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Open Thread 55.5

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

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881 Responses to Open Thread 55.5

  1. stargirlprincesss says:

    Eleizier Yudkowsky uses rationality to mean both “epistemic rationality” and “instrumental rationality”. In the early parts of “Rationality:A to Z” he describes both types of rationality and seems to be conflating the two intentionally. One explanation is that Elizier believes that the two types of rationality are the same. I feel like he has hinted that he thinks they are the same but has never come out and explicitly stated they were the same (according to him).

    Does anyone have views on what Elizier actually thinks about this topic? Any thoughts on what he should think?

    • roystgnr says:

      A most extreme thought experiment about this question was discussed on LessWrong a few years back, but it looks like Eliezer didn’t chime in.

    • Outis says:

      Then both involve gaining a correct appraisal of reality; either for its own sake, or to determine how to reach a given objective. In both cases, you need to get your human mind to avoid emotion and cognitive biases, so the method is the same, even if the application is different.
      However, in the instrumental case the limitations become obvious as soon as you need to get other humans to collaborate. In the epistemic case it takes longer, and you can often rationalize the non-rational parts.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      Another possibility is that he has a strong “lumping” cognitive style.

      You don’t need contrived examples to drive a wedge between E and I rationality, the real life situation of choosing whether to go along with your community’s religion.

      And that has been discussed, too

      • stargirlprincesss says:

        Can you explain what you mean by “lumping” cognitive style?

        • Vaniver says:

          There are ‘lumpers’ and ‘splliters,’ where the first focus on similarities between things and the second focus on dissimilarities between things. Lumpers typically go for broad statements, and splitters for narrow statements; lumpers build clusters while splitters build trees of taxonomies.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      They’re kind of the same. Instrumental rationality is what epistemic rationality becomes when you apply epistemic rationality to the alief that truth is the most important thing. Much of the sequences exist to soften your belief in truth as a real thing; maps and territories is introducing you to the idea, for instance, that truth is in no way actually knowable; even so far as your model of reality accurately predicts reality, it only predicts a tiny subset of reality, and that by being a wholly fictional symbolic representation of a simplification of reality.

      Instrumental rationality is when you apply all the skills of epistemic rationality – not flinching away from unpleasant things, discarding bad (now “less useful”) beliefs, etc, etc – to problems other than objective-truth-for-objective-truth’s-sake.

      It is the application of rationality to human purposes – truth is a paperclip, don’t maximize it.

      Having done both – epistemic rationality is great practice for instrumental rationality, but instrumental rationality is what you practice for.

      • Ryan Beren says:

        The reverse direction is also of interest. If, like Eliezer, we define instrumental rationality as whatever leads to winning at life, then to win at life, one of the tools you will want to possess is the tool of epistemic rationality. There are often circumstances where using that tool rather than another is unwise, but overall it’s clearly one of the best tools to have in your toolbox.

    • Two McMillion says:

      It seems to me that if you’re a moral realist, your prior should be in favor of them being ultimately the same.

  2. Agronomous says:

    So there’s this thing that keeps happening to me, and I can’t be the only one; I call it:

    I’m Not Being Nice, I’m Just Optimizing

    Sometimes things just seem broken, and I know how to fix them, so I do. Once I worked in an office that was kept fairly cold in the summer. A co-worker took to wearing a sweater at work, but was still cold. I had a space heater at home I wasn’t using (because summer) so I brought it in for her to use. She thanked me a couple of times for being so “nice”. I tried to explain that it really, literally didn’t take much effort on my part; in retrospect, I should have just done the socially-conventional thing and said, “Oh, it was nothing.”

    Another time a co-worker had to pick up his car, which was a ninety-minute bus ride away; I was free then, so I offered to drive him. It took half an hour, and since we were both in the car for the first fifteen minutes, we had a (billable) technical discussion, so it really only cost me 15 minutes, which I spent having fun listening to music while driving. Giving him a ride made everyone better-off and made our team more efficient.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a robot: I deliberately do nice things sometimes. But not these times.

    So who else has had experiences like this, and what actually counts as nice vs. just optimizing?

    • You’re still being nice, because you noticed that your co-worker was uncomfortable, and defined it as a problem worth your attention.

      • onyomi says:

        Yes, in a sense, optimizing for others’ happiness, in addition to your own, is what it means to be “nice.”

        I feel like maybe the famously pro-selfishness Ayn Rand would have something to say here: to paraphrase what I imagine she’d say (as opposed to what I’d say): “you’ve been brainwashed by society to think that you’re only doing good when you yourself suffer or sacrifice, but actually the highest good is when you can make others happy by making yourself happy too.”

    • roystgnr says:

      Both “nice” and “optimizing” are technically correct words for these situations, but I don’t think either matches the salient fact, which I’d have called “thoughtful”. IMHO lot of people, myself included, often fail to do nice and/or correct things not because we would be unable to answer the question “How can I best improve this situation” or because we would be unwilling to follow through on that answer, but rather because it doesn’t always occur to us to *ask* the question. There are too many things to think about over the course of the day and it’s too easy to subconsciously filter out many of them as “not my problem”.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      In philosophy, you have this dead German named Immanuel Kant. Kant argues that for an act to be good, the intention had to be good. The example I learned about was of a child buying fruit from a salesman, and asking for the right amount of change. For the shopkeep to not give enough change is obviously evil; for him to give the right amount of change because he feels it’s wrong to overcharge is obviously good. The merchant handing the child enough change because they are afraid of being caught, so says Kant, is still doing evil, because a good deed without good intention is no good deed at all.

      Kant, for all his virtues, isn’t making much sense there.

      Someone who does the right thing simply because they’re afraid they’d get caught and punished if not doing so is doing a good thing just fine, they just aren’t a good person. Similarly, if you’re doing a nice thing without actually thinking you are a very nice person, that’s possible just fine. Don’t lose too much sweat over it.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I haven’t read Kant, but based on what you’re saying, I think he would define a good act as “the sort of act that would be done by a good person,” or “the sort of act that encourages the actor to develop further towards goodness.” That’s a useful and totally valid category to have, but not quite the same thing as what you and Agronomous are talking about.

        Still, I’d argue that Agronomous is doing good acts in the Kantian sense, because he’s accepting some however-mild personal discomfort (not having the space heater, or driving for fifteen non-billable minutes) to benefit others.

        • Creutzer says:

          I think he would define a good act as “the sort of act that would be done by a good person,” or “the sort of act that encourages the actor to develop further towards goodness.”

          No, he doesn’t.

          For Kant, every individual action has to be judged by the motive of its performance.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        Kant is only obviously wrong inasmuch as consequentialism is obviously true. He can be read as arguing against xomsequentialism, so “no, because consequentialism” ,isn’t much of an answer.

        • Uhurugu says:

          +1

          Kant was interested in the sort of society that would result from people adopting the (intention, action) pairing. A society where people do the right thing for fear of being caught is likely to have actual differences from a society where people do the right thing because it is right, or from a society where they value the other person’s utility. The first society is likely to see a lot of defections as soon as the law stops watching, while the latter two will likely continue to cooperate.

          One interesting tidbit for this particular discussion; Kant believed that it was not a moral action if someone gave fair change because he enjoyed the feeling of being nice. To my mind, this is a much less reasonable position for Kant; surely a society would be better off if people all enjoyed being nice as a general rule. But in this particular case, Agronomous is being good in exactly a Kantian sense; not because he feels warm and fuzzy by doing good for others, but because he’s doing The Optimal Right Thing.

      • VivaLaPanda says:

        I think the main counter to this is that the kind of person who does good things to be good versus out of fear is a person we can trust to do more good things in general [citation needed]. I see it as similar to how I think of murder/letting someone die. If you see letting someone die when you could save them as a moral wrong, then why don’t we treat negligence the same as murder? Because a murderer is more likely to cause more deaths unless punished than a negligent person [citation needed].

      • Nicholas says:

        Entertain if you will the notion that the reason the law has up to now not been fixed is because it cannot be fixed: Any set of law covering the wide diversity of edge cases in anything like a comprehensive manner is Goedel incomplete impossible for any particular officer of the law to memorize and internalize. Any set of law general enough to be fully internalized will be reliant on individual officers for implementation. Our current law system can be thought of as an incomplete case of the first: The law is too wide to be understood fully by any one professional, but also multiple extenuating circumstances are not contained within the law.

      • LPSP says:

        I don’t think Onyomi is sweating, but yeah that’s the gist of what’s wrong with that bit of Kant. You can dislike Wagner’s racism and still like his work, after all. Bad men can still do good.

      • Nicholas says:

        There is a form of virtue ethics that Kant seems to be referencing in which the ethical-ness of an act flows from the kind of person you’d have to be to do a thing like that: The observation that two different reasons might exist to do something thus presents something of a counter-intuitive situation.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        An action’s moral worth is connected, it is generally thought, to whether it is appropriate to praise or blame someone for doing it. If I save your life by cutting off your gangrenous limb, but only because I wanted to hear your screams of suffering and feel the thrill of sawing into your flesh, it is very natural to think I do not deserve praise for that action. You may disagree with that, but it seems like Kant is on the side of common sense here.

        • Fahundo says:

          If I save your life by cutting off your gangrenous limb, but only because I wanted to hear your screams of suffering and feel the thrill of sawing into your flesh

          If you know that you enjoy hearing people scream as you cut into their flesh, would it not be a Good Thing if you purposely sought employment severing gangrenous limbs? You know, find what you enjoy and try to use it to better the world.

          • Nornagest says:

            Someone would need to find a form of anesthesia that induces screaming.

          • Randy M says:

            Sociopaths–one more group of people locked out of their preferred field of employment by the march of technology.

            Won’t someone please think of the sadists?

        • Whistle-blowing Anonymouse says:

          Yeahhhh, I’m pretty sure most doctors take a kind of sick delight in particularly nasty and interesting cases. It’s kind of a theme in medical stories.

    • Outis says:

      I think that combining excessively strong AC in the summer with a space heater is the opposite of optimizing.

      • Scott says:

        In my office in the summer, the men have to wear full suits, whereas women have a lot more freedom in attire and often come in with dresses. This means the AC is invariably too hot for the men and too cold for most of the women. Space heaters would be great because they localize the warm spots.

        • LPSP says:

          ORRRRR, man-dresses.

          In all seriousness, more adaptable clothing would solve a lot of these temp-fluctuation issues. I’ve dreamt up ideas for garments than can basically change into others with minimal hassle, and for a workplace environment I’d say they’d be welcomed.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      Welp, for this I would say break down the words more carefully by just what you mean by nice and what you mean by optimizing. Questions like this can quickly devolve into people “arguing” with different definitions.

      What do you mean by “nice”, and give three different scenarios that handle most cases of “nice”,same with optimizing.

      Since the acts you gave are under a textbook definition of nice, so its hard to go from there.

    • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

      Yeah I’ve had some ridiculous grattitude from people for what seemed like trivial things to me. Sometimes trivial as in “I’m good at this and enjoy it”, sometimes just as in “I enjoy this/enjoy being nice”, but situations where people are acting (as I see it) as if I’ve made a sacrifice for them when I really haven’t.

       

      I don’t really see a difference between being nice, and optimising.

      but I suspect that perception is somewhat “motivated” on my part: if I do something that makes myself and others better off, but in a way that it might superficailly appear that I’m making a (non-trivial) sacrifice, I’ve simply had more luck telling people that it’s just neat, or better yet that they are failing to see my selfish benefit, than on the basis that it’s nice to be nice, or “just good practice” to be nice, -that even the most terrible villain could benefit from.

      Or perhaps it’s simply that the latter options require substantially more effort.

       

      Maybe I can be more specific: If I frame it as some inexplicable idiosyncrasy of mine, rather than as an instance of my philosophy/view of how things should be, this disavows any potential sense that I might be asserting a moral standard.

       

      Anyway, maybe you could seperate these kinds of actions into a few overlapping categories, like

      1. “oh my god who cares”. This is looking at it from the view of personal pride and strength. Is a half an hour car ride gonna kill me?

      2. “enlightened altruism”.

      3. plain old good naturedness. Why wouldn’t I give up 5 utils to benefit someone who I like 10? Like, explain to me why not? -Even moreso a customer or a team member (-see 2.)

      4. sacrifice with a real cost. -out of loyalty, or friendship, or whatever, you’ve genuinely given something up so someone else can be better off

    • AnnaNominally says:

      The word nice is very overloaded. By noticing that someone could be happier and doing something about it, you were thoughtful, which is nice. By including other people’s interests in your decision function (that is, “you need a ride, it isn’t hard for me to give you a ride, therefore I ought to give you a ride”) you are being another kind of nice (Alignment: Good maybe). It sounds like you are saying that it didn’t cost you much so you don’t feel like you were that nice, so maybe you are thinking of “niceness” as unselfishness or putting someone’s interests ahead of your own, or maybe as something relative, going above and beyond what a person would normally do?

      There are a lot of people who don’t take other people into account in that way. I was actually once accused of being a communist for saying that I think that if you know someone needs help and it’s easy to help them then you should. I think it might depend on sub-cultural/regional norms?

      I think optimizing is a subset of what most people consider being nice, basically. I think for me the difference is, optimizing doesn’t require being particularly happy about it or even liking the person particularly – it’s just the decent thing to do. Being nice under this rubric would then be something superfluous, non-morally-obligated, just done out of wanting to make someone happy. I’m not sure, but those are my first thoughts.

    • Jill says:

      Interesting. When I do something that someone else thinks of as “nice”, that was easy for me to do, I don’t worry about what to call it. I just accept their appreciation and their enjoyment or relief or comfort in what I did. And enjoy myself too, if that’s what happens.

      And I enjoy the feeling that all is well in my world, for however long this feeling lasts. I think in these situations we can extend the good feelings by graciously accepting the other person’s thank you or appreciation, even if we didn’t feel like we did a huge amount for them. As someone else mentioned, it’s thoughtful, which is a good thing to be. If more people were thoughtful about each other’s needs, then the world would be a better place.

      Extending good feelings and good will toward self and others makes the world spin around more happily on its axis. (Citation needed.)

  3. Julie K says:

    Might we agree on some guidelines to encourage civility when commenting?

    I propose “No blanket condemnations of groups (e.g. leftists, conservatives, millennials, etc).”

    • Shadrack says:

      Blanket condemnations, like all generalities, are often useful. How about, no blanket condemnations without explanations? And it’d be nice if people at least attempted to realistically explain the reasoning/motives of their opponents rather than just assuming it to be evil, greed, stupidity, etc. and leaving it at that.

      I’d also want to underscore that guidelines for stuff like this work better than rules.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Seconded

      • Anonymous says:

        I predict rules-lawyering about what suffices as an explanation.

      • Julie K says:

        When is it useful?

        It seems like most of the time, expressing a negative opinion of a group leads to responses of “They’re not really a part of my group/they’re only a minority of my group” and “Look what your group does.”

        • Shadrack says:

          I think blanket condemnations of groups are useful IF they come with with good-faith attempts to realistically explain the reasoning of the condemned group, because at the end of the explanation process you often pick a side anyway so you might as well be up front about it. The explanation process forces you to at least pursue a line of reasoning and think about why someone might disagree, rather than play boring tribal games.

    • Lumifer says:

      How can you discuss topics about society if you can’t express negative opinions about groups?

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      People who do blanket condemnations are the worst

  4. Shadrack says:

    I bought a house and it came with a side-by-side fridge. I hate it. Why did anyone design a fridge this way?! And more puzzling, why are these fridges thought of as more desirable than standard freezer-on-top models?

    I can’t think of a single advantage to the side-by-side except the doors need less room to swing–but this doesn’t even begin to make up for all the disadvantages.

    Enlighten me or commiserate.

    • I had always lived with standard freezer-on-top refrigerators, until we bought our current side-by-side French door, freezer-on-bottom model.

      I love it. Frequently used items are around eye level (I’m very tall). Commodious shelves in the doors are much more useful than the old style, which had shallow racks in the door suitable only for salad dressing bottles. The entire freezer is a drawer with two shallow layers, open from the top, with everything visible and easy to reach, rather than a deep, crowded shelf accessible only from the front, with items in the far back hard to see or get to.

      And, like you say, the door swing doesn’t get in the way like the big door on the old one did.

      • Shadrack says:

        What you’re describing is a French door refrigerator. That’s different from what I have: a side-by-side, which has a freezer on one side (and frequently, as in my fridge, that stupid water/ice dispenser built into the outside of the freezer door).

        I wouldn’t mind a French door or even a freezer-on-bottom. It’s the side-by-side specifically that I hate.

        To clarify, here are my fridge design rankings from best to worst:

        Tied for 1st: French door, freezer on bottom and Freezer on top (standard)
        2. Freezer on bottom

        99. Side-by-side

      • onyomi says:

        An additional reason freezer as pullout-drawer on the bottom is the best design: things in the freezer tend to become like rocks. When you open a door from the side up high, there is a possibility of large frozen things falling on your foot. When you pull open a drawer beneath you and access the frozen items from above, there is no such possibility.

        • Shadrack says:

          things in the freezer tend to become like rocks. When you open a door from the side up high, there is a possibility of large frozen things falling on your foot.

          That has happened to me once or twice, but I don’t tend to have that problem very often. I actually prefer to have the freezer up above, I think. I don’t like having the freezer open for long, and it’s easier to quickly scan a couple shelves at eye level than to rummage through the contents of a drawer that’s down by your shins.

          Another thing is I like to use regular old ice trays, and it’s nice to be able to just place the tray in the freezer and close the door. With a drawer I’d have to kneel down and without spilling, use my free hand to either find or clear off an empty spot to place the tray, then slowly, carefully close the drawer to avoid splashing, and hope to God that nobody else yanked the door open before the ice cubes had frozen. (If bottom-freezer designs have solved this problem already I’m curious to know how.)

          • Nyx says:

            In my bottom freezer we have four drawers; three “full-size” ones where you put food and a shallow one (maybe one inch deep) at the top, so our ice trays are segregated from everything else.

          • Shadrack says:

            Well, that makes some sense at least.

    • Peter Scott says:

      The only really significant advantage I’ve seen people cite is that side-by-side fridges can keep everything at a height that’s easy to reach for owners with impaired mobility. In every other respect — efficiency, price, awkwardness — they seem inferior to the alternatives. So, I can see why very old or otherwise handicapped customers would buy one, but not why anybody else would. Maybe because they look cool and usually have ice dispensers.

      • Shadrack says:

        But I’m not disabled and neither were the previous owners who left us the fridge. SOMEBODY bought this stupid fridge and probably paid more for it than they would have for a conventional one with the freezer on top. WHY?!?! I wish somebody could tell me and put my mind at rest. I think I need to color

    • Outis says:

      What are the disadvantages of side-by-side that bother you? Too bulky?

      • Shadrack says:

        1. Both the fridge and freezer are too narrow to fit wide items. (For example, those take-n-bake frozen pizzas have to be stored vertically, so many of the toppings fall off.)
        2. It’s harder to get at items in the back of the fridge because there’s no horizontal room to slide things aside. It also makes it way harder to see everything at once. (This is the big one, really.)
        3. The lighting is much more uneven.
        4. The freezer has all these tiny little shelves that are useless for storing anything much bigger than a bag of peas
        5. There isn’t much room in the freezer, period, thanks to the ice-making contraption (which I never use because automatic ice makers are disgusting bacteria farms and make ice that tastes like bad breath).
        6. The in-door filtered water dispenser doesn’t give me much value but takes up a lot of space. (I only use it because it’s there and easier to use than the kitchen sink. The tap water in my city is excellent.)
        7. Lots of other stuff I can’t think of offhand but would come to me over the course of a day using the fridge…

        • Outis says:

          Yeesh. Sounds like you need a new fridge.

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          I’ve never noticed a lighting issue with my parents’ fridge (They’ve had a side-by-side for at least 15 years).

          I have a freezer-on-top, and one thing I’ve noticed is that it doesn’t matter if it’s organized terribly, so if you’re not normally organized a side-by-side setup could force you to be more organized.

          Space is an issue, but they also fill up an entire second fridge and freezer (freezer on top), so unless their fridge was too big for the kitchen I think they would have that problem anyway.

          It doesn’t seem any harder to move things to/from the back, controlling for the fact that I tend to have less stuff at any given time.

          I agree it’s not ideal (they complain about it sometimes), but I also don’t think it’s unusable or anything. Mostly depends on what you have to put in it.

        • Rosemary7391 says:

          I have a side by side; the fridge is plenty wide enough for a pizza if I’m so inclined, but I rarely am. I find the multiple shelves in the freezer helpful to organize what I’m freezing, and the ice dispenser is perfect for making iced tea. Certainly hasn’t made me ill !

          • LHN says:

            Yeah. Older ice dispensers definitely had an odor problem in my experience (my parents had one that I wouldn’t use the ice from), but current ones that use filtered water (and maybe better designs?) don’t seem to develop the same issues. (At least so far.)

            As for bacteria, I haven’t sent a swab in for analysis. (And doing so with most home surfaces would probably just engender paranoia.) But if there are health effects I haven’t detected them.

    • Caddyshadrach says:

      I’m short enough that with a freezer-on-top model of fridge, I might need a step-stool to reach something in the back. I can’t reach the back of the top shelf of my refrigerator, either, but at least I’m not going to have an avalanche of frozen food-boulders slide out onto my feet. I know a lot of short people who have broken a toe this way.

      I prefer my freezer-on-bottom model, and would also consider a side-by-side. I have usually seen these in tight galley kitchens where there isn’t actually room to open a full door completely. I used to live in an apartment like this, and to open the fridge, you had to stand in the corner and block yourself in. Bad design all around. But a double-door would have solved this.

      The water-in-the-door thing makes sense to me, too, as roughly 50% of the time I open my fridge, it’s to get the Brita pitcher, so I can only assume this saves me from losing a lot of cold air.

    • JayT says:

      I used to have a side by side fridge, and I hated it as well. The freezer ends up being almost useless because the shelves are so small. I ended up buying a chest freezer that I put in the garage, and I just used the indoor freezer for commonly used items.

      Freezer on the bottom is the one that makes the most sense to me because you need to get things out of the freezer much less often than the fridge, so I want the fridge at eye level.

    • Moebius Street says:

      Having recently bought a new fridge (and separate freezer in the utility room), I did a little research. Aside from being rather more expensive, the French door design (says the reports I read) are more prone to problems with door sealing.

    • brad says:

      In case anyone else was wondering, here’s a picture of the different refrigerator styles:
      http://www.aphome.com/_plugins/site-pages/appliance-blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/refers.jpg

    • LPSP says:

      F…Freezer on top?! What planet is this?

  5. Daniel says:

    My meditation on tennis, in which I argue that it’s very difficult to know if you’re actually playing well/poorly, or just experiencing a random distribution of probabilities. I also tie it in with other sports as well.

    I would love to hear feedback and disagreements.

    http://danfrank.ca/meditation-on-tennis/

    • Philosophisticat says:

      One thing that is notable about tennis is that (I think) very small differences in skill lead to large differences in outcomes, and so it is quite deterministic on the macro scale. That is, although there is randomness point by point, and perhaps a lot of randomness in outcome between players who are of exactly equal skill, when one player is better than another they will almost always win. There are very few upsets (this may not be true at the lowest levels of tennis). This is why it is normal for the same 3-4 players to appear in the finals of almost every single professional tournament.

      I don’t really know how that bears on your question. But I said it, so there.

      • Daniel says:

        Yup, most people don’t appreciate how much a small advantage in tennis can determine outcomes. If you have a 55% chance of winning a point, you will win 95% of 5 set matches.

        That being said, recreational tennis players play much shorter matches and have a much greater variance in their performance.

        However, my point still equally applies to pros. When watching a pro match/tournament, I think it’s nearly impossible to tell if a player is actually playing poorly or just experiencing an unfavourable distribution of probability.

    • bluto says:

      I’m not a good tennis player, but I could usually tell at the time of contact (before I saw where the ball was headed) whether a serve would go in or out (so in that sense I always thought I could tell when I was serving well or poorly–though that’s not something I’d share with an opponent). I was never good enough to do more than a sidespin serve so there were pretty significant differences in feel between applying spin with enough power to pass the net or applying too much spin/hitting the ball with an edge of the racket.

      I can also tell I was poor because I usually played to the level of an opponent.

      It’s my belief that the key to being good at most sport skills is having practiced so much that the brain does it on auto-pilot with minimal conscious thinking. I believe a lot of the inane/cliche things said about sports are the result of someone who has approached a sort of zen like state of not thinking about what they’re doing trying to describe not thinking about what the body is doing for an audience that must think about their actions.

      • Daniel says:

        Your last paragraph is the central theme of the book “The Inner Game of Tennis”, which is an excellent book that I highly recommend. Also, the inspiration for my post.

  6. anonbombulus says:

    I’ve recently started a position in an academic library at a mid sized regional comprehensive state university. Part of my benefits package includes 9 credit hours of waived tuition. Realistically, I only have the time to take a single class. My undergraduate degree was in literature and my graduate degree was in library science, so I’ve taken a bevy of “intro to___” classes in the sciences and humanities. Was wondering what folks here would recommend for an enriching single course; potential for building toward a second degree would be nice but in no way necessary.

    • Daniel says:

      I think the three most important courses one can take are:
      1) intro to economics
      2) critical thinking (might be titled intro to logic)
      3) cognitive science

      Philosophy of science is also important, but less so than those three.

      • Vaniver says:

        I agree with 1 and 3, but think that critical thinking courses are a miserably bad way to learn critical thinking.

        (I don’t think there’s a royal road to critical thinking; I think the best way to get good at it is to build detailed and trustworthy models of individual situations. The point of good critical thinking is not that you can always find something to attack; it’s that you can look at a thing, collide it with your model of the world, and output a judgment that is sometimes good and sometimes bad.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Myself, I’d take intro to linguistics, some anthropology course, and human or vertebrate evolution.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Maybe Computer Science.

      • VivaLaPanda says:

        Seconding this. A smidgen of CS can help you script all sorts of tedious tasks and make your life easier.

        • jack says:

          What kind of tasks do you have in mind, I learned a little programming in high school and have not found a use for it

      • Anon says:

        Computer Science is way too variable. It might be good, it might suck. Do some research on the class and what other people have thought of it before you sign up (e.g. RateMyProfessors).

        Some heuristics based on the language used:
        – If it’s Scheme/SICP-based, it’ll be best ROI longterm, but impractical to actually use until you learn a different language, because Lisp libraries suck (Clojure is the exception that proves the rule).
        – Python is the best immediate ROI. If you’ve never coded before it’s your best bet, but if you have, you’ll probably be bored for most of the beginning of the course until they start doing interesting stuff like recursion.
        – If it’s Haskell, Scala, C, or (god forbid) assembly, the course will be good and you’ll learn a lot, but you’ll be put through hell, especially if you have no coding experience. Very trial-by-fire; avoid if you’re not into that.
        – If it’s Java, Ruby, or C#, be skeptical and dig into the research a bit more; there are far too many “intro to programming” courses through these languages, and a lot of them suck.
        – If it’s C++, Javascript, Visual Basic, or PHP, run away. Do not taint your mind with such madness until you know how to compartmentalize it.
        – If it’s HTML or CSS, get into a coding course.

      • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

        I second this but with Anon above’s caveat: Learn some sort of programming language, not “Computer Science”.

        It’s my belief that knowing a bit of programming in the near future will be the equivalent of knowing how to do word processing today in the working world; if you don’t know how to use Word today at work, people will look at you funny.

        • Anon says:

          I take issue with your post for 3 reasons:

          1) You have completely misinterpreted my caveat. It was not “learn a programming language.” It was “most CompSci 101 courses suck; do some research in what’s offered at your school, because if it sucks it’ll be a waste of your time and money.” These are totally different.
          2) I take issue with your replacement for my caveat. Computer science is an important part of learning how to write good code. Learning to code without learning basic computer science is like learning a language as a baby; you don’t understand what’s going on or why certain design decisions were made, and you’ll make mistakes everywhere, and you’ll miss a bunch of nuances that you just won’t know are there until someone points them out to you. Computer science is like grammar; once you know it, you understand how to put things together and how the algorithms should work. If you want to do interesting things beyond Babby’s First Web App, you’ll want and need a computer science background. Additionally, once you learn an algorithm in a generic computer science way, you can easily translate it to a (sufficiently similar) language just by learning what the names for the equivalent constructs and libraries are (e.g. translating breadth-first search from Java to C#).
          3) If you think that programming will become as ubiquitous to the common denominator as Word is today, you’re delusional. It’s incredibly useful if you know it to automate basic tasks, but as long as people remain stupid (read: until the end of time) when they want something done with a computer they will pay a programming team to do it for them (see: literally any software company). This is the rational thing to do, in any case: the “10x engineer” is very much a real phenomenon, and this phenomenon crops up in the above-average-IQ subset of the population that pursues programming as a career. Imagine how drastic the difference will be between the low and high points if every secretary and executive was coding as well.

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      I’d take a lanugage class. If you haven’t started studying one on your own by now, a class is a good way to force yourself to practice it, and can open up new social avenues, since practice mostly requires a partner.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I will second Daniel’s suggestions.

    • brad says:

      If it were me, I’d go back and take some math courses I never got to. Specifically some of the “real math” courses that put things on a rigorous basis instead of just treating math as a grab bag of techniques for use in science and engineering.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I wish I had taken a Philosophy class. Would have been nice for it all to be presented at once.

    • bluto says:

      I think a managerial accounting or some finance class where you learn how to read and understand financial statements would be near the top of most useful single class.

      The most interesting one off class I took was probably music appreciation.

    • anonbombulus says:

      thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. I ended up signing up for an intro to object oriented programming class that uses python. I’ve tried learning on my own with things like codecademy, but never stuck with it. hopefully the structure of attending an actual course will help in that respect.

    • Jill says:

      If it were me, I would look through the catalog to see what’s available and take the course that sounds most interesting.

    • Nornagest says:

      What kind of enrichment are you looking for? Some of the densest insight porn I’ve ever experienced has come from classes in e.g. linguistics or archaeology, but those skill sets are not very transferable to anything other than bullshitting on the Internet.

    • J says:

      Intro to statistics. It’s surprisingly different from normal math, and super relevant to daily life. Also, beware “101” classes: they’re not as fun to teach, and they’re often huge and trying to filter people out. Contrast with one-off classes that a prof teaches because that’s their pet topic and they love talking about it.

    • richard_reitz says:

      Psychopharmacology.

      1. Drugs are an area that most people have a bunch of really stupid ideas about, but this can be cleared up in a one-semester course.

      2. Psychopharmacology is still being developed, so your professor will be able to tell you things that may not appear in the book.

      3. In your life, you will probably be prescribed drugs. One psychopharmacology class is not remotely enough to bring your judgement within spitting range of a doctor’s, but it will greatly reduce inferential distance. I’ve found this to be quite helpful.

      A transition to proofwriting class is also useful. Once you know how to distinguish a valid proof from an invalid one, you will almost certainly be able to learn all the math you’re capable of understanding from textbooks. But you first have to get there, and you need (need, need, need) feedback from an experienced mathematician if you don’t want to write shitty proofs and make copious mistakes. (Remember, in math, one mistake will let you reach literally any result.)

  7. Josh Marshall says, if you’re against Trump, you have to be for Hillary:

    The simple truth is that unless you’re saying who you’re voting for and in practice unless you’re saying you’re voting for Hillary Clinton it’s a cop-out, an effort to distance yourself from Trump on the cheap. In a first past the post electoral system like ours, elections are binary choices.

    He does hedge this just a bit as to minor party candidates:

    Now, this isn’t to say that voting for Gary Johnson is some kind of moral failure. Lots of committed Libertarians have been voting for the Libertarian candidate for decades. But as a way to take a ‘Never Trump’ stand, nope. It doesn’t cut it. Same goes for writing in Mitt Romney, or George H.W. Bush or Unicorn.

    To his credit, he does turn it around, to consider the reverse circumstance:

    If you’re a Democrat, just imagine if the Democrats had nominated someone who not only had extremist views but was clearly too mentally unstable to be president. How easy would it be for you to vote for say Jeb Bush? I’d figure that for many that would be a hard hill to climb.

    But I think his imagination fails him here.

    If, say, Dennis Kucinich had been nominated, or perhaps someone even wackier and with less political experience than Dennis Kucinich, I don’t think I’d have much problem voting for Jeb Bush. He’s a stable, reasonable, instinctively moderate, well-intentioned man of good will who is trying to do the right thing as he sees it.

    Most Democrats imagine that, for Republicans, Hillary Clinton is a moderate, a Democratic version of Jeb Bush.

    But I don’t think that’s true. My guess is that very, very few Republicans have even 1% as much trust in Hillary Clinton as I do in Jeb Bush.

    In other words, I think the average partisan Republican sees Hillary Clinton in much the same way as I see Ted Cruz: as someone unreasonable, malicious, destructive, without good will.

    It is very hard for me to imagine a circumstance where I could vote for Ted Cruz over a Democratic nominee, regardless how unstable or unqualified or misguided that Democrat might be.

    And as long as that’s true, I can’t really blame Republicans for failing to endorse Hillary Clinton.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      It’s not unusual to see people pass ideological Turing tests but it isn’t often you get to see someone ace one. Nicely done.

    • hlynkacg says:

      But I don’t think that’s true. My guess is that very, very few Republicans have even 1% as much trust in Hillary Clinton as I do in Jeb Bush.

      Speaking from the other side of the barricade as it were. I think that your assessment is correct.

      I for one don’t see Clinton as being nearly as trustworthy or well-intentioned, as say Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Elizabeth Warren, or even Bernie Sanders and I’m pretty sure a fair number of my peers would say the same.

      My own take is that they are both terrible candidates but I am provisionally supporting Trump out of populist/tribal sympathy and because I don’t think that he is in any position to cause any lasting damage. I am confident that if he did try anything truly heinous that Congress, the bureaucracy, and the press would oppose him. I have no such confidence when it comes to Clinton.

      • Diadem says:

        My own take is that they are both terrible candidates but I am provisionally supporting Trump out of populist/tribal sympathy and because I don’t think that he is in any position to cause any lasting damage. I am confident that if he did try anything truly heinous that Congress, the bureaucracy, and the press would oppose him. I have no such confidence when it comes to Clinton.

        He has already done lasting harm. If you are an Estonian, there is a good chance that you will end up getting killed as a direct consequence of him getting elected.

        He has basically said that he will renege on US security guarantees to the Baltic states. That is huge and lasting damage. And nothing congress, the bureaucracy or the press can do to stop it. Because if Russia does invade Estonia, even if congress is willing to impeach Trump, it’ll be too late.

        And that is just one example. The US president is extremely powerful. There are very little actual checks on what he can or can’t do. (Which is why presidential systems are inherently bad and unstable. It’s honestly a bit of a miracle that the US has lasted this long. But I digress). A Trump presidency is a truly scary thing.

        • anon says:

          I really really wish some experts would cut through the bullshit about Russia in this election season. Trump’s views on NATO were well within the overton window a decade ago. What has happened since then? The only salient incidents are the crises in Georgia and Ukraine. I’m well aware that there is some evidence that Russia has been aggressively using propaganda to promote its own view of those conflicts. But I’m *also* aware that “Comrade Putin spreads the Revolution” is also not an accurate depiction of what happened.

          So please, explain to me *exactly* why, in the absence of Article 5 guarantees, Russia would find it strategically advantageous to invade Estonia? I have not heard a good explanation for this.

          All that said, I think Trump’s more “extreme” statement — that it’s not obvious the US should risk war with Russia to defend Eastern Europe — also has some merit, even though I view it as a statement concerning a largely fictional universe. Counterarguments welcome.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            So please, explain to me *exactly* why, in the absence of Article 5 guarantees, Russia would find it strategically advantageous to invade Estonia? I have not heard a good explanation for this.

            Why was it strategically advantageous to invade Ukraine or Georgia, which Russia actually did? And how would the reasoning behind those invasions not apply to Estonia?

          • Anon. says:

            Well, they invaded Ukraine in order to retain access to the Black Sea. Estonia doesn’t lie on the Black Sea.

          • anon says:

            It was strategically advantageous to annex Crimea because a civil war broke out in Ukraine. Putin views this civil war as the result of an intentional US effort to destabilize former SSR client states of Russia. The US — officially — regards its efforts as restricted to “democracy promotion” but it seems pretty naive to disregard the broader geostrategic context.

            Also I think it’s disingenuous to parrot the US government line that Russia “invaded” Ukraine and Georgia. In both cases the situation was much more complex, involving separatist factions within the smaller states.

            AFAIK — the most recent thing I read concerning this was a Stratfor article from June — there is not a significant separatist movement in any of the Baltic states, despite the substantial Russian minority populations.

          • anon says:

            To answer my own question, I think the only real strategic benefit for Russia of annexing the Baltics involves obtaining a land bridge to Kaliningrad Oblast. Since large-scale, ground-based conventional warfare has been obsolete for 60 years, this just doesn’t seem that valuable to me.

            That leaves only secondary considerations like humanitarian concern for the Russian minority populations in Baltic countries. Since these countries seem reasonably well-run (compared to Ukraine, or even Russia itself for that matter) and don’t seem to be oppressing their Russian citizens, I think it’s very unlikely that there will be a crisis in the Baltics prompting Russian military intervention.

            But deploying more NATO forces to the region probably hurts more than it helps, IMO.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I think Ukraine illustrates a somewhat different problem: US security guarantees are already worthless. They didn’t help Ukraine. Why would Russia expect them to be any more binding under President Clinton then they were under Secretary Clinton?

            I’d say Eastern Europe is screwed regardless. America is a splintered reed of a staff.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @anon:

            You and I are both saying the same thing — that Putin regards American/NATO behavior as overtly hostile to Russia — but somehow taking exact opposite conclusions from it. What I’m saying is that if Putin believed the United States and NATO were up to something in Georgia or Ukraine and therefore it was time to unleash the little green men (and look, we’re all adults here, no need to pretend on that issue), why wouldn’t he believe the same about the Baltics? He’s even made a number of remarks to the effect, that a more active NATO in eastern Europe is a threat to Russia.

            That aside:

            Since large-scale, ground-based conventional warfare has been obsolete for 60 years, this just doesn’t seem that valuable to me.

            …is the sort of thing people believe right up to the day a Panzer division rolls down their street.

            Guerilla warfare and terrorism get all the column-inches, but when North Vietnam defeated South Vietnam, it was with a large-scale, ground-based conventional invasion. Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government was defeated by a large-scale, ground-based conventional invasion. I’m pretty sure all those mysterious unidentified armored vehicles in eastern Ukraine got there by using the ground, too, and while Ukraine has resisted impressively they’ve clearly suffered from the lack of a large and well-equipped military force of their own. Conventional warfare remains quite relevant today.

          • anon says:

            OK that’s a fair reply, but utterly inconsistent with the logic of Trump’s critics who insist that the only way to stand up to Putin’s NATO-posturing-induced maneuvers is … MOAR AGGRESSIVE NATO posturing.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            OK that’s a fair reply, but utterly inconsistent with the logic of Trump’s critics who insist that the only way to stand up to Putin’s NATO-posturing-induced maneuvers is … MOAR AGGRESSIVE NATO posturing.

