soviet Union has been doing for ages), for geopolitical fun and profit. One bit of it is our civilization being unable to “social science” properly, in particular being unable to construct social technologies necessary for distributing prosperity and productivity properly. One bit of it is racism and tribalism. One bit of it is Trump and the internet creating common knowledge (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_knowledge_(logic)) among the somewhat loose coalition of nativists/nationalists/racists/neonazis/die hard republicans, etc. (that is, letting supporters “plant a flag and compare notes.”) One bit of it is the cultural predisposition of Trump supporters (which is something that flows from the top, e.g. Trump himself) of being willing to burn all commons for short term gain.

          So what are the policy takeaways here? Good question.

          • quanta413 says:

            One bit of it is Russia playing up divisive, primarily far-right factions in the West (as the Soviet Union has been doing for ages), for geopolitical fun and profit.

            This seems hilariously irrelevant to me. Doesn’t even reach the “little bit” level. Russia didn’t succeed at harming the U.S. much when it was the Soviet Union funding Communists around the world and had agents high up in other governments. Russia’s GDP is a little bit more than 1/15 of ours, and they’re halfway around the world with almost no population growth.

            What evidence is there that any of what they’ve done moves the needle more than the average political advertising campaign, where we already have trouble telling if there’s an effect from (more) political spending? Are they even more effective than 4chan?

            One bit of it is our civilization being unable to “social science” properly, in particular being unable to construct social technologies necessary for distributing prosperity and productivity properly.

            Social science shouldn’t have to do with normative questions like “distributing prosperity and productivity properly”. That’s like saying that biology is about “properly distributing biomass and productivity between species”.

            Social engineering would be a better term, and I see no reason to believe successful development of it would necessarily be a good thing. I figure more effective Nazis are as likely as more effective not-Nazis. Or more effect Communists as likely as more effective not-Communists.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Russia didn’t succeed at harming the U.S. much when it was the Soviet Union funding Communists around the world and had agents high up in other governments.”

            Of course the Soviet Union succeeded in harming the US. Think of all the wars we got involved in because of the Soviet Union, that ended up not going well, and causing problems.

            The other thing is, just because the effect of spying/propaganda, etc. is difficult to measure, (a) does not mean it’s not there, (b) does not mean it doesn’t count against the country engaged in it. The intent is clearly to harm.

            “What evidence is there.”

            That’s not the relevant standard. Think about folks convicted of spying — there was no provable concrete harm requirement. It’s the fact they were spying at all.

            “Social science shouldn’t have to do with normative questions like “distributing prosperity and productivity properly”.”

            “Say we want to distribute, how to do that?” is a “social science” question in the sense that it involves solving coordination problems that are hard to solve, and need social technology.

            I am not interested in debating normative questions with you. All I am going to say is folks in rural Alabama towns where the only economic activity is scrap metal collection and H&R block are probably going to cause problems for the US, and this is perhaps understandable.

          • quanta413 says:

            A lot of Soviet harm looks like the U.S. making own goals to me. I guess to be fair, I should count that even if the U.S. could have avoided it easily. That would make the harm significant. But the Soviets didn’t fight in Korea even though they supported North Korea, and the U.S. didn’t need to intervene in Vietnam at all. I think most of the blame lies with U.S. politicians for Vietnam even if the Soviet threat is why they crafted their policy.

            I’m not saying the direct harm was 0, I’m saying it wouldn’t have been much if the U.S. didn’t intervene militarily halfway across the world for reasons that often look not so great in retrospect. If the Soviet Union didn’t exist, I’m not convinced that U.S. GDP wouldn’t be exactly the same.

            Of course, things could have gone horrifyingly badly. The Soviets could have launched nuclear weapons. They had the power. But in the end, I think the potential for harm was very high, but the actual harm to the U.S. was shockingly low compared to what could reasonably have been expected.

            And Russia currently isn’t holding a candle to the Soviet Union.

            That’s not the relevant standard. Think about folks convicted of spying — there was no provable concrete harm requirement. It’s the fact they were spying at all.

            Yes, it is. The question was about why anti-establishment politicians are on the rise. You answered with a bit about Russia. So the question is not “does Russia spy on the U.S.?” or “does Russia want to weaken the U.S.?” Israel spies on the U.S. too. Probably everyone who can spies on the U.S. Many countries would like to weaken the U.S. The question is “does Russian spying and astroturfing actually have a meaningful effect on the rise of right wing politicians?”.

            “Social science shouldn’t have to do with normative questions like “distributing prosperity and productivity properly”.”

            “Say we want to distribute, how to do that?” is a “social science” question in the sense that it involves solving coordination problems that are hard to solve, and need social technology.

            That path could work out. But having an effective science does not guarantee an effective technology or vice versa. Carnot wrote his work after we had steam engines. Almost all social “technology” we have predates social science by centuries.

            Other times we have a science like paleontology but relatively little technological payoff. Or you can advance a science and find out that something is impossible. Like perpetual motion machines.

            That’s why I’m being a pedant about calling it social engineering. Focusing on social engineering implies significantly different goals to me than laying more solid foundations for social science itself. It could take decades more of time to lay more solid foundations for social science and who knows how long before it has more overarching uses.

            On the other hand, I think economics is relatively successful in this niche. So we already have the science in some cases. Auction design is a niche thing but useful and fairly well understood.

            I am not interested in debating normative questions with you. All I am going to say is folks in rural Alabama towns where the only economic activity is scrap metal collection and H&R block are probably going to cause problems for the US, and this is perhaps understandable.

            I’m not interested in debating what’s the proper set of norms either. I am interested in questions like “why should we expect that improved social technology will be used to help folks in rural Alabama towns?” or “why not expect social technology will be used to make folks in rural Alabama towns stop being a problem for powerful people at the expense of making rural Alabama towns even worse?” For example, the Chinese Communist Party is big on social engineering for reasons that I don’t think would necessarily align with my interests if I lived in China.

          • bean says:

            But the Soviets didn’t fight in Korea even though they supported North Korea, and the U.S. didn’t need to intervene in Vietnam at all. I think most of the blame lies with U.S. politicians for Vietnam even if the Soviet threat is why they crafted their policy.

            There were Soviet pilots flying fighters in Korea, and the entire war was at Stalin’s discretion. In the early 50s, he ruled world Communism. It ended shortly after he died for a reason.

            As for Vietnam, our intervention bought Thailand 10 years to strengthen their defenses. I don’t see how our non-intervention results in a free South Vietnam. Yes, our politicians bungled the war spectacularly, but containment was good and necessary policy. The Soviets were really out to get us.

          • Lillian says:

            We could have avoided the whole debacle by just siding with Democratic Republic of Vietnam immediately after WW2 instead of letting the French retake the colony. Indeed President Roosevelt was of the opinion that under no circumstances was French Indo-China to be returned to France, unfortunately Truman was much less concerned about the matter and let things follow their course, which proved disastrous in the long run. Ho Chi Minh admired the United States and despite his socialist inclinations would have much rather worked with us than the Soviets.

          • quanta413 says:

            @bean

            Thanks, I stand corrected. I thought that the Soviet Union had only given material aid and advising in Korea. Not troops.

            I’m not convinced by the logic of containment in Southeast Asia. Or at least not by our implementation. There’s the possibility Lillian mentioned although I dunno how likely it was. I’m also not sure if our actions made things in Cambodia better or worse. Even if Thailand had been lost to Communism, I’m not sure that would have mattered to the U.S. Definitely bad for Thailand though.

            The Soviets were out to get us, but their economic position was incredibly behind although it apparently wasn’t obvious at the time despite the order of magnitude difference. It’s hard for me to imagine how they could have done significant damage much less won without starting a hot war. Communist economic policy is just so disastrous.

            Sure did ruin a lot of other countries though. I think that made fighting Communism in the third world worth it.

          • bean says:

            @Lillian
            I’ll grant that we screwed up the immediate aftermath of WWII, although that wasn’t much comfort by the late 50s, when the French were in trouble there.

            @quanta413

            I’m not convinced by the logic of containment in Southeast Asia. Or at least not by our implementation. There’s the possibility Lillian mentioned although I dunno how likely it was.

            Even granting her entire point, it’s not really a rebuttal. You’re a senior undersecretary of state in 1960. What do you recommend?

            I’m also not sure if our actions made things in Cambodia better or worse.

            Neither am I. I still don’t understand what was going on there.

            Even if Thailand had been lost to Communism, I’m not sure that would have mattered to the U.S. Definitely bad for Thailand though.

            Thailand may not have mattered that much. But if Thailand goes, Malaysia might well fall too. And that takes out Singapore, and hands the commies control of the Strait of Malacca. And that matters to the US a great deal.

            The Soviets were out to get us, but their economic position was incredibly behind although it apparently wasn’t obvious at the time despite the order of magnitude difference. It’s hard for me to imagine how they could have done significant damage much less won without starting a hot war. Communist economic policy is just so disastrous.

            Nobody realized that at the time, so they couldn’t base decisions on it.

          • quanta413 says:

            Even granting her entire point, it’s not really a rebuttal. You’re a senior undersecretary of state in 1960. What do you recommend?

            Who knows? Likely in the same milieu I’d make the same mistake. But it still looks like a mistake to me looking back.

            Thailand may not have mattered that much. But if Thailand goes, Malaysia might well fall too. And that takes out Singapore, and hands the commies control of the Strait of Malacca. And that matters to the US a great deal.

            This is why I get off the train from a strictly national self-interest point of view. Why not wait to throw half a million bodies at the problem until something valuable is actually threatened. The chain of events that actually threatens American material interests is Vietnam —> Thailand —> Malaysia. That requires two more communist revolutions to occur which is a lot of time to react. And then the communists have to shoot themselves in the foot economically (…which is something communists have a habit of doing) by cutting off trade through the straits. And even then it cuts off trade partners almost 10 from the top by volume. Obviously it’s worse for our allies in Asia.

            But we still trade with China even though the Chinese government are communists so I’m not even convinced communists holding Singapore and Malaysia would matter to the U.S. in the long run. And even if communists in Southeast Asia did cut off trade, the economic substitutions that would take place would mean that we would lose nowhere near the entire value of trade we engage in through the straits.

            And if this terrible chain of events doesn’t happen, lots of money and lives saved. It’s also not like the only possible responses were do nothing or engage in a protracted war in the jungles of Vietnam.

            The worst case scenario costs seem to largely fall upon whoever communists rule.

            I think it’s true fighting communism across the world greatly benefited other countries even if rule by U.S. backed dictators wasn’t great. Communism was that bad of an alternative. The Korean War looks to have been obviously worth it from the point of view of South Koreans. Vietnam is questionable, but I suspect South Vietnam would have benefited much like South Korea if we had won. But I have trouble comprehending how it benefited the U.S. directly to not take a more conservative approach.

            Nobody realized that at the time, so they couldn’t base decisions on it.

            I agree that nobody who mattered realized it, but the difference was so stark it’s hard for me to understand how they could make such a large mistake for almost five decades. Perhaps it was because Soviet military might was significant so they assumed the Soviet economy must be great. It’s not like no one had left Russia or visited Russia for forty years.

            Obviously, it’s easy for me to criticize in hindsight, but it seems like the sort of mistake that’s important to understand. If what appeared to be a terrifying threat was actually economically weak although militarily strong and crumbled without ever going to war with us, than how much lower should our evaluation be of the strength of the effect another country could intentionally exert on us right now?

          • bean says:

            This is why I get off the train from a strictly national self-interest point of view. Why not wait to throw half a million bodies at the problem until something valuable is actually threatened.

            There’s a couple reasons. First, this is a big change to US policy. What was so valuable in Korea that we had to defend? Heck, Korea was so unimportant that at one point, Truman didn’t mention it in a speech about the US defensive perimeter. And yet we responded. Letting them have Vietnam because “it’s not important” is an invitation for them to start fighting everywhere, secure in the knowledge that we won’t fight back. Enough unimportant things can turn important surprisingly quickly. Second, it’s often cheaper to fight as far forward as possible. If we wait until they’re attacking Malaysia, we have a huge border with Thailand, a population that has communist-sympathetic elements already in place, and a general sense of momentum on the side of International Communism. That’s the third reason. If we let communism grow unchecked until it’s “important”, we cede them the initiative.

            The chain of events that actually threatens American material interests is Vietnam —> Thailand —> Malaysia. That requires two more communist revolutions to occur which is a lot of time to react.

            Both of those countries had insurgent communist groups, and the Malayan communists were a big problem in the 50s.

            And then the communists have to shoot themselves in the foot economically (…which is something communists have a habit of doing) by cutting off trade through the straits. And even then it cuts off trade partners almost 10 from the top by volume. Obviously it’s worse for our allies in Asia.

            Malacca is one of the “keys that lock up the world”. Even if it doesn’t hurt us too much, it hurts our allies badly. It’s strategically disastrous for Australia, and makes it a lot harder to get oil from the Middle East to Japan. And both of these are bad for us. Maintaining world trade is a US interest second only to making sure we aren’t invaded or nuked. Allowing the Straits in enemy hands would probably be even worse than the closure of Suez, and that was a very bad thing indeed.

            And if this terrible chain of events doesn’t happen, lots of money and lives saved. It’s also not like the only possible responses were do nothing or engage in a protracted war in the jungles of Vietnam.

            This is true. The alternative was to send Miss Buffy calling on Hanoi and mine Haiphong in, say, 1967-68, and keep it up until they stop sending the NVA south.

            The worst case scenario costs seem to largely fall upon whoever communists rule.

            I’m not quite enough of a realist to believe this should have no weight in our strategic calculus.

            I agree that nobody who mattered realized it, but the difference was so stark it’s hard for me to understand how they could make such a large mistake for almost five decades. Perhaps it was because Soviet military might was significant so they assumed the Soviet economy must be great. It’s not like no one had left Russia or visited Russia for forty years.

            I think you’re making the opposite mistake they did back then. The fact that the Soviets survived for as long as they did is proof that they weren’t quite as terrible economically as you seem to think. And the details of their fall are somewhat more complicated than “they ran out of money”. To simplify slightly, Communist regimes can survive with no money, so long as they aren’t trying to spend it. Take North Korea. The problem was that Gorbachev saw a need to compete with the West on computing, particularly on smart weapons, and needed money to do that. To get that money, he tried to open up the system, and that was the one thing the system couldn’t survive.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            We can’t even make reasonable economic comparisons now, so it’s not exactly easy for US policy makers in 1960 to make good judgements. Either way, the consensus opinion would probably be “the US is ahead, but the USSR is quickly catching up! We need to shore up our position now!”

            We can’t reasonably forecast economic growth rates today, so, again, there’s no way for a 1960 politician to guess what 1970 or 1980 USSR is going to look like.

            Also in the prime time-line, the balance of power shifts depending on the period, even with the USSR being economically weaker. Just from the nuclear picture, the US had a lot of strategic advantages in the 1960s, but by the 1970s the USSR is rolling out heavy throw missiles

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            My thoughts;

            USSR may have had a smaller economy than the US but a larger proportion of it was spent on the military. How do we compare the two militaries today?

            I can sympathize, especially if I imagine myself as a foreign policy expert during the early cold war, with the idea that communism was a major threat that needed to be contained militarily. Even if in my opinion most states that embrace communism end up becoming more nationalistic/conservative and more market friendly later on.

            I can’t muster the same feelings about the modern situation with Russia. I’m supposed to feel bad that Russia cheated the US out of it’s project of regime change in Syria? I’m supposed to feel bad that some of the Visigrad states might prefer being a junior partner with Russia to the German Chancellor’s “Final solution to the European problem”? I’m supposed to feel bad Russia may have indirectly made US voters more aware about how US political parties operate?

          • But we still trade with China even though the Chinese government are communists

            The Chinese government are not communists, even if they say they are. Economically speaking, China is more nearly a capitalist than a communist system, even if it is a one party capitalist system where the party calls itself the Communist party. And it is not part of an international coalition of communist countries.

          • quanta413 says:

            @David Friedman

            Sure, they don’t run a strict communist economy, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

            They call themselves communists and they did try communist policies for a long time before giving up. I see no reason to assume that Vietnam would have been hugely different. North Vietnam won in the end anyways, and they also still trade with us. Our imports and exports to them are very similar per capita to China.

            Would winning Vietnam boosted its level of trade with us as high as our trade with South Korea? I guess it’s possible. But I have doubts.

            I think my summary that “costs of communism mostly fall upon those ruled” holds true.

          • quanta413 says:

            @ADBG

            Estimating growth is hard, but estimating the underlying quantity seems like it should be easier? Growth measurements depend on an accurate measurement of the underlying quantity at least twice.

            I guess maybe precise military power doesn’t matter so much when both players can launch enough nuclear weapons to get some huge chunk of infrastructure and population in a first strike or response.

        • christianschwalbach says:

          The situations in Europe and the US, while showing some similarities, are divided on differing grounds as far as what is driving the ant-establishment movements. Granted, each European nation is also a set of unique circumstances, for example the refugee crisis is stronger in some nations (like Italy) than others, and various party platforms have arisen that are largely anti-foreigner in the main motivations. In other nations, like perhaps the UK, there is a reasonably strong economy, but certain groups feel left out of that progress, and aim their anger at the “establishment”, its support of refugees, etc… Greece, on the other hand, is obviously in poor economic health, and has a frontline to the migrant issues, so parties like Golden Dawn have a lush field in which to operate their policy. The US is somewhat of a mix of factors, but I would say the support of the alt-right, hardcore trumpers, white nationalists, etc.. is driven by economic matters first, and racial/cultural issues second, for the most part.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Unfortunately, there is now a conservative America… and no America at all. Unlike the previous “liberal america” values of freedom of conscience and equality under the law, the new values of “diversity and inclusion” are in no way unifying; they cannot make a whole, and do not constitute an “America”. In as much as the pundits of this group refer to America, it is in negative terms — America the slaver, American the colonizer, America the oppressor. America, the only First World country which fails to provide health care, fails to provide for its poor, allows gun nuts to shoot people. There is no “proud to be an American”, it’s “shame for being an American”.

      This is somewhat of an exaggeration. But I think not that much of one; in a very real sense, patriotism and a feeling of pride in one’s country has been nearly entirely ceded to Red Tribe.

      • Nick says:

        in a very real sense, patriotism and a feeling of pride in one’s country has been nearly entirely ceded to Red Tribe

        This is discussed in §VII of Scott’s I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup.

      • keranih says:

        Not to be all ‘not all liberals’…but as a red blooded red triber backbone of the nation I am going say that I do absolutely know some left leaning blue tribe sorts who have a deep love of America and who reject the idea that they are not American first, last, and always.

        I still haven’t got a good answer why they gave up on the flag, but that’s not the nation.

        I also am not sure how many left wing sorts recognize the way they are American vs globalist.

        • spkaca says:

          “I also am not sure how many left wing sorts recognize the way they are American vs globalist.”
          Possibly relevant: as an outsider (British) I’m often struck, when reading the writings of American liberals, how parochial they seem – as though they don’t realise that the sins that they attribute primarily or solely to America are actually universal. (The same thing applies to British left-wingers.)

      • Matt M says:

        There was a meme going around that originated from a quote of door to door campaign volunteers in Texas.

        “Houses either have an American flag hanging up, or a Beto sign, but never both.”

        • Plumber says:

          @Matt M,

          Sort of related:
          After we moved into our house just north of Berkeley, California I noted that in late June and early July 2013 that they’d be left over “Pride Week”
          Rainbow flags flying, as well as American flags flying for the fourth of July, a few on the same houses, this pattern continued through 2016, but in 2017 and 2018 they were less American flags and none that were also flying Rainbow flags, and the “In this house we believe….” signs started to appear.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Negative patriotism is still patriotism. Saying “I hate my country” is already conceiding that there’s such an entity as “my country”.

        Negative patriotism is how not just a good share of the American left, but a good share of the *western* left can express nationalistic pride in a subtle way while avoiding the pitfall of explicitely saying your country is better than others, which is completely very racist — the statement is “we of the [western] left are sufficiently civilized and rational that we can point out all the bad things about our [great] country, unlike those backward and uneducated conservatives [and savages from third world countries], who are full of insecure pride”. It’s basically pride parading as self-deprecation; “I can see how bad I am, unlike you, which makes you worse than me”.

        Conservatives for the most part seem to fail to detect this pattern, and so in every western country you find disgrunted conservatives saying things like “why is it that [my country] is the only country where it is acceptable to say that you hate your country??? why can’t we be proud of our heritage like [other western country where you’ll find other conservatives voicing the exact same complaint]???”

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Eh, I don’t think most nationalists/patriots think their country* is better than every other country. They think their country is better for them than other countries, and are proud of their nation’s accomplishments and wish for their nation to continue doing as it has. This is not the same as hating other nations, and I think this where the left fails to model nationalists/patriots adequately.

          * I mean, except for the USA, which lots of people say is the greatest nation on earth because of the largest economy, largest and most powerful military, man on the moon, etc. It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Well, admitedly that’s only a sample size of 2, but that same feeling of “my country = best country” definitely exists in France too. The selling points are different (free universal healthcare, worker rights, social nets, secularism), but the idea that France is a uniquely successful country that the rest of the world envies is definetely present and strong, including among the “I hate my country” crowds — some of which seem to believe that you fall into a neo-capitalist hellscape of worker exploitation as soon as you cross the border.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I don’t think so. It’s not “I hold my country to a uniquely high standard”; that once WAS a considerably component, but that sort of elitism is no longer in vogue. It’s “America is the worst by any standard”. This strand has existed for a long time (e.g. Noam Chomsky), but it’s become ascendant.

        • Nick says:

          Negative patriotism is still patriotism. Saying “I hate my country” is already conceiding that there’s such an entity as “my country”.

          What?? Is this a standard you apply to any other -isms?

          • Machine Interface says:

            Not necessarily, but “there is such a thing as nations to which people belong” is a central tenet of nationalism as an ideology. Saying “I hate my country” means you’ve already accepted/don’t even question the nationalistic framing — you’re just taking a contrarian stance *within* that framing.

            It’s akin to teenage “satanists” who declare that they hate God and worship Satan, while remaining completely within the Christian framing that both of these entities exist and that one can have meaningful interactions and relations with them, and in contrast with atheists who reject not just “God”, but the framing itself.

            I see myself as a nation-atheist. I don’t love or hate my country, I reject the very idea that there’s such a thing as “my country” — “I just live here”, so to speak, and given an adequate opportunity I would move to a better place with neither regret nor joy, just as I would buy a new car to replace the old one.

          • Nick says:

            Okay, well the place you “just live” has laws, courts, and police, domestic and foreign policy with numerous consequences for your daily life, and you can only ignore or circumvent those to a point. In the words of Stephen Colbert, I don’t think the US government is overreaching in saying it exists.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I do not disagree with that, but “a sovereign government” is not quite the same thing as “a nation” (although it is convenient to conflate the two in a nationalistic framing).

            I do not even pretend to ignore that I am the subject of a sovereign government with its institutions, but this would remain true if I lived 10, 100 or 1000 years ago, whereas the modern idea of “nation” quickly becomes unintelligible if we go further back in time than the 19th century. Before then, my identity would have been mostly anchored in very local elements (my family, my town, my dialect, my clan) with only religion being the trait uniting me with distant men (the king? I haven’t seen him once in my life and probably never will, and he speaks a funny language anyway).

        • Matt says:

          avoiding the pitfall of explicitely saying your country is better than others, which is completely very racist

          Is it? I think “My country is better than others” is a nationalist sentiment. Nationalism and racism are often correlated, but are not the same thing. We have non-racist outlets for nationalism, after all (international sports come to mind).

          Meanwhile, patriotism is “I love my country” which makes no claim to superiority, in the same way that “I love my family” makes no claim that my family is better than some other family.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I was carricaturing the left view — although I remain sceptical that there’s a true meaningful difference between “patriotism” and “nationalism”. If I love something, it’s pretty much implicit that I like it better than other things, and so — unless I am super self-reflexive and careful to avoid typical mind fallacy, which most people aren’t — to conclude from there that it is indeed better than other things.

          • Matt says:

            I don’t think it requires that much perception to realize that “I love my wife” and “I have the best wife” are not the same claim.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt

            One can even love a wife* and country for its dysfunction.

            * For example, a woman who thinks that she is a country

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt,

            I think George Orwell made a similar distinction between Nationalism and Patriotism.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      American liberals certainly don’t think residence is the only qualifier. They’re just kinda passive aggressive about it. They believe you can do whatever you want here, so long as you also help the less fortunate. They consider it easy enough to do, given that this is the land of plenty, so if you don’t, it must be because you’re selfish. Which is legal, but they’re going to cowbird you out of what they consider polite American company the same way conservatives will if they catch you burning the flag. Unlike conservatives, they won’t use the “true American” term, probably in order to present a different brand.

      Libertarians aren’t immune to this either. They try to restrict “true American” to as few values as possible, on principle, but it invariably ends up settling around supporting the Constitution plus private property, and anyone they think is defecting from that will likewise get shunned.

      • Libertarians aren’t immune to this either. They try to restrict “true American” to as few values as possible, on principle, but it invariably ends up settling around supporting the Constitution plus private property

        Why the Constitution? Some of us are quite fond of Lysander Spooner.

      • Matt M says:

        What? Libertarians reject the idea of nationhood almost entirely. Libertarians would consider a debate over what a “True American” is to be a colossal waste of time and effort.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        @David, Matt: There are of course libertarians who are effectively ancaps or perhaps ansocs. But I believe it is reasonable to posit the existence of libertarians who wish to operate within the bounds of the USC, or who couch their libertarianism as minarchism, in which the government ought to be minimal in the ideal, and in practice, are fairly comfortable with a Constitutional interpretation that errs on the side of less government power, but still consider some of it worthwhile, such as courts or collective defense.

        My point being, anyone who says we don’t need no steenkin’ property rights is likely to be regarded as persona non grata by such libertarians. And AIUI, even ancaps would alert their local rights enforcement agencies. I suppose this wouldn’t be regarded as “un-American”, per se, but I’ve witnessed enough people with strong libertarian leanings and also strong love for at least a subset of Western cultural values to believe there’s something there, and “true American” seems like a suitable enough term for it.

    • Plumber says:

      “….In your view, what does it mean to be an American in 2018?…”

      @Atlas,

      2018?

      One year is too limiting to hold America.

      I’ll go with bits and pieces from 1968 (when I was born) to now,

      From the radio and the television:
      “Elections remind us not only of the rights but the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy”

      “From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength”

      “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small”

      From the church on the corner, Oakland,  California:
      “Lift every voice and sing,
      Till earth and heaven ring,
      Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
      Let our rejoicing rise
      High as the list’ning skies,
      Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
      Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
      Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
      Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
      Let us march on till victory is won.

      Stony the road we trod,
      Bitter the chast’ning rod,
      Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
      Yet with a steady beat,
      Have not our weary feet
      Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
      We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
      We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
      Out from the gloomy past,
      Till now we stand at last
      Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

      God of our weary years,
      God of our silent tears,
      Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
      Thou who hast by Thy might,
      Led us into the light,
      Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
      Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
      Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
      Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
      May we forever stand,
      True to our God,
      True to our native land”

      In my neighbors house:
      On the wall a picture of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Junior all solemn faced and together. A dark faced man in a U.S. Army uniform, the pictue taken in Korea. Passages from the Bible.

      Outside our door with my father:
      “We’re from the F.B.I. and we have some questions”

      At school in the field outside:
      “The game is smear the queer, grab the ball, run until you’re tackled. No fakin’ GO!”
      “Hey man, ya got any weed?”

      In the classroom:
      “Everyone sing! This land is your land, this land is my land
      From the California to the New York island
      From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters
      This land was made for you and me…”

      Looking out my window in my childhood home on a Saturday afternoon in summer:
      A dozen men, run to their cars, turn on the radio, each starts polishing their car, a dozen radios all tuned to the same station, “...Ooh, do do do do do do, na na na ah, ooh
      You might not ever get rich, ha
      Let me tell you it’s better than digging a ditch
      There ain’t no telling who you might meet
      A movie star or maybe a common thief
      Working at the car wash…”

      At night:
      BAM! BAM! BAM! Muzzle flash, a screech of tires, sirens.

      Leaving work as a lifter of a crippled man out of his wheelchair, into his bed one block from Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, California:
      A crowd mostly standing around a car that’s on fire, a few chanting words I can’t make out.

      Same year, a few weeks later, at night:
      I’m on my motorscooter waiting at the intersection for the light to change, more than a dozen young men (and a few young women) running fast, some carrying leather jackets pass by blocking my way when the light turns green, a minute later many cops follow them.

      Outside the Union meeting, San Jose, California:
      “How cooked do you want your hotdog brother?”

      Inside:
      “What the f*** is going in with our pensions?”
      “HEY! We don’t use that goddamn language here!”

      Saint Patrick’s Day March, San Francisco, California:
      I’m in my green shirt that reads “U.A. Local 38, Plumbers & Steamfitters” with many other union members, those of Chinese descent are more than of Irish descent,  or any other known “old country” by far.

      America damn well is a melting pot, and we do share a common culture.

      More than half of my crew at work were born outside the U.S.A (mostly The Philippines, what was the old Soviet Union, China, and Mexico) and for years together we’ve had turkey a week before thanksgiving, and corned beef near St. Patrick’s Day, and Chinese and Mexican food near Christmas, usually the karaoke machine is brought out with R&B songs from the ’70’s and ’80″s being the most popular, country music second, rock third, all sing along. 

      When they’re being broadcast during break, or lunch baseball, basketball, football, or a soccer game is on the television. 

      Everyone comes and see’s the shiny ’60″s American cars, or new foreign cars “with custom paint and rims” when one of us drives one in.

      In winter when gas is cheap, most drive alone in pick-up trucks. 

      In summer when gas is costly, BART, compacts, and motorcycles are used instead. 

      The boss drives a Chevy Volt electric car with a Ted Cruz for President bumper sticker.

      His right hand man, the senior engineer, drives a Ford F150 that still has a Kerry/Edwards sticker.

      Each talks politics and nods while the other is talking. 

      Neither says the other is wrong.

      Both are Catholic.

      Both seek the advise of the senior laborer who mostly wore different Obama shirts for a couple of years until we were issued uniforms (no political bumper sticker), and goes to an African-Methodist-Episcopal church which there is a sticker for on his new car, but not on his ’67 Oldsmobile.

      Different ancestry, faiths, and political opinions, but only ONE “TRIBE”!

      American. 

      Some old guys have said it better than me:

      Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
      All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
      Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
      Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
      A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
      Chair’d in the adamant of Time.
      I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
      Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
      The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
      The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
      The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
      The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
      The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
      The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
      Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
      The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
      Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


      Lincoln? 

      He was a mystery in smoke and flags 
      Saying yes to the smoke, yes to the flags, 
      Yes to the paradoxes of democracy, 
      Yes to the hopes of government 
      Of the people by the people for the people, 
      No to debauchery of the public mind, 
      No to personal malice nursed and fed, 
      Yes to the Constitution when a help, 
      No to the Constitution when a hindrance 
      Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions, 
      Each man fated to answer for himself: 
      Which of the faiths and illusions of mankind 
      Must I choose for my own sustaining light 
      To bring me beyond the present wilderness

      Lincoln? Was he a poet? 
             And did he write verses? 
      “I have not willingly planted a thorn 
             in any man’s bosom.” 
      I shall do nothing through malice: what 
             I deal with is too vast for malice.” 

      Death was in the air. 
      So was birth.

      The people yes
      The people will live on.
      The learning and blundering people will live on.
          They will be tricked and sold and again sold
      And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
          The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
          You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.
      The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.

      The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
      is a vast huddle with many units saying:
          “I earn my living.
          I make enough to get by
          and it takes all my time.
          If I had more time
          I could do more for myself
          and maybe for others.
          I could read and study
          and talk things over
          and find out about things.
          It takes time.
          I wish I had the time.”

      The people is a tragic and comic two-face: hero and hoodlum:
      phantom and gorilla twisting to moan with a gargoyle mouth:
      “They buy me and sell me…it’s a game…sometime I’ll
      break loose…”

          Once having marched
      Over the margins of animal necessity,
      Over the grim line of sheer subsistence
          Then man came
      To the deeper rituals of his bones,
      To the lights lighter than any bones,
      To the time for thinking things over,
      To the dance, the song, the story,
      Or the hours given over to dreaming,
          Once having so marched.

      Between the finite limitations of the five senses
      and the endless yearnings of man for the beyond
      the people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and food
      while reaching out when it comes their way
      for lights beyond the prison of the five senses,
      for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death.
          This reaching is alive.
      The panderers and liars have violated and smutted it.
          Yet this reaching is alive yet
          for lights and keepsakes.

          The people know the salt of the sea
          and the strength of the winds
          lashing the corners of the earth.
          The people take the earth
          as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope.
          Who else speaks for the Family of Man?
          They are in tune and step
          with constellations of universal law.
          The people is a polychrome,
          a spectrum and a prism
          held in a moving monolith,
          a console organ of changing themes,
          a clavilux of color poems
          wherein the sea offers fog
          and the fog moves off in rain
          and the labrador sunset shortens
          to a nocturne of clear stars
          serene over the shot spray
          of northern lights.

          The steel mill sky is alive.
          The fire breaks white and zigzag
          shot on a gun-metal gloaming.
          Man is a long time coming.
          Man will yet win.
          Brother may yet line up with brother:

      This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
          There are men who can’t be bought.
          The fireborn are at home in fire.
          The stars make no noise,
          You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.
          Time is a great teacher.
          Who can live without hope?

      In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
          the people march.
      In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people
      march:
          “Where to? what next?”


      “Oh well, oh well, I feel so good today,

      We just touched ground on an international runway
      Jet propelled back home from overseas to the USA

      New York, Los Angeles, oh how I yearned for you
      Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge
      Let alone just to be at my home back in ol’ St-Lou

      Did I miss the skyscrapers? Did I miss the long freeway?
      From the coast of California to the shores of Delaware Bay
      You can bet your life I did, ’til I got back to the USA

      Looking hard for a drive-in, searching for a corner cafe?
      Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
      Yeah, and a jukebox jumping with records like in the USA

      Well, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the USA
      Yes, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the USA
      Anything you want, they got it right here in the USA”


      (Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, and Charles Berry)

    • John Schilling says:

      Being an American means being committed to the well-being of the greatest nation in history; the nation which defends all that is good and decent in the Free World and which is the world’s last, best hope for a better future. And, at a more personal level, it means counting on the United States Government and the American people for their support in one’s efforts to make a better future for one’s friends, family, and self.

      I think this works for pretty much everyone who is a US citizen and/or calls themselves an “American”. It’s just that there are some increasingly hostile disagreements over what constitutes “great” and “better”.

      • Guy in TN says:

        I think this works for pretty much everyone who is a US citizen and/or calls themselves an “American”. It’s just that there are some increasingly hostile disagreements over what constitutes “great” and “better”.

        I’m an American, and I disagree with your statements so strongly, that I initially mistook them for sarcasm. You might want to reevaluate.

    • arlie says:

      Personally, I think you’ve put your finger on a very real difference, but it’s one that’s been inherent to the concept of “nation” from at least when “nationalism” began.

      Let’s consider the differences between a German and an Austrian, or a German and a German-speaking Swiss. While we’re at it, let’s compare also the differences between a Northern German and a Southern German – ignoring Bavarians as Southern Germans because they were somewhat late to join Germany.

      They all speak much the same language, as does a Dutch person, except that the Dutch person’s written language is rather more different. The Northen German is of Protestant origin, matching the overall German stereotype, as is the Dutch person. The Southern German is of Catholic origin, like the Austrian. Etc. etc. In cultural ways, it’s hard to see the differences between the people of Germany and their German-speaking neighbours as all that much more significant than those between people of different German Lander (= states).

      What they’ve had historically is enthusiastic nation state that usually treated each group as different, complete with conscription, national educational systems, and a whole lot of government propaganda, that converted them from seeing themselves primarily as Berliners, or Prussians, or other small scale identities, to this one particular level – neither larger (all German Speakers) nor smaller.

      Thee was a period in (European) history when nationalism was the in thing, and while it started as being about “peoples” – which would be more like “all German speakers” – and led to areas like Germany and Italy actually generating states containing large proportions of those linguistically German/Italian, instead of a job lot of tiny states – it then got co-opted by governments to mean in effect a-sense-of-being-part-of-this-political-unit and loyalty to that unit, the latter even when drafted into its military. (Mass conscript armies were also just beginning around this time.)

      At any rate, that’s why the OP probably thinks of themself as American, rather than a Californian, or a Bostonian, or for that matter as belonging to wherever their ancestors came from.

      It may be that this social current is waning, and people are heading towards getting their primary identities elsewhere. Certainly plenty of countries that originated as lines-drawn-on-a-map by occuppiers haven’t done very well at engendering attachment and loyalty to those nations, among people whose primary loyalty was already elsewhere (e.g. their tribe). But the US came through the same development phase. (OTOH, they had to resort to several years of war to keep their country from splitting in two, which suggests that the nation-building process hadn’t worked all that well, compared to e.g. Germany.)

