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Open Thread 55.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever.

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662 Responses to Open Thread 55.25

  1. Lumifer says:

    Oh hai

    From the How a Reasonable-Looking Society Could Implode Rather Rapidly Department: Venezuela goes full Soviet Russian / Mao Chinese:

    [The decree] comes directly from the desk of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The vaguely-worded decree says the government of Venezuela can force both public and private sector employees to work in the country’s fields for periods of at least 60 days. This work period can be extended, the decree says, “if circumstances merit.”

    The interesting observation is that there appears to be no noticeable resistance to the political machine which already cratered the country and continues to press on the gas pedal attempting to dig in deeper.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      Maduro lost big in the congress, and there are constant protests… I mean, there has not been an armed revolt, but people are resisting within what the institutions allow.

    • Immortal Lurker says:

      Can anyone recommend me a left-leaning article on this whole Venezuela debacle? At the moment, it seems to be checking every single one of my “Socialists are just people who don’t understand econ 101” boxes, which makes me really suspicious that my filter bubble is hiding something from me.

      • Sandy says:

        Jacobin seems to believe that Venezuela’s problems are the result of the opposition not rolling over and giving the Chavistas whatever they wanted for the sake of the glorious revolution, and so Chavez and Maduro were unfairly pressured into making bad choices for the country to soothe the corporate elite biting at their ankles.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          Never ceases to amaze me. First they portray capitalists as mustache-twirling cartoon villains, then they put in a system that isn’t even robust to ordinary, non-cartoon-villain levels of greed on their part.

        • JayT says:

          It always amazes me that there are people that think saying that socialist societies would have worked if it weren’t for those evil capitalists is somehow a defense of socialism. In my mind, if your system can so easily be subverted that’s just about the biggest argument against it you can come up with.

          • Lumifer says:

            It always amazes me that there are people that think saying that socialist societies would have worked if it weren’t for those evil capitalists is somehow a defense of socialism.

            It’s an active defense of the “kill them first” variety : -/

      • erenold says:

        Speak for England, Arthur! the centre-left, Nick Cohen!

        Why go on about the moral disgrace of western dupes? Isn’t that a job for the “Tory press”? Not so. We should have learned where the notion that there must be no criticism of “our” side leads.

        the Chavistas would not have gone so far in debasing the constitution and looting the state if it had not been able to count on a herd of bovine leftists mooing down all who raised concerns about fundamental rights.

        These are the worst leftists imaginable as they show solidarity with oppressive states rather than oppressed peoples.

        If free trade unions were suppressed in the west, and leaders of the opposition arrested, if western governments – to borrow Human Rights Watch’s words about Venezuela – sought to “intimidate, censor, and prosecute critics”, the Seumas Milnes and Oliver Stones would scream their heads off.

        That they screamed at the regime’s critics instead shows how deep a leftwing version of racism has sunk.

        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/22/radical-leftwing-tourists-pimps-dictatorship-hugo-chavez-venezuela-sex-tourism

        • I especially liked this passage:

          I could go on, but a last desperate excuse needs to be dismissed. Every oil-producing economy has been hit by falling prices, but none, not even states as ill-governed as Nigeria and Russia, has experienced the social collapse of Venezuela.

          Also, the rest of your first quote:

          Why go on about the moral disgrace of western dupes? Isn’t that a job for the “Tory press”? Not so. We should have learned where the notion that there must be no criticism of “our” side leads. A generation of American conservatives is being disgraced right now for their failure to stand up to Donald Trump – whose paranoia and mendacity, incidentally, imitates the Latin American caudillos in the Peronist and Chavista mould.

          • Gil says:

            That second quote is admirable but doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s not that American Conservatives (Politicians, Journalists, Philosophers, who described themselves as such) didn’t criticize or ‘Stand up’ to Trump. It’s merely that their efforts to do so did not have the desired effect.

            The inversion of this doctrine, “No enemies on the left” / “No enemies on the Right” — is clearly useful for your ‘Side’ obtaining power. But of course it leads to the problem, what happens when one faction of a spectrum violently suppresses another.

          • Nicholas says:

            The quote assumes you are familiar with an often used argument that because voices on the right supported or failed to criticize “people like Trump” on whatever dimension they’re talking about, the Overton Window within the Republican coalition was allowed to shift until Donald Trump was a reasonable sounding candidate. That earlier failure is what he’s referring to here, not the Post-Trump Reversal.

          • erenold says:

            What happens when one faction of a spectrum suppresses another.

            All that being said, I’ve heard a lot of pretty serious talk about a potential split in the Labour Party after the leadership challenge, ifwhen Corbyn wins. I am only a mere humble foreign wellwisher and friend, but I hope you do not do this. Labour rightly criticized Brexit for the nirvana fallacy it heavily relied upon – the current situation is bad and frustrating, ergo divorce must be better (hang on, no, wait, why can’t things be quite a lot worse in fact?) It must not do the same to itself.

            In the final analysis, we are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

    • cassander says:

      Venezuela hasn’t been a reasonably looking society for at least a decade. What is happening now was utterly predictable, and was widely predicted. The only surprise is, as you say, the toleration of the population for ever greater failure.

      • Lumifer says:

        Politically, no, but economically yes. Enough dripped from the petrodollars hose to create and maintain some sort of a middle class. Having piles of money papers over a lot of problems.

        Predictable — conditional on the oil price crash, very much so, of course.

        • cassander says:

          It wasn’t just the price crash, though,. venezeulan oil production has been falling for a long time as Chavez diverted money away from the state oil company and towards his constituents. Venezuela would be in crisis, though not “we’re out of food and toilet paper” level, even if oil was still at 100 bucks a barrel.

  2. onyomi says:

    If Gary Johnson were famous (for something unrelated to politics) would he not, by now, have enough support to get into the debates? If he got into the debates would he have a chance at winning (and if not, is it for any reason other than the circular “no one will vote for someone with no chance at winning)? If yes to A, maybe the libertarians need to nominate a celebrity? Are there any good libertarian celebrities? Or is the fact that he’s a more “serious” former governor his appeal due to the contrast this time with Trump? Do I live in a bubble that I even know who he is? Is this election uniquely bad in terms of many people hating both major party candidates, or can we expect it to be even worse going forward? And is that a bad thing if it means an opening for other parties/ideological configurations?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Drew Carey is a libertarian, but a political run could well end his career.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, besides him, Penn Jillette and Vince Vaughn come to mind, but none of them seem quite big enough for that to make a big difference (as it surely did with, say, Arnold).

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          Vince Vaughn is nowhere near likable enough.

          Clint Eastwood or Howard Stern would be better possibilities (Made difficult because he was Fartman for a while).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Pretty much anyone who is tuned in to the current state of the race (rather than just consuming the latest outrageous story) has at least heard the names Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Most of the horse-race coverage will mention that the top-line numbers for Trump and Clinton change if they are included.

      I don’t think Gary Johnson could actually win while representing his positions accurately though. Arguably, one of the things Trump exposed as a distinct fault line in the Republican electorate is how badly a big chunk of them actually want robust government programs that help them.

      • onyomi says:

        The fault line is part of what I’m thinking about: yes, Trump has revealed more clearly than ever before how some Republicans don’t really want small government and do want protectionism, but a lot of Bernie Bros are dissatisfied with Hillary, too–especially her perceived jingoism.

        Could Johnson and Stein’s relative popularity this go round be more than just simple dissatisfaction with the candidates we happen to have, but rather a signal of a shift in alignment? Maybe the emergence of the Grey Tribe (with Reddish Greys voting Johnson and Bluish Grays voting Stein?) as a distinct political force? Or, related, it’s probably not a coincidence that we got Trump now. He seems as much a symptom of the realignment as anyone. I don’t think he could have won the nomination eight or sixteen years ago.

        • dinofs says:

          I’m not sure the bluish greys are voting Stein, they seem more like Hilary’s target audience. The Sanders –> Stein crowd seems to be mostly Blues who are dissatisfied with the things about Hillary that would appeal to Bay Area types. I do think that the particular resistance to free trade has something to do with the emergence of the grey tribe; the fact that it’s one of their core political values makes it easier for the true blues and reds to rally against it.

          • SilasLock says:

            Agreed. Jill Stein attracts the bluest of the blue tribe, not greys. Gary Johnson might attract red-greys, but if he does it’s not because he’s a libertarian. It’s because he’s shown himself amenable to certain vaguely grey policies and groups (the bleeding heart libertarians, carbon taxes).

            Ordinarily, the libertarian party isn’t much more of an outlet for red-greys than the green party is for blue-greys; each tends to appeal to more straight reds and blues.

        • Titanium Dragon says:

          Grays vote for Hillary, by and large.

          Thinking of the third parties as grays is problematic. In reality, the Libertarian platform is extremely fringe and Stein is a deep blue nutter.

          The Democratic and Republican parties were run by the grays. The Republicans have kicked out the grays. The Democrats continue to be run by grays.

          Grays aren’t a new tribe; they’re a very old tribe which predates the founding of the US. The US was founded by grays, which is why it is such a weird country.

          • John Schilling says:

            I do not think that word means what you think it means.

          • Agronomous says:

            The Grays, in fact, build the Pyramids, using their alien technology that we still haven’t matched. That’s why the Founding Grays put pyramids on U.S. currency.

            Also, the equivalent of the Republicans kicking out the Grays is the Democrats kicking out the JAMs.*

            (* Justified Ancients of Muu)

          • Nornagest says:

            Grayface.

    • Tibor says:

      I don’t know about the US, but I think almost nobody in Europe (and probably the rest of the world, perhaps except Canada and Mexico) knows Gary Johnson. Most people don’t even know the word libertarian.

      • onyomi says:

        The not even knowing the word part has definitely changed in the US. When I first became a libertarian people didn’t even know what that was. But I can’t remember the last time someone said “libertarian? what’s that?” They may have a stereotyped view of it (Ayn Rand, Glenn Beck, or whatever), but they at least know what it is.

        • Virbie says:

          This is at least in part attributable to the slow-motion implosion of the Republican party since, 2008: I was in college when the Tea Party became popular and a LOT of my high school friends whose parents were business-Republicans started calling themselves libertarians without really knowing what the word meant. The embarrassment of being associated with the TP must’ve been pretty extreme, given that these people made it through eight years of GWB and stayed proud Republicans.

          • Julie K says:

            That’s funny, since I would have said that the Tea Party is more economically libertarian than the average Republican.
            I guess for a lot of people “not socially conservative” is a crucial part of the “Libertarian” label.

          • Salem says:

            “Not wishing to enforce social conservatism by law” is absolutelya crucial part of the Libertarian label. Hence the “Republicans who like pot” mockery.

        • Anon says:

          Funny you should say that. I’m currently taking a summer course in linear algebra, and when we were talking about Markov chains and modeling population trends, he mentioned how political analysts were trying to model how “some Democrats are going to the Republican party, and some Republicans are going to – I don’t even know what the name is, libertines? Something like that. But anyway…”

          I found it kinda funny. He’s a good teacher.

          • Lumifer says:

            and some Republicans are going to – I don’t even know what the name is, libertines?

            You should totally support the spread of this usage…

          • onyomi says:

            Walter Block frequently uses this as a joke (I’m a libertarian, not a libertine!) because of how he writes books like “Defending the Undefendable,” in which he writes in favor of prostitution, drug legalization, etc., all with the caveat that he himself doesn’t use drugs, patronize prostitutes, etc.

            By the way, I hate marijuana, but I still want to legalize it.

          • By the way, I hate marijuana, but I still want to legalize it.

            Seconded.

          • Tibor says:

            @onyomi: Why do you ‘hate’ marijuana? I can understand why one would not like it. I kind of got bored with it and switched to crystal meth went back to just drinking alcohol because weed just makes me rather lethargic. Nice for lying in the sun and enjoying a reggae concert but not for much else. But I don’t know why one would hate it (unless you mean hate in the same way that I hate licorice – I mean the proper Dutch one).

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t like the way it smells. I don’t like the way it makes people act. I don’t like its effect on me.

          • CatCube says:

            @Tibor

            After legalization in Oregon I have to share the train with people that smell like they’ve been giving a skunk a rimjob.

            Not that that’s necessarily a reason to oppose legalization, but it doesn’t make me real eager for it.

    • Mistake Not ... says:

      If he got into the debates would he have a chance at winning

      No.

      There’s never, since the beginning of polling, been a 20 percentage point boost for any candidate from a debate or series of debates. Ross Perot was in the debates, had more than double Johnson’s support, and still had absolutely no chance of winning.

      (and if not, is it for any reason other than the circular “no one will vote for someone with no chance at winning)?

      Even if you think the reason is circular, it can still be the reason.

      The Libertarians are not going to win the Presidency in the near or medium term future because the Libertarian agenda, taken as a whole, isn’t appealing to very much of the U.S. electorate. Sure, there are different slices of it that are appealing to lots of different people but the parts they don’t like, they loathe. Hard to build a coalition that way.

      • onyomi says:

        “Even if you think the reason is circular, it can still be the reason.”

        It may be. I was just looking for reasons other than that well-known psychological one.

      • onyomi says:

        “the Libertarian agenda, taken as a whole, isn’t appealing to very much of the U.S. electorate.”

        It hasn’t been, because the people who liked the idea of small government were too socially conservative and the socially liberal people were all in favor of big government.

        But with Uber and AirBnB and protectionist Trump, might not the fault lines be shifting?

        • Rob K says:

          I’d have to see polling, but probably not.

          Analysts have been pointing out for a while now that the pro-entitlements, anti-immigration corner of the electorate (shorthand: populist) contained about a third of the voters but very little of the donor class of either party. That’s ripe terrain for a celebrity or self-financing campaign.

          The anti-entitlements/non-socially conservative corner (I don’t think immigration is quite the right issue to use for what you’re talking about?) has a lot of wealthy people in it, but not a ton of voters.

          The likeliest scenario for a rising libertarian party would look like this, I guess:

          1. Post-2016, Republican primaries are dominated by a Trumpist/populist base, and continues to emphasize immigration.
          2. Simultaneously Democratic primaries are dominated by a base composed of black and hispanic voters and white college educated liberals, and moves in a Sanders-like direction.
          3. This creates a new largeish faction of white college educated moderates and conservatives that’s not happy with either party.
          4. The libertarian party finds a charismatic spokesperson and attracts those disaffected voters.

          Even in this case I think it’s more likely that the one of the Ds or the Rs suffers a big loss after bleeding voters to the libertarians in a chaotic election and then makes some policy and stylistic concessions and reabsorbs most of their former supporters. I’m of the “no stable three party configurations under the US electoral system” school, and of those three the hypothetical libertarians would seem to have the shakiest core.

          • onyomi says:

            I pretty much agree with all of this–the theoretical good scenario for libertarians I’m hoping for, and the problems with it.

            Related question, assuming the Republicans and Democrats can’t last forever in their current configuration, and assuming US politics will remain two-party dominated, what are the most likely coalitions of 10 or 20 years from now?

            I think someone said Populist (Trumpish) v Technocrat (Hillaryish) in a recent thread, and that seems plausible, though I’m still not sure where libertarians go in that scenario (or any of the voters who currently like neither Trump nor Hillary, really). If the Populist faction got more Ron Paulish they might be able to absorb the libertarians, and if the Technocrats got more Bernie/Steinish they might absorb them, but Bernie actually strikes me as something of a populist…

          • Rob K says:

            @onyomi: Mmmm, two guesses on your “future coalitions” question.

            Scenario 1: the core split is on racial lines. A democratic party centered on black and hispanic voters, and a republican party centered on the Trump base. Flash points around immigration, policing, other conventional issues from the race basket. Probably an increase in the number of actual swing voters?

            Scenario 2: So this was harder to come up with than I thought. I feel like there have to be other possible cleavages than racial, but American history says you never want to entirely take your eye off that ball.

            But…college vs non-college would be an interesting split, though. I’m not sure how you get there, but I can imagine a world where the fights are over 1) subsidized/free college and other programs that are pitched as redistribution but practically benefit the already well-to-do, 2) some future sexual politics issue (trans stuff? polygamy?), and most importantly 3) regulation of rapidly advancing automation technologies (self-driving trucks, fully automatic warehouses, fast food joints, etc) that are vaporizing large numbers of low-skilled jobs fast. “College” party wants UBI and let the market do its work, “non-college” party wants protective regulation.

            But really I think the current coalitions (which scenario 1 is a forward-projection of) have some pretty strong internal logic, which is only increasing via self-sorting.

          • brad says:

            If it turns out to be populist vs technocrat that implies that Trump and Bernie supporters fuse. Which means anti-immigration, anti-free trade, anti-big business, pro entitlements. The coalition probably makes a play for some segments of the African-Americans community, especially the ex-Bernie side. It tries very hard not to talk about abortion ever.

            The core of the other side, by process of elimination, is white professionals and business conservatives. This is by its very nature is an uncomfortable alliance. There is a constant struggle between the tax cut wing and the spend more wing. But they are united in preferring actual solutions to policy by inchoate rage. They are joined by Latinos on a enemy of my enemy basis. They try to keep African-Americans in the fold with varying success. In theory there is no particular reason they couldn’t make a play for evangelicals, but in practice there’s a culture clash and they end doing very poorly with them. Libertarians reluctantly end up here if they don’t continue voting third party.

            To be clear, I don’t think this is very likely. But it is how I’d see a populist realignment shake out.

          • Julie K says:

            What does “Technocrat” mean?

          • brad says:

            As a descriptive matter, I think it most often refers to a government minister in a third world country that was educated in the first world, often in economics, is less corrupt and less partisan than most politicians in those countries. Usually one that broadly accepts the Washington Consensus.

            It has a long history that goes beyond and in someway contradicts that usage. So I’m not sure how everyone else is using it.

          • Virbie says:

            @Julie K, brad

            I’ve more often heard the term technocrat used to describe someone who heavily emphasizes the carefully considered effects of policy instead of wild-eyed ideology. Obama has been called a technocrat in this favorable sense: even as early as the primary campaign, he was the only candidate out of the three remaining to reject the gas tax holiday due to economists’ consensus that it would pan out as a straight giveaway to oil companies instead of consumers (Hillary Clinton’s response was populist pandering, something like “well I don’t throw my lot in with economists”).

            The negative usage (which overlaps with the above definition) is someone who thinks overly highly of their and their team’s own intelligence, ynderemphasizes the expressed wishes of the population, tends toward paternalism, and overestimates government’s ability to do good. Obama has also been put in this bucket.

          • Aapje says:

            I’d say that Technocrat here is the same as ‘Third way politicians.’ Basically, globalists who believe that there is no reasonable alternative to their proposals (because they dogmatically cling to certain ideas).

            ‘Globalization/free trade is good for everyone’ is probably the key dogma. Global competition between workers is the consequence and a substantial number of workers get reduced bargaining power as the result. The response by Technocrats is then to drive down wages/wage substitutes to make those workers more competitive, which ends up being a race to the bottom.

            Meanwhile, the Technocrats themselves are people who have jobs that don’t experience this reduced bargaining power, while they benefit from cheap labor of others, so they are winners of this system. Because they live in bubbles of similar people, coupled with tribalism/in&outgroup mechanisms, their mind works hard to downplay the complaints of the losers of their preferred system. ‘Angry white men’ is an obvious one, but the main mechanism right now is to portray these people as confused and ‘voting against their interests.’

            During the Industrial Revolution, we had more or less the same thing, which led to socialism, anarchism and widespread violence/revolutions. The globalists at the time got so scared of getting their heads chopped off or ending up with communism, that many pivoted to support a welfare state.

            However, right now there is an additional element, which is the culture war. People who live in globalist, middle/upper class bubbles tend to experience other cultures mostly positively, while lower classes tend to experience it mostly negatively. For example, I have and had Muslim co-workers, but those were clearly way more progressive, educated, etc than average (just like all my co-workers are more so than their ‘identity groups’).

            So there is an existential threat felt by a large portion of society, that not merely feels that their welfare is under attack, but that their culture is as well (and that the elite of their country is part of the same bubble). Anti-immigration and populist parties are best placed to take advantage of this. There is a clear move by them to become more supportive of the welfare state to do so. For example, Marine Le Pen has adopted a more socialist platform and Trump has made statements that are pretty close to Sanders’ platform.

            The distrust by this faction of the culture of the elite that is running the country leads to calls for direct democracy, at least in Europe.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Technocrat is a fairly poorly-defined term, but roughly, the name is implicative: It indicates a belief in government-as-technology, and those-who-govern as engineers or scientists. Think Brave New World.

            It was hugely popular in parts of the midwest during 30s, and eugenics is pretty much part and parcel of it. Had the term been around during his lifetime, Francis Galton (the guy who invented eugenics) probably would have self-described as a technocrat.

            In the modern era, “technocrat” is generally either an insult which translates to “elitist prone to attempts at social engineering” or, for those using the term favorably, it is an implication that somebody uses the scientific method in government, an implication which of course never actually holds true.

          • Once again, technocrat doesn’t have much to do with technology. It’s about preferring expert opinion to popular opinion.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            TheAncientGreek –

            I do not think you know what the word “technology” actually means.

            ETA: Not to be a linguistic prescriptivist, mind, but to point a finer point on this: What are the people with expert opinions doing? Are they running the preexisting institutions – inwhichcase, why bother – or improving them? If the latter – what is that, except governmental technology?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Orphan:
            That seems uncharitable in a rather nit-pickingly pedantic manner.

            You are now arguing about the definition, rather than the substance. If you think that TheAncientGeek got the substance correct simply agree with them and indicate that is how you meant “technology”.

            Because using technology in that manner is does not seem to me to be implied by your earlier usage.

          • Aapje says:

            IMO, technocrat implies an anti-politician: someone who believes that there is only 1 viable choice to make and that politics is about implementing that single choice as efficiently as possible.

          • Sandy says:

            A technocrat to me is just an unfeeling wonk whose goals are reducible to percentages and figures. This policy is good for the nation because it will increase GDP by X% over Y years and produce Z in taxes. Intangible factors do not compute and are probably irrelevant.

            So I think of Angela Merkel as a technocrat, and when I think of technocrats, Angela Merkel is the first who springs to mind. Bringing in X number of people over Y period of time will generate Z number of jobs and alleviate Q decrease in tax revenue from the native population, which is how a lot of EU technocrats sold the refugee influx. Anything else that happens is just an unfortunate complication that must be worked around and it is bewildering that the people would think otherwise.

          • Randy M says:

            Technocrats don’t realize that there are alternative values to be debated; their ideology will never be acknowledged as such, and their only stated aims are to “do what works.”

            Basically, think a human politician pretending it is an ai. They pose as uber competent centrists, although they may have affectations like Obama’s “Somesays” that conveniently paint the center wherever they prefer to stand.

            Of course, if all citizens were utilitarians with identical functions, finding the most competent technocrat would be the entire point of politics.

          • brad says:

            Well it seems Julie K asked a good question. No one is going to agree on what a populist / technocrat realignment would look like if we can’t agree on what a technocrat is to begin with.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad:
            There is way too much anti-government bias motivating the reasoning in this thread so far. I think that is the basic issue.

            Technocrats typically are defined by a desire to make policies achieve there stated goals. They car about efficacy much more than ideology. Theoretically symbolic policy victories are distasteful if not out and out undesirable to a technocrat.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            HBC –

            It’s a bit much to say the problem is anti-government bias. Technocracy was a big deal in the 30’s, then abruptly vanished from popular discourse for seventy years until a faction in Fallout borrowed elements of its flag and ideology.

            Technocracy was closely associated with eugenics owing to the same circle of people believing in both, that’s why the term fell out of popular use after peaking in the 30’s, when, again, eugenics was a major thing in the US, before Nazi Germany did the Bad Thing Which We Would Never Ever Do And Was Probably Partially Inspired By Us and we’ve since tried to pretend it never happened.

            I mean, there’s a reason the term isn’t popular anymore in spite of how attractive it looks, and why it’s become just another political insult.

            The more modern term for the parts of technocracy that are less objectionable is “evidence-based policy”.

            ETA: I mean, look at the bloody entry on Wikipedia. There’s an objective history for this group of people, who were real people, who lived real lives, in a real period of time; this mish-mash of people who are explaining what technocracy feels like does look like a mess, because they’re trying to describe a connotative definition which is naturally going to vary. (I was a huge fan of the Technocracy government form in Civilization: Call To Power, so I spent time looking into it.)

          • Randy M says:

            They care about efficacy much more than ideology.

            In other words, they want the car to go fast, but don’t care in what direction?

          • brad says:

            https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=technocrat&year_start=1800&year_end=2015&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Ctechnocrat%3B%2Cc0

            Looks like nothing until 1928, a peak in 1936, then a somewhat precipitous decline to a plateau for the 40s and 50s. But it starts taking off strongly in 1960, peaking at 8x the 1936 rate in 1975 and 1989. Usage stays high through 1990 before beginning a steady decline through the present. I don’t see any indication of a “Fallout bump”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy M

            In other words, they want the car to go fast, but don’t care in what direction?

            They do care and the ‘logical’ direction just somehow happens to be where they want to go. Meanwhile, the people on the backseat that want to go somewhere else are being told that their wishes are ‘objectively wrong.’

          • Julie K says:

            Technocrats typically are defined by a desire to make policies achieve there stated goals. They care about efficacy much more than ideology.

            That sounds like a mantle nearly everyone will want to claim. “Oh, yeah, those other guys are so ideological, but we just care about what works.”

            Jonah Goldberg has written a lot about how people who claim to be pragmatists are just as ideological as anyone else.

          • Aapje says:

            @Julie K

            Exactly, in my experience those who proclaim to be pragmatists often advocate evidence free solutions and/or ignore evidence that doesn’t suit them.

            It often seems a rhetorical trick/ad hominem to declare oneself a pragmatist, to paint the opposition as irrational or such.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            For just one example of a technocratic proposal, look at the Obama administrations backing of Chained CPI as the measure for calculating increases in Social Security.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            “Related question, assuming the Republicans and Democrats can’t last forever in their current configuration, and assuming US politics will remain two-party dominated, what are the most likely coalitions of 10 or 20 years from now? ”

            The current parties have essentially existed for most of US history, since at least as far back as the Civil War. While they have changed positions, demographics, and issues, they haven’t collapsed completely, even through Reconstruction, the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, and Prohibition. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume they will go away so soon.

          • The current parties have essentially existed for most of US history, since at least as far back as the Civil War. While they have changed positions, demographics, and issues, they haven’t collapsed completely, even through Reconstruction, the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, and Prohibition. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume they will go away so soon.

            Definitely!

            Both parties have institutional continuity going back 150 years. Notwithstanding changing issues and circumstances, most politicians spend their entire lives in one party or the other.

            Rising political factions are always improvised and in a hurry, so they’re in no position to effectively re-create the vast infrastructure both parties already have. The route to political success in America has always been to choose a party and bend it to your will.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ummmm. These two parties have nominally existed since the Whigs feel apart and the Republicans rose from their ashes.

            But the coalitions they embody have changed radically.

            That really shouldn’t be a statement that has to be defended over and over and over, but I find myself having to repeat this argument every few threads, and I’m not sure why.

          • Ummmm. These two parties have nominally existed since the Whigs feel apart and the Republicans rose from their ashes.

            But the coalitions they embody have changed radically.

            Radically, yes, but almost always gradually, and maintaining institutional continuity. In the process, American parties have accommodated diametrically opposing factions (wet/dry, civil rights/KKK, interventionist/isolationist), sometimes for decades.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum:
            Yeah, I agree with all of that. The first-past-post presidential system means a strong disposition towards two parties.

            But the question was, assuming Trumps electorate represents a lasting coalitional force in American politics, and assuming it induces some other elements out of the party, how does this shake up the current coalitions (over a fairly long time frame of 5 additional Presidential cycles.)

            Could pro-business Republicans be fully forced out of the party? If they go to the Dems would that fracture out unions? I don’t think the second is likely, but I think those was the type of question that we were being asked to contemplate.

          • The first-past-post presidential system means a strong disposition towards two parties.

            As you know, I prefer to attribute it to having a directly elected president, with control of the federal executive branch awarded to the faction that wins a single quadrennial high-stakes contest. The irresistible incentive is to create a 51% coalition to take that prize.

            But the question was, assuming Trumps electorate represents a lasting coalitional force in American politics, and assuming it induces some other elements out of the party, how does this shake up the current coalitions (over a fairly long time frame of 5 additional Presidential cycles.)

            Absent additional forces or circumstances we haven’t seen yet, and assuming Clinton wins this November, I would bet against any lasting change. Donald Trump is a perfect opportunist, and his success at seizing the nomination is unlikely to be duplicated by anyone else. The coalitions we have are stable, and not poised to break apart.

            Probably there will be some rhetorical shift, and Republican candidates will make gestures toward the issues Trump highlighted, but overall I think the Republican presidential race in 2020 will revert to previous form.

          • Chalid says:

            Regarding first-past-the-post vs elected president – perhaps we should look at Canada. My understanding, based on vague memories and one minute on Wikipedia, is that it’s first-past-the-post but the prime minister is the leader of the largest party in Parliament – and Canada has more than two significant parties, due in part (but not entirely) due to regional parties being able to take local majorities.

            So Larry Kestenbaum’s idea looks better than HBCs? Unless my near-total ignorance of Canadian politics is leading me to miss something important?

          • Nornagest says:

            That is standard for parliamentary systems. But a parliamentary system would have effects far beyond allowing for stable multi-party configurations — it removes one of the main checks and balances in the US system, for example.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The PM in a parliamentary system is elected by the MPs after the election of the MPs has concluded. There can be some mis-direction around this, but in practice that’s how it actually works.

            That means voters can vote for a minor party and, if they do so in great enough numbers, that result can actual deny the major party the ability to form a government and elect a PM.

            So, it’s possible for the Liberal Party in Canada to need the votes of, say, the New Democratic Party to form a government, which can put the NDP in a very powerful position. This can make minor or regional parties much more attractive, because they can end up in an extremely powerful bargaining position.

            Presidents, as Larry points out, are typically directly elected first-past-the-post, which means that you can have President Bill Clinton with 42% of the vote owing precisely nothing to the people who voted for Ross Perot. And Ralph Nader’s votes couldn’t be combined with Gore’s. Control of the executive branch is a powerful incentive to form fairly stable coalitions, which is what we have seen.

            But I think the Trump candidacy may be a watershed moment for the current Republican coalition. For a long time the rhetoric of the Republican Party has been very out of step with the actual desires of at least a plurality of the voters, who don’t actually want low taxes on the rich or a reduction of the social welfare state that benefits them. They don’t actually corporations to be unfettered to do as they wish. They feel like they keep getting screwed by “the system” and they want someone to fix that.

          • Tibor says:

            @Sandy: I don’t think that Merkel is a technocrat. If she were, she would have defended her (probably actual) opinion that the pros of nuclear power outweigh the cons. The fact that she turned around based on a media-induced hysteria after a huge earthquake and a tsunami wave hit a nuclear power plant with an obsolete design in Japan (i.e. the first two things could never happen in Germany and you can replace potentially obsolete power plants with newer and more secure designs) demonstrates that she is above all else a career politician who does not really care much about any particular policy as she does about staying in power. True, now the majority opinion is now probably against her policy nowadays but if she changed her course now in significant ways, she would lose even more. Ironically, she seems to have more in common with Donald Trump in her approach to politics, I don’t think he cares about policies either. The difference is mainly in style, even if the styles of those two politicians could not be more different.

            To me technocrats are people who generally prefer a top-down approach but in a bureaucratic rather than an authoritarian ‘charismatic leader’ way. Most of the EU (as in politicians directly involved in EU politics) politicians fit that description in my opinion.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Randy M:

            Basically, think a human politician pretending it is an ai.

            So then technocrats are supporters of the not-yet-existent Paperclip Party?

            (Yeah, I know this is nowhere near the comment it’s replying to. That what I get for gleaning an Open Thread….)

        • Mistake Not ... says:

          I don’t think Uber and AirBnB herald any kind of major political, or even economic, transformation.

          As for Trump and Sander’s protectionism (along with Clinton as a Johnny-Come-Lately) that does leave an opening for someone to be vigorously pro trade, but I don’t see the issue having any kind of mass appeal to rally a new party around. The people that are protectionist are really passionate about it, the people that are pro-free trade are mostly wonkish about it. I think free trade will eventually win out, but not because of any kind of concerted political movement, rather because the protectionists will move on to some other thing they are pissed off about without bothering to understand.

        • John Schilling says:

          The fault lines are shifting, but they are shifting in the direction of a populist/technocrat division, and since this election is Trump v. Clinton, that means the Republican party is likely to be the populist party and the Democratic party the technocratic one. Could have gone the other way with, e.g., a Bush-Sanders election, but no matter. Neither party is going to self-destruct, and both parties will have a strong enough base in the new order that the Libertarian party isn’t going to be able to displace either of them.

          Nor is it immediately obvious whether the libertarians side with the technocrats or the populists; they aren’t a strong fit for either. What hope there is for the libertarians is that they might poll high enough during the realignment for one or both of the major parties to shift their platform and policies in an attempt to win them over. Which is no small thing, but it isn’t the big thing that graduation to major-party status would be.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I wouldn’t be so sure about declaring a new era after the rise of a populist. If Trump loses, then the Republicans are not going to forget that in 2020. Maybe they’ll nominate someone who is sightly more anti-immigration or maybe the platform will be slightly more protectionist but I can’t imagine that they would nominate Trump again, or anyone too similar to him.

          • Corey says:

            @Wrong Species: My guess is the GOP will shift to *more* Trump-like candidates in a sense: keeping the white ethno-nationalist appeal and the protectionism, while dumping the cartoonish temperament and possibly adding actual campaign infrastructure.
            The 2018 midterms and 2020 Presidential cycle will be interesting, in the Chinese-curse sense.

          • onyomi says:

            I found this to be the best steelman I’ve yet seen of the pro-Trump case, as told by a theoretical Trump supporter (the author himself is not, but creates a convincing collage of all the reasons for Trump support he’s supposedly heard in conversation). Assuming Hillary wins, and maybe even if Trump wins, it seems like most of the trends this steelman complains about will continue. Therefore, though Trump may fade, Trumpist populism may be around for a while.

          • hlynkacg says:

            David Frum, passes the Ideological Turing Test with flying colors.

            I’m personally ambivalent about supporting Trump but Frum has accurately identified why I genuinely think that Clinton would be worse. Do I expect Trump to actually turn things around? Not really. but at least he’s talking about it, and in doing so pushing the overton window in a direction that might allow things to be turned around in the future without having to nuke the site from orbit.

          • Exit Stage Right says:

            Republicans who think the Dems/Media will let them distance their brand from Trump in 2020 are dreaming, I think.

            While the establishment GOP is absolutely going to try to reassert itself it might wind up stuck in a situation where Trump supporters refuse to buy in but independents/liberals still mentally designate them the “Trump Party”. It’d be the worst of both worlds, basically.

            The other option is keep pushing in the “Trump” direction. I’m not entirely sure the Red Tribe agenda can really be softened, but maybe you try that. Keep the anti-immigration stance but have someone less incendiary make the case.

            In either world, you’ve got some advantages going into 2020, it’d be 12 years of Dems in office and Clinton is not extraordinarily popular and seems unlikely that’ll change. One thing about populism in America though, people who get labeled populists tend to lose.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:

            allow things to be turned around in the future without having to nuke the site from orbit.

            Sort of an ironic choice of words….

            I do think that there are a number of Trump supporters who are basically in a “burn that motherfucker down” kind of mood, sort of nationally suicidal, if that makes sense.

            Jumpers who survive suicide attempts frequently report that as soon as they jump they realized they had assessed the situation incorrectly.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I grant that this contingent exists. but my own sense is that there is a sizeable chunk of the electorate (myself included) who are disturbed by the current trends.

            It’s one thing to read about rising crime, or decaying infrastructure it’s another to live in it. This reckoning has been on its way for a while at least since the TARP bailouts in 2008, and right now Trump is the only candidate even trying to engage these people.

            And there’s a lesson for our ruling class there: Calling Trump a fascist is a bit much (fascism, as Tom Wolfe once reported, is forever descending upon the United States, but somehow it always lands on Europe), but movements like fascism and communism get their start because the mechanisms of liberal democracy seem weak and ineffectual and dishonest. If you don’t want Trump — or, perhaps, some post-Trump figure who really is a fascist — to dominate things, you need to stop being weak and ineffectual and dishonest.

            http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/12/09/glenn-reynolds-liberals-have-chosen-donald-their-destructor/76996298/

          • Corey says:

            It’s one thing to read about rising crime, or decaying infrastructure it’s another to live in it.

            Crime isn’t rising (assuming you’re in the USA). Don’t know of a good non-biased source for infrastructure quality though.