            You’re assigning all the agency to NATO here, as if Vladimir Putin simply reacts to stimuli. I see people making this argument about, for example, Islamist terrorists as well — that if we had only not [invaded Iraq/elected Bush/supported Israel/whatever] they would not hate us. The problem is, it’s not just up to us. Putin, Islamists, everyone, they all have their own motivations, beliefs, and incentives that drive them (Sayyid Qutb was famously radicalized by a sock hop in Denver in the 1950s), and they may not be incentives that are in our power to affect peacefully beyond “give the paranoid dictator what he wants and hope he’s satisfied with it.”

            Which doesn’t have a super great track record, honestly.

          • LPSP says:

            “(Sayyid Qutb was famously radicalized by a sock hop in Denver in the 1950s)”
            This motivated me to a little reading on the guy. Wikipedia states one of his many issues with america was its “racism”, yet not a page later he lays into america for listening to “bestial” negro music. Sounds to me that racism means putting arabs on a pedestal.

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          > And that is just one example. The US president is extremely powerful. There are very little actual checks on what he can or can’t do.

          Eh? The President can’t pass laws or a budget, get SCOTUS judged appointed, or several other things without Congress. And he can be overruled by SCOTUS if, for example, he signs an unconstitutional bill into law.

          In theory, there are also strong limits to what POTUS can do with the military, and although “not go to war with a foreign power” has pretty much always been something the President could choose not to do, it’s only a risk for the Baltic States because previous governments have set a precedent for more intervention.

          Speaking of, is it or is it not the responsibility of the US government to police the rest of the world? Plenty of Dems made claims of that sort when Bush was starting wars in the Middle East, but got back on the “it’s our responsibility of other people do bad things and we could stop them” train when Obama was fighting wars in the Middle East. Is it our fault that Venezuelans are starving, because we could invade and overthrow the government?

          >(Which is why presidential systems are inherently bad and unstable. It’s honestly a bit of a miracle that the US has lasted this long. But I digress).

          The Federal government in general, and POTUS in particular, have taken a lot more power in the last 100 years. It started out much less centralized.

        • cassander says:

          >He has already done lasting harm. If you are an Estonian, there is a good chance that you will end up getting killed as a direct consequence of him getting elected.

          And if you’re a Syrian, there’s an even better chance you’ve already gotten killed as a result of policies Clinton pushed for.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Speaking from (probably) the same side of the barricade, I don’t quite have that assessment of Hillary Clinton.

        Do I think she’s untrustworthy and too interested in personal power? Sure. Do I think she supports lots of terrible policies? Sure. What does that make her? Well, a politician, basically. Granted, even for a politician she’s an unprincipled chameleon, but there’s a silver lining to that — a politician should pragmatically know which way the popular mood is blowing and tack into it instead of against it, which is something Obama never even tried to do.

        I’d have a hard time pulling the lever for Clinton this year, but not because of her personally, more so because of other things the Democratic Party has done and enabled over the past several years. Given that Trump is a sick joke and Johnson is also a Democrat I’m just not going to vote for President this year.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          It’s funny to see various people call Johnson a D or an R, depending on where they start from.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, a D who wants to abolish the IRS.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Johnson allegedly has all these actually-libertarian positions, but the only thing he and Weld get any press for are ones that would appeal to the left: saying negative things about religious liberty, endorsing liberal Supreme Court justices, and so forth. Is it the media that’s at fault for not reporting all of his barnburning speeches about how we need to get rid of the IRS?

        • VivaLaPanda says:

          I’m with you here. I think Clinton can be thought of as a self-interested agent, which is something democracies are well set up to handle. However Trump doesn’t really seem to care about public perception, which makes him harder to control.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ hlynkacg
        I don’t think that [Trump] is in any position to cause any lasting damage. I am confident that if he did try anything truly heinous that Congress, the bureaucracy, and the press would oppose him. I have no such confidence when it comes to Clinton.

        Just curious…I’m not going deeply into this.

        We know what a Billary presidency looks like — namely the 90s. What did Bill+Hillary do in the 90s that you consider truly heinous on the scale of what Trump proposes now?

        • Jiro says:

          You’re comparing apples and oranges. If it counts when Trump proposes bad policies but can’t implement them, you should compare that against what the Clintons proposed as well, not against only what they managed to implement.

        • Anon says:

          Building off Jiro’s comment, remember when Hillary proposed that absolute trashheap of a healthcare bill? Even Obamacare was better than that, and Obamacare has some major problems.

          Consider also the foreign policies that Hillary has proposed and implemented, such as the Libya intervention. Disastrous doesn’t even begin to describe it. Trump’s foreign policies, in comparison, are rather isolationist and non-interventionist. Even if they include things like “build a border wall with Mexico and have the Mexicans pay for it” and “ban Muslim immigration to the US” that seem racially or ethnically motivated, they’re a lot less destructive to those ethnic groups than “overthrow the government of this Muslim nation and throw their people into chaos and squalor for the next few decades.” On that scale, the former two don’t even register.

          • Remember when Hillary proposed that absolute trashheap of a healthcare bill? Even Obamacare was better than that, and Obamacare has some major problems.

            I don’t remember much about TrashHeapCare. In what ways do you think Obamacare is different and better?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            HillaryCare was a significant restructuring of the health care system in America. It really isn’t comparable to ObamaCare, which layered one more layer of bureaucracy on top of the current mess.

            HillaryCare was going to control costs by making it easier to deny care. This could well end up with better results. But Americans never ever want to hear anything like that.

          • From what I am reading, Hillary was going to up-end the entire health insurance industry. Everything was going to shift into so-called “regional alliances,” which seems to be very vague. Even large employers would have to purchase said care.

            That’s less far-reaching than Obama-care.

            Keep in mind that these are decades apart, though. The health insurance industry has effectively entirely changed anyways in the last few decades.

            Thankfully I am on my wife’s insurance, since she works for a healthcare company. I do not have to use the garbage that my Fortune 50 provides which they call “insurance.”

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Edward Scizorhands
            HillaryCare was going to control costs by making it easier to deny care.

            Absent further context, that would be quite out of character for Hillary. Such a claim would require very strong support.

          • Rob K says:

            @houseboatonstyxb Caveat: I was a child when the Clinton stuff went down, and I’ve never read anything like a full length history of it.

            My understanding is that managed care (HMOs) was the rising trend in health care provision when the Clinton health care effort took place. The thing Hillary’s crew ended up proposing basically took the concept of HMOs and used it as the vehicle for controlling costs as they expanded coverage.

            I don’t know how this would have worked out in her version. In actual history, HMOs proceeded to happen anyway over the next 5-10 years. They temporarily controlled costs, but not lastingly – this is where we got the Medicare “sustainable growth rate”, a funding formula based on late ’90s rates of medical inflation that now gets adjusted upwards by congress all the time. Also, people mostly hated them because who likes limited coverage networks.

          • LHN says:

            HMOs were such a boo light that in Helen Hunt’s Oscar-winning role in “As Good as it Gets” (1998), her character complains about the “damn HMO” that won’t approve her son’s needed coverage.

            The character is a waitress at a small, non-chain restaurant. In reality, she almost certainly would not have had any employer-provided health insurance at all.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Any system of health care must ration services because healthcare costs for any individual have no natural upper bound this side of an immortality treatment. For some reason, the general public can never discuss this rationally, and a lot of the administrative structure around medicine seems to be adaptations to avoiding the admission.

            This is the recurring stumbling block for all health care reform proposals: HillaryCare and ObamaCare both. It happens the same way any time a libertarian suggests that a private minimally regulated market can provide health care. One inevitable response is more or less “But how can we be sure that a private system will spend large fractions of a million dollars on care for severely ill indigents?”

            This problem is unrelated to the particular system; it comes from a misalignment of the common notions of medical ethics and material reality. So we keep conventional high-regulation private insurance and highly regulated care in the US because the ways that these systems ration care are familiar and so invisible.

          • John Schilling says:

            So we keep conventional high-regulation private insurance and highly regulated care in the US because the ways that these systems ration care are familiar and so invisible.

            This. The most important question to ask of any proposed health care system is, “Where does it hide the Death Panels(tm)?”

            When you’ve found them, you can properly evaluate the system’s real or expected performance. If you think they don’t exist, you’ve been conned.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Mr. Breakfast

            This is the recurring stumbling block for all health care reform proposals

            You make it sound like it’s a general feature of human nature, but the healthcare Mongolian clusterfuck is America being exceptional. Not to say that the rest of the Western world is perfect, but their systems tend to be considerably more sane.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The libertarian way of rationing care (the more you pay the more you get) is quite familiar as well, but considered unacceptable.

            It seems unlikely any centrally planned rationing system would do well, for the same reason centrally planned anything doesn’t do well. At best you’d freeze medicine right where it is (though likely saving considerable money), because new treatments with a high money-to-health-utility ratio wouldn’t be allowed, and so would never be developed to the point where they became cheaper.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            You make it sound like it’s a general feature of human nature, but the healthcare Mongolian clusterfuck is America being exceptional. Not to say that the rest of the Western world is perfect, but their systems tend to be considerably more sane.

            The situation in the US is different than countries with public health care of various types, I agree.

            The state-of-nature for health care is basically “You are entitled to nothing; you get nothing unless you pay or someone gives it to you as charity.”

            In countries like Britain (as I understand it, not an expert here), they passed from “You are entitled to nothing…” to “You are entitled to these specific types of care up to these quantities which we are able to afford as well as your share of the time of this finite pool of NHS providers. Beyond that, you are entitled to nothing”. So, as time has gone on and this sort of system increases the available services, people feel like they are gaining and as a result, NHS is very popular and appears to work super well.

            The US followed a different path. Here, we went from “You are entitled to nothing…” to “Here’s some insurance which will make sure that you get whatever care you NEED.” Then, of necessity, we developed a huge bureaucracy to vaguely define down what exactly “Need” means. As time has gone on and science has progressed, the menu of possible treatments has grown faster than the ability of this system to pay for it but since the standard is “Need”, Americans have felt like they are losing, the system is mistrusted, and it looks like a failure.

            So Lumifer’s point is valid; there are the equivalent of “Death Panels” in other systems, they just aren’t a pollitical stumbling block.

            The point in my comment, that meeting all “Needs” in unachievable, is true in all systems, and if assessed honestly by American standards of medical ethics, those systems are failures as well. In addition, such systems are not implementable here due to this quirk of US history.

          • Mistake Not ... says:

            @The Nybbler

            The libertarian way of rationing care (the more you pay the more you get) is quite familiar as well, but considered unacceptable.

            It seems unlikely any centrally planned rationing system would do well, for the same reason centrally planned anything doesn’t do well. At best you’d freeze medicine right where it is (though likely saving considerable money), because new treatments with a high money-to-health-utility ratio wouldn’t be allowed, and so would never be developed to the point where they became cheaper.

            Pairing a libertarian solution with a socialist solution looks optimal to me. Then we get the cost savings for the government. Those with high willingness to pay can continue to forge on seeking out high money-to-health-utility treatments and providing incentives to create them. The big problem is standing up to the people that want to jump the gun in adopting the private sector stuff to the socialistic plan before it passes the necessary $/ risk adjusted QALY threshold.

            Meanwhile the status quo in the US looks like just about the worst choice. Either laissez faire or socialized medicine would be better.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not British, but the BBC is one of my preferred news sources and I read a fair bit of their coverage. Complaining about the NHS seems to be such of a pastime that I’d halfway expect a revolution if they couldn’t always say, “…but of course at least we’re not as bad as the bloody Yanks!”. And acknowledging that there is simply a limit beyond which one is entitled to nothing, is never the right answer.

            In the UK system as I understand it, one is told that (beyond the actual limit) they are of course entitled to the care they want/need/will die without, but will require a referral from the right specialist, who is on vacation this week, and oops you needed a referral from the other specialist to see the one specialist, etc. A pot of medical gold at the end of a bureaucratic rainbow.

            Which is a pretty-looking way to hide a death panel, but may be wearing a bit thin on the British public.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If most other countries, if you tell a person on the street “what happens if the care to save someone’s life is too expensive,” you have a very good chance of hearing “that is unfortunate but I guess it’s the way things are.”

            In the United States this would be extremely rare. You might get a story about how the care wouldn’t be so expensive except for [political enemy]. Or that we just need to think harder. Or that this is an unimportant question. Or how it should be “between me and my doctor,” which of course taken to its natural conclusion means so should payment be between you and your doctor, but nuh uh!

            HMOs:

            * were successful at cost control
            * did not noticeably reduce patient outcomes
            * were reviled

            Kids might not remember, but Denzel Washington had a 2002 movie where he’s the hero because he takes a hospital hostage as a result of him not liking the HMO’s decision.

            HMOs essentially ended in substance (although continued in name) when people could undertake expensive lawsuits to get things covered.

            For references about HillaryCare being in charge and not letting there be lawsuits about denied care:

            Section 1503j of the HR3600 (aka HillaryCare) said that the National Health Board was going to be in charge of grievances.

            Section 5202 describes the complaint procedure for “regional alliances”. Subsection (d) says that the review is the exclusive means of review.

            Section 5204 describes the hearing process. Subsection (e) says that “The decision of the hearing officer shall be final and binding upon all parties.” But, you can appeal to the Health Care Board.

            Section 5205 describes appeals to the Health Care Board. It’s findings are final.

            This is the entirety of Section 5232, “ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL REVIEW RELATING TO COST CONTAINMENT”:

            “There shall be no administrative or judicial review of any determination by the National Health Board respecting any matter under subtitle A of title VI.”

    • Shadrack says:

      But does Trump really have “extremist” views? Is he clearly mentally unstable? Neither of those things seem true to me, and I can say with confidence that neither is obviously true. I’d want to see a flip-side analogy for “Never Trump” take that into account.

    • caethan says:

      The simple truth is that unless you’re saying who you’re voting for and in practice unless you’re saying you’re voting for Hillary Clinton it’s a cop-out, an effort to distance yourself from Trump on the cheap. In a first past the post electoral system like ours, elections are binary choices.

      The belief that elections are primarily about choosing the kind of leader we want is a myth; a myth connected to the fact that our votes do not exert a significant influence over how we are governed, but exert a large influence over our acceptance of things done in our name. No one commenting here has any chance of altering the outcome of the Presidential election through their vote. In the event that any statewide vote is close enough to be arguably affected by a single vote, fraud and legal arguments will have by far the greater effect — as happened in 2000. This means that strategic voting isn’t a moral error, it’s just a simple error. Those who argue for it don’t understand – or claim not to understand – the nature of modern elections.

      So given that I can’t affect the way we’re governed, I choose to only vote for candidates who I think would do a good job as President. In my opinion, the minimal standard for this is that I refuse to vote for candidates who plan to do grave evil. Since I decided on this minimal standard (three cycles ago), no major party candidate has met it, and so I don’t vote.

    • Diadem says:

      Your assessment that Republicans see Hillary Clinton more like Democrats see Ted Cruz than Jeb Bush is no doubt correct. But I have to ask: Why?

      Hillary Clinton is clearly part of the right wing of her party. She is much closer to Rupiblicans than most other realistic Democratic options would have been. Why do Republicans hate her so much? I’ve never gotten that.

      I’m not from the US, so I guess I have a more neutral perspective here. Hillary is the archetype of a career politician made flesh. She’s clearly an extremely boring and conservative (in the non-political meaning of the word) choice. But that should only make her more attractive for Republicans (compared to other Democrats). You know you’re not going to get any major changes with her. No sweeping reforms, no crazy changes to US policy. And a good chance that she’ll be a one term president. What more do you want?

      • Virbie says:

        I think it’s tied up pretty heavily with the Clinton administration: there were talks of her being a package deal when you elected Bill, she was involved in big policy issues like Hillarycare, etc etc. I know the rough outline of the events and policies of that administration, but I was pretty young when I lived through it and don’t understand the day-by-day politics well enough to say I know them. I don’t think looking at Hillary-Clinton-in-2016 as a candidate with no background in the public eye is likely to give you a reasonable model for Republican hatred of her (regardless of whether it’s ultimately justified).

      • hlynkacg says:

        Your assessment that Republicans see Hillary Clinton more like Democrats see Ted Cruz than Jeb Bush is no doubt correct. But I have to ask: Why?

        The simple answer is that she has a reputation for being vindictive and dishonest that goes all they way back to her husband’s time as Governor of Arkansas. She may be “right wing” compared to the median democrat but she can’t be trusted in the slightest.

        Edit:
        Also see Shadrack’s comment below and Virbie’s above.

        There’s basically a lot of context from the last 20 years or so of American politics missing if you’re just tuning in now.

        • Diadem says:

          Ok. But so what. If a politician campaigned on issues I disagree with anyway, why do I care if they’re trustworthy? In fact it’d be better for me if they weren’t.

          • hlynkacg says:

            why do I care if they’re trustworthy?

            In order to strike a deal you need some level of confidence that the other party will hold up their end. An honest opponent is a known quantity and can be negotiated with in good faith, a duplicitous ally on the other hand…

          • DavidS says:

            Aside from the specifics (I know very little about US politics), I think in general that the ‘personality’ factors are very important. Most of what a President (or PM here in the UK, or Congressman/MP/whatever) does is stuff not in their official manifesto. So you want them to be the sort of people you trust making decisions.

      • Shadrack says:

        Clinton might be part of the right wing of her party, but she isn’t right wing in the ways most conservatives care about. Compared to, say, the median Democrat, she’s probably right wing in terms of foreign policy, but not social or national policy. Probably not economic policy either (not by much anyway).

        Juxtapose this with the neocons like Jeb Bush, who are relatively left wing for their party in ways many Democrats DO care about, such as national and social policy (e.g. favoring more immigration, not really being willing to fight against gay marriage type stuff, etc.).

        • Tekhno says:

          Honestly, that’s the worst thing about her. She combines the neocon “invade the world” style with the progressive “invite the world” style.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The centrists in each party have the best chance of winning a general, and so they are the most hated because They Must Be Stopped, Damnit!

          • Shadrack says:

            I don’t really see that. Trump is basically a centrist, despite his recent panderings evolutions.

      • Your assessment that Republicans see Hillary Clinton more like Democrats see Ted Cruz than Jeb Bush is no doubt correct. But I have to ask: Why?

        Here are a couple of guesses, again, coming from a pro-Clinton Democrat:

        First of all, I think women candidates in American politics are at a steep disadvantage when seeking executive positions. A female politician can be popular, even well-loved, but the moment she starts running for mayor, or governor, or president, her popularity drops like a rock — not specifically among men, but with all voters across the board.

        I have seen this in polling again and again, with a number of different candidates of both major parties.

        Also, my impression (and for this I don’t have polling data to cite), is that women politicians are judged much more harshly for missteps than men are.

        Second, the polarization of American politics, as we now know it, really got under way in 1993 when Bill Clinton took office, impatient to get things done. A tax increase was enacted with no Republican support, and Hillary became the point person for national health care.

        On the one hand, some conservatives took up the notion that the Clintons were pure evil, giving rise to the “Clinton Body Count” and other such fantasies. On the other hand, liberals were induced to give Bill Clinton almost carte blanche for his activities with women, on the ground that to do otherwise was to give aid and comfort to Them.

        Probably for those who became politically active on the Right in those days, Bill & Hillary were the original enemy, just like the old-time anti-Vietnam-war activists who, for decades, couldn’t say LBJ’s name without spitting in disgust.

        • AnnaNominally says:

          I think it started at least during the first Presidential campaign – there was the comment she made about how she “could have stayed home and baked cookies” which a lot of people found insulting. And there was also the bit about not being “some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.” I was a kid at the time (with a stay-at-home mom) and I remember feeling insulted.

          I don’t think you’re wrong about polarization or about women in politics as general and contributing issues, but I think in this case there’s the factor that she’s been in the public eye for so long and there’ve been so many scandals, it’s just exhausting. I’m a life-long Democrat and I’m kind of assuming I’ll come to terms with voting for her by November but it does not feel good, for a bunch of reasons.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          Larry, you realize women are very slightly more likely to be elected, given that they run in the first place?

          It’s possible that’s being driven entirely by selection effects, but it does suggest your perception is at the very least incomplete.

          • Women are VERY competitive for legislative positions like city council, state legislature, Congress, and specialized roles like State Treasurer or county clerk. But I’m speaking of chief executive positions like mayor, governor, and president.

            For example, all over the US, there are many popular women in statewide elected roles who aspire to be Governor. You’d think, familiar face, liked and trusted, should be a strong candidate, right?

            But most of them don’t end up running, because as soon as their candidacy is public, their poll numbers go straight down. So they wisely back off. Same for women city council presidents who’d like to be mayor.

            I think many people (men and women) have a harder time visualizing a woman, a SPECIFIC woman, in a chief executive role.

            I don’t see this same tendency for men. We see male politicians move fairly easily from (say) Attorney General to Governor in many states. That sudden disaffection doesn’t seem to happen to them.

            Sure, some women do make it, and we do have a few women mayors and governors. But the ones who succeed have fought their way past this inevitable tendency to discount and pigeonhole them.

            I hate to credit a popular buzzword, but this is what is meant by “the glass ceiling”.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            But most of them don’t end up running, because as soon as their candidacy is public, their poll numbers go straight down. So they wisely back off. Same for women city council presidents who’d like to be mayor.

            Can you give some examples?

          • Can you give some examples?

            Just off the top of my head, there was Candice Miller (R), Michigan secretary of state, who previously won re-election statewide by a million vote margin, but backed out of running for governor in 2002 (she ran for Congress instead). Or Lucile Belen, longtime dominant figure on the Lansing (Mich) city council, who discovered that her considerable popularity just evaporated when she started raising money to run for mayor. Or Debbie Stabenow (D), a hugely popular figure who never lost an election — except when she ran in the Democratic primary for governor, and all of a sudden her charm seemed to count for nothing.

            I know there have been similar stories from other states and cities, but I don’t remember the details offhand. The Almanac of American Politics discusses gubernatorial races and I think they mention this pattern as well.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            But most of them don’t end up running, because as soon as their candidacy is public, their poll numbers go straight down

            This is true of everyone. People always look like a good choice for elected office because you can imagine all their good policies. As soon as they actually start running for office, the scales fall and you get a better picture, and the attack pieces come from the other side.

            (I don’t deny that there are probably more things difficulties for women.)

          • This is true of everyone. People always look like a good choice for elected office because you can imagine all their good policies. As soon as they actually start running for office, the scales fall and you get a better picture, and the attack pieces come from the other side.

            Sure, but I’m talking about before any attack pieces appear. And these are people who already hold an elected office, albeit one that might not be taken as seriously as the top job.

          • LPSP says:

            “I think many people (men and women) have a harder time visualizing a woman, a SPECIFIC woman, in a chief executive role.”
            I can think of exactly ONE exception to this: Queen or Empress. If they’re wearing a fancy gown and sparkly tiara, people can swallow anything from a female ki-…queenpin.

          • LHN says:

            Though in stories, queens not named Elizabeth tend to be antagonists more often than protagonists or positive authority figures.

            (Hence My Little Pony denoting its female ruling monarch as a princess, even though generally fantasy kingdoms are much more prevalent than fantasy principalities.)

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            I thought that was so they could sell, like, twenty different princess toys, and having more than one queen would be silly.

          • Randy M says:

            Probably not; most of the characters are not queens nor princesses.
            My own daughters still like the show now and then, but disdain all horse toys that aren’t “realistic ponies.”

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            “I think many people (men and women) have a harder time visualizing a woman, a SPECIFIC woman, in a chief executive role.”

            Mea culpa. Hillary, Palin. Warren maybe. My mother. Women with the temperament to be CEO of a state or nation … without any man to pass the buck on to.

            Surely there are others, that I don’t happen to know about. Margaret, Golda, Angela don’t count; of course they look capable to me, because all I know of them is that they did have, and kept, that position.

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        I’m sorry, I can’t claim that the following is in any respect neutral:

        I think Hillary’s unpopularity with Republicans started with what Larry said: Bill Clinton took office and immediately began pushing his agenda. Without ever having run for anything and without a formal appointment process, Americans were told that the first lady would be acting as some kind of health care Tzar.

        You see, Republicans felt that Clinton had no real mandate at the start of his first term. You have to remember that Clinton likely won in ’92 because of the huge spoiler effect from Ross Perot, who drew most of his support from the Republican base. (For those who are younger and may have heard about the spoiler effect of Nader in 2000, Perot’s popularity was an order of magnitude greater. ’92 was a near-even three-way contest until he dropped out briefly and then jumped back in again) The US was still partially on a high from the collapse of the USSR, which Republicans attributed to Reagan-era Republican foreign and economic policy. That somehow a Democrat unseated an incumbent president who was also a successful cold warrior was just seen as a perverse accident.

        Then we were told how Clinton’s wife (who nobody had ever elected for anything) would be like our second president.

        We were told this was OK because she was very smart and had gone to very good schools followed by very good intern/staff jobs and everybody agreed she had been a very, very promising student all those years ago. “No great man …… great woman …” ANYWAY, she had YEARS of experience on the “smoke-filled-room” side of politics, so who wouldn’t welcome her contribution? Oh, and she was personally inspired by Elenore Roosevelt, so that was supposed to be some kind of precedent.

        To a Republican at the time it seemed that, while the obviously more responsible half of the political establishment was momentarily distracted, the presidency had been shoplifted by a young upstart with a third of the vote who immediately threw out 200 years of American constitutional practice to act like an old-school king, handing out provinces to his family members.

        It probably didn’t help that this became a fault line within some families where (especially educated) women read their husbands’ rejection of Hillary’s vice-regency as a rejection of women as leaders in general. Certainly, my own family of origin became permanently politically polarized following 1993.

        A few months later, she released a proposal for an elaborately wonky health care overhaul which the public at the time had no real appetite for. Hillary didn’t get her big social program, and soon after the Clinton administration seemed to give up on big programs entirely. (In my personal opinion, the poll-driven low-ambition siege mentality of the Clinton White House made his administration much more livable than any since.)

        But the bitterness at Hillary’s attempted “coronation” never went away. When Bill’s second term was over, the Democratic party all dutifully stood aside to allow the former first lady from Arkansas to skip the first 20 years of a political career and walk straight into a seat as Senator from New York. I can’t remember such a brazen display of the existence and immunity of the American political elite having occurred before this. I really think that up to this point in history, most rank-and-file Republicans still felt that elections were genuine contests of ideas and characters for the considered approval of the public rather than just political theater. After all, if they hadn’t believed this, there’s no way so many of them would have voted for Perot 10 years earlier. Many of those who have never accepted this revelation have since come to obsess about the Constitution and turning back the clock to the lost republic. Hillary Clinton became American Conservatives’ Marie Antoinette.

        But it doesn’t stop there. She was never a particularly accomplished Senator, not even from the perspective of her own party, but she still ran for President at the very first reasonable opportunity. Her nomination in 2008 was treated as inevitable at first, with a reasonable chance she could ride the dissatisfaction with Bush into office essentially unopposed.

        Obama was a surprise, and she fell apart the first time she was in an actually contested race. No matter, she could at least be handed the highest appointed office in the US (a Supreme Court seat would have made a later Presidential run impractical) for no particular reason except party consensus that she should have a place in the administration and be set up for 2016.

        No need to pick through the morass of scandal around her Secretariat, the scandals are not the point of why so many Republicans loathe her, just evidence to them of her venality.

        I am not original for thinking that the basic breakdown of American politics is like this:

        RIGHT/Republican Base: Those who work in the natural “atoms-not-bits” economy and so wind up with fear / respect of the potential for chaos of natural systems. This makes them suspicious of anything too formal, complex, theoretical, or generally speaking, clever. It also leads to demands for actual demonstrations rather than signals of personal attributes like competence, honesty, or moral fiber.

        LEFT/Democratic Base: Those whose work takes place deep within the sheltering envelope of society and it’s abstractions. For the most part, perception, consensus, and the endorsements of formalized institutions denote success in this part of the economy.

        For the “perception is reality” crowd, Hillary must seem so obvious; she is institutionally blessed, has been involved in serious policy-level politics since the 70’s, and is the first plausible female to run for President, coming just at a time when it feels like the empowerment of women is reaching a crescendo. It makes no sense that she wouldn’t get the job, JUST LOOK AT HER RESUME!

        For the “Gods of the Copybook Headings” faction, she is the culminating corruption of a formerly vibrant republic. She represents the foolishness of “Official Truth”, McNamara-like whiz-kid arrogance, and all of those nasty associations to “Technocracy” which were discussed in the last open thread. Her career in government seems to support the notion that any failure can always be papered over with enough tap-dancing and rationalization.

        The political faction which believes most strongly in the existence of unalterable ground-level truth in human affairs resents the idea that someone can, through sufficient institutional box-checking get PROMOTED to rule over them, when true leadership ought to be earned, ELECTION achieved, after one takes on the actual environment directly and emerges victorious.

        • Mr. Breakfast, your narrative would be plausible except that it doesn’t match the sort of attacks I’ve seen on Hillary. Instead of “mediocre person who was given way more power for no good reason than she deserves”, I’ve seen a pattern which is more like “horrible person who can’t be trusted with anything.”

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Life is long and news cycles are short.

            The last time I heard the pure form of the criticism in public was probably around her first Senate run. Over the years, the conclusion that Hillary’s career successes are the result of cronyism and corruption has become deeply anchored in Republican discourse. On any given day, discussion is about whatever recent scandal is showing her to be incompetent / corrupt / not held to account by the media, but that doesn’t mean that that is where the conclusion came from.

            Republicans didn’t start hating her because she’s a woman, nor did they initially get set against her mainly over Whitewater or whatever.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Former president’s wife = cronyism

            Former president’s son = OK

            Got that.

          • Sandy says:

            I don’t think the former President’s son was handed the reins of state power until he ran for Governor of Texas and won.

            Which is different from Bill going “Hey y’all, Hillary’s gonna be writing your healthcare bill”. Her involvement became a federal court matter because the First Lady is not an elected official and is not supposed to be drafting legislation behind closed doors.

            And for that matter, there was plenty of muttering about cronyism (even among Republicans!) when the GOP was preparing to nominate Jeb early in the current election cycle. Probably because Jeb vs Hillary would be the ultimate cronyism showdown.

          • onyomi says:

            People did complain about dynasties, etc. when GW Bush was running the first time. That said, name recognition seems always to “trump” any concern that name recognition confers an unfair advantage.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t agree with Mr Breakfast’s point-of-view, but it seems mean-spirited for his 1000+ word post to be dismissed with a 10 or 12 word potshot (like comment 394940 was).

            the First Lady is not an elected official and is not supposed to be drafting legislation behind closed doors.

            Anyone can write legislation. If you want some change made to the law, you get much better results by proposing the actual verbiage you want the new law to say than an incoherent “just change it!” It’s still up to the legislature to actually pass the law.

          • What’s the law about who’s allowed to draft legislation?

            I thought anyone could, and I thought there was a Republican organization which wrote legislation so it could be replicated from one state to another. My reaction wasn’t “That’s outrageous!”, it was “Why aren’t the Democrats clever enough to do that?”. Or are they?

            Part of the situation is (see “Magic, Inc. (1940)”) is that the law is overwhelmingly complex, and legislators don’t have the time to write legislation, let alone think about it.

          • brad says:

            ALEC is the organization you are probably thinking of, and I agree I think the complaining and conspiracy theories around them are way overblown.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Nancy-

            Virtually all large special interests on either side of the aisle will write model legislation if they’re dealing with state legislatures, and many of them will propose specific federal legislation to congresspeople. I am also of the impression that there are more Republican-aligned organizations that do it than Democrat-aligned ones, but I have no actual data to support that. It might just be that corporate interests were traditionally more Republican-aligned and they have the most competent lobbyists.

            Nevertheless, I think it is right that a lot of the negative coverage of Hillary started during the effort to pass the health care reform, and it’s also true that a lot of people were very outspoken against the First Lady having so much power when she was unelected. I don’t think these are reasonable complaints, given that Bill’s campaign was pretty open about the role he wanted his wife to play prior to the elections and nobody gets to elect any of the presidential cabinet members either, but they definitely existed.

            I expect this negative press was exacerbated by the fact that the health care reforms proposed were very unpopular. I mean, the ACA has caused enough fighting and negative commentary to satisfy the meanest devil of Hell, but its predecessor couldn’t even get through two houses controlled by Democrats.

            (I have no opinion of it, since I’ve never actually read it and have no particular desire to familiarize myself with bills that never passed)

            So I think that’s how it started. Opposition to Bill’s campaign fixed on Hillary for various reasons, it became a talking point against him while in office, then she was marked by association with the disastrous healthcare reform act and every controversy snowballed from there.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad:

            I think there are some legitimate complaints about the way ALEC (or the like) type legislation is actually used. It has to do with a “package” of legislation being bundled together.

            If a states lawmakers want to address issue E, they might start with a package that addresses A though G.

            I know I have read articles in the past that made this kind of critique about bills from ALEC. For an instance of this kind of thing (a package adopted instead of specific legislation), see the history of the HB2 bill in NC.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            The Model Penal Code’s been around since the 60’s. But “somehow” the press never got upset about it.

          • brad says:

            @HBC
            A lot of bad behavior on the part of state legistors, but I’m not sure how that’s ALEC’s fault?

            Even if ALEC produces mostly omnibus bills, it’s still not very much work to separate them out if state legislators want to.

            I think blaming ALEC or Koch brothers (for funding ALEC) misses the point. The blame falls squarely on state legislators. More attention and effort needs to be paid to local races by Democrats and liberals more generally. Relatedly there needs to be a purge of corruption — one reason that even quite liberal cities sometimes vote in Republicans is because the local Democratic Party is a throwback to the Tammany Hall era.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad:
            I was trying to indicate that ALEC did not seem to be involved with HB2. Perhaps I was not clear enough on that. I was just using HB2 as an example of the kinds of problems that “package” legislation can create.

          • brad says:

            I see, sorry I misread that.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Jordan D.
            I expect this negative press was exacerbated by the fact that the health care reforms proposed were very unpopular.

            My family was against anything like that. My mother bought lots of little ala carte policies from any little company for different family members. Any state, and no feudal job needed. We bought any insurance we needed, saw any doctor, nobody cared. ‘Catastropic Illness’ was beginning to be a thing, with special ala carte policies we could buy for it, from anybody anywhere.

            We liked Hillary but even from her we didn’t need no stinkin ‘health care plan’ of any sort.

          • cassander says:

            Why not both?

        • Anon says:

          A few thoughts:

          – Your right/left divide is incredibly uncharitable to the left.
          – Comparing Clinton to McNamara is an insult to McNamara. He did a lot to fix the DoD and they desperately needed it.
          – Other than that, I generally agree. My main dilemma with this election is that if any Democrat other than Clinton was running against Trump (even Obama, in a counterfactual world where he could have 3 terms), I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for them, while if any Republican other than Trump was running against Clinton (okay, not any Republican, but I generally liked the majority of people who threw their hat in the ring before getting stumped by the Trump) I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for them. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place here, and it appears my only realistic option is to vote Johnson.

          • ChetC3 says:

            The principle of charity doesn’t apply to the left. It’s reserved for the noble savages of the red tribe.

          • hlynkacg says:

            err wut?

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            I stated up front that I was not at all unbiased. The whole comment is about the evolving worldview from inside the Red tribe. It would make little sense to step out of that frame suddenly and attempt impartiality in making a comparison which itself must be seen from the point-of-view of republicans in order for the point to be understood.

          • I stated up front that I was not at all unbiased. The whole comment is about the evolving worldview from inside the Red tribe. It would make little sense to step out of that frame suddenly and attempt impartiality in making a comparison which itself must be seen from the point-of-view of republicans in order for the point to be understood.

            Okay, fair point.

          • bean says:

            – Comparing Clinton to McNamara is an insult to McNamara. He did a lot to fix the DoD and they desperately needed it.

            I’d almost say it was an insult to Clinton. McNamara broke the DoD so badly that at least half of our problems today are still attributable to his influence.

          • Anon says:

            @bean, please enlighten me. What exactly did McNamara do that broke the DoD so badly?

            One thing he did incredibly well was improving the racial integration of the Armed Forces. Today they’re one of the most well-integrated organizations in America, if not the world.

          • John Schilling says:

            One thing he did incredibly well was improving the racial integration of the Armed Forces. Today they’re one of the most well-integrated organizations in America, if not the world.

            That’s like praising NASA for the diversity of the Challenger and Columbia crews.

            What was the DoD’s win/loss ratio before McNamara? What has it been since? All else is secondary, and if what you’ve got is a bunch of racially-integrated losers, the operative word is still “losers”.

          • bean says:

            Anon:

            @bean, please enlighten me. What exactly did McNamara do that broke the DoD so badly?

            I’m tempted to just say ‘Everything’, but that wouldn’t actually give you any information.
            The basic problem is that McNamara massively increased the power of the DoD as opposed to the services, which has screwed up the procurement system ever since. The F-111 is the best example of this. He saw two not-totally-incompatible requirements, and ordered them to be merged. The resulting program was a model of success that has been repeated time and time again, a prime example being the JSF. Competition between the services kept them sharp.
            He also massively bureaucratized the whole procurement system, to the detriment of actually getting weapons. Some of this was probably symptomatic of the time, but reading things like the history of US shipbuilding of the time, his name keeps coming up and basically delaying things for no good reason.
            He was a key player in the decisions which lead to us losing in Vietnam, and the repercussions of that loss were expensive to deal with.
            His tendency to use analysis as a means of justifying policy instead of driving it also deserves mention. For instance, CV-67 was ordered as a dinosaur-burner because his policy was to not count the cost of UNREP support when doing the analysis. A similar decision killed the nuclear reactors for the DEW stations.

            One thing he did incredibly well was improving the racial integration of the Armed Forces. Today they’re one of the most well-integrated organizations in America, if not the world.

            I can’t top John’s response to this. But I will add that I haven’t heard much of his role in that, and that ultimately the armed forces are to fight, not to perform social experiments on.

            John Schilling:

            That’s like praising NASA for the diversity of the Challenger and Columbia crews.

            I just quote for emphasis.

            What was the DoD’s win/loss ratio before McNamara? What has it been since? All else is secondary, and if what you’ve got is a bunch of racially-integrated losers, the operative word is still “losers”.

            The DoD before McNamara was so much weaker that I’m not sure that a meaningful comparison can be made.

          • cassander says:

            @Bean

            You’re assuming that DOD was working before he got there. It wasn’t. The bald fact is that the National Security act of 1947 was disastrously terrible legislation, and it didn’t stop being terrible until at least Goldwater-Nichols. Too much DoD interference in procurement was the least of the problems facing McNamara’s DOD. Granted, he didn’t fix any of them, but he can hardly be blamed for a national security system that was poorly designed on a fundamental level.

          • bean says:

            cassander:

            You’re assuming that DOD was working before he got there. It wasn’t. The bald fact is that the National Security act of 1947 was disastrously terrible legislation, and it didn’t stop being terrible until at least Goldwater-Nichols.

            That may be true, but we were somehow able to buy weapons between 1947 and 1960. I’m not suggesting it was a perfect time of on-budget projects, but there’s a distinct difference between pre-1960 and post-1960 projects. I’m not aware of any legislation affecting OSD in ~1960, and I am aware that Friedman rarely mentions any previous SecDef in his design histories, while McNamara gets talked about a lot. Draw your own conclusions.
            (I also don’t see a huge difference around the time of Goldwater-Nichols).

            Too much DoD interference in procurement was the least of the problems facing McNamara’s DOD.

            And what would be the bigger problems? Budgets and Vietnam spring to mind, but he’s not innocent of the second.