      That would certainly fit well with hand wringing and anti-immigration political parties in all these countries, distressed about newcomers. Maybe none of these countries have the ability to assimilate newcomers any longer. But personally I doubt it.

      Now from where I sit, loyalty to an arbitrary nation state makes precious little sense, unless my membership in this state is a good deal for me – and even then, it might be rational to freeload, taking the benefits without paying for them, especially if the payment involved e.g. being sent off to fight some war in SouthEast Asia (I came of age right after the Vietnam war.) But I’m not good at loyalty to and identification with sports teams, or my current employer, or most other popular groups people identify with and root for. So I’m thinking that’s just me. (And even in my case, decades as an expat, and cut off from internal poltical conflicts, has moved my position on this dial to one more identified with my nation.)

      I think people are still happy to identify with groups, and if nation states continued to encourage that identification in the ways that were effective in forming many modern “western” natiions, the system would go on working just as well as any other. And the US and Australia farther demonstrate that common ethnic origins are not required – all that’s needed is immigrants being welcome in the local melting pot. (And they need not be very welcome, as with the Irish after the potato famine.)

      • Aapje says:

        They all speak much the same language, as does a Dutch person

        Nein.

        • Lambert says:

          Even North and South German are said to be mutually unintelligible.
          The West Germanic languages are on a continuum, from the Hochtest of Hochdeutsch in the Alps, to Dutch and Frisian on the North Sea.

          • Creutzer says:

            This is correct if you look only at the regional dialects. But take into account that almost everyone in Germany and Austria also speaks more or less strongly coloured, but mutually intelligible varieties of Standard German. Not so in the Netherlands.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Some nuance to add to this narrative though is that nationalism didn’t start in Germany, but in Britain, the US and France, countries which on the wake of the 19th century lacked any kind of cultural, linguistic, or even religious (for Britain and the US) or ethnic unity (for the US). The nationalism that formed in these countries was thus necessarily a *cultural* nationalism — the nation was a cultural group one assimilates into regardless of their ethnic origin.

        It’s then in Germany that the view of an ethnic-based nationalism developed and eventually prevailed, but this wasn’t without debate nor difficulty, the cultural position also had its German proponents, supported by fact that at the time both the German and Austrian Empire included millions of non-germanic citizens.

        The ethnic view eventually prevailed in Germany, but even then the process of nation-building required some serious cultural leveling among the German-speaking people: as other have mentionned above me, Low German (spoken in Northern Germany) is quite different from High German (spoken in Central and Southern Germany).

        Because Standard German is based on High German dialects, the use of dialects remained acceptable in the South, as it was felt to be no big impediment to literacy in Standard German (and to this day, the High German dialects indeed still have millions of speakers, for whom Standard German is effectively a second language). Low German however, because it was too different, had to go, and was then thoroughtly stomped out in favor of Standard German as the sole acceptable language in all situations (in spite of its cultural heritage as the language of the Hanseatic League), and today is all but moribund.

        On the other hand, Austria pushed a soft cultural view of nationalism until its last years, as a desperate attempt to counter the growing ethnic-based nationalism of its increasingly restless minorities.

        Italian nationalism was relatively late, but it was also always cultural, even in the days of mussolinian fascism, because Italy didn’t have much of claim for any pre-existing unity either, and in fact the boundary of the Italian nations were almost entirely based on the accidents of geography — what not many realise with Italy is that the cultural, linguistic and even ethnic gap between the North, the South and Sardinia is huge, it is bigger than the similar gap between France and Spain.

        Even though the peninsula is dominated by Romance languages, they belong to three very distinct sub-branches of Romance (in fact Sardinian is so divergent that some linguists consider that the primary division within Romance is between Sardinian on one hand, and every other Romance language on the other). The description of many of these languages as “Italian dialects” is misleading and more a tool of propaganda than anything (Italian fascists went as far as calling *Maltese* an Italian dialect — Maltese is a divergent dialect of North African *Arabic*, which just happens to be written in the Latin alphabet and have a lot of loanwords from Italian).

        Like in France and Germany, the “unity” of Italy was achieved by the imposition of a single standardized language which already had quite a footing among educated elites due to its use as a local lingua-franca.

        Ethnic-based nationalism had a much better field trip in the Balkan states, which indeed often achieved fairly homogenous, united population — at the coast of decades of ethnic cleansing to “rectify” population distributions that used to be much more fragmented and patchworky (and even there the imposition of a single rigid standard language at the expense of local dialects played a significant role).

        In a reverse image of the above, Turkey really strived for a cultural rather than ethnic-based nationalism, but ended up resorting to ethnic cleansing and genocide anyway, as the only way they deemed sufficiant to extirpate Armenian nationalism from their territory.

        Russia oscilated between cultural and ethnic-based nationalism depending on the period, and sometimes with policy varying geographically from one region to the next, though the general tendency has often been “cultural in theory, in practice if you’re not ethnic Russian kindly stay in your designated reservation”.

        • Lambert says:

          I find the whole concept of nationalism and its relation to the state fascinating.
          People seem not to examine too deeply the fact that the state of France, for example, is populated by Frenchmen who speak French etc. when this state of affairs is actually governed by the whims of history and deliberate cultural engineering.

          The idea that had the 19th c. gone a little differently, Germany might have included Austria, with all the implications on the balance of power with Prussia.
          Or that India is in some ways supranational (One writer described it as an empire), with its many ethnolinguistic groups.
          Or the border areas, like South Tyrol and Alsace-Lorraine, where nationality is torn between two groups.

          • arlie says:

            Yes. I avoided using France as my example, because of its long history of imposing uniformity, particularly in language. I’m Canadian, and our French developed from the same set of French variants (more or less) but without the same push for homogeneity from the government.

            Germany and Italy at least had strongish movements for unity of a “people”, before they had a state capable of imposing unity of culture.

            It may be that the way to create nationalism is in fact to push for uniformity, probably forcibly. Of course you also have to make assimilation possible – it doesn’t work for those who remain permanent out groups within the ‘national’ culture.

            That would certainly make most modern liberals unhappy about the whole project. We don’t like punishing children for speaking their birth language, let alone e.g. enforcing particpation in the rituals of the culturally appropriate religion. We’re unhappy about any cultural particulars that assign social roles based on what we see as accidents of birth. etc. etc.

            OTOH, we seem to be massively tolerant of e.g. advertising. The US is weak on enforcement of Christianity currently – but really really strong on pressure to participate in “consuming” advertisements, carrying tracking devices, and publishing minutiae on social media, while constantly checking for favorable reactions. This conveys a culture – though one of movies, sports figures, and advertising jingles – that’s pretty well shared. It conveys values and aspirations too.

            Social reactions remain important enough to drive people, particularly children and teens, to suicide. We manage to make and enforce major cultural changes, like the current idea that children (up to 18?) should essentially never act independently, or be outside of the presence of adults – “normal parenting” has become “child abuse” within my lifetime. People share a lot of culture. Maybe the biggest difference is that it mostly isn’t government pushing uniformity, and it doesn’t stop at most national boundaries.

          • Aapje says:

            @arlie

            I think that you are too easily equating ‘pushing for uniformity’ with punishment.

            There are many ways to increase uniformity without punishment. For example, one way in which many countries push for uniformity is to demand that every kid is taught (in) the national language in school.

            This results in the rather obvious unifying element that is a shared language, so everyone can talk to each other (while allowing people to also speak other languages).

            Interestingly, the Dutch globalists are increasingly giving up on this, although not in a immigrant vs native way, but rather in globalist/elite vs localists/commoner way. They do this by voluntarily and forcibly making English the official language for their schools and for most universities.

            They see this as making their kids more able to connect with other cultures, ignoring the rift they are creating with many within their own country. They see themselves as benevolent do-gooders, but are seen by many localists as the Romanovs: an elite so divorced from the common people that they don’t even care to speak the same language.

            The risk of globalism is that the adherents confuse their selfish and elitists tendencies that harm others for behavior that aids others, resulting in an unwillingness to address the needs of the downtrodden. In Russia, this led to the execution of the Romanovs and so strong a desire for change that there was enough support for disastrous revolutionary change.

            Maybe the biggest difference is that it mostly isn’t government pushing uniformity, and it doesn’t stop at most national boundaries.

            The ease of travel greatly outstrips the level of uniformity, though. There are many places with very different uniformity than in the West, for example, they may mostly condemn gay people harshly.

            What happens then if those people migrate to the West, perhaps in groups that they mostly interact with each other and perhaps even define their identity as being different from the locals?

            IMO, one of the greatest faults of the globalists is the idea that the culture that is so attractive to them, is equally attractive to everyone else. Most of them seem to continuously be surprised (and not learn) by how migrants can cling to their culture for a very long time and sometimes in ways that are very harmful to the locals.

          • Machine Interface says:

            @ Aapje

            “an elite so divorced from the common people that they don’t even care to speak the same language”

            It’s an interesting trait of the nationalist era that today such a situation is seen as an absurd anomaly, when in fact, for 95% of human history and outside of very small polities like city states, this used to be the norm.

            Granted, that kind of situation often “rectified” itself organically, with the language of the elite progressively trickling down to the peope, or the elite progressively adopting the language of the people — until the next language replacement event brought about by the next wave of conquest or the next appearance of a hot new lingua franca.

            I’ll grant too that the nationalist equation “1 country = 1 people = 1 language” (there are a few successful violators of this principle, but I’ll conceide they seem to be the exception more than the rule) is a source of stability at least in the middle run, but a look at history makes it unclear that such an equation can be maintained for very long — all the while it primes people to see the “intrusion” of a “foreign” language as a bad, dangerous thing, whereas in fact it might just be part of the normal flow of history.

            It also pushes to conflict in countries that have been multilingual from day one, by making people see pre-existing linguistic minorities as intruders that should switch to speaking the majority language only or leave — you can see this even in functional liberal democracies like Finland, where the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the Swedish-speaking minority are increasingly being chipped at under the pressure of Finnish nationalist parties (some of which call for an outright ban of the Swedish language).

            (It’s worth noting that Fenno-Swedes don’t see themselves as “Swedes in Finland”, but as “Finns who speak Swedish”; they share more culturally with the rest of Finland than with Sweden, they learn Finnish in school along with Swedish, and their Swedish is a specific dialect that is actually not well understood when they travel to Sweden anyway).

    • konshtok says:

      You are asking for the wrong answer
      If you want to know what it means for american people to be an american it’s more important to understand what “being” means in this context

    • onyomi says:

      I wonder if America isn’t currently trying to be two different kinds of nation-state: on the one hand, many of us still have the idea of a nation as place/people united by some combination of shared ancestry, history, culture, language, and/or values. At the same time, there is a very big contingent, perhaps even the majority, who conceive of the US as something fundamentally different: as a kind of “global commons” where anyone can come from anywhere to work, trade, interact, learn from one another, etc. In other words, private property:public space::traditional nation states:21st c. US.

      The traditional way of getting around this contradiction is by saying that Americans are united by our shared commitment to being this new kind of nation. But we’re not really united in that goal, and, even if we were, it would be an open question as to whether it would be enough to entirely replace ancestry, history, language, culture, and other values.

      As an American myself, I feel conflicted about this: sort of like, I would like for such a place as 21st c. America to exist, but would rather myself be a citizen of e.g. Sweden or Japan. I can always visit the commons to travel, work, trade, or learn, but at the end of the day I also have my home to come back to where people look, think, talk like me. Having one’s home turned into the public space for the world, therefore, feels very violating on some level, and I think that’s where a lot of the impetus behind e.g. Trump and Brexit comes from: almost a kind of global-scale NIMBYism.

      Also, paradoxically enough, I think maybe turning a nation into a global commons paradoxically damages the quality of the public space within it, because you can’t go out into it with the comfortable expectation of largely running into people who are culturally legible to you.

  2. Nick says:

    Kavanaugh thread.

    Several more allegations have come out today. This morning we had Julie Swetnick’s allegation, which is the one her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has been talking about on Twitter the last few days. According to Swetnick, Kavanaugh was participating in a gang-raping ring in 1981 while a student at Georgetown Prep, which involved spiking the punch at weekend parties with drugs and then raping her one after another in a “train.”

    The second allegation is an anonymous one from a mother in Boulder, CO. The mother alleges that her daughter socialized with Kavanaugh during the Starr investigation, and that one night leaving a bar Kavanaugh slammed her daughter’s friend against the wall in an aggressive and sexual way. The mother reports that there were at least four witnesses, including the girl in question and the daughter.

    Senate Republicans have released the transcript of Kavanaugh responding to these allegations. The questioning includes several more allegations, including that in 1985 Kavanaugh and Judge raped a woman on a boat in Newport, Rhode Island before being beaten up and chased off by the tipster. This is being read by some as a move to discredit allegations generally by including ridiculous ones. This intention is plausible; they read off several lunatic tweets by the tipster who reported the Rhode Island one, which it does not strike me as necessary to do.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The Swetnick allegations are “Jackie”-level unlikely. If they’re true, we’ve got another Rotherham but in Maryland this time. The second allegation, from Ramirez, is one the New York Times and Washington Post doubt.

      As for the anonymous one from a mother in Boulder, CO, I think Kavanaugh answered that best:
      “we’re dealing with an anonymous letter about an anonymous person and an anonymous friend. It’s ridiculous. Total twilight zone. And no, I’ve never done anything like that.”

      Basically all the details of all of the allegations which could have been verified have failed to verify, and the rest are unverifiable.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Sorry, what’s “Jackie” in this context?

        Basically agree about Swetnick; it reads like moral panic / urban legend material.

        • The Nybbler says:

          “Jackie” was the supposed victim in Rolling Stone’s A Rape On Campus, a story entirely discredited.

        • Aapje says:

          Jackie‘ was a mentally disturbed student who invented a rape story to try to get into a relationship with another student (who presumably was supposed to be the prince charming who ‘rescued’ her). Then a Rolling Stone writer, who previously had published a false accusation, heard about it and got into contact with ‘Jackie’ who stuck with her story, which the Rolling Stone writer didn’t fact check. So it got published, but when journalists did questioned and fact checked the story, it fell apart completely.

          • albatross11 says:

            It was notable for a couple reasons:

            a. The actual claims of the story were extremely implausible, but it had the right narrative and the right villains.

            b. There was a lot of public buzz about what a great, groundbreaking story it was[1]. It got a lot of praise from apparently serious journalists.

            c. There was a lot of ideologically-based pushback on people who raised questions–aka rape apologists.

            d. The story, which was about as plausible as those ritual satanic abuse stories[2] recovered by therapists and prosecutors in the 80s, unraveled as soon as anyone seriously looked at it.

            [1] The story was implausible, and you’d expect skeptical journalists to notice that. But it’s also very common for people to review books and interview authors about books without having read them. So I assume a fair number of people expressed opinions on the story without having gone through the formality of having actually read it.

            [2] And people did hard time for those crimes, which weren’t remotely plausible but which were convincing to jurors and journalists in the midst of a moral panic. Notably, Janet Reno (Clinton’s AG) rose to prominence partly on the basis of that kind of case. I don’t know if that means prosecutors were caught up in the moral panic with the journalists, or if it means they were politically ambitious sociopaths who didn’t mind sending a few people to prison on utterly implausible lies if it would boost them to the next level, politically.

          • Lillian says:

            There is still one guy in prison over a satanic ritual abuse case: Frank Fuster. He was convinted in 1985, and so has been in prison for more than three decades. He is almost certainly innocent of all charges, but efforts to release him have been consistently sabotaged. In particular his ex-wife, who has was intimidated into providing testimony against him, was later further intimidated against retracting it.

            It’s interesting to contrast the Satanic Panic with the Salem Witch Trials. The former lasted for many years with people being continually accused and convicted over the period. The Salem Witch Trials lasted for a year and a half. The first accusations were in February 1692, a year later the Governor of Massachussets was already issuing pardons, and the last acquittals were in May 1693. The judgements were officially reversed and compensation authorized in 1711. On the flip side, they executed 19 people, pressed one man to death, and had five more die in jail.

            So the the Salem Witch Trials were over much more quickly, and the people of Massachussets were swifter in agreeing that the whole thing was a farce and compensating the victims or their survivors. However, the Satanic Panic did have a lower body count.

      • Matt M says:

        If they’re true, we’ve got another Rotherham

        So… we should start throwing Democrat reporters in jail for hateful prejudice towards white males, or what?

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        In addition to another Rotherham, we’d have an FBI that failed to find out about it in any of the six background checks it’s performed on one of the supposed ringleaders.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Allegations that haven’t yet been levied are difficult to discover. One of the reasons holding onto such information to spring at an opportune moment is in poor taste is that it is an attempt to smear people who otherwise couldn’t be expected to know about the event. Why did you nominate a rapist? Is this nomination another rapist like your last one?

          If the Dems wanted K not to be confirmed then sharing the allegation behind the scenes is more effective, it gives K the chance to bow out rather than go through the shit show that follows even if he is innocent. Making it public boxes him in and makes it pretty hard to withdraw without looking guilty, and the only gain you get is the ability to force people into publicly defending him so you can attack them later about it.

          • Matt M says:

            Allegations that haven’t yet been levied are difficult to discover.

            Well, sure.

            But the entire point of conducting background checks for security clearances is specifically to find things like this. Incidents in one’s past that might be used to blackmail them into divulging secret information. They conduct multiple confidential interviews with friends and family desperately looking for and trying to uncover things exactly like this.

            Which isn’t to say that it’s easy or that mistakes will never be made. But I think the original point stands. Six times the FBI performed investigations on Kavanaugh specifically designed to uncover things like this, and six times they didn’t find anything.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Background checks are not designed to find things like this, they are designed to find secrets within a circle of people not go through every possible contingency or person who could possible level such an accusation.

          • Matt M says:

            Background checks are not designed to find things like this, they are designed to find secrets within a circle of people

            You don’t think having participated in a drug-rape gang is the type of secret they’d be interested in?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            An allegation like Ford’s is difficult to discover before it’s levied. An allegation like Swetnick’s could hardly fail to be turned up in a background check even if it somehow failed to become public knowledge before that.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t think that it is possible for them to build a structure to find out about it if it wasn’t reported previously.

            Who exactly are they asking that know?

            1. Victims: probably not still close enough to the person in question to be interviewed by the FBI.
            2. Other members of the rape gang: Asking them to incriminate themselves spontaneously with no leverage or even the ability to ask direct questions since they don’t have any direct knowledge.
            3. Some 3rd party observer who has kept quiet all this time, but also kept close enough and now decides to spill the beans.

            Basically you are down to #4 where a private confession has been made to a close associate. Without that there is no chance of discovering the incident.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, I basically promised to stay out of this one, but on the specific subject of FBI background checks, I do have personal experience as a subject and a witness.

            The vast majority of the background check process is devoted to digging up possible blackmail material, financial issues suggesting bribery or vulnerability to same, and divided loyalties / foreign entanglements. They’d like to also screen out generic dishonesty, but there’s not much they can do beyond e.g. looking for fraud convictions, because you know.

            So, “regular participant in rape parties” is something they are going to want to know about for the blackmail potential. For Kavanaugh or Swetnick.

            And they’re never going to find it, because this is exactly the sort of thing that everybody lies about. Unless Kavanaugh or Swetnick has an old friend from their party days who holds a secret grudge against them – and it would pretty much have to be a secret grudge, because if it were an open one then everyone would “forget” to mention them as someone who should be interviewed.

            Aside from a few specific categories like “current manager or supervisor”, the interview list consists almost entirely of names provided by the subject, and names provided by those people during the interview.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Swetnick alleges ten parties, with men in lines for the gang raping. Someone from the high school at some point during the background check would have whispered to the FBI “there were some parties you should know about.” There would be rumors at least. “I didn’t go to these parties but I heard about him and his friends…”

            Ford’s allegation would be difficult to impossible to turn up, but you would also expect that this would not have been a one-time event. Somebody would have whispered among the girls, “watch out for Brett.”

            Instead we have scores of women from Brett’s life asserting that he was a gentleman.

          • Randy M says:

            “formed lines” is minimum 3 participants, I think we can guess not all of them gentle given the alleged victims being drugged. Out of those ten, none of them needed medical attention for trauma, stds, or pregnancy? None of them told their parents they went to a party, passed out after some kool-aid, and woke up obviously violated, please do something?

            Are we really supposed to believe the odds of a victim of a gang rape with various hard evidence (DNA, drugs in her blood, likely bruises) going to the police are less than 10%?

            Nevermind showing up in background checks of BK, maybe it wouldn’t. But there being no police report that matches the details of this third accuser that we can look back on in that time period strikes me as very unlikely.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The multiple gang rape parties are on the far end of credulity for some reasons, but FBI clearance isn’t one of them.

            Lets say the party was when he was 18 and his first clearance is at 30, who is in his life now that would tell the FBI?

            Lets just say that his now wife had heard a rumor at some point. She obviously didn’t believe it or she wouldn’t have married him, and now under questioning she is spontaneously going to recall it and decide to mention it to the FBI without prodding and potentially ruin her husband’s career?

            Or how about one of his clerks, maybe they heard something through the grapevine. They have no evidence but a rumor and they are going to impugn their boss who is about to be appointed a federal judge (or whatever level it would be here)? It will never get back to your ever increasing in power boss who you believe might be capable of gang rape.

            Name the relationship of the person who has enough knowledge that would be interviewed by the FBI that would also suddenly decide that now is the time to mention it.

          • Matt M says:

            If the dismissal of the background investigation process is “People lie about this stuff and nobody friendly to the person would ever admit it” then what’s the point of even having such a process?

            If it can’t uncover a secret gang-rape conspiracy participated in by multiple individuals over a long period of time, what can it uncover?

            Could we save billions by discarding the entire program?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Matt M,

            It isn’t that it won’t turn up anything, it is that it won’t turn up the type of accusations that haven’t been levied publicly in someway.

          • John Schilling says:

            Someone from the high school at some point during the background check would have whispered to the FBI.

            The FBI doesn’t interview “someone from high school”. The FBI interviews maybe one or two specific people from high school. People that Kavanaugh and (for her clearance) Swetnick chose for that purpose. Which is to say, people who they trust to not whisper to the FBI about any criminal wrongdoing.

            One of the questions on the interview is, “Is there anyone else you think we should talk to?”, but the answer to that one is almost always either “no” or someone they were already going to talk to. There’s no attempt to construct a social network graph and talk to everyone who went to the same high school parties.

          • albatross11 says:

            By contrast with Ford’s accusation, this accusation seems to me to be a perfect fit for the known-false rape accusations.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I would also like to add that these are not interrogations with a suspect, these are polite conversations with the friends and relatives of someone who is about to increase their political clout.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the dismissal of the background investigation process is “People lie about this stuff and nobody friendly to the person would ever admit it” then what’s the point of even having such a process?

            It does a passable job of catching things that basically nobody will defend or deny (e.g. outright fraud), and things that people don’t realize need to be defended/denied (e.g. hiring an undocumented nanny). It’s also pretty good on the financial front, and for catching large-scale or ongoing deceptions. The process is overrated in its efficacy, but it isn’t useless.

            Rape parties are so obviously illegal that they can only exist at all(*) if everybody who knows about them, buys into “The first rule of Rape Party Club is, you don’t talk about Rape Party Club”. With the codicil, “and you don’t steer FBI investigators to that guy we all think is weak on Rule 1”. Rape parties that ended thirty years ago without being detected then, aren’t going to show up in FBI background investigations now.

            * If they even do exist at all, which I will only stipulate for the purpose of this very hypothetical sidebar.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I do not have personal experience with FBI background checks, so I probably had no business sounding off so confidently about what they can “hardly fail” to turn up– I’m apparently not immune to the general tendency to overestimate their capabilities. I wonder just the same: would they have had to follow the various chains of acquaintances so very far before they’re talking to either one of the women (if these were just anonymous townies from the Prep point of view, perhaps pretty far; I don’t know)?

          • John Schilling says:

            I wonder just the same: would they have had to follow the various chains of acquaintances so very far before they’re talking to either one of the women

            The actual “chain” almost certainly terminates or loops back on itself before it reaches any of those women; with each interviewee providing a median zero and mean <1 unique and actionable new name, there's not much of a chain.

            The hypothetical chain where the FBI says "No, really, this time we want you to give us the names of all your old HS buddies who might have interacted with Kavanaugh / Swetnick" and then follows up, maybe three or four links. Kavanaugh's trusted not-Mike-Judge high school reference to Judge to a bunch of party bros and a few "safe hos(*)" to a woman who will actually talk. But at that point you're increasing your search space by 5-10 at each link and probably talking to hundreds or thousands of people.

            Then repeat when they graduate and go off to college, repeat again when they embark on their career, repeat yet again when they start a family…

            * Judge would presumably have to cough up a modest number of female partygoers in this hypothetical, but would likely be selective about exactly which names.

          • Dan L says:

            +1 everything John Schilling is saying in this thread regarding the methodology of background checks, with the possible exception of the more exotic special access programs. But potential Justices are not going to be facing that level of scrutiny anyway.

          • cryptoshill says:

            People who I did not put on my list to be interviewed absolutely were interviewed. I am sure they don’t go to the length of constructing a social graph, but they spend more than cursory effort looking for skeletons.

            I *am* sure that they would not have uncovered an allegation like Ford’s, but the likelihood that we have 10 “gang rape parties” committed by multiple men against multiple victims (who apparently voluntarily kept coming back?) occuring through a single year is nonzero.

            I mostly think so because these allegations are so outlandish that the idea that there were exactly zero people that reported it to police, or felt bad later and saw the security interview as an opportunity to atone, or was a victim and saw an opportunity for justice relatively implausible.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Cryptoshill, you’ve done background checks for the FBI? I’d be very, very interested to hear more about the process.

          • meh says:

            Would a background check even go back 30 years? I don’t think they did or didn’t miss anything, I think they just don’t look that far back.

      • Randy M says:

        This story is so unbelievable I almost think Avenatti is secretly pro Trump. Odds of that?

      • Deiseach says:

        Ford’s allegation is at least plausible; that she was a young teenager who went to parties where there were older teens and drinking and something happened. Ramirez isn’t impossible either (teenage college boys drinking and behaving like idiots, hold the front page!) but that it took her six days to make up her mind that it was possibly maybe definitely Kavanaugh that stuck his dick (or a dildo, conflicting accounts) in her face at a party where everyone, including herself, was drunk makes this accusation less credible.

        Swetnick is just taking the piss and I can see why the story is being suggested that Avenatti was being trolled: so she went to a series of these drug-rape parties (when the semi-sensible thing for a young woman would be ‘never again’ after the first one) then ended up raped herself? And did she tell anyone about this ever previously? Is there any kind of record of a scandal on campus to back this up? This is the one that sounds most like that “I was a twelve year old sex slave raped by Trump” story that was unsuccessfully shopped around and ended up going nowhere.

        • engleberg says:

          Yes, Ford’s original story had the scary, bungling vibe of real crime where everyone is drunk and the girl can’t tell if she’s going to die because some drunk panics and she runs and blots it all out and years afterward, well, maybe it was that so and so in that creepy R party I hate.

          It’s weak, but it feels real, and the weaker it is the stronger the threat to R party guys- D party media will tell everyone you are a rapist.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t feel like reading more about this, but wasn’t Ford’ original story that two boys dragged her into the room, and one of them held her down while the other watched, and then attempted to join in? That doesn’t sound like something even remotely innocent or bumbling to me.

    • BBA says:

      I think it still doesn’t matter. 49 senators support Kavanaugh because he will ban abortion, 49 senators oppose Kavanaugh because he will ban abortion, Murkowski is a no on local Alaskan political grounds, and Collins will hem and haw and still vote yes in the end because that’s her nature. 50-50 tie to be broken by Mike Pence, who’s a yes.

      At least, I hope we’re still going by normal political rules, which are that everything involving SCOTUS is a proxy for abortion. I’m pro-choice and I don’t like it, but I’d prefer it to a scenario where the shape of American law over the next few decades rests on a congressional investigation into high school cliques in the 1980s.

      As for the allegations themselves, the truth is both unknowable and obvious. And I think Drum has the right take, which is that if Kavanaugh admitted to his history of drinking and partying and showed some remorse, most of the country would forgive his youthful indiscretions. (I wouldn’t, but I’m a filthy left-wing elitist.) For whatever reason he thinks this transparently fake aw-shucks goody-two-shoes act will work better. I don’t know.

      • Attempted rape is quite a step up from typical “youthful indiscretions”.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        At least, I hope we’re still going by normal political rules, which are that everything involving SCOTUS is a proxy for abortion.

        I’ve heard that Kavanaugh is not that big against Roe as people have been saying; Roe might get chipped away a bit, but not taken down entirely. I guess the only way to find out if this is actually true is to wait and see. But take heart, Roe might be OK.

        And I think Drum has the right take,

        Honestly, I couldn’t disagree more. Partly on the grounds that I don’t think it happened, but more importantly, the behavior described by Ford’s allegation seems way out of the bounds of “youthful indiscretion” or even “boys will be boys”. I’m not saying that people wouldn’t have forgotten about it – I can’t speak for “people” – but I sure wouldn’t have. If you want me to talk about why it didn’t happen though, I’m down.

        For whatever reason he thinks this transparently fake aw-shucks goody-two-shoes act will work better. I don’t know.

        Worth noting is that Kavanaugh has come out and basically copped to having been a 40-year-old virgin…or at least a 30-year-old virgin, something like that. Maybe he’s lying, but so far no one has come forward to say “he had sex with me”. Partly because the sexual assault accusations didn’t feature any actual sex, but also because there haven’t been any accusations of regular sex either (although a Yale roommate said Kavanaugh told him he was getting laid). Maybe he really is a goody-two-shoes, or at least a socially awkward loser. (I wonder how big the difference really is between those two?)

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          It takes a certain level of credulousness that you will never find in a SCOTUS pick to believe “oh, just admit this tiny crime, even if you didn’t do it, then this whole ordeal will be over.”

      • quanta413 says:

        It’s not obvious. There are very strong reasons for someone to lie about him right now. There are reasons someone suggestible would mistake him for someone else 35 years in the past right now.

        It’s also not obvious that a teenage boy wouldn’t drunkenly grope a girl in a bedroom. If this wasn’t news and had happened recently, I’d think he had likely been in a room with his accuser and tried something.

        But it’s obviously false that enough people would just up and forgive him for “youthful indiscretions” (these accusations are past that though) if he said it was true and he apologized. That’s not the way the wind is blowing these days, and it’s pretty important to the Democrats to try to get back a Supreme Court seat they feel McConnell stole from them. And McConnell totally did defect, raising the stakes once again in a long chain of increasing defections going back to at least the 80s.

        In many past cases, we really have gotten corroborating evidence. Or at least the accusations were relatively recent. If there was corroborating evidence, it’s hard for me to believe it wouldn’t have been found by now.

      • Lillian says:

        I think it still doesn’t matter. 49 senators support Kavanaugh because he will ban abortion, 49 senators oppose Kavanaugh because he will ban abortion, Murkowski is a no on local Alaskan political grounds, and Collins will hem and haw and still vote yes in the end because that’s her nature. 50-50 tie to be broken by Mike Pence, who’s a yes.

        There’s no shortage of conservative judges who both have stronger bonafides on abortion and aren’t being accused of sexual assault. At this point, i’m reasonably convinced that the power move for the Republicans is to withdraw the Kavanaugh nomination and confirm Amy Coney Barret instead. She is deeply Catholic, which makes her much more unambiguously pro-life than Kavanaugh, very conservative, and what’s more the current Senate has already confirmed her as a Circuit Judge. This lets the Republicans have a squeaky clean candidate who won’t potentially undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court while simultaneously punishing the Democrats for opposing Kavanaugh by appointing someone even more conservative. Also she’s a woman, so they can thumb their nose at the Democrat’s “Republicans are anti-woman!” rhetoric, which i personally think would be pretty funny.

        • BobRoss says:

          There’s no shortage of conservative judges who both have stronger bonafides on abortion and aren’t being accused of sexual assault.

          Yet.

          If they pull this off, the democrats will only get more flamboyant with their fabrications.

        • Nick says:

          At this point, i’m reasonably convinced that the power move for the Republicans is to withdraw the Kavanaugh nomination and confirm Amy Coney Barret instead.

          Ross Douthat’s been saying that since the beginning, but has anyone listened to him? Nooo.

          But seriously—yes, it would be possible. Whether it’s desirable on net for conservatives is another question. There are conflicting guesses that either ditching Kavanaugh or pushing ahead with him will get Republicans “slaughtered” in the midterms.

          • Deiseach says:

            Sorry, Amy Barrett? The same who got “you’re very Catholic aren’t you?” from two Democrats during the grilling for the nomination to the Circuit Court? The same Judge Barrett who is a Charismatic Catholic and member of a pro-life group? Yeah, if you think they were losing their minds at the prospect of Kavanagh maybe being wibbly on Roe vs Wade, what the hell do you think they’ll do to Barrett? If she comes out looking like the distaff Torquemada, she’ll be getting off lightly:

            During Barrett’s hearing, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned Barrett about whether her Catholic faith would influence her decision-making on the court. Feinstein, concerned about whether Barrett would uphold Roe v. Wade given her Catholic beliefs, followed Barrett’s response by stating “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern”. In response to Feinstein’s question, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network began to sell mugs with Barrett’s photo on them and displaying the Feinstein “dogma” quote. Senator Dick Durbin asked “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” He was criticized by the editorial board at his alma mater, Georgetown, a Catholic university, for his requesting a clarification of Barrett, regarding her self-descriptive terminology, “orthodox Catholic.” He contended her definition might unfairly characterize Catholics who may not agree with the church’s positions about abortion or the death penalty.

            The Daily Mail (I know, I know) already has a ‘helpful’ headline:

            Democrats get ready to take on female judge they expect Trump to turn to if Kavanaugh fails – and focus on her links to group which helped inspire The Handmaid’s Tale

            A practicing Catholic, Barrett has deep ties to People of Praise, a non-denominational Christian covenant group founded as part of a Catholic revitalization movement in 1971.

            The group’s conservative tenets and practice of referring to female leaders as ‘handmaids’ helped inspire The Handmaid’s Tale, a book about a religious takeover of the U.S. government which is now a hit TV show, according to a 1986 interview with author Margaret Atwood.

            Oh yeah, this will work out just fine – having someone nominated whom the actual author of The Handmaid’s Tale said “she belongs to the group that inspired my story of Gilead”, what could possibly go wrong with that?

          • The Nybbler says:

            If she comes out looking like the distaff Torquemada, she’ll be getting off lightly

            Be right back, I’m doing a morph of Barrett and Elizabeth Báthory.

          • albatross11 says:

            However, she is probably pretty hard to get rid of via #MeToo charges, whether sincere or strategic.

          • Nick says:

            Deiseach, you don’t have to be Coney Barrett to get farcical anti-Catholicism leveled at you. Witness one of the hot takes about Brett “Men for Others Jesuit High School” Kavanaugh. More:
            1. Lillian’s right that the optics would favor Barrett. Not only in the Senate, but if she does later chip away at Roe.
            2. What are the odds of unfalsifiable allegations against Barrett? Surely lower than against Kavanaugh.
            3. People of Praise (and charismatic Catholicism in general) is not a hotbed of medievalism. Charismatic Catholicism is a post-Vatican II thing, a way of drawing back Pentecostals and all that. (Especially in areas like Latin America, where they’re gaining ground against cultural Catholicism.) The media can do its usual hitjob, and it’ll be bad, I agree—but it’s just not going to stick as well as “silver spoon prep jock” does.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nick, I know that about Charismatics, you know that, but she already had Feinstein going “Yeah you’re kinda too much a religious zealot bigot to be an appeals judge”, do you really think Feinstein would now go “Yeah, I’m really convinced you are anti-choice and would definitely rule against abortion, gay rights, and all the good things in life, but hey at least you’re not a rapist (just a member of the Rape Party who is perfectly happy with forcing women to bear the children of their rapists) so I withdraw all my objections, go right ahead and sit on the highest court in the land, Loud Dogma Lady?”

            I can’t see that. Whatever the Democrats are hoping to get out of this, the minimum has to be a nominee who is not going to say boo to a goose when any cases about choice come up.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            However, she is probably pretty hard to get rid of via #MeToo charges, whether sincere or strategic.

            Someone who was a classmate of hers in high school who is gay will say Barrett called him a “fag” in high school.

            I give this an 80% chance, partly because high school students in the late 1980s are pretty shitty so there’s a substantial chance she did it, but we would just be debating someone else’s high school life to hold off the red cowls.