            Crime *was* bad in the 80s and 90s. But we took a buttload of lead out of the atmosphere in the 70s, and that caused about half of a big drop in violent crime rates since the peak in 1993.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlymkacg:
            Obama and the broad Democratic coalition have been talking up infrastructure spending for the last 8 years. They have been trying, repeatedly, to get agreement on infrastructure spending bills.

            Are you really that blinkered that you think Trump is paying attention to this and no one else is? I assume that it is not the case that you don’t know Obama has pushed for infrastructure spending, but that you have selective memory on that front.

            Maybe (maybe) putting a person with an (R) in front of their name would somehow allow the House to pass an infrastructure spending bill. But that wouldn’t be because Trump sees the need and no one else does. It would be because the R coalition won’t vote for an infrastructure bill that Obama would be the one to sign.

            On the crime front, Corey already covered it.

            Edit: and the fact that the crime rate did not rise as the recession set in was quite unexpected and has caused a fair amount of interest.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Violent crime is rising in the US. The question is whether this is the start of a new trend or just blip in the data.

          • Exit Stage Right says:

            Crime is bit more complicated than “Crime is falling!” or “Crime is rising!”. If you’re going to descend into the madhouse that is crime statistics, you’ll find that its really hard to retain your trust in anyone who makes a blanket claim like that.

            I went into my exploration of crime stats thinking basically this: The american public broadly perceives that crime is rising, but statistics show this to be false. This is a case where the american public has been misled by media perception.

            And came out of it thinking basically this: The american public broadly perceives that crime is rising, and this might be an accurate perception. Crime statistics are unreliably mapping the territory for a number of reasons, and the people who trust those statistics alone are probably being misled.

            I’ll probably post a long summary of my findings in an Open Thread at some point…maybe smarter people than I can help me out.

          • Nornagest says:

            really hard to retain your trust in anyone who makes a blanket claim like that

            TIME magazine was clickbait before clickbait was cool. Expect anything they write, especially online, to play as fast and loose with the facts as they think they can get away with to support their narrative.

            They’re relatively centrist as media goes, but that just goes to show that clickbait is not a partisan phenomenon.

          • Corey says:

            @Jaskologist, @Exit Stage Right: I believe we’re all correct: the major trend was heading down from 1993 to the present, and in the last year or so there’s been an uptick.

            The same general trend holds with murder rates; murder’s not an *impossible* stat to juke, but it’s not easy.

            OTOH overall violent crime rates and murder are noisy; murder more so due to lower volumes. So we do indeed have to give it some time to see if the latest uptick is noise or a new trend.

          • Steven says:

            “murder’s not an *impossible* stat to juke, but it’s not easy”

            If you want to see some appalling examples of how Chicago has juked its murder stats in recent years, read this story:
            http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/May-2014/Chicago-crime-rates/

          • Exit Stage Right, I look forward to your writing about crime stats.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @HeelBearCub & Corey

            Yes, there was a lot of talk about jobs and infrastructure but very little action.

            Furthermore as I recall, the chief opposition to Obama’s infrastructure spending came from his own party. Prior to 2010 and arguably 2012 the GOP establishment was provisionally onboard, but the environmentalists who didn’t like construction, and the SJ types who didn’t like to see so much money spent on working class white men, made common cause with the proto-tea-party who didn’t like spending to ensure that very little got done. Do you remember the “too many burly men” meme?

            I regards to crime, that my local conditions may not reflect the national average, but don’t see that as being particularly relevant to my previous point. Saying that it doesn’t matter how bad things get in [x] so long as the national average stays stable isn’t going to be of much comfort to the residents of [x]. Scot Himself has commented on this in Three Great Articles On Poverty and How bad are Things. TL/DR I agree with Exit that it’s complicated.

            @ anon
            On the slim chance that was a sincere question (somehow I doubt it) read the posts mentioned above. Particularly the bit about the “unnecessariat”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            There was some opposition inside the Democratic Party to make the initial stimulus package larger, as everyone in the country seemingly has meganumerophobia and therefore no one wanted the budget package to approach 1 trillion dollars. There was infrastructure spending in the stimulus though.

            As the depth of the recession became clearer and clearer, Obama (and the Democrats) pushed for more stimulus spending. The Republicans flat out refused to vote for anything the Democrats wanted. They filibustered as many bills as possible and gave Obama no votes on anything. This is documented history and was the espoused strategy of the Republican Congressional leadership.

            Once the Franken election was certified, there was a small window where the 60 Democratic senators were able to move things forward, but that ended on Kennedy died and Scott Brown won the special election.

            From the 2010 mid-terms forward, Republicans have controlled the house though. And they haven’t passed a stimulus bill. If the house had passed it between 2010 and 2014, there is a good chance it would have been passed into law, as Obama campaigned in the issue incessently in 2012.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Can you please make a clear point rather than engaging in link kabuki?

            And also, what exactly does 2009 have to do with whether after 2009 Obama and the Democrats have repeatedly proposed more infrastructure spending?

          • nyccine says:

            Even with official stats – which, as has been pointed out, may be rigged – whether or not violent crime can be said to be “rising” or “falling” depends entirely on what timeline you’re looking at.

            Crime is “falling” if you restrict your time frame to “last 30 years or so,” especially coming from the early 90’s peak of about 760 violent crimes per 100k, with 2014 seeing about 365 per 100,k. Seems like an impressive drop, until you go back a decade or two and notice that the violent crime rates from 1960~1963 hover around 160 per 100k; our “historically low” crime rates are about 2.5 times higher than what our parents and grandparents grew up in.

            Tons of ink has been spilled about wondering why people no longer feel as safe as they do, why kids aren’t allowed to play as far away from home unsupervised as they used to, and all these articles shared the same fatal flaw – they couldn’t see the data in front of their own faces. People who had either direct experience with safer, stabler times, or had knowledge passed on from people did, know that the new normal isn’t right.

          • Fahundo says:

            Interesting that the murder rate for 2014 was as low as it ever was during the 60s but violent crimes in general were way up in comparison. I’ve seen multiple different explanations for this that could suggest completely different things.

            Tons of ink has been spilled about wondering why people no longer feel as safe as they do, why kids aren’t allowed to play as far away from home unsupervised as they used to, and all these articles shared the same fatal flaw – they couldn’t see the data in front of their own faces. People who had either direct experience with safer, stabler times, or had knowledge passed on from people did, know that the new normal isn’t right.

            In my experience as a millennial, most of the coworkers I see complaining that they don’t feel safe letting their kids play outside were themselves playing outside as children in the late 80s and early 90s though.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I have not taken a look at the statistics, but if murder is down with other forms of violent crime being up, it’s probably medical technology improving which has made it so. A murder 50 years ago is today’s assault.

          • Exit Stage Right says:

            Nyccine is on the money. Murder spikes in the late 60s, comes down in the mid 90s, and is now back to where it was in the early sixties or even better (trusting official rates, which again, I dont think is wise…but lets just do so for the sake of discussion). Aggravated assault, rape, and violent crime also all spike at the same time, and decline at the same time….but their decline falls far short of reaching early sixties level. Theyre all still over twice as high if not worse.

            In the case of rape, reporting/whats recognized as rape may be a factor. For instance, Sweden has the third highest rape rate in the world, but thats at least in part because of higher reporting/broader definition. Could be a similar effect that explains the disparity between now and 1960, but its hard to say.

            Medical advancement has a lot to do with our current low murder rate. There’s almost no doubt that we’re exposed to more violence than we were in 1960 and before. Likewise, even though im skeptical about the stats I do think the decline from our peak in the 80s-90s probably reflects some real decline in violence

          • The Nybbler says:

            The ’60s may not have been normal, though; murder was high in the US from 1900 to roughly 1935. It then dropped and remained quite low (even accounting for a spike when soldiers — young men in prime homicide victim-or-perp age range — came home) until 1970 or so.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HeelBearCub,
            My point was that contrary, to the “obstructionist GOP filibusters everything” meme, the record shows that a fair number of bills actually did make it to vote and that several of those bills even had bipartisan support/opposition.

            Furthermore, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was sold on the basis of Infrastructure and Jobs. it became clear once the bill actually came up for vote that the bulk of it’s $850 Billion in new spending was being allocated to traditionally democratic constituencies like “Education” and “Green Energy” while only 55 billion or so was to be spent actual physical infrastructure and jobs (the bill’s supposed focus), and most of that was in deeply blue states. So while folks in LA and the NY to DC corridor got some fancy new train stations and sewage treatment plants, the comprehensive overhaul and upgrades to the US power grid and Interstate highway system that had been promised to the rest of the country failed to materialize. Naturally, a lot of people felt cheated and that’s why requests for further “stimulus” were met with such hostility.

            @ Nyccine & Stefan Drinic
            I agree that the “experience factor” is a large part of it. I also agree that modern medicine, and perhaps more importantly, modern communication has made a lot of would be “deaths” into “injuries” but I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn from that.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Furthermore, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was sold on the basis of Infrastructure and Jobs, it became clear once the bill actually came up for vote that the bulk of it’s $850 Billion in new spending was being allocated to traditionally democratic constituencies like “Education” and “Green Energy” while only 55 billion or so was to be spent actual physical infrastructure and jobs (the supposed primary intent of the bill), and most of that was in deeply blue states.

            This is wildly inaccurate. More than a third of the bill’s price tag was tax cuts, which were included just to get republicans on board. Of the remainder (~$500 billion), about $300 billion went to directly mitigating the effects of the recession, increasing funds for Medicaid and unemployment benefits, offsetting state cuts to education, and so on, while a further $100 billion was earmarked for infrastructure spending.

            The dichotomy posed between “jobs” versus “education” and “green energy” is a false one– spending on education and green energy is spending on jobs.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Earthly Knight
            You realize that you’re actually reinforcing my point that the “stimulus” was sold as an infrastructure and stimulus bill when it was nothing of the sort don’t you?

            Likewise if the tax cuts were intended to bring Republicans in, why did they take the form they did? It seems obvious to me that the tax cuts were aimed primarily at lining the pockets of Democratic donors and keeping the globalist wing of their own party from defecting.

            If the Democrats were genuinely interested in getting the GOP on board why didn’t they engage the GOPer’s objections directly with a smaller bill that spent a greater portion on infrastructure?

            The dichotomy posed between “jobs” versus “education” and “green energy” is a false one– spending on education and green energy is spending on jobs.

            Right, jobs for members of the college educated urban gentry, the precise demographic least effected by the recession and most likely to vote D. All those burly men working in construction and manufacturing who lost their jobs need to suck it up and be thankful that at least they get a tax break should they decide to spend their unemployment check on a new house.

            Is 2009 really so long ago that you don’t remember any of this?

          • cassander says:

            >, increasing funds for Medicaid and unemployment benefits, offsetting state cuts to education, and so on, while a further $100 billion was earmarked for infrastructure spending.

            That’s not how medicaid and UE work. the stimulus didn’t top up depleted funds, it permanently expanded those entitlements (also, food stamps). Expanding entitlements may or not be a good thing, but it’s not about immediate stimulus.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ hlynetc.

            It seems obvious to me that the tax cuts were intended to line the pockets of Democratic donors and keep the globalist wing of their party from defecting.

            I don’t know what any of this has to do with globalism. The largest tax cut ($116 billion) included in the recovery act was a $400/head payroll tax credit which was phased out for workers with incomes over $75,000.

            Republicans did indeed want more tax cuts:

            “McConell said Republicans were more likely to favor tax relief and tax credits as part of the recovery measure[.]”

            Compare the alternative plan proposed by then-Senator Demint centered around permanently extending the Bush tax cuts, which, unlike the tax provisions which made it into the recovery act, would have principally benefited the rich.

            jobs for members of the college educated urban gentry,

            Eh, most of the money for green energy went to manufacturing and home weatherizing, neither of which requires a college degree. It’s true that the bulk of the education spending ended up in the pockets of teachers, who are college-educated (although some went to school construction and repair).

            @ cassander

            the stimulus didn’t top up depleted funds, it permanently expanded those entitlements. Expanding entitlements may or not be a good thing, but it’s not about immediate stimulus.

            –The Medicaid spending went to states to defray the spike in costs caused by the recession.
            –Unemployment benefits were initially extended at the start of the recession; the recovery act paid for the extension to continue through the 2009 calendar year. Congress renewed the extension several times before allowing it to lapse in 2014.
            –Similarly, the recovery act included an extension of COBRA benefits, but only for workers who lost their jobs before June 2010. The COBRA extension was never renewed.

            Could you say what “entitlement” you think was “permanently expanded”? I see none.

            The stimulus effect of the unemployment extension is obvious: unemployed workers are pretty much guaranteed to spend every penny they get from the government. The stimulus effect of Medicaid grants to states depends on what the states do with the extra money.

            @ Everyone

            Seriously guys, read a summary of the spending in the Recovery Act before commenting. As much fun as it is discussing the weird fictions you’ve constructed in your heads, it’s probably not very productive.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            The ’60s may not have been normal, though; murder was high in the US from 1900 to roughly 1935. It then dropped and remained quite low (even accounting for a spike when soldiers — young men in prime homicide victim-or-perp age range — came home) until 1970 or so.

            I feel a little dumb for not thinking of this myself. Of course crime isn’t at a very high level when the at risk group of committing crimes is off fighting a war overseas. Certainly I can’t be the first to think of this; are there people anywhere who have bothered to compare American military deployment with crime rates? Crime spiking in the 70’s makes sense in this paradigm, as does it lowering again after the 90’s.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Earthly Knight
            Once again nothing you’ve posted actually refutes what I said above, and a good chunk actually corroborates it.

            The manufacturing and home weatherizing was included my 55 Billion dollar amount which still leaves you in the position of defending a bill where less than 10% of its total cost actually got spent on it’s stated goal. If we take politics out of the equation for a moment, would you contribute to a charity that had an overhead greater than 90%? Would you castigate others for failing to do so?

            Edit:
            You know what I’m actually kind of mad at you right now. You can accuse me of being delusional all you like but lets look at what opponents of the ARRA were saying about the bill before it was passed…

            Throughout 2008, Larry Summers, the Harvard economist, built the case for a big but surgical stimulus package. Summers warned that a “poorly provided fiscal stimulus can have worse side effects than the disease that is to be cured.” So his proposal had three clear guidelines.

            First, the stimulus should be timely. The money should go out “almost immediately.” Second, it should be targeted. It should help low- and middle-income people. Third, it should be temporary. Stimulus measures should not raise the deficits “beyond a short horizon of a year or at most two.”

            Summers was proposing bold action, but his concept came with safeguards: focus on the task at hand, prevent the usual Washington splurge and limit long-term fiscal damage.

            Now Barack Obama is president, and Summers has become a top economic adviser. Yet the stimulus approach that has emerged on Capitol Hill abandoned the Summers parameters.

            In a fateful decision, Democratic leaders merged the temporary stimulus measure with their permanent domestic agenda — including big increases for Pell Grants, alternative energy subsidies and health and entitlement spending. The resulting package is part temporary and part permanent, part timely and part untimely, part targeted and part untargeted.

            It’s easy to see why Democrats decided to do this. They could rush through permanent policies they believe in. Plus, they could pay for them with borrowed money. By putting a little of everything in the stimulus package, they avoid the pay-as-you-go rules that might otherwise apply to recurring costs.

            But they’ve created a sprawling, undisciplined smorgasbord, which has spun off a series of unintended consequences. First, by trying to do everything all it once, the bill does nothing well. The money spent on long-term domestic programs means there may not be enough to jolt the economy now (about $290 billion in spending is pushed off into 2011 and later). The money spent on stimulus, meanwhile, means there’s not enough to truly reform domestic programs like health technology, schools and infrastructure. The measure mostly pumps more money into old arrangements.

            -David Brooks Jan 2009

            *Emphasis mine.

            Is it really so hard for you to believe that the GOP, (which was already getting raked over the coals for a perceived lack of fiscal responsibility) might have had a principled reason to vote “Nay”?

            7 years later, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Summers and Brooks’ analysis was pretty accurate.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            ” As much fun as it is discussing the weird fictions you’ve constructed in your heads, it’s probably not very productive.”

            As someone learning about the issue from reading this thread, comments like that make it very difficult to take you seriously.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The manufacturing and home weatherizing was included my 55 Billion dollar amount which still leaves you in the position of defending a bill where less than 10% of its total cost actually got spent on it’s stated goal.

            What do you take to have been the stated goal of the bill? It’s purpose was, first and foremost, to create jobs and mitigate the decline in state and private spending caused by the recession. By most accounts, it succeeded in doing so– the CBO estimates that it increased the ranks of the employed by between 1.4 and 3.3 million.

            The bill spent upwards of $100 billion on various infrastructure projects. I agree that this figure should have been higher. I also agree with Brooks that the bill should have been tailored to be effective more immediately.

            If we take politics out of the equation for a moment, would you contribute to a charity that had an overhead greater than 90%?

            “Overhead” is money not spent on the charity’s purpose, money that instead goes to paying employee salaries and marketing. It is not reasonable to liken all provisions in the stimulus bill which you do not support to “overhead.”

            Is it really so hard for you to believe that the GOP, (which was already getting raked over the coals for a perceived lack of fiscal responsibility) might have had a principled reason to vote “Nay”?

            The GOP, less the three republican senators who voted for the bill, opposed it chiefly because it consisted of government spending rather than tax cuts for the wealthy, as you can see by comparing it to their own plan. The belief that all economic problems whatsoever can be solved by cutting taxes for the rich is, I suppose, some kind of principle.

            As someone learning about the issue from reading this thread, comments like that make it very difficult to take you seriously.

            Oh? Why’s that?

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Earthly Knight

            What do you take to have been the stated goal of the bill?

            I would say that the stated goal was “to create jobs and mitigate the decline in state and private spending caused by the recession.” but the actual goal was to use the crisis as an excuse to push the Democratic party’s preferred domestic agenda without it being subjected to the level scrutiny that it ordinarily would have been.

            Like I said above…

            So while folks in LA and the NY to DC corridor got some fancy new train stations and sewage treatment plants, the comprehensive overhaul and upgrades to the US power grid and Interstate highway system that had been promised to the rest of the country failed to materialize. Naturally, a lot of people felt cheated and that’s why requests for further “stimulus” were met with such hostility.

            It is not reasonable to liken all provisions in the stimulus bill which you do not support to “overhead.”

            Which is specifically why I was addressing those provisions in terms of the bill’s stated goals.

            Even if we take the your own case estimate at face value, it doesn’t paint a very flattering picture. The government spent a fantastic amount of money and in the end did very little to benefit those left unemployed by the recession.

            Replacing 3 manufacturing jobs in Va with a business major in the New York isn’t a very good return on investment and it doesn’t do the people of Va much good no matter how much positive spin Politifact and the Huffington post try to put on it.

            Near as I can tell you actually agree with this evaluation, or at least haven’t tried to argue against it, and yet you still insist on spouting obvious horseshit like…

            The GOP, less the three republican senators who voted for the bill, opposed it chiefly because it consisted of government spending rather than tax cuts for the wealthy

            …while accusing everyone else of concocting “weird fictions”.

            Physician heal thyself.

            I’m done here.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            –In 2009, the unemployment rate in Virginia was 6.7%, in New York 8.4%
            –The stimulus bill disproportionately benefited Virginians, as much federal spending does, on account of their proximity to DC.
            –Nationwide, 100,000 humanities degrees are awarded each year, a tiny fraction of those in women’s studies. The stimulus bill created in the vicinity of 2.5 million jobs.
            –Here are some random items from the stimulus bill:

            1. $1.1 billion in grants for airport improvements
            2. $500 million for vocational training for the disabled
            3. $1 billion for explosive detection systems for airports
            4. $4.5 billion to increase energy efficiency in federal buildings
            5. $510 million for the rehabilitation of Native American housing
            6. $1 billion in added funding for child support enforcement
            7. $150 million in loans for rural businesses
            8. $13 billion for low-income public schoolchildren
            9. $1 billion for the Veterans Health Administration
            10. $150 million to help refill food banks

            …very little of this looks like it’s going to line the pockets of humanities majors, aside from the occasional teacher.

            Your own best case estimate portrays the stimulus bill as a fantastic waste of money that that did very little to benefit the people it claimed to be helping, namely those left unemployed by the recession, very little good in comparison to it’s staggering price tag.

            I fail to see how creating 2.5 million jobs does “very little to benefit the people […] left unemployed by the recession.”

            Yet you still insist on spouting obvious horse shit like…

            You are free to look up the republican alternative to the recovery act for yourself. You will see that it does, indeed, consist largely of tax cuts for the wealthy. It seems as though you are angry at me for accurately relating what republican politicians actually did and said back in 2009. Have you considered that your venom should be directed at them, rather than the messenger?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I know I said I was done but…

            If you’re talking about the McCain/Hutchinson proposal, you’re barking up the wrong tree. It was 2/3rds the size of and far closer to Summers’ original plan than the “stimulus” we actually got. Hell even the Boehner/McConnell proposal comes out looking pretty good in comparison to the ARRA as passed. Half the total price but almost the same amount of jobs/infrastructure spending. If you genuinely oppose tax cuts for the wealthy or otherwise wanted to see Summers’ plan implemented you should be even madder at the Dems than I am.

            My personal take is that 7 years down the road, the original conservative arguments against the stimulus bill (as laid out in the David Brooks article I linked above) have been proven largely correct and yet people continue to trot out the same tired memes about how Obama would have saved us all if it weren’t for those meddlesome republicans obstructing everything.

            It’s frustrating to say the least.

            And on that note I’m going to bed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            I know you say you are done, so I apologize if this looks like me trying to have the last word.

            My number one criticism is what I said before. What does 2009 have to do with today? If the Republicans wanted to pass an infrastructure spending bill, they could do so. They have control of the House and the Senate. They would get Democratic votes and Obama would sign it, as long as it did not contain poison pills. Obama has been asking for one. It was a major element of his 2012 campaign. (Edit: Sequestration probably would have had to end first. It’s not in the 2016 bill, so it could happen now, but in an election year that’s too much to ask for.)

            If your complaint is about what that bill would look like, you have the same problem in a Trump admin, because it is going to have to go through a Republican House and Senate.

            Some other points:
            – That Brooks critique is not a specific critique of the infrastructure spending in the bill.
            – The Brooks critique is not a critique of the bill that passed, but some proposed bill.
            – The critiques I remember of the infrastructure spending were that it would not happen fast enough (which, to be fair, is the broad thrust of the Brooks critique). Thus the emphasis in implementing the bill on “shovel ready” projects. As it turns out, the recession was quite a bit deeper than people thought it was at the time, so the fact that the infrastructure spending (and the other spending) lasted longer than originally hoped for means it was still counter-cyclical anyway.
            -Any revamp of the power grid is a long term project, so Brooks critique applies to your favored infrastructure spending. IOW, the people who wanted the spending to occur as fast as possible (as Brooks and the Republicans in general did) were working AGAINST the kind of spending you want.

          • anon says:

            To try to abstract a bit, what lessons do people (on both the left and the right) take from the fact that it’s even possible for @hlynkacg and @HBC to be having this fight so long after the fact?

            Personally, I see this as corroborating evidence for propositions such as:
            * economic policy is too politically fraught for any appeal to expertise to be taken seriously;
            * fiscal policy has an innate degree of controversy that should be explicitly accounted for in macroeconomic theories; in particular, Keynesian policy prescriptions that fail to account for such controversy are fundamentally flawed;
            * it’s inherently difficult to distinguish among “bad intentions”, “lack of foresight”, and “failure to follow through” (for whatever reason).

            So I’d like to ask as unloadedly as possible what lessons people draw from TARP about the political economy / public choice problems that are likely to manifest themselves the next time the US faces an economic crisis. For example: If you believe in a Krugman-style “it wasn’t enough” thesis, are there specific institutional failures that you can identify that produced a disconnect between the amount of stimulus necessary for macroeconomic stabilisation and the amount that was politically feasible at the time? There are also other points of view; e.g. I can conceive of quite convincing arguments that TARP was as good as we could have hoped for, minimizing harmful resource misallocations subject to the existing political constraints.

            Regardless of the precise perspective, what general lessons should we draw about collective decisionmaking in a democratic society?

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HeelBearCub:
            It’s alright, the conversation with EK was going in circles and I was starting to loose my temper. Nothing a good night’s sleep couldn’t fix.

            To answer your question 2009 matters because it informs the current debate. A lot of what’s happening now needs to be viewed in the context of 2009 to make any sense. You want to understand Trumpism? You need to understand the last 8 years.

            The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was sold on the promise of fixing failing bridges dilapidated power plants and putting those left unemployed by the recession back to work but depending on who’s numbers you use somewhere between 4 and 16 cents on the dollar went into funding the bills’ stated goals while the rest went to pushing the democratic party’s domestic agenda.

            Naturally democratic calls for “more stimulus” were met with something to the effect of “what happened to all that money from before?”

            Skip forward a couple years the GOP has control of the house and the senate but each time someone tries to get an actual jobs/infrastructure bill out of committee the environmentalists scream about new construction, the social justice types complain about how we’re spending to much money on straight white males and not enough on women/minorities, the newly elected tea partiers complain about it being too expensive and the GOP leadership caves. Meanwhile those who were left unemployed the recession and are now getting left behind by the recovery are asking “WTF Guys?”.

            Skip forward to 2012. Romney looses, the Democrats double down on the bitter-clingers and no country for burly men rhetoric while the GOP leadership continues to be feckless. Several prominent columnists warn that the mood of the electorate is turning ugly and that GOP establishment is likely to have a populist insurgency on it’s hands if they don’t pull their collective heads out of their asses soon.

            TL/DR There is a whole lot more to the story than wise and good democrats reach out to the poor and hungry only to be slapped down by obstructionist republicans. The dogged persistence of that particular meme feels a bit like gaslighting.

            As for what do I think should have happened?

            Maybe nothing? IME decisions rushed to in the heat of the moment, especialy big and complex ones with lots of moving parts, typically do more harm than good. Personally I think that Summers’ proposed stimulus was reasonable, but what we got didn’t look anything like it. A lot of democratic commenters seem to conflate the two and again the persistence of that meme feels a bit like gaslighting. I mean, people aren’t just getting their history from the Daily Show are they?

            @High-effort anon
            That’s an excellent question and I’d suggest you post it as it’s own block in OT 55.5.

            That said I think that Summers and Brooks (yay bipartisanship!) the key points…

            Summers was proposing bold action, but his concept came with safeguards: focus on the task at hand, prevent the usual Washington splurge and limit long-term fiscal damage.

            If the intent was for the “stimulus” to be viewed as bipartisan and non-controversial, tacking a bunch of long term democratic party hobby horses onto it was a fantastically bad idea.

            In a more general I think the lesson is that “omnibus” bills are bad news an that a legislative norm of smaller, narrowly focused bills would greatly improve trust in the system even if there are a lot more of them.

          • anon says:

            @hlynkacg: +1 for narrow bills. It seems blindingly obvious to me that omnibus-itis is the underlying pathology behind current Congressional dysfunction. I suspect that smarter members of Congress recognize this as well. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem that is easily tackled by individual members of Congress proposing narrowly focused bills about issues they care about; high-ranking committee members presumably block stuff “on principle” (to preserve the status quo distribution of power), and their safe seats mean that they cannot easily be publicly shamed for delaying obviously-good legislation. It’s quite a pickle.

            In my fantasy world, Congress would be immediately purged by holding a vote to repeal the Jones Act (just that, nothing else); anyone who doesn’t support this thereby reveals their incompetence to hold elected office.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ hlynetc.

            I was referring to Demint’s proposal, as I mentioned above.

            You can find the details of McCain’s plan here. Its price tag would have been $713 billion, about seven-eighths the cost of the recovery act. It also proposed spending $114 billion on infrastructure instead of $105 billion. But by far the biggest difference is that it swaps out the spending on education and green energy in favor of larger tax cuts for the rich and corporations. So, I reiterate: the real objection that republican politicians had to the recovery act was not that its cost was too high, or that it didn’t spend enough on infrastructure. It was that it didn’t give away enough money to the rich. You saw this in McConnell’s own words, above, now you can compare the plans directly and verify that it is true. Please stop fighting reality.

            Half the total price but almost the same amount of jobs/infrastructure spending.

            This doesn’t seem to be sinking in, so I’ll repeat it: green energy spending and education spending are “jobs spending” to exactly the same day that infrastructure spending is “jobs spending”. Do you think the economy conspires to only reward projects which flatter your ideology? What is the hypothesis here?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’m probably going to regret this but…

            DeMint’s proposal went no where, his own party shot it down so your continued focus on it is at best ignorant and at worst represents an intentional weak-man.

            This doesn’t seem to be sinking in…

            No, what’s not sinking in is that…

            Replacing 3 manufacturing jobs in Va with a business major’s job in New York isn’t a very good return on investment, and it doesn’t do the people of Va much good. No matter how much positive spin Politifact and the Huffington Post try to put on it.

            Like I said, this conversation is going in circles.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If the conversation seems to you to be going in circles, this is because you make claims not supported by any evidence– “DeMint’s […] own party shot [his proposal] down” being a prime example– and then ignore my corrections.

            Your comment appears to assume that Virginia was harder hit by the recession than New York. This is false, as I noted above.

            It also appears to assume that the stimulus bill benefited New Yorkers more than it benefited Virginians. This is dubious, for the reasons given above.

            While we’re at it, did you surreptitiously edit the comment to erase the reference to “women’s studies majors” and replace it with “business majors”? This is a definite improvement. You still would need to furnish evidence that the recovery act created more jobs for business majors than blue-collar workers, but at least now the claim isn’t ludicrous on its face.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Your own links supported my claims so I’m not sure what more you expected.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            On the subject of manufacturing, remember that Obama’s decision to bail out the auto industry ended up saving hundreds of thousands or millions of manufacturing jobs, despite being opposed by most republicans at the time. The final cost to the government was a measly $9 billion.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ hlynetc.

            Here are some of the claims I take you to have made:

            –Republicans opposed the recovery act because it didn’t contain enough spending on infrastructure.
            Status: False. Republicans alternatives contained about the same amount of infrastructure spending, or less. Republicans politicians actually opposed the recovery act because it didn’t cut taxes for corporations and the rich as much as they would have liked.

            –The recovery act was not focused enough on creating jobs.
            Status: False. This claim appears to be predicated on the bizarre background belief that government spending on projects you like creates jobs while government spending on projects you dislike does not. I know of no macroeconomic theory that would endorse such a hlyn-centric view of economic intervention. In fact, the CBO estimates that the recovery act created somewhere between 1.4 and 3.3 million jobs.

            –The recovery act disproportionately benefited blue states.
            Status: Unsupported by evidence. It is hard even to take this claim seriously when you cite Virginia as an example of red states getting shorted, given that (1) Virginia is a blue state, (2) Virginia weathered the recession fairly well, and (3) Virginia benefits enormously from government spending due to its proximity to the capitol district.

        • cassander says:

          >But with Uber and AirBnB and protectionist Trump, might not the fault lines be shifting?

          there are far too many people profiting by government for that to happen. Millions of unionized school teachers are not going to embrace vouchers, civil servants at will employment, NGO employees an end to government handouts to NGOs, and so on.

          • onyomi says:

            Might this not underestimate the degree to which new technology will simply go around traditionally restrictive occupations? Like, teachers unions can’t possibly retain the same level of political power if, in the future, everyone gets educated through some kind of digital home school co-op (not saying that would work, exactly, but just a hypothetical). Uber, for example, didn’t lobby anyone to reduce restrictions on taxis. They just sort of went around them.

            I guess this is sort of the “agorist” libertarian strategy. You don’t necessarily have to abolish the government; just outpace it and make it irrelevant.

          • Aapje says:

            @onyomi

            Those restrictions are there for a reason. We already see that ‘Silicon Valley’ is creating very strong monopolies and thus power concentrations, which historically have resulted in oppression.

            Your strategy of abolising the government by ‘outpace it and make it irrelevant’ will just result in a huge backlash.

          • Anon says:

            @Aapje I think you misunderstand how monopolies work. Uber doesn’t have a monopoly due to Lyft, and alternatives like Zipcar are also gaining ground, especially in college towns.

            On a city level, you could say Uber has a “monopoly” in ridesharing in $CityCity if they don’t have Lyft or Zipcar or something else, but 99% of cities have standard taxis anyway, and taxis are essentially a city-ordained monopoly on quick-rented transportation. All Uber did was break the cartel and cut prices.

            The same dynamic applies to AirBnB as well. They broke hotels’ cartel monopoly on quick-rented rooms. They would become a monopoly if the hotels went bankrupt, but Hilton and Marriott both have deep pockets and offer more consistent services, so I doubt I’ll live to see the day.

            The age of Oracle and Microsoft’s monopolies are over. What monopolies actually exist in Silicon Valley today? The closest things I can think of are Google, which isn’t truly a monopoly because there are plenty of search engines out there that work well (e.g. DuckDuckGo), and Intel and NVIDIA, which are rapidly inching AMD out of CPU/GPU markets, respectively, but those still aren’t monopolies yet. I’d appreciate it if you mentioned what company holds this monopoly, and in what market.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anon

            I never claimed that Uber is a monopoly (already). It was more a general comment how there are more and more gateways that hold great power by virtue of getting a (semi-)monopoly over broker services.

            An example is that the iPhone is locked down, so you can’t install your own apps, but have to use the Apple Store. Apple takes a cut there and restricts access to the Store for certain kinds of apps. So Apple enforces their cultural values on their customers, as well as taxing the app purchases in a mandatory way. Apple is already one of merely two choices for phone OS’s, so if Google decides to do the same as Apple, you are screwed if you don’t like it.

            As for hotels, in my country people seem to mostly go through Hotels.com or AirBnB. I’ve tried to avoid the former, but going directly to hotels actually gives higher prices, so… Anyway, this gives Hotels.com great power to dictate to hotels, which they’ve already gotten into conflict over.

            It’s basic economic theory that network effects result in natural monopolies, as the larger the network, the bigger the benefit to consumers & producers. Improved (usability of) network technology logically results in more natural monopolies.

            My claim is that new technology, coupled with libertarianism/deregulation, will inevitably put great power in the hands of 1 or a few companies, with no public oversight. This allows for extensive, although not unlimited abuses of power, especially against certain minorities (not in the identity politics sense).

            taxis are essentially a city-ordained monopoly on quick-rented transportation. All Uber did was break the cartel and cut prices.

            In my country the cartel was broken before Uber came along, but anyway…government rules for taxis were/are there for a reason.

            I’m open to considering that certain benefits from the government rules can be achieved by different means, like ratings by customers to ensure driver quality. However, the argument in favor of deregulation is generally a platitude (‘freedom’, ‘everything will be better’), rather than a discussion about the upsides and downsides.

            Being a born cynic, I get rather upset when people refuse to talk about the downsides of their (extremist) solution.

          • onyomi says:

            You consider allowing Uber and Airbnb to exist “extremist” solutions?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            It doesn’t seem to me like there’s a whole lot to choose between ‘freedom’, ‘everything will be better’ and ‘government rules for taxis were/are there for a reason’, platitude-wise.

          • Aapje says:

            @onyomi

            I consider removing all regulations and letting companies like that (or any company) to freely do what they want to be extremist.

            @Cerebral Paul Z

            I think that the latter is a good starting point for a debate, where each of those reasons is examined and the regulation is only abandoned if the consequences of that are accepted, not ignored.

            In other words, being rational (making decisions after thinking through the consequences, not just doing something and hoping it works out).

          • cassander says:

            >Might this not underestimate the degree to which new technology will simply go around traditionally restrictive occupations? Like, teachers unions can’t possibly retain the same level of political power if, in the future, everyone gets educated through some kind of digital home school co-op (not saying that would work, exactly, but just a hypothetical). Uber, for example, didn’t lobby anyone to reduce restrictions on taxis. They just sort of went around them.

            Uber is a good example, but look at it. The have what must be one of the least politically sympathetic enemies in the world, monopolist taxi drivers, and they’re still regularly kicked out of cities or hamstrung by attempts to protect the established players.

            The teachers will fight any uberization of the schools, and because they’ll have both a lot more money and a lot more sympathy than cab drivers, they will almost certainly be much more successful at it.

            But more philosophically, let’s say you manage to create a world where everyone goes to school during the day, then comes home and sleeps in a learning bed at night that teaches them 10 times as much. You haven’t made the teacher irrelevant, because they’re still around getting salaries and running schools with public funds. They’ll shift arguments, explain that while sure, beds are great for rote memory, but that teaching socialization or critical thinking requires human interaction, or something. That’s one of the biggest differences between government run systems and private. if something private is ignored, it eventually dies. In the government, something has be positively killed, or it lives forever.