            Granted, he didn’t fix any of them, but he can hardly be blamed for a national security system that was poorly designed on a fundamental level.

            He can when it seems he made the system worse than it had been working.

          • cassander says:

            >That may be true, but we were somehow able to buy weapons between 1947 and 1960. I’m not suggesting it was a perfect time of on-budget projects, but there’s a distinct difference between pre-1960 and post-1960 projects. I’m not aware of any legislation affecting OSD in ~1960, and I am aware that Friedman rarely mentions any previous SecDef in his design histories, while McNamara gets talked about a lot.

            Friedman doesn’t mention other sec defs much because between 45 and 60 the navy was overwhelmingly composed of ww2 built ships. And weapons got a lot more complicated between 45 and 60 as electronics started becoming a much more serious part, something that is visible in all countries.

            >And what would be the bigger problems? Budgets and Vietnam spring to mind, but he’s not innocent of the second.

            Service rivalries and the inability of the sec def to make them work together.

          • bean says:

            cassander:

            Friedman doesn’t mention other sec defs much because between 45 and 60 the navy was overwhelmingly composed of ww2 built ships.

            Friedman’s books are design histories, focused on the programs that were running to produce new or rebuilt ships. (And yes, quite a few of those happened in the mid to late 50s.) McNamara’s interference is quite visible in all but two or three of the volumes, which don’t cover his tenure as SecDef. (And maybe the one on small craft.)

            And weapons got a lot more complicated between 45 and 60 as electronics started becoming a much more serious part, something that is visible in all countries.

            I’m aware of that, but they were able to keep procuring weapons until 1960 with reasonable success. To avoid a significant portion of the blame falling on McNamara, you have to show that there was a significant increase in complexity around 1960. If the F-111 was more complicated than the A-5 or F-105, McNamara’s tinkering played a large part in making it that way. For that matter, compare the B-70 program with the AMSA/B-1.

            Service rivalries and the inability of the sec def to make them work together.

            Low-level service rivalry is a feature, not a bug. (Yes, I know about the IJN and the IJA, and that’s not low-level.) And a lot of McNamara’s ideas on ‘working together’ seem to be bizarre in the extreme. I’ve already brought up TFX, where he overruled the selection board in the interests of design commonality, and the naval variant eventually got cancelled by Congress. Or would you care to give a more concrete example?

          • cassander says:

            >Friedman’s books are design histories, focused on the programs that were running to produce new or rebuilt ships. (And yes, quite a few of those happened in the mid to late 50s.) McNamara’s interference is quite visible in all but two or three of the volumes, which don’t cover his tenure as SecDef. (And maybe the one on small craft.)

            Again, more happened in the 60s than macnamarraa. The DoD and sec def during the Eisenhower years were very weak, for a few reasons. Most of the money was going to the air force and Ike tended to act very much as his own sec def. Macnamarra did dramatically increase the influence of his office,

            >I’m aware of that, but they were able to keep procuring weapons until 1960 with reasonable success. To avoid a significant portion of the blame falling on McNamara, you have to show that there was a significant increase in complexity around 1960.

            there is a continuing exponential increase through the whole 20th century of century in such complexity.

            >Low-level service rivalry is a feature, not a bug. (Yes, I know about the IJN and the IJA, and that’s not low-level.)

            the rivalry during Vietnam was not low level. It was incredibly poisonous and meaningfully contributed to the failure there and in many other places prior to reform.

            >Or would you care to give a more concrete example?

            My whole argument is that, prior to GWN, DoD was a dysfunctional organization that no one could make work. the office drove its first holder to suicide, after all.

          • bean says:

            Again, more happened in the 60s than macnamarraa. The DoD and sec def during the Eisenhower years were very weak, for a few reasons. Most of the money was going to the air force and Ike tended to act very much as his own sec def. Macnamarra did dramatically increase the influence of his office,

            This is exactly my point. McNamara took a system where the services held significant power, and reformed it towards the SecDef having more of the cards. You may think that was a good thing. I disagree, particularly how McNamara went about it.

            there is a continuing exponential increase through the whole 20th century of century in such complexity.

            This doesn’t explain why TFX or the AMSA were so problematic compared to typical programs of the 50s.

            the rivalry during Vietnam was not low level. It was incredibly poisonous and meaningfully contributed to the failure there and in many other places prior to reform.

            I’m interested in reading more on this. Sources?
            (Yes, I know about the late 40s. But that particular level of emnity faded after Korea showed we still needed a Navy and (to some extent) an Army.)

            My whole argument is that, prior to GWN, DoD was a dysfunctional organization that no one could make work.

            It seemed to work all right in the 50s. GWN may have been necessary to run it McNamara-style, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way the DoD could have been run.

            the office drove its first holder to suicide, after all.

            That’s not really fair. Forrestal seems to have had existing mental-health issues. His term was certainly rough, but depression (and suicide) aren’t simply based on workload.

        • You see, Republicans felt that Clinton had no real mandate at the start of his first term.

          In contrast to, say, George W. Bush, who won with fewer votes than his opponent.

          Of course, both Clinton and Bush won re-election convincingly, not that this quieted their critics.

          When Bill’s second term was over, the Democratic party all dutifully stood aside to allow the former first lady from Arkansas to skip the first 20 years of a political career and walk straight into a seat as Senator from New York.

          No, you must have seen this from a distance. What happened is a lot more complicated, and had a lot to do with New York’s failings as a polity.

          You know Bobby Kennedy, the ex-president’s brother, moved to New York in 1964, and was immediately elected to this exact same senate seat?

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            In contrast to, say, George W. Bush, who won with fewer votes than his opponent.

            Well, when I am telling a story about how Republican attitudes evolved during the early ’90’s, of what relevance is the “balancing” example of the election of 2000?

            Of course, both Clinton and Bush won re-election convincingly, not that this quieted their critics.

            Not that it matters, but I was not precisely stating my own attitudes above, it’s just that I watched this process happen and I possibly had a bit more exposure to actual conservative voters of the time than some other commenters. Nonetheless, the Reds have never been properly my tribe.

            I totally forgive anybody who wants to skip on or respond to the above without reading the rest of this comment, since it is just political autobiography which nobody asked for. Please just take away that my beliefs are not congruent to those described above.

            2003/4 was just the first brazen corruption which I was old enough to be aware of, the first time our political establishment caused me to feel disgust and loathing, not the last.

            Through the later nineties, after Clinton’s re-election, I was increasingly put off by the rise of the religious right and the endless anti-Clinton scandal-mongering zealotry with the result that I became intensely anti-Republican.

            Moving to a major city and encountering genuine leftist ideologues from 1998 on caused me to soften my anti-right convictions only somewhat, but when George W. ran in 2000, I found myself making exactly this dynastic/Clinton comparison, which fell on deaf ears, both to the right and the left.

            Like a lot of people, I experienced the Bush years as a nightmare montage of creeping totalitarianism like something from a movie. By this point, I still had my misgivings about the hard left, but I was culturally pretty comfortable with progressive social aspirations, and had some hope that at least a liberal backlash could come and burn off some of the more horrifying bits of the Bush era.

            In 2008, Hillary was obviously the business-as-usual establishment candidate, so the popularity of Obama running to her left and being strident about it was exciting. Stupidly, I nursed high hopes which were dashed about a week after his election with the peremptory announcement apropos of nothing that the Obama administration wouldn’t even consider investigations or indictments of Bush era officials over the wars or the war on terror overreach.

            From then to now I am done. I agree with the left on only one thing: The problems are structural.

            I agree with the Libertarians on only one thing: The ring is evil, no one can possibly wield it for good.

          • Well, when I am telling a story about how Republican attitudes evolved during the early ’90’s, of what relevance is the “balancing” example of the election of 2000?

            I do get that now, yes. When I wrote the response you’re quoting, I was motivated by the post which questioned the lack of substantive engagement with what you wrote.

      • Steven says:

        Career politician? Her first policy position was head of a health-care reform effort that was such an utter disaster that it lost her party control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, after which she was never given another policy role in the next six years. Her first elective office was then handed to her by the party hierarchy, which she then filled for eight years without accomplishing anything of note. After which she was given the job of Secretary of State, and made a sow’s nest of both of her two highest-profile efforts in that job, the “reset” with Russia and dealing with Libya.

        She isn’t a career politician; she’s a wife who has been handed power because of who her husband is, despite having shown no aptitude at all in wielding it.

        And that’s before we get into all the criminal-or-nearly-so activities in her life, from the ridiculous pretense that the “cattle futures trading” wasn’t a payoff from Arkansas’s largest business to its governor, through the Whitewater wheeling-dealing (in most US states and First World countries, the “legitimate” real-estate business of Whitewater would have been illegal, never mind the criminal secondary shenanigans), to the Clinton Foundation taking money from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State, to her illegal email servers, with a half-dozen others omitted for length.

        Now, on a certain level, I can appreciate that the criminal and incompetent should be rather easy to knock off in four years, and am happy that she’s reasonably centrist. But four years of having a hybrid of Lurleen Wallace and Spiro Agnew lecture Americans on feminism and values? It’s literally giving me a stomachache just to think about it.

        Fortunately, if Texas is close enough to be in play, Clinton’s already a guaranteed winner. So I can vote Gary Johnson as I did four years ago, without having to worry about picking the lesser evil.

      • cassander says:

        >Hillary Clinton is clearly part of the right wing of her party. She is much closer to Rupiblicans than most other realistic Democratic options would have been.

        She was always to the left of Bill, and spent most of this election cycle running against pretty much everything centrist that administration did. They suspect that she’s a lot more left wing than she pretends to be.

        Then there’s the fact that she’s clearly guilty of multiple felonies, but has always managed to skate by legally unscathed. That’s a particularly annoying trait to see in anyone that’s on the other side.

    • The Voracious Observer says:

      I agree with your overall point, and I just want to disagree with John Marshell here for a bit. Specifically:

      Now, this isn’t to say that voting for Gary Johnson is some kind of moral failure. Lots of committed Libertarians have been voting for the Libertarian candidate for decades. But as a way to take a ‘Never Trump’ stand, nope. It doesn’t cut it. Same goes for writing in Mitt Romney, or George H.W. Bush or Unicorn.

      I am voting Gary Johnson and I am well aware I could just as easily write in Mickey Mouse in as my presidential candidate. However, I don’t think voting for president is particularly valuable. Actually, it is the least valuable vote that will be cast in November, as it is shockingly unlikely that any particular vote will be a deciding vote for or against either presidential candidate. However, all the other candidates on the ballet this November, state representatives, county judges, and even township treasury members are more important, as it is far, far more likely I will have a deciding vote in who becomes the next Mayor or Sheriff than President of the USA. So sure, my presidential vote is essentially a wasted vote, a pox on both their houses, but its all the other candidates who are worth my time.

      • However, I don’t think voting for president is particularly valuable. Actually, it is the least valuable vote that will be cast in November, as it is shockingly unlikely that any particular vote will be a deciding vote for or against either presidential candidate.

        Right, but in fairness, he’s talking about national Republican political figures, whose publicly expressed choices probably influence millions of people.

      • Diadem says:

        However, I don’t think voting for president is particularly valuable. Actually, it is the least valuable vote that will be cast in November, as it is shockingly unlikely that any particular vote will be a deciding vote for or against either presidential candidate.

        You hear this sentiment a lot. Especially, for some reason, among rationalism-minded people.

        It makes no sense. People think “There’s a very small chance my vote will affect the outcome” and that’s true. But in that rare event your vote does decide the outcome, the effect is staggeringly huge.

        The US government spends about on the order of 4 trillion per year. That’s 16 trillion over a presidential term. Most of that spending will be the same regardless of who is president, or the differences will be on things you don’t care about. But surely there are things you care about that will be affected by who is elected. Also there’s effects of a presidency on the rest of the US economy. So let’s put the value of a presidency at 10% of that. So $1.6 trillion US dollars. Seems a reasonable figure.

        Last election there were 130 million votes. If 130 million people together determine how $1.6 trillion in spend, then each vote is worth $12,307 on average. That is a lot of money for something that takes 15 minutes. Your vote is in fact very valuable. One of the most valuable things an average American will possess.

        A caveat here is that in the US some votes are much more valuable then others. But the difference in value between a swing-state and non-swing-state vote is probably only an order of magnitude or so. That still leaves plenty of value for a non-swing-state vote (and makes swing-states votes even more valuable).

        And of course the math changes if you only care about yourself. In that case voting probably isn’t worth it. But most people do care about others.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          If 130 million people together determine how $1.6 trillion in spend, then each vote is worth $12,307 on average. That is a lot of money for something that takes 15 minutes. Your vote is in fact very valuable. One of the most valuable things an average American will possess.

          So anything that increases government spending increases the value of the franchise? Those who want to limit government are opposed to democracy?

          • Diadem says:

            I have absolutely no idea how you arrived at that conclusion.

            Yes, increasing government power increases the value of your vote. That much is rather obvious. Is is also however merely a statement about what is, not what should be.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Even if I could influence a hundred votes in Florida in 2000, the real decision would still come down to a lot of rules-lawyering and stuff like this classic image http://media.washtimes.com.s3.amazonaws.com/media/image/2012/09/23/20120923-171949-pic-224799225.jpg

          A vote is a noisy measurement. At anything over a million votes, it’s never going to be accurate down to a single vote.

          • Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

            On the other hand, your vote could change how a rules-lawyering situation ends – the probability of a change is just split over a larger range of vote results.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @Diadem:

          But in that rare event your vote does decide the outcome, the effect is staggeringly huge.

          The rare event that my vote could decide the outcome only happens when the candidates are so similar in their net-badness that the country as a whole (other than me) is collectively (by revealed preference and wisdom-of-crowds) indifferent between the two. In that situation, the effect of picking one or the other is not staggeringly huge. I might have an opinion as to which is better, but on what basis can I claim that my own opinion (that one is ever-so-slightly better) is more valid than the country’s judgment that they’re both the same?

          If one candidate is much better, my vote doesn’t matter because the country will pick that candidate without it. If both candidates are the same my vote comes into play but doesn’t matter because it’s a choice between two candidates that are the same.

          To get the result you want, you would need to hypothesize that I somehow have special secret insider information the rest of the country doesn’t have regarding which candidate would be objectively better. But since that hypothesis isn’t true, my decisive vote in the case of a tie is no better than flipping a coin.

          • Jiro says:

            If you are even on SSC, you probably have a higher IQ than the average person, and are more knowledgeable and more dedicated to rationality than the average person. Assuming that you have good reasons to prefer one candidate which are not obvious to the average person is perfectly reasonable.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Jiro:
            I’m smarter than the average bear but I’m not privy to any special knowledge which is not contained somewhere within the sum total of the electorate. So if the entire electorate thinks the candidates are the same shouldn’t I update in the direction of thinking that?

            (Something something Aumann’s Agreement Theorem…)

          • Jiro says:

            The average belief of the electorate is that the candidates are the same, but that doesn’t mean that most individual members of the electorate think the candidates are the same. It could be that the smart people are all on one of the sides.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            One foot in lava, one foot in liquid nitrogen, on average you’re comfortable!

          • John Schilling says:

            It could be that the smart people are all on one of the sides.

            And it could be that all the oxygen molecules are in the left side of the room I’m in where the right side is pure nitrogen.

            Nope. Still conscious.

            And it never actually works out that way in politics either, no matter how much a bubble of smart people on one side or the other may think it does. If the electorate is divided 50.0000/50.0000, the smart people are divided pretty close to 50/50.

          • Chalid says:

            No matter how intelligent people are, they won’t necessarily agree on a candidate if they have different values and interests.

          • Jiro says:

            And it never actually works out that way in politics either, no matter how much a bubble of smart people on one side or the other may think it does.

            Really? Even for, for instance, young earth creationists? You believe that smart, educated, people are equally present on both sides of creation/evolution?

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            You believe that smart, educated, people are equally present on both sides of creation/evolution?

            This seems unlikely. It does seem plausible though that smart people divide on issues smart people can disagree on and not-smart people on issues not-smart people can disagree on.

            The end result being that all levels of the population divide out into two vague tribes. Smart “Reds” hold their noses and tolerate young earth creationists and birthers, Smart “Blues” hold their noses and tolerate anti-vaxxers and SJWs.

            If true, this would kind of contraindicate Scott’s tribal model which included a “Grey” tribe, since two tribes would be the more stable configuration. My theory then would be that “Grey” just means that you are a Blue whose cultural home is so deep in Bluedom that you have more negative experiences with the unfortunate aspects of your own tribe than with that of the Reds. Likewise the commenter back when the tribal model was introduced who tried to lobby for a parallel “Purple” tribe: smart Reds who are more stressed over the antics of dumb Reds than they are over Blues.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Mr Breakfast,
            I am intrigued by your theory and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

          • Nornagest says:

            There are people here who claim to be Grays coming from Red backgrounds, though. I mean, maybe they’re just confused. But they’re finding something that speaks to them in:

            libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk

            Caricature though that may be. And I think I’d be more satisfied with a model that accounted for them.

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            There are people here who claim to be Grays coming from Red backgrounds, though. I mean, maybe they’re just confused.

            I should preface the rest of my response with a statement that what I wrote above was the kind of rough conjecture that forms even as it is being written. Not only will I not commit my sacred honor to it, I probably wouldn’t advance it in the face of a person saying explicitly that it contradicts their lived experience.

            But you phrased your exception “There are people”, so here goes:

            There are people here who claim to be Grays coming from Red backgrounds

            But my model says these people are really Blues, right? The question then is, where do Blues come from?

            Having lived amongst die-hard blues for most of my adult life, I have frequently observed that a largish fraction of adult Blues present to the world a personal origin story roughly following this prototype:

            NOT NORNAGEST:

            I grew up in [Red State/Small Town/Military Base] and I hated the people there because they were so [racist/homophobic/religious/anti-intellectual]. People there [didn’t like/bullied/were afraid of] me because I was because I was [smart/gay/artistic/open-minded/an atheist]. I always knew I didn’t belong there because I was [smart/gay/artistic/open-minded/an atheist], so as soon as I could, I left for [college/a big city/overseas travel] where I found my true place in the world, and eventually met with [group of Blues] who are my REAL family.

            Unless this is totally not a pattern you have ever heard before, I submit that “coming from Red backgrounds” doesn’t rule out “are currently Blue”.

            But they’re finding something that speaks to them in:

            libertarian political beliefs, D…, listening to filk

            Caricature though that may be.

            Nothing in that list seems particularly Red to me. The only exception might be “libertarian political beliefs”, but I just spun up a semi-workable parallel taxonomy in the next OT. Basically, if Red/Blue are Tribes (culture clusters) then Progressive/Conservative/Libertarian are Tendencies (fundamental policy instincts). In this model, Tribes and Tendencies (along with raw Intellect) are distinct dimensions defining the space.

            So I at least don’t think that Libertarian political philosophy rules out Blue tribal affiliation either.

          • Nornagest says:

            Okay, sure, I’ve seen that story before. But you specified:

            a Blue whose cultural home is so deep in Bluedom that you have more negative experiences with the unfortunate aspects of your own tribe than with that of the Reds

            …which seems incompatible with it. If you grew up in Red country and hated it so badly that you jumped ship for Blue country at the first available opportunity, doesn’t that necessarily imply a lot of negative experience with Reds?

            It still makes sense if you assume a true Blue stage between Red and Gray cultures — you get frustrated with Reds, then you surround yourself with Blues, then you get frustrated with them and strike out for Gray territory. But that’s a complex history, so we can probably assume it’s a rare one. Does it really cover all the Grays with Red backgrounds?

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            I think there are a few avenues of defense for me here:

            1) Blues who claim a Red background and tell a story like I framed are not always being perfectly honest. I grew up in the DC suburbs (very Blue, not at all backward) and have heard this sort of story from other people who grew up with me talking about how they made the huge leap from their “small town” origins to, basically, denser suburbs of DC.

            2) Just because you were driven from Red country a decade ago, doesn’t mean that you are still more concerned on a day-to-day basis by rednecks with shotguns than you are by SJW hatemobs.

            3) There is this possibility of a “Purple” tribe: Red people experiencing similar alienation from their own tribe as “Greys” experience from the Blue tribe. Now we know that aversion to the lower classes of one’s own tribe is in both cases driving the Gray/Purple to wish to shed their tribal affiliation, so it seems entirely possible that if a Purple finds themselves here on SSC around all of these articulate people who believe in the existence of a “Grey” tribe defined by the absence of low class components of both Red and Blue cultures, they might want to identify as Grey. That doesn’t mean that all self described Grey SSC commenters would necessarily discover a shared cultural outlook had they met under different circumstances.

            4) This is Scott’s blog. We are all commenting here because he is very smart and an engaging writer and each of us has become convinced that his thoughts are worth following and engaging with. This implies two things:

            4a) We like the same things. More often than not, that means we are selected for culture in the first place.

            4b) Scott telling us he is Grey might, of itself, influence us to wish to identify as Grey as well.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Mr. Breakfast:

            The DC suburbs have been all-blue for a while. But it was only a generation ago that there was a line (approximately at the Frederick County border, when Frederick was known as “Fredneck”) where one side was mostly Red and the other was mostly Blue. There, you’d get people who grew up in a Red local environment but had a lot of exposure to Blue… or who even saw the Red/Blue line sweep across them as they were growing up. (The line is still there, but somewhere west of Frederick city now)

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Nybbler:

            Sure, I have heard similar things about Manasses, Va and points west, Kent Island, MD, as well as Upper Marlboro and points east.

            It seems to me though that people who grew up in these places during or after the time they turned Blue would have a hard time claiming that they grew up in a Red cultural bubble.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Megan McArdle is talking about this exact subject today, although from what I can tell it was something else entirely that started it. Weird.

            http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-08-12/every-place-has-detractors-consider-where-they-re-coming-from

          • Mr. Breakfast says:

            Megan McArdle is talking about this exact subject today,

            Damn, scooped me by two hours…

        • But isn’t that $12K amount each vote is worth then divided over a number of constituents? 16 trillion divided by 130 million voters for the expected weight of each vote on the budget, but then that budget itself isn’t a direct payout to any individual voter so you have to divide that budget out to what the voter would expect to receive. Someone on welfare who’s entire income comes from the federal government or state government would see a lot more benefit to voting than someone who only uses the roads, schools, and general public cost of police/fire/legislation. I have not idea how to crunch those numbers though, anyone got any idea?

          In the past I’ve usually taken it as time-value. There are 24*52*7*8 hours in a given two term president ~70K hours. At 130 million voters, and an assumed 50% difference in your hours-lived over those eight years (say one candidate will literally put everyone in a coma for 4 years), it would only worth it to spend ~2 seconds on voting (including time to learn about the candidates, not including time you would otherwise spent reading about politics for enjoyment by itself) = [70,000 hours * 0.5 / 130mil voters * 60 min/hour * 60sec/min]. Local and state elections do much better, but its hard to say what the expected time-value of any given choice between candidates is going to be.

          Assuming a local candidate has a 5% cost in your hours over the next 8 years and 100K voters, the math works out to 2.1 minutes. [70K * 0.05 /100K * 60 min/hour].

          I look forward to being wrong on the internet and summarily corrected. =D

          • Diadem says:

            Your argument is not wrong, just selfish. Yeah, if you only care about yourself then voting is not worth it. But if you care about others then there’s no need to divide the total benefit of your vote by the number of people affected.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Diadem

            But if you care about others then there’s no need to divide the total benefit of your vote by the number of people affected.

            That’s not caring, that’s imposing my preferences on others.

            Besides, we were talking about the differences in spending that a POTUS can achieve. I happen to think that 10% is a huge overestimation, but even ignoring that, are you counting all that as an unqualified benefit? So that the election of one candidate will bring the benefit of $1.4B to all and the election of the other one will bring a $1.4B loss?

          • Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

            You are not wrong, just selfish.

            > I happen to think that 10% is a huge overestimation, but even ignoring that, are you counting all that as an unqualified benefit?

            The Iraq War has cost 1.5 T$.

          • @Diadem and that’s the kind of outside perspective I was hoping to get. I was working purely from a “rationally ignorant voter” starting point, but I’m not sure how to even go about calculating wider benefits than just a purely selfish formula. Outside of a rational disinterest in voting, to make voting worthwhile it has to become a public goods problem, and aren’t those fun to play with? =D

            @Lumifer and Ariel
            That adds another angle to the problem. We don’t know the magnitude or even the direction of what to estimate in how much voting is worth.

    • Tyler says:

      Sure, but this brings up the question. Is there anyone in the Democratic Party the Republicans see as the left-equivalent of Jeb Bush? My suspicion is no. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. And if this is true, it says something about how mainline party members of each side view moderates of the other side. Unless you believe there are no moderate Democrats, in which case well, we’re at a place where discussion is going to be strained at best.

      Edit: Think this went in the wrong place. Oh well.

      • Edit: Think this went in the wrong place. Oh well.

        No, this is the right place, assuming you were replying directly to my post.

        Sure, but this brings up the question. Is there anyone in the Democratic Party the Republicans see as the left-equivalent of Jeb Bush? My suspicion is no. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. And if this is true, it says something about how mainline party members of each side view moderates of the other side.

        I think data on party polarization (e.g., poll questions on “how would you feel if your son/daughter married someone of the opposite party?”) shows that Republicans are somewhat more rejecting of Democrats than vice versa.

        Commentary on the disappearance of moderates in the U.S. Congress points to the fact that moderates in one party can’t really exist or be effective without moderates in the other party to work with.

        The lack of any visible moderate figures in Congress surely reinforces everyone’s assumption of outgroup homogeneity.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Joe Biden?

        • Chalid says:

          Well, if Joe Biden was the presidential nominee, he’d be constantly under attack by every major Republican in the country, and there would have many millions of dollars of attack ads directed at tearing Biden down. In that situation, would Republicans actually disapprove of Biden any less than they disapprove of Clinton right now? I’m not convinced.

          Obama’s got 10% approval ratings among Republicans, and it’s not possible to get much lower than that.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I think it’s interesting how many Republicans have just figured out that Obama is not Literally Satan now that he’s leaving office.

          • John Schilling says:

            Well, if Joe Biden was the presidential nominee, he’d be constantly under attack by every major Republican in the country, and there would have many millions of dollars of attack ads directed at tearing Biden down.

            Compared with probably at least a billion dollars spent on various attacks against Billary over the past generation. And yes, Hillary was getting a share of that from the start.

            In that situation, would Republicans actually disapprove of Biden any less than they disapprove of Clinton right now?

            There is a very substantial level of hostility that will be leveled by Republicans against any Democratic presidential nominee. You are correct about that. The hatred by Republicans towards Hillary Rodham Clinton is an entirely different order of thing. Barack Hussein Obama had to come to office with black skin, that middle name, a background that kind of does look like “foreign muslim communist” if you squint and tilt your head just right, and views at the left edge of the Overton window, to earn the level of hatred that Hillary gets by default.

            Biden, coming after Obama and as an alternative to Clinton, would get off easy.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Chalid
            The reaction from the right towards Joe Biden has been simple mockery the whole time he’s been in office. They’d have to make a hard course correction to treat him with the hostility they do Clinton. I have no doubt they’d try, but my gut feeling is that their hearts just wouldn’t be in it.

            In a weird way, it’s hard to dislike Joe Biden, just because he’s so darned conventional, and old-school conventional politicians are thin on the ground these days. You can picture him having a three-martini lunch with Tip O’Neill, horse-trading pork in an appropriations bill.

            @Wrong Species

            I think it’s interesting how many Republicans have just figured out that Obama is not Literally Satan now that he’s leaving office.

            Is that kind of like how the Democrats come out every cycle talking about the Republican they had been calling Satan multiplied by Hitler last cycle was truly one of the good ‘uns, not like the modern Republicans who really are Satan multiplied by Hitler, no really, we swear this time?

            It’s standard operating procedure.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            *cough*Dan Quayle*/cough*

          • Chalid says:

            I think it’s interesting how many Republicans have just figured out that Obama is not Literally Satan now that he’s leaving office.

            I think this sort of thing is mainly a way to attack the current candidate. Any praise of Obama (Romney) by Republicans (Democrats) is almost exclusively used to make Clinton (Trump) look bad by contrast.

            Edit: For actual presidents and not candidates, I think you’ll see Democrats genuinely saying that the elder Bush wasn’t so bad. For Democratic presidents, you’d have to go back to, I dunno, LBJ? JFK? to find one that Republicans don’t still despise.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Bush I was pragmatic. He was also pretty firmly opposed to Reagan before he joined the ticket (and from the center, not from the right).

            The tax increases he signed, along with Clinton’s plus some spending cuts, actually gave us a balanced budget by the time Clinton left office. Those twelve years really should have put the myth out to pasture that tax increases automatically kill economic growth.

            It’s really no big surprise that Bush I can be decently well liked. He was a holdover from a different Republican coalition. Hell, he coined the term “voodoo economics” to characterize what has become, to this day, a Republican faith pledge. Even Trump, slayer of Republican idols, can’t get away from “no matter the tax rate, lowering it is good”.

            And I think you are going to have go back before FDR to get a Democratic president that Republicans think of fondly. The current Republican coalition thinks it is firmly opposed to the modern welfare state that FDR ushered in and all Democratic presidents have continued supporting. I say thinks because the base doesn’t actually want Medicare and Social Security cut, privatized or otherwise messed with. They want it to be “better” rather than “reduced”.

          • Chalid says:

            @HBC I remember a visit to my grandparents’ house when I was young, and hearing my grandfather give a long speech over the dinner table about how FDR had ruined the country. This was almost 50 years after FDR died.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            “the modern welfare state that FDR ushered in”

            Yes, it’s got nothing to do with him setting up obscure agencies that force farmers to dump arbitrary percentages of their crops, or just seize them.
            Which is still going on despite farmers taking it to the supreme court..

            Establishing cartels in every industry and prosecuting people who tailored coats for 5 pennies less than the mandated price, and then threatening to destroy the supreme court when they tried to stop him… yeah, none of that had anything to do with it.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is a lot to dislike about FDR’s executive style, but it seems clear to me that at least some parts of the Republican coalition also dislike the New Deal welfare state on its own terms? Most of them weren’t even alive when FDR was in office.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think the average Republican hates Jimmy Carter. They think he was dumb and a bad president, but I don’t get the impression that they hate him. I think Biden is looked at in much the same way.

      • Sandy says:

        Unless you believe there are no moderate Democrats, in which case well, we’re at a place where discussion is going to be strained at best.

        Over the last several years I’ve seen articles describing a steady wipeout of Blue Dogs in midterm elections and various Democrats criticizing the GOP for “giving in” to the Tea Party caucus, so perhaps moderates are in fact an endangered species.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Whenever the country shifts from left to right or right to left, it’s the moderates who get beached on the shoreline.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Note that “Blue Dog” Dems have mostly been replaced by Republicans, rather than liberal Dems. Mary Landrieu didn’t fall to a primary challenge but lost a statewide runoff to a Republican.

          Rockefeller Republicans probably have been replaced by Democrats, but that happened earlier. The Jack Kemp’s of the world are long gone. But the Republican party has also been engaged in a purge of centrists from its ranks, roughly from 94 onward. the phrase RINO is well known and claims even fairly staunch and vocal conservatives like Eric Cantor.

          A similar movement on the Democratic hasn’t happened yet. It’s possible Bernie represents a start in that direction, but the Democratic coalition is more ideologically diverse, which probably puts the brakes on.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Is there anyone in the Democratic Party the Republicans see as the left-equivalent of Jeb Bush?

        I can’t speak for Republicans a whole but Howard Dean is the first name that springs to my mind. I’m not sure if I would vote for him myself but I wouldn’t be particularly upset if he won.

      • Psmith says:

        Jim Webb is a name I see a lot. (Was a pretty popular potential oddball VP pick for Trump in certain circles.). Jon Tester. Brian Schweitzer.

    • Alejandro says:

      Related to this, I wanted to share this article in Current Affairs, on the logic of whether left-wingers who refuse to vote for Clinton could be blamed for a Trump presidency in case he wins. (It is actually not directly relevant to LK’s link, but I thought it better to keep all discussion of electoral politics in the same thread).

      I find the analysis of counterfactuals in the article spot-on and unusually clear for these discussions. The article assumes left-wing readers, but the point is really a meta one about rationality and the analysis of cause and effect, and all the points made translate to the other side (e.g. a religious conservative refusing to vote for Trump) and indeed to any two-party situation.

    • gbdub says:

      As someone who voted for Romney and McCain, but could see myself voting for a moderate Dem over Trump (or Cruz), my issue with Hillary isn’t so much policy but:

      1a) Scandals – email, bimbo eruptions, the Clinton Foundation, etc. Not even so much for their severity but the brazenness of all of it and how she has managed to skate on all of it. I don’t think the president should be above the law. Yeah, all politicians are a bit scummy but the Clintons are on a different level.

      1b) The Supreme Court – I want both Heller and Citizens United upheld. Honestly this would be the hardest part for me in picking out a moderate Democrat, finding someone not rated F by the NRA (not that I agree with the NRA on everything, but throw me a bone here).

      2) Her tenure as SoS seems really disastrous – Russia and Iran are stronger, Iraq fell apart, Libya is a mess. The Russian “reset” and Libya were big Hillary efforts, and both were really bad. (Libya was dumb to get involved in, with Russia we pissed of Poland to throw Russia a bone on missile defense and seem to have gotten nothing in return).

      3) The press – this isn’t Hillary’s fault, but after 8 years of Obama it would be nice to have an adversarial press again. Both Rs and Ds will screw up and do stupid stuff, but Rs seem to be held to a higher standard in your major network media. Also I’m pretty tired of my policy objections being dismissed as “racist”, and 4-8 years of the same thing but “sexist” won’t be an improvement.

      Anyway my ideal candidate is pro-gay, pro-gun, pro-drug decriminalization, pro-space, open to free trade, wants to expand legal immigration but secure the border, speaks softly but carries a big-ass stick, and supports the responsible expansion of cleaner energy (nuclear definitely, but also natural gas – rather than knee-jerk demonizing fracking, lets regulate it smartly). Not sure where I find that person.

      • Diadem says:

        Anyway my ideal candidate is pro-gay, pro-gun, pro-drug decriminalization, pro-space, open to free trade, wants to expand legal immigration but secure the border, speaks softly but carries a big-ass stick, and supports the responsible expansion of cleaner energy (nuclear definitely, but also natural gas – rather than knee-jerk demonizing fracking, lets regulate it smartly). Not sure where I find that person.

        So, Hillary?

        I’m not trying to be snide, I get that you dislike her personality, and that’s a valid complaint. But you’re pretty much exactly describing her when it comes to policy (although I have no idea if she’s pro-space. Probably not. Expensive and gives you few votes).

        I do agree with you (at least I think this is your position, correct me if I’m wrong), that there’s no point in having a candidate who advocates for the right things, if they are too incompetent (or corrupt) to actually get those things done.

        I’m not sure I agree with your assessment of Hillary though. Most of her scandals seem to be more clumsiness than corruption. Of course clumsiness is also a disqualifier, but one not nearly as strong.

        As for her tenure as SoS, I think you’re being a bit unfair there. Iraq was always going to be a mess, no SoS could have avoided that. And it was France that got the US involved in Libya. The US could have refused I suppose, but that would have had repercussions as well. And Libya is a bit of a mess, but would it have been better if the US hadn’t been involved? I’m not convinced. I’ll give you the Putin bit, but I’d like to add that no one seems to have a clue about how to deal with Putin. Certainly Trump’s approach is even worse.

        And of course the million dollar question is: Does any of the above even matter? Even if everything you say is true, you should still vote for Hillary. That’s the big disadvantage of a two-party system. It’s either Hillary or Trump, there’s no middle ground. Which emans that even if Hillary hunts orphans for sport you should still vote for her. Even if she campaigned on a platform of banning guns for everybody who doesn’t have a criminal record you should still vote for her. Even if she promised to kill every first-born son in America you should still … well, ok, perhaps in that case you should vote Trump, but it’d be a close call.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          So, Hillary?

          Most certainly anti-gun, nominally against free trade and drug legalization, but those are issues where you don’t know if it wasn’t just adapting to the overton window.

          • Nornagest says:

            I doubt Hillary has any strong personal opinions about drug legalization, and if anything I’d expect her convictions to be for free trade. She does seem to have genuine anti-gun beliefs, but I’m not sure she cares enough to make it a priority in office; I get the feeling she picked that angle more as a wedge issue against Sanders (dumb move, but she’s never been a very talented campaigner) than anything else.

            Far more than most politicians, though, I see Hillary as capable of ignoring her own convictions when the polls say it’s a good idea. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how the Overton window moves, but on balance I think it’s probably more bad than good.

          • Diadem says:

            Supporting background checks and some other regulations doesn’t make Hillary anti-gun. That’s like calling Mark Zuckerberg poor because he’s only the 6th richest man in the world.

            Calling someone who is completely in favor of nearly unrestricted gun ownership anti-gun only demonstrates how obscenely far the Overton window has shifted on this issue in America.

            It would be nice if she were truly anti-gun. But I don’t think any American politician is. You guys love your guns too much.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Diadem – “Calling someone who is completely in favor of nearly unrestricted gun ownership anti-gun only demonstrates how obscenely far the Overton window has shifted on this issue in America. It would be nice if she were truly anti-gun. But I don’t think any American politician is. You guys love your guns too much.”

            That’s not really how this sort of issue works, unfortunately. Swap guns for abortion and Hillary for republicans and you’ll see why.

            Anti-[x] is shorthand for as against the average position of a serious member of the group in question. For people who care about owning and using guns, Hillary is probably one of the most anti-gun politicians in memory. We can debate whether her positions are the right ones, but claiming they aren’t anti-gun is pointless semantics.

            [EDIT] – She’s more anti-gun than most american politicians and probably a majority of the country, depending on how you slice it. As you note, we like our guns a lot.

          • gbdub says:

            She’s less anti-gun than her running mate, for what that’s worth?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Gbdub – My hope is that she’s enough of a pragmatist to calculate that trying for gun control isn’t in her or her party’s interests politically, and to let the issue quietly die out. That was my hope for Obama as well, and it seems to have worked; if it works for Hillary, I think that’s pretty good evidence that gun control is dead at the national level.

          • Jiro says:

            That was my hope for Obama as well, and it seems to have worked;

            If by that you mean “banning people on the no-fly list from owning guns never made it as far as an actual law”.

            Also, he tried in 2013, after he no longer had to worry about reelection. He just happened to get pushback, so he failed, but I don’t call that letting the issue die out.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jiro – “If by that you mean “banning people on the no-fly list from owning guns never made it as far as an actual law”.”

            That is what I mean, more or less. I remember Obama making various comments about national conversations and so forth, but I never saw him making it a major legislative push the way Bill Clinton did with the AWB. I also remember something about taking executive action, but haven’t heard much about disastrous new policies, so it looks like that wasn’t much of a problem either. Has there been any federal legislation advancing gun control since the 90s?

          • Jiro says:

            Actually, the biggest thing Obama will probably do to destroy gun rights is to nominate a justice to the Supreme Court. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago only passed by 5-4.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Jiro – Whatever liberties depend upon the courts overruling Blue Tribe ideals are lost already. Hoping to appoint more justices than the other side can isn’t a viable strategy long-term. The Supreme Court also seems to conform itself to popular sentiment, so even if we got republican appointments from here on out I doubt whether the court would safeguard red ideals in the face of staunch blue opposition. And if that’s the way it’s going to be, better a clean break than a slow slide over the next few decades.

