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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. Jill says:

    Scott Adams may be turning to where he hates both major party candidates for president. I almost have to admire what a bs artist the guy is. From his latest blog, here you have an ageist statement, plus a statement that no citizen or candidate can have any idea which would be the best policies for the country. This is entitled: How to Identify the Brainwashed. I myself would say you are brainwashed by Scott Adams, if you believe either of his 2 silly over-generalizations. What do you folks think?

    “If you support either Clinton or Trump for president, you are under the illusion that it makes sense to hire a 70-year old (approximately) for the most important job in the land – and one that could last eight years. That would be absurd in any other hiring context. But you are brainwashed to believe it is perfectly fine in this case. It isn’t.

    “Likewise, if you think either Clinton or Trump have good policy ideas, that is evidence that you are brainwashed. As a civilian, you have no idea which policies are better for the economy, or trade agreements, or immigration, or for battling ISIS. But you think you do because you have been brainwashed into believing that voters can know that sort of thing. They can’t. The candidates don’t know either. ”

    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/148692199141/how-to-identify-the-brainwashed

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Interestingly enough his premise is mildly flawed (Hillary does appear to be in poor health, drinks like a fish and has to put up with Bill’s antics)

      From http://www.lifeexpectancycalculators.com/actuarial-life-tables.html :

      A 70 year old man can expect another 13.7 years of life, while a 70 year old woman can expect to live another 16.1 years.

      An infant can expect to live to 75.4 and 80.4 years dependant upon gender, but making it to age 70 means that you will likely live at least another decade.

      • Randy M says:

        How many of those years can they expect to be in good health and of sound mind? I worry that some of those statistics might be skewed by medical care that prolongs life a few years despite waning capacity.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Adams is assuming I’d care if the President dropped dead due to old age. Either VP makes a better (if deadly boring) candidate that either principal.

      • John Schilling says:

        Well, Adams did qualify that with “If you support either Clinton or Trump for president”, and you clearly don’t.

        However, I think it is defensibly ageist to be extra suspicious of a 70-year-old candidate for a job that involves prolonged high levels of stress and may require critical decisions to be made on short notice. Not “I will never hire such a person for the job” suspicious, but “Can we see your health records along with your tax returns?” suspicious.

        For comparison, we require airline pilots to retire at 65 regardless of their health and even if they fly with a young, fit copilot. That’s probably stricter than it needs to be, but it wasn’t pulled out of thin air by a bunch of pure ageist bigots.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Even if I thought Clinton or Trump would make an absolutely great president, health wouldn’t be a large consideration. The presidency isn’t like flying an airplane; if the President drops dead the country is in no danger of crashing.

          It might make a difference (more likely in a primary), if I thought I’d have a strong chance of a full 8 years of a good solid President rather than a strong chance of a really great President who died in his first term. But if the less-healthy candidate is head and shoulders above the rest, the health considerations are secondary.

          • John Schilling says:

            Unfortunately, “drops dead” is not really all that good an analogy for what most people do some time after their seventieth birthday. The real process can be uglier, more damaging, and not always obvious until it is too late.

            And with airline pilots, we get to informally reevaluate their health before every flight, with a more thorough and formal go/no-go decision every six months.

        • Randy M says:

          You speak sense, but I expect most people who use the term “ageist” would chafe at it ever being put next to “defensible”. You are literally condoning prejudice there!

    • Rob K says:

      Adams at this point reminds me of a sort of crasser George Lakoff. They’re both right that mass communication and persuasion are about much more than just rational marshalling of facts, and they’re both massively laden with shit when it comes to their own theory of how things actually work.

      (This is mildly unfair to Lakoff, who bends every scenario to fit his pet theory but at least does the rest of us the courtesy, unlike Adams, of laying out his theory clearly enough that you can work through for yourself what it would predict. But then Lakoff is more than a little unfair to lots of other people, so oh well.)

      Persuasion is really interesting! There’s worthwhile research on it going on, a lot of it looking at the sort of group identity stuff that the Scott who blogs here is interested in. Scott Adams is some guy running a whack-a-mole game of bullshit speculation.

      • Jill says:

        I always liked Lakoff as far as he went. But, as a Dem, I was incredibly frustrated that neither he nor anyone else on the Dem side was doing research on what actually worked politically, like Luntz was doing so successfully for the GOP, as his book, Words That Work, demonstrated.

        Lakoff just threw his pet theories out there. Okay, good. But either he or someone else should have been testing them out, to see whether or not they worked. No one on the Dem side seemed to have a clue about how you could research persuasion and could test out whether your theories worked in the real world. I hope someone is doing that now for Hillary.

        • Rob K says:

          oh, I’m a librul too. My objections to Lakoff have nothing to do with his politics and everything to do with his (lack of) methodology.

          Luntz was clearly better at empiricism, but I would say that he falls somewhat into the trap of finding the kinds of tests that he’s good at doing (focus groups, largely) and extrapolating from there rather than identifying the question he’s trying to answer and designing an appropriate test.

    • Sandy says:

      The first generalization has a good deal of truth behind it — you can argue that it is much better to appoint someone around the age of Obama/Rubio/Ryan for President than someone around the age of Trump/Clinton/Sanders because intelligence and cognitive ability do decline with age, particularly once you hit the 70-mark.

      • Jill says:

        Perhaps on average, but there are big individual differences. If you average together all the Alzheimer’s people of that age, in with all the high functioning people, of course you get cognitive deficits on average. But healthiest 70 year olds are doing just fine cognitively. And as far as government is concerned, the older people may have a great deal of important experience.

        Age in the final analysis is just a number. And two people who have the same number for their age may be as different as night and day.

        • DavidS says:

          I’d be interested in this: is it the case that aging is a risk-factor that you MIGHT get certain types of cognitive impairment, or is there a significant general reduction even in broadly healthy people? I’d suspect the latter as certain professions like mathematics seem to benefit from younger minds. Although in other professions, and I think politics is very possibly one of them, the benefits of experience trump the benefits of a youthful mind.

    • Michael says:

      As a side comment, I saw that Scott Adams endorsed Amy Cuddy’s “Power Pose” theory:

      http://blog.dilbert.com/post/148599208386/drug-testing-presidential-candidates

      Have you heard of the “victory pose.” It’s a way to change your body chemistry almost instantly by putting your hands above your head like you won something. That’s a striking example of how easy it is to manipulate your mood and thoughts by changing your body’s condition.

      (I saw this because Andrew Gelman mentioned it on his blog)

    • Mr Mind says:

      If you support either Clinton or Trump for president, you are under the illusion that it makes sense to hire a 70-year old (approximately) for the most important job in the land – and one that could last eight years

      But is POTUS the most important job in the land? For what I could gather of US politics and government, s/he is mostly a military chief and a sockpuppet for the Congress, budget-wise.

      • Jordan D. says:

        The President has a lot of important powers – appointments, setting foreign policy, directing how the bulk of federal agencies act, signing or vetoing bills and practically plenary power over the military.

        It’s true that the President is less powerful than Congress when it comes to budget- but now we’re comparing one person to hundreds of Congresspeople. The demands and veto power of the President make them one of the most important people in the budgetary process too.

        A lot of people go too far in assuming that the President has crazy powers over everything, but the POTUS really is probably the most powerful officer in the world.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        The President is quite powerful. One might say that they are so powerful that people tend to think of them as super-powerful, which is incorrect.

        Even just looked at through the lens of legislation, they are 400+ times as powerful as an individual member of The House and 100 times as powerful as an individual senator.

        That’s facile, in a not even the right question kind of way, but any ordinal ranking of federal government positions by importance, President is going to come out on top.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        The US president’s most important constitutionally enumerated powers are the abilities to veto legislation (vetoes can in principle be overridden by a 2/3 majority in both houses of congress; in practice this seldom happens), to negotiate treaties, to serve as commander-in-chief of the military, and to select nominees for the federal judiciary. This already makes for a robust executive branch. But the powers of the presidency have dramatically expanded in the past few decades, first, because the size and reach of the federal bureaucracy have grown, and second, because we no longer bother with formal declarations of war, so defense policy is left largely to the executive’s discretion.

    • erenold says:

      Agreed, Jill.

      I still think Scott Adams’ oeuvre remains valuable reading, in the same way that courts will still admit hearsay evidence – on the understanding that it proves that the statement exists, not that it is correct. In other words, while it is clear that Adams’ posts have little to no predictive value and indeed are increasingly divorced from reality, it is useful to know that there are viable communities of individuals who think as he does and like he does, and it is also useful to know how and what they think.

      The bombastic claim that the DNConvention would cause HRC a negative ‘bounce’ and guarantee the Trump presidency – while quite funny in the context of literally the complete opposite happening – comes to mind. I’m not entirely sure when his typical mind fallacy became terminal, but he surely is one of the more extreme sufferers out there.

      (Though – props to him for the good epistemic practice of making falsifiable claims.)

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

      Just a comment on the word brainwashed.

      I think that if you want to convince someone they’ve been, “brainwashed”, probably brainwashed is the worst word for it.

      Compare:

      “you’ve been lied to” “you’ve been deceived” -same sense that someone has incorrect beliefs as a result of someone else’s hostile intent, without the implication that this was due to a lack of independence/will on the party with the incorrect beliefs. Or the shadow of the implication that the brainwashed part was complicit in some way (some form of negligence).

      or just “you are mistaken”, or maybe “your view is totally out of tune with the reality of [senility and risk of death in older people].

      -“Brainwashed” is just an aggressive thing to tell someone they are

  2. Ruprect says:

    How similar are the causes of gender imbalance in primary school teaching to the causes of gender imbalance in male dominated industries?

    I was raised by a primary school teacher, so it’s a highly respected profession in our household. My sense is that there is no real direct discrimination against men in primary school teaching (I think there are special bursaries available for men who want to train as primary school teachers), but that I would feel a little bit weird if I became one, or perhaps feel that other people might think me a bit weird.
    If I really wanted to become a primary school teacher, I don’t think that would stop me – but if it’s just something I’m vaguely interested in, it will probably lead me to pursue a different career.