          • Anon says:

            @Aapje

            An example is that the iPhone is locked down, so you can’t install your own apps, but have to use the Apple Store. Apple takes a cut there and restricts access to the Store for certain kinds of apps. So Apple enforces their cultural values on their customers, as well as taxing the app purchases in a mandatory way. Apple is already one of merely two choices for phone OS’s, so if Google decides to do the same as Apple, you are screwed if you don’t like it.

            To some extent you’re right, but this isn’t so much “creating a monopoly” as it is “creating a walled garden”. In the strict legal sense, this isn’t a monopoly. You can jailbreak an iPhone (and you have a legal right to, if you so choose, it just voids your warranty) and you can root an Android too, but you won’t get the added benefits of the App Store like a record of apps associated with your account (for users) or the exposure from being on the App Store (for devs).

            As for hotels, in my country people seem to mostly go through Hotels.com or AirBnB. I’ve tried to avoid the former, but going directly to hotels actually gives higher prices, so… Anyway, this gives Hotels.com great power to dictate to hotels, which they’ve already gotten into conflict over.

            If Hotels.com is able to sell a Hilton room for less than Hilton sells it, either Hotels.com is taking a net loss on the room or the problem is on Hilton’s end. Either way, it’s nowhere close to a monopoly; even online there are other places than Hotels.com to get a room.

            My claim is that new technology, coupled with libertarianism/deregulation, will inevitably put great power in the hands of 1 or a few companies, with no public oversight. This allows for extensive, although not unlimited abuses of power, especially against certain minorities (not in the identity politics sense).

            Color me skeptical. Such is not inevitable; many thought Microsoft’s monopoly on software would grow forever, but the government intervened when necessary.

            However, I do share your concern that if a few established players in the market agree to ban $thing, then people who like $thing are forced into the ghetto fringe market. I don’t really know what to do about it other than hope the big boys don’t ban anything important, because if we force every distribution platform to be “free speech” in the First Amendment sense, then everything would be flooded with porn/hate speech/gore. It probably wouldn’t be that bad, but there would be huge growing pains that are probably unnecessary.

            government rules for taxis were/are there for a reason.

            Sure, some of them are, like “have background checks” and “standardize pricing and cars”. But rules like “pay $50,000 for a medallion” are probably there to keep really poor people from getting a taxi license.

            I’m open to considering that certain benefits from the government rules can be achieved by different means, like ratings by customers to ensure driver quality.

            That would never work. If you give 9 people a 5-star drive and 1 person a 0-star rape, you’ve got a 4.5 rating. Background checks would be better.

            However, the argument in favor of deregulation is generally a platitude (‘freedom’, ‘everything will be better’), rather than a discussion about the upsides and downsides.

            I agree, but Cerebral Paul Z. is right; your only response to “Uber broke the taxi cartel” was a platitude. That’s kinda hypocritical.

            Also, @onyomi and @Cerebral Paul Z.: Don’t dismiss Aapje’s concerns out of hand. America needs to agree on an acceptable Schelling Point on regulation; it does need to be less than it is now, but it also has to be greater than zero. Some things like background checks on drivers are smart decisions. Some things like medallion prices are not. G.K. Chesterton:

            In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

            This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

          • Nornagest says:

            many thought Microsoft’s monopoly on software would grow forever, but the government intervened when necessary

            Certainly the government attempted to intervene, but the final decision didn’t do much; after the Microsoft breakup proposal dissolved on appeal, Wikipedia informs me, the settlement scaled back to an oversight panel and an agreement that Microsoft would allow its customers in PC manufacturing to bundle other software (almost all didn’t). And IE’s market share, the original point of contention, peaked in 2004, years after the settlement.

            What finally brought Microsoft down in the browser market was the same thing that usually brings large companies down: arrogance and sclerosis.

          • Anon says:

            @cassander

            I find your reply interesting.

            Uber is a good example, but look at it. The have what must be one of the least politically sympathetic enemies in the world, monopolist taxi drivers, and they’re still regularly kicked out of cities or hamstrung by attempts to protect the established players.

            Well yeah, that’s because Uber’s a giant dick. To compare, AirBnB is only getting this treatment in San Francisco, because the hotels there own a council majority. Meanwhile, Uber gets kicked out of all sorts of cities because they robocall their drivers and customers, and are generally all-around dicks when they need to push a policy proposal.

            The teachers will fight any uberization of the schools, and because they’ll have both a lot more money and a lot more sympathy than cab drivers, they will almost certainly be much more successful at it.

            If an actual uberization of school could even slightly help inner city kids close the achievement gap, teachers would be thrown under the bus in a heartbeat while being called racist bigots.

            But odds are good the “achievement gap” is just because blacks have a lower IQ because $reasons and uberized school (let’s call it SchUber) won’t fix that. Even so, if SchUber can improve retention, learning speed, and recall significantly across all demographics, that would still get public school thrown under the bus.

            But more philosophically, let’s say you manage to create a world where everyone goes to school during the day, then comes home and sleeps in a learning bed at night that teaches them 10 times as much. You haven’t made the teacher irrelevant, because they’re still around getting salaries and running schools with public funds. They’ll shift arguments, explain that while sure, beds are great for rote memory, but that teaching socialization or critical thinking requires human interaction, or something. That’s one of the biggest differences between government run systems and private. if something private is ignored, it eventually dies. In the government, something has be positively killed, or it lives forever.

            This is an interesting argument; if SchUber can win, teachers will move the goalposts to defend their salaries.

            However, if the goalposts are moved, then someone (SchUber or a new company) can focus on the new goalposts and cover them too. And there are only so many goalposts you need to cover before the cost of SchUber is so much cheaper than the public school that either the government implements a SchUber knockoff in the education system, or the public school system gets slashed to bits in budget cuts because almost no one uses it anymore. Essentially, if SchUber strikes gold and keeps mining it, eventually teachers will have to join or die.

            (the real worst-case scenario for SchUber is if the public school system says “oh well SchUber is a great supplement to learning but you can’t use it as a substitute.” the only way around that would be to demonstrate it can actually be a substitute, but where would you get people willing to take that risk on their kids? if you fail they’ll fall behind which in america is worse than death)

            The key word here, of course, is “eventually”. Uber decided to move too far too quickly (if you’re familiar with Paul Graham’s essays, they went for an Amazon seize-the-market model rather than a Ben & Jerry’s slow-and-steady model) and they are getting pushed back by the taxi market’s established players. Given enough time, either cities will make an Uber knock-off for taxis, or $NUber will come into the market less aggressively and push the taxis out slowly but surely.

            The main error Uber is making here, other than the 5-minute surge pricing that rips off customers instead of just adding a slight delay, is that they’re refusing to capitulate to certain basic regulations (e.g. background checks) except when they’re at immediate risk of losing $city, because “we’re a tech company so we’re above the law”. If they just did some bare minimum and looked like they were playing ball with $city, I bet things would go a lot smoother for them.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anon

            In the strict legal sense, this isn’t a monopoly.

            I wasn’t talking about the legal sense, but about the practical effects. I would argue that from the point of view of the consumer it is a (near) monopoly when the barrier to using an alternative is very high.

            If Hotels.com is able to sell a Hilton room for less than Hilton sells it, either Hotels.com is taking a net loss on the room or the problem is on Hilton’s end.

            I suspect simple price differentiation. Going to the hotel site signals a desire to book at that specific hotel, while going to a broker signals a desire for a good deal in a certain region.

            Hotels thus don’t have an incentive to undercut the broker unless they have a good shot at drawing price-conscious consumers away from the brokers to start comparing individual sites, which seems unlikely.

            Color me skeptical. Such is not inevitable; many thought Microsoft’s monopoly on software would grow forever, but the government intervened when necessary.

            My argument was to illustrate what would happen if libertarians get to power and choose not to intervene; not necessarily what currently happens.

            I would also argue that Microsoft lost its monopoly mainly due to a shift to web applications and smartphones, which made the desktop OS far more interchangeable than previously where the OS with the biggest software library was king.

            But rules like “pay $50,000 for a medallion” are probably there to keep really poor people from getting a taxi license.

            That was never a rule, but a consequence of allowing a limited set of licenses, handing them out permanently and allowing them to be transferred by drivers themselves (and thus sold). This automatically turned the licenses into wage protection, even though the actual goal was more to limit the number of taxis.

            There are ways to hand out a limited set of licenses without these nasty effects (like selling the licenses to the highest bidder or having a ‘beauty contest’ where the license is granted for some years; or a mix).

            That would never work. If you give 9 people a 5-star drive and 1 person a 0-star rape, you’ve got a 4.5 rating. Background checks would be better.

            I assumed that the murdering and raping chauffeurs would be taken off the street by the police. I was thinking more about dangerous driving, taking detours, refusing service, etc.

            I agree, but Cerebral Paul Z. is right; your only response to “Uber broke the taxi cartel” was a platitude. That’s kinda hypocritical.

            It was not my only response, I gave a specific example: the ratings. I don’t think it’s fair to attack me for using platitudes when I also give a specific example to illustrate a specific way how one could argue against a rule.

            G.K. Chesterton:

            That was my point. A lot of people have the nasty habit of not learning from history, but just tossing out the old solutions without addressing how their new solution would deal with the issues that the old solution sought to address.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            @Aapje: Either can be a platitude if presented as a conclusion; either can be a constructive starting point if presented as a call for rebuttal. Perhaps a bit more interpretive charity is indicated on both our parts? I’m willing to hear ‘government rules for taxis were/are there for a reason’ as ‘show me why they’re bad reasons’ if you’re willing to hear ‘freedom; everything will be better’ as ‘show me why it won’t be better’.

            Getting on with the latter task: I think a lot of the difference in opinion between us regarding results is because you appear to believe something a lot of us would dispute: that sellers don’t change their behavior much in response to anything that happens on the demand side. (The fact that you can go to Apple if you don’t like what Google is doing may be nice for you, but it apparently doesn’t much affect the probability of Google doing things you don’t like; vouchers will let private schools jack up prices and make lots of money, but that won’t draw new entrants into the school market.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Anon

            Well yeah, that’s because Uber’s a giant dick. To compare, AirBnB is only getting this treatment in San Francisco, because the hotels there own a council majority.

            I would argue that Uber’s strategy was to ignore the law and appeal to politicians to let them get away with this because ‘we are the future,’ ‘sharing economy,’ etc. This is a smart strategy in the sense that ignoring the law tends to give you a market advantage, but a bad strategy in the sense that it’s hard to convince politicians to do this, especially outside of the US, where it’s foreign company vs local company and where the culture may not accommodate this (for example, I’m from a Protestant culture, with a strong belief in following laws even if you disagree. In a Catholic culture, you more often have the opposite, people theoretically supporting the law, except when it impacts them).

            BTW, AirBnB has also had issues in places in Europe, because it turns out that a lot of people don’t really appreciate their neighbor renting out the apartment to 5 Brits who spend their day drinking, smoking weed, playing loud music & throwing stuff out of the window.

            And they have an unfair advantage over hotels, by not paying tourist tax and such. If AirBnB doesn’t have to pay that, hotels shouldn’t either; or both should pay it.

            Again, there are reasons why people were traditionally not allowed to just run a hotel, why tourist tax exist, etc. Any decision to abandon this (or not) should take into consideration what the full consequences are.

          • Aapje says:

            @Cerebral

            if you’re willing to hear ‘freedom; everything will be better’ as ‘show me why it won’t be better’.

            I would argue that the primary burden of proof is on the people who want change, actually.

            Would you accept it if you debate a person who keeps saying outlandish things and then keeps expecting you to dig up evidence to prove him wrong?

            In practice I do tend to go to some effort to show libertarians why their ideas are wrong, because most don’t have the critical mindset or basic knowledge to do the work themselves and I’m ‘nice’ like that (more like a smart ass, really). But having to do this is already a strong disqualification of such a person in my mind (as a person whose proposals should be taken seriously).

            I think a lot of the difference in opinion between us regarding results is because you appear to believe something a lot of us would dispute: that sellers don’t change their behavior much in response to anything that happens on the demand side.

            I don’t understand how you can conclude that from what I’ve said.

            My actual POV is more that how people behaved in the past, when certain rules didn’t exist, is likely how they will behave in the future*, if you abandon the rules. I tend to call this logical thinking.

            I would contrast this to Utopian thinking, where people start off by assuming that people will suddenly act differently from historical record, because this would make their ideology work.

            * Unless something significant changed, which would then have to be argued with facts and good reasoning

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Well, I tried.

          • Anon says:

            @CPZ I think you’re being unfair to Aapje. I agree with the notion that the burden of proof is on the side of the reformer, not the traditionalist. However, some of these regulations are quite obviously negative.

            I think a lot of the difference in opinion between us regarding results is because you appear to believe something a lot of us would dispute: that sellers don’t change their behavior much in response to anything that happens on the demand side.

            Honestly, that’s often true. If you’re a monopoly/duopoly the way Google and Apple are for 95% of the smartphone OS market, the problem is that if they both decide to do something you don’t like, you either shut up and take it like a bottom bitch or get thrown in a corner with Ubuntu and Windows Phone. Collusion is a real problem; it was especially bad in the telecom industry, but the mobile OS market has all the elements to go down that route if it so chose.

            @Aapje

            BTW, AirBnB has also had issues in places in Europe, because it turns out that a lot of people don’t really appreciate their neighbor renting out the apartment to 5 Brits who spend their day drinking, smoking weed, playing loud music & throwing stuff out of the window.

            I think that’s the general issue with AirBnB: tenants can be dicks sometimes. I still think that banning AirBnB is an overreaction though, and most places aren’t banning them the way they’re banning Uber. This is because AirBnB is not run by dicks.

            And they have an unfair advantage over hotels, by not paying tourist tax and such. If AirBnB doesn’t have to pay that, hotels shouldn’t either; or both should pay it.

            Tourist tax sounds kinda silly. How can you justify it? Why should the hotel pay for having customers? Domestic tourists should be allowed to travel in the country without being charged by the government for doing so. And if you want to discourage international travel (lol Eurabia discouraging international travel), charge international tourists a tax to enter the country on a tourist visa. This has the additional benefit of stopping poor people intent on getting a tourist visa and then committing immigration fraud. Consider also that people who travel on business should not be charged a tourist tax because they’re not tourists, they’re making business arrangements that will likely help the native economy.

            Again, there are reasons why people were traditionally not allowed to just run a hotel, why tourist tax exist, etc. Any decision to abandon this (or not) should take into consideration what the full consequences are.

            I think you’re setting the bar too high. Can we at least agree that most people don’t need a full-featured hotel and just want a roof and a bed, and they shouldn’t be charged insane prices for a bunch of things they don’t need? And that having to pay $50k to drive a taxi is pants-on-head retarded?

            The fact of the matter is that people have needs that aren’t being met by the market and will not be met until things change. Uber and AirBnB are this change. Certainly some rules need to be followed, but most rules are just constrictive and allow hotels/taxis to form a cartel.

            I would argue that the primary burden of proof is on the people who want change, actually.

            Full agreement with this post btw.

          • onyomi says:

            “I agree with the notion that the burden of proof is on the side of the reformer, not the traditionalist. However, some of these regulations are quite obviously negative.”

            And not all that old or “traditional.” If x was unregulated for 220 years of US history and has only been regulated in the past 10 years, which is the “traditional” position?

          • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_New_York_City#Medallions

            A New York City taxi medallion costs 500K to 700K, down from 1.3 million.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Well, I generally prefer to reserve the entire concept of burden of proof for judges, juries, and others who are in a position to enforce their judgment on someone. If we’re going to apply it to ordinary people like us sitting around gassing about politics, it ought to rest equally with anyone asserting a position, or maybe in proportion to how much certainty they’re claiming.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anon

            I think that’s the general issue with AirBnB: tenants can be dicks sometimes. I still think that banning AirBnB is an overreaction though, and most places aren’t banning them the way they’re banning Uber. This is because AirBnB is not run by dicks.

            I actually see the same thing happening and neither involve banning the broker. Generally the government seems to primarily go after the Uberpop drivers and AirBnB ‘hoteliers’, which makes sense, since they are the people actually breaking the rules.

            The main difference is that, at least where I live, it’s legal to rent out your house for limited periods, but not legal to be an ‘amateur’ taxi driver at all. So enforcing the rules results in targeting some AirBnB hoteliers and all Uberpop drivers. The media then calls this ‘banning Uber,’ but that’s because they report inaccurately.

            Tourist tax sounds kinda silly. How can you justify it?

            A. Tourists don’t pay local taxes, but they use local public services, so the local government is justified in taxing them for this.

            B. The local government can use it to finance tourist-specific public services, which can be justified on the grounds that those who benefit get to pay.

            C. Tourists are free to go elsewhere if they think that the extra costs are not justified. As a local tax, it’s easily evaded. As tourists are pretty much the least ‘bound’ group around, there is arguably more justification for tourist tax than for any other tax.

            Why should the hotel pay for having customers?

            Because the tourist specific services and good upkeep of public services maintain/increase the flow of tourists to the area, which increases their income. Of course, hoteliers could pool money themselves to pay for this, but then you’d have free rider problems.

            Domestic tourists should be allowed to travel in the country without being charged by the government for doing so.

            A. The tax is (generally) not on travel, but on spending the night somewhere. If I spend the night in my own bed, I also have to pay local tax. If that is justified, then why not tourist tax?

            B. You haven’t actually provided an argument here, just your arbitrary opinion (which you are allowed to have, but it’s not persuasive to me)

            And if you want to discourage international travel (lol Eurabia discouraging international travel), charge international tourists a tax to enter the country on a tourist visa.

            A. That is not the purpose of the tax.

            B. The tax is for domestic and international tourism, so your solution would fail to reflect the former

            C. I’m in the EU: free travel. So your plan is practically impossible.

            This has the additional benefit of stopping poor people intent on getting a tourist visa and then committing immigration fraud.

            That makes no sense. Visitors from ‘at risk’ countries already are required to have proof of sufficient funds and a local ‘sponsor’ who is responsible for the visitor leaving. Tourist tax doesn’t add any appreciable hurdle to this.

            Consider also that people who travel on business should not be charged a tourist tax because they’re not tourists, they’re making business arrangements that will likely help the native economy.

            They use local public services and many mix business activities with tourism. So there is something to be said for making them pay the tax, also for practical reasons (making exceptions complicates the taxation and makes it more open to fraud). Business people who travel a lot also don’t tend to be the people who are very poor and they get all kinds of tax breaks anyway. So at most it’s a minor injustice that is more than compensated with the tax breaks that business people get.

            Can we at least agree that most people don’t need a full-featured hotel and just want a roof and a bed, and they shouldn’t be charged insane prices for a bunch of things they don’t need?

            A lot of hotels provide little more than a roof and a bed (some have optional breakfast). No one forces hotels to have a certain number of ‘stars.’ You are arguing a false dichotomy where you seem to argue that the government is forcing hotels to provide expensive services, where only the new providers can provide something better. I don’t see how this is the truth.

            And that having to pay $50k to drive a taxi is pants-on-head retarded?

            I already agreed with that and argued that you can have regulation without that problem. Having a bad implementation of regulation is not automatically evidence that non-regulation is better. Better forms of regulation can also be an option.

            The fact of the matter is that people have needs that aren’t being met by the market and will not be met until things change.

            This is a bad argument, because capitalism isn’t about meeting everyone’s ‘needs*’, it’s about solving the issue of desires being greater than the supply. Capitalism is one way of deciding who doesn’t get their desires met. The core mechanism of capitalism is pricing people out of being able to afford their desires. It’s very subjective to declare certain unmet desires OK and other unmet desires to be unjust.

            Which desires should be catered to by a regulated market is a very complex (moral) decision, with many dimensions. I would argue that meeting some individual desires is actually bad for society as a whole, but addressing this would take many words and my post is already way too long.

            * ‘Needs’ is a bad word, since many of the things that people buy are not strictly needed. Hence my use of ‘desires.’

          • Aapje says:

            @Onyomi

            ‘We’ didn’t have a libertarian government for 200 years and only switched to regulated markets in the last 10. So I find your statement baffling.

            At most, certain regulations are new(ish) and in that case there is (IMO) a burden on the proponents to track the effects of that regulation and show that the claimed advantages are realized and the downsides are reasonable. Note that I hold deregulators to that same standard.

            @Cerebral Paul Z

            The assertion that deregulation/libertarianism will improve the situation is a strong claim.

            My claim that regulation is there for a reason is a very weak claim that is trivially true, if you accept the premise that politicians are not making random decisions, but have reasons for their decisions.

            My assertion that changing something requires a good argument that the new situation will be better than the old one, is not so much a claim to an objective truth, but rather a moral position, as I prefer intelligent attempts to reach a goal over just implementing a change and seeing how it works out. I would argue that my preference is superior, but cannot make an objectively true case (as my arguments would be built on assumptions for which there is no scientific evidence to prove them right or wrong.

          • Anon says:

            @Aapje, it appears I have completely misinterpreted your mention of a tourist tax. In America, the “tourist tax” is a law to charge foreign tourists to enter the country, as written into the Travel Promotion Act (read: Ministry of Travel). See also here.

            We are obviously thinking of two very different things.

            @Nancy, that’s a fucking crime. Holy shit. I was off by an order of magnitude. What the fuck.

            It’s literally impossible to be an independent cab driver. You literally need to kowtow to a large company in order to get a job. That’s fucking insane. What the actual fuck.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anon:
            Usually medallion prices are set by the market.

            Medallions are in limited in supply and people expect them to stay that way. What this means is that people who purchase medallions think that the ability to operate as a cab will give a revenue stream that is worth spending on the medallion.

            And NYC is pretty terrible as an argument comparing Uber and Taxis, because non medallioned car services have operated their for a long time before Uber. Nonetheless, the price of a medallion still gets bid up.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anon

            The tourist tax we have in my country is basically a fixed cost per night spend in a hotel or campsite and is very similar to a sales tax.

          • cassander says:

            @anon

            >f an actual uberization of school could even slightly help inner city kids close the achievement gap, teachers would be thrown under the bus in a heartbeat while being called racist bigots.

            That is not happening with with charter schools and vouchers. In fact, the teachers are getting away with calling other people racist bigots.

            >However, if the goalposts are moved, then someone (SchUber or a new company) can focus on the new goalposts and cover them too. And there are only so many goalposts you need to cover before the cost of SchUber is so much cheaper than the public school that either the government implements a SchUber knockoff in the education system, or the public school system gets slashed to bits in budget cuts because almost no one uses it anymore. Essentially, if SchUber strikes gold and keeps mining it, eventually teachers will have to join or die.

            Every US military base has a commissary, that is basically a walmart run by the US military. They are widely agreed to be expensive and terrible. They are a relic of the 19th century, when army bases were often in the ass end of nowhere and getting supplies to them was actually difficult, but they haven’t had a purpose for more than a century. Yet they persist, because they existence benefits a small group of people who are highly motivated to keep them. If commissary reform can be fought for so long, I have little confidence that teachers will run out of goalposts any sooner.

        • stargirlprincess says:

          If you make a small change to what he said then Peter Thiel is clearly right. Libertariansim [Thiel said freedom] and Democracy are not compatible. The vast majority of libertarian positions are unpopular. And many of them are ludicrously unpopular (full drug legalisation for example has single digit support. Most people consider it insane).

          • Aapje says:

            @stargirlprincess

            Libertariansim [Thiel said freedom] and Democracy are not compatible.

            Libertariansm invariably leads to the concentration of power & wealth into the hands of the few. In a Democracy, there is at least the notion of legitimacy as majority can defeat the elite in a vote. Even then there is widespread discontent and feelings of not being represented.

            In actual Libertariansm, these feelings will inevitably grow so big that you will see (more) violent resistance.

          • onyomi says:

            What are these assertions based on?

          • Aapje says:

            Wealth often results in wealth and poverty in poverty. If the education market is libertarian, the wealthiest buy the best education for their children. If healthcare is privately paid, the poor will face career-limiting health issues much more. If taxes are not progressive and high enough, you get rentier capitalism. Etc, etc.

            Studies show that social mobility is lower in more unequal countries. Libertarians generally want the elimination of progressive taxes and reduction in the welfare state, which is known to increase inequality.

            Before and during the Industrial Revolution, inequality increased, which led to widespread revolt and the spread of democracy & socialism to counter this. This is a matter of historical record.

            My conclusion is that if inequality led to discontent and calls for increased socialism in the past, this will happen again if inequality increases. In fact, I would suggest that inequality is already greatly increasing as it is (see Piketty) and that the current ‘populist’ movements are the (beginnings of the) revolt.

            If you want more answers, evidence, etc; I suggest that you ask a more specific question than your general request. There is a lot more I could say, but I prefer not to write a book here.

          • Julie K says:

            If the education market is libertarian, the wealthiest buy the best education for their children.

            Currently, poor children in the US are getting the worst education from government schools. if they got a voucher equivalent to the money that would have been spent to educate them, they could go to a private school.

          • Aapje says:

            @Julie K

            A. I don’t see how vouchers are libertarian

            B. Parents compete for the better schools. Private schools can set their price. If you give parents a voucher for the current cost of private schools, the private schools will increase their price. It’s basic economics, if you have a limited supply and demand increases, the price increases to match demand to the supply again. This will price out the students whose parents can’t afford to supplement the voucher money: the poor. So then the government needs to increase the voucher money, which then causes an increase in costs, etc.

            Of course, at one point that extra money will result in getting more private schools that have more money for teachers than public schools. That extra money could then be used to attract better teachers than the public schools have or to educate teachers better…but the best private schools will then still cater to the rich students and the ‘worst’ private schools to the poorest students, if they act ‘free market rationally.’ So you haven’t solved the inequality problem then.

            Furthermore, then the question becomes why you don’t just give the public schools extra money if the private sector can only provide better schooling for poor kids if they get more money than the public schools.

            C. The easiest way for schools to perform well is to attracts students that are good at learning. The easiest way to do that is to attract students from well educated parents that teach their children how to learn. So the better private schools have a strong incentive to discriminate against poor students, if they are part of a competitive system that rewards them for performing well.

            D. Vouchers are based on the idea that ‘poor’ schools are just not doing their best, while the reality is that students from poor backgrounds tend to have learning issues (many due to issues outside of school that impact their ability to learn or dedicate sufficient time to their studies) and that schooling these kids tends to be much harder work than schooling kids from better backgrounds. School vouchers do nothing to solve these actual issues*.

            * Although to be fair, no solution that is merely focused on the schools can fix the issue, again, because problems that poor communities have outside of school impact their ability to learn. So you need a combination of solutions; there is no silver bullet.

          • Skivverus says:

            @Aapje
            Re: A.
            Depends on who you ask. It might not be as libertarian as, say, getting government out of the indoctri education business entirely, but increasing the scope for competition seems quite compatible with the libertarian perspective.

            Re: B.
            Same argument applies to food, but government-funded soup kitchens don’t need nearly the same level of support (or at least, not in the US that I’m aware of; the potential counterexample that’s coming to mind is Venezuela, which is not a selling point).

            Also, again in the US – my understanding is that there already is a certain amount of “richest schools cater to richest students who flock to richest schools” feedback-looping going on already; it just shows up through house prices. It’s not clear to me whether, or to what degree, vouchers would increase this effect rather than drawing it out from the housing market.

            Re: C.
            Easiest, maybe. But when it comes to students, “best” is a bit of a blurry concept, with room for specialization: we already have a few specialized schools for (e.g.) the blind, without vouchers. Why would adding vouchers decrease the number of these sorts of schools?

            Re: D.
            Related to the last point – I think vouchers would help the ‘learning issues’ issue, so to speak, because they allow for specialization (see previous section) – at least insofar as the parents can figure out what particular learning issues their kids have.

          • Anon says:

            @Aapje

            A. I don’t see how vouchers are libertarian

            I consider myself kinda libertarian (similar to the way Scott does) and I support vouchers. The point of libertarianism, in my eyes, is freedom of choice; forcing students into arbitrarily-defined “school districts” is anti-choice, and vouchers help with that.

            B. Parents compete for the better schools.

            In case you haven’t noticed, the main way parents “compete for better schools” is by buying real estate within a good school district so their kids can go to a better school. This has resulted in hyperinflation of real estate in good school districts, which locks the poor out of good schools a lot more securely than private schools do. The poor go to poor school districts, where homes are cheaper. This also means that good school districts get a lot more tax dollars to make their school better than poor districts, resulting in a vicious cycle. Vouchers help break this cycle, by allowing more schools that aren’t based on arbitrary geographical markers.

            If you give parents a voucher for the current cost of private schools, the private schools will increase their price. It’s basic economics, if you have a limited supply and demand increases, the price increases to match demand to the supply again.

            Do you have any evidence of this actually happening? Your argument is similar to the one on college subsidies; while there is evidence of hyperinflation in that market, I can’t seem to find anything supporting or rejecting your claim either way.

            This will price out the students whose parents can’t afford to supplement the voucher money: the poor. So then the government needs to increase the voucher money, which then causes an increase in costs, etc.

            No it won’t. The way vouchers work is they return the tax dollars that would have gone into the school system to support their child. You can’t have a vicious cycle.

            Of course, at one point that extra money will result in getting more private schools that have more money for teachers than public schools. That extra money could then be used to attract better teachers than the public schools have or to educate teachers better…but the best private schools will then still cater to the rich students and the ‘worst’ private schools to the poorest students, if they act ‘free market rationally.’ So you haven’t solved the inequality problem then.

            The real problem, as you say here, isn’t “school choice is bad”, it’s “all your alternatives are bad.” The real solution isn’t to refuse people the right to go somewhere slightly better, it’s to regulate the private and charter school system.

            Furthermore, then the question becomes why you don’t just give the public schools extra money if the private sector can only provide better schooling for poor kids if they get more money than the public schools.

            Because tenure and bullshit social programs (you’d be surprised how much identity politics bullshit has seeped into even the elementary school level). Also there are social effects; making friends with delinquents all the time will likely make you more of a delinquent; likewise, making friends with straightlaced preps will likely make you more disciplined.

            C. The easiest way for schools to perform well is to attracts students that are good at learning. The easiest way to do that is to attract students from well educated parents that teach their children how to learn. So the better private schools have a strong incentive to discriminate against poor students, if they are part of a competitive system that rewards them for performing well.

            Solution: regulate private/charter schools, enforce Civil Rights Act.
            Not Solution: deny parents choice.

            As for D, sure, they don’t solve the issue of black IQ, but they won’t make it worse either. See paragraph above.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            It’s interesting that Microsoft and vouchers should come up in the same thread. It always struck me as remarkable that bundling a browser with an OS was regarded as wicked by so many people who also believe that bundling a K-12 education with a house makes perfect sense.

          • Anon says:

            @CPZ

            You know what’s funny, I’m the exact opposite of that. I don’t see the problem with bundling IE with Windows but bundling a K-12 education with a house is absolutely awful.

            I think the main reason for this is an issue of lock-in. IE doesn’t lock you in; there’s been a running joke for ages that most people only use IE to download $better_browser, which you can do for free whenever it suits you. Additionally, I’m pretty sure you can port your IE bookmarks and history over to just about any major browser without issue.

            Meanwhile, what alternatives to $local_public_school do you even have? With the exception of accidents of geography where people on the border of their town can possibly transfer to the one other school, you have on average exactly one free option, and your alternatives (charter, voucher, and religious alike) all cost an arm and a leg. Switching out, for most people, isn’t feasible. If you use IE (lol using IE tho) and a change is made that you don’t like, you can always jump ship to $better_browser. If your school makes a change you don’t like, you better get your lube.

          • Aapje says:

            @Anon

            forcing students into arbitrarily-defined “school districts” is anti-choice, and vouchers help with that.

            Perhaps my perspective is different because I’m not in the US. My country has free choice of schools (unless capacity is lacking, which is often a problem) and is legally single payer (for non-college education). Our ‘private’ schools are actually semi-public, so government funded and regulated, but not government run.

            You still see a lot of wealth/ethnic segregation in our schools, not in the least because well-educated/richer parents are way more motivated, capable and have more means. So they are better at getting their kids into the better schools, have the means to bring their kids to a (white) school further away, etc. For example, a few schools near me are white flight schools that attract white kids from a nearby city, while the non-white students tend to go to the black city schools. So even if you take financial access mostly out of the picture, I don’t see it solving the issue.

            The way I see it, vouchers result in a system that at the very best could lead to private schools being just as financially accessible as the schools in my country and more likely to still be less accessible; yet the situation in my country is already rather poor when looking at the (effective) ability for the lesser educated to pick better schools. Hence my conclusion that vouchers are very unlikely to solve the issues that the proponents claim it will solve.

            I would argue that poor students seem to be mostly locked into certain schools anyway, so the main effort should be put into making those schools better, not introducing competition that doesn’t achieve the goals.

            Do you have any evidence of this actually happening? Your argument is similar to the one on college subsidies; while there is evidence of hyperinflation in that market, I can’t seem to find anything supporting or rejecting your claim either way.

            Not really, although in my country some schools seem to use non-curricular activities to hike up their prices, thus discouraging poor people from applying. These are paid for by parents and legally these payments are optional, but in practice many schools tell parents they are mandatory. As less-educated parents tend to not know their rights or feel empowered to fight for them, this allows schools to price out poor students.

            The price boosting effect has been demonstrated in housing subsidies, which I would argue is sufficiently similar to vouchers to be reasonable as (weak) evidence.

            The way vouchers work is they return the tax dollars that would have gone into the school system to support their child.

            AFAIK, you can declare that vouchers work a certain way, as it is a catch-all term for various implementations that can differ substantially. In general, there is the issue that fully private schools are free to set their price. Either you merely give a fixed amount of money, which allows the schools to price out poor students; or you give a blank check, which logically would result in private schools increasing their prices as much as possible to get more tax money; or you force private schools to accept students for a fixed amount of money, which is effectively deprivatization (at that point, the government is capping the prices for private schooling, for some students).

            The real solution isn’t to refuse people the right to go somewhere slightly better, it’s to regulate the private and charter school system.

            Ok, so you want to deprivatize and make the US system more like the system in my country. I would applaud this, since I think that our system is better (still not great, but the US is very good at picking bad solutions). However, I don’t see how more regulation is a libertarian solution.

            I also don’t see why you just don’t go to a single payer system if you regulate private education anyway.

            PS. Interesting article about the actual results of a voucher system.

          • Two McMillion says:

            Stargirlprincess:

            I think your username is awesome.

          • Agronomous says:

            @Anon:

            and your alternatives (charter, voucher, and religious alike) all cost an arm and a leg

            I live in Washington, DC, the charter-school epicenter of the U.S.; something like 40% of our public-school students attend charter schools. Three of those are mine.

            The way charter schools work here (and I think everywhere in the U.S.) is that they are public schools: their capital and operating budgets come from the existing school system. Their advantage is they get out from under a lot of bureaucracy and entanglement with the central office downtown, and that students from anywhere in the city can attend them. (Washington, at 60 square miles (155 square cubits) is much smaller than New York; our pupil transportation system is just Metro trains and buses.)

            This attracts involved parents, which is never a bad thing for a school. There is a lottery for getting into charter schools; some charter schools are so popular that wait lists can reach 1,000 hopeful pupils. We are literally lucky to be sending one of our kids to his school. (Contrast with the one who goes to private school, who just had to be smarter than the other applicants.)

            Religious schools seem to be of three different types:

            1) Prestigious, like the Cathedral School and St. Alban’s, or Sidwell Friends, which are roughly on par with Andover or Exeter.

            2) Catholic, like Gonzaga, which provide a good education and make an effort to keep costs down. The primary way of doing so, unpaid religious labor, is getting scarcer. In ones associated with a parish, parishoners are subsidized, sometimes with an all-kids-past-the-second-are-free setup. One of our kids goes to one, and while the stated price is indeed an arm and a leg, financial aid reduces that to a foot and half a shin. If we were poor enough, it would be nearly free.

            3) Other. These aren’t really on our family’s radar, so I don’t know too much about them. My impression is that a lot of them were set up to flee the public school systems after 1954, or after the secularization of public schools throughout the 1970s, but that might be uncharitable.

            To sum up: charter schools are free (in the sense that public schools are); some religious schools cost a lot, but most have generous financial aid.

            Vouchers are another thing entirely, and since we don’t have them here, I can’t tell you anything interesting about them.

        • Chalid says:

          It hasn’t been, because the people who liked the idea of small government were too socially conservative and the socially liberal people were all in favor of big government.

          I think the main thing thing is that most people who like the abstract idea of small government don’t actually generally support cutting nontrivial government programs.

          • Jordan D. says:

            I think this is true- when people say ‘supporter of small government’, I think this refers to a few distinct groups.