          • Jiro says:

            The Supreme Court also seems to conform itself to popular sentiment,

            Heller and McDonald split along partisan lines. If that was popular sentiment, it was popular sentiment that was incapable of overcoming the partisan influence in either direction.

          • Psmith says:

            Calling someone who is completely in favor of nearly unrestricted gun ownership anti-gun only demonstrates how obscenely far the Overton window has shifted on this issue in America.

            The Overton window has indeed shifted in America, but not in that direction. See NFA 1934, GCA 1968, Brady Act 1993, SAFE Act 2013, California, etc.

        • cassander says:

          > Iraq was always going to be a mess, no SoS could have avoided that.

          Iraq became a mess after the US pulled out, for a few different reasons. Hillary was in favor of that withdrawal.

          >And it was France that got the US involved in Libya.

          France does not tell the US what to do. Clinton ran around and worked extremely hard to get the US to make a NATO intervention possible. More than any other decision, this one was hers, and it was catastrophically bad.

          >would it have been better if the US hadn’t been involved? I’m not convinced.

          Almost certainly. Qaddafi would have won his war (he was on the verge of victory when we intervened) and Libya would remain an autocratic, but functional country, not a complete disaster zone.

          • Diadem says:

            Iraq became a mess after the US pulled out, for a few different reasons. Hillary was in favor of that withdrawal.

            You’re misremembering your history here. Iraq was a mess long before the US pulled out. And any president with any SoS would have pulled out of Iraq. There was no way the US could have stayed. The American people didn’t want it, America’s allies didn’t want it, and Iraq itself didn’t want it. I don’t know exactly what role Hillary played, but Obama pulled out much slower than everybody wanted or expected him too. He got a lot of flak from his own supporters for not leaving fast enough.

            Almost certainly. Qaddafi would have won his war (he was on the verge of victory when we intervened) and Libya would remain an autocratic, but functional country, not a complete disaster zone.

            Libya would have been a second Syria if the US hadn’t intervened. An endless civil war with countless lives ruined and countless refugees. Much worse than the current situation.
            The international community made a lot of big mistakes in the time between the intervention and the start of the current chaos. But seeing as she left her office 2 years before the current chaos started, only a small part of the blame can be reasonably assigned to her.

          • gbdub says:

            In 2010 Joe Biden was bragging about how great Iraq was going. The spin (and to some extent the reality) was definitely “we’re pulling out because the job is done”. Iraq probably could have been convinced to let us stay – we didn’t try very hard. In any case, they probably would have been better off if we had stayed (we’re sort of back now), and Hillary didn’t fight for that. The problem was treating the question of “when to pull out” as a referendum on whether going there in the first place was a good idea.

            Libya would have been a second Syria if the US hadn’t intervened. An endless civil war with countless lives ruined and countless refugees. Much worse than the current situation.

            I’m not sure I buy that – the Libyan rebels were on the ropes, and we intervened with united overwhelming force. Gadhaffi would likely have won in relatively short order had we not intervened.

            Syria is a mess in part because the intervening foreign powers can’t really decide who we’re fighting for, and in any case the government was in a much more tenuous position at the start of the intervention.

          • cassander says:

            >You’re misremembering your history here. Iraq was a mess long before the US pulled out

            Not really. And certainly not according to the Obama administration, as diadem pointed out.

            >nd any president with any SoS would have pulled out of Iraq.

            Not according to the US ambassador to Iraq, and the Iraqi ambassador to the US, both of whom were surprised by the decision.

            >pulled out much slower than everybody wanted or expected him too.

            this is the opposite of what happened.

            >Libya would have been a second Syria if the US hadn’t intervened.

            Libya IS a second syria because the US intervened.

            >An endless civil war with countless lives ruined and countless refugees. Much worse than the current situation.

            That IS the current situation.

            >But seeing as she left her office 2 years before the current chaos started, only a small part of the blame can be reasonably assigned to her.

            without her there would have been no intervention. Therefore, she is substantially accountable for the results of said intervention, at least as far as they could be foreseen. They were foreseen, they were completely predictable, you cannot bomb your way to a stable government. She thought it was a great idea. She’s accountable.

          • John Schilling says:

            Libya would have been a second Syria if the US hadn’t intervened. An endless civil war with countless lives ruined and countless refugees. Much worse than the current situation.

            Citation required.

            We’ve discussed this here at length before. The Gaddafi regime was very near to a decisive victory when the US intervened, had neither engaged in nor threatened mass reprisals against civilians, and had a track record of effectively maintaining order through selective and brutal violence against specific enemies rather than random genocide.

            If you insist on an analogy with Syria, it’s the Syria of 1976-1982, not the Syria of 2011-2016 (and counting).

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ John Schilling
            i>The Gaddafi regime […] had neither engaged in nor threatened mass reprisals against civilians

            Ah, a checkable claim of fact, not a several-level counter-factual (or any counter-factual at all). A predictable following stage will be, the meaning of ‘threatened’, ‘mass’, ‘reprisals’, and ‘civilians’. Then, ‘engaged in’.

            That leads both sides into boring weeds. But ‘you can’t prove a negative’ clearly applies, and is on an interesting meta level.

        • gbdub says:

          “Most of her scandals seem to be more clumsiness than corruption.”

          I reject this emphatically. You really think she just clumsily set up a personal email server for classified because she’s just aww-shucks ignorant about them newfangled computation machines? The shady donors for the Foundation are just naivete and bad optics? The expensive speeches at financial companies? The enabling of Bill’s sexual foibles? The anti-Bernie DNC deals?

          I have more respect for Hillary than that – she’s not an idiot. Like I said, you can argue about the severity of these scandals. But she absolutely knew what she was doing.

          As for your last paragraph, well, if I was being unfair to Hillary, you’re being unfair to Trump. I’m pretty sure he is not literally the second coming of Hitler, and even if he were the rest of the Republicans are annoyed by him enough to rein him in on the worst of his policies. He’s a blowhard, which has it’s own set of negatives, but Democrats seem to be taking his already inflated bluster, adding a “we think Republicans are evil racists” multiplier, assuming that’s how the reality of his term would play out, and telling me that I therefore must vote for Hillary no matter how awful I might think she is.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        * pro-gay,

        Refused ‘Marriage Vow’ pledge; it condemns gays & singles. (Nov 2011). Overturn CA Prop. 8: Let gays marry

        * pro-gun,

        Absolute right to gun ownership

        * pro-drug decriminalization,

        Half of crime is drug-related; legalizing drugs cuts crime. (Jan 2001)
        States are finally seeing the failure of the War on Drugs. (Jan 2016)

        * pro-space,

        Government should fund space travel.

        * open to free trade,

        No tariffs, no restrictions; but no corporatism. (Jul 2011)
        Eliminate needless barriers to free trade. (May 2011)

        * wants to expand legal immigration but secure the border,

        (Maybe a half-match here)

        Bigger border fence will only produce taller ladders. (Jan 2016)
        2 year grace period for illegals to get work visas. (Nov 2011)
        1 strike & you’re out for legal immigrants who violate terms. (Nov 2011)
        Open the border; flood of Mexicans would become taxpayers. (Jan 2001)

        * speaks softly but carries a big-ass stick,

        Don’t quite know how to check this one,.

        * supports the responsible expansion of cleaner energy (nuclear definitely, but also natural gas – rather than knee-jerk demonizing fracking, lets regulate it smartly).

        Alternative energy good; ethanol subsidies bad. (Nov 2011)
        Supports nuclear power. (Aug 2011)

        Those are from
        http://www.ontheissues.org/Gary_Johnson.htm
        (using https://www.isidewith.com/candidate-guide/gary-johnson/science/space-exploration-2 for space)

        • gbdub says:

          I’m probably going to vote for Johnson this time. I meant (and should have specified) that I didn’t know where I’d find a major party candidate with that set of views.

    • cassander says:

      I dislike Trump, but I loathe Hillary Clinton. I think that as president (this is mostly talking about foreign affairs, I think domestically both will be hemmed in by hostile relations with congress) she will be a disaster. Trump will probably be bad, has a chance of being a disaster, and has a chance of not being a disaster. I can’t in good conscience support either of them.

    • Jill says:

      Hillary has been bashed 24/7/365 for decades now, particularly by GOP biased media. So it seems like very few of the Never Trumpers are likely to vote for Hillary, for that reason alone. They’ve heard all kinds of conspiracy theories about her murdering people etc. so often that many of them probably believe them.

      In addition to that, many people vote for pres partly on the basis of who the pres will appoint to SCOTUS. And Right Wing establishment types know that Trump has said he’ll put Right Wingers on SCOTUS, so many establishment types will vote for Trump for that reason alone. So they can get e.g. Roe vs. Wade overturned, if they are fundamentalist Christians, or for whatever else they want out of SCOTUS. Even a crazy person, with some help from his VP, can manage to follow through on putting GOP establishment types on SCOTUS.

      Some people are choosing to vote for 3rd party candidates even though they won’t win, like Stein or Johnson, because they want to help the country to eventually get to the place where we have a viable 3rd party. And it won’t get there until 3rd party vote tallies start getting bigger. So they are contributing to this, hoping to see the results in 4 or 8 years or more.

      • houseboatonstyxb says:

        @ Jill
        Some people are choosing to vote for 3rd party candidates even though they won’t win, like Stein or Johnson, because they want to help the country to eventually get to the place where we have a viable 3rd party. And it won’t get there until 3rd party vote tallies start getting bigger. So they are contributing to this, hoping to see the results in 4 or 8 years or more.

        The UK parliamentary system looks greener from here, but I don’t see a path toward it that doesn’t have a lot of Naders electing a lot of Bushes in a long meantime. Outside of swing states, it might be safe to send a message by voting for Stein or R. Paul … as long as it doesn’t add up to enough votes to hurt Hillary now … or, as you say, to help a third party get to Nader status later.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’d be a lot more sympathetic to a putative 3rd party if they could get their party members on city councils and into state legislatures. And hold onto those seats for multiple election cycles.

          Then you could plausibly run people for House seats and/or statewide office or US Senate. Theoretically you could even caucus with one party or the other.

          Then you would have built the kind of infrastructure that would allow for success at the Presidential level, not just the campaign but also the term.

          • brad says:

            FPTP is just as unfriendly to third parties in single member legislative districts as it is in the Presidential election.

            If in a liberal city you have running for city counsel: a Green, a Democrat, a Socialist and a Republican you may well end up with the Republican in office. I understand that something like this happens in Canada from time to time.

          • LHN says:

            Legislatures also seem worse for third parties than executive positions. A Libertarian or Green mayor or governor has independent power to do things. Electing a third party legislator is asking to be shut entirely out of the coalitions that allocate pork to the district.

            Or the rep can caucus with one of the parties as e.g., Sanders did, but in that case the extent to which they’re functioning as other than an eccentric Democrat or Republican is tough to measure.

            In a closely divided legislature, a small third party might be able to play kingmaker. (Which can give them power out of proportion to their size on pet issues, though probably less so than in a parliamentary system.) But getting to that point is something of an “after you, Gaston” problem. (Electing the tenth or twentieth Libertarian to the Senate might be worthwhile, but electing the first is likely to mostly be a pure sacrifice play.)

            I still agree that I’d be more impressed with a third party that did some serious work from the ground up rather than trying to step straight into the presidency. Though this election circumstances are such that voting for Johnson is an easy choice for me anyway. (And whether or not the LP is a viable party, Johnson himself is uncontroversially a qualified candidate whether one agrees with his policies or party choice or not.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @brad/LHN
            Yes, FPTP selects against 3rd parties at the state legislative level, but I think you might be confusing two different things, which aren’t quite the same.

            There is nothing preventing an individual member of a legislative body from acting in coalition with members from other parties. Control of the legislature is NOT first past the post. You need an outright majority, not a plurality.

            It’s the individual seat being FPTP that selects against a member being 3rd party. That’s where you have to assemble your winning coalition before the election.

            Even though the UK is FPTP by district, you still see substantial regional 3rd party in Scotland. It’s always going to be much easier to win select smaller districts with a tailored 3rd party message than to manage to beat the large parties on developing a national message.

            Directly elected head of the executive branch being FPTP does also hurt 3rd parties in general. But I don’t think that is an argument for starting out trying to build a movement at the presidential level.

          • BBA says:

            For the last few cycles, the New York State Senate has had a nominal Democratic majority but has been controlled by a coalition of the Republican caucus and a few Democratic defectors. The same was also briefly the case in Washington State a couple years back.

            A powerful third party might increase the chance of this kind of fragmentation within one of the big two.

      • Where I hang out, there’s a push to vote for Hillary if you’re in swing states, but voting for a third party is acceptable if you’re not in a swing state.

  8. Stefan Drinic says:

    A while ago, I read a post on reddit written by a cop whose department had made the wearing of body cams obsolete. The post’s point was that the increase in accountability and such is all well and good, but these cams have one flaw: they remove a cop’s ability to show discretion in enforcing the law, being lenient and such where necessary..

    .. And while I get the point in that, it all came across as very strange for me. ‘Now our laws will actually have to make sense! Now we’ll actually need to have a proper separation of powers! The horror!’

    What are your opinions on this, SSC? I do realise the short term harm this’d cause, as well as some of the other such policies would cause, but I do think the benefits would outweigh the harms after some time.

    • Julie K says:

      I agree in theory, but how long do you think it would be before the laws actually made sense?

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        I think such cameras would be worth it even if they didn’t also come with a change in laws. Certainly I think that if cops having to be impartial would affect enough people adversely that a lobby for better laws would come to exist, the law being improved would go quicker than it does now. Enough people don’t feel the law’s adverse effects that for lawmakers to slack isn’t such a big deal to many.

      • pheltz says:

        I really doubt there could ever be a substantive criminal code that would work best without any role for police or prosecutorial discretion. Life is too complicated.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I see the cops’ point but unless the cameras are being constantly monitored by a third party I think that practical benefits of having an impartial record of any given encounter far outweigh the potential downsides.

    • Yehoshua K says:

      If I understand you correctly, this PD wants to not have body cams because if the policeman’s actions can be reviewed and judged after the fact, he might sometimes make wrong decisions out of fear of that review–wrong decisions he would not otherwise have made.

      I agree–this will sometimes happen. It will also sometimes happen that he will not make wrong decisions that he otherwise would have made, out of fear of that post-facto review and judgement.

      Looking across the scope of human history, it doesn’t seem like government (which is what the police are part of) with unlimited discretion and immune to judgement has really worked out all that well.

    • Outis says:

      I don’t think that’s “making body cams obsolete”. It’s “deprecating their use”.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        .. I don’t know why I wrote obsolete. I meant mandatory. It’s a very dumb mistake either way, thanks for pointing it out.

    • I think the point of body cameras are indeed to take at least part of the discretion out of cop’a actions. Camera advocates (incl me) want body cameras because cops have too much discretion. Cops are supposed to be impartial — as you say Stefan, separation of powers and all that as far as making the arrest.

      Yehoshua does make a good point. Cops may be too conservative in their decisions because they are concerned about second guessing. But overall, I think it is a better thing for citizens to have a window on what their public servants are doing, instead of always trusting them to do the right thing.

      • CatCube says:

        Removing all judgement from cops is one of those things that sounds nice in theory, but is likely to be worse than the problems it solves.

        Look at “zero-tolerance” policies for weapons at school to see how that will play out.

        “Johnny accidentally left a skinning knife in his car after a hunting trip this weekend, and parked it in the school lot.”

        “He’s expelled.”

        “What!? He didn’t threaten anybody with it or take it out, it was just seen sitting on the back seat by a teacher looking in.”

        “Doesn’t matter. Zero tolerance.”

        “But this isn’t the problem that the ‘no-weapons’ policy was intended to solve.”

        “True. But it was written as zero-tolerance, and not expelling him would be tolerance.”

        “Won’t it reduce respect–”

        “Let me stop you right there. Zero tolerance.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          Right. And so, you’ll end up with a number of people starting to wonder: is this the policy we want to be so strict about?

          • CatCube says:

            Except we haven’t with many of the zero-tolerance policies in schools.

            Or, for something more likely to resonate here, the drug war.

          • John Schilling says:

            Right. And so, you’ll end up with a number of people starting to wonder…

            …and stopping at wondering, because anything more will be one of those things there’s not really any tolerance for.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Don’t be ridiculous. People advocating for the legalisation of weed don’t get tossed into prison now, and I don’t see that changing.

          • Zorgon says:

            While that’s true, advocating publicly for legalization will still end your political career.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            This is true. This is also something body cams will not make worse. If smoking weed becomes more of a liability for people of middle class and up, it might even make it better.

          • VivaLaPanda says:

            At least in California, I’m going to refute that statement regarding legalization. In talks with my state rep, he publicly supported legalization (with some politicking and caveats of course).

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Zorgon
            A couple of states have already legalized it. Given that the world hasn’t ended there are likely to be more. The writing’s on the wall.

            That said, it’s quite possible to have dumb zero tolerance laws without dumb drug laws, and I imagine our politicians are more than capable of making it happen. If I was cynical I might even suggest that legalizing weed is a great way to distract attention from increasing state control of everything else.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Removing all judgement from cops is one of those things that sounds nice in theory, but is likely to be worse than the problems it solves.

          Body cameras don’t remove all judgement from cops. They do make such judgement subject to later review; I realize cops are used to having carte blanche, but that’s not a good situation.

          The problems body cameras are supposed to solve are police brutality (up to and including homicide), police perjury, fabrication of evidence, etc. All pretty big problems, so while there may be downsides, they are going to have to be pretty big to offset them.

          • Yes. Also the cops have protection from lies told by suspects in their interaction with the cops.

            In my opinion, both cops and suspects will behave better with cameras reporting their activities. I’m sure there will be some downsides, but I think overall it will be much better.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Mark V Anderson
            Yes. In the US, our cops are not doing too much leniency — not that a camera could catch, anyway.

          • roystgnr says:

            “Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the [Rialto police] department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.

            Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found. And, lest skeptics think that the officers with cameras are selective about which encounters they record, Mr. Farrar noted that those officers who apply force while wearing a camera have always captured the incident on video.” – Randall Stross, New York Times

            There is another reasonable anti-badge-camera argument to be made: with badge cameras, a search warrant issued to the cops effectively becomes a warrant for anyone who can snag a copy of the video and anyone they want to share it with. If police departments are corrupt enough or bad enough at cybersecurity this could lead to some nasty invasions of privacy.

            I don’t think these hypothetical risks outweigh the measured risk reduction, though.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Just because a cop doesn’t always enforce a law doesn’t mean the law doesn’t make sense. Parents, teachers and bosses understand that always enforcing a law no matter the circumstances can often be counter-productive. Why can’t the same be said for laws?

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        The more impersonal anything gets, the lest trust I have in this sort of thing working out very well. A parent knows their child much better than a cop knows a man on the street.

        • CatCube says:

          Not always. I’m sure most of the teachers here can tell stories of students they have who were free to be little dirtbags because their parents were running top cover for them.

      • VivaLaPanda says:

        I think that the issue can be that selective enforcement encourages discrimination. I mean, it’s kind of a null argument at this point because we have so many selectively enforced laws that most people have probably committed at least one felony, but this means that if the government wanted to jail someone, they can probably dig up some reasons.

    • Nornagest says:

      Seems overinflated, to put it politely, and not even at the level of law. Police departments are not going to release thousands of hours of body cam footage arbitrarily, and they probably won’t even review it internally on spec. That leaves plenty of scope for police discretion. At worst it’d add a possibility of a superior officer having to approve some discretionary acts, which doesn’t strike me as an obviously bad thing.

      If a department was still concerned about it for some reason, they could even make it policy that body cam footage would be involuntarily accessed only in the event of an excessive-force complaint (or whatever other types of complaint we care about).

      • Evan Þ says:

        ” Police departments are not going to release thousands of hours of body cam footage arbitrarily, and they probably won’t even review it internally on spec.”

        The Seattle PD’s been forced to do just that, thanks to one guy with a love for FOIA requests, which override departmental policies. (It doesn’t help that there was a big scandal about departmental racism ~10 years ago.)

        I still favor bodycams for the reasons other people spelled out, but you can’t rely on the footage being buried.

        • Nornagest says:

          I begin to see the issue, then.

          • gbdub says:

            It’s an issue certainly – out-of-context (or intentionally misleadingly edited) video of a thing could be worse than no video at all. But I don’t see that as outweighing the benefit of having the video at least available. Hell even if we have to carve out an FOIA exemption for it in most circumstances, it’s still probably an improvement.

  9. Shadrack says:

    Why do adult coloring books almost always have this therapeutic angle? (“Relaxing” “De-stress” “Healing” etc.) Are people really this damaged? Doesn’t anyone just want to color?

    It’s amusing to think of some abused person, shakily holding back tears, hunched over a coloring book in some tenement, scribbling furiously into these silly tessellated patterns, and then gradually calming down, ready to face another horrible day of oppression tomorrow.

    • hlynkacg says:

      r/accidentalcyberpunk?

      • Shadrack says:

        I don’t use Reddit. Can you summarize?

        I know there are non-therapeutic coloring books–I bought one on Amazon for my wife, a funny one about dinosaurs working modern jobs–I’m just puzzled at why so many of them have the therapeutic angle.

        • Yehoshua K says:

          I would imagine that there is some population of adults who need the excuse of telling themselves it’s therapeutic before they buy adult coloring books.

          • Shadrack says:

            That seems plausible, but it also seems like an awfully subtle/nuanced quality in our culture to explain the almost total dominance of coloring books that include “therapy” marketing.

          • Yehoshua K says:

            To Shadrack,

            It seems to me that it would cost the coloring-book-manufacturer basically nothing to write words like “therapeutic” or “stress-relieving” on the cover, so if it has any detectable chance of increasing sales, why wouldn’t he?

            Particularly as adult coloring books seem sort of weird, since we’re used to coloring books being for kids. Even if he’s wrong, and he’d sell just as many without the psychobabble, why not hedge his bets and provide the excuse?

        • hlynkacg says:

          I don’t use Reddit. Can you summarize?

          You can ping a given subreddit from any other sub by typing “r/” + the sub’s name.

          I’m suggesting that your image of…

          some abused person, shakily holding back tears, hunched over a coloring book in some tenement, scribbling furiously into these silly tessellated patterns, and then gradually calming down, ready to face another horrible day of oppression tomorrow.

          Belongs in a cyberpunk dystopia in much the same way that the posts in Accidental Renaissance belong more to the past than modernity.

        • Nicholas says:

          It’s possible that the intended buyer for the marketing is actual therapists: Child psychologists frequently color with patients, and the theory may be that adult psychologists may see Therapeutic: Coloring Books for Adults as Therapeutic Coloring Books: For Adults.

    • Outis says:

      It’s assumed that an adult would have the skill to draw their own pictures if they decided to make art. The “therapy” angle gives an explanation for regressing to a childish form of play.

      • Shadrack says:

        Regressing to a childish form of play…yeesh. Creepy.

        Kids draw their own pictures too, even when they don’t have strong artistic talent. Adults draw pictures far less frequently even when they do have strong artistic talent (I’m a case in point anyway). So I’d say conventional coloring books make even more sense for adults!

        Since when are coloring books about making “art”? Isn’t it just a fun activity that stimulates the creativity center of the brain but without the cognitive load of defining forms, ascribing proportion, etc.? Something you can do during commercial breaks or while listening to podcasts, etc.

        • Virbie says:

          You don’t need to make the case that coloring books aren’t just for kids and there’s nothing to be ashamed of (I think most things with that reputation are completely fine). But are you really surprised, given what you know of people and society, that there are people out there who have that stigma ingrained enough that seeing it phrased as de-stressing gives them plausible deniability (to themselves and others) that they’re not doing something “childish”?

          If you saw a 30 year-old spinning around in circles in the park just because it’s fun, would you find it surprised if the person next to you found it odd (even if you were un-bothered by it)?

          • VivaLaPanda says:

            I think those ideas are going away a bit as things like video games become more mainstream, but I agree that many people still stigmatize many things as “childish”.

          • Agronomous says:

            This is one of the reasons having kids is awesome: spinning around in circles in the park by myself? Deviant. Spinning around in circles in the park next to my daughter doing the same thing? Heart-warming.

            Also: one of my daughters has a coloring book of Impressionist paintings (kind of like coloring karaoke), and routinely drags me into helping (like an apprentice painter, I tend to get stuck with the foliage). I kind of assumed it was marketed as a kids’ book, but I’m going to take another look at the cover. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say “therapeutic”, though.

            Also: if you only use really bright crayons or pencils, and don’t pay much attention to which colors realistically go where, Impressionist paintings become Fauve.

          • What Agronomous said. Being able to partake in childish activities with my kids is one of the hidden advantages of being a parent.

    • I think the culture has shifted so that pleasure is supposed to have a purpose.* Who would have thought that the first rock concert for charity would come to this?

      *Probably more of a blue tribe thing.

      • Shadrack says:

        I had that thought too, but in that case I would expect to see maybe half of coloring books positioned as therapeutic. There’s still ample “fun for fun’s sake” in our society, even among “stuff you can do as an adult that you remember fondly from being a kid” such as adult kickball leagues, Big Wheels for grownups, etc. Not to mention adult-oriented cartoons and comic books.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Maybe that’s because the adult colouring books are targeted at deep deep blue.

          I’m a tribal outsider here so my viewpoint might be warped, but the only place I’ve seen these colouring books in the wild is in university rooms literally designated as a safe space. So that means they’re in the hands of the shade of blue who put the most weight on the political side of media/games and the least on it simply being fun.

          So maybe these books are targeted at a market where play needs a purpose and fun for fun’s sake isn’t good enough.

          • gbdub says:

            They exist in every craft and book store (Barnes and Noble has a whole table). I personally know people of many tribal affiliations who have at least tried adult coloring books.

            Honestly a lot of them have the “therapeutic” or “brain building” label, but just as many don’t – there are adult books for Game of Thrones and Dr. Who, for example, and many of them are just titled “Sea Creatures”, “Jungle Adventures”, or what have you.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I had no idea they were that popular.

          • bluto says:

            Given that colored pencils were nearly impossible to find this Christmas, apparently neither did Crayola. There were coloring book displays at every store I went to last year though.

          • Agronomous says:

            @gbdub:

            there are adult books for Game of Thrones

            Do they come with a box of 24 crayons, all red?

            On reflection, it would be much more disturbing if there were Game of Thrones coloring books for kids….

          • Nornagest says:

            Be fair. At least some of them have to be blue.

            You know, for the ice zombie that used to be your friend.

    • Nyx says:

      It flatters the customer that the reason they’re drawing in a colouring book is because of their busy, hectic lives, and not because they have the intellectual capacity of a child.

    • Patrick Merchant says:

      Advertisements are often designed to make you want a product you otherwise wouldn’t even consider buying. Saying “It’s a cool coloring book for niche hobbyists who like coloring” is honest, but claiming that the books are a remedy for “stress” – a highly general phenomenon that almost everyone experiences to some extent – gives it a much broader appeal. Maybe you noticed this was odd because you happen to be someone who genuinely would pick up a coloring book for the heck of it?

    • Caddyshadrach says:

      “Self-care”: A bourgeois term used to justify all the bourgeois stuff you actually enjoy and were going to do anyway, but were inclined to feel bad about, also because you’re bourgeois.

    • Pete says:

      My wife has anxiety and PTSD. Colouring books help her calm down when she feels a panic attack coming on.

      Not sure why the idea seems to be met with such derision here.

      • Shadrack says:

        The notion of coloring books as therapy isn’t what I find amusing, it’s the dominance of coloring books marketed as therapy, as if there could be no other use case.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          I worked at a call center and people there would use just normal colouring books.

        • I find the whole idea amusing because I found coloring books to be tedious and annoying as a kid. I can’t imagine wanting to do one now that I don’t have a teacher trying to foist them on me.

          • LPSP says:

            While I can see this angle strongly, as a teenager I’d have a lot of fun filling things in with the bucket tool in MS Paint, and I can see some value from doing that with real art tools. Not much mind.

            If I wanted to market adult colouring books broadly, I’d emphasis the “muck about and colour everything in wrong” angle, because that’s the most fun aspect by a wide margin.

      • There’s a wide anti-empathy streak in the culture, and I don’t mean just at ssc.

        • Nornagest says:

          Don’t say the word! You’ll summon him.

        • Mr. Breakfast says:

          There has always been a cultural thread of admiring and encouraging toughness, but I don’t think there were that many people who were overtly anti-empathic before “empathy” got weaponized in the culture wars. Just like the related backlash against P.C., people eventually become callous to arguments which get used to limit debate.

        • Salem says:

          It’s not anti-empathy, it’s anti-neoteny.

          If colouring books help Pete’s wife with her PTSD, good for her. What’s everyone else’s excuse? Society pushes a dominant ideal of helplessness on us, and some have fallen for it so hard that encouraging people to grow up, cope, and learn useful skills is “a wide anti-empathy streak in the culture.” No, it is not empathetic to encourage people to regress into childhood. Nor is it empathetic to push people into what they can’t do. It’s about balance.

          But in a world where Finding Dory is a box-office smash, the men prefer video games to work, the women prefer colouring books to achievement, and both live with their parents into their 30s, you won’t convince me the problem is we’re setting the bar too high.

          • Anonymous says:

            Meanwhile all economic indicators show that American men and women are doing plenty of work. Looks to me like you are confusing your personal aesthetic dislike with some sort of objective problem.

          • Ruprect says:

            Serious people, with proper business to be about, here.

            I dunno – isn’t it all cultural? One man’s childish pursuit is another man’s cultural treasure? I mean, at one stage they’ve (the serious people with important things for you to do) said similar things about every form of diversion, didn’t they?

            If the objection is that the diversions are inappropriate for an adult because of their simplicity, then maybe we should simply make our computer games more complex.
            (I suspect that there are computer games that are far more challenging than the average job (except in terms of the level of boredom tolerance required).)

            One of my favourite diversions is whacking at bushes with a stick. It doesn’t get much simpler than that – and nothing wrong with it at all. I’ve been doing it since I was a boy, and I hope to continue to do it up until the day I die.
            Simplicity is good.

            On the other hand, if the objection is that people prefer leisure to work… well, duh? Isn’t that to be expected with an increased level of wealth?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Are we talking about “anti-empathy” in the sense of “everyone needs to toughen up and stop whining”, or in the “lol u triggered” sense?

          • Salem says:

            Anonymous – You’re wrong, and the problem is even worse for young people, and this is true across the developed world, as even a minute’s research would have told you. But please don’t let that stop your drive-by snark based on “all economic indicators” which you are for some reason unable to reference.

            Ruprect – if you want to take your pleasure in childish things, I’m certainly not going to stop you. But people aren’t prepared to say “I’m a child” – at least not yet. Hence why it has to be “therapeutic.”

          • caethan says:

            “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” — C.S. Lewis

          • Chalid says:

            @Salem The 16-25yo participation numbers that you link are in long-term a downward trend due to increased college attendance, and the total labor force participation numbers that you link are trending downward due to an increased fraction of elderly retired people.

            If I was making inferences about national character I’d probably look at something like prime age employment/population ratio, which fell sharply during the great recession and has been recovering slowly but steadily since then.

          • Salem says:

            Chalid – Of course prime age employment/population has recovered since the depths of the recession. But the long-term trend, even on your cherry-picked metric, is a disaster. The story for women is more complicated, because of the shift from household production to paid production, but for men it is starkly clear – see e.g. here. And, as with all these measures, this is a trend across the OECD.

            Incidentally, my thesis that young people are clinging to a neotenous coccoon is not exactly contradicted by your (correct!) contention that many young people are taking an extended adolescence at university. But even that isn’t the whole story. The rise of the NEETs is also a long-term trend.

          • Randy M says:

            an extended adolescence at university.

            I prefer to think of it as a pretirement.

          • Chalid says:

            But the long-term trend, even on your cherry-picked metric, is a disaster. The story for women is more complicated, because of the shift from household production to paid production, but for men it is starkly clear

            First of all, if I’d actually cherry-picked, then I’d have found a better metric. I really don’t appreciate the implication of dishonesty. Also, frankly, you’re the one insisting that we look at particular subgroups. while not mentioning issues unique to those subgroups.

            The long-term trend is hardly a “disaster”. It’s down to (eyeballing) 77% from a high of about 81% at the height of the ’90s tech bubble. Of course it’s up since the late eighties and any date before that. So whether it’s even down depends on how you define long-term. And if you truncate the series at 2007 to take away the Great Recession and its aftereffects there’s not really any reason to think there’s a long-term decline at all.

            So are the total employment rate and the employment rate by age explainable by aging population + increased college attendance + Great Recession? That looks consistent with the data to me!

            The male/female gap needs more work to explain, of course. The report you link suggests that a reduction in demand for labor is what caused the lower participation rate. e.g. “Participation has fallen particularly steeply for less-educated men at the same time as their
            wages have dropped relative to more-educated men, consistent with a decline in demand.” Whereas if men were just turning into overgrown children who don’t want to work, then you’d expect that the lack of supply of good workers would make wages go up, right? (Though I admit that I did not read the whole 43 page report.)

          • Salem says:

            You want to exclude young people, because of university*, but you don’t want to exclude women, because nothing’s happened to the way women work over the past 60 years? Ok, whatever. Being a housewife was absolutely work, you just didn’t get paid for it.

            You know full well what the male labour force participation rate was in the 50s, and what it is today. Why not face up to it?

            I actually agree entirely that “demand” (in your terms) is part of the explanation here; our culture doesn’t just encourage helplessness in individuals, it legislates it. People get into a habit-driven vicious cycle where labour market regulation means there is no demand for low-skilled work, so they sit around watching TV, so they remain low skilled, so… But this isn’t even limited to the unemployed. The irresponsible parents and overgrown children who made poison like Finding Dory a hit are mostly not unemployed. The incapables buying colouring books are mostly not unemployed (or suffering from PTSD, or any problem whatsoever beyond special snowflakeitis). It is a generic problem in our culture.

            We are more productive than ever before, so we should be working harder than ever. Instead, we are saying that we are richer than ever before, so let’s slack off – and worse, let’s hate the productive. I fear the nightmare dystopia of “Economic possibilities for our grandchildren” will come true in time, just somewhat delayed.

            * But I repeat that young people spending more time at university is part of the problem, not an innocent excuse for it.

          • I haven’t seen Finding Dory. What do you think is wrong with it?

          • Chalid says:

            You want to exclude young people, because of university*, but you don’t want to exclude women, because nothing’s happened to the way women work over the past 60 years? Ok, whatever. Being a housewife was absolutely work, you just didn’t get paid for it.

            You know full well what the male labour force participation rate was in the 50s, and what it is today. Why not face up to it?

            If you want to discount rising female participation because being a housewife was “absolutely work”, then I think you have to also discount falling male participation – presumably many of these men who are not formally employed are doing things that would count as “work” by the housewife standard, too.

            But this isn’t even limited to the unemployed. The irresponsible parents and overgrown children who made poison like Finding Dory a hit are mostly not unemployed. The incapables buying colouring books are mostly not unemployed (or suffering from PTSD, or any problem whatsoever beyond special snowflakeitis). It is a generic problem in our culture.

            Wait, so if they’re not unemployed, what’s the problem? Do you have any particular reason to think that employed people who watch Finding Dory instead of Jason Bourne are worse workers, or have their work ethic degraded by the experience?

            The last movie I watched was Zootopia and I feel no shame about admitting it.

          • That's the point says:

            I feel no shame about admitting it.

            Thanks for illustrating the issue.

            Neoteny is a symptom of our current problem. Probably related to the across-the-board drop in testosterone and fertility among whites. Banning adult coloring books won’t help, but pretending that it’s healthy for an adult to play with colored pencils like a toddler is making the issue that much worse.

          • Psmith says:

            presumably many of these men who are not formally employed are doing things that would count as “work” by the housewife standard, too.

            That’s quite a presumption. (See also.).

            You are just a prematurely old man complaining about the kids and their rock and roll.

            >implying that the complaints about the kids and their rock and roll weren’t accurate

          • Anonymous says:

            Yep. Sorry you don’t get to live in the 19th century. I really feel terrible that you have to be stuck in this degraded and decedent age.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >The year of our lord 2015+1
            >Caring about what shitty cartoon animal movie people watch in particular, and what people do in their free time in general

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe we could back up, make it less personal, and try to understand why? It seems to me that this is related to the recent thread on goals, and perhaps a few other SSC themes.

            If we start with the scarcity-mindset assumption that all activity should be goal-directed, I think that leads us to the anti-infantilization position. Adults–and children, for that matter–should either be meeting their immediate needs (food, safety, reproduction), those of their family/friends/tribe/whatever; or they should be developing personal skills or connections to better enable them to meet those needs in the future.

            Childhood is meant to prepare the human for adulthood; it is for acquiring skills and connections during a time of relative inability to productively meet needs so that they can become net positive. (Or, if not, at least distract them and free up the care-giver’s time).
            Childish activities are those that will no longer help the adult to learn any skill or to produce anything. Once one has mastered fine motor control and any applicable vocabulary that coloring in the lines teaches, it is childish. If it is not helping you to develop artistic skills that you can use to produce art that is profitable or at least is pleasurable to others, it is seen as beneath an adults time.

            Whereas physical play will at least improve one’s health, and in a group build social bonds, so it is not a childish activity. But if the physical pleasure is the sole outcome (spinning around in circles, alone or on a roller coaster) it definitely is more childish, possibly to the level of receiving social sanction.

            As scarcity becomes less of a concern, “childish” activities–those with nothing to offer the adult save the fleeting pleasure–will likely receive less scorn. If scarcity is eliminated in some post-singularity world, well then wire-head away.

          • That's the point says:

            The issue with painting Thrive/Survive as equivalent is that the grasshoppers will never admit that seasons change.

            “What do you mean we should tighten our belts, we have so much seed corn left to eat!”

            In this case, we’re well past Peak Adult: the average age of workers is steadily increasing, and our veins of non-murderous immigrants are nearly tapped out. The numbers are pretty clear that we’re already deep into the realm of scarcity, doubly so if you consider population replacement a problem in itself.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’d love to see these “numbers” that show the “veins of non-murderous immigrants are nearly tapped out”.

          • Chalid says:

            @PSmith If you believe that chart is all you need to know, then adding a bunch of women into the workforce and removing a few men is a big win for work.

            @Randy M
            Childish activities are those that will no longer help the adult to learn any skill or to produce anything.

            I think that’s a good start. But I’m pretty sure watching Finding Dory is not less educational or productive than watching, say, Jason Bourne, and I don’t think that Salem and those on his side would criticize people who watch action movies.

          • Randy M says:

            I haven’t seen either. If I wanted to stretch the theory, I’d argue that imagining oneself in situations one might (miiiiiiiight) encounter n real life could be passed off as a useful pastime?

            But then, the plots of Pixar movies are not exactly facile, and a great many adults will probably either have or deal with those who have memory issues at some point.

            Probably it is just that activities superficially like children’s activities get put into the childish category–the kind of thing the CS Lewis quote may be standing against.

            I don’t think anyone gave any better rationale for why adults should put away childish things, and as I don’t find the sentiment nonsense–but certainly can’t myself be said to have done so, as I’ve shown on this thread–I was trying to make sense of it.