    I feel like that vague “people might think ill of me” factor is probably the biggest cause of gender imbalances.

    On a side note, had some builders in doing some work recently, and it was great to see a male dominated industry in action. No messing around. Everyone seemed happy in their work.

    Though it’s the same with primary school teachers, actually. They seem to know their onions, too.

    Maybe there is something to be said for implicit segregation of industries by gender? I suppose it’s mainly damaging for those who are *just* discouraged from going into something they might otherwise be interested in?

    • Salem says:

      A former girlfriend of mine trained as a nursery school teacher, which is a closely related field. All the teaching instructors, and all the other trainees, were women – except one guy. According to my former girlfriend, he seemed nice enough, but everyone was extremely (and seemingly unjustly) suspicious of the idea of a man wanting to work with small children, the teachers were unfair to him, and he was pressured to quit.

      Maybe things are different in the country that you live in.

      • Ruprect says:

        My nephew has a male nursery school teacher. Interestingly, the teacher has quite a feminine manner. I think that makes it seem less unusual somehow.

        I don’t know how I’d feel if the teacher was more stereotypically masculine – I guess I’d be fine with it as long as the teacher appeared sufficiently professional, but maybe other people would feel differently.

        Re: your story – I’m surprised that that kind of discrimination still goes on in this day and age! How long ago was that?

        • Salem says:

          That was about 8 years ago. I’m from the UK, it may be different where you live.

          My impression is that this kind of discrimination is far more common now than in the past. When I was in primary school, male teachers were a minority, but common. Now they are like hen’s teeth. The panic over improper motives is relatively modern.

          Look at what’s happened to your post here – myself, Jiro and Nybbler are all saying the same thing. Of course other teachers and administrators are going to think likewise, and that will naturally affect the teacher’s employment prospects.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Even in the 80’s most of my male teachers in the UK were quite old (the last WWII veterans had recently retired, IIRC?), while the women were mostly in their 20s-30s.
            Looking back, the men had come into teaching the traditional way, and were gradually being replaced by women like my mother, who came up through the new education establishment.

            I still have a photograph of the books on her colleagues’ desks somewhere. There was a lot of 60s-80s 2nd-wave stuff, and there was definitely a strong anti-male atmosphere that Doris Lessing later denounced.

            It’s hard to explain unless you were living in it, but they definitely all felt that stopping men from “poisoning children’s minds” would cure the world of war, capitalism, etc.
            I suspect you’re right that the new “improper motives” business is just downstream of that nonsense being stamped into a few generations of kids.

          • Oh, my. I strongly recommend the Lessing piece.

            It’s got a lot about feminists being excessively nasty to men.

            I don’t think feminists are especially awful as people go.

          • Two McMillion says:

            I don’t think feminists are especially awful as people go.

            Kind of a low bar, don’t you think? 😛

          • Yes, it’s a low bar, but a lot of anti-feminists talk as though feminism is uniquely awful.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I don’t think feminists are especially awful as people go.

            I only claimed to be speaking in god’s name, why am I being held to such high standards?

    • Jiro says:

      Gender in school teaching is strongly affected by male teachers being potentially considered pedophiles.

      • Ruprect says:

        Well, I suppose men are more likely to be pedophiles than women, so maybe there is something to that.

        • Mr Mind says:

          Are they?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Yes, overwhelmingly. Men are about 10 times as likely as women to self-report attraction to or fantasies about children, and about 10 times as likely as women to actually perpetrate abuse.

          • Vaniver says:

            This is also what you would expect from men having more reproductive success with younger partners, and women having more reproductive success with older partners. (There’s a reason Hollywood leading men are typically about a generation older than the women they’re cast against, and it’s not just male preferences.)

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The self-report study specifically asked participants about their attraction to “little children.” It is very hard to see how “reproductive success” or evolutionary function could explain adult men being attracted to little children.

            My recollection of various evolutionary psychology studies is that men of all ages are most attracted to women at peak fertility, roughly 20-24. The generational gap you’re talking about comes from observing older men with twentysomething women, but the difference in ages is actually beside the point, it’s the absolute age of the woman that matters.

          • DrBeat says:

            I don’t think that study says men are 10 times as likely to perpetrate abuse, from what I can see it says that they had 10 times as many male subjects.

            If this involved a sample of people who were in jail for child sexual abuse, then the fact that women are less likely to be investigated, less likely to be indicted, less likely to be convicted, and when convicted given drastically lower sentences for the same crimes, would explain a huge discrepancy in the number of offenders available in prison.

            Everything I have heard says that women are more likely to abuse children, though this is expected simply because women spend more time with children and thus have more opportunities.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            from what I can see it says that they had 10 times as many male subjects.

            You have the right instincts, but it turns out the study’s author is just an incompetent writer:

            “In terms of demographic subsamples, 89% (n = 308) of the alleged perpetrators were males and 11% (n = 37) were females […] [b]y comparing sex of the alleged perpetrator, results show that 89.3% of child sexual abuse cases involve a male, giving a prevalence rate of female perpetrated sexual violence of 10.7%.”

            (I have no idea why she insists on calling this a “prevalence rate”– actually, I do, it’s because she’s a sociologist– but it’s the proportion of total alleged cases of childhood sexual abuse where the alleged perpetrator is female.)

            The study’s method involved selecting a sample of molestation cases reported to (Canadian) authorities and distributing questionnaires to be completed by the child protection agents working the case. This introduces potential for bias both in the initial reporting of incidents and in the caseworker’s judgments about them. A study using a broad random sample of children would be better, but it would have to be quite large to get accurate statistics on female perpetrators, as only about 1% of children are molested by women. I do not know if any such study has been conducted.

            Everything I have heard says that women are more likely to abuse children,

            Sexually abuse children? Where have you heard this? I picked a study that was on the high end of the estimates I found.

          • Mr Mind says:

            @Earthly Knight
            Re: self-reporting, I would discard that right away. The second paper is more interesting, but other studies differ wildly on the proportion of male/female ratio of sexual predators: here (23%), here (25%), here (42%, page 24).

            I would say that 10% of female predators is too low. I think more probable ratios are around 30%-ish, escalating to 50% if the victim is male or younger than 6.

            So yes, available data suggests that men are on average more likely to be pedophile than women, but the ratio doesn’t justify the bias against male teachers.
            It’s more likely a cultural phoenomenon that view men as ‘more dangerous’ as predators than women.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            –I do not see why we should ignore self-reported attraction to small children. Surely there is some connection between being attracted to children and being a pedophile, yes?

            –You’re interpreting the third article incorrectly. It reports that 42% of students who were sexually abused in school were abused by women. Because most school employees are women, this means that the likelihood that a given female school employee is a molester is actually much lower than the likelihood that a given male school employee is a molester (we cannot deduce how much lower from the information given in the article; my estimate, based on the background knowledge that 75% of US teachers are female, is that male school staff are around four times more likely to abuse). This leaves us with estimates that between 10-25% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by women.

          • Mr Mind says:

            @Earthly Knight

            This leaves us with estimates that between 10-25% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by women.

            I think you are correct in your analysis. I will downgrade my estimate and say that out of 10 predators, 3 are female and 7 are male, making this a 1/3 odd.

            Re: discard self-reporting. Yes, surely there’s a high probability that those who do report being attracted to children are actually attracted to children. The opposite though is highly problematic: I don’t think for a moment that all those who did not report being attracted are indeed not attracted.
            So we do not have false negatives, so we do not have a sensible ratio.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think there’s multiple causes, but at least one cause is very different. A man who wants to be in early childhood education or otherwise work with young children is going to be suspected of being a pedophile by many, at least in the US.

      • caethan says:

        The underlying assumption isn’t really that men are pedophiles, it’s that working with children is intrinsically unpleasant, and so anyone who wants to work or play with children must have some other motive: it’s your kid, so you have to, or it’s a socially acceptable career, or some less palatable motive. It’s not a socially acceptable career for men, so the assumption is that anyone going into it must have ulterior motives.

        I was at a church choir picnic with my wife once. She’s in the choir but I’m not so I didn’t really know anyone well. I spent the whole picnic playing with the children – water balloons and tag mostly – just because that was more fun for me than making small talk with strangers. After we left, my wife told me that all of the adults had asked her to thank me for being so kind as to watch all the children so the adults could talk. The thought that I would rather play with the children didn’t cross their minds.

    • Randy M says:

      I had male elementary school teachers for 3rd through 5th grade (second was female, don’t recall younger than that, other than hating preschool). The fourth and fifth grade both retired a year or two after I had them, so obviously not indicative of any current day trends thirty years later. But I do remember time in their classes fondly, rigorous and strict though it was.

      I have substitute taught elementary school numerous times a couple years ago; most but not all of the classrooms had female teachers, but I didn’t have any aspersion cast for voluntarily being near children or anything like that.

  3. Tekhno says:

    I often fantasize about showing the modern world to a medieval peasant, but they wouldn’t be able to understand modern English, and if I brought them forwards in time, they’d probably get sick from bacteria they didn’t have defenses against.

    • Franz_Panzer says:

      If you fantasize about that as a realisitic szenario, then the time travel would be an obstacle that would make the language barrier and health concerncs a laughable concern.

      If it’s in a fantasy setting, as in “A medieval peasant suddenly appears in New York” I’d handwave these two problems away, the same way it is done which his appearance.

      Basically, my fantasy does seem to work differently.

    • Chalid says:

      You could probably find someplace in the world where the population is close enough to “medieval peasant” that you wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference. So you could sort of achieve your fantasy by offering a trip to New York City to somebody from the very remotest, poorest parts of, I dunno, Siberia?

    • John Schilling says:

      I typically use someone like Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson for that fantasy, and edit out the (time) traveler’s diarrhea. But now that you raise the issue, I wonder whether the best strategy would be to fight it up front with prophylactic antibiotics, or accept the inevitable and let them acquire the immunities the hard way.