            1) ‘Pure Libertarians’ – People who earnestly believe that less government is better government across the board.
            2) ‘Federalists’ – People who are actually most concerned with moving federal powers back to the state or local levels.
            3) ‘Anti-Xers’ – People who hate specific parts of government (classically the EPA) and are really thinking of that particular thing when they talk of government excess.
            4) ‘Sloganeers’ – People who have acquired a liking for ‘small government’ as an applause light, but aren’t really in favor of any practical implementation of it.
            5) ‘Fair Weather Friends’ – People who adopt the language of small-government in opposition to specific laws or court cases they dislike, but otherwise aren’t particularly interested.

            Needless to say, I think the first group is much smaller than the other four groups, and the fair weather friends probably predominate at any given time. This is also the core of why I think the Libertarian party would have to grind itself down pretty far to capture a majority vote- actually cutting government services is only popular with group 1 and part of group 3 (maybe group 2, if they think the states will just take care of it), but the sloganeers would actually prefer not to cut anything but taxes.

            The politicians, I think, believe that the sloganeers are the majority by far, which is why you’ll rarely find any politician who both runs as a small-government politician and gives any examples of services to cut which aren’t hilariously minor. I think this is part of the reason that, during the Republican debates, half the candidates refused to say that they’d cut Social Security (and those who did mostly added in the ‘But not for you, seniors who actually vote a lot!’ caveat). ‘Small-government’ gets plenty of votes as long as you’re criticizing other people for big government, but not as many when you show any signs of actually implementing it.

          • Lumifer says:

            Yeah. I vaguely remember some studies/polls where people were very enthusiastic about cutting government spending in general, but when walked through a full list of major government programs, they refused to cut anything specific.

          • onyomi says:

            Clientelism is a fundamental Hard Problem with democracy and government in general. Anytime the government manages to pass something which preferentially benefits one group (i. e. nearly all policies), it creates a strong vested interest to insure that particular program continues in perpetuity, even if it is net harmful to a much larger, more diffuse group, whose time it isn’t worth to research and lobby against it.

            As everyone says: “throw the bums out! …but not my bum,” so they say “cut all that pork! …except my district’s pork, or the particular program which benefits me, which, conveniently, is absolutely essential.” Everyone holds tight to their pound of flesh while loudly decrying the million tiny cuts by which everyone else extracts theirs.

            I’m not sure how/whether it may be possible to effectively combat this within a democratic framework. Which is why I think agoristish solutions like Bitcoin and Uber may ultimately be more effective than trying to fight back the taxi lobby, the hotel lobby, the farm lobby…

          • Chalid says:

            @onyomi I don’t think that’s it. In a concentrated benefits/diffuse costs scenario, most government programs would be broadly unpopular, but in general they poll very highly.

            I think Jordan D. gets at a lot of the reasons, but I’ll add one more which I think dominates all of them – people just are ignorant of what the government does. For example, Americans think that we spend more on foreign aid than on social security, so of course they think they can cut government spending without harming their highly valued social security/medicare/military readiness/whatever.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jordan D:

            2) ‘Federalists’ – People who are actually most concerned with moving federal powers back to the state or local levels.

            I think those who actually hold this position are much less numerous than even actual libertarians.

            I think most of those who espouse the Federalist position are really just 3, 4 or 5, and are perfectly fine with the central government putting in place the specific prohibitions and regulations that they favor.

            There are a some (like Ron Paul) that espouse state’s rights in service of libertarian ideals, but that looks a lot like “tip of the spear” and/or coalition building to me.

          • onyomi says:

            @Chalid,

            Ignorance is a big part of it. People are in favor, in a general, vague way of cutting things, but don’t actually know the specifics of any but the programs which benefit them.

            That said, I think you’re right that it’s not just that people favor the programs which directly benefit them and nothing else: it is possible to demagogue attempted cuts to anything specific by trotting out sad farmer, retirees, veterans, etc. and saying “you want to take away these people’s livelihoods!” But that is where the lobbying comes in. It is worth it for, e. g., the farm lobby, to spend a lot of money convincing everyone farming subsidies are necessary. It is not worth it for the rest of the population to learn about why they probably aren’t.

            There is also a phenomenon whereby programs are intentionally designed to be uncutable: if you want to manufacture some new military hardware, for example, you make sure you get the screws from this state and the widgets from that state, thereby spreading out the number of people who will be outraged at any attempt to cut the expenditure.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            I think you are conflating two different things, especially when we talk about military expenditures.

            Regardless of whether people know where fighters are made or bases are located, the broad populace is not in favor of cutting the capabilities of the military. Roughly speaking, cutting the budget of the DoD, etc. is reducing capability. Yeah, you can start to argue about whether this fighter jet or that submarine toilet seat is over-priced, but that is really just messing around on the margins.

            But, assuming you can get over this objection and actually come to consensus that cuts should be made, then you get specific legislators responding to locally important issues, whether it is the local defense contractors employment or the businesses around a local base.

            They both act as a means to prevent cutting the military budget, but they are really two separate issues.

            And when it comes to Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, which along with debt service (and the aforementioned military spending) comprise the super majority of federal spending, you really can’t separate them at all. People don’t want them cut because they benefit their family directly. There is no nefarious plot to spread SSI benefits around, that is the whole point of the program, that it is universal.

          • Aapje says:

            For example, Americans think that we spend more on foreign aid than on social security, so of course they think they can cut government spending without harming their highly valued social security/medicare/military readiness/whatever.

            Not only that, but people also get told by politicians that the government is very wasteful and that the politician will ‘shake up Washington’ to fix it. This is a very smart win-win strategy by politicians, they lose no votes by antagonizing anyone and basically promise people free money. The result is that people get to believe in a lie, though.

            Of course there is waste in government, but it tends to consist of two kinds:
            – How bureaucrats do their work. This tends to cost an enormous effort to change and provides relatively little benefit compared to the total budget.
            – How government programs are organized. You may get big gains here, but changing it usually has pretty big impact on citizens. So you tend to get a lot of angry people, if only because of the uncertainty to people. See Obamacare.

            So the idea of easy to achieve and truly ‘free from negative consequences’ waste-cutting is mostly a myth, yet one that many people want to be true.

          • BBA says:

            3) ‘Anti-Xers’ – People who hate specific parts of government (classically the EPA) and are really thinking of that particular thing when they talk of government excess.

            Maybe I’ve been reading too many lefty blogs, but to me the classic example of the one specific government intervention “libertarians” hate is the Civil Rights Act. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying libertarianism is racist, I’m saying a lot of racists wanted a plausibly non-racist reason to oppose the CRA and Barry Goldwater (who was certainly not a racist) had by far the best one.

          • Nornagest says:

            I get the feeling that most of the former libertarians who were any more opposed to the Civil Rights Act than they were to, say, protections for burrowing owls — that is, those that had more than vague theoretical convictions about the subject — have gotten sucked into the alt-right over the last few years.

          • Anon says:

            Joke’s on them, Nornagest, they still haven’t gotten me!

            I should state the main reason I oppose the Civil Rights Act is that it’s essentially forcing quotas and the so-called “diversity hire,” which is exactly the same externality as the “owner’s son hire” but it’s better because it’s Encouraging Racial Equality™®©. Affirmative action isn’t helping matters, and additionally discriminates against Asians because they’re not important enough an underrepresented minority.

            Additionally, the Civil Rights Act has been abused to prevent firehouses from being able to screen their employees if they have a “disparate impact” on minorities (i.e. they accurately measure the intelligence of the applicant, and therefore measure the black IQ gap). Links to articles on the case have shown up here often, but have another.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            Uh … how smart do you need to be to be a fireman?

          • Sandy says:

            The test in Ricci v. DeStefano consisted of questions compiled at a tenth grade reading level, which leads me to wonder if America thinks it’s better for society to have stupid firefighters so long as they’re ethnically diverse.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            In tenth grade I read Macbeth. It was a good play. Very powerful.

            Don’t see why you need to be able to understand it to be a fireman. Point the hose in the direction of the flames seems to be the sort of thing a ninth grader (Julius Caesar) could figure out.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            It almost seems like you’re systematically underestimating the complexity of a very dangerous job that will kill you in seconds if you make a mistake.
            Like, say, pointing a hose at a chemical fire without understanding why it’s burning, or getting roasted alive because you introduced a draught by opening the wrong door in a burning building.

            There’s nothing especially wrong with letting people with middle-school educations do the job. Just expect a few more memorials at the firehouse.

          • I’d have said that the war on drugs is one of the biggest libertarian issues.

            As for how smart you need to be to be a fire fighter, you don’t need ot know MacBeth, but you do need good judgement about where to go in a burning building.

            So, spacial intelligence, at least. And two things I don’t think IQ tests cover– not just rotation, but ability to predict complex movement, and the ability to be intelligent while in a frightening situation.

          • Anon says:

            @Mistake Not, you need at least some brainpower. You can’t get by on a room-temperature IQ. Fire engines are complex machines; you need to memorize where everything is by heart without hesitation, and pressing the wrong button at the wrong time can be anywhere from mildly inconvenient to fatal. Memorization in general, and recall under pressure after a long shift in particular, are crucial to firefighting. Furthermore, there are a bunch of things you need to know about the kinds of fires and fire extinguishers, which are safe to use when, and what other ways there are to stop the spread of fires if something important fails (e.g. the hydrant isn’t pressurized enough). Also, memorizing street layouts is incredibly useful to get to the fire quickly, but that’s probably less necessary with Google Maps and the like. You don’t need to be a genius, but you should probably have an IQ around 90 or so.

            The main issue I have with this case has nothing to do with the object level, though. My problem is a scary precedent has been set: any test that accurately measures the black IQ gap Has A Disparate Impact On Under-Represented Minorities™®© can be ruled invalid in court and anyone not hired as a result can rob the defendant blind. This means that any screening process that screens out black people exactly as much as you would expect given the black IQ gap Disproportionately Compared To White People is a liability, not an asset. This further encourages the “diversity hire” and forces quotas where they’re unnecessary.

            Point the hose in the direction of the flames seems to be the sort of thing a ninth grader (Julius Caesar) could figure out.

            What happens when the hose fails? If you don’t know that off the top of your head, people die. Remember that. See the replies Homo and Nancy made.

            @Sandy

            The test under question in Ricci v. DeStefano consisted of questions compiled at a tenth grade reading level, which leads me to wonder if America thinks it’s better for society to have stupid firefighters so long as they’re ethnically diverse.

            I think the most ironic thing about this case is that there are a large number of fire departments that require you to have a college degree to work full-time. It’s ridiculous. With a high school diploma and a few months of part-time volunteering you can get the hang of it, provided you work well under pressure and have a good enough memory to remember what all the buttons do. Again, you don’t need to be Einstein, but at least some neurons need to be firing up in there.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            You are allowed to have tests that have a disparate impact as long as you show that they are related to job performance. Either your organization can do that or your industry trade group can.

            If someone with an 85 IQ really can’t do the job safely that should be easy enough to demonstrate. And for a heck of a lot less than it is going to cost to litigate.

          • CatCube says:

            @Mistake Not

            As a practical matter, the only way to demonstrate that your test is necessary is to win during the litigation.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mistake Not

            Intelligence may be a very strong predictor of suitability, but not 100% accurate. For example, some rare low-IQ people may have naturally good instincts (and some high-IQ people may not be able to override their bad instincts).

            In that case, a judge might decide based on the CRA that IQ is not strictly linked to job performance and that IQ tests result in discrimination that is not allowed.

            However, if you cannot accurately test these instincts before giving people extensive training, this may force fire departments into abandoning a pre-hire filter that is very cheap & 95% accurate and replace it with a very expensive hiring process that has extreme attrition (which has negative effects on the candidates as well).

            I consider such a decision to be political in nature (as it is a decision that greatly depends on subjective morality) and thus not one that judges should make.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            @Aapje
            This just reads like ad hoc FUD. The case law does not require a perfect fit.

            Lest everyone forget in Ricci v. DeStefano the test was reinstated and used for promotion. The majority opinion by Justice Kennedy praised the work I/O Solutions had done in designing the test.

            It’s true that you can’t just throw an IQ test in willy nilly, or use an ancient creaky exam that was put together for god-knows-what-reason and has the answers passed down in nepotistic fashion (as the New Haven FD did prior to creating this new exam). But the Supreme Court laid out a reasonable roadmap for any other industry that wants to use testing.

            The idea that the CRA requires hiring quotas doesn’t pass the straight face test. Not even if you add some snarky copyright symbols to the argument.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mistake Not

            I’m not a lawyer, so my argument was not on what actually is the legal situation. I was explaining more why one could oppose the law if it works as explained by others above.

        • Titanium Dragon says:

          The libertarian agenda is deeply unpopular.

          Their tax proposals are terrible. Raising taxes on the poor and middle class while lowering them on the rich? Yeah, *that’s* going to fly. Not to mention the fact that consumption taxes intrinsically punish consumption, which is the exact opposite of what you want your tax policies to do – more consumption is good, less consumption is bad.

          Their lack of understanding of the crucial role of the government in protecting individual rights makes them incredibly unpopular to any group which faces persecution (and deeply appealing to racists and theocrats – it was the libertarian “you can’t interfere in my life” which attracted the white nationalists and the religious types as a means of defending their segregated Christian schools).

          The opposition to public schools is also deeply nutty.

          The reality is that libertarianism is a very fringe idea and always has been. The reason that the Republicans got taken over by White Nationalists and Theocratic types is precisely because there is almost no natural base for libertarianism in the US, and thus it mostly appeals to people who see the government as their enemy.

          And people who see the government as their enemy are almost all bad people.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’m not even libertarian but…

            The obvious rejoinder would be that government has a less than stellar when it comes to protecting individual rights and granting it a monopoly on force as most anti-libertarians argue we should has historically enabled more persecution than it has prevented.

            You say that people who see the government as their enemy are almost all bad people. My first impulse is conclude that you are a person who’s only ever had to deal with it at arm’s length, that or your definition of “bad person” is overly broad.

          • acorn says:

            “And people who see the government as their enemy are almost all bad people.”

            The Talmud says “pray for the welfare of government, for if it were not for it, men would swallow eachother alive.”

          • Aapje says:

            @hlynkacg

            The obvious rejoinder would be that government has a less than stellar [record] when it comes to protecting individual rights

            I think this is a rather silly statement, as anarchism doesn’t work. Before long you have a warlord or such using power over others and thus forming a kind of government. So the only real choice you have is what kind of government you try to create. I would argue that democratic governments have a relatively good track record compared to the alternatives.

            granting it a monopoly on force as most anti-libertarians argue we should has historically enabled more persecution than it has prevented.

            In situations of anarchy we tend to see a huge amount of right violations by citizens. So I doubt that you can provide decent evidence to show that the enforcement of law by the government hasn’t prevented more abuses than has been caused by government.

            You say that people who see the government as their enemy are almost all bad people. My first impulse is conclude that you are a person who’s only ever had to deal with it at arm’s length, that or your definition of “bad person” is overly broad.

            My first impulse is to conclude that you are talking past each other, where Titanium Dragon is talking about people opposing the concept of having a government and you are talking about opposing specific actions by the government.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Raising taxes on the poor and middle class while lowering them on the rich? Yeah, *that’s* going to fly.

            Why not? Nordic countries do that… well, mostly the former, but the tax base is much more evenly distributed.

            My first impulse is to conclude that you are talking past each other, where Titanium Dragon is talking about people opposing the concept of having a government and you are talking about opposing specific actions by the government.

            Well, if that’s the case then let’s be precise and refer to these people as anarcho-capitalists.

        • SilasLock says:

          I hope the fault lines are shifting. Not because I’m a libertarian myself, but because I’d be delighted to have libertarians as intellectual opponents rather than the present American right.

          Seriously, you guys deserve a bigger place in US political discourse. = )

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        There’s never, since the beginning of polling, been a 20 percentage point boost for any candidate from a debate or series of candidates. Ross Perot was in the debates, had more than double Johnson’s support, and still had absolutely no chance of winning.

        From what I heard, when speaking about Johnson having a chance, what’s said is that he can siphon enough support from both Hillary and Trump so that neither has the minimum votes to win, and then get elected by congress.

        I don’t think that’s likely, but it seems more likely than getting the 270 votes required to win outright.

        • Mistake Not ... says:

          Throwing it to the House doesn’t require just getting both candidates down below 50% of the popular vote. That’s relatively easy. You need to get them both below 270 electoral college votes. Which means that you need to win at least one state outright. Ross Perot had 19% of the popular vote and didn’t do any better than 30% in any one state (Maine).

          What’s Johnson’s strongest state? I see a poll from Utah that shows him at 10%, and one from New Mexico that shows him at 14%. There a poll from Wisconsin that shows him at 16% but it’s with a three way race (no Stein).

          • Nornagest says:

            Which means that you need to win at least one state outright.

            Technically not; there are states (Maine, Nebraska) that allocate their Electoral College votes by congressional district, though none that do true proportional representation. But it’s very unusual for the Electoral College vote to be close enough for it to matter, and both those states usually don’t split their votes anyway. (Nebraska didn’t in 2008, but that’s the first time it happened.)

          • LHN says:

            You could also do it with an electoral tie, or a near-tie plus a faithless elector or three. Still very unlikely, but possibly more practical than Johnson winning a state outright.

            Though the House vote afterward is really hard to predict. Each state gets one vote, and the delegations are from the newly-seated House. That probably still favors the Republicans (even if the Democrats take the House for normal purposes, they’re likely to still have a minority of states). But anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats managing a compromise isn’t out of the question.

            But they can only choose among the three top electoral vote-getters. If it starts to look like the electors aren’t going to decide it, I would expect some serious efforts to get the largest number of faithless electors and be that potential compromise candidate. Johnson’s electors might well be swamped by a mainstream Republican or even a compromise Democrat.

          • onyomi says:

            I think the American people might (big might) accept as legitimate a compromise candidate who ran, won a state or two, but got the fewest total votes. I don’t think they’d accept someone who literally didn’t run, and for whom no one voted (that said, they accepted Gerald Ford, albeit in a different situation).

          • LHN says:

            How would the American people express their nonacceptance after the House voted, assuming the (inevitable) Supreme Court challenge was dismissed, or affirmed the House’s action?

            (Or before, I suppose. But there’s really not a lot of space to act between the electoral college voting and the House taking up the question, especially given that the first is a few days before Christmas and the second a few after New Year.)

          • onyomi says:

            My gut reaction was that people would just not accept it and loudly demand a do-over vote for one of the top candidates or something; but upon further reflection, Americans are pretty good at shutting up and accepting the outcome of the process, for good and for ill. That said, it could result in a Johnson presidency where very little gets done, because he is perceived as lacking any mandate. That would still be much preferable to a Trump or HRC presidency to me, however.

          • LHN says:

            It’s an interesting question: if the members of the House broker a hard-won compromise in favor of Johnson (or some other candidate who won little or none of the popular vote), do they wind up more likely to want to make his presidency work, in order to retroactively justify their choice?

            The House would have a pseudo-parliamentary “ownership” of the choice of the executive that doesn’t usually exist. I could see the cognitive dissonance of the legislators working in such a president’s favor, at least for the usual honeymoon period produced by a claimed mandate.

            That’s if the compromise is broad-based rather than a squeaker, of course. A President elected by a majority of states but a small minority of House members (trivially possible given one-state one-vote[1]) might well face an extremely hostile and vindictive House.

            [1] It looks to me as if a president could be elected in principle by 58 out of 435 representatives, by getting majorities of the House delegation in all the states with 6 or fewer representatives. (Since I’m not sure about ties, I’m assuming the representatives from states with 2 are in agreement with one another.)

          • BBA says:

            The “one state one vote” tiebreaker is the most nonsensical part of the Constitution, and a big reason why I look askance whenever people are overly reverent of Intent of the Framers.

            Now it’s mostly a good thing that our constitution is practically impossible to amend, because otherwise it’d be a laundry list of things that seemed like good ideas a few decades ago (cf. California’s constitution). But it means we’ll never fix the obviously flawed parts. At least this one hasn’t come up very often.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            So long as we actually follow the tiebreak as laid down in the Constitution if it comes to it, we’ll have shown the Framers all the reverence that’s required.

          • Titanium Dragon says:

            They’d never choose Johnson over Trump. It simply would not happen.

      • JRM says:

        I think Gary Johnson has about a 1.5% chance of winning. This *is* a unique election in which two reviled candidates race to the bottom.

        It’s hard to tell whether I’m right or not in one go-round, so I propose resetting 2016 from here a few thousand times to see. (I’m unexcited about the post-election period, so we can re-live this.)

        If anyone has a reset button, it’s one of the Scott A’s.

    • Julie K says:

      Are the principles expressed by Johnson in this interview libertarian principles?

      • Jaskologist says:

        To elaborate on Julie’s point, this crossed my facebook today.

        For a while, I’ve gotten the impression that, while I like and mostly agree with libertarian principles, actual libertarians will avoid fighting for them any time that might work in social conservatives’ favor. Mostly I wrote that off as generalizing unfairly from the Reason crowd.

        But it looks like the party as a whole is going all-in on that. This is a great strategy if you think that disaffected Republicans are upset at their leaders for not preemptively surrendering to Democrats enough, or if you think Democrat-lite is sweet spot.

        But seriously, at least when Republicans abandoned their principles they did it in exchange for power, not for 5% of the vote.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Yeah. The immediate impression one gets of Johnson is that he’s a Democrat.

          And like the saying goes, if the election is between a Democrat and a Democrat, you should bet on the Democrat.

          • JayT says:

            Johnson is far from a Democrat. If anything, he’s a Goldwater Republican. No Democrat could hold his views and still get get support from the party.

            Yes, he isn’t a lock-step Libertarian, but I would argue that the Libertarian party needs more people like him. You have to take baby steps to get where you want to go.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Looking at ontheissues.com, Johnson’s certainly taken a number of Libertarian positions… almost universally in 2011/2012 and earlier. The things he’s most famous for saying this time around are that he considers religious liberty dangerous and that Stephen Breyer is an example of the sort of Supreme Court Justice nominee he’d put forward. That’s why one gets the impression he’s a Democrat.

            Yes, he isn’t a lock-step Libertarian, but I would argue that the Libertarian party needs more people like him. You have to take baby steps to get where you want to go.

            I’m not convinced that someone who’d nominate Breyer, knowing how that worked out, is going anywhere that the Democratic Party isn’t already taking us.

        • Julie K says:

          If I were a libertarian candidate, I would say, “The RFRA is nice, but it doesn’t go far enough. We don’t need a Religious Freedom Restoration Act – we need a Freedom Restoration Act! If there are laws that are not so crucial, that we’re willing to make religious exceptions to – let’s just get rid of them!”

          But maybe Johnson’s approach would win more Libertarian votes.

        • Fahundo says:

          Did you see the context in which he made the comment about freedom of religion? It seemed pretty reasonable to me.

          • Two McMillion says:

            What was the context?

          • Fahundo says:

            He was saying he doesn’t want to create a situation in which one person can use “religious freedom” as an excuse to discriminate against someone else.

          • Mary says:

            Err — why would the person need an excuse? Surely in a liberatarian state, one is free to choose who one does business with without justifying it to a third part.

      • Titanium Dragon says:

        No, they’re not. And that’s why the libertarian party is so unpopular.

        You have to understand that the mainline libertarian party is very much “The government is always oppressive and cannot bring freedom”. Johnson believes that the government has a lot more roles than the Libertarian party believes it has.

        The reality is that the more reality-based a libertarian becomes, the less Libertarian they become. There’s a reason that the very libertarian founding fathers wrote the Constitution – the libertarian Articles of Confederation were a monkey-humping disaster.

        • acorn says:

          I cringe so hard when someone at the water cooler mentions the word “government” in a non-pejorative sense. i know a foolishness-spreading rejoinder is on its way….one-one thousand…two-one thousand….three-one thous

        • Salem says:

          The Articles of Confederation were not libertarian. They were extremely federalist (in today’s language… anti-federalist in the language of the 1780s/90s), but that is not the same thing. Libertarianism is opposed to infringements on liberty by federal and state governments equally. Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government had few powers, but the state governments were all powerful. Also, the central government was not restrained by a bill of rights. One of the main reasons that Madison wanted a stronger federal government was to stop the states infringing on liberty.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          reality-based

          Interestingly, that whole left-wing “reality-based community” snark is based on an urban legend.

    • Nathan says:

      I think there is actually a non-zero (but still very low) chance Johnson becomes president. If discontent among republicans reaches a point where enough defect to Johnson that he looks like a credible choice, he could become the de-facto Republican standard bearer. Getting into the debates is probably not enough to reach that point, maybe 20-25% polling average would do it.

      Of course there’s not a lot of time left for that to happen, and it’s hard to imagine what more Trump could possibly do to chase away voters above what he’s already done. But who knows. Finding new lows seems to be his specialty!

      • HeelBearCub says:

        In order for Johnson to win the election outright (get to 270 EC votes) you can’t just posit that he becomes “the Republican standard bearer”, you have to think that he will pull substantial votes from Hillary as well.

        Because, see his comments on “religious liberty is a black hole”, he can’t pull all of the Republican votes that Romney got.

        I just don’t see that happening. The issue map just isn’t there.

        Maybe, in some bizarro land where he managed to get the electorate voter registration percentage from 60% to 90% by identifying that “one weird trick”, but he doesn’t have the kind of organization that can make that happen. Seriously, Ds have put large effort into just registering everyone for many election cycles.

        • Aegeus says:

          He can become President without 270, in theory. If he wins enough states that neither candidate can reach 270, the election goes to the House. At which point the Republican-controlled House could, in theory, hand the Presidency to Johnson. If they hated Trump and Hillary so much that they were willing to ignore the popular backlash from choosing the least popular candidate to be president.

          In other words, theoretically possible, if Johnson has alien mind control rays on his side, but it won’t happen.

      • onyomi says:

        I will say that this level of a major party’s open dissatisfaction with their own nominee right after the convention seems pretty unprecedented in my lifetime, maybe much longer.

        It’s interesting to contemplate the result if it continues or grows; the most likely being simply HRC victory, but what if it’s also Johnson+Stein winning 20% of the popular vote or something? That feels like a very big deal, though, again, I’m not sure what the longterm ramifications would be (or maybe it’s just a weird fluke that doesn’t change anything, as Ross Perot mostly seems to have been. What’s weird though is that this time, Ross Perot IS the major party candidate, in a sense).

    • onyomi says:

      Anecdata in favor of Gary Johnson’s impact: mega Trump supporter Facebook friend has started posting unflattering things about him.

    • onyomi says:

      New Gary Johnson question:

      If we were allowed “instant runoff” voting in the US, how many more votes would Gary Johnson and Jill Stein get?

      • LHN says:

        I’m voting for Johnson, but I’m pretty sure the answer is “not enough”. Especially since while Johnson’s getting unprecedented play for the LP, I’d guess that there are still more voters who haven’t heard of him, or are only vaguely aware of him, than have really given him much thought.

        Of course, the entire dynamic of the electoral cycle would be different if we had IRV. If the primaries used it, I’m guessing we’d have a different Republican nominee, and maybe Clinton would have had more challengers. So speculating what might happen if it suddenly entered the process with the current constellation of candidates may be misleading.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        If we allowed instant-runoff voting, it’s possible that one person changing their vote from A to B would cause A to win.

        IRV is non-monotonic, which is a really bad property for a voting system to have. Please don’t support IRV. It is bogus nonsense.

        If you want a voting system that promotes acceptable moderates over base-fellating extremists, is reasonably robust to tactical voting, and does not involve weird math that looks suspicious to the average voter, you probably want approval voting.

        http://zesty.ca/voting/sim/

      • John Schilling says:

        Johnson is polling at 10%, which is probably an overestimate of his actual electoral support. But I strongly suspect an instant-runoff system would increase the number of people willing to consider an (initial) Johnson vote at 50%, which roughly translates to the 15% polling threshold necessary to get him into the debates and the associated media coverage. At that point, my crystal ball gets pretty hazy.

        But then, if we had an instant-runoff system, polling, debating, and media coverage would all run according to different rules. For that matter, if we had instant-runoff in the general election the parties might have adopted it for their primaries and then we don’t even get to this point in the counterfactual.

      • SilasLock says:

        I would argue that, initially, neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein would get many more votes. As it stands, third parties haven’t reached as deeply into the public consciousness as they need to in order to stand up to the Democratic and Republican parties. Give them 5 years under an instant-runoff voting system, and the nominees for the third parties would have a much better chance.

  3. Bakkot says:

    This is my periodic solicitation for suggested improvements to the comment system here.

    Major changes aren’t going to happen unless Scott wants them, but sometimes I can make you a userscript or bookmarklet that will serve your needs. I’m not going to implement voting.

    As a reminder, some existing features (if you haven’t disabled JavaScript):

    * At the bottom of each comment, there is a ‘hide’ link which will collapse that subthread.
    * Next to it, child comments have an arrow which links to their parent comment.
    * The box in the top right expands to a chronological list of new comments, and you can click on a comment to scroll to it (unless it is within a collapsed subthread)
    * You can change the date in said box to change which comments are marked as new.
    * New comments have a bit of text added after their timestamp, which you can C-f for to quickly jump through new comments in page order.
    * In theory, posting a comment should not mark comments on that page as read. There were initially some reports that this intermittently failed, but I haven’t heard any reports of that recently, and I was never able to reproduce.

    I’ve also made an extension you can install to collapse threads by users of your choice.

    And here is a userscript which will let you jump from any nested comment to the topmost comment containing it.

    Further comments are also welcomed at the github repo hosting the script which does this stuff.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is it possible to post a comment without collapsed posts un-collapsing?

    • brad says:

      I’d love a sticky collapse option. No offense to those that enjoy that sort of thing, but I could not possibly care any less about re-litigating the contributions of the various allies in WWII. I’d loved to have been able to collapse that thread and never see posts in it again.

      • Bakkot says:

        This is technically feasible, but I’m not sure about the UI. Would a thread uncollapse if it had new comments? Some people certainly use hiding to mark threads they’ve read through, and would be surprised if they stayed collapsed when new comments were posted.

        But I feel like another UI element would be too much. Thoughts?

        • brad says:

          I suppose you are right. There probably are people out there that wouldn’t like sticky collapse. And any kind of global preference system seems far too heavyweight for the feel of this site.

          Ah well. Thanks for all that you’ve done already.

    • Lumifer says:

      Thanks for doing this.

      Since the page knows who I am, is there a way to have an indicator (probably associated with the top-right box) which will tell me that my posts have new to me replies?

      Given the shallow threading, a “reply” would probably be defined as a new post one level below mine OR a post at the lowest thread level such that (a) I have a post of my own at this thread level; and (b) that post is newer than mine.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      I want a golden crown above my Gravatar!

    • Anon says:

      I remember a while back that someone suggested making the indentations half avatar size and alternating the comment fill colors the way Reddit does, so the comment trees can go deeper. Is this feasible?

      Also seconding sticky post collapsing. It’s really annoying when I follow a link in one of the larger comment threads, go back, and all the comments opened up again and I lost my spot.

      • Anonymous says:

        In addition to that, can you make the sidebars collapsible? I hardly ever use them, and would like some extra horizontal space for the actual content.

        • Randy M says:

          On my browser at least, the left sidebar is auto-collapsed already, and the right sidebar has ads, and I think making those collapseable would defeat the purpose.

    • numbers says:

      Sometimes I load up the open thread and there’s a 50-comment-long conversation about — y’know, about people getting offended at each other, or something like that — and it takes a long time to scroll past it to get to the next top-level comment. Of course I can just scroll back up to the post that started it all and hide that one, but I have to do that every time I load the open thread, and it’s a lot of clicking “hide”, sometimes.

      I wonder if there’s a way to fix that. Perhaps:
      * automatically hide all replies, leaving only the top-level posts visible?
      * … and show the number of hidden replies to each post, so I can see what’s most active?
      * maybe truncate each top-level post to the first 256 characters until I press “unhide”, to make it even easier to scroll through them?

      I guess that could be a lot of work. ^_^; Well, it’s just a thought.

      Regardless, thanks for all the features you’ve already added!

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        * automatically hide all replies, leaving only the top-level posts visible?
        * … and show the number of hidden replies to each post, so I can see what’s most active?

        So basically image-board style?

  4. Julie K says:

    It’s commonly said that one factor that contributed to American prosperity in the 1950’s was the lack of competition for American manufacturing, since much of the rest of the world had been devastated by WW2.

    Isn’t this claim in contradiction to the idea that all parties benefit from international trade?

    If the initial claim is incorrect, might it still be the case that although this factor did not make the US wealthier overall, it did at least cause the wealth to be distributed more evenly?

    • John Schilling says:

      The United States and the rest of the world, benefitted from the fact that the US was able to export goods from its intact factories to desperate customers around the globe. American factories could not operate in isolation, but needed raw materials from overseas, so there wasn’t a competing option where American factories still ran at full capability but US consumers got to enjoy their full output. The US got a better deal on those raw materials than it would have if limited to domestic sources, so higher productivity, stronger employment, and lower prices for those goods manufactured for domestic consumption. The rest of the world got a much larger supply and thus lower prices for manufactured goods than it would have if limited to its own war-torn domestic manufacturing capability.

      This was, particularly for the United States, a transient benefit – and the ending of a transient benefit is often perceived as a loss. I don’t think we have yet gotten over that perceived loss.

      And it must be noted that, while this was a particularly noteworthy transient gain for all concerned, it does not begin to match the transient loss that was the Second World War. All parties usually benefit from international trade, but no parties usually benefit from a war. In both cases, the effects can be unequally distributed, and again people can perceive a loss if someone else benefits more than they did (or vice versa).

    • Wrong Species says:

      The years 1928-1950 are really weird because even though there was the Great Depression and World War 2, labor productivity significantly increased from the years before. Robert Gordon believes that WW2 contributed to what he calls the Great Leap. Obviously, destruction in the rest of the world didn’t increase productivity but the demands of war might have. It could have been just the kick the US needed to break out of secular stagnation. On the other hand, these turbulent years might have been masking long term improvements like the assembly line and electric power. If you haven’t read Gordon’s book, you should take a look at it. It’s very interesting.

      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0131KW67U/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav

  5. Odoacer says:

    What’s Wrong with the DC Movie Universe?

    I enjoyed Richard Donner’s Superman movies, as well as Burton and Nolan’s Batman films. However, Zach Synder’s Superman movies weren’t good, Green Lantern was terrible, and now Suicide Squad looks like it’s going to be bad. It’s funny, because the DC animated movies (at least the ones I’ve seen) have been pretty good at capturing the characters and entertaining stories.

    What do you think?

    • onyomi says:

      My subjective impression as an audience member is that DC movies have been too grimdark (in some cases, literally) and don’t feel like comics. Not that I don’t enjoy a grimdarkish superhero movie like The Dark Knight, but these seem to go too far into “trying to be serious” territory. Also, casting Ben Afleck as Batman was a deal breaker for me. Plus, yes, too many origin stories.

    • LHN says:

      DC’s live action TV series have also been pretty good, and hit a variety of tones from the darkish early “Arrow” to the nigh four-color “Supergirl”. It’s really only movies they seem to have trouble with.

      • Pku says:

        Was supergirl good? I gave up after the first episode. Does it get better after that, or is it a thing where I’m unlikely to start liking it later if I didn’t at first?

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          No, all the superhero TV shows are bad (well, maybe Daredevil and JJ aren’t, I haven’t seen them), don’t fall into the trap of “waiting until it gets good” and then just sticking around wasting your time because you’re invested.

          • Pku says:

            Worth noting: I really like Arrow and the Flash, and I liked Smallville (though it should probably have ended sooner). So I’m not generally opposed to superhero shows.

          • another anonobot says:

            I haven’t seen Daredevil, but it’s perhaps worth noting that Jessica Jones is more of a noir, and the existence of superpowers is largely incidental. Obviously the plot hinges fundamentally on the superpowers people have, but stylistically it is a noir-y private investigator story, in a world with superpowers (i.e., the MCU).

          • LHN says:

            The superhero story has proved itself remarkably adaptable to blending with other genres: there are superhero mysteries, superhero rom-coms (I’m a big fan of the webcomic “Love and Capes”), superhero comedies, superhero musicals, and a fair bit of superhero noir.

          • Randy M says:

            Anyone else watch Gotham? I like it, usually, but I may not have the most discriminating taste.

          • onyomi says:

            I like Gotham. Especially the Penguin.

          • bluto says:

            I enjoy Gotham, really glad to see Barbra’s shift this season. The Penguin knocks it out of the park, and Jim and Bullock are a pretty good pair (I’d watch a more generic procedural with the two of them).