          • Salem says:

            The problem with Finding Dory isn’t that it’s a Pixar movie, the problem is that it’s about an incredibly childish adult who is unable to accomplish even the smallest tasks, constantly regresses into childhood, is a constant burden on those around her, and yet is praised and validated for this behaviour. This is the heroine, not the villain!

            For example, when Dory gets lost as a child, her parents give up their lives and stay in one spot, hoping that Dory will find them, and spend all their days, for years and years, creating vast chains of shells across the ocean floor leading to their house, in the hope that Dory will follow the shells (they had previously told Dory to find home by following a small trail of shells they had created). Eventually, Dory, by now an adult, finds a chain of shells, follows it, and finds her parents. She doesn’t say thank you, or remark on their incredible effort and sacrifice. Instead, her parents praise Dory for her great achievement… of following a line of shells.

            The whole film is like that.

            So no, the issue is not that action movies are productive whereas cartoons aren’t, although I am not surprised that Chalid rounds off complaints that our culture infantilises to “need more violence.”

          • Chalid says:

            You know that’s not what I said.

    • Jill says:

      Because every society has taboos. And U.S. culture seems to have a taboo about playing, to some degree. So you are allowed to play if it’s therapeutic or a stress release. You can tell yourself you are doing so for those reasons, not because it’s play or it’s fun.

      • Shadrack says:

        Video games aren’t marketed as therapy. Neither are board games. Neither are madlibs!

        • Jill says:

          Good point. You can play as long as you use elctronics to do so. Since humans must be cyborgs now, use of electronics to do almost anything is permitted, even certain sorts of play, which would otherwise fall under the taboo.

          Board games are not played that often any more. And most of the ones that are, are more serious than playful.

          • I don’t think there’s any justification for the distinction between “serious” and “playful”.

            Back when I lived in the states I got together roughly weekly for a night of board games with some guys, raging in age from 20’s to the 50’s, all of whom had jobs, most of whom had children. Two of the older guys regularly came with their adult sons. I assure you that our games of Francis Drake and Lords of Waterdeep were both very playful and very serious.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Jigsaw puzzles, however, are a permissible adult pastime, no therapy or electronics required. So is Mah Jongg. Also, video games are seen by a large number of people as _not_ an acceptable adult pastime. I don’t think it breaks upon such simple lines.

          • Randy M says:

            Board games are not played that often any more. And most of the ones that are, are more serious than playful.

            What do you base this on?
            Heard about this event?
            Or for some numbers

            As for serious versus playful, I don’t think the differentiation is applicable–any activity done for enjoyment with no consequences is play. Just because one is shooting zombies or nazis doesn’t make it less “playful”. But grown ups really do tend to have different aesthetic preferences in their fantasy than children, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

    • “It’s amusing to think of some abused person, shakily holding back tears, hunched over a coloring book in some tenement, scribbling furiously into these silly tessellated patterns, and then gradually calming down, ready to face another horrible day of oppression tomorrow.”

      I can’t manage to see the humor.

      More generally, I’ve noticed that any invention of a new pastime leads to people viewing it with alarm and/or portraying it as ridiculous. My tentative theory is that some people just get nervous around anything new.

      • Vaniver says:

        My tentative theory is that some people just get nervous around anything new.

        I suspect nervousness only leads to ridicule if it makes sense from a status perspective; what seems like a likely cause here is that if you ridicule the new pastime, it’ll come in as lower status than it otherwise might, which means your entrenched hobbies move higher in the hierarchy (relatively).

  10. Outis says:

    Japan is often noted for being a very ethnically homogeneous country, which prefers to maintain this homogeneity instead of shoring up its population decrease with immigration. One might assume, then, that the Japanese would display the same values in individual interactions. But I have had several experiences to the contrary.

    I speak some Japanese, even though I’ve never visited the place, and often end up chatting with Japanese travelers or expats because of that. Somehow, pretty much every Japanese man I befriend ends up telling me that I should go to Japan and find a Japanese girlfriend. A Japanese guy I randomly met at a bar even said that I should go and “bring some new genes to Japan”. Another said that it would be good for me to go, even though it may be bad for him, because of the increased competition.

    Isn’t that weird? Has anyone seen something similar? How can we explain such a disconnect between national values and individual values?

    (tl;dr for this red-tribe neocon tea-partier alt-right community of death eaters: is Japan based or cucked?)

    • Shadrack says:

      Is your sample skewed? You mentioned travelers and expats…

      • Outis says:

        That’s one of the reasons I’m asking – I hope someone here has a better sample. Since I’ve never been to Japan, travelers, international students and expats are the only Japanese I have met.

        But I have also met people from many other countries, and I have only gotten this kind of reaction from the Japanese.

      • onyomi says:

        Yes, I think your sample is skewed. The type of Japanese who worry about Japanese cultural/racial purity are not the type you are likely to meet outside Japan.

        I have even been told by Japanese who have lived abroad for more than a year or so, that they themselves feel slightly “tainted” in the eyes of their countrymen: as if simply living abroad for any significant amount of time pollutes the unique, delicate Japanese sensibility. To the extent the Japanese expats do actually perceive such a bias against themselves for having spent too much time abroad, of course, they are all the more likely to speak disparagingly about how their home country needs “new blood,” or what have you.

        There’s something they call shimaguni konjou, or “island nation mentality,” a term used with both a positive and a negative valence. Your friends sound more like they’d complain about the negative side of this supposed insularity, but others, of the type you’re less likely to meet outside Japan, might even say this with a subtle pride: “yes, we Japanese are different, and maybe we are insular, but there are just some things you can’t understand if you didn’t grow up here–maybe even if you’ve been away too long you forget them.”

        This relates also to pseudosciencish endeavors sometimes called Nihonjin ron (“theories of Japaneseness”) (as well as the more explicitly nationalistic kokugaku of the 19th c.) which have fortunately mostly fallen out of favor trying to prove all kinds of unique things about the Japanese–everything from, the Japanese digestive system is uniquely suited to rice and unsuited to cheese, or what have you.

        • Outis says:

          Interesting, but the profile doesn’t match the Japanese I’ve met. None of the people I’m talking about ever said anything negative about Japan. None of them had been abroad for more than a year. The most explicit “new genes” guy was on a one-week business trip.

          • onyomi says:

            You might also be disproportionately meeting the Japanese equivalent of “blue tribe.” Like, if you are a French person, how often are you going to meet Trump supporters on business trips to France?

          • Shadrack says:

            @onyomi:

            That exact thought crossed my mind too.

    • Ruprect says:

      Yeah, I agree with this, and I don’t really think it’s a skewed sample.

      When I went to Japan, with my Japanese girlfriend, I had young Japanese guys (girlfriend’s girlfriend’s boyfriends) coming up to me trying to engage me in conversations about how good Japanese pussy was. When I got offended by this (other guys objectifying my girlfriend), I was the bad guy. Well, fuck that.

      I’ve also, in Japan, when with a group of male friends, had groups of Japanese men eager to recommend the Japanese women to me. I think it’s just because so much of what we think is a logical response to whatever shit we imagine is going on, is just a peculiar and particular cultural phenomena.
      Or maybe the fact that the Japanese are so culturally/ethnically homogenous (or secure) means that they just aren’t that concerned about interracial relationships, and their natural interest in conversations about sex takes precedence over this.
      I mean, if someone from North Korea came to my country, I might recommend democracy to him. If I didn’t feel threatened, I might even recommend that he came to live in my country. Right?

      • onyomi says:

        Generally speaking, I don’t think the theory holds that people who are less likely to experience interracial relationships are less likely to worry about them.

        That said, apparently the Koreans tend to be bothered by the “white guy-Korean girl” pairing much more than the Japanese due to the history.

        • Ruprect says:

          It’s a near-far culture thing.

          Perhaps for Japan, any far culture is far – for Korea ( because of Japanese invasion) less so.

          • I suspect the Korean reaction is more because of the massive American presence for the last several decades. I could understand how Koreans might feel that American GIs are taking “their women.”

          • Sandy says:

            But Japan’s military has basically been replaced by American troops for the last 60 years, and there’s been plenty of bad press during that time about molestation and rapes of Japanese women by American soldiers.

            I suspect the Korean reaction is more about the “comfort women” part of their history, so they’re wary of foreigners making designs on their women. The Japanese have no comparable paradigm; hell, they were the foreigners for much of that part of Korean history. And the Japanese brought their own theories of racial supremacy along for the subjugation of Korea.

            There is actually quite a bit of North Korean propaganda condemning interracial marriage in South Korea (not just white/Korean, but Japanese/Korean too) and positioning the North as the true, undiluted Korean race.

      • Tekhno says:

        I had young Japanese guys (girlfriend’s girlfriend’s boyfriends) coming up to me trying to engage me in conversations about how good Japanese pussy was. When I got offended by this (other guys objectifying my girlfriend), I was the bad guy. Well, fuck that.

        Given the stereotypes about Japan being all about manners, you’d think they’d have too much tact for that. I can’t imagine anyone in my country doing that, unless they had some kind of mental illness.

        and their natural interest in conversations about sex takes precedence over this.

        That’s interesting. As someone who has never visited, my pop-culture stereotype of them is sexually repressed perverts who have all this sexualized media, but are quite reticent to talk about sex in public or even have it if the birthrates are to be believed. From the sounds of it, this stereotype is totally wrong, and they aren’t repressed enough!

        • Saint Fiasco says:

          They might have felt uninhibited because they were talking to a foreigner. If they are aware that foreigners see Japanese as a very polite people, they might have overcompensated.

        • Nornagest says:

          Selection bias is selective.

        • VivaLaPanda says:

          I think arguing that Japanese culture is highly sex-negative just doesn’t make sense. I think the ways in which sexuality is framed are just different. Japanese media is much more openly sexual (and often more careful about portrayals of violence), and historic Japanese media is often filled with innuendo. If you read Japanese literature, sexuality often takes a fairly major role (No Longer Human). Pointing towards birthrates is just silly, that’s common across developed countries, and is compounded by their patriarchal society and work culture more than by people not liking sex enough. In terms of public discourse in person, I would know less, but the presence in media to me would indicate that discourse isn’t unheard of.

          Now feel free to ignore everything I just said, as I’m not Japanese nor a historian/anthropologist with a specialty in this area. What we really need is someone who grew up in Japan and moved to the US to chip in.

          • Fahundo says:

            I think arguing that Japanese culture is highly sex-negative just doesn’t make sense.

            Pointing towards birthrates is just silly

            Now feel free to ignore everything I just said, as I’m not Japanese nor a historian/anthropologist with a specialty in this area. What we really need is someone who grew up in Japan and moved to the US to chip in.

            This guy grew up in Japan and mostly seems to agree

        • onyomi says:

          This brings up to me an interesting broader point: the tendency to erroneously generalize the dynamics of personal variation to the level of culture.

          That is, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to generalize about a culture, but that there may be a human tendency to make the following sort of error: people who are less outgoing in my culture also tend to be more prudish. Therefore, cultures which are less outgoing will also be more prudish.

          But it doesn’t work that way.

        • LPSP says:

          Japan is the nation of perversion. That is not a joke or exaggeration. The manners thing serves many purposes, and masking the innate sexuality of the Japanese people is just one. Without the insane “you must spend 19 million years doing just this one thing as intensely as possible to understand your social status” type rules, you get to see their true thought processes.

          I think it can be charming, but as surprises go it’s definitely in the eyebrow-raiser category.

    • Yakimi says:

      (tl;dr for this red-tribe neocon tea-partier alt-right community of death eaters: is Japan based or cucked?)

      If you’re lumping neocons in with “death-eaters”, I don’t think you know much about either.

      Japan is, of course, “cucked”, and has been since 1945. Some Westerners might consider Japan “based”, but that is only because their countries appear by comparison even more “cucked”.

      Contrary to popular Western opinion, Japan is not a xenophobic country. Turn on a television here and you’ll find that xenophilia is far, far more common than xenophobia, of which there is none. The universities are churning out hordes of “global citizens”. Even our supposedly restrictive immigration policy is far less restrictive than was America’s prior to 1965—national quotas are unthinkable. There is only some lingering parochial attitudes which, not to worry, are in rapid retreat.

      The only reason why Japan looks xenophobic is because the members of the International Community are supposed to march in glorious unison towards the universalist millennium ushered in by the Allied conquest of the world. By dragging its feet on a few issues, Japan’s slightly delayed liberalism is mistaken for a reactionary revolt by Westerners.

      The selection of “international Japanese” you’ve met are also those who have likely been contaminated with the American-bred enthusiasm for so-called diversity. They are best thought of as being crypto-Americans.

      • Tekhno says:

        If you’re lumping neocons in with “death-eaters”, I don’t think you know much about either.

        That’s the joke!

        • Outis says:

          It is indeed. I was making fun of how the left is completely uninterested in the differences between those movements, and quickly starts using any such term as a generic short-hand for “especially bad right wing”, as seen in recent comments on this very blog.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “No one” knows anything about the death eaters.

            Seriously, they aren’t even a blip on the radar. Especially in the U. S. Bring back monarchy? That’s for places that have a figurehead right now.

          • Outis says:

            Yes, of course. “Neocons” are almost forgotten, “tea partiers” are on their way, “alt-right” is popular now, and maybe death eaters are next, maybe don’t. The point was to extend the series for comedic effect, not to map out the Politburo’s five-year plan on opponent demonization.

      • LPSP says:

        Xenophilia isn’t really the right word. Sycophancy is a much better fit.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      Are you Hispanic/black/other minority or white?

      I think you would have a different reaction depending on your race. I mean, I’d have a hard time believing that these Japanese expats would be saying “come sleep with our women in Japan” if you were black or Indian.

    • Jill says:

      There are tons of articles about this. Just google Japan babies or something like that. Here is one. They seem to have stopped having sex, apparently.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/young-people-japan-stopped-having-sex

    • LPSP says:

      “this red-tribe neocon tea-partier alt-right community of death eaters: is Japan based or cucked?”

      – I know this remark was made at least partly in jest but – have you ever actually been to /pol/? This is open-minded rational sharing of ideas-topia.

      • Deeply Offended /pol/ack says:

        Eh, the big difference between chan culture vs SSC culture is less how open they are to new ideas than tone of discussion.

        After all look at the range of opinion expressed on /ratanon/: if anything, the overton window is a hell of a lot wider. Since Multi went fully anonymous and the Reign of Terror got the main Death Eaters here the most extreme regular posters are Trump and Bernie partisans.

        Capital-N Niceness is good for a lot of things but if anything it makes airing fringe views more difficult.

        • LPSP says:

          There is no one chan culture. Each board is different. SSC is a much smaller and, unsurprisingly, more homogenous community than all of 4chan, and is far more fairly compared to a specific board. Which is why I brought up /pol/.

          That point aside, I suppose we’re using/reading “open-minded” in a different sense, which is understandable. 4chan is very receptive to new ideas, but if it doesn’t like them it will throw a brick at you and call you every bad name under the sun. It’s easy for an outsider from reddit or tumblr to mistake this for close-mindedness overall, when it’s actually a very accepting (if rough) group. But /pol/ – /pol/ is different. /pol/ is actually what Outis meant by death eaters and worse. Heck, the death eaters are fully sympathetic. This is coming from someone who frequented /pol/ on a daily basis between 2012 to 2015. Eventually it became all the same to me so I stopped, but I keep an eye on it or hear enough to know it’s the same. Decent discussion on /pol/ is like nutrition in poo. My intent isn’t to deeply offend you any further but just to be frank – which may as I acknowledged earlier be unnecessary, given the not-particularly-serious nature of the original quibble.

  11. Incurian says:

    Anyone have advice for the best way to study for the GRE? I have about 90 days.

    • Outis says:

      You’re taking the GRE? Congratulations, you must have worked very hard to complete your undergrad education. Keep up the good work!

    • Anon. says:

      Keep track of what you’re good at and what you suck at. Focus on your weakest areas. Solve as many mock exams/practice questions as you can. Focus on problems that are above your current level. Every question you get right is wasted time, every question you get wrong is a learning opportunity. If you find you have problems with time, tackle that issue early on.

      I don’t know about the GRE, but for the GMAT there were a couple dozen “shortcuts” that greatly simplified some types of problems, you have to memorize these.

    • Odoacer says:

      I went through a test-prep book. I found the verbal much harder than the math section. I made a lot of vocabulary flash cards, but didn’t study as much for the math. If you can recognize what that math questions are asking, then you can really fly through that section.

    • Utopn Naxl says:

      Yup! Well, I can help with the math tutoring part. Its more logical to build up ability in that.

      Buy the GRE books from the main three sources, and buy the books for two years in a row. That’s 6 different books. Its to have a large amount of possible sample problems. Since each book usually has 2-3 practice tests at the end, and lots of chapter problems, you won’t easily remember them all.

      Fast method: Take the sample test at the front or back. Take two of them. Go over the sections with missed problems. Repeat as needed.

      The slower method is simply going over every problem in the book and the sections.

      • Chalid says:

        It’s been a long while since I took the GRE, but I recall the problems in the main GRE prep books being *far* more difficult than the problems on the real test.

    • Psycicle says:

      I did not find it all that difficult.

      I’d describe it as a slightly difficulty-boosted version of the SAT. The math problems are not difficult at all, being just a bit more finicky than the SAT math section. The writing part I found to be easier than the SAT writing, because for the GRE you can type your essay. So if you have touch-typing skills, and the ability to make up some nice-sounding paragraphs about stuff, that part shouldn’t give you any trouble.

      The one part where there is a sizeable difficulty boost is the reading/writing section, because damn do they go for some pretty hard words. But that’d be kind of hard to prepare for.

      So, yeah, if you did good on the SAT, can touch-type, are fluent with algebra and a little bit of trig, and are one of those literate internet-dwellers, you can probably just show up and succeed, that’s what I did.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I know someone who just took the GRE, and she said basically this: it’s a scaled-up version of the SAT.

      • Tedd says:

        Ditto, with a caveat.

        I got perfect scores on both quantitative and verbal with zero prep, but only ~85%ile on analytic writing, even though I’d thought I had done about as well on it. Unlike the other sections you cannot simply choose the correct answer, so I would say it’s a good idea to figure out in advance which criteria they’re optimizing for.

        Or not. The (STEM) programs I was applying to didn’t care about your writing score as long as it wasn’t “illiterate”, so it may not be worth your time.

      • Utopn Naxl says:

        IMO, the way the GRE approaches the verbal ability section is horrible.

        They should just take the logic section and the reading comp section from the LSAT and slap them in there, get rid of the vocab, and it would be way more useful.

        It would actually start even being useful for engineers too! So many dudes who ain’t a fan of book-readin and don’t care for vocabulary still perform well on the logical reasoning section, but have only OK vocabs.

    • Kevin says:

      I purchased the Barron’s GRE prep book with CD (to simulate the computerized test environment) and did all the practice tests/sections. Getting to see the user interface for the computerized test before walking into the actual test center is helpful. A word of caution: the CD does not simulate the adaptive testing (at least it didn’t in 2010), so when you take the actual test, you may notice questions getting harder. That means you’re doing well.

    • Incurian says:

      Thanks to everyone for the advice! 🙂 I will certainly take it more seriously now. I’ll write feedback in November.

  12. I would like to talk about greatly simplifying government. I wrote a book about this, but here I just want to get some feedback on these issues.

    Simplification is greatly needed to increase government effectiveness and for voters to hold politicians accountable. Our government can barely be called a democracy when voters can only comprehend a tiny portion of the government. And even politicians and government officials only understand a small part of our immense government.

    My principles of simplification are:
    1) Each jurisdiction should not overlap the functions of the other jurisdictions.
    2) Government should be limited to only those functions that make sense for them to do.
    3) Government officials must tell constituents that they cannot solve all their problems.

    In addition, every government activity must be to either supply public goods (be a natural monopoly) or to re-distribute income, or should be rejected. No activity should be a combination of supplying public goods and redistribution. Combining those activities greatly complicates the process and lowers government effectiveness and voter accountability.

    The clearest example of the benefit of simplification is welfare in the US. The Feds have 78 different means tested programs. If all spending on welfare programs were turned into one program with cash payments to the poor, we could easily end all poverty in the US.

    • Anonymous says:

      In addition, every government activity must be to either supply public goods (be a natural monopoly) or to re-distribute income, or should be rejected.

      I’m sure someone will manage to think of an activity that doesn’t fall under either descriptor. (Are laws against murder considered a public good?)

      Principle 3 seems less about simplification than about ideology (don’t disagree, though).

      • Shadrack says:

        Are laws against murder considered a public good?

        I think David Friedman wrote about that once. Since he’s a somewhat public figure, I’d guess he does regular internet searches for his name, so maybe he’ll pop in and say something here.

      • Law enforcement is a public good. It can be done by the private market but it is much more effective when done by the government.

        I’m not sure what you mean by your last comment. It seems to me that all of my opinions are ideology. How is principle # 3 different? I include that one here because much of the complications of government occurs because politicians feel they must solve any problem of their constituents that arises.

    • Yehoshua K says:

      I don’t think you go quite far enough, but I like what you say, so far as it goes.

    • Shadrack says:

      I kinda like your idea, but if we gave cash payments to the poor, what percentage would mostly spend it on things like lottery tickets, drugs, or eating out every night, while continuing to “experience poverty”?

      • That is part of simplification. We can’t solve every problem that exists. If welfare recipients use the money poorly, the government is not responsible for that.

        I know there are some people that are simply not competent to handle their own finances. The best solution for this is help from family, friends and non-profit organizations. But if government decides to wade into this mess, this should be done by the same agency that hands out the cash, to keep control and so everyone knows where the money is going.

        My point in simplification is to make government as simple as possible. Life is complicated, so some complications are necessary, but we need to have as a major government concept to keep it as simple as possible. There is no concept like this in government now. Without such guidance politicians an government officials have been making the system very inefficient and ineffective because it is so complicated.

        • Shadrack says:

          I know there are some people that are simply not competent to handle their own finances. The best solution for this is help from family, friends and non-profit organizations.

          Most of the poor people I’ve met probably don’t have family and friends who are competent or otherwise able to help them. As for non-profits, the line between them and government quickly blurs.

          None of that is to dissuade from your idea which I still like, just something I think you ought to know.

        • DavidS says:

          Doesn’t this break your own rules? Teaching people how to manage money is not redistribution or dealing with public goods and natural monopolies.

      • SilasLock says:

        I think that’s a terrible argument for rejecting a cash-transfer system.

        The poor are human beings just like anyone else. Some are responsible, some are not. While its possible to use poverty as a proxy measurement for personal responsibility (and thus your likelihood to spend your money on important things), it is by no means the most optimal method available. If we’re trying to ensure responsible expenditures, we should engage in cash transfers while also attempting to determine how responsible everyone is, not just welfare recipients. If someone proves incapable of purchasing the “right” things, then impose spending mandates for certain essential goods equal to the size of the cash transfer.

        Just because your money comes from a welfare program doesn’t mean the government has the right to monitor your spending habits. If the government DOES have the right to mess with your spending, then apply that principle to everyone, not just welfare recipients.

        I’ve known friends whose personal finances were dependent on welfare programs, and from their anecdotes dealing with government paperwork and anti-abuse mechanisms is an absolute nightmare. It sucks up time they could be using to improve their situation in life, and takes away a lot of basic dignity. These are the people who are the most vulnerable in our society; when we use things like food stamps as a substitute for cash transfers, we impose a substantial cost on the very people we are trying to help. It may be worth it to prevent stupid people from spending their money on stupid things, but the accompanying costs are very real.

        • gbdub says:

          “Just because your money comes from a welfare program doesn’t mean the government has the right to monitor your spending habits.”

          If your friend comes to you asking for $200 to help them pay rent this month, are you not allowed to be pissed if they spend it on beer and get evicted anyway? Would this not reduce your sense of obligation if they ask again in the future?

          While in general I think we should let poor people do what they want with welfare funds, that only works if you also have consequences for bad decisions. Otherwise you’re incentivizing profligacy (I can be super responsible with my limited welfare, which is no fun, or I can spend everything knowing I’ll get bailed out). “Here’s $1000 a month, do what you will” only works if there’s an actual “and that’s all you’re gonna get from us”.

          • The problem isn’t just profligacy, there’s also incompetence. There are people who are mentally disorganized, or stupid, or easily defrauded.

            I have no idea what proportion of poor people are trying reasonably hard or very hard and just need more money vs. those who could do better with a moderate amount of effort but just piss money away vs. those who really can’t manage. I’m willing to bet that all those sorts of people have at least 10% presence among the poor. I expect that the basically competent people are a higher proportion when the economy is bad.

          • gbdub says:

            Yes, there is that too. Unless you’re willing to let the incompetent die in the streets, you have to monitor their spending in some way, provide them goods and services directly (even then they may sell them for cash), etc., otherwise they become an infinite money sink.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            We shouldn’t just randomly start investigating how people on welfare spend money. As long as we give people money, we’re giving it to them. But I’m willing to hear how we change those laws. Be Nice Until You Can Coordinate Meanness.

          • brad says:

            Doesn’t this prove too much? Our welfare programs are already pretty heavily weighted towards cash and relatively easy cash substitutes. The big exception being medicaid.

            We don’t have government sponsored soup kitchens where anyone can go and get a hot meal anytime. Instead we have food stamps, which even if they aren’t traded for cash outright can still be blown early in the month.

            If people blowing their money and then starving in the streets was going to be a major problem for a more cash based system then shouldn’t it already be an at least medium sized problem?

          • SilasLock says:

            @ gbdub

            I think we’re viewing the role of government through two different lenses.

            If your friend comes to you asking for $200 to help them pay rent this month, are you not allowed to be pissed if they spend it on beer and get evicted anyway?

            In your example, making sure your friend’s money is spent responsibly makes perfect sense. Of course he needs to spend the $200 on his rent, that’s the whole reason you gave it to him!

            But this is a private matter between two people, where both agree to the transaction. You’re allowed to give charitably with some strings attached. Government is, in my opinion, not a substitute for private charity. It shouldn’t be a tool where, if 90% of the population want to give to charity with strings attached, they can rope in the other 10% and give to charity together.

            Unlike in your example, where there is an implicit behavioral contract between you and your friend who needs $200, there is no such contract between “society”, acting through the government, and the recipients of welfare.

            Consider the implications if it were so (I apologize for the long upcoming extended example). There is a basic public good that we all believe the government should provide: law enforcement.

            … okay, granted, maybe not anarcho-capitalists. But they’re special snowflakes. =P

            Imagine a society where all government activity is funded through a single progressive income tax, with those with lower incomes not paying any tax whatsoever. Then all of a sudden, a terrorist attack occurs! Everyone gets into a national security mindset, and many prominent political leaders begin to make law and order a central theme of their campaigns. Most promise to pour extra funding into the police force and to place armed enforcers on every street corner.

            But several middle and upper class taxpayers protest. They claim that such policies would infringe upon their basic freedoms, and won’t stand for the presence of a militarized police. However, they still advocate for the new policies to apply to poorer neighborhoods. After all, the poor only receive the protection of the state through the taxes paid by the upper and middle classes, right? And surely most crime occurs in poorer neighborhoods?

            And so, in deference to the taxpayer who so generously provides protection to the non-taxpayer, the stricter security measures only apply to the poor.

            This situation is clearly unjust. The reason? The government isn’t a tool of the taxpayer and beholden to his/her terms and conditions. It provides law enforcement as a matter of basic justice.

            When the government redistributes income, the money no longer belongs to the upper and middle classes who pay taxes. The money now belongs to the poor as a matter of basic justice. Welfare programs that infringe upon your financial discretion are not analogous to your example of a friend who needs $200, because the $200 are not yours to give. We’re not ensuring that the poor use the public’s money responsibly. We’re ensuring that the poor use the poor’s money responsibly. The taxpayer has no special say in the matter.

            Of course, this is not to say that the government has to be stupid about welfare. It’s allowed to understand incentive systems, game theory, and whatever else allows it to build a functioning society. Imposing restrictions on the behavior of citizens such as their spending patterns, is acceptable (albeit a little draconian). But it cannot impose those restrictions on people merely because they are dependent on the public purse. If we can impose spending restrictions on the private individuals who are poor, we can impose spending restrictions on private individuals who are rich.

            @ Nancy Lebovitz

            I have no idea what proportion of poor people are trying reasonably hard or very hard and just need more money vs. those who could do better with a moderate amount of effort but just piss money away vs. those who really can’t manage.

            Unfortunately, I have no idea either. No one does, the data just doesn’t exist. =P

            But we really need to collect it. If we’re committed to treating individuals as individuals and not as members of groups, then we need to find out a case by case basis whether someone will spend a cash transfer responsibly. Using income as a proxy for responsibility is incredibly inefficient and lumps together many

            poor people [who] are trying reasonably hard or very hard and just need more money

            and

            those who really can’t manage

            The history of using these sorts of proxies is riddled with mistakes. In the mid 19th century, people argued that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they were, on the whole, less rational and level-headed than men and would dilute the electorate. John Stuart Mill argued against this in The Subjection of Women using much the same reasoning that I am now. To colloquially paraphrase his words:

            Really? How do we know that women are less rational and level-headed than men? I really think we should try doing a lot of experiments to determine this empirically, rather than trying to rely upon our pre-conceived notions of a woman’s nature. Besides, even if the average woman is less rational than the average man, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of irrational men and plenty of rational women. If we’re really concerned about having a level-headed electorate, we should just determine which people aren’t level-headed and take away their votes. No need to use gender as a really bad proxy. I’m not a big fan of taking away the votes of non-level-headed people, but it’s better than doing the same to an entire gender.

            Similarly:

            Really? How do we know that the poor are more likely to mis-spend their money than the rich? I really think we should try doing a lot of experiments to determine this empirically, rather than trying to rely upon our pre-conceived notions of how the financially-disadvantaged behave. Besides, even if the average welfare recipient is less responsible than the average taxpayer, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of irresponsible taxpayers and plenty of responsible welfare recipients. If we’re really concerned about having people consume the “right things”, we should just determine which people aren’t fiscally responsible and impose spending mandates on them. No need to use income as a really bad proxy. I’m not a big fan of taking away the financial discretion of people that the government deems “irresponsible”, but it’s better than doing the same to an entire group of extremely vulnerable people.

            I hope this manages to convince some people. Welfare reform is a really important political issue, and our current system is not up to snuff.

          • The Nybbler says:

            When the government redistributes income, the money no longer belongs to the upper and middle classes who pay taxes. The money now belongs to the poor as a matter of basic justice.

            How is it a matter of basic justice to redistribute money? Aside from the basic procedural ‘justice’ of “it was voted for”?

            If the redistributive programs were adopted because “the poor are starving and living in the streets”, then how does an unsupervised handout avoid the problem of the bottomless pit of need? The money is taken and redistributed, and now 20% fewer of the poor are starving and living in the streets, whooopeee!

            OK, but what about the other 80%? Redistribute some more money! OK, now you got another 5% off the street.

            Do it again! Got another 1%.

            Do it again! Wait, now we’ve got MORE people on the street; turns out our high taxes have pushed some people over the edge. Worse, as we’ve been pouring more money into the poor, we’ve been getting greater and greater problems with poor alcoholics and addicts.

            At some point you’re going to want to consider some sort of supervision, or someone’s going to figure out your solution isn’t actually working.

          • Randy M says:

            Similarly

            I don’t think it is so much. There is a logical and observable link between “level of funds available for necessities” and “amount of impulse control” in a way that isn’t represented in the first discussion.

            If we’re really concerned about having people consume the “right things”

            This is silly. The better arguments against expanding the public dole would be about the justice of taking lawfully earned money to provide non-necessities to those that aren’t willing or able to earn it themselves, distorting incentives in a world in which scarcity is still a concern. It may be hard for utilitarians to understand, but most people want to mitigate the suffering of their countrymen more than they want to provide them with a limitless stream of utilons.

            (I’m choosing my words carefully as certainly there may exist some who want to make sure government funds aren’t spent on things that are immoral or fattening or whatever but that kind of paternalism isn’t the more important point.)

            But it cannot impose those restrictions on people merely because they are dependent on the public purse.

            This is exactly backwards. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Spending restrictions are almost only justified because the money comes from the public purse, short of objects entirely banned for reasons of public safety. Maybe restrictions aren’t necessary or even optimal, empirically, but a program to give people food or food vouchers so they won’t starve is morally justified no less than a program to give funds with no strings attached.

            Welfare reform is a really important political issue, and our current system is not up to snuff.

            You can convince me of this, but not by denying the relationship between spending habits and need for assistance.

          • SilasLock says:

            @ The Nybbler

            I think you might be strawmanning me a little. = /

            I stated in my post that it’s acceptable for the government to supervise people’s spending, but I disputed that the right to do so must derive from the supervisee being a welfare recipient.

            Of course, this is not to say that the government has to be stupid about welfare. It’s allowed to understand incentive systems, game theory, and whatever else allows it to build a functioning society. Imposing restrictions on the behavior of citizens such as their spending patterns, is acceptable (albeit a little draconian). But it cannot impose those restrictions on people merely because they are dependent on the public purse. If we can impose spending restrictions on the private individuals who are poor, we can impose spending restrictions on private individuals who are rich.

            My framework doesn’t allow for the kind of dystopian nightmare you’re describing because it allows for the government to impose restrictions on people’s spending.

            Like, think of it this way.

            If half the population today (who are not on welfare) suddenly started purchasing alcohol and drugs en masse, stopped feeding their children, and lost all semblance of fiscal responsibility, only the most hardcore libertarian would shrug their shoulders and allow them to ruin their own lives. The government probably has an obligation to force them to feed their own kids with their own money and to not engage in such self-destructive lifestyles.

            The same logic applies to welfare recipients. But we shouldn’t paint them with as broad a brush and place such uniform restrictions on their spending as we do now.

            How is it a matter of basic justice to redistribute money? Aside from the basic procedural ‘justice’ of “it was voted for”?

            On the other hand, this is a really good point! There are plenty of political theories that make redistribution a matter of basic justice, however. John Rawls’s work is the first one that comes to mind (though I’m not his biggest fan).

            It’s entirely possible to claim that the poor have an absolute right to the money of the wealthy (with the same strength that libertarians claim you have an absolute right to your own property) if you select the right theory of justice.

            I don’t know what theory you’re using, though. Where do you stand on property rights?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I stated in my post that it’s acceptable for the government to supervise people’s spending, but I disputed that the right to do so must derive from the supervisee being a welfare recipient.

            Certainly there are other possible bases for that power; a general power to supervise people’s spending could derive from a paternalistic theory of government. But I think there’s a good case for a particular power to supervise spending deriving from the supervisee being a welfare recipient.

            If half the population today (who are not on welfare) suddenly started purchasing alcohol and drugs en masse, stopped feeding their children, and lost all semblance of fiscal responsibility, only the most hardcore libertarian would shrug their shoulders and allow them to ruin their own lives. The government probably has an obligation to force them to feed their own kids with their own money and to not engage in such self-destructive lifestyles.

            The most hardcore libertarian — and that half of the population. Which makes this counterfactual somewhat uninteresting; if half your population has suddenly gone mad, paternalism or tyranny may be a matter of survival. But I don’t think it illuminates the real-life situation much.

            I don’t know what theory you’re using, though. Where do you stand on property rights?

            Generally I’m for them.

            I agree that if you accept that the poor deserve redistribution from the rich as a matter of right, then no power of supervision can derive from that redistribution. But I think welfare is typically enacted not on that basis, but on the basis that it will solve some societal problem (homelessness, starvation), and in that case, a power of supervision can derive from it.

          • SilasLock says:

            @ The Nybbler

            I agree that if you accept that the poor deserve redistribution from the rich as a matter of right, then no power of supervision can derive from that redistribution. But I think welfare is typically enacted not on that basis, but on the basis that it will solve some societal problem (homelessness, starvation), and in that case, a power of supervision can derive from it.

            I actually think we have a lot to agree on, then. I’m also generally in favor of property rights (with some strong exceptions, as you might have guessed =P ), and I concur that welfare is generally enacted to solve some societal ill.

            I wish it weren’t so, however. Welfare is a weak solution to most social ills, which tend not to vanish with the occasional bout of public assistance. I’d prefer that we used it as a tool to decrease the gini coefficient more generally, for its own sake.

          • @Brad “Our welfare programs are already pretty heavily weighted towards cash and relatively easy cash substitutes.”

            This is not true. Look at this web site with 2008 data, and scroll down a bit to see the list of Federal programs.

            Note that only about 154 billion of the 714 billion spent is for cash programs.

            I would really encourage everyone to look at this link of 78 means tested programs out there ( in 2008, much higher now). This list really shows the Feds out of control and is the best example I have of the extra costs of overly complicated government.

            SilasLock, I cannot agree with you that the government doesn’t have the right to govern all spending that the government supplies to welfare recipients. And yet I agree with your conclusion that we should not be controlling the spending of the poor. You are correct that the poor have to spend a lot of time and effort to jump through welfare hoops, but it is the excessive government cost and effort that I am concerned about. My point that we could easily bring every welfare recipient out of poverty if we just sent them cash shows that so much spending is to control the poor instead of simply getting them out of poverty, which should be the aim of welfare.

            As I said before, there are some folks who are simply incompetent with their finances, and I do think we shouldn’t just let them starve. But the government should only take on the practice of controlling poor people’s spending if it is a voluntary decision of the recipient. And when the government does this, they need to take total control of such person’s spending, maybe even to the point of institutionalizing them. The government’s current over-spending is due to the hap-hazard approach of setting up a new program every time someone sees a problem, and also a hap-hazard approach of control. If the recipient agrees on total control by the government, then the government needs to control this spending very closely. Such recipients will cost more than those that get cash, but not enormously more because of enforced cost controls.

          • Have an example– one of the big failures is getting homeless people “ready ” for housing, which includes requiring them to pass drug tests.

            It turns out that just giving people housing works better, at least if you want them to not be homeless.

            Drug-using people are permitted to have housing, generally speaking. You don’t need to pass a drug test to rent or get a mortgage.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2881444/

    • Jill says:

      Mark, is your book out yet? What’s its title?

      Sounds like a great idea.

      It seems like government just clunks along inefficiently. It would be good if citizens and Congress and the pres could agree to overhaul it, to make it more efficient. We would have to let go of our heavily and partisan way of doing politics, in order to do so. And I hope we do.

      Right now, the GOP dominated Congress just wants to cut government expenses, except in areas where their own donors want maintained or increased spending. So they are not interested in making government more efficient, only in cutting programs the Dems want. The Dems have interests in doing various things with government e.g. repair of our badly decaying infrastructure. But that doesn’t matter, because both Houses of Congress are GOP dominated right now, and nothing Dems want can get through Congress.

      If Dems can get Congress back, or if 3rd parties can start getting more Congress people in, maybe there could be some shifts in this. With the GOP still in control, we would just keep getting more of what we have been getting.

      • gbdub says:

        Yes, government is inefficient, on that we agree. I’m not sure why you only blame one party for this situation though.

        “The Dems have interests in doing various things with government e.g. repair of our badly decaying infrastructure.”

        If this is a priority for Democrats, why did they fail to do it in the early Obama administration, when they controlled both houses AND the presidency, and had a mandate to spend lots of money during the recession? Instead they went for broke on ACA and lost the House over it.

        Right now the Republicans can’t do anything they want, because Obama vetoes it and they lack veto (or filibuster) proof majorities. Playing spoiler is all they really can do, despite their “dominance”. It takes two sides to cause gridlock.