      • Randy M says:

        I use Franklin as well, with a day dream of bringing him back some history/science texts and watching his reaction.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          “Look what we’ve done with the Ninth Amendment. Isn’t it pretty?”

        • John Schilling says:

          Of course, there is the other fantasy that involves a taser, a cattle prod, and a serious discussion of the unit electrical charge…

          • Randy M says:

            Goodness, why such negativity?

          • John Schilling says:

            Once I’m finished with Franklin on that issue, we’re both coming for the punsters, and he’s bringing his Very Special Kite.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            I forgave Franklin for that one once I started working with P-type semiconductors.

          • Randy M says:

            John, you denigrate my preferred form of linguistic play! I am deeply offended at this cultural imperialism, and if you take away puns all I will be left with is sarcasm and self-referential meta-humor.

            Or, like, content, but that requires knowing relevant things around here.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think that, by current standards at least, the best puns also require a battery of relevant facts at one’s disposal.

          • Randy M says:

            Ohman, not sure I have the capacity for that. I never expected such resistance.

            Thankfully Scott doesn’t charge for comments, or you wouldn’t get jewels like this. But though such rules wouldn’t be fair, a day may come when they are necessary, if the current posters are representative of their generation.

            I think I’ve reached my max; well, I’ll stop then.

  4. HeelBearCub says:

    Here is a really interesting article consolidating statistics on the changing rates of violent death and incarceration in the U.S. The headline is Trump vs. Clinton, but that really is not the focus of the article at all.

    Nationally, in a shocking reversal of past patterns, a middle-aged White is at greater risk today of violent death (by suicide, accident, or murder, and especially from guns or illicit drugs) than an African American teenager or young adult.

    That’s quite a surprising statistic to my mind.

    The article spends a great deal of time comparing 1990 stats to now, noting how bad youth crime rates were then. This makes me think of of “leaded gasoline” theory, as the youth of 1990 are the middle aged people of today. It sure looks like a bolus of bad actors are making there way through the entire system.

    • Lumifer says:

      “Violent death” is a funny cluster of death causes. Sucide, homicide, and a fatal accident look very different to me. I suspect that it’s suicides that are driving the older whites’ rate up (see e.g. this).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Note the change in felony arrest rates by age group graphic.

        It’s not just suicides. It’s a big drop in youth crime and a big spike in middle age crime.

      • John Schilling says:

        Very different in some respects, but very similar in that they mostly afflict the “fuck it; I don’t care any more” demographic. If you care, it is trivial (at least in modern western civilization) to reduce the incidence of all three by an order of magnitude or so. If you don’t care, partaking of the things that risk violent death can be loads of fun while it lasts and the suicide option guarantees that it won’t last unbearably long.

        After accounting for base rates, gross violent death count might be a good proxy measure for not-caringness.

        • Lumifer says:

          An interesting idea, but I’m not sure I buy it completely. There are at least two versions of don’t-care: one is the unnecessariat which will have high suicides, moderate homicides, but I don’t think high fatal accidents (unless these are actually misclassified suicides). But another version is the live-fast-die-young crowd, especially ones with a macho culture and associated with various illegal activities like drugs — these will have low suicides, but high homicides and high fatal accidents.

          And, I bet, the rates of all three are correlated with IQ, but a great deal of things are correlated with IQ.

          Yes, you have your semi- (and fully-) depressed demographic which will have high-ish rates of all three (suicide high, homicide medium, accident. But it is a just-so story and I can make another plausible story that a live-fast-die-young demographic

          • Lumifer says:

            Gah, someone ate my cookie and I can’t edit my post — ignore the last paragraph in the parent…

        • Jaskologist says:

          But are they really tightly correlated enough to merit lumping them together? If so, that’s interesting in itself, but feels unlikely.

    • Wow, I had no idea just how well young people were doing.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The “bolus of bad actors” theory wouldn’t explain a shift from young black criminals to older white criminals.

      Also, they’ve picked their stats to show their point, but crime is _still_ a young man’s game. Just not a teen game as much as an early 20’s game.

      https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2014/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/tables/table-38

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Well, if the black youth who committed crime were far more likely to be incarcerated ….

        Regardless, the article is about the changes, far more than the absolute rates. Yeah, age is still correlated with crime rate, but not as much as it was before. The question is, why?

        Because the overall crime rate has continued to drop even through the recession which was very surprising to, well, pretty much everyone. Yes, you can sort of limply point at what may be noise or may be the start of a flattening or whatever, in 2015, but it really, really doesn’t change the overall picture from 1990 to now.

        • Outis says:

          Because the overall crime rate has continued to drop even through the recession which was very surprising to, well, pretty much everyone.

          Yet nobody is going to change any priors. In particular, lots of people are going to maintain their adamantine conviction that poverty causes crime.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Necessary vs. sufficient seems to be something you are glossing over here. “I need money” is clearly a great motivator to do all sorts of things.

            In addition, most of the standard arguments about policing or incarceration don’t really hold up either. Crime rates have been falling across the board, not differentials state by state or city.

            One of the reasons I have seen posited for the lack of increase in crime is that it’s not profitable enough today. The “random” mugging or burglary doesn’t net enough. Not sure I buy it.

            Lead? Relative lack of popularity of cocaine? Change in society wide parenting style? Kids staying with their parents longer? Cell phones? Lots of ideas, not many answers

          • Anon says:

            One of the reasons I have seen posited for the lack of increase in crime is that it’s not profitable enough today. The “random” mugging or burglary doesn’t net enough. Not sure I buy it.

            I buy it a little; it’s probably a partial factor. Consider that most people used to carry cash and credit cards in their wallets, but now the cash has been mostly phased out and the credit cards have much stronger anti-fraud measures in place. Phones and car keys may be valuable, but a stolen phone or car can be tracked trivially, and accessing the contents of the phone is difficult for the average mugger. What do you carry on your person or in your home that is easily fenceable and worth decent cash? The only things I can think of are jewelery and guns, which aren’t impossible to track, but it requires non-trivial effort from the police. Also, keep in mind that most places are increasingly harder to rob and get away, especially convenience stores and banks.

            Lead? Relative lack of popularity of cocaine? Change in society wide parenting style? Kids staying with their parents longer? Cell phones? Lots of ideas, not many answers

            The only ones that seem plausible are lead (for the lead-IQ link) and the cell phones (everyone can record a crime at any time). Cocaine doesn’t seem like it would affect crime too directly, and parenting styles for most poor people haven’t changed much. Middle-class white kids being kept under lock and key at home may contribute, but I’m skeptical, especially because the average middle-class white kid got in less trouble in the 80’s than the average poor black kid does today. If it is a factor, it’s even smaller than profit loss of crime.

          • JayT says:

            Yeah, I can see mugging losing a lot of it’s expected value. The only thing of value I carry on a regular day is my cell phone, and even there, I don’t know how much value a year and a half old iPhone with a cracked screen is worth. As was said, it’s somewhat hard to fence, and I can’t imagine the market is that great for stole phones.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The rapid obsolescence of smart phones is actually an interesting point.

            I had been thinking along the lines of “How often were people carrying around an $600 (2016 dollars) item in their pocket”, but the depreciation on a modern smart phone is pretty damn steep.

            It’s not as if burglary is an unknown thing. Clearly some things are still fenceable at a decent enough rate. We regularly have a few break-ins/thefts in our neighborhood each year. Daytime when nobody is home and they run away if anyone is there.

            But, how many people want a used electronic item anymore? I mean TVs do get listed on craigslist, so there is obviously some market. If anything I would think a break-in today would net a greater value of more easily portable fenceable items than in 1990. But maybe I am wrong there.

          • JayT says:

            My car got broken into recently, and all they took was the random pocket change out of the center console. Stuff like the stereo was left behind, because, I think, electronics have gotten so cheap that there just isn’t a market for factory-installed stereos.

            I would guess that breaking into houses is still just as profitable as ever. I would be curious if the rate of house break-ins has been different from the rate of muggings.

        • gbdub says:

          Could it be that the “recession induced crime”, if you will, is being mostly committed by a somewhat older (and whiter) cohort who were hardest hit (relative to their pre-recession condition)? And this is laid on top of a larger general (or youth-focused) reduction in overall crime?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s my understanding that both the minority and young demographics were harder hit by the recession on the employment front than those who were white or older. More job loss, longer job loss, worse income when re-entering the job market.

            Now, if you are, say, a 50 years old, non-college educated, and working in a management position, and you get laid off during the recession, the blow to your future employment prospects might be harder and longer than the “average” young person. I’m not sure if those are the people differentially turning to crime and drug use, though.

            I suppose that one possibility is that dimming of job prospects for the less skilled came for the whites last, and so we are just seeing in the older, white community what we already saw in the same minority cohort earlier. But, if that is the case, I think there also has to be something else going on differentially between the generations. As you say, one effect laid on-top of the other.

          • gbdub says:

            Your second paragraph is roughly what I was getting at, purely speculative of course. Losing an established career might be worse in this sense than losing an already crappy/unstable job, or never really getting into the work force in the first place (“underemployment”).

            Is the definition of “younger” in “younger people harder hit by the recession” the same as “younger” in the “crime getting older” study?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:

            Google leads me to this unverified chart which seems to basically indicate that the age brackets are roughly the same.

            Unemployment effects of the recession hit everybody hard, but people under 25 had it much worse and people 25 to 34 were marginally worse than everybody else.

            Roughly the same story for race.

    • Jaskologist says:

      +! for an interesting article, but as I was reading it, I got the very strong sense that they were cherry-picking statistics to only show the ones which supported their point. I’m betting somebody could write the opposite article with similar methodology.

      I don’t have any evidence for that beyond gut feel, though.