        • LHN says:

          I’m probably not the person to ask, since I liked the pilot. (And honestly, I’m an easy mark for a sincere take on Supergirl, who’s been one of my favorite characters all my life and who’s been done well so rarely.) But people who were more dubious on the pilot generally seemed to feel that the series got better over the course of the season as the characters gelled, the focus moved to ongoing plotlines from villains of the week, etc.

          For a short illustrative sampler (if you don’t mind spoilers, since they’re late in the season and one explains the background behind one of the slow-building mysteries), I’d say watch the three episode sequence of “Falling”, “Manhunter”, and “Worlds Finest”. They run the show’s full tonal range (anyone who can watch “Worlds Finest” without a smile has a very different aesthetic from mine), and if they don’t work for you then I’d say the show probably won’t.

        • anon says:

          I gave up eventually because the main actor is just so terrible. But plot-wise I found Supergirl to be OK. Not as good as the better Marvel shows (Jessica Jones, Daredevil).

          • LHN says:

            I’m a little surprised you don’t like Benoist. I’ve seen a lot more people (especially during the early, rougher part of the season) saying that her infectious enthusiasm was the main thing sustaining the show.

            As far as I’m concerned, she is Supergirl. She doesn’t quite have the physical resemblance to her comics counterpart that, e.g., Christopher Reeve did (the only actor who looked like Superman rather than someone playing Superman). But if anything she’s better than he was at conveying the necessary utterly sincere idealism and goodwill, without slipping into parody or irony.

            (But obviously if she doesn’t work for you, she doesn’t.)

          • anon says:

            To be fair I never read the comics, so maybe her performance is actually a good fit. I also think that she has to work with some relatively poor dialog (I haven’t bothered to look up who the writers are for the show). But I did genuinely find her a weak point in the series.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      I dunno, it got some pretty good recommendations.

      “Misogyny, racism, domestic violence, incessant objectification of women pandering to male gaze.” It’s like a checklist of quality.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Variety says of Harley Quin n:

        A doctor stripped of her intelligence and her conservative tweed professional attire, squeezed into hooker hot-pants and a too-tight baby T, who walks like a pole dancer and fights like some sort of homicidal cheerleader.

        What more could you ask for? It’s a good thing there’s no one-click ticket buying, or I’d have been sold right there.

        • Sandy says:

          I mean, costume aside, Harley’s origin story involves her getting her medical degree by sleeping with her professors. When people complain about Suicide Squad or the Arkham games dumbing down her intelligence, I just assume they’re talking about what they wish was the case rather than what actually is.

          • Nornagest says:

            Comics Harley or DCAU Harley? Or both?

            ETA: Interesting. Looks like her full name is… oh, that’s why.

          • Sandy says:

            Both. DCAU Harley was on a kid’s show, so they weren’t going to show her sleeping around, but that Harley made her way into the comics and the man who created her wrote her origin story in Mad Love.

            Edit: It was a psychology degree, not a medical degree.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Didn’t she meet Joker working in a mental hospital? Did someone fuck up the difference between psychology and psychiatry?

            edit–apparently, they did. Sigh.

          • Loquat says:

            Considering that Arkham Asylum appears to be a revolving-door joke of a hospital (seriously, have they ever successfully cured anyone?) I would consider it plausible that she could actually get hired there with the wrong degree.

          • Nicholas says:

            I’m pretty sure that, despite working in a hospital, Harley was acting as a non-medical therapist and counselor.

    • JayT says:

      I think one of the main problems with the current DC movies is that they saw how popular the Nolan Batman movies were and figured that they could run with that formula to success with all their movies, when inn reality very few superheros really lend themselves to such dark movies and even the ones that do, the darkness gets old fast. I know personally I was done with the Nolan Batman movies about 15 minutes into his third one, which I consider one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

      • Titanium Dragon says:

        The problem is that you need your movie to be fundamentally hopeful. The Batman movies are fundamentally hopeful, as they posit that man is, ultimately, good.

      • anon says:

        I think this “darkness” diagnosis is too facile. I’m a firm believer that comic book movies succeed best when they capture the visual feel of the original medium. Sometimes that’s dark! Nolan (like Burton before him) was clearly influenced by Frank Miller’s comics for visual style as well as plot.

        Marvel movies, like the comics, may be “brighter”, but there have been a number of successful “dark” style comic book movies. V for Vendetta, Hellboy, Constantine, and Sin City come to mind. I don’t think Warner would have been wise to insist on copying Marvel’s visual style.

        • JayT says:

          I agree for the most part, mainly in that comic book movies do best when they try to match the feel of the source, and I agree that is why it worked for Batman.

          What I see WB trying to do with the DC universe though, is that they are trying to apply Batman’s dark and gritty feeling to all the characters, and that just doesn’t work for a character that has been portrayed as much more hopeful, like Superman.

          • LHN says:

            Exactly. The only dark-toned story that Superman works in at all is Millers “The Dark Knight Returns”, and even there Superman is both figuratively and visually a shining beacon of brightness on the page.

            Batman thinks Clark made the wrong compromises, and Batman is the protagonist. But even in a book full of cynicism neither Batman nor Miller himself can really be cynical about Superman.

            Superman’s inner thoughts tell us why he does what he does (to save lives, full stop). And in the end, despite all the abuse Bruce subjects him to, his cooperation is the only reason Bruce’s grand finale is allowed to work. And he leaves Robin (and the reader) with a smile and a wink.

            For all that Man of Steel and BvS were inspired by TDKR, they didn’t read it very closely.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Silliest moment in Man of Steel was what a massive asshole Superman’s dad was, while in just about every comic I can think of he is portrayed as a wise moral center that is the reason Superman turned out so well.

        The other silly thing is how ludicrously over plotted the movies are- Man of Steel has a large plot involving genetics and Superman being the only naturally born child on Krypton that drones on before we can see any of the iconic stuff that is actually from the comics. We spend so much time connecting the dots that we can’t really have the big emotional moments out of the characters that make a movie work.

        Contrast the original Spider-man movie when (ROT13, but you know what happens) Hapyr Ora qvrf orpnhfr Crgre qbrfa’g fgbc n pevzvany, its a moment that is simple to understand and has some actual emotional resonance.

        One of the best Superhero movies so far has been X-men First Class which tied its political / intrigue plot in with its emotional plot.

    • Fahundo says:

      You can sum up DC’s inability to get their film universe off the ground in two words: Zack Snyder.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      I guess my preferences are not lined up with other people/critics, because I have a hard time understanding how BvS (which is a movie with a lot of flaws, but a whole bunch of cool things) is rated lower than the abomination that is, for example, Thor 2 (whose only redeeming quality is “Tom Hiddleston is a pretty cool guy”). Is plot cohesion that important to the average moviegoer?

      • LHN says:

        Thor 2 had a meh-to-bad plot and an uninteresting villain, but at least offered some time watching Thor be Thor and Loki be Loki. It’s a disappointment, but there’s nothing in it to actually make anyone upset beyond wasted potential, and maybe turning Jane Foster into a passive rescue object for people for whom that’s a hot button.

        (As far as I recall. The other thing about the movie is that it wasn’t remotely memorable. My main memory is missing the first five or ten minutes because my wife’s closed caption decoder wasn’t working and I had to get her another one. Which was repeated last weekend with the new Trek movie, but I digress.)

        Batman v. Superman is more polarizing. There’s presumably a segment of the audience who likes the idea of a Superman defined by collateral damage, alienation, and repeated failures to save the day, but it’s at least less of a slam dunk than the way Marvel has adapted its heroes’ personalities and public perceptions to the screen. Ditto for a Batman who marks people for death in prison and has no real problem using a gun. The grimness, (unbroken by the lighter moments that the MCU tends to insert) is so unrelenting that missteps like the “Martha!” scene slip over into bathos.

        And of course Thor 2 is a relatively minor outing in an established franchise– if it’s not great, hey, here comes Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy! BvS was an attempt to lay the foundation of such a franchise in the wake of the already divisive Man of Steel, and DC hasn’t yet built up that sort of goodwill.

        (I wish it were otherwise. Superman and other DC characters are a lifelong love of mine in a way Marvel’s will never be. But that doesn’t change which one’s output I look forward to at the theaters more.)

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          In my opinion, Marvel’s characters are more varied and interesting than DC’s. Superman’s can just do everything, Batman can do everything with enough techno-babble/plot spackle, and their personal hangups aren’t interesting enough to carry the movie. Each of Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, and Cap have major weaknesses both in regard to their powers (for example, Hulk can’t fly, Cap doesn’t have the unending line of gadgets that Batman does) and personally (Thor’s brashness and confidence, Cap’s identity crisis, Tony’s PTSD or similar disorder) that also affect the plot in meaningful ways.

          Marvel’s heroes also seem to have a greater variety of power origins and some weaker or narrower powers (or ones with drawbacks or that require creativity to use), a little like Worm.

          • LHN says:

            I’m pretty sure that it’d be hard to quantify a difference in origin variety or power type between Marvel and DC. Both have been around for many decades and have produced many (hundreds? thousands?) origins, often with the same creators moving back and forth. And both eventually punted (Marvel in the 60s, DC in the 80s) by making an increasing number share a common, fairly generic origin (“mutant”; “metahuman gene”; “Inhuman”, etc.)

            DC has a character who was raised by condors and, in a triumph of environment over heredity, learned to fly. It has a character whose sole power is that can inflate himself and bounce, who served successfully as a member of the most powerful team in comics alongside a teammate who could split herself into three (otherwise unpowered) people. (Reader, she married him.) I could go on. 🙂

            And they’ve been copying and one-upping each other since Marvel introduced the Fantastic Four to compete with the Justice League of America. DC spent a couple decades trying to be more Marvel-like in the 70s and 80s, Marvel likewise added features to ape DC’s successes in the late 80s and 90s. The companies have distinct personalities, but the overlap is vast.

            DC’s most famous characters tend to be more iconic and idealistic, Marvel’s more flawed and combative. (But in the movies, Captain America is treated far more iconically than the recent Superman outings have that character.) I personally find the former more compelling as fantastic genres go, but there’s clearly room for both when done well.

          • bluto says:

            I think this is a factor in the Marvel film success, the drama has been less about will the good guys beat the bad guys, it’s been will the good guys overcome their flaws in time to beat the bad guys.

    • Teal says:

      I wish all these superhero movies (and reality TV shows) would go away and never come back.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        If you want a picture of the future, imagine a brightly colored boot stamping on a moviegoer’s face — forever.

        • LHN says:

          Westerns as a ubiquitous genre lasted about a lifetime. (Somewhere around 1980, they went from “there’s always some in the theaters” to “once in a while when someone wants to do one”.) Musicals, maybe a decade less? So superheroes, given their flexibility (they can be combined with just about any other genre), emphasis on visual flair (making them easier to sell to foreign markets and a showcase for advancing effects technology), and deep library of adaptable stories, may have a while to run yet.

          • Anon. says:

            The difference is that westerns were relatively cheap to make, and so allowed for experimentation and risks and personality. There will never be a TGTBATU (which had an inflation-adjusted budget of $8.5 million) of superhero movies.

          • LHN says:

            You may be right. But I’m not so sure. Budget-friendly powers exist within the genre (and have been used preferentially by TV for decades), and the effects available to a low-budget director via CGI will only become more numerous.

            “Jessica Jones” could easily have been done at movie length instead of as a TV show, for example, and portraying its powers are within the range of an ambitious fan production. Many of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City stories could be dramatized without breaking the bank. (Especially since by the nature of the stories, the really awesome events often happen in the interstices of the character drama.) Grant Morrison’s Animal Man rarely did anything requiring summer blockbuster money.

          • JayT says:

            While not an $8 million production budget, Deadpool was made very much on the cheap, and had a lower budget than an average wide-release Hollywood film. Also, it took a lot of risks and had personality, so I’m not sure that’s actually a valid complaint.

            I think the more valid complaint is that the major studios today seem to be less likely to take risks than they were back in the ’60s or ’70s.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Those spaghetti westerns weren’t major studio films were they? At least not at first? Plus, they were more of a re-thinking/re-boot of the good guy Westerns that had dominated the screen years before.

            And I think it is certainly possible to do superhero stuff on smaller budgets, but the there is (mostly) no reason to in the current climate.

            Once “superhero” burns out, wait 10 or 15 years to get the skewed or alt-take on them that depends on anything other than cutting edge special effects.

          • LHN says:

            That’s also possible. Whether superheroes in film are going to be an enduring genre like the Western or a more ephemeral one like the surfing movie still falls under “too soon to tell”. (Though this cycle has, I think, lasted longer than the latter.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Those spaghetti westerns weren’t major studio films were they? At least not at first? Plus, they were more of a re-thinking/re-boot of the good guy Westerns that had dominated the screen years before.

            Nope. The reason they are “spaghetti” is that they were made on the cheap by Italian production companies, using Italian locations and extras (but American leads). A Fistful of Dollars was even shot silent and dubbed into English for its American release. (The later Dollars movies had actors performing in their native languages, with partial dubbing after release for each locale.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Whether superheroes in film are going to be an enduring genre like the Western or a more ephemeral one like the surfing movie

            Oh, I think we already know that “superhero” is an enduring genre. We have had superheroes in film from the age of the serial forward. I’d argue that early serial westerns were really very much superhero films. All the heroes had amazing abilities that the run of the mill person didn’t.

            Sure, there may be a line between “extremely competent but basically normal” and “super normal”, but I don’t think it is very bright. Sherlock Holmes theoretically is just extremely competent, but really he is written basically as a superhero.

          • Nornagest says:

            At that level it’s not entirely clear where “superhero” begins: a lot of the genre’s tropes grow out of older serial conventions, and choosing any particular place to draw the line is more a matter of taste than anything else.

            Indiana Jones has a lot of the same characteristics, for example: a gimmick, an unusual skillset, a recognizable costume, plot armor three feet thick. Even a memorable nickname. No secret identity, but Doc Savage didn’t have one either.

            (Indy is not an old serial character — rather, he’s a pastiche of older characters like Allan Quatermain — but you get the idea.)

          • Aapje says:

            IMO, a big issue is that studios want to create globally viable movies. Action movies and especially superhero movies cross cultures very easily, while more ‘talky’ movies or more culturally defined movies are more difficult to sell in big markets like China. They simply don’t have the cultural capital to like Westerns, for example.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            I agree, but you can also look at a serial like “Flash Gordon” and see how enduring the basic idea of a hero in tights in a sci-fi setting has been. Adventures of Superman, while a TV series, also shows the endurance of the genre.

            I think we are always going to have hero stories, and superheroes, while they may wax and wane in popularity, won’t ever go completely out of fashion.

            Heck, to link this to the earlier Kung-Fu discussion, many of those are superhero movies, including ridiculous costumes and abilities.

            Edit: And as long as we are going back, what about all those demi-gods in Greek/Roman myths? Sampson in the Bible? etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Aapje — Oh, I’m not so sure about that. The wuxia genre, native to China, is set in a fictional milieu with very Wild West-like conventions. Battles in it are fought with swords and wire-fu rather than with Winchesters and Colts, but that’s really just set dressing. Some more recent wuxia films have even been set in places like Northwestern China that physically resemble the American West.

            And if we extend our reach from China a bit, of course we all know how many of the early Westerns ripped off Kurosawa’s samurai movies. I think most of the Western’s underpinnings pop up whenever you have a place or time that has cultural continuity with civilization but doesn’t have much in the way of central authority or rule of law, and most cultures have something like that in their history.

            Kurosawa’s period films tend to be set in the Sengoku era — a good Japanese example. It’s remarkable how well the background to Seven Samurai (set in the late Sengoku period, when the process of unification had begun) translates to The Magnificent Seven (set just after the closing of the American frontier).

          • Lumifer says:

            Oh, I think we already know that “superhero” is an enduring genre

            That’s a fair point.

            The first superheroes that come to mind are Gilgamesh, Achilles, Sigurd…

          • LHN says:

            Superheroes thus far have proved to be an enduring genre in comics and animation, and have recurring excursions into live action TV and movies. But at least until the last decade or so, they’ve never really been what you might call a “default” genre in the latter the way they are in comics, or the way the Western or musical used to be, or e.g., the romantic comedy still is. I’ll be interested to see if they catch hold that way this time around.

            Re definitions: most genres get fuzzy around the edges. But I think that most people would agree that Indiana Jones isn’t a superhero, Batman is, and I’d expect people to split on Doc Savage or the Shadow (or Buffy the Vampire Slayer for that matter) depending on what they thought was important.

            One trend that’s been very noticeable recently is that studios are getting less inclined to distance themselves from the source material. Last generation, camp was the watchword, and even the Reeve Superman movies made a point of maintaining an ironic distance. (With Lois Lane’s cynicism serving as a surrogate for the audience’s.) Early installments this time around likewise tend to spend a lot of effort either justifying costumes-and-codenames or downplaying them as embarrassing.

            (The first X-Men movie’s line about “would you expect us to wear yellow spandex?” Man of Steel’s using the word “Superman” one and a half times. Captain America: The First Avenger introducing the outfit and name as coming out of a USO show. The TV Flash’s outfit explained as an experimental firefighter’s uniform.)

            Now, increasingly, people in the MCU and the CW TV shows just become superheroes and adopt identities, because of course that’s what one does. To the point that, e.g., Jessica Jones has to make a point of not doing so. (And being effectively forced by her personality and the expectations of those around her to do it sans la lettre anyway.) That suggests that the genre is naturalizing itself a bit more– it’s becoming no more necessary to explain what would move a character to put on a circus costume before fighting bad guys than why one would expect an interpersonal conflict in Dodge City to climax with gunplay.

          • LHN says:

            @Nornagest

            And if we extend our reach from China a bit, of course we all know how many of the early Westerns ripped off Kurosawa’s samurai movies

            Nit: I don’t think those can be called early Westerns, given the advanced age of the genre before his inspiration started being felt outside Japan. (And Westerns had of course influenced Kurosawa’s own work first, further supporting your point– in its heyday, the American Western was ridiculously globally popular and influential.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Fair. Strike “early”; the rest of the point should stand.

          • LHN says:

            It’s remarkable how well the background to Seven Samurai (set in the late Sengoku period, when the process of unification had begun) translates to The Magnificent Seven (set just after the closing of the American frontier).

            Tangent: in the theater just before the latest Trek movie, a friend asked what not-yet-rebooted properties we might expect to see redone. I suggested Battle Beyond the Stars, a little-remembered film done in the wake of Star Wars which was The Magnificent Seven/The Seven Samurai IN SPACE.

            Then the trailers rolled, and the second or third was for a remake of “The Magnificent Seven” itself. (I was at least close!)

            (Getting back to the subject, the Seven Samurai structure would of course be a natural as the basis for a superhero team movie. Unless I’m forgetting one where that’s already been done.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            I have the impression that there is not a substantial love for actual Westerns in China, while there is a much bigger appreciation for wuxia in the West. The Chinese might like Western elements in their movies, but actual Westerns seem to be too ‘far out’ for them.

            Anyway, my claim is more that there is certain kinds of movies have big cross-cultural appeal, so studios have a big incentive to cater to this and churn out a lot of those and few movies that are more culturally defined.

          • LHN says:

            These days the Western is in relative eclipse pretty much everywhere. But in its heyday it enjoyed popularity in surprising places (e.g., there was apparently a popular German series about a German cowboy in America, Stalin was reportedly a fan of the movies, we’ve already discussed their inroads in Japan, etc.)

            I don’t know to what extent they were ever popular in China. Their peak in the US overlaps with first war, then revolution, then substantial isolation from Western media. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be shocked to discover they had a following in China in the 30s or 40s.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @LHN:

            You may be thinking of the stories of Karl May.

          • Nornagest says:

            One of the more surprising bits of Western influence I’ve seen is Tintin in America — written in the 1930s, supposed to be contemporary, but half of it’s plotted pretty much as a straight Western complete with cowboys and Indians. Although it’s also one of the early Tintin albums, where Hergé did minimal research and didn’t particularly strive for accuracy.

          • Aapje says:

            This is the most awesome Western parody, IMO:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemonade_Joe

            A Czechoslovak “parody of the American Western, the film centers on a clean-living, soft-drink-selling gunfighter who takes on a town full of whiskey-drinking cowboys.”

    • gbdub says:

      For me, it’s mostly that PG-13 grimdark is really, really dull. They either need to lighten the hell up (which MCU has done, and it’s very fun) or go full rated-R dark action (even then I have a hard time seeing men in tights going full rated-R unless it’s irreverent in Deadpool, but others will disagree).

      Another thing: I know the MCU was planned, but it feels more organic. The setups for future installments feel more like fun easter eggs rather than jarring “we’re shoving this incongruous thing in here because we’ve already budgeted for 2 more movies for that guy”.

      Mostly, Marvel just did a really good job with their initial outings for their characters – the original Iron Man was great, I left the theater wanting to see that character again, but if it hadn’t been as good, at least it was a nice self-contained film. With DC it’s… uggh, I have to watch 2 more of these to finish the story?

      Ensembles are really hard to pull off, and for whatever reason DC is really trying to force the issue. Even Avengers 2 and the last Captain America suffered from this – but at least we already knew and mostly loved most of their characters. BvsS had to introduce us to a new Batman, Wonder Woman, new Lex Luthor, etc. and hold on to a Superman version that had mixed reviews in the first place.

      Last problem, but this has been an issue with MCU lately too – the villains suck. Loki is the most recent one introduced to film that’s any fun to watch (maybe the Winter Soldier, but then he’s not precisely a villain, and mostly has no actual characterization except in Cap’s head). How many more prosthetic-enhanced ancient beings trying to control/destroy the world just for the lulz do we need to have?

      • Nornagest says:

        The MCU villains suck because the recent MCU films (except for the Winter Soldier ones, and maybe Loki but I haven’t been following Thor) need villain-as-plot-device, not villain-as-character. What would a more fleshed-out villain have added to Guardians of the Galaxy, except screen time? We went to the movie to see a space bum make wise-assed remarks to a talking tree and a homicidal raccoon. Ronan is just there to keep the plot moving and give the heroes something to push against.

        (Granted, in another universe I could have said the same of The Fifth Element, and in this one Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg turned out to be quite a memorable guy. But I think that’s more down to Gary Oldman being himself than anything about the script: notice that he never meets Bruce Willis’s character, and the only thing he does with Milla Jovovich’s is shoot at her.)

        • gbdub says:

          I’m not saying “villain as plot device” is never justified (as you say, it may well have been the right call for GoG). But it’s starting to get a little boring. Part of it is that they need to introduce the increasingly vast and cumbersome ensemble of heroes and you run out of screen time to make the Big Bad interesting.

          Then again, Star Wars has an ensemble cast of heroes, and Darth Vader is an excellent villain, so it can be done. I don’t know what the secret is. But honestly I can’t even tell you the name of the villain in GoG (just noticed you included it in your comment) and I love that movie. Maybe they just need more recurring villains? Like it used to be a trope that the bad guy would always escape somehow. Let’s make that happen again – good villains deserve plot armor too!

          • LHN says:

            Ronan the Accuser, but I only remember that because he’s been used more interestingly elsewhere. There’s a special place in, well, at least Heck for creators who waste good characters in subpar adaptations in a way that prevents them from being done right later.

            (E.g., a proper Ronan should have been a major character in the planned Carol Danvers Captain Marvel movie.)

          • Not Particularly Anonymous says:

            I think I read somewhere that Darth Vader worked so well as a villain because American cultural memory of WW2 was still sufficiently strong in 1977 that the film didn’t need to expend much effort communicating his villainy. Just put him in a Nazi helmet, surround him with stormtroopers, and have him order a genocide – evilness established, and the stylistic choices carry through the rest of the series, which can then focus on exploring the character. Though I suppose that last part can only be done in a PG-13 way because of the setting.

            Nowadays our culture doesn’t really have any comparable agreed-upon villain templates, and the Nazi one is such a trope that it’s been beaten back to its home territory in movies actually featuring Nazis.

          • I’m inclined to think that Darth Vader worked because his visual design and voice happened to be effective.

            There wasn’t anything obviously distinctive about his temperament or intentions.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            I mean he chocked a guy with his bare hands about twenty seconds in, after his henchmen stopped tending to their wounded to snap to attention as he walked through the door.

            And then he chocked another guy with his brain just for pissing him off.

          • gbdub says:

            I’m not old enough to have direct cultural memory of Nazis, but Vader is still a great villain.

            There’s actually a lot of information about Vader, even in just the first film (although he obviously gets a lot more in Empire and ROTJ – all the more reason to keep a good baddie around).

            From the opening scene, we get a big sense of the scale and stakes: The huge Star Destroyer vs. the tiny Rebel blockade runner. The ease with which the Rebel mooks are dispatched. The badass music and obvious deference / fear his soldiers have for Vader.

            We learn he’s not the head honcho but a fearsome warrior, he’s some kind of wizard (later revealed to be a dark side Jedi) though his wizardry is not fully respected, we learn he trained with Obi-Wan, etc. etc.

            The main issue I have with Ronan, who in some sense is similar to Vader and plays a similar role in the story, is that we don’t get (from the film) a sense of where the hell he fits into the universe. What is his species? Why does he personally command a ship and army of (different species?) mooks that can take on the entire defense force of a supposedly advanced planet (they run the most feared prison in the galaxy, for one thing)? How come he can control an infinity stone but no one else (except Thanos, even less explained) can by themselves? What’s up with his blood sacrifice morning routine? Why is he working with Thanos, who he clearly isn’t loyal to (and appears to command more resources than), in the first place?

            We get a scene with him and Drax where we find out he murdered Drax’s family – but why? And so on and so forth.

            Yeah, maybe our cultural template for “General in fascist army / empire” does a lot of lifting for Vader – but not giving Ronan a similarly familiar template was itself a mistake. Compare him to Yondu, who gets less screen time, but has a solid template (pirate with a code), a nifty gimmick, a key role in the backstory of Star-Lord – and ends up a more memorable character.

            Might be better to compare Ronan to Red Skull, who I thought was handled better by the MCU (as films – I’m not familiar with the comic books). Again, the importance of a good template!

          • Loquat says:

            You know, I think they did try to give Ronan a template – “religious fanatic leader who wants to ethnically cleanse everyone who isn’t his group”. But we didn’t really get a good look at anyone else from the Kree – I thought they were supposed to be the same species as the planet they’re fighting, just a different ethnicity, but then I checked a wiki and they’re actually a totally different species and civilization. And maybe there were less fanatic Kree leaders who were pretending they hadn’t broken the truce with the Good Guys while winking at Ronan’s activities and hoping he wouldn’t eventually come home and destroy them for insufficient fanatacism, but the movie spends about as much time on that as I just spent writing this sentence.

            Red Skull has the major advantage that everyone knows about World War 2 and the Nazis, so there’s not nearly as much explaining that needs to be done.

            Edit: Almost forgot – Ronan does at least provide us with a blue/black vs white/gold joke.

          • JDG1980 says:

            I think that Guardians of the Galaxy did a pretty reasonable job of showing Ronan’s motivations – he’s a revanchist terrorist, who thinks the Kree government sold out by making a peace treaty, and decided to keep fighting on his own. A close real-world analogy would be the “Real IRA” splinter groups that continued committing acts of terror even after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

            As for Darth Vader, I agree with Nancy that his voice and visual design help him get off to an effective start, but I don’t think that alone was enough to give him iconic status. What did that was the fact that his motivations are continually fleshed out over the course of the trilogy, so that he can easily be seen as the central character of the franchise.

      • LHN says:

        Marvel is at something of a disadvantage from the fact that their best villains (other than Loki) are all licensed out to other studios. Obviously, it should be possible for a creative team to make a villain interesting. (General Zod was an entirely forgettable Silver Age throwaway until Terence Stamp made him the only Superman villain not named Luthor that most people have ever heard of.) But it would be a lot easier for Marvel Studios if they had access to Doctor Doom, Magneto, Galactus, etc.

        • Zorgon says:

          I would give my left kidney to see a MCU treatment of Doom.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            What good is Doom if you can’t have him shout “RICHAAARDS!”?

          • Nornagest says:

            Doom’s a tricky one. He’s a great villain, but so much of his personality is defined by his relationship to the Fantastic Four, and the Fantastic Four are pretty boring heroes.

          • LHN says:

            The FF arguably work better as explorers than as heroes. Not necessarily surprising, since they were basically Kirby running off a powered-up version of his 50s “Challengers of the Unknown” (itself already copy-pasted by others into Cave Carson, Rip Hunter: Time Master, etc.)

            Part of the essential dynamic is that Doom is trying to win a competition that Reed isn’t even participating in (other than reacting when Doom kidnaps Sue or tries to destroy Manhattan or something).

            Reed just wants to do Science! or explore the Negative Zone or whatever. To him Doom is just a recurring obstacle. Which of course just feeds Doom’s rage that much further.

    • Pku says:

      An interestingly similar contrast: Smallville’s Green Arrow was pretty lousy and annoying (and I liked the show, mostly), but Arrow’s version is pretty good. I don’t quite know where the difference is, beyond Stephan Amell being a better actor than Justin Hartley. But the guy who did Superman in Snyder’s movies was pretty good (certainly better than the guy from smallville, who was still a more interesting superman).

      I think that, aside from plot coherence, superheroes need to have some role beyond “generic superhero.” Marvel’s characters are all “wise-cracking guy who punches bad guys”, which is fun and pretty repeatable. Nolan’s batman was, well, a dark knight, same as Arrow’s Green Arrow. But Smallville’s Green Arrow and Snyder’s superman don’t really have a definable role to play, beyond “generic superhero who saves people”, which gets boring beyond the two-minute trailer.

      TLDR:
      1) It’s worth considering more pairs of superheroes that work/don’t work.
      2) Having characterization beyond “basic superhero”, even if it’s as simple as “wisecracking traveler guy”, seems hugely important.

    • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

      superman really isn’t a good concept for a movie. Well, unless it’s something like one punch man.

      Or maybe a really serious exploration of what the implications of one person being literally invincible and having laser eyes etc might be?

      Superman physically has physically, defensive invulnerability, offensive supermacy, and the ability to bring his leverage to bear anywhere at extreme speed. A violent drama/epic needs some room for tactical/strategic outmanouvering, but the combination is unbeatable: in raw power, both defense and offense, the whole concept of superman is that he blows everyone else out of the water. That alone might be workable, but super high mobility precludes any inability to leverage that power, and also allows escape from any iffy situations that might potentially occur)

      Compare superman with Tharizdun, -the chained one, another hyperpowered entity. Like superman, tharizdun has ridiculous power, and the ability to bring it to bear quickly. His function in most stories is the question “wouldn’t it be terrible if tharidun were released, -the end of everything in fact.”

      Superman is an uncaged Tharizdun. A setting killer.

      It so happens that tharizdun is insane, but superman has the option of destroying his world just the same. Everything in a superman story has to come down to either, “what does superman feel like doing, as no one can stop him”, or some ridiculous nonsense like kryptonite or some other contrived way to make things interesting. One could also throw similarly hyperpowered entities at him, but at that point why are you using superman, who’s whole concept is being the bestest?

       

      The Dark knight had a great sense of style (imo). Kind of like a quentin tarintino movie. So what did the superhero concept bring to the film? I feel like it brough something. A smooth way to an epic scenario? A certain amount of leeway from the viewer?

      • LHN says:

        There’s no real shortage of good Superman stories that could be adapted to film. The 90s animated series did a perfectly good Batman-Superman movie, “World’s Finest”, that would work just as well with live actors and modern special effects. Or use the running Darkseid plot from the Superman animated series and the Justice League show, which could be stripped down to a three act blockbuster or done as a trilogy. (Apokolips infiltrates Earth, is rebuffed by Superman. Darkseid mind controls Superman and sends him against Earth. Superman wins back Earth’s trust and spearheads a final confrontation with Darkseid.)

        Marvel has Captain America with a similar personality and Thor and the Hulk with similar power levels, and has managed to use all of them in films. Superman has a lifetime’s worth of stories and characters to draw from, in every tone from parodic to operatic tragedy.

        I won’t say it’s not hard, because making any good film is hard. But it’s not as if it requires a fundamental artistic breakthrough.

      • Pku says:

        I’ve always found Superman to be a better storymaker than batman, for precisely this reason. We already know Batman’s going to win every fight he gets in, but it often ends up stretching suspension of disbelief. With superman, him winning basic fights is part of the premise – and if you need him to lose a fight you can still do it, by introducing kryptonite or magic.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          Superman has a surprising amount of villains that can take him on in a fight. The idea of him being a boring invincible hero is a cliche that doesn’t have that much truth in reality.

          • Fahundo says:

            Not to mention superman isn’t even the most powerful superhero on the Justice League.

          • LHN says:

            Depends a lot on the League incarnation. The Martian Manhunter has many more powers, but Superman usually outclasses him in raw application of force. (And as pointed out in The New Frontier and elsewhere, J’onn’s vulnerability is a lot easier to come by.) Green Lanterns are often in his weight class, at least. Firestorm and Zatanna each have easy access to one of his weaknesses.

            In the Justice Society, of course, the Spectre easily outclassed him– at least when Corrigan could be bothered to remember how powerful he was.

  6. Anaxagoras says:

    Oh, interesting. Scott Adams’s blog is gone from Those Drawn With a Very Fine Camel Hair Brush. A few conclusions may be drawn from this:

    1. Those Drawn With a Very Fine Camel Hair Brush has a very high attrition rate (see Alas A Blog), so Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal should consider itself on notice.
    2. Our host, Scott A., has recently decided that he only has room to link to one other Scott A. in the sidebar, and the quantum computing professor won the coin toss.

    I think any other other results would be premature at this juncture.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t have a chance to respond to Jill’s repetitive blame of Congress (and thus, vindication of Obama) concerning Guantanamo, so it’s apropos that The New Yorker published this article this week. For those who have followed the saga at all, it’s a rather boring rehash: the bright idealistic dream of restoring American values falling victim to failures of political will and Defense Department conservatism—with innocent aging detainees suffering the consequences. The villains? The D.C. Circuit, Bob Gates, and the government litigators who have had the temerity to litigate on behalf of their clients. It even rehashes the inevitable conga line story. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile for those who want to reduce the story to, “Congress didn’t fund closing GTMO.”

    • brad says:

      Whoa. It’s a weird kind of déjà vu when you read the plagiarism before the source.

      https://www.lawfareblog.com/very-long-very-uninteresting-guantanamo-story

      • Anonymous says:

        Guilty as charged. I was in a hurry on my way to a hockey game, and I wanted to get something in before the thread got to 400 comments (and his summary was beautiful).

        Although, I’m not quite sure what I’m charged with. I’m no longer teaching at either of the universities who would have bound me by an honor code, and this is an anonymous SSC comment rather than one of my technical publications (where the journal will have clear standards). I don’t actually think that’s part of Scott’s commenting code. Informally, I’m not even trying to accrue any benefits from misappropriation to my own name (because, again, anonymous).

        However, I do feel bad about not giving Lawfare the free advertising that they’re due, because they’re really good (and I totally agree with Ben here). So in that vein, YOU ALL SHOULD GO READ LAWFARE! THEY’RE REALLY GOOD! I feel better now.

        • Brad says:

          Plagiarism wasn’t quite the right word, but I did have a shock of recognition when I starting reading the post. As you say, an excellent blog (which which I frequently disagree) so I figured I’d throw a link up.

  8. Is it safe to mention Brendan Eich again? I have a specific question.

    I’m guessing the incident has been discussed ad nauseum in previous open threads, or in other rationalist zones; I wondered whether there was any consensus over whether or not he could have defused the situation by, e.g., apologizing and making a matching donation to some suitable charity?

    (As far as I can recall, the whole fuss disappeared pretty quickly after he stepped down, so it didn’t seem to me like a “why I defend scoundrels, part 2” situation, where there’s just no way to win. But I doubt my own judgement on such matters.)

    PS – I’m specifically not asking whether he should have done any such thing, or anything to do with the moral issues involved. Basically this is an science-fiction-style alternative-history question.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      No way to win. He’d have been laughed at for trying it. “You think that makes up for the violence you’ve committed?! Typical cithet male!”

      Also extortion is wrong too.

      • He’d have been laughed at for trying it.

        Even from the developer community? We’re talking geeks here, not SJWs. (Or do you think there is more overlap than I’m supposing?)

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          The developer community doesn’t get a vote; only social justice warriors with friends in the news media do. They would have interpreted an apology as blood in the water, and he’d have been gone anyway.

    • BBA says:

      Perhaps somebody with tact, charisma, political chops, etc. could have defused the situation. Eich hasn’t got those, so of course he couldn’t have.

      (Not totally meant as a slag on him, I haven’t got any of that stuff either, and I’d make a terrible CEO.)