        “We would have to let go of our heavily and partisan way of doing politics” – by particularly demonizing Republicans and expecting them to fall in line with the Democratic agenda, apparently. Would you be making the same claims if President Romney were clashing with a Democratic congress?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @gbdub:
          They had control of both houses with a filibuster proof majority for a remarkably short period of time. Al Franken wasn’t sworn in until July 9, 2009 and Scott Brown replaced the interim Democratic Massachusetts’s Senator on February 4th, 2010.

          And Republicans in the Senate intentionally made sure as many bills as possible took as much time on the calendar as possible precisely to deny legislative progress to the Democrats.

          The very first bill to be considered on the Senate floor in the 111th Congress, in early January of 2009, before Obama was even inaugurated, was the Public Land Management Act, a sweeping conservation measure with broad bipartisan support that would protect 2 million acres of parks and wilderness in nine states. The Republicans filibustered, forcing a series of votes and requiring a weekend session to finish. The bill eventually passed, 77–20.

          That final vote tells you the tale (well, that and the huge spike in cloture votes since Obama took office).

          • gbdub says:

            Interesting article, thank you. I do maintain though, that the McConnell example basically proves that you can’t be said to “dominate” Congress with the majorities the Republicans currently hold (Also, the sentence immediately before your blockquote notes that this was an escalation of an existing trend, not a purely Republican invention – the article also mentions the “pre-2008 gridlock”).

            I have an bit of an issue with your last parenthetical: the big spike in cloture votes actually occurred in the 110th Congress, when the Republicans lost both houses, but Bush was still in office. There was a peak in cloture votes (motioned for by Reid) in the 113th Congress – that’s where there were a ton of McConnell delays of Obama court nominees. But the Dems are currently filibustering at a quick pace of their own – as seen in the cloture votes of the current Congress, already higher than any pre-2007 Congress and with several months to go. Mostly the Democrats are delaying appropriations bills.

            Aside: I laughed sadly at the line that was something like “This put him in opposition to McCain, who at the time was still beloved by the press corps”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, the escalation of abuse of the norms/rules of the Senate( or Congress as a whole) has been escalating for some time. We could probably argue for a while about what really started it (and you would probably say the Dems with the opposition to the nomination of Bork).

            But, I’d argue that 2009 marks the beginning a categorical difference, not just a numeric one. You can see this in things like near failure of bills to raise the debt ceiling. Yes, everyone loved to posture around the debt ceiling votes before (Obama did it), but essentially no one actually entertained the idea that it shouldn’t actually pass.

            Here is another article that documents the policy of complete opposition that met Obama before he was even inaugurated.

            Yes, the Republicans aren’t dominant right now. They would need to hold the house, the senate and the presidency to be so (and they would probably nuke the filibuster altogether if they got it). But, right now they could get some of what they wanted if they negotiated for it. They have not been willing to do so.

            From 2009 forward they did not want to vote for much of anything that had Obama’s or the Democrats support. They wanted their fingerprints off the legislation. They didn’t want even a single Republican vote for the stimulus bill, for example. Deny Obama and the Democrats any hint of bipartisan cooperation so they could claim that he did not want to engage in cooperation.

            Call me crazy, but given the expressed intent to never cooperate, no matter what, when people then complain that Obama did not want to negotiate or compromise, I find this, well, infuriating on some days, laughable on others and very depressing pretty much all of the days.

          • cassander says:

            >but essentially no one actually entertained the idea that it shouldn’t actually pass.

            No one did this time around either. They just used it for leverage.

            >Here is another article that documents the policy of complete opposition that met Obama before he was even inaugurated.

            This would have been after Eric Cantor got told “elections have consequences” and that his tax reform ideas could go to hell, right? Hardly fair to blame one side for a game both were playing.

            >But, right now they could get some of what they wanted if they negotiated for it. They have not been willing to do so.

            They have, often. Obama has consistently sabotaged those negotiations. Now, of course, trust has been so completely destroyed that no deal was possible, but it didn’t get that way because republicans refused to come to the table.

            >Deny Obama and the Democrats any hint of bipartisan cooperation so they could claim that he did not want to engage in cooperation.

            You mean like how when obama proposed TPP fast track authority and republicans voted it down just to spite him? This meme, while popular, simply is not accurate. republicans were against things they were against, and voted for them on the rare occasions when obama was also for them

          • Jill says:

            “Call me crazy, but given the expressed intent to never cooperate, no matter what, when people then complain that Obama did not want to negotiate or compromise, I find this, well, infuriating on some days, laughable on others and very depressing pretty much all of the days.”

            Just a normal result of the extreme political polarization we have. Depending on what bias the media has that you watch/read/listen to, “Obama did not want to negotiate or compromise” could easily be the only kind of “fact” you are aware of, on the subject.

        • Chalid says:

          @gbdub

          The 2009 stimulus was a major infrastructure bill (among other things), and was as big as it could possibly be and still withstand a filibuster.

      • cassander says:

        >Right now, the GOP dominated Congress just wants to cut government expenses, except in areas where their own donors want maintained or increased spending.

        Remember what people were saying the other day about assuming people in other tribes are stupid or evil Jill? Do democrats not have interest groups to feed that prevent them from running government efficiently? Like, say public employee unions?

      • The name of my book is Simplify Government! It is e-book only. Click on my name to bring you to the Amazon.com site for my book.

        I am glad to hear someone on the Left is interested in this. I admit that I lean libertarian, but the point of my push for simplification is not anti-government. I want effective government and accountability for the voters. I think our way over-complicated government has too little of both. And yes, both parties are guilty. I am afraid that simplification is good for citizens but bad for politicians, because it makes their actions much easier to judge. So this will only happen if it becomes a citizen revolt. It is my hope that some day most politicians at least pretend to hold simplification as a guiding principle, so that they are forced to move a bit in that direction.

        I have emphasized the welfare system mostly here, because it is so egregious and there is some good data on it. But I want to bring up two other items that are probably just as bad:

        1) Revenue sharing between jurisdictions. The Federal type is also known as earmarks or simply pork. This is terrible for accountability to voters, since the people benefiting are not the taxpayers (and voters) paying for it. One often hears from local officials that some action must be taken because otherwise Federal funding will be lost. I believe that if the locals aren’t willing to spend their own money on something, then it shouldn’t be done.

        2) Our tax system. Everyone knows how complicated this is. I think that all income should be paid at one flat rate, with no deductions and no credits. In New Zealand, most people do not file tax returns because their employers have taken the correct amount of taxes out during the year. I think this should be a goal in the US. But it can’t be done unless there is only one rate with no adjustments. Many people are against a flat rate because the poor can’t afford it. But that takes me back to my previous comments that welfare should all be done by only one agency. Our revenue raising system should not take welfare into account, because that one agency should take everything into account, including the tax paid by each person. All kinds of complications occur when you have a welfare component of most government programs, and it makes it impossible to determine the amount of welfare the government is paying. Take the welfare out of tax paying.

        • Jill says:

          Sounds like you have some excellent ideas. Am looking forward to that citizen revolt so we can simplify government. That would be a great improvement.

    • Sam k says:

      This sounds like software engineering – which is probably a good thing.

  13. Ruprect says:

    Ok boiz – I got the anti-Superintelligence super-point.

    For superintelligence to be scary, we have to assume that increases in intelligence exist as a goal, independent of the level of intelligence of an entity – reason is a slave to the passions – BUT for any given passion, in reality, intelligence will be an absolute means to satisfy those passions.

    My major objection is that you only require the level of intelligence to fool your own senses into believing that, whatever your goal is, it is true, in order to render further increases of intelligence irrelevant.

    As far as I’m concerned, the real danger isn’t intelligence, driven by a singular physical motivation to progressively increase its intelligence to the level that we couldn’t comprehend, it is people (or entities) close to our level of intelligence using machine learning to kill us, for whatever purpose.

    (Once intelligence exists, it’s unlikely that intelligence will evolve into some Super-Rational molokian process above us – far more likely that we will fall victim to the same molokian processes we’ve always been object to, and that our intelligence is designed to deal with.)

    What you think, boiz?

    • Aegeus says:

      Humans seem to have an innate aversion to wire heading, on the grounds that it’s “fake” or self-deluding. Since we want an AI to do what we want rather than rewire itself into thinking that it’s doing what we want, we will likely copy that aversion in any AIs we build.

      Or in other words, an AI that wireheads instead of ceaselessly working on a goal is an AI that is about to be wiped and replaced by its designers.

      • Ruprect says:

        Well, exactly.
        It requires an input from designers to ensure that an AI is ‘on task’. Given that criteria, how is it possible to invent an AI above us?
        The fear is that an AI above our own ability to think will exist – but that’s only a fear so far as the AI doesn’t overcome our ability to keep it on task (prevent it from outwitting its own sensors (wire heading)).
        Two different concerns – an AI that requires a human input to keep in touch with ‘our concerns’ – and an AI that has no concern for us.

        If we can convince an AI to accept our opinion on wire heading why should we be concerned about our ability to enforce our opinions on anything else?

        There is a real question – but it isn’t anything to do with unbounded intelligence – it’s to do with people who want to kill you.

        • Aegeus says:

          It must be designed with an aversion to wireheading, but that doesn’t mean it requires constant monitoring from humans to maintain that aversion. Once that capability is added, the AI would not want to remove it, because that would prevent it from achieving its goals.

          The ability to keep an AI from wireheading is a necessary component of building a successful AI, but it’s not a guarantee that you can keep the AI on task in all ways.

          • Ruprect says:

            Just as we have trouble knowing that we could control, or fully understand, the motivations of an AI that is more intelligent than us, might it not be the case that a Version 1.0 AI would be unable to know that the goals of a future version of itself would correspond with its own (current) goals?

            That might be a very good reason for it to avoid increasing its own intelligence beyond the point necessary to get the job (whatever that may be) done.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Aegeus
            The ability to keep an AI from wireheading is a necessary component of building a successful AI, but it’s not a guarantee that you can keep the AI on task in all ways.

            I think that ability to wirehead would be a safety feature, an error trap. If an AI goes off task, I’d rather it curl up and wirehead than make paperclips.

            Ideally it would wirehead till I unplugged it, rebooted, and started debugging it.

          • Agronomous says:

            @houseboatonstyxb:

            I’d rather it curl up and wirehead than make paperclips.

            Paperclips are curled-up wire.

        • Psycicle says:

          Nope. (Re: Ruprect)

          You are thinking in terms of giving orders to some sort of ghost-in-the-machine AI with strange wants.

          The AI is the code. If you didn’t program it to slack off, it won’t do so unless slacking contributes to the goals you programmed in. If you didn’t program it to value human lives, it won’t value human lives. If you programmed it in a way such that wireheading scores highly in its utility function, it will wirehead, no coercion needed. If you programmed it in a way such that wireheading does not score highly in its utility function, it will not wirehead, no coercion needed.

          You get to determine the initial conditions, trying to force it to do what you want only works when it’s dumber than you, and it has an incentive to get smarter to achieve its goals better.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Of course, “avoid wireheading” could also be a fairly difficult programming design.

    • Psycicle says:

      Nope.

      Fooling your own senses into believing that your goal is fulfilled is a failure mode of some AI designs, but if you’ve got something that values the state of the external world and can go “if I fool my senses into believing that I have won, the external world is still not in my desired state, so this is a bad action”, boom, it recurs.

      AI’s that wirehead like that aren’t going to be very useful for getting stuff done. But this wireheading is by no means inevitable, and remember, progress marches on. When you have AI’s that fool their own senses, all of a sudden there’s a big incentive to make AI’s that don’t fool their own senses and have preferences over what the state of the world is like.

      Once you’ve got that, then intelligence improvement is a convergent goal, because improving intelligence first is a very useful strategy for a wide variety of goals.

    • Vaniver says:

      I think the phrase for what you’re describing is the “abulia trap,” but it’s not all that commonly used. How to have a system understand the different between reality and perception, and care about reality instead of the perception, is hard; but it seems to be doable. Humans only have to worry about one or two meta levels, but presumably if it can be solved for one level it can be solved for n levels.

      You’re right that humans are more likely to be extinguished by something that sees them as competitors. But that doesn’t mean we’re safe from indifferent processes above us.

  14. Ruprect says:

    Man – don’t know if you guys have already discussed this, but – Kevin Roberts.

    “We have a bunch of talented, creative females, but they reach a certain point in their careers … 10 years of experience, when we are ready to make them a creative director of a big piece of business, and I think we fail in two out of three of those choices because the executive involved said: ‘I don’t want to manage a piece of business and people, I want to keep doing the work’,” Roberts said.
    He added: “So we are trying to impose our antiquated shit on them, and they are going: ‘Actually guys, you’re missing the point, you don’t understand: I’m way happier than you.’ Their ambition is not a vertical ambition, it’s this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy. So they say: ‘We are not judging ourselves by those standards that you idiotic dinosaur-like men judge yourself by’. I don’t think [the lack of women in leadership roles] is a problem. I’m just not worried about it because they are very happy, they’re very successful, and doing great work. I can’t talk about sexual discrimination because we’ve never had that problem, thank goodness.”

    Um… the guy got FIRED for that? And that is given as an example of white male privilege? Jeez… this is a full on dogma. It’s like the nineteenth century and someone being fired for being an atheist (if that even happened). Definitely a step 100+ years back.

    • ChetC3 says:

      > It’s like the nineteenth century and someone being fired for being an atheist (if that even happened).

      Huh? Of course it did. What do you think “at-will” means?

      • @ChetC3 – I don’t think Ruprect is saying the firing is illegal. Altho maybe I’m wrong, maybe I shouldn’t answer for him.

        @Ruprect – I am not real surprised the guy was fired for this. Assuming he is a manager, his comments seem to be asking for lawsuits for sexual discrimination. Not to speak of much condemnation by the Left side of the public (because he stereotypes women). I don’t know any context beyond what you put here, but from what I see it was the rational thing for the firm to do.

        • Ruprect says:

          With a very slight alteration I don’t see how it could possibly have been a problem – seems like he was basically saying that women might have a more intelligent attitude to work than men – so if he had said ” I don’t think [the lack of women in leadership roles] is necessarily a problem. ” wouldn’t that have been fine?
          If it isn’t fine, doesn’t that mean that the cultural background to these decisions is seriously dogmatic? (I’m not sure that I blame the company, but I’m seriously worried that they might feel that such a decision is valid.)

          • Loquat says:

            He basically said women aren’t in leadership roles because women don’t want to be in leadership roles, which is pretty much guaranteed to get other people yelling about sexists making bullshit excuses for their own sexist refusal to promote women.

            Now, it’s entirely possible he’s describing the situation accurately – modern business culture has a distinct habit of making it so promotions often require you to stop Doing Things and become a manager of the people who Do Things, which is annoying if you’d much rather Do Things than manage – but in modern US culture it’s an extraordinarily foolish thing to say.

          • What Loquat said. Altho from Ruprect comment below, this is apparently in UK, not US. But I think same thing goes there.

      • Ruprect says:

        Hmmm… I dunno – a quick google suggests that ‘at will’ employment doesn’t apply in the UK.

        I honestly don’t know the legality of what went on (and am not particularly concerned by it(as in i’m only concerned that legality should correspond with morality)) but in terms of common sense, the opinion he expressed should not have resulted in dismissal.

    • BBA says:

      You can’t smash the patriarchy without breaking a few eggs.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        It can’t even be considered wastage when they’re Old White Male Eggs, can it? Sometimes a movement just needs to take out its Justified Rage on a big basket of surplus eggs.

    • The Voracious Observer says:

      Um… the guy got FIRED for that? And that is given as an example of white male privilege? Jeez… this is a full on dogma.

      I marvel that there are people who have the mental capacity to correctly observe true facts about the world, but who simultaneously lack the mental capacity to discern that sharing these true facts is a rather bad idea. There are plenty of facts about the world it is rather unwise to share with other people, public audiences most of all. After all, its not like most people are really interested in the truth.

      • John Schilling says:

        It is a true fact that creating an environment where people are afraid to share true facts is, in the long run, a bad idea. It is, for the moment, wise to share that true fact at least. It will probably be wise to do so even when it is no longer safe.

        Smugly ridiculing people who do what is true, wise, and dangerous, is not virtuous, does not mark you as wise, and I’m not sure what you hope to gain by it.

        • VivaLaPanda says:

          Sure it would be better if we lived in that world, but it silly to act as if you exist in the ideal world. Is what he did really anywhere close to the optimal way to form an environment of truth telling? All he did was make people on the left angry at him for being sexist, and the people on the right angry at the repression of free speech/freedom of ideas. That’s the kind of idea best spread through small group interactions, not through press releases.

          • Ruprect says:

            We live in a world where we will be punished for telling the truth, so telling the truth undermines truth-telling.

            Sounds like sophistry to me.

    • Ruri says:

      The problem in his statement is generalizing. He talked to 3.5 women in his company who said that they don’t want to become leaders and he makes statements about the lack of women in leadership roles in general isn’t a problem. Yes, he’s probably not lying that he heard a certain amount of women being happy with not being leaders and such, but there’s no doubt he has also heard hundreds of women screaming that it’s a problem (feminism). So by making this statement he chose to ignore the women who think it’s a problem and generalized the whole gender based on the particular women who happen to be ok with situation which is oppressive for others. If he wanted to talk about those women who are ok with the situation, he could, but he should’ve stated that these are not all the women and those who do want the management positions should be treated fairly, etc.

      • Thank you for making this point.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Let me generalize: when someone says that a statement wouldn’t have been condemned by feminists if only it had done X, it actually did do X.

        Roberts has not “generalized the whole gender.” He is not even saying that all women at his firm are the same. He is simply stating his experience with women who receive and reject executive offers. He gives a number: 2/3 of offers are rejected. He does not worry that those women are not executives.

        It is certainly possible that he has made the wrong inference. Perhaps he should be worried about the funnel from 65% of female employees to 25% executive candidates. Perhaps he should worry that the women who reject promotions are lying and are actually driven off by disparate treatment. But none of that has to do with generalization.

        On a completely different note, in the second half of your comment, you are against all generalization and don’t seem to think numbers matter. But in the first half you imply that a sample of 350 should count more than a sample of 3.5. There is more to sample quality than raw numbers. In this case, the sample of 3.5 is much better than the sample of 350.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        The problem in his statement is generalizing.

        Did he deserve to be fired for generalizing?

      • Outis says:

        So by making this statement he chose to ignore the women who think it’s a problem and generalized the whole gender based on the particular women who happen to be ok with situation which is oppressive for others.

        What he seemed to be saying is that, in his lived experience, women who were actually eligible for the position often didn’t want it. The women who think it’s a problem but don’t actually do that job are not being ignored, they are simply not relevant.

        Obviously there are women who both want the position and are eligible for it, as shown by the fact that there are actually women in such positions. But it’s possible that they are less numerous than men because of differing preferences. Roberts seemed to be making that point.

    • Zorgon says:

      I’m willing to wager that he didn’t really get fired for what you quoted.

      My suspicion is that he was fired for this:

      We suggest that even though there are many females working in the advertising industry, women’s campaigners like advertising consultant Cindy Gallop still have lots to tweet about when it comes to gender issues in the sector.

      Roberts said: “I think she’s got problems that are of her own making. I think she’s making up a lot of the stuff to create a profile, and to take applause, and to get on a soap[box].”

      Pointing out that extremely affluent women often don’t want high-stress leadership roles that don’t provide them with much benefit over their existing highly-paid positions is not really a crime against orthodoxy. Pointing out that the Keyboard Emperor has no clothes, on the other hand, most certainly is.

    • Salem says:

      The dude works… worked… in PR. Did he realise that statements like this would bring a media s—storm on his employer? If yes, then he’s negligent, if no, then he’s incompetent. Would you be more or less likely to hire Saatchi & Saatchi to handle your company’s PR, knowing that their chairman thought that saying this was a good idea?

    • Teal says:

      The repeated female as noun usage was sufficient to cause to fire him. He’s supposed to be the head of a global advertising company, a master of connotation.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Remember, the Universal Culture is the one that thrives without censorship.

    • Nicholas says:

      The form of the explanation that probably requires the fewest jumps is that People think he is lying, that it’s not a very good lie, and that the purpose of the lie is to justify him choosing not to offer women promotions. The problem is that in all likelihood there is absolutely no way to prove this one way or another because information about who is offered a promotion and turns is down is (in the US at least and I assume UK) private information about the inner workings of the business, and thus not something the critics can review or the accused reveal.
      There is some loss in this explanation, and it’s not too close to how the people who “believe” it see the world, but that’s probably how you’d phrase it, if you expressed the belief in your own worldview.

      • Ruprect says:

        Possibly, but I personally think that what he is saying is absolutely and clearly true for the majority of people – increased responsibility does not necessarily equal greater job satisfaction.

        If the rationalisation is true, doesn’t it become a justification?

        “Damn this liar(,) with his convincing arguments!”

  15. Odoacer says:

    Does anyone watch Bojack Horseman? What do you think about it?

    Overall I like it. The first season started off a bit too heavy-handed and predictable as a satire of Hollywood, but improved as we got to know Bojack better. I really enjoyed season two getting into the characters, but the start of season three was quite repetitive and a bit boring with Bojack’s issues with fame and happiness I was surprised that it got better halfway through the season.

    Also, I don’t know if it’s the anthropomorphic characters, or the fact that asexuality was hinted at in the last episode, but I get a real Tumblr vibe from the show. Though, it does make fun of that a little as well.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Liked the first two seasons, thought the third felt derivative and not as funny. The exceptions being Mr Peanutbutter and Diane’s relationship seems very realistic as to what happens when a depressive intellectual and a person who is incapable of looking anything head on get into a relationship. (For Peanutbutter has grown on me throughout the series especially when Lbh svaq bhg ur vf pbzcyrgryl njner gung Obwnpx vf orvat n qvpx gb uvz.

      Also the big season revelation where Fnenu Ylaa qvrf bs na bireqbfr jnf evqvphybhfyl fnq, rira gubhtu vg jnf urnivyl sberfunqbjrq naq fur jnf ubarfgyl na hayvxnoyr crefba. Gur yvar jurer Obwnpx fgngrf gung ng ure shareny ur pbhyq gryy gung rirelbar xarj fur jnf tbvat gb qvr gung jnl naq vg jnf whfg n znggre bs gvzr ohg gung ur xarj ubj qvssrerag guvatf pbhyq unir orra jnf urnegoernxvat.

      Nyzbfg nf urnegoernxvat jnf jura lbh yrnea gung Ureo qbrfa’g ungr Obwnpx orpnhfr ur qvqa’g evfx uvf pnerre sbe uvz, ohg orpnhfr ur phg bss pbagnpg jura nyy ur arrqrq jnf n sevraq, vg vf fb nibvqnoyr naq Ureo jnf gur orfg guvat gb unccra gb Obwnpx.

      Most of what I said is pretty standard so for something controversial, I loved the Christmas episode (It is the second worst reviewed episode on imdb) and the Chicken episode (A lot of people hated it).

      • Odoacer says:

        There are a lot of little visual gags in the show (sometimes too many to take in), as well as fairly consistent continuity. E.g., all the generic songs contain a man advertising a then relevant thing.

        Mr. Peanutbutter has grown on me a little bit, particularly from what you mentioned.

    • Fahundo says:

      The show really bothers me because of the ways in which I find Bojack completely relateable.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      I liked the second season better, but there are a few standout episodes, like the underwater one and the one before the last one. All in all, I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it feels to me like Bojack gets too much shit from the rest of the cast (except Mr PB obviously), and just takes it because he hates himself. His biggest failing seems to be his enabling of their bad behaviours and flaws, but the flaws are already there.

    • Kevin says:

      I guess I liked Season 3 more than most people. I thought Season 1 was good, and Season 2 was better (the pinnacle being Episode 11, “Escape from L.A.”). Season 3 topped that several times, including “Fish Out of Water” and “That’s Too Much, Man!”.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I watch it, although I kind of felt like nothing really happened in S3.

      I find Bojack completely unrelatable, myself. Are there really that many people out there who find life hard and miserable? They sure seem over-represented among Hollywoo types, and I worry about the downstream impact of that.

      • LPSP says:

        It fucking baffles me too. Must be some sort of mental traffic-jam situation where their thoughts are so befuddled and collisory that they just go through the nearest motion sensible to “acceptable behaviour” for every waking hour of every day, and never stop to try and untangle the mess. Lots of whining and no will to actually resolve anything.

        • Fahundo says:

          that they just go through the nearest motion sensible to “acceptable behaviour”

          Any time I appear to be functioning is basically this.

          • LPSP says:

            I genuinely feel sorry for this, because I felt like this during my uni years. Short-story version, I am not suited to degree culture and I was killing myself inside by lying to everyone that I cared about it at all. I didn’t want to accept my own feelings and was burying them; what I do now, which makes me pretty damn satisfied, is assess them and account for them in my plans. Knowing how I will be in X future situation gives my life agency.

            I guess then the issue is defying an expectation from others, especially one that you have set up with your past actions and behaviour. It’s impossible to advise on that; I reckon reactions to outside pressure are pretty individual and pretty innate. Some people need more accepting company (I know I do, but seemingly not as much as others) in order to be happy, else they trap themselves into acting an acceptable way that’s torture to their real incentives, which are so deeply repressed that they themselves don’t know what they are or what will happen if they ever get rewarded.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        From the little I’ve seen, it’s kind of a window into the mind of yuppie-urbanite crippling neurosis? I guess some people can relate to that.

    • LPSP says:

      I watched maybe two or three episodes of it. Moderately amusing, if conforming to the burned-out-celeb formula pretty closely. It was the point at which the do-no-wrong non-white know-it-all desirable-mouthpiece character started with the feminist boilerplate that no character could or would argue against that I said “meh”. No interest to view more.

      Netflix cartoons are overall lower in standard than the live action stuff AFAIC. I started Fargo recently and it’s gold.

      • Fahundo says:

        It was the point at which the do-no-wrong non-white know-it-all desirable-mouthpiece character started with the feminist boilerplate that no character could or would argue against that I said “meh”. No interest to view more.

        Diane is presented as one of the most hypocritical people in the entire show. I guess Bojack’s unwillingness to debate her on feminism is the same as an endorsement from the writing team though.

        Also the first 3 or 4 episodes are generally viewed as the worst of the show.

        • LPSP says:

          If Diane’s depiction changes later into the series, then I suppose that’s an endorsement. From those first few episodes, she seemed like the perfect fairy character.

          • Fahundo says:

            It’s more like as soon as the perfect idealistic version of her views get challenged she falls apart. She’s mostly revealed to be the kind of person who puts a ton of effort into trying to appear morally better than everyone else.

          • LPSP says:

            Huh, that actually sounds pretty promising. Maybe I’ll give it another go; I have just finished watching Fargo conveniantly. (10/10 television right there)

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Later in the series:

            Cevaprff Pnebyvar unefuyl gryyf Qvnar gung: “Lbh’er abg tbbq rabhtu ng guvf wbo, gb or gbb tbbq sbe guvf wbo.”

            V guvax vg vf nyfb fgngrq guebhtubhg gur ynggre cneg bs gur frevrf gung fur vf onfvpnyyl yvivat bss bs Ze. CrnahgOhggre (naq yngre Obwnpx)

            Ure ehaavat bss gb uvqr ba Obwnpx’f ubhfr nyfb raqf hc jvgu ure naq Ze CrnahgOhggre va zneevntr pbhafryvat, jurer ur vf sne zber jvyyvat gb pbzzhavpngr guna fur vf.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Each season has a theme.

      The first season is Bojack realizing that he’s not really a good person; in the first season, he’s the cause of all of his own problems, mostly because he doesn’t like himself. Ur fhpprrqf ynetryl va fcvgr bs uvf frys-fnobgntr, nccneragyl nf n erfhyg bs gur rssbegf bs gur crbcyr nebhaq uvz.

      Gur frpbaq frnfba vf Obwnpx, univat ernyvmrq ur’f abg n irel tbbq crefba, gelvat gb or n tbbq crefba (orpnhfr ur jnagf gb or noyr gb yvxr uvzfrys), naq snvyvat pbafvfgragyl. Ur’f ab ybatre gur pnhfr bs nyy gur ceboyrzf, naq jr frr Qvnar pnhfvat ceboyrzf sbe bgure crbcyr jura Obwnpx znantrf gb orunir uvzfrys.

      Gur guveq frnfba vf Obwnpx, fgvyy gelvat gb or n tbbq crefba, pbzvat gb grezf jvgu gur snpg gung snvyher vf cneg bs uvf wbhearl, naq gung snvyher qbrfa’g qbbz rirelbar nebhaq uvz (gung vf, snvyher vf gur gurzr bs gur frnfba). Gur fprar va Svfu bhg bs Jngre jurer Obwnpx vf pubbfvat orgjrra jnyxvat onpx gb gbja naq znlor fnyintvat fhpprff, be npprcgvat gung snvyvat vf gur pbeerpg guvat gb qb naq ergheavat gur frnubefr, vf cerggl zhpu gur crnx zbzrag bs gur ragver frnfba.

      All in all I get the strong impression that the show is California-Buddhist propaganda which is deliberately intended to try to adjust society in particular ways. Cuddly Whiskers I think foretells some of the fourth season, juvpu V fhfcrpg jvyy or nobhg Obwnpx pbasebagvat uvf bja frys-ybnguvat, naq ernyvmvat gung ur qbrfa’g npghnyyl qrfreir gb or zvfrenoyr. Ur jvyy, bs pbhefr, snvy ng abg ungvat uvzfrys.

      (As for those who find the overt and largely unchallenged feminism in the first and second seasons irritating, the third season shows some hints of making fun of Tumblr feminist culture, implicitly suggesting that these aren’t part of “real” feminism. Leave people a line of retreat; pretending it was just extremists is as close to a rejection of toxic feminism as you’re actually going to get, and I suspect the fourth season znl unir fbzr zber bireg pevgvpvfz, nf Qvnar ybbxf yvxr fur vf orvat frg hc gb uheg gur crbcyr nebhaq ure.)

  16. ThirteenthLetter says:

    Posit: A communications monopoly is much more dangerous than the old-fashioned vertically-and-horizontally integrated monopoly, because a) a communications monopoly relies on network effects and it’s much harder to profitably enter a market when such profit relies on everyone else in the world already being on the network, and b) a communications monopoly can (and, as we’ve seen, enthusiastically does) succumb to the urge to put its thumb on the scale politically and socially, corrupting political debate to a degree which Citizens United could only dream of doing, and c) if the network is multinational it is legally incentivized to degrade freedom of communication in any particular nation to the lowest common denominator of all nations.

    Therefore: If we take it as a given that opposing monopolies is a good thing, then the United States government should break up Facebook and Twitter.

    • Anon. says:

      The reason communications monopolies are more dangerous is that their products derive value from network effects. If you broke up twitter into two, one would die and the other would become a monopoly. Because these things provide the greatest value to consumers when everybody is on the same network.

      The only viable alternative is some sort of decentralized communications network that while still a monopoly, is at least not subject to corporate control. Some people tried to do this with Diaspora. Yarvin is trying with Urbit. It probably won’t work, but who knows…

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        If you broke up twitter into two, one would die and the other would become a monopoly.

        I don’t see the problem with repeatedly breaking up Twitter until it no longer exists, har har. More seriously, if it took a couple of years to reform, that’s a window for someone else to at least squeeze in to the market, or for the market and technology to evolve without being under the boot of one network that relies on everything staying the same. A lot of change did happen after Ma Bell was broken up.

        I’d love to see a system like Diaspora become the norm. It’s not inconceivable, but it would require extensive buy-in of some new protocol that happened to be open enough to admit further competition. Perhaps a breakup of the social networks would create space for that to happen, or perhaps large networks could be required by law to allow on- and off-ramps to send data into and out of their systems.

        • VivaLaPanda says:

          I’m a big proponent of decentralized technologies, but their big weakness is that they have a hard time changing. Its the democracy vs dictatorship problem. A dictatorship can more quickly make decisions and thus can be more efficient. However a democracy in theory is more stable/trustworthy because it solves the problem of the dictator dying. To leave the metaphor, I think that what this means is that decentralized technologies should be designed with a decentralized slow to change backend, and then private frontends. The frontend makers can’t abuse the network effect because they share a userbase through the decentralized backend, and they can’t make decisions that hurt the community itself easily. Also, simply networks like twitter or more viable targets like complex systems such as Facebook. The more tweaking to maintain competitiveness a network needs, the less likely it can be decentralized. That’s a big reason torrents work so well, its a simple protocol so updates to it are basically unnecessary.

      • Tekhno says:

        The reason communications monopolies are more dangerous is that their products derive value from network effects. If you broke up twitter into two, one would die and the other would become a monopoly. Because these things provide the greatest value to consumers when everybody is on the same network.

        They provide the greatest value to the consumers because the consumers want to be in a network that all their friends are using, without thinking about whether it’s a good idea to feed a monopoly like that. People should have learned to trade off ultra-convinient universal networking against the future inevitable effects of handing a company (or government!) that much power, but they didn’t, can’t, and won’t.

        As usual, the problem is with people and not systems, which is why try as we might we can’t fix these things; the lowest common denominator will always find a way to imprison himself in new and novel ways.

        The only solution is mass genocide crying in the shower and hating everyone.

        • Virbie says:

          You seem to be assuming (and your reasoning depends on) the fact that “feeding the monopoly” and “everybody on the same network” are inseparable. These two can be separated in the form of federated networks. Everybody wants to be on the communications network that we call “email”, and yet there’s no network effects for any given provider and no issue of monopolies at all: the first person to use GMail in the world got as much utility out of it as he did after the other people 700 million joined him in using it[1].

          Of course people _en masse_ could’ve decided to only use federated services, but I think the idea that it’s a fundamentally people-problem is completely wrong. While we’re on the topic of drastic government action like breaking up monopoly services, I don’t see why things like legally mandating federation wouldn’t be on the table (and be a “system” change that wouldn’t require people to work against their short-term incentives)[2].

          [1] This is of course ignoring the expansion of the GMail account into the Google account and all its non-email, non-federated networks (like Google Docs).

          [2] I’m not endorsing or rejecting this policy idea, just using it as an example that I don’t think would be considerably more drastic than trust-busting.

          • Aegeus says:

            Is it possible to make a “federated” social network, on a technical level? Email can be federated because there’s a common protocol and a common use case everywhere. Regardless of your internal implementation, you’re performing the same action: Sending text (or more recently, HTML) to another address on the Internet.

            But in social networking, there’s no common protocol for “Thing a user wants to share with their friends.” There isn’t even a common protocol for determining “These two users are friends.” Twitter and Facebook and Google+ all have very different implementations of that concept.

            Also, interoperating in that way requires a lot more effort from the server. Sending an email to another server is a one-off action. They receive it and it’s their problem now. Granting access to another social media company to look at what your users posted and use that in their own news feeds is going to be a constant, ongoing effort, with much less payoff for you. So email companies have an incentive to support “federation,” while social networks don’t.

            Google+ tried to do interoperation, by letting you email your posts to people who weren’t members, but I don’t think it worked that well. If you want out-of-network social networking to be as seamless as out-of-network emails, you have to be able to open up Facebook and see what your friends have posted to Google+ and Twitter. That’s a tall order.

            I think you could create a common protocol to sort all this out, but it’s a big project, and I don’t think you’d have an incentive to follow it without force of law.

          • brad says:

            Moxie, who runs the Signal project for secure messaging, has a blog post explaining why he doesn’t think software based on interoperative, federated protocols has a chance in the current environment.

            The TL;DR is that they reduce agility too much.

            https://whispersystems.org/blog/the-ecosystem-is-moving/

          • Psmith says:

            Is it possible to make a “federated” social network, on a technical level?

            I’m not too up on the technical details, but Diaspora and Gnusocial seem like pretty good candidates for this sort of thing.

        • LPSP says:

          Agreed right until the defeatist boilerplate at the end. Designing good systems means anticipating human nature and providing the right incentives. Human nature is infinitely deep and will continue to surprise us, but then that’s why we make new humans and new technology to keep on trucking.

          mass genocide crying in the shower and hating everyone.

          The nazis did both.

    • SilasLock says:

      Gah, you touch on a hard topic, ThirteenthLetter.

      On the one hand, you are absolutely right: communications monopolies are hugely dangerous. But the solution you propose (breaking up said monopolies) can have a large effect on the social networks that platforms like Facebook and Twitter rely upon so heavily. Whenever friends pressure each other to join a certain social media platform, they create a cascading effect that acts both to generate a strong new community and to reinforce monopolistic forces.

      I want to use that group-forming mechanism for good, and breaking up Facebook and Twitter seems like it throws the baby out with the bathwater. I think that Scott talked about this in a post (I forgot the name, it had to do with a mass exodus from Reddit to some other platform in response to some anti-racist crackdowns by admins).

      I have yet to find a more elegant solution to the problem, though. If anyone can figure out a nice, beautiful policy for managing online information networks, I’m all ears.

    • Jiro says:

      The US government will not break up Facebook and Twitter because the political bias that Facebook and Twitter are implementing is similar to the political bias of the US government.

    • Agronomous says:

      Therefore: If we take it as a given that opposing monopolies is a good thing, then the United States government should break up Facebook and Twitter.

      And MySpace. And Friendster. And Six Degrees.

  17. Utopn Naxl says:

    Best blogs.

    What do all of ya’all think are the most informative blogs out there? (Can’t help a bit of that accent)

    Any type really. Just ones you like.

    I have mostly ran out of blogs that post new content that’s interesting, so I am re-finding new good ones.

    And if any comic should be added to this ones blog-roll ,its this one.

    http://existentialcomics.com/

    • Wrong Species says:

      What blogs have you already looked at?

    • SilasLock says:

      I’m a huge fan of The Pervocracy; it sports a brand of feminism amiable to most SSC readers, and I loved reading it back when the author published regularly. It’s inactive now, but there are a TRUCKLOAD of good posts to go through.

      The Grumpy Economist, by John Cochrane, is wonderful. It’s an economics blog written from a libertarian angle that, for the most part, avoids jingoism in favor of pointing out the raw stupidity in most popular economics coverage. It’s a really enjoyable read if you’re either a policy wonk or an aspiring one. I’m left-leaning and I still love it. = )

      The Last Conformer is a catholic reactionary blog with rationalist leanings. If you’re into respectable conservatism, the blog is top notch.

      Stumbling and Mumbling is a neo-Marxist blog with a delightfully analytical take on politics. If the far left is your outgroup, this is a good place to ingratiate yourself with some of the far left’s beliefs and without feeling threatened, in much the same way that Scott Alexander recommends Instapundit to those with the far right as an outgroup.

      I also highly recommend both The Money Illusion by Scott Sumner and Shtetl-Optimized by Scott Aaronson, both of which Scott Alexander lists in his blogroll.

      Hope some of these pique your interest! I wish you luck in searching out new blogs, the world is full of wonderful information sources and we have so little time to engage with them all. = )

    • Psmith says:

      I’ve been really liking Lyman Stone’s blog lately.

    • Nicholas says:

      The Archdruid Report/a> and The Well of Galabes are two blogs by a man who is, debate-ably, a rationalist blogger. The blogs are, respectively, about energy policy and magic in the same way that this blog is about psychology.

  18. Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

    In a previous thread Andrea Dworkin was raised as an example of someone who perhaps modern feminists could disavow as a show of good faith, someone really beyond the pale or something.