          • On the other hand …

            All of these fights are in part designed to produce propaganda to win elections. If the Democrats attempt, successfully or unsuccessfully, to block a Supreme Court candidate on the grounds that she is an orthodox Catholic, isn’t that going to cost them the votes of a lot of orthodox Catholics who might otherwise vote for Democratic candidates?

            Catholics are about 21% of the population. Assume half of them are reasonably orthodox and take their religion seriously. Assume that half of those currently vote Democratic. Losing the votes of five percent of the population would be a big hit for the party.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            David, you have to modify that group a bit more. Catholics who vote Democratic currently are not driven 100% by abortion, by definition. Many are fine with the status quo and actively prefer it to moving to something scary.

            Democratic Catholics already bite their tongue a lot.[1] They are used to a certain amount of sneering from Democrats and vote for them anyway.

            I’m sure there will be some Democratic Catholics who toss up their hands if the Democrats do something really blatant, but I expect it is smaller than you think.

            [1] (Republican Catholics do as well but for different reasons.)

          • Lillian says:

            Oh yeah, this will work out just fine – having someone nominated whom the actual author of The Handmaid’s Tale said “she belongs to the group that inspired my story of Gilead”, what could possibly go wrong with that?

            Deeply conservative and pro-life doesn’t damage a person like sexual assault allegations do. The point is not to get the Democrats onboard, the Democrats will never be on board, the point is that the Republicans don’t want the legitimacy of the Supreme Court to be damaged precisely at the point when you have managed to swing it their favour. Also i think the current turn towards all out cultural gender war is incredibly toxic and there need to be more prominent conservative women in politics to help stem the tide.

          • Matt M says:

            Deeply conservative and pro-life doesn’t damage a person like sexual assault allegations do.

            Some might suggest deeply conservative and pro-life is what causes sexual assault allegations to magically appear.

          • Randy M says:

            Right, it doesn’t damage the candidate, it motivates the opposition to do damage.

          • albatross11 says:

            So why hasn’t it happened for previous conservative SC nominees since Thomas?

          • Eric Rall says:

            So why hasn’t it happened for previous conservative SC nominees since Thomas?

            Probably a combination of two things:

            1. It didn’t work against Thomas. He was confirmed with 11 Democrats and all but two Republicans voting in favor.

            2. Bill Clinton became President before the next SCOTUS vacancy after Thomas’s appointment. He didn’t nominate any conservative justices (for obvious reasons), and his sexual harassment scandals made sexual misconduct allegations an awkward line of attack for Democrats to make. It took quite a bit of time for that effect to fade.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Why did the Handmaids only come out for Kavanaugh, and not for Gorsuch, despite Gorsuch’s seat being (in the Dems’ view) the stolen one?

            Because Kavanaugh is changing the balance. Kennedy was long seen as the “swing vote” [1] and he’s being replaced with a reliable conservative.

            It’s the same reason that McConnell pulled out the stops when Scalia died. If RBG had retired instead of Scalia dying on Feb 13 2016, Garland would have been confirmed to replace her just fine.

            [1] someone is going to complain about this but I don’t care

        • Matt M says:

          There’s no shortage of conservative judges who both have stronger bonafides on abortion and aren’t being accused of sexual assault. At this point, i’m reasonably convinced that the power move for the Republicans is to withdraw the Kavanaugh nomination and confirm Amy Coney Barret instead.

          Absolutely fucking not.

          If the GOP abandons Kavanaugh, I abandon them. I will go from voting party-line R to staying home.

          Now I’m a little weird politically and maybe there aren’t many more like me. But the rise and success of Trump would suggest that maybe there are. Partisan conservatives came out to support Trump because he never caved to this type of bullshit. He fought back. If they stop fighting back, they deserve the blue wave.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is an iterated game. Everything that happens in Kavenaugh’s nomination affects what the next nomination battles look like. And I’ll admit, I am very much in favor of seeing more very public examples where people don’t yield to howling mobs, no matter how outraged. Republicans weighing the evidence and deciding they’re no longer comfortable nominating him wouldn’t be unreasonable, but Republicans yielding to the outrage storm when they find the evidence unconvincing is a very bad thing, IMO.

          • Matt M says:

            Republicans weighing the evidence and deciding they’re no longer comfortable nominating him wouldn’t be unreasonable, but Republicans yielding to the outrage storm when they find the evidence unconvincing is a very bad thing, IMO.

            Assuming no new evidence comes out, and that these “hearings” yield nothing new, how do they possibly do the former without it looking like the latter?

            This is my own, personal, line in the sand. If they want my vote, they confirm Kavanaugh. Period. And yes, this does mean that I am holding Ted Cruz personally responsible for how Susan Collins votes. Unfair? Maybe. Oh well. Thems the breaks.

          • ana53294 says:

            So, if you want the GOP to double down and push Kavanaugh through, do you also support the Republican Senators who chose to use a prosecutor not to question Ford?

            Because that certainly does look like backing down to me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think the Republicans best move is to confirm. Politically active Democrats are already against them and won’t be moved by failure to confirm; they’re still going to show up. There’s enough smoke and haze that I don’t think moderate Democrats are going to be particularly incensed and moved to vote by a confirmation, nor are moderate Republicans going to be put off. They might lose a few votes at those margins.

            However, if they fail to confirm, the core (including the Trumpist core) is going to be incensed. And stay home. The Republicans have a lot more to lose there. Their core is not secure enough for them to pander to the margins while taking the core for granted.

          • JPNunez says:

            This is an insane position. What kind of “not caving in” has Trump done? He had to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels.

            Paying hush money is like the definition of caving in.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree with Nybbler. The only vote I’m really worried about is Flake’s. That guy. That guy…

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            >If the GOP abandons Kavanaugh, I abandon them. I will go from voting party-line R to staying home.

            Seconding this. Kavanaugh is absolutely a hill I am willing to die on at this point, even if it means giving up the Senate.

            I wasn’t planning on voting this year, but this fight has motivated me and the outcome will determine how I vote.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I have heard from several Never-Trump conservatives that they are livid about Kavanaugh’s treatment, particularly after the first official hearings were done. Most of them weren’t too concerned with who Trump nominated, and wouldn’t have minded much if Kavanaugh’s nomination had simply and quietly fallen apart from closed-door sessions a few weeks ago leaving time for another candidate to be put forth.

          • Nick says:

            I have heard from several Never-Trump conservatives that they are livid about Kavanaugh’s treatment, particularly after the first official hearings were done. Most of them weren’t too concerned with who Trump nominated, and wouldn’t have minded much if Kavanaugh’s nomination had simply and quietly fallen apart from closed-door sessions a few weeks ago leaving time for another candidate to be put forth.

            For what it’s worth, you can make it one more. I mailed my voter registration form this morning.

          • A different perspective on Kavanaugh …

            I was just speaking with a libertarian lawyer who was against Kavanaugh for reasons unrelated to the current controversy. The claim was that Trump rejected the initial list of candidates offered him by the Federalist Society, which did not include Kavanaugh, and insisted on having Kavanaugh considered. The explanation was that Kavanaugh was a strong supporter of executive power, in particular the theory of the unitary executive, unlike most of the judges favored by the Federalist Society.

        • SamChevre says:

          Amy Coney Barret is a great potential nominee–for Ginsburg’s seat.

      • Salem says:

        As for the allegations themselves, the truth is both unknowable and obvious.

        It’s obnoxious to claim that all the people who loudly oppose you secretly agree with you.

        He’s also wrong. For example, here is an example of a partisan anti-Kavanaugh commenter trying to estimate the probability that Kavanaugh is guilty, and coming up with a range of 40-75%. In fact, he has mangled his calculations, and it should be 43-76%, but the point is that it certainly doesn’t seem “obvious” – even with a startling prior that there’s a 10% chance that someone like Kavanaugh is guilty of such conduct, regardless of any allegations having been made.

        A more reasonable (but still high) prior of 1%, and the same calculation, gives a range of 6-21%. Now hopefully you see why a lot of people don’t believe the allegations.

        But what should the prior be? There were 5 victimisations per 1000 women per year for rape/sexual assault in 1995 (easiest historical data to find). The figure is much lower now, but the allegation is historical, so let’s go with the high number. Let’s say the typical perpetrator harasses 1 woman per year (WAG), but that 80% of assaults are done by 20% of the perpetrators (standard 80-20 rule). Let’s also assume that perpetrators and victims are “active” for similar periods of time (ease of calculation – a more realistic assumption would only lower the prior). This implies that 1.2 men per 1000 women are perpetrators, implying we should have a prior of 0.12%. I see no reason to adjust this prior for Kavanaugh specifically.

        Applying this standard prior to Holbo’s calculation, we get a range of 0.7-3% chance that he’s guilty. Suddenly, it’s “obvious” in the other direction.

        Now, I don’t know if this is correct, and that estimate does “feel” low to me. But if you disagree, feel free to plug in different numbers, don’t just accuse your opponents of bad faith.

        • brmic says:

          Did you not read the article you linked to?

          Let’s estimate the likelihood that BK was guilty of something of the sort, independently of Ford’s accusations. That is, take the rest of what we know: 1983, privileged, football, heavy drinking, best friends with Mark Judge, “what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep”, what he wrote in the yearbook, joined Truth and Courage at Yale, etc.
          What percentage of possible guys who fit this Band of Bros Truth and Courage profile are guilty of sexual assault at some point?
          I say: 10%. 1 in 10 guys like that assaulted some girl at some party at some time.

          Your prior on the other hand assumes nothing is known about Kavanaugh’s youth or that all that information is irrelevant.
          Which, I suppose, is a point of view (though not a particularly Bayesian one) but when you call a well argued prior ‘startling’, hide the argument behind it and dismiss it with ‘I see no reason’ you sound blinded by your biases. Or like someone arguing in bad faith.
          The linked post contains discussion about the 10% prior and we can easily agree that some other piece of information should change the prior this way or that. But it strikes me as inarguable that adding seniors, gays and shy nerds to the denominator (as you are implicitly doing) is wrong on the face of it. If anything, you need to consider crime rates for young men.
          Though even then, from personal experience, the alleged attack is of a pattern (escalation of a boundary violation) which is typical for a particular type of person (‘jocks’ for want of a better term) and Kavanaugh appears to have been one of them. So I agree with Holbo, that someone running and drinking with that kind of person has a much higher chance of crossing a boundary someday than the average shy nerd and that we ought to take that into account in the base rate. From personal experience, I’d say ‘one of those guys’ being guilty of something like Ford alleges is higher than 10% (Of the stuff I know of, roughly 50% kissed or groped a girl against her will at some point). I’m not sure to what degree Kavanaugh fits the pattern, but he sure ran with that kind of crowd.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            “assault” runs the gamut from kissing someone on the cheek and being so intimidated that you run off and join a monastery, and attempted rape.

            An estimate of 70% that someone got handsy at a party is different than an estimate of 70% that someone tried to rape someone and only failed because they got beaten off with a stick.

          • Salem says:

            I’m not trying to hide anything. I provided the link, and anyone can click through, as you did. My major point wasn’t that his prior was obviously wrong, but merely that when even anti-Kavanaugh partisans don’t think it’s obvious that he did it, it’s a bit much to assume that pro-Kavanaugh partisans secretly think he obviously did it. There are a range of possible values for the parameters, and seemingly plausible ones will get you “probably guilty,” “probably innocent,” “very likely innocent,” etc. For the record, your estimates make him 92-98% guilty, so we should probably add “very likely guilty” – but the point is that well-meaning people can disagree here.

            On your more specific point, I don’t agree that his prior is well-argued. He provides no reason to think that any of those factors are in any way related to sexual assault. It’s just vague insinuation without substance. I don’t view that information as categorically irrelevant, but I don’t see relevance being shown. I could just as easily spin an insinuation where it’s the shy nerds (“clumsy, entitled, angry”, etc) who should be seen as more likely to commit sexual assault. Indeed, the latter is far closer to my own experience, but clearly your mileage varies. If my life depended on it I would put someone like Kavanaugh (jockish, Christian, privileged) as somewhat less likely than average to have committed assault, but I tried to keep it neutral precisely because personal experiences may vary.

            I stand by my view that it’s startling to claim that there’s a 10% chance that a random person of this type has committed sexual assault, for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a claim that elite jockdom is a general hive of villainy (or at least was, as of 1983), which I don’t for a second believe. But more importantly, it makes the accusation redundant – never mind the 40%, we wouldn’t want to confirm someone with a 10% chance of being a sexual harasser. If his prior (let alone yours) is correct, we don’t need to discuss the allegation at all, so it becomes very weird that you’re only bringing up this prior in the context of the allegation.

          • albatross11 says:

            I find it interesting that he came to similar numbers as mine, with a rather different approach. OTOH, the final probability is quite sensitive to those initial assumptions.

          • “1983, privileged, football, heavy drinking, best friends with Mark Judge, “what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep”, what he wrote in the yearbook, joined Truth and Courage at Yale, etc.”

            The only Bayesian probability this sentence affects is the probability its author’s Grandfather wasn’t allowed to join the fvkpsze jas
            u.

          • brmic says:

            @Salem
            I stand corrected. I misinterpreted what you wrote.
            I aggree with your first paragraph, there’s obviously room for disagreement, though I would point out I said I wasn’t sure how much Kavanaugh fits the type I’m thinking of, so that complicates it.
            Your 2nd paragraph, our mileage obviously varies, which I take as relevant data.
            Your 3rd paragraph: I only brought it up because you linked to it. Second I think both ‘sexual assault’ and ‘hive of villany’ are noncentral. My read of the situation Ford describes is more something like groping + drunk + escalated-further-than-anticipated. As such, I would put the prior for rape for this group at about the general average but much higher for the kind of boundary violations which these types used to get away with at reasonable rates when sober.

        • Björn says:

          Such calculations are a joke. Pulling some numbers out of thin air and plugging them into Bayes theorem gives you an answer that is only as meaningful as the numbers you put in. Since you can argue the starting numbers to be in a wide range, you learn nothing.

          • albatross11 says:

            I disagree.

            These numbers aren’t the final word, but by forcing yourself to state your starting estimates and do some calculations, you avoid the failure mode where your fast intuitive brain (system 1) runs ahead of your slow analytical brain (system 2). This is an idea that’s discussed quite a bit in the excellent books _Thinking Fast and Slow_ and _Superpredictors_.

          • Beck says:

            @ Bjorn
            I agree, although I might not put it quite as strongly. I expect that plugging in imaginary numbers (that can be adjusted if the result doesn’t feel right) turns a gut feeling that you know is just a gut feeling into a gut feeling with an undeserved patina of respectability.
            I would expect the result to generally be a reinforcing of the (System 1) snap decision that you started with.

          • Nick says:

            Calculations aren’t totally useless. They will (I expect) narrow any reasonable estimate to between 1-99%, and they let us argue about, say, the prior probability he would sexually assault someone separate from whatever final number someone has got.

          • albatross11 says:

            FWIW, the calculation I worked through lowered my estimated probability that he actually did what she accused him of.

      • gbdub says:

        For whatever reason he thinks this transparently fake aw-shucks goody-two-shoes act will work better.

        What else is he supposed to say? Everything since the Ford allegation (Ramirez and Swetbrick) is basically an attempt to put the entire prep jock / frat boy culture of the 80s on trial. He can’t admit to engaging in that (never mind that obviously he probably did – and so did all the Dem Senators wagging their fingers at him now…) without Dems immediately latching onto that as “proof” that he’s a ringleader of “rape culture” such that it doesn’t matter if he literally did the specific things he’s accused of, obviously at some point he did something close enough. There’s a push to get him to admit to heavy drinking, which will “prove” that he had numerous lengthy blackouts which will “prove” that his denials are unreliable which will “prove” that he spent those blackouts raping people.

        I think there’s a not completely unreasonable assumption in “he said she said” cases to assume the real truth lies somewhere between the two stories. And in that sense any admission on Kavanaugh’s part of any part of Ford’s story is going to make people update toward her story being closer to the truth. The ambiguity of the accusations makes this worse – he can’t say “sure, I partied, but I wasn’t at that party” because there is no “that” party specified.

      • BBA says:

        Rather than diving into the weeds, I’ll just reiterate my prior that most of the country consists of (for lack of a better word) “normies” who are perfectly content to go along with just about anything. The activists, the analyzers, the people who care about facts and principles… we’re the weirdos.

        But maybe this is just my atypical mind fallacy.

        I will also say, as someone who suffered a couple of years at a high school just down the road from Georgetown Prep, that I have never felt so glad that I had no friends and never got invited to parties.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      I would subscribe to the “Republican false flag” theories if it wasn’t already quite clear that the other two accusers were going to fail to take him down. The plethora of accusations swayed (at least temporarily) some centrists like Robbie Soave here: https://twitter.com/robbysoave/status/1044978137988247553 and Seth Mandel here: https://twitter.com/SethAMandel/status/1044978961149841408

      What I will say is both are a bit in the, “I write acceptable think pieces that we pretend are kind of edgy” lane, and a lot of the people who were swayed by the new allegations are also in this lane, and many have snapped back after reviewing this all and saying, “why?”

      To be honest, my biggest problems with all the stories remains the same: the only ever include information that can’t be falsified other than by blanket denies by the Judge, and its also pretty disturbing the timing of this all. It feels kind gross to allow him to be rejected over this because it feels like a beta test for a new political tactic. It also feels gross to confirm him because, well, even though I think it might be a political tactic, its a freaking effective one that plays to all my base instincts and even small % chances that the allegations are true still make you uneasy about him getting a promotion.

      The only way we could get out of this thing clean is if he died in a car accident on the way to the hearings tomorrow. And even then, I’m not so sure.

      • The Nybbler says:

        To be honest, my biggest problems with all the stories remains the same: the only ever include information that can’t be falsified other than by blanket denies by the Judge

        Not quite true. Ford named two present at the party who were not her attackers, Leland Keyser and P.J. Smyth. Both deny it. I believe Ramirez also identified others present who denied the story to the New York Times and the New Yorker. Every detail that can be falsified has been at least weakly falsified; the rest are unfalsifiable.

        • Björn says:

          The Ramirez article in the New Yorker mentions several classmates who agree with Ramirez’ side of the story in varying degrees. Take note that their statements vary by how strongly they implicate Kavanaugh, but they all make it plausible that the general events described by Ramirez happened and that Kavanaugh is at least near those events. I find it especially interesting that there seems to have been rumours in the 80s connecting Kavanaugh with the incident. So I don’t see that the details have been weakly falsified, only that Kavanaugh’s social circle denies the party stories about Kavanaugh very generally.

          I agree that the Ford case is harder to falsify, because even if it is true, there are only three people who would have knowledge of the event. But even there the New Yorker reporters have the statement of Mark Judge’s ex-girlfriend from university, who describes Mark Judge in a situation that’s kind of similar to the one Ford described.

          Even if Kavanaugh wasn’t the perpetrator in buth cases, the independent statements show that he moving in the exact social circles that enabled alcohol fueled sexual violence. Which leads to some interesting questions: Did he not notice because he was permanently hammered, did he not notice because his reaction to crimes happening in his social circle is looking away, or did he notice, but say nothing? If the latter is true, why doesn’t he say who might have done it from his social circle. Or is the reason why he is silent because that would be him?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Ramirez article in the New Yorker mentions several classmates who agree with Ramirez’ side of the story in varying degrees.

            They’re all people who claim to have heard rumors at the time. One “independently” confirmed the details, but we know from the New York Times that Ramirez herself had been speaking to former classmates before the New Yorker talked to them, so that’s completely contaminated:

            “Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the episode and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.”

            Even if Kavanaugh wasn’t the perpetrator in buth cases, the independent statements show that he moving in the exact social circles that enabled alcohol fueled sexual violence.

            No, they fail to do that. They only show that he drank a lot, and socialized with other people who also did.

          • gbdub says:

            Aren’t the people who support Ramirez her former roommates? And don’t they admit to having no direct knowledge of the event actually accused?

            You can’t discount the denials because they come from Kavanaugh’s social circle, and then take Ramirez and her social circle at face value.

            Basically the media spent weeks going through Kavanaugh’s college yearbooks to find anyone willing to trash him on the record, and this is the best they could do? It’s pretty weak sauce.

            “Mark Judge’s ex says that one time Mark was involved in something kind of like what Kavanaugh is accused of, therefore Kavanaugh is probably guilty”.

            Really, that’s the kind of logic you’re willing to stake the credibility of the government on?

            If you take “was adjacent to alcohol fueled party culture in the 70s / 80s” as proof of sexual assault, then you basically need to put every Baby Boomer and Gen Xer in jail.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Also, Leland Keyser denies knowing Kavanaugh, and states she was never at an event with Kavanaugh with or without Ford.

          Ford says she ran into Mark Judge later at his workplace (a grocery store) but hasn’t said anything about ever meeting Kavanaugh later. I’ve been watching bits and pieces of the hearing and no one yet I’ve heard has asked her how she came to know Brett Kavanaugh. Had they met at events before? How did she know his name at this gathering?

          As far as I can tell from her statements the one and only interaction she ever had with Brett Kavanaugh was the attempted rape. They went to different schools, lived in different parts of town (as per the map shown at the hearing), and her friend Keyser denies being in the same social circle as Kavanaugh. How is she certain a man named “Brett Kavanaugh” was the assailant? Did he introduce himself before the attack? Did she ask someone later who that man was?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Correction, she was just asked about other social interaction with Kavanaugh, and she says she attended 4 or 5 other parties with him before the event in question, but nothing inappropriate happened at those parties.

            I would like some follow-up questions about those events. Maybe some of those have dates and locations that could be verified by other attendees so we can determine if Ford and Kavanaugh even knew each other.

            ETA: And as far as I can tell from a google search, Kavanaugh denies ever knowing Ford (beyond not having been at such a party. Did not know her at all and never attended any party with her). This seems like a falsifiable statement. If Ford can remember any parties that Kavanaugh and she attended, perhaps other guests could corroborate them.

          • Deiseach says:

            And as far as I can tell from a google search, Kavanaugh denies ever knowing Ford (beyond not having been at such a party. Did not know her at all and never attended any party with her)

            Yeah, that could be true. He was older than her, went to a different school; if she tagged along with a friend to these parties that seem to have been informal affairs (‘a bunch of us got together after swimming and ended up in someone’s house having a party’), it’s not impossible she might have been told who he was, but they never directly met and he never – so far as he knew about it – attended any parties with her. She’s fifteen and going to parties where there are seventeen and eighteen year olds, that’s two different social circles and there’s no reason he’d know a tag-along like her unless she was a friend of his sister or was a sister of a schoolmate.

            So they could both be telling the truth – Ford that she attended at least one party where Kavanaugh was also there, Kavanaugh that he didn’t know her from Adam and had no idea she was there.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      This intention is plausible; they read off several lunatic tweets by the tipster who reported the Rhode Island one, which it does not strike me as necessary to do.

      no smoke but let me drop a Daily Caller link here:

      https://dailycaller.com/2018/09/26/rhode-island-kavanaugh-made-a-mistake/

      basically that same guy has now, uh, recanted. Seems like something he wouldn’t bother to do if he was a Republican agent, but maybe that’s what they want us to think so I really can’t be sure. Still, if you’re interested, here’s some more information to factor into your personal model of the current situation.

    • Nick says:

      It seems I went to bed at the wrong time. Last night, news broke that the committee had interviewed two different men who believe they may have been Ford’s attacker. Here’s the timeline from the committee, apparently.

      Avenatti’s stunt was eleventh hour; I’m not even sure what to call this. What effect is this going to have on the Senate hearing today?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It wouldn’t violate the laws of physics, so it’s possible, but “two guys came forward to fall on the sword for Kavanaugh” should be viewed with a lot of skepticism. I put it in the same category as the other crazy allegations like the rape-train.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          “Two guys saw a chance to get their names in the papers” is a possibility that can’t be dismissed.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTR reading that whenever there is a very heavily media-covered crime, crazy people come out of the woodwork to either confess to it or claim to know important details about it. I suspect everything after the Ford accusations fall into this category.

    • Thegnskald says:

      What a way for the metoo movement to bankrupt its cache of social capital.

      • Matt M says:

        Nope. They’re going to win this one.

        • ana53294 says:

          By deligitimizing the SCOTUS or by not having Kavanaugh nominated?

          • Matt M says:

            At this point I think Kavanaugh is not getting through.

            And the media will ensure the historical narrative is “Thank God the #MeToo movement stopped a rapist. Look at how much good they’ve done. We’ve come a long way, baby!”

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the only prediction I am confident making here is that about half of the politically-involved people in the country are guaranteed to see whatever happens here as a profound injustice that undermines the credibility of the Supreme Court and the political system.

        • Thegnskald says:

          That isn’t quite disagreeing with what I wrote.

          If they win, it will have been a pyrrhic victory; the victory will be seen to have legitimized a political tactic that the Republicans aren’t going to hesitate to pick up and use back. The Democrats won’t put up with this for very long, and will throw the movement under the bus the first time it is sufficiently inconvenient for them to cave.

          The Republicans will already have lost all support for the movement, and it will not be remembered well once the Democrats decide it is a bad political tool to leave laying around in the public consciousness.

          • Matt M says:

            If they win, it will have been a pyrrhic victory; the victory will be seen to have legitimized a political tactic that the Republicans aren’t going to hesitate to pick up and use back.

            Republicans won’t be able to use it back. It won’t work. The media will ignore it.

            We’ve already seen whatshername from Hawaii basically state outright that this is a politically-motivated decision. That she weighs the evidence in light of Kavanaugh’s personal beliefs. Nobody on the left denounced this. Nobody in the mainstream media said “Aha, perhaps we should update our priors that this is all legitimate and not a made up witch hunt!”

          • Thegnskald says:

            Matt M –

            Metoo isn’t an arm of the Democratic party, and isn’t going to be so easily controlled.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            #MeToo is a weapon of the media, which will wield it only against the Republican party. See Keith Ellison.

          • Matt M says:

            Metoo isn’t an arm of the Democratic party

            But every newspaper is. Every TV channel except FOX News is. Every public school is. Everyone’s default search engine is.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The media outlets aren’t arms, at best they are allies and allies will split when their incentives split. The media need revenue and even democrats find salacious news to be entertaining. Al Franken’s accusers were not covered up well once the first one got out and there wasn’t much corroborating evidence other than the number of them.

          • Matt M says:

            there wasn’t much corroborating evidence other than the number of them.

            Wasn’t there a literal photograph of him grabbing some girl’s boob?

          • dndnrsn says:

            If you were to make a list of everyone who’d gotten in trouble for sexual assault or harassment allegations, including and after Weinstein, do you think you’d find more Democrats or Republicans?

            Here in Canada, as far as I know, of actual politicians brought down by sexual assault/harassment allegations in recent years, there’s been… two Liberals and an NDP MPP (all of whom were accused, as it turns out, by the same woman – an NDP MPP – who was later accused of sexual misconduct herself by a guy, leading to an investigation that cleared her).

            If this whole thing is a smear campaign intended to mess up right-wing politicians, it’s doing a pretty poor job, eh?

          • Matt M says:

            If you were to make a list of everyone who’d gotten in trouble for sexual assault or harassment allegations, including and after Weinstein, do you think you’d find more Democrats or Republicans?

            I think for this to work, you’d have to control for the political beliefs of the base population that’s being exposed.

            So, for example, to the extent that #MeToo was initially focused on Hollywood, well, 99% of people in Hollywood are Democrats, so yeah, more Democrats were taken down. One might point out that one of the most prominent people to reject establishment Democrat politics, prior to being taken down by this, was one Bill Cosby.

            It’s not quite rape allegations, but Roseanne and Norm MacDonald (both notably non-Democrat) have recently been affected by hyper-sensitivity to PC as well. In a base population where virtually everyone is a Democrat, they sure do seem to be able to find plenty of non-Democrats to screw with.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The photo incident came with an apology which was ‘accepted’ by the victim and carried a plausible ‘I was messing around for the camera, no assaulting her’ explanation (you can see his left hand is around, not on, her breasts in the picture and he is staring at the camera smiling).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Roseanne hardly got in trouble for something that would only affect those who are “hypersensitive” though.

            If accusations become a big thing in politics, I think it’s going to look more like the stuff the aforementioned NDP MP is connected to – which basically looks like an aged-up version of university tribunals – than the weaponized deployment of made-up accusations. This is going to hurt left-wing parties more than right-wing parties, because left-wing parties are more likely to have the requisite internal culture to oust people accused of that sort of thing, and because they are more likely to depend on the vote of people who would get upset if allegations of that sort don’t get dealt with one way or another. (It is entirely relevant that the two Liberals who the party decided to cut loose were neither of them important guys, and with the NDP MP who got in trouble, it is obvious that he was punished for being a jerk who wouldn’t submit to party authority rather than any actual sexual misconduct)

          • gbdub says:

            “because left-wing parties are more likely to have the requisite internal culture to oust people accused of that sort of thing, and because they are more likely to depend on the vote of people who would get upset if allegations of that sort don’t get dealt with one way or another.”

            On the other hand, Keith Ellison, the Clintons, and every Kennedy.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Setting aside the media arguments, which aren’t going anywhere, metoo isn’t just something that happens on CNN, and the Democrats step really carefully around it.

            Their response to Keith Ellison wasn’t, after all, to laugh it off, but to try to preempt it by pushing for a formal investigation. The major difference here is timing; they can afford to wait on Ellison.

          • rlms says:

            @gbdub
            Who are the plural Clintons being referred to here?

          • gbdub says:

            @rlms – there is Bill Clinton the actual rapist (if you really “believe all women”) and Hillary Clinton the rape-culture enabler, who took an active role in victim blaming/shaming and minimizing her husband’s crimes. She emphatically does not “believe all women”. And “the Clintons” meaning more broadly the whole Clinton political team who gave us things like the lovely “Drag $100 through a trailer park” quote.

            The Ellison probe was being handled mostly by Democratic party lawyers… not exactly a really “independent” investigation. To the point where Ellison is now actually asking for a House Ethics Committee investigation of himself since he maintains his innocence but clearly doesn’t think the existing investigations are sufficient to plausibly clear his name. And anyway saying there should be an investigation is still somewhat hypocritical, given the rhetoric suggesting that even making Ford testify is somehow abusive.

            Then you’ve got Cory Booker, who admitted to “groping” in high school, i.e. basically what is supposed to disqualify Kavanaugh from public service. If there are serious proposals from the left to remove him on that basis, I’ve not seen them.

            “Believe all women” is a stupid slogan that no one literally believes, but whatever aspirational value it has or had is pretty quickly sacrificed for naked partisanship.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @gbdub

            On the other hand, Keith Ellison, the Clintons, and every Kennedy.

            The stuff with Bill, various Kennedies, that’s all 90s or earlierThe change in culture is a fairly recent one. Ellison may be getting a pass in the centre-left press – the NYT article is pretty friendly to him, at least – and Nancy Pelosi is big on him getting due process, but neither means this won’t hurt him in the election or in party intriguing. Neither the NYT nor Pelosi represents the party’s left wing.

            The Canadian experience so far is that allegations bring down back-benchers and the like, but don’t seem to do a huge amount of professional damage to the big deal politicians. The accusations against Trudeau disappeared pretty quickly. They probably wouldn’t if he’d gotten accused of something heinous, but on the other hand, what he was accused of would be a reason to shuffle someone out of the party if they were a back-bencher. The first accusation concerning Kavanaugh wasn’t about groping, it was about attempted rape.

          • Matt M says:

            and Nancy Pelosi is big on him getting due process

            Weird how she’s not insisting that “due process” only applies to criminal trials and is irrelevant in this case. Whoops, that’s only for right-wingers I guess.

            The first accusation concerning Kavanaugh wasn’t about groping, it was about attempted rape.

            No, it was about groping. There is no actual evidence, even under her own account, that he actually was going to rape her. That’s her speculating as to his motives. What she actually alleges is that he held her down, fondled her over her clothes, placed his hand over her mouth, then stopped. That is all.

          • baconbits9 says:

            At best that qualifies it as physical assault, I don’t think the average impression of groping is “holding her down with hand over mouth”, and if she got him to stop, rather than him stopping on his own (and there was corroborating evidence) then a charge of attempted rape is probably called for.

          • gbdub says:

            Hillary Clinton ran for president quite recently, if you’ll recall, and Bill made several appearances on her behalf. He seems to still get invited to the cool parties.

            None of the things Kavanaugh is alleged to have done occurred more recently than what Clinton did. You can’t say “the culture changed” without excusing Kavanaugh.

            I suspect that literally almost every male Rep. and Senator was involved in the same sort of prep school / college party culture. Where’s the push to get them all out?

            @baconbits9 – it would be certainly interesting to speculate on what would have happen if charges had been pursued when it first happened… I’m guessing either “nothing” or “plead down to a misdemeanor non-sex crime (as a minor)”. Probably enough of a skeleton to keep him off Supreme Court?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Look, it’s not a secret to anyone here, or really anyone, that these things aren’t partisan. Find me a society of people that hasn’t considered “who did it, and to whom” as being generally more important than what it was, or whether it happened. We all do this; it’s how we are.

            Didn’t she also say he tried to get her clothes off? Seems like more than groping. The physical restraint isn’t a feature of the median groping, either.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @gbdub

            Her campaign lost, and has been derided for a lot of apparently bad decisions. Maybe if they’d listened to Bill about strategy more and put him on stage less they would have won?

          • baconbits9 says:

            @baconbits9 – it would be certainly interesting to speculate on what would have happen if charges had been pursued when it first happened… I’m guessing either “nothing” or “plead down to a misdemeanor non-sex crime (as a minor)”. Probably enough of a skeleton to keep him off Supreme Court?

            If he plead down there would be records of it and they would be pretty likely to come out and that would be a huge boost to her credibility now (if he made it this far). Just a formal statement which included the date and location would at least provide the context to start an investigation and get it done in a timely manner.

          • Deiseach says:

            Republicans won’t be able to use it back. It won’t work. The media will ignore it.

            Maybe not on rape/sexual assault accusations, but things like being transphobic? insufficiently aggressive about climate change? invested all your inheritance from your plutocrat grandfather in immoral stocks? If the weapon is “find an outrage-generating accusation and get smoke going so people will start looking for the fire”, then that’s a lesson learned.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe not on rape/sexual assault accusations, but things like being transphobic? insufficiently aggressive about climate change? invested all your inheritance from your plutocrat grandfather in immoral stocks?

            Those things sometimes work when its a lefty trying to purge another lefty.

            But you really think the GOP can use those against Democrats? Not a chance. The media will immediately go hard on “Who the fuck is TED CRUZ to suggest that some Democrat isn’t sufficiently PC? HE literally supports slavery!”

          • gbdub says:

            @dndnrsn – Sure, Clinton lost. But she won the popular vote – there did not seem to be droves of Democrats turned off from voting for her due to Bills sexual transgressions. The mere fact that Democrats championed Hillary (and Bill) while explicitly going after Trump for his treatment of women is, to me anyway, pretty strong evidence that Democrats are quite capable of adjusting their MeToo meters for partisan effect. I don’t think that should be surprising, nor do I think it’s limited to Democrats.

            But I am frustrated because I do think there is actual value to the MeToo shift in culture, but we risk blowing it up by repurposing it for partisan witch hunts.

          • Two points on the general thread:

            A Supreme Court justice is more powerful than a congressman and the position is permanent, so it isn’t unreasonable to apply higher standards. I can easily enough see someone arguing that having done what Kavanaugh is accused of should bar a justice candidate, should not bar a congressional candidate.

            On media bias… . Both Teddy Kennedy and Elizabeth Warren did things that, on the face of it, ought to have outraged the left. Not only were they not ostracized, both were treated as heroic leaders. Their opponents pointed out what they had done but those on their side of the political fence ignored it. Successfully.

          • albatross11 says:

            gbdub:

            I think it was inevitable that #metoo would be used in political fights, in much the same way it was inevitable that fear about Communism would be used in political fights.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The Democrats will overlook the sins of those valuable to them, the Republicans will go to bat for those valuable to them. None of this is new. Is anybody’s vote on Kavanaugh going to be swayed by this? Is this the outrage that will provoke the Blue Wave into sweeping in? I think it’s most likely Kavanaugh will be confirmed. Sure, to devoted Democrats, he’ll be the rapist judge. They’ll hate him. But they were probably going to end up hating him anyway.

            I predict there will be 3 kinds of politician where accusations actually mess up their career: those who actually do/did some bad stuff, those who are unimportant and jerks (in general) being got rid of by the only means available, and those who are unimportant and jerks (sexually) getting hit with the punishment for being worse than a jerk. It’s not going to be that every Republican who raises his head above the parapet has a half-dozen women appear claiming he raped them. It’s mostly going to take place within the party, too.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Trump won.

            In spite of the media being united against him, Trump won.

            If your view of politics at this point assigns significant steering power to the media – if you think it tells people what to think, instead of what it thinks they want to hear, I think your model of political reality is about twenty years out of date.