    • Skef says:

      No, there’s really no way of apologizing for Javascript. Some things are unforgivable.

      • JayT says:

        i’m not Javascript hater, but that did warrant a guffaw.

      • Anon says:

        Eich isn’t even responsible for the bad parts of Javascript. He was initially told to implement Scheme as a HTML scripting language in Netscape Navigator, then Netscape went to Sun and Oracle to do Java applets and they wanted the scripting language to “look like Java” aka have C-like syntax (which will be the bane of computer scientist until the end of time). See here:

        I’m not proud, but I’m happy that I chose Scheme-ish first-class functions and Self-ish (albeit singular) prototypes as the main ingredients. The Java influences, especially y2k Date bugs but also the primitive vs. object distinction (e.g., string vs. String), were unfortunate.

      • Anon says:

        Eich wasn’t responsible for most of the bad design decisions in Javascript, it was mostly upper management working with Sun and Oracle on Java applet integration who wanted Java/C-like syntax for the HTML scripting language. Eich’s blogpost “Popularity”, on Javascript’s origins, has a lot of good info on the subject. Specifically:

        I’m not proud, but I’m happy that I chose Scheme-ish first-class functions and Self-ish (albeit singular) prototypes as the main ingredients. The Java influences, especially y2k Date bugs but also the primitive vs. object distinction (e.g., string vs. String), were unfortunate.

        (Also, variants of this post kept getting eaten by the spam filter. Any idea why?)

        • Anonymous says:

          Looks like someone doesn’t understand what’s crappy about javascript. Hint: it’s not the c-like syntax.

          • Anon says:

            The c-like syntax sure as hell isn’t helping. By far the worst choice Eich made was defaulting all numbers to floats and implementing the interpreter as a PHP-like “don’t crash no matter what happens”, but Eich made good decisions too.

            This is a nice talk on the subject. It’s only 4 minutes long.

    • Mistake Not ... says:

      He could have pulled an Obama and kept the job. He didn’t because he hadn’t changed his mind.

    • Based on what I’ve read in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed about public shaming, I think he could have kept his job just by not stepping down and letting the shouting burn itself out.

      I don’t, however, think that there exists a good way for him to have defused the situation other than to have been playing the identity politics game sufficiently as to have been identified as in the tribe of his detractors before everything went down.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        defused the situation other than to have been playing the identity politics game sufficiently as to have been identified as in the tribe of his detractors before everything went down

        The one worse thing than an outsider who doesn’t follow group thought is being an insider who doesn’t follow group thought.

        Apostates are worse than heathens.

        • But if you’re powerful and connected enough, you don’t get called an apostate regardless of what you believe. You become an insider by definition, and the degree to which your actions don’t match up with what the group believes tend to get quietly ignored, or spun into a misguided-past narrative, or similar.

          And we know that years-old failure to support gay marriage, by itself, isn’t enough to destroy your progressive bona fides. Compare the relative treatment of President Obama a few years ago as an example.

      • not stepping down and letting the shouting burn itself out

        That depends; like ThirteenthLetter, you seem to be assuming that it was just the external pressure that was the problem. It seemed to me that it was the internal pressure; the volunteers (which Mozilla could not survive without) as well as the employees.

        But then, I was barely aware that there was any external pressure; I don’t think the news hit mainstream media at all in my part of the world. So I don’t really know how to go about gauging the relative impacts.

      • Anonymous says:

        Did he step down or was he forced by his bosses to step down (the equivalent to being fired for a CEO)? If it’s the latter then ignoring the shouting isn’t an option, but I didn’t follow the specifics of the controversy.

    • Anonymous Comment says:

      He should have refused to step down. And tried to hold onto his job however he could. The SJW storm usually passes with time. Outrage can only be sustained so long. After the storm is over he should have rewarded the loyal and purged as many of the disloyal as possible (you can only purge so many).

      • BBA says:

        Mozilla is, at its core, an open source project. Purge the disloyal, or even just give people you sort of disagree with the cold shoulder, and they can just take the code and start their own project. It’s happened before (most visibly with OpenOffice/LibreOffice).

        This is, of course, also why all the “reasonable” people up in arms about Eich’s appointment were being ridiculous. They figured it’d be like any other company – the CEO’s word is law, and Eich would implement top-down anti-gay policies just like Chick-Fil-A. Now Eich could have tried to explain that he had no interest in doing that, and it wouldn’t work if he did. Instead he gave a bizarre interview about how Mozilla was increasing outreach in Asia and hey, they’re Muslim in Indonesia and don’t care for gay rights much. This was so utterly incompetent that I immediately changed my mind from “cut him some slack, he’s been there since the beginning and contributed a ton to the Web” to “this man has no business being CEO of anything, get him out now!”

        As for the unreasonable people, who think anyone who wrongthinks should be fired and unemployable until they recant, well, they’re not as omnipotent or omnipresent as you might think. Eich’s Prop 8 donation was public years before he became CEO. Gerv Markham is also publicly anti-SSM and still works at Mozilla.

    • Jiro says:

      Ah, moral equivalence. Haven’t seen much of that since the Soviet Union fell.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      In an argument that’s been packed full of more smug jackasses than I’ve ever seen in my entire life, I think that Worrad guy must be the smuggest jackass I’ve seen yet, and in a group that includes John Scalzi that’s quite the accomplishment.

    • Nornagest says:

      There’s the ingredients for an interesting argument here, but I don’t think it quite gels.

    • I thought the dubious thing about the article was the question of whether sf is all that Dionysian– my feeling is that sf includes a pretty wide spectrum of ratios of thought vs. weird-back-of-the-head stuff.

      On the other hand and more so in the past, indulging in one’s fondness for impractical speculation based on facts and logic is pretty emotion-driven, too.

      I like the description of sf as a way of making dream images plausible.

      I do see some moral equivalence going on– while I have my preferences, I see both the puppies and the SJWs taking my beloved chaotic hobby and trying to make it into all one thing. It used to be that authors had mental habits and ideologies which might affect their work, but there wasn’t any effort to control the field.

    • Agronomous says:

      List of Dionysian SF Authors
      1. Rudy Rucker
      2. ???

  9. Christine says:

    Dear Scott,

    You write ”
    Because their field of interest is heart electrophysiology, something I know almost nothing about, I’m not going to be able to do a good job debunking specific claims or responding to the science. Instead I want to make a few very general points about the science and then move into a discussion of the GIANT RED FLAGS the Institute throws up.

    It is for this reason and this reason alone that you are/were not qualified to write the article on HeartMath. I do agree that their rates are high but their information/studies are scientifically proven by some of the most brilliant minds in Science today this is not quackery. Perhaps it’s time for you, to have an open mind, (and heart) and learn the new science. Perhaps attempting to become a product of our brilliant new generation of new studies that has been well recognized and documented in the Eastern part of the world already for thousands of years. Saying your going to make “general points” is so elementary and well I say ignorant on your part. This was the “red flag” that stood out in your article.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pro-tip: if you are going to defend something against a charge of quackery, it pays to triple check your grammar.

    • Lumifer says:

      (emphasis mine)

      are scientifically proven by some of the most brilliant minds in Science today … attempting to become a product of our brilliant new generation of new studies

      LOL

      Anyone here feels like becoming a product of brilliant studies?

      • Jordan D. says:

        It is/has always been my life’s goal to become a product of brilliant studies, but only those accepted in the Eastern part of the world for thousands of years.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Which of the most brilliant minds in Science have proven their results?

  10. Anon. says:

    Any tips on language learning? Duolingo and similar sites seem popular, but they effective? I don’t know if it matters, but my goal is not “conversational” proficiency, but reading really challenging texts.

    • Anon says:

      As someone who’s tried learning a language in a vacuum, in a classroom, and in a community, let me tell you: don’t try to learn in a vacuum. It’s all well and good if you want to read Hamlet in the original Klingon $book in the original $language, but learning $language is a lot easier if you have a community who speaks it that you enjoy interacting with, because that would push you to actually study instead of slacking off like a chump.

      I’ve “learned” four languages, where by “learned” I mean “have been exposed to and acquired rudimentary skills” (rescinded for anonymity purposes):
      – English natively;
      – $school_lang throughout my school years which I used to be fluent in to the point where I could make my internal monologue speak it if I so chose, but due to lack of use my vocabulary and grammar has gone to shit;
      – $community_lang that my mother’s side of the family speaks, which I can listen to and read much more fluently than $school_lang, but writing and speaking are worse;
      – and I also took a semester course in $college_lang which I have almost completely forgotten because, again, slacking off like a chump.

      Two other bits of advice:

      1) If you’re monolingual, the second language is always the hardest. (This also applies to programming languages.) A lot of your time will be spent breaking yourself out of old thought habits from your native languages and fitting into new ones. Don’t be discouraged, but this will make it especially hard to learn $language unless you’re getting regular lessons or are interacting with people who speak it every day. This does get easier as you add more and start to notice patterns.

      2) See if you can find a linguistics course (in-person, not from a book; you need someone to actually make the phoneme sounds for you to understand what they are). Linguistics is to languages what computer science is to programming languages: it’s easy to just use the language, but linguistics gives you the theoretical glue to understand what’s going on and recognize patterns, and makes moving to a new language easier. Also it’s great for learning accents properly.

    • onyomi says:

      I like a site called Lingq because it gives you audio+clickable text with definitions. I find listening A LOT is really key, but you also need a way to go back and figure out what you’ve been listening to says.

      Download a dialogue, a news report, a short story or whatever and listen to it, say, 100 times–in the car, working out, walking the dog. Periodically go look up the words you don’t understand. Go “ah hah! that is that word I keep hearing!” and now start understanding it when you hear it. Rinse and repeat. You’d be surprised how fast you can go from nothing to “can understand a particular short story or newscast pretty well.” Keep expanding the topics of what you listen to to expose yourself to different vocabulary sets.

      If you think about it, this is how babies learn languages. They listen to people around them talking literally for years before uttering a complete sentence. Gradually they gain an intuitive grasp of which words and phrases come up in which contexts and correspond to which objects and concepts. After they’ve heard the word or structure say… 1000 times? 10,000 times? The ability to use or tweak it as suits their own communication needs comes easily.

    • Mr Mind says:

      I’ve tried and failed to pursue at length pretty much any language you could care about.
      The zest of my experience is that if you haven’t a strong reason to learn that language, then you won’t. I have had a strong reason to learn English, a moderate reason to learn Spanish and a vague liking for German, plus a passing interest for Korean. And that’s exactly the scale of my proficiency in foreign languages, besides my native’s.
      Let me tell what has worked for me: imitation –> grammar 101 –> vocabulary + intensive application in the desired area. That’s the only way you will keep your interest and face the countless hurdles you will encounter. Oh, and you can skip “grammar 101” if the target language is not too different from yours (say, Italian – Spanish or German – Finnish, but for things like Korean or Arabic is absolutely necessary).

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with Mind, you need a reason to use the language a lot. School works as a weak reason (-> weak proficiency), but if you want to read really challenging texts then you’d best have a couple moderately challenging texts you’re interested in as well.

      You can kinda somewhat circumvent that with lots of Anki/SRS – a year or two with a really good deck will get you somewhere even without anything else to practice on, but you can’t get all the way with just that. I’ve been doing a Chinese deck of sentences as my only practice for a year and intend to move to text aimed at adolescents soon, for example.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I’ll need to check out Onyomi’s recommendation of LingQ when I get back home to my computer, but in the meantime I’ve made a bit of headway in Bulgarian using the Fluent Forever techniques – basically, focus on mastering pronunciation first (though that may be less crucial if you’re only interested in reading texts), make your own Anki or other SRS cards, using visual cues rather than answers in your native language, to get you thinking in the target language rather than translating, plus sound clips from Forvo, and use cloze deletion for grammar cards, get a decent grammar book, and find a decent teacher on Italki or equivalent, recording the lessons so you can make more SRS cards later.

      Also Beeminder of course, if there’s a risk of flaking out on yourself.

  11. HeelBearCub says:

    Here is an article that highlights some efforts to push journalists towards more responsible reporting on science. This article has a focus on studies on education, but seems more broadly applicable.

    The upside of the new reality is that more research is getting out, more quickly, to larger numbers of people. But “In the context of the broader vitriol-filled environment of education reform, people have come to use studies and their associated news stories as a way to confirm their own assumptions and as weapons in ideological warfare, rather than as new knowledge to inform and challenge.”

  12. Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

    Does anyone else like word cascades?

    e.g (like)

     

    I like really like like the word like, like

     

    who polices police police?

    police police police police police police

     

    (I sorta-theorise that enjoying deciphering (obscure/intricate) propositional meanings, correlates with enjoying interacting with propositional meanings, which (almost ipso facto) correlates with rationality, (not referring to less wrong) which slatestarcodex readership selects for)

  13. Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

    I think the modifier “like”, – as in “we, like, went to the store”, is underrated.

     

    (here it may signify that the speaker is not entirely certain of their memory, or perhaps that they were going somewhere else, and decided to go the store at some later point than their setting out. Or of course as a filler sound ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filler_(linguistics) )

     

    -I think it’s an elegant way to mark a statement you think needs some epistemological disclaiming, or you think the meaning may not be entirely clear, or that you know could be expressed better. (this last one is particularly convenient because one could almost always express themselves better. Saying like before even literally everything does communicate the useful information/reminder that communication is rarely precise, and almost never as precise as possible, and that probabilities of 1 are pretty rare)

     

    So I, most empatically, really like the word like, -like a lot, really a lot.

    ((-somewhat like “alot” in fact. -In a broadly structurally similar manner, but differently in important respects. But that’s a story for another post, or come to think of it never))

  14. James Bond says:

    What does SSC think about cosmetic surgery? Does anyone have any experience with it ( no scare stories or other bullshit)? Whats it like, how are the results, how did your life change afterwards?

    • hlynkacg says:

      Depends on the context.

      On one hand I had some post hoc work done to make me look a bit less like quasi-modo (Pro tip: if you ever have the opportunity to enjoy extensive skull fractures, don’t) and am glad I did. But in general I find the stereotypical boob/nose/ab/lipo jobs distasteful.

      In short, if you have a real, definable problem you should fix it. But if you’re just trying to look more attractive to your preferred sex you’d be better off investing in a nice wardrobe and maybe a personal trainer.

      • James Bond says:

        I just have to wonder why you find the stereotypical plastic surgery distasteful? Any particular reasons? And wouldnt it be a good addition to someone who is already training well and getting a better wardrobe.

        • Howard Zen Gardner says:

          I think there’s a discernible difference there.

          Training is a way of bringing the muscles and skeleton you were born with into better condition through natural activities humans evolved to do, such as lifting heavy things and energetic movement. Plus you get the positive secondary effects that come with that.

          “Nice wardrobe,” in the sense intended here, I think just means clothes that are clean, fit well, and convey good things about you that are true.

          Plastic surgery on the other hand is a kind of permanent alteration of the body through deliberate unnatural processes.

          I recognize a moral distinction between plastic surgery to conceal or eliminate a deformity so revolting/distracting/disabling it gets in the way of normal day-to-day existence, and doing this just to bring yourself closer to some imagined ideal state.

          If your appearance gets in the way of your normal day-to-day existence because of your own psychological issues, then I don’t think plastic surgery is moral unless you’ve exhausted other options like counseling, changing your social environment, or good ol’ waiting to see if you mature out of it.

          Obviously there’s a blurry line in there, but I think most reasonable people could agree on what cases of plastic surgery lie on either side of it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Zen Gardner seems to have covered all the bases above. I don’t really have anything to add.

            In my case I was in a rather nasty accident about 8 years ago, that included some fairly extensive head and facial injuries. The doctors who patched me up at the time were much more concerned with getting me put back together than they were about making me look good (and to be clear I don’t fault them for that). I wouldn’t say I was “revolting” but after a while I decided to see a specialist about fixing the worst of the issues.

          • Dahlen says:

            I really don’t see what sort of strong case one could make for the immorality of cosmetic surgery. There are about two frameworks where this instance of naturalistic fallacy sort of makes sense: the first is a religious mindset of “you’re not God, so it’s blasphemy to try and correct God’s creation” that also opposes stuff like makeup or earrings or hair dyes, and the second is a normative take on the descriptive results of evolutionary psychology (that consciously adopts inclusive fitness as one’s highest purpose in life) that would probably view cosmetic surgery as a strategy of evolutionary deceit.

            Either way, there’s a sense of “work with what you’re given and don’t cheat by unnatural means to get ahead”. Outside of religion and normative evo-psych, both of which are their own can of worms, what solid ethical bases there are for justifying this gut feeling?

          • I can make a case for plastic surgery being immoral if the purpose is to look better than most people. In that case (rather than people trying to make up for deficits that put them below average), you get a lot of resources spent on something that mostly doesn’t make people better off.

            Less importantly, you probably get convergence to some random ideal.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            @Dahlen:

            I wasn’t trying to make an ethical case. I was highlighting the distinction between cosmetic surgery and enhancing your appearance by working out or wearing nice clothes. I highlighted the distinction in order to support the notion that someone can find one distasteful and not the other without any contradiction.

          • Jiro says:

            Cosmetic surgery is permanent and has risks (both the risk of complications, and the risk of working but resulting in regrets later), but it only gives you a positional advantage. These sorts of things lead to a race to the bottom (among a certain class of people) where everyone gets cosmetic surgery, nobody gains any positional advantage, and everyone gets the risks.

            Furthermore, even ignoring that, cosmetic surgery is a way for people to gain advantage over others socially by spending a lot (either spending actual money, or “spending” by being willing to take risks) for relatively small gain. We generally consider that bad; note that we consider $1000 handbags and shoes bad for the same reasons.

          • Dahlen says:

            @Howard Zen Gardner: Well, there’s a world of distinction between “distasteful” and “immoral”. I answered the way I did specifically because of your claim that plastic surgery is immoral (rather than merely distasteful).

            @Jiro: I think you’re forgetting that there’s not just a positional advantage, but also an absolute advantage (people being objectively less wrinkled/hook-nosed/droopy-faced/fivehead-y than before). Status games are not all there is to it; even if looks, by this mechanism, no longer happen to be a way to get an “edge” over others, surely living among a more aesthetically pleasing sort of people, in totally shallow terms, is its own sort of advantage.

            Also, basically every sort of medical procedure has risks, and that doesn’t represent an argument for the immorality of medicine, and besides, like I said somewhere below (I think) about fillers, not all cosmetic procedures are permanent; many of the most common, and cheapest ones are not so by a long shot.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            Dangit, my crappy internet connection ate my comment. OK, second try…

            @Dahlen:

            For those who get cosmetic surgery for reasons other than to conceal a legitimate disfigurement, it is evidence of a powerful consuming vanity. Not absolute proof of course and not in every last case, but strong evidence in the vast majority of cases. And vanity is immoral.

          • Vanity might be immoral, but I don’t think you’ve proven that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Vanity is axiomatically immoral in some traditions.

            (not mine; my only objection to cosmetic surgery and related things is that they often look bad. Marcia Cross’s lack of expression ought to make one think twice about Botox, for instance)

          • Jiro says:

            Also, basically every sort of medical procedure has risks

            Yes, but it’s a matter of degree. Cosmetic surgery has greater risks for lesser benefits. When this is *not* true (such as reconstructive surgery after an accident, where the benefits are great and the risk that someone might look worse is lower, or for many non-surgical cosmetic treatments, where the risk is low), the activity is not opposed in the same way as cosmetic surgery.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz:

            Building on what The Nybbler said, I don’t need to prove whether vanity is immoral. We live in a society in which it is axiomatically true.

          • Nornagest says:

            Building on what The Nybbler said, I don’t need to prove whether vanity is immoral. We live in a society in which it is axiomatically true.

            There’s a lot of daylight between “axiomatically immoral in some traditions” and “axiomatically immoral, period, because society”.

            I would have said that vanity is tautologically immoral, because it is defined as immorally excessive concern with appearances. But I also see next to no agreement on what constitutes “excessive”.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            Axiomatically immoral in lots of traditions, such as the ones basically all humans live in.

            Do you live in some other society in which this tradition does NOT exist? Do you have plans to move to one? Or maybe you’re trying to say you’d like to see this moral tradition terminated in our society?

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think there exist axioms common to “basically all humans” that you can use to prove both that plastic surgery is vain, by some relatively rigorous definition, and that vanity, by the same definition, is immoral. I don’t even think most humans have axiomatic ethics; the deontologies that most of us grew up with are a lot vaguer and fuzzier in practice.

            I do think people in most cultures would answer “yes” to both “is it vain to get plastic surgery?” and “is vanity immoral?”, asked separately. But responses to “is plastic surgery immoral?” would probably be very mixed.

            All this proves is that folk ethics are not a good place to look for rigor. Did you read the other half of my comment?

    • Anonymous says:

      What does SSC think about cosmetic surgery?

      I’m considering getting a few moles removed (non-facial areas of the head and my back). Mostly concerned with the utility of doing that versus the price, because they’re at worst a minor irritation occasionally (such as when they get inflamed due to acne, or when I damage them while cutting my hair).

      I consider cosmetic surgery to be a negative phenomenon when done purely for the sake of looks. It’s like cosmetics on steroids. I, for one, would like to see how my SO really looks, and have an idea of what our kids might look like.

    • Nornagest says:

      Has a bad reputation, certainly. But I have a feeling this might be one of those situations where we only see the bad kind because the good kind is assumed to be natural. And I seem to recall hearing that regrets afterward are quite rare.

      Never had it done, don’t know for sure if anyone I know has. But why not?

      • onyomi says:

        Well the test of whether plastic surgery worked out or not is, in some sense, whether or not people who haven’t previously met you can tell you’ve had plastic surgery; so there may be an availability bias.

    • Psmith says:

      Practical transhumanism.

    • onyomi says:

      My feeling is that the problem you want to fix should be bad enough to risk possibly looking weird. That is, whatever you’re born with, even if it doesn’t look too great, will generally have the advantage of looking “natural” to you and your other features. The question is, “does this look bad enough to risk possibly looking unnatural?”

      Like Michael Jackson, for example, presumably had some kind of OCD about it. His first nose job was probably an improvement, but obviously he went too far. But being poor objective judges of our own appearance, how would he have known that he looked okay and that more surgery would only make him look weird? I’d say that it’s best to assume that any given surgery carries a non-trivial chance of making you look weird, so ask yourself (and others) is this bad enough to be worth that risk.

      Personally, I’d only do it if I had some really notable feature–like ears sticking way out or something. Otherwise, doesn’t seem worth the risk. Things like getting irritating moles removed are pretty low-risk though.

      Another problem with plastic surgery: it makes everyone look the same. South Korea is starting to look like it genetically only produces one woman.

      • erenold says:

        Re: South Korea, someone recently returning from a short vacation there explained to me that a good portion of the people, male and female, whom you see walking along the street wearing surgical masks are in fact doing so to hide the marks of recent plastic surgery.

        This is of course their right, and more generally of course this is the right of their society to choose such a direction. But I think most right-thinking people would consider this to be both saddening and quite frankly an unhealthy state of affairs.

    • stargirlprincess says:

      Many facial surgeries have a non-trivial risk of permanent nerve damage. This happened to my girlfriend. The surgery didn’t even really change how she looked that much :(. Her breast job however went well. That one was definitely worth doing.

      I would stay away from facial surgeries.

    • Chalid says:

      I’ve heard anecdotes about women who felt cosmetic surgery helped them in their careers. Not aware of any systematic study on cosmetic surgery in particular, but it does seem like there’s plenty of evidence that being generally better-looking helps you in lots of contexts including professional ones. Alternately, perhaps it could allow you to maintain a constant level of attractiveness while spending less time, effort, and money on regular non-surgical cosmetic tasks. Seems like it could quickly pay for itself.

      So I guess you could view it as a creative way to get ahead?

    • Lumifer says:

      A data point. South Korea “by some estimates … has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world.” Minor plastic surgery is basically equivalent to piercing your ears in the West.

      • Howard Zen Gardner says:

        Minor plastic surgery is basically equivalent to piercing your ears in the West.

        I also wish ear piercing wasn’t a common thing. Earrings don’t look pretty to me, they just look like what they are: bits of metal stuck in someone’s head. Usually offputting, at best neutral, basically never an aesthetic enhancement.

        I try to give people slack for it. Humans have been body-modifying since forever, and this mysterious urge to shove pointy things through our fleshy bits and leave them in there, or to stab ink permanently into our skins, probably isn’t ever going to go away. I’m a bit puzzled about why this urge would ever have evolved in the first place. I will say I don’t have the urge, but I know I seem to be an outlier especially for my age group.

        Anyway, if our society mostly kept it to 3 or fewer small out-of-the-way tattoos per capita, and pierced ears among women I guess I could live with that. I hope the trend of lots of biggish tattoos and pierced other-stuff doesn’t continue much longer.

        • Corey says:

          Fashion doesn’t have to make sense (for example, apparently there are people who don’t like cargo shorts).

          • Nornagest says:

            Cargo shorts are a bad design. They’re supposed to let you carry more stuff, but when you actually put something heavier than a receipt or a set of keys into a cargo pocket, it starts swinging around like a pendulum and banging into your leg every time you move. And if you’re only using the pocket for a receipt or a set of keys, you don’t need it in the first place.

            They are dumb in the same way that bandoleers of pouches on Nineties comic book characters were dumb.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            @Corey: I don’t follow. What part of my comment was your comment referring to?

            @Nornagest: I use cargo pockets for bigger stuff but only on short trips (e.g. to carry my daughter’s spill-proof sippy cup from the car into the house when my hands are full of other things). Totally worth having them then.

            I also like them for things I might want to access while driving but don’t want to have to dig around in consoles for. Reaching into a hip pocket from a seated position is not as easy as reaching into a cargo pocket.

            In general, more pockets are useful for separating things. My nose runs in grocery stores (it’s the dust I think) so I like to carry tissues. Well, I don’t want my tissues, which I rub on my face, to touch my wallet or my phone, or be shredded by my keys, and I don’t want them in the same pocket as my grocery list and pen. I also don’t want to have to shift things out of my back pocket to another pocket when I get back in my car. So, cargo pockets are perfect for grocery shopping.

            And a thousand other things of course.

          • Not Particularly Anonymous says:

            Cargo shorts are the most comfortable and functional pants one can wear in a warm or climate-controlled environment (short of maybe a utili-kilt), and so do nothing to demonstrate the wearer’s fitness. Fashion is sexual selection, and thus, like male peacock feathers, it makes anti-sense.

          • Corey says:

            @Howard Zen Gardner: just trying to commiserate about not “getting” a widespread fashion choice (in your example, heavy body mods, in mine, cargo-shorts hate).

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            @Corey: Gotcha.

            @Not Particularly Anonymous:

            The link between what you wear and your fitness isn’t so obvious. A dandy in skin-tight jeans doesn’t seem “fit” in any biological sense, but he does look “with it” or “hip” or whatever, like maybe he knows where the cool nightclubs in town are. A guy in cargo shorts (e.g. me basically every day between April and October) looks relatively oblivious to his appearance and to where to buy expensive drinks on Saturday night, but he also looks ready to carry things, and there’s at least the sense that his testicles are probably happier.

          • It’s conceivable that if it makes sense it isn’t fashion. Fashion is proving that you care more about group membership/status than you care about practicality.

            On the other hand, considering what people are like, maybe signaling group membership *is* practicality.

            I declare that Friday the 5th is Dither About Your Opinion Day.

        • Nicholas says:

          Personally, the utility of piercings and tattoos is that I like to bite and lick them, and for the piercee they are a way of non-verbally signalling where they would like to be bit.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            There’s a couple directions I could take this…I’ll just pick one:

            Why do you need to non-verbally signal where you like to be bit?

            Couldn’t you get to know someone, start a romantic relationship, gradually introduce sexual intimacy into the relationship, and then reveal your sexual predilections using normal communication?

            Is having anonymous casual sex so urgent a priority that you have to ram bits of metal through your body to tell strangers where you like being bitten during sex? Seems like an awfully drastic thing to do.

            Also, licking and biting a sexual partner is nice, but I don’t really like chomping down on hard objects like rocks or metal. In fact I don’t like feeling metal against my teeth at all. I don’t enjoy the taste of metal either. I’m confident I’m not an outlier in those preferences.

            Maybe people would like to imagine that their lives are these series of thrilling kinky one-night-stands, so they get the piercings to match the fantasy? Maybe they hope to make other people think that’s what their lives are like? “You think I’d have done all this to my body if it was just for show? Hah!” (Nervous laugh.)

          • Nicholas says:

            For the same reason that any person who isn’t mute values non-verbal communication? Sending a message without verbalizing it is worthwhile even in an intimate relationship.
            And while enjoying metal is possibly an outlier, so is body piercing.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            Sorry, let me rephrase my own questions:

            Why do you need to non-verbally signal where you like to be bit by permanently piercing through your flesh with pieces of metal that can be seen even by people who you don’t know or would not want biting you?

            Couldn’t you get to know someone, start a romantic relationship, gradually introduce sexual intimacy into the relationship, and then reveal your sexual predilections using normal non-verbal communication?

            Your umwelt seems to start and end around the idea that public life is one big kinky hookup party.

            I’ll grant there’s a very small chance your life really does resemble one big kinky hookup party, but there’s an almost zero chance your life will stay that way for very long. Piercings and tattoos are basically permanent though.

            So, maybe tattoos and piercings really just signal “I don’t have very good forward time orientation”?

    • Cadie says:

      I think it’s fine. I do think people looking into it should receive good information about the potential risks and benefits, including the risk that some people don’t feel better about themselves afterwards because their root problem was something else and dissatisfaction with a body part was only a symptom. And that people should pay for it on their own, not through health plans and such, unless it’s to treat a real medical problem that doesn’t respond to more conservative treatment. But at the end of the day, the decision is for each person to make for themself, and it’s nobody’s business but theirs what they decide to do.

      I have never had cosmetic surgery but a relative of mine did; she got a breast augmentation. Mostly second-hand information: She says she’s happier with herself, and does genuinely seem so. Though her recovery was extended because she didn’t follow the activity restrictions very well and ended up with some minor complications. Like, nothing life-threatening, but it took longer than it should have to heal properly and for soreness and such to go away.

      If I had plenty of extra money and available downtime for recovery, I’d consider doing the same myself. I’m satisfied with my appearance, but there’s room for improvement. The only way I’m going to have the cup size I prefer without cosmetic surgery is if I was ~50 pounds heavier, and since I’m at a healthy weight, that seems like a bad idea. With surgery I could have more generously-proportioned breasts with trivial weight change. As it is, I have neither the money nor the time off work, so it’s not an option right now and not something I want badly enough to get a second job for. But who knows, maybe I’ll be able to afford it ten years from now, and then I might decide to get it done.

      • Howard Zen Gardner says:

        A lot of guys are turned off by fake boobs, and once the shirt and bra come off, I think most guys would be able to tell. Especially after repeated sessions of, uh…intimate touching.

        This means if you got a boob job you’d be somewhat limited in terms of who you can start a serious long-term relationship with, since it’s going to be a deal-breaker/deal-sourer for some portion of guys who are turned off. Meanwhile, the sort of guys who either aren’t turned off by fake boobs or actively like them are not randomly distributed.

        Even if you’re already married/in a serious long-term relationship, I imagine that a lot of husbands who are turned off by fake boobs would oppose their wives getting boob jobs even if they wished their wives’ boobs were bigger.

        It’s possible none of that is as important to you as having bigger boobs. But that would seem like a kinda serious body image problem.

        • Anonymous says:

          Can I guess that you’ve only ever been in relationships with women under 30 or so and that have never had kids? It’s true that young, firm breasts of almost any size are preferably to a fake ones. But once they start getting saggy, imitation young firm breasts are better than nothing.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            Can I guess that you’ve only ever been in relationships with women under 30 or so and that have never had kids?

            You can, but you’d be wrong. My wife and I are both over 30, and we have more than one kid.

            There are probably a lot of husbands who would prefer their wives to have boobs without any particular appeal to ones that are bloated with a particular unappeal.

            FYI, in the spirit of anonymity I often don’t volunteer information about my own situation even if it would make me more credible. If my situation limits my credibility to an unusual degree (i.e. significantly more than any given person discussing stuff anonymously online) then I try to state that up front.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            I guess unless there’s a survey out there both of you are just assuming your own preferences are “normal”.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            I never assumed my preferences were normal, just that there might be a significant enough number of people with my preferences to make them worth considering.

          • onyomi says:

            I also find breast implants unattractive. They look fine, but feel weird. And unless you’re a breast cancer survivor, they signal to my mind something like “I am a stripper,” which, terrible stereotypes notwithstanding, is not attractive, especially in a potential long-term relationship partner.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          since it’s going to be a deal-breaker/deal-sourer for some portion of guys who are turned off.

          While the overall preference seems to be towards natural, I’ve met very few guys who’d consider it a serious downside.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            I’m curious what actual research would show. I’d guess your statement is truer now than in the past, since a) body modification including that particular procedure has become increasingly normalized and b) fake boobs themselves have become more realistic.

        • gbdub says:

          The issue for me is that the attitude toward boob jobs seems to too frequently be “go big or go home”. A well-done augmentation can legitimately be attractive (speaking for myself here obviously) but only if the resulting proportions are good. Like if you’re a size 2, DDs are going to look ridiculous and obviously fake, and you’d look better with Cs. Looking / moving naturally is important (get a good surgeon) – if they only look good clothed, save the aggravation and get a padded push-up bra.

          Then again some not-tiny number of people are legitimately attracted to a “plastic” look, so go with whatever you think looks best.

          • Nornagest says:

            Like if you’re a size 2, DDs are going to look ridiculous and obviously fake, and you’d look better with Cs.

            I am not a breast-having person, but I’m pretty sure one of my exes said at some point that cup size is relative to band size, not absolute in volume?

            Like, a 32C has bigger cups than a 28C.

          • gbdub says:

            My understanding is that the cup size is directly related to the difference in your ribcage measurement (in inches) to your bust measurement (in inches). So if your bust is 1″ bigger you’re an “A”, 2″ bigger is a “B”, etc. So cup size is more a measurement of “depth” than total size (obviously the cups on a 38D size bra are going to be wider and taller than a 30D even though the “depth” is the same).

            I think the net result is somewhere in between (a DD is not the same for every size, but that doesn’t mean that a DD isn’t going to look proportionally bigger on the chest of an otherwise size 2 person than a size 12 person).

            Anyway I wasn’t really being precise – mostly I was just making the point that “boobs that are too big for your body” are definitely a thing.

          • Cadie says:

            Nornagest: this is correct. Cup volume stays the same through “sister sizes” – when the band goes up, the cup goes down, and vice versa. So a 32C is the same size as 36A, 34B, 30D, and 28DD (and others) except that the length of the band is different. If two sizes have the same cup letter, the one with the larger band has bigger cups.

        • Earlier, in the deserted shop, Professor Quirrell had told Harry that they were going to commit the perfect crime.

          Harry had unthinkingly started to repeat back the standard proverb that there was no such thing as a perfect crime, before he actually thought about it for two-thirds of a second, remembered a wiser proverb, and shut his mouth in midsentence.

          What do you think you know, and how do you think you know it?

          If you did commit the perfect crime, nobody would ever find out – so how could anyone possibly know that there weren’t perfect crimes?

          And as soon as you looked at it that way, you realized that perfect crimes probably got committed all the time, and the coroner marked it down as death by natural causes, or the newspaper reported that the shop had never been very profitable and had finally gone out of business…

          The received wisdom of “fake boobs feel fake” actually means “bad fake boobs feel fake.”

          While I don’t have fake boobs (or real ones–I’m a guy) — I can assure you from personal experience that realistic ones do exist.

          • Fahundo says:

            How does Harry know ahead of time that the crime they are about to commit is going to be one of the perfect ones? If there’s a chance that, for whatever reason, the crime might not be perfect, is the risk of spending years behind bars worth maybe possibly getting a nice payday?

            Also, you know, same question but about realistic fake boobs.

          • Pku says:

            Because Harry trusts the competence of his surgeon professor Quirrell.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            Let’s say it’s possible right now to get PERFECT fake boobs. If so, they must be prohibitively expensive for 99.9999% of people, even apparently the highest-paid porn stars. When some girl asks you if you think she should get fake boobs, either way she isn’t going to be getting those. And so for practical purposes they don’t exist, or at least don’t matter.

          • Pku says:

            Can you provide any details? The ability to get arbitrarily good results by spending arbitrary amounts of money isn’t always true, and you’re implying you have a specific example in mind.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            @Pku:

            That was kind of my way of saying that Andrew Hunter’s argument (“there are extremely realistic fake boobs, you just never notice them because they’re extremely realistic”) is a red herring.