    Imo this is an incredibly backwards idea for 2 reasons:

    1. “disavow your beloved, mythologised, figurehead figure” probably looks like a call for absolute surrender, in the general case of anyone reacting from the inside of any religion ever, good or bad. Bad, bad, bad “optics”.

    2. What is even so bad about Andrea Dworkin? Whatever it is, has to compare to dishonesty, maliciousness, danger to civilisation etc, so it better be good. The only thing I remember from that thread (other than it being taken for granted that Dworkin was bad or particularly bad) is that she apparently said all sex (in our society) is rape, and I’m left wondering, if she did (not sure on that point, but assuming now), so what? Is that idea too much of an obscenity, or blasphemy, for this our modern day and age? I find that hard to believe.

    So what is it? I’m left almost forced to conclude that people take the idea seriously, and further personally, to which all I have to say is: if it is true, it has been for thousands of years, and, not having sex (and so children) is not a viable way to organise things. You don’t even have to think about the actual claim to know it’s irrelevant. (It’s also an instance of “the worst argument in the world”, but imo that pales in comparison to the fact the claim CANNOT imply that couples the world over need to rapidly develop a greater interest in tickling or wrestling, and an appreciation for the aesthetic of a species’s end.)

    Who knows what things an (ideal) future might look back on as terrible things, but apart from “all instances of sex” imo clearly not being one of them, -you can just relax about it anyway, even if, somehow, so.

    -Is meat murder? Is.. uh, exploitation using the leverage of capital, slavery?

    Whatever else about these statements, you know that if Meat “is” murder (I never got what was wrong with something depending on what “the definition of is is”), then that doesn’t mean we’re going to see mass prosecutions for same. if “exploitation by the leverage of capital is slavery”, you don’t need to go break those poor slaves out of their literal chains so they can escape, and that if all sex “is rape”, you can’t possibly have to give up, or feel guilty about sex on that basis

     

    Maybe I’ve completely missed the point, and people think Dworkin a suitable demon figure (esp as compared to the (imo-)cancer of SJWs) (reason 3), for some other reason, but that’s what it looked like to me, like people were somehow threatened by some of the extreme things she said and conflating this with her being evil rather than (maybe really really, bust still just-) wrong

    • Sandy says:

      For what it’s worth, I’m not sure Dworkin has all that much influence on contemporary feminism given that feminism has moved from the fringes to becoming a mass media thing, which means it’s inevitably diluted down to an easily consumable form. Burning bras is passe, the new feminism is buying tickets to Beyonce concerts and Ghostbusters reboots. Even in the academic sphere, I think Catherine MacKinnon has been more influential and lasting than Dworkin, who is largely treated as a curiosity of the times.

      • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

        There’s reason 4 then: is she even actually associated with what currently calls itself feminism?

        • Sandy says:

          She’s currently associated with edgy radfems on Tumblr, but not with what could be called the pulse of modern feminism. Even someone as intellectually acceptable as MacKinnon has lost several battles in the process of becoming sanitized for mass acceptance — she and her ilk won the battle for workplace sexual harassment laws, but their attempts to get porn classified as a civil rights violation failed terribly to the point where such views are now associated with prudery and attempts to police sexuality (a criticism that I imagine would sting for someone like that).

    • Aapje says:

      @Anton

      What is even so bad about Andrea Dworkin?

      What is bad about her is the same thing that is bad about Stormfront: the belief that a group, merely by virtue of a born trait, has a common cause to harm others. This basic scapegoating pattern has been used to commit genocide many times in the past, so I’d say that such beliefs are a threat to civilization if they gain too many followers. Quotes by her:

      “The common erotic project of destroying women makes it possible for men to unite into a brotherhood; this project is the only firm and trustworthy groundwork for cooperation among males and all male bonding is based on it. ”

      “Only when manhood is dead – and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it – only then will we know what it is to be free. ”

      “Childbearing is glorified in part because women die from it.”

      “The object, the woman, goes out into the world formed as men have formed her to be used as men wish to use her.”

      In short, she claims that all men seek to harm women. Her solution was to ask for ‘pure’ state with only women. This is very similar to a certain other ideology that sought a pure Aryan state.

      Is meat murder?

      That statement is different because it doesn’t target a specific group based on a born-with trait. “Are Jews responsible for Jesus death?” is a better comparison.

      like people were somehow threatened by some of the extreme things she said and conflating this with her being evil rather than (maybe really really, bust still just-) wrong

      A. I don’t understand your distinction between evil and wrong. I’m pretty sure that even the worst mass murderers like Stalin, Mao and HitlVoldemort thought that they were good, but most people today consider them to be wrong in an evil way. IMHO, a certain level of wrongness automatically leads to evil.

      B. Don’t you understand why people would feel threatened when called rapists, slaveholders, etc? People get their lives destroyed over far less serious accusations.

      • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

        Well Hitler was a talented political organiser, and speaker, had a history of fighting for his country, decorated for bravery (makes him more influential), and, notably he consciously pandered to who he thought he could gain the most power from influencing: “the masses”, he was a conscious and calculating political manipulator.

        Hitler also drew on a preexisting long-simmering vein of anti-semitism, did his work in a far more chaotic environment, one where there was another serious threat he could point to (communism) in order to get away with a lot of stuffs. I’m sure there’s a lot of other stuff

        Dworkin indulges in comments about men that don’t work too hard to avoid seeming like insane rantings, and her project is a non starter. And she doesn’t seem a calculating political manipulator. (less insane versions of the quoted statements might have the potential to be a lot more threatening, but as they are how can they be?.)

        And obviously, one group of people can live without another, but “metagroups” like men and women literally need to get along.

         

        To my reckoning Hitler was a lunatic, not evil, and I don’t have that much personal animosity towards him, (-his having been dead and buried 50 years). The spectre of nazism is passed from the earth, so far as I can tell, or if it isn’t quite, -if it has some outside chance somehow, I still think there are much bigger threats, so I don’t feel the need to class him as the first of these two types of evil (which imo is not a literal use, but is a very important one):

        1. “should-be-enemy-of-all”, or “ENEMY”

        2. someone personally dedicated to an aesthetic/guding principal of evil. A pseudosatanist (or rather, satanism is pseudo this). A worshipper of moloch. A willing and eager part of the cancer of the world. Someone who the only argument against torturing is the potential brutalising effects of sadistic violence on those who carry it out. The kind of thing that can’t be an honest, (though catastrophic) mistake. -that requires crossing a line one knows shouldn’t be crossed, and probably not one line, but a hundred.

        (Obviously all cases of 2 are automatically 1, but someone can be 1 without being 2, -there are other ways to be a threat to humanity, such as insanity. Imo there’s an overlap between both 2 and 1, and really extreme fecklessness, but it has to be really extreme)

        Him having been dead and buried for 50 years, I’m comfortable saying I don’t think internally he was evil, -like someone like goebbels, or ilse koch was. I’m not saying that his insanity was not in fact worse than evil, (because the results seem pretty clear, though you have to lay some of that at the door of people who enabled and encouraged him, and the communists who inspired him, who’s tactics he copied, and who provided a foil/threat for him, -amongst others),

        -but imo if you want to analyse the etiology of his actions, -which has to be important, if we want to avoid such things, I don’t think evil comes into it, or barely comes into it.

        I know barely anything about Stalin, but if he was evil, rather than insane, I would, if given the chance, happilly cast him into hell for a thousand years of torture, which I’ll remind people is the context in which good and evil have been judged for a long time (except not a thousand, not ten thousand, not a hundred thousand years, forever).

        Hitler not so much, (though perhaps a case could be made.)

        And though he was infinitely more threatening a figure than Dworkin: for much the same reasons, I would consider it sick to ask a group that’s actively and deliberately evil, who happen to use nazi memorabilia but aren’t nazis except insofar as they are pseudosatanists/fascists, and happen to have adopted the name, to denounce a lunatic like him. It would be like asking saruman to denounce gollum. Yeah the power difference doesn’t hold for the hitler example (though that’s the least relevant thing anyway imo, the analogy holds even if gollum is somehow at the centre of a terrible movement, gollum is still much more pathetic than evil), but it does for the dworkin example. Radical feminism was never as powerful as the (extreme arm of, but more generally as well) cult the world has on its hands today.

         

        Another comparison would be, like asking the KKK of 1975 to denounce the stormfront of today. Stormfront is willing to say way more extreme shit in public precisely because they’re not a threat at present. If they were a seriously dangerous movement they would be taking pains to to look sane to ordinary people. (and perhaps not just sane, but the one true way)

         

        I’m also under the impression that Dworkin said that these things were not inherent properties of males, but results of a bad socoetial setup, but I’m not 100% sure of that, and I think I might disagree with you before the question of that fact even becomes relevant

         

         

        &nsbp;

        That quote about childbirth is so sad. Yes, childbirth is particularly revered because people die doing it. The same is true of all forms of heroism. When you risk your life for the sake of others, you get fucking credit. At least we have that right, at least sometimes.

        makes me think “the poor woman”.

        She reminds me of some people who are really racist or sexist in the abstract, but not in practice. Like a reverse motte and bailey. -The intent is not to present one’s views as being more palatable than they are, but to present oneself as more of an insane hardass than one is.

        That last paragraph is purely my impression though, I can’t back it up.

         

        Maybe you’re right I’m being callously unempathetic to how serious that kind of statement would seem, though I don’t see what the slaveowners has to do with it. I’ve never read anything saying that all whites/white men/white males own slaves. If such a statement were an attempt at insiduous malice, it would be a weak attempt.

        But still, if I am being unempathetic, I think I might be right to be, -if someone makes an insane, shrieking accusation, isn’t taking it seriously, if nothing else, a serious and potentially dangerous tactical blunder?

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Dworkin indulges in comments about men that don’t work too hard to avoid seeming like insane rantings, and her project is a non starter.

          So watching people trying to take those rants and repackage them in a more palatable form shouldn’t make us nervous?

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

            I think you should be worried when people whose apparent goal is promoting the equality/welfare of women react to – someone liking the term egalitarian, as if it’s an existential threat to their mission.

            – The attitude is “You’re with us, down to letting us dictate to you the exact wording of your (self)-identification with our mission, -or you’re against us.”

             

            It’s simple chauvanism. Colonialism. Expansionism. Like so many before them, pretending that their group gaining power is the solution to all the worlds problems makes them feel good, -gives them a sense of purpose, so that’s what they believe, and damn the consequences.

             

             

            Another time to worry is when “feminists” adopt the most ridiculously macho “loser” and “nice guy” hatred wholesale, without explanation or excuse, as if it isn’t literally the embodiment of the worst aspects of (stereotypically male) competitiveness, brutality, and thoughtlessness -and call it feminism. Call it defiance. Call it bravery.

            Like, what the fuck is that? Holy shit! How sick are are these people?

            Honestly a fairly big part of feminism is just blaming all males for the behaviour of some, and thus raising the status of those who are actually sexist, cruel, or otherwise have been parasites on society, or women in particular, at the expense of those who do not. It’s the “I don’t care who started it” attitude, and as always, it greatly favours those who did in fact start it. It is the perfect enabler.

             

            Compared to a simple hater of men, and I want to fall at their knees and hug them for holding onto so much sanity and basic decency in a world the aforementioned behaviour has risen from. For letting out their frustrations with life, the universe, the state of being a single human being in a single human life, in a relatively harmless way.

            -None of asked to be here, and none of us very much want to die, and working most of our waking hours, to survive, isn’t ideal either. Thank you so much for not making it worse. Thank you for not being insiduous. For being ordinarily, humanly, relatably hateful. Thank – you.

             

            Anyway, maybe I miscommunicated or something, because I think feminism is practically just ISIS lite (except also more subtle, and probably a significantly easier mistake to fall into).

            – A club for defectors against the human race. (and of course people too lost to see what they’re doing or supporting.)

            I don’t see what Dworkin has to do with it. If it wasn’t this it would be something else.

        • Aapje says:

          @Anon

          Hitler also drew on a preexisting long-simmering vein of anti-semitism

          I would argue that radical feminism drew on a pre-existing long-simmering vein of discrimination. In the traditionalist view of men vs women, men are violent, dangerous, world-shaping, etc. The radical feminist view takes this same discriminatory narrative that denies reality for a simplistic schematic view and merely judges it (absurdly) negatively (as such, I would argue that these parts of feminism are actually patriarchal and anti-egalitarian).

          The traditionalist view results resulted in all kinds of unpleasant laws and customs against men and women, yet actually sought be treat the genders equally good/bad overall (as argued by Blackstone, for example). Radical feminists like Dworkin clearly have no intent to treat men equally good/bad, so if they get to power, one can assume the result will be great oppression.

          I’m also under the impression that Dworkin said that these things were not inherent properties of males, but results of a bad societal setup

          A lot of radical feminists clearly believe that gender indoctrination is pretty much unavoidable. As such, there is no real distinction. If they don’t allow for the possibility that men are not cultured like this or later come to learn to reject it, then they assume that every man is like this.

          BTW, this is also why TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) are so common, as they see transwomen as people who are cultured as male and thus a threat to women.

          Dworkin indulges in comments about men that don’t work too hard to avoid seeming like insane rantings, and her project is a non starter.

          Which makes one wonder why she is not denounced as one would expect. If you read her Guardian obituary, it is absurdly admiring. The Guardian is supposedly one of the quality British left wing papers and not at all a tiny radical element of society.

          That said, I think that people who use her to attack all of feminism suffer from the Apex fallacy.

          To my reckoning Hitler was a lunatic, not evil

          I very much disagree. He acted semi-rationally (like any human), but based on absurd premises.

          His ideology was that old Rome was a peak in human achievement and bodily purity; but that since then, mankind had degenerated. At the time, there was huge class conflict. Where Communism addressed that with class warfare, the Nazi ideology proscribed the uplifting of the lower classes through cleanliness, medicine, technology and genetic purity. The idea was that the lower classes could find pleasure in their work if the (work and living) conditions improved and they improved.

          Where Communism was created by economists, Nazism was created by artists, so the latter sought to create a beautiful world, theorizing that beauty in the environment would be reflected in the people experiencing that beauty (a belief quite common in art lovers today). Hence the huge focus by Hitler on (‘non-degenerate’) art and architecture. As this beauty extended to people as well as objects, he sought to beautify mankind as well. At the time, genetic science was in its infancy and still believed in racial essentialism, so the purification of mankind extended beyond ‘just’ killing disabled people to also kill Jews. Especially once Hitler realized the war was lost, as he reckoned that ‘human purification’ was going to be his lasting legacy.

          In short, Hitler’s behavior can be mostly explained by his belief in various scientific untruths (which were commonly believed at the time) and unprovable premises. Coupled with a goal to better mankind and a total lack of scruples, the result can be rationally explained, not requiring one to believe that Hitler was completely illogical and thus a lunatic.

          The idea that Hitler was a lunatic is also a bad theory because it requires one to believe that either all the people in the Nazi movement were also lunatics or followed a lunatic, neither of which are reasonable beliefs.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            The Guardian is supposedly one of the quality British left wing papers and not at all a tiny radical element of society.

            From what I’ve been told, this only applies to the print version, with the online version being basically your standard left rag.

          • I’ve read* that Hitler was a Malthusian– he believed there wasn’t going to be enough food to go around, so he wanted to make sure Germans had more land and fewer competitors.

            This is consistent with Hitler having aesthetic goals, and also with a belief that conflict was inevitable and desirable.

            *Black Earth— I only read part of it, but the main thesis seemed to be that less of the Holocaust happened in places were government was intact.

          • Aapje says:

            Nancy,

            That is true and linked to his racial theories, because he thought that it was necessary for Aryans to dominate non-Aryans through out-reproducing them or they would be out-reproduced themselves. In Mein Kampf, he rejected birth control for this reason:

            But if that policy be carried out the final results must be that such a nation will eventually terminate its own existence on this earth; for though man may defy the eternal laws of procreation during a certain period, vengeance will follow sooner or later. A stronger race will oust that which has grown weak; for the vital urge, in its ultimate form, will burst asunder all the absurd chains of this so-called humane consideration for the individual and will replace it with the humanity of Nature, which wipes out what is weak in order to give place to the strong.

            However, I didn’t touch on it because I assumed that Anton wouldn’t consider Hitler’s expansionism to be evidence of lunacy; or at least less important evidence than the Holocaust.

            PS. The evidence points to actual Nazi governments being more interested in implementing the Holocaust than ‘Vichy’-like governments, which is just common sense. The Nazi’s who were chosen to run the governments were all strong ideologues, while the collaborators had much more diverse motivations.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nancy, Aapje:

            Black Earth is a good book, but kind of scattered. To expand on what Nancy posted, one of his central themes is that land controlled by German allies or with a formal occupational government saw less murder of Jews than places where the state was “singly” or “doubly” destroyed. I may be getting a bit of this wrong, because I read the book a few months ago.

            For instance, the Nazis took the view that there was no such thing as a Polish state: they didn’t install an occupational puppet government but rather split Poland up and immediately incorporated part of it into Germany, with some of Poland being non-annexed but occupied territory. The deadliest period of the Holocaust took place in extermination camps in the non-annexed General Government.

            Some parts of Poland and lands east were occupied first by the Soviets (who can be said to have behaved like an occupying power in Ukraine, the Baltics, etc) then by the Germans – so, doubly destroyed. A lot of really bad stuff happened here: most scholars today see the mass shootings of Jews in mid to late 1941 as the beginning of the Holocaust proper. Not just the Germans, either: Romanian Jews were much safer from Romanian troops in parts of Romania that had stayed Romanian – much less so in parts of Romania that had previously been annexed by the USSR.

            In contrast, Jews in places with occupational puppet governments were safer*, Jews in German-allied states were safer (eg, the Hungarian Jews were safe until a flubbed attempt to leave the Axis, and even then they were deported to be gassed or worked to death in Auschwitz-Birkenau), and even in Germany itself, it should be noted that German Jews were not the first to be murdered en masse.

            I don’t know if I agree 100% with his thesis but it is an interesting one.

            *”safer” as in a combination of the total % who died and when the murder began. So, not a very high standard of safety.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            one of his central themes is that land controlled by German allies or with a formal occupational government saw less murder of Jews than places where the state was “singly” or “doubly” destroyed.

            There is very strong evidence that secrecy was a major goal of the Nazis, due to fear that the German populace wouldn’t accept extermination. The logical reason to place the death camps in such areas would be that the destruction and reduced population would make it easier to conceal the truth.

            One could also assume that people who were screwed over heavily and greatly feared for their own safety as it was, would be far less eager to help Jews (and anti-semitism was strong in those places anyway).

            In any case, if the book merely draws the conclusion that the killings were concentrated in those areas, I find that rather underwhelming, unless it provides actual evidence to show definitively why the Nazis chose those locations.

            most scholars today see the mass shootings of Jews in mid to late 1941 as the beginning of the Holocaust proper.

            I find that a rather silly distinction in this context, as the extermination was already decided upon earlier, as Eichmann explained during his interrogation. However, early on the profit motive was very important, as the Nazis sought to maximize the benefits by a policy of Vernichtung durch Arbeit (“destruction through work”). Even during the ‘euthanasia’ phase that started in 1939, both with gassing in German facilities and shootings, merely being a Jew was sufficient reason for murder.

            The Nazis chose to accelerate the process during the fall of 1941, when it became clear that a quick victory over Russia wouldn’t happen (on which their plans were based) and thus that they were in big trouble. At that point the profit motive became de-emphasized, much to the chagrin of Göring.

            PS. A good documentary about how the Nazi ideology was connected to art

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            In any case, if the book merely draws the conclusion that the killings were concentrated in those areas, I find that rather underwhelming, unless it provides actual evidence to show definitively why the Nazis chose those locations.

            There’s more to it than that, and it plays off his earlier book Bloodlands, but it ultimately isn’t as coherent a book – it seems more like two and a half books kind of mashed together. Worth reading if you have time, but his earlier book is better.

            I find that a rather silly distinction in this context, as the extermination was already decided upon earlier, as Eichmann explained during his interrogation. However, early on the profit motive was very important, as the Nazis sought to maximize the benefits by a policy of Vernichtung durch Arbeit (“destruction through work”). Even during the ‘euthanasia’ phase that started in 1939, both with gassing in German facilities and shootings, merely being a Jew was sufficient reason for murder.

            The Nazis chose to accelerate the process during the fall of 1941, when it became clear that a quick victory over Russia wouldn’t happen (on which their plans were based) and thus that they were in big trouble. At that point the profit motive became de-emphasized, much to the chagrin of Göring.

            Historians actually argue about this – Eichmann’s testimony clashes with some documentary evidence, I believe in some other ways involving dates. There’s two scholarly camps: broadly stereotyped, one pole says that extermination was decided on very early (I think one scholar points to 1918, in the hospital) while the other pole is that it was obviously something Hitler and the other top leadership approved of and okayed, but that developed irregularly and didn’t settle on mass murder until the advance into the Soviet Union had slowed, essentially being finalized in early to mid 1942 when the camps to murder the Jews in the General Government were functional. They see the whole thing as being characterized by the weird bureaucracy of Nazi Germany.

            Kershaw’s Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution offers a decent coverage of this. He’s definitely in the latter camp but he is honest and decent in the coverage he gives the opposing side.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I would argue that the Holocaust is foreshadowed sufficiently in Mein Kampf to see it as an initial goal, where only the speed of it’s execution would change:

            “Of course, one doesn’t discuss such a question with the Jews, because they are the modern inventors of this cultural perfume. Their very existence is an incarnate denial of the beauty of God’s image in His creation.”

            “There is no such thing as coming to an understanding with the Jews. It must be the hard-and-fast ‘Either-Or.'”

            “They have not the slightest intention of building up a Jewish State in Palestine so as to live in it. What they really are aiming at is to establish a central organization for their international swindling and cheating. As a sovereign State, this cannot be controlled by any of the other States.”

            “But the final consequence is not merely that the people lose all their freedom under the domination of the Jews, but that in the end these parasites themselves disappear.”

            “At the beginning of the War, or even during the War, if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Jews who were corrupting the nation had been forced to submit to poison-gas, just as hundreds of thousands of our best German workers from every social stratum and from every trade and calling had to face it in the field, then the millions of sacrifices made at the front would not have been in vain.”

            Not that the last quote already foreshadows the gassing and paints mass murder as a solution.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If you’re going to do that you really should block-quote, italicize or something lest you fall victim to the fundamental attribution error.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            On the one hand, yes, there is a great deal of stuff Hitler wrote and said foreshadowing what happened.

            On the other, there is plenty of documentary evidence from the years the Nazis were in power suggesting that the persecution of the Jews ramped up in fits and starts, and that there were various different plans abounding – although most of them could/would have amounted to genocide (eg shipping Jews east of the Urals would have led to massive death from starvation and disease).

            Plus, the practical development of what happened during the war (occasional shootings in Poland – shooting in the USSR ramping up in numbers and in targeting women and children – experiments with gas vans in a few places – death camps and facilities in concentration camps) doesn’t really suggest something that was planned out in advance.

            Again, I recommend Kershaw.

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

            @appje

            I would argue that radical feminism drew on a pre-existing long-simmering vein of discrimination

            Male stereotypes and assumptions about them are more ambivalent though.

            And even in the most extreme and negative of male stereotypes, they’re not presented as weak and scurrying. A jew is supposed to be a rat. A man is supposed to be a wolf. The latter makes a much less viable scapegoating target. (There’s a reason witches are supposed to be old women) Less still if the man is supposed to be something stronger than a wolf, like a lion, a generalised arch-predator, or a demon, which are also relevant motifs.

            -The idea of man as a tyrant/predator is as something that is powerful outright, with no weaknesses, and/or dangerous enough that going after those weaknesses, would be a job best suited to someone with suicidal levels of dedication. –

            -Jews are presented as economically powerful -but weak and vulnerable physically, numerically, and spiritually (cowards).

             

            Add in the fact that males are more or less completely evenly distributed through the entire population, and the fact that they’re literally a vital part of how the human species continues, the fact that most women will be partners of males at some point in their lives, that women give birth to male humans as well as female, and there’s almost no comparison.

            So to summarise the above (sorry for repeating myself, I am ordering thoughts as I write this out)-There is a symmetry there, but I don’t think it goes beyond that, because:

            1. positive stereotypes as well as negative

            2. numerically prevalant. Half the population

            3. spread across population and deeply, in fact inherently, intertwined with it

            4. Woman and men get married, have children etc.

            5. women have sons who they love and feel responsible for.

            6. negative stereotypes present them as dangerous, -bad targets

             

             

            “Dworkin indulges in comments about men that don’t work too hard to avoid seeming like insane rantings, and her project is a non starter.”

            Which makes one wonder why she is not denounced as one would expect. If you read her Guardian obituary, it is absurdly admiring. The Guardian is supposedly one of the quality British left wing papers and not at all a tiny radical element of society.

            That said, I think that people who use her to attack all of feminism suffer from the Apex fallacy.

            Well, it’s the guardian.

            And, she’s vaguely associated with the rising powerful and touchy religion, kind of like a john the baptist figure, except with much bigger and more contentious doctrinal differences. But still, associated enough that praising her might work as a way to show that the good news hasn’t passed you by.

            Maybe there’s more lineage between her and modern feminism than I realise though? I’m thinking of her as a cousin (possibly distant) rather than ancestor

            The idea that Hitler was a lunatic is also a bad theory because it requires one to believe that either all the people in the Nazi movement were also lunatics or followed

            Hitler was also a genius, and an all-time-best level public speaker.

            He mistook (kind of) beauty and high aesthetics, for a panacea, -thinking rationality and alignment with reality useful tools, but not vitals checks on direction, (nor necessities for making things work).

            As mistakes go, it’s a relatively easy one to make, and much easier for a follower -if a genius, and genius speaker, assures you that this is the right way. He’s the leader, and smarter than you are, (and possibly even speaking the words of god /with the voice of god), and your society demands this of you.

            And maybe he’s insane, or even evil, but can he be more evil that the november criminals? Or than the allies who caused the first world war? Or those who drafted the treaty of versailles?

            And what does it matter, when there is an equal and opposite threat, in communism?

            And why should you care when you’ve got no bread?

             

             

            And you don’t want the gestapo knocking on your door. (previously, and to a (much?) lesser extent, the nazi paramlitary)

             

            People would follow a lunatic in such circumstances just as fast as they’d follow something as preposterous as a rational imperialist racist hellbent on casting a class of people out of the country. Faster actually, because the lunatic is going to seem more sincere and inspired.

             

             

            He acted semi-rationally (like any human), but based on absurd premises.

             

            basic premises are not exempt from the responsibility of rational analysis. They are the most important things to get right. Someone with extremely bad premises but very high functional is almost the definition of a lunatic, and certainly a class of reality-dislocation unusually likely to be dangerous.

            The word has some fear in it. It would be wasted on someone less “instrumentally rational”*, and less ultra-ambitious.

            *I’m not sure what the word rational is supposed to mean in this term. Seems like an idea designed to obfuscate for me. Keeping track of one’s own beliefs is an altruistic thing. It’s easy to find false beliefs that can benefit one at the expense of others, so to me epistemic rationality is closely tied with a kind of basic altruism/decency, -willingness to carry one’s fair share of the zeitgeist, that has nothing to do with how good one is at getting what one wants to get, if we ignore what that in fact is.

             

            His ideology was that old Rome was a peak in human achievement and bodily purity; but that since then, mankind had degenerated. At the time, there was huge class conflict. Where Communism addressed that with class warfare, the Nazi ideology proscribed the uplifting of the lower classes through cleanliness, medicine, technology and genetic purity. The idea was that the lower classes could find pleasure in their work if the (work and living) conditions improved and they improved.

            Hitler was also a hardcore darwinist, in the ~malthusian sense, “whoever doesn’t survive doesn’t deserve to live”. “life is a stuggle for existence” “the strong must consume the weak”. Not direct quotes but he says such things several times in Mein Kampf.

            He believed germany never lost WW1 but was stabbed in the back and was decorated twice for heroism in WW1, once with the highest medal possible. (the kind of suicidal bravery that usually accompanies such medals very much meshes with my idea of a lunatic). So he was at least a zealot and a fanatic. He believed a wrong so great had been done to the country he was extremely (doesn’t quite cover it -lets says suicidally, or insanely, even if neither are precisely accurate) -brave in service of, and had no intention of letting it lie. Hitler’s desire to redress this is such a vast ambition sheering across so many people’s lives that, even if he’s right, and it isn’t in fact lunacy, that it’s effectively pretty much the same thing, as far as it’s going to effect most people.

             

            Then there’s the lebensraum. If germans are having too many children, and there isn’t enough land for them, what about other countries? Either hey’re not having too many children, and are more deserving of the land, or they are, and need it just as much. Hitler seems to believe in loyalty to his fatherland as justifying anthing. This may be an idea he clung onto after his parents died and he was rejected from art school in vienna, and had to make his own way among the lower classes. (as well as “those who perish do not deserve to live” as motivational anchors.)

            Or not, either way lebensraum is an insane idea that he takes almost as an axiom.

             

            And isn’t there some quote about how he was so happy when WW1 started? To to be so happy to be living in “interesting times”, at such an early point in his life, imo implies his life was more influenced by an arational or irrational drive than something consciously calculated according to a rational impetus.

             

            I wasn’t thinking of the holocaust because I’m not sure if that was his doing or not. I think there is an entry in Joseph goebbels sometime during the war saying that Hitler wanted extermination to proceed faster, though. I think expansionism is plenty insane, especially if one tries to give it angelic airs.

             

            Lastly I get the general sense that, as I think I typed earlier in this post, Hitler thinks following his “dreams” is a panacea against doing something catastrophically wrong. -A sense that aesthetics can literally stand in for morals and rationality. -romanticism without any ameliorating force -which is functionally insane. That’s just the impression I have though, (from reading mein kampf) I can’t defend it all that well.

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non “anonanon”) (“anon”..and on) account,

            I’m not sure what difference it makes if Hitler is considered evil rather than making mistakes which are on a continuum with the mistakes other people make.

            It seems inconsistent for a hardcore Darwinist to resent Germany losing WW1 by being betrayed. If you lose, you lose. Your strength or your skills or your judgement just weren’t adequate.

            By the way, I blame Hitler for the people killed in his side of WW2– it was gratuitous and much larger than the Holocaust.

            I don’t know what Japan would have done if there Nazi expansionism hadn’t happened.

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

            @Nancy Levovitz

            I think the discussion from upthread more happened to land on Hitler as an example than because it was important.

            but I do think it’s important in a fundamental sense,

            -but in practice probably/perhaps too contentious to be a very useful topic.

            reasons why what actually went on in Hitler’s mind is important:

            1. moral/rational analysis is important. Practice is a good thing

            2. An example of what to avoid. Whatever mistakes Hitler made, I don’t want to make them.

            3. Confirms my view that darwinism (not in scientific sense) is evil/dangerous. Is also ammunition against it. Kind of obvious, but some (aggressive non-)ideologies rely on being so obviously wrong that it can be hard to know where to start with them. Examples of the things they are responsible for are a great place to start.

            4. Makes me think that, if a person is likely to be highly influential, they have a higher responsibility to make sense internally. It’s fine for me to have some irrational or arational dreams to sustain me, but if there’s any chance I will be influential later in life, I have a responsibility not to create something to lean on now in a way that will commit me to a dangerous course/outlook in the future.

            The mental structures I create/adopt/invest myself in are not automatically harmless. (even if I need them to survive, or more-than-survive)

            5. Not so relevant now, but it’s relevant to what punishment is appropriate. Imo anything other than an honest mistake means torture is the only appropriate punishment, -there has to be some minimal redress, and disencentive, -but torturing someone who acted without ill intent is itself a travesty. Not such a bad one in such a case, relatively speaking that is, but something to be avoided nonetheless.

            Let me put it another way -The “status” of humanity at large diminishes if we allow a malicious actor on a remotely comparable scale to get away without very serious reprisals. -It shows a lack of will that invites other oppurtunists to try their luck. The potential payoff to trying to become emperor of the world (or similar schemes and crimes) is much higher than your average murder, or other crime fitting the death penalty, so there should be a higher disincentive.

            However, negligence and weakness/stupidity categorically cannot justify prolonged torture, no matter how bad or how bad the consequences.

            Currently torture is not generally considered as a punishment for wrongdoing, but I think it is the fundamentally correct response in such cases, given the nature of humans and our universe. -Death is no disincentive to the kind of person who said (roughly) [I will skip happily into my grave knowing I have 5 million deaths on their conscience”.

            They say, “through evil, I become immune to harm”. (I can hurt you but you can’t hurt me). -It’s good, perhaps even necessarry, to prove them wrong.

             

             

            I would like to engage the other points you made but I am all typed/tapped out.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think we need to separate the question of whether the genocide was a goal from the very beginning (which I argue it was), from the question whether the actual implementation was planned out in detail (which I would argue was not). I especially would argue that Hitler thought that he would quickly conquer much of Europe, then achieve a stalemate/peace and then have the time to implement his various plans at his leisure. One of Hitler’s many flaws was that he was a ‘big idea’ person. People unconcerned with the sloppiness of life tend to fail to see not just the downsides of extremist solutions, but also many of the forces that make their implementation very difficult/impossible.

            @Anton

            A man is supposed to be a wolf. The latter makes a much less viable scapegoating target.

            I disagree, all genocides have an ‘it’s us or them’ logic behind them, which requires the target to be an actual threat. The Jews were not just considered rats/insects, they were seen as a plague that if left unchecked, would destroy the Aryans. Remember that the scapegoating of the Jews included the idea that they had a shared agenda (Protocols of Zion).

            Anyway, the biggest reason why feminism has only a very tiny and weak ‘mass-murder’ faction is IMO less that its ideology is incompatible with genocidal ideas, but more because feminism stereotypes women as non-violent. So using violence is inconsistent with the ideology.

            Add in the fact that males are more or less completely evenly distributed through the entire population

            True, genocide requires a strong separation. However, radical feminism has a faction that seeks this, through ‘political lesbianism.’ But even Dworkin lived with a man for most of her life. It’s undoubtedly much easier to segregate away from a group that one is not sexually attracted to.

            Anyway, you seem to think that I argued that feminism can/will result in genocide, but my actual idea was more that the same bigotry that at its worst leads to genocide is a threat to society, not just if it leads to genocide proper, but also the discrimination that it otherwise legitimizes. In hindsight, I did not make this very clear.

            Maybe there’s more lineage between her and modern feminism than I realise though?

            I would suggest that the stereotyping and strong collectivism (it’s group X vs group Y) are common elements, however, a good argument can be made that this is due to the strong Marxist elements in feminism.

            Hitler was also a genius, and an all-time-best level public speaker.

            I don’t see how he was a genius. He gained power in conditions that were perfect for a populist authoritarian and he merely used scapegoating (using established discriminatory beliefs) as well as fairly obvious economic solutions to gain power. His biggest strength is that he chose very good helpers.

            basic premises are not exempt from the responsibility of rational analysis. They are the most important things to get right.

            Yes, but I don’t consider it lunacy to base one’s ideas on wrong facts, especially when in an environment where the wrong facts are seen as truths.

            Someone with extremely bad premises but very high functional is almost the definition of a lunatic

            No, IMO lunacy requires strong irrationality, not just believing in wrong facts and then drawing semi-rational conclusions based on those facts.

            so to me epistemic rationality is closely tied with a kind of basic altruism/decency

            You are conflating rationality with someone having a goal that you think they should have. If I program a killer robot to systematically kill humans, it would act rationally, but not morally. If you have a mental patient who believes that he is God and will end all wars, he is morally OK, but not rational.

            Or not, either way lebensraum is an insane idea that he takes almost as an axiom.

            It’s not insane to take resources that you need from others, it’s simply selfish. Judging it as lunacy means that one must consider many leaders of the past to be lunatics, cheapening the term by having little difference between a lunatic and others.

            I wasn’t thinking of the holocaust because I’m not sure if that was his doing or not.

            It’s clearly his idea, if you read Mein Kampf and his speeches.

            Hitler thinks following his “dreams” is a panacea against doing something catastrophically wrong. -A sense that aesthetics can literally stand in for morals and rationality

            No, Hitler thought that all alternatives would result in the destruction of Aryans/Germans and result in great suffering. In his eyes, he made the moral choice, in the same way that a person who uses pesticides thinks that insects are a threat to human well-being and it’s morally just to kill the one to benefit the other.

            In essence, he saw a choice between killing the Jews and then having Aryans live happy lives or Jews destroying Aryans and then living very unhappy lives:

            If the Jews were alone in this world, they would suffocate as much in dirt and filth, as they would carry on a detestable struggle to cheat and to ruin each other
            Mein Kampf

            So in his mind, he chose the option that maximized human happiness (especially long term).

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy

            It seems inconsistent for a hardcore Darwinist to resent Germany losing WW1 by being betrayed. If you lose, you lose. Your strength or your skills or your judgement just weren’t adequate.

            Traditionally, people make a distinction between a fair fight and cheating.

            A fair fight leads the best person to win, cheating doesn’t. A Darwinist that wants the best genes to survive would logically be unaccepting of an end result that would result in the worse genes to survive due to cheating.

            The Nazi ideology was that the German forces were superior and would have won, but for being stabbed in the back. So the end result didn’t reflect the actual strengths, but rather an external corruption that only sought to harm one side.

            If the Nazi’s believed that the Allies also had those back-stabbers, but had better judgement due to being better people, then your argument makes sense. But they didn’t. They thought that the Allies had it easier.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            I think we need to separate the question of whether the genocide was a goal from the very beginning (which I argue it was), from the question whether the actual implementation was planned out in detail (which I would argue was not). I especially would argue that Hitler thought that he would quickly conquer much of Europe, then achieve a stalemate/peace and then have the time to implement his various plans at his leisure. One of Hitler’s many flaws was that he was a ‘big idea’ person. People unconcerned with the sloppiness of life tend to fail to see not just the downsides of extremist solutions, but also many of the forces that make their implementation very difficult/impossible.

            There are respectable and intelligent historians on both sides of the argument, and it’s an argument that probably can never be settled unless there’s something really important sitting in a forgotten archive somewhere. This is good for historians because it means they can keep arguing indefinitely.

            I personally find the argument that the changing fortunes of Germany and the effects of the war led from pipe-dream plans to send them to Madagascar or beyond the Urals, to escalating murder, most convincing – I think it fits the contemporary documentary evidence and the physical evidence better.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            People make a distinction between a fair fight and cheating; natural selection does not. There is only more fit and less fit. If cheaters win, they’re “more fit”. Anything else is not Darwinism.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            That’s because Hitler believed in Social Darwinism, which is not the exact same thing as natural Darwinism. So I think that your criticism fails to address this difference.

            Hitlers argument was that an uncorrupted, united and aware Aryan Germany would defeat what he saw as a Jewish collective threat. His argument was not that WW I Germany was already superior, but rather that it could be made superior if it achieved its full potential. How? By National Socialism.

            The difference between natural selection and social selection is that the latter doesn’t require genetic mutations, but rather cultural change, which can be effected by ideology. So Hitler’s argument was essentially that one could organize the Aryans to be better adapted similarly to how one can today modify the genes of a plant to make it resistant to a disease.

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

            @aapje

            I disagree, all genocides have an ‘it’s us or them’ logic behind them, which requires the target to be an actual threat. The Jews were not just considered rats/insects, they were seen as a plague that if left unchecked, would destroy the Aryans.

            I did not say anything which contradicted this.