            Feminism is already fragmented. The alliance behind the Democrats is really, really fragile. I know it doesn’t look like it to the right, because they see the silence, and don’t know to look for the pressed lips and shared grimaces (metaphorically speaking), but yeah. And the Democrats know it.

            The Democrats biggest problem is motivating their base to vote. Anything that makes their base go “Why bother” is a devastating blow.

          • gbdub says:

            Trump won, but not convincingly. If half the country listens to the media, they are still a pretty powerful force – I don’t know how many Hillary voters would have flipped with a neutral or Trump friendly media, but the answer probably isn’t zero. They clearly don’t have the power to fully dictate political outcomes, but its silly to dismiss them (or their behavior) as irrelevant or merely passive followers of the zeitgeist.

            It was inevitable that metoo would be politicized – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out when it is (and when it isn’t). The fact that there were real Communists didn’t excuse McCarthy – but McCarthyism doesn’t excuse Communism.

          • 10240 says:

            Wasn’t there a literal photograph of him grabbing some girl’s boob?

            He hovered his hand above some girl’s boobs, at least on the photo I saw (and the one you get by searching for Al Franken boob).

          • BBA says:

            That photo may have been staged, but it’s in such poor taste by current standards that it shocks the conscience. (Weird how rapidly that changed. At the time it was taken, just a few years ago, “The Man Show” was still on the air – has anyone tried to get Jimmy Kimmel cancelled by bringing up those old clips?) All the other allegations are much more believable simply because we have that photo and we know that Franken has to be a sex pervert or he wouldn’t have taken it. And the way how those allegations drip-drip-dripped out just so they would reenter the news cycle right when they were about to fade away, and then suddenly stopped as soon as he announced his resignation…and all from the 2000s, not a single one from his years of snorting cocaine with John Belushi?

            But I’m probably overthinking it. Creepy old Jewish man, of course he’s guilty like all the others. (As a creepy young Jewish man, I have this to look forward to.)

          • AnonYEmous says:

            That photo may have been staged, but it’s in such poor taste by current standards that it shocks the conscience.

            I feel like it also hinged on the reaction of the person; if she was cool with it I’d accept it as a joke, but her very strong reaction to that photo (from what I recall) made me think it was over the line. Plus, while a photo like that could be a joke, an accusation of sexual misconduct makes that seem a lot less likely. That said, maybe she was just out to get Franken, but I didn’t think so. Also:

            This is going to hurt left-wing parties more than right-wing parties, because left-wing parties are more likely to have the requisite internal culture to oust people accused of that sort of thing, and because they are more likely to depend on the vote of people who would get upset if allegations of that sort don’t get dealt with one way or another.

            Really I think the latter part is the major issue; obviously the left-wing has been following along with this certain narrative of “believe women” and “we are for women”, however true or untrue that is, and they rely on feminists, who in the year 2018 are rarely willing to give anyone a pass just for some political goal. I actually think on the whole, the MeToo movement is one of the biggest unforeseen downsides of being progressive; things you could shrug off if you weren’t trying to be uber-virtuous in regards to feminism and so forth now become serious issue for you / the institution you belong to.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      We have a horrific failure of government. The leader of a drug rape gang has passed six FBI background checks and been appointed to the second highest court in the land. We must thoroughly investigate the manner in which the FBI conducts its background checks, as they have failed catastrophically.

      As Kavanaugh was only one member of the gang, there are still many other rapists at large. There is no statute of limitations on drugging and raping girls. Swetnick must name names, we must identify the victims, identify the rapists, and bring them to justice. Kavanaugh himself should never see the outside of a prison cell for the rest of his life.

      • Deiseach says:

        Swetnick must name names, we must identify the victims, identify the rapists, and bring them to justice.

        If you believe Swetnick’s account, she attended several/many of these rape parties before she was herself raped, yet told nobody of what was going on. Surely this makes her an accessory? Therefore she herself must be put on trial!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Obviously not. She was so traumatized by the rapes she witnessed and then came back to witness 9 more times she cannot be held responsible for her actions. Any “wrongdoing” by Swetnick is really the fault of Kavanaugh and the Georgetown Rape Gang.

    • Lambert says:

      Breaking: Ford seems to be testifying.

      It’s live on the TV.

      • Nick says:

        Yes. And Kavanaugh’s testimony is about to start now.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Televising these things is a mistake.

          It should be covered by the media, obviously, but people are already hamming things up for the cameras to get 2020 campaign ads. And a bunch of people are going to come to “well, that person was really convincing” explanations that reinforce all their total priors.

          • gbdub says:

            You trust the media to post-facto portray it fairly? At least this way, it’s the actual participants doing the spin.

          • albatross11 says:

            Since most people won’t watch the hearing, they’ll get the impression their preferred media vehicle decides on anyway.

            I don’t see how this process could reasonably be expected to lead to justice for anyone, and I have very little faith that anyone involved is trying to make better decisions (w.r.t. finding a good supreme court justice) based on its results. This is theater, and the result of the senators’ vote will be based on how the senators perceive the audience to be reacting to the plot so far. And that will mostly be based on traditional and social media that are a full-time massively distorting filter on the world.

          • Nick says:

            The format was awful, televised or not. Five minutes of Mitchell questioning Ford, followed by five minutes of the Senators praising Ford’s bravery and saying point-blank “We believe you.” What was supposed to be done with a format like that? Does anyone even recall what Mitchell established in her questioning?

      • Nick says:

        The Kavanaugh hearing is a mess. His opening was impassioned and well done—never mind the trolls on Twitter saying that the “angry look isn’t good for him.” But he was flustered in his early answers to the senators, and his later stuff is more confident but still problematic. A few things going on here:
        1. He keeps throwing back to the senator questions that he apparently finds ridiculous. For instance, when they ask about drinking games, he answers and asks back “Have you?” This is not helpful.
        2. Every Democratic senator has been asking why he won’t call for an FBI investigation. And his response has consistently been a) I am right here to answer any questions you have and wanted this as soon as possible, b) the FBI does not draw conclusions but only investigate and report to this committee, and c) he will comply with whatever the committee decides. (a) and (b) might well be true, but there’s clearly a difference in optics should Kavanaugh call on FBI to investigate and report to the committee. The only reason I can think of for this is that Kavanaugh knows that this will delay the process, and does not want that.
        3. Building on (1) and (2), he has an issue with not answering questions directly. An answer is usually found in there, but it’s buried in continued calls that the allegations were sprung on him by “staff.” The best, the absolute best thing Kavanaugh can do for himself is give clear and convincing answers to the questions. He’s batting at best .500 there.
        4. He has insisted that Mark Judge need not testify because he submitted a statement. This is not a convincing reply. Kavanaugh knows perfectly well the difference between a statement and a cross-examination.

        • Matt M says:

          Assuming you believe these charges are all fabricated – this entire exercise has been a tactic to delay confirmation, hopefully until after the election, which hopefully will shift more political power to Democrats.

          As such, Kavanaugh (and Senate Republicans) have a terminal goal of getting this all resolved as quickly as possible. Saying “Let’s wait and have an investigation” is of no help to them whatsoever. Doing that is a win for the Democrats. It’s not as big of a win as “Kavanaugh immediately withdraws” but it’s a win nonetheless.

        • Nick says:

          Kavanaugh has twice apologized to Sen. Klobuchar.

        • Nick says:

          Sen. Booker’s questions about Kavanaugh’s attitude toward Ford is exactly what I’m talking about. It would be very easy to say, immediately, to Booker’s first question, “Yes, I do not believe Dr. Ford is a political operative,” rather than getting it fifteen more times. Why won’t he just say it? It’s frustrating, and it’s needlessly evasive.

          • albatross11 says:

            One thing to keep in mind is that the last month has almost certainly been the worst and most stressful in his life. He’s probably not sleeping well and is shaky with stress[1].

            If these accusations are false, he must be mad as hell that a bunch of people are slandering him to his wife and kids and friends and the girls whose basketball team he was coaching[2]. If any are true, he’s probably in “oh shit, it’s all falling apart” mode. In either case, I expect that he’s not anywhere close to his best at this point. And I suspect that, after having a bunch of people come out of the woodwork to smear him and after having roughly half of Twitter call him a rapist, he’s less sure that this isn’t all a set-up than you or I might be, sitting in our armchairs at home. To quote Captain America, “It kind-of feels personal.”

            Especially if the accusations are false, this will have interesting effects in the future. If he makes it to the SC, my guess is that it will be a decade or two before he can look at a lot of mainstream media outlets or Democratic operatives without being frothing-at-the-mouth mad. “Oh, look, here are the people who were willing to wreck my life with lies in order to win a political battle. I’m definitely interested in hearing what they have to say.” The Republicans may very well have themselves a guy who will be intensely loyal, out of bone-deep hatred of the Democrats.

            [1] I think Thomas actually fell asleep during his confirmation hearing at some point, probably due to the same phenomenon.

          • Nick says:

            All of that is true. Lest I seem too harsh, I don’t think Kavanaugh must be perfect (though Twitter certainly seems to think so). My frustration stems partly from his stronger performance at other times. His quickfire responses to Mitchell were what he needed in his exchanges with the senators, so it’s frustrating that he stumbled there so often.

            The Republicans may very well have themselves a guy who will be intensely loyal, out of bone-deep hatred of the Democrats.

            Oh yes. That’s something some (like Toobin, if I remember correctly) have said still motivates Thomas—a long-running grudge against Democrats and the media. There’s a degree to which Republicans are counting on such a thing, if they do in fact confirm him. No Greenhouse Effect for Kavanaugh.

          • gbdub says:

            Part of the issue is that it’s very hard not to conflate Ford (who seems sober and credible) with the later accusers, who sound somewhere between “clearly politically motivated” to “bonkers”.

            It was a lot easier to not feel like the whole thing was a set up before people started coming out of the woodwork to accuse him of running a gang rape ring. This is unfair to Ford of course, but I think it’s an understandable reaction.

          • Deiseach says:

            It would be very easy to say, immediately, to Booker’s first question, “Yes, I do not believe Dr. Ford is a political operative,”

            Right now he may not be feeling any too sure on that point. She comes out with this accusation, it goes straight to Pelosi/Feinstein (I’m not too sure on who got what letter when) instead of the cops, then she’s all “I can’t come testify because I’m scared of flying (except when I can fly somewhere for a polygraph*)” and then all these weird accusations come out of the woodwork.

            I mean, I’d be thinking “Can I really be sure this wasn’t a set-up and she’s not at least an unwitting pawn?” if it were me. At the very least “This is the woman who came out of nowhere to accuse me of a terrible offence alleged to have happened thirty-six years ago and is wrecking my life and my family’s lives with her fantasies, what do you think my attitude to her is?”

            *Actually for her granny’s funeral. And off-topic, but an ex-FBI guy with a name like Jeremiah Hanafin, I’m glad to see the Irish influence in the forces of the law in America is still active:

            When Rachel Mitchell, the outside counsel hired by Republicans, asked Ford, 51, why the polygraph was administered in a hotel, Ford said, “I had left my grandmother’s funeral at Fort Lincoln Cemetery that day and was on a tight schedule to get a plane to Manchester, New Hampshire, so [Jeremiah Hanafin, the polygraph administrator] was willing to come to me, which was appreciated.”

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            It’s not needlessly evasive because it will be deliberately misrepresented. Ford does not seem to be a political operative. Neither do Ramirez or third accuser. Saying so implies that there is NOT a political operation to tarnish the jurist, which is laughably wrong.

            Politics is all evasion, but it’s almost always required. Kauvunagh was definitely coached before this by people who are smarter than us at this kind of thing, which is why they do this kind of thing, and we post stuff on the internet.

          • gbdub says:

            I’d say he could say something like “Whether she is a political operative or not is irrelevant, I will not impugn her motive for coming forward, but she is either mistaken or lying about me attacking her. YOU, Senator Booker, on the other hand, clearly ARE a political operative, and also one who has ADMITTED TO GROPING GIRLS, so yes, it does seem to me that this hearing has more to do with political opposition to me than for legitimate concern over Dr. Ford’s apparent trauma, which appears quite real even though her accusations against me are false”.

            But that’s bad politics too.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Because we live in Clown World, where you can call a man a rapist but you can’t call a woman a liar.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            You live in a world where prior probabilities matter.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            “Whether she is a political operative or not is irrelevant,

            At this point Cory Booker cuts you off and asks “yes or no.” If you try to respond, Cory Booker then says “yes or no.” Then you look like an angry white man who has privilege problems or blah blah blah.

            That is what actually happened when Kauvunagh tried to give his answer. I didn’t listen to MUCH, but I defintiely listened to this particular part.

            You also can’t blame Booker for that. He’s asking a direct question, and the answer is really yes or no. The correct response is what Kauv did, say “I have no ill will,” then continue to say variations no “I have no ill will” until Booker’s time expires. If you say LITERALLY the same thing, you sound like Rubio at the NH primaries.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Before watching the testimony I believed she was sincere, but mistaken. After watching her, I believe she is a deliberate liar. Particularly this statement where she’s got the whole “duper’s delight” thing going on, with the smile, the laughter, throwing her head back. She’s enjoying her feeling of being smarter than everyone else and deceiving them. Ford is not innocently mistaken. Ford is a deliberate liar.

          • brmic says:

            Because we live in Clown World, where you can call a man a rapist but you can’t call a woman a liar.

            You can do both. But around here people might remind you that it’s only appropriate to say he’s accused of sexual assault and that there’s no evidence (yet) that she knowingly gave false witness, so she’s at worst wrong/mistaken.
            Unsurprisingly, among reasonable people it’s actually fine to say ‘you find her/him more credible’. It’s when you claim a certainty you can’t actually have that things go off the rails.

          • albatross11 says:

            He’s only accused of sexual assault (in an incident that IMO would probably never have resulted in any charges even if she’d gone to the police that night) by Ford, who looks to be a pretty credible accuser. He’s also accused of taking part in weird gang-rape parties with drugged girls by a much less credible-looking accuser. And also of some kind of generic drunken wagging of his weenie in the face of some lady who thinks she vaguely remembers him doing that once when they were both really drunk.

          • Matt M says:

            You live in a world where prior probabilities matter.

            Your priors are that a man being a rapist is more likely than a woman being a liar? Really?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Conditional on the claim being made being “the man raped/assaulted the woman,” I think it is far more likely the claim is true than it is false. I am happy to supply some reading material on why I think this.

            The real question is, under what rock must you have been living that you _don’t_ think the same way.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Conrad

            That doesn’t strike me as evidence she is lying. On the other hand, politico and some other outlets mention that either the GOP was told or she said she was unable to fly to D.C. Now we know she flies quite frequently. So somebody told a lie, although it’s not totally clear from politico who.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Is that reading going to cover rape claims 30+ years later?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The real question is, under what rock must you have been living that you _don’t_ think the same way.

            Because every other woman who has known the man for his entire life says he does not behave in that manner. All the people Ford names have submitted statements that they are unaware of any such gathering, the ones who knew him adding that Kavanaugh did not behave in that manner and Ford’s friend stating that she did not even know Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh has his calendar diary from that summer that does not show him attending any such event with the people named.

            On what planet is this in any way a credible accusation?

            God help you, Ilya, if anyone ever accuses you of something.

          • gbdub says:

            I’d actually be interested in some reading material that has some evidence beyond “only 5% of rape accusers are legally proven to be lying, therefore women never lie about rape”.

            I think the priors get thrown way off when the accuser has much to gain (Dr. Ford clearly does) and little to lose by making the accusation.

            Average girl going to actual authorities and saying “this guy raped me”? Yeah, he probably did (but he should still get reasonable due process, and none of this whole “my inconsistent changing story actually PROVES that he traumatized me” bs)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Ilya –

            Even if that were true yesterday – and there is good reason to believe it wasn’t – there is no reason to expect it to remain true today. If those pushing such beliefs are to be believed, there is a high personal social cost to rape accusations; the low rate of false accusations should be viewed in the light of “In a society in which rape accusations are costly”. Insofar as the cost is reduced – which is a stated aim of those who push a belief in low false accusation rates – there will be a commensurate rise in the rate of false accusations from the no-longer-marginal cases.

            More, we should equally expect this to not hold true whenever the benefit is higher than the cost. Thus, even holding that 5% of rape accusations are false, any given rape accusation may have a much higher likelihood of being false, such as in the context of a divorce settlement in which such an accusation can pay off monetarily, or in the context of a bitter political nomination in which such an accusation can pay off politically.

            Which is not to say that this is what is happening, but it is to say that your base rate is faulty.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s paying out pretty well financially for Dr. Ford, too. Over half a million dollars so far.

            And yes, I think it was entirely predictable that such a thing would happen, as GoFundMe accounts paid out well for Andrew McCabe, Strozk, and other people who fight Trump.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I think I’d like the world of criminal accusations to continue to be one where prior probabilities don’t matter very much. Among other things, it keeps us from having to consider questions such as, how much do we adjust down the prior probability of guilt because Kavanaugh is a white man?

          • Nick says:

            The conversation has gone well past what I originally said, but just to be clear: I was wrong to say it would very easy to say “Yes, I do not believe Dr. Ford is a political operative.” So albatross11, idontknow131647093, and others are correct.

          • Randy M says:

            I think I’d like the world of criminal accusations to continue to be one where prior probabilities don’t matter very much.

            Priors don’t matter, but we also aren’t supposed to assign guilt on 51% likelihood.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            little to lose by making the accusation.

            She has lots to lose and lots to gain.

            According to the Democrats, Kavanaugh’s confirmation ushers in the Handmaid’s Tale, so they have made the conditions perfect for Ford to be branded a political operative who made it up. (As a reminder, my priors on her simply making it up is low, but the side that screams that this is the end of the republic doesn’t get to talk about how it wouldn’t make sense for anyone to fall on their sword for such an unimportant matter.)

            My trust on both Ford and Kavanaugh decreased from the hearings. She is 100% super-confident of her memories, but every witness she gave — even other women who aren’t being named as co-conspirators — disagrees with her. Memories simply aren’t 100% reliable, and she knows this, but talking about them being so is just playing to your own side rather than the truth. Her own side is just going to repeat the lie so what does it matter?

            For Kavanaugh, he couldn’t admit that the Renate joke was a crude high school joke and apologize for it. This increases my priors that the other high school event did happen but he considers it unimportant or irrelevant, which is not his decision to make when testifying under oath.

            So we put two people through the grinder some more for no real net change in anything, except increased erosion of the public trust. Good job guys.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            the side that screams that this is the end of the republic doesn’t get to talk about how it wouldn’t make sense for anyone to fall on their sword for such an unimportant matter.

            Cory Booker might consider the fact that all but one of the guys who said “I am Spartacus” were lying.

          • gbdub says:

            For Kavanaugh, he couldn’t admit that the Renate joke was a crude high school joke and apologize for it. This increases my priors that the other high school event did happen but he considers it unimportant or irrelevant, which is not his decision to make when testifying under oath.

            It’s a Catch-22. Your logic is sound, but if he had gone the other way and admitted it easily, the response would be “a ha, you admit to participating in rape culture. Guilty!” The people questioning him are going to use either answer to justify their belief that he did it.

            Witness the reaction to Kavanaugh’s emotional testimony: “That sort of indignant anger is exactly how abusers behave when confronted” or “No one that loses their cool like that can be on the Court!”

            When we know damn well that if Kavanaugh had been calm, reasoning, and collected, the same people would say “How can he be so emotionless in the face of Ford’s obvious trauma? Clearly he’s a sociopath with no empathy for women! Guilty!”

            @ Edward – I’m still not convinced she has much to lose, other than the pain of the hearing itself (and people go through more potential humiliation for fame all the time). Sure, Republicans won’t like her, but she’s in academia – to everyone she cares about, she’s going to be a hero, win or lose on the actual nomination.

            I do feel bad for her in that Feinstein mishandled her badly, but again none of that is going to matter in Ford’s personal bubble.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like the situations from which we draw any inferences we have on false accusations are extremely different from the conditions here. Specifically, I think the modal rape accusation is happening hours or at most a couple days after the alleged rape, not 30+ years after the alleged rape. Similarly, the situation usually doesn’t involve an intense political battle over the makeup of the Supreme Court.

            Even in those cases, I don’t think we have great data on what fraction of the accusations are false. We do have cases where the authorities decided that the accusation was false either before or after sending someone to prison for it. My best guess is that most women don’t come forward unless the rape really happened, because the whole experience of being a rape accuser is apparently extremely unpleasant, and that the great majority of actual rape claims made are real. But I don’t know how to know that with any great certainty.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            I think it is wrong to assume that accusers will always understand the full consequences of their accusation. I’ve heard about a false accusation where the (very young) accuser was trying to defend her honor to her conservative parents after having had sex voluntarily, claiming to have been raped so she didn’t have to admit to having had sex willingly. Then the parents demanded that she go to the police, which she felt she couldn’t refuse without having to admit that she had sex and lied about being raped. Then once she lied to the police she felt she had to lie in court, etc. So she got deeper and deeper into a lie that became harder and harder to admit to.

            Another somewhat similar case was where a person cheated on her boyfriend and was caught and then immediately accused the person she just had sex with of rape. There was no time to seriously consider the consequences in that case.

            There are also various motives/benefits that can make people be willing to accept very negative consequences, like a mother who accuses the other parent falsely to get sole custody.

            Finally, when the accusation is false because the wrong person is accused, the rape did happen and the trauma is real, but the rape claim is still (partially*) false.

            * A very important part, for the accused.

          • Conditional on the claim being made being “the man raped/assaulted the woman,” I think it is far more likely the claim is true than it is false.

            How about the probability, conditional on there being a large number of women who have a strong ideological reason to want Kavanaugh to be accused of sexual assault, of one such woman making a false claim to that effect? That’s the relevant issue here.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            When we know damn well that if Kavanaugh had been calm, reasoning, and collected, the same people would say “How can he be so emotionless in the face of Ford’s obvious trauma? Clearly he’s a sociopath with no empathy for women! Guilty!”

            I’ve seen people saying “Look, Mrs. Kavanaugh looks so calm… emotionless, even! Just like a battered wife who’s been cowed into submission by her monster of a husband! What an awful person Brett Kavanaugh must be!”

            Not to mention the whole flipping between “It’s not fair that Ford should get grilled by a bunch of old white men” — “It’s not fair that the Republicans have hired a woman to do their job for them” — “It’s not fair that the Republicans are questioning Kavanaugh and not Ford.”

            So yes, basically anything Kavanaugh or the Republicans do, people are going to twist it into a reason why Kavanaugh and the Republicans generally are all evil rapists.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Republicans may very well have themselves a guy who will be intensely loyal, out of bone-deep hatred of the Democrats.

            It would be very fitting from a dramatic irony point of view if the Democrats, afraid of losing Roe v. Wade, pulled out all the stops to stop Kavanaugh (who, I hear, isn’t actually as anti-RvW as is sometimes suggested), failed, and ended up radicalising him, such that he ends up striking down Roe v. Wade in order to spite them. Positively Shakespearian, one might say.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Because every other woman who has known the man…”

            I am actually not even talking about recent events, but answering the narrower question of Matt’s: “what is more likely: the woman lied or the man assaulted, conditional on the claim being that the assault took place?”

            The answer is, my prior is overwhelmingly in support of the woman, and I am happy to provide reading material on why. Naturally, there exist false rape and assault accusations, which is why I didn’t say the probability the assault took place conditional on the woman’s word was 1.

            Matt seems to think it’s more likely the woman is a liar, and I think he’s wrong about that.

            Your “God help you” sentiment takes a rather dim view of women.

          • gbdub says:

            A common feminist complaint, which I think has some weight to it, is that it often seems like rape accusers are expected to be “perfect victims”. If they were slutty, or sloppy drunks, or whatever, their claims of assault are considered less valid. The feminist take is that this is unfair.

            I’m seeing a rather striking parallel to how Kavanaugh is getting treated. Oh, he’s too angry. His wife too quiet. He partied. He drank. He had juvenile sex rumors / jokes in his yearbook. In short, he’s not the “perfect defendant”… so he must be guilty?

          • ManyCookies says:

            @DavidFriedman

            How about the probability, conditional on there being a large number of women who have a strong ideological reason to want Kavanaugh to be accused of sexual assault, of one such woman making a false claim to that effect? That’s the relevant issue here.

            The pool of women who can make a remotely credible claim is way smaller than that (not to mention be a good enough actress that Fox News believes their sincerity).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Way smaller than what? Someone on the subreddit estimates there were 6500 women in his peer group — private school students in the DC area in a 5-year window (not sure why not an 8-year window)– who could have made Ford’s particular accusation without it not being obviously false. Add in Yale, you get a few thousand more.

          • dick says:

            I feel like this is a pretty good time to bring up the Ludic fallacy again. The number of women who could fabricate a good claim could be 10 or 1000 or a million depending on how you define “good” but is not related to whether Christine Ford got assaulted or not.

          • but is not related to whether Christine Ford got assaulted or not

            It is related to how good our reason is to believe that Ford got assaulted.

            If there was only one woman in a position to make such charge, the question is what is the probability that a given woman would make it. If there are a thousand in a position to make such a charge, the question is what is the probability that at least one woman in a thousand would make it.

          • onyomi says:

            @David Friedman

            How about the probability, conditional on there being a large number of women who have a strong ideological reason to want Kavanaugh to be accused of sexual assault, of one such woman making a false claim to that effect? That’s the relevant issue here.

            Honestly, when you consider how partisan things have become, it’s kind of surprising this doesn’t happen more often. Which is why I’m very worried about the precedent if Kavanaugh doesn’t get confirmed.

            @Others (but not inspired by any one post or just what I’ve read here)

            One mistake I think a lot of people have made is to treat this case as if the normal rules re. sexual assault allegations and/or job interviews apply. But this case is so extraordinary in many ways.

            First of all, the accused is famous and prominent, and Dr. Ford never told anyone he was the perpetrator until well after he had risen to national prominence. One comment I have heard from more than one famous person is that it is much more common for people to lie about or be mistaken about having had some sort of encounter or relationship with them than for non-famous people. I’m sure one can imagine all kinds of practical and psychological reasons why this would be.

            Second, this case is not only charged with celebrity, it’s charged with strong partisan tribal sentiment bound to have a big impact on the motivations of all involved, including Ford’s friends, lawyers, etc.

            Third, it’s not just “a job interview” for Kavanaugh. The Republicans want to act more like it’s a criminal proceeding so that then the higher standard of guilt can be applied. But it’s not really like that either. What it is is an intensely public political process that will have ramifications for the rest of his life, especially now that the question of sexual assault has been raised. If he doesn’t get confirmed it’s not like he can just go back to the way things were and hope maybe he’ll get another shot at it, as could e.g. Garland. He won’t just be “guy who didn’t quite make it to the SCOTUS bench,” he’ll be “father/judge/girl’s basketball coach who didn’t make it to the SCOTUS bench because of sexual assault allegations.”

            I do think it makes sense to worry about the future political implications of this case. It probably makes less sense to treat it as a rallying cry for either female victims of sexual assault or non-famous men falsely accused of sexual assault, because this really is an extraordinary case in many ways (among them also being the extreme time gap).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Kavanaugh was not famous before these past two weeks, not in a way that makes delusions about how they are out to get you more likely.

            Either you are accusing Ford of deliberately and consciously planting a story about his being an abuser, or he is as likely a target for delusional thinking as someone from HS you just now stumbled upon on Facebook.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Kavanaugh was not famous before these past two weeks, not in a way that makes delusions about how they are out to get you more likely.

            I will point out, for the third time, that Ford brought her feelings to a counselor two months after Kavanaugh was named in national media as a likely candidate for the Supreme Court.

            I will point out, again, which I shouldn’t have to do, but there is a lot of stupid here, that this doesn’t mean she is lying. It’s perfectly reasonable that if it happened as she said it happened, that seeing Kavanaugh’s name in a New Yorker article written by Toobin, that she decided to reprocess the thing that happened to her many years ago. But her recollection of Kavanaugh absolutely follows him being named as a likely candidate in the national media — it was just when he was named when Romney was ahead in the polls.

          • albatross11 says:

            Right. It seems far more likely to me that she saw him on TV and said “Hey, that’s the bastard who tried to rape me in high school” than that she said “Hey, that’s the bastard who’s going to overturn Roe v Wade, let’s get him!”

            But memory is fallable and 30 years is a long time, so it’s also possible that her memories of the event are jumbled in terms of what happened or who was there, or even that she’s imagined the incident. I think the first of those is reasonably likely; the second seems unlikely but not impossible.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @albatross11, it’s also very possible that she saw him on TV and thought “Hey, there’s that guy I used to see around high school; now he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade… wow how he must feel about women… hey, maybe he was that guy whose face I vaguely remember who tried to assault me at that party…”

            And then ordinary fallible memory takes over from there.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            In addition to what Evan and Albatross mention, there’s also the fact that Mark Judge twenty years ago published a fictionalized account set in her hometown and featuring himself and (O’)Kavanaugh in the role of party animals. She could have read it.

            I’m not saying I’m confident she’s lying or a victim of false memories (including the possibility of having actually been assaulted but conflating the perpetrator with the wrong person); I’m just saying that with cases involving people in the national news media (and he’s been there to a lesser degree since the book, if not the Starr investigation; not in a way your average American would notice, but in a way a woman from his broader social circle in high school might very well notice) and high political stakes, to say nothing of a 30+ year time gap, one’s priors about the likelihood of e.g. false memories and allegations may be off.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think delaying the confirmation implies letting the midterms happen, after which the Senate may be in hands who will not be confirming any Republican, especially not him.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          Nick, thats probably because saying that would be saying something he does not think to be true.

        • ManyCookies says:

          The Revenge for the Election/Clinton stuff was pretty off-putting from a SC nominee.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          4. He has insisted that Mark Judge need not testify because he submitted a statement. This is not a convincing reply. Kavanaugh knows perfectly well the difference between a statement and a cross-examination.

          Judge has issued another letter denying the accusations. He cites his anxiety and depression from his addiction problems and cancer treatments as a reason for not wanting to be involved in this spectacle.

          I can’t blame him. I watched the whole thing yesterday, and I was disgusted by the entire affair. This was sordid and sickening. I’ve been trying to think of a more depraved and disgusting event in the history of the senate and I cannot. We have hit a new low, and I’m sure we’re only just getting started.

    • Nick says:

      The committee has voted 11-8. Sens. Booker and Harris refused to vote.

      The Senate will be making a procedural vote tomorrow morning.

      • Nick says:

        Megan McArdle has laid out her position on Twitter. It’s what folks like Ross Douthat have been saying for a while: investigate before midterms, and if nothing turns up, vote. I would prefer that; I don’t know that the Republican base would. I don’t know that I blame for it, either.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Dems would have to make a concession with very serious teeth. Like, along the lines of “Barrett gets confirmed now and if after a proper trial Kavanaugh is found innocent, he’s automatically confirmed for the next seat.”

          Anything less would be seen as rewarding terrible behavior.

          • Matt M says:

            A promise like that would do nothing for me. I wouldn’t trust the Dems to honor it.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yep, there’s no enforcement mechanism.

          • Deiseach says:

            How do you hold them to that? Even supposing they agree on Barrett, let’s assume the Blue Wave happens. Let’s assume 2020 gives them a Democrat president. Then 2021 Judge Ginsburg goes to her eternal reward and the Republicans say “Okay, Kavanaugh gets the seat as agreed”.

            I can hear the derisive laughter in response to that from here.

          • Nick says:

            I was surprised to find this morning that David Bernstein at Volokh Conspiracy actually recommended Jaskologist’s exact suggestion. Of course, Bernstein isn’t any more optimistic than we are that anyone would agree to it.

          • Brad says:

            Can anyone think of any kind of political deal, preferably in American history but baring that anywhere, where the quid and quo were significantly separated in time?

            I don’t think it’s so much a matter of ‘these guys are especially dishonorable’ as ‘this isn’t ever a plausible option’. I’m not even sure that’s a bad thing. In general we should be hesitant to bind the future. Of course we sometimes do and that’s fine, but hesitancy is appropriate.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, Brad, if nothing else, two problems immediately arise in my mind (that have nothing to do with Democrats being or not being dishonorable):
            1. we would have at least a few new senators who never bound themselves to this agreement in the first place; and
            2. there might well arise disqualifying issues with Coney Barrett and Kethledge.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Can anyone think of any kind of political deal, preferably in American history but baring that anywhere, where the quid and quo were significantly separated in time?

            The only one I can think of OTTOMH is the election of 1876. Four states’ electoral votes were under special contention. The House awarded all four states to Rutherford B. Hayes instead of Samuel Tilden (who, incidentally, had won the popular vote). In return, Hayes ended Reconstruction, and agreed to not run for re-election in 1880.

            I don’t think it’s so much a matter of ‘these guys are especially dishonorable’ as ‘this isn’t ever a plausible option’.

            The Great Compromise of 1877 was often referred to as a “corrupt bargain”, a term typically reserved for especially controversial decisions in US history – I believe the previous deal to earn that label was the House decision to award John Quincy Adams the presidency in 1824.

            I could easily see a 2018 decision earning this label, given the vitriol I’ve been seeing slung back and forth in media and even in the Senate.

          • Jaskologist says:

            During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy agreed to remove missiles from Turkey-in half a year, and it couldn’t be made public that this was part of the deal.

          • Don’t past debt limit agreements qualify? A budget is passed on condition that a limit to the national debt is agreed on. Then, when the debt hits the limit, the limit gets raised or eliminated.

          • Brad says:

            @Paul Brinkley
            That’s a good one. Thanks.

            @Jaskologist
            Maybe I didn’t word the question correctly, but I think a secret agreement between governments isn’t really the same thing.

            @DavidFriedman
            I think something else is probably going on there. If they were all a series of terrible betrayals presumably they’d stop happening.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I’m nodding my head through the whole article, and then we get to the conclusion, which is “and therefore I think we should reward this vile political behavior by giving the Democrats exactly what they want.” No Megan. No.

          I would have also added to her list of bullet points of things we learned about the process, the SC stated that the proper way to get someone’s information about a sex crime is in a private setting, with a facilitator who simply lets the victim speak and then follows up for clarification. Instead, Feinstein got her politically connected lawyers and a polygraph, which is only useful for duping parts of the public that do not understand how worthless and unreliable polygraphs are.

          This was handled in the exact wrong way to search for truth or justice. The only reason to handle it in the way the Democrats did is in service of the dirtiest of dirty politics. Rewarding that behavior would set a terrible, terrible precedent.

          • Nick says:

            The Democrats want things extended beyond midterms so their fabled blue wave takes the Senate. I’m reaching here, but is there any way to agree to a precondition that the investigation not extend until elections?

            My sympathy for McArdle here is that there are some very reasonable subpoenas you can ask for: Mark Judge; “Squi”; Leland Keyser, perhaps. I can understand Judge especially not wanting to go on the stand, for which he has ample reason, but according to the Wall Street Journal he’s agreed to comply with a confidential investigation. I think agreeing to question Judge privately would do something to sway moderate like Collins who have been asking for investigations and eliminate one of Democrats’ convenient talking points. And it wouldn’t take six weeks; it could be done in a matter of two or three days.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, that would have all been fine…if when Feinstein had received the letter she had informed the rest of the committee so they could have interviewed everyone in private, well in advance of the public hearings. Instead she waited until the eleventh hour to publicly smear an incredibly decent man as the worst of predators. And the response to that should be…to reward them with the delays they seek?

            I never want to see anything like this again, ever. Giving them what they want will ensure it happens not just again but every time.

            I’m reaching here, but is there any way to agree to a precondition that the investigation not extend until elections?

            No, because while the “”””””””””investigation”””””””””” stays open, Avenatti will find two more women who swear Brett Kavanaugh and Bigfoot raped them in a Chuck E. Cheese in Des Moines in 1942 and we must, in the interest of justice and #BelievingWomen, delay the confirmation until these serious, serious, credible charges can be investigated.

            There’s nothing more to learn about Ford’s allegations. She has no evidence, her story is full of holes, lacking in specifics, and what details can be corroborated have instead been refuted. End this farce.

    • Nick says:

      Sen. Flake moved to have an investigation by the FBI of limited time and scope. Asked for one week. They ran out of time for a vote. It’s been delayed, if nothing else.

      Do I have that right? Did everyone else get the same impression? Not seeing any live updates to go on.

      It sounds like the protesters in the elevator got to him after all. We’re getting the McArdle compromise—whether we like it or not.

      ETA: It looks like Chevalier Mal Fet and Salem are right, Flake did vote to move to the the floor. Here’s CNN’s live updates summary:

      So here’s where things stand, as far as we can tell:

      – Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination has been approved. It now heads to the floor.
      – Sen. Jeff Flake voted yes on the grounds that he would get support to request a floor vote delay and a one week FBI investigation.
      – However, Flake has been given NO commitment by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
      – If McConnell moves forward without that investigation, Flake will vote against Kavanaugh.
      – Whether this happens or not rests with senators such as Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who have not announced how they plan to vote.