          • Nornagest says:

            If so, they must be prohibitively expensive for 99.9999% of people, even apparently the highest-paid porn stars.

            Unless there’s a market for obviously fake boobs in porn.

            Which strikes me as plausible.

        • Cadie says:

          It’s also possible (and not just possible, but true) that I’m not straight and thus am not very concerned about a few guys possibly rejecting me, even before considering that what some consider a negative, others consider a positive. And since me getting cosmetic surgery isn’t something I’m actively saving for but more of a “sure, if I have loads of money and I’m still pretty healthy a decade from now, I’ll probably discuss it with a surgeon and see if it’s a good idea” thing, I have plenty of time to consider the possibilities. Deciding now, instead of later when I know more about what my finances and relationship status will be like at that later time, seems premature.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            I don’t see what your not being straight has to do with it. Couldn’t you just transpose genders in my responses as needed? I’m sure a lot of lesbians are turned off by fake boobs, etc.

            I think it’s interesting how decisions contain information. When you’re willing to give up X to get Y, it means Z. You can come up with all the reasons and justifications you want, but Z is still there and can be observed by anyone who knows about X and Y.

    • gbdub says:

      Good plastic surgery (especially on the face) is subtle – it looks best when it enhances what you already look like, rather than going for a radical reshape.

      I live in an area with a lot of plastic surgery where seemingly all of the women of a certain age and socioeconomic status have the same boobs, lips, and noses, and I think it looks ridiculous. Definitely an uncanny valley thing going on. What’s weird is that there’s a definite “look” they all seem to be shooting for, and frankly I find that look unattractive, but maybe that’s just me.

      For example, Kim Kardashian’s face – that seems to be roughly the “ideal” of a lot of plastic surgeries (particularly the nose and lip shapes). She clearly has the money and connections to get the best surgery available. But frankly I think she looked better before most of that (as do her less-modified sisters).

      Ever watch Botched? It’s something of a guilty pleasure for my girlfriend and I – the docs are interesting characters, and they do seem to do a legitimately good job of “improving” people without going overboard. Their main insight as presented on the show seems to be a willingness to tell people “no, you can’t actually look like that” rather than assuming that people really are infinitely moldable.

      • Dahlen says:

        I live in an area with a lot of plastic surgery where seemingly all of the women of a certain age and socioeconomic status have the same boobs, lips, and noses, and I think it looks ridiculous. Definitely an uncanny valley thing going on.

        I’m sure wherever this is ain’t got nothing on South Korea, but yeah, that’s a by-product of a society not being very creative with its beauty ideals, which is reflected in surgical practices. For some reason, a lot of people don’t realise that there are beautiful as well as ugly versions of different types of faces, instead tying up aesthetic value in specific facial features.

        Speaking of valleys — when I was a kid, all I knew about California was that that was where Hollywood was, and I associated Hollywood with “upgraded” celebrities, so that, the first few times I’ve heard of Silicon Valley, I thought it was named for the silicon in women’s fake boobs…

        • Pku says:

          Yeah, I thought that too until about two years ago.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Different substance, different valley. Silicone Valley is/was the San Fernando valley, because of the porn industry which was built there.

    • Dahlen says:

      If you’ve looked into the matter with a clear enough head to understand what a procedure can (and cannot) do for your specific needs, then why not, go for it.

      Outside of skin/hair/teeth quality (modifiable), fat/muscle percentage (modifiable), and age (everybody is young once), beauty is highly morphological, to the extent that even if you get the aforementioned factors right, your genes can still fuck you over. A well-chosen cosmetic intervention (at least the permanent, invasive ones) is probably the highest-impact investment in one’s looks one can make.

      That said, don’t expect your life to change afterwards at all. Plastic surgery is not something you do to yourself to get a big boost in life happiness. It’s for crossing a cause of anxiety off your list and looking marginally better in photos. You’ll still be you. Everybody who made the journey from ugly duckling to head-turner (which does impact your quality of life) generally started off poorly on all aforementioned dimensions, and improved on all of them.

      I didn’t get any work done (it’s not a poor people thing), but have a friend who had a nose job to correct a very hooked nose. She’s still mostly the same, but with a cuter nose; the modified feature integrated seamlessly into her face, you can’t tell that she’s had it. The whole thing involved a couple of weeks of swelling and minor complications, with which I’ve heard she coped poorly (but that’s business as usual for her), but anyway, that passed and all’s well. I didn’t have the nerve to ask how she felt about having it done, but there are good reasons to believe she was eventually happy with the results.

      Oh, and a word of caution: fillers are pushed quite a lot these days. I don’t know what your problem is, but consider letting your face age naturally / be naturally gaunt or sunken, rather than using fillers. They’re not permanent, to put it mildly; you have to get the procedure done again about once a year or less, and to the extent that I’ve seen in certain celebrities (Madonna, Carla Bruni, and others), long-term or excessive use of fillers can lead to a puffy, spongy-looking face that’s worse than whatever problem it was intended to fix. But I’m a casual observer, not a medical professional, so take it with a spoonful of salt or several. Salt causes you to retain water, so that’s another road to a puffy face.

  15. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    Happy birthday, Jaime!

    <_<

  16. Corey says:

    Something interesting re school choice: my district (Wake “Home of Raleigh” County NC) does something that’s neither vouchers nor neighborhood schools: busing. (My background: two kids in this system, one retarded, one not, and some reading of its history).

    The district was born in I believe the 80s out of a de-segregation plan to combine the Raleigh city schools (mostly black) with the suburban Wake schools (mostly white). And it generally works pretty well, the schools are considered “good”, and there’s not big variation in school quality around the district.

    Kids get assigned based on socioeconomic factors (a better way than race IMO despite mostly being a proxy for it) and population growth management. The latter is a big challenge, and every year lots of kids get reassigned, causing parental headaches.

    We had teabaggers take over the school board in 2009 and try to bring in “neighborhood schools”. Turns out what most parents cared about was assignment stability rather than school proximity itself, and their plans (especially once they satisfied court mandates) didn’t really help the growth-management problem, so it didn’t stick, and the teabaggers got ousted. (Lots of SJW outrage also of course drove the latter).

    Other interesting local tidbits: racial issues now have 3 dimensions (white, black, Mexican) and Mexicans are not segregated to nearly the extent blacks are. So even without busing, lots of mostly-white schools would still have maybe 20-30% Hispanics.

    They also claim that integration costs less for similar outcomes than allowing schools to ghettoize then trying to improve the ghetto schools. The more-typical-nationwide option to allow the schools to ghettoize then giving up on the ghetto schools doesn’t seem to come up AFAICT.

    • Salem says:

      We had teabaggers take over the school board in 2009…

      I stopped reading at this point.

      Gratuitous insults like that serve as an excellent tell that you are uninterested in persuading anyone.

      • Gratuitous insults like that serve as an excellent tell that you are uninterested in persuading anyone.

        Is persuasion the only thing you’re interested in?

        Local school board politics is not a place for the overly-sensitive. There is ongoing deep hostility and rage against whoever is in charge, no matter who they are. Serving on a school board destroys your reputation and earns you lifelong enemies. Anything a new school board tries to do (even to reverse previously unpopular policies) is seen as malicious; any school board incumbent who dares to run for re-election is inevitably and effectively vilified as Part Of The Problem.

        If I had been telling that story, I might have referred to the conservative group as “tea partiers” (assuming that was how they labeled themselves) rather than “teabaggers”, but in the long and noisy history of epithets toward former school board members, that strikes me as pretty mild.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Is persuasion the only thing you’re interested in?

          If one is not interested in persuasion, why attempt to convince people of things? Just shout a few obscenities (or “Teabagger!”) at them and move on.

        • Salem says:

          Local school board politics is not a place for the overly-sensitive.

          If Corey were in a debate with an opposing politician there, and started flinging insults at him, it wouldn’t be edifying, but it would be part of the rough-and-tumble that they all signed up for. As you say, far from the worst I’ve heard.

          But we aren’t partaking in local school board politics right now. One or two people on this board don’t even live in Wake County! Corey’s alleged desire is just to “throw out interesting data,” so the fact that he is unable to describe the situation without resorting to insults makes me draw certain conclusions as to the value of his posts – which his subsequent posts have confirmed.

        • Anon says:

          Serving on a school board destroys your reputation and earns you lifelong enemies.

          As a counteranecdote, in $hometown we’ve had $cubscoutmaster on the Board of Ed for something like 25 years now, and everyone loves him.

          It’s probably because I’m from a small town where everyone knows each other and we’re ~40th in $state, but still, it’s not an absolute.

      • Corey says:

        Honestly I just wanted to throw out interesting data, the biggest being that the board either misinterpreted peoples’ desire for assignment stability as a desire for school proximity, or didn’t care. The language policing was a surprise TBH.

      • anonymous says:

        That’s a little prissy isnt it?

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Human beings often get upset when you insult them right to their faces. We’re kinda weird that way!

          • Human beings often get upset when you insult them right to their faces. We’re kinda weird that way!

            A vulgar word for a political faction is insulting you to your face?

            Again, I’m not defending the term. I’m just a bit wary of the notion that disrespect toward some political or ideological group rises to that level.

            On other fora, I have seen this kind of personal privilege claimed by advocates who show no such forbearance in making insulting references to competing factions.

            It’s hard to think of a purely political slur that I could reasonably take personally. People sneer at Democrats and center-left types all the time, and I may not enjoy it, but I don’t feel directly implicated.

            Obviously, it is possible to personalize a political attack, but this particular reference was not even arguably about you.

          • Nicholas says:

            So you’re saying you’d like this thread to be… a safe space?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Nicholas: Har har. No.

            The point is that if you are attempting to discuss politics with a gathering of people of mixed political affiliations, casually using one of the subgroups’ hated sneer terms for another one of the subgroups is not the best way to get your point across.

            I mean, you can still go right ahead and do it if you want. And the result will be, well, the direction this entire subthread went.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ThirteenthLetter:
            If you are a committed to that principle, you will now stop using the term “SJW” and encourage others to do the same.

          • I know people who call themselves SJWs. What alternate term do you propose?

          • brad says:

            So if I can find one person anywhere in this country of 315,000,00+ people that calls himself a teabagger Corey was fine and this whole dogpile was wrong?

          • Loyle says:

            @Nancy

            If you know someone who refers to themselves by a term many people use insultingly, and many people take insultingly, then use that term when referring to them (assuming they are okay with you doing so) and not a group or groups of people with similar sounding politics, or even a group or groups of people who are known to have that word associated with them.

            Assuming also that you wish to proactively avoid conflict. If you don’t care, then do whatever and apologize if they become upset and then correct yourself. And if you care neither about that, then this is a non-issue, the message was clear, and we’re all silly for asking the question in the first place.

          • Jiro says:

            If you are a committed to that principle, you will now stop using the term “SJW” and encourage others to do the same.

            People don’t generally say “I fall in the category that you are describing as “SJW” and I object to the label”.

            Or to put it another way, “SJW” is an insulting term meaning “someone who is on the left and behaves badly”. “Teabagger” is an insulting term that merely means “someone on the right”. You don’t see people saying “well, some members of the Tea Party don’t count as teabaggers”–it inherently refers to the entire group.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think the more pertinent question is what should we call those who display such behavior.

            the “Regressive-left” seems more insulting than “SJW” not less.

          • Fahundo says:

            I think “Warriors of Social Justice” sounds a lot less derogatory.

          • Jiro, whether SJW is an insult depends on where you are. Where I spend a lot of my time, it means “one of the good people” and Tea Party is an insult.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            SJW is used, here at SSC, as a derisive, insulting reference to “those people”. At various points in time “those people” might only be feminists who engage in extremely intolerant behavior, but other times it is used to encompass the entirety of the left-side of the political spectrum.

            Teabagger will get thrown around in the same manner in primarily left-wing spaces.

            This is standard outgroup homogeneity stuff. But, for reasons, “left wing is the hated outgroup that I reduce” is not the kind of self-awareness that is necessarily fostered here.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            HBC, what if those of us who do it are well aware that we are stating “this is the outgroup which I hate,” and are fine with that coming across clearly?

            Social justice warriors burned my subcultures to the ground and have staffed my profession with freelance thought police and representatives-on-mission with remarkably broad powers, and I’m well aware that I’d risk my employment if I complained about it under my real name. I don’t really have a whole lot of generosity in me towards them or those who willingly enable them for political benefit. Maybe that’s a character flaw, but there we are.

          • orkin style says:

            “HBC, what if those of us who do it are well aware that we are stating “this is the outgroup which I hate,” and are fine with that coming across clearly?”

            To the degree Scott knows that “SJWs are the outgroup which I hate” has been the most regularly expressed idea in these comment fields for two years straight, and because he does comment on developments he doesnt like (ie anonymous commenting) i feel secure in my estimation that these people speak for him, that he approves of the way his blog evolved into a safeplace (until the recent Jillpocalypse) to make the most irrational and incendiary accusations against liberals imaginable with absolutely no pushback.

            For that reason I feel that he deserves the brand.

            ” My coping strategy is to not talk about or react to my emotions and wait for them to go away. This usually works. I know this is exactly the opposite of what psychotherapy is supposed to teach, and all I can say is that it works for me and I seem to be pretty psychologically healthy”

            What Scott fails to understand is those hatreds that consume us are not to be stuffed away. They WILL have their effect on your point of view and that effect will be poisonous.

            Some call it the return of the repressed. Perhaps it’s poetic justice for fostering a place for the practice of isolated rigor, for the practice of manichean political partisanship, while professing a dislike of such behaviour. Whatever it may be, those who admire Scott for his soi-disant embrace of kindness and charity may wonder where and when he lost the plot, but not why:

            “…. My coping strategy is to not talk about or react to my emotions and wait for them to go away.”

          • I am not particularly bothered by the use of SJW to refer to a specific model of left-wing political behavior.

            SJW is used, here at SSC, as a derisive, insulting reference to “those people”. At various points in time “those people” might only be feminists who engage in extremely intolerant behavior, but other times it is used to encompass the entirety of the left-side of the political spectrum.

            I think those who apply it in the latter sense are misusing the term, like calling Barack Obama a Muslim Socialist.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @ThirteenthLetter:

            The point is that if you are attempting to discuss politics with a gathering of people of mixed political affiliations, casually using one of the subgroups’ hated sneer terms for another one of the subgroups is not the best way to get your point across.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m with Larry. Leftism was there before the rise of Social Justice and it will be there afterwords. As popular as its tactics and attitudes have become in some circles over the last few years, it does those of us who’re opposed to those tactics and attitudes no favors to conflate them with the Left at large — particularly since one of the main ways it spreads is precisely by saying that leftist convictions mandate adopting them.

          • Sandy says:

            I thought about how I use those labels, and I realized that for me it’s more of a divide along capabilities: I think of people with limited capabilities like campus activists, Twitter warriors and Jezebel writers as “SJWs”, and I think of people with broader reach and capabilities like mainstream media personalities and politicians as part of the “regressive left”. Sally Kohn could be called an SJW, she echoes a lot of their most demented politics, but because she’s on CNN I think of her as “regressive left”.

            I don’t know if anyone else does this. It may be because “SJW” was a term coined on sites like Tumblr and 4chan while “regressive left” was a term coined by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum:
            I personally favor Chait’s “illiberal left” as it is harder to misuse.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @HeelBearCub

            There isn’t any point in discussing politics with an SJW, or even in the presence of SJWs who feel they can respond, so that quote doesn’t really apply. They have their answers; if you disagree in any substantive way you’re absolutely horrible and should be bullied into silence so you don’t upset members of protected groups or, worse, lead others into error.

            This is rather different than ordinary leftists, or even Jill; being called a tool of Newt Gingrich is pretty tame.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You guys really don’t want to engage with the idea that you might possibly be falling victim to outgroup homogeneity, do you?

          • Nornagest says:

            If by “engage with” you mean “uncritically accept”, then no, I’m not particularly willing to do that.

            Otherwise, I see three or four divisions along different lines in recent posts, and one person (you) arguing against a distinction. That might point to underspecification or some other form of confusion, but it doesn’t point to outgroup homogeneity — at least among those that’ve spoken up.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Imagine that there was a derogatory term, say, “relidgiot”, which was used by atheists to refer to the kind of religious person they most disapprove of. Now, just because of the way these things work, a good portion of atheists use the term very broadly, more or less to refer to all religious people, even though we might say this is a misapplication of the term. And in any case there is a great deal of controversy over where the border between respectable religious person and relidgiot lies.

            Now imagine that there is a space which aims to be a civil forum for people of all religious inclinations to reasonably and comfortably discuss issues about religion, its role in public life, and other topics. And put yourself in the shoes of a religious person who comes into this forum and finds the word “relidgiot” widely thrown around to refer to various religious people. Now because there’s controversy over the extension of the term, and because some people use it as a generic slur against religious people, I think the religious person will understandably feel pretty uncomfortable and unwelcome. Perhaps most people don’t mean to include them under the label, and therefore aren’t expressing disgust or contempt towards them, and if they went through and explained their entire worldview, most people on this forum would say “ah, well don’t worry, you’re not a relidgiot!”. And we may add that the correct application of the term doesn’t include them. I think nevertheless this will feel like a hostile place for them, where they’re constantly at least uncertain about whether their interlocutors are expressing contempt for them.

            I think this gives us very good reason to avoid using the derogatory term “relidgiot” in this space, even if we are very confident that our use of the term only applies to those religious people that really are contemptible, and therefore that we only speak truly when we call people relidgiots.

            In addition, the general use of “relidgiot” even by those who use it ‘correctly’ to refer only to genuinely contemptible religious people has an effect on norms which encourages those who do not use it appropriately, and who therefore contribute even more directly to the hostility experienced by religious people in the forum. This is another reason not to contribute.

            It may be that these reasons would be outweighed if “relidgiot” had some important and irreplaceable job to do – such that it would be a significant burden on the ability of atheists to express their thoughts if they didn’t use it. But “relidgiot”, like most derogatory terms, and especially those where there is considerable controversy over their proper application, does not really substantially facilitate the expression of atheists’ ideas.

            I think the same thing is true of terms like “Repug”, “SJW”, “Teabagger”, and “feminazi”. (I also thought it was rather obviously true, and it’s kind of disheartening to me to see so few people appreciating it here).

          • Nornagest says:

            It may be that these reasons would be outweighed if “relidgiot” had some important and irreplaceable job to do […] like most derogatory terms, and especially those where there is considerable controversy over their proper application, does not really substantially facilitate the expression of atheists’ ideas.

            If only there were a post gesturing towards the pattern of behavior we’re marking as “SJW”, or perhaps even a whole tag. That would help clear things up, right?

            But no. Gotta be a content-free smear.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Nornagest

            I didn’t say it was a content-free smear and my argument did not rely on that as a premise. I’d appreciate if you read my posts more carefully before making sarcastic low-effort replies.

          • Artificirius says:

            @Philosophisticat

            The best comparison with respect to religion would be ‘fundamentalist’, or perhaps extremist.

            This is nothing about the term ‘SJW” itself that is inherently objectionable, unlike ‘teabagger’ or ‘relidgiot’. The clear use of those terms is to pair the name for something with something objectionable with some degree of wittiness.

            In contrast, at first blush, one might read ‘Social Justice Warrior’ as being laudatory. This is perhaps the best objection to the term, and some as a result adopt ‘Social Justice Authoritarian’, though the acronym does clash with the otherwise used ‘Social Justice Advocate’.

            The fact that said term is associated negatively is precisely because it is meant to describe a group engaging in negative behaviour. The only other option is to not try and name the group/phenomena, but at some point, coining a short term to package the information of ‘Moves in social Justice circles but does not engage in good Social Justice’ just makes sense.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nornagest:
            The question isn’t “Does the term have valid meaning?”.

            The questions are:
            – Is it frequently used at SSC incorrectly to refer to the entire left?
            – Is it used as a pejorative, even when correctly referring to only a certain segment of the social justice community?

            Look, I don’t think the Tea Party was/is particularly coherent, rational, or good. But I’m not going to refer to them as teabaggers, anywhere, but especially here. And I’m definitely not going characterize everyone who votes for a GOP candidate as a teabagger.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Artificirius

            I was taking for granted that “SJW” (in its non-reclaimed usage) was a derogatory term. If you’re genuinely claiming that its meaning is neutral or even laudatory, I think you’re mistaken, but I’m not particularly interested in arguing it.

          • Nornagest says:

            @HBC — Of course it’s used as a pejorative; so is “Republican”. But as long as we want to talk about the phenomenon it represents (which we do, constantly), and as long as we don’t have a phrase as compact and as widely accepted to cover it (which we don’t, although if you wanna start using “regressive left” I’m not gonna stop you), I don’t think policing its correct use is appropriate.

            Now, I do think it’s a problem that some people use an inappropriately expansive sense of the term, but as long as they get called on it reasonably often when it happens, I don’t think it’s a big problem. And while we could fairly disagree about how often it needs to happen to call it “reasonable”, I’ve done that a number of times. A number of times in this thread, even.

            @Philosophicat — I do know people that identify as SJWs, and a lot more people who don’t but have said stuff like “…as if fighting for social justice is a bad thing”.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Nornagest

            “Republican” or “Feminist” is not pejorative in the way “Repug” or “feminazi” is pejorative, even though they can be used by people who have negative attitudes towards republicans/feminists and in some contexts communicate those attitudes. Similarly, “social justice advocate” is not pejorative in the way “SJW” is. If you’re interested in learning more, there is a large literature in philosophy of language on different kinds of expression/implicature which can provide a framework for thinking about this sort of thing. (Search some combination of “philosophy + pejorative language, slurs, implicature” to find an entry point).

          • Artificirius says:

            @Philosophisticat

            I said it looked to be laudatory at first blush. If you were reading the term Social Justice Warrior without knowledge of its vernacular, I think it more likely than not you’d think “Someone fighting for Social Justice’, and therefore, good. Certainly it is not explicitly derogatory.

            The same cannot be said for ‘relidgiot’ or ‘teabagger’. (Though the latter one does require at least some other cultural knowledge.)

            SJW is certainly intended to be a negative term. But it is so in the manner of other words, like zealot. It is intended to be a description of behaviour. It is not an attempt to pair something insulting with the name of a person/group. I think there is a critical difference in that.

            Similarly, “social justice advocate” is not pejorative in the way “SJW” is.

            Point of information, Social Justice Advocate, at least as I see it used, is meant to explicitly draw a line between people doing Social Justice badly, and people doing it well. The former are SJWs. The latter are SJAs.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Artificirius

            I don’t think how words or expressions look “at first blush” (i.e. how they would look to an alien who had to guess what they express with no information about how they’re actually used) has any direct bearing on my argument or on the general question of whether we ought to refrain from using them. It’s actually true of most (maybe all?) derogatory terms that you need cultural knowledge to realize they’re derogatory. There’s nothing “at first blush”, without knowledge of history and culture, which tells you that the racial slur “n—-r” is more derogatory than “negro”, which is more derogatory than “black”.

            I do not think that “SJW” is merely descriptive – it has some additional evaluative or expressive content. That seems clear to me, and people in this thread who use the term have said as much. In fact, you say as much in your post, which is confusing. I suppose you mean evaluative content to be included in the descriptive. If so, fine, but I take what I said about “relidgiot” to be true even if the term had the purely ‘descriptive’ meaning of “contemptibly stupid religious person”.

          • Artificirius says:

            @Philosophisticat

            Because one is trying to convey negativity by linking it explicitly with a pejorative term. The other does not.

            This is not a case of people asking others to stop referring to others as ‘teabaggers’, or ‘libtards’, to borrow some actual terms when discussing politics. This is more akin to asking people, in a wide ranging discussion of religion to not use the terms ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’.

            Yes, they can be too broadly applied, and used poorly, wrongly, or pejoratively. So what?

            When you want to talk about the Tea Party, you say’The Tea Party’. Using ‘teabagger’ is only useful when you trying to signal supreme disdain.

            When you want to talk about liberals, you say ‘liberals’. ‘Libtard’ is, hey, more signalling.

            When you want to talk about people who loudly decry violence and hatred, then turn around and tell others to commit suicide, etc, well, it is a lot more convenient to say ‘SJW’ as opposed to ‘people acting hypocritically in social justice circles’.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Artificirius

            I am failing to grasp the distinction you’re trying to make. Is it just that “relidgiot” is, orthographically, a contraction of “religion” and “idiot” and “SJW” is not, orthographically, a contraction of “Social justice advocate” and “hypocrite” (or whatever you think the negative evaluative component of the term is)? I don’t think that makes a difference. I think if “Liberoo” and “Libocrite” have the same content of “hypocritical liberal”, they stand and fall together, and I think if we want to create a space where reasonable people of all political persuasions feel welcome we shouldn’t throw around the term “Libocrite”, even though of course some liberals are hypocritical. I don’t think terms are more acceptable just because they don’t wear their content on their sleeve.

          • Artificirius says:

            That’s a decent summation.

            EDIT:

            To clarify, with a focus on naming. ‘Libtard’ connotes the state of being Liberal with being retarded. Social Justice Warrior (Is there a reason you keep using Social Justice Advocate?) is just a name. It has not connotations of itself, unlike, say ‘regressive Left’.

            But what exactly, are you proposing to use to refer to people in the Social Justice sphere whom behave badly? Or do you just think naming them is inherently wrong?

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Artificirius

            I can’t get a grip on your position. You say that “SJW” is ‘just a name’ with no negative connotations. But you also say that it’s meaning is something like “Social justice advocate who behaves hypocritically (or otherwise contemptibly)”. I don’t see how this is any different than using “Libocrite” to mean “hypocritical liberal”, or “Relidgiot” to mean “religious idiot”. The fact that you can guess that “Libocrite” means what it does by looking at the symbols that make it up and you can’t guess that “SJW” means what it does just by looking at the symbols that make it up seems irrelevant to me.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            We can make the analogy between the slurs more exact, if it helps. I think most religious folk would find a forum where many comments were devoted to deriding JESUS WARRIORS! overwhelmingly hostile. “Here are some more homophobic JESUS WARRIORS angry that they can’t use fairy tales as an excuse to be bigots any more!” “Hey, I found a JESUS WARRIOR who doesn’t believe in evolution– do you think he also believes that magnets are magic?” There are probably people who would self-identify as Jesus warriors, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @EarthlyKnight

            That’s helpful and I’m mildly embarrassed that that’s not the term I originally chose.

          • Jiro says:

            Imagine that there was a derogatory term, say, “relidgiot”, which was used by atheists to refer to the kind of religious person they most disapprove of. Now, just because of the way these things work, a good portion of atheists use the term very broadly, more or less to refer to all religious people, even though we might say this is a misapplication of the term.

            As in many cases, it is a matter of degree. “Teabaggers” is inherently a slur aimed at the entire Tea Party. “SJW” is not inherently a slur aimed at every leftist. Yes, it is true that “SJW” is sometimes used to refer to every leftist anyway, but it is not used that way to the same degree that “teabagger” is.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Jiro

            In my hypothetical example, “relidgiot” (or, better, “Jesus warrior”) is, like “SJW” in that respect. (In that some people clearly use it as a general slur for religious people, but others (maybe most) use it to refer to those religious people they find contemptible, with a range of variation in who deserves the label). I argued that that was enough to make for an objectionably unwelcoming atmosphere for religious people.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Rule of thumb: If I have to know your moral views or your attitudes of disapproval to know who you are referring to with a term, it’s probably not a very helpful descriptive term.

          • Nornagest says:

            Seriously? There are lots of perfectly ordinary words with varying scope depending on who’s using them, including for example “liberal” and “conservative”.

            Although this conversation is increasingly clearly unproductive, so I think I’ll bow out now.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Nornagest

            I’m not sure where you think I denied that the reference of words could change between speakers or contexts. Anyway, bye!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Philosophisticat:

            Right after I read your “relidgidiot” post I thought about suggesting “Holy Rollers” instead.

            I didn’t think it was actually necessary, as your post was quite clear. But in retrospect it might have been helpful.

          • Artificirius says:

            I can’t get a grip on your position. You say that “SJW” is ‘just a name’ with no negative connotations. But you also say that it’s meaning is something like “Social justice advocate who behaves hypocritically (or otherwise contemptibly)”. I don’t see how this is any different than using “Libocrite” to mean “hypocritical liberal”, or “Relidgiot” to mean “religious idiot”. The fact that you can guess that “Libocrite” means what it does by looking at the symbols that make it up and you can’t guess that “SJW” means what it does just by looking at the symbols that make it up seems irrelevant to me.

            I do not know how further to try and lay out the difference between conflating a name with a pejorative term, and a simple name for a behaviour within a group/group/ideology. Let’s work with the Jesus Warrior example, it’s far better.

            If I were to come across a forum that was generally favourable to the tenets of Christianity, but was vitriolically opposed to TV evangelists who preached hate and lined their pockets, and denounced groups who held the same views, I don’t think I would find it hostile. I would find the few tagalongs who took the opportunity to make snide comments about the intelligence of any religious person (looks at Reddit) to be irritating, but not worthy of response.

            And upon hearing of a group who went around telling people to conform or be damned forever, and sending them messages telling them to enjoy the inferno, etc, Jesus Warrior would in fact be an apt term.

            Rule of thumb: If I have to know your moral views or your attitudes of disapproval to know who you are referring to with a term, it’s probably not a very helpful descriptive term.

            You need background information to understand any term. Moral views and ‘attitude of disapproval’ is irrelevant.

            If I approved of people using Social Justice as a means to hate and attack, I could call them Social Justice Warriors and provide the exact same information about the group in question as if I disapproved.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Artificirius

            I obviously can’t speak to what you personally would find a hostile environment. But most religious people would find a place where people casually express contempt for the religious people they think are stupid by throwing around “Jesus Warrior”, being unclear in a wide range of individual cases whether the speaker’s expression of contempt is supposed to extend to them, or to all religious people, pretty unwelcoming. If you don’t see this, then I guess that’s that. If you do see this, but don’t care about creating a welcoming space for religious people, especially religious people who may have some overlap in their beliefs with those you find contemptible, then that’s that too. If you do care, but find it very difficult to express your disagreement with the beliefs or methods of the westboro baptist church without using a term like “Jesus Warrior”, then I think you’re not trying very hard.

          • Jiro says:

            In my hypothetical example, “relidgiot” (or, better, “Jesus warrior”) is, like “SJW” in that respect.

            This is one of those trick comparisons that rely on people’s limited imaginations.

            If “relidgiot” was commonly used to refer to a limited subset of religious people, then it wouldn’t be as bad as “teabagger” either. However, your audience (and probably you) will react to this hypothetical based on what it would be like if someone used that term in the real world, not based on what it would actually be like in that hypothetical. If you inappropriately import your feelings from the real world into a hypothetical where the reason for those feelings does not exist, you will get the wrong answer.

          • Artificirius says:

            I don’t think that is representative of this place. The issue people have with the actions of SJWs is not that they view them as being stupid, by and large. It is that it is worryingly authoritarian, restrictive, enabling of abuse and hateful. The very core of it runs completely and utterly counter to the motives it purportedly espouses. It is disingenuous in the extreme to reduce that to ‘being contemptuous because I find them stupid.’

            Would you like to propose a better term, or are you simply opposed to coining catchphrases for movements?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I already said I like Chait’s preferred term “illiberal left”.

          • onyomi says:

            My initial reaction to “illiberal left” was that it was too broad, since, far from using SJW as a blanket term for the left, I think of it is a very specific thing with a strong overlap with Blue culture and the left, but not by any means constituting all of leftism or including all or even most leftists. Bill Maher, for example, is definitely left wing, but also definitely not an SJW.

            That said, it has the advantage of being both more technical/descriptive/value-free and yet also more damning/thought-provoking, since most of the people we describe as SJWs around here probably self-describe as “liberal.” If it prompts them to think about what it really means to be liberal, all the better.

            I like when Bill Maher scolds other leftists for not being truly liberal, and I hope to see more of that, not only because I think it’s correct, but because I think libertarians like myself can maybe, probably find some common ground with the liberal left, as represented by the likes of Bill Maher (who, btw, thinks Gary Johnson is pretty cool), but I see almost no useful approach to the illiberal left, other than, well, trying to convince them they’re wrong.

            The added capaciousness might also be useful for distinguishing between, e. g. Bill Maher, whom I’d consider a liberal leftist, and Jon Stewart, and, indeed, HRC, whom I’d consider illiberal leftists, though not SJWs. That said, the fact that I can think of HRC as an illiberal leftist but not an SJW may show the imperfection of such a substitution: to my mind, at least, SJW indicates not just a particular view on identity issues, but also a certain myopic focus on identity issues at the expense of everything else.

          • John Schilling says:

            We need a short, commonly-accepted term for “People who seek better treatment for traditionally oppressed populations within modern Western society by confronting or attacking their alleged oppressors.” We have, to the best of my knowledge, exactly one such term, and it is “SJW”. There is nothing in that term that is intrinsically objectionable; it is not a pejorative derivative of a preexisting objective term, and its every element is generally considered laudable in most contexts.

            If there is an existing, widely-understood alternative, I await enlightenment. If the proposal is to adopt some new coinage, this will promote miscommunication until the new term becomes widely-understood, by which time it will have acquired all the pejorative connotations of “SJW” for all the same reasons.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Do we need a special term for “republicans who are mean to their enemies”? I seem to have done pretty alright without it.

            I don’t actually think there is some meaningfully independent movement of social justice activists who are mean or evil or hypocritical. There is a social justice movement, and some of its members are aggressive or mean or confrontational or hypocritical. So I don’t think nature has joints to be carved here.

            But even setting all that aside, “SJW” is not merely an expressively neutral term for a member of a political movement, applied that way with substantial consistency even in the SSC commentary, let alone in the broader linguistic community from which it gets its meaning. Its dominant use is as a pejorative. If you do not agree, then we simply have different experiences with the term and you should be aware that many social justice advocates experience the term that way. That seems sufficient to think twice about using it. (Aside: people throw around “intrinsically” and “inherently” way too loosely here.)

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            “Repug”
            I’ll thank you to spell it the proper way, as passed down by our proud ancestors. We self-indentify as “RethugliKKKon$”.

            Use any phrase you want to describe any group, but do keep in mind that anyone who has had that term used to insult them will probably realize you’re being hostile.

            One of the most important uses of these slurs in a community is as an OUTGROUP KEEP OUT sign. The term being generally accepted within the community is a kind of Coordinated Meanness.

            The occasional unchallenged jab at SJWs and Teabaggers in comments is really just a signal that nobody here is really interested in the “contributions” of Vogons in badly-fitting skinsuits or Revolutionary War Cosplayers.

            And if nobody thinks this can be valuable, just imagine if the comments to every one of Scott’s Effortposts were full of VeronicaD-style “this essay makes me feel unsafe so I demand you change your conclusion”, or Zerohedger “Well obviously the solution to prescription drug testing is to go back to the Gold Standard with real coins”.

          • John Schilling says:

            There is a social justice movement, and some of its members are aggressive or mean or confrontational or hypocritical

            Those are four different things, and you’re using them like they are synonyms. Or maybe accusing other people of using them as synonyms.

            There are, e.g., feminists who operate domestic-violence shelters for battered women, and feminists who demonstrate against purveyors of “rape culture” on college campuses. The former are neither aggressive nor mean nor confrontational nor hypocritical – and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard them referred to as “Social Justice Warriors”. The latter group are of course confrontational, but they aren’t necessarily hypocritical. Whether they are mean or aggressive is context-dependent.

            Social Justice Warriors are pretty much by definition controversial – they are the intersection of the confrontational subsets of various aggrieved-peoples advocacy groups, united by the common enemy they confront. I think this may be common to the Social Justice movement in general; without the common-enemy aspect there is a tendency to identify with the specific identity group being represented, as feminists or LGBT activists or whatever. But that’s just confrontation. Meannness, aggression, and hypocrisy do not necessarily follow, at least in theory.

            But confrontation is enough to serve as the basis for a useful characterization. People are going to want to distinguish between those who support the oppressed, and those who confront the accused oppressors. If there is a group of people who define themselves by the latter strategy, there’s going to be a name for that group. They can name themselves, or they can be named by their targets.

          • Fahundo says:

            relidgiot

            What about fundies, creationists, and Bible-thumpers? Are those terms off the table now?

          • brad says:

            HBC, what if those of us who do it are well aware that we are stating “this is the outgroup which I hate,” and are fine with that coming across clearly?

            Apparently, based on the first half of this thread, the correct thing for readers to do at that point would be to stop reading and conclude that you uninterested in persuading anyone.