      • bluto says:

        Combining suicides with accidents seems likely confounded by young people driving less accident rates are a sort of smile with age (young people ahead of old people but both well above middle ages)

    • Psmith says:

      Secular decline in testosterone levels

      #cuckedbymodernity

  5. Two McMillion says:

    I’m interested in getting into anime. What are some animes worth checking out that are easily and legally accessible? I have netflix and Amazon Prime, if that matters.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      A quick glance at the avaliable catalog in netflix shows a few good shows, the most palatable to a first-timer is probably Death Note. Amazon Prime’s smaller supply (I’m not sure it’s up to date, I just looked at the first google result) also has some good shows, the most appropriate would be Darker Than Black and Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

      The actual best shows avaliable are Durarara/Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in Netflix and Princess Tutu in Amazon Prime, but they’re much more anime, and perhaps you’ll find the tropes and stuff too out there. I didn’t look at the movies, but getting into chinese cartoons through movies is setting yourself up for disappointment.

    • Randy M says:

      Do any of the anime fans here remember a 90’s US cartoon called “Exosquad”? It was sometimes nicknamed “The American Anime,” iirc. You can find some episodes (season 1 only, I think) on dvd, and “clips” of others on Youtube (the second and final season was much longer).

      I’d recommend this unreservedly; I think it was fairly groundbreaking in terms of a structured plot arc running through about 50 generally self-contained episodes, with significant characterization, especially for a “kids show”. Also dealt with a number of sci-fi/transhuman ideas (scloning, genetic engineering, mind-machine interface, terraforming, etc.).

      If you’ve seen it and think other anime are superior, feel free to tell me which.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        man, if you’re gonna recommend 90s cartoons, why not Gargoyles?

        • Randy M says:

          I rank Gargoyles as the second best television show of all time. I just wanted to lead with number 1.
          (Which is also I think less well known, because it never, afaik, went into syndication).

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      When it comes to anime movies, Studio Ghibli is the flagship of Japanese animation. With such wonderful classics as Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, and Grave of the Fireflies, it is guaranteed to make your first steps into anime an unforgettable experience. Mamoru Oshii is also pretty good; he directed the Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell series. Skip Akira; it’s overrated.

      For series, the standard recommendation is Cowboy Bebop, which is comprised of 26 episodes and 1 movie. It is considered a great series which is similar enough to Western fiction that it allows a newcomer to comfortably slide into the world of Anime. Neon Genesis Evangelion is iconic, but polarizing; some people consider it pretentious pseudointellectualism, while others praise the psychological themes and unconventional storytelling. I’m the latter group, so I recommend that you give it a go. It is also made up of 26 episodes and 1 movie (plus a recap movie, plus a four movie reboot, but you can ignore those for now).

      For a more niche recommendation, try Magic Knight Rayearth. It’s a magical girl anime with strong characterization and an interesting plot. Only the first twenty episodes, though; the second season reads like shitty continuation fanfiction. I’d recommend the Gunsmith Cats OVA (three episodes), but it doesn’t look like it is legally available.

      For more information, try Anime Academy.

      Oh, and if you are serious about getting into anime, you should watch it in Japanese with English subtitles; dubs are for posers.

      • Jiro says:

        Rayearth has the videogame trope of tbvat hc gb xvyy gur ynfg obff bayl gb svaq gung, fhecevfr, gung vfa’g ernyyl gur ynfg obff naq fbzrguvat ryfr jnf oruvaq nyy bs vg, while acting as though this is all edgy and profound even though it is done in a way that makes no sense.

      • Anon says:

        Dubs are for posers

        In 90% of cases, I agree, but there are some great dubs that work well (e.g. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Bobobo Bo-Bobobo). I generally find that if the show/movie has a westernized setting (e.g. previous, Howl’s Moving Castle) the dub is better than the sub.

        Also, you have to watch Dragonball dubbed, if only for the maymays.

        • Nornagest says:

          The only dub I’ve really liked is for Redline, but that follows the same general pattern (looks like a rock album cover, would fit well in Heavy Metal).

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Cowboy Bebop is supposed to be watched in English, and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees IRL.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Preferring subs to dubs is just nerd holiness signalling. Watch it dubbed, so that you can play games on your phone at the same time.

        Though old, Trigun will always hold a special place in my heart. Nothing else so fully conveys that sense of a longing for Heaven.

        Death Note is very good, very popular, and pretty recent.

        If you’re trying to get into “anime,” you should watch Neon Genesis Evangelion for historical reasons if nothing else.

        Bleach is like a good Dragon Ball Z. It’s mindless popcorn action, though. Either might be worth looking into if you’re interested into the genre of superheroes leveling up and fighting each other and then unlocking their new super-move and fighting each other more with that.

        Psycho-Pass was good, but you better have a strong stomach.

        • Anon says:

          Preferring subs to dubs is just nerd holiness signalling.

          The Assassination Classroom dub is objectively worse than the sub, both because more translation liberties were taken in the former and because the English voice actors were worse than the Japanese ones. It’s not holiness signalling; a lot of dubs are done on a much tighter budget than the original, and this normally results in an inferior product. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

          I’d be interested in an Eastern-y anime with a better dub than sub, but I still haven’t found one. That would be a large blow to my “westernized shows get a large boost from being dubbed in English” theory.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          I feel like subs often work as a shield. A lot of the more ridiculous and dumb dialogue in anime is far more palatable to just read than to hear said out.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            There’s that, but also a lot of the dubbing seems to mangle the cadence/delivery of the lines to try and match lip movement. the result is usually lines mashed together, awkward gaps, it’s incredibly offputting.

          • BBA says:

            The extreme example of this is of course the 1960s dub of Speed Racer, which managed to be a hit despite the mile-a-minute dialogue. Maybe even because of it.

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

            yeah. I hope I never learn japanese lol

        • Nornagest says:

          I followed Bleach far longer than I should have. It’s got good design, a good setup, and reasonably likable characters, and the writing’s not bad at first, but the plot just drags and drags and drags.

          There’s nothing wrong with mindless superhero action, but after the nth time an apparently insurmountable problem gets patched by adding new powers or more characters, the tension just evaporates. And if you don’t have tension, you don’t have good action.

          (I had the same problem with Ranma 1/2, but not as bad since that’s more of a comedy.)

          • DrBeat says:

            You should check out Yu Yu Hakusho. It’s a shonen series that’s actually good, where power is something you need to know how to use effectively, instead of just a number you compare to the other guy or some totally indecipherable bullshit.

            Yeah, it has some in-battle power-ups and new abilities gained, but most of its fights are resolved according to the rules it already established, enough that when it bends the rules it feels special and hype instead of “more bullshit”.

        • Nornagest says:

          I picked up Psycho-Pass on someone’s recommendation of “if you liked Ghost in the Shell, you’ll like…”, but got bored a few episodes in. Does it get better?

          • Throwaway says:

            I got bored and dropped Psycho-Pass Season 1 around episode 4 or 6, but eventually went back to watch the rest and it turned out to be one of my favorites. Season 2 is objectively much worse, might be worth skipping. $0.02

          • Jaskologist says:

            Yes. It is very good, but also very brutal.

          • LPSP says:

            Paraphrasing myself from elsewhere, Psycho-pass has animation going for it in the first season, and some interesting ideas and concepts, but the plot is practically a parody of cop drama and anime norms and mores. Not worth a long watch, unless you like hearing japanese seiyu attempt to say “Spooky Boogie”.

            SPUUUUKEEE BUUUUGEEEE

        • birdboy2000 says:

          Japanese voice acting is simply superior. Actual talent, not the same stable of 12 or so voice actors for anything but big name anime getting a TV airing in the ’90s-early ’00s (and those always got hacked up for network censors and American audiences anyway.)

          If you’re a remotely fast reader, reading subs isn’t much of a distraction, and if you’re distracted enough to miss a line because multitasking there’s no shame in rewinding – you probably missed other stuff too.

          Also, a lot of fantastic series simply don’t have dubs, or (especially once you move back into anime made in the 20th century) have godawful ones scriptwise; if you want to watch Captain Harlock I wouldn’t recommend Macek’s version.

          I haven’t watched a dub in years. I’ll make an exception for Digimon Adventure Tri, just to see my favorite franchise in theaters, but I fully expect I’ll prefer subs the next time I rewatch it.

          (Also, I think declaring something “holiness signaling” is non-falsifiable, but that’s another matter. What proof could someone possibly give that they weren’t signaling, but genuine?)

          • onyomi says:

            There are a few exceptions where I find the dub to be better. Totoro and Kiki come to mind, but not Mononoke or Spirited Away, imo. Though that has more to do with the high quality of the Japanese voice acting in the latter two.

          • Jill says:

            Totoro and Spirited Away are so fascinating. The artistic talent is amazing. These films brought animation to a whole new level I had never seen before they came out.

          • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

            Just FYI, the part about playing games on your phone was a, imho pretty hilarious, jab at nerd culture where this is despised even more than watching Anime dubbed, however not more despised than enjoying Big Bang Theory.

          • LPSP says:

            While I much prefer subs to dubs, and I find listening to japanese dubs of western films fascinating and fantastic, I’m not sure if I can agree that Japanese voice acting simply *is* superior.

            For instance, while dramatic scenes like Gandalf vs the Balrog in LotR and Batman interrogating the Joker work well, and mixed scenes like Tai Lung vs Po in the first Kung Fu Panda are alright, I felt pure comedy like Monty Python dubs didn’t quite get it right. Too stiff and extreme, not enough balance, felt childish in some sense.

        • Jill says:

          I prefer to watch the nonverbal behavior of the actors, not just the gross action but subtle nonverbal signals, especially from actors in a foreign film, with another culture I could learn from. Subs leave less time to do that, but dubs distract from it too, because of course the words formed by the mouths are not the ones you are hearing, so you’re watching a whole mis-matched story where words and mouth motions collide.