      I’m sorry. A little breathless on my part.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        I am seeing that it was sent to the floor. I have no idea how Flake’s “one week” compromise will work, though.

        CNN’s website is what I’m following.

        • Nick says:

          I have no idea how Flake’s “one week” compromise will work, though.

          It won’t, is likely. But yes, I think you’re right it was moved to the floor. I missed part of this meeting, sorry.

      • Salem says:

        They didn’t run out of time for a vote, they voted to advance the nomination to the Senate floor, with all Republicans (including Flake) in favour and all Democrats opposed. Flake said that he wants an FBI investigation prior to the full vote, but it is now up to McConnell to decide whether to delay the vote to allow that. Presumably, McConnell will delay, because he needs Flake onside.

        • albatross11 says:

          So, on one side, this seems reasonable.

          On the other side, it seems that right now, we’ve got an ongoing FBI investigation of the president and a bunch of his close confidants, and also of a likely future supreme court justice. And during the election, we had an ongoing FBI investigation of the frontrunner in the election. I have no reason to think they’re misusing this power, but it’s worth noticing that we’re giving them a tremendous amount of power to decide who will have power in the US.

          • ben says:

            Here is my prediction for the FBI report based on the previous IG report into the Clinton email investigation. The FBI report will basically go over everything we already know and add nothing new. It will then conclude that Ford is a credible witness and that on the balance of probabilities Kavanaugh is guilty [I actually think Kavanaugh should be confirmed, but I also think there is a high probability he did do it so I don’t think this is a stretch]. I think important political investigations from the FBI are going to have politicised conclusions.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            and that on the balance of probabilities Kavanaugh is guilty

            The FBI does not make conclusions in this manner. They collect facts and present them.

            There’s no need for an FBI investigation because the Committee has already collected the facts. They have Ford’s testimony, as well as statements from each of the people she names denying knowledge of the events.

            The FBI investigation could be very quick: print out a transcript of Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimonies and the letters the other named individuals have already submitted to the Committee, and hand them back to the Committee. That’s the investigation.

          • Matt M says:

            The FBI does not make conclusions in this manner.

            Not usually.

            But they also don’t usually actively try and undermine the outcome of an election either, so who knows?

            I will be not surprised at all if they release a report that says “Kavanaugh is probably guilty and in our judgment should not be confirmed.”

        • Deiseach says:

          A one-week investigation is going to satisfy nobody. The FBI come back after a week and say “yeah we took all the sworn statements again and nobody changed their minds”, the charge is seen as ‘not proven’, Kavanaugh is nominated – the Dems will scream their heads off that this was a rushed bodge-up to push him through, a week is nowhere near long enough to carry out a proper investigation.

          Ditto if the FBI come back with “well there’s something dodgy but we can’t say for sure”, the Republicans will also say this was a rushed conclusion and you can’t take only a week to clear his name of something this grave.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            They haven’t taken all the sworn statements yet, is the thing.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Everybody Ford said was at the party has given a sworn statement. Who else is there left to interview?

          • gbdub says:

            The Dems can shove it. There would have been plenty of time for a more thorough investigation if Feinstein hadn’t sat on the allegation as a naked political move. This is all about trying to delay past the midterms. Sorry Dr. Ford, you are a pawn after all, whether you like it or not.

            If they get the sworn statements and no one changes their tune… thems the breaks. The “prosecution” flubbed this one.

      • BBA says:

        Talk about nominative determinism, the most inconsistent, unreliable member of the Senate being named Flake is just too on the nose.

        • The Nybbler says:

          He’s the Flake from Snowflake. Really, he comes from a town from Snowflake, AZ. You can’t make this stuff up.

          • Deiseach says:

            I was thinking “How can the headline writers resist making puns on his name?” but are they resisting? Anybody got a good “Flake-y senator” headline to quote?

          • Randy M says:

            Although it’s not more like that there is a Flake from Snowflake than that there is a Flake, it does illuminate a potential source for the name and so makes more intuitive sense knowing where he is from.

          • Nick says:

            Randy, yeah, from Wikipedia:

            Snowflake is a town in Navajo County, Arizona, United States. It was founded in 1878 by Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake, Mormon pioneers and colonizers.

          • Randy M says:

            Wait, what? Okay, I skimmed Nybbler’s post and my brain assumed that was Snowflake, AK.
            Even funnier now, of course.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Kavanaugh lied over and over in testimony and in interviews. About Ford, about receiving stolen Democratic senators documents, about his drinking, about what other people have said about the allegations.

      But keep on the “liberal plot” thing if that’s what let’s you sleep at night.

      • Nick says:

        But keep on the “liberal plot” thing if that’s what let’s you sleep at night.

        Is this directed at me or at the rest of the thread? Because if you’ve got me in mind, I think you’re a lot more certain of my views than I am.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          More generic. But the whole thread is representative of the general tenor of how SSC deals with these kinds of issues.

          ETA: I’ll note that you just completely ignored the greater substance in the comment which lead to the statement you are objecting to.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Is there any substance to your comment that isn’t just “Boo the enemy”?

          • rlms says:

            Yes, it was an egregiously bad comment and needs a lot more complaints about the Clintons, reminiscing about the good times when you couldn’t accuse men of rape, and random tangential references to race (to pick three upthread examples) in order to meet the high standards we expect here.

      • albatross11 says:

        If he lied under oath in testimony, can you point out some links to that? I would expect the Democrats on the committee/opposing him to be very interested in something like that, since having him perjure himself on camera would give an utterly uncontroversial reason to vote him down, one that Republicans would likely go along with.

        • Nick says:

          I’ve heard specifically that the “boof” explanation (I believe he said that one was about farting?) is false, as well as the Devil’s Triangle explanation (significant, if it truly means here two men having sex with a woman, since that’s one interpretation of what Kavanaugh and Judge may have been going for in Ford’s story). Vox has an article about this. It looks like they link to articles about all the other yearbook stuff too. Matthew Yglesias also has an article from before the hearings.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I can’t believe we have to analyze high school drinking game terminology in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but “boof” definitely sounds like it’s referring to farting, and works in context.

            As for the “devil’s triangle,” perhaps someone from the class can describe the rules.

            This seems like a stupid thing to lie about under oath when it could be fairly easily disputed. If he were really bonin’ ladies left and right in high school and not a virgin as he claims, will one of the women come forward?

            By all means, if he was lying in his testimony, kick him out. But one can’t just say “he’s lying” without proof.

          • Matt M says:

            If he were really bonin’ ladies left and right in high school and not a virgin as he claims, will one of the women come forward?

            Well, thanks to Flake, we’ve got another week for Creepy Porn Lawyer to find one, whether it actually happened or not.

          • Deiseach says:

            I never heard of those terms before, and taking Urban Dictionary definitions as gospel and meaning exactly the same thing nearly forty years ago as they mean today is a stretch.

            I think it’s entirely possible it could be taken as slang for farting in one social class and as (if I take Urban Dictionary correctly) using pessaries for non-prescription purposes in another. I’m old enough to remember the story about Richard Gere and felching, when all the tabloids were giving one definition of it that seems to have been quite contradictory to what the usage in actuality was.

          • keranih says:

            I feel slimy as hell just having an opinion on this – but seriously, guys, slang changes. There was a whole thing about “teabaggers” at the start of the TEA part movement where the Venn diagrams of urban newscaster slang and suburban conservative slang did *not* overlap, much to the (uncharitable) amusement of the former.

            I also suggest that trying to look edgy and cool by projecting a broader depth of experience than one actually has wasnt, actually, invented by this year’s 18 year olds.

          • The Nybbler says:

            So what happens if the FBI investigation comes out with basically nothing new, and Flake continues to flake? Does the Republican leadership try to appease him more, or do they lock him into a room with a hungry tiger and/or Lindsey Graham?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Well, for instance, he repeatedly said that all others Ford said were at the party refuted Ford’s story. This was plainly untrue. He said in an interview that he did not drink, but alcohol was at parties because there were 18 year olds there, then in front of the Senate that he did drink. He said that claim had been investigated, when it has not.

          William Saletan has a nice list.

          Perjury in front a Senate committee is only a convictable crime if the Senate chooses to prosecute it. In addition, Kavanaugh could simply say later that he “misspoke”. It doesn’t change the fact that the most parsimonious explanation is simply that he lied.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That is a very weak list.

            1. “It’s been investigated.”

            It has been investigated, by the Senate Judiciary Committee, who collected the statements from the alleged witnesses. There’s no lie here.

            2. “All four witnesses say it didn’t happen.”

            They all said they never saw anything like that and/or have no recollection of the event. This seems like splitting hairs.

            3. “I know exactly what happened that night.”

            How is this a lie? Saletan can read his mind and knows what Kavanaugh knows and doesn’t know?

            4. “I’m in Colorado.”

            Yes, he can’t keep straight the exact phrasing of every phoney accusation thrown at him.

            This is very weak. You can’t just pick things someone says that you have no way of disproving and then call them “lies.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            So Keyser says she didn’t go to any such gathering and doesn’t know Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh takes that to mean she says the events described by Ford (which include Keyser being at the party) didn’t happen, and you and Saletan call that a lie?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Keyser’s statement to the committee:

            “Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.”

            You can read the official, under penalty of felony, statements from each of the named witnesses here. They all say they don’t remember any such party.

            How is it “plainly untrue” to say they refuted her story?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Re: the drinking thing, there have been times when I’ve drunk to excess, to the extent of stumbling around and slurring my speech, and still remembered what happened afterwards. So I’m unconvinced that all these “But I saw him stumbling around once!” claims actually contradict what Kavanaugh said.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            Are you saying that “I don’t rememebr going to a party where X person was present” means that you did not go a party with that person present? It means you don’t remember.

            I guarantee you I don’t remember every gathering 5 or 6 people I was in HS. If someone said “Do you remember going to a party with [Orange County HS attendee X]?” I would need to answer that I don’t remember, but it doesn’t mean someone claiming I was there has been refuted.

          • gbdub says:

            Well originally I held my tongue about Ford’s “fear of flying” but if these are what you’re calling lies, Ford is definitely a liar too.

            And she won’t release her psychiatrist’s notes and only submitted to a hilariously incomplete poly, so I’m cguessing that means there are some contradictions between her current story and what she told her shrink that she doesn’t want exposed.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is pretty uncharitable. Suppose you’ve told your therapist about deeply personal, embarrassing things unrelated to this accusation. Maybe about the time you cheated on your husband, or the time you felt intense sexual attraction to one of your 20 year old students, or a time you started visualizing murdering someone who had really upset you at work. All that’s the sort of thing I think you might share with your therapist.

            If you turn this over to the congressional committee to investigate, based on how they handled your initial allegation, it’s pretty-much guaranteed that the whole thing will be leaked and will show up all over the media. The story will be used to drag you about your indiscreet thoughts and actions of several years ago in much the same way that Kavenaugh’s high school year book is being used to drag him.

            It’s absolutely sensible for her to refuse to turn over her therapist’s notes, in much the same way it’s absolutely sensible for Kavenaugh to refuse to ask for an FBI investigation that seems like it can only hurt him and not help him. If you are willing to give him the benefit of assuming he has no choice but to behave strategically to protect himself as best he can, you must also give her than same benefit.

            There is nothing about any of this stuff so far that looks remotely like a process that’s seeking truth or justice. It’s just political theater, intended to win at all costs and who cares about collateral damage. If Kavenaugh’s marriage shatters under the strain of this process and his life is ruined, but the Democrats win, plenty of people are fine with that. If Ford is hounded into leaving her job and has her life ruined under the strain of this process, plenty of people are fine with that, too. If a serial sexual predator is put on the court but we win, hey, we win, what’s not to like. And if an innocent and decent man is dragged through the mud and has his life and career wrecked by a false accusation but we win, hey, we win, what’s not to like.

          • Jaskologist says:

            It’s absolutely sensible for her to refuse to turn over her therapist’s notes, in much the same way it’s absolutely sensible for Kavenaugh to refuse to ask for an FBI investigation that seems like it can only hurt him and not help him. If you are willing to give him the benefit of assuming he has no choice but to behave strategically to protect himself as best he can, you must also give her than same benefit.

            This conflict is exactly why we adopted a presumption of innocence. When you accuse somebody of a crime, you are trying to ruin their life. That’s not inherently bad; if they committed the crime, their life should justly be ruined. But if not, that’s a very bad thing.

            So we let the accused reach for pretty much any defense, and tie the hands of the prosecution. Otherwise, the justice system becomes a cover for injustice, since it would become just another tool for doing harm to innocents. So if the prosecution hides a piece of evidence, we assume it must have been exculpatory.

            If an accuser is not ready to lay all their cards on the table, they are not ready to get justice. They don’t get to claim that some piece of evidence supports their position and then refuse to allow it to be examined. If they do that, we have to assume they’re lying. It’s the only way we’ve found to balance the conflicting concerns of the innocently accused and the real victims.

            The Right is so united on this precisely because this is very strongly on the “presumption of innocence” side from our POV. “He did a thing that leaves no marks to me at a place I won’t name at a time I won’t name in a year I won’t name also I didn’t tell anybody for 3 decades” is unfalsifiable. The fact the the only specific she has given (named eyewitnesses) have all denied any memory of any party at all like that means it has been disproved in the only ways afforded by such vague accusations. We think the left has cut off any possibility of innocence, because what possible evidence is there left for Kavanaugh to give? And we can’t allow a tactic like that to work, because if they do it to him, they can do it to the rest of us.

            No superweapons. Proof or it didn’t happen.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m pretty sure the committee could subpoena the records from her therapist if they wanted to. Just as the committee could (and did) request an FBI investigation of the charges.

            But it is not incriminating for Kavenaugh to refuse to call for an FBI investigation (which was a common rallying cry w.r.t. his innocence–if he’s innocent, why doesn’t he request an FBI investigation?). And it’s also not incriminating for Ford to refuse to offer her therapist’s notes. Both of these are people behaving rationally to minimize the damage likely to be done to them by a bunch of folks who obviously don’t have their interests (or justice) at heart.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The committee could subpoena the therapist’s records; they aren’t actually barred by doctor/patient privilege. But it isn’t going to happen. The therapist would almost certainly refuse to comply with the initial subpoena, citing privilege. Then you’d need a vote of both the committee and the full Senate to hold the therapist in contempt, and I don’t see the full Senate agreeing — all of the Democrats and some of the Republicans would vote “no”. Even assuming that happened, the therapist might still not comply, at which point the Senate has to actually jail them on their own accord (which never happens) or take them to court. Either action runs out the clock.

          • albatross11 says:

            I guess one other outrage-inducing aspect of this story is that the rules of the game are utterly unclear. In a criminal prosecution, we know what the rules are. In this case, it’s not at all clear what the rules are.

            If it looks kinda plausible he’s guilty, is that enough to deny him an SC seat. Hey, wow, turns out that peoples’ opinion on that question *strongly correlates* with their party affiliation. And it’s pretty clear that if the facts flipped around, the party affiliation correlation would change signs.

            “It’s not a criminal trial, it’s a job interview” is a talking point I’ve seen a lot. But job interviews don’t generally feature someone sending an unprovable/unfalsifiable accusation of a crime you committed in high school, or a life-wrecking accusation that may ruin your career.

            It’s not a criminal trial or a civil trial or a job interview, but it has aspects of all those things. Thus, more opportunity for disagreement about what should be done, what the standards of evidence are, etc. And the partisans arguing this in public have no great need for internal consistency–they can say “it’s a job interview” one minute and “why doesn’t he call for an FBI interview” the next.

          • And it’s also not incriminating for Ford to refuse to offer her therapist’s notes

            It isn’t incriminating. But given that the notes are not available, it isn’t legitimate to cite them as evidence that she is telling the truth, which is what a lot of people have been doing.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Nybbler paints a picture of how an actual subpoena for therapist records might play out. But I think there’s a deontological component left out – if the Senate sets a precedent of overriding doctor / patient privilege, it will pose a significant threat to anyone seeking a doctor’s help to fix a serious problem, drive such problems underground, and likely lead to graver problems.

            A much wiser course of action, IMO, if I were the Senate, would be to seek all other options, while making it known to both therapist and patient that a release of records would expedite the process, why it would expedite, and why time pressure also means it could make the difference in resolution, while also making it clear that this is their call alone to make.

            Yes, this opens the way to public pressure on any patient to open their own records, but by then it should be hopefully clear to people within epsilon of the case that this pressure is unavoidable. The law’s position would remain that they cannot be obligated, unless they wish to obligate in turn.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It’s not a criminal trial or a civil trial or a job interview, but it has aspects of all those things. Thus, more opportunity for disagreement about what should be done, what the standards of evidence are, etc.

            Agreed.

            For example, one could use the fact that it’s like a job interview in order to lower the standards of evidence.

            Consequently, the other side could use the fact that the former side might be trying to do that. And their standard of evidence for that claim could be just as low.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t think the “job interview” idea holds up under much scrutiny. Asserting that a candidate be rejected from a job because someone makes an accusation of sexual assault from 35 years ago is giving far too much power to accusers. I’ll bet you could find any number of people who would keep someone they hated unemployed (or employed only in menial work) by making a false accusation.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Oh for. False accusations are extremely rare. They are not going to become a standard tool of employment related harassment. Seriously, try reading your posts out loud to yourself. That is not a slippery slope the world is about to careen down, it is more like a wall a mile high.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s not a criminal trial or a civil trial or a job interview, but it has aspects of all those things. Thus, more opportunity for disagreement about what should be done, what the standards of evidence are, etc. And the partisans arguing this in public have no great need for internal consistency–they can say “it’s a job interview” one minute and “why doesn’t he call for an FBI interview” the next.

            The above is true, but it’s worth remembering that the actual decision isn’t made by “partisans arguing in public”–effectively, ‘what should be done’ comes down to how Flake, Collins, Murkowski, and Manchin feel about it. Importantly, the decisive votes here are not people who should be expected to opportunistically adopt different standards for a Democrat: Flack, Collins, and Murkowski for obvious reasons, and Manchin for the same reason that he is a plausible ‘yes’ vote now despite the general outrage among Democrats over Kavanaugh.

            I agree it’s annoying to hear partisan commentators adopt language and standards of evidence that they would surely disavow if the parties were reversed, but these people aren’t the actual ‘hiring committee’, to stick with the interview analogy.

            With this in mind, it’s clear that the rules are: do those four Senators think Kavanaugh should be confirmed, the allegations notwithstanding (i.e., will he overturn Roe for Collins/Murkowski)?; are they convinced (some non-empty subset of) the accusations are true?; if so, do they consider the behaviours themselves or Kavanaugh’s denials disqualifying?; and perhaps, should the process used to bring up the accusations and to handle them play some role in their decision, and should any other issues with Kavanaugh’s testimony count against him anyway?

          • albatross11 says:

            What standard should the senators on the “hiring committee” use to decide that question? ISTM that this is the whole question.

            My experience is that any debate where we end up arguing about who has the burden of proof and what the required level of certainty is to conclude anything basically never gets resolved in a satisfying way. That just means there isn’t enough evidence to really know the answer.

          • Randy M says:

            @Jaskologist Very well said.

          • cryptoshill says:

            @Thomas Jorgenson –
            I have every reason to believe that if we lower the standard of evidence by this much, false accusations will become an equal-opportunity political weapon, and not just “and edge case that we make fun of men for bringing up”. Those “5%” statistics also only include false accusations that were made to police and investigators and were proven false, not those that were just generally unfounded. Accepting the current evidence as supporting a guilty verdict (as a non-confirmation to the court pretty much represents) is lowering both the standard of evidence required for someone to be guilty of sexual assault (all you need is an accusation), although it doesn’t lower the bar of behavior that is considered sexual assault (which some of these highly political accusations do in addition).

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            What standard should the senators on the “hiring committee” use to decide that question? ISTM that this is the whole question.

            I agree, I just think a lot of the discussion seems to proceed under the assumption that the standards being proposed by partisan hacks are the standards that will actually be applied. In reality, the standards will be the idiosyncratic standards of individual Senators, and in particular, whatever the standards Flake, Collins, Murkowski, and Manchin choose.

            So for example while it’s true that “the partisans arguing this in public have no great need for internal consistency”, that doesn’t seem particularly important here: Jeff Flake and Susan Collins won’t turn around and treat a Democratic nominee more nicely than a Republican nominee in the future.

            Also, somewhat separately, I think the discussion would be improved by separating out different cases conditionally. Supposing that the allegation were true, would that be disqualifying? Supposing that the allegation remains unproven, but it becomes clear that Kavanaugh lied or misled about other matters in defending himself, is that disqualifying? Suppose the accusations had surfaced earlier, during the regular nomination process, what rules would Senators have applied? Etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Jeff Flake and Susan Collins won’t turn around and treat a Democratic nominee more nicely than a Republican nominee in the future.

            I don’t see any reason to assume this is true.

            Flake, for one, isn’t running for re-election, and there are reports that he has publicly stated his behavior in this case would be dramatically different if he were. That he is defying the party because it is consequence-free for him to do so (and might, in fact, benefit his future career)

          • Well, for instance, he repeatedly said that all others Ford said were at the party refuted Ford’s story.

            I can’t speak to everything he said, not having listened to it, but at the beginning of his statement, which I did listen to, he says clearly that Ford’s friend said she didn’t remember being at the party or knowing Kavanaugh, not that she “refuted Ford’s story.”

            Where does he say all four witnesses said that it didn’t happen and in what words?

          • meh says:

            @DavidFriedman

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2018/09/27/kavanaugh-hearing-transcript/?utm_term=.52b536775374

            These quotes are from his opening statement

            “it is refuted by the people allegedly there.”
            “Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a long-time friend of hers. Refuted.”

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I don’t see any reason to assume this is true.

            Why would Flake and Collins, who are Republicans, go easier on a Democratic nominee than a Republican one? I think just for reasons of basic partisan bias, this should be the default assumption.

          • Matt M says:

            Because they are cowardly RINOs who place a huge value on being spoken of well in the mainstream media (which they stupidly believe to be non-partisan)

      • Deiseach says:

        Wait the what – stolen documents? Now about the drinking, maybe he did fudge. I’m willing to accept that young adult/teenager American boys drink as much as badly as Irish teenagers, get as stupid drunk, and behave like idiots in the same way. But if you’re going in with the attitude “I don’t care what he says, he’s a liar because BelieveAllWomen”, then I’m going to believe some woman
        who pops up out of nowhere and says you, HeelBearCub, stole her granny’s emerald necklace twenty years ago on the same grounds.

        Come on man, this is pure “I don’t like the guy so I am going to say he’s a lying liar raping rapist” on your part, and you’re not that bad.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          No, it is not fictititious. Documents were stolen and given to the White House to help confirm GWB nominees.

          (Open the link incognito if you need to get past the paywall).

          Manuel Miranda, a Republican Senate staffer who was quarterbacking the GOP’s moves on judicial nominees, stole a trove of internal documents from Democrats on the Judiciary Committee between 2001 and 2003, assisted by a clerk.

          Miranda shared some of those documents, or key details gleaned from them, with Kavanaugh and other GOP allies working to secure Senate confirmation for some of President George W. Bush’s polarizing judicial nominees.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s not enough to convict Kavanaugh of perjury, IMHO. Several times the author says “Sure, this information COULD have been gained through gossip/chance overhearing/some other innocent means, but when you look at the pattern…” Note, however, that many of the emails are dated weeks or months apart. Whilst it’s possible to see a pattern if you read them all in one go, if they come to you weeks apart, and if you’re a busy lawyer who probably receives hundreds of emails every day, it’s perfectly plausible that you wouldn’t notice.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I never said anything about convicting of perjury, other than to respond to someone else that a) who would prosecute? and b) he can claim to have misspoken, etc.

            But it’s also clear he actually is lying or negligent, in the “knew or should have known” sense.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            You said that “Kavanaugh lied over and over in testimony and in interviews.” Since testimony is given under oath, that makes it perjury.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:

            You are engaging in circular pedantry.

            He lied. You say it doesn’t amount to perjury which, I agree, a case likely can’t be proved (unless their is proof somewhere in the many 100Ks of documents withheld). Plus, he could make arguments that shield him from the case being proven at trial. This doesn’t make it that he was not lying. You can’t point the definition of perjury as “lying under oath” and say “it’s not perjury therefore it’s not lying, because it was under oath”.

            Capone murdered people, but that isn’t what he was put in prison for.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            He lied. You say it doesn’t amount to perjury which, I agree, a case likely can’t be proved (unless their is proof somewhere in the many 100Ks of documents withheld). Plus, he could make arguments that shield him from the case being proven at trial. This doesn’t make it that he was not lying. You can’t point the definition of perjury as “lying under oath” and say “it’s not perjury therefore it’s not lying, because it was under oath”.

            I’ve got no idea what you’re trying to get at here. But, since you apparently don’t understand my position, I’ll state it more clearly: the link you provided didn’t offer sufficient evidence to conclude that Kavanaugh was lying about the matter, whether under oath or not. Therefore there isn’t sufficient evidence to conclude that he committed perjury, or any other lie about receiving secret Democrat correspondence.

    • MrApophenia says:

      The absolute incredulity of folks here at the Swetnick allegations seems odd to me. I think it is obviously an unsupported allegation, but the idea that the claim is some ludicrous, implausible impossibility?

      It’s really that hard to believe that football players in the 80s were trying to spike girls’ drinks and then have sex with them once they were too drunk or unconscious to object?

      Think back much more recently to Steubenville, where a bunch of football players didn’t just rape a passed out girl, they carried her around to various other locations so more fun could be had with her, and posted it to social media so their friends could joke with them about it. And the official response from coaches, school, police, and courts was “boys will be boys” right up until a local blogger made a stink about it and 4chan found the social media posts.

      This wasn’t “American Rotherham” – frankly the surprising part was that modern social media provided enough damning evidence that the authorities were forced – grudgingly, and barely – to punish a couple of the rapists. (If “they’re already out of jail and playing college ball” qualifies as punishment.)

      Now take it into the 80s, with no Facebook, the term “date rape” yet to even be conceived, and popular movies like Sixteen Candles and Revenge of the Nerds playing what we would now think of as date rape scenarios as lighthearted comedy scenes. Is the scenario described really so tough to believe?

      “Did Brett Kavanaugh participate” is a totally different question. Object to that all day long, fair enough. But the idea that it’s some ludicrous impossibility, like he was accused of being the Zodiac Killer, just seems off to me.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Sebastian Janikowski was arrested outside a bar in Tallahassee with GHB (date rape drug) in 2000.

        So, not implausible at all.

        • Aapje says:

          @HeelBearCub

          Sebastian Janikowski was arrested outside a bar in Tallahassee with GHB (date rape drug) in 2000.

          You demonstrate very well how someone can be accused in a way that frames the facts as part of a single, accusatory narrative, by people who have a narrative already in mind and/or who are mistaken on some of the facts.

          In this case, you are doing so by only calling GHB a date rape drug, insinuating that this is a smoking gun showing that he was planning to rape. In reality, GHB was and in some places still is a very popular drug that produces various desired mind-altering effects. The drug is quite dangerous because of the narrow range of dosing.

          As disposablecat showed, Janikowski seems to be a user of GHB himself, fully explaining why he would carry it.

          PS. An issue that complicates the ‘date rape drug’ phenomenon is that very many people voluntarily take inhibition-lowering drugs, most commonly alcohol, but also other drugs like GHB, with the specific desire to have that effect. People also commonly share drugs and employ peer pressure to have others take drugs & not just with people they are interested in having sex with. Then these lowered inhibitions result in all kinds of stupid behavior that many people feel bad about afterwards. If that behavior is sex, it suddenly fits a rape narrative. Yet in many of these cases, I don’t see a significant difference between the ‘plying with X’ that men do to women, men do to men or women do to women. The main difference seems to be that due to gender roles, women rarely (openly) offer/give drugs to men, while the opposite is far more common. This seems to me to be very much related to the same behavior that makes men pay for a dinner far more than women do so, not some date rape conspiracy (although some people do have that intention when they give/offer drugs to women, but I think that there is a enormous gray area where people knowingly lower their own inhibitions, which is a place that very many people love to go).

      • dick says:

        I think there is at least a framing effect – people may, consciously or subconsciously, mean that her accusation is incredible in comparison to Ford’s. Also, a lot of people seem to be referring to an exaggerated strawman version of her claim (e.g. this week’s reason to see if the report button is fixed yet)

      • The original Mr. X says:

        It’s really that hard to believe that football players in the 80s were trying to spike girls’ drinks and then have sex with them once they were too drunk or unconscious to object?

        The idea that football players would try and spike girls’ drinks to have sex with them isn’t implausible. The idea that not one of the many people involved in these parties would make a complaint until a couple of days before an important Senate hearing, or that the woman making the complaint would keep going to these parties where she either knew or strongly suspected football players were spiking girls’ drinks and raping them, on the other hand…

        • cryptoshill says:

          There’s also a weird line when it comes to date-rape in regards to the type of hookup culture parties where people frequently consume lots of intoxicants and have lots of casual sex. Mainly – if a bunch of football players “spike” the punch with regular old vodka – I am pretty sure that this doesn’t count as “covert attempt to lower women’s inhibitions as strong alcohols are noticeably detectable, and their effects also widely known. The real question is “were any of these women intoxicated enough that their consent could no longer be taken at face value”? A followup question to that question is “that line is significantly different now than in 1982, are we going to engage in any moral-temporal discounting?”.

          So I’m not sure that even if Swetnick’s allegations are *100%* truthful that it rises to the level of “gang-rape” parties. Strong evidence that it didn’t, at least in her mind rise to that level is that she kept going to the parties and didn’t once inform an authority even when she wasn’t a victim and thus wasn’t concerned about enduring the ritualized psychological abuse that a criminal trial is (for just about anyone, no matter if you’re a witness, accuser, or accused).

        • The Nybbler says:

          @cryptoshill
          Talk about hookup culture parties is an anachronism. Hookup culture wasn’t current then, or indeed until much later. In Mark Judge’s memoir, he mentions he was dating one girl (who wouldn’t have sex with him), and then when he had a chance he had sex with another — but not only does he consider this unusual, but he actually started dating the girl he had sex with.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      One thing that really aggravates me about this case is the whole “It’s a job interview!” crap people on the left are pulling. Actual job interviews don’t involve half the interviewing panel hiding information from the other half and going to the press claiming that you’re a rapist, and if a company you were interviewing for did pull this sort of thing, you’d have strong grounds for a lawsuit and the interviewers in question would be fired. So, if you can point to where you argued that Feinstein should lose her seat for withholding information and that Kavanaugh should receive compensation from the Dems for defamation of character, by all means I’ll listen to your argument about why it’s better to be safe than sorry when choosing new employees and how nobody’s owed a job on the Supreme Court. If, on the other hand, you seek to employ job interview standards only when they can be used to argue against voting for Kavanaugh, you’re just a partisan hack destroying a man’s life for political gain, and you deserve nothing but scorn and contemp.

  3. DragonMilk says:

    Joy

    It’s in the second word of the subtitle of the blog.

    What does it mean to you, and can you at all identify with the notion of “joy in suffering”? Or is well-being almost entirely dependent on circumstance?

    For instance, would you consider the following admonitions pure nonsense in today’s day and age?

    “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”
    “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”
    “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

    • fion says:

      I confess to googling a definition, but I agree with it. What joy means to me is great pleasure and happiness. It is the feeling I get from views of mountains, from laughing all night long with beloved friends, from the embrace of a lover, from achievement, from dancing. I recognise no joy in suffering. Suffering is the opposite of joy. I do very occasionally recognise joy in pain, and in toil, and in solitude – three things that I more commonly associate with suffering. But it’s either/or. Toiling away to finish a report day and night with no leisure and little food or sleep will almost always constitute suffering, but occasionally it won’t. Occasionally the single-minded determination to reach an important goal, and the feelings of responsibility and self-sacrifice that that entails, will bring a surprising sense of joy. This is the closest I can come to understanding when people talk about joy in suffering, but to me it’s joy in hardship. And joyful hardship is no suffering at all.

      To directly answer your question, yes, your three quotes do read as nonsense to me. But part of that might be the archaic language.

    • dodrian says:

      I’ll admit to being heavily influenced by those quotes (among others) in how I came to this understanding, but I consider happiness to be an emotion, and joy to be a state of mind. I think the best comparison might be ‘optimism’ – one can be in good situations and bad situations, but still optimistic in both, and one can be happy, or sad, but still joyful in both. In the bad/sad situations it is harder to be optimistic/joyful.

      I think joy is in part a personality trait (again, like optimism), but it can also be practiced – through meditation, reflection, gratitude, etc.

      I feel fortunate that I haven’t had much of what I’d consider suffering in my life, so I find it harder (and somewhat fake) to talk about joy in suffering in more than the abstract. I can remember some funerals of elderly relatives which were sad because of loss, but also joyful in remembrance of what they had given all of us, though that’s much easier for someone lost at the end of their life rather than in tragic circumstances. I remember being devastated after being fired from a job that I had thought I would be really good at, but was able to find peace in reflecting on it and everything that it had given me.

    • Randy M says:

      I told my daughter she has two brains–an animal brain, and a person brain (I think I had a recent post of waitbuywhy on mine). The animal brain wants pleasure and wants to avoid pain and effort; the person brain wants accomplishment and wants to avoid shame. I think happiness with when the former is satisfied, and joy is when the latter is satisfied.
      Enduring suffering, and growing in character, is an accomplishment.

      @dodrian, keep in mind those biblical quotes say why to be joyful in suffering–because of character growth. It isn’t a perverse pleasure from pain, but rather having an eternal perspective.

  4. Atlas says:

    Anyone know of any good takes on the Book of the New Sun they’d like to share?

    • Nornagest says:

      Most of the fandom for it seems to hang out on mailing lists, for some reason. The best way to get a feel for it is to go to urth.net and poke around in the archives at random for a while. (You might find some posts by our very own Gwern — he’s a big-name fan there.)

  5. Anatoly says:

    Anecdotally, I see a strong pattern around me where people who grew up without siblings often end up striving to have more than one child, and people who grew up with siblings often have one child. But maybe it’s just me or my social circle or whatever. Has this been studied?

    • It doesn’t, at least, fit my immediate observations. Both of my parents had multiple siblings and they had two children. I had one sibling, have had three children and would have liked to have another. My wife had three siblings, had two children, would have liked to have a third. The son of my first marriage grew up with multiple (half) siblings, had had two children and plans to have more.

    • SamChevre says:

      My observation is related, but a bit different. It seems to me that there are four family “types”: many children (4+), some children (2-4), one child, and no children.

      Most families with many children have at least one, and usually both, parents from a many-children family. But relatively few children from many-child family have many children–and the ones who don’t have many children are exceptionally likely to have one or no children.

      So some-child families and many-child families have mostly parents who grew up in the same family type: one-child families are likely to have parents who grew up in a different family type.

      This fits my and my parents’ families: my father is one of 8, but only two of his siblings raised more than 2 children. (“Raised because I’m not not counting the “had a child as a teen who was adopted by a different family member”.) I’m one of nine; I expect three of the siblings to have more than 4 children.

  6. johan_larson says:

    The most distant human-made object is the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is currently some 20 billion kilometers away. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to retrieve Voyager 1 within 10 years. How will you do this?

    • baconbits9 says:

      As in get it back to earth in 10 years, or catch up to it withing 10 years, or catch up to it with a vessel that can return it to earth in 10 years?

      • johan_larson says:

        Get it back to earth in ten years.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Put me in the “I don’t think you can do this” camp. Voyager was launched 5 years after Pioneer 10 and it took 21 years to overtake it. Just to catch up to Voyager in 5 years would require traveling at almost 10 times it speed, which Wikipedia has at about 17 km/s, so around 170 km/s if we launch today, and that only gets us halfway, then we have to turn around.

          So I guess the only way would be if voyager had some maneuverability left in it and we could communicate and tell it to change course and put it in line with the orbit of a comet that will eventually be close enough to earth that we can land a probe on it and send some fragments back, totally failing at the intent of the mission and probably not working even within the limited scope either (are there any fragments even left? Are their any comets we could get in the way of?).

    • JPNunez says:

      Is this even physically possible? Even matching its speed AND THEN reversing it would require massive ammounts of fuel to do it in 10 years

      I am gonna to throw my hands up in the air and invest all my budget into:

      -a replica of Voyager 1
      -A few satelites and probes that can I can position into blocking communication with Voyager 1
      -Some v good PR guys, and some money to fake a mission
      -Putting the replica onto space and then bringing it back

      there

      • JPNunez says:

        If you really wanted to do this, you’d have to fill up some heavy thrusters in space. You could check if Elon Musk actually has the tech for this ready.

        You cannot really trust into slingshot maneuvers cause it took Voyager 1 like 4 years to do it that way.