    • gbdub says:

      The gratuitous “teabagger” smear is annoying, not so much for the vulgarity, but for the continued use of the Tea Party as a pejorative meaning something like “uber-Republicans”. The Tea Party was/is interesting because it was primarily interested in small government / economic issues (the “Contract from America” deliberately avoided social issues) and its energy was drawn from non-traditional activists (Tea Partiers were older, more likely to be married, somewhat more wealthy than average, certainly more so than your average BLM, Occupy, or anti-war protester). Mostly they were pissed off about TARP, pork, and the sense that the GOP had abandoned economic conservatism.

      So, like, hate Republicans if you want to. But by turning “Tea Partier” into a smear you lose out on an opportunity to talk about an actually interesting movement within the Republican Party (we’ve talked a lot about reforming the current 2 party coalitions – the ability to think of “Tea Partier” as a category rather than an insult is useful to that discussion).

      • Randy M says:

        Exactly. I fairly often see here people using “Tea-party” as a synonym for super fanatical social conservative. There may have been overlap among members, but the thrust of the Tea Party was largely economic (I would say entirely, but economic freedom is also a philosophical issue).

      • Corey says:

        Guys, the school board majority leader, John Tedesco, *explicitly self-identified* as Tea Party at the time! Don’t know about his majority compatriots as he hogged the spotlight through most of the tenure (to springboard to State legislature, naturally).

        Didn’t realize “teabagger” would be taken as so insulting; in a Republican forum such as this (yeah I know everyone here is a special snowflake who just happens to 90% agree with the GOP platform), is it even a smear?

        • Randy M says:

          in a Republican forum such as this

          This makes you look ignorant as well.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Didn’t realize “teabagger” would be taken as so insulting

          I’m guessing that you’ve never interacted with a Tea Party person in any way ever in your life, then? It’s one of the most common smug-leftie putdowns for them. They hate that term.

          • Corey says:

            Not really, no. The conservatives daily life puts me in contact with are either moderate or don’t talk politics, and other than here I wouldn’t go places with the Tea Party online; what would be the point?

          • gbdub says:

            “what would be the point?”

            Maybe to understand what they actually believe?

            How could you not realize the term would be insulting? It was literally coined as an insult and references a sex act. Can I start referring to Hillary supporters as “Demococksuckers” and expect them not to take it as an insult?

          • onyomi says:

            In Corey’s defense, I can imagine this being sort of like Republicans who call the ACA “Obamacare.”

            On any moderately right-leaning news outlet, “Obamacare” became the colloquial name for ACA to such a degree that it didn’t even sound like a smear. Obama tried to reclaim it somewhat by saying “yes, Obama cares!”

            In any case, I think it started out as something mildly derogatory–a way to link a president with an unpopular (at least among right-leaning audiences) policy, but sort of morphed into just “the word for that thing” in many circles.

            I think “Teabagger” is a little more obviously and unambigously insulting than “Obamacare,” but I can see being in a sufficiently Blue-ish bubble to where it just sounds like the usual colloquial term.

          • Exit Stage Right says:

            Corey, you’re pretty smart, but I think you need to take us rightists a bit more seriously. Your beak is pushing up against the eggshell; you need to make an effort to crack it.

            Our host here made that effort, and he came away from it with a clearer understanding for it. I give him a lot of credit for all the time he spent swimming around the reactosphere, even though I can imagine how uncomfortable it made him.

            The idea that my vision of the left is corrupted because of the bubble I’m in bothers me quite a lot. When you say something like “yeah I know everyone here is a special snowflake who just happens to 90% agree with the GOP platform”, I get the feeling that accurately perceiving your opposition isn’t a priority of yours. This is really unfortunate. I hope I don’t come across as condescending, but you could do a lot better.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If one person had simply posted “Hey, please don’t use this terminology. It is insulting even if it is common on left-leaning boards” we might could have actually gotten Corey to just say his mea culpas and move on to actually discussing the topic.

            But when eight separate commenters point out how awful Corey is … and that is ALL they are willing to talk about, we get these kinds of pileups.

            Corey, it’s a poor choice in phrases if you want to have a conversation. It will rustle far too many jimmies to let anything else be discussed. Plus, you know, it is insulting (no matter whether it was self-applied before people understand that this was a mistake.)

          • Chalid says:

            @ onyomi I agree with you on this, and would add that I think a lot of people don’t know “teabagging” is a slang for a sex act.

          • gbdub says:

            I do apologize for the pile on, I tried to be more constructive/illuminating than just “you suck” in my original response – but I got a bit miffed when Corey doubled down with “can’t see why teabagger is an insult” which tbh still feels like a belief that requires more than simple naivete to hold. But it was wrong of me to flat assume that.

            Anyway I do think the “principle of charity” is one of the more important features of SSC and we’d all do well to be more careful making declarative statements about “what you guys believe”.

          • Randy M says:

            But when eight separate commenters point out how awful Corey is … and that is ALL they are willing to talk about, we get these kinds of pileups.

            Are you counting me from up thread? I don’t think he’s awful (or that I said he was), I just think he’s wrong, and was merely trying to clarify the matter–or be corrected myself in turn.

            I’m not trying to be defensive–really wondering if that sort of comment is what amounts to piling on here. (As opposed to one I made yesterday, which certainly was, though I didn’t realize how thoroughly the issue had been covered at the point I responded, which probably happens a lot.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @RandyM:
            I was counting this.

            This makes you look ignorant as well.

            One can use ignorant in a neutral way, but it’s very tricky, and I don’t think you were really trying to do that here, but regardless, didn’t pull it off. (Obviously, just my opinion).

          • Randy M says:

            Oh, but that wasn’t about Teabagger. That was about adopting another commenter’s throw away dismissal of the entire collection of comment section here as “a republican forum.”
            Because that implies this board is primarily concerned with politics, especially electoral, and also entirely one sided, within a very narrow and conventional slice of political opinion and likely top-down enforcement.

            Corey is certainly by all means allowed to imply that he believes these things, but as it stands, I think doing so shows a poor understanding of either the board or the US Republican party. I think the median position here on religion, immigration, and abortion would be quite outside of the republican party. I seriously doubt republican forums frequently address the utilitarian approach to various issues. or care much at all about ai beyond perhaps robotics effects on unemployment. I doubt they would seriously entertain the breadth of debate on UBI or gun control, although the republican opinion can be found within those discussed here, to say it is unanimous is simply false. Are Republicans still against gay marriage? Regardless, I doubt they are quite so ready to endorse polygamy.

            I don’t think “Republican Forum” is an insult. I’m not offended by it. I do think at this time it is absurd to claim SSC is such, no less than if I went to a family reunion and said “Wow, it’s quite the workers paradise here, huh comrade?” because I see a cousin who once endorsed communism.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:
            Note that you used “as well”, so you clearly implied there was more to it than just his statements about “a Republican board”. I can reasonably infer that you were taking objection to the original comment “as well”.

            Also, it’s not really a defense against the proposition that it amounts to calling Corey awful.

            Note, that you now have had to write a book to explain a one line comment that used the word “ignorant”, which should be a pretty clear marker that, if you didn’t intend to engage in tit-for-tat awfulness, you should not have posted as you did.

            As to the claim that the board is 90% Republican, I agree that this isn’t particularly accurate in describing the commenters. And yet, I would say that when criticism of policies or policy proposals is the topic of discussion it’s very easy to get the sense that the criticism is primarily aimed at policies favored by Democrats.

            It’s not so much that the board favors Republican positions as it detests Democratic ones.

          • Randy M says:

            Note that you used “as well”

            Yeah, sorry that’s unclear, I was going to say “As well as [another commenter]” but didn’t want to go there and so edited it poorly.

            Note, that you now have had to write a book to explain a one line comment that used the word “ignorant”, which should be a pretty clear marker that, if you didn’t intend to engage in tit-for-tat awfulness, you should not have posted as you did.

            Disagree. I don’t think I was awful. I don’t think I called Corey awful, either. I think I was unclear, and I apologize for that. But I stand by the accusation that calling this board a “Republican Forum” is either ignorant or dishonest. It is also a mild irritant as it is dismissive and close-minded and so inhibitory to conversation. (I also don’t think I wrote all that much, as it looks longer once the thread has narrowed than the actual number of words warrant. But as you felt an unsupported assertion of ignorance was awful, I felt an obligation to actually support the point).

            By the way, you misread Corey. He didn’t call it “90% Republican forum.” He called it simply a Republican forum, then implied that people would protest the uniformity of view by pointing out the 10% of time they supposedly differed as a smokescreen (that’s what the phrase “special snowflake” is there for. See also the “just happens” phrase).

            Sigh. Conversations about who said what and how in particular are terribly dull and I mean to stop doing it. I shall endeavor to be clear up front in the future.

          • For what it’s worth (I identify as someone with a fairly mainstream understanding of American English), I initially heard teabagger as a fairly lightweight nickname. A teabag is a small item of no great importance.

            I’d never heard that it might be a (homophobic?) slur until it had been Tea Partiers (a term without a lot of gravitas itself) complained about it, and I still hear it as a small paper bag with tea in it.

            Admittedly, what makes an insult isn’t the meaning of the words, it’s the tone of voice, but from the left, I’d say that “Tea Party” comes out harsher than “teabagger”.

            In other news, I’ve heard “Obamacare” used on NPR, a radio station which swings left and is definitely in favor of the ACA. I think Obamacare is more euphonious and more likely to be understood on the first bounce than the ACA.

            I do hear “Democrat” as an adjective as a Republican thing, and a bit of an insult. Nonetheless, I hear the BBC use it, and I don’t think they intend it badly, they’ve just picked it up without thinking about it.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I do hear “Democrat” as an adjective as a Republican thing, and a bit of an insult.

            Oh, it’s definitely an insult, popularized by Rush Limbaugh I believe — saying “Democrat” instead of “Democratic.” I don’t see any logic in the insult other than just deliberately getting it wrong to annoy people on the other side. Like if you were in New York and constantly called it “New Yerk” to everyone you saw.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @RandyM:
            I’m only explaining in long detail because you asked. But I’m not trying to make you feel bad..

            Remember, I agree that the word choice of Corey at the beginning was poor.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Didn’t realize “teabagger” would be taken as so insulting

          At the risk of derailing from the main point of the post further, why on earth would you think that an insulting term, repurposed for insulting a specific group would not be insulting?

          It’s like calling a guy a “motherfucker” and then saying “no, no, guys, what I mean is that he’s a father, since he has fucked at least one mother (the mother of his son)”.

          • DrBeat says:

            Am I the only one who remembers that at the very beginning of the Tea party they actually, literally and not metaphorically called themselves “teabaggers”?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:
            I referenced it earlier. It doesn’t really have any bearing on the conversation though. Sure, it was initially an “own goal” but that doesn’t excuse or even really effect how it is used now.

        • Corey says:

          No problem, I’ll definitely not use it again, some lessons are easy to remember 🙂

      • onyomi says:

        The Tea Party was a huge disappointment to me as a libertarian because it started out claiming to be serious about limited government, federalism, strict interpretation of the Constitution, etc. etc. but somehow got hijacked by all the usual GOP suspects to turn into basically just “Republicans… and we mean it!”

        Like if the Tea Party had meant anything they said in their tricorn hats, they would have voted for Ron Paul. But they mostly did not. It ended up essentially as “government better keep their hands off my medicare.”

        • Corey says:

          Serious question: did you view RP as a libertarian? I always thought he was a neoconfederate instead. There are big differences, unless you’re only looking at the Federal government (which, to be fair, is the government he was running to lead).

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I think nearly every libertarian or conservative regards Paul as a libertarian. That movement has always had a wing which isn’t too fastidious about the company it keeps.

          • onyomi says:

            Ron Paul is as much a libertarian as the Pope is Catholic. That is, he is so integral to the movement as almost to be part of it by definition. As you might be able to say the current pope has somehow misinterpreted Catholic doctrine (though papal infallibility…), one could say that some particular view of Ron Paul’s is not consonant with the spirit of libertarianism as a philosophy, but as sure as the pope kind of defines what it means to be Catholic, so Ron Paul has kind of defined libertarianism (if it sounds like I’m belaboring the point it’s because I once had an incredibly braindead debate on here with someone insisting Ron Paul was not a libertarian).

            As to why certain libertarians might like to say he’s not, I imagine it’s because they want to distance themselves from the Lew Rockwell/Hans Hoppe-ish wing of the libertarian movement, which maybe has an uncomfortable amount in common with the alt-right. But that group not only self-describes as libertarian, they are libertarian by the colloquial understanding of “someone who’s strongly in favor free markets/against government solutions.”

            One may, of course, engage in semantics, as Noam Chomsky has, for example, to argue that the self-described libertarians of today are not “real” libertarians, but that’s just semantics. Given the colloquial definition, Ron Paul is definitely a libertarian, even if he’s not everyone’s favorite flavor of libertarian (also, I’m pretty sure he is secretly an anarchocapitalist–witness all his black and gold ties; he just talks about the Constitution a lot to try to appeal to the Tea Party traditionalists and to avoid sounding even more radical).

          • brad says:

            Ron Paul is as much a libertarian as the Pope is Catholic. That is, he is so integral to the movement as almost to be part of it by definition. As you might be able to say the current pope has somehow misinterpreted Catholic doctrine (though papal infallibility…), one could say that some particular view of Ron Paul’s is not consonant with the spirit of libertarianism as a philosophy, but as sure as the pope kind of defines what it means to be Catholic, so Ron Paul has kind of defined libertarianism (if it sounds like I’m belaboring the point it’s because I once had an incredibly braindead debate on here with someone insisting Ron Paul was not a libertarian).

            That only makes sense if you view libertarianism as a solely american phenomenon. His strong focus on what he sees as the proper interpretation of the US Constitution and with federalism doesn’t translate well, if at all, outside a U.S. context.

            So if he is the Pope of libertarianism then libertarianism doesn’t have much of much to say about how e.g. the French government should work. That’s a real diminishment in ambition versus non-Paulite strands of libertarian thought.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ron Paul was a Libertarian who was very interested in attempting to accumulate some coalition that would care, at least nominally, about Libertarian issues.

            The neoconfederate thing was, I think, more out of placing the size of his following as higher priority than ideological consistency. But I think he knew what he was doing (and subsequently lied about it).

            But, you know, that’s just my opinion. He also had/has a really strong streak of “crank” and I don’t think that was just “politics make strange bed fellows”. I think that was pretty genuine.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            I don’t think you can fairly characterize Vox I. or his conversational style as brain dead, whether or not you agree with him.

          • onyomi says:

            To the extent Libertarianism has an international history and reach (though it’s by far the most popular and well-known in the US), it’s probably because of Austrian and classical economists like Mises, Hayek, and Adam Smith. Ron Paul is a huge fan of those guys and did a lot to promote their work, none of which says “this would only work in America.”

            Most of the inroads libertarianism has made elsewhere have been with e.g. “The Mises Institute, Brazil,” where Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell give speeches. Its roots are European classical liberalism and Austrian economics, but libertarianism today is largely an American phenomenon. Which is not to say it has no international ambitions.

            Anyway, I don’t mean he’s the “libertarian pope” in the sense that we all have to listen to him or that he gets to set the agenda or literally define what it means to be a libertarian; I am just quasi-joking in the vein of “is the Pope Catholic?” That is, if your definition of “Catholic” excludes the Pope, you probably need another definition. If your definition of libertarianism excludes Ron Paul, you probably need another definition.

          • onyomi says:

            I actually didn’t remember who I had that convo with.

            Vox is smart, to be sure, and I miss his contributions, but that particular conversation was dumb, by which I mean, frustrating, unenlightening and pointless.

            And speaking of which, that’s all I have to say on the question of whether or not Ron Paul is a libertarian.

          • Vox [Imperatoris] is smart, to be sure, and I miss his contributions …

            Wait, what happened to him? I miss his contributions, too.

            I don’t see his name on the last of bans, thank goodness.

          • Nornagest says:

            He just vanished, as far as I know. Don’t think he was banned.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Probably got tired of the right-wing bias in the comment section, you can ask him in his tumblr.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            According to his tumblr, he is busy and had been getting tired of the SSC commentariat anyway.

    • stargirlprincesss says:

      I’m hoping this Corey fellow is just trolling us. In his alter comments he claims to not know “teabagger” was an insult.

    • BBA says:

      I thought Parents Involved ended busing? Or is Wake County’s system “holistic” enough to satisfy Justice Kennedy’s arglebargle?

      • brad says:

        Socioeconomic busing is still allowed. PI forbid using race as a factor unless somehow you can convince Kennedy that you’ve tailored narrowly enough or you are forced to use race under a still in place desegregation order (not sure how many of these are left). The Kennedy opinion openly invited districts to use wink and nod busing, it’s just the explicit use of race he wasn’t comfortable with.

  17. onyomi says:

    Who is the Agatha Christie of our generation?

    • Two McMillion says:

      The mystery genre has become somewhat more fragmented than it was in Christie’s day. Cozy mysteries now contrast with thrillers and the more general crime novels. Christie’s work has elements of all three, but she’s best known today for what I would think of as cozy mysteries. Christie also sold very well, so it depends on to what extent you want to include that as a requirement. Among living authors, Mary Higgins Clark seems like a good choice for the successor to Christie, in that she manages to touch multiple sides of the crime novel and also sells well. However, she’s old enough that she can’t reasonably be called the anything “of our generation”.

      Christie wrote a lot, and it’s hard to think of anyone young enough to called “of our generation” who’s also prolific and is similar to Christie in style.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m a big fan of her “cozy mysteries” (more than her adventures, etc.), and Poirot, especially (that is, I liked “Roger Ackroyd” much better than “The Big Four”). I’m not concerned about popularity.

        How about “best cozy mystery writer still working”?

        Or “best innovation in the mystery genre since Christie”?

        I may give Mary Higgins Clark a try. Any recommendations among her work?

        • Two McMillion says:

          I’ll be honest and admit that I probably can’t help you much there, since I don’t really enjoy the direction the genre has gone since Christie. If I broaden your question to, “good detective fiction”, the Nero Wolfe series is good.

          Best innovation: Raymond Chandler, hands down.

        • James Kabala says:

          The British authors such as P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill, and Colin Dexter are not self-identified as cozy (but neither was Christie – it is a modern marketing term) and are less puzzle-oriented than Christie, but they are in the same tradition of being non-gory and taking place in upper- or middle-class milieus.

          They are also are not of our generation, though – their years of birth are closer to Christie’s than to yours or mine. James, Rendell, and Hill are all dead (recently dead – all in the last few years), and Dexter is retired. (He ended his series almost twenty years ago, while the other three worked pretty much up until their deaths.)

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          How about “best cozy mystery writer still working”?

          Or “best innovation in the mystery genre since Christie”?

          Stretching to television, the script-writer of “Bones”. Innovative character relationships, and a very innovative setting for the cozy place.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Are you familiar with Tony Hillerman?

      Obviously he is dead now, but with his books being published between 1970 and 2006, he barely overlaps her writing.

      It’s been awhile since I read any of his stuff, but I remember it being warm and giving a sense of a different culture (which was one of the draws to Agatha, IMHO).

      • ReluctantEngineer says:

        I’ll second the Tony Hillerman recommendation (with the exception of his last two or three books).

  18. Two McMillion says:

    In the future, following humanity’s recovery from the apocalypse, you are called into the office of the newly crowned Emperor of Humanity. The Emperor explains that she’s been researching religion lately, and she thinks it can be a useful tool for enforcing social norms and encouraging morality, but it seems like all the current religions have a lot of superfluous stuff on top of that. She figures that religion is probably hardwired into humans to a certain extent, so if people are going to follow one it might as well be one intended to encourage human flourishing. She wants to put you in charge of designing the new state religion. What recommendations do you give her?

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      “Abdicate.”

    • Aegeus says:

      I tell her to retrofit an old one (or perhaps “rediscover” a religion that was wiped out in the apocalypse). Religions need the weight of tradition to be effective, I think.

      It should also be designed with a way to adapt to current social issues (the way Judaism has the Oral Tradition, which has allowed rabbis to re-interpret or flat-out ignore problematic bits of the Torah). You want people to keep religion for the social cohesion and general “be excellent to each other” morality, but you don’t want people using doctrine as a cudgel against their enemies.

      (Scott’s fictional Raikoth has an interesting religion where the idea that religion is a social tool rather than an absolute truth is actually part of the religion itself! There’s the “View of Truth” and the “View of Beauty”, and followers should consider both together. I think this could be worth trying – people will follow a religion because it’s part of their culture, even if they know on some level it’s not absolute truth).

      Don’t be afraid of including some inexplicable/pointless cruft, it can add flavor to a religion, and enhance its role as “social glue.” Eating fish on Fridays, lighting candles at services, giving gifts on a particular holiday, jumping up and down on the Solstice… Include a bunch of minor holidays, perhaps take a page from Christianity and make a Saint for every occasion. Religion shouldn’t feel oppressive, but you should be able to see its presence in any situation.

      Lastly, and this is just a personal preference of mine, it should have some good songs. Getting people to listen to a sermon for an hour is boring. Getting people to sing psalms together for an hour can actually be pretty fun.

      (I’m a Conservative Jew, so I wonder if a Christian would have different thoughts about what makes religion work?)

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Aegeus
        take a page from Christianity and make a Saint for every occasion.

        Or take a bigger page and approiate every existing pagan holiday or deity into Christianity (I wish I could expect an Irish flame for saying that).

        Hinduism may have done it some better. Like, they didn’t just rename a deity as a Christian saint, they kept the existing name and maintained that figure as a deity in zis own right, pretty much independent of /Whoever/.

        I await correction.

    • Nornagest says:

      I suspect this is looking at it the wrong way. Given the diversity of religious belief, it seems likely that what we’re getting out of religion has less to do with any specific dogma and more to do with the presence of structure, ritual, and some kind of framework for community. Problem is, it’s incredibly hard to design satisfying rituals from first principles. People have tried, and almost all of them have failed. All the institutions that are good at it have at least a couple hundred years of cultural evolution under their belts, and it’s not unlikely that some of the stuff that appears superfluous is actually serving an essential but hidden function.

      But the Empress of the Twenty Universes probably isn’t going to take no for an answer, so I’ll need to think about this some more.

    • Howard Zen Gardner says:

      There’s a female version of “emperor.”

      • Randy M says:

        I guess that kind of thing is passe now? Like it implies that maybe there’s a difference between man kind of rulers and woman kind of rulers, so we should only use the nongendered term.

        • Anon says:

          something something male by default something wrongthink something avoid lynchings something something bad idea

          • Winter Shaker says:

            You say that, but it’s been a long time since ‘murderess’ or ‘Jewess’ were typical terms, and I don’t think we suffer any noticeable loss for just having the formerly masculine term become the gender-neutral. ‘Actress’ seems to be heading the same way among people younger than me.

          • LHN says:

            I wonder if having separate-but-equal awards categories for e.g., the Oscars will likewise go by the wayside.

            (IIRC, the question was actually alluded to in the opening to the latest Oscar ceremony.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            I can’t see the Oscars dropping the actress awards. My guess is almost no one actually wants that. The male and female awards are equally prestigious, so combining them just cuts the actor/actress’s chances of getting an award. And once you did it, you’d likely have periods where one gender or another dominated, resulting in cries of sexism or quotas, and possibly a de-facto rule of alternation.

          • LHN says:

            And once you did it, you’d likely have periods where one gender or another dominated, resulting in cries of sexism or quotas, and possibly a de-facto rule of alternation.

            On the other hand, no one has proposed to address the much-discussed issue of race and the Oscars by creating separate categories. (And one imagines the idea would… not be greeted as a step forward.) There also isn’t a Best Female Director (or an alternation rule) despite the likewise commented-on dearth of women given the award. Or Best Makeup (Male)/Best Makeup (Female).

            Granted, I don’t expect it to change any time soon. Institutional inertia and the endowment effect both mitigate against it. But a lot of single-sex institutions have been integrated in the last generation or so.

          • Howard Zen Gardner says:

            John Derbyshire ran the numbers and reported that over the past 30 years black Americans won (or were nominated for? can’t remember) Oscars pretty close to their representation in the population.

            High-profile films, especially the artsier ones, seem to have female editors (relatively) often.

          • Alraune says:

            Yeah, Black actors are marginally underrepresented as Oscar nominees but disproportionately likely to win if they get nominated, with the end result that it evens out almost perfectly.

            Hispanics are underrepresented by a factor of, iirc, 5.

      • Two McMillion says:

        I know this, but I decided not to change it just to mess with people.

    • LimeyExport says:

      Alain de Botton wrote an interesting book that somewhat discusses this, called Religion for Atheists. Also of interest (and mentioned in the de Botton book) is Auguste Comte’s attempt to create a secular “Religion of Humanity”.

      I find this question tricky, because it bumps into the boundaries of what religion truly is. One can encourage certain moral principles, behaviours, etc — but that arguably isn’t religion in itself. A lot of people would agree that religion requires some element of belief/doctrine, which are held on faith rather than scientifically demonstrated or logically proved. In which case, what do we want people to believe in without proof?

    • Exit Stage Right says:

      Oh this is a fun one!

      Humans may be hardwired for religions, but theyre not going to just follow along with anything. You need to make sure your religion functions as a memeplex. The thing has to be able to infect people and keep them infected. This is the first thing to ensure because if your religion can’t do that it won’t survive. Some random, not-the-emperor fellow will come up with a better (more infectious) religion and all your planning will be for nothing.

      So, what makes a religion infectious? If infectious is too inflammatory a term we could replace it with “compelling”

      Just off the top of my head, we need a system of rituals and symbols and we probably need a social hierarchy. We need a narrative for the people we’re selling this religion to; who they are, where they came from, what their purpose is. If this is a post-apocalyptic world that kind of narrative shouldn’t be too hard to come up with (I’m gunna say the apocalypse should probably figure into it). The metaphysical element of the religion is a bit trickier. Do religions even need metaphysical or divine elements? So-called “Civic Religions” get away without them, or at least with very little of them.

      Once we get the thing to be sticky, then we talk about the human flourishing part

      • Loquat says:

        For additional stickiness, I’ll add that it should ask something, ideally not just money, of its adherents (people tend to be more attached to an institution they’ve invested time and effort into) and offer solutions to at least some of their major problems. The church isn’t just where you go to worship your deity, it’s also where you go for certain types of medical care, or for help ending your addictions, or whatever else might be a major unmet need in this society.

        • I’m inclined to think a designed religion should put people into groups that are the right size to make mutual aid likely. I’m not sure what that size is, but let’s say 25 to 250. Megachurches are the wrong idea for this purpose unless they’re good at generating sub-groups.

    • blacktrance says:

      To not encourage any religion and to pursue a policy of secularism. Morality should be able to stand on its own without being backed up by arbitrary restrictive practices or beliefs about the supernatural.

    • anon says:

      I think the only answer I can offer is to base it on a pretty poorly kept copy of the Wizard of Oz and make large gun spewing statues.

    • Dahlen says:

      I thought the whole point of the apocalypse, at least in Christianity, was that shortly before that humans reach peak sin, and then the slate gets wiped clean once again and God’s eternal, unopposed reign on earth can begin. So what you’re telling me here is that the other side won?

      • Loquat says:

        You do know there’s now a whole secular concept of the apocalypse where civilization is largely destroyed by some sort of non-divine disaster and then humanity rebuilds, right?

        • Dahlen says:

          Obviously, I wasn’t born yesterday/live in an exclusively eschatological Christian bubble, but I remember from some other place that Two McMillion is a conservative Christian, and I presumed he was at least more supportive of that perspective over the apocalypse than other perspectives.

          • Loquat says:

            I believe you’re correct about Two McMillion’s religious beliefs, but I don’t think he lives in an exclusively eschatological Christian bubble either. Besides, “God’s eternal unopposed reign” doesn’t leave much room for humans to do much of anything interesting, does it?

          • Two McMillion says:

            I am speaking to an audience that is largely non-Christian, and I therefore make an effort to use terms and phrases in the way they are most likely to understand them. If I were speaking to my church, I would not use “apocalypse” in this way.

  19. Marble says:

    Can we talk about how, of all companies, it’s Nntendo that’s suddenly launching us into the glorious AR future?

    Like, Pokemon go was cool but today I saw this: https://www.reddit.com/r/pokemongo/comments/4wa3zc/found_a_demo_w_improved_ar_for_catching_pokemon/

    I’m not a programmer, but I’ve worked for AR development companies before. I know how hard this is to pull off. And… this really doesn’t look scripted…

    Help me keep my hopes down. The Future can’t possibly be here already, can it?

    • Pku says:

      The future’s already here. It arrived when we invented copy machines that could staple sets on their own.
      But yeah, that does look awesome. Simultaneous AR means we can actually have non-boring interpeople pokemon battles! eventually.

    • Nornagest says:

      Well, it’s a Nintendo property, but the actual developer is Niantic, which is a Google spinoff that has previous experience with AR games.

    • Zorgon says:

      And… this really doesn’t look scripted…

      Not intended as an insult, but your instinct for scripting is off.

      It’s good stuff, well-rehearsed, but the kids running across give it away. My main wonder is… why? What’s the footage for? Is it viral marketing?

  20. Has anyone else seen the new Ghostbusters movie? If so what did you think of it?

    • Earthly Knight says:

      I thought McKinnon’s character was a riot. The lame villain and the pointless special effects orgy at the end kind of dragged it down, though.

    • Anatoly says:

      Was fun in a mindless fun sort of way. The Internet made me suspect it would be badly made pablum relentlessly harping on the girl-power aspect of the team, but simply embarrassing to watch for anyone not invested in it as a feminist victory. It really, really wasn’t the case. It was fun-driven, not message-driven; a goofy sort of fun to be sure, just as the original. Wasn’t an Event, but I liked it and glad I went.

      • anonymist says:

        Sounds like the Cathulu’s treading water…again.

        Why is the Cathulu so ineffective?

      • DrBeat says:

        Okay, I object to calling the original Ghostbusters mindless or even “goofy” if that means the kind of thing it means for the 2016 reboot. The original was deadpan and played everything straight, and the humor came from people reacting seriously to these bizarre situations. Even Bill Murray’s character was in-universe a self-absorbed sarcastic dick, not “the wacky jokester of the group”. Nothing anyone did felt like it was just to make the audience laugh. The new one, from what I have heard, is trying way harder, way more blatantly, and with way less skill to make the audience laugh.

        I see people saying “Eh, it wasn’t bad, it was a mindless fun popcorn flick.” And, like, on top of all the Culture War horseshit that was the marketing of this film, from what I have seen of in-depth reviews the movie actually is bad, the actors cannot save the script and they have little chemistry and the emotional beats are completely in disarray and people don’t have motivations and etc etc etc — but whatever. Let’s assume for a moment, the “Eh, it was all right, mindless popcorn flick” assessment is accurate.

        The original Ghostbusters was, and remains, one of the greatest comedies ever made. Remaking it into an “all right mindless popcorn flick” is still pretty goddamned terrible!

        • You haven’t seen the movie. Would you care to cite some of those in-depth reviews?

          I don’t think either of the movies were mindless. If you take them both seriously, they’re both about unrespectable knowledge.

          I’m not convinced that one of the greatest comedies ever made is an objective thing. Even the first movie hasn’t had enough time to show whether it’s got long term staying power, and the third is quite recent.

          If there were one version that mostly delighted men and another version that mostly delighted women, they could both be pretty good classics and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

          Personally, I liked the first one, but liked the current one a good bit more.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          from what I have seen of in-depth reviews the movie actually is bad

          I agree that the movie looks like absolute shit, and the positive reviews I’ve seen seem like they’re trying very hard to like it. But “from what I’ve heard is terrible” is like the best way to lose credibility.

          • You mean reviews by professional reviewers? I saw a moderate number of reviews by ordinary people who liked it, and I had a lot of fun watching it (both most of the people stuff and the big special effects fight at the end).

      • John Schilling says:

        I see people saying “Eh, it wasn’t bad, it was a mindless fun popcorn flick.”

        I’d count it as a mindless fun popcorn flick with a few moments that rise above that level. But doing that as a straight remake under the “Ghostbusters” name, invites comparison to what was a generally better movie, and the new one adds nothing to that other than the observation that, yes, Bill Murray was playing a sleazy sexist jerk in the original and now the tables can be turned.

        I wish these people had been allowed to make their own movie.

  21. Anon. says:

    I thought it was impossible for Secret to do worse this year than TI5, but here we are… how to explain such pathetic underperformance?

    • blacktrance says:

      I haven’t watched many of their games, but the consensus seems to be that it’s EE’s bad play and Puppey’s lackluster drafts. Can’t blame Kuro this time.
      It’d be poetic justice if Secret got knocked out in the first round and DC won the whole thing.

      The more interesting question is, where’s Arteezy going to end up after TI? Stay on Secret? EG? OG (lol)? A new team?

      Also, how about Liquid falling apart too? A month ago no one would’ve predicted that Navi would be a challenge for them, but now it seems to be about even.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Puppey is washed up, Bulba was never good, no one actually creates space for anyone.

      I think the qualifier system really needs to change, though, some pretty bad teams get a surge of performance for three days and take the spot for winning a whole bunch of BO1s, a tiered bracket for with teams that barely missed the invite at the top would really be best.

      Also, how about Liquid falling apart too? A month ago no one would’ve predicted that Navi would be a challenge for them, but now it seems to be about even.

      FATA the teamkiller strikes again.

  22. Nornagest says:

    I seem vaguely to recall that the Robber’s Cave experiment was one of the casualties of the replication crisis, but damned if the politics around Pokemon Go teams don’t form some kind of corroboration.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      More details?

    • Politics around Pokemon GO teams? I’m intrigued.

      I’m on Team Mystic. The Blue one. What does this mean about my politics?

      • I don’t even play, and my Facebook feed features surprisingly bitter recriminations between the various teams. (Mostly hating Valor.)

        Again, I don’t play. It is entirely though cultural osmosis that I know this.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          You’re telling me I could’ve pissed off people with my choice of team? Fuck man, I wish I had know before.

      • numbers says:

        I’m not sure I understand that image. If people are actually getting +10% experience, it’s news to me. I think that feature would be really difficult for Niantic to implement. Is the joke that the gestures and bandanas all secretly have sexual meanings?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Not sexual, they’re street gang symbols. Yellow is the Latin Kings, though they hardly have an exclusive on that hand sign (the Devil’s Hand). Blue is Crips, Red (with the ridiculously complicated hand sign) is Bloods.

        • Fahundo says:

          If people are actually getting +10% experience, it’s news to me

          I don’t play Pokemon Go, so I honestly have no idea about that.

          Is the joke that the gestures and bandanas all secretly have sexual meanings?

          The joke is that the colors and especially the hand signals are associated with violent gangs.

    • numbers says:

      Ingress factional politics was notoriously terrible.

      I was hoping Pokemon Go would be better, because: (1) three teams instead of two means cooperation is possible, and you don’t want to close the door on that by being horrible; (2) no farm activities means there’s no need for per-faction communities for people to be tribal in; (3) the game theme is more positive and less paranoid-conspiracy-theory to start with; (4) no in-game chat means it’s harder to be mean to people over the internet.

      I’ve seen very little Pokemon Go related griefing in my area, but that might be because I haven’t sought out organized-play pokemon communities.

  23. Outis says:

    Is using the word “ignorant” incorrectly (as if it meant “bigoted”, or, less charitably, as a general term for badthink) a black thing? It seems to me that it is, but I’m basing this impression on online exposure. I would be curious to hear if others have a different impression.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      I think it’s a Southern thing.

    • Sandy says:

      I have gotten the same impression, that it’s a common adjective used by black news writers and opinion makers that spreads to other black news writers and opinion makers and so on. Not even necessarily to mean “bigoted” — sometimes just to mean whatever the opposite of “woke” is.

      It always reminds me of that Michael Jackson episode on South Park, though.

    • Isn’t this just a natural use of the word’s regular sense? Bigotry is often thought to arise from ignorance (of the fact that some group or other isn’t entirely composed of violent criminals, for example—cf. how advocates of social justice are always talking about the need to ‘educate’ people), so it makes sense for people to accuse somebody of ignorance if they consider them bigoted, or to refer to “the ignorant” more or less interchangeably with “the bigoted”.

    • My impression is that it’s adds up to “they’re wrong, but there’s nothing to be done about it”, but this may be out of date.

      I’m not sure it’s an incorrect use of the word, but it did take me some work to figure out what it meant, and I don’t necessarily have it right.

      Urban dictionary— the word seems to be a connotation-cloud around the concept of (intractable?) lack of knowledge.

  24. Anonymous Coward says:

    Anyone here have experience with the Raspberry Pi and can vouch for/against it for general computing? (I mostly browse the web, occasional photoshop)

    • Anonymous says:

      I wouldn’t recommend it for office-type use. Even browsing takes up humongous resources these days.

      The Raspi is more of “light server” type of machine.