          • onyomi says:

            The dubbing is a special talent in its own right because it requires matching your performance to the existing mouth movements of the characters. One of the characteristic, if sometimes humorous, weaknesses this introduces is a tendency for the dubbed performances to include a lot of meaningless filler words like “ya know!” and “get what I’m sayin?!” This is because Japanese, on average, uses more syllables to say the same thing than English.

          • Jill says:

            Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out.

        • LPSP says:

          I really don’t know about that Psycho Pass opinion. Struck me as very forced and hackneyed. Our family watched the first season and predicted almost all of the plot twists almost verbatim; the white-haired bishounen villain with corresponding darwinist speech was the tip of the clicheberg.

          At the animation quality was decent though; the steep drop-off in the second season turned us off from watching more.

        • LPSP says:

          More points of a less specific nature:

          Dubs that are better than subs are almost nill, while there are plenty of dubs worse (often far worse) than the original plus subs. Subs isn’t perfect but it’s popular and recommended for a reason.

          Reading up about NGE on a wiki is probably more than enough. The thematics behind the different angels and the fight details are nice, but the plot structure is aged and there’s no deep significance to all the kabbalah stuff.

          Bleach is just a modern DBZ. DBZ was good if you like bloated shonen “HHHGGGNNRH I’M GLOWING EVEN MORE NOW!” match-offs, which is a sizeable audience. You want a “good” (better) DBZ – One Piece. No doubts.

      • Nornagest says:

        If you’re doing NGE, the Rebuild movies ought to be more accessible than the original series. Better pacing, less navel-gazing but about the same amount of actual depth, way way better production values.

        If you want to get a handle on the genre as a genre, you need to watch the original for hysterical raisins, but that’s not something I’d ordinarily recommend to someone new to anime.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Oh yeah, forgot to mention that you can’t just watch the Evangelion show. You need to at least watch the End of Evangelion movie afterward, for a proper ending.

          And what a glorious ending it is.

          (And then read the wiki to figure out what the heck went on in the ending. This is a problem with a lot of anime.)

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Anything Ghibli is a fantastic place to start. Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away would be my picks. For shows, seconding the recommendation for Cowboy Bebop. It’s amazingly good.

      Beyond that, Ghost in the Shell SAC and 2nd Gig are good if you enjoy technothrillers and/or pseudo-philosophizing. The old GitS movie is a classic, but something of an acquired taste as the pacing is very, very slow. I’d try the same director’s Jin Roh: Wolf Brigade or possibly Sky Crawlers if you enjoy GitS. Trigun’s an oldie but a goodie. Puella Magica Madoka is fantastic, but might not be ideal for someone just getting started.

      I would advise staying away from the long-form stuff (dragon ball z, One Piece, Attack on Titan, etc), as they tend to suffer from soap-opera syndrome; they’re very long, very formulaic, and in my experience don’t contain enough meaningful content to be worth the time. Also, if you can tolerate subtitles, watch everything subbed.

      • Jiro says:

        I like a lot of the long form stuff. Reason: They’re for more general audiences than the fan shows. A lot of them seem to be what you’d get if a culture that doesn’t have superheroes tried to invent them from scratch–people fighting with powers, often unique powers.

        Also, Attack on Titan is not a long form show.

      • Nornagest says:

        The 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie is worth watching specifically because its pacing is so slow. It’s more willing to let its action breathe than pretty much any other action movie I’ve watched, and I think it’s better for it.

        (Also, the spider tank scene. You know the one.)

        Stand Alone Complex and even the Oshii sequel are good in their own right, but they’re nowhere near as interesting in pure storytelling terms.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Jiro – “Attack on Titan is not a long form show.”

          …huh. looks like you’re correct. The general pacing and massively unsatisfying ending had me convinced it was.

          In any case, it’s a series massively improved by abridgement.

          @Nornagest – “The 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie is worth watching specifically because its pacing is so slow. It’s more willing to let its action breathe than pretty much any other action movie I’ve watched, and I think it’s better for it.”

          I’d agree entirely, but it was one of the first anime I ever watched, and the pacing bounced me right off. for a newbie, I think there’s better. Princess Mononoke, for instance.

      • LPSP says:

        For long-running shonens, reading is always advisable over watching. One Piece for instance has declined significantly since 2010; now that some volumes can be found in colour, there’s little excuse not to read. Pacing is fantastically better.

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

      I don’t know what’s easily and legally accessible so I’ll just give you recommendations

      One punch man. Some really bad characters are introduced later on, but the first few episodes are incredible imo. Contender for “best thing ever” level imo.

      Fullmetal alchemist, either version

      Cool concepts, great animations and fight scenes.

      cowboy bepop.

      Imo has quite a few of the more obnoxious aspects of anime, but has a unique atmosphere that has to be worth experiencing at least once.

       

      The original gundam series.

      interesting historical curiosity, and again a fairly unique atmosphere
      Movies:

      Spirited away +++++

      Sword of the stranger

      2nd ghost in the shell with the warning again that most animes have some stupid stuff in them.

       

       

      Imo trigun has really great moments, which is imo what anime is best at, but has more stupid and annoying stuff than average, which is what anime is worst at, so I wouldn’t recommend it if the idea of farming a series for awesome memories doesn’t appeal to you.

      My memory is vague but I think naruto has some awesome animation

      The one piece manga is great imo, haven’t watched the series.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        One Punch Man is great, but half the humor comes from mocking stereotypical anime superhero stuff.

        Whatever you do, don’t miss an anime called Boku.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Fullmetal alchemist, either version the 2003 version

        Fixed that for you.

        • Anon says:

          For the uninitiated: there are two Fullmetal Alchemist animes. The first was called “Fullmetal Alchemist” and diverged completely from the original manga’s plot after the first like 2 episodes and never came back. The second was called “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” and was a true adaptation that was much more faithful to the manga’s plotline. “Brotherhood” is widely consider superior for this reason, and it’s the one you should watch first, but the first and second series’ dubs had nearly-identical casts, and the first really isn’t that bad if you let it stand on its own merits.

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

          my bad

          If I had to choose one, and I’m glad I don’t, but if I had to, I might go with brotherhood on the basis that I feel that they’re about as good as one another, but I did watch the 2003 version first, so maybe it’s getting some bonus from nostalgia, and being the show to introduce me to the characters, setting, ideas, that I’d seen much of before when it came to the second? Both have some really incredible moments though

           

          Oh yeah attack on titan is pretty amazing as well. (kind of like a horror though)

          Oh and I don’t know it if counts as/is an anime, but fist of the north star is certainly different.

      • LPSP says:

        On a tangential note: Anton, are you typing on a phone? You use very odd linebreaks that make your posts difficult to read.

        The one piece manga is great imo, haven’t watched the series.

        Excellent taste, and that’s a good thing because the anime is disappointing, especially now the quality has fallen out the bottom.

    • blacktrance says:

      I personally don’t like Ghibli, so I’ll give it an anti-recommendation. I second Death Note and Fullmetal Alchemist being good starting points. You might also like Fate/Zero.

    • stargirlprincesss says:

      For anime the obvious advice is extremely good advice. For movies try Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. For a series try Cowboy Bebop. Even people who have seen a ton of anime tend to enjoy anime quite alot. And they are appealing to a very large audience.

      Madocka Magicka is another common rec for a first anime. It is a good intro to anime but appeals to a wide audience.

      If you want a very short “series” FLCL is probably the best general purpose rec. Its quite good, though a bit odd.

      If you enjoy unconventional movies (in the sense of David Lynch) I strongly suggest watching Satoshi Kon’s movies (Perfect Blue/Millennium Actress/Paprika + Tokyo Godfathers which is weaker). These movies aren’t quite as strange as many Lynch films but this is maybe a good thing (they are not even as weird as Drive, nevermind Inland Empire).

      • Jiro says:

        Madoka Magika tries to deconstruct some magical girl tropes. If you are unfamiliar with anime, you will not have seen magical girl shows, so this may not be the best choice.

        • stargirlprincesss says:

          In theory this might be an issue but I don’t think it really is in practice. In my experience the show stands on its own. Madocka was my GF’s mom’s first anime last year. My GF’s mom liked it quite a bit.

          Perhaps a few things might seem a bit strange of you are not familiar with the genre conventions. But this is true of any actual magical girl anime. And maybe if you don’t know the genre a few things intended to be funny won’t be. But the core of the show seems to hold up fine without referring to the magical girl genre.

        • Viliam says:

          Madoka is great even if you are not familiar with the tropes. The first two and half episodes follow the tropes anyway, so even if you are not familiar with the genre, you will still enjoy seeing the latter episodes oppose the former ones.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Puella Magi Madoka Magica
      Ajin
      FLCL
      Psycho-Pass
      Baccano!
      Ghost in the Shell

    • Aegeus says:

      Here’s a few that are free on Crunchyroll:
      1. Attack on Titan and Naruto are both solid shonen anime with good action. Pick Attack on Titan if you want more blood and guts, pick Naruto if you want something more upbeat (although Naruto is a freaking long series. If you want something shorter, watch until the end of the Wave Country arc).

      2. Girls und Panzer delivers both Cute Girls Doing Cute Things (TM) and good action. Despite being a show about tanks, it’s really a sports anime at heart.

      3. AKB0048 is an anime about idol singers… Wait! Come back! It’s really good! It’s got spaceships and mecha too! It has some really great musical battle sequences, and a well-rounded cast of characters with interesting internal conflicts. Far better than it had any right to be.

      4. If you want something darker, you can’t beat Fate/Zero. Mythological heroes battling in a modern setting, lofty ideals clashing against brutal pragmatism. It’s got a very cynical tone, but it’s not so dark it can’t spare some time to have Alexander the Great fight King Arthur on a motorcycle.

      5. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre, so it’s not what I’d recommend as a first anime, but it’s too good to leave off this list. Similar to Fate/Zero, it’s a very cynical look at childish heroic ideals. (If you somehow have never heard of the genre, watch a few episodes of Sailor Moon. It’s aged surprisingly well.)