    • Lambert says:

      Does it have to be all of Voyager 1, in a single piece?
      Rendezvous maneuvers are an awful lot of effort.

      Edit: I’m leaving the relevant orbital elements from the JPL website here for safekeeping.
      Epoch = 1/1/91 00:00:00 ET
      a = -480,926,000
      e = 3.724716
      i = 35.762854
      OM = 178.197845
      o = -21.671355
      M = 688.967795

    • fion says:

      The guy who writes xkcd considered this task a few years ago (I think he was writing in 2013 but I can’t be sure).

      He didn’t have the “within ten years” constraint, though.

      To do it in ten years we need to catch it in five years. At that point it’ll have gone another couple of billion kilometres. Call it 24 billion km. To go that distance in five years we need to go at 153km/s. Normally we’d use gravitational slingshots to get something going fast, but we are starting now and we’ve only got ten years. I’m not going to check, but I suspect our chances of Jupiter or Saturn being in the right place at the right time are small. (EDIT: this turns out not to be a significant problem. See below.)

      After we’d caught up with and matched speeds with Voyager 1 we would attach our rockets to it to bring it back. In order to turn it around and get it up to our “5 year speed”, we’d need about 2*10^21kg of fuel, just using the rocket equation and assuming 4km/s exhaust velocity. (EDIT: this assumption came from here and it’s really the killer. If we hand-waved some future tech with higher exhaust velocity we might be able to make the mission conceivable, if not plausible.)

      Trying to slow down our small-moon-sized rocket to match speeds is much worse, though, because we need to slow down 2*10^21kg of fuel ready for the turnaround. This takes about 10^36kg of fuel, which is a million suns.

      And we need to speed this all up in the first place. (I was about to say, “not to mention escape Earth’s gravity” but our “rocket” is a trillion times bigger than Earth already…) This takes 5*10^52kg of fuel. This isn’t far off estimates for the mass of the observable universe. Needless to say, the “ideal rocket equation” that I’ve been using broke down some time ago.

      I think this might be the most difficult “mission” you’ve proposed. Does anybody fancy checking my numbers? They’re so stupendous that it feels as though I must have done something dumb. Then again, exponentials are a bitch, and if you want to bring back a 20 billion km distant object in ten years you’re inevitably going to be exponentiating some pretty big numbers.

      • bean says:

        Normally we’d use gravitational slingshots to get something going fast, but we are starting now and we’ve only got ten years.

        Actually, we wouldn’t. Gravitational slingshots are less and less effective at higher speeds. They work best when the spacecraft isn’t going much above escape velocity, and do essentially nothing when it’s going 10 times that fast.

      • beleester says:

        Your numbers look good, but we can definitely do better than chemical rockets.

        According to Atomic Rockets, an Orion drive using 1kt bombs (they list even bigger planned designs, but let’s not get too crazy) has an exhaust velocity of 25.8 km/s. Plugging that into the rocket equation, slowing down Voyager and accelerating it to 153 km/s will take 604,000 kg of fuel (600 metric tons). So our return stage is “only” about the weight of three locomotives.

        Unfortunately, matching speeds with Voyager means we need to slow that stage down from 153 km/s to 17 km/s. That’s another 118,000,000 kg of fuel. And accelerating that in the first place will take 44.7 billion kg.

        The good news is, we’ve gone from a rocket the mass of the universe to a rocket the mass of a few skyscrapers. The bad news is our fuel is now made out of atomic bombs. (Is there even enough plutonium on the planet to fuel this thing?)

        The thing that makes this a killer is that it’s a three-stage mission. Each stage needs to accelerate all the propellant for the next step of the mission, so the fuel needs grow exponentially with each step.

    • bean says:

      Not possible with current tech. To catch it in 5 years, assuming instantaneous acceleration, you’d need to make about 156 km/s in flat space, and the same to come back. Flat space isn’t a terrible assumption at that velocity, but you’d need to have something like Project Orion ready to go today. You’re looking at a total delta-V in the 600 km/s range. To keep the mass ratio even vaguely reasonable (arbitrarily did the math with R=10), that means a Ve of 260 km/s. Which is beyond what even Orion can do. On things we could even reasonably hope to build today (excluding fusion, essentially), there are a few systems with enough Ve, but thrust/weight is so low that they’re also not going to work. At 1 G, you’ll reach 156 km/s in 4.4 hours. At the thrust levels typical of these systems, you’d be lucky to reach 156 km/s before the 10 years expires.

      • johan_larson says:

        Hmm, that’s a pity. Feel free to discuss either how much time you’d need with present-day tech assuming truly lavish budgets or what sort of skiffy woo it would take to make it work under the original constraint.

        • johan_larson says:

          Seems like you could use lasers and lightsails for the acceleration away from earth and the deceleration getting back, but you’ll need fuel for the deceleration and acceleration on the other end of the trip.

        • bean says:

          For the second, give me a decent magnetic-confinement fusion drive, and it’s pretty trivial. Back in high school, I designed one that would make a Ve of 340 km/s wide open, and fractional-G acceleration, too. Yes, it was like 300 GW. 5 years is a long time to chase down something like that, but it’s doable.

          For the first, a medusa orion is the only system I know of that doesn’t require silly tech, and would have a high-enough Ve to pull the mission off in a reasonable timeframe. It might be able to even do the 10-year mission, although I’d want a lot of development first before we tried it.

          Re lightsails, those have pretty low acceleration. You’re back into the territory of “yes, it will get there, but not in time”. And I don’t want to have to design one to stand up to rocket acceleration, either.

          • beleester says:

            If the 490 km/sec figure for Medusa Orion is correct, then the total mass of fuel for the 10-year mission is a little over 5,000 kg. That’s tiny. You could fit that on the Space Shuttle with room to spare.

            Granted, this is fuel-only calculations, without the shock absorbers and shielding you need to make it a real spacecraft, but still. That’s some insane Ve. How does moving the drive from the back of the ship to the front make Orion like 20 times more powerful?

          • Lambert says:

            What about advanced fission designs?
            Things like nuclear lightbulbs, pulsed reactors and fission fragment engines that allow a much higher exhaust velocity than traditional nuclear thermal engines.
            Or do they not have the necessary TWR?

          • Nornagest says:

            Fission fragment engines have crazy high specific impulse but very low thrust, so they won’t give you the accelerations you need. Compare to ion engines.

            The nuclear thermal designs that’ve actually been tested, on the other hand, have only got ~twice the specific impulse of a good rocket engine, so the rocket equation ends up screwing you for this problem. You can beat nuclear thermal pretty handily with nuclear lightbulbs and similar designs, but not by enough. Orion’s potentially orders of magnitude higher than that.

          • bean says:

            @beelster

            Longer shock absorbers. That’s the real limiter on the conventional Orion design. That basically limits how much delta-V you can get out of a pulse, and then you’re trying to find the lightest pulse units you can. A normal Orion has, what, 10-20 m shocks? The Medusa could easily have a stroke of a kilometer or two, although probably at a somewhat lower acceleration.

            Some of it may be that Medusa isn’t as well-studied, and the Ve of these systems usually goes down with study. But in theory, it’s a much more efficient design.

            @Lambert

            There’s a big difference between “better than NERVA” and “good enough for this”. None of those except fission fragment are within an order of magnitude of having enough Ve. And fission fragment doesn’t have the thrust for the job.

          • Lambert says:

            So nothing has both the specific thrust and the ISP for the job.
            Which, AFAICT essentially means that the limiting factor is the specific power of the engine. (being directly proportional to both Ve and specific thrust)

        • Thomas Jørgensen says:

          The budget is not too bad, actually. Build the fission fragment rocket, which has truly ridiculous ISP, send that. That gets your total mission weight way, way down (couple ariane fives to get the whole thing into orbit) so now your dominant cost is building a novel reactor, which.. billion dollars? There about. Going to take its sweet time, though, because while a fission fragment rocket has an isp measured in “Percentages of lightspeed” it does not have a whole lot of trust. So years of burning plutonium to get up to speed, more years to match speed, and more years still to come back.

      • Nornagest says:

        …I was going to take a whack at working out the delta-V budget for this, but I see you’ve already done it. Yeah, everything here.

    • dodrian says:

      I’m with others in the “not possible” camp.

      Under the no-timeline infinite-resources constraint, I’d accelerate the SLS program, LightSail tests, and Ion Thruster developments. We’d also need a as lightweight as possible nuclear reactor.

      I suspect we could launch in five years – the SLS should be able to bring us up to the speed of Voyager, maybe a little faster. Use the LightSail to continue accelerating until catching up, slowing down and matching speeds with the nuclear powered ion thrusters. At a wild guess we’d do than in about 50 years? Slowing down and returning to Earth would take much-much longer, even more so if we need to return to Earth in one piece (rather than just burning it up in the atmosphere – it’d be one hell of a firework show though!).

      That’s what I’d do in Kerbal Space Program at least 🙂

    • John Schilling says:

      This one is a long shot in both literal and figurative terms; bean has already explained why it’s not going to happen.

      But let’s try anyway.

      As usual, when the odds are stacked against you, you want to put everything on a single roll of the dice. In this case, I’m going to pay Vladimir Putin for a chunk of Siberia in which I can do nuclear engineering to my heart’s content, with the full support of Russia’s nuclear industry. Including about forty tonnes of highly enriched uranium. And free passage to American and European engineers to round out Russia’s expertise in this are. Objective: To design and produce a nuclear reactor of 85 megawatts electric power output for seven months continuous, weighing no more than 1,800 kg including power conversion equipment and radiators, in no more than five years.

      I have a reference from 1985 suggesting that such a power system would weigh about ninety tons with 1985 technology, or a bit over twenty tons with expected 2005 technology. A simple log-linear extrapolation suggests that we could expect 6050 kg five years from now, so 1800 kg is going to be quite unlikely. Particularly since the years since 1985 have seen precious little advancement in the state of space nuclear power systems, the field having been largely abandoned. So we’re hoping that advances in other areas of e.g. materials science and power engineering, carried over to space nuclear power, will produce gains three times greater than what we were expecting from dedicated research in this area and with only five years of focused effort.

      But this is what we will need, so we’re going to gamble on it.

      Oh, I’m also going to need a ten-megawatt ion thruster with a specific impulse of 82,500 seconds and a mass of 70 kg. That’s an order of magnitude higher Isp than any ion engine ever demonstrated, but the basic physics actually scale better at high Isp; there just hasn’t been much call for it (because of the shortage of ginormous nuclear reactors in space). So I count this a lesser miracle. Well, except for getting it to last for seven months. Also, there’s no possible way to test it on Earth, but we’ll get to that.

      In parallel, I’m going to need to put in an order with Elon Musk for sixty-six Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, one per month starting six months from now. Also some Falcon 9s with manned Dragon capsules. We’ll start with launching just big filament-wound composite tanks full of Krypton. Xenon would be better, but there isn’t that much to be had. And in about a year or two we’re going to need to put up a small space station, initially for ion thruster development and test, eventually to serve as an on-orbit assembly facility.

      As the design for the reactor and ion thruster firm up, I start ordering long-lead parts for 534 reactors and 5,340 ion thrusters. And launching truss elements, etc, for an almost 4000-ton spacecraft.

      In 2023, we go to surge mode and start launching reactors and thrusters, the fuel for which is already waiting.

      By late 2024, we should have assembled the UnVoyager I.

      The first stage, with 465 modularized reactors, has a mass of 3,445 metric tons. 46.5 gigawatts of electric power; enough to power the United Kingdom and Ireland combined (or 336 DeLorean motorcars with the flux capacitor option). 91.4 kilonewtons of thrust; enough for a CRJ-200 regional jet. Roughly 1,150 tonnes of power and propulsion equipment, 170 tonnes of miscellaneous hardware, a 12.5-tonne payload attachment fitting, and a bit over 2,110 tonnes of krypton propellant. Also, it’s going to be huge, hundreds of meters long with broad radiators and standoff booms for the reactors.

      The 507.5 metric tons of payload consist of the second, third, and fourth stages of UnVoyager I, including in the fourth stage a 250 kg avionics package and 825 kilograms of hardware for rendezvous and capture of Voyager I.

      Target launch date is 27 September 2014. Orbital mechanics really aren’t going to matter for this mission, except at the very start and finish. With an initial acceleration of 2.3 milligees, it will take perhaps three days to depart Earth orbit. A week to reach heliocentric escape velocity.

      In just over seven months, it will be five billion kilometers from Earth, travelling at 618 kilometers per second. We can jettison the first stage, and coast for ten more months to a distance of twenty-one billion kilometers

      Then we turn around and start the second stage, just like the first but scaled for sixty reactors. Another seven months, September 27, 2026, and we rendezvous with Voyager I, twenty-six billion kilometers from Earth. Once we’ve captured it and bolted it to the fourth stage, we jettison the now-useless rendezvous and capture systems – which I have conveniently budgeted to weigh the same as Voyager I itself, simplifying the math.

      Stage three, with eight reactors, boosts us back towards Earth. Another seven months, back to a “mere” twenty-one billion kilometers and coasting inbound at 618 km/s.

      Ten months’ coasting, five billion kilometers from home, and we flip to light off the fourth stage. Nowe we’re down to one reactor, a little over eight tonnes total mass, half of that propellant.

      September 27, 2028, UnVoyager I decelerates into Low Earth Orbit to rendezvous with a SpaceX Dragon carrying the recovery crew. Well, not so much “rendezvous” as drop off its payload and scoot off to a safe distance for its now-very-radioactive self. The payload, Voyager I, shouldn’t be too hot, and we can package it into a reentry capsule for delivery to the Smithsonian.

      Assuming the Smithsonian still exists, that the United States hasn’t been conquered by a Russia in which Vladimir Putin made more pragmatic and militaristic use of the ubernuclear technlogy we left behind.

      • Nornagest says:

        That was beautiful.

        Future Star Trek premises about abandoned space probes returning to haunt us would get a lot more interesting, too.

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fission-fragment_rocket

        No need for a seperate thruster system. Just make your rocket exhaust be halves of split atoms *directly* ISP; 3-5 percent lightspeed, total system power limited by your ability to radiate away ten percent of your reactors power as waste heat. Trust… not very high, but cannot have everything..

        • John Schilling says:

          Unfortunately, with a strict time limit on this mission, thrust sufficient for several milligees of acceleration is the one thing we absolutely must have. That’s about an order of magnitude better than the most optimistic fission-fragment proposals I have seen. Isp is negotiable, and we don’t need more than 0.3% of lightspeed or so (exact value will depend on how fast Gwynne Shotwell can build Falcon Heavies).

      • johan_larson says:

        Impressive work. Thank you.

        But why thrust for seven months and coast for ten each time? Why not thrust continuously each way all the way to the halfway point? You could use a somewhat lower-thrust engine, and a lower-power nuclear reactor, yielding a smaller and lighter system overall.

        • John Schilling says:

          The fuel you would burn(*) one second before the halfway point produces a velocity increment that you enjoy for a whole two seconds out of a two-year mission, making it effectively dead weight. Having to carry dead weight across twelve billion kilometers, and accelerate it to 0.2% of lightspeed, make the power problem worse, not better. This is also approximately true for the fuel you’d burn two seconds before turnover, three seconds before turnover, etc.

          Meanwhile, the fuel you burn one second after departure is essentially free, and provides a velocity increment you enjoy for the whole mission.

          If you have an SF-style inertialess thruster or magic torchship or anything else that ignores propellant limits, yes, you do continuous acceleration the whole way. Otherwise, it’s an optimization problem. With the reactor being the hardest part of the problem, I optimized for minimum power density, and came up with a ten-month coast between two seven-month burns.

          (*) Yes, “fuel” and “burn” are pedantically wrong here…

    • Lambert says:

      I think we can avoid the tyranny of the rocket equation for the final deceleration of the craft by exploiting our ability to launch things from the Earth.

      For some generic non-orion nuclear ship, what you do is launch the retrieval craft to go and fetch Voyager as normal, but with the wherewithal to dock with another vessel. While that’s happening, you build a second craft and launch it much more slowly in the direction from which the retrieval craft will return. The second craft then accelerates to catch up with the retrieval craft as it returns. They dock and either transfer fuel, or use the second craft’s engines to decelerate. This means the fuel needed to stop at Earth only has to accelerate to 600 km/s and decelerate back once, rather than twice.
      Caveat: This technically fails the Oberth-Kuiper Test, but only as a proof-of-concept so far.

      For Project Orion, you can go one better and directly launch the H-bombs into the path of the returning craft using either a mass driver or more conventional methods. It’s worth noting that at 600km/s, random matter has almost as much specific energy as low-enriched nuclear fuel. It might be viable to fire a load of space rock at the returning vessel and vaporise it with a nuke just before impact to exploit this energy. It’s uncertain whether or not this would count as lithobraking.

      I’d considered the possibility of using electromagnetic fields to slow the returning craft, using some kind of linear generator like a mass driver in reverse, but I doubt it would be possible to avoid dumping so much energy into the ship that it melts.

  7. johan_larson says:

    The NTSB recently released the findings of its investigation into a near-miss at SFO last year, where an Air Canada Airbus A320 was almost landed on a taxiway when one of two parallel runways was shut down.

    https://ntsb.gov/news/events/Documents/DCA17IA148-Abstract.pdf

    • johan_larson says:

      Some of the recommendations are a tad ambitious.

      1. Work with air carriers conducting operations under Title 14 Code of Federal
      Regulations Part 121 to (1) assess all charted visual approaches with a required backup
      frequency to determine the flight management system autotuning capability within an
      air carrier’s fleet, (2) identify those approaches that require an unusual or abnormal
      manual frequency input, and (3) either develop an autotune solution or ensure that the
      manual tune entry has sufficient salience on approach charts.

      2. Establish a group of human factors experts to review existing methods for presenting
      flight operations information to pilots, including flight releases and general aviation
      flight planning services (preflight) and aircraft communication addressing and
      reporting system messages and other in-flight information; create and publish guidance
      on best practices to organize, prioritize, and present this information in a manner that
      optimizes pilot review and retention of relevant information; and work with air carriers
      and service providers to implement solutions that are aligned with the guidance.

      3. Establish a requirement for airplanes landing at primary airports within class B and
      class C airspace to be equipped with a system that alerts pilots when an airplane is not
      aligned with a runway surface.

      4. Collaborate with aircraft and avionics manufacturers and software developers to
      develop the technology for a cockpit system that provides an alert to pilots when an
      airplane is not aligned with the intended runway surface and, once such technology is
      available, establish a requirement for the technology to be installed on airplanes landing
      at primary airports within class B and class C airspace.

      5. Modify airport surface detection equipment (ASDE) systems (ASDE-3, ASDE-X, and
      airport surface surveillance capability) at those locations where the system could detect
      potential taxiway landings and provide alerts to air traffic controllers about potential
      collision risks.

      6. Conduct human factors research to determine how to make a closed runway more
      conspicuous to pilots when at least one parallel runway remains in use, and implement
      a method to more effectively signal a runway closure to pilots during ground and flight
      operations at night.

      I wonder what the FAA will actually do about this. I suppose saying that flying is already plenty safe enough, and any extra funding would be better spent elsewhere, is really not the way to prosper in a bureaucracy.

      • The Nybbler says:

        They’re getting a bit too specific. This sort of thing has happened before with parallel runways. Number 3 is probably technically do-able, navigation is precise enough today and you could make it so that when a runway was out of service, lining up with it would also alert. But is it worth the cost?

        Number 6 seems probably the most bang for the buck. A closed runway or a taxiway should be easily distinguishable from an open runway to an approaching aircraft, even at night.

        • johan_larson says:

          Yes, 6 looks pretty good. 2 might be worthwhile also, since it might address a broad range of problems that are mentioned in NOTAMs but often get missed by working pilots.

      • LesHapablap says:

        3/4 (cockpit runway off-centerline alerts) would be much easier to implement in the control tower. An alarm chime if an aircraft is in a certain area but not lined up with the runway could be done with a software update, and ATC could notify the pilots that they aren’t lined up. This could be done with ADS-B instead of whatever they are talking about in 5.

        Changing or adding avionics to many different aircraft types is a huge hassle and expense for something that rarely happens.

        • John Schilling says:

          (FAA after forcing an avionics upgrade on fifty thousand aircraft): D’Oh!

          Seriously, this sort of thing is a big part of the reason federal agencies make their rulemaking open to public comment before changing regulations. I’m not clear on whether this is still in the NTSB’s court or over on the FAA side of the net, but do you want to tell them or should I?

        • LesHapablap says:

          My impression is that NTSB recommendations are routinely ignored by the FAA unless they are practical, and if FAA wanted to implement then FAA would be the ones to do industry consultation.

          Looking again number 2 (human factors in presenting flight planning information to the pilots) is something the major airlines already do very well. IANAAP however.

  8. ana53294 says:

    Tunisia is trying to implement a law so women get equal inheritance rights to men. Now, Islamic law seems to say that women should only get half as much as men. The proposed law allows families who choose to do so to give daughters a lesser share according to religious tradition, but seems to change the default so that all kids receive an equal share.

    I think whether they manage to pass this law or no will say many things about whether Islam is compatible with Western ideas of democracy and property rights. If a man only has daughters, why should he give what he rightfully earned to his brother upon his death, instead of his daughters? If he loves his daughter and son equally, why shouldn’t he give each of them an equal share? I think that property rights should also mean a freedom to gift, sell or bequeath your property to whomever you want.

    • Salem says:

      Very many Western countries do not allow the testator free control of how he wills his property. In France, for example, you are obliged to leave 50-75% of your assets to your children, depending on how many you have. In fact, forced heirship is the norm in civil law jurisdictions – Anglo-Saxon countries, with their common law tradition and free heirship, are the exception, nor the rule, in the developed world.

      It is therefore a bit much to talk about “Western ideas” of property rights here. If Tunisia continues to follow France, its former colonial master, in having forced heirship, this isn’t a rejection of Western ideas. It’s just a rejection of Anglo-Saxon ideas of property rights in favour of the (yes, inferior) civil law model.

      I am intrigued by your use of the word democracy here, but that’s a question for another day.

      • sentientbeings says:

        Along those same lines…

        The Islamic inheritance laws have been around for a long time, and could be described as being, at one point, more egalitarian than laws and customs of some European countries, which included primogeniture. IIRC, Timur Kuran suggests in The Long Divergence that primogeniture facilitated (and Islamic inheritance practices impeded) certain aspects of economic development by allowing for the concentration of capital by private interests.

        I think there are two interesting points we might learn from that. One, relevant to the discussion of compatibility, is that if Islamic countries scored higher in some category of “Western ideas” than “the West” in the not-too-distant past, the contention that they are incompatible – at least in the strong formulation – seems inuitively weak. The second point is that historical trajectories are odd things, and that the (shortest? best? likely?) path to a specific outcome (e.g. economic growth, development of market institutions, new business structures, a liberal political or social paradigm) might include some ostensibly contradictory intermediate steps.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Just as a side note, in many English-speaking jurisdictions, a spouse has a right to 1/3 of a deceased spouse’s estate.

  9. disposablecat says:

    Trying to subscribe to comments again…

  10. bean says:

    Naval Gazing continues looking at battleship secondary armament, this time investigating early AA weaponry.

  11. Well... says:

    During especially warm periods in the Earth’s climate (e.g. during the PETM, 55 mya), it is said there were forests in the polar regions.

    What I don’t understand is this: what kind of forests can exist in places where it’s dark half the year? What mental picture should I get when I envision one of these polar forests?

    Was it just sort of like the northernmost forests we have now (from what I can tell from DDG searches, these look like some stubby pine trees sticking out of tall meadow grasses and shrubs), but lusher?

    • Another Throw says:

      Taiga extends into the arctic circle and so demonstrates that polar forests are still possible, after a fashion. But more to the point, the arctic tree line is mostly a function of temperature and the associated lack of moisture . Something-Something-Global-Warming and the tree line will inevitably move north as the pole warms.

      Consider: The temperate forest you are (probably*) most aware of shuts down photosynthesis and hibernates half the year already due to temperature. There’s no compelling reason it couldn’t (or doesn’t already?) do the same from lack of light.

      It’ll look almost exactly like a temperate forest. Because that’s what it was.

      [*] Okay, only half the US is part of the temperate forest range, and only half of that has a winter worth talking about. If you’re one of those California weirdos you’re in the wrong corner of the country to live in it, but you’ve seen it on TV all the times. ETA.

    • ana53294 says:

      Actually, there are big problems in winter when there is a combination of sub-zero temperatures and big amounts of light energy.

      Photosystem II absorbs light photons, but it needs the downstream photosynthesis machinery to work to get rid of excess excitation. There is no respiration at sub-zero temperatures, no CO2 is absorbed, so photosynthesis is not working. Photosystem II gets deactivated, and some of the excess excitation energy turns into free radicals, that destroy other proteins present in the cytosol.

    • James says:

      Ooh, I’d like to read a story set there, especially in the dark season. Or some sort of sci-fi or fantasy analogue.

  12. gbdub says:

    So this is obviously inspired by the Kavanaugh / Ford case but I don’t mean to cover the specifics of that case, which is already being discussed elsewhere in the thread.

    Hoping to get some thoughts from SlateStarTherapists (or patients) on how modern therapy deals with past trauma, and if you think it does so in a way that makes memories you shared with a therapist as part of a psychological intervention fundamentally unreliable. Or are they just as (un)reliable as other memories?

    Obviously on the extreme you’ve got the controversial “recovered memory therapies”, but it is my admittedly pop culture influenced understanding is that mainstream therapies still contain some element of “find old trauma, blame it for current psychological issues, address relationship with old trauma to mitigate current problems”.

    My concern is that, since recontextualizing the old trauma is kind of the whole point, it’s impossible to do this without altering the memory itself. Furthermore, since the patient is being encouraged and “rewarded” to find sufficiently juicy past trauma to explain their current issues, there is a strong incentive to exaggerate both the memories themselves and their impact on the patient.

    Is this a reasonable concern? How does this usually play out in the legal system if it comes to that?

    EDIT: to clarify a bit, I’m not talking about therapy specifically targeted at a recent trauma and its direct fallout. Not e.g. “I was just in a plane crash help me stop having nightmares”. Rather, I’m interested in past trauma brought up as explanatory for not-obviously-directly-related current issues. E.g. “My marriage sucks” “could it be you can’t be intimate because someone abused you as a child?”

    • albatross11 says:

      +1

      I’m also very interested in this question.

      Is there good research on how well people remember things (traumatic or otherwise) that occurred long ago?

      Is there good research on how reliable memories recovered (or maybe refined) during therapy are?

    • Well... says:

      IANAT, but after listening to interviews with people who’ve been through trauma and discussed the therapy they received afterwards, it seems common to avoid pathologizing the trauma. One example was a guy who was held hostage by Somali pirates: his therapist did not call what he was experiencing “PTSD”; rather, it was more like “OK, so you’re nervous about being in crowds now [or whatever the symptom was; I forget]. Let’s address that as what it is: you feel nervous in crowds.” Etc.

      I don’t know, but I would guess the effect on memories is they’re just as unreliable as otherwise.

      • gbdub says:

        I think that falls into the first example of my “EDIT” though… it might make sense to minimize trauma when trauma is clearly what you’re hung up on. Your trauma is already pathological, and you (usually) know it – it’s what prompted you to visit the therapist in the first place.

        But what about cases where past trauma might be having a subconscious impact on your current self? It seems like in that case therapists might first encourage “pathologizing” the trauma (in the sense of assigning blame to it) so you can “cure” it, with the presumption that resolving that past trauma will improve your current ills.

        Or is that a Hollywood trope that never actually happens?

  13. JPNunez says:

    Ok guys, who wants to predict whether The Hague court decides on monday for Chile or Bolivia on Bolivia’s demand over Chile’s promises to negotiate an exit to the sea.

    https://www.icj-cij.org/en/case/153

    Basically Bolivia says that Chile has promised to negotiate an exit to the sea several times, and hasn’t actually done so, Chile says that Bolivia has left the negotiation table the last few times it has come up and that they cannot be forced to negotiate if the end of the negotiation is decided beforehand.

    biases: I am Chilean, tho I’d be open to negotiate an exit, given Bolivia pays up.

    e: a small summary

    https://web.archive.org/web/20180613023732/http://opiniojuris.org/2018/03/27/bolivia-and-chile-in-the-hague-can-they-quiet-the-ghosts-of-the-pacific-war-and-thrive-together-in-the-21st-century/

    • John Schilling says:

      The Hague and what army?

      How many battalions has the Hague got?

      Because Chile does have an army, with sixty-one battalions, and transfers of significant sovereign territory between nations by any means other than armed conflict are I think basically unheard of in the modern (post-WWII) era. The UN and its subsidiaries like the ICJ basically don’t do that sort of thing, when they try it comes to shooting anyway, and I can’t imagine they are going to want to risk war between Chile and Bolivia and whatever suckers they can get to represent ICJ authority in this.

      Formalization of the arrangement where Bolivia gets tax-free access to the Chilean port of Arica, and an admonition to go back and negotiate some more until this goes away (i.e. stops being reported in the newspapers because nobody even pretends the negotiations are going to change anything), is the most I would expect. The ICJ saying “give Arica to Bolivia” and Chile saying “OK, sure”, I do not expect will happen.

      • JPNunez says:

        I think the Hague does not give as much of a fuck about Chile/Bolivia as it does for Israel/Palestine.

      • Salem says:

        Yes, examples are rare as hens’ teeth. France was told to leave Saar, Iraq and Saudi Arabia partitioned the neutral zone, and that’s about it. There’s probably a couple I’m forgetting, but even so.

      • Machine Interface says:

        “transfers of significant sovereign territory between nations by any means other than armed conflict are I think basically unheard of in the modern (post-WWII) era”

        Depends on exactly what you mean by “significant”. Saudi Arabia and Jordan did exchange 6,000 square kilometers (2,317 square miles) of land in 1965 — it was mostly desert territory, but Jordan initiated the exchange specifically to gain 12 kilometers (7 miles) of additional coastline on the Red Sea.

        But the rarity of such an event only furthers your point.

      • Aapje says:

        @John Schilling

        The ICJ requires consent by all parties involved before the court will judge on the case. So nations accept being judged by the ICJ in advance.

        If a state then refuses to implement the judgement, it violates article 94 of the United Nations Charter, which the UN Security Council can enforce. So the ICJ has to thread carefully, staying within the bounds of what the Security Council considers legitimate and being fair enough so countries are willing to consent to having the ICJ judge their dispute.

        You seem to be confused about how (parts of) the UN work. This institute happens to be hosted in The Hague, but it is not an institution that is run by the city of The Hague. So it’s not about the power that The Hague can project, but rather what the Security Council can do.

        • John Schilling says:

          You seem to be confused about how (parts of) the UN work. This institute happens to be hosted in The Hague, but it is not an institution that is run by the city of The Hague. So it’s not about the power that The Hague can project, but rather what the Security Council can do.

          OK, this is just plain insulting. Do you really think that I am stupid enough to believe that the metropolitan government of a minor city in Holland is the relevant enforcement authority here? “The Hague” is a common shorthand for the nexus of power and authority centered on the International Court of Justice, it was introduced to this discussion in that context by JPNunez, and I was mirroring his usage.

          I understand quite well how the United Nations works. I’m not clear how your thought processes are working in this matter. But, to clarify:

          How many battalions does the United Nations Security Council have available for the purpose of supporting ICJ judgements?

          • Aapje says:

            My issue was that your comment doesn’t make much sense under any good faith reading that assumes a decent understanding of how things work. The Security Council has the countries with the largest militaries as permanent members, as well as a huge amount of soft power (if they actually agree on something and are willing to put the effort in to make it happen). For small things like border disputes between two relatively insignificant nations, they are more likely to employ (very) soft power or ignore it, rather than send an army.

            However, if the Security Council cared enough and accepted the consequences, they could send a huge army, just like the US could send a huge number of troops to get China to lower their tariffs, subsidies and the value of the yuan. Of course the US won’t do that, even though they can, just like the UN could send an army to enforce ICJ rulings, but won’t (because they are typically relatively minor cases, because the truly major ones escalate to the Security Council right away).

            It is not sensible for Xi Jinping to respond to US trade demands with an insinuation or claim that the US has a lack of military power. Doing so would entirely miss the point because the trade conflict is not fought with armies and in fact cannot be fought that way without enormous consequences. The US could have ten times or a hundred times as many battalions as they do now and they still couldn’t get their way in the trade conflict by sending those battalions to China (because of the massive undesired consequences).

            Similarly, your insinuations and claims that the ICJ is powerless due to a lack of military backing is nonsensical. When taken literally, the ICJ does have armies behind it. When looked at realistically, it’s beside the point, just like for the US-China trade conflict.

            Your focus on the lack of direct control over a military by the ICJ is like arguing that the American police is powerless against serious resistance by citizens because of their limited weaponry and training. Yet when shit hits the fan, they can get help. If you taunt the US police from within your armored compound for being weak, they may feel bad. If the US government feels sorry for them, M1A1 Abrams tanks may show up and make you feel bad. As a whole, the US government can wield huge military power if they choose so, just like the UN can.

            Of course you can question how willing the UN is to employ (military) power to enforce ICJ judgments and argue that they aren’t taken seriously because they are very reticent. However, it’s not because the UN doesn’t have the battalions or other means of enforcement. The issue is willingness to enforce.

            By arguing that the ICJ/UN is unable to enforce, rather than unwilling, your response was either intentional demagoguery, exploiting the biases and/or lack of understanding by your readers (many of whom probably confuse the ICJ with the ICC even though they are quite different); or you yourself are confused in a major way.

            I chose to give you the benefit of the doubt to assume you were being ignorant, rather than demagogic, but you now seem to insist that I must see you as deceitful.

          • John Schilling says:

            but you now seem to insist that I must see you as deceitful.

            OK, we’re done here. And, I think, everywhere else.

          • Incurian says:

            🙁
            Be nice, you two.

          • Aapje says:

            @Schilling

            That didn’t go very well. Let me explain why I disliked your comment in a different, hopefully clearer way:

            I think that most people are very uninformed or misinformed about the various courts in The Hague, including most people who read these comments on SSC. I agree with you that “The Hague” is a common shorthand, but I would argue that it is a short-hand that leads to categorization errors.

            For example, it is/was very common to refer to both the ICC and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as “The Hague,” which already causes confusion because these are independent courts that are different in very significant ways (for example, ICTY was established and granted jurisdiction by the UN, while the ICC was established by treaty and has to be granted jurisdiction by individual nations). By also using the term “The Hague” for the ICJ, this problem becomes worse still, because now three very different and independent tribunals get labeled the same (note that there is at least one more court in The Hague (PAC), which is significantly different again from the other courts mentioned).

            My second problem is that the accusation that “The Hague” lacks an army and similar accusations are commonly made for the ICJ (including by various American politicians, who threatened to invade). This accusation makes some sense in that the ICJ is established by treaty and thus lacks backing by a ‘world government’ in the form of the UN. Of course, one can argue that the ICJ decisions are often not enforced, but unlike the ICC, the ICJ does have an enforcer, which is a separate entity to the ICJ. So their choice when to enforce is not something that you can blame on the ICJ (or ‘The Hague’), but rather on the security council (or ‘New York’).

            Yet I’ve never seen anyone say “with what army” when talking about the security council or ‘New York.’ So apparently people tend to recognize the difference between having an army and being reluctant to use it. This led me to the conclusion that you were almost certainly misinformed, because your claim seemed to me to strongly imply a claim that there is no (single) enforcer at all, rather than the existence of a reluctant enforcer.

            Anyway, even if you know exactly what the differences are and you intentionally chose to make an irregular kind of accusation, I would argue that this is a communicative error in the sense that it will be interpreted incorrectly by most readers. If a reader doesn’t already know how the ICC and ICJ differ and knows to interpret your attack on the ICJ differently from the common attacks on the ICC, that person is most likely going to draw false conclusions and/or believe that you are confirming their false beliefs.

            Finally, I want to point out that JPNunez did not in fact introduce “The Hague” as a shorthand into this discussion. JPNunez said “The Hague court,” which is not the same thing. You changed this to “The Hague,” which JPNunez then copied from you later on. So IMO you introduced this shorthand, although JPNunez used broken English in his first comment about this, which may have thrown you off or such.

            Anyway, I apologize for being a bit aggressive and impolite & for probably typical minding too much.

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje

            Yet I’ve never seen anyone say “with what army” when talking about the security council or ‘New York.’

            When people talk about security council action, they almost invariably mean “the US acting in the name of the security council.” the security council doesn’t have an army, it isn’t really an independent entity, it’s a creature of the membership. Because of this, one really shouldn’t talk of the security council enforcing things, especially when it comes to something like a century+ border dispute in latin america, where there is zero chance that the US is going to get involved militarily on either side.