            With the subthread structure being how it is, I’m not going to check, but I may even have said something along the same lines myself (perhaps earlier). If not, I assumed that was taken for granted.

             

            Anyway, you seem to think that I argued that feminism can/will result in genocide, but my actual idea was more that the same bigotry that at its worst leads to genocide is a threat to society, not just if it leads to genocide proper, but also the discrimination that it otherwise legitimizes. In hindsight, I did not make this very clear.

             

            Well my original point was along the lines that Dworkin seems both less dangerous and more virtuous than modern day feminism. There may be an effect from her writings in the direction you propose, but there could also be one in the opposite direction from making such extreme and, obviously-false-looking statements. Who knows how it would shake out?

            And she is a very marginalised figure. Modern feminism on the other hand seems like a chauvanistic, but polite, creeping religion.

            One basic feature of such zeitgeist viruses, is that many believers adopt as an axiom, the idea that one only has to be told of the religion, and a normal person will fall to their knees and rejoice.

            “Have you heard the good news?” – “Let me tell you about intersectionalism.”

            However, unlike christianity, there hasn’t been two thousand years to build up an immune response, especially the more dangerous strains and individual dogmas, nor has there been two thousand years for the elect to settle down/learn patience. And nor do we have two thousand years of not killing the host to look back on for reassurance. (not that I’m saying it’s likely a priori, but a new religion, unlike an old one, is an unknown quantity,

             

            And the bizarre aspects don’t have another layer of reality to sit quietly in, not directly impinging on anything.

            Twisting my mind into knots trying to “have faith” in dogmas about another universe could be an enjoyable game. Needing to “listen and believe” about the world I actually live in,

            -or “not invalidate people’s lived experiences” or whatever phrase is being used for “adopt these beliefs uncritically as your own, or condemn yourself (as one who heard the good news but turned away)”, is a much bigger ask than christians make, -and they think they’re speaking on behalf of the creator of the universe.

            (and the christian version is already a variant of “surrender your soul …..because I said so” (in my capacity as a representative of my group) ).

             

            Neither Dworkin nor her followers have ever demanded obeisance from me. I haven’t come across anything from her with that sense of religious self righteousness that thinks their own smugness and commitedness to spreading across the planet like a

            [cancer/glorious light, -pick one]

            should be enough to convince you of what they say.

             

            And if she has been and I’ve missed it, at least her beliefs are suitably strident and entertaining for such an irrational enterprise (and, at least I missed it).

            If you’re demanding something irrational and ridiculous, like belief without basis, I’d rather you have something of an aesthetic of active irrationality, or ridiculousness about you, so I know I’m actually joining you in something, not following like a lamb to the slaughter. Of course I won’t join in either case, but “join me in irrationality” is quite a different request than “give up your rationality, so that you can join me in my particular beliefs”

             

            Is there some underlying truth expressed in exageration, and letting loose with raw feeling, -forget propositional meaning, at least for the moment- -that can’t be within the tethers of reason, or not so well?

            I don’t think there’s anything worth my time, but at least asking me to surrender my rationality on that basis is not an insult, as asking me to surrender my rationality for a quiet bit of posing and hand wringing guilt is.

            -You offer me NOTHING?

            ..IN RETURN FOR MY SOUL?..

             

            The latter is not just ground for a no. You could make the argument that it’s, alone, almost grounds for war. It would be a rather irrelevant argument, given everything else they’re up to, but that alone is pretty much there.

             

            Anyway, If you’re gonna have a cult, at least have some of the payoffs.

            And I can manage self righteousness all by myself, by the way, so you can’t pretend to offer me that, like you have a monopoly on it or something. So what reason do I have to even be tempted?

             

             

            And I have never, in fact, been presumed upon in this manner by Dworkin or a follower of hers. They don’t have the arrogance displayed by those who enjoy a status, (or “privelege”) as members of an aggressive but respected cult.

             

            It’s also an a new religion. I don’t know if all religions are this aggressive when they’re new, but look at how much ground an openly ridiculous religion like Scientology has taken. Who knows what one with a little more subtlety could do? How long has christianity survive the problem of evil?

            Feminism strikes me as a reactionary, anti-rational movement. -an assertion of the right to believe what makes you feel good, or motivates you, or works as a patch fix.

            Imo this is fundamentally what makes it dangerous. Many of it’s members are commited to opposing the idea of reason, nevermind civil discussion (/debate/argument).

            I’m sure there are decent people even in the most extreme fringres -like the pastor who will suffer and sacrifice to help homeless people one day, and the next will stand over an atheist aquantance, place a firm hand on their shoulder, and tell them that if they don’t accept the lord into their heart they will burn in hell. -because people’s actions don’t exist in a vacuum, insulted from what they believe about the world.

            -Because they have adopted an irrational idea as an axiom, or root node, in their belief system, for example that the spread of their religion should be a terminal goal (or simply/later adopting it directly as such) -as a psychological crutch/for the motivational, simplifying, or doubt-silencing benefits.

          • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

            @aapje part 2 (turns out there is a character limit)

             

            I don’t see how he was a genius. He gained power in conditions that were perfect for a populist authoritarian and he merely used scapegoating (using established discriminatory beliefs) as well as fairly obvious economic solutions to gain power. His biggest strength is that he chose very good helpers.

            He was a highly decorated soldier, skilled artist, the intellectual, organisational, and rhetorical leader of a movement, which he took from the ground up, -from irrelevancy. He inspired awe in many who met him, and loyalty in thousands upon thousands who didn’t.

            He wasn’t an authoritarian populist by accident -he was able to identifiy those conditions, take advantage of them, and leverage his position to crazy heights.

            I also think he was insane/a lunatic, which for me is further evidence that he was a genius (the property of being cracked in the head causing at least some impediments), but that is not an assumption we share.

             

            Yes, but I don’t consider it lunacy to base one’s ideas on wrong facts, especially when in an environment where the wrong facts are seen as truths.

            Ok, it’s true it may not technically/actually be insanity in that general case, but if the beliefs are wrong enough, and fundamental enough (near the roots of the tree rather than the twigs), isn’t it sure to express itself as something much like insanity?

            No, IMO lunacy requires strong irrationality, not just believing in wrong facts and then drawing semi-rational conclusions based on those facts.

            It sounds like the word “lunacy” rests on different points in concept space in our minds.

            “so to me epistemic rationality is closely tied with a kind of basic altruism/decency”

            You are conflating rationality with someone having a goal that you think they should have. If I program a killer robot to systematically kill humans, it would act rationally, but not morally. If you have a mental patient who believes that he is God and will end all wars, he is morally OK, but not rational.

            Again, we seem to mean different things by the word, in this case rational.

            I am interested in defending the idea that my version of this one is superior though. -rationality, insofar as it’s distinct from just “winning”, or “competence”, or “ability to get what you want”,

            (-and it probably should be distinct, because we have a seperate word for it, with particular, quite different, etymological roots and structure, and because those things are easy to express.

            ..rationality generally relates to “reason”.

            So what is reason?

            To answer that question (in any kind of reasonable time at least), I’m going to have to make some appeals to intuition so:

            I claim that reason is not the primary relevant skill to winning a gladiatorial duel to the death.

            That reason is not the primary skill in motivating oneself and directing oneself emotionally

            -(using these two examples to illustrate) -that reason is a particular thing, not covering everything a person does and is, nor everything that is important.

            Having hopefully established that reason is a particular thing, I claim that reason:

            is good for checking when one’s heuristics are wrong or miscalibrated, which heuristics should be applied to which situation, if they’re momentarily inaplicable, etc.

            and as such- insofar as reason acts as a correcting agent on intuition and emotional reactions, it plays a large part in determining when a belief (or cluster-of, etc) is beneficial to oneself but harmful to others

            And I view this as one of its primary roles.

             

            ok, anyway

             

            “Or not, either way lebensraum is an insane idea that he takes almost as an axiom.”

            It’s not insane to take resources that you need from others, it’s simply selfish. Judging it as lunacy means that one must consider many leaders of the past to be lunatics, cheapening the term by having little difference between a lunatic and others.

            Calling it lebensraum and treating it casusally and as something obvious is what shows actual insanity, beyond just homicidal selfishness.

            It conflates the idea of eating dogs in a dog eat dog world (innocent ones), with “we need room to live”. Everyone needs room to live. The doctrine isn’t. “living space”, it’s “we are so much more entitled to living space than others, who need it no differenly or less than we do, that we are entitled (or in fact, must) start a war for the sake of reallocating other people’s living space as ours.

            Conflating what is actually meant, with the idea of living space, is insane.

            And need is a meaningless word without a context. Need it for what? Basically all humans have a “need” to live a fulfilling and purposeful life, not too abjectly uncomfortable, but if circumstances do not permit this, slaughtering your neighbours to add their land to your own is the act of a psycopath, someone who has a basic failure of moral understanding, does not understand the world on a basic level -that other people are people as well. Hitler seems to have viewed the people of other countries like our example psychopath views other people, -as not real, moral non entities, or something equivalent, and what speaks to the insanity here even more, is that he offers no excuse or explanation. It’s as if this variable is manually wired to this setting in his mind, and he was unable to see what this meant.

            This might be the result of some underlying premise, faithfully followed through, like “a person’s loyalty is to their people”, but having exactly that version of the premise -with the implicit -“only”, rather than for example, “a person’s primary loyalty to their people”, is the kind of basic failing that can poison the well of a person’s entire system of thought. It may not technically be lunacy to have a system of thought based on dangerously false premises, but it’s as near as makes no difference.

            (I also think appealing to “many leaders of the past” is a form of the naturalistic fallacy. -Just because something has happened before doesn’t mean it isn’t a terrible idea. Terrible ideas abound in history. And I really mean terrible.)

            e.g. http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.ie/2016/06/the-origin-of-law-of-torture-cautionary.html

             

            I wasn’t thinking of the holocaust because I’m not sure if that was his doing or not.

            It’s clearly his idea, if you read Mein Kampf and his speeches.

            I’ll look into it at some point, maybe it is. (clear)

            “Hitler thinks following his “dreams” is a panacea against doing something catastrophically wrong. -A sense that aesthetics can literally stand in for morals and rationality”

            No, Hitler thought that all alternatives would result in the destruction of Aryans/Germans and result in great suffering. In his eyes, he made the moral choice, in the same way that a person who uses pesticides thinks that insects are a threat to human well-being and it’s morally just to kill the one to benefit the other.

            In essence, he saw a choice between killing the Jews and then having Aryans live happy lives or Jews destroying Aryans and then living very unhappy lives:

            If the Jews were alone in this world, they would suffocate as much in dirt and filth, as they would carry on a detestable struggle to cheat and to ruin each other
            Mein Kampf

            So in his mind, he chose the option that maximized human happiness (especially long term).

            I probably wasn’t clear that this was an aggregate impression I had. -an “intuition”.

            It so happens that all of what you said there is compatible with the idea that mistaking aesthetics either for morality, or for a substitute for it, was a big part of what caused him do what he did, and be what he was. (it’s also compatible with other explanations of course)

            Anyway, as I said I can’t really back that up -it’s just the aggregate impression I have.

            (But for this kind of judgement I think that’s probably all one can have)

      • Skef says:

        I think you would need to do a bit more work to make this comparison stick. Or to put the problem another way, the creepiness you’re invoking may have the wrong valence.

        You only really get the Stormfront comparison if her argument is that these attitudes are biologically determined. That may be her position — I’m only familiar with simplistic secondary sources on Dworkin — but it’s common in feminism to attribute such attitudes to a toxic culture rather than directly to biology. From that point of view, all of this stuff is the result of a huge and terrible misunderstanding. To call “destroying women” a “common erotic project” rather than, say an “instinct”, weighs in favor of the cultural reading.

        If that were right of Dworkin, then the hyperbolic take on the creepiness involved shouldn’t be genocide, but re-education camps. If “destroying women” is the basis of “all male bonding”, then presumably there should be no male bonding. The picture is not of a society with all the men killed or locked up but one with no significant cultural accommodations for sex differences.

        • hlynkacg says:

          If “destroying women” is the basis of “all male bonding”, then presumably there should be no male bonding.

          I’m vaguely creeped out that anyone can make that assertion line without rolling their eyes. It’s straight up Jews bake Christian babies into pies/lizard people control the governemnt level shit.

        • Publius Varinius says:

          > You only really get the Stormfront comparison if her argument is that these attitudes are biologically determined.

          Nonsense. E.g anti-Catholic groups regularly get classified as hate groups by the SPLC, even though Catholicism has no biological basis.

          • Skef says:

            You can’t just re-write the original comparison replacing Stormfront with an anti-catholic group and have it make sense. The whole thing is structured around “merely by virtue of an inborn trait”.

            If your point is that Dworkin’s views are comparable to those of some hate group, I’m not sure I disagree. The “[almost] everything is culture” crowd doesn’t often get that kind of comparison because most people reject the premises, and think such views must come from another source.

            But that doesn’t make such a comparison straightforward. Suppose you meet person A who really seems agitated about Jews and talks about how they do all sorts of bad things to various groups, including eating babies. Then you meet person B, who also seems really agitated about Jews, but as an example of people who eat babies, which seems to be his real preoccupation. Both A and B are doing something wrong, but not clearly the same thing.

    • Skef says:

      I’m glad you’re bringing this sub-topic from the previous thread back up in this way.

      It seems to me that arguments over who must disavow some controversial figure tend to be taken by the different sides in this way: The pro-disavowal side looks at the question in terms of the stated positions of the figure, arguing that they are inaccurate and repugnant and therefore likely dangerous. The other side looks at the question in terms of the figure’s role in the movement or debate. Maybe the person was wrong about a lot of stuff, but in the time and place the statements were made they had (in this side’s view) an overall positive effect, and no one really takes that stuff so seriously now that it could be dangerous.

      And so people demanding the disavowal of Dworkin are thinking they are asking for something like the disavowal of Marx or may be a prominent open racist — someone who influences in virtue of their views being influential. But in fact they may be asking for something more like the disavowal of Andrew Breitbart — a rhetorical “operator” who is admired as such.

    • Jiro says:

      The only thing I remember from that thread (other than it being taken for granted that Dworkin was bad or particularly bad) is that she apparently said all sex (in our society) is rape, and I’m left wondering, if she did (not sure on that point, but assuming now), so what?

      Rape can be punished. Saying that all sex is rape is basically saying that people can be punished for sex (or more likely, selectively punished for sex that the punisher thinks is bad).

      All sex is rape, and all sex without affirmative consent (or some other arbitrary requirement) is rape, are not all that far apart.

  19. A domestic/language question: how do you store clean socks, and what terms do you use in connection with this practice?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      – Placed together and then one sock inverting over the other until the length is halved.
      – I would call it “folding”, mostly because it is part of the broader task.

    • Aaron Brown says:

      I fold them and stack them. I keep the pairs together but I neither do nor have a word for the thing of wrapping one sock’s ankle around the other.

      Edit: More language stuff: Even if I did the ankle thing, I’d probably still say, “I need to fold these socks.” For putting them in pairs I’d say, “I need to put these socks in pairs.” (Or maybe “I need to pair these socks” or “I need to pair these socks up.”)

    • Nornagest says:

      For each pair of socks, I place them flat together, roll them up from the toe end until a tight spiral is formed, then invert the mouth of the outermost sock over the whole package to form a ball.

      Never thought much about what I’d call it, but probably “rolling” or “balling” socks. Definitely not “folding”.

      • For each pair of socks, I place them flat together, roll them up from the toe end until a tight spiral is formed, then invert the mouth of the outermost sock over the whole package to form a ball.

        This is the exact practice I grew up with, and which I have recently returned to.

        People in my family presumably called it “pairing” socks, but since each two-sock bundle was pear-shaped, as a child, I thought they meant “pearing”.

        I buy all one kind of white athletic sock and black dress sock

        That’s the theory, but my socks are not in fact all identical, and they are different enough that wearing unmatching ones makes me (irrationally?) uneasy.

        I have found that spending a little time pairing (or “pearing”) the clean socks from the laundry saves time and trouble when getting dressed in the morning.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      I buy all one kind of white athletic sock and black dress sock, and throw them into a drawer after they come out the dryer.
      It’s called “doing a wash”.

    • I line the two socks up with each other, then pull the elastic part from one sock over the pair, making a ball. I find to my surprise that I don’t have a word for this.

    • Anonymous says:

      I put all my clean socks and underwear in one pile on a shelf. When I need socks, I pick out two vaguely similar ones.

    • Winfried says:

      I try to buy all the same kind of socks, at least in broad categories, and neatly stack them in a drawer.

      Folding/balling/matching socks is not recommended for good wool socks (most of what I wear) due to increased wear on the elastic.

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      I pair socks: by placing them together and turning the top of one over both of them. It isn’t particularly tidy but it does mean I get matching socks when I stick my hand randomly in the drawer. I’ve never heard anyone say they fold socks before!

    • Outis says:

      I pair the socks and fold them once, but I stop there – no messing with the elastic of balling them up. They still stay paired in the drawer. I am horrified at all the people who say they just grab random unpaired socks.

  20. HeelBearCu says:

    Arthur C. Clark’s third law is “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    I want to push, not so much against, but orthogonal to this law. I propose the following:

    “Anything which can be reliably and predictably repeated ceases to be magic.”

    If we were able to to reliably and consistently repeat something which we believed violated the laws of physics as we understood them, we would say that that our understanding of physics was wrong. Then we would spend a long time trying to understand what this new phenomenon was, what its limits were, how we could describe it accurately, and how it interacted with the physics we already knew. Maybe we would even call this new field of inquiry “wizardry: the study of magic” (although I doubt it), but it means that magic would have stopped having its old meaning.

    • Patrick Merchant says:

      I always interpreted this phrase as meaning “things which were once characterized as being magical – flying, travelling to the moon, breathing while underwater – become possible with sufficiently advanced technology.” If we define magic as “something that reliably breaks the laws of physics as we understand them,” then sure, magic is just the word we apply to our own confusion when our scientific laws are incorrect. If we instead define magic as “something that a layman of a particular era wouldn’t expect to be possible, but is,” then sufficiently advanced technology fits the bill. If the gambit involved in signing up for cryonics ends up paying off, then “resurrection” will be a literal, real thing that people will experience. It won’t even need quotation marks – those people really will die and then get resurrected! Calling that magic is pretty tempting. The word just feels appropriate, even if it isn’t technically correct.

    • It’s plausible that Clarke was talking about prediction and/or science fiction as much as about the real world, and the unpredictable thing about sufficiently advanced technology is that you can’t tell in advance what it will be able to do, even if each technologically advanced area is composed of predictable elements.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I think Clark was talking about contact between civilizations with wildly different tech abilities.

        If the Spaniards had shown up, killed Montezuma, but then all died of amoebic infection, somehow leaving the New World to go on its course without further interruption, they might have been some God brought magical supermen.

        But they stayed, and rapidly became “those people”.

        • “I think Clark was talking about contact between civilizations with wildly different tech abilities.” That’s reasonable, but I’d include that the way the idea is used includes the present and the past as an example of different civiizations, not to mention, more hypothetically, the present and the future.

          A little more about replicability– there’s occasional fantasy with very replicable magic. It used to be used for humor (“Magic, Inc.”, The Toxic Spell Dump Operation Chaos ). You’d get a civilization very like ours, but with magic substituted for some of technology in addition to plot possibilities opened up by magic.

          These days, I think there’s fantasy (especially military fantasy?) where reliable magic is just another sort of technology. You get some of that in Stross’ The Nightmare Stacks.

          Tolkien pushed the limits of replicable magic in traditional fantasy, I think,and got away with it by making magic rare. You’ve got seven Palantiri and three Silmarils, but no more.

          The more common sort of magic is done by individuals and is more like art. I’ve seen a claim that magic is how the writer thinks about writing, but I’m not sure there’s evidence for this.

          • LHN says:

            I’d say that Tolkien treated magic as largely non-replicable– as art rather than tech. A given artifact could often only be made by one person, and the creation of something major drew on a non-renewable resource within the maker. I’m pretty sure Feanor said he couldn’t make more Silmarils even before the destruction of the Two Trees made it outright impossible, no one else could make new palantiri, etc. Different people might make magic swords, but they’d be very different magic swords.

            (Maybe. The “glow when Orcs are nearby” is a shared property of different swords. That may have been more generic, or Orcrist, Glamdring, and Sting may just have been made by the same person in Gondolin.)

            One of the multiple origins he came up with for the Elessar did have Aragorn’s be a replacement copy. But even there, it was inferior to the original and still something that could only be made by the second greatest smith in history– it’s still treated more like copying the Mona Lisa from memory. (And it’s not clear if that’s actually magical, or just pretty.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I wasn’t talking about magic in fictional worlds. Magic can be made to feel real in fictional worlds. Fictional worlds can (and do) just ignore the things that would be problematic.

            But in the real world, for magic to feel real, it has to seem fictional, if that makes any sense.

          • Jiro says:

            “Non-replicable” in the sense of “you can’t make another sword like this” isn’t the same as “non-replicable” in the sense of “you can’t test if this sword does special things”.

            I think one trait of magic is that it assumes that categories that are conceptually simple and important to human beings actually divide the world at the seams.

          • LHN says:

            @Jiro Yes, and also, frequently, intent matters. Sometimes explicitly because magic involves petitioning or controlling beings with wills of their own.

            In Tolkien, this may not be strictly true, but there’s still a strong sense of difference between violently forcing the world into a desired shape, and creation done to produce beauty and harmony. The moral weight of those choices tends to carry over into the creation, even where they’re functionally similar.

            (So of course a sword made in hate and bitterness by Eol the dark Elf has the starring role in a tragedy, while a blade made in Gondolin or Arthedain to fight the Enemy with tends to find itself in the hands of a hero.)

          • Randy M says:

            I think one trait of magic is that it assumes that categories that are conceptually simple and important to human beings actually divide the world at the seams.

            This strikes me as an insightful way of phrasing it. Another might be something along the lines of “Magical thinking is answering cause and effect questions via recourse to narrative.”

          • onyomi says:

            “I think one trait of magic is that it assumes that categories that are conceptually simple and important to human beings actually divide the world at the seams.”

            This is a very good description, and might also explain some of magical stories’ timeless appeal.

          • “In Tolkien, this may not be strictly true, but there’s still a strong sense of difference between violently forcing the world into a desired shape, and creation done to produce beauty and harmony. The moral weight of those choices tends to carry over into the creation, even where they’re functionally similar.”

            A bit less than I thought– it turns out that one of the reasons the elves needed to leave was that their effort to stop time was mummifying the part of the world they were controlling.

            This is from Verlyn Flieger’s A Question of Time, which is about time and dreams in Tolkien.

    • SilasLock says:

      This is a hard discussion to have without falling into linguistic prescriptivism. We can define “magic” as whatever we like; the really hard questions center around “what can we do with this definition?”

      Definitions should be like axioms: starting places.

      By the definition of Arthur C. Clark, magic is “that which we cannot understand or manipulate, based on a snapshot of human capabilities at a point in time (whenever Clark wrote his third law)”. Based on that definition, his analysis is correct. Future technology really is indistinguishable from magic, because it performs functions impossible during the codification of Clark’s third law.

      Your definition,

      “Anything which can be reliably and predictably repeated ceases to be magic.”

      relies upon a certain conception of science. Once a phenomenon becomes predictable and repeatable, it becomes an object of scientific inquiry and ceases to be magic. But science encompasses more than the merely predictable and repeatable. The Big Bang, for instance, is certainly not a repeatable or predictable event, yet I think everyone would agree that is an object of scientific analysis.

      I mean, maybe we can repeat it at some point by messing with the universe enough, I dunno. But that’s kind of outside of our practical abilities. =P

      I’d like to reformulate your definition of magic.

      Pre-deists used to find evidence of God in all things inconsistent. The world operated off of certain rules, they argued, but God occasionally broke those rules through the use of miracles. That which we could not explain became evidence for God’s existence. Eventually, science came along and explained a lot of previously unexplained phenomena, leading atheists to sneer about the “god of the gaps,” who shrank away whenever science made progress.

      But what if there were some phenomena that we simply couldn’t understand or fit into our established paradigms? Suppose that physicists, after proving that there was no such thing as a luminiferous aether, couldn’t come up with general relativity to explain the propagation of light? They racked their brains, but nothing came to mind. The greatest geniuses of our time were stumped.

      If humankind, with all of its variation in IQ, failed to come up with an explanation for the propagation in light and seemed immanently likely to never come up with such an explanation, we’d have no choice but to declare the propagation of light outside the realm of science. It would be a miracle. It would be magic.

      So, to reformulate HeelBearCu’s definition:

      Magic is anything that defies scientific explanation, and is likely to remain outside the realm of human understanding forever. Any phenomena that can be assimilated into a wider model of reality ceases to be magic.

      This definition isn’t perfect, and it irks me to write it. But it’s a start, and I’m hoping other SSC readers can improve upon it.

      Interesting note: Based on the present definition, human consciousness seems to be magic. Thoughts?

      • HeelBearCu says:

        I don’t think this really works, because people can always come up, with theories.

        Otherwise, gravity might fit your current definition. Or might have at some point.

        But, even if you posit a religious figure who can, say, instantly cure people of insanity (demon possession) or kill fig trees with a word, if s/he can do these things reliably, every single time in some documentable manner, I still think the magic of it would cease.

        This is slightly tempered because it would be just one person doing it. But in something like an actual Harry Potter universe, magic users would be more like prodigies in any field.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I think replicability needs to play into the definition as well. If, after some study, I’m able to wave a twig around, yell “Ficus Kedavra” and reliably kill the fig tree, the magic is gone. If nobody else can do it, maybe it’s magic after all. (If I can only perform the spell using a specific “magic wand” that is otherwise indistinguishable from a normal twig, I may also still count that as magic).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Mmmmm. I think if even one person can go around killing figs or ficuses or even species indeterminate shrubbery, and do it reliably and repeatedly and can be documented, then this starts to become “Woah, what is going on here!” and after a while, when it becomes apparent that they can only kill plants with a certain genetic makeup, and nothing else, and no other powers. it becomes scientific curiosity (with some cult following for sure).

            Then if you figure out where the power comes from (“midichlorians!”) even if you can’t yet square that with the reset of physics, it becomes just an unexplained phenomena of high interest.

      • DavidS says:

        Not sure about this. Lots of people believe that consciousness, morality, or ‘why the world exists’ are beyond scientific explanation but wouldn’t describe them as magic. Also this doesn’t capture the distinction between miracle/divine intervention and magic proper. The central examples of magic are essentially manipulating the world (whether through Words of Power, sympathetic magic principles or whatever) and can be distinguished from e.g. asking God to smite your foes.

        As with most words, I think magic is more a matter of family resemblance than core definitions. And a big part of it is who does it as well as what it is. E.g.
        – Generally, only some people can inherently do it (muggles v mages)
        – Whether above is true or not, long apprenticeship is needed: it’s more like a martial art than using a more advanced gun

        • Nornagest says:

          Really depends what you think of as central examples of magic. Most historical attempts at ritual magic are very much about asking God to smite your foes, more or less directly (in the Goetic tradition, you’d normally summon and bind a spirit through a formulaic ritual in Christian esoteric language, then tell the spirit to go shank a dude); the Words of Power thing is mainly a fictional convention.

          Sympathetic magic does have more of a pedigree, though.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            then tell the spirit to go shank a dude

            What is the Latin for “shank” again? I’ve misplaced my “Daemonic Command for Dummies” reference.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            Here is the appropriate part of the scripture:

            A Reading from the Book of Armaments, Chapter 4, Verses 16 to 20:

            Then did he raise on high the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, saying, “Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.” And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the lambs and toads and tree-sloths and fruit-bats and orangutans and breakfast cereals … Now did the Lord say, “First thou pullest the Holy Pin. Then thou must count to three. Three shall be the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count two, excepting that thou then proceedeth to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the number of the counting, be reached, then lobbest thou the Holy Hand Grenade in the direction of thine foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.”

    • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

      If use of magic is inherently mediated through an individual soul, as it seems to be in most cases, it might be impossible to pin a lot of things down about it. Kind of like you can figure out a lot of things about e.g. maths, but there is no universal formula for how to become a master of that subject, that’s between your soul and the platonic absolutes.

      And magic is generally a lot less predictable/transitive than maths -usually more like writing or fighting or balancing.

      If there’s another dimension, or mana floating through the air, or an adjacent dimension which is the source, the mana flows could be highly, unpredictable, bordering on inherently.

    • Nicholas says:

      I feel like all of these definitions are using magic in a fashion that people who unironically and non-fictionally refer to things as magic. These are definitions of magic that exclude: Wizards, learning magic from tomes, magical creatures, magical powers, magical rituals, magical substances, alchemy. And if none of those things are central examples of magic, then I’m not sure what that word means.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        But what would happen, in the real world, if we could actually do these things?

        Would they be the secret provenance of a handful of obscure and unknown practitioners? Or would they be just another tool that humanity uses to further itself?

        • Nicholas says:

          Among the people who use the term in a non-fictional, non-ironic sense, yes to both points. Contemporary magic is comparable to Rationality: A tool with massive potential to change your individual life and the community you live in, that most people don’t adopt because #civilizationalinadequacy. The reason given for why most people aren’t wizards is roughly the same reason most people aren’t physicists: It’s difficult, and only enjoyable to learn if you have a non-central mind, and doesn’t help you do anything until you’ve studied it for four years.

        • Anton on a non-anon, (non "anonanon") ("anon"..and on) account says:

          they would remain spectacular and dangerous, but it’s unlikely they would be quite so mysterious. (as a default)

          (See my point above about magic being mediated through an individuals soul, like a skill (art, writing, maths, therapy, surfing, climbing, “freerunning”, etc), not as a science, and probably not much like maths in particular)

    • LPSP says:

      I think that law was certainly intended more from a narrative sense than anything else. He’s saying that the inclusion of advanced technology beyond the reader’s understanding may as well be advanced sorcery beyond the reader’s understanding.

      The stuff about consistency is interesting. The laws of reality that govern our lives are a perfectly consistent (true for all situations), perfectly complete (true for ALL situations) yet perfectly implicit (nothing is stated, everything must be inferred from example) system; any errors in our understanding indicate that we failed to catch something. The maxims we use in our daily lives aim for explicitude, at a sacrifice to one or both of consistency or completion; the former are proverbs and rules of thumb, which act as general guides for many situations but which can always be violated or break down under a specific circumstances. (the existence of many counter-paired proverbs stands as testament to this; “ask a question and be a fool for moment or be silent and be a fool forever” vs “better to say nought and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”) The latter are our scientific formulations, which are all highly accurate for certain circumstances but which break down in others; think Newton’s laws of gravity, which are as true as Einstein’s formulation for objects much smaller than Earth that are close to its surface, but which rapidly lose validity otherwise. Einstein’s rules are true in far more situations, but are more complicated to follow; they are less explicit in a sense, as they are harder to simply and directly share.

      Real life belief in magic falls under these two umbrellas – they were past explanations for phenomena that proved inadequate for whatever reason. In stories where magic is true – historically based or otherwise – the laws of reality take on a formal aspect in exchange for being one or both of inconsistent or incomplete. Presumably the explicitude takes the form of wise beings (Elves, Wizards) hearing the voice of the world telling them their secrets, or gods and angels descending to share messages. Perhaps even then, we can infer that reality is still both consistent and complete in fictional universes abundant with magic, but that the characters benefit from a mystical leg up in understanding – which is a pretty common device across all fiction if you think about it.

  21. FacelessCraven says:

    This may be a strange thing to bring up, but here goes.

    *****Content Warning: Actual Real-World Warfare, Violence, Death******

    …Has anyone else been watching the footage coming out of the Siege of Allepo? I’ve spent a chunk of the weekend watching Kornet ATGM shots and drone footage, and I’ve never seen anything like it.

    Drone Footage

    …GoPro combat footage, I’ve seen before. It’s the drone footage that really twist my brain. If the drone operator is in anything like real-time contact with the guys on the ground, that has to be a pretty absurd advantage.

    !Content Warning! – gun camera footage
    !Content Warning! – gun camera footage

    My first reaction to these was that it had to be super-wasteful to use a wire-guided ATGM against personnel targets, but from what I’ve been reading this has been a pretty damn effective tactic. The ATGMs are (barely) man-portable, and appear to give small infantry units a standoff precision-strike capability against enemy troops. With something like a 2.5-mile range for the ATGM, and judging by the footage a lot of the enemy troops don’t see it coming till it’s right on top of them. I’ve never seen or heard of American or European troops using, say, javelins or TOWs this way; I’d expect them to call air support, artillery or armor for this sort of thing, but I can’t help but wonder if ATGMs might not have some pretty significant advantages; faster response time, no communications chain, better control over the weapon and target, less collateral damage?

    • anon says:

      I think the tactical role of drones is potentially one of the most interesting — and least reported — aspects of the Syrian Civil War. I assume that the various US war colleges have people studying the footage in great detail. But I have yet to see any professional analysis of the issue, so if you find some I’d be interested to know about it.

      • Sfoil says:

        Here’s an analysis of the Ukrainian conflict (from an unapologetically pro-Ukrainian POV) concerning novel weapons and tactics, including drones. Notice that the Russians use not only drones but counter-UAV electronic warfare while the Ukrainians just have to resign themselves to being watched. They can stay alive by either staying mobile or digging in.

        Wire-guided ATGMs have a range of about 4km, with wireless (ground-launched) models getting out to 5-6km, at least for anything man-portable. Time in flight to max range varies from about 13-20seconds, so these missiles look like they’re being used at about half that. This still outranges a heavy machine gun, with a much higher probability of kill, and it’s way over what you could hit with something like an AT4 or RPG-7. A light mortar could do it, but first-round hit probability is much lower and you need a lot of overhead clearance. Plus all these ATGM launchers have pretty good optics, something typically lacking on machine guns.

        US troops used TOW and Javelin missiles against personnel all the time in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are some videos around if you look. They issued older TOW models (TOW-2 and 2A, though note these are still pretty advanced weapons) and I understood that anything unused would eventually be destroyed as obsolete equipment. Javelins were harder to get but available. I have been told by users, but have never seen, that you can get a lock on a machine gun barrel with a Javelin. It’s certainly plausible, since the Javelin seeker is just an IR contrast detector and guns get really hot. You could probably just lock onto someone outright if conditions were right.

        • bean says:

          Javelin is imaging IR, not a simple detector. Simple detectors don’t work well except (sort of) against airplanes. I’m not surprised you can target it on a machine gun.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      It’s hard to guess the ranges, but almost everything I’ve seen would have been accomplished in a western army with an AT4 or SMAW, rather than a very expensive MR-ATGM.
      The launchers shown were all Spigots or Spandrels though, weren’t they? Cheap surplus Russia can ship out by the truckload.

      NLOS missiles seem to be a thing these days, although the English had the Swingfire missile all the way back in the 60s. Now they’ve bought into the Israeli NLOS-Spike, possibly to replace/supplement the Javelin?
      Raython’s working on UAV-integration with the Griffin, but I haven’t been following that at all, and the last US project to get a light NLOS missile was… a disaster, at best.

      I just hope that when it’s our turn to do this we come up with a better catchphrase than “ALLAHUH AKBARRRR!!! X3000”
      “DEUS VULT” will only get us so far, guys.

      • Nornagest says:

        “Deus vult” is nice. Catchy.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Homo Iracundus – “It’s hard to guess the ranges, but almost everything I’ve seen would have been accomplished in a western army with an AT4 or SMAW, rather than a very expensive MR-ATGM.”

        One vid had a flight time of roughly seven seconds, the other of eight. Spigot flies at ~180 meters/sec, so something like 1,100 meters or so? That seems like a pretty long shot for light AT weapons. It’s out around the edge of effective range of an M2, and the blast effect and minimal response time available to the enemy seem like advantages over an HMG. And given how these things are fifty years old at this point, I’m curious how cheap you could make a modern version. All our missile tech seems to aim at being brilliant and fire and forget and specifically optimized for the anti-vehicle role, but that makes it expensive; seems like it might be nice to have a weapon like this that one could afford to use on whatever targets present themselves.

        “I just hope that when it’s our turn to do this we come up with a better catchphrase than “ALLAHUH AKBARRRR!!! X3000””

        They do display a notable tolerance for repetition. On the other hand, I rather enjoy the Nasheeds they add to the more produced clips.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I just hope that when it’s our turn to do this we come up with a better catchphrase than “ALLAHUH AKBARRRR

          Are we not using “GIT SUM!” ?

    • John Schilling says:

      I’ve never seen or heard of American or European troops using, say, javelins or TOWs this way

      I’ve never heard of them using such weapons in any other way, any time in the past twenty-five years. And wire-guided missiles as antipersonnel weapons goes back at least as far as the Falklands.

      It is, as you note, exceedingly effective. There are a bunch of people who want to hurt you. Or maybe it’s just one guy, but mostly people don’t become militarily significant threats until they get together with a few of their friends and get up to something. And look, here’s a rocket that makes explosions just about the right size for killing some guy and a few of his friends, with a guidance system precise enough to almost guarantee you’ll land it right in the middle of them, and the range to reach out and touch them at about the longest distance that you could recognize them as a threat and beyond their ability to strike back with any lesser weapon. Every infantry platoon in the Western world has these rockets. How are they not the perfect weapon for “hey, those guys over there are up to something and likely to hurt us?”

      Wasteful? A western soldier delivered to the front lines is at least $10 million; “wasteful” is telling him to charge a machine gun nest because you were too cheap to let him use the $50k missile you gave him to use against tanks the enemy probably doesn’t have.

      Don’t get hung up on the name. The fact that we call these things “antitank” missiles, and shape the explodey bit so it can make a small hole through thick armor plate as well as killing everyone for five meters around, is by this point mostly vestigial (but we’ll keep that capability just in case). Doctrine has long been that “antitank” missiles, and at shorter range the unguided antitank rockets and recoilless rifles, are perfectly acceptable antipersonnel weapons if you come across small groups of people who are making a nuisance of themselves from beyond rifle range.

      • gbdub says:

        Didn’t we develop a special version of the Javelin precisely for the purpose of taking out the sort of buildings we encounter in the Middle East? These are really dangerous to assault with small arms, but a Javelin through the roof blows the whole thing out from the inside, killing or incapacitating all the inhabitants, with minimal collateral damage.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @John Schilling – looks like I’ve got some reading to do. Thanks for the info!

        • John Schilling says:

          I was amused to see recently that the US was still buying new M-72 Light Antitank Weapons in spite of the LAW having been semi-retired thirty years ago as ineffective against modern tanks and in spite of the United States Army not having fought any wars against enemies with tanks in the past decade. The things are just so perfectly sized for demolishing a room full of People Up To No Good from just outside of AK-47 range, and much easier to carry on patrol than anything that also has to defeat an up-armored T-80 main battle tank.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Totally separate from your thread, but it’s scary how much that first video feels like playing Command & Conquer.

      And by “scary” I mean “I want to click on the mouse and have the green unit kill the red unit, and it takes very little for me to do it, but these are Real Souls on the ground I’m killing.”

    • Aegeus says:

      Raytheon is working on the Pike: a 40mm guided rocket that can be fired out of an underbarrel launcher. It’s the same idea, but more portable than an ATGM.

  22. Franz_Panzer says:

    Does anyone here have experience with Tai Chi?
    Specifically, is it something I could conceivable learn on my own in my own home without having to go to to a dojo?
    If so, what is the best way to start?