      Honorable mention: RWBY. It’s not technically an anime, being from a western studio, but it’s so anime-styled it hurts. Ridiculously over-the-top action with lots of guns.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Digimon Adventure, Galaxy Express 999, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes are all amazing.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Nobody’s mentioned these yet, organized by genre.

      Romcoms: Toradora, Lovely Complex

      Medieval Economics & Currency Exchange Drama: Spice & Wolf (seriously)

      Riding Around A 1920s Patchwork Civilization on a Motorbike, Occasionally Shooting People: Kino no Tabi

      Political Drama in SPAAAAACE set to classic symphonies: Legend of Galactic Heroes.

      Ballet-Dancing Duck Seeks Beautiful Prince: Princess Tutu (seriously, it’s good)

      Oh Wait You Said “Legally Available”: Kodomo no Jikan

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ll second Spice and Wolf; it’s easily in my top ten. Deeply unfortunate that in a lot of circles it’s best known for the wolf-girl protagonist showing up naked in the first episode (never mind that she wears perfectly reasonable 14th-century clothes for the rest of the series).

        Didn’t get all the way through Princess Tutu, but it’s well written and technically competent.

    • I’m somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned Monster, one of the few anime that my wife gladly watched all of with me. It’s a mystery thriller with no supernatural or SF elements aside from some really extreme psychology, but it’s really good. Set in post-Communist Germany rather than Japan, which may help with accessibility.

    • Nornagest says:

      Some more that no one’s mentioned:

      Berserk — How to Make an Unreasonably Powerful Swordsman Cry: The Anime. Part Faust, part Game of Thrones, but with more of everything that made it controversial. Really really good; not for the remotely squeamish. The original version is better than the recent OVA remake, although the latter has the advantage of being available free on Netflix.

      Revolutionary Girl Utena — Odd mixture of magical-girl story and tournament fighter and ontological mystery. More Gnostic symbolism than you can shake a stick at. Also more homoeroticism than you can shake a stick at. Watch the original version first, then the movie; the movie is very pretty, but so dense as to be indecipherable without context.

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        And if you appreciate amazing art and double-page spreads of 16th century castle sieges, the manga is a must. Incredible aesthetic.

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

          It should be be noted that the Manga has way more disturbing stuff in it. There’s one thing in particular near the start that is out of line disturbing with not just the tv series, but the vast majority of the manga.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think that happens in the anime, too, although it might be more allusive about it. Definitely does in the remake, not sure about the original.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          Counterpoint – The Berserk manga had a big hand in killing my interest in Japanese media generally. The early arc of the story had a fairly good rise-to-power thing going, and I enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately, the plot soon derails, and the story for all intents and purposes ends. The manga continues on for a couple dozen volumes from that point and is still ongoing, but no meaningful development of plot or characters ever happens again. What you get instead is thousands of pages of boring chatter and meaningless violence, interspersed with fat chunks of really hideous sadism. I read through the remaining volumes hoping to find some glimmer of the original story’s virtues, and found only filth and misery as far as the eye could see. Reading it was not worth my time, and likely is not worth yours. Berserk is garbage, and it belongs in the garbage.

          The art is quite good in places, and the author appears to draw a lot of inspiration from medieval illustrations for his monster designs, which is neat. On the downside, lots of spikey demon horse dick.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            I’m sorry, I didn’t realize we were living in some awful dystopian universe where spiky demon horsecock is considered a downside.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I would imagine it’s a divisive feature.

  6. In re gender politics and the new Ghostbusters move– I grant that they didn’t make it sound attractive. It’s like food that’s advertised as healthy. It might taste good, but it seems like a gamble.

    On the other hand, I did end up liking the movie, and so did a fair number of other people.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I never saw the original and don’t really watch movies anyway, so I haven’t really had an opinion on the film.

      One thing that struck me – I saw (I believe in the paper) a statistic that the first-weekend audiences were 54-46 female-male: all the propaganda about how the film was a devastating blow against the evil misogynerds/how the film is the proof of the last gasp of the essjaydoubleyou tyrants … and the audience is barely more female than the average?

      Unless this number is wrong – doesn’t this suggest that all the Culture War stuff about the movie was nonsense? How many people were even paying attention to that?

      • Jiro says:

        That may just be a subcase of “almost nobody saw the movie”.

        And I’d expect that SJWs wouldn’t see the movie themselves. Using the movie to bash nerds and actually paying money to see the movie are *not* the same thing.

        • dndnrsn says:

          How would fewer people seeing it change the gender ratio, though?

          If only a hundred people saw it, and it was split 54-46 or whatever, that’s still the same relative popularity as if it was the most popular movie in all existence, with 540 million women and 460 million men seeing it in the first weekend.

          • Jiro says:

            The narratives are not symmetrical. According to the feminist narrative, there should be a lot of imbalance in favor of female audiences (since all the misogynist male nerds will avoid the movie). According to the nerds’ narrative, opposition to the movie is not based on misogyny and people of both sexes will avoid it simply because it’s a bad movie.

            If relatively equal numbers of both sexes see and avoid the movie, that shows that the nerds are correct and the feminists are not–it doesn’t show that both narratives are equally wrong.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The anti-Ghostbusters narrative is “this film is bad and it’s being sold on feminism rather than its merits and detractors are falsely attacked as misogynists”.

            If that narrative was truly correct, wouldn’t one assume a greater male/female split, if the film is primarily a work of propaganda only of interest to feminists (who are, after all, majority female)?

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            The anti-Ghostbusters narrative is “this film is bad and it’s being sold on feminism rather than its merits and detractors are falsely attacked as misogynists”.

            If that narrative was truly correct, wouldn’t one assume a greater male/female split, if the film is primarily a work of propaganda only of interest to feminists (who are, after all, majority female)?

            Only if the anti-Ghostbusters narrative also says that such marketing is effective.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Even if the marketing was ineffective, and the narrative of “see how weak the enemy actually is; truly they are a titan with feet of clay” is accurate, one would still expect men to avoid it if the views on the film were as polarized in the general population as they are in certain circles.

          • Jiro says:

            Only if the anti-Ghostbusters narrative also says that such marketing is effective.

            And if the potential audience even contains a lot of people in the first place that 1) are feminists, 2) would not have seen the movie without the marketing, and 3) would have seen it with.

            This seems unlikely.

          • John Schilling says:

            Both narratives would have the film being seen mostly by women; in one case because only women motivated by feminist tribal loyalty would see such an obviously-bad movie, in the other because only troglodytic males would avoid seeing such an obviously-good movie.

            Both narratives overlook the detail that most people don’t see movies alone and the most popular moviegoing partner is generally one of the opposite sex. Googling some audience demographics, you have to go pretty far into the chick-flick or T&A+action genres to get anything more than a 60/40 gender-skewed audience.

          • Jiro says:

            Both narratives would have the film being seen mostly by women; in one case because only women motivated by feminist tribal loyalty would see such an obviously-bad movie, in the other because only troglodytic males would avoid seeing such an obviously-good movie.

            This doesn’t work, because either of those might not happen if there aren’t many such people.

            So the first narrative has two possible predictions: few men and many women, or few men and few women. The second narrative also has two possible predictions: few men and many women, or many men and many women.

            These predictions partly, but not completely, overlap. Few men and many women would be consistent with both narratives, but few men and few women would only be consistent with the nerds’ narrative. What we actually saw is few men and few women, so the nerds are right and the feminists are wrong.

    • My wife and I saw the movie last weekend. I was most interested in the New York aspects, and was disappointed to discover that most of the film was shot in Boston, and in studios. They didn’t even use the real NYC subway.

      My wife loved the Kate McKinnon character.

      • Mr Mind says:

        My wife loved the Kate McKinnon character.

        It’s the least developed character of the bunch, and it sticks out like a sore thumb, but she grew on me too in the end: I laughed at her “it’s 2040 and the president is a plant” a full two days after having seen the movie.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      I think the new Ghostbusters proves that gender politics does not sell films. Suicide Squad has been getting hammered in reviews and for it’s depection of Harley. It beat Ghostbuster’s entire run so far in it’s opening weekend.

      Hopefully this means it’s the last time a big name tries nerd bashing as a marketing strategy.

      Sadly I don’t think Hollywood will ever learn that it’s not gender it’s film quality, no matter how many Alien, Gravity, Mad Max: Fury Road, Hunger Games, Jessica Jones, etc that nerds spend large piles of money on.

      P.S. Anyone else excited for Wonder Woman? I felt Batman V Superman was flawed, especially in Superman’s portrayal, but still a passable film. Also, Zack Synder isn’t directing Wonder Woman.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Wonder Women is really hard to do well.

        Being hard sometimes means they just punt because it’s hard so who cares, and sometimes means they really do the hard work that is required.

        The trailer has me optimistic for the latter.

      • John Schilling says:

        Making it as a World War I period piece is an interesting choice. A comic-book and/or superhero story needs a first-rate villain. Wonder Woman’s traditional WWII origin story makes that easy by giving you Nazis to use. Possibly too easy, if it leads to complacency. Pulling a decent villain out of the historical clusterfuck that was World War One, and selling it to the 21st-century “wait, there were two of them?” audience, strikes me as a high-risk high-reward strategy.

        • Jiro says:

          Any movie that uses Nazis is unpublishable in Europe without getting the bureaucracies to permit you to use the Nazis. So no Nazis. (Notice that the Captain America movie, supposedly about World War II, doesn’t show Nazis, except for one second of a swastika on a newsreel that is easy to cut from the European prints.)

      • LPSP says:

        Zack Snyder is a hack director, and dare I say THE hackiest in the business today, so I’d bet confidently on WW raising the bar from BvS.

    • Mr Mind says:

      I’ve seen and enjoyed it (an easy guess, since it’s isomorphic to the first GB movie, and I liked that too). But I was left with the sensation that it didn’t portray women as gender in a positive light: Erin’s heavy slobbering over the secretary Kevin was moderately funny but ultimately humiliating for her character. I remember no such open objectification of the opposite sex in the original movie.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        I wish I was more surprised that it got a free pass, but arguments are soldiers and all that.