            , because your claim seemed to me to strongly imply a claim that there is no (single) enforcer at all, rather than the existence of a reluctant enforcer.

            There isn’t one, unless you’re counting the US as a reluctant enforcer.

      • Aapje says:

        @John Schilling

        “An exit to the sea” doesn’t have to involve transfer of territory. In both domestic and international law, the right of passage is a solution to allow passage without requiring ownership of the land that one travels over.

        Similarly, one could lease land for a long period or indefinitely, like the 1903 Lease for Guantanamo.

        • John Schilling says:

          That’s the agreement Chile and Bolivia have had. Since 1904. Bolivia, deeming this insufficient, is now seeking the actual transfer of a strip of land along Chile’s northern border, allegedly pursuant to a 1975 agreement with Chile.

  14. Thegnskald says:

    A thought I have been bouncing around for a while:

    Could the prehistoric release of substantial carbon dioxide have been a necessary precursor to further life on Earth? That is, if that had not happened, would carbon dioxide levels have fallen to the point that the ecosystems of the world collapsed and resulted in a barren world? Certainly it appears the long-term trends have been towards ever-decreasing atmospheric CO2.

  15. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Suppose that at some point in the future, Roe v. Wade has been overturned, allowing states to ban abortion. The court that did so is still sitting, but progressives control the presidency and the legislature. Would there be a viable Constitutional objection to a federally-run network of abortion clinics, justified under the FDR-broadened Commerce Clause and exempt from State restrictions due to the Supremacy clause? What if this were implemented as part of a federally-run public healthcare system?

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      I think there would be ways to structure such a system, yes. Likely you would use facilities located next to VA hospitals or the like.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      If the courts follow precedent and the Constitution, it should be perfectly fine.

      Have you ever noticed that federal vehicles driving on the highway often don’t have license plates? The drivers don’t even need to have driver licenses. That’s the supremacy clause at work.

      But my first sentence is a big “if.” What if the Supreme Court were to hold that the Constitution forbids the federal government from offering abortions in states where it is banned? Or what if the Supreme Court were to hold that the Constitution forbids the state and federal governments from offering abortion? This would be a break with precedent and an example of judicial activism, but so was Roe v. Wade in the first place.

      • CatCube says:

        Have you ever noticed that federal vehicles driving on the highway often don’t have license plates? The drivers don’t even need to have driver licenses. That’s the supremacy clause at work.

        As a matter of fact, I have not noticed that. All the non-military GOVs I’ve seen have GSA plates. Military vehicles will have bumper numbers to identify them, though they aren’t plates as such. To drive off the installation, you need a state-issued drivers license as either a military or civilian, though I’ll admit that I don’t know if that’s legislative law or military policy.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          You almost certainly have seen non-military federal vehicles without license plates.

          Operated by the US Postal Service.

          • CatCube says:

            Fair enough. The last time I saw postal service vehicles on a regular basis was when I was living in the sticks, where the mail carrier used their POV. I’ve not noticed the plates or lack thereof on the little USPS-specific vehicles.

    • BBA says:

      Expansion of the Hobby Lobby doctrine maybe? Spending public funds on activities that are against an individual taxpayer’s religious beliefs is a violation of either the Establishment Clause or the Free Exercise Clause, or both. Note that Hobby Lobby itself was limited to nice normal religions like Catholicism and crackpots like the Jehovah’s Witnesses couldn’t take advantage of it.

      (As I’ve said before, I think most constitutional law is invented on the spot, and nobody has any coherent principles at all.)

      • BBA says:

        …oh, and obviously if the decision that overturns Casey relies on “life begins at conception” as a rationale, that means no abortions anywhere in the country regardless of what Congress does. I consider this a very remote possibility.

        • albatross11 says:

          Federally funded abortion clinics is like the fondest dream of every Republican fundraiser in the country. You might as well give them printing presses and let them print up their *own* hundred dollar bills.

        • TotallyNotElonMusk says:

          Regardless of what Congress does ? – Wouldn’t a constitutional amendment saying ‘life begins at birth’ take precedence ?

          • Deiseach says:

            Wouldn’t a constitutional amendment saying ‘life begins at birth’ take precedence?

            Then you’d get arguments over what constitutes “birth” – is it merely when delivery begins, when the foetus (not yet a baby, remember!) is all the way out of the birth canal or three-quarters out or nearly out except for the head, or is it when the umbilical cord has been cut and the baby is now a baby and independent of the mother? When the first breath has been taken?

            And if you think that wouldn’t happen, remember: when arguing for its legalisation, contraception was never, ever going to be used by unmarried couples and abortion was never, ever going to be used as birth control.

          • Nornagest says:

            Wouldn’t a constitutional amendment saying ‘life begins at birth’ take precedence ?

            You need a 2/3 majority in both houses of Congress and ratification by 38 states for that, and you’re not going to get it.

            Or a constitutional convention, which I actually think is slightly more likely at present, but I doubt you’d get an amendment on abortion out of it.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I can’t see a merely definitional law such as a “life begins at birth” amendment having much of an impact, since nearly all of the laws having to do with the taking of life are state laws. The amendment would need to positively assert a Constitutional right to life, and to be incorporated against the states.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          An interesting sidenote to that: Robert Bork arguing against constitutional protection of the unborn (preceded by someone arguing the pro side, ctrl-f Bork to get to his reply)

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Hobby Lobby was based not on the First Amendment but on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would (ETA: probably) no longer exist in the scenario given.

        • BBA says:

          Couldn’t the court just reverse Employment Division v. Smith (as applied to nice normal religions anyway) and read the provisions of RFRA into the First Amendment?

          • Evan Þ says:

            as applied to nice normal religions anyway

            Or “as applied to religions which were present in the US at the time of ratification of the Constitution (and let’s ignore the Native Americans’ belief systems because they don’t count.)” Yes, I’ve really heard people argue that those’re the only religions that’re covered by the First Amendment at all.

  16. SamChevre says:

    Congratulations, Your Study Went Nowhere: an interesting article on issues related to publications, significance, and replication, by Aaron Carroll at The Incidental Economist. Seems like an SSC-ish article to me. For bonus points, the example he uses is anti-depressants.

    Only half of the research was positive. Almost no one would know that. Even thorough reviews of the literature would find that nearly all studies were positive

  17. Urstoff says:

    Some works of fiction repay repeated readings and even reading various critical commentaries on them (Moby-Dick, the Iliad, certain plays of Shakespeare, and various other “canonical” books). Are there any novels written in the 21st century that warrant such attention? This question is partly inspired by a recent list of what might be the “new canon“, but also by my suspicion that MFA programs have decreased the variance in the quality of literature (while perhaps increasing the average quality). Melville would likely have been drummed out of an MFA, at any rate.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Well, modern works will necessarily require much less critical commentary than ancient works, as long as they are read by their contemporaries, who are familiar with all the prerequisite zeitgest by virtue of living in the same time period. There’s no reason to expend much energy on a critical commentary of say, “The Road”, because the themes are already transparent to most prospective readers *now*.

      250 years from now, who knows.

      • Urstoff says:

        Plenty of the critical commentary on the classical canon isn’t historical/cultural contextualization. But perhaps being in the same cultural milieu does prevent a certain kind of criticism because works seem more transparent (though in actuality they might not be). Plus different eras value different things. These days, I’d say “David Copperfield” or “Bleak House” is considered to be the most important Dickens works, although in the late 19th / early 20th century, “The Pickwick Papers” seemed to hold that place.

      • Nick says:

        This is something I’ve thought about for a while—whether or how much we overrate the cleverness of a work because of the cleverness and diligence required today to figure out what would then have been more obvious.

    • J.R. says:

      I don’t have one. 2666 came to mind, since it’s big and dark, like some in the canon, but it’s a masochistic ride for a reader, with 350 pages dedicated to matter-of-fact descriptions of women’s murders. It is almost anti-entertainment.

      Late Roth will probably receive the most study: The Human Stain and Nemesis are both great, with the former also capturing the rise of the culture war. Though I really enjoyed The Corrections, I don’t think it will stand the test of time.

      1997 is just before the new millennium, but it was a great year for American literary fiction: DeLillo’s Underworld and Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon were released, and are in my opinion the best work either of those two produced. Infinite Jest was released in ’96.

    • gbdub says:

      What characteristics, in your mind, make a work of fiction worth repeated readings? Worthy of critical commentary?

      I’ve reread multiple Neal Stephenson novels, but mostly because they are entertaining and dense enough that I don’t remember every detail years later. But I don’t really feel like Stephenson should be “canon’.

      I’m not sure “new canon” can be emphatically declared for anything reasonably contemporary. The real trick of “canon” is to remain relevant/impactful decades or centuries after the fact, and that’s obviously not something that can be judged in the moment.

      • Urstoff says:

        To me it’s a completely informal criterion: that a work can support critical elaboration. Can many interesting things be said about the work over and above a straight reading of the text? I think we have pretty clear examples of works that qualify (Homer, Shakespeare, Moby-Dick) and works that don’t (random, low-quality pulp/genre paperbacks); there is also a huge grey area of works that we don’t know whether they can bear critical elaboration simply because no one has bothered to try (for any number of social/economic/cultural reasons).

        • Machine Interface says:

          I don’t know that this is a really solid criteria. There are several people that have produced really elaborate critical analysis of the Twilight Saga, for instance. Even a book almost universally regarded as disposable trash can still provide the raw material for a commentary on the values and culture that produced such a book.

          • AG says:

            Exactly as Machine Interface says.

            “works that don’t (random, low-quality pulp/genre paperbacks)” is doing a hell of a lot of work here, as well as a huge underlying assumption of what comprises “critical elaboration”.

            The likes of Harry Potter and Naruto have spawned infinite transformative works and fandom meta, some of which have been compiled and published. HPMOR itself is a whole lot of HP critical elaboration re-jiggered back into a fictional form. This kind of thing is rooted in Buffy Studies, or exactly extending critical elaboration to pulp material: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/the-rise-of-buffy-studies/407020/

            And there is the theory that the quantity of fanfiction and fandom meta and such produced for a particular source material isn’t based on the tightness of the material, but the opposite correlation. Source material that leaves a lot of holes (character, plot, theme, world-building) for people to fill in produce the corresponding amount of material addressing them. Similarly source material that is less specific applies to a wider range of “universal themes” that can be elaborated on.

            Nowhere is this made most apparent by the fact that someone made a Youtube series investigating the Bays Transformers through most film studies interpretive lenses. That the films are messy and of dubious quality only makes them even riper for analysis from all sorts of angles.

            In particular, I’ve hypothesized that a certain amount of mediocrity is actually critical to longevity. Doctor Who’s dubious quality has been key to how long it has run, allowing for a higher rate of production, having some really memorable blunders, offering a starting point for improvement, moderating expectations so that they’re less likely to be disappointed, and avoiding other factors that have sunk other more critically acclaimed shows. Once a certain inertia has been achieved, then the fandom self-sustains through the good and the bad, confident that another golden age will occur. (See also comics)

          • J.R. says:

            @Machine Interface and AG:

            You are absolutely correct that any cultural work can support critical elaboration. What separates those that are canonical – or works that are worthy of study as such — is the aesthetic quality of the work itself. The work has to reward the reader’s investment of time and careful attention. My favorite part of reading a novel is the thrill of reading a well-crafted sentence, where precise meaning is evoked by a beautiful turn of phrase.

            I’d also like to add that the fanfiction market exists also because replicating the writing style of the original (usually YA fiction) is quite easy for the layperson. Gravity’s Rainbow has a ton of holes, but there are very few out there that could do a credible Pynchon imitation.[1]

            [1]: I’m aware that there are exponentially more people who have read Harry Potter than have even opened Gravity’s Rainbow, but my point still stands.

          • AG says:

            @JR:
            Unreproduceability is an orthogonal standard to quality. In contrast, the best narrative innovations are invisible or at the least lose uniqueness because they are so effective that they are widely adopted. At one time, zippy prose that evokes the pacing of visual media was novel. Young people liked that, so YA fiction is full of that kind of prose, these days. Some may believe that the best prose is the one so evocative of experience that it renders itself invisible, with only the experience remaining. Zippy YA prose can accomplish that. Indeed, the enduring strength of the Harry Potter fandom seems to indicate that, for many, J.K Rowling’s prose accomplished that.

            But, also, aesthetic quality is actually subordinated to popularity. Even in the case of canon works that were un-appreciated in their time, they only eventually became canon because at some point later in history, someone championed the work until it attained a level of popularity around the literary circuit. Plenty of works of equivalent aesthetic quality from the same period languish, just because they didn’t have that one dogged advocate.
            https://lasvegasweekly.com/news/archive/2007/oct/04/the-rules-of-the-game-no-18-the-social-butterfly-e/

            And that popularity matters to the quality of the critical elaboration, in rolling effects. Sturgeon’s law applies to analysis, so the works with the most inertia and greatest hits inevitably stem from the works with the greatest engagement. As my previous comment argued, the presence of lacuna are actually necessary to provoke the greatest amount of engagement.
            Shakespeare’s works continue to provide endless commentary partially because there’s so much previous analysis to springboard from, refract through. The social butterfly effect indicates that there may indeed be other plays with the same level of aesthetic quality content, but that the critical quality of Shakespeare’s plays was ensured by their popularity.

            Basically, I’m not convinced that canon works are ever actually special in their quality. But I take this in the poptimist direction: that there are actually way more works that are just as good for me to enjoy.

            (But also, you’ll find plenty of disagreement on the quality of canonical works by plenty of aesthetic standards. Lots of them are slogs to read. One man’s “beautiful turn of phrase” is another man’s “things that should be removed from The Brick in all adaptations.”)

            Why has the concept of the Canon only caught on with certain mediums, and not others? Do we really need more “Top 100 X” lists, when tastes are as diversified as they are today?

    • Well... says:

      I suspect a lot of people would nominate books like 1984 and Brave New World. Maybe Ayn Rand’s two famous novels.

      I reread Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and its sequel, Lila, every few years, and always find doing so rewarding. Each time I reread them a new cluster of thoughts opens up that occupies me for months or longer. Though I’m not sure they can be confidently classified as fiction…they’re more sort of…fictionesque.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Are you asking for literature that’s likely to echo through centuries or through millennia? Shakespeare or Poe or David Foster Wallace?

      If the latter, Kafka on the Shore is likely to be a book that’s remembered for a long time, as is much of Murakami’s work. Cormac McCarthy has been writing well, and is also likely to be remembered. But no, I don’t think we’ve had a Big Culture-Defining Deal yet, and I also don’t think that’s likely to be a result of how writers are educated; they just don’t seem to occur often enough.

    • AG says:

      I feel that extra-fictional elements are far more influential on a piece’s rereadability that most think. Shakespeare provides new gems again and again because of the way his words and phrases infiltrated the language and history happened with historical people who were influenced by his works. The tail continues to propagate itself, further increasing the things a reading of the text can relate to.

      I talked about Buffy Studies above. But new readings of Buffy can continue to emerge precisely because the show’s success drove the careers of everyone involved (and I mean everyone, from actors to crew to fans alike), building an infinite six-degrees web of further analysis fodder (including Whedon and his favored actors’ affinitiy for Shakespeare, heyo!). The same quantity of readings and repeat consummability simply cannot be made for a text with a smaller historical footprint, such as Winner of Best Picture Oscar No One Cares About Any More.

      Ironically, one of the most rewatchable things ever came from stripping meaning out of a story and replacing it with sheer sincerity of the surface elements: The Wizard of Oz. Pretty much all new derivative works of it choose to work off of the MGM film, with no pesky political allegories.

      As such, the most rereadable piece of writing in the 21st century is probably the Navy Seal Copypasta. That, or the opening paragraph of My Immortal.

    • AG says:

      Worthy 21st century Discworld novels include Thief of Time, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, all of the Tiffany Aching novels, Night Watch, Monstrous Regiment, Going Postal, and Making Money.

      (Others would probably include Thud!, as well. The Truth was published in 2000, so depending on your definition of 21st century it might also make the cut.)

    • Tarpitz says:

      Of the linked list, I wholeheartedly endorse The Goldfinch and The Amber Spyglass as worthy of re-reading and critical analysis. Wolf Hall I enjoyed hugely, but I’m less certain it has the right qualities to support serious study.

      Among plays, Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem is the clear standout of the century so far.

  18. Matt M says:

    Has anyone else noticed that despite this being OT 111.25, the URL for the page is 110-25-2?

    What is Scott trying to pull on us here?

  19. Aapje says:

    What if English was phonetically consistent? (4 minute video with a proper pronunciation of English).

    • johan_larson says:

      English really could use more vowels. The Swedes had the wisdom to add three to their supply; they just tacked them on to the end of the alphabet. But English seems content to trudge along with five or six.

    • TotallyNotElonMusk says:

      “Hold our Bordeaux” – The French.

      • Machine Interface says:

        French spelling is more consistent than English at least when it comes to spelling vowels. There are relatively few exceptions and digraphs and diacritics make up for the higher number phonemic vowels than avalaible orthographic vowel signs.

        The killer is when it comes to final-consonants-that-are-often-but-not-always-mute-and-you-can’t-know-in-advance-before-seeing-the-sentence, but that would be a lot quicker and simpler to fix than whatever English spelling is doing with its vowels.

    • johan_larson says:

      Anyone who values simple, clear spelling enough to emigrate over could always move to Finland. Dead simple spelling.

      Any other options? Korean usually comes up. How does Dutch do?

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        In Spanish, every word is pronounced exactly how it’s spelled, without exception. Latin & Greek, too, since they invented their own orthography. In all three languages, if you can pronounce a word, you can spell it, and vice-versa. I don’t know any other languages well enough to comment.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          In Spanish… if you can pronounce a word, you can spell it

          Not quite. The correspondence is much tighter than in English, but there are often multiple ways to spell a Spanish word. For example, soft c makes the same sound as s, and hard c makes the same sound as k. So even if you know how to pronounce the word “casa” (house), you don’t necessarily know not to spell it “kasa” instead. Likewise, h is (usually) silent, so if you spell “hablar” (talk) the obvious way (“ablar”), you spell it wrong; you just have to memorize that the verb for talking has a silent h at the beginning for no apparent reason. This caused me no end of trouble when I was in elementary school in Peru.

          • Nick says:

            you just have to memorize that the verb for talking has a silent h at the beginning for no apparent reason.

            A lot of tough words/spellings are easier to remember when you know an adjacent language; Latin’s often helpful here. I don’t think it would much help with hablar, which apparently comes from fabulare, though.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            So even if you know how to pronounce the word “casa” (house), you don’t necessarily know not to spell it “kasa” instead.

            Does Peruvian Spanish have the letter “k”? I speak Spanish as a second language, so I’m by no means an expert, but the only times I encounter k in Spanish is in foreign loanwords. Otherwise I thought it was hard c all the time.

            I had totally forgotten about the silent initial h, though.

          • albatross11 says:

            cero, ser
            burro, vaca
            llama, ya
            hora, oro

            So not perfect, but still way, way better than English.

          • Lillian says:

            Note that in official Spanish b and v as well as ll and y have different sounds. In particular, ll is a consonant sound while y is a vowel sound. However most Spanish speakers usually default to using the b sound for v, and either the ll or the y sound for both ll and y.

          • A1987dM says:

            Also, b and v.

            OTOH, AFAICT the reverse is not the case: given a spelling you can always deduce the pronunciation. (Is this right?)

            (In Italian, there are a few pronunciation distinctions which are not reflected in spelling, but they all have very low functional load.)

            soft c makes the same sound as s

            In northern and central Spain they are different (but soft c is still the same as z).

          • A1987dM says:

            @Chevalier: dunno about Peru, but off the top of my head in Argentina for some reason usually it’s “kiosco” rather than “quiosco”.

          • A1987dM says:

            @Lillian: You’re right about LL and Y, but even in Castile B and V are both pronounced as stop at the beginning of a sentence or after a consonant and both pronounced as a fricative after a vowel.

          • Lillian says:

            In the Spanish i know, some people do distinguish between v and b according to how it’s written. So they will generally pronounce vuelo, viento, vela, and voz labiodentally, while pronouncing bomba, bueno, and bien bilabially. The tendency seems strongest amongst well read educated people, rather than part of any specific dialect. It seems to me that the most common usage is indeed to not distinguish between b and v, but educated people are more likely to be aware that there is supposed to be a distinction, and so alter their pronunciation accordingly.

            Hell as a child i knew someone named Valenetina, and there was some mild argument as to what the correct pronunciation was. Her own mother, who named her, never showed any preference in that she would randomly switch between the two. While her father and Valentina herself always used bilabial, neither minded if others used the labiodental pronunciation. Teachers almost always used labiodental, but didn’t put much effort into correcting Valentina’s own pronunciation. As for myself, i almost always called her Balentina, but sometimes would switch to Valentina because it felt more correct.

      • albatross11 says:

        Spelling in Spanish is very simple. I can pretty reliably hear an unfamiliar word on the radio and find it with my first guess of how it should be spelled. Accents can be a little tricky, and it’s not a perfect 1:1 mapping between sounds and letters (h is silent, ll and y sound alike, r and rr aren’t always clear to me from listening), but it’s enormously better than English.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          In addition to those complications, there’s the interchangeability of b and v, and the way that, when one word ends with a vowel and the next begins with one, they get merged into a single, slightly lengthened vowel or a diphthong as the case may be. I’ve found that the spelling gives you the sound almost infallibly, but getting from the sound to the spelling can be surprisingly difficult.

      • Aapje says:

        I found this interesting article which discusses this issue and some of the complexity. For example, you can have the issue in two directions:
        – one clear pronunciation of a word/sentence
        – one clear spelling of a sound

        Italian and Spanish seems to be good in both directions, while French seems to have a clear pronunciation, but no clear spelling of a sound. English is poor in both directions.

        I think that a major reason is the anarchist nature of the English-speaking world in this regard, as many other languages have had serious spelling reforms, but English not so much.

        There is also this forum thread where people discuss the consistency of Germanic languages. Dutch seems to rank quite high and English low.

        • beleester says:

          Hebrew does really well in one direction (if you see an unfamiliar word written, you can sound it out with almost no trouble), but not in the other (silent letters, a few letters with identical sounds, and a lot of vowels with identical sounds).

          The one exception to “if you see it, you can read it” is the kamatz katan, where a kamatz is pronounced “oh” instead of “ah,” but more recent prayer books will print the two differently to make it clear.

          • 10240 says:

            Hebrew does really well in one direction (if you see an unfamiliar word written, you can sound it out with almost no trouble),

            That’s only true if niqqud is used, isn’t it?

      • Well... says:

        German is pretty consistent.

      • Matt M says:

        I’ve noticed some young English people on twitter have started using “a” instead of “I” when describing themselves, which is delightful to me as I can now read an English accent…

    • fion says:

      Is English atypical in this regard? I would have assumed you could make a similarly nonsensical video for other languages, but not knowing any other languages I’m speaking from a place of ignorance.

      Weirdly, I thought that pronunciation of English sounded a bit like a cross between a Jamaican English accent and a Swedish English accent.

      • Machine Interface says:

        @fion & johan_larson

        There’s quite a wide variation in spelling complexity among the world’s languages. Here’s an attempt at a quick ad hoc classicassion (excluding Japanese and Chinese for reasons I’ll explain further ahead)

        1) Transparent or almost completely transparent spelling, both writing and reading can be learned in 10 minutes (for someone who’s already literate in another language). This usually language that have not been written for a long time, didn’t have (or still do not have) a literary standard until recently, have recently been through an ambitious spelling reform, or even a complete change of writing system, or generally had quite flexible spelling that readily adapted to pronunciation changes until recently.

        The majority of the world written languages are actually in this category, *but* most of these languages will be minor languages with only national or even sub-national importance only (although there are exceptions). Examples include Finnish, Hungarian, Basque, Turkish, Albanian, Armenian, Georgian, Hindi, Vietnamese, Indonesian/Malay, Zulu…

        2) Spelling system that are often not straightforward, but in a way that nonetheless is relatively easy to learn and doesn’t suffer many exceptions. Here we start to find languages with long literary traditions that have had significant spelling reforms in their history, have generally had a tradition to keep spelling simple, or simply have not been through really important phonetic changes that would damage the sound/signs correspondences too much. This also includes language where the spelling is not that standardized and thus where the choice between different graphies is more a matter of personal preferences, thus “proper spelling” is a much looser concept

        Here we start to find more major languages, although there’s still many minor ones in that category too: examples include Italian, Spanish, Romanian, German, Swedish, Icelandic, Scots, Czech, Polish, Korean…

        3) Spelling system with significant quirks, which can be due to hapharzardous standardization (all the ways to write a given sound weren’t fully united), idiosyncracies of the writing system or language itself that make transparent spelling impossible from the get go, or a language whose spelling hasn’t been reformed in quite a while (but was relatively well behaved originally).

        There a lot less language here, and they all have long written traditions, even if they’re not necessarily major languages. Examples include Dutch, Irish, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Greek, Bengali, Occitan, Khmer…

        4) Spelling system where neither reading nor writing is remotely transparent, with both a lot of rules and a lot of exceptions. This is usually languages with long literary traditions, that already had fairly complex system to begin with, often with a writing system inadequate to write down all the sounds they possess, and then either haven’t had a spelling reform for centuries or what spelling reforms they have had where shy and far behind the changes in the spoken language, often having entire sections of spelling dedicated to grammatical rules that are no longer extant in the spoken language but must still be written.

        This is actually relatively rare, but it just so happens that two of the languages concerned have between themselves ruled over 3/4 of the world for a brief period of time. Examples include English, French, Thai, Tibetan…

        Then there are a logograms. The way I see it, logograms are kind of a separate axis to spelling itself. This was more evident in the Bronze Age and Iron Age, where writing systems that used logograms were a lot more common, and so you would have gotten more of a continuum between languages that used few logograms and and languages that used a lot.

        Today that continuum is largely gone, as the only major languages that use significant amount of logograms are Chinese and Japanese, whereas most other language use almost none (but not zero — symbols such as the numerals 0 to 9, arithmetic symbols, &, $, @, # in fact qualify as logograms).

        That said, just comparing Chinese and Japanese is enough to show that even with closely related writing system, logographic languages can vary just as widely in orthographic complexity as non-logographic ones.

        Chinese writing, once you get past the “I have to learn hundreds of hanzi to be able to read at all” mental block, is actually surprisingly straightforward. Each symbol represents one syllable, and crucially, each individual symbol always represent the same individual syllable — if you know a symbol, you know how it’s pronounced. And if you don’t know a symbol, it’s not like the correspondence between symbols and underlying syllable is arbitrary — most symbols are made of two parts, one that gives you a clue about the symbol’s semantic, and another which tells with which other more common symbols it rhymes, so it is actually sometimes possible to guess the meaning and pronunciation of an unknown symbol (provided one is sufficiently advanced in the spoken language).

        This is the result both of the rather specific linguistic structure of Chinese (where virtually all morphemes are morphosyllabic) and various reforms occuring at different points of the history of Chinese, which generally aimed to strongly standardize writing and eliminate variant forms where possible.

        Japanese, on the other hand, in spite of deriving its writing system directly from Chinese, is a completely different story. The problem is that the linguistic structure is completely different from that of Chinese. Whereas in Chinese morphemes are monosyllabics and there are almost no inflections, Japanese is rich both in multisyllabic morphemes and in verbal and nominal inflections, which meant that adapting Chinese writing to Japanese was going to require significant modifications.

        Japanese borrowed Chinese characters in three distinct ways:

        1) As phonic symbols, used to spell out Japanese words regardless of the original meaning of the Chinese hanzi. Overtime, the graphic shape of these symbols considerably simplified, and after a number of reforms, it eventually resulted in a parellel system of two syllabic alphabets, one used mostly to write native Japanese inflections and a number of common native words, and the other used to transcribe onomatopoeia and foreign words of non-Chinese origin.

        2) As semantic symbol, used to write Japanese words with a similar meaning, but regardless of the original pronunciation of the Chinese Hanzi. This means that many symbols find themself writing words of 2, 3 or more syllables, breaking the “one symbol = one syllable” principe of Chinese. To complicate thing, the same symbol could often be used for different Japanese words with completely distinct pronunciations but closely related meanings.

        3) As loans, preserving both the Chinese meaning and pronunciation (mangled through Japanese phonology, which is quite different from Chinese as well). This was further complicated in that the same symbol was often borrowed several times with different pronunciation, corresponding to different Chinese languages/dialects or different historical period of the Chinese language as the source.

        The result of this, in spite of a number of symplifying reforms, is an extremely complex system where each single character can have half a dozen pronunciations and meanings, or more, in addition to the concurent use of two syllabic alphabets for specific sub-sections of the language.

        It’s interesting to note though that this kind of complexity is actually fairly typical of what used to be found in Bronze Age and Iron Age writing systems — as far as logographic systems are concerned, it’s actually Chinese which constitutes an anomaly for how uncharacteristically straightforward it is; the writing systems used by the Maya, the Sumerians or the Egyptians worked in many ways like Japanese (although they are all unrelated to it).

        • bean says:

          That was very interesting. Thanks.

        • fion says:

          Wow! Thanks for your reply. I found it very interesting indeed. 🙂

        • Lillian says:

          The result of this, in spite of a number of symplifying reforms, is an extremely complex system where each single character can have half a dozen pronunciations and meanings, or more, in addition to the concurent use of two syllabic alphabets for specific sub-sections of the language.

          This does, however, allow the Japanese to pack a hell of a lot of meaning into a single word of phrase. Manga authors are frequently fond of this, to the point of making multi-level, and occasionally multi-lingual puns. Yagami Light’s name, from Death Note, is one example.

          Bleach has a ludicrous amount of these. A few examples: There’s a group of beings called the Vaizādo which sounds like the English word “Visored”, and it means “Masked Army” in Japanese. Another group, who are basically the thematic inverse of the Visored, are called Arankaru, which sounds like the Spanish “Arrancar” meaning “To tear off”, and in Japanese it means “Ripped Mask”. The Arrancar use a power called Iero, which sounds like the Spanish “Hierro” meaning “Iron”, and in Japanese it means “Steel Skin”, it makes them super tough. They can travel between dimensions using portals called Garuganta, which sounds like the Spanish “Garganta” meaning “Throat”, and in Japanese it means “Black Cavity”. There’s a lot more but you get the picture.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        [Edit: Ninja’d substantially by Machine interface, but original comment is as follows:]

        Is English atypical in this regard?

        Apparently it’s not the literal worst, but I understand it is still pretty bad – most languages that I know a bit of have at least somewhat more predictable spelling rules. Some are well-behaved in both directions (i.e. if you hear a word spoken, you can generally predict how to spell it and vice-versa) – Finnish is very well-behaved, and I think Italian too, though I’m less familiar with that. Some are well-behaved in one direction only, e.g. Polish or Portuguese, where if you see a word written, you can pretty much be sure of how to pronounce it, but if you hear it spoken, there could still be several possible options for how to spell it – and Polish at least has an extremely consistent stress pattern (and Portuguese is at least helpful enough to explicitly mark with an accent if the word does not follow the usual stress pattern). Bulgarian has very phonetic spelling once you know where the stress falls in a word, but the stress is something you can’t predict and just have to know. But it’s still better than English.

      • 10240 says:

        Others have mentioned a few languages where there is an almost 1:1 correspondence between spelling and pronunciation; I’ll add Hungarian and Italian.

        Can anyone add a language as bad as English in this regard? French is quite bad but still a bit more regular in the spelling -> pronunciation direction; in the other direction it’s utterly unpredictable what silent letter(s), if any, a word has at the end.

      • John Schilling says:

        Is English atypical in this regard?

        English suffers in this regard from having looted vocabulary from pretty much every other language on Earth. Each of those languages may have simple, consistent spelling rules, but they don’t all have the same rules. To spell a word properly in English, you need to know which language we stole it from in the first place and you need to know that language’s spelling rules. Or you just need to memorize it.

        • SamChevre says:

          To add to the chaos, English tends to adopt foreign words with their foreign spelling, then slowly move the English pronunciation. French does the opposite: it adopts the foreign pronunciation, but re-spleels it in French.

          Examples:
          Don Quixote is pronounced as in Spanish (kee-hoe-tay), but quixotic has kept the spelling and shifted the pronunciation (kwiks-ott-ik). Coyote is in the process of changing; the coy is still kie, but I’m as likely to hear kie-oat as the Spanish kie-oh-tee.

          The capital of Poland is Warsawa (var-sah-vuh) in Polish. In English, it’s spelled almost the same, but pronounced very differently. In French, it’s pronounced similarly, but spelled very differently (Varsovie).

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Having heard quixotic spoken aloud only a few times, I assumed that the people pronouncing it kwiksottik were mispronouncing it and that it was properly keehoetic – I still read it that way in my head.

          • Randy M says:

            The various pronunciations of V and W between, say, English and German make me strongly suspect dyslexia among some key translators in the past.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            The capital of Poland is Warsawa (var-sah-vuh) in Polish
            Actually, Warszawa (var-shav-ah) – it’s pronounced even more differently than you thought.

            Also, wow, I have been getting ‘coyote’ wrong my whole life – I’ve always thought the first syllable was pronounced ‘coy’, that the ‘t’ was unvoiced, and that the ‘e’ was universally pronounced, but literally all the English speakers on Forvo pronounce it ‘ca-yo-die’ or, even more surprisingly, ‘ca-yoat’. Spelling pronunciation is a powerful force.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Randy M >

            From what I can gather, originally neither English nor German had a [v] sound, they both had [w] sound variously written as uu, w or ƿ (Old English only).

            English developed a [v] sound as a variant of [f] (cf Old English “wulfas” modern “wolves”), and mostly went along with the French usage of writing that sound as “u/v” (originally variant of the same letter).

            In German it is the [w] sound that turned into a [v] (with [w] itself disappearing), some time after the mid-14th century. Since the change was more thorought, “w” was kept as spelling.

            This is further complicated in that concurently to that, in some German dialects, initial [f] turned to [v], but this change was largely reverted in the *spoken* standard language, but not always in the written ones, hence you get spellings like “vier”, (Old High German “fior” = four), pronounced with an [f].

            Languages that subsequently were significantly influenced by German tended to have the “w” = [v] spelling (as in Polish) as well.

            The troubles start when English borrows words from German, because here depending on when and who made the borrowing, you can either get a pronunciation that artificially reflects the spelling (“it’s spelt ‘w’ so it’s pronounced [w]) or on the contrary a pronunciation that tries to stick closer to the German prononciation and ignore the spelling discrepancy (“it’s pronounced [v] as in German, even if it’s spelt ‘w'”).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Winter Shaker

            “Coyote” in the northeastern and midatlantic US (and probably also the midwest) is ca-yo-die or ca-yo-tie or ki-o-die or ki-o-tie (hard to distinguish; there’s really a glide between the first two syllables and who knows if the flap is voiced or not). Definitely not “coy” anything. The two-syllable pronunciation is stereotypically Southwestern, and there’s more cay-otes out there.

          • Deiseach says:

            In French, it’s pronounced similarly, but spelled very differently (Varsovie).

            Oh! Hence the dance, the Varsovienne?

        • Winter Shaker says:

          In case anyone hasn’t seen this, you may enjoy it: an algorithm that derives the pronunciation of English words from their spelling, apparently with about 85% accuracy.

        • 10240 says:

          Another problem (I think) is that in the last few centuries, for the most part English hasn’t changed its spelling to keep up with changes in pronunciation — and the spelling of the same letter( group)s hasn’t quite shifted in the same way in every word.

  20. TotallyNotElonMusk says:

    Has Elon Musk really gone off the deep end or is there some kind of 8-dimensional chess strategy where appearing to have gone off the deep end has a positive end-game for him ?

    • Nick says:

      You forgot to say “Asking for a friend.”

    • Douglas Knight says:

      By being banned from running a public company, he will achieve his goal of taking Tesla private.

      When the dust settles, he’ll probably just have spent a hundred million to find out whether the SEC still exists. That’s pretty valuable information, so that was a cheap purchase, even if it looks bad ex post.

      The future belongs to those who know how to wield twitter. Expect to see lots of public figures appear to have meltdowns as they test-drive it. Some of them will drive it off a cliff.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I haven’t followed that closely, but I did listen to parts of the Joe Rogan interview and know about the SEC tweets: It doesn’t look like he is going off the deep end so much as he has dropped his filter, which happens when people are running themselves ragged. He does have some natural issues that this is exacerbating, he seems to have a bit of the savior complex, and with that comes a natural paranoia about persecution and that will get him in trouble with a public company.

    • TotallyNotElonMusk says:

      How does calling the British cave diver a pedophile and getting sued for it work into that ?

      • Matt M says:

        I feel like this was kind of a “defensive” move, in the sense that he was being publicly attacked and ridiculed for the “crime” of offering to design some machine to aid in the rescue – when some cave diver managed to do the job just fine.