      • Do you think Erin’s behavior was worse than Venkeman’s lying to both the young man and the young woman at the beginning of GB1, and abusing the young man in addition? Also, as I recall, at least two of the four women weren’t lusting after him.

        A thing that struck me as off about the new movie was some of the stuff about the receptionist– not Erin lusting after him, but that in a normal movie, he’d have eventually done something loyal and competent, instead of just being a dead weight.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Do you think Erin’s behavior was worse than Venkeman’s lying to both the young man and the young woman at the beginning of GB1

          Adjusting for the changing standards between the 80s and today?

          Either way, I do think Erin’s behavior was far worse because Kevin is (probably) disabled. Neither of the two Venkeman was experimenting on were disabled. The young man was able to realize he was being badly treated and defend himself. Kevin was not able to do any of that.

          • That’s an interesting angle. The receptionist doesn’t seem much like any real world sort of person, but that level of incompetence would indicate a mental problem.

            As for Venkeman and the experiment, the woman could turn down his efforts at seduction, the man could walk out of the experiment (though not after having been excessively shocked and defrauded of his payment), but neither of them could protect themselves against being given a false idea about their amount of telepathy.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Lets try posting this again.

            That’s an interesting angle. The receptionist doesn’t seem much like any real world sort of person

            Indeed, he’s not realistic at all.

            But neither are the Joker and Harley and that didn’t stop a lot of articles from calling Suicide Squad sexist.

            Either it’s all ok or none of it is; personally I prefer to say it’s all ok. Ghostbusters can have Erin drool over Kevin. Suicide Squad can have Harley. Avengers can put Scarlett Johansson in a sexy catsuit.

            But I also think that if Ghostbusters is going to market itself as feminist and progressive then it’s fair to point out that it’s actually worse than the 1980s film and criticize it for that.

            but neither of them could protect themselves against being given a false idea about their amount of telepathy.

            Sure they could.

            They use their intellect and social acumen to deduce that Venkmen is a sleezeball and decide they won’t trust what he says about their psychic powers.

        • John Schilling says:

          Venkman’s abuse of the male student in the original opening sequence was the most intensely objectionable of any of these examples, but at least had the virtues of A: being a brief throwaway gag and B: the victim having the agency to get up and walk out as soon as he was sufficiently pissed off. I don’t recall anything directly comparable in the remake.

          Venkman and the Pretty Young Coed was I think at the edge of the Overton Window of tolerable courtship behavior, in terms of both the degree of lying involved and the age/power disparity. And again saved by being a brief gag, also in this case by both of them clearly enjoying it as far as it went with the Scriptwriter Gods making sure it wouldn’t go too far before Venkman was laid comically low.

          Erin/Kevin, was a bit more uncomfortable to me on account of not being structurally limited to a one-shot gag. If Venkman had repeatedly harassed the Pretty Young Coed over the course of the movie, if that had even seemed likely to happen, I think it might have crossed a line for me. And, as Forlorn Hopes notes, Kevin may not have been as able to defend himself.

          And while these next two are clear double standards, I’m not sure they are entirely baseless and they did color my reaction: Professor/Student romance is tolerated where Boss/Employee is not, and May/September is more tolerated where May is the female.

          Also also, Kevin just doesn’t compare to Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz, which is one of the things you have to do when you remake “Ghostbusters”.

        • Mr Mind says:

          Do you think Erin’s behavior was worse than Venkeman’s lying to both the young man and the young woman at the beginning of GB1, and abusing the young man in addition?

          Yes.
          Not in the magnitude of the act, taken in isolation, but in the economy of the movie and in what the director wanted to show: Venkman with that first scene estabilish himself as an asshole, but then his assholishness is used elsewhere, to show that he is cynic and cares only about profit, an attitude to be redeemed with his meeting with Dana.
          Instead Erin has a lot of scene where she is willing to humiliate herself in various ways, but this isn’t used anywhere, say to show that she has been isolated all her life, or that she is emotionally very intelligent but emotionally immature: is just something that the director had a keen interest in showing us, to laugh at her expense.
          There is also the fact that none of the characters in the original movie were sexpots: certainly Janine wasn’t hired for her beauty and was not a bimbo, and while Dana was attractive she was also quite normal.
          In this new Ghostbuster, as you said Kevin has no reedeming quality: he is just a sex toy used to poke fun at Erin, a dead weight start to finish.

          The more I think about it, the more I believe that, as far as gender fairness, this movie was definitely a step back.

          • Kevin had at least one plot function– the bit where the big bad gets out of Kevin’s body because he’s “getting stupider by the minute”, which I thought was a pretty good line.

            I think Dana was supposed to be a sexpot when she was possessed. While we’re doing analysis, would you say she was raped when she and Louis (Morenis) have sex while possessed? She definitely wouldn’t have consented. I have no idea whether Louis would have consented to sex that he probably wanted but wouldn’t remember.

            The point of view in the movie strikes me as close to asexual– sex/love isn’t part of the happy ending. Lust is portrayed as silly.

            I’m not sure gender fairness is the right standard for judging the movie. A better deal for women is probably closer.

          • John Schilling says:

            While we’re doing analysis, would you say she [Dana] was raped when she and Louis (Moranis) have sex while possessed?

            Rape by proxy, yes. Which, by not having a rapist in the usual sense, doesn’t trigger the usual rape narrative and associated moral intuitions. But it goes on the list of charges the City, County, and State of New York can lay against Gozer the Gozerian.

            Rape by proxy is I think more likely to be dismissed as a joke than it properly deserves, because at least in fictional contexts it can be quite funny if you don’t take it seriously but makes for uncomfortably messy stories if you do. See, e.g. the B Arc of “Veronica Mars” season 1, where they were explicitly going for uncomfortably messy and not at all funny.

          • It’s reasonable to look at rape by proxy as the responsibility of the people in charge of making the movie as well as whoever was responsible in the movie.

          • Fahundo says:

            Is it morally reprehensible to show morally reprehensible things in movies?

          • dndnrsn says:

            At least one 80s movie I know of treated a situation where impersonation results in someone having sex with someone they don’t know they’re having sex with – which is rape – as a character victory. I don’t know if it still appears.

      • LPSP says:

        Compare the airheaded Kevin to the competent female secretary from the first movie.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Just wanted to dump this here now the sequel’s been canceled, in case anyone ever sees it.
      If you say Ghostbusters wasn’t good, it’s literally misoggyknee, even if it doesn’t come with a disclaimer that says “I hate women”!

      Sony disputes the amount of the potential loss, insisting that revenue streams from merchandising and such attractions as a new Ghostbusters exhibit at Madame Tussauds and a theme park ride in Dubai will help defray any deficit

      Better hope that theme park ride makes about 80 million pretty quick…

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        That’s a pretty stupid Tweet, but before I get upset, is that Tweeter someone important or controlling of any opinion I should give a crap about?

  7. onyomi says:

    If giving old people transfusions of young people’s blood really makes them healthier, why aren’t we already doing this all the time? It seems absurdly simple (at least now that we can test for blood type, and the presence of blood-borne pathogens). I mean, yeah, it’s a little creepy, but who wouldn’t donate some blood now and again if it made their grandfather’s Alzheimer’s better?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I would.

      Hell, I would think most kids would want to do it for their (appropriate) relatives.

      • I shudder to think about the emotional dynamics if the relationship isn’t good.

        There’s also effective altruism to consider– give blood for increased longevity vs. give blood for emergencies.

        • onyomi says:

          Well, part of the problem is, as with organ donation, there would be a resistance to paying young people significantly for the blood; though really, this should be much less problematic, since you make new blood all the time (some degree of blood loss may even be good for you, I’ve read).

          Ugh, this is one of those win-win things which will be blocked by emotional gut-reaction problems (“how it looks” to have young people getting paid to donate blood to rich, old people), isn’t it?

          Re. altruism: the people who would donate blood if paid are not necessarily drawn from the population of people who would have donated blood anyway. They would probably be mostly people who wouldn’t have donated, but would do it if they got paid. I guess this would be a problem if the emergency reserves were getting drawn down so that old people can have softer skin, but presumably there could be a mechanism where, if you donate, you say “I want this to go the reserves for emergency cases, not the old people rejuvenation treatment, for-profit bank.”

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            Ugh, this is one of those win-win things which will be blocked by emotional gut-reaction problems (“how it looks” to have young people getting paid to donate blood to rich, old people), isn’t it?

            The dystopian YA novels practically write themselves.

          • John Schilling says:

            the people who would donate blood if paid are not necessarily drawn from the population of people who would have donated blood anyway.

            The people who would donate blood if paid are not necessarily drawn from the population of people whose blood you’d want in your system for general-health reasons if you had a choice.

            Unless you pay them a lot, in which case you get a fountain-of-youth treatment that only the rich can afford and a bunch of healthy photogenic young people struggling to make do in an economy where the price levels are set by all the other healthy photogenic young people opening their veins to the vampire elite every few weeks, in which case, yeah, Hollywood is going to have a field day with that imagery.

            This is probably one of those things that becomes win-win when we learn how to synthesize the parts of young blood that have the desired effect. The trick will be doing the stage III clinical trials without inspiring torches and pitchforks.

          • Chalid says:

            All of this really depends on how often you need the blood. The dystopian scenarios only occur if you need blood very frequently. If a once-a-year transfusion gets you most of the benefits, then there will be plenty of blood to go around without having to pay enormous amounts of money for it.

            (Though even if blood is frequently needed, it seems like the most likely outcome is importing the blood from India. Which is a bit dystopian but in ways that we’re already kind of used to.)

          • onyomi says:

            “The people who would donate blood if paid are not necessarily drawn from the population of people whose blood you’d want in your system for general-health reasons if you had a choice.”

            This seems a strange concern. It’s not like you need the blood of unusually smart, unusually athletic, unusually hard-working young people. Even irresponsible, lazy, hard-drinking, out-of-shape young people subsisting on fast food heal faster and better than responsible old people with perfect personal habits; the donors simply need to not be on drugs or have HIV at the time, both of which are easily testable.

          • Odoacer says:

            I have to link to this South Park bit about stem cell research.

            Some things and concepts just invoke feelings of disgust in many people.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well, we keep on thinking of what people could do to earn a basic income, and now we have one. This makes all those people useful again. (I don’t really think they have nothing to offer but the UBI people do.)

            Of course, the most likely outcome is that this blood transfusion thing doesn’t work.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I shudder to think about the emotional dynamics if the relationship isn’t good.

          Sure, but that goes for plenty of things now. And giving blood once a (unsure how often?) is way less work than having them move in with you.

          It’s not clear to me from the article how young is young? I only skimmed it. Are we talking pre-pubescent or just pre-senescent?

          In any case, i think on net this would probably get people used to donating blood and “in the system” so on balance I would think that blood for emergency use would actually go up (depending, again on how much and how often and how young).

          • onyomi says:

            “Young” as defined by the articles I read was “under 25.” And if we accept that 25 year-old blood does an 80-year old some good, probably so too would 35-year old blood, if possibly somewhat less.

          • Skivverus says:

            And giving blood once a (unsure how often?) is way less work than having them move in with you.

            Two months (well, 56 days), four for “double red”, at least via the Red Cross.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @skivverus:
            I’m not sure how often the elder recipients need the blood, is what I am going for.

          • Skivverus says:

            @HBC
            Good point; not sure on that end of things either. (Hopefully by the time it becomes personally relevant to either of us they’ll have figured this out :P)

          • Loquat says:

            The clinical trial Odoacer links below is just using plasma, and in the US a healthy adult can donate plasma twice a week, though other western nations commonly limit it to once every two weeks. In fact, in the US, you can already get paid, though not well, for plasma donation. (Atlantic article about it here.)

    • gbdub says:

      When you transfuse in young blood, can you take some out first? Basically make the old people donors rather than just receivers so on net you’re still getting more donations?

      Other thought would be to give emergency blood banks first dibs, so that only surplus blood ends up used for the youth treatments.

      • onyomi says:

        Presumably they do have to take blood out of the old person, since just adding blood without taking away would increase blood pressure, which is not something most people want. That said, presumably the old people blood thereby acquired is less valuable for recovery for the same reason replacing it with young people blood is good; that said, if you’re dying of blood loss, old people blood is probably plenty good enough to stop that.

    • Odoacer says:

      It’s already happening in California! You can even volunteer if you’re over 35 and have $8000.

    • utopn naxl says:

      Im going to add this to my list of thigns that happen around the world the average person dosen’t know or want ot hear about.

      India’s blood farms come to mind.

    • LPSP says:

      Right away I’d sign up for that.

      Heck, you could have 40 year olds both donating their blood to 60+s, AND recieving blood from teens.

      Maybe we could just cut the process short with a bone marrow transplant?

  8. Anon Anon says:

    I have an interview coming up for a law firm that I am in all honesty not that excited about – except for the fact that I do desperately need a job. See in this country north of the US, one needs to complete a mandatory internship similar to residency for medicine before you are licensed as a lawyer. I struck out of the on-cycle recruiting process for firms tackling areas of law I am actually interested in, and I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of recruiting in this economic downturn as it is.

    Also, it doesn’t help that while I am relatively articulate online with time to compose my responses, I have bad social anxiety in person and others have told me I come across as not genuine to all but my close friends.

    Does anyone have some advice for approaching this interview/situation? I have enough trouble faking interest in this law firm as is (in terms of subject matter), although I do genuinely want the job for the sole reason of fulfilling my licensing requirements. I know that is a surefire way to convince them to not hire me over someone else however.

    • AnnaNominally says:

      Can you talk about what you can do for them (like, find skills/background of yours that will make you good at that particular job and talk about that, because that seems like something easier to be genuine about)? They will probably ask why do you want to work here, and you will have to have an answer for that… But, maybe if you plan your answer ahead of time it will be easier.

    • erenold says:

      Is this the kind of interview where you pretty much already have the job, but they want to make sure you don’t e.g. call the interviewer a ‘fucking Chinaman’ halfway through? Or is this a genuinely competitive interview? You can usually tell.

      You’re a baby lawyer – you’ve studied hard. Study for this, too. If I were you, I’d have answers for the following questions memorized and ready to go (I’m aware that you’ve said that part of your concern is that you do not appear genuine, though.)

      Here at [X] LLC, we do a lot of [Y] law. Tell me why you’re interested in [Y] law.
      (For class pet marks, if you can demonstrate your knowledge of Y law here without being showoffy about it, that would be great. “This is a very exciting time for patent law owing to the recent decision in A v B, etc.”)
      What do you believe sets you apart from the other candidates that we’re interviewing for this job?
      Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
      We prize teamwork and client skills at X LLC. Do you believe you would fit in well at this firm?

      &c.

      I have one last question. I assume you’re talking about pupillage, and that you need to have a pupil master before you can take the Bar. There were many of my batchmates who could not find someone to be their pupil master as well, but they took the Bar anyway at their own expense, and used that time to continue their job search. Most of them succeeded. Is this a viable alternative?

      • Anon Anon says:

        I’m actually referring to the Articling process in Canada. The problem is I am genuinely not interested in the niche this law firm works in, which is solely hearings and appeals in a small administrative court dealing with valuation disputes for tax purposes. Also, as this was a public job posting and not one I networked my way into, I do believe there are other serious competitors to this job.

        Thanks for the tips re: interview questions to be prepared for. I feel pretty prepared for that standard suite of questions, although again my social anxiety in actual interviews seems to sabotage me even if I have an answer in mind. I seemingly cannot help appearing nervous/anxious/desperate? Although for this interview in particular I think my genuine disinterest in the subject matter of the job would ease some of my internal tension at being rejected, but I’m not sure if thats a good thing or not.

    • Jill says:

      If I were you, I would ask some of my friends to help me practice for the interview, with the friend playing the interviewer, and then again with me playing the interviewer, and I can see how the friend handles being the interviewee. That way, you can really get flexible and try some things out and see a little bit of how certain ways of interviewing might possibly go. And then you can go back and practice it again, once you get some ideas about how you might want to handle such an interview.

  9. 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?

    • I do have some experience, but I’ve done almost of my study with teachers.

      I did get good results from studying standing meditation from Lam Kam Chuen’s The Way of Energy, a book which is very much intended for independent stuy, so I checked the reviews for his Step by Step Tai Chi, and they’re generally good.

      I was pointed at Simplified Tai Chi Chuan: 24 Postures with Applications & Standard 48 Postures (Revised) by Shou-Yu Liang (Author), Wu Wen-Ching (Author), which also has good reviews.

      When I’m looking at reviews for self-help books, I don’t just look at the number of stars, I check for people who actually used the book and were pleased with the results.

    • Lumifer says:

      I am not sure you can learn it on your own. The problem is, Tai Chi relies a lot on the correct posture and movement and many details are subtle and not really detectable from videos. You can learn the gross movements of a form, but most likely you’ll be doing it wrong and Tai Chi is an internal art.

      I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but without competent guidance you’ll have to, basically, really understand what the books and the videos are telling you and then match it to what you internally feel is happening with your body.

      What are your goals? What do you expect to get from learning Tai Chi?

      • Franz_Panzer says:

        Well, like all martial arts it enhances motor control, agility, strength, etc. (and Tai Chi is said to have other health benefits as well, which I’ll of course take it that’s true). I like the concept of martial arts which may help me stay motivated to actually do it and keep it up once I start.
        Also, it is practiced without a partner, so it could conceivably be done at home and alone. That means no fixed times you have to allocate for classes (along with commuting), no special outfits, and no forced social interaction with strangers (which I also don’t liki), which were the main reasons I stopped doing Jiu Jitsu.

        • Lumifer says:

          Well, Tai Chi is a bit weird in that it is two somewhat different things. One is a proper martial art which focuses on defeating the opponent. The other one is a set of exercises for old people. The former is hard to do properly and the slow form is just the beginning, once you master it you progress to doing it fast and to things like push hands and sparring. The latter is much more forgiving and is generally run on the lines of “any exercise is better than no exercise”.

          I think it’s difficult to find a teacher in the US who teaches Tai Chi as a martial art (very difficult outside of SF/LA/NYC).

          I would recommend you do both — practice at home by yourself, but also find a competent teacher who will be able to point out to you mistakes you don’t notice you are making and who will prevent you from going down wrong paths and fixing wrong movements in your form.

    • Vitor says:

      I’ve been doing Tai Chi on and off for a couple of years. Class once a week and then practicing a bit at home in between.

      I would say it is conceivable to learn on your own, but it won’t be easy. Getting a sense of how to move lightly and smoothly is the hardest part, and it really helps to observe someone competent and being corrected by them. Once you have the basics down, your progress will start depending much more on developing your own body awareness, sense of balance etc. This part is more of a personal struggle, so I think it’s fine to do it on your own, though a teacher would still help.

      If you’re determined to learn by self study, my recommendation would be to go to at least a couple of lessons, ideally some intro course over a weekend or something, and then continue on your own.

    • Jill says:

      There are some great video DVDs of Tai Chi and Qi Gong. It’s better to have a teacher though, at least at the beginning, so you really learn exactly how to do the motions, rather than having to try to get everything from a video. Some of what you do is not apparent easily from watching it being done.

    • LPSP says:

      From my experience of all martial arts, understanding the movements requires the impartment of personalised experience, something not possible with books or videos. The understanding must be implicit. Lumifer summarised the gist already, that you can learn the broad strokes but won’t grasp an absolute understanding without guidance.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.)

  17. 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!”

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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).

  23. 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.

  24. 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.”