        So he countered with “lol fine just trust a pedo to do it then.” Which is childish and immature and in poor taste, sure. But it’s not like it came out of nowhere.

        • CatCube says:

          So he countered with “lol fine just trust a pedo to do it then.” Which is childish and immature and in poor taste, sure. But it’s not like it came out of nowhere.

          I dunno. If you were to use an example to define an “attack out of nowhere” the same way you use one to define “chutzpah” you’d be hard-pressed to do better than this. “Your idea is bad and technically infeasible, and you’re stupid for suggesting it!” “Yeah, well, you must diddle little boys!”

          • Tarpitz says:

            It’s not exactly out of nowhere: it’s a generic slur to levy at Anglophone expats in Southeast Asia. It’s like accusing a Welshman of interfering with sheep, or a Cornishman of incest. Baseless, but not out of nowhere.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      May I postulate an alternative: He has been in over his head for a long time and is more qualified as a hypeman than as CEO of America’s most valuable car company.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think Musk is great for generating ideas, great for having “hey, suppose we dug a transatlantic tunnel” type blue-sky ideas, and great for whipping up enthusiasm and selling those crazy notions.

        Where he is not so great is sticking with it; after a while he gets bored of the dull, routine nitty-gritty that you have to slog through to be a successful business (and not just a Thomas Edison-style genius inventor churning out new amazing gadgets in your garage) and he goes on to the next Big Idea. Tesla, however, is past the crazy-notion stage and is now in the dull routine stage of gearing up to be an actual automotive production plant on a mass-market scale, not small-scale limited-edition/kit car style production, and that’s something he’s not cut out for. For something like that, you need the safe pair of hands, bean counter, business suit type, not the maverick genius Space Jesus Gonna Save Us All (as I’ve seen the reddit mockery say) type.

        Hence the getting bored, getting anxious because you’re insisting on remaining in tight control and now your feet are being held to the fire over getting the damn thing up and running, getting into a new social circle with mid-life crisis girlfriend, getting off your face on the fun party substances that running with her gang introduced you to and getting into ridiculous stunts on Twitter.

        • CatCube says:

          Even Edison is famous for the dictum “Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Yea Edison is a great example of how ideas are only small parts of real company success. Google wasnt the only search engine.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Edison was in fact an expert at the dull, routine, nitty-gritty (or at least was an expert at hiring people to handle it for him). He had factories producing the entire electrical vertical from power generation to light bulbs, and did it so well some of his companies survive to this day.

          Musk, apparently not so much, though better than the original Tesla.

    • Well... says:

      What’s the basis of the question? I don’t really see anything all that radical about the way Musk behaves*, unless your baseline comparison is TV cliches about how boring white guys who run companies are supposed to act.

      I’ve known a few super-intelligent, highly energetic and motivated people, some of whom have started multiple companies, and they all kind of talk and act in some variation of the way Musk does.

      *Nor, by the way, am I convinced that he inhaled.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        He had a deal going with the SEC, and blew it apart at the last minute, and now the SEC is suing him.

        The SEC has a lot of power here. It’s a stupid move. Even though he’s high-status and unlikely to go to jail, why pick fights you cannot win? Does he think the world will be better off once he puts the SEC in its place? (I can imagine, in the abstract, that the SEC is too powerful and the world would be better off if it had less power, but surely this ranks way below things like colonizing Mars or ending greenhouse gas emissions.)

        As I said on other threads, I’m a fan of Musk’s, but he brought all this trouble on himself.

      • John Schilling says:

        What’s the basis of the question? I don’t really see anything all that radical about the way Musk behaves

        Getting into public pissing matches with your stockholders, really is kind of radical for the CEOs of publicly-traded companies even if you don’t do it in a way that incites the wrath of the SEC. Ridiculing “stupid” questions at shareholder meetings, calling out short-sellers as treasonous scoundrels, almost nobody does this sort of thing, almost nobody ever profits from doing this sort of thing, and I don’t see how it can further any goal Musk might have beyond feeling good at the moment.

        I’ve known a few super-intelligent, highly energetic and motivated people, some of whom have started multiple companies

        Publicly traded companies? Because that’s a completely different environment, and it’s not actually very intelligent to ignore the blowback that you’ll get from the stockholders and the SEC if you treat them as annoying insects distracting you from your grand vision.

        Also, I’m pretty sure every entrepreneur in Silicon Valley could have come up with some sort of lame-ass cave rescue techno-gadget concept if they’d wanted, and then started insulting the actual rescuers of telegenic stranded children when they wouldn’t stand down and wait for you to do it your way. But Elon was the only one fool enough to go and do it.

        And, as ES notes, throwing away a deal with the SEC.

        This really does look like poor impulse control, coming into view under high stress.

        • Matt M says:

          Ridiculing “stupid” questions at shareholder meetings, calling out short-sellers as treasonous scoundrels, almost nobody does this sort of thing

          Enron used to do this all the time! Weird how we haven’t heard much about them lately!

        • Tarpitz says:

          It looks like an argument over doughnuts with Neal McBeal the Navy Seal, is what it looks like.

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    As I mentioned last OT, I’m offering to run a game of Dungeons & Dragons for people here. I want to run an Old School campaign, where combat is resolved quickly even with minions and we get back to the story, PCs can die but not from the rocket tag of 3.5, and leveling up requires gold and training.

    There are two settings I could do:
    1) The Known World of the Basic/Expert line, running you through a hex map sandbox with the low-level B modules on it before moving on to more dangerous adventures. Your motivation to loot adventure sites in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (a Byzantine-flavored country but with a feudal system – “So Russia?” – quiet, you.) Would explicitly be to fund your studies (or piously donate, for a Cleric).
    2) Historical fantasy in the real world’s late Bronze or early Iron Age. This possibility would have to be further broken down into a choice of early (1525-1475 BC) or late (After the Collapse) and several starting countries (Egypt, Greece, Cappadocia…)

    Also, I would appreciate any advice from anyone who’s done this before on what software to use and things to do to make an online campaign run smoothly rather than be bumpy and die.

    • Nornagest says:

      I vote for historical fantasy. No preference for starting time or location.

      I don’t have any advice off the top of my head for software, but I’ll hit up my network and see who’s done stuff like this before. Watch this space.

    • Erusian says:

      Are you aware of Glorantha and Runequest? It’s an old but still updated/ongoing RPG world that is set in a bronze age world with a unique take on magic. There’s also the heroquesting mechanic where heroes ritually act out myths to gain certain benefits, which is a super interesting and unique mechanic imo. And it’s complicated because the myths don’t agree with each other! I’ve been trying to find a Glorantha campaign for a while and it seems like it’s up your alley.

      Anyway, I’d be up for it regardless. I’d choose historical fantasy. Personally I’d like that we’re a Mycenean Palace on a decent sized island. A new anax has come to power (maybe a PC?) and we begin by engaging in standard low-level heroic warfare a la the Illiad. Then the Sea People start coming, local powers start acting erratically as they react to the disaster, the giants begin lashing out against smaller powers to increase their own security, and ruins start popping up all over the place to be dungeon crawls. Maybe this is when magic starts popping up: the rational world coming apart as the previous order does too.

      We have to both protect our own society from raids and seek out power to protect ourselves, all while dealing with the entire world collapsing.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Are you aware of Glorantha and Runequest? It’s an old but still updated/ongoing RPG world that is set in a bronze age world with a unique take on magic. There’s also the heroquesting mechanic where heroes ritually act out myths to gain certain benefits, which is a super interesting and unique mechanic imo. And it’s complicated because the myths don’t agree with each other!

        I am aware of it but have never played in it. I’ve also read Mircea Eliade, so I know exactly where the designer was coming from.
        (Mircea Eliade was a professor of religions whose unified theory was that the purpose of rituals is to take us out of profane, worthless linear time and into the “real” time when gods acted. This can be seen in everything from Australian Aborigine ceremonies to Catholic Mass, and he further clarifies purported belief changes of world-historical import between foragers, primitive civilizations, and the Hindu tradition on the one hand and the Judaic on the other.)

        Glad you’re in! You, Nornagest, other interested parties: please send me a message at lamaistrechatte at yahoo dot commie so I have your emails.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I’m not particularly interested, but I can give some advice on interface, which is primarily dependent on your preferred method for traversal/combat. If you really want to hexcrawl, roll20 is not great. Maptool will work, but requires investment of time. So will Vassal, but that’s like… even more maptool than maptool. I wouldn’t know, I’ve grown to hate grids.

      Things to do for an online campaign – set a meeting time and be ready to dump players if they don’t show up. Playing OSR/other little-known systems gives you a leg up, since your game can now be a game that other people *have wanted* to play.

      Make a GM screen equivalent – you won’t realize how hard it is to refer to notes on a computer until you try it.

      HAVE A SESSION ZERO AND SET EXPECTATIONS. IF YOU AGREE ON EXPECTATIONS (like reading the rules, rolling up a character, etc), EXPLICITLY ASK YOUR PLAYERS IF THEY HAVE FOLLOWED THROUGH. BECAUSE THERE IS LITTLE SOCIAL CONTACT OUTSIDE THE GAME, PLAYERS WHO DO NOT FOLLOW THROUGH ON THINGS THEY HAVE AGREED TO WITHOUT GOOD REASON OR PRIOR NOTICE SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED. In normal games, people will continue to attend out of inertia sometimes, even if the game doesn’t exactly meet their expectations. Online, inertia is in the direction of attrition, not retention. Players who are not engaged can, for this reason, kill your game before it starts. On a similar note, check in with players individually regularly; you can’t easily tell if people are getting bored/unhappy online compared to in real life.

      Encourage someone to take notes on what’s happening and share the document with other players; this lets you know what they think is happening and provides continuity.

      Finally, most OSR content is, as I understand it, amenable to Open Table format gaming. If this is something that interests you, I encourage you to consider it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Thanks a bunch!

        I figured I could put a DM screen panel-standy thing next to the laptop while running and possibly even roll physical dice for secrecy. And the hex map doesn’t need to be in the program, I wouldn’t think: just ask the PCs which of the 6 directions they want to travel in and read what’s of interest there off my map key.
        Session Zero and individual follow-up: got it.
        Encourage a note-taker: got it.
        I am amenable to Open Table format and want to run Session One with a minimum of four players so we can survive dropping someone who doesn’t stay committed to Two.

        • Skivverus says:

          On the hex map front, having it in the program lets the PCs look to see (or refresh their memories) of where they want to go, rather than you (re)describing it every time, and maybe leaving things out from the directions they didn’t realize they might want to go.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          FWIW, I have a discord server I have set up for the game; I roll private dice in the GM channel the players don’t have access to or PM RPBot. Because I play BRP, which has no modifiers, this works quite well. Roll20 also allows rolls only visible to specific players.

          I’d encourage Discord overall, actually, IFF you don’t need a grid-map; channels are really good for segregating in-game and out-of-game talk, handouts, private messages, party splits, and the like. Maptools can be used in conjunction, but at that point roll20 is probably better.

    • DeWitt says:

      I would enjoy playing, and can offer advice of a few years as well. Timezones might be an issue, though; at what time, roughly, did you think to run this?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        We’ve been discussing this in email, and we’re homing in on either Saturday afternoons (starting before 5 PM EST) or Friday evenings PST but early enough to accommodate EST players, if that needle can be threaded.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @DeWitt, Dack: join the email group by messaging lamaistrechatte loopy-a yahoo period com if you’re in.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Actually the streamlined Basic/Expert/etc line made in parallel to 1st Edition. All-in-one book would be the Rules Cyclopedia (free retroclone is called Dark Dungeons) or its retroclone Adventurer, Conqueror, King.

  22. CatCube says:

    Structural Engineering Post Series

    Continued from here:
    https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/09/23/ot111-ophion-thread/#comment-671343

    Building Codes

    I’m going to cover building codes, and I know that a lot of people have been awaiting this one (I have too, but figured some basics had to be got out of the way.)

    There will be some limitations to this topic:
    (1) It’s going to be extremely US-centric; I just don’t know a whole lot about either the history or current requirements in other countries. If there’s somebody from another country with experience, I’d appreciate it if you could chime in with information about your local codes.

    (2) It’s going to cover more ground on the structural requirements of the standard building code used in the US, which is less than a third of the code (and half of that is wood framing, which I don’t do much with; also, wood is half of the structural sections because it’s heavily prescriptive so it doesn’t require the attention of a structural engineer, e.g., it just tells a carpenter the size and spacing he needs between floor joists). Most of the rest is handled by architects and other consultants that work for them. There won’t be nothing on those, but it’ll be thinner.

    (3) I don’t work much on buildings. As I stated in the first post, I work for the federal government on things like dams and navigation locks, which are not governed as a matter of law by regular building codes. I also do some work with bridges, which have their own code. We do make heavy use of building codes, since they represent state-of-the-art for analysis and design, but swaths of the code get disregarded in my day job (for example, the codes that governs structural steel buildings, AISC 360, has requirements for frame stability that simply have no meaning if you were to try to apply them to a lock gate, but calculating the capacity of a steel section is going to be pretty much the same if it’s in a building or in a miter gate.) Because of this, I don’t know much about the permitting and approval process, since I’ve never dealt with it.

    So, that out of the way, here we go!

    What Does “Building Code” Mean?
    I’ve been using the term “building code” throughout this post, but it’s actually can be a pretty imprecise term by itself. In the US, building codes are written by private organizations. These are referred to as “model codes.” These model codes are then passed into law by the state or city government, usually with some modifications. AIUI, this is similar to the process used for the Uniform Commercial Code and some other commercial law. As used formally in the law, “building code” generally means the base code enacted into law.

    However, the term is also used informally to mean other documents that are incorporated by reference, or are associated in some way. For example, the International Building Code (IBC) is the most-used model code in the US, written by the International Code Council. The IBC has a chapter on structural steel (Chapter 22), but that chapter is three pages long and more or less is just telling you to design structural steel in accordance with AISC 360, steel joists in accordance with the requirements of the Steel Joist Institute, cold-formed steel in accordance with AISI S100, and light steel framing in accordance with AISI S200.

    I realize that the acronyms in there mean nothing to you; I’ll discuss them in more detail below and in their own posts. However, what’s important for this discussion is that AISC 360 is a publication by the American Institute of Steel Construction, the trade group for structural steel producers, and is titled “Specification for Structural Steel Buildings.” This will often be referred to as the “Steel Code” by structural engineers, and if we are discussing a steel structure and ask the question, “What does the code say?” we’re referring to this document, and not what a Google search for “building code” would probably turn up. If we’re talking about concrete, the “Concrete Code” is ACI 318, and would be the referent for “code” in that question. Note that all of these are model documents of their own, and may be modified by either the model code (IBC), and further modifications may have been made by the legislature enacting the model code into law.

    Other building systems are handled similarly. Plumbing, electrical, and mechanical all have their own codes, which are separate documents referenced by the main code.

    I will continue to use the term “building code” as a generic term to refer to the basic building code as it has been enacted into law, and generally try to refer to specific model codes where applicable. It’s important to realize that in my discussion, I will usually refer to the requirements of the model codes, which may have been modified in your jurisdiction. So I probably can’t answer questions of the form “Why wasn’t [x, y, or z] allowed in my city?” I can try to answer questions about what the model code says, but your state might have changed it when enacting it into law.

    So to cycle back to the original question, what is a building code? It is a law that governs the requirements for the design and construction of buildings to ensure that the completed structure is safe, sanitary, habitable, accessible, and environmentally sound. This definition is admittedly circular, since the legal definition of a building that is all of these things is one that complies with the code. However, ensuring these goals are generally what the code writers are striving for.

    The building code will specify things as varied as the number of exits required and their locations, the number of toilets, the requirements for partitions between toilets and bathrooms, sprinklers, minimum sizes for rooms, the minimum loads for which a building will be designed, and thousands of other things. Some things that are not in the building code are requirements about where a particular kind of building can be built (possibly aside from some minimum distances to lot lines); that’s zoning. Nor are aesthetics covered.

    I specifically said “design and construction” in that definition, because the building code doesn’t cover keeping its requirements maintained. That will be the responsibility of the fire code. For example, it’s generally the fire marshal and not the building inspector that will hem you up if you chain a fire exit closed.

    • CatCube says:

      History of US Building Codes
      The primary driver of building codes in the US has been fire. Even today, the majority of the requirements in the basic building code are intended to prevent fires from starting, suppress them when they occur, prevent them from spreading, and allow the occupants to escape. The vast majority of deaths in buildings were and still are due to fire. In the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, fires started by the earthquake killed far more people than seismically-induced collapse. The primary cause of collapse of the World Trade Center was ultimately fire. Damage from the planes was critical, of course, but not sufficient by itself to cause collapse (at least not until another unusual load event, like a windstorm); burning building contents continued to progressively weaken structural members until global collapse occurred. More recently, we have the Grenville Tower and Ghost Ship fires as examples. However, most deaths occur in ones and twos that never make more than local news. 3,400 people died in structure fires last year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

      Prior to comprehensive building codes, private organizations–driven by insurance costs–began implementing standards for individual building components. The NFPA was founded in 1896 by fire insurance companies to write unified standards for sprinkler systems (invented in their modern form some twenty years prior); as an official history of the organization tells of, “…the existence in a hundred mile radius of Boston of nine radically different standards for the size of piping and spacing of sprinklers.” Another major change to buildings at that time was the spread of electricity. Deficient construction or incompetent installation of electrical wiring, equipment, and appliances were becoming a major cause of fires. Underwriters Laboratory was founded by insurance underwriters at the same time, with a focus on testing electrical equipment and building components. Finally, the National Board of Fire Underwriters published the National Electrical Code, to unify what had been five disparate electrical codes. A few years later, the NFPA took over the NEC, and publishes it to this day, as NFPA 70.

      Developments in requirements for plumbing and mechanical systems started occurring in the 1920s, with plumbers in LA starting to develop uniform standards. This resulted in model codes in the ’40s, the Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code by the Western Plumbing Officials Association, which is now the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials.

      I’ve not found much in the way of references for earlier than 1927 for comprehensive legal building codes. Prior to that time, most codes were written and adopted by local municipalities, with little coordination. In that year, the International Conference of Building Officials began publishing the Uniform Building Code. This was, in its own words, intended to “[develop]…better building construction and greater safety to the public, though the elimination of needless red tape, favoritism and local politics by uniformity in building laws…” The UBC was used in western states, and the ICBO held copyright to its model code to prevent the use by other municipalities who hadn’t contributed to its development. The Southern Building Code Congress International began publishing the Standard Building Code used by states in the South in 1946. Finally, the East and Midwest had the Building Officials Code Administrators, who published the National Building Code. The earliest edition of that that I can find is 1975. These three regional codes held sway for decades.

      Fire codes were also developed during this time, with the NFPA developing standards for building exits in the ’20s, and after some major fires in the ’40s (Coaconut Grove being the biggest), rejiggered some of its language to allow these standards to be adopted as legal documents, rather than the guidance for builders they had been up to that point. This was the forerunner of the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code still used today.

      By the ’90s, having different requirements in different regions was becoming a source of inefficiency and error. I haven’t stumbled across anything online that gives fuller explanation, but I speculate that as the codes became more detailed, it became more difficult for manufacturers to make products work across the three major code groups and more onerous for architects designing buildings in many jurisdictions. To use an example I made up to illustrate, when you’re simply requiring fire exits to have hardware that opens when pushed and not much more detail, a wide variety of products will comply with all three model codes easily. After further research shows that you need to have further requirements, like particular distances above the floor, certain dimensions of panic hardware are easier for building occupants to deal with, etc., it starts to become critical exactly what the code requirements are. The research might show that it’s important for hardware to be between X and Y inches above the walking surface, and it should be consistent. If one organization decides that panic hardware should be mounted at X and the other at Y, now you have products that are legal in one area but illegal in another, fragmenting the market. Similarly, it becomes more difficult for design professionals to track requirements across jurisdictions, resulting in mistakes–crap, does this state require 50 pounds per square foot in offices, or 40? Worse yet, forgetting that there is a difference and going with what you’re used to. Similarly, contractors and tradesmen working in different regions were more prone to construction errors.

      This resulted in the BOCA, ICBO, and SBCCI unifying to become the International Code Council. The ICC published the first edition of the International Building Code in 1997, and the retirement of the regional codes with the publishing of the 2000 version of the IBC. The IBC is part of a family of model codes written by the ICC, which also has the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) for modifications to existing structures, the International Residental Code (IRC) for prescriptive design of dwellings, the International Mechanical Code (IMC) which governs systems such as heating and cooling, the International Plumbing Code (IPC) for plumbing systems, and the International Fire Code (IFC) for fire safety in completed structures. There are so many documents in this code family that I’m going to stop there.

      The NFPA was supposed to be heavily involved in the ICC process, but for reasons I haven’t found fully explained, backed out. The National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) is still used nationwide and is referenced by the ICC family of model codes, and many of the NFPAs standards are used for certification of building components. However, the NFPA elected to continue its own code writing efforts, the most successful of which is NFPA 101, in competition with the IFC. This was and is used as a fire code in many jurisdictions, and compliance to it is required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for any medical facility receiving federal money. The NFPA has written its own model base building code, NFPA 5000, but I’m not aware of any jurisdiction that has adopted it. Similarly, the IAPMO still writes the Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code. This has resulted in competing model codes that allow jurisdictions a menu of options. That’s where we stand today.

      One hazard of the menu of options is that while NFPA/IAPMO and the ICC take care to ensure that their respective families of model codes are consistent within themselves, there are no guarantees between families. This does place a burden on a jurisdiction to sort out differences, which doesn’t always happen. One example worth recounting is from a blog by a handrail manufacturer. One detail that is in all model codes are the required dimensions of handrails. Common to all is the requirement that handrails have a continuous top surface (the brackets supporting the rail must come in from the bottom), and that the handrails be proud of the wall so occupants can wrap their hand around the whole rail. However, the IBC requires 1½” clearance from the wall, while NFPA 101 requires 2¼” clearance. If the legislature adopting these codes doesn’t notice this, you can have the spectacle of the building inspector checking compliance with the building code, signing off on the permit and issuing a certificate of occupancy, then the fire marshal coming through checking compliance with the fire code and requiring all of the handrails to be replaced before allowing the building to open!

      Apparently, there was some research that showed that 2¼” of clearance made it easier for people to catch themselves if falling in a stairwell. The ICC didn’t find the research compelling enough to justify imposing additional costs on building owners for the more substantial brackets this requires, while the NFPA was convinced. After this requirement was in the wild for a while, it seems that the ICCs skepticism about it being easier for people to catch themselves in falls was justified; however, firefighters discovered that the larger distance made it much easier to grasp the handrails while wearing their gloves when ascending stairwells. While there have been arguments to reduce the clearance in NFPA 101, since firefighters are a powerful constituency within the organization it’s not likely to happen at the model code level. This leaves either action by local governments to harmonize the requirements, or attention by architects and specifiers to ensure that all code requirements are met.

      Since this has gotten a lot longer than originally intended, I’ll stop here with the history, and discuss actual requirements found in the code next time. Since the IBC is used in almost every US jurisdiction, I’ll talk about that in more detail. However, I’m going to confine myself to the model code; as a reminder, your jurisdiction may have made changes!

      • SamChevre says:

        An additional note: the codes are dated, and in most cases are adopted by date.

        I’m most familiar with the electrical codes. All but three states use some version of the NEC; however, there are four versions currently in place (2008, 2011, 2014, 2017). The most-visible difference to homeowners is that the newer code requires arc-fault breakers on almost every household circuit, while pre-2008 they were required for bedrooms only (this increases the cost for wiring a house by $500 or so). Until this year, Connecticut and Massachusetts had different code versions; I live near the border, and electrical contractors either refused to work across the border, or were very familiar with the differences.

        • CatCube says:

          Yes, the code update cycle seems to have settled in to a 3-year pattern. The IBC is 2000, 2003, 2006…, the concrete code (ACI 318) is 1999, 2002, 2005… We’ve had 2010 and 2016 for the last updates to AISC 360 which seems to be 6 years, but that’s not quite enough for a pattern yet…the last before that was 2005

          To expand on this, when discussing specific documents you’ll usually prepend the last two digits of the year. So ACI 318-11, ACI 318-14, AISC 360-10, AISC 360-16.

          I’ll mostly discuss the 2012 IBC here, because that’s what was used on my PE, so I have a printed copy, and that’s still current for the state I work in (Oregon). I don’t use the code often, but when I do need it this is the one that’s relevant.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The most-visible difference to homeowners is that the newer code requires arc-fault breakers on almost every household circuit, while pre-2008 they were required for bedrooms only

          Insert grumble about gold-plating the code because they’re code-writers and have nothing better to do.

          • CatCube says:

            One of my coworkers is heavily involved in the authorship of one of our internal design codes (one that sometimes gets used by outside companies and organizations), and he once told me “Never forget that building codes are written by the kind of people who volunteer to write building codes.” It’s worth noting that they’re not “volunteer” in the sense of not being paid, since most are paid by the organization they represent, but that most aren’t doing it because their boss is forcing them, but because their boss asked a room full of people, “Who’d like to represent us on [X] Committee?” and they put their hand up.

            To be a little more fair, I know one of the guys who is involved in writing a public code (though as a non-voting member, since he’s a federal employee and the organization requirements only permit state-level officials to vote), and he’s certainly not looking for things to do. I don’t think the guy is home more than one week of every four, since he’s running around doing inspections on our facilities nationwide, and teaching others.

            In terms of how to think about the culture and interaction of the code-writing committee, I don’t know that it’s going to be any different than, say, the people who write standards for programming languages. You’ll have heavy involvement by a few people, and support from their companies, but probably very few people (if any) doing it as their full-time job.

          • Garrett says:

            Although I’m generally annoyed by yet-another-government-mandate, there seems to be some amount of evidence that it is the low-hanging fruit left to go after.

          • SamChevre says:

            Arc-fault breakers are amazingly effective at identifying and forcing you to fix cracked insulation on old wires that is sparking intermittently. This is probably a good thing. (We had our house rewired to get rid of the old knob-and-tube wiring, and code required replacing the breakers with arc-faults. I spent the next 6 months fixing outlets that faulted out, and they universally had cracked insulation where the wires were bent in the box.)

      • bean says:

        Actually, I do have a question about this. How international are these bodies really? Do they just call themselves that because previously one was “national”, and they needed to escalate, or are the same codes used in Canada?

        • CatCube says:

          Well, if you look closely, two of the three previous bodies (ICBO and SBCCI) had styled themselves as “International” so not using it would have been a step “backwards”. This is something I hadn’t realized until pulling this post together–I had thought the ICC had come up with that innovation, indulging in some grandeur in the hopes of possible expansion into Canada (or, well, same thinking as “World Series”), but the original 1927 copy of the UBC has “International Conference of Building Officials” stamped on the title page.

          As an aside: I stripped out the link because it refused to post last night, but old copies of the UBC though 1964 are here: http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/ubc/ubc_earlyyears.html

          While I remember discussion when I was in college–right as the IBC was coming on line–of hopes that Canada might be amenable, the primary overseas users of US building codes are in the Caribbean. There are also apparently a few in South America and Southeast Asia. Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia have adopted the IBC, while Afghanistan uses it for lack of anything better. Georgia is the only country in Europe that uses it. There’s a page on adoptions here: https://www.iccsafe.org/international-code-adoptions/

    • CatCube says:

      For whatever reason, I couldn’t post without stripping the links from the second half. I’ll repost the link to the blog about the handrail clearances, since I found it interesting and if you’re interested in that story it’s worth the extra few minutes to read yourself: http://www.wagnercompanies.com/nfpa-osha-clearance-requirements-handrail-brackets/

    • johan_larson says:

      AISC 360 is a publication by the American Institute of Steel Construction, the trade group for structural steel producers…

      What’s your sense of how self-interested these codes are, serving the interests of industry insiders rather than consumers? Are there multiple parties with real pull in the writing of these codes, some whose interests would be served by more regulation and some by less?

      • CatCube says:

        It’s hard for me to say. It depends somewhat on what code you’re referring to…as discussed above by SamChevre, there’s a requirement in the newer versions of the NEC to use more expensive arc-fault breakers, which sure works well for the people who sell electrical equipment, but it certainly does also reduce the risk of fire. Deaths due to fire have dropped by half since the ’70s in the US, and a lot of that is probably due to more emphasis in building codes.

        Another place to look at is the requirements for egress in schools. There’s been a fight in code-development and legislative circles regarding securing doors for lockdown in active shooter incidents. The standard for building and fire codes has always been free egress (since fire was a huge driver of the existence of the codes in the first place), and the current requirements are that “The unlatching of any door or leaf shall not require more than one operation.”* and “…egress doors shall be readily openable from the egress side without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort.” There have been a bunch of products to facilitate a lockdown that basically boil down to barring the door, a surface bolt, or other blocking device that will require either two operations or knowing how to operate the device.

        These have generally been fended off by fire marshals and code development organizations, but these do have input from the makers of locksets (it’d be stupid for them not to have input, since you probably don’t want to require something they can’t make economically)…and it does jump out at me that classroom-function locksets can price from about $500 to over $1000 per opening if you’re looking at electronic sets that can be locked down with a signal from a central station. There are new standards for classroom locksets that add some requirements; that the door can be secured without going outside, and that there is a way for authorized individuals to still get in, so that first responders aren’t locked out if the shooter does get into one of the classrooms. Now, it should be noted that commercial locksets have always been very expensive relative to what you’d get at a home-improvement store–doors and locksets in public buildings take a surprising amount of abuse–but the code-compliant sets do add a pretty penny to the cost of upgrading a school for a lockdown.

        There are some very good reasons for this. As we’ve noted here many times, active shooter incidents at schools are very rare statistically, probably rare enough to not justify increasing the fire danger. Also, barricade devices have been used to secure the door to commit assaults, both on the teacher and other students. That’s part of the reason to still allow some form of access. I think these reasons are good enough to justify keeping the “one action to open” standard, but it does add a substantial cost.

        To address structural codes, the original topic in your question, I think there’s less room for chicanery there, but it’s probably not impossible. I didn’t find anything on the exact formal requirements for how AISC picks its committee members, but I do know they and the American Concrete Institute (for concrete) keep a mix of industry insiders, design engineers, and academic engineers on the committee. IIRC, the last huge revision to AISC 360 was written under the supervision of Dr. Theodore Galambos, who was a professor (now retired), though it was with a grant from AISC.

        But the structural codes do have some considerations that other parts of the code may not. One is that the design equations do have substantial ties to physics–I mean, the equations for the bending capacity for a steel member can be developed from first principles. Another is that the materials are in competition with each other. A requirement in the steel code that may increase the weight of steel needed may result in a concrete structure being more economic. However, things that affect all equally (say, requirements for wind loading) will not have this pressure.

        There has been some drama in the structural engineering community about overcomplexity in requirements resulting in more engineering effort required, possibly without adding actual safety. I’ll probably discuss that in a different post, though.

        Overall, though, my sense is that while overall the economics of adding a requirement aren’t disregarded, they are less important than chasing improvements to zero. The trend I notice is that if a requirement has some articulable benefit to the purposes I listed above (safe, sanitary, habitable, accessible, and environmentally sound), people writing the requirements don’t seem to get too fussed about requiring owners to pay more money. For example, it’s good that we require those handicapped buttons to open doors! Buuuut, they cost $3000 each. This probably contributes to the cost disease discussed by Scott, where everything just seems to cost more these days, but no clear reason why. In construction, it’s death by a thousand cuts.

        * There are several exceptions but one that most people here have seen is the one permits a night latch or security chain in hotel rooms in addition to the regular lockset, but the chain must be “…openable from the inside without the use of a key or tool.”

        • I don’t know if this comes within your category of building codes, but my impression was that the shift from copper to plastic pipes for plumbing was hindered by building requirements pushed by the plumbers’ unions. Do you know if that is correct?

          • CatCube says:

            That would technically fall within the category of building codes. Plumbing codes are adopted just like any other. However, it’s one I know very little about, other than its existence. Without knowing the details of the debate to which you refer, I can only speculate, but I can at least give some background to my own area that might be relevant.

            The structural codes have a bunch of language that describes how to do something, and provides equations to check compliance. However, whenever you have some innovation, before equations and guidance to use it will appear in the model codes, two things must be true: 1) there must be sufficient research to justify the guidance, so that any designer or installer that uses it can trust that it will work as long as the code is followed, and 2) the product must not be proprietary.

            An example that comes to mind is the development of reinforcement in concrete. I’ll go into more detail later, but rebar has to be embedded a certain depth into concrete. One assumption for designing the bars is that you fully develop their strength, that is, a bar that is 1 in² with a material strength of 60,000 psi should be able to carry 60,000 lbs. As you can imagine, if you were to embed that bar only, say, ½”, you’re going to yank the bar out of the concrete well before then. Anyway, there’s a pile of equations in the concrete code (ACI 318) that tells you how to calculate that for a particular bar.

            One method for shortening this length has been to hook the bar ends, a method with a very long history, and there are requirements for a “standard hook” with the accompanying pile of equations for those, so that if you specify a standard hook, all the fabricators know how to bend those, there are presumptively-correct methods to design for them, etc.

            However, this doesn’t mean that other methods of developing reinforcement are forbidden. There is an “escape clause” of sorts, in 25.4.5.1: “Any mechanical attachment or device capable of developing [the strength] of deformed bars shall be permitted, provided it is approved by the building official in accordance with 1.10.” The commentary goes on to explain that the intent is to permit other devices that don’t meet the previous code requirements, so long as there are tests that justify their use, and the local building code official is satisfied with them.

            There’s now a third method detailed in the code, which are headed bars. They were included in the latest revision in 2014 (ACI 318-14) because they finally came off-patent. However, they did see a lot of use before then, as they had been justified by the language above. But they were in use for many years before they showed up in the code itself, along with the pile of equations for calculating embedment.

            I note that there seems to be a similar clause in the plumbing code. In section 3 of the UPC (used in OR and CA), there is a section (301.3) that permits “alternate materials and methods” if the building official is OK with it. Unless that is a relatively new innovation (and I don’t know if it is, @Plumber may have more), it’s likely that PVC was permitted under that clause well before it showed up as a separately-permitted item.

            It is a high hill to climb for a vendor that doesn’t have their product in the code, since now you have to convince both the designers and the local building inspector that your product is good, which can be a tough sell. If I use the code equations, and they’re wrong there are a lot of people at fault there. If I use a new product, and it fails, well, I’m the idiot that let myself get snookered by a salesman. The low-effort path is to not use new stuff without its own code section unless your back is against the wall somehow. That’s how some of these products get into fights about what is included or not, once they fall off patent.

            From a plumber’s perspective, remember the common dictum of working on somebody else’s computer: “You were the last one to touch it, so anything that goes wrong is your fault.” So until there’s enough research and experience, they may be reluctant to allow something presumptively. After all, if the new-fangled system starts leaking and does tens of thousands of dollars in damage due to flaws in the product, the manufacturer is damn sure going to try to blame the plumber for installing it incorrectly. It’s not hard to see how that could result in reluctance to go along with a new code inclusion before the system is well-attested.

    • bean says:

      Very interesting. Don’t have much to say beyond that, but I’m looking forward to the next part.

  23. fion says:

    Against heavy use of initialisms in online forums.

    I often read comments on here which employ initialisms such as TIL, ETA, ISTM, YMMV, FWIW, IIRC, ISTR and so on. I have always assumed that the purpose of these is to save time. If this is the case then I think they have the opposite effect, essentially because they take longer to read than the words they represent. Most of the time I can figure them out, but it probably takes me a second or two. Occasionally I have to google it, taking about five seconds. If we assume fifty readers read your comment and, say, a quarter of them are at least as slow as I am to recall what these initialisms stand for, then that’s between twelve seconds and a minute spent reading each initialism. The time you save when writing it, however, is tiny. Even if we assume you’re a very slow typist with 20wpm, you’re saving maybe three words, which takes you a grand total of nine seconds. And if you’re spending enough times on online forums that you find these initialisms natural then you’re probably a lot faster than 20wpm. If you were 60wpm you’d save only three seconds, which is about the time I alone take to read it.

    This argument does of course depend on how well-known the particular initialism is. FWIW is one that I am actually so fluent in that I read it at the same speed as I would read “for what it’s worth”. But even after spending several years reading SSC comments I still sometimes see new ones. I saw ISTM only today and puzzled over it for a good three seconds before guessing what it might mean.

    So is it a misguided attempt to save time? Is it a well-guided attempt to save time and I’m just typical-minding? Do you consider your time ten times as important as each person who reads your comment?

    Or is the purpose something completely different from saving time?

    • ana53294 says:

      Acronyms, except for those that can be pronounced as a word (ASAP, NATO, LOL) or are limited to two letters (EU, UN), tend to be annoying, because I either have to spend time thinking each word, or see a mishmash of letters that don’t sound good.

      I think that the nice thing would be to only use acronyms you would use in speech.